EXCLUSIVE: Well, that didn’t take long. Benjamin Bratt has stepped in to voice the villain Eduardo in Despicable Me 2. He replaces Al Pacino, who exited the project over creative differences with Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. He’s getting to work right away on a film that Universal is counting on for a major summer release that begins July 3. Despicable Me 2 is the fourth film from Illumination Entertainment and the sequel to its 2010 hit Despicable Me, one of Universal’s most profitable films ever, with north of $540 million worldwide on a $69 million budget. The sequel is directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, and scripted by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, with Illumination founder Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy producing. Bratt, whose credits include Snitch, La Mission, The Woodsman and Traffic, is repped by WME, Circle of Confusion and attorney Robert Myman.
EXCLUSIVE: Here is a shocker. Al Pacino and Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment have parted company on Despicable Me 2. Pacino had long ago signed to provide the voice of the film’s villain, Eduardo, in the follow-up to the 2010 hit. The surprise here is timing: the film has a July 3 release date, and this occurred on the first weekend of summer film releases. Pacino had done a lot of the voice work, but ultimately his last-minute exit came down to creative difference. The studio and Chris Meledandri’s Illumination are in the process of landing someone to take over and I’m told there is time to get all this done and not imperil the film’s release date. Animation makes that much easier; no re-shoots.
The studio confirmed Pacino’s exit, and gave me this statement: “Over the production of Despicable Me 2, there were creative differences between us and Al Pacino, who had been cast as the voice of Eduardo in the film. We have mutually decided with Al to replace the voice of Eduardo with a new actor. Universal and Illumination thank Al for his many contributions to the process and look forward to a new actor bringing this memorable character to the screen upon its release this summer.”
EXCLUSIVE: Mad Men star Jon Hamm has signed on to provide the lead voice (alongside Sandra Bullock) in Minions, the Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise. Bullock is set to voice Scarlet Overkill, a stylish bad-ass super-villain who is (what else?) bent on world domination. Hamm will voice her husband, the inventor Herb Overkill. The 3D CG animated comedy has been set for release December 19, 2014.
At the same time, veteran animated feature film executive Tito Ortiz has returned to Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment in the position of VP Development. Ortiz was one of the original employees at Illumination when it opened its doors in 2007, serving as Director of Development until 2011, when he left the company to pursue opportunities in the music industry. Even during his hiatus, Ortiz stayed close to the company by assisting in development across multiple properties. In his new role, Ortiz will be involved in the development of new feature film projects, and has already started in that mission with the recently announced animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which will be directed by Pete Candeland.
EXCLUSIVE: Playing against her America’s Sweetheart status, Sandra Bullock has been set to provide the lead villain voice in Minions, the Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise. Bullock will voice Scarlet Overkill, a stylish bad-ass super-villain who is (what else?) bent on world domination. The 3D CG animated comedy has been set for release December 19, 2014.
The adorable yellow henchmen, who got their start in 2010′s Despicable Me, will be back this summer in the sequel. This spinoff establishes that Minions have existed since the beginning of time, in service of history’s most ambitiously evil villains. Through their lovable ineptitude, Minions have managed to thwart and ultimately destroy all of those bad guys. This story picks up in the 1960s, before they hench-ed for Gru. With no more super-villains to serve, the Minions fall into a collective depression and three of them set out to seek a new evil master. They wind up at a villain convention, where they compete for the right to be henchmen for Scarlet Overkill, whose Audrey Hepburn-like high style appearance belies her world domination ambition and her aspirations to become the world’s first female super-villain.
(SANTA MONICA, CA & TOKYO, JAPAN) September 5th, 2012 -Illumination Entertainment, creators of Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and Fuji Television, Japan’s leading broadcast television network and film production company, today announced a strategic alliance in Japan. The deal brings together the creative expertise of Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination, and Fuji Television’s Senior Executive Managing Director, Chihiro Kameyama. no immediate co-production plans on the table. The partnership will kick off in September 2012, when audiences will see the iconic Minion characters from Illumination’s hit film Despicable Me appear on the Fuji Television logo accompanying their theatrical release of Bayside Shakedown.
EXCLUSIVE: After coming right out of the gate with the animated hit Despicable Me and turning it into a sequel and a just-opened 3D theme park ride at Universal Studios Orlando, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment has set an untitled feature spinoff based on The Minions as its fifth feature film with Universal. The adorable yellow-colored critters that began as henchmen for Groo in Despicable Me are now leading men (?) for a film Universal will release in 2014.
The film is an original story that will introduce new characters and reprise others that originated in Despicable Me, but the focus is on the antics of the yellow fellows as they interact with human characters. The script is already written by Brian Lynch, and Pierre Coffin will direct and Kyle Balda will co-direct. Coffin co-directed Despicable Me and is helming the sequel with Chris Renaud, and the two of them also do the voices for The Minions. Balda co-directed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax with Renaud for Illumination.
Universal has released a new trailer for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the third film from Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment. The film opens March 2, 2012.
Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment have posted the first teaser trailer for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the third film by Chris Meledandri’s Universal-based family film division. Meledandri cultivated a relationship with Audrey Geisel, the widow of Theodor Geisel, when he ran Fox Animation and they turned Horton Hears a Who …
Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment is continuing to ramp up its infrastructure by bringing two crucial hires onto its leadership team. The four-year-old company made several additions earlier this year, and now, Meledandri has announced the hirings of Brooke Breton as a senior production executive and Kit Giordano as Director of Development. Simultaneously, Kristin Wong-Ward has been promoted into the creative executive role.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Illuminaton Entertainment have acquired the rights package to make a film based on the 60 Minutes segment Gospel for Teens. Illumination Entertainment’s Chris Meledandri has made the project his company’s first live action family film deal, and he will produce with Escape Artists’ Todd Black. The script will be written by Stephen Belber, who is currently adapting the book Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun, as a potential starring vehicle for Jamie Foxx. Belber most recently sold The Long Run to Sony and Overbrook Entertainment, and he wrote and directed the Jennifer Aniston-Steve Zahn-starrer Management. The rights package was brokered by ICM.
UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long. Universal has confirmed Egan’s move. Here’s the release, below Deadline’s original break of the story.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing that Universal marketing president Eddie Egan will be moving over to a top post at Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment. I hear he will transition slowly, straddling both jobs for a limited time. It’s the latest growth move for Illumination, the Universal-based family film company, which is 2-for-2 on movies with Despicable Me and Hop. Despicable Me, Meledandri’s first release through Universal, is also spawning a theme park attraction. Developing…
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, May 25, 2011 – After leading the domestic marketing of back-to-back breakaway hits for Universal Pictures in Fast Five and Bridesmaids, President of Marketing Eddie Egan has chosen to take on a new position as head of marketing for Illumination Entertainment. As Egan assumes the title and duties of Illumination’s President of Marketing, he will also continue to serve as a senior executive at his home studio as Executive Vice President for Universal Pictures, where he has spent 17 years and served for the last three and a half years as its domestic marketing chief. The announcement was made jointly today by Adam Fogelson, Chairman of Universal Pictures and Chris Meledandri, founder of Illumination.
In his newly created position at Illumination, Egan will oversee every aspect of marketing for the company’s slate, working closely with his new team at Illumination and his long-time colleagues at Universal. Illumination is planning to accelerate their output with Universal to two films a year starting in 2013.
Universal Pictures has released a new trailer for Hop, the Illumination Entertainment CG/live action mix that opens April 1. The film is Illumination’s followup to Despicable Me.
EXCLUSIVE: Illumination Entertainment chief Chris Meledandri has hired Ashley Kramer to be EVP of Production and Gail Harrison to oversee Creative Marketing. The move signals expansion plans for the 4-year-old Universal Pictures-based company, whose first release Despicable Me grossed $540 million worldwide. At a time when recent underwhelming results from animation releases like Mars Needs Moms has some second-guessing the animated feature game all the way down to 3D prices, Meledandri is adding executives with the intention of doubling Illumination’s output to two films per year by 2012 or 2013. The company’s next release, the live action/CG mix Hop, will be released by Universal on April 1.
“With Despicable Me behind us, the impending release of Hop, The Lorax in production and a Despicable Me sequel in early stages, it was time to properly scale the company and begin to solidify the team that will lead us as we move forward,” Meledandri told me. “With our output rising from our current schedule of one movie per year, it became imperative that we supplement the staff with additional key executives who can help the company grow. These two new hires are the first of a few key positions we will be filling.”
Meledandri said that Harrison will be helpful in what he sees as a major priority for Illumination: bolstering the efforts of Universal’s marketing team and brand building on each family film release. Part of that is an emphasis on supplying “vast amounts of content generated in the films to exist outside the films themselves.” Meledandri noted that Despicable Me yielded over 15 minutes of extra original content. “Some of it was used for DVD, some for interstitial material that ran on the NBC networks, and some we used in conjunction with our promotional partners,” he said. There will also be a greater emphasis on promotional tie-ins like the one announced this morning by Universal, which tied in Walmart to promote Hop.
As for Kramer’s hire, it signals that Illumination will acquire more projects, but not that many. Meledandri is determined to keep a development ratio of 3.5 projects bought for each one made. “That’s dramatically different from the studio average, and it makes it harder for people submitting projects because we are extremely selective,” Meledandri said. “The good thing is, their chances of a film getting made from something we’re developing is very high.”
Meledandri said when Illumination ups its output, the second film won’t be another 3D CG animated feature. “We can’t make two fully animated films year in and out; we’re not set up to do it and the films are too work-intensive,” he said. “We’ll get to our two pictures per year target from all sources combined. That means one could be stop-motion, a hybrid, or live action that bolsters our steady flow of fully animated films.”