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 »
HBO‘s long-gestating six-hour miniseries Lewis And Clark has taken a big step towards fruition with the casting of Oscar-nominatedCasey Affleck (The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford) as Lewis. Lewis And Clark, executive produced by Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and Gary Goetzman, is based on the book Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. It tells the story of America’s first contact with the land and native tribes of the country west of the Mississippi River. It chronicles the epic journey of the Corps of Discovery and its captains Meriwether Lewis (Affleck) and William Clark traversing uncharted territory on a mission to deliver President Jefferson’s message of sovereignty as they search for his fabled all-water route to the Pacific. Lewis And Clark, from HBO and National Geographic Entertainment, is produced by Playtone, in association with Pitt’s Plan B and Class 5. Dede Gardner and Edward Norton also are executive producers. John Curran directs and co-wrote, along with Norton and Michelle Ashford. WME-repped Affleck can next be seen opposite Jessica Chastain in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
EXCLUSIVE: Open Road Films has just completed a deal to pre-buy domestic distribution rights on Triple Nine, the John Hillcoat-directed heist thriller, which begins production this summer with a killer cast. Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan, Breaking Bad and Need For Speed‘s Aaron Paul, Warm Bodies’ Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs. Superman film) and End Of Watch‘s Michael Pena are in talks to join previously announced 12 Years A Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor, Out of the Furnace’s Casey Affleck and Kate Winslet. Hillcoat, who just helmed that distinctive Super Bowl spot for Coke, wrote the script with Matt Cook. Open Road will release the film in 2015.
The rights deal comes on the eve of the European Film Market, where Sierra/Affinity is handling international sales for the project and will sell select territories in Berlin. In the drama, a crew of dirty cops is blackmailed by the Russian mob to execute a virtually impossible heist. The only way to pull it off is to manufacture a 999, police code for “officer down”. Their plan is turned upside down when the unsuspecting rookie they set up to die foils the attack, triggering a breakneck, action-packed finale filled with double-crosses, greed and revenge. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Between nightly guild screenings and the AFI Fest, you could go to theaters all over Hollywood, throw a rock, and probably hit a great director or actor. One I’m intrigued by is Scott Cooper, whose debut Crazy Heart drew an Oscar for Jeff Bridges and a nomination for Maggie Gyllenhaal. His follow-up Out Of The Furnace threatens to do the same for a stellar ensemble cast of Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard. What’s fascinating is Cooper spent years knocking around as an actor, hoping for but never getting the kinds of roles he writes for other actors. He discusses that with Deadline along with the high price of truthful writing, the role of luck, fate and ’70s films in his process, and how painful violence in serious films imprints on a gun-crazy society.
Deadline: It would have been hard to think of you in any other context than a struggling actor when you made your directorial debut on Crazy Heart. You put your on-camera background to good use, helping Bridges and Gyllenhaal to career performances. Scripts start coming your way and you latch onto The Low Dweller, the big-money Brad Ingelsby spec that stalled when Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio dropped out. Why did you choose it as the template for Out Of The Furnace? Scott Cooper: I had very unremarkable career as an actor and wrote a very personal story in Crazy Heart. Robert Duvall, a mentor and close friend who let me get married on his farm, produced my first film and to have a guy like, who speaks the language of actors, get behind you was key. That film met with some modest success, and then I’m starting at a pile of scripts after never being offered anything in my life as an actor. I have kids to feed, but I want to stay true to myself. I said no to a lot of scripts that went on to become very good films that shall remain nameless. Ridley and Michael Costigan really loved Crazy Heart and so did the folks at Leo’s Appian Way. They offered me The Low Dweller, which received acclaim around town when Leonardo and Ridley were going to do it. I was in a place where I only wanted to tell personal stories. The script was very well written, but I didn’t want to film some of the themes that coursed through it and said no. They came back and said, why don’t you take carte blanche with it? I do have a brother, and there was this seed in that script that ultimately became the movie. A man gets out of prison and avenges the loss of his brother. From there, I personalized my life and turned it into something I felt would resonate. Read More »
Finally, an awards show for all those people who usually get played off the stage after 45 seconds. Actually last night’s event at the Ebell Theatre was the 7th Annual Hamilton Behind The Camera Awards, an honor for which actors need not apply except as a presenter. Production Designers, Casting Directors, Film Editors, Costume Designers, Cinematographers, even a Property Master got to be in the spotlight here. Yes, there were some “above the line” awards too including David O. Russell (American Hustle) for Directing, Brad Ingelsby and Scott Cooper (Out Of The Furnace) for writing, Saudi Arabia’s Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadja) for Foreign Film and Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter (Dallas Buyers Club) for Producing. I am not exactly sure who votes on these except to say the watchmaker bases the choice of honorees on “the knowledgeable advice of professionals” which I imagine is code for studio publicists who want to get their Oscar contenders out winning something on a November Sunday night. There were lots of PR people swarming the red carpet last night so Hamilton definitely has this on the Hollywood radar. Nevertheless it was a nice, well-organized event and any awards show devoted to the artists who make great movies happen behind the scenes is a worthwhile one.
Numerous actors did show up to make the presentations including Casey Affleck to his Out Of The Furnace writer/director Cooper who was excited about the early trade reviews from the intense film’s AFI Fest premiere the night before. After the Hamilton award he was heading to the DGA where he was thrilled William Friedkin would be doing the Q&A following their official screening. He told me the movie was a “very personal” one that is really about examining the “times in which we live” over the past five years in a country that he says is the “most violent” on earth. Cooper got laughs though in his acceptance when he talked about his very first watch, a Hamilton. “I cherished it until it stopped working. But it sure looked good,” he said which was not exactly the kind of ringing endorsement for which the evening’s sponsor might have been hoping. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Sensing it has a movie that can create heat during Oscar season, Relativity is moving the Scott Cooper-directed revenge thriller Out Of The Furnace from October 4 to a limited release on November 27, expanding that run beginning December 6th. The film stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe. Crazy Heart helmer Cooper wrote the script with Brad Ingelsby. Bale plays a simple man in a blue collar job at the local steel mill, who cares for his terminally ill father at night. His brother (Affleck) returns from Iraq and falls in with a ruthless crime ring. When he disappears, that simple man takes matters into his own hands, and sets out to seek justice for his sibling. Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Killoran produced with Scott Free’s Ridley Scott, with Michael Costigan also producing with Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh. This has been a hot project since Ingelsby first sold the spec in a big money deal that came with DiCaprio attached to star and Scott to direct. The elements have shifted, but the Cormac McCarthy-style stark and simple revenge tale element has remained intact.
Relativity production president Robbie Brenner said that Cooper “has made a powerful, moving and brilliant film that we think will generate a tremendous amount of conversation and attention during this awards season. We are confident that this new date will give Scott’s … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel has greenlighted a provocative documentary special from top auspices: Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck; Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, directors of the Oscar-winning 2011 documentary Undefeated; and Scott Free, the company behind NatGeo’s hit factual drama special Killing Lincoln. The Verité documentary chronicles people’s final days before death, celebrating their lives and legacy through documentary footage, home movies, personal testimonials and interviews with friends and family members. “This is an incredible (project) documenting people in their last days and tackling the notion of death in an uplifting way,” NatGeo president Howard T. Owens said. Phoenix and Affleck, who previously collaborated on the headline-making 2010 film I’m Still Here, executive produce with Michale Muller through Strawhouse. Jules Daly will produce and David Zucker and Mary Lisio of Scott Free will executive produce, with Lindsay and Martin also producing. Production on the special will begin this spring, with broadcast set for fall 2013.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired Boston Strangler, a thriller pitch about the desperate search for the murderer who terrorized the Boston area during the early 1960s. Kevin McCormick‘s Warner-based Langley Park shingle will produce, and the pitch was bought from Casey Affleck and fellow Boston native screenwriter Chuck Maclean. Affleck hopes to star as one of the detectives who were part of the Strangler Squad responsible for solving the crime, and he will be exec producer.
The script will be written by Maclean, whose script Bridges On The Fort Point Channel made the 2011 Black List and who is writing Storming Las Vegas for Summit. With a tone similar to Se7en and Zodiac, they will cover the most haunting unsolved serial murder story in U.S. history. While Albert DeSalvo was convicted of crimes unrelated to the Boston Strangler case, the public was spun to believe he was the man behind the 13 gruesome murders of women in Boston for over a year and a half. There is still belief that more than one killer was involved, and that DeSalvo was a pawn in a bigger conspiracy. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: After clubbing 43 homers including nine in the span of one week, Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton ended his 2012 season as a free agent. The same can no longer be said for his incredible life story, which has been acquired and will be turned into a feature film by Relativity Media. Relativity has closed a rights deal with Hamilton, along with a deal for Casey Affleck to write and direct. Thunder Road Pictures’ Basil Iwanyk will produce along with The Walsh Company’s Kevin Walsh. Thunder Road’s Kent Kubena will executive produce and Hamilton and his wife Katie will co-produce along with Hamilton’s business manager Steve Reed. Relativity has also closed a deal for rights to the book that Hamilton co-authored, Beyond Belief: Finding The Strength To Come Back.
Back in June, I wrote about this feature package that Iwanyk and Affleck were trying to build around Hamilton. 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. While the landscape is littered with addiction casualties from Whitney Houston on down, Hamilton reminds me of a number of exceptional people like Robert Downey Jr, who after wrestling their demons have accomplished the admirable feat of realizing the potential of their outsized gifts. For Hamilton, this meant overcoming a crack cocaine addiction to become one of the most feared sluggers in baseball, something that seemed impossible when Hamilton 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 »
EXCLUSIVE: Josh Hamilton’s rise from the depths of an addiction to crack to become the American League’s most feared slugger is dramatic enough to have been scripted. Sure enough, Hamilton has entrusted his rights to producer Basil Iwanyk and Thunder Road Pictures to be shopped for a feature that will be written and directed by Casey Affleck. Iwanyk has partnered with Kevin Walsh and The Walsh Company on the film, which he and Affleck will pitch to the town shortly.
The best way to describe Hamilton’s journey is to liken him to Roy Hobbs of The Natural, because Hamilton fits that description. The difference: Hamilton’s fall from grace was self-inflicted. A bonafide prodigy who was throwing a 96 mph fast ball by age 15, Hamilton was the first player chosen in the 1999 Major League Baseball draft, signing with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for a record $4 million. His parents stuck close to their son, until the three were broadsided by another car. His mother was badly hurt and his parents went home to North Carolina. That left Hamilton, who hurt his back in the accident, on his own for the first time in his life. He didn’t handle it well. Beer led to the first line of cocaine, and by the time he came off the disabled list and tore his quadriceps muscle to end his season, he was … Read More »
BREAKING: David Lowery has written and will direct Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a contemporary story in the vein of Bonnie And Clyde, with Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck attached to star. Lowery wrote and directed the short Pioneers, which won the Grand Jury Award at the 2011 Grand Jury Award at 2011 SXSW after premiering at Sundance. Lowery developed the feature at the January 2011 Sundance Writers Lab. James Johnston, Toby Halbrooks, Amy Kaufman, Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy are producing. Lowery has signed with WME and WME Global is repping the film, and Evolution Independent’s Cassian Elwes is lining up the financing.
Willem Dafoe has joined the cast of Relativity Media and Red Granite’s thriller currently entitled Out Of The Furnace. Dafoe joins previously announced cast members Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Woody Harrelson and Forest Whitaker. The movie written and directed by Scott Cooper started shooting April 13 in Braddock, Penn. In the gritty tale based on an initial version by Brad Inglesby titled The Low Dwellers, Bale and Affleck play brothers who live in the Rust Belt: one lands in prison, the other joins a ruthless criminal enterprise.
Relativity Media has firmed up casting for Out Of The Furnace with Sam Shepard joining Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana as the production directed by Scott Cooper gets under way later this month. Cooper also wrote the script based on an initial version by Brad Inglesby titled The Low Dwellers. Bale and Affleck play brothers who live in the Rust Belt: one lands in prison and the other is lured into a violent criminal enterprise. Saldana is Bale’s love interest while Shepard will play Bale’s and Affleck’s uncle. Relativity will distribute in the U.S. LA-based production-financing-sales company Red Granite will handle international sales next month in Cannes. Producers are Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Killoran, Scott Free’s Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and Michael Costigan plus Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh.
EXCLUSIVE: Casey Affleck is poised to join the cast of Out of the Furnace, the Scott Cooper-directed revenge thriller that Relativity Media will put into production later this year with Christian Bale starring. The script, which originated as a Brad Ingelsby spec that sold with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott attached in 2008, is finally coming together. Bale plays a guy who’s released from prison and wants only to get his life back and marry his gal. All that changes when his brother is murdered, and the mission becomes revenge. Affleck, I hear, will play the unfortunate brother. Scott Free and Appian Way are producing, Brooklyn Weaver is exec producer. Affleck is repped by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
BREAKING: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are reuniting in their first real picture partnership since Good Will Hunting. The Boston guys are taking on the story of New England’s most notorious gangster, Whitey Bulger. Warner Bros will make the film, Affleck will direct, co-star and produce with Damon, who’ll play Bulger. They’ll produce under their Pearl Street Films banner. Boardwalk Empire creator and writer Terence Winter is penning the script. Casey Affleck, who also starred in Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, will play a supporting role as well.
“Matt and I have been looking for something to do together for some time,” Affleck said. “We’ve heard about Whitey Bulger since we were kids, and we are excited by the prospect of putting it on screen.” Ironically, Damon played a crooked cop in The Departed, the Martin Scorsese-directed film that took a page from the Bulger story. He is the notorious South Boston crime boss who fled in 1994 and remained a fugitive for 16 years — 12 of them on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. He was arrested in June in Santa Monica. The story will cover Bulger’s youth to his incarceration on Alcatraz, through his rise to become a mob boss while secretly serving as an FBI informant for decades. Pearl Street’s Chay Carter will be executive producer. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Along with everything else about the 2001 Toronto Film Festival, the launch of Magnolia Pictures was quickly forgotten on September 11, as co-founder Eamonn Bowles and other indie film execs scrambled to find ways to get home. Magnolia marked its 10th anniversary at 2011 Toronto. While the company still doesn’t carry the profile of some other indie distributors, Bowles and co-owner Todd Wagner said their model — mixing traditional indie theatrical distribution with emerging digital technology — has made them distinctive and profitable. VOD revenues now often outpace theatrical for Magnolia films, and they return profit to filmmakers because of low P&A spends. Bowles and Wagner have been honing the VOD model since they were branded charlatans by theater chains in 2005 when Steven Soderbergh’s micro-budget film Bubble was released simultaneously on movie screens, VOD and DVD. Wagner and partner Mark Cuban put Magnolia and other film assets under the 2929 Entertainment banner on the selling block earlier this year, but pulled them back when they didn’t get a high price. Wagner said he’s staying.
Magnolia releases 35-40 films each year now, with upcoming releases that include the 2011 Toronto title Melancholia (which got Lars von Trier banned by Cannes for making dumb pro-Nazi comments). Some Magnolia efforts follow a theatrical release cycle, others go direct to DVD. But VOD has increasingly become the distributor’s calling card and Wagner said proof of its viability came when Harvey Weinstein poached Magnolia execs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego to start a VOD venture for The Weinstein Company.
“Harvey’s been in the industry forever, and he thought it was a good enough model to hire some of our folks away,” Wagner told me. “I’m flattered. There are other people doing this now, from IFC to John Sloss. To me, it’s validation that we’ve hit on something. But we’ve got an advantage, a unique collection of assets in the Landmark Theater chain, a home video division, and HDNet. The big theater chains still absolutely won’t play Ultra VOD titles, so having a theater chain is helpful. As is having the television network for the relationships it has made us with all the MSO’s. These synergies allow us to be freewheeling in how we license content. And producers are coming back to us with films because we are cutting them checks. That rarely happens elsewhere because of all the P&A that stands in front of them.” Read More »
Universal Pictures has released a trailer for the Brett Ratner-directed Tower Heist, a comedy that stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda and Tea Leoni. Alda plays a Bernie Madoff-like financier whose ponzi scheme wipes out the pensions of the staff of a luxury high rise where the swindler lives. They aim to get their money back in a caper film shot completely in Gotham. Is it me, or does Murphy appear to be playing the wisecracking underdog that made him a star in movies like 48 Hours, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop? After walking through a succession of kid-themed comedies that didn’t tax his talents, can Eddie regain his mojo?
EXCLUSIVE: Sam Rockwell has signed on to join Brad Pitt in the Andrew Dominik-directed comic crime saga Cogan’s Trade. Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that takes place during a high stakes poker game held under the protection of the mob. The picture is an ensemble and Rockwell’s role isn’t set but I understand he’s committed. Rockwell last worked with Pitt and Dominik in The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. Their Jesse James co-star Casey Affleck has been also rumored as a possible participant.
Dominik adapted the Georg V. Higgins novel. The film’s being financed by Inferno Entertainment, which will handle international sales. Plan B’s Pitt and Dede Gardner are producing with Chockstone’s Steve Schwartz and Paula Mae Schwartz. Inferno’s Bill Johnson and Jim Seibel will be exec producers with Marc Butan, and Roger Schwartz is co-producer. CAA is packaging it.
Rockwell is in the Oscar hunt for his role of the wrongly imprisoned man Kenny Waters alongside Hilary Swank in Conviction, and he recently wrapped the Jon Favreau-directed Cowboys and Aliens opposite Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, and the Jonah Hill comedy The Sitter. He’s repped by Gersh.
Well, the shaggy beard and the shades are gone as clean-shaven Joaquin Phoenix returned to the scene of the crime with a stint on the Late Show with David Letterman tonight. (Teaser below.) It’s been 1 1/2 years after his out-of-body appearance that turned out to be an act for the Casey Affleck-directed mockumentary I’m Still Here. In the provided partial transcript, Phoenix denies that Letterman was in on the gag and apologized for duping him. ”It was batting practice, you know what I mean? Every one of them was a dinger,” Letterman tells him. Phoenix laughs: “I was looking for a beat down, and I got one.”