BREAKING… The Kung Fu Panda director has come aboard Sherlock Gnomes, the 3D animated sequel to last year’s Disney-released Gnomeo & Juliet. Elton John‘s Rocket Pictures is producing again with the first movie’s co-writers Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil also back for the follow-up, which centers on the characters from the first movie enlisting the help of a famous gnome-detective in solving the sinister disappearance of gnomes from the suburban gardens of England. “John has the perfect sensibility for this movie, together with the vision to build on the first film to create a distinctive, fresh and action-packed adventure,” said Rocket CEO and producer Steve Hamilton Shaw. Stevenson is repped by CAA. Elton John is writing original music for the movie, which is now set to begin production early next year. Rocket Pictures, repped by UTA, also said today that it has hired former Walt Disney Animation production head Carolyn Soper to help oversee production on the pic, working alongside Hamilton Shaw as the company ramps up its animation ambitions. Rocket’s David Furnish and Elton John are also producing.
EXCLUSIVE: Elton John’s Rocket Pictures has set up the 3D animated Gnomeo & Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes, a sequel to the 2011 Disney hit that grossed $194 million worldwide. Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil, who wrote the original, are writing the sequel script. Elton John is currently composing new songs for the film. Rocket Pictures’ principals Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish are producing, and John is exec producer. The plan is to begin production in the fall, and they are talking to directors. Gnomeo & Juliet director Kelly Asbury will act as a creative consultant on the sequel.
When gnomes start disappearing from the suburban gardens of England, Gnomeo, Juliet and friends enlist the help of Sherlock Gnomes, “the greatest ornamental detective,” to track the culprit. Unfortunately, Sherlock is neither as brilliant nor as insightful as his human counterpart, and as the crimes against gnomanity continue, the threat to their world becomes bigger than they ever imagined.
Elton John’s Rocket Pictures And Kelly Asbury Follow ‘Gnomeo’ With ‘Will Gallows And The Snake Bellied Troll’
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures is re-teaming with Gnomeo & Juliet writer/director Kelly Asbury on Will Gallows and the Snake Bellied Troll, a live-action/CGI-animated feature. Based on the first in a series of books by Derek Keilty, the film tells the story of a young cowboy who seeks justice in a world that mashes together fantasy and the Wild West. Andersen Press published the book last March. Rocket Pictures, which is Sir Elton John’s label formed to make family-themed film and TV projects, acquired the feature rights for a film that, like Gnomeo & Juliet, will have strong musical elements. Rocket Pictures’ Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish will produce, and John will be executive producer.
“It’s a classic cowboy story for kids, set in an amazing world,” John said in a statement. “We think family audiences will love it.” Rocket and Asbury scored a sleeper hit with Gnomeo & Juliet, with James McAvoy and Emily Blunt the lead voices, and new songs by John. The film grossed just shy of $100 million domestically for Disney, and its worldwide gross was just over $190 million. Asbury co-directed with Andrew Adamson Shrek 2 and he also directed Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, both for DreamWorks. Both he and Rocket Pictures are repped by UTA.
Paradigm has signed Arc Productions, the Toronto-based animation house that was formerly called Starz Animation after it was bought by a group of Canadian investors. Arc Productions projects include Gnomeo and Juliet, but the plan is to extend its animation and vfx service business by developing its own animated intellectual property.
TUESDAY AM: I’m told that actuals show Dark Castle/Warner Bros’ Unknown won Presidents Day Weekend with $25.450 — but it was very, very close with Disney’s Gnomeo & Juliet which ended with $25.415M. DreamWorks/Touchstone/Disney’s I Am Number Four finished with $22.7M. Sony’s Just Go With It took in $21.5M. New Regency/Fox’s Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son made $18.7M.
Prez Weekend: ‘Unknown’ #1, ‘Gnomeo’ #2; ‘I Am Number Four’ #3, ‘Just Go With It’ #4, ‘Big Mommas’ #5; ‘Justin Bieber’ #6
SUNDAY PM/MONDAY AM, 7TH UPDATE: Sources are giving me these North American box office numbers for this Presidents Day long weekend, not helped by wet weather on the West Coast or snow in the Midwest and Plains. The order has been changing since Friday and should keep changing right through Monday evening:
1. Unknown (Dark Castle/Warner Bros) NEW [3,043 Theaters]
Friday $6.7M, Saturday $8.8M, Estimated Sunday $6.3M
Three-Day Weekend $21.7M, Estimated Four-Day Holiday $25.6M
Liam Neeson’s latest action thriller was for Dark Castle/Warner Bros. PG-13 Unknown grabbed No. 1 Friday by overperforming and hasn’t let go yet. Leonard Goldberg brought the book to Joel Silver’s Dark Castle, which for once wound up financing a decently made film to decent reviews. “This could be the Dark Castle film Silver needs to shore up the DC financing and continue to make films under his DC label,” a Warner Bros exec tells me. Studio execs tell me Unknown was positioned as an interesting mystery with a newly popular hero to root for, as shown by early test screenings that proved the film had great playability. Trailers were placed on varied films to reach both younger & older audiences, from Hereafter to Unstoppable, True Grit to The Fighter, and even The King’s Speech. But TV was key, launching in early January with high-profile sports events and a strong mix of cable and prime time, again reaching younger and …
Touchstone has a new trailer out for Gnomeo and Juliet, the animated feature that will be released February 11. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt are the title characters, and Jason Statham, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith and Patrick Stewart round out the voice cast.
Disney just released what it’s calling the “first image” for GNOMEO & JULIET, the greatest love story ever told, starring garden gnomes. Adapted from Shakespeare, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) with classic and original songs by Elton John, it features the voices of James McAvoy and Emily Blunt:
EXCLUSIVE: FilmDistrict is nearing a deal to acquire U.S. rights to Rocketman, the Michael Gracey-directed biographical musical film about Sir Elton John. The script is by Billy Elliot‘s Lee Hall, and Tom Hardy is circling to play the lead role. This film was the talk of Cannes, where it was shopped by UTA, which structured the financing. It was there that UK-based Icon’s production arm AI Film agreed to come aboard to co-finance the film with Rocket Pictures during the Cannes Film Festival. I’m told that FilmDistrict is betting big here, with Peter Schlessel’s distribution company paying around a $10 million minimum guarantee for a guaranteed wide theatrical release and size-able P&A. There is also a generous gross corridor after the film recoups.
The film follows John’s journey from 5-year old musical prodigy who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records than just about any musical artist of his era. John’s musical catalog is part of the mix, so this is going to be a major film. Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish are producing the project along with Lawrence Bender for AI Film. Sir Elton John and Access Industries’ Len Blavatnik are executive producing the film, along with Icon/AI Film CEO Aviv Giladi and FilmDistrict CEO Schlessel.
CG specialist Marza Animation Planet is in pre-production on their first animated feature under newly appointed CEO Masanao Maeda, the company announced today. Maeda previously served as President and COO of SEGA of America before moving to Marza, which is financed by the SEGA SAMMY Group holding company. The animated family flick Robodog follows two odd-couple canines, one a robot and one a real dog, as they embark on an adventure and find their place in the world. Henry F. Anderson III, who was animation director on Disney’s hit Gnomeo & Juliet, has been tapped to helm.
Unified Pictures has added two animation vets to their upcoming take on the Biblical story. Kung Fu Panda director John Stevenson will head creative on and executive produce Noah’s Ark, the animated musical written by Philip LaZebnik (Pocahontas, Mulan, Prince Of Egypt). Pic tells the familiar tale from the point of view of Gilbert, a lovable meerkat who leads a ragtag band of animals to the ark. Animation pro Cameron Hood (Shark Tale, First Flight, How To Train Your Dragon) will co-direct. The CG-animated feature will be produced in-house at Unified, an independent financing, production, and distribution company based in LA. Stevenson is repped by CAA.
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures has set commercials director Michael Gracey to helm Rocketman, the biographical musical film about Sir Elton John. I’ve told you about this one before. There is a script in by Billy Elliot‘s Lee Hall, and Gracey will direct a feature that follows John’s journey from 5-year old musical prodigy who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records that just about any musical artist of his era. “Michael has an innovative, imaginative and compelling vision for the film,” said Rocket CEO Steve Hamilton Shaw. “We want to create an experience that surprises and moves audiences and knew immediately that he was the perfect director to take them on this journey.”
Toronto-based Tayrona Films and Arc Productions have announced they are joining in a co-production partnership to produce four animated feature films. Separately, international producer-financier-distributor Tayrona said it is forming Tayrona Animation, which will finance and produce the films with Arc, the animation studio whose credits include Gnomeo & Juliet and 9. The plan is for Arc and Tayrona to contribute two films apiece to the arrangement. The first film in the deal is The Legends Of The Underzoo, an Arc property that follows a group of animal cubs who, when their zoo is threatened, set out to find a treasure buried in the legendary and mysterious Underzoo. Tayrona is also developing two projects for the deal based on books by Erik Daniel Shein: Darwin: A Galapagos Love Story and Aurora The Spirit Bear Of The North. A fourth project has not been determined. The pact announced today was brokered by Paradigm Motion Picture Finance Group.
EXCLUSIVE: Kelly Asbury is in negotiations to direct Kazorn & The Unicorn for Sony Pictures Animation. Asbury co-wrote and directed 2011 Gnomeo and Juliet for Disney and co-directed Shrek 2 in 2004. Kazorn & the Unicorn follows the adventures of a young man and a unicorn as he seeks to locate a powerful weapon and prove his worth to his true love. Lloyd Taylor is writing the Unicorn screenplay. Sam Raimi, Josh Donen and Russell Hollander are producing. Asbury is already scheduled to work with Sony Animation on Pooch Café, which he is writing. Asbury is also scheduled to direct Will Gallows and the Snake Bellied Troll, a live-action/CGI-animated feature for Elton John and David Furnish’s Rocket Pictures. Asbury is repped by UTA and attorney Nancy Newhouse-Porter
Bone In The Throat, Closer To Fine, Spy Vs. Stu
LA-based Dignity Film Finance president Maggie Monteith has three films the company is financing and producing this year. Titles in active development areBone In The Throat, an adaptation of Anthony Bourdain’s bestselling novel produced by Lenny Beckerman and Peter Heslop (The King’s Speech) and directed by commericials helmer Graham Henman, marking his feature debut. Henman is co-writing the adaptation with Mark Townend. Also in the works is the romantic comedy Closer To Fine to be directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) who also scripted. Scott LaStaiti is producing. Stern is currently in preproduction on the recently announced biopic about Steve Jobs with Ashton Kutcher. Third project is Spy Vs. Stu, an action comedy to be directed by Hervé Renoh (Coursier). Screenplay was written by Allie Dvorin & Keith Mitchell and Gren Wells. Dignity also recently completed Theatre Of Dreams, directed by David Scheinmann and starring Brian Cox as Sir Matt Busby the legendary Manchester United Football manager. International sales are being handled by Intandem.
Twixt, The Echo
German distributor Pandastorm Pictures has picked up Francis Ford Coppola´s mystery-thriller Twixt from Pathé International and The Echo, from the exec producers of The Ring and QED International. Twixt tells the story of writer Hall Baltimore, the “bargain basement Stephen King”, who arrives in a small town for a book tour and gets caught up in a real murder. Cast includes Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, Bruce Dern, and Ben Chaplin. In The Echo, an ex-convict (Jesse Bradford) has to live in his dead mother´s apartment as a condition of his parole. Spookiness and danger ensue.
On Wednesday, Deadline revealed that The Weinstein Company was acquiring the Dustin Hoffman-directed comedy Quartet. TWC just confirmed it with this release.
New York, NY – May 4, 2012 – The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced today that they have acquired U.S. and Latin American rights to Dustin Hoffman’s QUARTET from HanWay Films. The comedy stars Maggie Smith (HARRY POTTER franchise, GNOMEO AND JULIET), Billy Connolly (GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, THE LAST SAMURAI), Michael Gambon (HARY POTTER franchise, THE KING’S SPEECH) and Pauline Collins (ALBERT NOBBS, FROM TIME TO TIME). QUARTET, written by Sir Ronald Harwood, marks the directorial debut of Hoffman. QUARTET tells the story of Reggie (Courtenay), Wilf (Connolly) and Cissy (Collins) who reside in Beecham House, a home for retired opera singers. Each year they stage a concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday, which also raises funds for the home. Reggie’s ex-wife Jean (Smith) arrives at the home and creates tension, playing the diva part but refusing to sing in the concert.
Deadline’s Awards Columnist Pete Hammond contributed commentary for this article.
Despite Warner Bros’ pricey campaign to put the final Harry Potter in the mix for Best Picture, its efforts only resulted in the same old technical noms the series usually gets (Visual Effects, Art Direction, Makeup). Universal also did a sizeable campaign to get its raunchy summer comedy Bridesmaids into the Best Picture conversation, but conventional wisdom that the Academy frowns on broad comedies in the category proved true again, relegating the hit movie to screenplay and Supporting Actress Melissa McCarthy — exactly the two categories the film was always thought to have its best chance.
David Fincher, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Steven Spielberg, War Horse
Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Tate Taylor, The Help
Bennett Miller, Moneyball
George Clooney, The Ides Of March
DGA nominee Fincher was the one anomaly between the usually reliable DGA list and the Oscar nominees in this category. Terrence Malick grabbed that spot, while Spielberg not only was snubbed here but in animated feature too for The Adventures Of Tintin. At least he has a Best Picture nom for War Horse to comfort him. Daldry, Taylor and Miller join him in the Snubbed Club even though their films were deemed Best Picture-worthy.
Actor In A Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio, J Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Ryan Gosling, The Ides Of March or Drive
Perhaps it was a sign when the Makeup branch failed to list DiCaprio’s Hoover makeup in their original seven finalists. The Academy thoroughly rejected Clint Eastwood’s movie, and DiCaprio went down with the ship too.
Motion Capture just isn’t a favorite with actors so that doomed Serkis from the start. Brooks missed SAG too, so that should have been a sign. Perhaps the film was just too violent for some? (Brooks had the best anti-reaction quotes of the day on his Twitter feed, posting “And to the Academy: You don’t like me. You really don’t like me” and “Looking forward to the State of the Union tonight. Hope the new Axis of Evil includes Hollywood.”)
Both of the above were more talked-about for noms than Rooney Mara, but in the end the newcomer triumphed over some Oscar-winning vets.
Actress In A Supporting Role
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Youth was not served in a tough category.
EXCLUSIVE: Elton John’s Rocket Pictures has acquired film rights to Michael Buckley’s bestselling series Nerds, and will develop them as an animated family feature that Buckley will script. Rocket Pictures principals Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish will produce. John is exec producer.
The Nerds series follows a group of unpopular and socially inept geeks who run a spy network from inside their elementary school. They battle the Hyena, a former junior beauty pageant contestant-turned-assassin, and an array of James Bond-style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last. Three books have been released in the past two years by the Abrams imprint Amulet Books, and the next one comes in the fall.
The British Academy of Film and Television has released the longlist for its upcoming Orange British Academy Film Awards. My Week With Marilyn and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lead with 16 mentions each. One point of note is the fact that Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was not named in the overall Best Film category. It is, however, on the list of Outstanding British Film potentials. Ryan Gosling also picked up two spots on the longlist for Best Actor, one for Drive and one for The Ides Of March. The longlist is the result of round one of voting by BAFTA members. It places 15 contenders in each category which will then be reduced to five eventual nominees. The animated film and documentary categories longlist five films each which will be reduced to three nominees per category.
According to BAFTA, all members vote in the first two rounds for all categories except Documentary, Film Not in the English Language and Outstanding British Film, which are voted for by Chapters (groups of over 80 members with specialist skills or experience in a particular craft area). The asterisks in the longlist below denote the top five selection of the relevant Chapter. In the final round, winners are voted for by specialist Chapters in all categories except for Best Film, Outstanding British Film, Documentary and Film Not in the English Language and the four performance categories, which are voted for by all members.
The final nominees will be announced on Jan 17 with the BAFTA ceremony taking place on Feb 12. The longlist is below:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Ides of March
The Iron Lady
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Film Not in the English Language
As If I Am Not There
The Boy Mir – Ten Years in Afghanistan
Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)
Little White Lies
Le Quattro Volte
The Skin I Live In
The Troll Hunter
Outstanding British Film
Attack the Block
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
The Iron Lady
My Week with Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need to Talk About Kevin