X Files veteran Frank Spotnitz moved to London for Cinemax/BBC series Hunted a few years back, and in 2013 launched London-based Big Light Productions. Now, he’s digging even further into the UK TV scene. Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer (Houdini) have created crime series Freud: The Secret Casebook. NBC Universal-owned Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films will produce with Big Light. The period drama will see Sigmund Freud become the world’s first criminal profiler. Set in early 20th century Vienna, the series will focus on Freud as he uses his startling new theories about psychology to help solve crimes, and will blend episodic murder mysteries with the on-going tale of the psychoanalyst-cum-detective’s tangled and provocative personal life. The project is out to cast and directors. Downton‘s Gareth Neame is exec producing with Nigel Marchant for Carnival; Alan Gasmer (Vikings), Matt Baer (Unbroken) and Christian Popp and Alexander Keil of Germany’s Producers at Work are also exec producing. Spotnitz is keeping busy in Europe these days. He was at Mip-TV in Cannes last week to talk about his gig as showrunner on the second season of TNT pick-up Transporter The Series, and he also unveiled Big Light’s new first-look distribution deal with Tandem Communications. Transporter, which he boarded in season two, will air on TNT later this year.
Academy members will get the chance this weekend to see Noah and The Grand Budapest Hotel when their official Academy screening program finally resumes after a break for Oscar. But while the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters is undergoing major renovations, the screenings have moved to Hollywood at the Acad’s much smaller Linwood Dunn Theater at its Pickford Center For Motion Picture Study on Vine Street. That’s a loss of about 700 seats, so it could get dicey, especially since no extra screenings are added and RSVPs aren’t taken. For a lot of films the Academy screens, 300 seats is just fine, but these fall squarely in the hotter want-to-see category, and it’s still first-come-first-served, just as it is at the Wilshire Boulevard location. Could get nasty for members wanting a free screening. Better get there early, folks.
Of course this is not exactly crunch time for serious 2014 Oscar contenders, so distributors need not worry too much about disgruntled voters getting turned away from their hot-button potential nominees. But recently I got an email from a veteran Oscar campaign consultant who asked the simple question, “Is NOAH a contender?” And it got me wondering if not only director Darren Aronofsky’s towering epic, which screens Sunday at 3 PM, but also Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, which runs Saturday at 7:30 PM both might actually have a decent shot at racking up numerous nominations, including Best Picture, despite their first quarter release dates (Noah opened March 28 and Budapest has been playing since March 7th). Both are doing extremely well at the box office and riding high with critics too (Noah is 77% fresh and Budapest is 91% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and have the kind of first-rate production values to which Oscar voters usually pay serious attention.
CinemaCon: Universal Excites Convention With First Looks At ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’, ‘Minions’, ‘Fast & Furious 7′ And Angelina Jolie’s Potential Oscar Juggernaut ‘Unbroken’
Universal wowed exhibitors this morning with a presentation that went way beyond just showing off what they have this summer. Among the films getting their first look anywhere was Scarlett Johansson’s summer action flick Lucy, the long-gestating follow-up to Dumb And Dumber with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels back in Dumb And Dumber To, plus hot-button first looks at footage from 2015 releases including with the late Paul Walker in the April 2015 Fast & Furious 7 and Valentine’s Day 2015 opener Fifty Shades Of Grey. According to the studio’s Donna Langley, this was the first time anyone has viewed any of it outside of the Universal hierarchy. It was a good teaser but stopped shy of showing any of the really hot stuff. The 2015 spinoff of Despicable Me, Uni’s biggest domestic hit ever (the sequel that is), Minions also got a hearty response from the pumped-up crowd who is anxious for a few hits. It looks like over the course of the next two years this studio is determined to give some to them. But despite all of this news-making footage it was clearly Angelina Jolie who stole this show. As the only star Universal trotted out onstage, she was there this time as the director of their Christmas Day release Unbroken, and introduced seven minutes of footage from what definitely looks like a possible Oscar juggernaut. It has all the makings.
Universal has set Attack The Block helmer Joe Cornish to direct Section 6, the Aaron Berg-scripted formation of the British intelligence agency MI6 during WWI. Unbroken star Jack O’Connell is starring. The Wrap had this first. Cornish directed Attack The Block, the story of a group that protected its neighborhood against an alien invasion. Now he’s making a movie about the people who would cover it up.
Yann Demange’s debut feature ’71 generated a lot of heat when it premiered in competition at last month’s Berlin Film Festival. The anti-war parable takes place in 1971 and centers on a young British soldier (Unbroken‘s Jack O’Connell) accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast. Unable to tell friend from foe and increasingly wary of his own comrades, he must survive the night alone and find his way to safety. Roadside Attractions and Black Label Media have partnered to take all U.S. rights on the Gregory Burke-scripted pic and plan an early 2015 release.
Robin Gutch of Warp Films and Angus Lamont of Crab Apple are producers, and the pic is backed by Film4, BFI Film Fund, Screen Yorkshire, and Creative Scotland. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales. The deal was negotiated by CAA on behalf of Black Label and Howard Cohen on behalf of Roadside Attractions, with Mike Goodridge of Protagonist on behalf of the filmmakers. Here’s a clip that made the rounds during Berlin:
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘The End’ Gets German Remake; Turkish Censors Ban ‘Nymphomaniac’; Berlin Fest Dates; BBC3 Moving To Web?; Oz’s Animal Logic; More
Eccho Rights has sold popular Turkish drama The End into further markets. It’s already being remade in the U.S. by Sander/Moses Prods at Fox, and now Germany’s UFA will develop a local version for broadcaster SAT1 while Shine France has also taken an option on the series. Further, Netflix has signed a non-exclusive agreement for the original in Sweden and the UK. The story is about a woman navigating a web of lies and intrigue as she searches for her husband whom she presumed dead following a plane crash. But it turns out he never boarded the plane. Produced by Ay Yapim in Turkey, the show is also getting a Russian version.
OSCARS: A Selfie-Important Academy Awards Honors Our Past And Our Future And Hits Just The Right Notes
In the end the Academy Awards fell right into place with every other awards show this season. Gravity got LOTS of love but it ended with 12 Years A Slave‘s Steve McQueen making the big acceptance speech of the night for Best Picture — just like it went at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards, BAFTA, PGA and others. It’s a weird year when a blockbuster picture like Gravity can win seven Oscars including Best Director yet lose the big one. But science fiction is not a category the Oscars have ever embraced in that way, and this year was no exception. In 1977 Star Wars also won seven Oscars yet lost in the end to Best Pic winner Annie Hall, which only picked up four awards overall much like Slave’s haul of three nods this year. The record still stands though with 1972′s Cabaret winning eight Oscars but losing ultimately to The Godfather which won only three including Best Picture.
How do you explain it? It’s called spreading the wealth but wanting to save your most important award for a movie that has real gravitas, one that breaks barriers over what the Academy has ever done before. A movie directed by a black person has never before won nor has a film that so harrowingly details one aspect of the black experience. 12 Years A Slave may have depicted the dark side of this country in a way Oscar had never before recognized, but the Academy wanted to spotlight that and reward it with its highest prize in a year of great films about the black experience. In fact the whole show was full of diversity including numerous black presenters and the Best Director award to Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron.
Here we are again after the Golden Globes, Mike Fleming and Anita Busch taking on the task of play by play during the most wide-open Oscar race we can remember. Even on the party circuit, industry insiders who usually have a grasp of who’ll walk away with Oscars were evenly torn between Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D masterpiece Gravity and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. Then again, there were so many terrific films that got Best Picture nominations, and all of them have at least a puncher’s chance at an upset.
That includes American Hustle, where David O Russell co-wrote the Best Original Script nominee with Eric Warren Singer and got tour de force performances and nominations for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Perfs so strong there was no room on the nomination roster for perennial Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. The film is up for 10 awards, and has grossed over $240 million on a $40 million budget.
Then there is The Wolf Of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio giving the most emphatic and complete performance of a great career, and Jonah Hill right there with him as his crazy con man sidekick. The film is up for five nominations, including Martin Scorsese for directing a terrific adaptation from The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire vet Terence Winter.
Jack O’Connell is in final negotiations to star in the thriller Section 6 for Universal Pictures. This is the pic for which the studio won a bidding war in October 2013 for the spec script written by Aaron Berg, picking it up for seven figures in a late-night deal with no attachments. It revolves around the origins of MI6, the British intelligence agency founded during World War I. Marc Platt is producing alongside Adam Siegel for Marc Platt Productions, and Lawrence Grey will produce for Grey Matter Productions. Universal’s EVP Production Jon Mone and director of development Sara Scott will oversee for the studio. O’Connell just wrapped production on Unbroken, in which he starred as Olympics hero and WWII POW Louis Zamperini for Angelina Jolie. He’s next up in 300: Rise Of An Empire and the indie Starred Up. He also starred in 71, the thriller based on the troubles in Ireland that just screened in competition at Berlin. He is repped by CAA and attorney Robert Offer and Conway van Gelder Grant in the UK. The Wrap reported the story first.
The casting for one of the key characters in Paramount and Skydance Productions’ Terminator: Genesis is almost complete — but not finalized. What’s true is that Jai Courtney has been offered the role of Kyle Reese, a gig that figures to span at least two movies that will end the story of Skynet’s battle with the resistance that began with James Cameron’s two films and two more that followed. As we told you last week, it was down to Courtney and Boyd Holbrook to land the Reese role originated by Michael Beihn in the first pic. If the Courtney deal makes, he will join Arnold Schwarzenegger as the signature cyborg, Game Of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke as Sara Connor and Zero Dark Thirty’s Jason Clarke as her son John Connor in the time-travel saga that will be directed by Alan Taylor. The film has a July 1, 2015 released date.
Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken got a first-look tease today during the Olympics in an extended preview profiling Louis Zamperini, the Olympian-turned-WWII POW whose life story gets the big screen treatment this Christmas. Jack O’Connell plays the younger Zamperini with Japan’s Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, and Jai Courtney in supporting roles. The Universal release marks Jolie’s second feature as helmer following 2011′s In the Land Of Blood And Honey. Check it out:
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures and Skydance are down to the wire on the final piece of iconic casting on Terminator: Genesis. I’m hearing that it’s between Jai Courtney and Boyd Holbrook to play Kyle Reese, the role originated by Michael Biehn in the James Cameron-directed original. Now, they could throw someone else into the mix, but it sounds like they are focused on these guys. The winner will join Arnold Schwarzenegger as the signature cyborg, Game Of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke as Sara Connor and Zero Dark Thirty’s Jason Clarke as her son John Connor in the time travel saga that will be directed by Thor: The Dark World helmer Alan Taylor. The film will be released July 1, 2015.
It’s a big job, as it figures to span at least two movies that will end the story of Skynet’s battle with the resistance that began with Cameron’s two films with two more that followed. The films are being financed one-third by Paramount, and two-thirds by David Ellison’s Skydance, who bought out the stake held by his sister, Annapurna’s Megan Ellison. She was the one who originally bought the rights to continue the franchise for about $20 million. She decided to focus on tastemaker fare but this movie is right in the wheelhouse of the popcorn pics made by Skydance, which partners with Paramount on Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and World War Z.
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount is negotiating with 3 Arts Entertainment to acquire the film rights to the forthcoming book Thirteen Hours: A Firsthand Account Of What Really Happened In Benghazi. The book, scheduled for publication in late spring, was written by author Mitchell Zuckoff with surviving members of the Annex Security Team who fought the battle. Their names are being kept confidential. The book is going to be published by Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group, with Editorial Director Sean Desmond editing.
The script will be written by Chuck Hogan, whose novel Prince Of Thieves became the Ben Affleck-directed The Town and who teamed with Guillermo del Toro to write the vampire novel trilogy The Strain which is being turned into a series by FX. Erwin Stoff will produce, and Richard Abate is executive producer. Stoff is producing the upcoming Unbroken and Edge Of Tomorrow.
EXCLUSIVE: Yann Demange’s Berlin Competition entry ’71 has a lot of heat on it going into the festival. The anti-war parable centers on a young British soldier who is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, he must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape. Starred Up and Skins’ Jack O’Connell stars. He’ll next be seen in 300: Rise Of An Empire and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Paul Anderson, Richard Dormer, Sean Harris, Martin McCann, Charlie Murphy, Sam Reid, Killian Scott, David Wilmot, Jack Lowden and Jim Sturgeon round out the cast. Written by Gregory Burke, ‘71 is Demange’s feature debut after directing TV series including the award-winning Top Boy for Channel 4. Robin Gutch of Warp Films and Angus Lamont of Crab Apple are producers. Protagonist Pictures is selling in Berlin where it debuts Friday. Here’s a clip:
Sanctuary will be directed by Apollo 18 helmer Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and produced by Atlas Independent, the company said today. Written by Ryne Douglas Pearson, the horror pic follows three documentarians who travel to South America to investigate a town that mysteriously disappeared from the map. The trio is led to the ultimate enigma: an immense concrete structure located in the middle of the missing town, with no entrances or exits. Highland Film Group is handling worldwide sales and will introduce the title next month at EFM in Berlin. It marks the latest tie-up between Atlas Independent and Lopez-Gallego, following December 2013′s Open Grave starring Sharlto Copley and The Man On Carrion Road, which was announced at the last Cannes Film Festival and begins production in April. Atlas Independent is currently in post William Monahan’s Mojave.
Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley Re-Ups To 2017, Adds Oversight Of International And Marketing Divisions
BREAKING: After coming through a major fall restructure and flying out of the gate with two box office hits in 2014 and overhauling Fast & Furious 7 so it can resume production in March, Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley has extended her contract through 2017. Langley, who oversaw the production businesses of Universal Pictures and Focus Features, is adding oversight of international production and international and domestic marketing to her duties.
Marketing president Josh Goldstine and International president David Kosse will now report to Langley. Like Langley, they will also report to Universal Filmed Entertainment chairman Jeff Shell, whom Comcast installed as head of Universal Studios last September as part of a shakeup that saw Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson ousted and co-chairman Langley upped to sole chairman while Ron Meyer was named NBC Universal vice chairman of NBC Universal.
While Universal released the pricey holiday bomb 47 Ronin, the studio has been on a good run with The Best Man Holiday, the surprisingly strong Lone Survivor (director Peter Berg agreed to direct Battleship on condition Universal make the military drama), and Ride Along, a sleeper buddy comedy which Langley plucked …
EXCLUSIVE: Garrett Hedlund has come away with the offer to play the lead role of Hook in Pan, the new take on the J.M. Barrie classic that Joe Wright is directing for Warner Bros. This was a coveted role and it came down to Hedlund and Boardwalk Empire‘s Jack Huston (currently in American Hustle), with Ezra Miller from The Perks Of Being A Wallflower also in the mix. The script is by Jason Fuchs, and Greg Berlanti is producing under his Berlanti Productions banner, and Sarah Schechter is overseeing for Warners. In Fuchs’ script, an orphan is taken to the magical world of Neverland, where he becomes the savior of the natives and leads a rebellion against evil pirates. Hugh Jackman reportedly will play Blackbeard, the captain of the bad guys, and Javier Bardem has also been mentioned for that role. Warner Bros has set a July 17, 2015, release date for the 3D-shot film.
Hedlund starred in Tron Legacy, and more recently in Inside Llewyn Davis and plays a big role in the Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken for Universal Pictures. He’s repped by WME and Brillstein.
The actress and director of the upcoming Unbroken is now on board as one of the EPs of the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Competition film Difret. The announcement that Angelina Jolie has joined the Ethiopian pic comes just days before its January 18 world premiere in Park City. The Oscar-winning actress also will be taking a presentation credit on the film. No word yet if that will change the title of the film. From first-time feature director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, Difret tells the tale of a girl and a female lawyer who take on the Ethiopian tradition of “telefa”, or marriage by abduction. “This film is a strong moment for art in Ethiopia”, said Jolie in a statement today. “It is inspiring to see such an important story so beautifully illustrated with such creative talent. It draws out the richness of Ethiopian culture and shows how important legal advances can be made while respecting local culture. It is a story that gives hope for Ethiopia’s future, and for other countries where countless girls grow up without the protection of laws that shield them and their bodies, and shows how the courage of brave individuals can awaken the conscience of a society.”
Captain Phillips newcomer and Oscar-buzzed Barkhad Abdi, who plays the lead Somalian pirate in the film, told me he thought the Governors Awards meant prizes actually handed out by the Governor and he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole occasion. Of course these honorary awards bestowed on Saturday night at the Hollywood & Highland Grand Ballroom are not presented by Jerry Brown, but rather voted on by the Board of Governors of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And in addition to the formal duty of putting a shiny new Oscar statuette in the hands of Jean Hersholt Humanitarian winner Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Claudia Cardinale (standing in for absent Costume Designer Piero Tosi who couldn’t make the trip from Italy), this signature awards season event now in its fifth year also has become the official “must schmooze” event of the entire six month awards corridor, a place where Oscar nominee hopefuls can jump from table to table full of Academy members. As presenter Martin Short put it, “the Governors Awards are the highest honor an actor can receive in mid-November.” And there can be no question the timing of the event is extremely important for those out on the campaign trail.
But ultimately this event is about honoring those the Academy feels are worthy of career recognition, generally a lifetime achievement award. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, new president of the Academy, welcomed each of the honorees and noted the importance of the honor. “Congratulations to all of you. Your work on screen and off captivates and invigorates society. You challenge us to see each other and the world in different ways. We are all richer for your brilliance,” she said before breaking for dinner.
Once the 90-minute show began, Jolie’s In The Land Of Blood And Honey cast, actress Gena Rowlands, and George Lucas presented Jolie, the youngest winner of the Hersholt award, with her Oscar. A detailed film package clearly explained why this tireless global humanitarian is getting the award but she seemed overcome by it, saluting her late mother for the inspiration (father Jon Voight was in the audience).