EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a testament that good projects sometimes rise above development hell. Benedict Cumberbatch, who figures to be a big man on campus at the Toronto Film Festival with 12 Years A Slave, The Fifth Estate and August: Osage County getting big premieres, is negotiating to star in Lost City Of Z, which James Gray will direct from a script he adapted. Panorama Media will finance the film and handle foreign sales.
The film is based on the David Grann bestselling book. Cumberbatch is in talks to play Percy Fawcett, who in 1925 headed into the depths of the Amazon jungles in Brazil. Fawcett was there to map the jungle and, hobbled by malaria, he discovered a mythical city he called The Lost City Of Z. Scorned by peers who claimed that this ancient kingdom was a fraud, Fawcett headed back into the jungle with his son and one other, braving the dangers of disease, insects, snakes, poison darts and other hazards to reinforce his discovery. None of them were ever seen again and it remains one of the great exploration mysteries of the 20th Century.
Plan B‘s Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Anthony Katagas (who worked with Cumberbatch on 12 Years A Slave) will produce. Plan B has been developing the project for several years, and it initially seemed like Pitt would be … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In one of its first alignments with a major filmmaker under its new regime, Warner Bros has set James Gray to write and direct White Devil, a contemporary drama that is eyed as a priority project. It’s the story of a white orphan who is adopted into a Chinese family, and who rises to the top of the Chinese Mafia in Boston. This might sound far-fetched, but there is a similar case on trial in Massachusetts with similar circumstances involving a drug-trafficking conspiracy centered around Asian organized crime. Steven Kane and Matthew Valentinas are exec producers.
This is expected to be a big scale film for Gray, who most recently helmed the period drama The Immigrant with Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner. That film, which bowed at the Cannes Film Festival in May, will be released by The Weinstein Company. Gray’s crime genre films are We Own The Night, The Yards and Little Odessa. Gray is also still attached to The Lost City Of Z, an adaptation of the David Grann book which has begun to pick up steam again at Paramount and Plan B. He is also aligned with the Fox/New Regency drama The Gray Man. Gray is repped by CAA.
RT Features has set James Gray to direct an untitled script he penned with Fringe writer Ethan Gross. RT’s founder and CEO Rodrigo Teixeira will serve as a producer, with the company’s Sophie Mas and Lourenço Sant’ Anna executive producing. Gray’s new film, The Immigrant, is screening at Cannes in competition. That film stars Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix, and Marion Cotillard, and The Weinstein Company will distribute the film in the U.S. Details about the new film, a sci-fi thriller, are being kept under wraps. Brazil-based RT Features recently produced Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, starring Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, and Adam Driver, and Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning. CAA will sell domestic.
EXCLUSIVE:The Weinstein Company is near a deal to acquire U.S. rights to an untitled period drama that James Gray wrote and directed, with Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner starring. Gray has completed the film, and The Weinstein Company will release it next year. The project was one of the juicier packages shopped at the recent Cannes Film Festival by CAA and Wild Bunch. Greg Shapiro, Anthony Katagas, Gray and Worldview CEO Christopher Woodrow are producers. CAA and Worldview made the deal with TWC execs David Glasser, Dan Guando and Negeen Yazdi.
Gray wrote the script with Richard Menello. Early on it was called Low Life and American Dream, but Gray’s camp says it is currently untitled. The film takes place in 1920, as two sisters immigrate to New York from Poland, and when one falls deathly ill, things turn nightmarish for the other sister, played by Cotillard. She is forced to trade sexual favors for medicine and food to keep her sister alive. Once they land, she is warned to keep quiet about what happened. Though she does, she walks away with immigration papers that deem her a woman with bad morals.
With no place to go, she falls prey to a charming sleazebag (Phoenix), who persuades her to turn tricks in New York. Renner plays the parasite’s cousin, a magician … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Longtime Fox 2000 EVP Carla Hacken is leaving the studio to become president of production for New Regency. It is the latest move in a restructuring of the company since Arnon Milchan reemerged as an active chairman and installed former Paramount Pictures production president Brad Weston as CEO with a mandate to become a more filmmaker-driven concern.
New Regency is partly owned by News Corp, whose 20th Century Fox distributes and often co-finances Regency-generated films. The move was orchestrated with the cooperation of Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman and Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler.
“Jim, Tom and Liz have been great partners and are incredibly gracious about Carla,” Weston told me in confirming the move. “They see this as a terrific opportunity for her, and a great way to help support New Regency. Arnon and I couldn’t be more appreciative.”
Hacken was an ICM agent when she was brought into the Fox 2000 fold 15 years ago by Laura Ziskin. She has worked closely with Gabler and developed such films as Unfaithful, The Devil Wears Prada, Walk The Line, Bride Wars, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequel, Percy Jackson & The Olympians, Love & Other Drugs and In Her Shoes.
There has long been a tradition of cross pollination between Fox and New Regency (which is based on the lot). That includes Sanford Panitch (who moved from Fox to Regency and now steers Fox International Productions) … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Along with everything else about the 2001 Toronto Film Festival, the launch of Magnolia Pictures was quickly forgotten on September 11, as co-founder Eamonn Bowles and other indie film execs scrambled to find ways to get home. Magnolia marked its 10th anniversary at 2011 Toronto. While the company still doesn’t carry the profile of some other indie distributors, Bowles and co-owner Todd Wagner said their model — mixing traditional indie theatrical distribution with emerging digital technology — has made them distinctive and profitable. VOD revenues now often outpace theatrical for Magnolia films, and they return profit to filmmakers because of low P&A spends. Bowles and Wagner have been honing the VOD model since they were branded charlatans by theater chains in 2005 when Steven Soderbergh’s micro-budget film Bubble was released simultaneously on movie screens, VOD and DVD. Wagner and partner Mark Cuban put Magnolia and other film assets under the 2929 Entertainment banner on the selling block earlier this year, but pulled them back when they didn’t get a high price. Wagner said he’s staying.
Magnolia releases 35-40 films each year now, with upcoming releases that include the 2011 Toronto title Melancholia (which got Lars von Trier banned by Cannes for making dumb pro-Nazi comments). Some Magnolia efforts follow a theatrical release cycle, others go direct to DVD. But VOD has increasingly become the distributor’s calling card and Wagner said proof of its viability came when Harvey Weinstein poached Magnolia execs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego to start a VOD venture for The Weinstein Company.
“Harvey’s been in the industry forever, and he thought it was a good enough model to hire some of our folks away,” Wagner told me. “I’m flattered. There are other people doing this now, from IFC to John Sloss. To me, it’s validation that we’ve hit on something. But we’ve got an advantage, a unique collection of assets in the Landmark Theater chain, a home video division, and HDNet. The big theater chains still absolutely won’t play Ultra VOD titles, so having a theater chain is helpful. As is having the television network for the relationships it has made us with all the MSO’s. These synergies allow us to be freewheeling in how we license content. And producers are coming back to us with films because we are cutting them checks. That rarely happens elsewhere because of all the P&A that stands in front of them.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: A major shake up is taking place at Arnon Milchan’s New Regency. Co-chairmen Bob Harper and Hutch Parker will not renew their contracts when they expire in December. I’ve confirmed with Harper that he and Parker are negotiating their exits. There had recently been a ripple of rumors about this, and there will be the inevitable speculation over whether the duo are jumping before being pushed. Harper didn’t get into that, but said that he was confirming because he and Parker were aware of the rumors and were most concerned with reassuring filmmakers with Regency projects that the duo would continue to be closely involved and see those films through to release. Harper also said the decision came after months of conversations with Milchan over whether or not to renew. Recently, they came to the conclusion that this was the best course. Milchan could conceivably name a replacement quickly, but Harper told me that he and Parker will continue to see through the completed films as well as some of the projects that are gearing up for production starts, regardless of how quickly the succession takes place.
Harper had been in the job for four years (he moved from the post of vice chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment and has worked for Fox since 1986), and Parker had been in the post for more than three years (he moved over from the post of 20th Century Fox vice chairman, and had been with the studio 13 years when he took the job). They have been involved in every facet of New Regency films, including production, marketing, distribution and administering the library. Harper said it is unclear what will happen next year, and that he and Harper haven’t solidified their plans. I wouldn’t be surprised if they remain on the Fox lot as producers or in some other capacity. Read More »
BREAKING: Brad Pitt will star in the New Regency action movie The Gray Man. James Gray was set in January to direct the film, an adaptation of Mark Greaney’s thriller novel. I’d heard Pitt’s name back then, but the studio and actors reps denied the Moneyball star was doing it at the time. The question has always been timing, because Pitt and partner Angelina Jolie don’t work at the same time. They usually rotate. Jolie directed In the Land of Blood and Honey, and now Pitt is starring in World War Z. Jolie has been seriously eyeing the Disney film Maleficent, but that picture needs a director. If she took her turn, then the timing of The Gray Man gets thrown off. If Pitt makes two movies in a row, he’ll finish World War Z in late fall and The Gray Man will begin production in January or February. That’s how it’s looking now, because I’m told that Pitt has been locked down for that first-quarter 2012 slot. Read More »
After making a splash by funding the wildly profitable Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan, Timmy Thompson and Brian Oliver’s Cross Creek Pictures has become an increasing presence in the independent film producing and finance game. To help manage the growing project volume, they’ve hired Becky Sloviter to be senior vice president of development and production. She started work yesterday and had most recently been veep of development and production at MGM, where she worked on such titles as the Kevin James-starrer Zookeeper and the Drew Goddard-directed The Cabin in the Woods, as well as the musical Valley Girl which is on a fast track at MGM. Before that, Sloviter had been a production exec at Stuber/Parent Productions. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: We Own The Night writer/director James Gray is fast mobilizing his next film. It’s called Low Life, and it will star Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix, with Jeremy Renner in discussions to play the third lead. The project is being packaged by CAA. Several financiers are in the mix, but I hear that Wild Bunch will likely get it. Discussions are also taking place with domestic distributors, and deal is expected to be sealed shortly. The Hurt Locker‘s Greg Shapiro is producing.
I’m told that Cotillard will play a woman attempting to immigrate from Poland. Her American dream turns into a nightmare. While sailing to Ellis Island and a new start, her sister grows deathly ill and she is forced to trade sexual favors for medicine and food to keep her sister alive. Once they land, she is warned to keep quiet about what happened. Though she does, she walks away with immigration papers that deem her a woman with bad morals. With no place to go, she falls prey to a charming sleazebag (Phoenix), who persuades her to turn tricks in New York. Renner is close to signing on to play the sleazebag’s cousin, a magician who sweeps the young woman off her feet and is her best chance to escape the nightmarish life she has fallen into. This will be Gray’s fourth film with Phoenix, who previously starred in The Yards, We Own The Night and most recently Two Lovers. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: James Gray has been set to direct The Gray Man, New Regency’s adaptation of Mark Greaney’s thriller novel. Script was written by Adam Cozad, who also scripted the Jack Ryan franchise reboot for Paramount with Chris Pine and director Jack Bender. Targeted by a powerful multinational corporation, a former CIA operative-turned ultimate assassin must fight his way across Europe and past special forces teams from around the world in order to save the life of his handler and the handler’s family. New Regency’s Navid McIlhargey is steering the film and Shine Pictures’ Paul Webster and Stephen Garrett are producing. Webster produced Gray’s first two films, Little Odessa and The Yards.
The action terrain is something of a departure for Gray, who last wrote and directed We Own the Night and Two Lovers. He tells me he has a very specific plan to shoot the film that will distinguish it from past assassin-on-the-run thrillers like the Jason Bourne films. That is to have the point of view come from the assassin. He tried this style in the car chase scene in We Own the Night, where Joaquin Phoenix watched from the back of a car as assassins gunned down his police chief father (Robert Duvall). “Almost every shot was from Joaquin’s point of view, inside that car, and I want to make a whole movie with that POV,” Gray said. … Read More »