Veteran TV movie and miniseries producer Robert Halmi Sr. died this afternoon in his New York home. At 90, he was still doing what he had loved doing for the past several decades — producing television — until his sudden passing from a brain aneurism.
A freedom fighter in his native Hungary where he had been jailed and sentenced to death twice — once by Nazi invaders, then by the communist regime — Halmi Sr. was able to emigrate to the U.S. in 1951, arriving with a Leica camera and $5 in his pocket. He started off as a “diaper photographer,” taking pictures of babies for a diaper service, before becoming one of America’s leading magazine photographers. He then switched to television, becoming one of the most prolific longform producers in the 1980s and 1990s. His over 200 movies and miniseries that included such hits as Gulliver’s Travels, The Odyssey and Merlin on NBC, have won 136 Emmy Awards (and 480 Emmy nominations), as well as Golden Globes, Peabodys, Christophers and Humanitas Prizes. “I cannot retire, I would go nuts,” Halmi told me five years ago when he was still jetting around the world to the sets of his movies, with that still camera still around his neck. MORE
Universal Pictures has preemptively acquired film rights to The Day The Crayons Quit, the bestselling children’s picture book by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers. Matt Lopez has been set to script and Madhouse Entertainment will produce.
The book tells the story of a box of crayons whose inhabitants decide to go on strike after growing sick and tired of how they’re being used. Among the lead characters: a white crayon with an existential crisis because he doesn’t show up on white paper, a black crayon who longs to color a rainbow or a beach ball, and a pink crayon who is fed up with coloring nothing but princess dresses. The book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 55 weeks running and won numerous awards. Jeff Kirschenbaum and Jon Mone will oversee for the studio, and Madhouse’s Adam Kolbrenner and Robyn Meisinger are producing with Ryan Cunningham the exec producer. Lopez scripted The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Race To Witch Mountain and Bedtime Stories and he’s working for Universal on the upcoming Clifford The Big Red Dog. Daywalt is repped by Paradigm, Madhouse, and attorney Jamie Coghill, Lopez by WME and attorney Melissa Robal and Madhouse is repped by David Fox. The book was brokered by Paradigm and Writers House.
The internal moves at Sony continue. Deadline hears that Tommy Gargotta is leaving the studio. The president of Worldwide Creative Advertising, he will be replaced. I’m told this is not related to the recent exit of Jeff Blake, whom the studio is in the process of replacing. More details as they emerge.
Two weeks after Deadline revealed that Universal Pictures was putting its classic movie monster franchises in the hands of Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, the studio is setting Kurtzman to direct the resuscitation of The Mummy franchise. The studio tapped that duo to come up with a creative game plan and maybe take on some of these monster classics, and clearly The Mummy was the first one to go in production, so this is not a startling development.
Universal has been trying to reopen the sarcophagus on this one for a while. The original trilogy, hatched by helmer Steve Sommers and starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, grossed north of $1.2 billion, but locking down the reboot has been all kinds of frustrating. The studio had Len Wiseman locked to do it, but then he bailed and it was Mama helmer Andy Muschietti, but those talks didn’t work out either.
Related: Fleming Rants On Why Studios Can’t Launch Franchises Anymore, Leaving Us With Retreads Like ‘The Mummy’
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Warren Kole and Erik Stocklin have landed recurring roles in CBS drama Stalker. The Kevin Williamson series stars Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q as detectives from the Threat Assessment Unit who investigate cases of stalking. Kole, repped by The Kohner Agency, Silver Lining Entertainment and attorney Stuart Rosenthal, will play Detective Trent Wilkes, a lead detective in the Robbery Homicide Division of the LAPD who gets into a turf war with Jack (McDermott). Stocklin has been added as a recurring after appearing in the pilot. He will reprise his role of Perry, an introverted college sophomore. Kole appeared in the NBC pilot Salvation and recently recurred on USA’s White Collar and Fox’s The Following. Stocklin, repped by Domain and manager JC Robbins, appeared on ABC’s Mistresses.
EXCLUSIVE: Incomparable writer, producer, First Amendment apostle and funny guy Norman Lear will receive ths year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the PEN Center USA, which works on global issues of freedom of speech and censorship. The nonprofit human rights group also said it is giving its First Amendment Award to journalist Glenn Greenwald and documentary director Laura Poitras for their work disseminating documents relating to NSA surveillance. Journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas will receive the Freedom to Write Award for his work on immigration issues.
Lear, who turned 92 on Sunday, made his name creating groundbreaking TV sitcoms in the 1970s, including All In The Family, Maude, Good Times, One Day At A Time, Sanford And Son and The Jeffersons. The shows couched controversy in humor, dealing with thorny societal issues including racism, bigotry, feminism, divorce, abortion and class. Lear, also the producer of films including Fried Green Tomatoes, was as politically active off-screen as on: He founded the advocacy group People for the American Way in 1981, led a consortium to purchase an original copy of the Constitution and toured it around the country, and remains at the forefront of Hollywood’s most active and influential political progressives.
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The cable networks company known for its hits The Walking Dead and Mad Men could use the deal to further establish itself as a leading distributor of premium content — strengthening its ability to sell ads and negotiate high fees from cable and satellite companies. Bankers and executives are working on a cash and stock deal, I’m told — but with no dollar figures yet.
The arrangement would give AMC Networks just short of a majority stake in BBC America, unlike a previous representation arrangement with Discovery, which did not own equity. While BBC Worldwide would still control the channel and brand, AMC would be able to influence programming decisions and handle BBC America’s domestic ad sales and distribution. Talks have been ongoing for several months, but a deal isn’t complete. Bloomberg was first to report the negotiations.
AMC and BBC know each other well. They’re co-producers of The Honorable Woman, which premieres tomorrow on SundanceTV. Last year they partnered on Sundance’s Top Of the Lake, and they have an upcoming production, One Child.
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The FCC received so many comments – more than a million – on proposed changes to its net neutrality rules that its website crashed. But don’t blame SAG-AFTRA or the DGA; neither weighed in before the deadline.
“We have not filed comments,” said an official for the actors union. Likewise, said a rep for the directors: “The DGA hasn’t made any filings regarding net neutrality in the latest round.”
Related: WGA Makes Last FCC Pitch On Latest Net Neutrality Rules
The WGA, on the other hand, has told the FCC that its proposed changes threaten our very democracy and “throws the concept of (net) neutrality directly under the bus.” Said a member of all three unions, “It’s kind of astonishing that SAG and the DGA have made no comment on this.”
Related: Netflix And AT&T Reach Interconnection Agreement
Four years ago, when the FCC solicited comments on another set of net neutrality rules, the WGA found itself at odds with SAG and the DGA; they sided with the MPAA, which called net neutrality “a clever name” for piracy. “No discussion of net neutrality can be complete without consideration of the effects of any form of Internet regulation on the illegal digital theft of copyrighted content and the resulting impact on jobs, creativity and innovation,” … Read More »
Celluloid lives to film another day: “After extensive discussions with filmmakers, leading studios and others who recognize the unique artistic and archival qualities of film, we have in place a plan that will enable us to continue production” of film stock, Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke says. The company once famous for “Kodak moments” will make about 450M linear feet of film — about 1/28 its output in 2006 as Hollywood has shifted to digital recording and projection.
Kodak was about to go to zero — with plans to close the last remaining film production plant, in Rochester, NY — before directors including Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and J.J. Abrams and several studios lobbied for a reprieve. (Abrams is shooting Star Wars Episode VII on film.) Kodak relented after Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, Disney, and Weinstein Co. committed to buy a set amount of film stock for several years, the company says, confirming a report in The Wall Street Journal. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Defiant Pictures and 2020 Entertainment have joined together in fiscal union to back The Divorce Party, an original comedy feature written by actors Lane Garrison (Camp X-Ray, Bonnie & Clyde) and Mark Famiglietti (Premonition, The Greens Are Gone). Story tracks a newly dumped divorcee who hires his sexy former wedding planner to throw a “divorce party” celebrating his new singledom. Garrison and Famiglietti were inspired by the increasing popularity of fetes thrown to mark the end of wedded unions, a trend that’s grown its own cottage industry in recent years. They teamed with Salt producer Sunil Perkash to develop the project, which is now gearing up for a fall shoot with director Matthew Bissonnette (Passenger Side, Who Loves The Sun). Read More »
UPDATE, 1:35PM: Penelope Cruz has issued a statement to clarify the open letter that she, husband Javier Bardem and director Pedro Almodovar signed yesterday, which called for an end to “the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army in the Gaza strip against Palestinian civilians.” The comments were bound to be regarded as incendiary and polarizing, taking sides in a most controversial issue. Today, Cruz explains that her reaction was not motivated by politics as much as humanitarian concerns.
“I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject,” she said. “I’m not an expert on the situation, and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace. … I believe in a civilization that can be capable of bringing the courage to have a world where humans can live side by side.”
Related: Fear, Rockets And Anxiety Overshadowed Film At Jerusalem Festival
PREVIOUSLY, July 29: The Gaza conflict touched the film business this month when dealmakers and filmmakers ran for a bomb shelter as shelling got too close at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and when Israeli filmmakers Ronit Elkabetz, Keren Yedaya, and Shlomi Elkabetz urged their government to seek a truce with Hamas. The attention on the world stage spiked today when Spanish Oscar winners Pedro Almodovar, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz put signatures to a statement expressing outrage over “the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army in the Gaza Strip against Palestinian civilians.” Stars who take political positions on world issues do so at their own peril and at the risk of hurting their business by polarizing potential audiences. Read More »
After spending the last couple of months locking in a director and lead cast, HBO has officially greenlighted for production Show Me A Hero, a six-hour miniseries from The Wire co-creator David Simon. Inside Llewyn Davis leading man Oscar Isaac is set to star and Catherine Keener to co-star in the mini, which will be directed by Paul Haggis (Crash).
Penned by Simon and Baltimore Sun journalist/The Wire writer William F. Zorzi, Show Me A Hero is based on the nonfiction book by Lisa Belkin. It tells the story of Nick Wasicsko (Isaac), the youngest big-city mayor in the nation who finds himself thrust into the center of a racial controversy when a federal court orders him to build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of his town, Yonkers, N.Y.. His attempt to do so tears the city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys his political future. Keener, repped by Gersh, plays Mary Dorman, an East Yonkers homeowner who comes to a remarkable realization during the battle over where to build low-income housing. Read More »
Tony Award winner Laura Benanti (Gypsy, Into The Woods, Swing) has booked a multi-episode arc on the upcoming third season of ABC‘s country music drama Nashville. Benanti will play Sadie Stone, an up-and-coming country star who befriends Rayna (Connie Britton). Benanti, repped by CAA and Emily Gerson Saines at Brookside Artist Management, most recently appeared in NBC’s The Sound Of Music Live! She has starred in the NBC series Go On and The Playboy Club, as well as FX comedy series Starved. She also has recurred on Nurse Jackie, Royal Pains, The Big C, and Law & Order: SVU.
Benjamin Ciaramello is set as a recurring on ABC mystery Secrets & Lies from producer Aaron Kaplan and director Charles McDougall. Based on an Australian series, Secrets & Lies stars Ryan Phillippe as a family man who finds the body of a young boy and quickly becomes the prime murder suspect. Ciaramello, repped by House of Representatives and Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein, will play Paul Murphy, Jess’ husband and Tom’s father who’s currently in the military and about to be deployed for the fifth time. He’s constantly battling inner demons resulting from extended periods in warring countries.
TNT has ordered a 10-episode third season of real-life crime series Cold Justice, set for premiere in early 2015. The renewal comes as Cold Justice nears the middle of its second season, currently airing at 9 PM Fridays. Cold Justice has averaged 2.3 million viewers in Live+7 so far this summer, a 24% increase over the show’s winter episodes. In key demos, it’s averaging 912,000 adults 25-54 (+12% vs. winter) and 676,000 adults 18-49. The show has found a solid fan base in its Friday night slot, growing its Live+Same Day demo deliveries by 13% among adults 18-49 and 4% among adults 25-54 compared with Season 1.
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In its first collaboration, Paramount Digital Entertainment is teaming with Pitch Perfect’s Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman’s Brownstone Productions banner on the workplace comedy Resident Advisors. Banks and Handelman will exec produce and Ira Ungerleider (Friends) has come aboard to shepherd the project as both exec producer and director. Natalia Anderson will produce based on a pilot script written by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Alex Reid. The ensemble cast includes Ryan Hansen (2Broke Girls, Burning Love), Jamie Chung (Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, The Hangover Part II & III), Alison Rich (College Humor Originals), Andrew Bachelor (House Of Lies), Graham Rogers (Revolution) and Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect). Series is set in the most hormonally overloaded, sexually active, out-of-control workplace in the world: a college dorm. It follows a group of resident advisors as they navigate sex, drugs, and midterms.
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Just back from Comic-Con, Paramount has released a trailer for its upcoming November 7 Christopher Nolan sci-fi mystery Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey as a haggard, ex-pilot father of two, who has to leave his kids behind while he heads to outer space. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Cainealso star. It’s no secret that Nolan is making a number of homages to one of his fave films, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The director, who made his first Hall H appearance at the San Diego fanboy confab last week, told the crowd: “I grew up in a time when being an astronaut was the highest ambition of any child. The idea that we’d keep exploring space seemed an inevitability.”
Lucy Fry will play Alexis, the most popular girl in school who becomes the apple of a young drug dealer’s eye in Joe Castelo‘s film. The Preppie Connection follows a group of private school students who ran a drug ring during the early 1980s. The ring is spearheaded by Toby, one of the lower-class scholarship candidates at the school, who uses his street cred and access to drugs to work his way into the popular-kid clique, which includes Alexis. Production began this week on Staten Island. Fry recently wrapped Blumhouse/Universal’s 6 Miranda Drive starring Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell and Matt Walsh. She most recently was seen in the Weinstein Co.’s Vampire Academy. Fry is repped by ICM and Mollison Keightley Management (Australia), IAM Management and attorney Craig Emmanuel.
Pierre Niney, who played the iconic French fashion designer in Yves Saint Laurent, has signed with UTA. The biopic debuted at Cannes and is distributed in the U.S. by The Weinstein Company. Niney was nominated for Cesar awards in 2012 and 2013 as most promising actor for his work in J’aime Regarder les Filles and Comme des Freres, the latter also earning him a Lumiere Award nomination as most promising young actor. Other acting credits include It Boy, and the TV series Casting(s), which he also directed. Niney, repped in France by Brigitte Descormiers, has been announced to play Philippe Cousteau in the upcoming The Odyssey.