Life Of Pi scribe David Magee has signed on to write The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair, the latest adaptation of CS Lewis’ fantasy book series that the the Mark Gordon Company and the C.S. Lewis Company are developing and producing. The pic would extend the franchise that last appeared with The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, which Fox released in 2010. There’s no distributor for this one yet; the companies announced their reboot plans in October. Magee has been nominated for two screenwriting Oscars, the last for 2012′s Life Of Pi — also an adaptation of a bestseller. In 2004 he earned an Oscar nom for Finding Neverland. “I have always loved The Chronicles Of Narnia and I endlessly imagined myself finding my own passage into Narnia someday”, Magee said in the release announcing the deal today. “All these years later, I’m getting to fulfill that wish just a little bit by writing the film adaptation of The Silver Chair and could not be more excited about it.” Mark Gordon and Douglas Gresham along with Vincent Sieber, the LA-based director of the C.S. Lewis Company, are producing. Michele Wolkoff and Sara Smith will oversee for the Mark Gordon Company. The first three Narnia films — covering the first three of seven novels in the book series — combined grossed more $1.6 billion at the worldwide box office.
Hart will first co-write the comedy along with his scripting teammates Joey Wells, Chris Spencer and Harry Ratchford. He’ll then star as a man who lives in the shadow of his NBA superstar brother (James), but gets a chance to prove himself when he and some pals attend a weekend fantasy basketball camp in Miami. Hart is certainly dominant in the stand-up arena, but posting up against this screen sibling could be dangerous. Hart is under 5’3″ while James is a towering 6’8.” That kind of sibling size differential hasn’t been seen since Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in another Universal comedy, Twins. They’ll sign a director when Hart and his cohorts turn in the script. The plan is to start production next summer when James has time off.
EXCLUSIVE: Peyton Reed is set to direct The Fifth Beatle, an adaptation of the bestselling graphic novel about the last years of The Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The film is being produced by Oscar-winner Bruce Cohen and Tony-winner Vivek J. Tiwary. Tiwary, whose credits include Green Day’s American Idiot wrote the graphic novel and the screenplay. Reed, who helmed The Break-Up and Bring It On, finds himself in an enviable position as this is the first film about the Fab Four that has been granted unprecedented access to the John Lennon/Paul McCartney music catalog. Production will begin next year. Now that Reed is aboard, the next step will be securing an actor to play Epstein.
“From the moment I read Vivek’s graphic novel, I knew I wanted to be the person to bring Brian’s story to the big screen,” Reed said. “I’m a lifelong Beatles fan, obviously, but it’s Brian’s fascinating life that really blew me away and drew me to this project. He’s the ultimate outsider who, against all odds, became the ultimate insider. He was responsible for shepherding the most popular artistic expression of “love” in the history of modern culture, and yet he wasn’t allowed to express his own love during that time.”
Forty years after it debuted on Broadway, Veronica’s Room is finally heading to the big screen. Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s TWC-Dimension moniker will executive produce, finance and distribute an adaptation of the thriller by Rosemary’s Baby author Ira Levin, the company said today. The film of the play by Levin, who passed away in 2007, will be produced by The Allegiance Theater’s Daniel Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine, who brought the project to TWC-Dimension. The Allegiance Theater’s Tim Crane is an EP and the company’s head of development, Carly Norris, who brought the project to Allegiance to develop, is co-producer. “From Rosemary’s Baby to Deathtrap, Harvey and I have been admirers of Ira Levin, as he has created some of the greatest thrillers in film history,” said Bob Weinstein in a statement today. “With Veronica’s Room, we have discovered a hidden gem that is going to reintroduce Ira’s genius to a new generation. It will also provide a fantastic opportunity for top tier actors and actresses to embody Ira Levin’s fascinating, complicated characters.”
Veronica’s Room centers 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. The pic is the fifth film under the TWC-Dimension name joining Paddington, Murder Mystery, Passengers and Regression.
UPDATE: Universal Formalizes ‘Fast & Furious 7′ Postponement, But There Are No Plans To End Franchise
Dominic Patten contributed to this report
UPDATE, 11:33 AM: Sources involved in Fast & Furious 7 said there are no plans to scrap the franchise after star Paul Walker‘s tragic death Saturday in a car crash. And that makes business sense: The franchise is one of the most lucrative in Hollywood, having already made more than $2.4 billion for Universal. The sixth installment, released this past summer, made almost $789 million worldwide at the box office. It is too early to determine whether the production will recast or rewrite and all options are being considered. The film, which was filming in Atlanta, has roughly 50% of that location shoot completed. Other locations for the film were set for the Middle East.
PREVIOUS, 10:20 AM: Universal Pictures has formalized something that seemed obvious since the weekend. The studio has indefinitely postponed production on Fast & Furious 7 following the tragic death of Paul Walker in a car accident that occurred while the cast and crew were on a holiday break. I’ve seen reams of web speculation, even one traffic grabber that the studio might scrap the film, and wow it all seems so creepy to me. Work on the half-done production would have resumed two days ago. The studio, the director James Wan, writer Chris Morgan and producer Neal Moritz have just begun trying to figure out what to do to keep this billion-dollar franchise alive.
It seems fairly obvious the film will not make its July 2014 release date, and it also feels highly unlikely they will shoot a foot of film before the end of this year. Beyond allowing a mourning period for the traumatized cast and crew to get past the death of an actor who I’m told was the kind of guy who knew the names of everybody on set, there are major creative hurdles to overcome here. It is laudable of the studio and filmmakers to factor all of these variables and take the time to make the right decision before bringing everyone back to work. I don’t think there is a chance that the studio would abandon the franchise, as has been speculated elsewhere. Here is a formal statement by the studio:
EXCLUSIVE: Dylan Neal is the latest actor to join the cast of Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ adaptation of EL James’ bestselling Fifty Shades Of Grey. He’ll play Bob, Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) stepfather and husband of Carla Adams (Jennifer Ehle). He begins shooting this week in Vancouver. Neal currently stars in Hallmark Channel’s Cedar Cove opposite Andie MacDowell. He is also shooting the second season of The CW’s Arrow, in the recurring role of the villainous Dr. Anthony Ivo. Jamie Dornan has been set to play Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the pic directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, which will hit theaters February 13, 2015.
Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden has joined the cast of Universal and Focus Features’ erotic adaptation of EL James‘s Fifty Shades Of Grey. She’ll play Dr. Grace Trevelyan Grey, the adoptive physician mama of emotionally damaged billionaire Christian Grey and his siblings Mia and Elliot. Dr. Grace Grey is the pediatrician who cares for 4-year-old Christian when his birth mother (or “the crack whore,” as Fifty Shades readers may know her) dies. She’s also the one who inadvertently introduces Christian to his cougar lover Elena from whom he learns his BDSM ways. Harden recently wrapped Woody Allen‘s Magic in the Moonlight and stars on HBO’s The Newsroom and ABC’s Trophy Wife. Jamie Dornan has been set to play Christian opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the pic directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, which will now hit theaters February 13, 2015.
China Box Office Hits $3B+: Hollywood Improves While Local Films Dominate; What Does End Of 2013 Hold In Store?
Official figures released by China‘s film watchdog the SAPPRFT show 2013′s box office tally through November 25th was 19.3B yuan ($3.17B). That’s a 17.4% leap over 2012′s full take of $2.7B. But with only a month to go in the country that now has over 17,600 screens, will China be able to maintain the kind of growth it’s seen in recent years? The jump in 2012 was 35% and the year prior about 30%. A last-minute surge this year is likely, says Rob Cain, a producer in both the U.S. and China who writes the ChinaFilmBiz blog. That’s because there is a host of local movies on deck which he estimates stand to bring in about $500M by the end of December. If the math is correct, that would put 2013 about 36% above 2012.
There are no more big U.S. productions expected to release in 2013, but November has been relatively good to Hollywood in China. The town’s movies are faring better than in the first half of the year when market share was down 21.3% year-on-year and imports to China had only $717M in sales. This quarter, U.S. films have about 55% of the market. Recent titles to go out include Escape Plan, Thor: The Dark World, Gravity and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Gravity just added $20.7M in its second week on 5,854 screens for a 13-day cume of $56.7M. Released a day after Gravity, Catching Fire did not have the same impact. Its worldwide success is undeniable: in the first 11 days of international release, the film has nearly equaled the entire international run of the first Hunger Games. It has $24.2M through Sunday in China, nearing the $27.9M lifetime gross of the original in the territory. I understand that Lionsgate execs are happy with the performance and Cain says it “looks like it will do better than the first one.” However, he opines, “In a market that’s grown by 80% [since the original was released] that’s not saying that much.” Another exec familiar with China tells me that Catching Fire likely suffered from the head-to-head positioning against Gravity. The exec says, “Bureaucrats try to stack the deck… and that causes a cannibalization of those films.” Cain agrees it may have been a factor that the films were released so close together — China “had to get the last few quota films out before December” — but also says the Hunger Games books and films haven’t been part of the zeitgeist in Asia. In his blog, he noted that Gravity benefited from a “liberal use of James Cameron’s quote calling it ‘The best space film ever’.” China is known as an especially brand-conscious country and Cameron’s Avatar is still the highest-grossing film there ever.
EXCLUSIVE: After turning the Jackie Robinson-Branch Rickey story 42 into a hit, Legendary Pictures is now targeting Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi for a feature film. Legendary has made a deal with All Is Lost and Margin Call writer-director J.C. Chandor to write with an eye to direct a feature about the coaching legend who led Green Bay to five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowl titles. Legendary, whose principal Thomas Tull is a part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a passionate pigskin fan, will produce the film with Mary Parent. She produced Pacific Rim and Godzilla for Legendary. Tony Ponturo and Fran Kirmser will be exec producers.
Chandor, who made his feature directing debut on his Oscar-nominated script Margin Call, is once again in the awards season conversation for his follow-up All Is Lost, which stars Robert Redford as a man struggling to survive on the open seas. Chandor is casting up his next directorial outing, A Most Violent Year, which will star Jessica Chastain with production to begin early next year.
He has already begun writing the new film, and Legendary has assembled a rights package that includes a deal with the Lombardi estate, as well as the Broadway play written by Eric Simonson that starred Dan Lauria and Judith Light. That play was based on the David Marannis book When Pride Still Mattered, and that is also part of the package.
The British singer-songwriter who had a cameo in Fast & Furious 6 has been cast in another movie you might have heard about. Rita Ora will play Mia, the outgoing adopted sister of billionaire Christian Grey, in Universal‘s adaptation of E L James’ mega-selling novel Fifty Shades Of Grey. The Albania-born Ora has topped the British album and singles charts but hasn’t broken through in the U.S. This ought to help. She is repped by CAA and manager Sarah Stennett.