EXCLUSIVE: After recently venturing into cable with the Showtime series Shameless, HBO’s miniseries Mildred Pierce and TNT’s drama Southland, which originated on NBC, John Wells’ Warner Bros TV-based production company is shifting its attention back to broadcast TV this development season. John Wells Prods has already sold two projects, both based on books: Easy Rawlins to NBC and an untitled high-concept drama from Carol Walper to ABC. Several more pitches will be taken out shortly.
NBC’s Easy Rawlins is based on Walter Mosley’s best-selling novels about black P.I. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, who finds himself solving crimes and dealing with the changing world around him in 1960s Los Angeles. (The books are set from the 1940s to 1960s.) Easy is a reluctant, self-taught P.I. with a conscience and a soul — and he easily slips between white Los Angeles and the black underground. Mosley will write the series adaptation with Southland co-executive producer Cheo Coker. A drama adaptation of Mosley’s Easy Rollins book series, which spanned 11 novels, was developed by USA Network seven years ago. Additionally, Mosley served as an executive producer on the 2003 CBS drama pilot The Law & Mr. Lee, about an Oakland-based private eye played by Danny Glover. Easy Rawlins is the second project based on well-known mystery series books with a minority protagonist to be set up at the broadcast networks this season. CBS recently bought a drama based on Leslie Glass’ Alice Woo novels from CBS TV Studios and Apostle. Read More »
Mildred Pierce executive producer and director Todd Haynes has re-teamed with the HBO miniseries’ executive producers John Wells and Christine Vachon for another period HBO project — drama series Dope. Just like Mildred Pierce, which starred Oscar winner Kate Winslet, an A-list feature actress, Julianne Moore, is circling Dope, which is based on Sara Gran’s novel. Haynes would potentially direct the project, now in development, from a script by Gran who adapted her book. Dope takes place in New York around 1950 and centers on a woman who re-enters her life after being away at the farm to treat her heroin addiction and becomes a private eye. Dope would extend Moore’s relationship with HBO. She stars in the pay-cable network’s upcoming film about the 2008 presidential election, Game Change, portraying former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The Depression-era Mildred Pierce is the most nominated program at the upcoming 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards with 21 noms, including one in the newly consolidated best movie/miniseries category.
UPDATE:Today’s statement by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers:
“Ratification of the new agreement between the AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America is a significant achievement for both parties and an important milestone for the industry. Taking into account the agreement reached with the WGA, the industry has now successfully concluded an agreement with each of the major Guilds over the past six months. Taken together, these agreements will give the industry an opportunity for a sustained period of labor peace.”
April 27th, 2011
To Our Fellow Members:
We are pleased to announce that our joint memberships have ratified our new contract with the AMPTP by an overwhelming majority. With a total of 1,952 valid ballots cast, 90.7 percent voted in favor of ratification. The term of the new deal is from May 2, 2011 through May 1, 2014. We move forward knowing that the significant gains we made in employer contributions to our pension plan better enable it to meet its obligations for the foreseeable future and that we’ve secured increases for reuse payments in Pay TV and increases in minimums.
EXCLUSIVE: TNT already successfully rescued one John Wells-produced drama project passed over by a broadcast network: former NBC cop drama Southland, just renewed by TNT for a fourth season.
Now the cable network is looking to try and do the same for the Wells-produced medical drama Gimme Shelter, originally developed for CBS last development season. The project, about a medical team that travels the U.S. helping those less fortunate get through life-or-death medical crises, was written by Hannah Shakespeare and produced by John Wells Prods. and Warner Bros TV. It was picked up to pilot, which was directed by frequent Wells collaborator Chris Chulack, but despite boasting a strong cast — Sissy Spacek, Amy Smart, Skeet Ulrich, Janeane Garofalo, Jay Hernandez, Michael Beach and Rachelle Lefevre — CBS ultimately passed on the pilot.
Now TNT is in talks about redeveloping Gimme Shelter, with all original auspices, including Wells and Shakespeare, expected to be involved. However, the original cast members were released last June, and most of them have booked other TV projects, so it is unclear whether any of them would be part of the TNT version if it goes to pilot/series.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that there is heightened interest in Kevin Costner for a key role in the Superman reboot that is being directed by Zack Snyder for Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures. Henry Cavill was recently set in the Man of Steel role. I’m not exactly sure what role Costner is likely to play, but he has certainly been in good guy mode lately. Beyond his performance in the John Wells-directed The Company Men, Costner surfaced as an unlikely hero in aiding the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. British Petroleum purchased over 30 centrifuge machines which separate oil from water, technology that was developed with a reported $24 million in funding by the actor over 15 years.
The Superman film is being produced by Chris Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, and Deborah Snyder. The screenplay is being written by David S. Goyer based on a story by Goyer and Nolan. Thomas Tull and Lloyd Phillips are serving as executive producers. The new Superman is targeted for release in December 2012.
In accepting the Best Original Screenplay award for Inception at Saturday night’s Writers Guild Awards, winner Christopher Nolan addressed the elephant in the room by noting that not all the best screenplays were eligible for the prize. The Writers Guild, as they do every year, disqualified scripts not made under Guild agreements and this year that list included four screenplays that are nominated for Oscars including The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3, Another Year, and Winter’s Bone. Nolan noted that 9 years ago, even though he was a WGA member, he was told his script (later Oscar nominated) Memento would not be eligible for a WGA award. Nolan alluded to those “screenplays not considered but I am not going to name them for fear of boosting their chances at other shows”. He said that, hopefully, next year all scripts will be eligible “without qualification”.
I talked to WGA President John Wells at the pre-show reception about this thorny issue and he said that The Weinstein Company did in fact want to try and make King’s Speech eligible retroactively but that the producers of the film balked at the costs. (Wells’ recent film The Company Men was distributed by TWC.) He said the practice of disqualifying screenplays that don’t meet Guild production standards is one that comes up time and again at WGA Board meetings but the guild feels it’s a good way of convincing some productions to sign on to the … Read More »
From Ray Richmond, who is contributing to Deadline Hollywood’s TCA coverage:
It was a shaggy-haired William H. Macy who showed up this afternoon in Pasadena for a TCA session hyping his new John Wells-produced Showtime series Shameless that premiered last Sunday. He portrays Frank Gallagher, the single father of a wildly dysfunctional clan who is unapologetic about his chronic alcoholism. And in fact, so is Macy himself — unapologetic about his character’s drinking issues, that is.
“It sure is fun to play someone who’s toasted all the time,” Macy said. “I feel like I spent my whole career speaking for the little guy, the disenfranchised. A lot of people in this country right now are toasted, drunk as skunks…and I speak for them, for the people who like to start the day with a couple of brewskis…I have the role of the century here. Plus, the wife really digs the hair. This (touching his facial hair), not so much.”
Showtime will use the Dexter finale to get big sampling for new drama Shameless, which is slated to premiere January 9. The pay cable network will preview the first 20 minutes of Shameless following the Dexter season finale this Sunday. Based on the UK series, Shameless, from John Wellsand Paul Abbott, stars William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum. Macy plays Frank Gallagher, a far-from-stellar working-class patriarch of an unconventional Chicago brood of six motley kids whose eldest daughter (Rossum) keeps the home afloat while he’s out drinking and carousing. Joan Cusack recurs as an agoraphobic Chicago housewife who strikes up a special friendship with Frank. Here is the trailer:
The specialty film community was surprised today that, with only 8 days to go until release, Rentrak sent out a date change announcement that The Weinstein Co was moving John Wells’s TheCompany Men off December 10th and onto January 21st. Especially because the film Wells wrote and directed had been well-received at Sundance and mentioned for the Oscar race even if it was ignored this week by both the Indie Spirit Awards and the National Board Of Review. So here’s what I’ve confirmed: that The Weinstein Co still plans an Oscar qualifying run for one week in NYC’s AMC Lincoln Square and LA’s AMC Century City theaters. The premiere is this Wednesday at The Paris in NYC complete with after-party. But it won’t go wider the rest of the month as planned. “They feel December has gotten too crowded with True Grit, The Fighter, Black Swan, and King’s Speech [opening or expanding] all in the next few weeks and targeted for the same audience,” an insider explains to me. The King’s Speech, of course, is The Weinstein Co’s major push for awards this season.
UPDATE: For those who inquired about application rules: Because of Humanitas’ limited staff, there will be no open submission. Writers can submit scripts through their agents, Humanitas-affiliated film schools or any of the Humanitas board of directors or board of trustees members or other TV showrunners who want to pitch them. There is no age limit for the applicants.
PREVIOUS: Humanitas is launching a New Voices initiative designed to help up-and-coming writers trying to break into the business. It includes agreements with 20th Century FOX TV, NBC Universal, CBS, ABC Studios, Lionsgate and HBO Entertainment to develop a total of twelve TV pilots by emerging writers. Each company has made blind commitments to buy two scripts, each of which will be written under the supervision of a member of Humatitas’ Board of Trustees. Read More »
The WGA West just issued its first Contract Bulletin about the upcoming TV/Theatrical contract about to be negotiated with the AMPTP. Issues discussed include New Media and Pension & Health:
WGAW Member Meetings to Discuss Negotiations for the 2011 Contract
Please join President John Wells, Executive Director David Young, Negotiating Committee Co-Chairs John Bowman and Billy Ray, and members of the WGAW Board to discuss plans for the upcoming negotiations and potential priorities for contract demands. Members will have the chance to give input and pose questions to Guild leaders. Los Angeles area members can choose from three meeting opportunities:
Tuesday, November 9, 7:00 p.m. at the Sportsmen’s Lodge
4234 Coldwater Canyon Ave., Studio City
Tuesday, November 16, 7:00 p.m. at the Loews Santa Monica
Beach Hotel, 1700 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
Thursday, Dec 2, 7:00 p.m. at the Writers Guild Theater
135 South Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills
Challenges for the Guild this Year
As hard as it may be to believe, we are now entering the final six months of the contract we negotiated to end our 2007 strike. With our contract expiring on May 1, 2011, your Board and staff have been working over the last year to identify the areas we believe will need to be addressed in our upcoming 2011 MBA negotiations. This process has involved months of staff effort, extensive surveys of our members in screen and television, and many hours of Board discussion.
EXCLUSIVE: In a power pairing, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep are in talks to star for The Weinstein Company in the bigscreen adaptation of the Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer and Tony-winning play August: Osage County. I hear Roberts and Streep have agreed to the project and they are now working out deals and locking a production start. John Wells will direct the film from a script written by the playwright. Production will start by next summer. Streep will play Violet, the drug-addicted matriarch of the working class Weston clan. Roberts will play Barbara Fordham, the oldest daughter in the family. While mom’s problems and her penchant for revealing family secrets is a big issue, Barbara is melting because her husband is cheating with a college student. They are brought together when Violet’s husband goes missing and all three of their daughters come home to rally around mom. In the process, a lot of family secrets get revealed. The film has been developed for several years by Harvey Weinstein, who was involved Read More »
Joan Cusack has joined the cast of Showtime’s new drama series Shameless and appear in all 12 episodes of the new series. She’ll play the role of Sheila, an agoraphobic Chicago housewife with a sexually active teenage daughter who strikes up a special friendship with William H. Macy’s character, Frank Gallagher. She replaces Allison Janney, who played the role in the pilot but had to pull out because of her commitment to ABC’s Mr. Sunshine after the producers of Shameless decided to make the character more prominent than originally planned. Production on the series begins in mid-September for a January 9 premiere. Read More »
The Company Men is the feature directing debut of John Wells, who not only wrote and produced, but gambled some of his E.R. money to finance the film as well. The Weinstein Company, which acquired the drama after its Sundance Film Festival debut, has just released a trailer that makes me feel like I do when I walk through a store in early summer and see the shelves lined with back-to-school supplies: the escapist summer season will soon give way to autumn message movies. When the film first played at Sundance, some buyers felt it had an episodic TV vibe, understandable given Wells’ background. I’ve heard that he has been working steadily to hone the film, which bows October 22.
Showtime has announced January premiere dates for new drama series Shameless, new comedy series Episodes and the fourth season of Californication. Shameless, John Wells and Paul Abbott’s adaptation of Abbott’s British series, will debut on Sunday, Jan. 9 at 10 PM. It stars William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum. Episodes, from David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, will premiere on Jan 10 at 10:30 PM. The series, about a British couple trying to adapt their hit British series in the U.S., stars Matt LeBlanc. The fourth season of Californication, starring David Duchovny as hedonistic novelist Hank Moody, will unspool on Jan. 10 at 10 PM, leading into the debut of Episodes. In addition to Shameless and Episodes, Showtime has one more new series in the hopper greenlighted by outgoing entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, period drama The Borgias.