Captain Fantastic, meet Joseph. Elton John‘s Rocket Pictures has pocketed film rights to Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first produced musical penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Rocket plans to team with the Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group to produce an animated feature from the show, which started as a pop cantata written for schools then became a concept album before reaching the West End and eventually Broadway. John will executive produce with Rice — they teamed on the 2000 Broadway hit Aida — and Lloyd Webber. Rocket Pictures CEO Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish are producing. Sir Elton, who was an exec producer on the 2011 toon Gnomeo & Juliet, is the subject of the upcoming Focus Features biopic Rocketman, starring Tom Hardy and produced by Rocket Pictures. He’s re-recording some of his big hits for the film and will be an exec producer as well.
Miss Deadline’s best film stories this week? Catch up here:
Heard It Here First: Tom Hardy To Play Elton John In ‘Rocketman’
By Mike Fleming Jr. - As Deadline reported in June when FilmDistrict paid $10 million to acquire U.S. rights to the Elton John film Rocketman, Tom Hardy has been set to play Captain Fantastic himself in the Michael Gracey-directed biographical musical film.
Oscar-Buzzed ’12 Years A Slave’ In Top Ten, ‘Jackass: Bad Grandpa’ Opens #1 For $32M, All-Star ‘The Counselor’ Bombs With $8M
By Nikki Finke - The most interesting news of the weekend, at least to me, is that New Regency’s financed and produced Best Picture Oscar frontrunner 12 Years A Slave marketed and distributed by Fox Searchlight is only playing in 123 theaters (up from 19 last weekend) yet jumped into the Top Ten.
J.J. Abrams & Lawrence Kasdan Take Over As ‘Star Wars’ Scribes
By Dominic Patten - The new Star Wars movie has a new screenwriting team. It was announced online today that Episode VII director J.J. Abrams and Empire Strikes Back co-writer Lawrence Kasdan will take over as scribes for the upcoming Disney project which is set to be released in 2015.
As Deadline reported in June when FilmDistrict paid $10 million to acquire U.S. rights to the Elton John film Rocketman, Tom Hardy has been set to play Captain Fantastic himself in the Michael Gracey-directed biographical musical film. The script is by Billy Elliot‘s Lee Hall. Gracey’s directing Fox’s upcoming The Greatest Showman On Earth starring Hugh Jackman, and Disney’s The Muppet Man. FilmDistrict bought it when the film was the talk of Cannes, where it was shopped by UTA, the agency that structured the financing. It was there that UK-based Icon’s production arm AI Film agreed to come aboard to co-finance the film with Rocket Pictures.
The deal went down before FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel took over Focus Features, the latter of which will release the film. Schlessel’s distribution company paid around a $10 million minimum guarantee for a guaranteed wide theatrical release and size-able P&A. There is also a generous gross corridor after the film recoups. The film follows John’s journey from 5-year old musical prodigy who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records than just about any musical artist of his era.
HBO’s Behind The Candelabra will be front and center during the Primetime Emmys on September 22. Elton John will make his first appearance at awards show, performing to pay tribute to Liberace, the subject of Steven Soderbergh’s biopic that has earned 15 nominations. Nominees Michael Douglas, who played Liberace in the movie, and co-star Matt Damon were already announced as presenters for the ceremony, which will air live on CBS with Neil Patrick Harris hosting. John’s latest album, produced by T Bone Burnett, will be released September 24.
EXCLUSIVE: FilmDistrict is nearing a deal to acquire U.S. rights to Rocketman, the Michael Gracey-directed biographical musical film about Sir Elton John. The script is by Billy Elliot‘s Lee Hall, and Tom Hardy is circling to play the lead role. This film was the talk of Cannes, where it was shopped by UTA, which structured the financing. It was there that UK-based Icon’s production arm AI Film agreed to come aboard to co-finance the film with Rocket Pictures during the Cannes Film Festival. I’m told that FilmDistrict is betting big here, with Peter Schlessel’s distribution company paying around a $10 million minimum guarantee for a guaranteed wide theatrical release and size-able P&A. There is also a generous gross corridor after the film recoups.
The film follows John’s journey from 5-year old musical prodigy who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records than just about any musical artist of his era. John’s musical catalog is part of the mix, so this is going to be a major film. Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish are producing the project along with Lawrence Bender for AI Film. Sir Elton John and Access Industries’ Len Blavatnik are executive producing the film, along with Icon/AI Film CEO Aviv Giladi and FilmDistrict CEO Schlessel.
Good Universe will handle international sales for Rocketman at the Cannes film market, pic producer Rocket Pictures said today. Michael Gracey is directing the musically inspired retelling of the life of Elton John from the original screenplay by War Horse and Billy Elliot scribe Lee Hall. Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish are producing, and Elton John will executive produce. Rocketman follows John’s life story from 5-year-old musical prodigy through his often-troubled life to becoming a global icon and one of the world’s most iconic musicians. “We’re excited to be bringing this musical event movie to Cannes.” said Rocket CEO Shaw. “It’s bold, brave and inspirational. Good Universe has great commercial sensibility and we’re delighted to have them represent us.” The deal was negotiated by Shaw for Rocket, which is repped by UTA, and Drake and Michael Meyer for Good Universe. UTA Independent Film Group is repping domestic rights.
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures has set commercials director Michael Gracey to helm Rocketman, the biographical musical film about Sir Elton John. I’ve told you about this one before. There is a script in by Billy Elliot‘s Lee Hall, and Gracey will direct a feature that follows John’s journey from 5-year old musical prodigy who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records that just about any musical artist of his era. “Michael has an innovative, imaginative and compelling vision for the film,” said Rocket CEO Steve Hamilton Shaw. “We want to create an experience that surprises and moves audiences and knew immediately that he was the perfect director to take them on this journey.”
BREAKING… The Kung Fu Panda director has come aboard Sherlock Gnomes, the 3D animated sequel to last year’s Disney-released Gnomeo & Juliet. Elton John‘s Rocket Pictures is producing again with the first movie’s co-writers Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil also back for the follow-up, which centers on the characters from the first movie enlisting the help of a famous gnome-detective in solving the sinister disappearance of gnomes from the suburban gardens of England. “John has the perfect sensibility for this movie, together with the vision to build on the first film to create a distinctive, fresh and action-packed adventure,” said Rocket CEO and producer Steve Hamilton Shaw. Stevenson is repped by CAA. Elton John is writing original music for the movie, which is now set to begin production early next year. Rocket Pictures, repped by UTA, also said today that it has hired former Walt Disney Animation production head Carolyn Soper to help oversee production on the pic, working alongside Hamilton Shaw as the company ramps up its animation ambitions. Rocket’s David Furnish and Elton John are also producing.
EXCLUSIVE: Elton John’s Rocket Pictures has set up the 3D animated Gnomeo & Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes, a sequel to the 2011 Disney hit that grossed $194 million worldwide. Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil, who wrote the original, are writing the sequel script. Elton John is currently composing new songs for the film. Rocket Pictures’ principals Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish are producing, and John is exec producer. The plan is to begin production in the fall, and they are talking to directors. Gnomeo & Juliet director Kelly Asbury will act as a creative consultant on the sequel.
When gnomes start disappearing from the suburban gardens of England, Gnomeo, Juliet and friends enlist the help of Sherlock Gnomes, “the greatest ornamental detective,” to track the culprit. Unfortunately, Sherlock is neither as brilliant nor as insightful as his human counterpart, and as the crimes against gnomanity continue, the threat to their world becomes bigger than they ever imagined.
EXCLUSIVE: Elton John’s Rocket Pictures has acquired film rights to Michael Buckley’s bestselling series Nerds, and will develop them as an animated family feature that Buckley will script. Rocket Pictures principals Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish will produce. John is exec producer.
The Nerds series follows a group of unpopular and socially inept geeks who run a spy network from inside their elementary school. They battle the Hyena, a former junior beauty pageant contestant-turned-assassin, and an array of James Bond-style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last. Three books have been released in the past two years by the Abrams imprint Amulet Books, and the next one comes in the fall.
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures partners Elton John and David Furnish are launching their most ambitious movie project, one that will tell the story of John’s illustrious musical career. They are teaming with Billy Elliot scribe and playwright Lee Hall on Rocketman, which they are calling a biographical musical fantasy that will weave together John’s life and his music. Rocket Pictures’ Steve Hamilton Shaw and Furnish will produce. John will be executive producer and will play an active role in creating a film that will follow his life story from a child piano prodigy (who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music) to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records that just about any musical artist of his era.
Rocketman will mark the second collaboration for John and Hall. When Hall adapted the 2000 feature Billy Elliot for the West End, John wrote the score for a production that moved to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. They’re planning an inventive way to cover John’s life and career: One device will be to feature choreographed sequences using John’s biggest hit songs. Those tunes will be part of the movie package and will drive a story that will cover the rough spots in John’s journey of self-discovery. …
What Do Tyler Perry, Jerry Bruckheimer, Steven Spielberg, Elton John And Simon Cowell Have In Common? $$$
Forbes has come out with its annual list of the highest-paid men in entertainment. Tyler Perry leads the pack this year with $130 million earned between May 2010 and May 2011, with five movies and two TV series to his credit over a two-year period. Here’s the Top 5: Perry, Jerry Bruckheimer ($113 million), Steven Spielberg ($107 million), Elton John ($100 million) and Simon Cowell ($90 million).
NEW YORK, June 6, 2011 – HBO Documentary Films has acquired the domestic TV rights to THE UNION from Vinyl Films, it was announced today. Directed by Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire”), the film will debut on HBO in Jan. 2012.
THE UNION takes an unprecedented look at the creative life of Elton John and his remarkable collaborative album with his early-career idol, Leon Russell, produced by award-winning music producer T Bone Burnett. Never before filmed in his composing process, John is captured by Crowe in this candid portrait of one of the world’s most treasured artists and performers. Begun in Nov. 2009, THE UNION chronicles the entire writing and recording process of the heralded album John recorded with Russell.
“I’m a great fan of HBO and their extraordinary programming, so I’m particularly thrilled that they will be airing THE UNION,” commented Elton John.
The film had its world premiere as the opening night selection at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. Creative Artists Agency (CAA) represents Crowe and Burnett and negotiated the deal with HBO on behalf of the filmmakers.
THE UNION is directed by Cameron Crowe; produced by Cameron Crowe and Michelle Panek; executive producer, Johnny Barbis; editor, Kevin Long.
Elton John hosted Saturday Night Live last night with help from several guest stars like Tom Hanks, who appeared in three skits, including one that featured John presiding over an emergency meeting of Knights of the Realm (aka knighted British celebrities) mulling ways to thwart a dragon attack on London. “When artists put their souls together they can accomplish anything,” says Andy Samberg as Bono. “Except a Spider-Man musical,” retorts John before crooning “Can you smell a bomb tonight” to the tune of one of the songs from his blockbuster musical The Lion King, which was directed by the same helmer that was recently fired by Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, Julie Taymor.
At ages 63 and 65, Elton John and Helen Mirren hardly fit the “rookie” label, but the two will make their debuts as hosts on NBC’s Saturday Night Live next month. John will host April 2 and be a musical guest along with Leon Russell. Oscar winner Mirren, who is promoting Arthur, will host April 9 with musical guest Foo Fighters.
New York, NY – March 2, 2011 – The Tribeca Film Festival today announced that the world premiere of Cameron Crowe’s documentary The Union will open the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by American Express. A performance by the film’s subject – Elton John – will follow the free, outdoor screening to kick off the Festival’s 10th edition and thank the New York City community for its ongoing support. The Union will premiere on Wednesday, April 20 at the North Cove at the World Financial Plaza. The 10th annual Tribeca Film Festival will take place from April 20 through May 1, 2011.
The Union is an unprecedented and personal look at the creative life of Elton John and the remarkable collaborative album with Leon Russell, produced by T-Bone Burnett. Begun in November 2009, the filming captures the entire writing and recording process of the heralded album John recorded with his early-career idol, Russell.
Never before filmed in his composing process, John¹s creation of The Union is an extremely candid portrait of one of the world’s most treasured artists and performers, and his extraordinary journey of the heart — one that sent him to powerfully reclaim and reinvigorate the life and musical career of Russell, to whom John hadn’t spoken in over 38 years. The Union is a captivating and exhilarating real-life experience of musical creation and generosity, directed by Cameron Crowe.
Award-winning music producer T-Bone Burnett, John’s lifelong lyricist Bernie Taupin, icons Neil Young and Brian Wilson, legendary R&B organist
Disney just released what it’s calling the “first image” for GNOMEO & JULIET, the greatest love story ever told, starring garden gnomes. Adapted from Shakespeare, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) with classic and original songs by Elton John, it features the voices of James McAvoy and Emily Blunt:
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s Emmy coverage.
EXCLUSIVE: Is American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe unhappy with who’s going to be the show’s next two judges? It sure sounds that way. I caught up with him at the 8th annual BAFTA/LA Tea Party in Century City today and asked him to confirm that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez will replace Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres. “I must say, I really do love Elton John. He’s a huge favorite of mine,” Lythgoe replied to me. The producer added that Elton’s packed schedule is “always the problem”. Then Lythgoe revealed what strategy Idol is using on Elton to convince him to clear it and come on the show. “It depends on whether [he] wants to give back.” As Deadline Hollywood has been continually reporting, everybody connected to Idol has made no secret of the fact that Elton John has always been their first choice to replace Cowell. But no deal is in the offing not just because of the musician’s touring commitments but also because of his astronomical asking price. Which is why the musician’s UK publicist Gary Farrow told Deadline London Editor Tim Adler in late July that “There’s more chance of me fucking you than Elton being on U.S. Idol.” But it’s clear Lythgoe is still trying.
Lythgoe, who left Idol and then recently returned, also blamed Simon Cowell for Ellen DeGeneres not returning as an Idol judge next season. “I’m sorry she’s gone, to be honest with you,” he told me, “because I think there’s a place for Ellen DeGeneres on American Idol. And that is being the voice of the people. She wasn’t given a fair opportunity to serve that function.
JENNIFER LOPEZ IS NEW ‘IDOL’ JUDGE! Closed Deal This Week; Replaces Ellen Who Wanted Out of Contract: “It’s Not Been Fun”
EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 6:30 PM: We’ve just learned the backstory of how Ellen DeGeneres bowed out of American Idol and who will be the new judge taking her place. It’s Jennifer Lopez, whose singing and acting career has been on the skids after her recent movie failed at the box office in the spring and she was dropped by her record company Sony Music Epic Records this past winter. We hear her manager Benny Medina (whom she once fired) orchestrated the meeting with the American Idol producers a month ago, and negotiations have been ongoing ever since. We’ve learned a deal was closed earlier this week under the utmost secrecy. Today’s news came shortly after Nigel Lythgoe returned to Idol as an executive producer. He has vowed to shake up the show’s team of judges in the wake of the departure of Simon Cowell, publicly stating that he always thought a panel of three and not 4 made the most sense.
Still to be decided is who will replace Simon Cowell. Everyone associated with the show wants Elton John, but we hear he’s asking for too much money and has too many touring commitments he can’t get out of. (Denials That Justin Or Elton Judging ‘Idol’) 2ND UPDATE: Tonight, unconfirmed reports say Idol has offered Cowell’s judge seat to Steven Tyler. 3RD UPDATE: And another unconfirmed report claimed judge Kara DioGuardi has been fired to bring the panel count down to just 3, not 4.
As for Ellen Degeneres, we’re told she wanted off the show two months ago and complained that Idol producers “couldn’t control Cowell”, one insider tells us. Least of all Cecile Frot-Coutaz, the CEO of FremantleMedia North America. “Cecile is doing X Factor with Simon, so she’s in his back pocket.” DeGeneres and her reps went in to to see Fox Broadcasting’s Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice and Alternative TV President Mike Darnell and asked to be let out of the year left on her contract. “She’s not comfortable. She’s not happy. It’s not been fun,” Fox was told. But Rice and Darnell responded that, with Cowell leaving, “We can’t let you out now because it would be bad for our franchise. Give us a chance to figure out who we could get.” In the end, all the show’s producers – Fox, Fremantle, and 19 Entertainment – worked it out. “Peter Rice was awesome,” an insider tells us. “Ellen is thrilled and relieved.” We’ve learned that serious conversations took place between Idol and Jessica Simpson to replace Ellen. But once Jennifer Lopez was locked in this week, the DeGeneres announcement went out.