David Schulner is staying at Universal TV with a new two-year overall deal, his third consecutive overall pact there. Through Uni TV, Schulner has sold hourlong drama Pharaoh to HBO with Ridley Scott attached to direct and executive produce. The series explores an alternate explanation for the foundation and ascent of the ancient Egyptian empire—one in which greatness was bestowed upon us by beings from another world, calling into question what it means to be a ‘god.’ Another ancient Egypt drama, Hieroglyph, has a series order at Fox. Under his Uni TV deal, Schulner also is developing projects for sister networks USA and Syfy. He previously was the creator, executive producer and showrunner of NBC/Uni TV’s drama Do No Harm and served as consulting producer on NBC’s Dracula and Ironside. Schulner began his tenure at Universal TV (then UMS) with stints as co-executive producer on drama series Kings and Trauma, leading to his first overall deal with the studio in 2010. Schulner started off as a playwright before becoming a staff writer on ABC’s Once And Again. He rose to prominence with his high-concept 2007 spec The Oaks, which landed at Fox after a bidding frenzy with Shawn Ryan executive producing. Schulner’s series credits also include the WB’s Everwood, ABC’s Desperate Housewives and ITV’s Marchlands. Schulner, repped by UTA and Myman Abel, also is the author of the comic book Clone.
Jeremy Davies (Justified) and Robert Knepper (Prison Break) have been cast in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Davies, repped by Paradigm, Silver Lining Entertainment and attorney Karl Austen, will play Sgt. Ephraim Knowles, a shifty rogue whose only thought is for his own survival who reluctantly joins the Rangers to avoid being executed for desertion. Knepper, repped by Innovative Artists and Kramer Management, will play Empresario Buckley, an unshaven bombastic slob. He is the only law in the town of Victoria, and he abuses his position to further his own agenda and make himself rich in the process.
Rhys Coiro (Hostages) and Joe Egender (Hunger) have landed lead roles in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Coiro will play Vern Elwood opposite Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Egender will play Beans Wilkins, a Ranger who is always hungry and looking for his next meal.
The CW has unveiled its summer schedule, which includes originals on all five nights the network programs. That includes the reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? which originally launched last summer, now moving to a new night, Mondays. It will be joined by original episodes of Beauty And The Beast, which has been benched for the rest of the season; two new scripted offerings, Canadian comedy Seed and web-to-TV comedy Backpackers; docu-reality series Famous In 12; and two magic series, Penn & Teller: Fool Us and a Masters Of Illusion revival. Here is the CW summer schedule with premiere dates and descriptions of the new series:
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has closed a deal for Men Who Kill, a pitch by T.J. Fixman that will be developed as a star vehicle for fast-rising Michael B. Jordan. The tone of the film is an international Bad Boys and it gives the studio another project with Jordan, who comes off his breakout role in Fruitvale Station and heads into the Fantastic Four reboot after previously starring in the Fox sleeper Chronicle.
After starring as a teen in the iconic TV series The Wire and Friday Night Lights, Jordan is making the transition to adulthood among a handful of young actors vying to be in the next generation of bankable leading men. This is the first action thriller vehicle being developed specifically for Jordan, who is separately attached to play Apollo Creed’s grandson in a new version of Rocky that will re-team him with Fruitvale Station writer-director Ryan Coogler.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Denise O’Donoghue Exiting ITV Studios; BBC Three’s Zai Bennett Joining Sky Atlantic
Denise O’Donoghue Exiting As ITV Studios Managing Director
Denise O’Donoghue, a veteran television exec and four-year Managing Director of ITV Studios, is leaving the UK-based producer. She will exit at the end of the year with a successor yet to be named, though she will remain a member of the board. ITV Studios is the largest commercial production company in the UK, with titles including Mr Selfridge, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Breathless and the upcoming Thunderbirds Are Go! The production arm of ITV is one of the biggest growth areas for the group, which has been busy making acquisitions in the UK and U.S. “A key part of our strategy is to build a strong international content business, creating more of our own programs which are successful here in the UK and internationally,” ITV Studios Managing Director Kevin Lygo said. “Denise has played a crucial role in rebuilding the UK production business by bringing in and managing brilliant creative talent, which in turn has resulted in the development of a strong and healthy content pipeline.”
Jake Busey has been cast in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Busey will play the older brother of “Big Foot Wallace”, Samuel Wallace, who recites the legendary admonition “Remember the Alamo.” Busey, repped by TalentWorks and manager Steven Jensen, also can be seen in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn on El Rey Network.
On Thursday, Thierry Frémaux will unveil the lineup for the 67th running of the Cannes Film Festival. Speculation, comme d’habitude, has been rife for at least the past month as to which titles may make the trip to the Croisette. While one exec with movies in contention says, “It’s going to the wire this year,” some contenders are coming into sharper focus. Although nothing is confirmed until Frémaux says so, among the titles I hear consistently cited as near faits-accomplis are DreamWorks Animation‘s How To Train Your Dragon 2; the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night with Marion Cotillard; Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher; Mike Leigh‘s Mr Turner; Tommy Lee Jones‘ The Homesman; and David Cronenberg‘s Maps To The Stars. There are many, many more required to fill the Competition, Out-of-Competition, Un Certain Regard, Special Screenings and other sections. Here’s a primer for what’s looking likely, and what isn’t, to make the cut in an official category on Thursday:
We know that Nicole Kidman-starrer Grace Of Monaco is the opening-night film. French distributor Gaumont is planning a classic Cannes soirée which will follow the official screening and dinner on May 14. In other certainties, French debut feature Party Girl is opening the Un Certain Regard sidebar; a less showy title than 2013’s Bling Ring, but one that fits with UCR jury president Pablo Trapero’s take on the section this year. Jane Campion, the only woman ever to win a Palme d’Or (for The Piano in 1993), is president of the Competition jury whose other members will be revealed shortly.
Among the high-profile Hollywood titles expected is DreamWorks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon sequel, which I hear is getting a special screening. The studio isn’t commenting, but DWA and Cannes have a long history – going back to when Frémaux took over the selection in 2001 and caused a stir by putting Shrek in the Competition. We’ve heard that Frémaux has put a full-court press on Paul Thomas Anderson to get Inherent Vice (Warner Bros) to the festival. But with a release date at the end of 2014, this could be a long shot, and some I’ve spoken with believe it won’t be ready for next month. Some wonder if Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys could make the trip. Eastwood has been to Cannes several times before and is esteemed by Frémaux who gave him the inaugural Lumière Prize in 2009 at the October festival he oversees in Lyon with Bertrand Tavernier. Although I’m told Jersey Boys isn’t a typical Cannes film, I wouldn’t fully rule it out — it’s also got a timely June release.
Production and management shingle 42 was founded last year by Welcome To The Punch producers Rory Aitken and Ben Pugh, and agents Josh Varney and Kate Buckley. The UK-based company reps talent and develops film projects, now with a deeper move into television. An exclusive, multi-year development and distribution partnership with ITV Studios Global Entertainment will focus on scripted drama, an increasingly lucrative area for UK producers. When they created 42, Varney and Buckley exited UK agency Independent Talent Group, but continued to share certain clients. 42′s client roster now includes Michael Caine, Rhys Ifans, Rupert Friend, Nicholas Hoult, Emily Mortimer, Tom Hollander, Jonny Lee Miller, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Monahan, Lynne Ramsay, Peter Cattaneo, Eran Creevy, Terry George, and Daniel Wolfe. The company is currently in post-production on feature Monsters: The Dark Continent, the sequel to Gareth Edwards’ Monsters. Pre-production has started on both Creevy’s Autobahn, starring Hoult, and The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, starring Martin Sheen and directed by Andre Ovredal (Trollhunter).
Global Showbiz Briefs: Simon Dickson Leaving Shine Group’s Dragonfly; ITV Agrees To Revive ‘Hollywood Squares’ Format; More
Simon Dickson Exiting As Managing Director Of Shine Group’s Dragonfly
Simon Dickson, Managing Director of Shine Group factual producer Dragonfly, is leaving the company after three years. The exec will step down next month, with Dragonfly Creative Director Mark Raphael and COO Lucinda Hicks taking over as Co-Managing Directors. Dickson joined Dragonfly in April 2011 as the company’s Creative Director before becoming Managing Director in November 2012. Prior to joining Dragonfly, he served as Deputy Head of Documentaries at Channel 4. At Dragonfly, Dickson was executive producer on event documentary The Plane Crash (Discovery and Channel 4) and celebrities-in-the-wilderness series Bear Grylls’ Wild Weekends (Channel 4). Under his stewardship the company has delivered such documentaries as The Horsemeat Banquet (BBC Three), Terror At Sea: The Sinking Of The Concordia (Channel 4) and Hurricane Sandy: Anatomy Of A Superstorm (BBC Two) alongside series People Like Us and What Happens In Kavos for BBC Three and Channel 4, respectively.
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Railway Man’, ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’, ‘Joe’, ‘Hateship Loveship,’ ‘Cuban Fury’, ‘Dancing In Jaffa’, ‘A Fragile Trust’
The likes of Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Tilda Swinton, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce and more have films joining the Specialties in theaters this weekend in what could possibly be a big draw at the box office — hopefully. TWC will bow The Railway Man, a period drama set against WWII, while SPC will open Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive. David Gordon Green returns to theaters with Joe from Roadside and Lionsgate, while IFC Films will bow Hateship Loveship. The distributor will also open doc Dancing In Jaffa. Also joining the pack in a fairly packed weekend is Entertainment One’s Cuban Fury, starring Nick Frost. Also opening is A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, And Jayson Blair At The New York Times, an ITVS backed doc that will have a self-distributed theatrical run ahead of its broadcast on PBS.
The Railway Man
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Paterson, Eric Lomax
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine, Michael MacKenzie, Jeffrey Daunton
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
With a high-profile cast, bio-drama The Railway Man centers on a former British Army officer who was tormented as a young prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II. Later he discovers the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him. “We’re big fans of …
ABC made a pro forma announcement this morning, officially naming ABC News SVP James Goldston to replace Ben Sherwood as president of the news division. Last month, when Sherwood was promoted to co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, following Anne Sweeney’s surprising decision to step down as president of the Disney/ABC Television Group to become a TV director, the list of possible Sherwood replacements read like this:
1) James Goldston
2) James Goldston
3) James Goldston
Goldston’s the guy credited with saving Nightline from oblivion, and turning Good Morning America into the franchise that deposed NBC’s Today as king of the morning show ratings — though Goldston already had been upped to Sherwood’s No. 2 guy, and Tom Cibrowski, who’d worked with Goldston on GMA, had been promoted to GMA chief when the program actually went in for the kill. Discussions about Goldston generally include the expression “golden gut” and he is said to be well-liked in the news division. He’s also considered so valuable to the news operation that discussion of Sherwood-replacement plans didn’t seem to include any other names.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Participant Media Boards Malala Yousafzai Docu; ‘Rising Star’, ‘Master Class’ Headed To Asia; More
Participant Media Boards Docu About Pakistani Girl Wounded By Taliban
Participant Media has come aboard as a co-financing partner on the Parkes + MacDonald Productions documentary about Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai. An Inconvenient Truth’s Davis Guggenheim is directing. In 2012, student activist Yousafzai gained international recognition when she survived a brutal assassination attempt by the Taliban at age 14. Shot in the head and neck when gunmen opened fire on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, she was targeted for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education in her community. Production starts in early July 2014, in association with Image Nation Abu Dhabi. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are producing, with a release eyed for early next year. In addition to its financial commitment, Participant will collaborate with Image Nation to launch a social action and advocacy campaign to expand the reach and impact of the film.
Geoffrey Blake (Forrest Gump) and Dillon Lane (Bucket And Skinner’s Epic Adventures) have joined the cast of History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Blake, repped by Michael Levine of Levine Management, will play Colonel George Hockley, Sam Houston’s most trusted confidant and adviser, who senses the unrest among the men before the Alamo, but supports Houston even as others question his leadership. Lane will play Yancey Burns, one of the youngest Rangers who goes on a dangerous mission to help rescue his friend Truett Fincham’s family.
Nat Geo Wild has ordered a second season of Cesar 911, starring Cesar Millan, to air both in the U.S. and internationally. Nat Geo Wild recently enjoyed its most-watched quarter since its launch, including the first season of Cesar 911 becoming the net’s second-highest-rated series. Produced by ITV Studios America (Hell’s Kitchen, Four Weddings) in association with Leepson Bounds Entertainment, Cesar 911 focuses on Millan’s work in communities terrorized by unruly hounds who wreak havoc on the community sidewalks, dog parks … even restaurants and offices. Production on Season 2 is set to begin this spring.
MIPTV Briefs: Amazon’s ‘Cosmopolitans’ Drinks In Paris; UK’s Watershed Names Creative Director; ITVSGE On A Roll In China
Amazon Studios‘ director Roy Price told attendees at a Mip keynote today that filming is starting in Paris this week on its pilot The Cosmopolitans. A chronicle of the loves and adventures of a group of young expatriates in the City of Light, it hails from The Last Days Of Disco filmmaker Whit Stillman who wrote and will direct and executive produce. The cast of the half-hour pilot includes Shaun Evans Adam Brody, Chloë Sevigny and Carrie MacLemore.
MIPTV Briefs: Baltasar Kormakur To Direct & Produce Icelandic Series ‘Trapped’; ‘Boom!’ Goes To Spain; Japan’s Wowow Boards Scorsese Doc; More
Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur, who segues between Hollywood and home-based projects, is set to direct and produce serialized crime series Trapped in his native country. From Kormakur’s RVK Studios, it’s based on his original idea and written by Sigurjon Kjartansson and Clive Bradley. Trapped follows the investigation of the grisly murder of an unidentifiable man found in the water after an international ferry arrives in a small town at the bottom of a fjord. Soon after, a powerful blizzard hits the town with deadly force, making the only road in or out impassable. The 10-part series, the most ambitious Icelandic commission ever ordered, will air locally on public broadcaster RUV. RVK’s Magnus Vidar Sigurdsson is also producing and RVX, the effects arm of RVK, will design the VFX. Dynamic Television’s Daniel March and Klaus Zimmermann are executive producers and are handling worldwide distribution. Kormakur, whose The Deep was shortlisted for the Foreign Language Oscar in 2012, is currently directing Everest for Universal, Cross Creek Pictures and Working Title Films.
MIPTV Briefs: Germany Finds ‘Utopia’; eOne Sells AMC Titles; ‘SAF3′ Secures 2nd Season; ITVSGE Adds Major Series; More
Social experiment format Utopia is getting a German version. The ProSiebenSat.1 Group has acquired rights with the local version to be a co-production between Talpa Media and its German partner, Schwartzkopff TV. In the States, Talpa Media U.S. is working with Fox on the American version for launch later this year. The reality series features a group of everyday people whisked to an isolated, undeveloped location for an entire year and challenged to create their own civilization.
Channel 4 drama Southcliffe leads the nominations for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts TV Awards. The miniseries has four nods including for Leading Actor Sean Harris and Supporting Actor Rory Kinnear. Comedy The IT Crowd also has four nominations, with stars Richard Ayoade and Chris O’Dowd competing with The Wrong Mans’ Mathew Baynton and James Corden in the Male Performance in a Comedy Programme category. Broadchurch and The Village scored three nods, including for Drama Series where they are joined by My Mad Fat Diary and the BBC’s Top Of The Lake. Other notable mentions include Dominic West for Leading Actor in Burton And Taylor;Helena Bonham Carter is also nommed for her role as Elizabeth Taylor in the mini. Among other British shows with nominations are the BBC’s The Fall, Ripper Street and the Doctor Who anniversary movie An Adventure In Space And Time. The International category features Breaking Bad, House Of Cards, Denmark’s Borgen, and France’s The Returned. This year’s ceremony will be held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London on May 18. A list of the major drama and comedy nominees follows (the full list is here):