On the Man From U.N.C.L.E. front, Deadline revealed that Guy Ritchie would direct the film, and that Tom Cruise and Armie Hammer will play the male leads. As is the case with these two hander espionage tent pole wannabees, the next step is to get the girl. I’ve confirmed reports the studio is in talks with Alicia Vikander, the Swedish beauty from A Royal Affair, to take that job.
It’s clear even from this Japanese-subtitled, English-language version that producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski have endeavored to deliver a rousing popcorn movie with Armie Hammer as the title character and Johnny Depp as his spirit warrior partner Tonto. Whether they succeeded or not, we’ll find out …
OSCARS: ‘J. Edgar’ Campaign Rolls Into High Gear With Eastwood, DiCaprio, Watts, Hammer At Packed Screenings, Q&As
With its splashy world premiere as the opening-night film of AFI Fest on Thursday and a series of Q&As and receptions, Warner Bros’ campaign for J. Edgar — one of its big Oscar hopefuls — swung into high gear this week. In addition to the hoopla around the premiere, director Clint Eastwood did a DGA screening and discussion with Academy directing governor and fellow DGA and Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow on Tuesday night; stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer appeared for a Q&A in front of a packed-to-the-rafters SAG audience on Wednesday night (I moderated that one); and on Friday they all appeared for yet another screening, Q&A and reception at the LA County Art Museum. The latter was a prelude to Saturday night’s inaugural Art + Film gala, where Eastwood is being honored. Warners plans many more voter opps like these in the coming weeks.
First reviews of the film that opens next week are mixed to good depending on what you read and who you talk to (Rotten Tomatoes has it at 57% fresh, but only seven reviews are up so far). But it is done in classic and classy Eastwood style and, whatever the ultimate commercial and critical fate of the film, it is absolutely clear DiCaprio has a strong stake on a Best Actor Oscar nomination. As the complex and controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, DiCaprio ages from his 20s to late 70s with seeming ease and has some heavy dramatic scenes — including one in which he dons his dead mother’s dress and another fight/kiss encounter with Hammer, who expertly plays his constant companion Clyde Tolson (and could be a Supporting Actor contender himself). Older Academy voters who remember Hoover should particularly respond to this well-crafted look at his complicated personal and professional life.
EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: I’m hearing that Disney has set The Lone Ranger to start production February 6, 2012. That re-establishes one of the most intriguing examples of a star-driven film that was unplugged because of high budget and put back together in a way that gives the studio a chance to recoup its costs. Though The Lone Ranger has arguably the world’s most bankable movie star in Johnny Depp, it also is a Western, which (as evidenced by the lackluster performance of Cowboys & Aliens), doesn’t as a genre do strong business overseas. I expect this to be formalized by tomorrow.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, October 11, 4:38 PM: Well, it took a week longer than I thought it would, but Disney has finally reached a meeting of the minds on The Lone Ranger with director Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The studio is expected to formalize a new start date imminently and announce it is moving forward and putting Depp back in the saddle as Tonto, with Armie Hammer as the title character. It looked like the studio was going to announce last week when the picture brightened for the film, but it will be this week’s business instead. I don’t think Disney was able to salvage its December 21 release date because production won’t start in New Mexico until early next year.
The original plan was to begin shooting this fall. That was until, as Deadline revealed on August 12, the studio shockingly pulled the plug on a project it feared could come in at between $250 million-$275 million. The risk of such a figure on a Western became more glaring after Cowboys & Aliens had just turned in a severely disappointing domestic gross, to be followed by an even worse offshore performance, proving the adage that most Westerns don’t travel well. Cowboys & Aliens will be a costly money-loser, 50% shouldered by DreamWorks and the other half split between Universal and Relativity Media. On Lone Ranger, there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes drama as the three principal players made concessions in their deals, and worked on the script to salvage the spectacle that made the movie worth making in the first place while bringing the budget down to a more manageable figure in the $215 million range.
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline told you a week ago that things were looking up for The Lone Ranger for the first time since we broke the shocking news on Aug. 12 that Disney had pulled the plug over budget. I’m hearing that the studio is likely to have everything resolved by next week, and can start rehiring crew so that the picture will be ready to begin production in January or February. How that late start impacts the Dec. 21, 2012 release date remains to be seen, but Johnny Depp will get to play Tonto (Disney wouldn’t make the movie without him), and Armie Hammer will be back in as the title character. Ruth Wilson, the scene-stealing killer from Idris Elba’s British cop series Luther, is also expected back as the female lead.
Disney has gotten to this point after a painful overhaul of the movie by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski to bring to $215 million a budget the studio feared could reach $250 or more. Verbinski’s struggle has been to reach that number while retaining enough of the spectacle that made them say yes in the first place. The cutting process has included the reworking of deals for Depp, Verbinski and Bruckheimer, and trimming the production budget and the long shoot. That would enable Depp, Gore and Bruckheimer to re-team after making the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films together. The Lone Ranger is one of several huge-budget films that Disney’s Rich Ross and Sean Bailey are managing. The others include John Carter, the Andrew Stanton-directed adaptation of John Carter of Mars with Friday Night Lights‘ Taylor Kitsch in the lead role, which has a budget around $250 million; and The Great and Powerful Oz, the Sam Raimi-directed James Franco-starrer, which is hovering around $200 million.
Here is a first look at Lily Collins in the untitled Snow White film that Relativity Media has mounted for March 16, 2012 release, with Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer also starring for director Tarsem Singh. That puts Relativity Media in the lead against the rival Snow White and The …
Johnny Depp’s Infinitum Nihil Makes Disney Deals For ‘The Night Stalker’ And Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride
EXCLUSIVE: Disney and Johnny Depp’s Infinitum Nihil are teaming up on two new projects: a feature version of the ’70s TV movie The Night Stalker, and a drama about the Midnight Ride made by Paul Revere to warn Colonial militia of the impending British invasion. Depp is the potential star of both films, and he and his Infinitum Nihil partner Christi Dembrowski will produce.
Like many, Dembrowski and Depp had fond memories of the ABC telepic and series The Night Stalker, and they got Disney’s Rich Ross and Sean Bailey sparked on a pitch for Depp to potentially play tabloid reporter Carl Kolchak. Originated by Darren McGavin, Kolchak was the dogged journalist first seen in the 1972 telepic (where he hunted a killer who was draining the blood of beautiful girls on the Las Vegas strip) and later in the ABC series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Kolchak’s investigations always seemed to lead him to the doorstep of vampires, zombies, werewolves and aliens. For its time, it was pretty scary stuff. The studio will go out to writers shortly. David Kennedy will be exec producer.
Dembrowski and Depp set up the Paul Revere film at Disney with Batman Forever scribes Lee and Janet Batchler writing the screenplay. The film will focus on the Boston silversmith and that 24-hour period in which he made the risky “midnight ride” from Charlestown to Lexington, becoming a seminal figure in the American Revolutionary War. Jon Brown and Infinitum Nihil’s Margaret French-Isaac will be executive producers.
It is a coup for Disney’s Ross and Bailey to be back in business with Depp, right after Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides cracked the $1 billion mark in worldwide gross. It’s the third time that the studio has reached the billion-dollar milestone on a film with Depp in the lead role, after Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Alice In Wonderland. Depp next saddles up for the studio with Armie Hammer in the Gore Verbinski-directed The Lone Ranger.