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‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast Finalized: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson & Max Von Sydow

Star Wars Episode VII CastThe cast of Star Wars: Episode VII is now official, announced by the team on StarWars.com, complete with a photo of a read-through. As Mike Fleming Jr reported yesterday, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and John Boyega are aboard, as are Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow and Daisy Ridley. They join returning franchise players Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker.

Related: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast: Photos

abrams__120217054827__130124215848-150x150This pic has been supernova-hot ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in October 2012 and announced its intention to reboot the franchise. That got the hard-core fans (there are legion) excited, but the question remains if the franchise can be restored to anywhere near the status it reached before George Lucas essentially cratered the second three movies in the series. Now the speculation will begin if this group has what it takes to make it happen, led by Abrams, who has the sci-fi cred and now has picked his soldiers to head into battle. He is directing, co-writing the script with Lawrence Kasdan and producing with Kathleen Kennedy and Bryan Burk.

Disney has set a December 18, 2015 release date for the first pic in a planned trilogy.

May the 4thLittle is known about who will play what, though it’s thought Driver, a standout on HBO’s Girls, will play the main villain. Also notable: there is only one new female character on this list joining Fisher. The biggest reaction so far has been to Ridley — a Brit actress who has been in a handful of UK series including Mr Selfridge — both because she is fairly unknown and because she’s the only new face keeping this from becoming a total sausage party.

“We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII,” Abrams said in the announcement today, which puts a cap on months of cast speculation  – most of it BS. (The announcement also included a cast photo.) “It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.” Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’

By | Wednesday December 18, 2013 @ 6:56am PST

Here’s the first trailer for Fox‘s Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, the sequel to its hit 2011 franchise reboot that bows on July 11, 2014. Andy Serkis is back as top primate Caesar, with Gary Oldman aboard to lead the human survivors of a devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. The humans reach a fragile peace with the genetically evolved apes, but it’s short-lived as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species. The Matt Reeves-directed sequel also stars Jason Clarke, Judy Greer, Keri Russell and Kodi-Smit McPhee. Check out the chilling tease below:

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Fox, Chernin Acquire ‘The Bone Season’ From Andy Serkis As Studio Hails Its Caesar With First-Look Deal

By | Tuesday October 22, 2013 @ 4:09pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has teamed with Chernin Entertainment to acquire The Bone Season, the first of a seven-installment sci-fi novel series by Samantha Shannon. The deal was made with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish’s The Imaginarium, which controlled the rights and will produce with Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping.

At the same time, Fox has made a first-look producing deal with The Imaginarium. This comes after Serkis reprised his role as Caesar in the Matt Reeves-directed Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, the second installment of what has become one of Fox’s most important film franchises. Chernin Entertainment produces that series.

The Bone Season takes place in a futuristic London society, where a 19-year-old girl works in the criminal underworld. She is a dreamwalker, a rare clairvoyant who can break into people’s minds and see what they are thinking. She is kidnapped and whisked away to Oxford, an otherworldly place where dreamwalkers are used as soldiers and where she is held captive by a warden with mysterious motives. The intention is for her to remain incarcerated her whole life, but she tries to find a way into her captor’s mind. Serkis won’t act in it or direct it, and he and Cavendish optioned it early at a book fair, and helped the young author move it along. Read More »

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‘Hobbit’s Andy Serkis Plots ‘The Bone Season’ And ‘Animal Farm’ Remake

By | Friday October 19, 2012 @ 8:00pm PDT
Mike Fleming

London, England – October 22, 2012 – London-based performance capture studio The Imaginarium has secured the film rights to the highly anticipated book series The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon as well as the film rights to adapt George Orwell’s seminal novel Animal Farm, it was announced today by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, founders of The Imaginarium.

“The dystopian world created by Samantha in The Bone Season series offers a fantastic setting for a truly extraordinary and thrilling narrative,” said Serkis. “We are honoured that she chose to collaborate with us in the adaptation of her work.”
“Samantha has created a compelling and unique world and a gripping story crafted to span a series of novels. The Bone Season offers the opportunity to create a dynamic franchise with global appeal,” adds Cavendish.
Scheduled for publication on August 20, 2013, by Bloomsbury, The Bone Season was acquired during the London Book Fair in a pre-emptive bid by the publisher.

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CAA Signs Andy Serkis

By | Tuesday February 28, 2012 @ 10:52am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Andy Serkis has signed with CAA. The agency will rep him as an actor, writer and director, and will also rep The Imaginarium, the London-based performance capture studio for Serkis formed with producer Jonathan Cavendish. Serkis has developed a most interesting career since he came on the scene and played Gollum in The Lord of the Ring film series. After re-teaming with Peter Jackson to play the title character in King Kong, Serkis then brought the ape Caesar to life in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He’ll be back for the sequel, as well as The Hobbit. Serkis also directed second unit on the LOTR prequel. He also played Captain Haddock in Tintin. Serkis will continue to be managed by Principal Entertainment’s Larry Taube, and Lou Coulson Associated in the UK.

 

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OSCAR EXCLUSIVE: James Franco On Why Andy Serkis Deserves Credit From Actors

By | Sunday January 8, 2012 @ 1:05pm PST

By JAMES FRANCO

The new Planet of the Apes film, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, belongs to Andy Serkis. Narratively it was always his film: I play an emotionally stilted scientist who in the process of mistakenly unleashing a lethal virus on the human race, learns to care for others; Serkis gets to play Caesar, essentially Che Guevara in chimp form. There is no question that his character arc is much more dynamic and fascinating, it is the story line that takes the franchise’s central theme of culture/racial/species clash and turns it on it’s head by making the maligned apes the unequivocal heroes.  We get to watch the fall of mankind and enjoy it because we root for the underdogs, the apes.

But this narrative structure is only half of the story; there is also an acting revolution that has taken place.  Andy Serkis is the undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called “performance capture,” and it is time that Serkis gets credit for the innovative artist that he is.

When Serkis was hired to play the inimitable character, Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy it was initially only for his voice, the character was meant to be entirely animated. But Serkis got so physically involved in the production of the

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Andy Serkis Closes Big ‘Planet Of The Apes’ Deal; Should Fox Campaign For Oscar?

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Fox informs me that the studio will wage an Oscar campaign for Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

EXCLUSIVE: When Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘s $453 million worldwide gross was listed as a bright spot in the quarterly earnings of beleaguered NewsCorp, you know a sequel is a big 20th Century Fox priority. So who did the studio lock in first? No, it wasn’t James Franco or Freida Pinto. The studio just closed what I’m told is a healthy seven-figure deal for Andy Serkis to reprise his role as lead ape Caesar. Serkis had only signed on for one movie, so his reps had leverage in ensuring that he come back to continue leading the ape takeover in multiple future installments of the series.

Director Rupert Wyatt’s original deal came with a sequel option, so he’s locked. So are screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who are producing with Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark. The studio is still in the idea stage and the sequel hasn’t been dated for release. As for Franco and Pinto, those decisions will likely be made when the direction of the film crystallizes. The studio certainly has the leverage there; the clever construct of the first film ended with a wallop that makes everyone expendable.

In his … Read More »

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Box Office Goes ‘Ape’ For $54M Weekend; Ryan Reynolds Flops In $13.5M ‘Change-Up’

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 7TH UPDATE: Another strong day for Twentieth Century Fox’s prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apeswhich scored a $19.4M Saturday (small -2% drop from Friday’s $19.7M), indicating word of mouth was good about these CGI animals and Andy Serkis. With an estimated $14.9M Sunday that makes for a 3-day weekend of $54M, lots more than the $35M which Hollywood expected. No doubt about it: origins story movies are working this summer if they’re done as well as this and X-Men: First Class which was another prequel on a Fox franchise. Nice win for former News Corp No. 2-turned-showbiz producer Peter Chernin and his film lieutenant Dylan Clark on Chernin Entertainment’s first film release. The pair said in a statement Sunday: “We’re thrilled to launch Chernin Entertainment with a film that so positively resonated with audiences. We’re proud of the artistic achievement as it is a testament to a smart script, great direction by Rupert Wyatt, stellar actor performances, the amazing visual effects created by the WETA team, and the passion and dedication of the entire crew and our partners at Twentieth Century Fox.” The other major studio new release, Universal’s The Change-Up, surprisingly ticked up (+4%) from Friday for $5.2M Saturday but that’s still a very disappointing $13.5M weekend. This truly isn’t Ryan Reynolds’ summer of stardom after the collapse of Green Lantern here and abroad. Stars are supposed to open movies to at least $20M. Overall moviegoing this weekend looks like $170M, which is up +30% from last year.
Here’s the Top 10:

1. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox) NEW [3,648 Theaters]
Friday $19.7M, Saturday $19.4M, Weekend $54M

It’s not just surprising but kinda shocking that Time magazine declared this “2011′s Best Film So Far” and that even fanboy websites declared that “whatever expectations you’re likely to have going in, there’s a good chance this movie will surpass them”. Directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes seemed too schlocky a project for Peter Chernin to waste his time producing. Or so Hollywood thought. Its CinemaScore was an ‘A-’ and exit polls showed males making up 54% of the audience which was 59% at or over age 25. Why all the fuss over the prequel to such a dated franchise? Because Fox PR claims this is the first live-action film in the history of movies to star, and be told from the point of view of, a sentient animal — a character with human-like qualities, who can strategize, organize and ultimately lead a revolution, and with whom audiences are supposed to experience a real emotional bond. (But my commenters counter: What about Babe etc?) Fox execs point out that the studio wasn’t going to do the guys in ape suits thing again. So the film was impossible to make until James Cameron’s Avatar and Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital progressed performance capture technology to the point of the most realistic CGI ever. Given that, the claimed $93M pricetag co-financed by Fox, Dune Entertainment, and Ingenious seems absurdly modest.

Every single monkey, baboon, and ape in the movie is a product of this performance capture techonology. That earned raves from PETA and for Wyatt a Proggy Award given to animal-friendly companies, people and products. (PETA also showed up at the Ape‘ premiere in LA with signs reading, “Real Apes Love CGI,” and “Thank you, Fox for not using real Apes.”) The buzz this weekend is that Andy Serkis does an award-worthy job as the main chimp Caesar who leads the rebellion. But I don’t know why the trailers I saw mistakenly focused on James Franco who isn’t why moviegoers flocked to opening weekend. Fox was hoping for North American box office in the low-ball $30sM, so $54M is fantastic. “Phenomenal opening validating a sensational marketing effort led by Oren Aviv and Tony Sella,” a Fox exec gushed to me. Then again, tracking has been good for males and fans of the original movies, although softer for females. The fact is that the studio had a lot of ground to make up with this movie because fanboys hated the Tim Burton version from a decade ago. But this origins story scored 82% positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.

Marketing with a company called Mekanism was primarily focused online with the intent to create a global viral phenomenon and spark millions of Internet conversations about the film. There was the strategic use of digital influencers, creative content, and social media platforms to create widespread engagement for over 14 million viral video views and hundreds of millions of earned media impressions. “We’ve created excitement, driven credible word of mouth, and ensured that butts will be in seats to watch Apes Rise on opening weekend,” A Fox exec told me before Friday. WETA Digital hosted a livestream event on Facebook from WETA’s headquarters in New Zealand and gave viewers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the work on the film. The livestream event was live on Facebook’s official fan page for Avatar as well.  A free online digital comic book prequel to the movie debuted prior to release from comic series writer Daryl Gregory and artists Damian Couceiro and Tony Parker to set the stage for the movie. There was a new free 5-page digital comic book story weekly since mid-July until the final 10-page conclusion on August 3rd.

2. The Smurfs - 3D (Sony) Week 2 [3,395 Theaters]
Friday $6M, Saturday $8.2M, Weekend $21M (-41%), Cume $76.2M

It’s embarrassing for me just to be writing about The Smurfs. But after just 10 days of release, the film has generated $128.9M worldwide with an overseas cume to date of $52.7M. One of the big surprises of Summer 2011, last weekend’s exceptionally strong debut in North America was followed by enormous strength in several key countries including Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Belgium, France and Germany, among others.  This worldwide number is especially impressive when you consider the film has only debuted in about 3 dozen territories. In North America this weekend, The Smurfs saw big mid-week sales that led box office from Monday through Thursday. Strong ticket sales continued into the weekend and went up +37% on Saturday.

3. Cowboys & Aliens (DreamWorks/Universal) Week 2 [3,754 Theaters]
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $6.4M, Weekend $15.7M (-57%), Cume $67.3M

Not an embarrassing drop, but it didn’t have far to fall either. The big question is whether Cowboys & Aliens can make up the deficit overseas where Daniel Craig is a bigger star but also Westerns don’t do well traditionally. For an astute dissection of what went wrong, read this pre-release post by Deadline’s Mike Fleming, Can ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ Lasso Youth?. He answers the questions about why this well-pedigreed pic, despite the godfathering  presence of Steven Spielberg and Imagine’s Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and direction by Jon Favreau, went into the tank. He details the tortured development history involving more than a dozen writers over 14 years. He analyzes the problems of a confused mash-up of two genres that usually don’t cross paths. And he reveals that with a cash break participation pool in the 35% range and no 3D conversion to justify higher ticket prices this movie may have been doomed from the start.

4. The Change-Up (Universal) NEW [2,913 Theaters]
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $5M, Weekend $13.5M

Universal started out the summer very high on this raunchy R-rated comedy with a $52M budget (Relativity was a financing partner) especially because The Change-Up was from the director of Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover. Still it was surprising that David Dobkin would waste his time on such a tired body-switching premise, but this film won’t have the enormous playability or multiples of this summer’s other raunchy R-rated laughers. CinemaScore was a ‘B’ with an audience that was  59% Female vs. 41% male and 50% at or older than age 30 vs. 50% under
30. All along tracking had been strongest with females, with younger females demonstrating the strongest interest. “It’s disappointing. We’re kind of confounded by it,” a Uni exec told me Friday night. “This movie played like the best R-rated comedies we have.” But reviews hammered this pic and trailers looked lame. Marketing was sub-par as if red-band online trailers, one that opened the campaign and one that closed it, would put people in seats. Maybe audiences were tired after so many of Summer 2011′s R-rated comedies.

The TV campaign began early with a spot on the finale for The Family Guy in late May, followed by a run on the NBA Finals in early June and then cable, cable, and more cable channels as well as the TV talk shows. The supposedly “likeable” pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman was a key strategy in publicity, and they did many of their promotional appearances together. Universal fanned out with an extensive word-of-mouth campaign and 350 screenings across the country. But none of it worked.

5. Captain America - 3D (Marvel/Disney/Paramount) Week 3 [3,620 Theaters]
Friday $3.7M, Saturday $5.5M, Weekend $13M, Cume $143.1M
6. Harry Potter/Hallows Pt 2 – 3D (Warner Bros) Week 4 [3,175 Theaters]
Friday $3.3M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $12.1M, Cume $342.8M
7. Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,020 Theaters]
Friday $3.7M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $12.1M (-37%), Cume $42.1M
8. Friends With Benefits (Sony) Week 3 [2,398 Theaters]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.7M, Cume $48.5M
9. Horrible Bosses (New Line/Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,025 Theaters]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.6M, Cume $105.1M
10. Transformers 3 – 3D (Paramount) Week 6 [1,854 Theaters]
Friday $850K, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3M, Cume $344.1M Read More »

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Andy Serkis Signed As Gollum In ‘Hobbit’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Andy Serkis has closed his deal to bring back Gollum in The Hobbit, the two films that Peter Jackson will direct in New Zealand starting in February. Serkis will join returning cast members Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood. Wood’s participation was made official last week after Deadline first revealed his negotiations. According to sources, others who appeared in The Lord of the Rings poised to return at this point include Ian McKellen (who’s still working out a deal to return as Gandalf in a major role),  Christopher Lee is in talks to reprise the wizard Saruman, and Ian Holm to return as an older version of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman is playing that title role in the two new movies). I’ve written in the past about a possible reprise of Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, but it’s unclear at this point if he’ll be back.

There was no confirmation from the Serkis’ camp, but the character certainly fits a small but important role in the storyline of the JRR Tolkien book. Bilbo is on an epic quest with Gandalf and 13 dwarves led by their King, Thorin Oakenshield, to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and strike down the talking dragon Smaug (I’d heard last year Bill Nighy was a possible to voice Smaug, but have heard nothing since). During that journey, Bilbo wanders into Gollum’s lair and finds the Ring of Power. Serkis will likely be there early in the … Read More »

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Warner Bros Taking WW Distribution (And Paying For) ‘The Hobbit’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: I’ve learned that Warner Bros will, in fact, pay the entire cost of the two installments of The Hobbit, a price-tag that is expected to exceed $500 million. Now, the question will be which cast members from The Lord of the Rings come back for encores. I’ve heard talk of conversations with Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis and possibly Elijah Wood. I’d heard Orlando Bloom was also in talks before the holidays. Returning actors will need to be locked in shortly.

BREAKING: MGM and Warner Bros have finalized a deal that gives Warner Bros worldwide theatrical distribution on  the Peter Jackson-directed The Hobbit. MGM will retain international television rights. This solves another problem on Jackson’s eagerly awaited followup to The Lord of the Rings, which has overcome an MGM freeze because of angry creditors, and the threat that the films would move away from New Zealand after local unions blacklisted the production.

Shooting begins next month, and Jackson is still in the process of locking in cast from the original movie, which is expected to include Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, Andy Serkis’ Gollum, and others. MGM, a half partner in The Hobbit, was expected to bow out of its international distribution role because the studio came out of prepackaged bankruptcy–headed by Spyglass partners Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber–with the intention of initially reviving the studio as a production company that contracts out distribution and marketing to others. Still trying to figure … Read More »

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‘The Hobbit’ Finally Filming In February, But Peter Jackson & Actor Unions Still At Odds

UPDATE: Things must be getting close on The Hobbit, because casting buzz is getting strong in Hollywood. Word is Martin Freeman will soon be set to play Bilbo Baggins, that Jimmy Nesbitt has been offered a role and that Michael Fassbender is being pursued for another as is David Tennant. Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis are expected to reprise Gandalf and Gollum.

EARLIER: While it looks like production on The Hobbit is set to start in February on the pair of films directed by Peter Jackson, there are still a few giant issues standing in the way. The films had to go in early 2011 to make the holiday release date. But even though the production schedule looks locked, there’s still the issue of the loud labor fight happening between Jackson and the unions, which have told performers outright not to work on the film because it’s a non-union production. By agreeing to a detente, the films would indeed get underway in New Zealand in early 2011. The delay has also been caused by all the ongoing problems at MGM, and just this week Lionsgate put forth a merger recommendation which Carl Icahn backs. That would obviously affect the pending Spyglass deal  – and add more drama to any major production going forward. (Meanwhile, while MGM goes through all of its tumult, Mary Parent is expectedly in the process of leaving the studio, which she has run for almost three years.) Read More »

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