EXCLUSIVE: The six-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic War And Peace is beginning to cast up. I hear that Downton Abbey’s Lily James and Prisoners’ Paul Dano have offers for lead roles and are seriously circling. The mini hails from BBC Worldwide, The Weinstein Co and Ripper Street‘s Look Out Point. Described as one of the most ambitious event series ever made for the BBC, it will be produced by BBC Cymru Wales and scripted by Andrew Davies. James would play Natasha Rostova, one of the novel’s central characters, who ultimately falls in love with Pierre Bezukhov, the awkward illegitimate son who rises in society but leads a tumultuous life as he seeks to overcome his emotions. Dano would play Pierre. In King Vidor’s 1956 feature adaptation, the roles were played by Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda.
The notoriously expansive novel begins in 1805 Russia and revolves around five aristocratic families set against the backdrop of the reign of Alexander I, the lingering effects of his grandmother Catherine The Great’s rule and the events surrounding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Executive producers on the mini are BBC Cymru Wales drama chief Faith Penhale, BBC Wales’ George Ormond, Davies, Look Out Point’s Simon Vaughn and Harvey Weinstein.
The miniseries is due for air in the UK in 2015 and was a first sign of The Weinstein Co’s ambitions to forge into the European TV arena when it was announced in October. The company subsequently teamed with the BBC and Look Out on upcoming TV movie Stan And Ollie, which is being scripted by Philomena’s Jeff Pope. TWC also acquired U.S. TV and VOD rights for the first three seasons of BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders. Read More »
Stating that “the future of California’s creative culture and economy depends on it,” 28 members of the California Democratic congressional delegation weighed in on runaway production, urging the state legislature to approve, and Gov. Jerry Brown to sign, an enhanced tax credit to keep film and TV production from fleeing the state. “We fear a day, not too far off, when the film industry in California is hollowed out and it becomes easier to produce a movie or television show in New York or Louisiana than in California,” the delegation said in a statement sent to California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. “As production moves out of our state, skilled human capital will relocate along with it, and our greatest competitive advantage, our talented workforce will move elsewhere. If that happens, it will be a tragedy for our state’s economy and our cultural history.” Read More »
Genre label IFC Midnight has acquired U.S. rights to Inner Demons, a possession tale about an Intervention-style reality TV crew filming a 16-year-old (Lara Vosburgh) fighting addiction who actually might be possessed by a demon. Director Seth Grossman has some expertise in the area; he was a producer on A&E’s popular series Intervention. Morgan McClellan, Colleen McGrann, Kate Whitney and Brian Flaherty also star in the pic scripted by Glenn Gers and produced by Robin Schorr, which premiered at the LA Film Festival in June. Arianna Bocco and Sean Berney negotiated the deal for Sundance Selects/IFC Films with Josh Braun of Submarine and Linda Lichter of Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler and Feldman on behalf of the filmmakers.
I’ve learned that TV Land has opted not to renew comedy Kirstie for a second season. The decision comes five months after the show ended its freshman run. Kirstie was not a ratings or critical hit but it featured a dream cast of sitcom stars: Alley, Rhea Perlman and Michael Richards. The show revolved around Madison “Maddie” Banks (Alley), a Broadway star who finds her life turned upside down when Arlo (Eric Petersen), her long-lost son, turns up looking to connect after his adopted mother dies. Perlman played Maddie’s assistant and best friend; Richards played Maddie’s outlandish driver. Possibly factoring into TV Land’s decision was the fact that Kirstie creator/executive producer/showrunner Marco Pennette left at the end of Season 1 for personal reasons and the network had to search for a new showrunner.
UPDATE: DreamWorks Animation just disclosed the SEC investigation in its conference call with analysts and says it’s cooperating. The company took a $13.5M writedown on Turbo in February. DWA told analysts that it won’t comment further on the matter. Shares were down 8.2% after the news; if that holds tomorrow then it would be a 52-week low.
Separately, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg declined to comment on the potential impact on his company if its distributor, Fox, acquires Time Warner. “Honestly, it’s way above my pay grade,” he says.
DWA said that it has bought from Paramount distribution rights to its feature films prior to 2013. They’ll now all be handled by Fox.
Katzenberg calls 2014 an investment year for DWA as it builds consumer products, TV programming, digital, and location-based entertainment. He adds that, generally speaking, the film “marketplace has gotten tougher. We’re competing against more movies than we have in the past.” Still, he says DWA is examining the lower-than-expected sales for Dragon 2. Read More »
VH1 definitely is rah-rah about its NBA cheerleader soap, giving it a third season pickup-and-roll two weeks before its Season 2 finale. Hit The Floor will return for 10 episodes starting in May. According to the network, the ensemble series about the fictional Los Angeles Devils Girls cheer squad is the No. 1 ad-supported scripted drama on cable among women 18-49. It stars Dean Cain, Kimberly Elise, Taylour Paige, Logan Browning, Valery Ortiz, Katherine Bailess, Jonathan McDaniel, McKinley Freeman, Rob Riley, Adam Senn, Brent Antonello, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe and Don Stark. “Hit The Floor delivered again with fantastic ratings and social media engagement in season two, especially among women,” said Susan Levison, EVP Original Programming & Production at VH1. “We look forward to seeing what kind of trouble the Devil Girls will get into next season.”
Independent distributor Cinedigm has agreed to distribute an octet of new cast-driven sci-fi and thriller features from Robert Halmi Jr.’s Great Point Media in a new multi-picture partnership between the companies. Cinedigm will take all U.S. rights to the films including theatrical, digital, VOD, home entertainment, and TV in addition to having first look rights to Great Point Media’s development line-up. First pair of features are slated for late 2014. Emmy and Golden Globe-winning producer Halmi has over three decades of film and TV under his belt, including genre titles Dinotopia, Arabian Nights, The 10th Kingdom, Cleopatra, Alice in Wonderland, The Baby Dance and Lonesome Dove. His Great Point Media partner and fellow Emmy-winner Jim Reeve has produced for TV and film for 25 years, including Foyle’s War and Jack Higgins’ On Dangerous Ground. Their deal is the latest content agreement for Cinedigm, which is also planning a Comic Con branded digital channel, a Dove branded family and faith-based channel, and a documentary channel called Docurama. Great Point Media currently has 30 films, 2 mini-series and 6 television series in various stages of production and development.
EXCLUSIVE: Emily Hampshire (Rookie Blue) and Tom Noonan (Hell On Wheels) have been cast in major recurring roles on Syfy‘s adventure thriller series 12 Monkeys, inspired by Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. The 13-episode show centers on Willis’ character Cole, played in the series by Aaron Stanford. Utilizing a dangerous and untested method of time travel, Cole journeys from 2043 to the present on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will all but annihilate the human race.
Related: Syfy Developing Alien Invasion Drama From Michael Horowitz & Hypnotic
Canadian actress Hampshire, repped by Intellectual Artists Management and Canada’s Creative Drive Artists and K.L. Benzakein Talent, will play Jennifer Goines, a female version of the Jeffrey Goines character played in the movie by Pitt. Jennifer is a dangerous, unstable mental patient who might have the key to unraveling the 12 Monkeys mystery locked away in her head. Noonan, repped by Vanguard Management and AKA Talent Agency, plays a newly created character, a mysterious villain who is the face of the enigmatic Army of the 12 Monkeys. Imposing and intelligent, Noonan’s character will be at the center of the conspiracy. The series, which also co-stars Amanda Schull (Dr. Cassandra Railly), Kirk Acevedo (Ramse) and Noah Bean (Aaron Marker), starts production on August 6 in Toronto. Showrunner Natalie … Read More »
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.
Related: Fear, Rockets And Anxiety Overshadowed Film At Jerusalem Festival
The strongly worded open letter (Spanish text here), is harsh, accusing Israel of practicing “State terrorism.” Others have chimed in about the Arab-Israeli tensions, like Miral director Julian Schnabel, who told Deadline he was shocked when traveling in Israel with that book’s writer (and his then-girlfriend) Rula Jebreal and how she was degraded as a matter of course in settlement areas. “It was an epiphany,” he said. “I was totally naïve, totally in the dark and I believe so many of the American Jewish population are totally in the dark. We cannot believe that a Jewish person would behave like that. It’s not the Jewish way. We have suffered so much that if anybody should understand the Palestinian problem, it should be Jewish people. It was so disappointing and ashamed at certain moments. I was at the airport one day, leaving with Rula. I respect the security, when they check your bags. But they took her bags and put them through an X-ray machine not once but three times. We went to a second checkpoint and they made her strip and, the last minute, let her come on the airplane Jon Kilik and I were taking. And it felt just like apartheid, there was absolutely no reason for it. It was pure racism and prejudice. It was cruel and I was ashamed of everybody in that airport.”
Related: Q&A: Julian Schnabel On Politics Of ‘Miral’
There is a tradition of stars speaking out on everything from the Hollywood Blacklist to Vietnam (Jane Fonda will never be known as anything but Hanoi Jane by a certain segment of the population), and the pros and cons of gun control. Some stars just don’t seem to care about polarizing audiences. Like Sean Penn, a patron saint of Haiti for his tireless humanitarian work there raised hackles when he defended Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and called on the U.S. government to end sanctions; or Jim Carrey, who has made bold appeals for gun control each time another school massacre occurs. Read More »
The CW today unveiled a new two-hour special titled The World Dog Awards for January 2015, which promises to combine Hollywood award season and man’s best friends. The gist: dogs will be celebrated for their work in entertainment, health services, the military, and the Internet (sample category: Best Actor in a Supporting Role to a Dog). The location of the show? Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, of course. There will be viewer voting, edible trophies and musical performances from some of today’s biggest acts (Snoop Dogg, anyone?).
Also for noting on network TV schedules: NBC said it will again air a three-hour block for its American Ninja Warrior international competition. USA Vs. The World, featuring five of the top U.S. competitors against a group from Japan and Europe on the show’s finals course, will air Monday, September 15 from 8-11 PM. It will encore the next night on NBCU sibling Esquire Network. Among the names not on the U.S. roster: Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to make the show’s finals. Her Dallas run has more than 8 million views on YouTube. Maybe they’ll make an exception?
Sons of Anarchy hunk Charlie Hunnam couldn’t make the show’s final panel, ahead of its final season, at Comic-Con this weekend, thanks to a Vogue magazine photo shoot. So with some help from his suddenly servile show colleagues, the SOA people put together this hugely entertaining video showing what Hunnam was really doing on Sunday instead. The video drew big laughs from the audience at the Hall H panel. Check it out here:
Related: Kurt Sutter Inks New Overall Deal With 20th Century Fox TV
With still exactly a month to go before the big (Monday) event, the Emmy party season kicked off in style last night on the 3rd floor outdoor deck of the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills with a bash for performer nominees. Showing up to meet and greet potential voters as well as press and other Academy members were Modern Family’s Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson; Minnie Driver, nominated for the Lifetime movie Return To Zero; Veep’s pair of 2013 winners and nominees again, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale; double nominee for Mom and Masters Of Sex, Allison Janney; Scandal’s bad guy Joe Morton; House Of Cards‘ Kevin Spacey; and Fargo’s Billy Bob Thornton. Presiding over it all were actors branch Governors Bob Bergen and Lily Tomlin. Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum and new president Maury McIntyre also made the scene.
Now this was just the first round. There will be an even bigger bash for performers two nights before the Emmys at the Pacific Design Center. Between now and then there will be another 21 of these peer group parties representing every branch of the Academy from Costume Designers (who actually were the first group to party a few days ago) to Make Up and Hairstylists to Writers (I am on the Board Of Governors repping that branch, which will celebrate its nominees August 21). That’s almost one a night. Putting all this together is the indefatigable Barbara Chase and the Academy staff.
Also happening during this period will be the Creative Arts Emmys and Ball on Saturday, August 16 where 94 categories will be presented (up from 80 last year). Just a measly 26 categories will be presented on the NBC telecast August 25th.Whew. August is usually the dog days for the TV industry, but this year it is where all the heat is — at least as far as Emmys go. Voting, which is done by individual volunteers from each peer group , also got underway this week with the first round of ballots due back August 6 (for Creative Arts) and the final round the next week. Read More »
Universal and director F. Gary Gray have found their MC Ren and DJ Yella, adding two more thesps who’ll portray core members of rising 1980s gangsta rap group N.W.A in biopic Straight Outta Compton. Turn‘s Aldis Hodge will play MC Ren aka Lorenzo Jerald Patterson, and The Walking Dead‘s Neil Brown Jr will play DJ Yella aka Antoine Carraby alongside O’Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E.
Straight Outta Compton chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of the seminal group, which burst from the streets of Compton, CA, with aggressive beats and tales of hood life. O.G. N.W.A members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are directly involved as producers, alongside Matt Alvarez and Tomica Woods-Wright. Will Packer and Gray are exec producing the August 14, 2015, release.
Cube, Dre, and Eazy-E are the pic’s lead characters, but the formative years of N.W.A saw a deep lineup of hip-hop talent joining the group. DJ Yella, a colleague of Dre’s from their early electro DJ days in the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, would become a co-producer on Eazy-E’s solo debut Eazy-Duz-It and co-produced all of N.W.A’s albums including its 1988 debut Straight Outta Compton. MC Ren joined the group in the same year and co-wrote the majority of the first album with Ice Cube. Read More »
That’s the question of the day in telecom after tiny Windstream Holdings said it plans to take advantage of the tax-cutting strategy. That sent its shares up 13.9% in mid-day trading, and boosted most other cable and telecom company stocks on a relatively flat day for the market.
Windstream took everybody by surprise this morning when it said that it will spin off its fiber optic and copper cable lines into a publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT). The TV, broadband, and phone provider plans to pay $650M a year to lease the lines. What’s more, Windstream says it received a “favorable private letter ruling” from the Internal Revenue Service endorsing the gambit. That will enable the company to slash its debt by $3.2B, freeing cash for broadband upgrades, with a REIT that’s “positioned to provide an attractive dividend to shareholders and grow revenue through lease escalation, capital investment and acquisitions.” The Arkansas-based company had 421,100 digital TV customers and 1.2M broadband subscribers in March.
“To our knowledge, this is the first instance of telecommunications network assets being contributed to a REIT,” says MoffettNathanson Research’s Craig Moffett. Can others follow suit? Perhaps. Everyone in cable and telecom “will surely look closely at emulating Windstream because the tax savings are potentially so significant,” he says. Moffett’s back-of-the-envelope calculations show possible tax savings of $5.2B for AT&T, $4.2B for Verizon, $2.3B for Comcast (with Time Warner Cable), and $235M for Cablevision. But that would change if Congress jumps to plug what might be seen as a huge loophole in the tax laws. Read More »
Ethan Embry and Brooklyn Decker have been cast in Netflix‘s half-hour comedy Grace & Frankie, toplined by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The 13-episode series — created by Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris, directed by Tate Taylor and executive produced by Paula Weinstein and Skydance Prods — centers on longtime nemeses Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin), who are facing the last chapter of their lives. When their husbands (Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston) announce they are in love with each other and plan to get married, the women find their lives both turned upside down and, to their dismay, permanently intertwined.
Embry, repped by APA and Nelson Davis Wetzstein, will play Coyote, the charismatic son of Sol (Waterston) and Frankie (Tomlin). More than a little self-destructive, he has a history of drug abuse; however, after 90 days of sobriety, he’s determined to get back his life. Decker, who comes off CBS’ Friends With Better Lives, will play Mallory, the younger daughter of Grace (Fonda) and Robert (Sheen). She is a classic beauty like Grace. She modeled her marriage after her parents and now that their relationship has blown up, she doubts all aspects of the choices she’s made in her life. She is repped by Gersh, Authentic and attorney James Adams. Read More »
You need a pay TV subscription to see the CNBC and FOX NOW programming – and not all providers have deals to offer the business news and entertainment services online to their customers. Still, these are big additions to Apple’s streaming platform, which the tech giant is eager to promote after initially characterizing it as a mere hobby.
Apple TV becomes the first TV-connected streaming platform to offer a “full-featured CNBC TV Everywhere experience,” says NBCUniversal TV Everywhere GM Alison Moore. Users can watch the channel live, and see shows or clips on demand. CNBC President Mark Hoffman says that makes it possible for viewers “to be in control of their experience.” Pay TV providers authenticating the service include AT&T U-verse, Cablevision’s Optimum TV, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DirecTV, Dish Network, RCN, Suddenlink, Verizon FiOS and Wide Open West.
Those accessing FOX NOW will be able to see full episodes of shows including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Sleepy Hollow, The Simpsons, Family Guy, New Girl and Glee beginning the day after they first air. FOX NOW will offer bonus interviews and clips from its music shows including So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. The Apple-based service can tap user preferences to recommend programming. Its Post-Play feature can facilitate binge viewing by automatically showing the next episode in a series. FOX Now is also available on iPhones and iPads as well as Android devices, Xbox, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, and Windows 8. All of the major pay TV providers, except DirecTV, authenticate FOX NOW on Apple TV.
20th Century Fox unveiled new footage and cast at Comic-Con on Friday for The Maze Runner, which bows September 19. It’s based on James Dashner’s bestselling YA novel about youngsters marooned on a maze-ridden island. Wes Ball directed and Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie Sangster and Aml Ameen star. Noah Oppenheim, Grant Myers and T.S. Nowlin adapted the book. The pic had been set for a February 2014 release but it was pushed back. That shouldn’t be an indication of unhappiness though — Fox already exercised the option to buy The Scorch Trials, the second book in Dashner’s four-book series. So is this looking franchise-worthy?
Ron Livingston will play Paul Revere in AMC’s comedy pilot We Hate Paul Revere, which begins shooting next month in LA. The pilot received the network’s first green light to a half-hour project back in March. It centers on two brothers living in Colonial Boston who are not fans of local industrialist and activist Paul Revere. Now they have their “bad guy.” The project is written, executive produced and stars Ethan Sandler and Adrian Wenner. AMC Studios is producing, and Troy Miller is a non-writing executive producer through his Dakota Films.
Livingston is playing Elvis Presley in the Eddie OKeefe-directed drama Shangri-La Suite and also stars in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, which he joined for Season 4. His next pic is Fort Bliss opposite Michelle Monaghan. He is repped by UTA and Thruline Entertainment.