Despite reports that 47 Ronin was taken away from first-time feature director Carl Rinsch because of a budget that swelled to $225 million, I can tell you that Rinsch has been in the editing room all week, working side by side with the studio on the challenged Universal picture. And studio sources swear the budget will not cross the $200 million mark, despite a reshoot (that Rinsch himself directed) and despite the fact Universal has twice moved the release date of this Keanu Reeves-starrer.
At the risk of seeming like a studio apologist, I hate how difficulties in the process of putting together big-budget movies has been turned into bloodsport reporting, particularly when it is sort of accurate but exaggerated. Look, we all know that when stories crop up about films that do reshoots or extra shooting, it is not a good sign.
Sometimes, as was the case on Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, a rumored tough shoot and post-production process manifests itself into a remarkable film. Exaggerating the situation on a movie, when it is in production or in the editing room, seems unfair, almost like criticizing an artist’s painting before it is finished. I think that it encourages reviewers and audiences to discount the movie, even subliminally, and they evaluate it at least a little bit on the basis of perceived troubles.
Universal was not commenting but here’s what’s going on now: The studio has taken a more active hand in the editing process on the Universal lot, which is unusual for that particular studio but hardly unheard of with a first-time director who doesn’t have final cut. Rinsch, a respected commercials and short film helmer who had the job of directing the Alien prequel until Ridley Scott took it and turned it into Prometheus, has opinions as strong as his visual sense. That doesn’t endear one to the crew, which is probably how these rumors get started. He’s new to the game of mounting a huge film and the studio has every right to protect an investment that is at least a $175 million 3D film. But the reports he has been removed from the editing room and that he had 47 Ronin taken away from him are wrong, as far as I can see. And the studio is hardly trying to hide a bomb, not when it chose December 25, 2013 as the new release date. Read More »
BREAKING: Universal Pictures has switched the Keanu Reeves-starrer 47 Ronin from its November 21 date to February 8, 2013. We’ve heard rumblings the film would move, and that the big-ticket film was undergoing reshoots. Studio insiders deny this, saying they need more time to perfect the 3D effects, and wanted to take advantage of advertising the film through trailers displayed during the holiday tentpole picture season. The 18th century tale about a group of samurai swordsmen who team to avenge the death of their master was helmed by first-time feature director and renowned commercials helmer Carl Rinsch.
BREAKING: NBCUniversal’s new owners at Comcast have given a vote of confidence to the studio’s feature film operation. They’ve exercised an option on Universal Pictures’ Chairman Adam Fogelson and extended his contract through 2014. I’m told that Fogelson is, in turn, in the process of exercising the option of Donna Langley and she will continue as the studio’s co-chairman. They will also keep their executive team intact. Fogelson will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and will now also report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke.
While Universal has had its ups and downs, higher-ups are clearly convinced that Fogelson, Langley and their team are making progress. They’ve had recent hits –Bridesmaids, Hop! and Fast Five– but also had some recent misses that include The Dilemma, Change-Up and Cowboys & Aliens. In the latter case, the studio was on the hook for one-third of the film, and shared that third with Relativity Media. It has also been a year in which Fogelson and his team have made some painful decisions and let pricey productions go. That began with the Guillermo Del Toro-directed At the Mountains of Madness, which Universal developed for years and which was ready to go with Tom Cruise, until the studio made a late decision not to go forward because of the possibility the $150M film could carry an R-rating. Universal also dropped two projects that were in advanced stages of development: The Dark Tower, the Akiva Goldsman-directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel series that was to be made into three feature films and two limited-run TV series, with the first film and TV segment directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer and Goldsman; and Oiuja, the Hasbro board game that had McG directing and Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners producing with Hasbro. The moves were surprising because Howard and Grazer are cornerstone filmmakers for Universal; and Del Toro and Hasbro have overall deals there. Ouija is one of several Hasbro properties the studio dropped, the others being the Gore Verbinski-directed Clue, the Ridley Scott-directed Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. These were part of a groundbreaking deal the studio made with the toymaker several years ago, but the studio and Hasbro have re-focused their attention solely on Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, and Candy Land. Read More »
Sony Pictures has acquired Shadow Runner, a pitch for an action thriller that will star Thor’s Chris Hemsworth. Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce through the Contrafilm banner with ROAR’s Will Ward. Studio’s keeping the fictional project under wraps, but this deal has taken awhile to come together, and its original genesis was an idea by Drive scribe Hossein Amini. The inspiration was an incident in which an Israeli assassination team targeted a Hamas leader whom the Israelis believe murdered several soldiers and helped stockpile Iranian-made missiles. He was tracked to Dubai, and the Israelis managed to smuggle in an entire 17-person hit team to take him out in the corridor of a five-star hotel. The operatives were captured on a hotel security camera trailing after the victim, reemerging and getting on the elevator after he was killed. I’m told that the film won’t replicate those events, but Hemsworth will lead an elite team of operatives who take on impossible tasks. Amini will be exec producer. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Bracing for its race against Relativity Media on rival Snow White films, Universal Pictures has hired Hossein Amini to do a rewrite of Snow White and the Huntsman, the Rupert Sanders-directed film that stars Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth. Evan Spiliotopoulos wrote the most recent draft. Amini scripted Drive, the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed film that just debuted in Cannes, and he also rewrote the Keanu Reeves-starrer 47 Ronin, which director Carl Rinsch is directing for Universal.
Universal and Relativity have been playing a game of can you top this in terms of release dates. Universal moved up its Snow White film from late 2012 to a June 1 date, which put it a month ahead of Relativity’s Snow White film, the one that stars Julia Roberts, Lily Collins and Armie Hammer, with Tarsem Singh directing. Then, Relativity Media trumped Universal by setting a March 16, 2012 release. It has created bad blood between the studio and Ryan Kavanaugh, but that is how it stands at the moment. Hossein is repped by WME.
Before it got released on DVD today, Tron: Legacy managed to play in theaters long enough to establish Joseph Kosinski as the highest-grossing first-time director of a live-action film in Hollywood history. The film’s $399 million global gross recently eclipsed the $397.5 million gross that JJ Abrams turned in on 2006′s Mission: Impossible 3.
Now, such a distinction is relative. Tron: Legacy cost between $165 million and $170 million to make and a comparable amount to market. Sam Mendes made his debut on the $15 million American Beauty, which grossed $356 million worldwide in 1999. Jan De Bont’s debut on the $30 million Speed turned in a $350 million worldwide gross in 1994. Ticket prices were lower when American Beauty and Speed were released, and Tron: Legacy had the extra benefit of higher 3D pricing. American Beauty and Speed were extravagantly profitable. Disney will make some money on Tron: Legacy, but they won’t need to back up the Brink’s truck.
But Tron: Legacy’s performance certainly gives the studio reason to think it has poured the foundation for a franchise. Disney has begun work on a sequel, which Kosinski is constructing with original writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Maybe because of Tron: Legacy’s pricey launch and heightened expectations, I had the impression that the film had been a bit underwhelming, despite a $44 million opening weekend. But looks are deceiving. For one … Read More »