Lee Daniels’ The Butler co-star Terrence Howard is reuniting with the movie’s director Lee Daniels and writer Danny Strong, this time on TV. Howard is set as the lead in Empire, Fox‘s drama pilot from Strong, Daniels and Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, Empire is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire. It centers on Lucious Lyon (Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Raised on the streets, he has never backed away from a fight and will resort to any measures, fair or foul, to defend his beloved Empire. 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing, with Strong, Daniels, Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing. Empire, which is geared toward series per Fox’s new development model, extends Howard’s relationship with the network where he co-stars on the upcoming event series Wayward Pines. His series credits also include Law & Order: LA. Howard is repped by CAA and Authentic.
Related: 2014 Fox Pilots
Fox has given a pilot order to drama Empire, from the duo behind hit feature Lee Daniels’ The Butler – writer Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels — and Imagine’s Brian Grazer, who brought the two back together. Per Fox’s new development model, the project will be geared toward series, with Fox likely picking up additional materials, but the nature of that supplemental order (backup scripts, bible?) is still being fired out. Empire had a put pilot commitment at Fox after sparking a heated bidding war in September. Written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, Empire is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire. 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing, with Strong, Daniels, Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing. The project marks Daniels’ TV debut, while Strong started his writing career in TV with the HBO telefilms Recount and Game Change, earning Emmy nominations for both and winning for Game Change. At Fox, Imagine has upcoming drama series Gang Related and event series 24: Live Another Day.
After two and a half years of negotiations were completed earlier this year, 20th Century Fox is at last moving forward with its remake of Guys And Dolls. The studio has set Danny Strong to write the script adaptation. Strong scripted the final two installments of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, after scripting Lee Daniels’ The Butler and adapting the Dan Brown Da Vinci Code sequel The Lost Symbol. This is the project based on Damon Runyon’s short stories that captured the rogue gangsters and gamblers of the 1920s and 1930s, which starred Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. Over the years, those interested included Bob Fosse, Baz Luhrmann, and Hugh Jackman, and I reported earlier this year that the studio was intrigued by the potential pairing of Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though there is no shortage of actors who want this. First, of course, they need a script.
Fox just turned Samuel Goldwyn’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty into the Ben Stiller-directed remake with Goldwyn’s son, Sam Jr and grandson John Goldwyn among the producers. They will be the producers of Guys And Dolls.
Related: Fox Seals ‘Guys And Dolls’ Rights; Wants Tatum, Gordon-Levitt To Fill Sinatra And Brando’s Shoes
In the musical, Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) has a town full of captive gamblers and wants to set up a floating crap game but needs money to do it. He bets his pal Sky Masterson (Brando) that Sky can’t get the wholesome Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) — who runs a mission — to go with him to Havana. Frank Loesser wrote the music and lyrics, and Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows wrote the book. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical when it premiered in 1950, and won the 1951 Pulitzer for Drama, until the troubles Burrows was having with the House Un-American Activities Committee caused the Trustees of Columbia University to veto the selection. Guys And Dolls was first turned into the 1955 movie with classic Loesser songs included “Luck Be A Lady”, and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat”. Deals were completed with the various estates including Samuel Goldwyn, Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling. Read More »
One of the most poignant moments to come out of last Saturday’s Deadline event THE CONTENDERS was the story relayed by screenwriter Danny Strong and co-producer Pam Williams demonstrating the late Laura Ziskin‘s unbridled passion for getting Lee Daniels’ The Butler to the screen against all odds. As one of the film’s key producers (she is posthumously eligible for a Best Picture Oscar and PGA nomination along with Williams and Daniels) her dedication and tenacity to what would eventually become a hit film and true contender even was evident the week she died as this segment powerfully proves.
The Contenders 2013: ‘All Is Lost’ And Robert Redford’s Heavy Breathing (Video)
Notes from Monday night’s 23rd annual Pen Center USA Literary Awards Festival:
These awards, handed out at a ritzy gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel, celebrate the “freedom to write” and generally honor books. But there were a few showbiz awards thrown in including the Screenplay honor to Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty and its television counterpart to Danny Strong for HBO’s Game Change. Kickstarter even got in on the game, winning the Award Of Honor. But the big news was happening out in front of the hotel as the Motion Picture Editors Guild followed through on threats reported on Deadline to protest the Freedom To Write award to Sonia Nassery Cole, director/co-writer/producer of Afghanistan’s 2010 Foreign Language Oscar entry The Black Tulip. Several members were there with signs claiming she stiffed them back pay for their work on the film. The protest didn’t seem to dampen the mood inside the ballroom (there was no acknowledgement of the dispute) as she won a hearty ovation when Oscar-nominated actress Shoreh Aghdashloo introduced her to receive the evening’s final award. Cole’s speech focused heavily on the fight for freedom and peace in Afghanistan, pointing out her time there was “Hell on Earth”. Her anti-Taliban book and film enabled her to fight against them, she said.”Freedom is something I have been fighting for my entire life, and for me freedom is not free. We have to fight for it every single day of our lives, especially when you go to a country like Afghanistan,” she said, although the protesters outside would probably say making a movie is “not free” either. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The duo behind hit feature Lee Daniels’ The Butler – writer Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels — are reuniting, this time in television. Strong and Daniels have been brought back together by Brian Grazer for a hip hop drama project that sparked heated bidding among the four major broadcast networks before landing at Fox with a put pilot commitment. Written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, the untitled project is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip hop empire. 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing, with Strong, Daniels, Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing. The deal for the TV project comes just as Butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, crossed the $100 million box office mark in North America. It would mark Daniels’ TV debut, while Strong started his writing career in TV with HBO’s Recount and Game Change, earning Emmy nominations for both and winning for Game Change. Imagine has Parenthood on NBC and the rebooted Arrested Development on Netflix as well as upcoming series Gang Related and Those Who Kill on A&E. Strong and Daniels are with CAA, which also … Read More »
There is no deal in place for him to write Lionsgate‘s two-part finale to The Hunger Games, but we’re hearing it’s likely to happen. The Game Change scribe is coming off a big Emmys, where the HBO movie swept the longform categories including winning for his script about Sarah Palin and the 2008 presidential race. Mockingjay is the third in the Suzanne Collins book trilogy and is being split into two movies a la Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. The second movie in the franchise, Catching Fire, is due out November 23, 2013, while Mockingjay has been dated for November 21, 2014 (Part I) and November 20, 2015 (Part II). The first film in the series bowed in March and has grossed $685 million worldwide.
EXCLUSIVE: Game Change writer Danny Strong, The Fighter director David O. Russell and Oscar winner Robert De Niro have teamed for a legal drama series inspired by a famous New York father/daughter lawyer duo, which has sold to CBS. The project hails from De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Prods. and CBS TV Studios. Strong is writing, Russell is set to direct, with the two executive producing alongside De Niro, Rosenthal and Diane Nabatoff. The drama is inspired by the father-and-daughter defense attorneys Murray and Stacey Richman. It will center on a fictionalized version of the Richmans’ Bronx firm, where clients as notorious on the street as they are on Page Six.
In the almost 50 years of practicing law, Murray Richman, nickname “Don’t Worry Murray,” has worked for clients ranging from hip-hop stars like Jay-Z to the upper echelon of the Genovese and Lucchese crime families to former NY Governor Eliott Spitzer’s escort procurer. In addition to his cases, Murray is famous for his courtroom quips, like “I love a murder trial — one less witness to worry about” and “I’ll be brief… I’m already short.” (He is 5’6″). Below is documentarymaker Errol Morris’ video … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Danny Strong, who wrote the Jay Roach-directed HBO films Recount and the upcoming Sarah Palin pic Game Change, is stepping up to features. Sony Pictures has set him to write The Lost Symbol, Sony’s third installment of the Dan Brown-penned thrillers focusing on symbologist Robert Langdon. The expectation is that the film will be directed by Mark Romanek after Ron Howard opted out of directing the third film, with Howard producing with Imagine partner Brian Grazer after he helmed the blockbusters The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Grazer produced the first two films in the series with the late John Calley.
Strong comes in after Brown had a hand in writing a script as did Steven Knight. The project is a priority for the studio. The Da Vinci Code grossed $758 million worldwide in 2006, and while Angels & Demons dropped off to a $486 million worldwide gross in 2009, that is still a big box office haul. Tom Hanks, who played Langdon in the first two thrillers, is expected to reprise, but no commitment has been made at this point. Hanks is starring for Sony Pictures in A Captain’s Duty, playing heroic captain Richard Phillips in the Somali pirate drama that will be directed by Paul Greengrass. Strong is repped by CAA.
Sarah Palin is getting the movie treatment with HBO Films’ Game Change. Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore will portray the former Alaska governor in the project, which will chronicle Palin’s burst into the national scene as a surprise vice presidential candidate in 2008. Directing Game Change is Jay Roach, director of the Meet the Parents movies as well as the HBO film Recount, which examined the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election with a focus on the Florida recount.
Game Change is based on Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s book about the 2008 presidential elections and follows John McCain’s campaign from his selection of Palin as his running mate to their ultimate defeat in the general election.
Danny Strong, who previously wrote the Roach-directed Recount, penned the script for Game Change. Roach is executive producing, with Strong co-executive producing.
So far, Palin has been most famously portrayed on TV by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live. Palin herself works a contributor on Fox News Channel and became a reality TV star with her limited series, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, which ran on TLC to sold ratings.
Rachael Horovitz, the producer who originally set up the Michael Lewis book Moneyball at Columbia about overachieving Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, has found a new sports figure to hang a picture on. Horovitz has teamed with Recount screenwriter Danny Strong to option the Wil Haygood biography Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson. Haygood will write the screenplay. He met Strong on The Butler, the Sony Pictures Entertainment film that has Lee Daniels attached to direct and Laura Ziskin to produce a film about Eugene Allen, who observed the civil rights struggle as an eight-term White House butler and was brought back after retirement to see Barack Obama inaugurated as the first African American president. Strong wrote that script, based on a series of articles that Haygood’ wrote for the Washington Post. Read More »