Sony Pictures Entertainment has promoted Gelena Weissman to VP Head of Business Affairs Administration and Rey Cuerdo to VP Business Affairs Administration. They will oversee and manage development and production deals at Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. Cuerdo will report to Weissman; Weissman will report to SPE Worldwide Business Affairs & Operations president Andrew Gumpert.
The film industry poured into town for the Toronto Film Festival’s Gala Opening Thursday night kickoff of Davis Guggenheim’s U2 movie, From the Sky Down. But the festival really got off and running earlier in the day, as least as far as Sony Pictures was concerned. The studio that could have had its first Best Picture Oscar win in more than two decades last year with The Social Network is serving notice that it is back in the race again this year with two potential Best Pic contenders. Both Brad Pitt’s Moneyball and George Clooney’s The Ides of March screened back-to-back in a theater packed with press and industry types this afternoon. This was in advance of the studio’s double gala premieres Friday night at the Roy Thomson Hall. That inevitably will provide a double dose of star power that film festival organizers can only dream of.
In the case of Moneyball, Sony is throwing its world premiere here. Bringing it to the screen was a tumultuous 8-year ride, but it was all worth it. You can definitely add Pitt to the growing list of Best Actor contenders and throw in Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill as supporting possibilities. The film, based on Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, is a baseball movie that even people who hate baseball might appreciate. It all started in 2003 when former New Line exec Rachael Horovitz tried to sell it to a studio but got no takers. Finally teaming with writer Stan Chervin (who gets a story credit), they threw a winning pitch, drawing fervent interest in 2004 from both Warners and Sony. They went with the latter and Amy Pascal, who I am told showed great passion for the project from day one.
Initially, baseball freak Steven Soderbergh was involved, but he had to pass because of other commitments, including another baseball-themed movie he had for George Clooney. Eventually Sony brought in producer Michael De Luca to join Horovitz and, five years later in 2009, Soderbergh was back to direct. But in a well-detailed case of creative differences the Oscar-winning director was jettisoned from the film just 72 hours before production was to begin when the studio changed its mind about his changes to Steven Zaillian’s adaptation. His primary addition included Reds-like testimonials from real-life players. Pitt, knowing a good thing when he saw it, stayed on board throughout. The project really got back on track with executive producer Scott Rudin coming aboard along with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who did a polish on Zaillian’s script (both get credit now), and the hiring of Bennett Miller (Capote) to replace Soderbergh.
It’s easy to see why Pitt would want to stick with this role even after his friend and Ocean’s 11 director Soderbergh left (he moved on to direct Contagion, which hits theaters today). This is a classic movie star role in the tradition of something that Robert Redford or Paul Newman would have done in their prime. He has never been better, and the movie is the best sports film since Bull Durham, a real triumph considering the long and winding road it took to get to the screen.
Actually, the full title is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance:
Sony said today that it has slated Columbia Pictures’ Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance for wide release on Feb. 17, 2012. The 3D film, a sequel to the 2007 original, again stars Nicolas Cage, and is directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
Norio Ohga, the former Sony chairman who helped revolutionize consumer electronics with handheld entertainment devices and who steered Sony into the entertainment biz with the acquisition of Columbia Pictures, died today of multiple organ failure in Tokyo. He was 81. (Sad that the current Sony Pictures Entertainment regime thought so little of Ohga’s passing that they didn’t even bother to inform the Hollywood media in a timely fashion.) Ohga, credited with developing the compact disc, led Sony from 1982 to 1995 after being talented-spotted by Sony founders Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita while still a university student. Some decisions made during Ohga’s tenure, such as the $5 billion purchase of CBS Records and then the Hollywood studio, were criticized as unwise and costly at the time. But Ohga insisted that “hardware and software are two wheels on a car,” and his focus on music, films, and video games as a way to enrich the electronics business helped create Sony’s success in his era. His own love of music and first career as an opera singer led him to ensure the CD held 75 minutes of music — enough to store Beethoven’s complete Ninth Symphony.
Also, his outgoing persona also made him comfortable with Americans, and he put the first non-Japanese, American physicist Mickey Schulhof, on the Sony board (they both shared passions for ham radios and jet planes), which later paved the way for the hiring of Howard Stringer as Sony Corp’s first non-Japanese chairman. ”It is no exaggeration to attribute Sony’s evolution beyond audio and video products into music, movies and game, and subsequent transformation into a global entertainment leader to Ohga-san’s foresight and vision,” Stringer said today.
Ohga stopped being involved in Sony’s day-to-day business in 2000. But had he been in charge I bet he never would have allowed Sony to become an also-ran to such electronics pioneers as Samsung and Apple as it has become in the last decade. Ohga saw Sony’s big consumer mistake of betting on its proprietary VCR technology of Beta over what became the industry standard of VHS. But that’s why Ohga bought into Hollywood and brought in Schulhof to head Sony USA and its entertainment subsidiaries: so that Sony would never be left out in the cold again by showbiz on such format decisions. With Ohga’s blessing, Schulhof negotiated a compromise between Sony’s proprietary CD technology and other showbiz companies and electronics makers to create a single industry standard. Again this paved the way for the same thing to happen for DVDs and Blu-ray.
Ohga assumed the blame when Schulhof brought in producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters to run Sony Pictures Entertainment, and they and their handpicked execs performed so poorly that Sony Corp took a humiliating $3.2 billion write-down on the studio in 1994. There also was considerable management turmoil inside CBS Records. On the other hand, Ohga with Schulhof oversaw one of the fastest start-ups in Sony’s history, Sony Electronic Publishing, whose CD-ROM compact discs led in market share until the format gave way to new technology as did Sony’s CDs and mini-discs. However, both missed, together with Bill Gates, the Internet phenom. Here is Sony’s official obituary:
Tokyo, Japan – It is with great sadness that Sony Corporation today announced the loss of Norio Ohga, Senior Advisor and former President and Chairman, Sony Corporation. Mr. Ohga passed away at 9:14 AM on April 23, 2011 in Tokyo. The cause of death was multiple organ failure. He was 81 years old. A private wake will be held among family and close relatives, and a company service will take place at a later date.
Commenting on today’s loss, Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President, Sony Corporation said, “When I first joined Sony in 1997, Ohga-san was serving on the frontlines of Sony management as Chairman and CEO. His numerous and successful endeavors were well-known both inside and outside of Sony. Witnessing Ohga-san’s leadership firsthand was truly an honor, and one I continued to enjoy and benefit from in countless ways in the years that followed.
By redefining Sony as a company encompassing both hardware and software, Ohga-san succeeded where other Japanese companies failed. It is no exaggeration to attribute Sony’s evolution beyond audio and video products into music, movies and game, and subsequent transformation into a global entertainment leader to Ohga-san’s foresight and vision.
I offer my deepest condolences on his passing and pray that he may rest in peace.”
Emmy winner Bryan Cranston is in talks to play the villain in Columbia’s remake of Total Recall. Colin Farrell is starring in the sci-fi action pic, which is being directed by Len Wiseman and produced by Neal Moritz’s Original Films. (The main female roles have not been cast, though we know some names are in play.) Cranston’s casting would add to the Breaking Bad star’s growing lineup of film roles, which include parts in the recent The Lincoln Lawyer as well as the upcoming Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and next year’s John Carter of Mars from Disney.
Sony’s Columbia Pictures has acquired rights to adapt the just-released Joshua Foer book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything for Matt Tolmach to produce. The story centers on the author’s real-life experience as a science journalist covering the US Memory Championship who decides to become a participant in the event. Said Columbia president Doug Belgrad, who made the announcement: “This is a very special book which transcends the already fascinating subject of memory. By explaining in personal and entertaining fashion a great deal about how our brains work, Joshua has written a book that sheds light on how memory is connected to humanity.” Hannah Minghella and Rachel O’Connor will oversee development for Columbia.
Tolmach Productions made news Tuesday when it hired former Overture exec Robert Kessel as SVP of Production.
(Culver City, March 10, 2011) — Columbia Pictures has promoted Sam Dickerman to Executive Vice President of Production, it was announced today by Doug Belgrad, President of Columbia Pictures.
Dickerman, who has served as Senior Vice President of Production for the label since joining the studio in 2005, has overseen a series of hits including Click, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Salt, Grown Ups and Just Go With It, among others. Dickerman was the studio’s point person on Battle: Los Angeles and is currently working on such highly anticipated films as Zookeeper, I Hate You Dad, and Total Recall, all of which were recently added to the studio’s 2012 summer slate, as well as the upcoming Kevin James comedy Here Comes The Boom.
Sony’s Columbia Skeds Summer 2012 Slate: ‘I Hate You, Dad’ 6/22; ‘Here Comes The Boom’ 7/27; ‘Total Recall’ Reboot 8/3
Mike Fleming has already scooped extensively on all these movies. Here’s the Sony news release with Summer 2012 dates:
CULVER CITY, Calif., February 25, 2011 – Summer 2012 is heating up for moviegoers as Columbia Pictures adds three highly anticipated films to its summer slate, it was announced today by Jeff Blake, chairman, Worldwide Marketing and Distribution for Sony Pictures. Joining the strong summer line-up that already includes Men in Black™ 3 in 3D (May 25) and The Amazing Spider-Man™ in 3D (July 3), the studio will release I Hate You, Dad, starring Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg, on June 22, Here Comes the Boom, starring Kevin James, on July 27, and a re-imagining of Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell, on August 3.
Commenting on the announcement, Blake said, “Not only do we have two of our most exciting franchises back in theaters with Men in Black 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man, but the three movies we added to the slate today round out a fantastic schedule. We love comedy in the summer and you can’t ask for better stars than Adam Sandler and Kevin James. Total Recall has us excited not only because of its incredible pedigree – we love the original story and the first film – but we think this new project will really hit home with a new generation of moviegoers.”
I Hate You, Dad centers on a father (Sandler) who moves in on the eve of his son’s (Samberg) wedding
CULVER CITY, Calif., January 10, 2011 – Michael Marshall has been promoted to Executive Vice President, Business Affairs, it was announced today by Andrew Gumpert, President of Worldwide Business Affairs and Operations for Columbia Pictures. In that role, he will continue to negotiate development and production related deals for Columbia Pictures’ feature projects, including rights acquisition and personal services deals for writers, directors, producers, and actors. Marshall joined Columbia Pictures in 2008 as Senior Vice President, Business Affairs. Since then, he has overseen the deals for The Bounty Hunter and the forthcoming film Battle: Los Angeles, and is currently overseeing business affairs on the next Spider-Man film, Men in Black 3, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as well as Total Recall, which is now in development.
BREAKING: Sony Pictures Entertainment has just announced this:
LONGTIME COLUMBIA PICTURES CHIEFS MATT TOLMACH AND DOUG BELGRAD TRANSITION INTO NEW ROLES
Tolmach Launches New Production Company and Joins Spider-Man Team As Belgrad Promoted to Sole President of Columbia Pictures
– Hannah Minghella Named President of Production for Historic Banner–
(Culver City, Calif. – October 29, 2010) – Matt Tolmach has launched a new production company and will become a producer on the next installment of Spider-Man, the blockbuster film franchise he helped shepherd since its inception in 2002, it was announced today by Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman. Doug Belgrad has been promoted to sole president of Columbia Pictures and will take on additional divisional responsibilities. As part of the transition, Belgrad has named Hannah Minghella president of production for Columbia Pictures.
Said Pascal, “I couldn’t be happier for or prouder of Matt, Doug and Hannah. Matt and I have worked together for over 15 years. Anyone who knows him knows he has been talking about this for a long time. He has always approached every project he has ever worked on with the attentiveness of a brilliant producer’s eye and that is what has made him such an excellent executive. As he takes this amazing step with his career, I know we will continue working together for as long as we are both in this business. We tried to convince him to stay in his current job, but we understand the time has
Yes, this is a reimagining of the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster. Sony announced today that Len Wiseman is in final negotiations to direct Total Recall. (Funny how, two days ago, Wiseman’s agency ICM denied anything substantive was going on…) Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, the presidents of Columbia Pictures, said the film will be a new, contemporized adaptation of Total Recall, which was based on the story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. Kurt Wimmer is writing the screenplay. Neal H. Moritz will produce through his Original Film banner. Toby Jaffe will oversee production on behalf of Original Film. Columbia Pictures secured the rights to Total Recall from Miramax. He most recently directed the pilot for “Hawaii Five-O” and is co-writer and producer of the upcoming Underworld 4. If this is Wiseman’s next film, it would be a blow for Fox’s hopes to have Wiseman return and direct Die Hard 5. As recently as last week at Comic-Con, Bruce Willis was quoted as saying he’d love to do another with Wiseman, after their collaboration on Die Hard 4 put vigor back into that franchise.
Some action on the feature front. Sony’s Columbia Pictures attached Barry Levinson to direct Brother Jack, a Mosaic-produced drama based on the life of human rights activist Jack Healey. Harley Peyton wrote the script and Kelly Masterson is rewriting. Levinson’s got a little momentum from the Jack Kevorkian biopic You Don’t Know Jack which he directed for HBO to 15 Emmy nominations today…
I must amend a recent post about the lack of starpower (compared to other versions of the film contemplated over the years) in the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. There’s a recognizable name in the cast of a movie that financier John Aglialoro put into production just before he would have lost the rights to the author’s estate. It’s filmmaker Nick Cassavetes, who’s playing the role of Richard McNamara. The film is being directed by Paul Johansson (who also plays John Galt), and Johansson acted in the Cassavetes-directed Alpha Dog. Cassavetes, who is also playing himself in current episodes of Entourage, is moonlighting as he and Warner Bros work out a cast for the remake of A Star Is Born that he plans to direct…
Despite reports to the contrary, Oscar-winning Crazy Heart star Jeff Bridges is not starring in Great Hope Springs. That’s the film that Mike Nichols is eyeing to direct and Meryl Streep is in talks to star in the saga of a couple whose 30-year marriage is crumbling and hinges on an intense couples’ counseling weekend. Bridges was never firm, and given his …
Hollywood has newly minted its next star, and it’s baby-faced Andrew Garfield. [UPDATE: I'm told Garfield's pay scale on the film is around $500,000 salary on the first film, $1 million for the second one, and $2 million for the third film. All of the finalists were presented with those terms in a deal for one film and two options.] I was first to tell you the 26-year-old was a finalist to play the new Spider-Man in the Marc Webb-directed 3D relaunch of Sony Picture Entertainment’s most lucrative film franchise. Also under consideration were Jamie Bell, Anton Yelchin, Aaron Johnson, Logan Lerman, Alden Ehrenreich, Frank Dillane, and Michael Angarano. Sony execs viewed the screen tests of six of those eight finalists last Friday night. Garfield’s biggest break until today was being cast in the upcoming David Fincher-directed The Social Network about the Facebook founders; my sources say his scene-stealing star turn in it is the reason he snagged the role of Spidey over the other finalists.
The young thesp also can be seen in The Other Boleyn Girl and The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus and The Red Riding Trilogy and the upcoming Never Let Me Go. Born in Los Angeles to a British mother and an American father, he moved with his family to Surrey, England when he was 3. He was trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and then began acting primarily on stage. He played Romeo once, and modeled in Vogue, and …
EXCLUSIVE: Sony’s Columbia Pictures is getting closer to finding its new Spider-Man. I On Friday, studio decision-makers viewed the screen tests of most of the young actors they are seriously considering to play Peter Parker in the Marc Webb-directed relaunch of Spider-Man.
I’m told that nobody has won the job yet. It is possible that more candidates will be added. But there is a strong list of actors who screen tested, and most likely the new Peter Parker is among them. I’m told that the candidates whose screen tests were viewed Friday are: Jamie Bell (the Billy Elliot star who wrapped the Kevin Macdonald-directed The Eagle of the Ninth) , Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin, Kick-Ass’s Aaron Johnson, Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) and Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro). Frank Dillane (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) and Michael Angerano (Lords of Dogtown) are also in the final list that the studio is working from. I’m not sure if Angarano tested. I’ve heard Dillane decided not to because he is likely headed to attend drama school at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
The studio wants to lock in its superhero soon, so that supporting roles can be cast around him. Production will begin before the year ends and the film has locked a July 3, 2012 release. The script by Jamie Vanderbilt is still being worked on, and (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb …
Columbia Pictures has made another deal with its Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer. The filmmaker has signed on to develop to direct Babe in the Woods, a Mike White-scripted comedy about a female freshman who arrives at Yale and is targeted by the New Jersey mob. White and David Bernad are producing for White’s Rip Cord banner. It’s a priority project for Colpix presidents Matt Tolmach and Doug Belgrad.
Columbia is also expected to get distribution rights to the Media Rights Capital comedy 30 Minutes or Less, and the studio is working with Fleischer on a sequel to Zombieland, which was his feature helming debut. Fleischer is directing Danny McBride as a pizza deliveryman, with Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg also starring and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour producing. Fleischer separately set an untitled pitch at DreamWorks which he’ll direct and produce with Nicholas Stoller and Gavin Polone.