Here’s an early trailer for Flight, Robert Zemeckis’ return to live-action directing after his foray into performance capture animation. It is nice to see the helmer of movies like Forrest Gump, Cast Away and Back To The Future return to the screen, particularly with Denzel Washington as a troubled pilot who saves his passengers in a crisis, but has some baggage that endangers his career.
Yesterday, my colleague Mike Fleming and I reported on Universal’s action pic 2 Guns starring Mark Wahlberg and with Denzel Washington in discussions. Emmett/Furla Films has today confirmed it will co-finance the film adding it has entered into an agreement with Foresight Unlimited to handle foreign distribution rights. Wahlberg’s Contraband helmer Baltasar Kormakur is directing. Emmett/Furla has also pacted with Foresight to handle romcom Rule #1 starring Reese Witherspoon. Foresight Unlimited’s Mark Damon and Tamara Stuparich De La Barra will be offering the films to buyers at the EFM with Brian O’Shea of The Exchange assisting in the sales efforts.
Rule #1 will be directed by Frozen River helmer Courtney Hunt. Randall Emmett and George Furla are producing together with Brad Epstein of Panther films and Witherspoon through her Type A Films banner. Remington Chase and Stepan Martirosyan are executive producing. Story follows a woman trying to cope with OCD who takes in an unpredictable young woman with a newborn baby in an effort to face her anxieties and ultimately get her estranged husband back.
EXCLUSIVE: Denzel Washington, whose most recent action effort Safe House premieres in New York tonight, is in discussions to take on another action drama involving Universal Pictures. He’s in early talks to join Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns, a film that’s based on a Steven Grant graphic novel published by Boom! Studios. Baltasar Kormakur will direct the film. He’s coming off the Universal remake of his own film Contraband, which starred Wahlberg. The script was written by Blake Masters. The financing of the film is still coming together, though I’m told that Emmett/Furla Films the likely co-financier. Marc Platt is producing along with Boom!’s Andrew Cosby and Ross Richie. Randall Emmett and George Furla will likely join that roster.
Universal has released a trailer for the spy thriller Safe House, which stars Denzel Washington as a rogue CIA agent and Ryan Reynolds as the guy trying to keep him alive. It looks like it could be fun watching Washington play a tough guy with a bit of bad in …
EXCLUSIVE: Summit Entertainment is in talks with McG to direct Puzzle Palace, the cop drama script by David Guggenheim. Summit acquired the project at a pitch early last year from Guggenheim after the scribe sold the spec script Safe …
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.
Deadline revealed a couple of weeks ago that Robert Zemeckis was dropping out of the Warner Bros drama Replay so he could direct Denzel Washington in the Paramount thriller Flight. Paramount just made that move official today:
HOLLYWOOD, CA (September 9, 2011) — Paramount Pictures announced today that Academy Award ® winner Denzel Washington will star, and Academy Award ® winning director Robert Zemeckis will helm, FLIGHT for the studio. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald will produce under the Parkes/MacDonald production banner along with Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, and Jack Rapke under their ImageMovers banner. The movie is set to begin shooting this October in Atlanta, GA.
Paul Greengrass In ‘Fear Index,’ Robert Zemeckis Out Of ‘Replay’ As He Takes ‘Flight’ With Denzel Washington
Back in June, Deadline revealed that Fox 2000 had acquired the Robert Harris thriller novel Fear Index, about a scientist who uses a revolutionary system of computer algorithms to trade on the volatility of the world’s financial markets. His hedge fund is wildly successful until he is targeted by an intruder who breaks into his home. At the time, I’d heard that Paul Greengrass was attached to direct, and his reps at CAA denied it. I wrote it anyway. Now, Harris has said in an interview for his soon to be published book that Greengrass is indeed going to direct and the filmmaker’s reps are now acknowledging it’s true. The novel will be published next month in the UK and January in the US. Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark and Jenno Topping are the producers. and Harris is scripting it. Greengrass next directs the Somali pirate pic A Captain’s Duty with Tom Hanks starring for Sony Pictures.
Robert Zemeckis has officially dropped out of the Warner Bros drama Replay, and the studio is trying to put the Jason Smilovic-scripted film back together with another filmmaker. Zemeckis exited because he has finally committed to direct Denzel Washington in the Paramount thriller Flight.
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline revealed this morning that Ridley Scott was returning to his sci-fi classic Blade Runner. His Scott Free partner and brother Tony Scott is also getting serious about a new version of a movie classic. Scott …
UPDATE EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have reached a milestone unusual in Hollywood: partners for 25 years. When they first got together, Grazer was a TV producer. Howard, after growing up on the small screen in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, had only directed a couple of TV movies and the low budget Roger Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto. Grazer and Howard have been at it together ever since, building a company that over 25 years has been one of the most consistent generators of content. Their TV series output includes 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights; their movies have grossed $13.5 billion worldwide. That includes A Beautiful Mind, which won Howard the Academy Award for Best Director. Grazer and Howard shared Best Picture Oscars that night as well. Not everything they’ve done has succeeded, of course. They they took their company public and repurchased the shares; they helped launched and fold the online venture Pop.com; their most recent film together, the adult comedy The Dilemma, was a misfire that created controversy over the inclusion of the word “gay” in a trailer. They’ve had way more hits than misses.
In honor of Imagine’s Silver Anniversary, Deadline invited Howard and Grazer to look back over their quarter century together, and into a future that includes something never tried before by anyone in Hollywood. They’re adapting Stephen King’s 7-novel series The Dark Tower into a film trilogy, and a limited run TV series in between. It has pushed the envelope enough that their longtime home studio, Universal Pictures, postponed a planned late summer start until next year and asked the filmmakers to cut the budget. Some question the studio’s resolve on such a massive undertaking. The studio has to green light the film by next month or the rights revert to Imagine, Akiva Goldsman and King, who are determined to make it regardless.
DEADLINE: Not many marriages of any kind last 25 years in Hollywood. What is most important about the anniversary?
HOWARD: It’s such a challenging time to get movies made. And yet, look at all we have coming out. Tower Heist, the Gus Van Sant movie Restless, J Edgar with Clint Eastwood and Leo DiCaprio, Cowboys & Aliens, this big broad appeal four quadrant fantasy adventure story with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. With The Playboy Club getting on the air, and Parenthood getting picked up, I’m proud we’re doing what we’ve always done. A wide variety of projects that got made because we care and put in the energy to get them done in light of how difficult it is these days.
DEADLINE: Simple as that?
HOWARD: Because I’m in New York, we’re not forced to stare at each other’s faces 24/7. But I think that’s not really it. We love what we’re doing, we have fun doing it and our sensibilities are in sync. In a business that can create so many feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, I learned to trust in that. Brian is smart and cares about me doing well and feeling good about what I’m doing. It’s a partnership built on support. It has been that way since the beginning.
GRAZER: It works because we have similar tastes and not only gravitate toward the same material but also what lives inside the core of the movie it becomes. We’ve done, and Ron has directed, all kinds of genres. We have a common interest in the humanity aspect of a movie, regardless if it’s a comedy or a drama. We also share a similar work ethic.
DEADLINE: When you cover all genres, does Imagine have a wheelhouse? For a company looking to last, is it advisable to have one?
HOWARD: The process is what gets Brian and me excited, whatever the genre. Not specializing has given our company a sense of flexibility and adaptability to whatever the market or the zeitgeist is suggesting. We’ve always respected each other as creative people. If Brian loves something and I don’t quite get it, I’ll tell him that but I’ll never try to impede the progress. He’s the same with me. With Apollo 13, I wasn’t sure the genre would work, because space films hadn’t done that well. Brian was instantly so excited about it, and made me realize we were onto something. 8 Mile, I don’t know anything about rap. This was something he understood. I didn’t know how to make that movie, but I recognized a great idea. Whenever the two of us get excited, on films like Splash, Night Shift and Parenthood, those have resulted in the building blocks of the company. I’ve always liked TV but I phased it out for awhile and it was Brian’s perseverance that has made us strong in both TV and films. Independent companies are rarely strong in both.
GRAZER: What we’ve do is agree on the moral center of a project, but nobody’s better at finding the language of a particular movie than Ron. He’s got a grasp of understanding new vocabularies, whether it’s the The Da Vinci Code, fantasy like Cocoon or Splash, or Backdraft and The Grinch. He is great at inhabiting a world and completely understanding and expressing its language. In A Beautiful Mind, he entered that world and understood the medical science of mental illness. So there have been times where he led the charge, and I was drawn in by his excitement.
DEADLINE: What was the last hard conversation or professional disagreement you can remember?
HOWARD: I can’t think of one offhand, but even when we have disagreements, I can’t think of a case where one of us ever said, ‘Oh, please don’t do this.’ If there’s a lot of passion from one or the other, then the support of the company is going to be there.
Legendary Pictures has announced it has made a deal to collaborate with the estate of Jackie Robinson and his widow Rachel on a feature biopic about the Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman who broke Major League Baseball’s color line. Brian Helgeland will write the script and direct the film. Legendary chairman Thomas Tull will produce and Jon Jashni will be exec producer. Notably, Dick Cook, who has been quiet since leaving as Walt Disney Studios chairman, will be an exec producer on the film, which will be made under Legendary’s overall deal at Warner Bros. Cook is on the Legendary board and he and Tull have become close. They are also big baseball fans, which led to Cook involving himself in the picture.
Hollywood has long been interested in bringing Robinson’s story to the screen. Spike Lee once tried to direct a version with Denzel Washington in the lead role. And Robert Redford has for years tried to tackle the story from the vantage point of Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers executive who signed Robinson and put him on the team. Redford has long wanted to play the role of Rickey. The project was stalled for years, though it recently got ink that it was resuscitated, mainly on the basis of Redford saying he still wanted to play the role, though there was no indication of who would fund it.