EXCLUSIVE: Barry Levinson, a card-carrying member of the WGA for 40 years, has resigned over what he termed “reprehensible” treatment he was given in an arbitration of screen credit for the adaptation of the Philip Roth novel The Humbling. Levinson, who hoped to share credit with Buck Henry and Michal Zebede, said he didn’t quit because things didn’t go his way. He did it to protest the dismissive treatment he received after he read three opinions by the anonymous writers who acted as arbitrators. One that denied him credit had completely mixed up facts in the written decision, citing passages that didn’t make the shooting script, and even some that only appeared in Roth’s novel. When Levinson asked the WGA to request that the arbitrator be asked to reconsider the decision and get it right, or else be replaced, the WGA dismissed Levinson’s request. That is why he quit.
Related: Barry Levinson & Al Pacino To Team On ‘The Humbling’
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Millennium Films has acquired worldwide rights to the Barry Levinson-helmed The Humbling, based on the Philip Roth novel. Al Pacino, Diane Wiest and Greta Gerwig star in the story of an an aging actor who has an affair with a lesbian woman half his age at a secluded country house in Connecticut. The relationship takes unusual turns as people from their past surface and chaos ensues. Cast also includes Charles Grodin, Kyra Sedgewick, Dan Hedaya, Nina Arianda, and Billy Porter. Pic is currently in post‐production and will be available for U.S. distribution when it is finished. The Humbling continues the collaboration of Levinson and Pacino, who also produce alongside Jason Sosnoff at Levinson’s Baltimore Pictures. Kristina Dubin and Ged Dickersin are exec producing. Co‐producers are Gisella Marengo, Monika Bacardi and Andrea Iervolino.
EXCLUSIVE: The BBC America series ends Sunday but Copper may get a second life on the big screen. One day after the network announced that the Civil War-era series would be cancelled after two seasons, I’ve learned that co-creator/executive producer Tom Fontana and fellow EPs Barry Levinson and Tom Kelly are considering a movie version. The extensive story arc work Fontana did on a third season has the veteran producer eyeing revamping the material for a movie, sources say, with the potential big-screen version said to look at examining life in America after the death of Abraham Lincoln and the years of Reconstruction. Copper, which Fontana co-created with Will Rokos, was BBC America’s first original scripted series and centers on Irish immigrant cop Kevin Corcoran in 1860s New York City. It premiered in August 2012 with 1.1 million total viewers, the largest audience ever for a BBC America series debut. Copper was renewed last October but lost momentum after its June 23 Season 2 premiere.
Related: BBC America’s ‘Copper’ Cancelled After Two Seasons Read More »
BREAKING: Bill Murray will star in Rock The Kasbah, with Barry Levinson directing a script by Mitch Glazer. The film is being backed and produced by QED’s Bill Block, Venture Forth’s Jacob Pechenik and Shangri-La Entertainment’s Steve Bing. They will shop the film to international distribs at Toronto. Pic tells the story of a burned-out music manager who goes to Afghanistan on the USO tour with his last remaining client. When he finds himself abandoned, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice, who stows away with him back to Kabul to compete on the popular television show, The Afghan Star, Afghanistan’s equivalent of American Idol. “Bill Murray and Barry Levinson are the perfect team to capture the lunacy, heartbreak and hope of this story. I’m ecstatic,” said Glazer. Levinson is repped by ICM Partners, Elaine Goldsmith Thomas and Barry Hirsch. Glazer is repped by WME and Melanie Cook.
EXCLUSIVE: Writer/director/producer Barry Levinson has returned to ICM Partners. Levinson, who produces his films through his Baltimore Pictures banner and teams with Tom Fontana for TV series through their Levinson/Fontana Company banner, hasn’t chosen his next feature directing outing. On the TV side, he and Fontana exec produce the BBC America series Copper. Levinson last helmed and produced the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack, which starred Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian and received 15 Emmy nominations. He also exec produced Phil Spector for HBO. Levinson continues to be managed by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and lawyered by Barry Hirsch.
Barry Levinson has come on board to direct a love story loosely based on the best-selling novel The Cursed Piano by Chinese author Bei La. It takes place across Leningrad and Shanghai over the course of 40 years. Shanghai Film Group is teaming with Mike Medavoy, Levinson and Oscar-winning scribe Ronald Harwood on the project. Hannah Shakespeare wrote the original screenplay. Producing with Medavoy are Raffaella De Laurentiis and Edward McGurn. Shanghai Film Group is fully financing the pic, which starts production in Shanghai in February.
Related: Mike Medavoy, Shanghai Film Group Team On Two China-Set Movies
EXCLUSIVE: Effectively Barry Levinson is returning to UTA which repped the film director in the early 2000s. He had been repped by ICM and continues to managed by Elaine Goldsmith Thomas. Levinson just completed his latest feature, The Bay. He and Tom Fontana, his longtime partner in Levinson/Fontana Productions, have just started production on the drama Copper, the first original scripted series produced for BBC America. Levinson is also executive producer, with Fontana, of the internationally financed drama Borgia (not be to confused with Showtime’s The Borgias) which is now in production on its second season.
All the while that producer Marc Fiore was making pricey pay-or-play deals and holding press conferences in New York and Cannes to trumpet John Travolta, Al Pacino, Lindsay Lohan and Joe Pesci taking part in Gotti: In The Shadow Of My Father, there were big questions on whether Fiore really had the cash to make the movie. It has become clear in the last two weeks that he does not; I’m told that the film is in play and that without a new backer, the mob movie could sleep with the fishes. Conversations are going on right now to figure out new funding and to bring down the budget.
What happened? I’m told that Fiore’s major backer, a New York-based construction mogul named Fay Devlin, recently began questioning what he had gotten himself into after Fiore paid high prices to sign talent to pay-or-play deals. Already more than $10 million has been spent, and I’ve heard they’re on the hook to pay Travolta $10 million to play John Gotti Sr, Pacino $7 million, co-writer/director Barry Levinson more than $4 million, co-writer James Toback $1 million, and Ben Foster low seven figures to play Gotti Jr. Those are high prices for an indie film. A pay-or-play deal from an indie company isn’t the same as one at a studio, but talent and reps had no reason to be unduly concerned because Fiore made escrow payments on time and was so confident his … Read More »
BREAKING: Barry Levinson’s 1982 film Diner is headed for Broadway in fall 2012. Base Entertainment’s Scott Zeiger and Brian Becker have announced a musical adaptation with book by Levinson and music and lyrics by Sheryl Crow. The musical marks the Broadway debut of both Levinson and Crow, the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. Kathleen Marshall will direct and choreograph. It follows the storyline of Levinson’s breakthrough film, which was set in 1959 Baltimore and revolved around the misadventures of six high school buddies who reunite when one of them gets married. It was a launching point for young actors Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, Tim Daly, Steve Guttenberg, Paul Reiser, Mickey Rourke and Daniel Stern. “Diner was a pivotal moment in my career, and since then I have continued to live with the characters, realizing there is is much more to their story,” Levinson said. “I’m excited to be embarking on this stage version, which affords me the opportunity as a storyteller to expand on my original vision and let the characters express their innermost feeling and thoughts through song.” Levinson has been working with screenwriter James Toback on a movie about the relationship between mob boss John Gotti and his son John Jr, a film that will star John Travolta and Ben Foster.
EXCLUSIVE: Former Homicide executive producers Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson are back on the beat, this time at the CW. The network has bought Musketeers 3.0, a cop drama project which will be written by Fontana and executive produced by him and Levinson. It centers on three outstanding but out-of-control New York detectives who meet their match when a sexy, young rookie is assigned to their team. Levinson and Fontana’s banner The Levinson/Fontana Co. is producing with Warner Bros. TV. Rookie cops are popular on TV these days — ABC has Rookie Blue and CBS is launching The 2-2 in midseason.
Developing procedurals, which have better repeatability, has been one of the goals of new CW president Mark Pedowitz going into this season. The CW had been looking to crack the classic legal, medical and cop franchises for the past couple of years. This past season, the network greenlighted to pilot the cop drama Cooper & Stone and soapy medical drama Heart of Dixie, the latter of which was picked up to series for fall. Along with procedurlas, half-hour comedies and DC-themed comic book adaptations are among CW’s development priorities this season. The network is already working on both, buying Eric Kripke’s adaptation of the comic Deadman and redeveloping as a half-hour Todd Graff’s summer camp dramedy Acting Out. Levinson and Fontana … Read More »
Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father finally has a son: Ben Foster has been tapped to play John Gotti Jr in the pic, which stars John Travolta as John Sr, Al Pacino and Kelly Preston. Joe Pesci also has been cast in the production, but he’s suing producer Fiore Films over his role. Barry Levinson, who replaced original helmer Nick Cassavetes, is directing the pic from a screenplay by Levinson and James Toback. Production is set to begin Jan. 3. Foster, who co-starred in 3:10 to Yuma and more recently opposite Jason Statham in The Mechanic, is reuniting with Levinson after starring in the director’s 1999 film Liberty Heights.
After months of deal-making, BBC America today officially announced that it has given a 10-episode order to Copper, its first original scripted drama series. The show hails from Canadian-based Cineflix Studios, which has been ramping up scripted development under former AMC executive Christina Wayne. Copper, which centers on a young Irish cop operating in the immigrant communities of 19th century New York, was co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos (Monster’s Ball). Fontana, Rokos, Barry Levinson and Wayne are executive producing. Copper will start production in the fall in Toronto for Summer 2012 premiere. ”I really didn’t want our first series to be the London cop who gets transferred to Las Vegas,” BBC America’s general manager Perry Simon quipped in announcing the series at TCA. The Copper news comes on the heels of BBC America’s Monday announcement of its first two unscripted series, Would You Rather With Graham Norton and Hard Drive With Richard Hammond.
Joe Pesci has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against Fiore Films, the producer of Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father, the latest hiccup in the making of the drama about the son of Mafia boss John Gotti Sr. In the suit, filed Wednesday, Pesci claims he was offered the role of Gotti Sr right-hand man Angelo Ruggiero and a $3 million payday, but after Fiore Films promoted the movie with him in the part and the actor gained 30 pounds for the role, it offered Pesci $1 million and a lesser role. “Defendant has no intention of paying (Pesci) $3 million or having him portray Ruggiero in the film,” the lawsuit claims. “Rather, plaintiff secretly planned to use (Pesci’s) name and likeness to promote the film and then to later concoct some pretext for terminating the contract so as to avoid paying plaintiff anything for the substantial publicity and ‘buzz’ that was generated.” The Associated Press reported that Fiore CEO Marc Fiore rejected the allegations, saying, “Before we had a deal, Mr. Pesci walked away.” John Travolta, Al Pacino and Kelly Preston already are aboard the film, which originally had Nick Cassavetes helming before he departed and was replaced by Barry Levinson. Production is slated to begin Jan. 3.
EXCLUSIVE: Jason Blum will bring the studio into the low-budget but often high-gross world of genre films. Universal Pictures has made a 3-year first-look deal with Blum and his Blumhouse Productions which produced the Paranormal Activity franchise, and followed that up with Insidious, the James Wan-directed thriller that has already become one of the most profitable films of 2011. A sequel seems inevitable.
The original Paranormal Activity cost about $15,000 and grossed $193 million. The first sequel cost $3 million and grossed $177 million worldwide and the third film debuts Oct. 21. Insidious cost $1.5 million and grossed $81 million worldwide and is still rolling out. This guy is minting money. He’s producing the latest installment of the fright franchise Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes for Dimension Films, produced the Barry Levinson-directed eco-horror film The Bay, The River for ABC and the Jay Chandresakar-directed comedy Baby Makers. He is producing the Oren Peli-directed Area 51 for Paramount Pictures, as well as The Lords of Salem, with Rob Zombie directing. Blum’s also an exec producer on the John Hillcoat-directed The Wettest County in the World. This amounts to an aggressive move into the low-budget area for Universal, which, if anything, is known for spending generously on its slates. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Before Al Pacino and director Barry Levinson re-team for Gotti: Three Generations, the duo will first reunite on an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel The Humbling, which has been set for a fall start and will be financed by Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films/Nu Image. It is just the latest in a period of extreme productivity for Levinson, some of it directly attributable to the acclaim he got for directing Pacino’s Emmy-winning turn as Jack Kevorkian in HBO’s You Don’t Know Jack.
The Humbling revolves around Simon Axler (Pacino), a famous stage actor in decline who is revived when he retires to his upstate New York farmhouse and takes up with a much younger woman. It has a script by Buck Henry, Michal Zebede and Levinson. Levinson will be looking to quickly cast the young female lead, the actor’s agent, and several other eccentric characters you would expect in a Roth novel. Levinson committed to this movie after completing production on the low-budget eco-horror film The Bay, which he shot on hand-held cameras and which Lionsgate will release. He just spent time at the Cannes Film Festival to help stir interest in the offshore rights of the Gotti movie; and he’s right now in China, heading the jury at the Shanghai Film Festival.
I caught up with Levinson at Cannes, where he was uneasy about the idea of having to hawk a film (Gotti) that he and his Bugsy co-writer James Toback are giving a page one rewrite. He was completely sparked to be shooting a variety of films, from horror to documentaries (he helmed for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series The Band That Wouldn’t Die). But industry players who passed by us in the Majestic Hotel seemed intrigued at his chance to create a major new Mafia movie, and one prominent figure even volunteered to join a preliminary cast that includes John Travolta (Gotti Sr.), Joe Pesci and Pacino, whom Levinson recruited. Read More »
After a fun opening night living vicariously through Woody Allen’s Paris, the Cannes official competition and sales market really got down to business Thursday. And how’s this for a good time? The fest started the competitive entries with a double bill of downer flicks directed by two very smart women. Unfortunately, only one of them worked.
First up was the dreadful Sleeping Beauty, an Australian drama revolving around a girl, played by Emily Browning, who subjects herself to such degrading inhuman sexual acts we can’t even go into it here. As she is induced into a coma-like state a number of eighty-something men have their way with her. Fun, huh? The really stunning thing is that rare Palme D’Or winning woman, Jane Campion (The Piano), is lending her name to this dreary exercise from first-timer Julia Leigh.
It could only go up from there and it did — waaaaay up — at the 8:30 AM Thursday morning press screening for Lynne Ramsey’s extraordinary We Need To Talk About Kevin, starring the ever-remarkable Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly as parents dealing with tragic circumstances caused by their out-of-control son. It is a most impressive acting and directorial feat that gives the festival its first genuine awards contender, and if it can secure domestic distribution (may distribs such as Sony Pictures Classics and Lionsgate were seen entering the early AM screening), the Oscar-winning Swinton could once again find herself in the Academy race next year and definitely for a prize here on May 22. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Conan the Barbarian helmer Marcus Nispel will next direct Backmask, a $10 million film that will begin shooting this summer. It’s based on an idea by Nispel, whose recent films include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th. Kirsten Elms is writing the script. Nispel is keeping the plot close to his vest, allowing only that it involves paranoia, possession and the paranormal. The film will be produced by Steven Schneider, one of the architects behind the Paranormal Activity films as well as the haunted kid hit Insidious and the upcoming Barry Levinson-directed eco-thriller The Bay.
Voltage Pictures’ Nicolas Chartier will unveil the title at Cannes this week, where he’ll broker international territories, while WME Global’s Graham Taylor will handle North American sales. The film is being funded by 1821′s Paris Latsis and Terry Dougas, who’ll produce with Schneider and Nispel. The filmmaker is repped by WME, while Elms is repped by Gersh and Generate.