EXCLUSIVE: Jesse Zwick is making his directorial debut with ensemble drama About Alex, with Oscar-winning father Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz exec producing for their Bedford Falls Company shingle. The Footprint Features co-production stars Aubrey Plaza (The To-Do List) and a line-up of rising TV and film thesps including Jason Ritter (Parenthood), Max Greenfield (New Girl), Nate Parker (Arbitrage), Maggie Grace (Taken), Max Minghella (The Internship), and Jane Levy (Evil Dead, Suburgatory). Story picks up with seven college friends who reunite Big Chill-style one long weekend after one of their own attempts suicide. The pals wax philosophical on past relationships, old crushes, and bad decisions and how life has changed post-college in the Facebook/Twitter age.
Zwick, who’s written for NBC’s Parenthood, scripted the film. Adam Saunders is producing About Alex for Footprint Features, which also financed the indie. Producing duo Zwick and Herskovitz (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance), meanwhile, are also exec producing The Boys of Abu Ghraib and produced Family Weekend with Footprint Features.
EXCLUSIVE: As Tom Cruise today looks to strengthen his box office foothold with Oblivion after a huge overseas opening last weekend, I’ve been wondering when Will Smith was going to start cranking them out again. Looks like he’s chosen this week to really get back into the mix: He signed to do the Warner Bros grifter pic Focus, and I’m told that Sony Pictures and his Overbrook Entertainment partner James Lassiter and Jada Pinkett Smith have revived American Can, and are now looking to Ed Zwick to direct Smith in a reluctant hero role that seems like a tailor-fit. He will play John Keller, a real guy who returned from Gulf War service looking for a new challenge, and found one after Hurricane Katrina devastated his home city of New Orleans. He found a boat and was moving to safety when he saw a blind elderly woman, stranded and calling for her son. Knowing she would certainly die if he passed by, Keller brought her back to safety in the American Can building. Shortly after, he found many more stranded seniors, and brought each of them back, around 244 in total, to American Can, a building that at least was dry. It was tricky business, but using his resourcefulness and his military training to get food drops to feed his new friends, he kept them alive and eventually found enough boats to lead them all to safety. Read More »
BREAKING … Ed Zwick has fallen off The Great Wall, the epic-sized film meant to be the first major film to kick off Legendary East that got postponed earlier this year, partly because of weather and partly because funding was still coming together. Even though Zwick is out, the film is expected to happen next year. Legendary Pictures set Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star Benjamin Walker to join Man of Steel‘s Henry Cavill, and Zhang Ziyi and other Chinese talent were also being courted for the film when the decision was made to postpone.
Related: CAA China’s Peter Loehr Hired As Legendary East CEO Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: While Legendary Pictures just set Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star Benjamin Walker on Friday to join Man of Steel‘s Henry Cavill in the Ed Zwick-directed The Great Wall, a decision has just been made to push from a fall start date until next spring.
Rumors have been racing this weekend that The Great Wall might be crumbling but I’m told that is not the case. In fact, casting on the film continues with Zhang Ziyi (pictured) and other Chinese talent is also being courted for the film.
Related: CAA China’s Peter Loehr Hired As Legendary East CEO
The issue is weather. The film will shoot in locations in China and New Zealand, and logistically it will be easier to do this in the spring than if the picture keeps its fall start date. Insiders tell me the film will happen, even though a domestic distributor hasn’t yet been secured. It is meant to be the first major film to kick off Legendary East, and with every studio looking for opportunities to make films in China, the project certainly seems viable.
Set in 15th century China, The Great Wall is about British warriors who happen upon the hurried construction of the massive wall. As night falls, the warriors realize that the haste in building the wall isn’t just to keep out the Mongols — there is something inhuman and more dangerous. The picture is based on an idea by … Read More »
Freelance journalist Dominic Patten is covering the case for Deadline.
Warner Bros Lawyers Dig In Garbage Over ‘Last Samurai’ Suit
Despite a federal judge’s ruling today removing Warner Bros and writer John Logan as defendants from The Last Samurailawsuit, plaintiffs attorney John Marder said he may not be finished with the studio yet. Representing screenwriters Aaron and Matthew Benay, Marder told Deadline he was “researching whether or not I will appeal.” As for Warner Bros, “We are gratified the District Court has completely vindicated us from this spurious claim.” But the judge also rejected efforts by Warner Bros’ outside counsel Daniel Petrocelli to secure compensation for the studio and Logan. “We are very pleased with the court’s ruling denying Warner Bros and John Logan’s request for terminating and monetary sanction,” Marder said. But Bedford Falls’ Ed Zwick, who directed The Last Samurai, and Marshall Herskowtiz still will have to defend themselves in court. Read More »
UPDATE: Legendary East released the following statement: “The goal is to relaunch a placing exercise in 2012. Legendary East will issue a formal announcement when the new structure and transaction is solidified.”
PREVIOUS: Legendary East’s proposed partner Paul Y Engineering has put its $220.5 million investment in the venture on hold. The Hong Kong construction company said it had been unable to raise the necessary funds in a share sale to investors ahead of the year-end deadline. PYE chairman Ir James Chiu maintained that the placement had received “a positive and substantial response,” but said “we anticipate that under the current difficult environment of the capital markets the placing will not be able to close before the long stop date, being 31 December 2011.” Thomas Tull unveiled Legendary East in June in partnership with China’s Huayi Brothers and with plans to co-produce English-language features and related content for a worldwide audience. In August, publicly-traded PYE emerged as an investor saying it would raise the $220.5 million by issuing new shares in Hong Kong. Under that deal, PYE was to have owned 50% of Legendary East. PYE says it hasn’t entirely thrown in the towel, however, indicating in a press release that the joint venture parties may continue to discuss options to modify the structure of the deal and relaunch a placement in 2012. In August it was announced that Ed Zwick’s The Great Wall would be the first film under the Legendary East banner. Below is the PYE release.
PYI and Paul Y. Engineering Announce Lapse of Film Joint Venture Investment
(29 December 2011, Hong Kong) – Bulk cargo port and infrastructure group PYI Corporation Limited (“PYI”, 0498.HK) and its subsidiary, Paul Y. Engineering Group Limited (“PYE”, 0577.HK) announced the Independent Placing Agreement, the AID Subscription Agreement and the Legendary East Subscription Agreement, each as entered into by PYE, will lapse or be terminated with effect from the long stop date of 31 December 2011. Accordingly, the Distribution in Specie (or the Cash Alternative) and the Cash Dividend (or the Scrip Alternative) will no longer proceed as they are conditional on completion of the Placing on or before 31 December 2011.
PYE will remain in its present form and its shares should trade on the same basis as they did prior to the joint announcement dated 21 August 2011. PYE will not, at this stage, be investing any cash in Legendary East Ltd. (“Legendary East”) However, some or all of the parties to the Joint Venture Agreements may continue, in the near term, to discuss potential changes to the transaction structure with a view to agreeing upon prospective terms for a modified film joint venture, with the goal of relaunching a placing exercise in 2012. Both PYE and PYI will make further announcements if such changes are agreed and will likely seek fresh approvals from their respective shareholders on any new transactions.
Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Rand Holston is leaving CAA, the talent agency where he spent the last 28 years. I’m hearing this might be one of several exits to take place over the next three weeks. The agency confirmed that Holston is leaving. I’m told he is meeting with other agencies, and he will land at one of them before year’s end. His longtime writer and director clients include Stephen King, Rob Reiner, Wolfgang Petersen, Robert Towne, John Moore, Marshall Herskovitz, Jordan Kerner, Ed Zwick, Jim Ivory, Bruce Robinson and Jon Avnet.
EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has acquired Flight 75, a pitch for a thriller that will be directed by The Grudge helmer Takashi Shimizu. Project was bought on a treatment by Shimizu and a writer will be set momentarily. It is described as a claustrophobic thriller set on a transpacific airliner where the passengers encounter what appears to be a supernatural force. Shimizu reteams with Grudge producer Taka Ichise, who’ll produce with The Ring‘s Roy Lee and Insidious‘ Steven Schneider. John Middleton is exec producer. Shimizu has been looking for the right fit for his next English-language project and this is expected to be it. They hope to get it mounted by the fall. It becomes another in a flurry of projects set up by CBS Films, which has Gambit in production with Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz; just put Ed Zwick on the Vince Flynn bestseller American Assassin; and an adaptation of the Marie Lu novel Legend, to be directed by Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies). ICM reps Shimizu.
EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has redrawn its plans to launch a film franchise based on the Vince Flynn novel series about CIA agent and Mitch Rapp. Ed Zwick has come aboard to direct an adaptation of American Assassin, a bestseller published last fall by Atria. Though it was the 11th book in the Rapp series, American Assassin was a prequel that told the story of how, as a college scholar and athlete, tragedy forged Rapp’s path to become a ruthless hunter of terrorists for the CIA.
CBS Films, which first acquired the rights to Flynn’s popular book series in 2008, originally intended to start with Consent to Kill, an action-packed thriller that contains several twists that change Rapp’s life permanently. CBS Films got as far as attaching Antoine Fuqua to direct and courting Gerard Butler, Colin Farrell and Lost’s Matthew Fox to play Rapp.
Instead, Flynn’s prequel novel provided a way to start the series at the very beginning of Rapp’s covert career. That means they will tap the strong crop of young leading men, much the way that Paramount Pictures signed Chris Pine to re-launch its Jack Ryan series. Consent to Kill will come later.
Zwick is writing the script with partner Marshall Herskovitz, and they will join Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler as producers. Zwick last directed Love and Other Drugs, and Defiance and Blood Diamond before that.
“We were prepping Consent to Kill when Vince told us he was going … Read More »