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Comic-Con Q&A With Edgar Wright: How Working Title Partner Eric Fellner’s Health Scare Put ‘The World’s End’ Before Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’

By | Thursday July 25, 2013 @ 9:59am PDT
Mike Fleming

Edgar Wright came to San Diego with cohorts Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to show the Comic-Con crowd The World’s End, the final installment of a trilogy of films that began with Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. The trio greeted a raucous crowd that had spent about 12 hours or more camped outside the theater to get an early glimpse at the Working Title-produced comedy that Focus Features bows August 23. Wright took a few minutes to talk with Deadline.

DEADLINE: You had the Hall H crowd at the Marvel panel frothing last year when you took the stage and showed cutting-edge footage of Ant-Man, which Marvel hopes will launch a new superhero franchise. The crowd loved seeing the protagonist going from microscopic to full size. But you pushed that movie and came to San Diego with The World’s End. How did that happen?
WRIGHT: I had a chance to do Ant-Man in 2011. Simon was busy with three franchises, if you count Tin-Tin along with Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. We had the story down and it was in the back of my mind that if we didn’t do this film soon it might never happen, and we owed it to the fans. But then something else happened. [Working Title partner] Eric Fellner was diagnosed with cancer. When I found out about that, I’d literally just finished another screenplay for him and it was on delivery that he told me. He has given me permission to tell this story. That changed everything. Eric was our knight in shining armor on Shaun Of The Dead. That film was in turnaround, developed by Film 4 and they’d gone bust. Lots of other British companies had passed on it. Working Title, ironically the biggest British company, came in and saved the day. He wanted us to do another film together; we’d even done the deal for it. When I found out he was ill, one of many emotions I felt was, if we didn’t make this film, and something terrible happened, I would never forgive myself on not making good on my promise to do it. I wanted Eric to see this movie.

Related: Comic-Con: ‘The World’s End’ Isn’t The End For Wright, Pegg & Frost

DEADLINE: What did you do?
WRIGHT: Me and Simon began writing it the very next week; in fact, we wrote it in Eric’s office in Beverly Hills. He was having chemo and said, please take my office, do it there. We wanted to make the film anyway, but it became a very personal thing. The happy news is, we’ve made it, he loves it and he’s got a clean bill of health. He came out of that ordeal and went straight into a tough period where he made Les Miserables and our film. It informed the movie script. The film is about regrets and these guys saying, I’ve got to do this thing. That sentiment became personal. To Marvel’s credit, when I went to see them to tell them to their face I wanted to do Ant-Man but that I wasn’t doing it next, Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito said they understood. We’ll see you in a couple years, they said. Read More »

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Working Title’s Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner To Receive PGA’s David O. Selznick Award

By | Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 11:01am PST

LOS ANGELES, CA (November 14, 2012) – The Producers Guild of America (PGA) is pleased to announce that Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, co-chairmen of Working Title Films, will receive the 2013 David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures. The award recognizes a producer’s, or a producing team’s, outstanding body of work and is the PGA’s highest honor for motion picture producers. Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will be presented the award at the 24th Annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony on Saturday, January 26th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

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Saoirse Ronan To Play ‘Mary Queen Of Scots’ In Working Title Feature

By | Thursday August 9, 2012 @ 2:59pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Mary Queen Of ScotsEXCLUSIVE: Working Title has attached Saoirse Ronan to play the title role in Mary Queen Of Scots, a Michael Hirst-scripted period drama. Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are already talking to directors, and aim to begin production next year.

Crowned the queen of Scotland before she was a year old, Mary added to that pedigree when her first husband became France’s king and she became queen consort in 1559. Despite that auspicious start, things didn’t go well from there. She later married her first cousin, a bad match that ended with his murder. When she quickly married the man suspected of orchestrating the killing, an uprising against the couple resulted in her imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. Forced to abdicate her throne to her year-old son, she failed in an attempt to wrest back the throne and fled for the protection of her cousin, England’s Queen Elizabeth 1. If you’ve seen Elizabeth or any movie about that period, you know how well that worked out for Mary, who’d once claimed to be the rightful queen of England, a view embraced by Catholics. Once she was perceived as a threat by her cousin, Mary was confined and ultimately executed for complicity in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth.

It becomes another high profile project for Working Title, which wrapped the Joe Wright-directed Anna Karenina, with script by Tom Stoppard and Keira Knightley and … Read More »

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Working Title Partners Tim Bevan And Eric Fellner Re-Up At Universal Through 2015

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has re-upped Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner through 2015. This comes after the studio re-upped Imagine Entertainment in January, keeping the studio’s most tenured production companies in the fold. Like Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley did with Imagine, Working Title’s deal has been scaled back; instead of exclusive, it is now a first-look deal. The Working Title pact was due to expire next year. Working Title’s films at the studio have grossed $4.25 billion since they began with Universal in 1999, and Bevan and Fellner bring a British sensibility and a supply of prestige to the studio. The re-up comes at a time when Working Title will release two high profile awards season films in late 2012: the Tom Hooper-directed Les Miserables, and the Joe Wright-directed Anna Karenina, the latter of which will be released by Focus Features.

“Working Title has been an invaluable partner for Universal with our two companies enjoying tremendous success on films that have delighted audiences all over the world,” Fogelson and Langley said. “Tim and Eric are true leaders in the global production space which gives us more of an opportunity to be in business with some of the best international talent and we’re thrilled to be extending our partnership.”

Said Bevan and Fellner, “We are delighted to be continuing our relationship with … Read More »

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Peter Cattaneo In Talks To Direct ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Full Monty helmer Peter Cattaneo is in talks to direct Bridget Jones’s Baby, the Universal Pictures/Working Title sequel that brings back Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Shooting begins early next year. The directing assignment has been open since early October, when Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig stepped away after working on the most recent script draft. At the time, the feeling was that the Helen Fielding novels and film series has an inherently British sensibility that made it better suited for a British helmer. Cattaneo fits that bill and has been circling the project for some time. Fielding wrote the script with Feig and David Nicholls. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Little Bird Films’ Jonathan Cavendish. Cattaneo is repped by UTA and UK-based Independent Talent Group.

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Working Title Television Sells 6 Projects

By | Wednesday November 16, 2011 @ 11:23am PST
Nellie Andreeva

In its second full development cycle, Working Title Television has sold six series projects in broadcast and cable. This is the largest slate in the 21-month history of the TV production company, a joint venture between NBCUniversal International and Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner that in July tapped Daniel Pipski as its new head. Four of Working Title TV’s six projects are at NBC and Universal Television, which have a first-look deal with the company through the joint venture arrangement: dramas We, The Potters written by David Sussman, McMafia written by Matt Johnson & John Turman and Gypsy Tea Room written by Chris Monger, and comedy My Nuclear Family penned by Lucy Dahl. Universal TV also produces The Outside Man, a light drama Working Title TV has in the works at NBCU’s flagship cable network USA with Matt Johnson and John Turman writing. The company’s remaining project, thriller drama Off The Grid, was set up at ABC before the recent relaunch of the former NBC production arm as a full-fledged studio producing for all networks, so it will be shepherded through ABC Studios. Read More »

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Eddie Redmayne Joins ‘Les Miserables’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Hot off My Week With Marilyn, Eddie Redmayne has been set to play the role of Marius in Les Miserables, the Tom Hooper-directed musical for Universal Pictures that stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert and Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Universal has set the Working Title-produced musical for release in the center of next year’s Oscar race with a December 7, 2012 date. Cameron Mackintosh is producing with Working Title’s Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Debra Hayward. William Nicholson wrote the script and the music is by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

Redmayne, whose starring role opposite Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn has put him in the Oscar discussion, won a Tony Award for Red and he is preparing to star in Richard II, which is Michael Grandage’s farewell production as artistic director of Donmar Warehouse. That play opens December 1. Redmayne, who made a memorable debut in the Robert De Niro-directed The Good Shepherd, recently wrapped the Derick Martini-directed Hick alongside Chloe Moretz and Blake Lively, and the BBC two-part WWI miniseries Birdsong. Redmayne is repped by CAA, manager Gene Parseghian and United Agents in the UK.

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Anne Hathaway Joins Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe In ‘Les Miserables’

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Anne Hathaway has closed a deal to join Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe in Les Miserables, the Universal Pictures and Working Title Films musical adaptation of the stage play and classic novel. Hathaway will play Fantine, and her participation had been rumored for some time. Crowe plays Inspector Javert and Jackman is Jean Valjean. The film’s being directed by Tom Hooper, who helmed the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech.

Universal has set the picture for release in the center of next year’s Oscar race with a December 7, 2012 date. Cameron Mackintosh is producing with Working Title’s Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Debra Hayward. William Nicholson wrote the script and the music is by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil. Hathaway is currently playing Catwoman in the Chris Nolan-directed The Dark Knight Rises for Warner Bros.

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Olivia Wilde Lands ‘Rush’ Role Of Suzy Miller; Russell Crowe For Richard Burton Cameo?

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: It’s a role that a lot of actresses wanted, but I’m told that Olivia Wilde will play 1970s supermodel Suzy Miller in Rush, the Ron Howard-directed Formula One drama about the rivalry between drivers Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver is producing with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Cross Creek funded the film with Exclusive Media Group.

Miller fell in love with and married Hunt, a handsome, womanizing driver, but the most interesting part of their relationship is how Miller soon fell in love with Hunt’s actor pal, Richard Burton. Hunt and Burton famously negotiated a “transfer” of assets, with Burton paying the $1 million divorce settlement that Hunt owed Miller. Burton and Miller were married shortly after.

I’m told that Howard hopes to recruit his A Beautiful Mind star Russell Crowe to play the small role of Burton in the Peter Morgan-scripted film. Wilde, who’ll next be seen starring in Butter, is repped by WME and Untitled along with UK-based Hamilton Hodell.

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Cross Creek Makes Three-Year Distribution Deal With Universal Pictures

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Universal Pictures has made a three-year deal to distribute at least six pictures produced and funded by Cross Creek Pictures. The first film in this deal will be Rush, the Ron Howard-directed Formula One drama. Cross Creek, run by president Brian Oliver and CEO Timmy Thompson,  has quickly emerged as a significant film financier. They got started with the Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan and continue with the upcoming George Clooney-directed The Ides of March and Daniel Radcliffe-starrer The Woman in Black, which will be distributed by CBS Films.

The deal was announced by Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley, along with Oliver and Thompson.

Cross Creek is partnered with Exclusive Media Group as co-financier and co-producer of Rush, the Howard-directed drama about the battle between ’70s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt that stars Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth and Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Bruhl. Peter Morgan wrote the script, and Howard and the actors shot some footage during Formula One races held at Nurburgring Race Track in Germany. It was there, in the 70s, that Lauda was almost killed in a fiery accident that is a major part of the drama. The film seems a natural fit for Universal, since Oliver’s fellow producers are Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Both Imagine and Cross Creek have overall deals at the studio.

Aside from pictures that Cross Creek brings into the equation, the company will likely become a financier of existing Universal projects getting close to green lights. The budgets of the films will range from $15 million-$65 million, with the average film costing between $25 million-$35 million. Cross Creek is set up to generate up to four films per year, with Universal to distribute at least two of them with a wide-release commitment. Read More »

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Universal Gets Russell Crowe And Hugh Jackman For ‘Les Miserables,’ Sets December 7, 2012 Release

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal has landed Russell Crowe to play Javert to Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, the live-action adaptation of the Cameron Mackintosh-produced stage musical that will be helmed by The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper. Universal has slotted the film for release on December 7, 2012, right in the center of Oscar season.

The film is produced by Working Title Films’ partners Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan, along with Mackintosh and Debra Hayward. Liza Chasin is exec producer. William Nicholson wrote the script based on the classic novel and the stage play. The music is by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil. Said Mackintosh: “Even though I have dreamt about making the film of Les Miserables for over 25 years, I could never have imagined that we would end up with the dream director Tom Hooper, and the dream cast of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as the two great protagonists Jean Valjean and Javert. Not only were they born to play these roles vocally, but they thrillingly inhabit this great score. Producing this film with Eric Fellner, Working Title and Universal Pictures is indeed a dream come true and I can’t wait to hear the people sing at my local cineplex.” Read More »

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Ron Howard-Directed ‘Rush’ Revving Up This Week On German Formula One Track

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Rush, the Peter Morgan-scripted drama about the battle between ’70s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, will rev up for action this week. The Ron Howard-directed film doesn’t really start principal photography until after Chris Hemsworth (he plays Hunt) completes Marvel’s The Avengers in a couple of months, but he and Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Bruhl (Lauda) will be around this weekend at Nurburgring Race Track in Germany. A race will be held there, featuring the Formula One classic cars that were driven during the 70s. Howard will be shooting 35mm all weekend with his cast.

This is more than just an opportunity for Howard to get generic footage on a race track; Nurburgring plays a pivotal part in the drama. That’s the track where Lauda, when he was reigning world champion and the only driver to ever complete a lap on that track in less than 7 minutes, tried to rally the other drivers to boycott the German Grand Prix race from being held there in 1976 because he felt safety arrangements weren’t up to snuff. When the other drivers voted against it, Lauda took the wheel and crashed his Ferrari on the second lap. Because it was so early in the race, Lauda’s car was full of fuel; his face was badly burned and he inhaled toxic hot gases that scorched his lungs before three rival drivers got out of their cars and pulled him from the wreckage. The film focuses on Lauda’s competitive spirit, which prompted him to get back behind the wheel despite being in severe pain six weeks later in Italy to stop Hunt from taking the world title. Read More »

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Between ‘Thor’ Turns, Chris Hemsworth Revs ‘Rush’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Chris Hemsworth will get behind the wheel to star in the role of British Formula One driver James Hunt in Rush, the Peter Morgan-scripted drama that shapes up as the next directing effort for Ron Howard. Cross Creek Pictures is  the backer, with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Howard producing alongside Brian Oliver and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

Talks are underway for Hemsworth to play Hunt in the story of his rivalry with Niki Lauda for Formula One circuit dominance in the 1970s. Deals aren’t done yet, but it’s all shaping up for this picture to happen early next year. Hemsworth is already set to reprise his role as Thor in the Marvel Studios sequel that has been dated for a July 26, 2013 release by Disney. There is no distributor aboard yet on Rush, but considering that both Imagine and Working Title are based at Universal, the likelihood is that the picture will land there. The prime mover has been Oliver’s Cross Creek, which, after making a killing on Black Swan, is in the middle of several major pictures including the George Clooney-directed The Ides of March. Hemsworth’s repped by IFA and ROAR.

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Daniel Pipski Tapped As New Head Of Working Title Television

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Pipski has been named head of Working Title Television, the joint venture between NBCUniversal International and U.K.-based Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. He replaces Shelley McCrory, who had served as Working Title TV president since the company’s launch in early 2010. Pipski has history with Working Title Films, where he started his career in 1999, eventually rising to VP. He went on to serve as SVP production of Sean Bailey, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Live Planet and Michael London’s Groundswell Prods. and, most recently, as producer for Andrew Lauren Prods. At Live Planet, Pipski helped developed Enemies and Marlowe, both of which went to pilot at ABC. Since its launch, Working Title TV has landed a series order for Love Bites at NBC and has three projects at the BBC: Birdsong, an adaptation of the Sebastian Faulks novel; The Borrowers; and Love in London, starring David Tennant and Rosamund Pike. “We are delighted to welcome Daniel back into the Working Title fold,” said Fellner, Working Title’s co-chairman. “He started his career with us in 1999 and immediately proved himself a star. His taste and relationships are impeccable, and he will be the perfect person to lead our charge into the television arena.”

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If Hugh Jackman Plays Jean Valjean, Will Paul Bettany Play Javert In ‘Les Miserables’?

Mike Fleming

Universal and director Tom Hooper want Hugh Jackman for the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. So who might stalk him in the role of Javert? I’m told that Paul Bettany is a candidate and that he read for the role and sang the songs from the Cameron Mackintosh-produced stage hit. Mackintosh is producing the film with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and Bill Nicholson has written the script. The intention is to begin production before year’s end, somewhere in Europe. Let’s see if this goes anywhere.

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‘King’s Speech’ Helmer Tom Hooper Closing On ‘Les Miserables’ As Next Pic

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Looks like Universal Pictures has won the battle for the next film to be directed by Oscar-winning The King’s Speech helmer Tom Hooper. The dealmaking has started for Hooper to direct Les Miserables, a full-blown musical adaptation of the Cameron Mackintosh-produced perennial stage hit. This is the first film he’s begun negotiations on since winning the Oscar, but insiders in Hooper’s camp stopped short of saying it would definitively be his next film. I hear that’s how it will work out.

Mackintosh is producing with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and Bill Nicholson has written the script. The intention is to begin production before year’s end, somewhere in Europe. After the success of The King’s Speech — a $13 million budget film that could reach $450 million worldwide gross when it’s through — Hooper had been widely courted for his next slot. The Weinstein Company tempted him with Tulip Fever, and I’m told there was talk of an adaptation of Macbeth, among others. Hooper was tempted instead to film the musical adaptation of the 1862 Victor Hugo novel, the struggle by ex-con Jean Valjean to outrun his past and his relentless pursuer Javert. The musical, which opened in London in 1985, features such songs as I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, and Bring Him Home. It is certainly a different film from Universal’s stage musical foray … Read More »

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Universal Acquires Hot Berlin Title ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ With Oscar Winner Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired domestic distribution rights to Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy, the Tomas Alfredson-directed adaptation of the John Le Carre novel that stars Gary Oldman, freshly minted Oscar winner Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds. The rights were held by Studiocanal, and the film was produced by Working Title. Universal is eyeing a November or December release for the picture, which is in post production. Script was written by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan.

The project was one of the hottest titles shopped in Berlin, where buyers watched several minutes of footage and read the script for Afredson’s follow-up to Let the Right One In. I’m told that Universal, through its first look deal with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, had a first look that it initially didn’t exercise. Then the picture got hot, with The Weinstein Company and Summit Entertainment chasing it hard. I’ve heard the bidding was in the vicinity of $5 million for domestic rights before Universal swooped in and took the project off the table. Studiocanal, which fully financed the film, will distribute in the UK, France and Germany and is handling international sales throughout the rest of the world. Bevan and Fellner produce with Robyn Slovo, with Liza Chasin, Le Carre, Peter Morgan, Douglas Urbanski and Debra Hayward exec producing.

Read More »

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Working Title Buys New Childrens Franchise

By | Friday February 18, 2011 @ 10:32am PST

London-based Working Title has optioned The History Keepers, a new children’s novel due to be published by Random House Children’s Books in the UK this fall. It’s being pitched as “Harry Potter meets Doctor Who.” Actor-turned-screenwriter Damian Dibben’s debut novel follows a boy whose parents have been kidnapped not only to another part of the world but another time completely. Fourteen-year-old Jake Djones must travel backwards and forwards in time from present-day London to 19th century France and 16th century Venice trying to find his mum and dad. Dibben’s agent Jo Unwin of Conville & Walsh tells me U.S. rights publishing rights are still under auction. Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce for Working Title, the UK’s most successful film company (Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary). Rachel Holroyd of Casarotto Ramsay Associates negotiated the film deal. Random House bought The History Keepers — the first in a three book series — in a “substantial six-figure deal” according to Conville & Walsh. Holroyd said that there’s been a great deal of anticipation and interest around these books. “Everyone wants to have the next successful franchise and a family film that is educational and entertaining involving time travel ticks all the boxes,” she said.

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‘Unknown’ Director Jaume Collet-Serra Draws ‘Red Circle’ Remake

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: As his new film Unknown gets its international premiere in Berlin today and rolls out in U.S. theaters, director Jaume Collet-Serra is making a deal to direct Red Circle, the remake of the 1970 Jean-Pierre Melville-directed Le Cercle Rouge. The film is being written by Eastern Promises scribe Steven Knight for Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who’ll produce with Arthur Sarkissian.

Collet-Serra was just at the center of a Warner Bros deal for Harker, a potential franchise he’ll direct that focuses on vampire hunter Jonathan Harker character from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with Leonardo DiCaprio among its producers. The director’s stock is up because with Unknown, he delivered a thriller in the $30 million range that, like Liam Neeson’s Taken, was shot outside the U.S. and is geared to do strong business overseas in addition to its domestic gross.  The heist film Red Circle has similar potential, as it will be set in Hong Kong. Collet-Serra hasn’t fixed on his next feature assignment. When he returns from Berlin, he will go right to work directing The River, the ABC series thriller pilot hatched by Paranormal Activity‘s Oren Peli. Collet-Serra’s repped by CAA.

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