EXCLUSIVE: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) has chosen his next film. He will direct Southpaw, the drama written by Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter set in the boxing world. Jake Gyllenhaal is now set to star as a welterweight champion who rises in his profession while his personal life falls apart. The picture, financed by The Weinstein Company, will start before the cameras this summer. Fuqua was looking at a number of projects to helm but decided on Southpaw, and his deal closed last night. Still to cast is the other lead, Titus ‘Tick’ Willis, a former fighter who was forced to retire after losing an eye and was on his way to becoming a pro trainer but retreated after his son was killed. This is a movie that could include some breakthrough performances as the script plays to cultural diversity.
The project is being produced by Fuqua, Alan Riche and Peter Riche. Gyllenhaal is currently in production on Everest alongside Josh Brolin, Emily Watson and newcomer Clive Standen (Vikings) for Emmett/Furla and Universal. He last starred in the critically-acclaimed Prisoners and in Enemy which opens later this month in limited release via A24. The actor also stars in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler which does not yet have a distributor. Fuqua is repped by CAA, Gyllenhaal is repped by WME.
E! is making a regal entry into scripted programming. The network has picked up one of its first two scripted pilots, The Royals starring Elizabeth Hurley, to series. The one-hour drama, about a fictional British Royal family set in modern London that is informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, hails from Lionsgate and a trio of One Tree Hill alums. OTH creator Mark Schwahn wrote and directed Royals, which he is executive producing with Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. Getting reality focused E! into the scripted space had been a priority for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment topper Bonnie Hammer. Sibling cable channel Bravo had been put on a similar path and just greenlighted its first scripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce. E!’s second pilot, musical drama Songbyrd, remains in contention. “The Royals will offer a fictional look behind the very public gilded façade of the palace gates to imagine the private, lush, fun, sexy world of the most-watched celebrity family on the planet,” said E! EVP Original Programming and development Jeff Olde said. Added the network’s scripted executive Kevin Plunkett who spearheads E!’s scripted efforts, “This is a big idea and Mark, Brian, Joe and the Lionsgate team delivered.” Read More »
Paul Reiser has been set to recur on Andrew Gurland’s new FX series Married, which was picked up to series in January and will debut this summer. Created, directed and executive produced by Gurland, Married stars Nat Faxon and Judy Greer as Russ and Lina Bowman, who can barely remember what was like before kids, debt, and suburbia rained on their romance. But every once in a while they are reminded what drew them together in the first place: They’re best friends. Reiser will play the older love interest of co-star Jenny Slate’s character. Brad Gelman also co-stars. Reiser, who had a pair of films — Whiplash and Life After Beth — premiere at Sundance this year, most recently appeared in HBO’s Behind The Candelabra. He is repped by Gersh, New Wave Entertainment, and attorney Jeff Finkelstein.
Related: 2014 FX Pilots
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CBS News has named veteran Bill Whitaker a 60 Minutes correspondent, it was announced today by Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the newsmag and the chairman of CBS News. Whitaker, who has been based in Los Angeles, will move to the New York area and begin appearing in the fall on the CBS newsmagazine, which is America’s most-watched news program. The newsmag got nicked in its reputation when Lara Logan took a leave in the wake of the program’s since-discredited story on the Benghazi attacks. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Hawaii Five-0 showrunner Peter Lenkov has signed a new overall deal with CBS Television Studios, the studio behind the CBS crime drama. Under the two-year pact, he will continue as executive producer/showrunner on the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, which he developed and co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci and has run since the pilot. Now in its fourth season, Hawaii Five-0 is an important asset for CBS TV Studios as it has a rich off-network syndication deal and is a strong international seller. The new overall deal secures Lenkov’s leadership on the show for the next two seasons and also calls for him to develop new projects for network and cable. This past season, he re-teamed with Kurtzman and Orci to develop high-concept drama Salvation, which sold to CBS. Read More »
Today’s announcement and other financial moves reportedly in the works for the gaming-oriented online service underscore how hard it is for channels to make money at YouTube. Machinima – which describes itself as “the number one global video entertainment network for young males” — says today that the layoffs, hitting 30% of the workforce, are part of its “restructuring in and around its sales organization” as it leans on its “longstanding partnership with YouTube to drive media sales.” But it also comes as it lines up $18M in funding from a group led by Warner Bros, website Re/code reports, citing “people familiar with the transaction.” Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that Warner Bros was mulling the possibility of investing as much as $15M in the online video operation. The numbers are a far cry from the amounts approaching $70M that Machinima was said to be hoping to secure last year. One of the problems for YouTube services like Machinima is that Google takes about 45% of the ad revenue it sells, as well as much of the inventory. Read More »
Alex Fragen, Summit Entertainment’s former president of TV distribution who oversaw the company’s free and pay TV and VOD and PPV, has joined UTA as a strategist to help agents and clients maximize various delivery platforms. He also previously worked for 14 years at Paramount Pictures where he was responsible for all aspects of television distribution for the studio library in North America. Most recently he worked at multi-media consultancy firm Question Media Group helping such companies as EPIX, Colony Capital and AwesomenessTV to maximize their multi-platform efforts. So basically, Fragen was hired to help the agency negotiate deals and get the best terms for their clients throughout various platforms. The business model for content distribution (with the various windows) has changed so much over the years that all agencies should probably be doing this, if they aren’t already, for their clients. The move to bring in Fragen and his expertise is smart, considering that there is so much content — for instance at Sundance or other film festivals — that might not get picked up but will be able to find new life outside mainstream theatrical distribution.
This is an area UTA has been very involved with in the past. For instance, the agency helped established a distribution model for writer-producer Tom Fontana’s series Borgia on VOD and one of the first scripted series exclusivity deals for Netflix. They also assisted their client Brian Robbins create the digital network AwesomenessTV, a web-based multi-channel network (or MCN, which means it works with YouTube to facilitate the programming, cross-promotion, and monetization, in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenues from the channel). AwesomenessTV distributes content both theatrically and on cable television networks using social media platforms to brand-build. Read More »
TWC-Dimension picked up rights to author Ira Levin’s 1973 Broadway thriller Veronica’s Room in December, and now has tapped Mark Bomback to pen the adaptation. The original play from Rosemary’s Baby writer Levin centererd on two students who find themselves invited to a crumbling New England estate for an audience with the last surviving member of the family that once lived there. The purpose of the visit is so that Susan, one of the students, will agree to impersonate Veronica, the long-dead sister of the fading Cissie. And that’s where the line between what’s real and what’s not begins to blur.
Bomback’s credits include Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and Unstoppable, and he did work on the Fifty Shades Of Grey movie. His script Art Of Racing In The Rain is in development at Universal. “Mark coming on board is huge for this project. He shares the same passion for Ira’s play that I do and together we hope to make something very sinister and special,” said Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company. Bomback is repped by WME, Anonymous Content and Attorney David Colden. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Screen Gems has signed on to distribute The Last Of Us, a live-action adaptation of the PlayStation 3 vidgame from Naughty Dog. Neil Druckmann, the Creative Director for the game, will write the script. The creative architects will be Naughty Dog co-presidents Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, as well as Druckmann and Game Director Bruce Straley. They’ll team with Sam Raimi and his Ghost House Pictures banner.
The logline: Hardened survivor Joel teams with young and capable companion Ellie to journey through a radically transformed world some 20 years after an infectious pandemic ravages humanity. The game has won numerous awards and has been a big seller since its release last summer.
Related: Warner Bros Acquires Rights To Video Game Sensation ‘Minecraft’
“Screen Gems’ Brian Dukes and Eric Ling brought this game to my attention insisting we go after it, and when I saw the quality of the storytelling, I knew the audience for this project was far greater than just the gaming community and that Neil Druckmann must write the screenplay,” Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper said. “I am thrilled that SCEA’s Riley Russell was able to get me in front of Neil and Evan Wells to plead my case. Sam and his team at Ghost House round out the perfect team to help realize Neil’s vision.” Read More »
Mariana Klaveno (Devious Maids, True Blood) has been cast in CBS’ untitled Kevin Williamson drama pilot. Written by Williamson and directed by Liz Friedlander, the psychological thriller revolves around two detectives, Beth and Jack (McDermott), who handle stalking incidents for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD. Klaveno, repped by APA, Shelter Entertainment, and Lev Ginsburg, plays Janice, one of the unit’s detectives who often is underestimated because of her somewhat flashy appearance.
Related: 2014 CBS Pilots
Lost alum Neil Hopkins has been cast in Matador, the upcoming action drama series for Robert Rodriguez‘s El Rey Network, created by Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman. It chronicles the unlikely rise of Antonio “Matador” Bravo (Gabriel Luna), a popular soccer star who in reality is a covert operative for a little known branch of the CIA. Hopkins, repped by SDB Partners and the Cornell Group, will play Noah, female lead Annie’s (Nicky Whelan) brilliant but awkward partner.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Homeland alum David Harewood is taking a comedic turn with a supporting role in ABC’s single-camera comedy pilot Selfie, written by Emily Kapnek and directed by Julie Anne Robinson. It centers on Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan), a self-obsessed, twentysomething who is more concerned with “likes” than being liked. Harewood will play the off/crazy president of the company Eliza works for.
EXCLUSIVE: Just more than a week after Sundance Selects picked up North American rights to Hellion, the pic’s writer-director Kat Candler has signed with ICM Partners. In competition in this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Hellion is Candler’s feature debut and stars Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, who was also a co-exec producer. Newcomer Josh Wiggins and Juliette Lewis co-star in the the film, which focuses on a family falling apart fast after the death of the mother. Candler adapted Hellion from her own short film that screened at Sundance two years ago. The film is produced by Kelly Williams & Jonathan Duffy and executive produced by Jeff Nichols (Mud) and Sarah Green. It is scheduled to be released theatrically and on VOD later this year and to play at SXSW this week. Candler continues to also be represented by attorney Deena Kalai.
Related: Sundance: Aaron Paul On ‘Hellion’, ‘Exodus’ & ‘Breaking Bad’s Golden Globes Win
The roughly 700 layoffs have been widely anticipated for the operation, Disney‘s only money-losing division in the fiscal year that ended in September. With the cuts, Disney Interactive will trim by half the number of games it puts out each year and will reduce the number of concepts it will develop in-house –relying more on ideas licensed from outsiders. It also will close websites BabyZone.com and Spoonful.com as it looks for sponsors to support Disney.com, eliminating the need to sell banner ads. The company says that it “has consolidated several lines of business” to help “focus the division on a streamlined suite of high-quality digital products. As a result of this restructuring, we have undergone a reduction in workforce. These actions were difficult but necessary given our long-term strategy focused on sustainable profitability and innovation.” A shakeup seemed inevitable after CEO Bob Iger tapped Jimmy Pitaro in November to run the division solo. Its social games operation likely will suffer from the brunt of the cuts. Disney placed a big bet on the format in2010 when it paid $563.2M for Playdom, only to watch the games decline in popularity as many gamers began to focus on smartphones and tablets.
Starz has partnered with the BBC on the British broadcaster’s eight-episode limited drama series The Missing. Starz will co-produce the project, starring James Nesbitt (The Hobbit trilogy), which has begun filming in Brussels. Written by Harry and Jack Williams and directed by Tom Shankland, the thriller will air on BBC One in the UK and Starz in the U.S. in fall 2014. It is produced by New Pictures and Company Pictures in association with Two Brothers Pictures and Colin Callender’s Playground. All3media International has funded development of The Missing and retains all U.S. rights not obtained by Starz. Missing reunites the auspices behind The White Queen limited series, which was a success for Starz; it also hailed from BBC One, Company Pictures, Playground and all3media. Read More »
HBO will debut its latest Bruce Springsteen documentary, Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes, at 9:30 PM on April 4. The half-hour docu, from Grammy- and Emmy-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny, chronicles the making of Springsteen’s 18th studio album and it premieres two days before the start of his North American tour. The album reached No. 1 in 20 countries with its January release, including the U.S. The film features behind-the-scenes studio and rehearsal segments, exclusive E Street Band tour footage and interviews with Springsteen and album collaborator Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against the Machine. The two explain how Morello brought a distinctive twist to Springsteen’s material. He joined Springsteen and the E Street Band on tour in Australia in 2013 and the two began collaborating on ideas that would make their way onto the album. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: CAA has signed actor Taylor Kitsch. Here’s the guy who – after playing one of the great recent TV characters in fullback Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights and then a small but showy role as Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine – seemed like he was going to be the next big leading man. That was before he suffered a hellacious summer when the two big movies he starred in, John Carter and Battleship, both flopped. But Kitsch has put himself back on the track with a good showing in the Oliver Stone-directed Savages and most recently playing the Medal of Honor-winning Long Island-bred Navy SEAL Michael Murphy in the Peter Berg-directed Lone Survivor. Kitsch was last repped by WME but has been agent-less this year until now. He continues to be managed by Untitled Entertainment, and he next stars in the ensemble of HBO’s adaptation of the Larry Kramer play The Normal Heart, directed by Ryan Murphy.
EXCLUSIVE: Halle Berry and producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas have christened a new company that has come out of the Oscar-winning actress’ decision to star in the CBS series Extant. They’ve hatched 606 Films, a shingle that will be housed at CBS Television Studios and is named for the anti-paparazzi bill that Berry championed to keep over-aggressive shutterbugs from harassing the children of celebrities. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law last fall after testimony by Berry, Jennifer Garner and others.
Berry and Goldsmith-Thomas have hired Kathryn Tyus-Adair to be SVP of 606 Films. She moves from Don Cheadle’s Crescendo Productions where she spent five years working on TV and film projects including the upcoming St. Vincent. She has also worked as development exec for Robert Redford, Curtis Hanson and George Tillman Jr in projects that include The Horse Whisperer, A Civil Action, Barbership and the Showtime series Soul Food. CAA reps the new company.
The production deal came as part of the deal for Berry to be co-executive producer and star of Extant, a new series that will premiere July 2 on CBS, a co-production between CBS Television Studios and Amblin Television. The series is exec produced by Steven Spielberg, Greg Walker, Mickey Fisher (who wrote the pilot), Brooklyn Weaver, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Read More »