Check out Deadline’s top film stories of the week:
‘Ride Along 2′ Gets Rolling
By Anita Busch – EXCLUSIVE: It was inevitable after the huge success of Ride Along that Universal Pictures executives would be salivating to get the sequel together. Tim Story will direct Ride Along 2 and Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are closing to reprise their roles as the quick-witted security guard (Hart) who has his eye on his partner’s (Cube’s) sister.
BOX OFFICE: ‘Lego’ Is Lord Of Business, Costner’s ’3 Days To Kill’ No. 2 Buries ‘Pompeii’; ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Now 10th Highest Domestic Grosser Ever
By Anita Busch – All pictures played out pretty much as expected as the dust cleared this morning with Warner Bros.’ The Lego Movie continuing to hold onto audiences to take in far and above any other offering with a $31.4M estimated gross.
Ebersols Aboard To Produce And Script Warner Bros’ ‘Space Jam 2′ As A Starring Vehicle For LeBron James
By Anita Busch – After he recovers from the injury suffered in last night’s game, NBA MVP LeBron James will be ready for his close-up — with Bugs Bunny.
Warner Bros Sets ‘Lego Movie’ Sequel For May 2017
By The Deadline Team – The Lego Movie to date has made $151.7 domestically after two weeks in release and now it is getting a sequel.
UPDATE: Open Road Says It Will Still Release ‘Midnight Rider’; Female Crew Member Killed In On-Set Train Accident Identified
By Anita Busch – We were told that the distributor was close to announcing its plans to pull out before yesterday’s tragic accident during production in Wayne County, GA, in which a female crew member was killed and seven others were injured when they were hit by a train while filming. So time will tell.
OSCARS: Harvey Weinstein On His Dark Horse Best Picture Candidate ‘Philomena,’ And, Well, Everything Else
Each year, Harvey Weinstein has taken time out from his Sundance buying frenzies to do an Oscar-season interview that touches on his Academy hopefuls, all the films he bought in Park City, and politics. Well, January’s Sundance couldn’t have been duller — outside of his multiplatform arm RADiUS, The Weinstein Company made zero buys there for the first time in forever — but so much has happened since that we needed a catch-up call to get it all in. Here, Weinstein touches on everything from watching Philomena get the Best Picture Oscar nomination over higher-profile TWC films to Quentin Tarantino’s leaked The Hateful Eight script to his battle with Warner Bros over The Hobbit gross points, to the NRA. And, just as he came out of Toronto with the big acquisition in Can A Song Save Your Life?, Weinstein walked away from Berlin with The Imitation Game, the drama about genius British mathematician Alan Turing, whose work cracking the Nazi Enigma Code made him a bona fide WWII hero but who later was prosecuted for being homosexual, chemically castrated and eventually committed suicide.
DEADLINE: We started this interview at the tail end of Sundance and you uncharacteristically hadn’t bought a single movie. You went right to Berlin and paid a record $7 million for U.S. rights to The Imitation Game. What happened?
WEINSTEIN: One of the things I’ve never been great at is discipline, but we just didn’t feel like there was anything we had to have at Sundance. We decided that, like with Can A Song Save Your Life? at Toronto, we wanted the movie. Imitation Game was a project all of us followed, and those 20 minutes gave that zeitgeist feeling to me, David Glasser, everyone on our team. Negeen Yazdi, who runs our English office, tracked this one so hard that it was like she was trying to break the Enigma Code.
DEADLINE: How hard is it to make such a big commitment based on a 20 minute compilation of scenes?
WEINSTEIN: It was easier in that we all knew the script and could see the level of performance Morten Tyldum got in his first English language film. Alan Turing is not outwardly very sympathetic. He’s brilliant, but the way that Benedict Cumberbatch played him showed us these guys found the right level of vulnerability, genius and the arrogance of the character, too. We felt after reading the script that you could get this wrong, from the tone to the casting. The reason we didn’t make it ourselves was, it felt like a near impossible walk on a tightrope. Morten walked the tightrope. And Keira Knightley is so brilliant in Can A Song Save Your Life and she was helpful and loyal in pushing it our way that we wanted this huge run she is about to have to be with us.
Who knew that Tom Sherak touched this many people? Here is a note that was penned by Harvey Weinstein for Deadline, describing what the former Fox exec and Academy president meant to him, his brother Bob Weinstein, and COO David Glasser and distribution chief Erik Lomis. Weinstein was moved to write in reaction to Bill Mechanic’s words.
“Tommy We Hardly Knew Ye:
When I was a boy I read a beautiful memoir called Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye about JFK which his long term buddy Kenneth O’Donnell wrote. This is the best way to describe my, my brother, Erik Lomis and David Glasser’s feelings about a man named Tom Sherak. The first time Bob and I met Tom was over 30 years ago – we were just two rock promoters born in New York City hating every minute of the Rock n Roll existence. Fancying ourselves as movie producers, we came up with the novel idea of booking two movies, one called White Rock The Olympic Experience and the other, The Genesis Concert Movie and coming up with a marketing handle called Sensasia, the movie experience. Who the hell were we kidding and how the hell were we going to get theaters to play these two movies we put together and decided we would start distributing with no distributing background whatsoever? So we tried it out in our backyard and lo and behold it worked but there was an entire country to play and at that time the general cinema ruled the waves and ocean and the man in charge of booking theatres in general cinema was a warmhearted ebullient soul named Tom Sherak. He must have looked at us with complete and utter bafflement- just two shaggy guys with afros. We looked like we got off the Grateful Dead road bus and there we were with our dream of conquering the US distribution system with two 45 minute movies. Theater by theater, state by state, city by city, Tom Sherak took these 2 knuckle heads and helped them form a company called Miramax. That’s how it started: rock n’ roll movies with Sherak renting us theaters, booking us theaters, and guiding us. We knew nothing except we had an instinct and a flair for promotion and the movies weren’t half bad. Through the course of our lives he would always be there whether he was mentoring or mediating and trust me, David and Erik would testify we needed a mediator or two, but more importantly a mentor.
COMMENTARY: The Weinstein Company’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein made some bold statements Friday on CNN to Piers Morgan about backing away from violent content. He spoke about his own children and how he no longer wanted to feel like a hypocrite. “The change starts here,” the man who produced Quentin Tarantino’s violent Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and D’jango Unchained told Morgan. “It has already. For me, I can’t do it. I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids and then just go out and be a hypocrite.” He added that he would still make a movie like Lone Survivor, which is a violent but accurate portrayal of our American military and their dedication to serving this country. “I’m not going to make some crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people just for the sake of making it,” he said. “I can’t do it.” Weinstein’s statements came only days after a fatal shooting of the father of a 3-year old in a Florida theater during a screening of Lone Survivor who was killed while texting his little girl by a supposed “good guy with a gun,” a 71 year-old former police captain.
“The insensitivity that the average person has now because of violence is because people have become so used to it. It’s an obsession as well as almost an addiction. It’s a cheap way of getting an audience, more people shot and more explosions, but it’s at the expense of the story,” said one entertainment marketer with 35 years of experience. “Abject violence has proven successful, and as long as it is, it will be produced because it’s profitable. It’s the accepted way of life rather than asking is this the right thing to do?”
The question is, of course, how Harvey is going to reconcile being in business with Tarantino. The filmmaker has made a lot of money for the company with violent fare. And therein lies the conundrum that all studio heads and TV executives face. I’ve interviewed several executives over the past few weeks and many have said privately that they think the gun violence — especially in video games — has gotten out of control. However, they also say they have an obligation to their shareholders to make a profit and violence sells. There will always be violence in movies, just as there is violence in the Bible and in the plays of William Shakespeare. But, Weinstein is trying to tip the scales; to shift Hollywood from glorifying violence in films, to showing the true human cost and destructiveness of it.
The Weinstein Company did just that when it released Fruitvale Station last year. The film does contain gun violence, but it’s told from the point of view of the victim of gun violence. And that, in itself, is unusual and powerful. When Weinstein said, “The change starts here. It has already for me,” I thought of Fruitvale. Produced by Forest Whitaker and directed by newcomer Ryan Coogler, you come to care about this boy, see him with his little girl, understand him as a father and a son before he is murdered. It was passed over by the Academy this past week for Oscar noms, but it shouldn’t have been. It did win the Producers Guild’s Stanley Kramer Award. Stanley Kramer, of course, was the patron saint of bringing social issues to the foreground with films such as Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Fruitvale was the first film I saw in a theater (a large screening room) after the Aurora, CO shooting where my cousin’s daughter was among many murdered by a gunman at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012. During the emergency room scene, I couldn’t bear it. I closed my eyes and sobbed. The film depicts the true face of violence — a very realistic depiction of how gun violence destroys a family. It was made for under $1M and brought in $16.7M at the box office is and still bringing in money in its ancillary markets.
On Eve Of MLK Day, Will Adultery Keep Epic Dr. King Movie Off The Big Screen?
By Mike Fleming Jr. – Oliver Stone has run smack into the same wall on a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr biopic that director Paul Greengrass hit when Universal kicked his MLK project Memphis to the curb two years back.
Harvey Weinstein Has Change of Heart On Violent Content In Films: “The Change Starts Here”, Says He Will Change His Choices In Regard To Violence: Video
A day after he announced he was going to make a film taking on the NRA with Meryl Streep, Harvey Weinstein — the producer of several violent films — told CNN’s Piers Morgan in an interview to air tonight that he has had a change of heart about violent content in film. Asked by Morgan about his hypocrisy of making these violent films, Weinstein said, “They have a point. You have to look in the mirror, too. I have to choose movies that aren’t violent or as violent as they used to be. I know for me personally, you know, I can’t continue to do that. The change starts here. It has already. For me, I can’t do it. I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids and then just go out and be a hypocrite.” He added that he would make a movie like Lone Survivor, “a tribute to the United States special forces,” but “I’m not going to make some crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people just for the sake of making it.” As far as Streep, he said, “people have to remember that Meryl Streep is an actress. She’s working as someone whose playing a part and all the heat should come my way.” Here’s the interview on CNN’s website in two parts (the second after the post):
The cover story of the current New York Times Magazine tells the story of a lobster fisherman who fell overboard in the middle of the night 40 miles offshore and the frenzied efforts to rescue him. Rachael Horovitz, Jason Blum and Harvey Weinstein will produce A Speck In The Sea for The Weinstein Company. Here’s the release:
New York, NY (January 10, 2014) – The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced today that they have acquired the film rights to writer Paul Tough’s (HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED) New York Times Magazine article “A Speck in the Sea.” The piece, which ran as the magazine’s cover story last Sunday, will be produced for the screen by Rachael Horovitz (Academy Award® nominated for MONEYBALL and Emmy and Golden Globe Winner for GREY GARDENS) along with Jason Blum and Harvey Weinstein. Bob Weinstein will executive produce the project, with TWC creative executive Julie Oh overseeing development.
Year-End: Legal Battles Of 2013 And Beyond – Aereo, ‘Hobbit’ Sequels, ‘Walking Dead’ Vs. Frank Darabont, Prospect Park & ‘Godzilla’
One in a series of Deadline stories that look back on 2013 and ahead to 2014.
It was a year that saw the Weinsteins and Warner Bros clash over the title of The Butler and then get into the ring again for The Hobbitsequels. 2013 also witnessed the first fired Walking Dead showrunner wanting to take a bite out ofAMC for his piece of the cable blockbuster, a Ray Donovan EP nailed by the feds in a big-time gambling scheme right out of the Showtime Hollywood fixer series and a monster of a legal drama in the making as Legendary Pictures tried to swat some seasoned producers off its Godzilla reboot. In the end, with those cases and more, the Hollywood legal landscape of 2013 proved to be a stringent reminder of why they call it show business and not show friends.
With money and rights at the basis of most of the disputes, the complaints and motions were as numerous as locusts and as prevalent as rats, with many of them spilling over into 2014 and perhaps beyond. Just ask Barry Diller and Les Moonves as streaming service Aereo and CBS and other broadcasters suit up for a potential Supreme Court winner-takes-all showdown next year. Or Prospect Park as it fights ABC in a $125 million suit over licensed soaps All My Children and One Life To Live while having to contend with a complaint from co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz seeking a declaratory judgment from the court over non-compete clauses in his contract with the company. Sure, sometimes weapons are lowered like when Paramount and asset management firm Content Partners reached an undisclosed settlement on December 12 in their $45 million film financing slate dust-up after three years going at it in the courts. With a pivotal hearing looming, that was realpolitik in action as the sudden deal allowed the studio to sidestep dragging JPMorgan Chase, which corporate parent Viacom has significant banking dealings with, into the protracted case despite the blessing of the presiding judge. However, with the grinding duration of a lot of the legal disputes in this town, such resolution is rare, even when the end seems in sight.
Look for instance at Warner Bros and the seemingly never-ending Superman heirs’ rights battle. After a string of seemingly conclusive legal wins this year, WB and subsidiary DC Comics now could face more Krypton courtroom drama in 2014. On December 10, the co-creators heirs’ attorneys Marc Toberoff and Keith G. Adams petitioned the 9th Circuit for either a rehearing by the panel that found in the studio’s favor on November 21 or by the full court itself. If that effort fails, they could take the matter to the SCOTUS. Even with all the billings that O’Melveny & Myers get to make to WB after years of litigation, the sharp-elbowed Daniel Petrocelli and Matthew Kline must want to be able to declare a super-lawyer victory and move on – after all, they also have the Trouble With The Curve copyright suit to handle for the studio and a February 24 hearing on a summary judgment motion in that case by plaintiffs Ryan A. Brooks and Gold Glove Productions to fend off.
Harvey Weinstein, George Clooney And Tracy Letts On ‘August: Osage County’s Ending Change And Release Date Shift
EXCLUSIVE: After this week’s L.A. premiere of August: Osage County, Harvey Weinstein is prepared to make two proclamations as the film launches into a crowded Oscar season. “When it comes to Oscars, I’ll take bets on this movie, it’s going to be a surprise and a sleeper, but it’s gonna be there,” he said. His second proclamation: “I’m never again going to rush to play a movie festival anymore, until the movie is locked,” Weinstein said. “We rushed to get a version of August: Osage County because we wanted the heat of Toronto. It wasn’t finished and it has created a disconnect.”
Weinstein, George Clooney (a producer with Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov) and Tracy Letts (who adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play into the John Wells-directed film) called me to dispel a misperception they hope will not become a problem: that because of slight changes between the Toronto version and the final cut, this was a problem picture. In this case, the early version of the Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts-starrer had a slightly different ending than it does now. The finished film is a bit longer and more polished and contains over its closing credits ”Last Mile Home”, a moving acoustic song that Kings Of Leon wrote for the film. “Our worst review has been three stars, but forevermore in the age of the Internet you read that reaction was mixed in Toronto and it colors people,” Weinstein said. “There’s something in the air and the way to take it out of the air is for the three of us to combat it.” I won’t give away the ending here, but it involves how things are left between a dysfunctional family matriarch (Streep) and the daughter (Roberts) in danger of following in her bitter footsteps. Besides Toronto, there were test screenings and the usual back and forth that resulted in what the three said is the best version of the film, the one they showed this week.
Miramax TWC Linkup Homecoming Means ‘Shakespeare In Love’ And ‘Rounders’ Sequels, And ‘Good Will Hunting’ Series
BREAKING The Weinstein boys are back at Miramax. Colony Capital principal Tom Barrack Jr and The Weinstein Company co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein have set an alliance that will exploit the creative properties in the library that the brothers left behind when they exited Disney. The deal will span 20 years and multiple titles for films, TV series and live stage productions. Qatar Holding and Miramax will finance these, with TWC steering development and distributing domestically while Miramax distributes internationally. Qatar Holding and Colony Capital bought the Miramax library in 2010 for around $660 million.
They’ve been successful librarians, but now Colony Capital needs the talent relationships and development expertise of the Weinsteins to become content generators. “Sure, we own the intellectual property in the library, and most of the intellectual properties in development, but we didn’t have the art form. If I called Quentin Tarantino and said, I have a great idea how to do a Pulp Fiction TV series, chances are it would be a very short conversation,” Barrack told me. “The ability to take all these threads and sew them into a tapestry, is really the magic elixir. We’ve all decided it’s time for a quantum leap and that’s why we’re all together.”
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Hollywood is mourning the loss today of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela. Here are some of the thoughts on his passing:
Idris Elba, portrayed Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom:
“I am stunned at this very moment, in mourning with the rest of the world and Madiba’s family. We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth; I only feel honored to be associated with him. He is in a better place now. What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, U.S. distributor of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom:
“One of the privileges of making movies is having the opportunity to immortalize those who have made a profound impact on humanity. We count ourselves unspeakably fortunate to have been immersed in Nelson Mandela’s story and legacy. It’s been an honor to have been granted such proximity to a man who will go down as one of history’s greatest freedom fighters and advocates for justice. I have had the privilege of spending time with President Mandela and I can say his sense of humor was as great as his optimism. We are deeply saddened by his loss; our hearts go out to his family and the entire South African nation.”
Morgan Freeman, portrayed Mandela in Invictus:
“Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve—a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind. As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we’ve come, but on how far we have to go. Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us.”
Harvey Weinstein & ‘Fruitvale Station’ Director Ryan Coogler Joining Michelle Obama At White House Film Workshop
EXCLUSIVE: Just over 12 hours after tonight’s screening with President Obama of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom at the White House, Harvey Weinstein will be back at the Executive Mansion to talk film again. This time the Weinstein Company co-chairman will be with First Lady Michelle Obama at 10 AM PT for the Careers In Film symposium she is hosting Friday. Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler and One Chance director David Frankel will join Obama and Weinstein. Naomie Harris, who plays Winnie Mandela in Long Walk To Freedom, also will be participating. The filmmakers’ discussion will be moderated by Gayle King. Coogler also will be joining the Obamas, Harris, Weinstein and Mandela director Justin Chadwick and star Idris Elba at the screening tonight, I’ve learned. The Friday event is designed to teach high school students from Washington DC, NYC and Boston about the film industry.
Quentin Tarantino Solidifies Favored-Son Status In France As Emotional Cronies Celebrate Helmer’s Career
Reporting from Lyon:
After tonight, the Lumière Festival taking place here in Lyon might adopt the subtitle, “The Quentin Tarantino Festival of Love.” Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux and Lumière Institute president Bertrand Tavernier created this festival five years ago in the city that is the birthplace of cinema. This year, the fest gave its big Lumière Prize to Tarantino. A ceremony that lasted more than 2.5 hours was rife with song, dance, montages, and a lot of laughter mixed in with tears. This prize is “an act of admiration,” Frémaux said. “A way to tell people that we love them and to talk about their films.” He also dreams of this award being considered the ‘Nobel of Cinema’. “When we suggested Quentin Tarantino for the prize, we knew people would say he’s very young. But Albert Camus was only 44 when he won the Nobel for literature.” When Tarantino shouted at the end of the night, “Vive le cinema!,” no one in the room thought the 50-year-old was undeserving.
Tarantino blew into town unexpectedly on Monday when the fest kicked off and has been soaking it up ever since. It’s his kind of festival, stuffed with retrospectives, tributes and restored versions of Hollywood and world classics. Tonight, it was his turn to be feted. He was surrounded by friends and collaborators including longtime producers Lawrence Bender and Harvey Weinstein as well as actors from his films like Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Mélanie Laurent and Uma Thurman, who presented the award to her Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill director.
Tarantino was nearly speechless when he accepted the prize at the end of the night, “I don’t really have words for how I feel right now. This may be one of the first few times that’s ever happened to me,” said the normally loquacious director. “This is just a very, very overwhelming experience,” he said.
The Amphitheater at the Lyon Palais de Congrès was packed to the rafters with 3,000 invitees – many of whom were locals who paid for the chance to celebrate Tarantino, and maybe pick up a QT-shirt specially designed for the event. Tarantino is almost god-like for French moviegoers, so it’s no surprise. I saw Pulp Fiction in a Paris movie theater on a random night in 1994 – after it had won the Palme d’Or – and have never seen an audience whoop and holler in such a way. Fast-forward to the first Kill Bill and I remember being at a premiere screening at the Grand Rex theater in Paris where the reception was just as rapturous. Tarantino had introduced the film but he also stuck around to watch.