As the story about the hijacking of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama unfolded on television in 2009, producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti were transfixed. It was the first time a U.S. vessel had been seized by pirates since the 19th century, and it seemed to have the makings of a great movie. “We weren’t sure because it looked like it was going to be a very grim outcome,” Brunetti explains. “As Mike says, it (could have been) more of a Sundance movie.” But the story did end well. Captain Phillips (Sony) earned $25.7 million domestically in its October opening weekend, and Tom Hanks’ lead performance is drawing awards buzz.
AwardsLine: How did you first become involved with Captain Phillips?
Michael De Luca: We watched the news story, and after the situation was resolved, we thought there was a really good movie in there — stuff you couldn’t get from the news, like what was being said within the lifeboat, what the Navy was dealing with, getting all the assets into the region. So after we decided it would be a good movie, we took the next step, which was to see if the real Captain Phillips would engage with us. That’s where Dana and (production company) Trigger Street picked up the ball.
Dana Brunetti: About a week or so (after the rescue), I got the OK to go and meet with (Richard Phillips) in Vermont. He had just gotten back. I sat down at dinner with him, and he still had bruises on his wrist from being bound. You would never believe that he’d just gone through what he’d gone through because he’s just an everyman — dry sense of humor and just a regular good guy. Actually, I thought I’d have something in common with him because I was in the Coast Guard. So I threw that out and I found out that he’s not a big fan of the Coast Guard. (Laughs.) It was like, “Let’s change the topic.” About a week later, he said he wanted to go with us, but he wanted to wait for the book (A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS And Dangerous Days At Sea, on which the film was based) to be done. He came back to us when it was done, and we went to Sony and set it up there. Read More »
BREAKING: Mike DeLuca and Dana Brunetti have been tapped to produce Fifty Shades Of Grey, the Universal Pictures/Focus Features movie adaptation of the bestselling steamy trilogy. De Luca and Brunetti (who runs Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street production company) teamed on The Social Network and Captain Phillips, the Paul Greengrass-directed film that stars Tom Hanks. The studio has just confirmed the hire, which came after a round of meetings with author E.L. James and her British agent Valerie Hoskins that involved a number of high level producers. Led by co-chairman Donna Langley, Universal won a heated bidding battle for screen rights to the trilogy, which sold in a multimillion dollar deal. Langley and De Luca go back a long way, to when Langley was a production executive at New Line and De Luca was president of production. De Luca most recently was a producer of Moneyball. They will now figure out who’ll write and direct the film, and star in what will be an R-rated adult-themed film. There has been keen interest, including an informal conversation with Angelina Jolie about directing it (the studio was impressed by her helming debut, In The Land Of Blood And Honey.)
‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Heating Up With Angelina Jolie Talk
Will ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Lead Studios To Rethink Their Gotham Outposts?
The book has become a runaway bestseller, with sales approaching 20 million copies … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox is closing a deal for screen rights to the oral history ESPN: Those Guys Have All The Fun. The studio will develop a feature about the formation of the 24-hour sports network. The pic will be produced by Michael De Luca, Trigger Street’s Dana Brunetti and Julie Yorn. The book by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales follows a format similar to Live From New York, the oral history they wrote about Saturday Night Live. Here, they use the voices of past and present ESPN personalities and producers to tell the story of how a father and son maxed out their credit cards to scrape together the cash to reserve a satellite transponder so they could show sporting events nonstop on a 24-hour station. The book is a gossipy journey about how that venture turned from a 1970s joke that started with broadcasts of Australian rules football and rodeo, to a dominant brand in the sporting world that broadcast pro football and baseball games and become arguably the most profitable cable network ever created. Read More »
UPDATE: I’ve learned that Memphis won’t be an impediment to Paul Greengrass directing this Somali pirate movie, so I expect this to move quickly and that this will be the director’s next film.
EARLIER: Director Paul Greengrass and Sony Pictures have moved a step closer to the filmmaker coming aboard to steer the Sony Pictures’ Somali pirate drama to star Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips. Greengrass was among a short list of directors for the gig but I’m told Sony Pictures has just offered him the picture and talks are about to begin. Phillips was the skipper of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama who gave himself up as a hostage to Somali pirates to keep his crew from having to leave the ship with them. After three days of being held hostage alone with the armed pirates in a small lifeboat, Phillips was saved by Navy SEALs who staged a dramatic rescue that left the captain unharmed, three captors dead and another in custody. The film is based on Phillips’ memoir A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea, which was published last year by Hyperion. Sony Pictures’ The Social Network team of Scott Rudin, Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti and Kevin Spacey are producing. Hanks signed on in March after sparking to a script written by Billy Ray. Elizabeth Cantillon is supervising for Sony Pictures.
… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: After directing Easy A and the upcoming Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis bedroom comedy Friends With Benefits for Screen Gems, Will Gluck has made a two-year development and production deal with Sony Pictures that covers TV and film and involves Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Television. Gluck started his directing career at Screen Gems with Fired Up!, and after Easy A grossed north of $75 million, Screen Gems’ Clint Culpepper greenlit Friends With Benefits and bought another project to reteam Gluck with Emma Stone. Gluck is currently developing Sex On The Moon at Columbia Pictures for producers Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael DeLuca. Gluck started out in TV as a staffer for The John Larroquette Show and was a writing producer on several other sitcoms, so it’s conceivable that TV will be an important component in a deal negotiated by UTA.
I’d heard this deal was coming weeks ago, and waited for the studio to announce it through Deadline with Sony toppers Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, and Screen Gems president Culpepper. Pascal called Gluck “an extraordinary talent who has a unique comedic voice. He has now directed three films for us, and each one was distinctive and contemporary. He writes and directs movies that are timeless, hilarious, engaging and disarming. Michael, Clint and I have loved working with him, and this deal will allow him to channel his energy in any creative direction he hopes to pursue.”
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Entertainment is attaching Tom Hanks to play Captain Richard Phillips, the leader of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama who gave himself up as a hostage to Somali pirates to keep his crew from having to leave the ship with them. After three days alone with the armed pirates in a small lifeboat, Phillips was saved by Navy SEALs who staged a raid that left three captors dead and another in custody. Shortly after Phillips got a hero’s homecoming and signed with CAA to make a book deal, Sony Pictures optioned A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea, Phillips’ memoir of the harrowing ordeal. Hyperion published the book last year. Sony Pictures’ The Social Network team of Scott Rudin, Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti and Kevin Spacey are producing the film. Hanks sparked to a draft recently turned in by The Hunger Games scribe Billy Ray. Elizabeth Cantillon is supervising for Sony Pictures.
Hanks is currently working with Rudin in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the Stephen Daldry-directed Warner Bros/Paramount adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel that also stars Sandra Bullock and is under way in New York. Hanks doesn’t attach to many projects, but he also made plans to star with Toy Story cohort Tim Allen in a live-action version of Jungle Cruise for Disney. CAA reps Hanks.
Kevin Spacey’s and Dana Brunetti’s Trigger Street Prods have inked a first-look deal with HBO, and as part of the pact they’ll develop the drama project The Crux. There’s no pilot order. The project centers on a charismatic cult leader played by the Oscar winner. The Crux was taken around to cable networks 2 months ago and generated interest from at least 4 places: HBO, Showtime, Starz and FX. In the end, Spacey’s existing relationship with HBO steered the project there. Spacey most recently starred in the 2008 HBO movie Recount, which earned him an Emmy nomination, and the HBO film Bernard and Doris which landed 10 Emmy noms Trigger Street co-produced. and Spacey and Brunetti executive produced, landed 10 Emmy noms. Spacey is the latest Oscar winner to topline an HBO pilot this year. Dustin Hoffman stars in Luck, which has been picked up to series, and Diane Keaton headlines Tilda, whose fate has not been decided. On the feature side, Trigger Street has The Social Network coming out in October, Casino Jack (in which Spacey also stars) premiering at the Toronto Film Festival and Safe with Jason Statham going into producing later this year. Acting-wise, Spacey is currently shooting Horrible Bosses and just completed Margin Call.