Comic-Con doesn’t officially open until tomorrow, but the soon-to-be packed San Diego confab will be buzzing with this news. The Walking Dead EP Gale Anne Hurd, one of the queens of the geekfest, is partnering with Warren Ellis, one of the biggest names in comics, for the latter’s first leap into the world of TV. In a deal signed with Universal Cable Productions, the as-yet-untitled Ellis project will be produced with Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment. “I’ve been strongly drawn to television over the last few years, and working with brilliant and determined collaborators like Gale and the UCP team, I’m delighted at the opportunity to add my voice to the new, novelistic TV form that’s evolved so dramatically,” said the Iron Man: Extremis, Gun Machine and Red author today. Added Hurd: “There are very few writers who have been able to so completely influence a medium as Warren has with comic books.”
Although Ellis won’t be at Comic-Con this year, Hurd will appear again in the cavernous Hall H for the always-packed Walking Dead panel featuring AMC’s zombie apocalypse blockbuster. This year’s panel is set for Friday at 12:20 PM and will feature co-creator Robert Kirkman, cast members Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus and others. Read More »
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s conference coverage.
The Walking Dead exec producer Gale Anne Hurd admitted this afternoon that one of the hazards of her job is receiving death threats from the rabid fan base of smash hit AMC zombie drama when it dares to kill off a character. “That’s one of the dirty little secrets of social media,” she admitted during a session at the Produced By conference on the Fox lot. “The fans so identify with the characters that if you kill them off… well, first they’re in denial. It’s really the stages of grief. They say, ‘That gunshot off camera, they aren’t really dead, they’re coming back.’ And then they get angry. They threaten to hunt you down. They don’t understand the difference between reality and fantasy.”
For the most part, however, the experience of being the highest-rated drama in cable history is a far more rewarding and less dangerous experience, Hurd and her fellow panelists agreed. She was joined at the event by Walking Dead exec producer David Alpert; Sharon Tal Yguado, EVP of global scripted programming and original development for Fox International Channels; and Marci Wiseman, SVP of business affairs for AMC. They discussed the how the show originally and famously was rejected at the pilot stage by NBC. Alpert recalled how when the comic book rights were sold to NBC in 2005, the network told him, “We want to do something totally different.” He remembered, “When they passed, I said, ‘But I thought you wanted to do something totally different.’ They said, ‘We do. We just don’t want to do a zombie show.’ That was one of the more frustrating things.” Read More »
USA Network unveiled its drama development slate today and said it will start production this summer on the pilot Horizon, the period genre drama from The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd that the network pushed in February. The new slate (see the full list below) includes Complications, the latest from Burn Notice‘s Matt Nix; the new Rob Thomas project Blanco County; and works from Doug Liman and David Semel. The news comes on the heels of the network’s newest original series, the Jeff Eastin-created Graceland, joining the summer drama schedule with a premiere set for June 6.
Related: USA Picks Up ‘Sirens’ And ‘Playing House’, Orders Half-Hour Pilot Read More »
Ross Lincoln is a Deadline Contributor.
Diehard zombie fans were out in force for the first night of PaleyFest 2013 thanks to the festival-opening The Walking Dead panel moderated by Nerdist impressario and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick. Perhaps that’s why Hardwick erred on the side of devoted fanboy rather than penetrating interviewer, giving the event more of a Comic-Con panel feel. Cast members Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Dania Gurira (Michonne), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Scott Wilson (Hershel), Emily Kinney (Beth), Norman Reedus (Daryl), and Steven Yeun (Glenn) were joined by series creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman and his co-executive producers Gale Anne Hurd, Greg Nicotero and David Alpert for a occasionally salty, consistently hilarious discussion that avoided any hint of controversy.
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You could call her the Queen of the Dead. Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd has been with the AMC zombie apocalypse show from the very beginning, through its behind the scenes up and downs and its record breaking ratings results this past year. After a more than two-month break, The Walking Dead is back Sunday for eight more episodes of its third season. Hurd spoke with Deadline about the show’s return, the sudden exit last year of showrunner Glen Mazzara and how Dead comic creator and show EP Robert Kirkman feels about the detours the series takes from the comics. The seasoned producer also talks about the possibility of a Walking Dead movie and the similarities between her show and its fellow Sunday night airer Downton Abbey.
Deadline: I have to ask right off the bat – What happened with Glen Mazzara?
Gale Anne Hurd: Essentially with the series moving forward, he saw Season 4 in a different light than AMC did.
Deadline: OK. That’s very similar to what he has said. With Glen having left, are we are going to see any difference in the show with Scott Gimple taking over the showrunner job?
Hurd: I don’t think there will be any difference. We have the same writers’ room who’ll be contributing to all the episodes as we had before. We have Greg Nicotero and Robert Kirkman and producer Dave Alpert are still very strong voices. So I don’t think you’ll see a shift at all.
Related: Glen Mazzara No-Show At ‘Walking Dead’ TV Academy Panel
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I’ve learned that USA Network has decided to push its alien drama pilot Horizon to summer. The project, from The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, received a cast contingent pilot order in early December. After the network made some efforts casting the lead, I hear the USA brass decided to wait until the end of the broadcast pilot season when more talent will be available. Right now, Horizon was competing with some 50 broadcast drama pilots for top actresses. Horizon is USA’s first genre effort in eight years and the first-ever period drama on the network, so I hear USA executives wanted to give it the best chance possible. Set during the height of World War II, Horizon centers on a secretary at the FBI who discovers that her husband might have been killed in a battle with a spaceship in the South Pacific. Obsessed with learning the truth, she becomes the only person standing between Earth and an alien invasion. Bridget Tyler (Burn Notice) wrote the script and will co-executive produce for Universal Cable Prods and Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment.
Big news for fans of Japanese anime, and the business behind it. Toei Animation — Japan’s largest animation production company — plans a major foray into the U.S. market with a live action film, Gaiking, based on a world-famous anime character universe. This also represents the first development deal for All Nippon Entertainment Works, a public-private partnership designed to help the country’s entertainment producers expand across the globe. They’re teaming up with Valhalla Entertainment (which developed and produces AMC’s The Walking Dead) which will develop and co-produce the film derived from a series about a young man who pilots a super-robot — which in this case must save the world from alien invaders. “Gaiking has long been one of the most beloved giant robot animation franchises with a global fan base,” says Toei Animation’s Yoshi Ikezawa. The company wants the feature film “to be the first of many more to come from Toei’s large stable” of properties. There’s no release date yet. The backers plan to target the fanboy and fangirl audience that turned out for hits such as Marvel’s The Avengers and Paramount’s Transformers. Read More »
Eight years after the debut of its last sci-fi show, miniseries-turned-series 4400, USA Network is re-entering the genre space with Horizon, a cast-contingent drama pilot from The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd.
Set during the height of World War II, Horizon centers on a secretary at the FBI who discovers that her husband might have been killed in a battle with a spaceship in the South Pacific. Obsessed with learning the truth, she becomes the only person standing between Earth and an alien invasion. Bridget Tyler (Burn Notice) wrote the script and will co-executive produce for Universal Cable Prods. and Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment, which has a deal at the studio. “Horizon is our first genre piece since The 4400 and the first ever period drama for the network,” said USA Network co-presidents Jeff Wachtel and Chris McCumber. “This signals the next step in the evolution of our programming brand.” Read More »
Thursday night one of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ most important events, the 27th Annual Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting named five 2012 fellows to an impressive honor roll that has included writers who eventually penned such films as Little Miss Sunshine, Children Of Men, Twilight, The Bourne Identity, Butter and many television shows including this year’s Emmy winner Homeland. The ceremony at the Regent Beverly Wilshire was opened by Academy CEO Dawn Hudson who announced that these finalists came from a massive 7,197 submissions. “I hope this is the last time you go up against that many people in your career”, she said before introducing producer Gale Anne Hurd, an Academy Governor who heads the Nicholl selection committee.
When the Nicholl fellowships started in 1986 there were only 99 entries but obviously word has gotten out that it’s a good place to be seen if you want a screenwriting career. Hurd pointed out that some 80 feature films written by these writers the Academy program has discovered over the past 27 years have earned $5.37 billion theatrically. She thanked the 173 volunteers from the Academy membership who judged the scripts. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: NBC has teamed with The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd for 11th Commandment, a series adaptation of UK author Jeffrey Archer’s 1998 novel The Eleventh Commandment. British writer Patrick Harbinson (Person Of Interest, 24) is writing the script for the project, produced by Universal Cable Prods., where Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment is under a deal. 11th Commandment centers on Connor Fitzgerald, who has been leading a secret life as the CIA’s most deadly assassin when he decides to pull back to spend more time with his wife and family. But his worlds are about to collide when he is set up by someone within the CIA for an assassination he didn’t commit. “This is a fantastic character-driven story of an assassin who in the employ of the U.S. government,” Hurd said.
The project originated a year ago when Valhalla teamed with Canada’s New Franchise Media, which owns rights Archer’s novel, to develop a series adaptation. Hurd took the project to UCP when she signed a pod deal there in April and Harbinson was brought in to write. Harbinson and Hurd will executive produce with Jeffrey Steiner, CEO/owner of New Franchise Media. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Route One Films has acquired rights to The Nameless from Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment. The action thriller is set in a top-secret facility that houses witnesses awaiting new identities. When the area’s location is compromised, a U.S. Marshal and the town’s inhabitants must take a stand against assassins determined to execute the key witness in an upcoming trial. Valhalla exec Kris Henigman brought in and spearheaded development on Chris Bullett’s script. At the end of last year, Route One — led by managing partners Jay Stern, Russell Levine and Chip Diggins — announced production financing from their participation in the $110 million Sovik Global Contents Fund based in South Korea. “This is exactly the kind of smart, mainstream film we want to make, and we are thrilled to be working with Gale and her team at Valhalla,” the Route One principals said. Megan Hughes was instrumental in Route One’s involvement in Nameless, which is being executive produced by Mike Goldberg and Josh Adler.
Valhalla, which just inked a pod deal with Universal Cable Prods, developed and produces AMC’s The Walking Dead as well as projects including the upcoming FX pirate series Port Royal on the TV side. In film, its credits include Armageddon and The Incredible Hulk. It currently is working on the upcoming Halloween horror film Hellfest for CBS Films with Neil Marshall directing, as well as the Dakota Fanning-Elizabeth Olsen pic Very Good Girls.
Bullett is repped by Gersh and … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment has inked an exclusive pod deal with Universal Cable Prods. This marks the first overall TV deal for Valhalla, which will develop and produce projects for both cable and broadcast networks, including UCP’s NBCUniversal siblings USA and Syfy. The agreement builds on the success Valhalla has had with its first primetime series, AMC’s smash The Walking Dead, which Hurd executive produces. Under the deal, Hurd and her executives will work with UCP’s development team — SVPs Richard Rothstein, Chris Sanagustin and Maira Suro — who oversee the studio’s development for USA, Syfy and external networks, respectively. The trio noted that Valhalla “shares our creative commitment, passion for great stories and desire to produce efficiently.” Hurd, who has not worked with USA and Syfy, pointed to UCP’s decision last year to expand into producing for broadcast in addition to cable. “We have double the opportunity to create a diverse slate of projects,” she said. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The remaking of Rob Schneider as comic leading man continues! After scoring in the CBS sitcom Rob, Schneider’s teaming with Terminator and The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd on the feature comedy vehicle Teach Me to Dance. He’ll star and she’ll produce and the film has a script by Patricia Azarcoya Schneider and Marion Douglas, based on an idea by Azarcoya Schneider (the producer of Mexican TV shows is Rob’s wife). The comedy is about a man who schemes to win back his ex-girlfriend by learning how to dance. Schneider, who regularly shows up in Adam Sandler movies in quirky roles, of course played the iconic man-whore Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, a funny sleeper hit that Schneider wrote. The R-rated sequel, European Gigolo, didn’t fare nearly as well, but was still pretty funny. Gersh reps Schneider and the writers.
EXCLUSIVE: From zombies to aliens. The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and her Valhalla Entertainment have optioned Annie Jacobsen’s book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base for a potential TV series. The hourlong project, which will be taken out to the networks shortly, will be written by feature scribe Karl Gajdusek. It will follow two men working on the base who are thrust into danger when they uncover secrets that the government will protect at any cost. Gajdusek, who was brought in by Valhalla executive Beatrice Springborn, will serve as showrunner and executive produce with Hurd. Jacobsen will be a consulting producer.
Jacobsen’s Area 51 sheds light on the highly classified military base, which has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories claiming that it is home to aliens, underground tunnel systems, nuclear facilities or even the lunar landing, supposedly staged and filmed there. Jacobsen interviewed 19 men who served the base and another 55 who had links to Area 51, including living and working there for extended periods. The book chronicles what has really gone on in the Nevada desert, from testing nuclear weapons to building super-secret, supersonic jets to pursuing the War on Terror. Area 51 was published in May and spent 8 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller List. Gajdusek, … Read More »
Academy Announces Winners Of 2011 Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowships
Although they are certainly best known for those other awards they hand out in February, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences do a lot more throughout the year. One of its prized events happened Thursday evening at a dinner at the Beverly Wilshire, where the 26th annual Don and Gee Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowships were awarded to what Academy president Tom Sherak described as the “Academy’s Magnificent 7.”
The Nicholl Fellowships were established in 1985 and are now chaired (and hosted) by new Academy governor Gale Anne Hurd, who told me she’s been on the Nicholl committee since 1989. Each of the writing fellows (or teams) will receive a $35,000 prize in order to continue developing their scripts (checks are handed out in installments with the understanding that the recipients will complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year), and the Academy is not involved otherwise commercially with the scripts in any way and holds no rights to them. Even with the Oscars in the mix, Sherak opened the program by saying: “This is my favorite event. It’s nights like this that I wish I were an agent. You want to sign every one of them.” He added these few winners were chosen from among a record 6,730 entries by the 24 judges and committee members who read everything.
It was quite a night that also included a rousing keynote address from David Seidler, this year’s reigning Best Original Screenplay winner for The King’s Speech and “new Academy member” at age 74. At the reception before the dinner, I asked Seidler how the Oscar has changed his life at this age. He joked, “Producers now owe me more, but it takes them longer.” Seidler is red-hot, though, having completed two new scripts over the summer and now embarking on two rewrites. He asked me who I thought was the front-runner to win Original Screenplay this year and I suggested probably Woody Allen for Midnight In Paris. “Well, he has me beat then,” Seidler said. Allen at 76 would usurp Seidler as the oldest winner ever in that category, meaning that Seidler’s record could be short-lived. His speech, which he said was working on right to the last minute, won over the crowd and certainly provided inspiration for the writers in attendance. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has acquired Hellfest, a script by William Penick and Chris Sey about what happens at a Halloween theme park when one of the costumed characters is actually killing the patrons who think it’s all part of the show. Gale Anne Hurd, who’s currently producing the AMC series The Walking Dead, will produce the picture under her Valhalla Motion Pictures banner. The scribes wrote the script from a concept by Valhalla’s Ben Roberts, who’ll be executive producer.
Deal comes after Hurd joined forces with Aspen comics on Dead Man’s Run, a series that will be written by Greg Pak. In it, Hell is an underground prison for the reanimated deal, and a man enlists a team of the damned to escape and save his innocent sister’s soul.