EXCLUSIVE: While the second unit crew shooting Everest were in the vicinity when a tragic avalanche struck Mount Everest and so far has killed 13, there were no injuries or fatalities on the film, I can report. Principal photography on the Baltasar Kormakur-directed film is nearly over and they are finishing in Pinewood in England, but the second unit was setting up to go and shoot at Base 2 on Mount Everest near Nepal. Fortunately for the crew, they were acclimating at the foot of the summit and weren’t up where the disaster took place, when a wall of ice 1,000 feet up fell off at the left shoulder of the mountain and crashed down on Base 2. Most of the fatalities were experienced sherpas that guide climbers to the summit. Several of the sherpas involved with the Everest production rushed to help. The production will now have to wait to assess whether a trek back up the mountain to finish shooting is feasible.
The guides were carrying equipment and supplies to camps for climbers getting ready for peak trekking season — including those preparing to participate in Discovery Channel‘s Everest Jump Live, produced by NBC News Peacock Prods. Seven NBC News staffers on site are accounted for and unharmed, and Discovery said it has not had conversations as to how the disaster might impact the event’s scheduled May 11 air date. Read More »
The streaming service has put together a decidedly international cast for its upcoming drama about the legendary 13th century traveler. Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy stars as the title character in Marco Polo, which has begun filming in Venice before moving on to Kazakhstan and the new Pinewood Studios in Malaysia. Richelmy starred in the Italian dramedy Terra e vento and has appeared in other films including Fat Cat and Terzo tempo. The cast also includes England’s Benedict Wong (Prometheus), China’s Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas), Hong Kong-born and London-raised Tom Wu (Skyfall), Aussie Remy Hii (Treading Water) and Washington, D.C. native Rick Yune (Olympus Has Fallen). Creator John Fusco and Harvey Weinstein are executive producing the Weinstein Co. drama, which received a 10-episode straight-to-series order in January. Kon-Tiki helmers Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg are directing the first two episodes. Dan Minahan is exec producing and also directing two episodes. The series is set in China during the 1200s — a world replete with astonishing martial arts, sexual intrigue, political skullduggery and spectacular battles. Netflix plans to debut Marco Polo late this year.
Related: ‘Marco Polo’ Crew Mourns Ju Kun; Asst Martial Arts Choreographer Is Among Missing On Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has set Sam Worthington and House Of Cards’ Robin Wright to the ensemble cast of Everest. They join Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Martin Henderson, Emily Watson and Thomas Wright in the Baltasar Kormakur-directed true saga of a disastrous attempt to scale the summit of the world’s highest mountain when they were hit by a fierce snowstorm near the top. Worthington will play Guy Cotter and Wright will play Beck Weather’s wife, Peach. Pic is shooting right now in Nepal on the base of Everest, as well as the Italian Dolomites and Cinecitta Studios in Rome and Pinewood Studios in the UK.
Universal will release the film September 18, 2015 and it’s a co-production between Universal, Working Title and Cross Creek Pictures, in association with Walden Media. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson, along with Kormakur and Nicky Kentish Barnes. Randall Emmett and George Furla are executive producing. The film was scripted by Children Of A Lesser God‘s Mark Medoff and Slumdog Millionaire‘s Simon Beaufoy. Universal’s Erik Baiers and Chloe Yellin are overseeing.
Worthington is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content’s Sandra Chang and Shanahan Management in Australia. Wright is repped by CAA, Michael Sugar of Anonymous Content and attorney Melanie Cook.
In a sign of the ongoing pull of the UK as a filming location, Disney Channel‘s new multi-part movie Evermoor is gearing up to shoot in Britain. Disney Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) has co-commissioned the longform live-action mystery/adventure/comedy with Disney U.S. It will air on Disney Channel in 160 global territories from the fall. Liverpool-based The Only Way Is Essex producer Lime Pictures, which is owned by All3Media, will make Evermoor for Disney. The story follows Tara Bailey, an American teen who is uprooted from her city home in the U.S. and brought to a beautiful but isolated village on the edge of some very creepy moors in middle England. As her famous novelist mom and step-dad are busy unpacking at Evermoor Manor, Tara, her brother, and her British step-siblings try to adjust to life in their new home. It’s not long before danger, mystery and intrigue unfurl.
Evermoor breaks new ground for Disney, becoming its first live-action movie produced in the UK for broadcast on Disney Channel in the U.S. But it’s no surprise such a Disney project would land in Britain. Already, the movie studio consistently films big features at Pinewood — including the next Star Wars installment later this year. And Marvel titles are regularly shot at Shepperton. But overall, new and expanded TV and film tax credits have made Hollywood sit up — and in some cases line up — to access the market which has a skilled crew base and great facilities. Read More »
UPDATE: Netflix and The Weinstein Company have just sent a statement regarding Ju Kun: “We are deeply saddened by the news about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370,” they said in a joint statement. “Ju Kun, who was on board, was an integral part of our production team and a tremendous talent. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”
EARLIER: Among the passengers missing and believed to have perished on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is Ju Kun, the veteran martial arts expert and assistant martial arts choreographer on Marco Polo, the Netflix/The Weinstein Company series pilot that is scheduled to begin production in three weeks. The 35-year old stuntman had completed a day of training and choreography and made a quick trip from Pinewood Studios in Malaysia to his home in Beijing, which was why he boarded the flight that disappeared 35,000 feet over Vietnam. Read More »
After pretty much every name in Hollywood has been mentioned in connection with the new Star Wars movie being directed by JJ Abrams, we’re hearing that Girls star Adam Driver is actually, really truly in the mix to play the main villain in the franchise pic from Disney and Lucasfilm. Nothing is imminent, we’re told, which means the only casting that’s official so far remains R2-D2. The production has set up offices for Star Wars: Episode VII at the UK’s Pinewood studios ahead of its December 18, 2015 release date. Looks like our pals at Variety got to this one first.
Related: Best Box Office Ever? Biggest Hollywood Franchises In 2015 Collision Course
Pinewood Shepperton Inks Deal For New Studio In Wales
In a move that will bring much-needed new stages to the UK, has entered an agreement with the Welsh government for a new studio near Cardiff Bay. Under the deal, the Welsh government will acquire and fit out the former Energy Centre in Wentloog with the facility to be renamed Pinewood Studio Wales. Four stages will be built, which Pinewood will lease for a minimum of five years; it also will contribute £800,000 over the period to pay for equipment. This is good news for Britain, which has suffered from a capacity crunch as more and more Hollywood movies and TV shows come to shoot in the territory, accessing lucrative tax breaks. Pinewood has submitted proposals to expand its flagship studio outside London but has been thwarted by local government in the past two years. An appeal is pending. Also under the agreement, Pinewood Shepperton will advise on, promote and market Wales’ new £30M TV and film investment fund. Pinewood Shepperton CEO Ivan Dunleavy said the deal is “another step forward for creating a sustainable UK film and television production center.” Further, the fund arrangement “builds on our success with Pinewood Pictures and managing the Isle of Man Treasury Film and Television Fund. Our combined advisory investment funds now total £55 million making them one of the largest investment portals for new British television and film content.” Read More »
UPDATED WITH FULL LIST OF WINNERS AND REACTIONS: Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave rallied from a slow stat to win the Best Film award tonight at the 62nd BAFTA Film Awards in London. The slave drama from Fox Searchlight had 10 nominations but won just two awards, after Chiwetel Ejiofor took the Leading Actor prize for playing Solomon Northup. Despite the marquee victory in the last major kudofest before the Oscars, it still seemed as though the night belonged to Warner Bros’ Gravity. The space drama picked up a leading six wins from its 11 overall nominations, including for Outstanding British Film — which will keep the debate going about just how British the pic is. Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director and the pic cleaned up in the craft categories, taking Sound, Cinematography and Special Visual Effects in addition to a nod for Steven Price’s Original Score. The BAFTA crowd at the packed Royal Opera House in Covent Garden exploded with each win for the movie, which had a leading 11 nominations going into the night.
Related: BAFTA Shakes Up The Race But Everything Still In Play As Oscar’s Moment Of Truth Nears
Still, the 12 Years A Slave victory tonight maintains the film’s front-runner status going into the Oscars on March 2; the film also won the Golden Globe for Motion Picture-Drama. Many feel the Academy will lean the same way, honoring Gravity in the craft categories but not for the Best Picture. The two films have been going head to head all awards season, even scrapping to a rare tie in the PGA Awards contest. “It’s very important,” McQueen said backstage after the victory. “The way the public here — but not just here, in the U.S. — by going to see the picture, means a hell of a lot.” Added producer Brad Pitt: “This is an excuse for us to all get to gather and say job well done. We’re very proud of our work here, and it means a lot to us because of the people we got to work with.” Read More »
Vera Farmiga has signed on to star in relationship comedy Prima. Even Greenberg wrote the script and is directing the film that was previously known as Dance Of The Mirlitons. The film is prepping for a March start and centers around a 12-year-old girl who shocks everyone when she is accepted into a prestigious school for dancers. While she learns that to get to the top, she must kill or be killed, her mother struggles to acclimate to her posh stomping grounds. The Allegiance Theater’s Daniel Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine are producing along with Karine Martin under her Mediamax banner. Highland Film Group has worldwide sales here in Berlin. Farmiga is repped by CAA, Jon Rubinstein of Authentic Talent and Literary Management, and Jodi Peikoff of Peikoff Mahan.
Principal photography is currently underway on another Highland Film Group pic, Ami Canaan Mann’s Your Right Mind with Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes starring. Joining the cast are Clea DuVall, Sheryl Lee, Emily Alyn Lind and Ryan Bingham. Canaan Mann wrote the script about a modern-day traveling folk singer who puts his dreams of becoming a successful musician on hold when he meets a former country singer fighting for custody of her daughter. Molly Hassell is producing with Canaan Mann and John Jencks. Jon Avnet, Rodrigo Garcia, Highland Film Group’s Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier, and Main Street Films’ … Read More »
There are strong debuts and holds for Hollywood in the international marketplace this week, despite a drop of about 25% from the similar frame last year when Django Unchained was the top film overseas. (Last week, international box office was off about 50%, so that’s an improvement of sorts.) Still, a fair few movies are making, and breaking records — especially in China. While Monday-morning quarterbacks have been gearing up for today’s Super Bowl, in the rest of the world where football is played without shoulder pads and where the Big Game isn’t due til this July, audiences flocked to movies in such diverse places as China, Russia, Germany, Korea and France. Notably, the Chinese New Year began on January 31 and with it came The Monkey King. The film took $46M in seven territories, and broke records at home, while TV reality series transfer Dad, Where Are We Going? grossed $34M (more below).
The only new studio entry on the international scene this week was MGM and Columbia Pictures’ Robocop which blasted its way into three territories in Asia. The movie, starring Joel Kinnaman, strategically bowed in Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore – taking advantage of the Chinese Lunar New Year – and scored a strong opening with $5.5M and a No. 1 trifecta. Robocop does not yet have a China date, although that’s expected to be clarified shortly. … Read More »
Big figures released today by the British Film Institute are strong proof of the increased taste for the UK as a filming destination. And, with the government keen to reap the benefits to the British economy, the numbers could help get Pinewood‘s twice-rejected expansion plans over the goal line. According to the BFI, overall spend generated by the UK film production sector was up 14% in 2013 to £1.075B ($1.77B). Of that total, £868M ($1.43B) came from 37 international (mostly Hollywood) movies that made the UK their production base. Some of those included The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Heart Of The Sea and Jupiter Ascending, which all shot at Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios; along with Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, Cinderella and Into The Woods, which shot at Pinewood. Among other titles were: Fox’s Exodus and Frankenstein, Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, Sony and Fox’s The Monuments Men and Studiocanal’s Paddington. Gearing up this year are the next Star Wars installment, Bond 24, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron and, as expected, Alice In Wonderland sequel Through The Looking Glass.
Related: Year-End: UK Tax Breaks Too Much Of A Good Thing?
In addition to the inward investment provided by the movie business, the UK this year launched a high-end TV tax relief which helped entice Fox’s event series 24: Live Another Day and ABC pilot Galavant. Statistics for the incentive in 2013 only cover nine months since it was established in April. The BFI says that during the period, more than £276M of investment was made in domestic UK productions and international series including Game Of Thrones, Outlander, Da Vinci’s Demons and Elementary. Read More »
After months of negotiations, Netflix has closed a deal for its newest original series Marco Polo, a nine-episode drama of politics, manipulation and deadly warfare among clashing empires. Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki) are directing the first episode before they go off to helm Pirates Of The Caribbean 5. The project, originally set up at Starz, will premiere on Netflix in late 2014. It will be produced by The Weinstein Co. at the new Pinewood Studios, Malaysia. Originally developed by the Weinstein Co. and Electus, the project received a 10-episode straight-to-series order by Starz in January 2012. Seven scripts were written for the series, which was supposed to film in China, something no other U.S. show has done, which proved a complex and difficult proposition. A year and a half later, last August Starz released the project, and it was taken to Netflix, which made an offer for nine episodes to be filmed in Malaysia. Electus remains involved, serving as executive producer and distributing in all non-Netflix international territories. Ronning and Sandberg will also executive produce with Dan Minahan (Game Of Thrones). The series, created and executive produced … Read More »
Gravity leads Britain’s BAFTA nominations which were unveiled earlier this week, and “thanks to overwhelming demand from cinemagoers,” IMAX is bringing it back to UK theaters as of today. The film opened in October last year, and went on to become the highest-grossing IMAX release of 2013 in the UK; it’s IMAX’s seventh biggest release ever in the territory. Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment and Senior EVP of IMAX Corp said today, “We couldn’t be happier with the overwhelming success of Gravity and the continued demand we’re seeing from UK cinemagoers to bring it back in IMAX.”
Meanwhile, Gravity has 11 BAFTA nominations, including Best Film and Best British Film. There’s been some consternation this week over its inclusion in the latter category with folks wondering how a U.S. studio-backed movie made the cut. Answer: It was produced by Britain’s David Heyman, shot at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios with a crew of local technicians, visual effects were handled by the UK’s Framestore and director Alfonso Cuaron is a British resident. That was enough for it to pass the requirement for significant British creative involvement qualifying it as British under guidelines set out by the BFI and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Last year, BAFTA added a sixth title to the British Film category that’s chosen by a jury to ensure the full … Read More »
The UK emerged in 2013 as an increasingly attractive location destination with new and expanded tax credits – but can it stand the bulge? Hollywood has cozied up to Britain, not only bringing its films there to shoot, but now its TV programs while it also continues to plumb it as a source of original drama to be remade in the U.S. Across the Channel, after a wake-up call in the waning days of 2012 by France‘s influential Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch, the local industry spent 2013 debating its rich subsidy system that’s spent big (too big?) on talent. Germany‘s local share of the box office is expected to be down for 2013, only slightly, but it’s been fertile ground for the studios working in local language. Meanwhile, Olympics host Russia is seeing its star rise while Italy and Spain are still undergoing financial woes. And yet, nothing seems rotten in the state of Denmark where the box office is top heavy with local films and a new drama series could be the Danes’ answer to Downton Abbey. Here’s a look back at 2013 and some glimpses of what 2014 may hold:
The British government has strongly backed the film and television business by increasing tax breaks this year. But in so doing, has it backed the industry into a corner? Arguably one of the biggest stories out of the UK in … Read More »
Thomas Bezucha Directing English-Language Remake Of ‘Priceless’
The Family Stone and Monte Carlo director Thomas Bezucha will helm the English-language remake of French romantic comedy Priceless for European film group uMedia. The original movie starred Audrey Tautou and Gad Emaleh and sold 2.15M tickets in France in 2006. Umedia’s remake has been greenlighted for production in early summer on the French Riviera. The story follows Alec, a shy and hardworking waiter at a grand hotel who is mistaken for a millionaire and seduced by a captivating American girl with expensive tastes. When Lauren discovers his true identity and limited resources, she takes off, but Alec pursues her along the Cote-d’Azur. When he ends up stranded and broke, he is saved by a wealthy woman-of-a-certain-age and finds himself kept in the same manner as Lauren, who coaches him on how the play the game as her feelings for him deepen. Pierre Salvadori directed the original which was sold internationally by Wild Bunch.
BBC Adds Howard Stringer Amid Corporate Changes
The BBC has announced a series of changes to transform how the corporation is run. At the same time, it has added former Sony chairman Howard Stringer as a non-executive director for a term of three years beginning January 1. The moves come a year after myriad crises began to plague the broadcaster including the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal and the editorial missteps at flagship news program Newsnight. Among the changes are a 60% reduction in the number of pan-corporation management boards “so that senior managers will be able to make faster decisions and concentrate on running their teams and departments.” Decision making by multiple committees will shift to much greater personal responsibility, ensuring “there are no blurred lines,” the broadcaster said. “As a creative organization, individuals need to be able to take creative risks without fear, managers will not be penalized for brave, well-made decisions that were taken for the right reasons.” Speaking about the changes, director general, Tony Hall, said, “This is an important first step in making the BBC simpler and better run.” Read More »
The UK is already busting at the seams trying to accommodate all of the TV and film productions flocking there. With adjustments to film tax incentives that were announced today, it’s just upped the ante as a desirable place to work. British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered the Autumn Statement to Parliament this afternoon, outlining new economic policies that will go into effect from April 1, 2014. In an incentive that lowers the barrier to entry, the government plans to reduce from 25% to 10% the minimum UK expenditure required in order to access the coveted film tax relief. From April, the relief will be worth 25% on the first £20M of qualifying production spend, and 20% thereafter. (The rebates are available on the lower of either 80% of total core expenditure or the actual UK core expenditure and there is no cap on the amount that can be claimed.) That last measure will benefit producers of bigger budget films who’ll get an extra £1M on the first £20M. The government said it will seek to clear an increase to 25% for all qualifying expenditure on larger budget films in 2015. That should keep Hollywood tentpoles keen on Britain, especially given the concern over California’s Film/TV Tax Credit program which currently excludes features with budgets over $75M.
Related: Pinewood Earnings Grow Amid UK Studio Capacity Crunch; Whither Expansion?
Dropping the spend requirement to 10% is going to help the independent sector, too. John Graydon, partner at accounting firm Saffery Champness which specializes in film and TV tax incentives, tells me, “If a producer just wants to do post in the UK, trying to get to that 25% spend was incredibly difficult. So in some cases, they went elsewhere.” Now, those seeking to do just post or VFX in Britain will have a better shot at making the numbers work. There are also changes to come to the cultural test which determines eligibility for tax relief. The test will be modernized to allow for European as well as British elements. It will become a 35 point barometer with a pass mark of 18 and will include an increase in the points available for principal photography/special effects/VFX and projects in the English language.
Related: Hollywood Pics Pack UK Soundstages As Space Crunch Starts To Squeeze
Overall, the moves are positioned to drive inward investment. In the first three quarters of 2013, it’s already up 28%. That’s partly due to a lucrative TV tax credit that offers a rebate on high-end dramas costing £1M or more to produce per hour. But with soundstages filled to the rafters, many TV productions are already being relegated to converted warehouse space. It’s also because several big budget Hollywood films are camped out at Pinewood and Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios. But if Pinewood doesn’t get approval for its expansion plans next year, more big ticket pics could be turned away. As I recently reported, Marvel’s Ant Man was forced out of the UK due to space constraints. Graydon doesn’t see the new incentives as necessarily exacerbating the capacity issue since those enticed by the changes won’t always be the kinds of productions that would require soundstages. He does allow, however, “Stage space is an issue. We absolutely want to see that resolved as quickly as possible.” Read More »
Even Darth Vader is now snapping selfies. The official Star Wars site tweeted last night that it has joined the Instagram bandwagon. Saying “It is useless to resist,” the tweet urged fans to follow the account (72,000+ already are). Lucasfilm has set up its production offices for Star Wars: Episode VII at the UK’s Pinewood where it will start shooting next year for a December 18, 2015 release. The production unveiled its first photo last month and confirmed that R2-D2 will be in the new movie. Does the one below mean that Darth Vader is the next character from the previous Star Wars films that will appear (resurrected? in flashback?)? Here’s the erstwhile Anakin Skywalker taking the first Instagram snap:
British Prime Minister David Cameron is in China this week on a mission to strengthen ties with the booming nation across many sectors, the film industry among them. He’s traveling with a large delegation that includes Culture Secretary Maria Miller, head of the British Film Institute Amanda Nevill and Pinewood Shepperton CEO Ivan Dunleavy. Although details were still being hammered out as of yesterday, it’s been hoped that a long-in-the-works co-production treaty between the UK and China would be unveiled on the ground. In the meantime, the pair today did announce a “cultural agreement” that includes in its text an accord “in principle” to support the conclusion of the treaty, and a bid to facilitate TV productions in both countries.
A treaty could still be signed this week, but it’s not a guarantee of more British films making their way into China since true co-production status, which eliminates the quota barrier on foreign movies, remains elusive across the board. A treaty wouldn’t relax the censors either as all movies are susceptible to cuts. Last year’s Skyfall, which was shot at Pinewood and also partly in China, saw some scenes excised from the version that went to local theaters.
However, in a longterm move, Cameron is also pushing for a free trade agreement between China and the EU – curiously at a time when Britain continues to debate whether it wants to remain part of the Union at all. I’ve heard conflicting thoughts on whether free trade would permit UK films to bypass the quota system, and the proposal overall is likely to rankle other EU countries. In a letter he penned in the current edition of Chinese business weekly Caixin, Cameron remarked on the increasingly prosperous Chinese population and cited James Bond and Downton Abbey, among Britain’s “world-class goods and services they need.” He wrote that he would back “an ambitious and comprehensive EU-China Free Trade Agreement… that could be worth tens of billions of dollars every year.” Read More »
‘Fast & Furious’ Star Paul Walker Killed In Car Crash
By The Deadline Team – The Santa Clarita office of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just issued an update on the fatal car accident involving actor Paul Walker, declaring that “speed was a factor in the solo vehicle collision” and listing the car involved as a red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT.
PHOTOS: Paul Walker, 1973-2013
‘Catching Fire’ Holiday Haul Puts It On Track To Be Biz’s Next Billion Dollar Grosser; $573 Million So Far
By Mike Fleming Jr. – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has blown past expectations once again, and has earned $573 million in worldwide gross. This after a $28.5 million Saturday night.
DeMille Award Recipient Woody Allen Not Expected To Attend Golden Globes
By Nellie Andreeva – It looks like Woody Allen will be staying true to his principles of shunning awards shows (and Los Angeles). I hear that the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker is not expected to attend the Golden Globes in January, where he will be the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award. I hear the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made the decision to honor Allen without securing a commitment from him that he would attend.
OSCARS: Scorsese And DiCaprio Back In The Race As ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Makes A Raucous Debut
By Pete Hammond – The last shoe to drop in the 2013 awards race hit Saturday as Martin Scorsese‘s much-awaited The Wolf Of Wall Street was unveiled to SAG voters at a couple of screenings at the WGA theatre in Beverly Hills. I caught the film earlier at a small 10 AM screening for some of the cast members on the Paramount lot and then moderated the Q&A following the 6:30 PM screening of the 3 hour film. To say it was rapturously received would be an understatement. Read More »