EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Co.‘s culinary pic Chef is looking to add Sam Keeley to its kitchen. The Irish thesp, who’s also got a role in Ron Howard’s In The Heart Of The Sea, is in negotiations to join star Bradley Cooper, Omar Sy, and Sienna Miller in the story of a Paris chef whose career is tanked by a hard-partying lifestyle. Sober, he returns determined to redeem himself by heading a restaurant that can earn a coveted three-star Michelin rating.
Award-winning writer-director-producer John Wells will receive the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) 2014 Board of Governors Award. Wells will be honored during the 28th Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards gala here on February 1 at the Hollywood & Highland Ray Dolby Ballroom.
“John Wells is an extraordinary talent whose long career has exposed the world to superlative cinematography across a wide array of features and television,” said ASC President Richard Crudo.
After a screening of August: Osage County this week at the TV Academy’s theater in North Hollywood, I sat down with three of the stars from the film’s cast –Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale and Abigail Breslin – to talk about making the film based on Tracy Letts‘ Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play of a deeply dysfunctional Midwestern family coming together, physically if not emotionally, after a tragedy. The three actresses talked about living and cooking together for two months in a group of condos behind a Toyota dealership in the Oklahoma town where the film was shot; what screenwriter-playwright Letts and director John Wells took out and put into the two-hour movie compared with the original three-hour play; the “real” secret behind the makeup that transformed Streep and the emotional challenges of playing a cancer-stricken, pill-popping matriarch who’s mad at just about everybody, including herself. The original conversation was videotaped by The Weinstein Company, the film’s distributor, and by the KCET Cinema Series, which I host. The movie opens in select cities December 27 and goes wide nationally January 10.
The Contenders 2013: ‘August: Osage County’s John Wells On Directing Meryl Streep: “She Came To Play” (Video)
As one of television’s most prolific and successful writer/producers, John Wells has known great success with Emmy-winning series like E.R. and The West Wing and currently Showtime’s Shameless, but after getting his feet wet directing movies with The Company Men (2010) he’s really upped his game for his sophomore effort. August: Osage County opens Christmas Day and features a major cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor and many others. On the Weinstein Company panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event he talked about the intimidation factor of working on this level, especially with Streep.
EXCLUSIVE: ABC has put in development Bright Young Things, a drama based on Alloy’s best-selling Bright Young Things book series written by Anna Godbersen. Produced by John Wells Prods. and Alloy Entertainment through Warner Bros. TV, the adaptation will be written by playwright/screenwriter Sheila Callaghan. It is set in 1929 and centers on two women who escape their small Midwestern town and end up in Manhattan. One discovers that the father she’s never known is the head of a crime ring, while the other struggles to become a singer. John Wells Prods.’ Wells and Andrew Stearn and Alloy’s Leslie Morgenstein and Cheryl Dolins executive produce, with Callaghan co-executive producing. The Bright Young Things book series was launched in 2010 with a novel by that name, followed by Beautiful Days and The Lucky Ones. This marks a rare collaboration of two of Warner Bros. TV’s biggest production companies on the same project: JWP, which is under a deal, and Alloy, which is owned by Warner Bros. It expands Callaghan’s relationship with Wells and WBTV — she is a writer/producer on their Showtime series Shameless. On the feature side, Callaghan, repped by CAA, Dan Halsted and Michael Schenkman and Greg Slewett, was hired to write an adaptation of I Dream of Jeannie for Sony. Bright Young Things joins another JWP drama project, Outbreak, …
EXCLUSIVE: Former ER executive producers John Wells and Jack Orman are reuniting with NBC for a new high-profile medical drama project. The network has given a pilot production commitment to Outbreak, an hourlong series based on the hit 1995 Warner Bros feature directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and Rene Russo (check out the trailer below for a refresher). This marks one of the biggest commitments to a drama project so far this development cycle.
Co-written by Wells and Orman, Outbreak is described as a medical thriller that follows an ensemble of characters as they race to contain a lethal virus before it becomes a global pandemic. Warner Bros TV and studio-based John Wells Prods are producing, with Wells, Orman and JWP’s Andrew Stearn executive producing. I hear Gail Katz, who was a producer on the movie, also is expected to be involved in some producing capacity. This marks Wells’ first co-writing stint since another adaptation, Shameless, which continues its successful run on Showtime. Released in March 1995, Outbreak spent three weekends atop the boxoffice en route to grossing $190 million on a $50 million budget. Wells and Orman are with CAA.
Is Bravo — once upon a time the network of Romeo and Juliet but now the home of Real Housewives of Fill In The Blank — taking a page from its past with one of its new scripted series projects? Fortune, a one-hour drama series script in development, from playwright Theresa Rebeck and exec producers John Wells and Andrew Stearn at Warner Horizon, is inspired by Charles Dickens’ 19th century classic Bleak House. Fortune is set in the present and follows a prominent New York family and the battle over an inheritance after the patriarch dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances. The original Bleak House details the impact of the endless litigation that results from a case in which a testator made several conflicting wills.
Looks like Jimmy Lishman really did meet his fate at the end of Season 3 of Shameless. Executive Producer John Wells revealed last night at a panel at the TV Academy that Justin Chatwin, who has played Lishman since Season 1, would not be coming back to the Showtime show for the fourth season as a series regular. However, there might be more Jimmy. Showtime has confirmed that Chatwin might return for future episodes in some as yet undetermined capacity. Well’s confirmation of the death of the character was much of a surprise after what was implied in April at the end of the last season. Chatwin’s reformed conman character was last shown being hauled on to a boat by drug dealers in a distinctly unfriendly manner. Though the love interest to female lead Emmy Rossum’s Fiona Gallagher character, Lishman had married a drug kingpin’s daughter so she could stay in America legally. Showtime renewed Shameless for a fourth season back in January. The new season is expected to air in 2014.
EXCLUSIVE: Bradley Cooper has now formally confirmed to star in the John Wells-directed Chef, making this one of the early projects stirring action from foreign buyers who can now visualize the Silver Linings Playbook star back in meltdown mode in this Shampoo-like drama. He plays a Paris chef named Adam Jones, who destroys his wunderkind status in a blaze of decadence and out of control behavior. He cleans up and returns to Paris sober, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars. This has been in the works a bit, and recently Cooper saw Wells’ upcoming TWC Oscar-bait movie August: Osage County and then TWC set Wells to direct Chef. They are now looking to round out that cast, and I’m hearing Michelle Williams and Marion Cotillard as potential female leads, and Omar Sy for co-starring role. The film’s produced by Stacey Sher, Erwin Stoff and Michael Shamberg.
EXCLUSIVE: After helming August: Osage County for Harvey Weinstein, John Wells is getting ready to take on another big film for The Weinstein Company. He’s making a deal to direct Chef, the Steven Knight-scripted drama that Bradley Cooper will star in next year. 3 Arts’ Erwin Stoff is producing with Double Feature Films partners Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. Timing on this picture got skewered with Steven Spielberg’s commitment last night to direct Cooper in American Sniper. Still open for debate is whether Cooper will have time to bring a revival of The Elephant Man to Broadway. The plan was for it to open in time for Tony Awards consideration for next year, but Cooper’s schedule suddenly got very crowded and it might have to be pushed until next fall.
In Chef, Cooper will play Paris chef Adam Jones, who blows his status as an up and coming chef when controlled substances lead to out of control behavior. Jones straightens out and returns to Paris sober, and becomes devoted to building a restaurant that can attain three Michelin stars, the mark of cuisine supremacy. Cooper, who made Silver Linings Playbook with Weinstein, got a peek at Wells’ August: Osage County, the play adaptation which has a cast that includes Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. They were impressed enough to offer Wells the Chef job and the deal is being made.
When does Cooper fit in all these killer …
Felicity Huffman is taking on another role of a housewife, this one with a double life. The Desperate Housewives alumna is set to star in Fox‘s drama pilot Boomerang, from John Wells Prods and Warner Bros TV. Written by Davey Holmes, the project is about a family who serve as assassins for the federal government. Huffman will play the mom, Margie Hamilton, who is a spy and master of disguise. Holmes and JWP’s John Wells and Andrew Stearn are executive producing. Huffman, who won an Emmy for her role on Desperate Housewives, has been sought after this pilot season, the first since the ABC dramedy ended its eight-season run on ABC. CAA-repped Huffman is the second Desperate Housewives star to book a pilot. Last season, Vanessa Williams did ABC’s 666 Park Avenue, which went to series. Additionally, Desperate Housewives narrator/occasional guest star Brenda Strong is on TNT’s Dallas.
Fox has given a pilot order to Boomerang, a drama from John Wells Prods. and Warner Bros TV. Written by Davey Holmes (Awake), the project is about a family who serve as assassins for the federal government. Holmes and JWP’s John Wells and Andrew Stearn are executive producing. Holmes serves as co-executive producer on Wells/Warner Bros’ Showtime series Shameless. Boomerang joins Fox’s other drama pilots Delirium, The List, Rake and Sleepy Hollow.
For a full list of broadcast network pilots and for all Deadline pilot-season stories, go to our Pilot Panic page.
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has bought Hard Up, a single-camera comedy project executive produced by John Wells. Based on the Israeli series Asfur created by Hanan Savyon and Guy Amir, Hard Up is a comedy about four twentysomething, cash-strapped close friends willing to do anything for each other — especially if it means breaking the rules as they fight against the odds to keep their home in a gentrifying neighborhood. The Fox version, which has received a script commitment, will be written by Etan Frankel (Shameless). The original series, produced by Sumayoko, airs on Israeli network HOT with Shameless. Because of the two shows’ compatibility on HOT, CAA — which reps ADD, the company that has foreign distribution rights to Asfur – took the format to Wells, who co-created the U.S. version of Shameless, and the series’ writer Frankel. Wells and Frankel will executive produce Hard Up with Savyon & Amir, Mark Mylod (pilot only) and Andrew Stearn, with HOT production executive Mirit Toovi also involved in the adaptation. John Wells Prods and Warner Bros TV are producing. Savyon and Amir are repped by ADD’s Hadas Mozes.
My, the cast of characters that have aligned to the feature adaptation of Tracey Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County continues to get more impressive. Back in September, 2010, Deadline broke the story about the movie and that Harvey Weinstein had assembled a package where John Wells would direct Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as the mother and daughter in the play. Now, Weinstein has signed Smokehouse Productions partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov to become producers. Here’s the announcement:
NEW YORK – June 18, 2012 – The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced today that George Clooney, Academy Award®-winning actor (SYRIANA) and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker (GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK., THE IDES OF MARCH), and Academy Award®-nominated producer/screenwriter Grant Heslov (GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK., THE IDES OF MARCH) have signed on as producers of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, the upcoming screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play by Tracy Letts. Academy Award winners Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts star as mother and daughter in the film, directed by John Wells from Letts’ screen adaptation. Clooney and Heslov join Jean Doumanian Productions and Steve Traxler as producers. Claire Rudnick Polstein is the executive producer. The announcement was made by TWC Co-Chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
ER, Third Watch and Southland executive producer John Wells is back at NBC with a new drama. The network has handed out a pilot pickup to Bad Girls, written by Nancy Pimental and executive produced by Wells. The project, based on the long-running UK hit series of the same name, follows the ins-and-outs of a group of unlikely women in a federal prison: a scandalous female warden, her new protégé and a host of inmates — some mothers, some friends — who struggle with loyalties to people on the inside and the outside. Wells and Pimental are executive producing with John Wells Prods’ Andrew Stearn and original series’ producer Shed Media. The Warner Bros TV project reunites Wells with NBC topper Robert Greenblatt, who picked up another Wells-backed drama based on a British format while at Showtime, Shameless, on which Pimental serves as writer-producer. This marks Wells’ first pilot at NBC since the network’s previous regime abruptly canceled his cop drama Southland, which has since found a second life at TNT.
Fox has given a pilot order to Prodigy Bully, a half-hour comedy written by Glee co-star Mike O’Malley and executive produced by John Wells. Based on the Prodigy Bully one-minute movies by Hank Perlman, the comedy centers on a young boy genius who uses his brains and brawn to get whatever he wants. John Wells Prods. and Warner Bros TV are producing, with Wells, Paris Barclay and JWP’s Andrew Stearn executive producing and O’Malley co-executive producing. This is the second time Prodigy Bully has gotten to a pilot stage. JWP and WBTV first took a stab at developing a single-camera comedy based on the Prodigy Bully shorts during the 2005-2006 season. Titled Prodigy/Bully, the project was picked up to pilot at NBC, with Perlman and Steve Elliott writing, Perlman directing, Wells, Barclay and Jon Feldman executive producing and Josh Flitter playing the lead, 9-year-old Henry Tammer. This marks the first pilot order for O’Malley as a writer. He also serves as a scribe on the Showtime drama Shameless, produced by WBTV and John Wells. He recently wrote and produced the indie Certainty, which won Best Screenplay, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Editing at the Boston Film Festival.
EXCLUSIVE: A drama series adaptation of the 2010 Australian feature Animal Kingdom has landed at Showtime, with John Wells executive producing and Jonathan Lisco writing/executive producing. The project, now in development, is a crime drama exploring the tense battle between a criminal family and the police, and the ordinary lives caught in the middle. John Wells Prods and Warner Bros TV are producing, with Lisco, Wells and Andrew Stearn executive producing alongside the movie’s writer-director David Michôd and producer Liz Watts. Animal Kingdom expands Wells’ relationship with Showtime, where he executive produces drama series Shameless, also an adaptation of a foreign property — the British series of the same name — and also produced by John Wells Prods and WBTV. K-Ville creator Lisco, repped by UTA, has an existing relationship with Wells and WBTV; he is an executive producer on their TNT cop drama Southland.
The 2010 movie was inspired by Melbourne’s infamous Pettingill crime family headed by matriarch Kath Pettingill. Jacki Weaver, who played a fictionalized version of Pettingill, earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her role. Animal Kingdom premiered in the U.S. at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival where it won the World Cinema Jury Prize. Here is a trailer for those who haven’t seen it:
EXCLUSIVE: Fox is teaming with Glee co-star Mike O’Malley for another school comedy. The network has bought Prodigy Bully, a half-hour comedy written by O’Malley and executive produced by John Wells. Based on the Prodigy Bully one-minute movies by Hank Perlman, the comedy centers on a young boy genius who uses his brains and brawn to get whatever he wants. John Wells Prods and Warner Bros TV are producing, with Wells, Paris Barclay and JWP’s Andrew Stearn executive producing and O’Malley co-executive producing. JWP and WBTV first took a stab at developing a single-camera comedy based on the Prodigy Bully shorts during the 2005-2006 season.
EXCLUSIVE: John Wells Prods has sold a third project this development season — a period hourlong comedy from Frasier and Desperate Housewives veteran Joe Keenan. ABC has bought the comedy, which is set in the 1970s and centers on a mother/daughter team who are given their own variety show. Keenan will executive produce with Wells and Andrew Stearn for Warner Bros TV, where JWP is based. The script deal at ABC comes on the heels of John Wells Prods selling two other projects recently: Easy Rawlins from Walter Mosley and Cheo Coker to NBC and an untitled high-concept drama from Carol Walper to ABC. The pact with ABC also expands Keenan’s relationship with the network; he worked on ABC’s dramedy Desperate Housewives for the past 5 years. The Keenan project has a similar setting as another hourlong pitch bought recently by ABC, The Lockharts, a musical hour drama from writers Michael Gans & Richard Register and producer Laurie Zaks. Set in the late 1970s, it centers on a musically gifted family that lands its own variety show on a national network.