EXCLUSIVE: Felicity Jones is making a deal to star in A Monster Calls, the Juan Antonio Bayona-directed adaptation of the Patrick Ness children’s fantasy novel. I’ve heard that she will play the character of Mum, and that the filmmakers are courting Liam Neeson for the role of the Monster, though I am not sure that will result in a deal. The film tells the tale of a young boy who attempts to deal with his mother’s illness and the bullying of classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that deal with courage, loss and faith. Ness wrote the book based on an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, and Ness and illustrator Jim Kay won Britain’s Carnegie and Greenaway Medals for the book which Ness has turned into a script.
Literary and cinematic roots run deep in Showtime’s new psychosexual horror series Penny Dreadful, which debuts in May with an episode helmed by The Orphanage director Juan Antonio Bayona. Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, and Harry Treadaway star in the show created by Oscar-nominated scribe John Logan and exec produced by Sam Mendes which crosses the mythologies of iconic horror figures from Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dorian Gray lore in a Victorian England setting. “We wanted to pay respects to the mythology but bring them to a new level,” said Bayona of the show’s twisty take on well-known stories and characters.
Coincidentally, another thread connects the Penny Dreadful gang in front of and behind the camera. “There’s a lot of James Bond on this show: John wrote Skyfall, Sam directed it, Eva was in Casino Royale – I said to someone, I think I’m being groomed for the next Bond movie,” said Hartnett at a Q&A following the premiere of Penny Dreadful’s first episode Sunday at SXSW. Hartnett plays American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, who is recruited by Sir Malcolm (Dalton, a former 007 himself) and the enigmatic Vanessa Ives (Green) for a supernatural mission in London. The gothic series is one of a handful of television projects highlighted this year in SXSW’s new programming slate devoted to episodic /TV content.
Focus Makes $20 Million P&A Deal For River Road, Participant And Lionsgate Intl-Funded Juan Antonio Bayona-Helmed ‘A Monster Calls’
EXCLUSIVE: In the third huge pre-buy deal this year, Focus Features is committing $20 million in P&A to release A Monster Calls, a film that will be financed by River Road Entertainment and Participant Media. The film will be the next directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, who helmed the tsunami film The Impossible and made his breakthrough on The Orphanage. The film is an adaptation of the children’s fantasy novel series by Patrick Ness and it is already on course to begin production this fall for release in 2016. The novel focuses on a young lad who tries to deal with school bullies and his mother’s illness by losing himself into a vivid world of monsters and fairy tales. Ness adapted his own prize-winning work.
In the configuration taking shape, Focus releases the film wide domestically and Universal Pictures International releases in Spain. Lionsgate International is a key piece of this puzzle, as Patrick Washsberger’s troops will sell all other world territories. Producing is Belen Atienza, who teamed with Bayona on his films and produced Pan’s Labyrinth. Bill Pohlad’s River Road is coming off the Best Picture for 12 Years A Slave, and I’m told Pohlad and his team will exec produce with Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and his team, along with Wachsberger.
This becomes the first major deal for Peter Schlessel since James Schamus and Andrew Karpen left Focus and Schlessel merged his FilmDistrict shingle in the company and took the reins. While Bayona is separately attached to helm a sequel to the zombie saga World War Z 2, this film will come first.
J.A. Bayona helmed the monsoon disaster pic The Impossible, but he might be taking on something close to that title as Paramount and Skydance have signed him to oversee figuring out a sequel to World War Z. The first film, which was directed by Marc Forster and released last summer, was perhaps the most maligned film in memory prior to its release, certainly for a film that actually turned out to be quite good. The film went significantly over budget, when basically the last third was scrapped for a tense, contained conclusion. Trouble is, Brad Pitt’s United Nations staffer effectively solved the zombie quandary.
The original scrapped ending featured a bloody mano a mano battle against humanity and zombies in Russia that led seamlessly into a second installment. But the studio and Forster felt it was all too much, after the show-stopping insect swarm of zombies that overwhelmed Israel. It turned off audiences and the drastic decision was made that nobody would want a sequel if they walked out disliking the first film. Even at a cost of $220 million or higher, depending on who you ask, and another $125 million to launch the film globally, WWZ‘s $540 million global gross made a sequel possible. How they make the storyline anything more than mop-up duty to eradicate the flesh eaters will be the challenge facing Bayona and Pitt’s Plan B. The Max Brooks book was written with a UN …
Showtime has officially announced that Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) will helm the first two episodes of the upcoming eight-episode drama series Penny Dreadful, created, written and executive produced by John Logan and executive produced by Sam Mendes and Neal Street’s Pippa Harris. The psychosexual horror series features some of literature’s most iconic figures — including Dr. Frankenstein and his creature, Dorian Gray, and characters from the novel Dracula — as then become embroiled in Victorian London, and will begin production in London this fall.
Pablo Berger’s black and white and silent rendering of Snow White won the top Goya in Spain on Sunday night. The Spanish Oscars gave Blancanieves the Best Film prize along with Best Actress for Maribel Verdú and Best Original Screenplay for Berger. It won seven other prizes for a total of 10 out of its leading 18 nominations. The Impossible‘s Juan Antonio Bayona was named Best Director. The tsunami drama that stars Ewan McGregor and Oscar nominated Naomi Watts was also a winner in four other categories including Editing and Special Effects. It had 14 nominations going in. Click over for a full list of winners.
Hollywood is in a real space race. Juan Antonio Bayona has been set to helm the untitled space pic that Forrest Gump scribe Eric Roth has written for Warner Bros, with Kevin McCormick producing. This comes amidst other space pic developments: JJ Abrams switching off from Star Trek to an attempt to place defibrilator paddles on what is left of Star Wars; and as Marvel Studios prepares to launch the space-set Guardians of the Galaxy as its next superhero franchise. That latter movie is still in the casting stage for the lead character of Starlord, and Marvel is still searching after Joseph Gordon-Levitt said no. I gave you a short list of actors last year who were meeting, and they’ve widened the search.
Separately, a space-set version of The Odyssey just got launched at Warner Bros, and the studio has dated for fall the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney-starrer Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. This is 3D and should be great.
Personally, I find it easier to get excited about the combination of the imagination of a great writer like Roth (The Good Shepherd and The Insider) and Bayona, who helmed The Orphanage and just directed the tsunami movie The Impossible, or even Guardians of the Galaxy, than the attempt to bring back Star Wars. A lot of people drool slavishly over the memory of the original first two films and how groundbreaking they …
EXCLUSIVE: One of the sleeper entries in this year’s Oscar race is the emotionally wrenching true story, The Impossible which chronicles a family split apart in the terrifying Tsunami in Thailand in 2004 and their efforts to survive and find each other, despite horrific injury and unspeakable devastation at the resort area where they were vacationing. Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland star in the film directed by Spain’s Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage). Distributor Summit will release the film domestically (already a smash hit in Spain since opening there in mid-October) on December 21, but already has sent out 38,000 DVD screeners to all guilds and the Academy in order to gain a foothold in the race against higher profile, better known competitors. Here is a look at the making of the film in a featurette that also includes an interview with the real-life wife and mother who fights against major odds just to see her kids and husband one more time.