It’s pilot screening week, with the networks’ executives huddled in rooms watching the fruits of their development teams’ labor. The networks are still going through the process, with testing results just starting to pour in, but here is the latest pilot buzz I’ve compiled from various sources around town.
NBC had the breakout new drama of last fall, Revolution, and now the network has what could be the strongest drama pilot this season with Blacklist. I hear Blacklist and Crisis (aka untitled Rand Ravich) are considered front-runners on the drama side at NBC, buoyed by very strong testing. In fact Blacklist might be the highest-testing drama pilot at NBC in about a decade, and I also hear the male lead played by James Spader is one of the highest-testing characters ever for producing studio Sony TV. Also in the running are the J.J. Abrams-produced Believe; TV star vehicles Ironside, with Blair Underwood, and I Am Victor, with John Stamos; as well as medical drama Night Shift (aka After Hours). Also possibilities are late deliveries The Sixth Gun and the Chicago Fire spinoff. Read More »
As the launch of Star Trek Into Darkness approaches, J.J. Abrams will be asked a lot of questions at screenings and junkets, many of which will be about his plans for Star Wars VII. Abrams was more of a Star Wars fan than a Trekkie, and he hasn’t done so badly with that. (Feel free to disagree or agree.) Empire recently asked Abrams what he has in mind for a new Star Wars adventure. Here, excerpted from the Empire interview, is part of what what Abrams had to say:
I don’t know because we’re just getting started. … Even though I was never a Star Trek fan, I felt like there was a version of it that would make me excited, that I would think ‘that’s cool, that feels right, I actually would want to see that’.
… With Star Wars … I feel like I can identify a hunger for what I would want to see again and that is an incredibly exciting place to begin a project. The movies, the worlds could not be more different but that feeling that there’s something amazing here is the thing that they share.
Cory Booker hasn’t officially said he’s running to become New Jersey’s next Senator but Hollywood is planning to shovel money into his campaign treasure chest. Anointing Booker as Hollywood’s new favorite politician, invites went out this week for a “Special Evening In LA” April 25 fundraiser for the Newark Mayor at the Beverly Hills home of producer Jerry Weintraub and girlfriend, producer Susan Ekins. The event has a marquee host list that cuts across party lines and into deep wallets. It costs $5,000 a ticket to attend the fundraiser with the money going to Cory Booker For Senate. The event is one of eight the telegenic Democrat has lined up in the next two months in anticipation of a 2014 run to replace departing fellow Democrat Frank Lautenberg in the heavily Blue state. The Beverly Hills fundraiser certainly shows that backing a potential winner cuts across party lines. Republicans like Bush family confidante Weintraub and Bruce Willis are listed on the invite but so are avowed Democrats like Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was one of the largest single contributors to Barack Obama’s reelection, Steven Spielberg and new Star Wars director J.J. Abrams and their wives Kate Capshaw and Katie McGrath.
With an average of 8.4 million viewers per episode, the apocalyptic sci-fi series Revolution has been a relative hit for NBC in a humiliating turn of events that recently saw the network finish fifth — behind Univision — for the first time in its history. Despite that success, Revolution was put on a 4-month hiatus after 10 episodes. In advance of the series’ March 25 return, Night 2 of PaleyFest 2013 featured a Revolution panel with series creator and executive producer Eric Kripke, co-creator and executive producer J.J. Abrams, and executive producer Jon Favreau. Also along for the ride were cast members Billy Burke (Miles Matheson), Tracy Spiridakos (Charlie Matheson), Giancarlo Esposito (Major Tom Neville), David Lyons (Sebastian Monroe), Daniella Alonso (Nora Clayton). and J.D. Pardo (Jason Neville). The discussion centered heavily on the show’s return and based on what the executive producers said, fans can expect a much more fast-paced experience.
Set 15 years after an unspecified event caused all electrical devices to stop working, Revolution hangs on a heavy myth arc, but as revealed during the panel the series is bucking the tradition of genre TV shows by refusing to draw things out. Read More »
Michael Ealy is set as one of the two leads of Fox‘s untitled Bad Robot/J.H. Wyman drama pilot (formerly Inhuman). The action-packed buddy cop show is set in the near future when all LAPD officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. It centers on one such pairing, cop John Kennex and his android partner Dorian (Ealy), who understands humanity more than John. Warner Bros. TV is producing. Ealy, repped by Gersh and Epidemic Pictures, starred in another two-lead drama, USA’s Common Law. He recently wrapped Screen Gems’ About Last Night and, after the Fox pilot, will segue into filming the sequel to hit Think Like A Man, also for Screen Gems.
EXCLUSIVE: Jake McLaughlin (Savages) is set to star in Believe, NBC’s drama pilot from J.J. Abrams and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. The high-concept project, written by Cuarón and Mark Friedman, is about the unlikely relationship between Bo, a girl in possession of a great gift/powers — which will come into their own in seven years — and Tate (McLaughlin), the man who is sprung from prison to protect her from those trying to hunt her down. Cuarón is directing the pilot, which he is exec producing with Friedman, Abrams and Bryan Burk. This is the second consecutive NBC drama pilot for McLaughlin, repped by Paradigm and James/Levy Management, who co-starred in The Frontier last year. He also did cameos in two Abrams movies, Colverfield and Super 8.
Star Trek Into Darkness director J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company aim to team with game developer Valve on movie adaptations of the popular Half-Life and Portal vidgames. Abrams and Valve head Gabe Newell dropped the surprise announcement onstage while delivering a shared keynote speech opening the DICE Summit in Las Vegas today, multiple outlets are reporting. “We’re going to figure out if we can make a Portal movie or Half-Life movie together,” said Newell, although development is very early and further details have yet to be announced. The tight-lipped Abrams also revealed plans to team with Valve separately on a new video game. Abrams debuts his Star Trek sequel on May 15, 2013 and will then tackle Star Wars: Episode VII for a 2015 release.
This clip of J.J. Abrams talking about storytelling and Star Wars is excerpted from a 2007 talk at the annual TED Conference. In the clip (watch it below) Abrams talks about “the mystery box,” the key information that’s withheld in a story that makes the story intriguing and compelling. As he puts it: “The intentional withholding of information is much more engaging.” The talk was a big hit today on the social media site Reddit when someone dug it out and pointed to it as evidence Abrams will be a terrific director of the next Star Wars, which he was assigned last week.
In the larger presentation (you can view it on the jump), Abrams ranges widely on the nature of storytelling, with clips from his own show Lost as well as Jaws. He references his childhood Super 8 camera, a never-opened box of magic tricks from his beloved grandfather, the biggest mystery box of all, and one of the three rules of the universe: Don’t hurt Tom Cruise’s nose. Read More »
Best Actor Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper is in talks with J.J. Abrams about playing Lance Armstrong in the producer-director’s planned movie project about the disgraced cyclist, according to Entertainment Tonight. Shortly after Deadline broke the news about Abrams and partner Bryan Burk’s Bad Robot and Paramount Pictures securing screen rights to the proposed book Cycle Of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong, Cooper publicly expressed interest in the role to the BBC and later in an email to Abrams. Cooper “sent me an email and we’ve been talking”, Abrams told ET last night at the Producers Guild Awards. The project is based on the proposed book by New York Times writer Juliet Macur for HarperCollins.
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’ Argofeatures 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 … Read More »
The Fringe legacy continues at Fox. Days after the cult series ended its run, the network has given a pilot order to a new sci-fi drama from Fringe‘s J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman. The untitled Warner Bros. TV/Bad Robot-produced project is described as an action-packed buddy cop show, set in the near future, when all LAPD officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. In a competitive situation, the drama landed at Fox in September with a pilot production commitment. Wyman wrote the pilot and will executive produce with Bad Robot’s Abrams and Bryan Burk. Kathy Lingg is co-exec producing.
This is one of two dramas from A-list auspices this season set in a world where human-looking robots co-exist with humans. The other, from Howard Gordon and Josh Friedman, which has a big penalty at NBC, is still awaiting word. NBC also is yet to pull the trigger on Abrams’ high-concept drama with Alfonso Cuarón, which has a pilot production commitment and had been exploring casting since December.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
J.J. Abrams never sought publicity for showing dying Star Trek fan Daniel Craft a rough cut of the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness. And today, two days after Craft’s death, Abrams felt uncomfortable when asked about the gesture after the TCA panel for his NBC series Revolution. “It’s very sensitive,” Abrams said, looking genuinely humbled. He did say, however, that it was “unbelievably touching” to have been asked and clearly was overwhelmed by the opportunity and responsibility to grant a dying man’s wish. Craft was diagnosed with terminal cancer six weeks ago and, following an online post by one of his friends about how much Craft wanted to see the new Star Trek movie or at least a trailer for it, Abrams responded privately, and a rep for Paramount Pictures, the studio behind Star Trek, took a DVD with an early cut to Craft’s home for a special screening of the film that isn’t coming out until May.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The question of whether the audience will return to NBC‘s apocalyptic first-year sci-fi drama Revolutionwhen it comes back on March 25 from a four-month layoff took center stage during the series’ TCA morning session. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt earlier this morning expressed confidence that the absence of new episodes since November 26 wouldn’t hurt the show. In fact exec producers J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke maintained that they welcomed the break to avoid diluting viewers’ attention with reruns and give them uninterrupted fresh product for nine consecutive weeks upon Revolution‘s return. “When we were doing Lost, that (kind of scheduling) helped us enormously,” Abrams said. “So when the idea came up for Revolution I was really relieved. I thought, and still think, that it will get us to a place where it will be the best possible way for the viewer to watch the show.” Kripke agreed, pointing out that this kind of broadcast plan already seems to work pretty well as a model for cable originals. “It also supplied us a natural break point between the season’s first half and second half,” he said, “and the second half sort of lives as its own continuous piece.”
The terminally ill Star Trek fan who got his wish to see the latest movie before its May release has died. New York’s Subway Cinema reported on its Facebook page that Daniel Craft died Friday night of complications from cancer. Previously identified only by his first name, Craft, who was 42, was a longtime supporter of Subway Cinema and the New York Asian Film Festival. Star Trek Into Darkness director J.J. Abrams learned of Craft’s dying wish via Reddit and Twitter and arranged for Craft and his wife to see an early cut of the movie.
Never let it be said that J.J. Abrams doesn’t go out of his way for Star Trek fans. During the holidays the director learned through a series of communications over Reddit and Twitter about a dying man’s wish to see Star Trek Into Darkness, which doesn’t open until May 17th, and took the trouble to make it happen. Last week on Reddit, a user named Ideeeyut described how a friend Daniel, who has leukemia and other serious health issues, wanted to see the movie — and even made it to a theater hoping to see a special 9-minute IMAX preview only to find out the theater wasn’t showing the footage that screened in some but not all locations playing The Hobbit. Fearing that time was running short, Daniel’s friend took to Reddit seeking help to find a way for Daniel to see the movie, according to a chain of events reported on CNET. Trek and geek blogs picked up the Reddit item, and a Reddit user named Kiggsworthy came across the item on TrekMovie and tweeted it to Abrams and others working on the movie. Events accelerated to warp 10 and Abrams phoned Daniel to screen the full but unfinished movie. Via Ideeyut on Reddit, Daniel’s wife said “We saw it, and we enjoyed it immensely as a film and as a gesture.” She described Abrams’ act as a “heartfelt message of giving” that was especially touching.
Paramount Pictures will present the first 9 minutes from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness exclusively in IMAX 3D beginning tomorrow — months ahead of the movie’s May 17th opening. Written by Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci, Into Darkness is the followup to Abrams 2009 hit reboot of Paramount’s lucrative franchise. The special first look will play in 288 digital IMAX locations. Here’s a complete list of those theaters.