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Erica Huggins Named New President At Imagine Entertainment

By | Monday December 9, 2013 @ 1:51pm PST
Mike Fleming

huggBREAKING: Longtime Imagine Entertainment executive Erica Huggins has been promoted to president of the production company by chairman and co-founders Brian Grazer and Ron Howard and co-chairman Michael Rosenberg. This comes while Huggins is producing Get On Up, the James Brown biopic at Universal that stars Chadwick Boseman with Tate Taylor directing, and she is ImagineEntertainmentexec producing the Howard-directed The Heart Of The Sea at Warner Bros with Chris Hemsworth leading the cast. Kim Roth becomes sole president of production.

Huggins joined Imagine in 2004 as SVP of Motion Pictures. Two years later she became EVP and in 2010 became co-president of production. Over that time she has worked on such films as J. Edgar, Restless, Rush, and Flightplan, among others, as well as the Howard-directed music docu Made In America and Katy Perry: Part Of Me 3-D. She also works with Jason Katims on the NBC series Parenthood and has been a key part of the company’s attempt to become more entrepreneurial and adaptable in the digital age. Read More »

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Michael Rosenberg Elevated To Co-Chairman Of Imagine Entertainment

By | Tuesday November 26, 2013 @ 3:50pm PST
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Long a staple of the Imagine Entertainment brain trust, Michael Rosenberg has been promoted to Co-Chairman of Imagine Entertainment by company Chairmen Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Rosenberg came to Imagine in 1988 as vice president of Marketing And Distribution, and ten years later he was named Imagine Entertainment president.

“While he has been a valued partner since he came to Imagine, during the past few years Michael has become more directly involved with Ron and me in creating company strategies and planning the future of Imagine,” Grazer said. “He is an asset to the company in more ways than one and a man we respect.”

Howard said that “Michael continues to be an incredible marketing distribution strategist with strong business instincts on expanding the imagine brand. He is not only an integral part of the company’s life, he is also a genuine friend.”

Rosenberg is the former president of Saul Zaentz’s production company, which produced the Best Picture Oscar winners One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The English Patient and Amadeus. He has been at Imagine through most of the label’s successes, including the Best Picture winner A Beautiful Mind. The company is currently in production on the Howard-directed Heart Of The Sea with Chris Hemsworth, the biopic Pele, and the Tate Taylor-directed Get On Up, with 42′s Chadwick Boseman playing James Brown in that biopic, and they are percolating an adaptation of the Dan … Read More »

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Cannes: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard Introduce Imagine 2.0; A Pele Pic On The Croisette, A Crowd-Funded ‘Friday Night Lights’, ‘Dark Tower’, Jay-Z And One Angry White Whale

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE:When Imagine Entertainment partners Brian Grazer and Ron Howard re-upped in their 26th year at Universal in early 2012, like all studio term producers they watched the deal get smaller. They also went from exclusive to first look and while that might have humbled less energetic founders who’d made 50 films for the same studio, Grazer and Howard took it as license to tap into new avenues of distribution and funding to be more productive than ever.

Consider that while Howard tinkers with the finished Formula One drama Rush and casts the Warner Bros adaptation of the Nathaniel Philbrick novel In The Heart Of The Sea with Chris Hemsworth, Grazer is on the Croisette, beating the drum for a Pele biopic to be directed by The Two Escobars helmer Jeff Zimbalist and his brother Michael. Grazer and production president Kim Roth called the film a close cousin to the search for genius depicted in 8 Mile, only here it’s a dirt-poor kid’s journey from being part of the Shoeless Wonders (a band of soccer wunderkinds too poor to afford shoes) to a phenom who at 17 led Brazil to the World Cup. Grazer and his partners will have the film ready by the time the world is whipped into a frenzy for World Cup action next year.

* While they’ve temporarily halted the move to turn Jack Bauer loose in a 24 feature, they’ve instead decided to bring him back in a limited series, this after selling an Arrested Development revival directly to Netflix. Grazer tells me they are absolutely moving forward with a movie version of another Imagine series, Friday Night Lights, and they will likely use crowdfunding to directly tap the rabid fan base of that drama for some of the budget. “We made a terrific feature with Pete Berg, turned it into a terrific TV series and will now make a movie from that series,” Grazer said. “I’m not sure such a thing has been done before.” Read More »

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Cannes: Pele Biopic In Works With Imagine Entertainment

By | Thursday May 9, 2013 @ 1:35pm PDT

BREAKING: The soccer icon’s life story will be told by writer-directors Michael and Jeff Zimbalist (The Two Escobars) after Imagine Entertainment and Seine Pictures licensed his life rights via Sports Licensing International B.V. The pic is in preproduction now with an August start date planned. Exclusive Media will sell worldwide rights at the Cannes film market, with Pele scheduled to make an appearance on the Croisette to pump up the project. Brian Grazer, Ivan Orlic, Kim Roth and Dany Wolf are producers; Pelé, Paul Kemsley and Guy East are exec producers. Domestic rights are repped by CAA and WME.

The feature film will tell the story of who most consider the best soccer player in the history of the game. It will follow his rise to glory from impoverished youth in Brazil to a soccer prodigy who led soccer-mad Brazil to its first-ever World Cup title in 1958, when at age 17 he became the youngest player to play in the final, scoring two goals to beat Sweden. His teams won three World Cup titles.

The subject matter is right in the wheelhouse of the Zimbalists. The Two Escobars was a riveting ESPN 30 For 30 documentary that told the story of the collision of Colombia’s national team (led by defender Andres Escobar) and notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar during the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. (check out the trailer for it below). Jeff Zimbalist also directed the 2005 docu Favela Rising, about the role of the AfroReggae movement in uniting a violent Brazilian slum. Read More »

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‘The Help’s Tate Taylor and Mick Jagger Join Brian Grazer On James Brown Biopic

By | Monday October 22, 2012 @ 12:26pm PDT
Mike Fleming

James Brown Movie ProjectEXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment‘s Brian Grazer has bolstered his long desire to turn James Brown‘s life story into a feature film. Tate Taylor, who adapted and made his helming debut on The Help, is in negotiations to direct the untitled project. Another musical icon, Mick Jagger, has joined Grazer as producer. The film will be a co-production between Jagged Films, based on a screenplay by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth. Grazer and Jagger will produce along with Jagged’s Victoria Pearman and Imagine’s Erica Huggins. They will now look for distribution, and to find an actor who can play Brown.

The story charts a young boy’s rise from extreme poverty and violence to become The Godfather Of Soul, one of the most influential black artists in history whose career spanned six decades. Grazer started the project at a time when the singer himself was an active part in its development, before he died in late 2006.

The Butterworths most recently scripted the Doug Liman-directed Fair Game, which starred Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. Now, the question is who has the chops to play the singer. Eddie Murphy once did a stellar impression of the singer, but that was a long time ago. Anthony Mackie? Read More »

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Noah Oppenheim To Adapt George Orwell’s ’1984′ For Imagine Entertainment

By | Friday June 15, 2012 @ 9:36am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment is moving forward with a new version of George Orwell’s 1984. Noah Oppenheim has been set to adapt the cautionary tale about a totalitarian future society, and a man whose job it is to rewrite history tries a bit of rebellion by falling in love, a move that runs afoul of Big Brother. The new version of 1984 is being produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer, along with Julie Yorn and Rick Yorn.

Oppenheim’s scripting The Secret Life of Houdini, which has Gary Ross attached at Summit, and the remake of Daniel Espinosa’s Snabba Cash and a remake of War Games. He’s repped by CAA and Management 360. 1984 will be exec produced by Gina Rosenblum, who was producer of the last major adaptation of Orwell’s classic, the Michael Radford-directed film that starred John Hurt as Winston Smith. Street artist Shepard Fairey will also be exec producer.

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‘Warrior’s Gavin O’Connor To Helm Contemporary Japan Crime Thriller ‘Yakuza’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has set Gavin O’Connor to direct Yakuza, a contemporary Japan-set thriller for Imagine Entertainment. Brian Grazer is producing. The focus is an American intelligence expert who becomes embroiled in the affairs of a notorious yakuza godfather and finds himself plunged into the violent criminal underworld and toxic landscape of post-tsunami Japan.

The project originated at Imagine, with a script originally written by Aaron & Matthew Benay, and rewritten by Chap Taylor. O’Connor will rewrite the script with Josh Fagin, and Imagine’s Kim Roth and Sarah Bowen will be executive producers.

O’Connor, who last helmed Warrior, is separately attached to direct Neverland, a Channing Tatum-produced revisionist look at Peter Pan for Sony Pictures that has a Billy Ray script, as well as The Samurai, a spec script he wrote with Michael J. Wilson, for Warner Bros. He’s also fashioning the Walter Tevis novel The Hustler into a stage play that O’Connor will direct. He is writing that with his Warrior co-scripter Anthony Tambackis. He’s repped by CAA.

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Imagine Entertainment Sets Salvador Dali Feature, Paige Cameron To Script

By | Monday March 19, 2012 @ 11:57am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment will develop a feature based on the life of legendary surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, with Paige Cameron writing the script. Brian Grazer will produce and Imagine’s Anna Culp will be executive producer along with Cameron.

The Spanish painter lived from 1904 to 1989 and achieved international renown for his unique twists on visual reality, and for a flamboyantly high-profile social life. Cameron’s script will focus on his influences on art, cinema and fashion, and his tumultuous marriage to his equally vivid wife, Gala. Grazer said Cameron presented a plan for movie that made Dali’s life cinematically exciting.

“We are impressed by Paige’s knowledge of Salvador Dalí’s art and his life, as well as by her insights and her storytelling skill,” Grazer said. This is the only Dalí project endorsed by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which will provide Cameron exclusive access to archives, letters, and other materials. The Foundation is a private non-profit organization created by Dalí himself in 1983 to manage his estate.

Said Foundation managing director Joan Manuel Sevillano: “The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation’s interest in a biographical film has always been limited to one that would involve an A-list team. We are delighted to have this project in the hands of Imagine, a production company whose taste and exacting standards of execution are in keeping with Dalí’s legacy, as well as Paige Cameron, a screenwriter we admire and trust.”

Cameron … Read More »

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Paramount Locking Down Katy Perry 3D Film

By | Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 9:42pm PST
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Paramount will make a deal for an untitled 3D feature focusing on pop sensation Katy Perry. I’m told the film has already been shot by director Nanette Burstein. Imagine Entertainment and AEG filmed Perry as she performed late last year with 3D cameras. The film includes concert footage but is a real story and the story of her growing up and becoming a global sensation. Several studios have been into it, but Paramount seems a natural given its success with Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. The plan is to release the film in June or July.

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Universal Extends Imagine Entertainment Deal Through 2016

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In a move that continues the longest standing production deal Universal Pictures has ever had in its 100-year history, the studio has extended its deal with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard through 2016. These mega-producer deals have been getting trimmed all over town, though, and the Imagine deal has shifted from an exclusive to a first-look deal. Going forward, Howard will be able to direct more films elsewhere, and Grazer can produce at other studios. He is now producing the upcoming Academy Awards with Don Mischer. The Imagine extension was just finalized by Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley.

The last deal Grazer and Howard made with the studio was set to expire in 2013. Imagine has made around 50 films since the partners first were brought into the Universal in 1986 by Ron Meyer, at the time Grazer’s former agent at CAA and had just transitioned to the top job at Universal. Like every producer-studio relationship, the Universal and Imagine arrangement has been tested in the past few years. The studio said no to The Dark Tower, a feature trilogy and two limited-run TV series adapted from the Stephen King novel series that Howard was to direct, with Javier Bardem starring and Grazer producing with Akiva Goldsman and King. The filmmakers continue to develop the project and expect to make it elsewhere. Universal and Imagine also mutually decided to not go forward with Cartel, a drama that Asger Leth was going to direct. Read More »

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’24′ Heating Up For Spring Start With Kiefer Sutherland In Jack Bauer Mode

Mike Fleming

The clock has started on 24, the feature version of the Imagine Entertainment/Fox series. The project brings back Kiefer Sutherland’s tireless government operative Jack Bauer. Mark Bomback — a favorite writer at 20th Century Fox writing The Wolverine and Shadow Divers – is doing some last minute tweaking of Billy Ray’s script, and will turn it in by year’s end. Imagine and the studio have about five directors in mind — no, Tony Scott is not attached anymore — and it will all begin happening very quickly in the early part of next year. The goal is to get the film into production to match Sutherland’s availability, which begins in April. That should give producer Brian Grazer something to do after he completes producing the Academy Awards, and it is certainly good news for fans of the show who were beginning to fear the project wouldn’t happen.

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Has ‘Dark Tower’ Found A TV Home?

By | Tuesday October 25, 2011 @ 11:53am PDT

Well, maybe it’s not official, but Brian Grazer said during an interview with MTV News that the TV portion of Imagine Entertainment’s adaptation of The Dark Tower will air on HBO. “We’ll do the TV with HBO and the movie with … to be determined,” Grazer said during an interview to promote Tower Heist. That would cover the two limited-run TV series that would be done alongside a film trilogy to tell Stephen King’s epic story, which was originally set up at Universal before the studio passed because of cost concerns. (Grazer’s Imagine partner Ron Howard was set to direct and Akiva Goldsman was writing.) Grazer also told MTV that Javier Bardem looks good to remain as the lead, gunslinger Roland Deschain, and that $45 million has been cut from the film budget. But don’t set your DVR just yet: While a potential Time Warner tie-up — HBO and, say, Warner Bros — makes sense for the ambitious project, we’ve learned that while the series have been pitched to HBO, there is no deal. We also hear that there has been no decision made about where a potential Dark Tower series would land or whether it would get made it all.

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Universal Acquires David Guggenheim Pitch ’364′ For Ron Howard To Direct

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has gotten back in business with its Safe House scribe David Guggenheim. The studio has preemptively acquired 364, a drama that will be produced by Imagine Entertainment. Ron Howard is attached to direct. The title refers to the number of days in a year that a normal guy spends each year figuring out the heroic deeds he will perform on the one day each year that he has super powers. Brian Grazer will produce and Erica Huggins will be executive producer.

Guggenheim is quite a story in his own right. He was an editor at Us Weekly when he wrote Safe House, and quit that job only after he sold it to Universal. That film just wrapped, with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds starring for director Daniel Espinosa. Since then, Guggenheim sold the Fox pitch Santiago, which has Simon Kinberg producing, and he set Puzzle Palace at Summit Entertainment, with Temple Hill producing. APA and Madhouse Entertainment rep Guggenheim.

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TCA: Peter Berg Confirms ‘Friday Night Lights’ Movie In The Works, 2012 Start Eyed

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

After today’s TCA panel for NBC’s Prime Suspect, the series’ executive producer Peter Berg confirmed that a movie version/sequel to his critically acclaimed NBC/DirecTV drama series Friday Night Lights, which recently ended its five-season run, is in active development. The movie is on track and the script is being written, Berg said. “We’re very serious about trying to do it,” he said, with a goal of going into production next year. The project would be produced by Universal Pictures — the studio behind the 2004 movie starring Billy Bob Thornton — and Imagine, with Brian Grazer producing. It would feature the cast of the series led by Emmy nominees Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton.

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Ron Howard Won’t Complete Dan Brown Trilogy; Sony Now Looking For New Director

EXCLUSIVE: Ron Howard directed and produced both of Sony Pictures’ films based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novels, The Da Vinci Code (in 2006) and Angels & Demons (2009). Now I’ve learned that the Imagine Entertainment principal will not be directing the next movie based on Brown’s 2009 book The Lost Symbol which is a follow-up to the events described in Da Vinci Code. “He wanted to produce this one, not direct,” a Sony insider tells me. So Sony Pictures has started looking for a new helmer. Like the two other books made into films, this third one stars Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. “Ron told Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton that he was not going to be directing Dan Brown’s novels anymore,” an insider tells me. “He just didn’t want to do that thing over and over, the same character and the same stories.” But if you look at Howard’s box office track record as a director since his Oscar-winner A Beautiful Mind (2001), the Dan Brown films were his most successful with such wide release movies as Missing, Cinderella Man, and The Dilemma all underperforming. He could use a surefire hit. After all, The Lost Symbol sold 1 million hardcovers and e-books in the U.S., the UK, and Canada on its first day, making it the fastest-selling adult novel in history.

Interestingly, Sony Pictures is making a Somali pirate drama starring Tom Hanks as … Read More »

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Between ‘Thor’ Turns, Chris Hemsworth Revs ‘Rush’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Chris Hemsworth will get behind the wheel to star in the role of British Formula One driver James Hunt in Rush, the Peter Morgan-scripted drama that shapes up as the next directing effort for Ron Howard. Cross Creek Pictures is  the backer, with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Howard producing alongside Brian Oliver and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

Talks are underway for Hemsworth to play Hunt in the story of his rivalry with Niki Lauda for Formula One circuit dominance in the 1970s. Deals aren’t done yet, but it’s all shaping up for this picture to happen early next year. Hemsworth is already set to reprise his role as Thor in the Marvel Studios sequel that has been dated for a July 26, 2013 release by Disney. There is no distributor aboard yet on Rush, but considering that both Imagine and Working Title are based at Universal, the likelihood is that the picture will land there. The prime mover has been Oliver’s Cross Creek, which, after making a killing on Black Swan, is in the middle of several major pictures including the George Clooney-directed The Ides of March. Hemsworth’s repped by IFA and ROAR.

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Warner Bros Buys Pitch As Starring Vehicle For Ed Helms

By | Friday June 24, 2011 @ 4:13pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired a feature film pitch from scribe Rob Pearlstein as a starring vehicle for Ed Helms, who is coming off the success of the studio’s The Hangover Part II, which has just passed $500 million in global box office. Helms will also executive produce the project, which is being sheperded by Kim Roth, Erin Fredman and Anna Culp at Imagine Entertainment. Greg Silverman, Jon Berg and Andy Fischel will oversee for Warners. Brian Grazer will produce. Helms, repped by CAA and Principato-Young, next appears in Paramount’s Duplass brothers film Jeff Who Lives At Home with Jason Segal and is one of the voices in Universal’s The Lorax. He also will return in the fall for Season 8 of NBC’s The Office. UPDATE: Here’s some details about the screenplay: The plot of the comedic drama, titled True North, centers on pompous travel-show host Brian North (Helms), whose obsessive pursuit of fame and constant travel has alienated his wife and two kids. His plane crashes when on assignment in India, and he awakens from a coma two years later to discover everyone back in New York thinks he’s dead, and he’s had reconstructive surgery that has completely changed his appearance. He returns to Manhattan to win back his family by proving he’s a changed man, but it won’t be easy.

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Q&A: Brian Grazer And Ron Howard On 25 Years Together As Imagine Partners

Mike Fleming

UPDATE EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have reached a milestone unusual in Hollywood: partners for 25 years. When they first got together, Grazer was a TV producer. Howard, after growing up on the small screen in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, had only directed a couple of TV movies and the low budget Roger Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto. Grazer and Howard have been at it together ever since, building a company that over 25 years has been one of the most consistent generators of content. Their TV series output includes 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights; their movies have grossed $13.5 billion worldwide. That includes A Beautiful Mind, which won Howard the Academy Award for Best Director. Grazer and Howard shared Best Picture Oscars that night as well. Not everything they’ve done has succeeded, of course. They they took their company public and repurchased the shares; they helped launched and fold the online venture; their most recent film together, the adult comedy The Dilemma, was a misfire that created controversy over the inclusion of the word “gay” in a trailer. They’ve had way more hits than misses.

In honor of Imagine’s Silver Anniversary, Deadline invited Howard and Grazer to look back over their quarter century together, and into a future that includes something never tried before by anyone in Hollywood. They’re adapting Stephen King’s 7-novel series The Dark Tower into a film trilogy, and a limited run TV series in between. It has pushed the envelope enough that their longtime home studio, Universal  Pictures, postponed a planned late summer start until next year and asked the filmmakers to cut the budget. Some question the studio’s resolve on such a massive undertaking. The studio has to green light the film by next month or the rights revert to Imagine, Akiva Goldsman and King, who are determined to make it regardless.

DEADLINE: Not many marriages of any kind last 25 years in Hollywood. What is most important about the anniversary?
HOWARD: It’s such a challenging time to get movies made. And yet, look at all we have coming out. Tower Heist, the Gus Van Sant movie Restless, J Edgar with Clint Eastwood and Leo DiCaprio, Cowboys & Aliens, this big broad appeal four quadrant fantasy adventure story with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. With The Playboy Club getting on the air, and Parenthood getting picked up, I’m proud we’re doing what we’ve always done. A wide variety of projects that got made because we care and put in the energy to get them done in light of how difficult it is these days.

DEADLINE: I’ve watched filmmaker partnerships fail because of jealousy, ego, greed, or lack of sustained success. Why have you avoided those pitfalls?
HOWARD: The bi-coastal relationship!

DEADLINE: Simple as that?
HOWARD: Because I’m in New York, we’re not forced to stare at each other’s faces 24/7. But I think that’s not really it. We love what we’re doing, we have fun doing it and our sensibilities are in sync. In a business that can create so many feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, I learned to trust in that. Brian is smart and cares about me doing well and feeling good about what I’m doing. It’s a partnership built on support. It has been that way since the beginning.
GRAZER: It works because we have similar tastes and not only gravitate toward the same material but also what lives inside the core of the movie it becomes. We’ve done, and Ron has directed, all kinds of genres. We have a common interest in the humanity aspect of a movie, regardless if it’s a comedy or a drama. We also share a similar work ethic.

DEADLINE: When you cover all genres, does Imagine have a wheelhouse? For a company looking to last, is it advisable to have one?
HOWARD: The process is what gets Brian and me excited, whatever the genre. Not specializing has given our company a sense of flexibility and adaptability to whatever the market or the zeitgeist is suggesting. We’ve always respected each other as creative people. If Brian loves something and I don’t quite get it, I’ll tell him that but I’ll never try to impede the progress. He’s the same with me. With Apollo 13, I  wasn’t sure the genre would work, because space films hadn’t done that well. Brian was instantly so excited about it, and made me realize we were onto something. 8 Mile, I don’t know anything about rap. This was something he understood. I didn’t know how to make that movie, but I recognized a great idea. Whenever the two of us get excited, on films like Splash, Night Shift and Parenthood, those have resulted in the building blocks of the company. I’ve always liked TV  but I phased it out for awhile and it was Brian’s perseverance that has made us strong in both TV and films. Independent companies are rarely strong in both.
GRAZER: What we’ve do is agree on the moral center of a project, but nobody’s better at finding the language of a particular movie than Ron. He’s got a grasp of understanding  new vocabularies, whether it’s the The Da Vinci Code, fantasy like Cocoon or Splash, or Backdraft and The Grinch. He is great at inhabiting a world and completely understanding and expressing its language. In A Beautiful Mind, he entered that world and understood the medical science of mental illness. So there have been times where he led the charge, and I was drawn in by his excitement.

DEADLINE: What was the last hard conversation or professional disagreement you can remember?
HOWARD: I can’t think of one offhand, but even when we have disagreements, I can’t think of a case where one of us ever said, ‘Oh, please don’t do this.’ If there’s a lot of passion from one or the other, then the support of the company is going to be there. Read More »

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‘The Dark Tower’ Staff Put On Hiatus As Filmmakers, Studio Address Budget Problems

Mike Fleming

Universal Pictures has put pre-production staff on hiatus as they discuss ways to bring down the budget of the ambitious adaptation of the Stephen King novel series The Dark Tower. Talks are ongoing between studio brass, director Ron Howard and his Imagine Entertainment, and writer/producer Akiva Goldsman about how they will proceed. The plan was to make three movies that would star Javier Bardem, with TV miniseries in between each film. The plan was as ambitious as New Line’s gamble on The Lord of the Rings years ago.

One thing for sure, even though staffers have been told there’s a chance they will return, the plan to start production in September is scratched. If Universal decides the proposition is too rich for its blood — it recently halted At the Mountains of Madness because it was an R-rated $150 million film — then the next move would be to bring it to Warner Bros, where Goldsman’s Weed Road has its deal. Word that Universal would put the project in turnaround began circulating last night, but both the studio and Imagine denied it. They’re still denying it. We’ve held our tongue until now, when staffers have been told to stop working.

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