EXCLUSIVE: James Mangold is negotiating to direct The Deep Blue Good-By, the 1964 John D. MacDonald novel that kicked off series of mystery novels with character Travis McGee. This has long been eyed by Fox as the launch of a star-driven franchise based on the beach bum McGee, a forerunner of muscular solitary heroes like Jack Reacher and Spenser For Hire, helping (and romancing) damsels in distress as he kicks ass against the powerful. The film was originally set as a star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s not going to happen now, as DiCaprio has plenty of work in front of him and this film, with a most recent script draft by Mystic River novelist Dennis Lehane, is certainly ready to go. DiCaprio and his Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson-Killoran are producing with Amy Robinson and Chernin Entertainment. Previous script drafts were done by Dana Stevens and Kario Salem.
EXCLUSIVE: After spending several years looking to generate a sequel or two to the 1996 Fox smash hit Independence Day, it looks like director Roland Emmerich and co-writer and producer Dean Devlin are going to have to take on those Earth-leveling aliens without Will Smith. I’m told reliably that Smith informed the studio that he won’t be joining in on a sequel that the filmmakers hope to have in theaters for July 4 weekend, 2016. That marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996 original that grossed $811 million worldwide and launched Smith on a trajectory to become the world’s most bankable movie star.
‘Wolf Of Wall Street’s Leonardo DiCaprio & Jonah Hill Plan Re-Team In Story Of Richard Jewell; Labelled Hero, Then Falsely Vilified As Bomber At 1996 Atlanta Olympics
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has closed a deal to acquire rights to Marie Brenner’s 1997 Vanity Fair article “The Ballad Of Richard Jewell”, which will be developed for Jonah Hill to play the title subject. Jewell was the security guard who discovered a backpack in the Olympics compound in Atlanta in 1996. Initially hailed a hero for reporting the suspicious knapsack and then helping clear bystanders from the area before it exploded, Jewell was subsequently vilified just three days later as a potential suspect, his life and reputation torn apart in the advent of the 24 hour news cycle. Leonardo DiCaprio will play a lawyer Jewell knew casually, a Southern attorney who mostly did real estate closings and seemed in over his head, but he guided Jewell through a hellish Twilight Zone that went on even after the FBI officially cleared Jewell’s name three months later.
Brenner, whose VF article was the original source material for the Michael Mann-directed tobacco whistle-blower tale The Insider, accompanied Jewell and his attorney just as it finally became clear he had nothing to do with placing the bomb. The film will be produced by Appian Way’s DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Hill and Kevin Misher, the latter of whom brought in the article. Misher Films’ Andy Berman will also have a producing role. Mike Ireland is overseeing for Fox.
This comes as both DiCaprio and Hill are up for Oscars for Best Picture nominee The Wolf Of Wall Street. It is particularly a strong role for Hill, who continues his remarkable transition from comic actor to serious roles that started with an Oscar-nominated turn in Moneyball and continues with the Rupert Goold-directed True Story, in which Hill plays Michael Finkel, a disgraced journalist who got the chance at redemption when a suspected killer (James Franco) took Finkel’s name, and would only talk to that journalist. That project is also at Fox, with New Regency.
Actress-filmmaker Lina Esco has been cast as a regular in Ryan Murphy‘s HBO pilot Open, a provocative exploration of human sexuality and relationships. It centers on five central characters played by Michelle Monaghan, Scott Speedman, Wes Bentley, Anna Torv and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Esco will play Gina, a smoking hot and extremely ambitious employee at Jonathan’s sports management agency (and the object of his sexting and extra-curricular exploits) who will stop at nothing to get the job promotion AND her man. Esco, repped by Luber Roklin, co-starred opposite Miley Cyrus in LOL and wrote and directed her first film, the provocative Free The Nipple.
UPDATE, 11:05 AM: James Cameron has issued a statement through Fox about last week’s Bryant Moore ruling: “Sadly, a cottage industry has arisen of fortune hunting plaintiffs seeking to ‘strike it rich’ by claiming their ideas were the basis for Avatar. As I have previously stated, Avatar was my most personal film, drawing upon themes and concepts that I had been exploring for decades. Our film was also the product of a team of some of the world’s most creative artists and designers, and it is an insult to all of them when these specious claims are made. I am grateful that Judge Titus and the other jurists who have dealt with these cases have recognized the complete lack of merit of these offensive lawsuits.”
PREVIOUS, MONDAY AM: It took over two years but the highest-grossing movie of all time, James Cameron and Fox are finally free of yet another Avatar lawsuit. “In conclusion, the story of Jake Sully and his exploits are the original work of the Defendants and the Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate any valid claim of a violation of his copyrights,” a federal District judge in Maryland wrote late last week of sci-fi writer Bryant Moore’s $2.5 billion lawsuit (read it here). The Memorandum Opinion and a following Order by Judge Roger Titus effectively ends the case with a summary judgment and other orders in Cameron and Fox’s favor. Moore will also have to pay all legal costs in the case.
Last Friday, Deadline broke news that author James Frey’s latest YA novel Endgame was part of a bidding war. Later I reported that the result was a movie deal upwards of $2 million with Fox, which came after the publishing deal with sister company HarperCollins, and Google part of the mix. This for a Hunger Games-style series. So here are more details about what happened for the author of I Am Number Four and A Million Little Pieces.
HarperCollins got this started by buying U.S. and UK English-language rights to a trilogy of novels Frey writes with Nils Johnson-Shelton, first of which is to be published on October 7, 2014. The book already has its foreign publishers lined up for a simultaneous release around the world in over 30 languages. Fox signed on quickly — Warner Bros was trolling but never got to make a bid — for the movie rights, the first of which Frey will script based on the the opening book Endgame: The Calling, with Twilight Saga producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill producing a series of movies based on the three books. They also have access to e-book novellas that are part of the series. The interactive part of this has big potential and is being orchestrated by HarperCollins, Full Fathom Five (which created I Am Number Four) and Google’s Niantic Labs, which will publish six Endgame novels for the Google Play store, with the game launching on Android and iOS devices late next year.
Fox Sets Date For ‘Planet of the Apes’ Project, Moves Romancer ‘The Longest Ride’ Away From ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’; ‘Night At the Museum’ Now Head to Head With ‘The Hobbit’
20th Century Fox has announced new release dates on three films, including staking out July 29, 2016, for its Untitled Planet of the Apes project. It will be released two weeks after the next installment in another franchise Ice Age …
Marc Weinstock had been president of worldwide theatrical marketing at Sony Pictures until late September, when he was ousted as part of what became a seismic shake-up at that studio. Those moves included the exits of corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop and the addition of former New Line president-turned-Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca. Weinstock’s new gig at Fox helps put a bow on the studio’s own new exec structure; in mid-October, Oren Aviv left as Chief Movie Marketing Officer, replaced by Fox international guys Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus, who became co-presidents of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing & Distribution as marketing was combined into a worldwide division. Chief Creative Officer Tony Sella soon followed Aviv out the door. Weinstock, whose new deal we’re hearing came together pretty fast, will report to Jegeus and Hanneman as part of that plan, with Jegeus and Hanneman overseeing the overseas side of the business. Here’s Fox’s release:
LOS ANGELES (January 7, 2014) __ Twentieth Century Fox Film (Fox) has hired Marc Weinstock as President of Domestic Theatrical Marketing, reporting to co-Presidents of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing & Distribution, Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus. Weinstock, who joins Fox on January 13, will oversee all domestic marketing functions for the studio.
EXCLUSIVE: Right after 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment began screening his cut of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Matt Reeves has signed on to direct the third installment of the franchise. This time, he will write the script with Mark Bomback, one of the writers who scripted the sequel. Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa were the scribes who resurrected the franchise with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the Ruper Wyatt-directed film that grossed $482 million worldwide in 2011. The directing deal is done and the writer deals are being worked out right now. It is likely that Reeves will go right into the third film, a priority for the studio.
The sequel is set to debut July 11, 2014, and it stars Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Keri Russell, with Andy Serkis reprising his role as Caesar, the intelligent ape that led the breakout from a lab before much of the human race was wiped out at the close of the first film. The survivors square off against Caesar’s growing army in the second film. The pic is based on the Pierre Boulle novel, and was first turned into a film that starred Charlton Heston in 1968.
Considering that global movie ticket sales reached precedent levels after a particularly robust holiday period and a mostly sizzling summer, 2013 was one of the most turbulent years I can remember in the executive suites of major studios. Studios were overhauled all over town to better compete in an arena that is more of a global pursuit than ever, with victory belonging to whoever can build and maintain the most franchises.
Purists will decry the fact that Hollywood’s brightest minds are mostly focused on repackaging derivative concepts for maximum global grosses, but evidence of the rewards are right there in the gross charts: Six of the top seven biggest films were sequels that provided the kind of results that keep studio conglomerate parents happy, keep studio chiefs employed, and slate co-financiers coming back for more. Sure, studios will still get involved with awards-season prestige films like The Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, but often only when someone else pays to make them. This franchise fever pushed costs of blockbusters to ridiculously high levels, and left top execs and producers explaining, and sometimes packing, when some badly misfired. Add that to internal power struggles at places like Universal and Warner Bros, and you needed a scorecard to keep up with the executive changes — which came fast and furious, especially after the brutal summer blockbuster season. Among them:
*Universal fired film chairman Adam Fogelson in a move that surprised him along with everyone else in town but Ron Meyer and Donna Langley, with whom he engaged in a quiet power struggle. Fogelson was blindsided by the result, coming hours after he presided over the Toronto premiere of Rush. The Comcast-orchestrated move that put Jeff Shell in charge of filmed entertainment after he did well running NBCUniversal’s international operations. Meyer was upped to vice chairman of NBCUniversal and Langley as sole Universal Films chairman and picture picker. Even though the studio placed third in market share and Despicable Me 2 could become the studio’s biggest-ever box office hit when it plays in China, Universal also flubbed franchise launch attempts like R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin, and Kick-Ass 2 proved that once was enough. Universal has sequels to Jurassic Park, The Mummy and Ted coming, and a new salty adult franchise in Fifty Shades Of Grey for 2015. Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures moved in to hatch pictures and co-fi Universal titles like Jurassic World, hedging the studio’s bets as it moves forward. Langley’s biggest challenge has been retooling the studio’s most lucrative franchise, Fast & Furious, which was halfway completed when star Paul Walker died tragically in a fiery car crash. Right after Fogelson was ousted, longtime Focus Features chief James Schamus was dismissed just as suddenly. He was replaced by Peter Schlessel, the whip-smart former Sony dealmaker who’d been running FilmDistrict and who clearly will be charged with broadening the highbrow Focus slate to include more low-risk high-return genre films like the FilmDistrict hit Insidious. Schamus’s co-chairman, Andrew Karpen, declined to relocate and stay on, dramatically changing the complexion of that prestige company.
*The final shoe dropped after Warner Bros gave the top job to Kevin Tsujihara instead of Warner Bros movie chief Jeff Robinov. At a time when Robinov should have been taking victory laps after his bets on filmmakers paid off so well with Ben Affleck’s Argo, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Robinov instead left in a frosty exit to form his own moneyed film venture. This, and the equally tempestuous exit of Legendary’s Tull after a lucrative franchise-fueled run, left Robinov’s successors Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll under big pressure to assert themselves to find new franchises. The studio re-upped Village Roadshow Pictures and replaced Legendary with James Packer, Brett Ratner and Steven Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune in a slate co-financing deal that will spread $450 million or more over 75 films. While Warner Bros brass tired of Tull imposing his creative will and cherry-picking Warner Bros titles to co-fi, RatPac Dune will not do that, and I heard the studio was able to exclude certain plum titles from the arrangement. But Warner Bros also gifted RatPac Dune with a co-fi stake in Gravity after it was completed, creating a big windfall for a fledgling venture. It’s ironic given nobody in Hollywood but Robinov seemed to want to make that movie — an expensive auteur effort that has zero sequel potential. One challenge for the new team at Warner Bros: keeping Robinov from peeling away the directors he empowered, from Christopher Nolan to Affleck, Snyder, Luhrmann, The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips and Cuaron to make movies at the new company he and Graham King are expected to launch at Sony. Silverman is respected and Kroll is regarded as arguably the best marketer in town and the studio’s global distribution and marketing operation is as good as there is, but the pressure’s on even though Warner Bros topped other studios in market share. It also has what seems like a strong year with franchise launches in Godzilla and LEGO, another installment of 300 (so what if everybody died in the original?), and a Hobbit finale. Beyond Hobbit, New Line continues to do its part on the franchise front, hatching a Horrible Bosses sequel for 2014 and gearing up another installment of its sleeper 2013 road trip comedy We’re The Millers.
*After two costly summer misfires in After Earth and White House Down, a lackluster Smurfs sequel that fizzled the franchise, and disappointing returns on the Matt Damon-starrer Elysium, Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal found herself in the cross-hairs of minority activist shareholder Daniel Loeb. The result: seismic changes in its executive structure and game plan moving forward. The studio dropped marketing head Marc Weinstock, corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop, and then added former New Line president-turned Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca to share president of production duties with Hannah Minghella. The studio vowed heading into its fall investor meetings that it would cut $250 million in costs through 2016, and make fewer movies in 2014 and pour the money into TV. I keep hearing that was temporary window dressing, and after adding former Fox chief Tom Rothman to revive TriStar, which creates another buyer on a lot full of them, Sony will continue to try and create franchises to go along with its Spider-Man and 007 stalwarts. Sony secured a big slate co-fi investment from John LaViolette and Joseph Singer’s Blue Anchor that begins with George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. And then there is the prospect of the venture by Robinov/King which would give Sony huge movies to release and gain market share and bragging rights, without actually having to fund them if they don’t want to. If 22 Jump Street and especially The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit as well as is hoped, some of that pressure could be alleviated as the studio presses ahead with reboots of past franchise successes Ghostbusters and Men In Black.