The comics legend’s reps say he was hit with a bout of laryngitis and isn’t making the trip to San Diego after all. Twitter was abuzz about Stan Lee‘s sudden pullout today, with folks speculating about the 91-year-old Spider-Man and X-Men co-creator’s health. But a spokesman tells Deadline that Lee simply lost his voice and otherwise is “well and healthy”. He was set for a meet-and-greet and DVD signing on Friday afternoon to promote his Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 franchise. It’s definitely a bummer, but on with the Con.
With a giant banner looming over Comic-Con from the nearby Marriott and marketing all over the San Diego International Airport, Legends made a splash in its geekfest debut before a word was spoken or a clip was played on today’s panel. Not that the upcoming TNT spy thriller didn’t seal the deal with the 1,000 plus fans in Room 6A of the Convention Center – especially when the star Sean Bean showed up, kind of.
Before the short panel got under way, the audience was treated to a full preview of the first episode of the TNT show introduced by Bean himself. Via video, the actor apologized for not being at Comic-Con but joked that “maybe that’s a good thing” for the crowd’s safety as the former Game Of Thrones and Lord Of The Rings star is of course one of the most killed off actors around. “If you were me, one does not simply avoid death on a daily basis,” Bean deadpanned to howls from the fans in the room.
Even 10 months out from its May 15, 2015 release date on alien adventure Pixels, Sony‘s playing the long game. This is the only Comic-Con the studio has to promote the Chris Columbus-directed Adam Sandler pic, after all. That means a full-court marketing takeover inside the busy Hard Rock Hotel just outside the Convention Center, complete with arcade open to the public, and the presentation of barely-there footage from the set at this morning’s studio panel.
In the pic, aliens invade Earth after mistaking feeds of classic arcade games as an act of intergalactic war. The film is still shooting and Columbus appeared via taped message to make a first impression on convention attendees. Fans in the Hilton Bayfront’s Indigo Ballroom also glimpsed co-star Josh Gad in a gag video showing him being chased … by a tennis ball. Below, check out Peter Dinklage in character in a clip promoting a Pixels video arcade set up at the Hard Rock in San Diego.
Sony at least had the effervescent Jack Black in tow to promote Goosebumps, its August 7, 2015 adaptation of the youth horror novels by R.L. Stine. Black plays a version of Stine in the film, in which the author keeps all the nightmare monsters from his literary works locked up in his books until a young neighbor (Dylan Minnette) accidentally releases them into the real world. Black and Goosebumps director Rob Letterman just finished the shoot and brought onstage with them a “co-star” from the film — Slappy the Dummy, the ventriloquist’s dummy that comes alive in the series’ popular Night of the Living Dummy stories.
Here’s some food for thought for Comic-Con: Paul Rudnick, the fine playwright and screenwriter of such films as Jeffrey, Addams Family Values and The Stepford Wives, has made a Facebook post on how ever-evolving movie superheroes can really change the spandex game. Under the heading Supergay, he writes:
“Marvel has announced that in an upcoming edition, Thor will be a woman, and that the new Captain America will be black. And while there have been gay superheroes, and Archie Andrews has recently taken a bullet for his gay friend, Kevin, we could still use a re-thinking of a central icon. Because if Superman was gay:
- It would explain the cape.
- Because he’s such a good guy, he’d still save people in the states where he couldn’t get married.
- He’d get really tired of the “So are you seeing Batman?” jokes, especially because they met on Supr, a hookup site for heroes, and it didn’t really click.
EXCLUSIVE: Charmed alums Shannen Doherty (Beverly Hills 90210) and Holly Marie Combs (Pretty Little Liars) are hitting the road in Great American Country’s Off The Map With Shannen & Holly. It follows the former Charmed co-stars and real-life friends on a girls’ road trip through the southeastern U.S., with stops in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. They will travel unknown roads, meet locals and tackle exciting adventures with help from Great American Country viewers. Visitors to GACTV.com can vote on the activities the pair will take on at each destination, with new questions rolling live as filming continues in July and August. The original six-episode series is slated to premiere in 2015.
DreamWorks Animation might take it as a good sign that the mere sound of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s voice — and the vision of him in character as an animated wolf in Penguins Of Madagascar – elicited screams in Hall H this morning at Comic-Con. Cumberbatch, who’s making his first stop at the San Diego fan convention this year, also stars in Comic-Con fave Sherlock and Peter Jackson’s upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. Not that distracting Sherlock chatter was welcome at the DWA panel: “Any questions about Sherlock, and Comic-Con is CANCELLED,” joked moderator Craig Ferguson.
Cumberbatch stars in Penguins as Classified, the leader of secret animal agent operation The North Wind who teams with Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private to stop new villain Dr. Octavius Brine. John Malkovich stars as Brine and also made his maiden voyage to San Diego Comic-Con for the panel. “This your first Comic-Con? You’ll fit right in,” Ferguson quipped to Malkovich. Studio pushed the Madagascar spin-off hard, unveiling 20 minutes of footage from the November 26 release.
There is also speculation and hotfire rumors that Cumberbatch will be announced to star in Doctor Strange, Marvel’s franchise-launching film that will be directed by Scott Derrickson and penned by Jon Spaihts. Cumberbatch has been deflecting questions left and right — maybe more clarity is to come at the Marvel presentation Saturday?
The adaptation of Anne Rice‘s best-seller is set to hit theaters March 23, 2016, the Wednesday before Easter. Christ The Lord is a fictional account of young Jesus as he comes to discover his real identity and the truth surrounding his birth. It was greenlighted during Cannes in May and is set to begin production September 15 in Italy. No cast is in place, but Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning Of Soraya M.) will direct from a script he wrote with his wife Betsy. Enzo Sisti (Passion Of The Christ) is executive producing. The wide-release pic will arrive two days ahead of its weekend competitors Beverly Hills Cop 4 from Paramount and Warner Bros’ Geostorm.
At the onset of USA’s Dig panel at Comic-Con, the creators and pilot director behind the action miniseries tubthumped extensively how their project is an anomaly in so far that it’s a show set in Jerusalem, shot in Jerusalem. “Shooting there is paramount to the story in capturing the vividness and emphasizing the characters of the show,” said Dig pilot director S.J. Clarkson. (Watch the trailer below.)
Emphasizing their point, the creators went so far as to show a behind-the-scenes clip of the cast and crew wowing about how riveting it is to shoot in Jerusalem. Then, when asked by Deadline about the production’s status, particularly as it relocates to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the wake of turmoil in Gaza, executive producer Gideon Raff explained, “We shot everything we need for the pilot and now we are relocating to Albuquerque but also scouting locations internationally that will be our new Jerusalem. We are committed not to give up based on what happened.”
Paramount marketing chief Josh Greenstein and former Fox marketing guru Tony Sella are two of the leading contenders Sony brass are eyeing to come into their executive ranks following the exit of distribution and marketing executive Jeff Blake this week. Insiders caution that there are several others are in the mix too, including execs currently at the studio. Sony CEO Michael Lynton and chair of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group’s Amy Pascal said as much on Tuesday. Specifically, Lynton said, “Right now we are going to leave the existing structure under Jeff in place, and we will be looking both internally and externally to replace Jeff.” The studio already has shored up exec Doug Belgrad and gave him a new title (President of the Motion Picture Group) and expanded duties over marketing and distribution. Also this week, longtime Sony Pictures EVP Elizabeth Cantillon left her production post to become a producer with a three-year first-look deal at the studio. So the restructuring at Sony continues.
From the clips they showed today at Comic-Con, the second season of Under The Dome is about to get a lot harsher. Big Jim is on the warpath, Barbie is on the move and what’s underneath Chester’s Mill might turn out to be as deadly as the dome that’s over top of it. ”No one is safe under the dome,” said executive produce Neal Baer today about whether more characters would die on the CBS summer drama.
“We kept the body count down for the beginning of the season so we can rev it up towards the end,” Baer added during today’s panel discussion. “There are no set rules,” the EP also remarked about whether killed-off characters could come back.
A five-minute clip of Episode 7 was shown during the panel, hinting with Mike Vogel’s character Dale “Barbie” Barbara falling into a deep cavern that the dome may prove not to so impregnable. “One of our characters might get out of the dome this season, literally,” said Baer. “We just finished shooting last week and we know the ending but we won’t tell you.” The episode airs August 11.
Major pan-European distributor Wild Bunch and Germany indie bigwig Senator Entertainment have agreed to combine their businesses. The resulting company will be a top European film distributor and producer with a library of about 2,200 films and consolidated revenues of more than $250 million (based on 2013 figures). The existing management teams will take over the operational leadership of the group, with Wild Bunch’s Chairman and CEO Vincent Grimond becoming CEO, Brahim Chioua as COO, Vincent Maraval as Chief Content Officer, and Senator’s Max Sturm as CFO.
The two companies have a common history, teaming on the joint-venture operation Central Film Verleih to movie acquisitions (The King’s Speech, The Reader) and cooperation in video and TV sales. Senator is just completing a financial restructuring. The tie-up will bolster both sides’ digital efforts, and it will be active in four major territories: Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
“The new financially restructured Senator Entertainment benefiting from the strong support of its key shareholder Sapinda and of its stock market listing in Germany, is a perfect partner for the next phase of our company’s development,” Grimond said in the release announcing the deal.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s Hugo Award-winning novel, The Man In the High Castle hails from The X-Files alum Frank Spotnitz and Scott Free. Written by Spotnitz and to be directed by David Semel (Legends), the project set in 1962 explores an alternative reality in which Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II and occupy the United States, with the East Coast controlled by the Nazis and the West Coast owned by Japan, and a chunk of the Midwest still up for grabs. Fascism rules and the few surviving Jews hide under assumed names. But an aging Hitler has one foot in the grave, and the Japanese are preparing for an imminent Nazi stab in the back. The U.S. Resistance is scattered, scared, or crushed. The project originally was set up as a four-hour miniseries at Syfy last year. “The Man In High Castle is one of Dick’s most imaginative and captivating works and certainly one of my favorites,” Scott Free’s Ridley Scott said at the time. Scott, of course, directed the 1982 Blade Runner, one of several feature adaptations of Dick’s books, along with two versions of Total Recall (1990 and 2012), …
Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired North American rights to A Year In Champagne. Writer-director David Kennard’s follow-up to A Year In Burgundy focuses on France’s most famous beverage and was bought after screening at the Santa Barbara and Palm Beach fests. Pic will be released in the spring. We like drinking it but watching it? There is a lot of ground covered here. Pic covers the beverage’s history, grim and bloody, swept by war and destruction from Attila the Hun to the filthy trenches of WWI and the Nazi depredations of WWII. The environment for winemaking is desperately hard — northerly latitude, chalky soil, copious rain, frost, rot. Yet it’s these difficulties that help make the wine unique.
Said Kennard: “The winemakers of Champagne hold their secrets close to their chest: Who would guess that the world’s most famous wine is produced in a place with such bad weather and such a hair-raising history? Only by living amongst them for all four seasons of the year – as we did – are their secrets revealed: their sheer chutzpah, their reliance on luck and their enormous skill to conjure up the most magical, joyful drink from the most unpromising beginnings.”
When BSkyB reports its full-year results tomorrow, it is expected to announce a deal to acquire 57% of Sky Deutschland and 100% of Sky Italia from 21st Century Fox. Speculation has swirled that this deal is near since it emerged that Rupert Murdoch’s behemoth had bid $80B bid for Time Warner. In May, UK pay-TV giant BSkyB confirmed it had initiated preliminary discussions with Fox to evaluate a potential acquisition of the latter’s pay-TV assets in Germany and Italy. Fox also owns 39.1% of BSkyB. A combination of the businesses would have about 20M subscribers, and could also provide a payday to Fox of an estimated $13B. I’ve been cautioned that these funds are not necessary for Fox to be able to up its bid for TW, but it would put extra money in the coffers while creating a huge pan-European group. “It could just be that 21st Century Fox sees it as a useful way of generating funds and eases management time to concentrate on other things. But the reason for doing it would exist on its own merits,” Enders Analysis’ Toby Syfret tells me. It’s worth remembering that English Premier League soccer rights are coming to auction again in 2015 and extra cash could certainly come in handy.
Following the announcement of the Venice lineup today, I sat down with fest chief Alberto Barbera in Rome. He’s got what looks like a very solid roster of 55 films across the official selection that will unspool between August 27 and September 6 on the Lido. It all kicks off with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman on opening night. Barbera told me he was excited for the film, which he says marks a departure for the helmer of Babel, 21 Grams and Biutiful. “It’s inventive and light” and full of surprises. After a truly out-of-this-world festival last year which blasted off with eventual awards-season juggernaut Gravity on opening night, did he feel pressure this time around? “I try not to think about that,” he said. But he did allow that Gravity‘s success may have helped convince Fox Searchlight to debut it on the Lido. Oscar-winning Gravity director, and Inarritu pal, Alfonso Cuaron was also “very supportive” and Barbera says Cuaron is expected in town to continue that support at the premiere next month.
Last year, there were some ruffled feathers when a handful of films, including Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, premiered in Telluride despite being billed as world premieres in Venice. The two fests overlap on Venice’s first weekend. But Barbera says he has sat down with Telluride’s Tom Luddy, whom he calls a friend, over the past year and …
Comic-Con: ‘24’s Kiefer Sutherland Praises Evolution Of TV; “Still Talking” About Movie, Producer Says
When we last saw Kiefer Sutherland’s super-agent Jack Bauer on the July 14th finale of Fox’s 24: Live Another Day he was about to fly off into a very uncertain Moscow-based future. Today at Comic-Con, the actor said that “we went thorough so many ideas for that ending” and “on some level we copped out because on some level it is hard to end it.” Sutherland added that “we talked about that maybe for the DVD, we’ll have Jack take out a hand grenade and blow the Russian helicopter up — we’d never had that kind of freedom before. “ Sutherland was joined today by 24 executive producer/director Jon Cassar, who moderated the panel.
Intended as a launch for the September 30th Blu-ray and DVD release of the limited event series, the panel today started with a five-minute video retrospective of all eight seasons of 24 and 24: LAD – needless to say, Bauer kicked a lot of ass, a lot of stuff blew up and the packed Ballroom 20 loved it, erupting in a roar when it was over. The response was similar for Cassar’s later answer to an audience member’s question about a 24 movie: “We’re still talking about it.”
The Weinstein Company has kicked off production today on Adam Jones, the culinary pic that stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller about a bad-boy Michelin chef who must turn it around. The project was originally titled The Chef until Jon Favreau’s food truck pic Chef came along; there was confusion among buyers that led to a cease-and-desist order and eventually a resolution.
Adam Jones has added Uma Thurman as the final ingredient in an ensemble that includes Daniel Bruhl, Riccardo Scarmacio, Emma Thompson, Lily James, Omar Sy, Jamie Dornan, Sam Keeley, Sarah Greene and Alicia Vikander. The plot: Chef Adam Jones (Cooper) had it all – and lost it. A two-star Michelin rockstar with the bad habits to match, the former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene did everything different every time out, and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive Michelin star though, he’ll need the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Miller).
YRF Entertainment will remake the hit 2012 Indian film Kahaani, and the company has landed Jose Rivera and Richard Regen to script it for Niels Arden Oplev, helmer of the Swedish trilogy that began with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Written and directed by Sujoy Ghosh, Kahaani was a big hit in India that grossed 16 times its budget in that country alone. The remake is titled Deity, and it’s described as a thriller about an American woman who goes to Calcutta in search of her missing husband. As she gets closer to the truth, she finds herself at the center of a dangerous conspiracy. The story unfolds in the context of a colorful, week-long Hindu festival.
“Niels is the perfect director to transform the appeal of Kahaani to Deity,” said Uday Chopra, CEO, YRF Entertainment. “Niels has an elevated understanding of both international thrillers and strong female characters and his vision for capturing the vibrancy and energy of contemporary Calcutta will appeal to audiences in the US and worldwide.” Chopra will be producer and YRF’s production and development head Jonathan Reiman will be exec producer. Financing comes from YRF, which just backed the Cannes opening film Grace Of Monaco. Upcoming for that label is Seducing Ingrid Bergman, scripted by Grace’s Arash Amel from the Chris Greenhalgh novel about Bergman’s affair with war photographer Robert Capa.
After setting Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone to star in his next untitled film, Woody Allen has just added Parker Posey and If I Stay‘s Jamie Blackley to the cast of the film currently shooting in Rhode Island. Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum are producing. Allen’s Magic In The Moonlight will be released this week by Sony Pictures Classics.