As part of the October deal that saw FilmDistrict being absorbed into Focus Features, the latter has taken over distribution of two more titles and announced a new release date for one of them. The sci-fi thriller Selfless, starring Ryan Reynolds, originally had been set for September 2014 but now will go out wide on February 27, 2015. The Tarsem-directed pic from writers Alex and David Pastor has that weekend to itself for now. It centers on a terminally ill billionaire who buys a chance for eternal life through an experimental underground medical procedure. Focus also will handle the Zac Efron flick That Awkward Moment, which was retitled from Are We Officially Dating? a few months ago. Its release date remains January 31. Focus said last month that it will release the former FilmDistrict title Insidious: Chapter 3 in April 2015.
EXCLUSIVE: Dylan Neal is the latest actor to join the cast of Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ adaptation of EL James’ bestselling Fifty Shades Of Grey. He’ll play Bob, Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) stepfather and husband of Carla Adams (Jennifer Ehle). He begins shooting this week in Vancouver. Neal currently stars in Hallmark Channel’s Cedar Cove opposite Andie MacDowell. He is also shooting the second season of The CW’s Arrow, in the recurring role of the villainous Dr. Anthony Ivo. Jamie Dornan has been set to play Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the pic directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, which will hit theaters February 13, 2015.
OSCARS Q&A: Matthew McConaughey On The Struggle To Get ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Made & Diving Into Dramas
Over the last two years, Matthew McConaughey has transformed from simply being a bankable romantic-comedy lead to a gritty performer who doesn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves and plumb emotional depths. In the same year he showed his flashy, exhibitionist side in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, McConaughey demonstrated exceptional range in a trio of smaller films with distinctive directors: Richard Linklater’s Bernie, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe and Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. This year’s slate, which includes Dallas Buyers Club and Mud, shows that the actor isn’t finished taking risks. He lost 47 pounds to play AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club and was a major force in getting the film into production; he’s working with Martin Scorsese in The Wolf Of Wall Street; and he’s shooting a sci-fi film, Interstellar. All that, and he still finds time to helm his nonprofit JKL Foundation, which focuses on the health and wellness of high-school students.
AwardsLine: What compelled you to help get Dallas Buyers Club produced?
Matthew McConaughey: It was something that I had on my desk that I was trying to do for a while, but it wasn’t popular enough for anyone to come up with the money. So we were like, “Let’s find the right team.” The more pieces you put in place, the more you show somebody that you’ve got a full package, then it becomes a more viable situation to get the money. And (director) Jean-Marc (Vallee) and I were locked, and we’re like, “Let’s set a date and do this thing this year.” We had Jared (Leto) and Jennifer (Garner) cast, and we budgeted for a lot less than Jean-Marc thought he could make it for. A week before the shoot, Jean-Marc calls me and says, “This is just not enough money to make this. We don’t have it, and we shoot in a week. (But) I’ll be there if you’ll be there.” I was like, “Yeah.” I had been losing the weight, and then I kept hearing “This is not happening.” And I was like, “This is happening.” Then that last bit of money came like a wave.
AwardsLine: What kind of feedback did you get from financiers as to why they didn’t want to come onboard?
McConaughey: (Laughs.) Well, Hollywood’s not quick to really expound on the “why not?” Usually the message that gets to me is, it’s not for them. Period piece, AIDS drama? That one line hurt. I’m sure there were many desks where that one-liner was all they read.
Fans of the global bestseller will have to wait longer than planned to see Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) come to life on the screen. Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ have pushed the release …
BREAKING: Peter Schlessel, who took over Focus Features after Universal swallowed his FilmDistrict label, has begun assimilating the staffs of those two companies for January’s company relaunch. This happens a day after the company formalized the widely expected news that Focus Features International would shutter. More of this mixing and matching will happen over the next few weeks, and we’ll get a sense of the final layoff count soon. For now, here’s who is staying:
· FilmDistrict’s Beth Lemberger will be EVP Business Affairs, joining Howard Meyers who is currently EVP Business Affairs, Production at Focus Features. Both executives will report to Schlessel. FilmDistrict’s Kevin Monroe will also serve as SVP Business Affairs for Focus reporting to Lemberger.
Word has just gone out internally that Focus Features International is shuttering in December. There were 16 people who worked there, most of them will be out of jobs, and the London office is closing by year’s end. This …
Deadline’s sold-out award season kick-off The Contenders unspooled Saturday at the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. Take a look at our special guest panelists from this year’s crop of Oscar hopefuls from …
It was a big — and emotional — Thursday night for the old Focus Features as their Oscar hopeful Dallas Buyers Club had a very well-received Los Angeles premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The movie, which had a rocky road just getting to the screen, brought strong response both for the film and at the beginning, when the Focus Features logo came up on screen greeted by an unusual burst of applause. It was undoubtedly a show of gratitude for the memorable lineup of movies the company, which is now undergoing a major transformation and apparent change of mission, has turned out since 2002 when it was formed out of remnants of USA Films, Universal Focus and Good Machine. Longtime Focus head James Schamus, who was suddenly replaced two weeks ago as CEO by FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel, held court in the lobby afterward for what he told me was their “last hurrah”. In a classy move, Schlessel stayed away from the premiere, letting Schamus and his team have the spotlight for the Oscar-touted movie that could represent the end of a great art house era for Focus — a company which may be focusing on more mainstream and genre films (at least in part) in the future.
Schamus was soaking in the praise and taking it all in stride, telling me, “This film is very important and we have believed in it from the beginning. We are taking this one all the way to the altar, all the way, and I am going to be there for it.” We both recalled that he started telling me about the special nature of Dallas Buyers Club at Cannes in May. ”I get the same feeling I got 11 years ago when we saw The Pianist take off, ” he said about the underdog 2002 Roman Polanski-directed movie that won three major Oscars and almost took Best Picture (Chicago squeaked it out, but likely very narrowly). Outgoing marketing head David Brooks also was upbeat about the reaction to the film last night, but acknowledged it was a little bittersweet. The film represents the kind of movie Focus has so successfully shepherded through many an Oscar season. Outgoing co-CEO Andrew Karpen was among other Focus execs in attendance along with parent company Universal’s Ron Meyer, Donna Langley and newly installed chairman Jeff Shell who took over for Adam Fogelson last month.
Mike Fleming Jr reported earlier this month that while Focus Features co-CEO Andrew Karpen was asked to stay at the restructured Universal specialty division, it was just as likely he’d depart after not wanting to uproot his family from NY to LA. Now Universal has made his departure official today in announcing the new exec suite under new CEO Peter Schlessel. Karpen will stay on during the transition. Among those staying put is Jeb Brody, who will keep his President of Production title. Here’s the release:
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, October 15, 2013—Focus Features today announced the leadership team for the newly reconstructed division under incoming Focus Features CEO, Peter Schlessel. Focus’ new leadership will be comprised of key executives from within the ranks of both Focus Features and FilmDistrict. Today’s announcement supports Schlessel’s mandate to evolve the Focus Features strategy to maximize potential by diversifying and expanding its film slate to include a greater number of specialty and wide release films.
“I am pleased to announce the executive management team that will help me lead Focus Features into its next chapter,” said Schlessel. “These executives will work with me in the coming weeks to round out the balance of our staffing needs for the company.”
Within this newly realigned structure:
· Adrian Alperovich will become Focus Features’ new Chief Operating Officer. He currently serves as FilmDistrict’s COO.
· Christine Birch, who is currently President of Marketing at FilmDistrict, will join Focus as President of Marketing.
· Focus Features President of Publicity and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Adriene Bowles, will retain her current title and responsibilities.
· FilmDistrict’s Jim Orr will lead Distribution as President.
· Focus’ President of Production, Jeb Brody, will retain his current title and responsibilities.
· FilmDistrict’s Lia Buman will be President of Acquisitions at Focus Features. Buman and Brody will work together to shape Focus’ slate.
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Soon Latest Studio Closing Big Co-Financing Film Deal
By Nikki Finke — EXCLUSIVE: All of the Sony parent company brass from Japan including Kazuo Hirai are in Culver City this week for meetings to discuss among other things the film studio. Finally, here’s some good news for Amy Pascal et al. I’ve learned that Sony Pictures is in the process of closing a rich co-financing deal.
SHOCKER! Peter Schlessel Takes Over Focus Features
By Mike Fleming Jr. — The news that Universal dropped another bombshell today and announced that James Schamus would leave as head of Focus Features has left everyone at that boutique label reeling. But it hits the company’s New York staff hardest.
Focus Features Day 2: Who’ll Stay?
By Mike Fleming Jr. — EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday’s bombshell that caught everyone at Focus Features by surprise has given way to a collective depression among the people at Focus who watched the abrupt exit of their leader James Schamus, and learned Universal will close the Gotham headquarters after incoming head Peter Schlessel arrives in January.
After Eight ‘Harry Potter’ Hits David Heyman Follows Up With ‘Gravity’ – This Time He May Finally Be Going To The Oscars
By Pete Hammond — With Gravity looking like it is soaring at the box office today and the Harry Potter 8-pack of films successfully behind him, producer David Heyman is riding high. Of course, director Alfonso Cuaron and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are getting the lion’s share of attention for the space drama, but Heyman is happy to give credit where credit is due.
EXCLUSIVE: The new mandate at Focus Features seems to be commercial fare with meaty roles. Here’s a deal made before this week’s shakeup that fits that bill. Focus acquired screen rights to Circle Of Treason: A CIA Account Of Traitor Aldrich Ames And The Men He Betrayed. The book was written by Sandra Grimes & Jeanne Vertefeuille. Barry Josephson is producing through his Josephson Entertainment banner. Adam Schneider is co-producing. Anne Waterhouse & Joe Shrapnel will write the script.
The movie is a dramatic thriller based on real events in the late 1980s and early ’90s in which sounds like Zero Dark Thirty-like dogged hunt for a CIA traitor. The authors methodically took down America’s most notorious traitor, and had to battle against the CIA’s institutional hierarchy and chauvinism to do it. Vertefeuille, who passed away, rose in the CIA from the position of typist to taking foreign postings in places like Ethiopia, Finland the The Hague before working in counterintelligence. That’s where she met Grimes.
After seeing how a coterie of agents and assets — some they knew personally — were assassinated or imprisoned in the Soviet Union, they became convinced there was a mole in their midst. The movie is the methodical hunt that brought down Ames, who received millions of dollars for his treachery and nearly got out of the country before he was caught.
EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday’s bombshell that caught everyone at Focus Features by surprise has given way to a collective depression among the people at Focus who watched the abrupt exit of their leader James Schamus, and learned Universal will close …
EXCLUSIVE: The news that Universal dropped another bombshell today and announced that James Schamus would leave as head of Focus Features has left everyone at that boutique label reeling. But it hits the company’s New York staff hardest: …
BREAKING: Another shoe has dropped at Universal Pictures, as former top Sony exec Peter Schlessel has taken the reins of its prestige film label Focus Features in an effort to beef up the company’s output. James Schamus, the bow-tied erudite writer/producer who has run Focus, will leave to produce the 3D boxing movie that will be directed by his regular collaborator, Oscar winning Life Of Pi director Ang Lee. FilmDistrict, which was launched by Schlessel, Graham King and Tim Headington, will have its films absorbed into the new Focus Features. Focus has always had a strong executive team and a good record of profitability under Schamus and Andrew Karpen’s leadership–they won world rights for $6 million for one of Toronto’s most coveted films, the Jason Bateman-directed Bad Words–but it is too early to say what the new structure will be until Schlessel gets settled in January. He will report to Donna Langley, who became Universal Pictures chairman in the recent shakeup that left Adam Fogelson packing, and Jeff Shell in command at the studio with Ron Meyer becoming vice chairman of NBC Universal.
This is a big opportunity for Schlessel, by all accounts a nice guy but who is hardly a pushover. He was very instrumental in talent and other deals at Sony and has always been considered a sharp dealmaker who now gets even further involved on the creative side as Focus seeks to ramp up its output. Langley has been working quite closely with Focus after she emerged with the deal to make a film trilogy from the EL James blockbuster novel Fifty Shades Of Grey, which has been supervised by Jeb Brody. Deadline was first to reveal in August that Lee would make the epic look at such great boxing matches in the 60s and 70s, including the Thrilla In Manila bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is a way for Lee to continue his transformative work in the 3D ring. Peter Morgan is writing the script for that film at Universal.