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Jack Bender To Helm Syfy’s ‘Rewind’ & Other Pilot Director Hires

By | Thursday February 23, 2012 @ 3:00pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Lost director Jack Bender is set to direct and executive produce Syfy’s two-hour pilot Rewind, a thriller about a team of military field operatives and civilian scientists who use untested technology to travel back in time to alter past events in hopes of changing the future after a nuclear bomb destroys New York City. Bender will executive the pilot with its writer, Justin Marks, Tom Spezialy, Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun for Universal Cable Prods and BermanBraun. This marks a reunion for Bender and Syfy, UCP & BermanBraun — he also directed the pilot for their series Alphas. Here are some of the latest pilot director hires on the broadcast side:

Charles McDougall, who has directed the pilots for such hourlong series as Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife and The Chicago Code, is taking on a half-hour pilot this season, helming Mindy Kaling’s single-camera Fox pilot. The Office player stars as a young Bridget Jones-type Ob/Gyn balancing personal and professional life, surrounded by quirky co-workers in a small office. The two previously worked together on The Office,where McDougall has directed half a dozen episodes. Read More »

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David Koepp Takes On ‘The Thin Man’ For Johnny Depp And Rob Marshall

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: While Johnny Depp waits to see if director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer can figure out a way to salvage The Lone Ranger after Disney halted the film because of a huge budget, Depp is making forward progress on dusting off another period property. David Koepp has been set to write the script for the remake of the 76-year-old film The Thin Man, the remake that Depp set up last year at Warner Bros as a vehicle to re-team with his Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides director Rob Marshall. Depp will produce with his Infinitum Nihil partner Christi Dembrowski, Langley Park’s Kevin McCormick, Marshall and John DeLuca. There was talk that Jerry Stahl was going to write, but apparently nothing was written and Koepp is going to start from scratch. Which means he’ll go back to the Dashiell Hammett novel that spawned the series of six MGM films that starred William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Depp will play Nick, the former detective who marries an adorable young socialite, drinks a lot and occasionally solves a case. There is no word yet on who’ll join Depp and play Nora. The original intention is to take elements of the first two films and work them into one film, putting it into a period setting and giving it a Sherlock Holmes-like stylized treatment. Marshall also intends to use his talent as a choreographer (remember he did Chicago) and work in a musical number or two. Read More »

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Jack Bender Joins ‘Alcatraz’ As EP

By | Tuesday June 28, 2011 @ 4:30pm PDT

Jack Bender is reuniting with his fellow Lost pals Elizabeth Sarnoff, JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk, agreeing to join the upcoming Fox series Alcatraz as an executive producer/director. Sarnoff, the executive producer/showrunner, co-wrote the series pilot with Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt, who are co-executive producing. Abrams and Burke are executive producing. Abrams, Burke, Sarnoff and Bender were linchpins on Lost, which ran for six seasons on ABC and won the best drama series Emmy in 2005 before wrapping its run last year. Bender, an exec producer on that series as well, earned one of series’ 12 Emmy nominations last year for helming the show’s finale. He is repped by UTA.

Alcatraz, slated to run Mondays at 9 PM midseason, centers on a San Francisco detective (Sarah Jones) involved in a grisly homicide case that takes her to America’s most infamous prison, where her prime suspect becomes an inmate who died more than 30 years before. Turning to an Alcatraz expert (Lost‘s Jorge Garcia), they discover that the inmate is not only alive but loose on the streets of San Francisco, exacting decades-old revenge and leaving bodies in his wake, having not aged a day since 1963. They dig into the history of the prison and discover that the killing spree is only the tip of a much more sinister threat. Robert Forster and Sam Neill also star. The series is from Bonanza Prods in association with Bad … Read More »

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Jack Ryan Getting David Koepp Rewrite

By | Thursday April 28, 2011 @ 1:17pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions have gone top shelf in trying to get its Jack Ryan franchise relaunch to the starting line. The studio has hired David Koepp to rewrite the film. I’m told that Koepp will be paid 7-figures to redraft the script by Adam Cozad. The project still has Lost‘s Jack Bender aboard to direct and Chris Pine to play Ryan. Pine has long been attached to play the character created by Tom Clancy, one who has been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck in various incarnations at Paramount. The studio’s desire to get the script right prompted Paramount to shuffle the start dates of Ryan with Pine’s other Par franchise, Star Trek 2. That move was prompted by the exit of Steve Zaillian, who scripted the 1994 Ryan film Clear and Present Danger and did uncredited rewrite work on Patriot Games. Zaillian made a deal to rewrite the reboot script but had a change of heart and withdrew before getting started. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mace Neufeld are producing and Mark Vahradian is executive producer. David Ellison, whose Skydance will co-finance the film under its overall Paramount deal, will also be involved in a producing capacity. Read More »

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Script Delays Puts ‘Star Trek’ Sequel Before Jack Ryan For Chris Pine And Paramount

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has scrapped a tentative plan for Chris Pine to resuscitate the Jack Ryan franchise before he reprises his James T. Kirk role in a Star Trek sequel. The slow process of nailing the Ryan script has prompted the studio to focus on getting Pine at the helm of the USS Enterprise first, even as the studio waits to see if JJ Abrams will reprise as Trek director.

This comes after the Ryan picture suffered another creative setback. Steve Zaillian, who wrote the 1994 Ryan film Clear and Present Danger and did uncredited rewrite work on Patriot Games, made a deal last month to rewrite the reboot script but had a change of heart and withdrew within the last two weeks. The studio has begun interviewing other writers. Lost‘s Jack Bender is still aboard to direct, but he isn’t pay or play and could walk. Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing. Ryan was created by Tom Clancy in his bestselling book series, but the new film is an origin story that started with screenwriter Hossein Amini. Paramount then acquired the Adam Cozad spec script Dubai and hired Cozad to redraft it to be the Ryan relaunch. Anthony Peckham then came on to do a pass, and then Cozad was brought back to a project that by then was being called Moscow. The launching point of the film is one that gets a mention in Clancy’s The Read More »

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‘True Grit’ Co-Financier Skydance Targets ‘Star Blazers’ For Christopher McQuarrie

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: David Ellison’s Skydance Productions is negotiating a rights deal to turn the 1970s animated science fiction TV series Star Blazers into a large scale live action feature. Ellison will hire Christopher McQuarrie to write the script, with Ellison and Josh C. Kline producing with McQuarrie. The series was based on the Japanese anime series Space Battleship Yamato. Both are described as “space opera,” involving alien invasions, the near extinction of the human race, and a last dash journey through space to save the planet.

Ellison started Skydance with hopes he could emulate the studio-aligned-producer-who-can-put-up-50% model that Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures has succeeded with at Warner Bros. Ellison made a deal with Paramount Pictures in late 2009 to co-finance four to six pictures per year, and then raised a reported $350 million in debt and equity funding. His Paramount deal has gotten off to a flying start: Skydance funded half of True Grit, the $30 million Joel and Ethan Coen-directed Western that is up for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture. More importantly to Ellison’s investors, True Grit has so far grossed $165 million domestic, with foreign still rolling out.

Ellison is the son of Oracle founder Larry Ellison and an accomplished acrobatic pilot who has a particular appetite for aviation projects (though his first foray as actor-producer, the Tony Bill-directed Flyboys, landed … Read More »

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Pilots ‘Weekends At Bellevue’ And ‘Secret Circle’ Book Directors

Nellie Andreeva

Lost director-producer Jack Bender has signed on to direct the Fox medical drama pilot Weekends at Bellevue. The project, which Fox got in turnaround, hails from the same studio, UMS, that produces Fox’s veteran medical drama House. Based on Dr. Julie Holland’s memoir, Bellevue, from former ER writer-producer Lisa Zwerling and BermanBraun, centers on a psychiatrist in charge of the weekend shift of Bellevue Hospital psychiatric unit. The project reunites Bender with BermanBraun. In the summer, he directed the company’s 90-minute SyFy pilot Alphas, which has been picked up to series. Bender spent the last six years as an executive producer and director on Lost, wrapping his stint by helming the series’ finale.

Liz Friedlander will make her pilot directing debut with the CW’s Secret Circle for Warner Bros. TV and Alloy Entertainment. Written by Andrew Miller and Kevin Williamson based on the book series from The Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith, Secret Circle tells the story of a young woman who moves to a new town and discovers that not only is she a witch and part of a secret coven, but she’s also the key that will unlock a centuries-old battle of good versus evil. Gersh-repped Friedlander, who started off as a music video and commercial director, has helmed multiple episodes of several CW series, including The Vampire Diaries, One Read More »

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Steve Zaillian On To Rewrite Jack Ryan

By | Wednesday February 2, 2011 @ 11:59am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Steve Zaillian is being brought aboard by Paramount to rewrite the new Jack Ryan film. Chris Pine will play Ryan in the Tom Clancy-created series, and Lost‘s Jack Bender is directing. Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing.

The project till now has been referred to as Moscow, but the film doesn’t yet have a formal title or a start date. It’s an original and not based on one of the Clancy books, but I gather that the launching point of the film is discussed in Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, both the book and the original film that starred Alec Baldwin. It has to do with a terrifying helicopter crash that nearly killed Ryan when he was a 23-year old platoon leader in the US Marines. He was the only member of the platoon to survive.

The hope is to start production this year. Zaillian knows the Ryan lore very well. He scripted the 1994 Jack Ryan film Clear and Present Danger, the last film that starred Harrison Ford. I’m told he also did a major uncredited rewrIte on Patriot Games, the first film Ford did after replacing Baldwin. Paramount has used a number of scribes to get this far with an origin story about the beginnings of Jack Ryan. It started with Hossein Amini. That didn’t work out. Then, Paramount acquired Dubai, an original spec script by Adam Cozad that Cozad redrafted to be the Ryan relaunch. … Read More »

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Two Similar Pilots: Syfy’s ‘Three Inches’ Faces Tweaks, Possible Half-Hour Conversion To Join ‘Alphas’ As New Series

Nellie Andreeva

It is usually a great problem for networks to have when all the pilots they’ve orderered come in strong. But, in the case of Syfy’s  similarly-themed Alphas and Three Inches, it created a dilemma. Syfy had been looking to launch a series set in the world of real-life superheroes. To increase its chances of success, the network ordered two such pilots, Alphas and Three Inches, “that were slightly different in tone but very similar in subject matter,” said Syfy EVP original content Mark Stern. Alphas, from BermanBraun, in-house studio UCP, writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow and director Jack Bender, stars David Strathairn and follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. Three Inches, from writer Harley Peyton, director Jace Alexander and Fox TV Studios, centers on an underachiever (Noah Reid) who can move any object three inches with his mind and recruits a team of fellow heroes. The hope was for one of the pilots to become a series.

Instead, unexpectedly for everyone at the network, “we found ourselves with 2 pilots that we loved,” Stern said. “They were both excellent and tested very well. Ultimately it came down to which pilot would work best as an hourlong franchise. We thought they both did but felt Alphas had a little bit more potential for that.”

So Syfy on Tuesday gave Alphas an 11-episode series pickup. But it is not giving up on Three Inches just yet and is looking … Read More »

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‘Lost’s Jack Bender Is Jack Ryan Frontrunner

Mike Fleming

Jack Bender is atop the short list of directors to resuscitate the Tom Clancy-created Jack Ryan franchise, with Chris Pine playing the character in a contemporized original story that picks up Ryan before he joined the CIA. Paramount Pictures and co-financier Skydance Productions are readying for a February production start and I’ve heard Bender is the fave among a group of directors who’ve met on the coveted gig. He’s meeting today with Pine at the studio. The pic’s tentatively titled Moscow, and has a script by Adam Cozad. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mace Neufeld are producing.

While Bender has features on his resume, his momentum comes from his work as director and exec producer on Lost, where he helmed the finale. He has also directed episodes of Alias, The Sopranos, and many other series. Paramount long ago locked in Pine to play Ryan, after the studio saw what they had when he played Captain Kirk in Paramount’s relaunch of Star Trek. Pine next stars with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in the Fox comedy This Means War, and the plan is to put the Jack Ryan film into production by February so Pine can play Ryan and then reprise as Kirk in the Star Trek sequel. Read More »

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New Cast Additions On Fox’s Series ‘Lie To Me’ And Syfy’s Pilot ‘Alphas’

Nellie Andreeva

111077_D_1017MoniqueCurnenMonique Curnen has landed a major recurring role on Fox’s drama series Lie To Me next season, while Warren Christie is set to co-star opposite David Strathairn in SyFy’s action-adventure 90-minute pilot Alphas, directed by Jack Bender.

On Lie To Me, Curren (The Unusuals) will play the attractive Detective Wallowski, a great cop with a street edge and a fast subversive mind who becomes a sexual interest for Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth), and drives a wedge between him and Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams).

Alphas follows a team led by Leigh Rosen (Strathairn) that includes ordinary citizens possessing extraordinary and unusual mental skills who take the law into their own hands and uncover what the CIA, FBI and Pentagon have not been able or willing to solve. Christie (Happy Town) will play Christian Hicks, a new recruit on the team with a history of psychological problems, drug abuse and an anti-authoritarian streak whose Alpha skill is hyperkinesis – near-perfect dexterity and hand/eye coordination.



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Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse On ‘Lost’ Emmy Haul, The Finale & The Future

Nellie Andreeva

Lost is making a stylish exit with 12 Emmy nominations for its sixth and final season, including best drama series, best lead drama actor (Matthew Fox), supporting actors (Terry O’Quinn, Michael Emerson) as well as writing (Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) and directing (Jack Bender), both for the much-talked-about series finale. Here is what executive producers/showrunners Lindelof and Cuse had to say today:

Lindelof: The happiest surprise was Matthew Fox cracking into the best actor category. When you look at the guys he‘s against: Michael C. Hall, Bryan Cranston or Jon Hamm, they are almost in every frame of their series, while Lost is more of an ensemble show, so it has been hard for the Academy to acknowledge Matthew as a lead actor and when they finally did, it meant the world to us.”

Cuse: The expectations were really high for the finale so we knew it wouldn’t please everybody but it must have pleased enough Emmy voters for the show to get all the nominations; if it wasn’t satisfying, we wouldn’t have gotten any nominations. We don’t take it for granted: with incredible shows also ending their runs like 24 and Law & Order to not get (the same recognition), it is easy to see how hard it is to get into the drama field these days.

Lindelof on the Lost finale: I do feel we spent so much time talking about how we were gonna end the show (we started getting questions about that right after the pilot) so the … Read More »

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David Strathairn In Talks For ‘Alphas’ Lead

Nellie Andreeva

David StrathairnEXCLUSIVE: David Strathairn is in negotiations for the lead in SyFy’s action-adventure 90-minute pilot Alphas, directed by Jack Bender. Additionally, Ryan Cartwright is set to co-star in the pilot, from BermanBraun and writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. Alphas follows a team of ordinary citizens possessing extraordinary and unusual mental skills who take the law into their own hands and uncover what the CIA, FBI and Pentagon have not been able or willing to solve. ICM-repped Strathairn would play the overseer/team leader/prescribing doctor and all around mother hen to the team: an eccentric, absent-minded professor at times, who is also a cunning and manipulative power-player willing to bend the rules in pursuit of his objectives.  Cartwright will play a member of the team who has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. His Alpha ability allows him to “read” wireless transmissions passing through the ether – e-mails, cell  phone communications, television signals, etc. Read More »

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