Hollywood’s fascination with the mob continues.
Brad Furman has come aboard to direct Sylvester Stallone in Scarpa for Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films, a high-profile project currently being pulled together and one they hope to put before the cameras next year, possibly in the first quarter. The project will be produced by Irwin Winkler (Rocky). Stallone will star as Gregory Scarpa, a former capo and enforcer (hitman) for the Colombo crime family known as the Grim Reaper.
The script is by crime aficionado Nicholas Pileggi, whose screenplay for Goodfellas was nominated for an Oscar and whose Casino was also critically acclaimed. (And, btw, he should have been nominated again for Casino which he adapted from his own book). Both were directed by Martin Scorsese.
Stallone would play one of the best-known sociopaths in organized crime — a man who murdered for the family, suspected in the murders of his own biological family, then turned FBI informant (like many of the wise guys end up doing). He was eventually indicted for multiple murders. He called himself the Killing Machine and boasted of 50 murders — as if that was something to be proud of. His own daughter said living with him was like living with a serial killer. He later became a prisoner in his own body and died in 1994 from AIDS-related complications in a Minnesota prison. Karma.
You know all Italians are not criminals, though you wouldn’t know it from the movies Hollywood puts out. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Religion-themed pics are all the rage, and I’ve learned that Gravity and Harry Potter producer David Heyman is set to produce the adaptation of Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth. The bestseller was acquired by Lionsgate in December, and former Focus Features chief James Schamus is penning the adaptation.
Iranian-American writer and scholar Aslan’s book was published in 2013 and named one of the best of the year by Publishers Weekly. It’s a historical account of the life of Jesus, analyzing the various religious perspectives on him as well as the creation of Christianity. Set in 1st century Palestine, the story challenges long-held assumptions about the Galilean. “Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Dr. Aslan sheds light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived,” Lionsgate said when it picked up the title. Aslan added at the time that his objective in writing the book was to “illuminate the life of Jesus in a humanistic, as opposed to religious, context.” While Schamus pens the transfer, I hear that top directors have expressed interest.
Heyman will produce with Jeff Clifford. The pair also is teamed on The Queen Of The Tearling, the adaptation of Erika Johansen’s upcoming novel that’s part of a trilogy to be published by HarperCollins this year. Mark L Smith, who co-wrote Alejandro … Read More »
UPDATED, 12:50PM: Leaders of SAG-AFTRA, calling their new film and TV contract “historic,” have something to celebrate this Fourth of July. The tentative new contract, reached early this morning after two months of hard bargaining, achieved the major goal of the union going into the talks: the merger of its two separate TV contracts.
When SAG-AFTRA merged in 2012, it was stuck with two separate pension and health plans and two separate TV contracts, which allowed TV producers to shop for the best terms. This anomaly created a landslide of producers rushing to shoot their projects under AFTRA’s TV contract, which was threatening to dry up employer contributions to SAG’s pension and health plan.
The new contract also achieved the first industry-wide agreement for performers in basic cable production, which now will be incorporated into the new Television Agreement.
In short, it’s a huge victory for the union, and a major milestone on the road to completing the merger of the two unions that was started two years ago.
“Unifying the legacy SAG and AFTRA contracts was essential, and I am very pleased that we were able to achieve that,” SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard said in a statement. “As important, we have established an industry-wide, basic cable agreement – something we have wanted for two decades. We’ve also secured a very competitive wage package for members and a large bump in our pension, health and retirement contributions. This is a great package with real, measurable gains in numerous areas of our … Read More »
Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel is returning to familiar territory with Nazi-era drama Georg Elser. Billed as an emotional portrait of the resistance fighter who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller on November 8, 1939, the film kicked off shooting yesterday in Wackershofen/Southern Germany. Not to be confused with the July 20, 1944, assassination plot against Hitler that was the subject of Bryan Singer’s 2008 film Valkyrie, Elser’s attempt came five years earlier during what was expected to be a lengthy speech given by the Nazi leader for the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. A bomb Elser had placed behind the lectern detonated — 13 minutes after Hitler had left the platform — and ended up killing eight others. A carpenter from Königsbronn, Elser is thought to have opposed Nazism from the beginning of the regime and later told interrogators that the idea of “eliminating the leadership,” including Hitler, Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels, came to him in the fall of 1938. “I reasoned the situation in Germany could only be modified by a removal of the current leadership,” he said. Elser was arrested the day of the failed attempt, interrogated, tortured and sent to Dachau. In 1945, days before the end of the war, he was executed on Hitler’s orders. The film will follow Elser’s path from the the Swabian Alps to the assassination attempt and his last days in the concentration camp. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Hocus shmocus: Disney is in early development with Tina Fey on a supernatural-themed feature, but a knowledgeable source tells me it’s not the Hocus Pocus sequel that’s being wrongly buzzed about all over town. The film, currently known as Untitled Witch Project, will be produced by Fey and Cinderella producer Allison Shearmur in what’s described as falling in the vein of Ghostbusters, with 30 Rock Golden Globe winner Fey also attached to star. Sorry to break it to fans of the 1993 Bette Midler horror-comedy: No Hocus Pocus 2 project is currently in the works at the Mouse House – yet. Stay tuned to see if the nostalgic wave of online buzz conjures a return for the Sanderson Sisters. Read More »
Angela Courtin has joined Relativity Media in the company’s newly created Chief Marketing Office role. Courtin will lead marketing, branding, digital, and ad efforts in film, TV, and sports departments. She’ll also oversee all branding and ad campaigns across the company. The new gig starts effective July with Courtin reporting directly to Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and President Tucker Tooley as Relativity moves into a quiet back half of 2014 starting with today’s opener Earth to Echo, followed by The November Man (Aug. 27), limited release Hector and the Search for Happiness (Sep. 19), Michelle Monaghan romance The Best of Me (Oct. 17) and drama Beyond the Lights (Nov. 14).
Courtin joins the company following the May exit of Dana Precious, who spent a year as President of creative advertising and research. Precious joined Relativity in 2013 with Russell Schwartz, replacing Terry Curtin. Read More »
Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe is set at a Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf, and its depiction of disenchanted youth features a cast of non-professional, deaf actors. The pic’s narrative unfolds purely through sign language without subtitles, music or voice-over. It won three honors this year in the Cannes sidebar. Drafthouse Films plans a theatrical and digital rollout sometime in 2015.
In the pic, a boy enters a specialized boarding school for the deaf. Alone in this new and unfamiliar place, he must find his way through the school’s hierarchy. Sergey quickly encounters the tribe, a student gang dealing in crime and prostitution. After passing their hazing rituals and being inducted into the group, he takes part in several robberies and begins to work his way up the chain of command to become pimp-protector for two of the girls, who turn tricks at the local truck stop. Finding himself in love with one of them, he ultimately breaks all the unwritten rules of the tribe, with tragic consequences.
The deal was negotiated by Virginie Devesa and Keiko Funato from Alpha Violet and James Emanuel Shapiro and CEO Tim League from Drafthouse.
Just when it seemed safe to punch out for the holiday, a hot book has studios in a lather. I’m hearing Paramount — with Allison Shearmur as producer — is in front-runner position and working on a pre-emptive deal for Anatomy Of A Misfit, a novel by Andrea Portes that sources feel has the potential to be a big book. The logline: The third-most-popular girl in school is secretly dating a troubled loner when the most popular guy is suddenly interested in her. She struggles to choose between them until she is faced with a tragedy that changes her entire perception of high school and the social order. Portes based the tale on a story from her own life. She’s a bestselling author who wrote Bury This and Hick, and she will team to write the script with Joel Silverman, who just scripted a film about 1970s Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian for Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, and now is adapting for CBS Films’ Lady In The Locker Room, about one of the pioneer female baseball beat reporters who covered the Oakland A’s in the 1980s. Anatomy Of A Misfit will be published in the fall by HarperTeen. Portes and Silverman pitched their take for the movie to producers, who took them to several studios before talks got serious with Paramount. The book’s being shopped by Jordan Bayer and Chris Sablan of Original Artists for lit agent Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Studio says they … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has hired Fedor Bondarchuk to direct Odysseus, the large-scale film based on Homer’s poem The Odyssey, about the Greek king who returns after a decade away fighting the Trojan War. Jeremy Doner is writing the script. Hollywood Gang’s Gianni Nunnari is producing with Bernie Goldmann and Shannon Gaulding, as well as Bondarchuk’s partners Michael Schlicht and Paul Heth.
The film is a large-scale epic, and the Russian filmmaker’s work has been getting more and more ambitious. Bondarchuk, the son of Oscar-winning helmer Sergey Bondarchuk, is an actor, producer and on-air host who last fall directed Stalingrad, a touching WWII film about Russian soldiers who hold off the Nazis and adopt a young woman and keep her safe during an increasingly hostile campaign. The film was Russia’s first movie filmed in Imax 3D format and was nominated for multiple international prizes. Stalingrad was made for around $30 million, and even though there was a high number of action sequences involving tanks and warfare, all of it was accomplished without green screen, as Bondarchuk staged his own siege. He will become the latest offshore helmer to get a crack at a Hollywood studio film, and he has an intriguing advantage: Bondarchuk is a star director in Russia and China, two territories studios are eager to court. He’s repped by Paradigm and Magnolia Entertainment. Niija Kuykendall and Jon Gonda are overseeing for the studio.
Related: … Read More »
The exec who spent two decades at Disney, overseeing its theatrical ops in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for the past four years, has landed at Universal. Jo Yan has been tapped as Managing Director and EVP China at Universal Pictures International. He will be charged with building the company’s China office and running the film group’s theatrical and digital distribution and its local Chinese-language production efforts. He also will work on strategies for Universal Pictures, NBCUniversal and Comcast in the region along with developing Uni brands and licenses there. Yan will serve as creative adviser for Illumination Entertainment, helping to source local intellectual property and identifying companies who could provide animation services.
“China is one of our most significant international territories and it is imperative that Universal has a strong, well-respected leader as we expand our presence in this region,” said Duncan Clark, UPI’s President of Distribution. “Jo is the perfect choice to build and lead our Chinese office.” Read More »
It’s a wrap for Joe Roth at Revolution Studios, which he founded in 2000. He’ll become a strategic adviser to the company with a first-look TV development deal, the company says today, after it received a major infusion of cash from Fortress Investment Group. The private equity firm says it intends to buy out Revolution’s original partners. Studio CEO Vince Totino and COO Scott Hemming will remain at Revolution. “The time is right for us to expand the Revolution brand through the development of original projects as well as those that are based on the valuable intellectual property in the Revolution library,” Totino says. “With Fortress’s financial resources and industry expertise and our continued partnership with Joe Roth, we plan to grow Revolution substantially in the coming years.”
Revolution became a financial disappointment after a promising start. Roth — a former studio exec at Disney and Fox — forged alliances with Sony, Starz and Fox, and stars including Adam Sandler and Julia Roberts. Roth also directed films including Christmas With The Kranks and Freedomland. But Revolution shuttered its film division in 2007 with a library of 50 titles as bombs including Gigli and Hollywood Homicide overwhelmed successes including Oscar winner Black Hawk Down and Maid In Manhattan. The TV production operation has continued with shows including Are We There Yet for TBS and Anger Management for FX.
Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, Oscar-nominated writers of The Fighter, have partnered with Sam Raimi on the feature adaptation of Jake Tapper‘s bestselling book The Outpost: An Untold Story Of American Valor. Raimi will produce and supervise development of the script with an eye towards directing. Raimi will produce with Rob Tapert, and Paul Merryman will be co-producer.
The film becomes part of a growing number focusing on the bravery of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The focus of The Outpost is the defense of a remote U.S. camp in Eastern Afghanistan by 53 American soldiers as it was overrun by up to 400 Taliban fighters. The intense and deadly day-long clash resulted in multiple citations including Medals of Honor to two recipients, the first time America’s highest military award has been given to two living soldiers for the same battle since 1968.
Said Raimi: “The Outpost is an epic story of bravery, courage, and sacrifice of our men in uniform, and is absolutely a picture meant for the big screen. I’m honored to be a part of it.” Tapper, who’s reported extensively on Afghanistan, is the host of CNN’s The Lead With Jake Tapper, and is chief Washington correspondent for the cable news network. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Casey Affleck has found a young star he hopes will play Josh Hamilton, the slugger who recovered from a drug descent to become a baseball superstar now clubbing homers for the Los Angeles Angels. After a lengthy search, the writer-director has set his sights on Jack Reynor, the What Richard Did star who’ll next be seen co-starring in this week’s tentpole release Transformers: Age Of Extinction.
In November 2012, Relativity acquired rights to Hamilton’s incredible life story for a feature film, closing a deal with Hamilton; the book he co-authored, Beyond Belief: Finding The Strength To Come Back; and with Affleck to write and direct. I am a sucker for those inspirational sports films, from The Blind Side to The Rookie and Brian’s Song, and there is certainly one to be made about rising from the depths of addiction. Hamilton overcame a crack cocaine addiction to become one of the most feared sluggers in baseball, something that seemed impossible when he was so rock bottom that his wife kicked him out of the house and he was relegated to cleaning toilets and mowing the grass at a baseball training facility. Read More »
Paramount Pictures is in talks with actress-filmmaker Sarah Polley to adapt Looking For Alaska, the debut novel by The Fault In Our Stars author John Green. The book has become a big priority at the studio since the sleeper success of The Fault In Our Stars, which just passed the $100 million gross mark on a $12 million budget. The film will be produced by Mark Waters and Jessica Tuchinsky through their Watermark Pictures banner.
The novel is where Green first honed his talent for serving up serious subject matter to which young readers strongly relate. The protagonist is 16-year-old Miles Halter, who, after an antiseptic adolescence in Florida, moves to a boarding school in Alabama and learns coming-of-age lessons from his roommate and his beautiful and mysterious best friend, Alaska Young. She enthralls Miles with stories of adventurous and self-destructive behavior — and teaches him to drink, smoke, and plot elaborate pranks against the school’s rich preppies — but despite their adulation for her, they can tell that she is unhappy and perhaps headed for big trouble. Read More »
Gravitas Ventures has acquired Manhattan-set comedy The Longest Week, starring Jason Bateman as Conrad, the spoiled 40-year-old heir to a hotel fortune who is cut off from his allowance after his parents’ divorce. Crashing with old friend Dylan (Billy Crudup), he immediately falls for Dylan’s girlfriend Beatrice (Olivia Wilde) and falls headlong into an existential reflection as he tries to keep their relationship and his bank balance secret. Obvious Child‘s Jenny Slate also stars in the pic which marks writer-director Peter Glanz’s debut. Glanz adapted The Longest Week from his own Cannes and Sundance short A Relationship In Four Days. Gravitas has set a September 5 theatrical and VOD debut for the film, which has been likened to the Manhattan-set relationship comedies of Woody Allen, Whit Stillman, and Wes Anderson. YRF Entertainment financed The Longest Week and produced in association with Armian Pictures, Atlantic Pictures, and Far Hills. YRF’s Uday Chopra produced with Neda Armian. Jonathan Reiman, Chris Marsh, Stone Douglass, and Taylor Materne executive produced.
MGM is negotiating with Dean Israelite to direct and Arash Amel to script WarGames, the remake of the smart 1983 John Badham-directed film that starred Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy as teenage hackers who unwittingly find a back door into a Defense Department computer. They start a game with the machine that puts the world in danger of WWIII.
Talks are early, but I’ve heard the studio is close to signing Israelite, who just made his directing debut on Project Almanac for Paramount and Platinum Dunes. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Israelite the U of Witwatersrand studying Dramatic Art before moving to Australia to attend Curtin University, where he received his undergraduate degree in Film and Television. An MFA from AFI followed. He wrote and directed Acholiland, a short that won three Student Emmys as well as a BAFTA/LA award. He met director Jonathan Liebesman and scribe Scott Silver on Battle Los Angeles, and they are mentoring him on Chase Liberty, which he wrote and will direct.
Amel most recently scripted Grace Of Monaco, the Nicole Kidman starrer about Grace Kelly’s transition from Hollywood star to Monaco princess. The film made its debut at Cannes, where a long-gestating deal was finally closed with The Weinstein Company. He has also scripted Seducing Ingrid Bergman, about the romance between the actress and war photographer Robert Capa, and Marie Colvin’s Private War, based on the courageous war correspondent who was … Read More »
Warner Bros has acquired the feature rights to Monstrumologist, the four-book YA novel by Rick Yancey. Jessica Postigo (The Mortal Instruments) has been set to adapt. The books revolve around a doctor and his orphan assistant. The doc studies dangerous creatures and monsters and in the middle of the night in 1888, two specimens arrive at his home. It’s a half-eaten girl and an anthropuphagi, a vicious maneater without a head. The young assistant is tasked with helping his peculiar caretaker find more of the creatures.
Published in 2009, the original title was followed by The Curse Of The Wendigo, The Isle Of Blood and The Final Descent. Ellen Goldsmith Vein and Robert Teitel will produce and Eric Robinson and George Tillman Jr will be exec producers. Newly minted senior veep Drew Crevello and creative exec Jon Gonda will oversee for Warner Bros. Gersh reps Postigo, and CAA reps the author.
EXCLUSIVE: Ansel Elgort, hot off the male lead of Augustus Waters in The Fault In Our Stars, has signed to play the title role in Van Cliburn, a feature that is being mounted by Temple Hill partners Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen along with Crystal City Entertainment in association with The Johnson Group. Godfrey and Bowen, who worked with Elgort on The Fault In Our Stars, will produce with Ari Daniel Pinchot and Robert M. Johnson is exec producer. Andrew Stern will write the script.
The film is based on the Howard Reich book Van Cliburn, and Elgort will play the pianist in his formative years when, at age 23 in 1958, he emerged from out of nowhere to win the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow. It was the first time the tournament was held, and was organized by the USSR after it had caught up to the U.S. in the nuclear arms race and completed the first successful space launch with Sputnik. Nikita Khrushchev saw the competition as a way to lord Soviet superiority at a time when tensions between the two superpowers were sky high. The lanky pianist from Texas who graduated Juilliard but was taught by his neighborhood piano teacher mother, had a very unorthodox instinctive style that bowled won over the Russian judges and the proletariat crowd that followed every note of the competition. Although some tried to marginalize him so they could knock him from the competition, Cliburn made it to the finals. Judges, fearing exile to Siberia, brought in Khrushchev as they deliberated. The Soviet premier asked them if he was the best, and told them to give him the prize when they answered yes. This was credited with bridging the Cold War gap. Cliburn became a favorite among Russian audiences, and he played for U.S. presidents as well, until he abruptly stopped publicly performing in 1978. The one-time prodigy died last year of bone cancer at 78. Read More »
UPDATE, 11:55 AM: Rian Johnson hasn’t commented yet on his monumental new task of mounting the next two Star Wars films. Even better, he has borrowed the spirit of another space film, The Right Stuff, that perfectly explains how he must be feeling as he processes the daunting task ahead of him. I think he’s up to it. Glimpse it below Deadline’s original scoop.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 11:16 AM: Rarely have I seen the revival of a film franchise stir so much fervor as Star Wars, among hot young filmmakers who grew up loving George Lucas’ original film trilogy. In a bombshell move, I’m told that Lucasfilm is making a deal with Looper writer-director Rian Johnson to write and direct Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX. Essentially, that means that the intention is for Johnson to take the baton from JJ Abrams, who has gotten the space franchise off the ground and is right now helming Episode VII. I don’t know too much more at this point, but it is in keeping with Disney and Lucasfilm’s strategy of entrusting the venerable franchise to the best and brightest writers and directors, including the spinoff films that are being directed by Chronicle‘s Josh Trank and Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards.
Johnson will take over the core film franchise, and he’ll get started quickly and this will be his preoccupation for quite awhile. Technically, he’ll write that second treatment but the intention on both sides is … Read More »