EXCLUSIVE: Denzel Washington is in early talks to star in Shovel Ready, a Warner Bros adaptation of a debut novel by journalist Adam Sternbergh. Erwin Stoff is the producer. In a bombed-out, near future New York City where most of the population escapes reality by tapping into a digital fantasy world, a contract killer is hired to kill the daughter of a powerful, maniacal evangelist. Ultimately, the killer becomes the girl’s protector. It’s early days, but this evokes memories of Washington vehicles like Man On Fire, Book Of Eli, and the Antoine Fuqua-directed The Equalizer which Washington is about to shoot for Sony Pictures. Which means I will be there on opening day if Shovel Ready happens. Washington is repped by WME. CAA brokered the book deal.
Keanu Reeves And Longtime Manager Erwin Stoff Hit Bumpy Road: Actor Almost Left 3 Arts But Instead Others There Repping Him
EXCLUSIVE: This is a cautionary tale for every Hollywood manager who’s spending a lot of time producing. Such is the case with Erwin Stoff. The 3 Arts Entertainment president has repped Keanu Reeves for something like 32 years (ever since the actor was 16 years old). The Stoff-Reeves relationship has long been considered one of Hollywood’s most enduring. Until recently. I’ve learned it’s now very much on the rocks. ”Keanu Reeves very quietly left 3 Arts. Then he was recently convinced to stay at 3 Arts but with different reps,” says one of my sources. “Handling him now are Tom Lasally, Nick Frenkel, and David Miner. It’s an attempt to save the client.” I’ve confirmed this with several other insiders, too, even though Stoff denied any rift to me. I am told independently that ”there’s no rancor”.
Stoff of course has been a producer or executive producer on many of Reeves’ films dating back to 1991 — including Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Feeling Minnesota, The Devil’s Advocate, The Matrix, The Replacements, Sweet November, Constantine, A Scanner Darkly, The Lake House, Street Kings, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and most recently as exec producer of Universal’s troubled 47 Ronin. That Keanu starrer from first-time feature director Carl Rinsch has been plagued by a swelling budget, a reshoot, two release date delays, and bad publicity — prompting the studio to work side by side with Rinsch in the editing room which is highly unusual these days.
But increasingly Stoff is producing a lot of films not starring Reeves – credits and paychecks Stoff probably never would have enjoyed without Keanu as leverage over the years. Right now, for instance, he’s in London producing All You Need Is Kill and that’s where I reached the manager. I’m told that Reeves’ principal problem stemmed from Stoff’s producing time commitments. “Keanu for 20 years was so used to talking to Erwin all the time. But Erwin is very busy producing now,” one insider explains. But another source also tells me, “Keanu has been frustrated with Erwin for a while, with the massive 47 Ronin problems and lack of material for him. Also Reeves’ sister is now in the actor’s life in a big way, and she did not like Stoff.”
The result is that, according to one insider,
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has bought Pandemic, a medical thriller from Mystic Pizza writer Amy Holden Jones, 3 Arts Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV. WME-repped Jones is writing the project, which follows an epidemiologist who is facing difficult adversaries as he fights to stop a catastrophic pandemic. She will executive produce with 3 Arts’ Oly Obst and partner Erwin Stoff, who has been leading a push in the drama area for the management/production company this season. Stoff is executive producing for 3 Arts two other hourlong projects, a cop drama with magical elements from Michael Green and 20th TV, which recently landed a put pilot commitment at ABC, and CIA drama Secret America at NBC from writer Peter Landesman, Imagine TV and 20th TV.
Meanwhile, ABC has bought Puzzle Master, from ABC Studios and studio-based Sander/Moses Prods. Written by Gwendolyn Parker (Without a Trace), the project centers on a quirky puzzle master who uses her unique acuity and distinctive way of perceiving the world to help the San Francisco Bay Area’s Special Investigations Division solve crimes. The project is inspired by the work of prolific puzzle and computer game designer Scott Kim. Paradigm-repped Parker and UTA-repped Ian Sander and Kim Moses will executive produce. This is the second project at ABC this season for Ghost Whisperer executive producers Sander and Moses, who also have the circus-themed …
EXCLUSIVE: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas is joining 3 Arts as a manager/producer, returning to the rep business after 11 years. Once a high-powered dealmaker at ICM best known for guiding Julia Roberts from unknown to $20 million a picture as the world’s biggest female star, Goldsmith-Thomas left ICM in 2000 to run Revolution Studios East for Joe Roth and supervise films under Roberts’ production deal there. She has been a full-time producer since Revolution folded. An agent for more than 15 years at WMA and ICM, Goldsmith-Thomas also repped Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Connelly, Madonna and Darren Star.
The obvious question is whether she will be rejoined by Roberts, who went to CAA not long after Goldsmith-Thomas left. Goldsmith-Thomas said she comes to 3 Arts without any clients. While producing, she continued to give career advice when asked, but referred talent to agencies and management companies for years even as people asked why she wasn’t building a client list. She decided months ago to explore a return but was reticent to resurface as an agent. It would be hard returning to a job she left behind, and she never liked the poaching part of that game. She also didn’t want to give up producing, which agents can’t do. After meeting with 3 Arts’ Erwin Stoff, Goldsmith-Thomas felt she’d found the right fit. She will operate out of the management/production company’s New York base, where Richard Abate manages authors and runs the book department and Avi Gilbert manages stand-up comics.
“I’ve always loved the architecture of careers, and I missed working with colleagues in breaking down walls that have gotten thicker,” Goldsmith-Thomas told me. “I think it’s a mistake when people try to re-create the same career they had. I love what I’m doing now, and I see this as a complement.”
EXCLUSIVE: After more than 54 years of trying, Universal Pictures is getting closer and closer to telling the unbelievable story of Olympian-turned-WWII POW Louis Zamperini in a feature film. Walden Media has just signed on to co-finance with Universal Pictures the screen adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. The Water for Elephants team of screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and director Francis Lawrence are prepping the story about the unbreakable spirit of Zamperini, the former Olympic track prodigy who endured unimaginable hardship as a WWII POW at the hands of Japanese prison guards. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing; Lawrence and Mick Garris are exec producers.
Universal bought Zamperini’s rights back in the 1950s, when Tony Curtis planned to play him right after he completed Spartacus. Zamperini, still kicking at age 93, has waited all this time to see his story turned into a feature film. Baer has been pushing the ball up the hill for more than a decade, but it turned out that the best thing to happen to the project was Hillenbrand’s book, which has drawn a fresh audience to Zamperini’s story of perseverence. Universal previously turned Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit into the Gary Ross-directed hit. In book form, Unbroken blew past Seabiscuit‘s sales figures in its first four weeks, and has been at or near the top of The New York Times bestseller list since its publication six months ago.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has set Richard LaGravenese to adapt Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Francis Lawrence is attached to direct the film about the unbreakable spirit of Louis Zamperini, the former Olympic track prodigy who endured unimaginable hardship as a WWII POW at the hands of Japanese prison guards.
LaGravenese will be working for the second straight time with Lawrence on a book adaptation. The scribe adapted the Sara Gruen novel Water For Elephants into the drama that Lawrence directed for Fox 2000 with Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz starring. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing Unbroken. Lawrence and Mick Garris are exec producers.
The studio acquired Unbroken after previously turning Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit into the Gary Ross-directed hit. Unbroken, which has been at or near the top of The New York Times bestseller list for 18 weeks, outsold Seabiscuit in its first four weeks. It also gave momentum to a movie about Zamperini, something Universal first tried to make in 1957, when the studio optioned his rights for a movie that was going to star Tony Curtis.
EXCLUSIVE: Management/production companies 3 Arts and Untitled Entertainment are in merger talks. I’m not certain they are going to join forces, but they are exploring it seriously. The potential mix of assets of the two companies is intriguing. 3 Arts — run by Erwin Stoff, Michael Rotenberg, Howard Klein, David Miner and Dave Becky – is particularly strong in the producing department. On the TV side, that includes 30 Rock, The Office, Parks and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, HBO’s Bored to Death, and the FX comedy Louie. Among the features is I Am Legend, Street Kings, and All You Need Is Kill, the latter a priority project at Warner Bros that just got Doug Liman aboard to direct.
Untitled, which is run by Jason Weinberg, Stephanie Simon, Guy Oseary, Gene Parseghian and Johnnie Planco, has a strong talent list that include Daniel Day-Lewis, Hilary Swank, Alex Rodriguez, Madonna, Naomi Watts, David Caruso, Penelope Cruz, Ashton Kutcher, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris O’Donnell, Taylor Kitsch, Demi Moore, Blake Lively and Simon Baker.
The 3 Arts talent list includes Keanu Reeves, Tina Fey, director Francis Lawrence, Robert Pattinson, Chris Evans, Steve Coogan, Mike Judge, Greg Daniels, Jeff Garlin, Howie Mandel, Tracy Morgan, Amy Poehler, Jason Bateman and Cuba Gooding Jr.
I’m told the principals continue talking, mindful of the challenge in meshing cultures and forging a new power structure. Word about the possible union has begun to spread around Hollywood and I’m told that if a trip to the altar is going to …
Jairo Alvarado, who stepped right out UCLA and stepped into a job as a Warner Bros creative exec 18 months ago, is leaving next month to become a manager at 3 Arts. The 24-year old Alvarado said he wasn’t thinking of a career change before a general meeting with 3 Arts’ Tom Lassally, another Warner Bros exec who made the career transition after he exited the studio. “We discussed all the short films I advocated and spread around to agents, and it turned into a three-hour conversation with Tom saying, `You’ve got to meet Erwin,” Alvarado said. He spent another two hours with 3 Arts chief Erwin Stoff, and walked out with a job offer.
Alvarado traveled a charmed path to get to Warner Bros. He’s a local kid who was recruited in high school by the studio, which provided a scholarship that included summer industry internships. After graduation, he met with former production president Kevin McCormick, and got the job offer for a CE position. While there isn’t much glamour in those entry level executive posts, Alvarado said he said he’s helped about a dozen young directors get signed during his 18 month Warner Bros stint. He was an early advocate of Fede Alvarez’s short Panic Attack, which was acquired by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures, and Ricardo De Montreuil’s The Raven, which is also in deal talks. “I’ve discovered I like finding new talent the town responds to,” he said. Stoff said the management company has made it a …