Silvio Berlusconi To Appeal Wiretap Verdict
Italian media mogul and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was handed a one-year jail term today by an Italian court over an illegal wiretap. It’s highly unlikely the Mediaset chief will do any time as he has appeals available to him and, under Italian law, isn’t expected to go to prison until all appeal attempts are exhausted. Berlusconi is already appealing a four-year sentence that was handed to him in Milan last year over fraud on movie rights deals. Today’s punishment comes for making public the taped contents of a confidential phone call in a case related to a 2005 banking scandal, Reuters reported. Berlusconi has oft been in court before over his business dealings, but he’s always been cleared or seen the statute of limitations expire.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Silvio Berlusconi, Nicholas Hytner, India Channel Crunch, ‘Vigilante’ Launched
Silvio Berlusconi To Appeal Wiretap Verdict
Looks like News Corp’s trying to boost the Deputy COO’s profile on Wall Street: James Murdoch’s appearance today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference was his second high-profile presentation to investors this month. (He was also on News Corp’s latest earnings call.) Rupert’s son, who last year had to defend himself against allegations that he was at least partly responsible for News Corp’s UK hacking and bribery scandals, seemed to relish the largely friendly questions about the company’s plans. He assured the audience that the company won’t go overboard in buying rights to sports programming amid reports that News Corp plans to create a national sports network. “It’s important to have a portfolio of rights where you can walk away,” Murdoch says. For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers wanted payments that were “too rich for us,” leading the team to create its own regional sports channel.
EXCLUSIVE: McG has teamed with The Mentalist executive producer Daniel Cerone for a female-lead crime drama, which has sold to CBS. Carrying the social media-influenced title #Resistance, the project from McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision and Warner Bros TV centers on an unconventional young female detective for the San Francisco Police Department who won’t let criminals get away with their actions. After she finally goes too far, she gets fired from the force — only to be secretly recruited by the Chief of Police to become an undercover officer posing as a vigilante, allowing her to break the law in order to serve justice. Cerone will write the script and executive produce with Wonderland’s McG and Peter Johnson.
The project, somewhat of a female Equalizer, was put together by Wonderland VP Jeff Grosvenor. It stems from McG’s history and interest in empowered female characters and Cerone’s experience on Dexter, where he served as executive producer/showrunner, and on The Mentalist — both shows centered on characters that fight crime from outside the conventional system.
EXCLUSIVE: In what would be his first TV starring vehicle, Ice Cube is set to topline and executive produce Eye For An Eye, a drama series project in development at FX. The project hails from Ice Cube’s company Cube Vision and Jeff Kwatinetz’s Prospect Park, which developed the idea together. Eye For An Eye centers on a complex man, played by Ice Cube, who is a veteran paramedic. After too many years of leaving the scenes of violent crimes with a victim struggling to live in the back of his ambulance, he snaps and starts going eye for an eye. When his thirst for revenge proves addictive, his personal life spirals out of control as he tries to reconcile it with his newfound life as a vigilante. Cube and his Cube Vision partner Matt Alvarez are executive producing with Kwatinetz and Prospect Park’s TV partner Josh Barry. A search is underway for a writer to pen the script. In TV, Ice Cube is executive producing the TBS sitcom Are We There Yet? based on his 2005 movie. UTA-repped Ice Cube recurs on the series, which has a 100-episode order. On the film side, he is working with New Line on a new installment in his hit Friday franchise. He next stars in Rampart and 21 Jump Street. Both Ice Cube and Prospect Park have a relationship at FX: Ice Cube …
On the heels of Strike Back and Transporter, Cinemax is developing another action drama series, Sandbox. It centers on a group of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who return to the Coachella Valley to discover their hometown has been overrun by criminals. The men decide to use the skills they learned in combat to clean up the town, with unexpected results. Feature writers Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore (Red Dawn, The World After) will write the script, with Steve Kronish (24, The Kennedys) on board as showrunner. The three, all repped by Paradigm, will executive produce with Larry and Chuck Gordon. Passmore and Fabrizio, who are writing The World After with Len Wiseman set to direct and recently rewrote Hellifield for Lorenzo di Bonaventura, are managed by Aperture Entertainment’s Adam Goldworm.
I wrote about actor Neal McDonough’s trouble with ABC back in March and received one of the biggest responses ever to a story because he was standing up for his religious beliefs. You may recall the post (No Sex Please, I’m Neal McDonough): how he was suddenly replaced 3 days into the filming on the ABC series Scoundrels in a move officially explained as a casting change. But, in fact, McDonough was sacked because of his refusal to do some heated love scenes because he’s a family man and a Catholic, and he’s always made it clear that he won’t do sex scenes. And ABC knew that. Well, a lot of people who applauded Neal wanted to know what he’ll be doing next. Of course, he’s co-starring in Marvel’s Captain America movie currently shooting in London. But now I hear McDonough has co-created and will executive produce and star in VIGILANTE PRIEST, a one hour drama for Starz which is fast-tracking the project.
I hear the series was his own idea, and he will co-create it with Law & Order vet Walon Green who will also exec produce and write. John Avnet also will be executive producing and directing the pilot. McDonough will take on the title role: an ex-cop turned priest who is cleaning up the streets of Los Angeles “one sinner at a time”. I continue to applaud the Band Of Brothers and …
EXCLUSIVE: Writer/director Troy Duffy, most famous for making a big Boondock Saints spec deal with Harvey Weinstein that was supposed to include purchase of the LA bar where Duffy poured drinks, is back in the mix with deals for both film and TV projects. On the small screen, Duffy has teamed with producers Jimmy Miller and Sam Hansen and set up Kingdom Come with Sony Television. The proposed series focuses on Capt. Jean Lafitte, the early 19th century pirate who built the largest smuggling operation on U.S. soil and controlled New Orleans and all the goods that traveled the Mississippi River. He went from outlaw to patriot when he and his crew defended New Orleans against the British in the War of 1812, for which he and his pirate cohorts received full pardons for past misdeeds, but were whitewashed from history by Andrew Jackson.
Duffy also made a deal with Voltage Pictures to write and direct The Blood Spoon Council, a thriller about a vigilante group led by an eccentric mastermind profiler that hunts, captures and disposes of serial killers. This will be the first film that Duffy has directed since the Boondock Saints sequel in 2009. Even though the bar deal with Weinstein fell apart over creative disagreements, the first movie–which starred Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery as Irish vigilantes–got financed by Elie Samaha. The ultra-violent shoot em up then had the …
EXCLUSIVE: There has been a change in the CW‘s plans for The Flash. Originally, the character, played by Grant Gustin, was supposed to appear in three episodes of Arrow this season — No. 8, No. 9 and No. 20, the last one serving as a backdoor pilot directed by David Nutter. Episodes 8 and 9, in which the superhero is introduced only as his alter ego Barry Allen, have already been shot. But now the CW has opted to film a traditional stand-alone Flash pilot instead of doing a backdoor pilot as Arrow‘s Episode 20. With Episodes 8 and 9 serving as an origin story, the plan was for The Flash character to make his debut — red costume and all — in Arrow‘s Episode 20. He will now do it in the pilot. The creative team remains the same, with Arrow co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg and series scribe Geoff Johns writing the pilot and Nutter, who helmed the pilot for Arrow, directing. Berlanti, Kreisberg and Nutter executive produce, with Melissa Kellner Berman co-executive producing.
EXCLUSIVE: CBS has put in development Alleged, a drama from CBS TV Studios and Jon Turteltaub‘s studio-based Junction Entertainment. Written by playwright/TV writer David Rambo and Pat Gilfillan, the project centers on a defense attorney who takes on the most important case of his life: defending his own brother, a successful surgeon and father of two who is accused of murdering his wife. The story is informed by high-profile spouse murder cases like those of Drew Peterson and Scott Peterson much like another CBS/CBS TV Studios drama, The Good Wife, was inspired by a string of politicians wives who’d stood by their philandering husbands. This marks the first project under an overall deal WME-repped Junction recently inked with CBS Studios, returning to CBS after a two-year stint at ABC Studios.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. TV and DC Comics are on a roll this development season with a third high-profile project. Constantine, a drama based on the characters in DC Comics’ John Constantine stories, has sold to NBC with penalty. It is written/executive produced by The Mentalist executive producer Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer, the go-to writer for Warner Bros.’ feature DC adaptations. Constantine centers on John Constantine, an enigmatic and irreverent con man-turned-reluctant supernatural detective who is thrust into the role of defending us against dark forces from beyond.
John Constantine, who first appeared in 1985 as a recurring character in the horror series The Saga Of The Swamp Thing, was created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and Jamie Delano. He was portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 feature Constantine and is rumored to be featured in the Justice League Dark feature Warner Bros. has in the works with Guillermo del Toro.
Constantine joins Warner Bros. TV/DC’s The Flash at the CW, a spinoff from hit Arrow, and a Gotham City/Commissioner Gordon drama at Fox, which has a series commitment. WME-repped Goyer has co-written The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins, Man Of Steel and the upcoming Batman vs. Superman. On TV, he is the …
Glee baddie Grant Gustin has landed his first major role, signing on to play Barry Allen aka The Flash on the CW’s proposed Arrow spinoff. He will appear in three episodes of Arrow this coming season before headlining his own spinoff series. Written by Arrow co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, the origin story of Flash’s Barry Allen identity will be introduced in episodes No. 8, No. 9 and No. 20, with David Nutter, who helmed the Arrow pilot, committed to directing Episode 20. Barry Allen (Gustin) is a Central City assistant police forensic investigator who arrives in Starling to look into a series of unexplained robberies that may have a connection to a tragedy in his past. A comic book fan boy, Barry is obsessed with the Arrow unaware that working with Oliver and Felicity to solve the crime has brought him right into the dangerous world of the vigilante. Kreisberg said last month that the actor who portrays Barry Allen will play him as “an ordinary man” when viewers meet him. “The character will be as grounded and realistic as possible,” he said. “That’s how we’ll get to know him. Then his life will get a bit faster.” Like Arrow star Stephen Amell, Gustin is a familiar CW face having recurred on the …
Toronto Briefs: Myriad Selling ‘Miss Meadows’; Tom Hopper Joins ‘Northmen’; Taylor Swift To Sing For ‘One Chance’; More
Myriad Pictures is handling all international rights on Miss Meadows, written and directed by Karen Leigh Hopkins. The dark satire/fairy tale stars Katie Holmes and James Badge Dale. Myriad will introduce it to buyers in Toronto. Holmes plays a sweet and proper elementary school teacher who moonlights as a gun-toting vigilante. Badge Dale is the local sheriff who falls in love with her. The film is produced by Crazy Heart‘s Rob Carliner and Eric Brenner.
Oprah’s PR Blitz Helps ‘The Butler’ Open #1 With $25M: Soft Box Office As ‘Kick Ass 2′ Falls, ‘Jobs’ Biopic Dies, ‘Paranoia’ Bombs
SUNDAY 8 AM, 6TH UPDATE WRITETHRU: With one exception, this weekend was a disaster zone for three of the four newcomers at the domestic box office. Tanking big-time were Universal’s Kick-Ass 2 based on the comic book, Five Star/Open Road Films’ Jobs biopic about the Apple co-founder played by Ashton Kutcher, and IM Global/Relativity’s Paranoia starring Liam Hemsworth and Harrison Ford. Total moviegoing this weekend was only around $160 million, or -6% from last year, despite the uber-crowded marketplace. Even the surprise #1 this weekend, The Weinstein Company’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, opened with $25 million which was down from the $30+M Hollywood projected when the weekend started. ”Everything is coming in softer,” one studio exec warned me Friday night. Love her or hate her, co-star Oprah Winfrey and her big media blitz helped open the pic even if it did little to help her public image by providing more dirt for her detractors. Yet a survey by Fandango found that 72% of Butler ticket-buyers claimed Oprah’s involvement increased their interest in seeing the film which was her first movie role in 15 years. But The Butler still trailed the opening weekend grosses of two recent and similarly race- and civil rights-themed adult pics: 42 and The Help. No one, and certainly not The Weinstein Company, expected director Lee Daniels’ or screenwriter Danny Strong’s biopic (playing in 2,933 theaters) to double its $15M weekend projection much less land on top of the weekend box office. But on Thursday morning it already was the #1 ticket-seller on both Fandango and MovieTickets – a welcome event for such a modest $25M negative cost film. Its 73% Rotten Tomatoes positive reviews and ’A’ CinemaScore from audiences surely helped word of mouth as much as Oprah. (Note that in 1998. at the height of her syndicated power when she could sell anything to anyone, Oprah starred in and produced the film flop Beloved. Now she’s on her struggling cable network. But I’m assured she had no financial investment in the film nor contributed into the P&A nor bought up advance tickets in bulk like the rumors claimed.)
Forest Whitaker, Terrence Howard, Alan Rickman, and Cuba Gooding Jr helped overcome the uneven script that – depending on your POV – is dumbed-down or condescending, historically important or filled with historical inaccuracies. But the stunt casting of Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan has caused considerable Red State outrage on social media. Like 42 and The Help, this pic was marketed first to African-Americans through outreach in those faith-based communities. Then the campaign widened to the art house crowd and curious general audiences. Rival studios initially speculated that The Butler‘s grosses would be frontloaded since it was so dependent on pre-sales. But its Saturday number went up +10% over Friday’s. The film’s genesis began with a Washington Post profile of the longtime White House black butler Eugene Allen that was optioned by Sony Pictures producer Laura Ziskin. When she died of cancer 3 weeks before shooting began, Cassian Elwes and Pam Williams met with Daniels and, together with CAA, scrambled to put together financing. In all 28 investors came together including Buddy Patrick, Sheila Johnson, Michael Findley, and Len Blavatnick. Harvey Weinstein and his TWC boarded late in the production and banked $4M to help finish the film. Then Harv “helped edit” – we all know what that means – with Daniels. Initially The Butler was a fall film to platform for awards consideration. “But when it tested through the roof, we decided then that we needed to go wide. And we saw a gap in the schedule for adult fare in the summer,” an insider tells me. “In our deal we had a $20M P&A cap, and we had to go to the investor group to get the cap raised to $30M in order to go wide.” I’m told 100% of the P&A money is TWC’s. Along the way, Harvey orchestrated free publicity as he battled Warner Bros over the pic’s title.
Pre-release tracking predicted that Universal’s superhero action-comedy Kick Ass 2 (playing in 2,940 theaters) would be the #1 film this weekend as it made steady gains in key areas with solid interest indicated from younger audiences and males in particular. Instead, it bombed with only $13.6M after looking to open #1, then #2, then #3 on Friday - trailing the Warner Bros/New Line holdover comedy We’re The Millers. Not even its ‘B+’ CinemaScore could help word of mouth after critics savaged it with only 29% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes because it fell short of the original. Fanboys decided to stay away. I predict debate will rage about whether this sequel based on Mark Millar/John S. Romita’s comic book was necessary. Even the 2010 original’s $19.8M opening was considered dismal, only to make up for it as a hot DVD sale and rental and digital download because of its R-rated irreverence and style. Wrongly, the studio believed “there was a committed fan base that could be activated as a core audience for a sequel,” as a Universal exec emailed me. So the studio handled worldwide distribution for the further adventures of Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse respectively). Vigilante crusader Colonel Stars and Stripes is played by Jim Carrey who kicked up a fuss by proclaiming he wouldn’t promote the film because of its ultra-violence. A few weeks later, he got onboard – but not before generating a ton of bad publicity for the pic. (He didn’t make himself very popular in Hollywood with this stunt. Let’s see if his career continues to crater.) From a screenplay by director Jeff Wadlow, pic also reteamed producers Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack and David Reid. It was independently financed for only $28M, then acquired by Universal before production began in September of 2012. Film opens day-and-date in 18 international territories including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany and grossed $6.3M at 1,500 dates.
Flopping in wide release (2,381 theaters) was Open Road Films’ Jobs, the much-publicized biopic about the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher. It came in only #7 with a meager $6.7M despite a plethora of TV ad buys. Ashton just isn’t a movie star, period, and the ‘B-’ CinemaScore didn’t generate any helpful word of mouth for the pic directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) and scripted by first-time screenwriter Matt Whitely. Open Road acquired Jobs just before it premiered at Sundance in January from Five Star Feature Films which financed the $12M production. Rotten Tomatoes critics only gave it 24% positive reviews because of its superficial made-for-TV depiction of a complex creative and business icon. Still it’s surprising how many Apple devotees stayed away despite the marketing’s psychographic targeting to them. And digital stunts included the launch of the first-ever Instagram movie trailer and Kutcher ringing the bell at the NY Stock Exchange.
Another tech pic tanked. Dropping from #10 on Friday to #13 by Sunday was the IM Global/ Reliance produced thriller Paranoia (distributed by Relativity into 2,459 U.S. theaters with EOne releasing in Canada). Even starring Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, and Gary Oldman who all are good in the film, it made only $3.5M or about half what was projected. Both audiences and critics hated on it with a ‘C’ CinemaScore and 4% Rotten Tomatoes positive reviews. ”I think Relativity’s marketing department screwed up,” one insider tells me. “They tried to focus on the youth audience and teen girls in particular, and it isn’t that kind of movie at all. Also, IM Global picked this date, and they never should have opened this kind of film in the summer.”
Spike TV has greenlighted Catch A Contractor, a new half-hour unscripted series hosted by Adam Carolla who serves as a vigilant watchdog to homeowners who have been cheated by a contractor and left with an unfinished disaster. In addition to being a TV and radio personality, Carolla apparently also is a passionate master carpenter who easily identifies shoddy, inferior work. Each episode will follow Carolla, along with no-nonsense contractor Skip Bedell and his wife, investigator Allison Bedell, as they seek retribution for wronged homeowners. Carolla and the Bedells hunt down and confront unscrupulous builders, drag them back to their construction disasters, and make them finish the job right. Spike TV has ordered 10 episodes which begins production this fall and will premiere in spring 2014. Eyeworks USA created the series, with JD Roth, Todd A. Nelson, DJ Nurre and Brant Pinvidic executive producing.
Comic-Con: Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou And ‘Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington Join ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2′
Ross Lincoln contributes to Deadline’s Comic-Con coverage
Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington and Djimon Hounsou have joined the voice cast of How To Train Your Dragon 2, it was announced minutes ago during the DreamWorks Animation panel on the first official day of Comic-Con. Blanchett will play a character named Valka, a vigilante warrior devoted to rescuing dragons from enslavement. Hounsou will play Drago Bludvfist, a “maniacal” villain bent on capturing and enslaving the world’s dragons. Harington, who plays Jon Snow on the now-Emmy-nominated HBO series Game Of Thrones, will make his voice-acting debut as Bludvfist’s lieutenant Dragon Prince, the self-described “greatest dragon trapper in the world”; this will be Harington’s first time voice-acting. The announcements were made near the end of the panel, which was largely devoted to clips from and discussion of DreamWorks Animation’s just-released Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and the second installment of the Dragon franchise; a third installment already has staked on a June 26 release date. Turbo director David Soren, Mr. Peabody director Rob Minkoff, and Dragon 2 helmer Dean DeBlois attended the panel, joined by DWA co-president of production Bill Damaschke.
Although Turbo was released yesterday to lukewarm response, audience reaction during the panel was positive. This continued with the response to a clip from Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which despite being based on characters nearly 50 years old saw every joke land strongly — and huge applause at the end. Two clips from How To Train Your Dragon 2 were shown, both of which received enormous response, including a few who stood and applauded when the second clip ended.
Robert Rodriguez‘s grindhouse sequel Machete Kills will get a hometown debut in Austin, Texas at the annual genre-packed Fantastic Fest. Danny Trejo returns as ex-Federale turned vigilante Machete, who is recruited by the President (Charlie Sheen – billed as Carlos Estevez) to stop an eccentric billionaire (Mel Gibson) from launching a missile into space. Rodriguez has again assembled a B-movie dream team of name actors and unorthodox stars for his gory actioner, including Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Demian Bichir, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding, Jr., William Sadler, and Marko Zaror. Machete Kills will have its world premiere September 19 at the new Lakeline location of the Alamo Drafthouse theaters, home to the annual horror, action, sci-fi, fantasy, and foreign film festival. Two weeks later Open Road Films releases the pic wide on October 4. This year’s Fantastic Fest runs from September 19-26, 2013.
Television takes the spotlight on Day 4 of Comic-Con 2013. Highlights of the just-unveiled Sunday schedule include panel presentations and sneak peeks at The CW‘s Supernatural, NBC‘s Community, Under The Dome, FX‘s Sons Of Anarchy, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Vince Gilligan and stars will be on hand to fete AMC‘s Breaking Bad as it heads into its final eight episodes. And Matt Smith, whose departure from BBC‘s Doctor Who was announced last month, will be on hand for the show’s panel. Here’s the full Sunday line-up:
Comic-Con‘s just-announced Day 3 schedule will see many of the San Diego convention’s biggest panels for film and TV, including presentations of Marvel Studios‘ Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. WB and Legendary are also rolling deep with their slate of upcoming genre titles, including Godzilla, Seventh Son, 300: Rise Of An Empire, Gravity, and The LEGO Movie.
Related: Comic-Con: Legendary Bringing ‘Godzilla’ And ‘Seventh Son’ To Confab
On the TV side, The CW‘s bringing the familiar and the new to Comic-Con. They’ll preview The Vampire Diaries and Arrow along with TVD spin-off The Originals and new series The Tomorrow People. Fans will also get peeks at A&E’s Bates Motel, HBO‘s True Blood, and NBC‘s Grimm and Revolution, along with a look at the upcoming Dracula. Here’s the full Saturday schedule
UPDATE: Kick-Ass comics writer and Mark Millar, who exec produced both the 2010 film and its sequel, responded to Jim Carrey today on his own blog: “[I'm] baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn’t in the screenplay eighteen months ago. Yes, the body-count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin. A sequel to the picture that gave us HIT-GIRL was always going to have some blood on the floor and this should have been no shock to a guy who enjoyed the first movie so much… This is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorcese [sic] and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-Wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence… Our job as storytellers is to entertain and our toolbox can’t be sabotaged by curtailing the use of guns in an action-movie.”
PREVIOUSLY, SUNDAY PM: Jim Carrey gleefully puts down baddies with a baseball bat and an attack dog in Universal‘s Kick-Ass 2 as a vigilante named Colonel Stars and Stripes. (“Try to have fun – otherwise what’s the point?” he smirks in the film’s trailer.) But in light of December’s Sandy Hook mass shooting, the comic star has publicly denounced the film’s violent content – much of which involves the film’s two teenage protagonists. @JimCarrey: I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence,” he Tweeted Sunday. “My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”