Universal said today that Luc Besson‘s sci-fi actioner starring Scarlett Johansson will unspool July 25, two weeks earlier than its announced date. Lucy had been set for the action-packed weekend of August 8, where it was pegged against Warner Bros’ tornado flick Into The Storm and Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, along with Disney’s The 100-Foot Journey. Instead, the EuropaCorp film co-starring Morgan Freeman will bow versus Paramount’s Hercules, Sony’s comedy Sex Tape and Lionsgate/Summit’s musical-drama sequel Step Up All In. Lucy stars Johansson as a woman who is tricked into transporting some very bad stuff that — unbeknownst to her captors — ends up transforming her into a merciless warrior. Vengeance and mayhem ensue.
Cannes: EuropaCorp Leads Group Of French Companies Looking Abroad To Overcome Local Theatrical Biz Limitations
Cannes for me is an exercise in chasing big-money movie deals, but I took the opportunity to meet several French companies to get a view of the business from their side of the pond. Compared to the problems I hear from Hollywood, these guys struggle for growth in a French theatrical system that seems completely preposterous to an Americain.
In Hollywood, they whine about how hard it is to get a movie made; about a weekend crowded with three new releases; the inefficiency of big P&A spends to advertise on TV to ensure moviegoers show up opening weekend; and the six-month wait for DVD and VOD. In France, a heavily subsidized system makes getting movies made the easy part. The downside: 15-18 films open week in and week out; TV advertising is outlawed, and the wait for DVD and VOD is an eternity compared to the U.S. Small wonder several of the major French companies are looking outside elsewhere for growth.
For a company like Gaumont, that means supplementing Centrée Français fare by hatching U.S. market TV hits like Hannibal. Wild Bunch’s core business is backing gutsy films like Blue Is The Warmest Color, but at this Cannes, the company created a stir showing a film before its precedent-setting straight-to-VOD release. Welcome To New York is Abel Ferrara’s lurid drama that stars Gerard Depardieu as a crass, horny money man based on former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who cut a decadent swath around the world before being arrested for allegedly mauling a maid in a New York hotel. Because Wild Bunch bypassed theaters, it could spend $1 million on TV ads, creating more awareness than if it had gone theatrical and could not advertise. Success will mean more films with bigger stars test this new market and that could be as disruptive to France’s arcane theatrical machine as the current crop of pay and cable TV series like True Detective feel compared to the derivative product churned out by Hollywood movie studios.
Luc Besson and Scarlett Johansson have teamed for Lucy, a sc-fi pic that centers on a woman caught in a dark deal who turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior. Morgan Freeman co-stars, and Universal is releasing the pic from Besson’s EuropaCorp on August 8. Check out the trailer that dropped today. It reveals Johansson in full bad-arse mode a la other great Besson female heroes like Anne Parillaud in the original La Femme Nikita, Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element and Zoe Saldana in Colombiana:
NBC has acquired the U.S. broadcast rights to EuropaCorp Television‘s Taxi Brooklyn for a summer debut. The 12-episode action/comedy series is produced by showrunner Gary Scott Thompson (Las Vegas, The Fast And The Furious) and based on Luc Besson‘s Taxi feature franchise. It stars Grey’s Anatomy alumna Chyler Leigh and Jacky Ido (Inglourious Basterds). Former Blue Bloods co-star Jennifer Esposito, Ally Walker (Profiler), James Colby (Person Of Interest), Bill Heck (Pan Am), Jose Zuniga (Body Of Proof) and Raul Casso (Blue Bloods) round out the cast. Formerly known as Taxi: Brooklyn South, Taxi Brooklyn was shot in English in the titular borough along with Manhattan and Queens. Leigh plays Detective Caitlyn “Cat” Sullivan, who is determined to find the truth about the death of her father, an NYPD detective who was killed in the line of duty. When her stubborn character and recklessness behind the wheel see her demoted to foot patrol, she teams with the highly skilled and charming Marseille-born cabbie Leo Romba. Realizing Leo lied on his immigration form, Cat offers him a deal: in exchange for his driving prowess and taxi, she will help Leo with his papers situation. He becomes her personal driver and police consultant as they race through the streets of New York City solving cases.
EXCLUSIVE: Olivier Megaton will be back in the director’s chair for Taken 3, the latest film in the action franchise hatched by Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp. Megaton directed the second film in the series that’s been distributed by 20th Century Fox. While it’s likely that Fox will be on Taken 3, I understand negotiations are still underway. This will be Megaton’s next project with a start date I hear could be as early as March. In a new piece of casting, Deadline understands that Forest Whitaker is in talks to join Liam Neeson and other returning actors including Maggie Grace. Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, the retired CIA agent who used his brutal skills to track down his daughter after she was kidnapped in the first film, and who was himself taken hostage in the sequel. Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr reported last summer that Neeson was closing a deal in the vicinity of $20M to reprise his role as Mills. Neeson was a reluctant participant in the first sequel, but got paid in the $15M neighborhood.
Luc Besson Talks Paparazzi Interference On Taipei ‘Lucy’ Shoot, But Confirms He Never Planned To Leave: AP
French director Luc Besson today publicly commented on incidents in Taiwan that earlier this week led to reports he was cutting his shoot time there short on sci-fi film Lucy. According to the Associated Press, Besson spoke with journalists in Taipei this afternoon and slammed overzealous paparazzi who made shooting at night “a nightmare.” But he denied he ever thought about getting off the island early. “I read in the newspaper that I was ready to leave,” he said. “This is wrong.” This confirms a report by Deadline’s sister publication Variety in which Christophe Lambert, CEO of Besson’s EuropaCorp, said the helmer wasn’t going anywhere until finishing his stint as planned. (It also speaks to what Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr wrote on Monday about Besson’s “stones” being such that the director was not one to run scared.) Besson shot in Taipei for 11 days with star Scarlett Johansson and was irked that shutterbugs were angling for shots of the actress in costume. “We don’t want pictures with new dresses of Scarlett,” he said, per the AP. “Sometime I lost a bit of my concentration because I’m bothered by that.” He pointed to two unnamed agencies from Hong Kong for special condemnation, the AP reported. With the Taiwan shoot now wrapped, Besson said work on the movie about “pure intelligence” will take another year.
The pack mentality of web journalists rushing to pick up every report in every publication around the world legitimizes exaggerated stories and all you can do is try to put proper perspective on them later. Seems that was the case with today’s early reports that director Luc Besson was cutting short his Taipei shoot of the science fiction film Lucy because paparazzi were being over aggressive trying to get snaps of Scarlett Johansson in costume. My former colleague Patrick Frater got to EuropaCorp CEO Christophe Lambert, who told our sister publication Variety that Besson isn’t going anywhere until he finishes his stint there as planned. I interviewed Besson at Deadline Hollywood’s Contenders Event two years ago when he released The Lady, and he talked about sneaking into Burma when it was controlled by a strict military regime to shoot scenes for his film about the outrageous injustices perpetrated against Aung San Suu Kyi. Not only did Besson covertly get his shots, he filmed a crowd scene and asked everyone there to not put any information or photographs online because it would imperil him and his crew and possibly get the film’s subject (who was under house arrest) in more trouble. Not a single shot appeared anywhere, he said. Would a guy with stones like that run scared because of some pesky shutterbugs? C’mon.
EXCLUSIVE: I am hearing that Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp is the lead horse in the quest to acquire Millennium Entertainment, the distribution arm of Avi Lerner‘s Nu Image/Millennium Films empire that was put on the selling block last April. The division, which is run by Bill Lee, retained Los Angeles-based investment bank Salem Partners in April to broker a deal. Lerner owns 60% of the company, Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s Exclusive Media has a 20% stake and the hedge fund Prentice Capital owns the other 20%. I’m told that there might be one or more other bidders in the mix, but it looks like the deal is EuroCorp’s for the taking and that they are close. Besides a distribution operation, Millennium owns a film library with 665 titles and, according to the company’s release announcing the sale last April, has strong relationships with big three theater chains AMC, Regal and Landmark as well as retails outlets like Walmart, Target, iTunes, and Netflix, and cable systems for its VOD-centric titles. Recent films on the release schedule include What Maisie Knew, the Michael Shannon-starrer The Iceman, the Shia LaBeouf-starrer Charlie Countryman, the James Franco-directed As I Lay Dying and the Woody Allen-starrer Fading Gigolo, directed by John Turturro.
EXCLUSIVE: Get ready for a third installment of Taken, the franchise launched by EuropaCorp’s Luc Besson and released by 20th Century Fox. I’m told that Liam Neeson is closing a deal in the vicinity of $20 million to reprise his role as Bryan Mills, the retired CIA agent who used his brutal skills after his daughter was kidnapped in France to be sold into sex slavery. Neeson was a reluctant participant in the first sequel but got paid in the $15 million neighborhood. Now I hear he’s getting another raise, and that EuropaCorp is planning to start production in February.
Next will come the effort to make deals with Maggie Grace, who played his daughter in the first two films, and Famke Janssen, who played his ex-wife. They have a script well in the works from Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who teamed for the first two films. No director has yet been set, but don’t be surprised if Olivier Megaton comes back. He’s the Besson protege who directed the last film, which cost around $45 million and grossed over $376 million. The first film cost around $25 million and grossed over $226 million, with Pierre Morel directing. I thought the original film was vastly better than the sequel. But when the sequel does better than the original at the box office, and doesn’t cost that much more, of course they will try for the trifecta. The key has been getting Neeson.
About 1,600 French film business heavyweights have signed a petition against a proposed regulation that would set pay and personnel minimums for crews on any movies produced in the country. The legislation is due to be signed by the labor minister next month and put into effect in July. But the increasingly heated concern is that by setting a bar for salaries, crew costs could rise dramatically and endanger about a quarter of films produced per year. Technicians unions and French majors Gaumont, Pathé, UGC and MK2, are in favor. Among the petition’s signatories against are Luc Besson, Guillaume Canet, Vincent Cassell, Robert Benmussa, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Costa Gavras, Isabelle Huppert, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Patrice Leconte, Vincent Maraval, François Ozon and Amour producer Margaret Menegoz. Their belief is that such films as 2011′s 13-time César nominee Polisse would not have been made under the proposal. Nor would Leos Carax’s Cannes sensation Holy Motors which was only able to make its budget by having the crew accept 20% below their normal salaries in exchange for participation. The producers have penned their own collective agreement and the government said just yesterday that it has appointed a mediator to try and get the two sides talking.
EXCLUSIVE: Signaling an intention by EuropaCorp to ramp up Stateside production, principals Luc Besson and CEO Christophe Lambert have set veteran production executive and producer Lisa Ellzey to join EuropaCorp as executive vice president of U.S. Motion Picture Production. Ellzey, a Golden Globe and Emmy-winning producer, most recently was executive vice president of production at Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox. She will report directly to Lambert. I’ve heard EuropaCorp’s intention will be to generate as many as five film projects per year here when things get up and running. The company is very prolific from its base in France.
EXCLUSIVE: Furthering its commitment to co-finance action films from Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp, Relativity Media has signed on to co-finance and be domestic distributor for Brick Mansions, the American-ized remake of the Paris-set Banlieue 13. The film will star Paul Walker, and it will be directed by Camille Delamarre, a protege of Besson. Besson, who co-wrote the original, scripted the remake with his Taken collaborator Robert Mark Kamen. Walker will star with David Belle, who starred in the original and the sequel District 13: Ultimatum. He is also the guy credited with creating Parkour, a sport that involves agility and leaping and climbing around obstacles. There will be plenty of that in these films.
After consulting informally on Luc Besson‘s mafia actioner Malavita, Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese has come aboard the Robert De Niro-Tommy Lee Jones starrer as executive producer. Scorsese and Besson put their heads together through the film’s pre-production and filming and will continue collaborating as the EuropaCorp and Relativity production heads toward its October 18 release date. Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron and John D’Leo also star in the dark comedy about the Manzonis, a mob family that goes into witness protection in Normandy, France. Besson is producing and directing from his script, adapted with Michael Caleo from Tonino Benacquista’s book Badfellas. Virginie Besson-Silla is producing for EuropaCorp, with Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh producing and Tucker Tooley executive producing. WME and manager Rick Yorn repped Scorsese in the deal.
Luc Besson’s films have long been big in Japan. Now, the French multi-hyphenate is looking to establish a footprint in China. Besson’s studio, EuropaCorp, today said it has signed an exclusive co-production and distribution pact with Shanghai-based Fundamental Films. The 3-year output deal covers at least 15 Europa films to be released theatrically in China as well as a commitment from Fundamental to co-produce 3 of the 15 titles. The first picture to be released under the deal is the Besson-directed Malavita with Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro and the recently added Dianna Agron and John D’Leo. Deal terms also allow for Europa to handle 3 Chinese films on the international market. Headed by entrepreneur Mark Gao, Fundamental’s previous local releases have included Limitless, Killer Elite and The Grey.
Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills, the man with a special set of lethal skills in Taken 2, and a trailer has been released overseas that shows no shortage of action. The first film, which recast Neeson as an action superstar, had a smart script by Luc Besson and Robert Kamen, and Fox released it at a fortuitous time. It came in the wake of the financial collapse on Wall Street in 2008, a time when people felt helpless to do anything but watch their investments crater. And then here was a guy in a desperate circumstance that most people would be powerless to stop, but getting his daughter back before she is sold as a sex slave is the one thing he can do well. Will the sequel have the same kind of resonance? Probably not. It looks a lot like the original premise, with revenge. But I can’t wait.
(Beverly Hills, Calif.) May 24, 2012 – Relativity Media announced today it has struck a co-production and co-financing deal with Luc Besson’s (Taken, Transporter) EuropaCorp on the upcoming films Malavita and Three Days To Kill. The companies will work in tandem on both projects throughout the creative and production process. Out of the gate, Besson will helm Malavita, a darkly comedic actioner starring Robert De Niro. The script is adapted by Besson from the book Badfellas by author Tonino Benacquista. Pre-production will begin in July with filming set for August at La Cité du Cinéma, where the brand new Studios de Paris are located. Additional shooting will take place in Normandy, France and New York. The film will bow in 2013 with Relativity handling U.S. distribution as well as working with its foreign output partners on the film’s release in the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Greece, Thailand and CIS. EuropaCorp will take on distribution in France and handle international sales. Malavita is the story of the Manzonis, a notorious mafia family who gets relocated to France under the witness protection program. The second film under the deal is Three Days To Kill, an action tale with a sense of humor from a script by Besson and Adi Hasak (From Paris With Love). It’s about Secret Service Agent Ethan Runner who discovers he’s dying and decides to retire in order to reconnect with his estranged family but is offered access to an experimental drug that could save his life but has hallucinatory side-effects.
Europa posted roughly the first five minutes of Lockout, which features star Guy Pearce being pummeled while he’s interrogated about “what happened in that hotel room.” What happened was a big fight scene during which credits unfold. Kind of over the top but OK. (In English with French subtitles.) Most of what we’ve seen before has taken place aboard an orbital maximum security prison. Maggie Grace co-stars. Executive producer Luc Besson co-wrote with first-time feature directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger. Released under other monikers abroad and re-titled Lockout for the U.S. market, the FilmDistrict/Open Road-distributed sci-fi prison thriller is now slated to open April 13.
Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp will head to Berlin’s European Film Market with a couple of hot English-language titles, including Enemy Of The State and Live Free Or Die Hard writer David Marconi’s second outing as director, Intersection. Paris-based Europa is currently in production on the thriller that Marconi also penned. Frank Grillo, who’s been making a name for himself with recent turns in The Grey, Warrior and the upcoming Gangster Squad, stars alongside Roschdy Zem (Days Of Glory); Marie-Josée Croze (Tell No One, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly); and Charlie Bewley, who plays Demetri in the Twilight movies. The story centers on a rich and beautiful couple on their honeymoon in Morocco. After escaping a deadly multi-car pileup at a desert intersection, the group of survivors — including a wanted smuggler, an undercover cop, a kidnapper, a baby and an unconscious Australian — embark on a journey of deceit and revelation that culminates in a Tangiers souk. Delivery is for fourth quarter this year.