BREAKING: NBCUniversal’s new owners at Comcast have given a vote of confidence to the studio’s feature film operation. They’ve exercised an option on Universal Pictures’ Chairman Adam Fogelson and extended his contract through 2014. I’m told that Fogelson is, in turn, in the process of exercising the option of Donna Langley and she will continue as the studio’s co-chairman. They will also keep their executive team intact. Fogelson will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and will now also report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke.
While Universal has had its ups and downs, higher-ups are clearly convinced that Fogelson, Langley and their team are making progress. They’ve had recent hits –Bridesmaids, Hop! and Fast Five– but also had some recent misses that include The Dilemma, Change-Up and Cowboys & Aliens. In the latter case, the studio was on the hook for one-third of the film, and shared that third with Relativity Media. It has also been a year in which Fogelson and his team have made some painful decisions and let pricey productions go. That began with the Guillermo Del Toro-directed At the Mountains of Madness, which Universal developed for years and which was ready to go with Tom Cruise, until the studio made a late decision not to go forward because of the possibility the $150M film could carry an R-rating. Universal also dropped two projects that were in advanced stages of development: The Dark Tower, the Akiva Goldsman-directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel series that was to be made into three feature films and two limited-run TV series, with the first film and TV segment directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer and Goldsman; and Oiuja, the Hasbro board game that had McG directing and Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners producing with Hasbro. The moves were surprising because Howard and Grazer are cornerstone filmmakers for Universal; and Del Toro and Hasbro have overall deals there. Ouija is one of several Hasbro properties the studio dropped, the others being the Gore Verbinski-directed Clue, the Ridley Scott-directed Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. These were part of a groundbreaking deal the studio made with the toymaker several years ago, but the studio and Hasbro have re-focused their attention solely on Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, and Candy Land. READ MORE »
Alex Winter, who started his career as half of the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure tandem before transitioning to director of commercials and TV shows, is finally helming a movie about the formation of controversial music file-sharing service Napster. The surprise is that after 10 years of trying to make a narrative feature, Winter’s shooting it as a documentary backed by VH1, the same division that made 2008’s Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Winter originally made his deal with Paramount’s MTV Films and wrote a script, only to watch that division crater and see his birth of a technological revolution storyline drive The Social Network, which even had early Napster pioneer Shawn Parker in a key role. Rather than scrap Napster, Winter is going back to all the sources for his script, armed with a camera.
“The rise and fall of Napster and the birth of peer-to-peer file-sharing technology created by Shawn Fanning when he was a college student, changed music to movies, and made possible everything from Julian Assange, WikiLeaks to the iPod and Facebook,” Winter told me. “It became an expression of youth revolt, and contributed to a complete shift in how information, media and governments work. And it is a fascinating human story, where this 18-year-old kid invents a peer-to-peer file-sharing system, and brings it to the world six months later.” Read More »
Sony Pictures has acquired Shadow Runner, a pitch for an action thriller that will star Thor’s Chris Hemsworth. Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce through the Contrafilm banner with ROAR’s Will Ward. Studio’s keeping the fictional project under wraps, but this deal has taken awhile to come together, and its original genesis was an idea by Drive scribe Hossein Amini. The inspiration was an incident in which an Israeli assassination team targeted a Hamas leader whom the Israelis believe murdered several soldiers and helped stockpile Iranian-made missiles. He was tracked to Dubai, and the Israelis managed to smuggle in an entire 17-person hit team to take him out in the corridor of a five-star hotel. The operatives were captured on a hotel security camera trailing after the victim, reemerging and getting on the elevator after he was killed. I’m told that the film won’t replicate those events, but Hemsworth will lead an elite team of operatives who take on impossible tasks. Amini will be exec producer. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Bracing for its race against Relativity Media on rival Snow White films, Universal Pictures has hired Hossein Amini to do a rewrite of Snow White and the Huntsman, the Rupert Sanders-directed film that stars Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The twists and turns on the Warner Bros adaptation of anime artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel Akira continue. Director Albert Hughes is exiting the movie, I’m told. Insiders say that it is an amicable creative differences parting of the ways. Warner Bros will try to put him on another movie right away (Hughes and his brother Allen directed the hit The Book of Eli, and WB topper Jeff Robinov is their former agent and is very close with them). Hughes is coming to Hollywood next week to take meetings with his WME reps and look at scripts, hoping to find his next movie at Warner Bros.
As for Akira, the intention of the studio is to keep the picture on a fast track, which means they will find a director quickly. The studio has been wrestling with the approach on the film for the past year. Read More »
Peter Stormare has joined Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, and Famke Janssen to star in Paramount/MGM’s Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters. He plays the villainous town sheriff ‘Berringer’. Stormare recently wrapped the Luc Besson produced feature film Lock Out for Sony. … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Shortly after Arnold Schwarzenegger left the Governor’s Mansion and Tweeted his desire to resume his acting career, there seems to finally be some action on his signature franchise, The Terminator. I’m told that interest is kicking back up. One … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is finalizing a deal with Ryan Gosling to reunite with his Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn on Logan’s Run, the remake of the 1976 futuristic drama about a man who tries to outrun a mandatory death sentence … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Cheryl Maisel will be leaving Rogers and Cowan and coming back to PMK*BNC as an EVP in talent. She will be bringing long-standing clients like Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Craig Ferguson, and others.
Henry’s Crime, the film that stars Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, James Caan, Fisher Stevens and Judy Greer, has been acquired for North American distribution by Maitland Primrose Group. The film will be released by Moving Pictures Film & TV. A … Read More »
Voltage Pictures chief Nicolas Chartier, trying to create some noise to follow The Hurt Locker, has announced a September 9 start date for Generation Um. The film, which stars Keanu Reeves, Bojana Novakovic and Adelaide Clemens, has been announced on … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Management/production companies 3 Arts and Untitled Entertainment are in merger talks. I’m not certain they are going to join forces, but they are exploring it seriously. The potential mix of assets of the two companies is intriguing. 3 Arts — run by Erwin Stoff, Michael Rotenberg, Howard Klein, David … Read More »
SUNDAY AM: Sony and Fox dominated a modest weekend box office populated by mostly mediocre movies. The Friday-through Sunday domestic gross crowned Sony/Screen Gems’ horror flick Prom Night as the box office king with $22.7 million from 2,700 theaters. That’s exactly what rival studios thought … Read More »