George Clooney and Grant Heslov‘s company Smokehouse Pictures, which was behind best picture Oscar winner Argo, is making a move in television with an overall deal at Sony Pictures TV. Under the pact, the company will develop and produce comedy and drama series for all platforms: broadcast, cable and digital. Since launching Smokehouse in 2006, Clooney and Heslov have been focused primarily on features, developing and producing films that the two directed, like Leatherheads, The Ides Of March and The Monuments Men (Clooney) and The Men Who Stare At Goats (Heslov) as well as features directed by others, most recently Argo, helmed by Ben Affleck and last year’s August: Osage County, directed by John Wells. Clooney comes from a strong TV background, having started in television as an actor and then producer. CAA-repped Smokehouse has a history at Sony — the company moved its feature deal from Warner Bros. to Sony in 2009.
It’s starting to get serious. This wild ride of an awards season may not be predictable, according to conventional wisdom. But in the end the winner of the Producer Guild’s Best Picture award Saturday night was completely predictable in my opinion. After all, Warner Bros’ Argo features a key role for a Hollywood movie producer who rises to the occasion and helps make a difference in the world, winning the hearts and minds of a group of producers. Imagine that. This is the first guild to weigh in so we have a tentative frontrunner in Argo now for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture. Had producer/director/star Ben Affleck not been snubbed for a Best Director Oscar, the word “tentative” wouldn’t even be used. When I talked to Affleck in the Beverly Hilton ballroom moments after his picture won, he still seemed to be reeling from the roller coaster ride he’s been on, but clearly happy. (Co-producer Grant Heslov suggested they should call their fellow producer George Clooney in Berlin and tell him the good news.) “When I didn’t get the Best Director nomination after everybody told me I would, I was depressed. But then that same day I won at Critics Choice which was really torturous because everyone kept asking me all night how I felt,” Affleck told me. “Then we win at the Globes.” Argo was also named the year’s Best Picture at the Critics …
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
Having a script that everyone loves doesn’t always ensure the quickest path to production. Just ask Argo producer Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Pictures. Five years ago, Heslov and producing partner George Clooney hired screenwriter Chris Terrio to turn Joshuah Bearman’s April 2007 Wired article, “The Great Escape,” into a script. The previously classified true story of the CIA’s collaboration with two Hollywood insiders in setting up a fake production company and turning six trapped diplomats into a fake film crew as a way to smuggle them out of Iran was a riveting read in first-draft script form. Nevertheless, scheduling proved an issue for years until the script made its way through Warner Bros. to Ben Affleck, who was eager to make Argo his next project. With the box office hit and festival-circuit favorite firmly entrenched in the awards conversation, Heslov took time from the set of his next project, August: Osage County, to talk about arriving at the right budget number and why Smokehouse is always involved in the marketing of its films.
AwardsLine: It took Argo about five years to make it to the screen. Was it just a matter of scheduling or were other roadblocks holding things up?
Grant Heslov: We found it about five years ago, and we developed it, and it was one of a few films that we had that we felt were ready to go. But George (Clooney) and I just hadn’t had time to get it made or figure out what we were going to do with it. When we were shooting The Ides of March, we heard that Ben (Affleck) was interested, so we got together with him, and that’s how that ball started rolling.