Parenthood‘s Mae Whitman is in negotiations to lead CBS Films comedy The DUFF, adapted from Kody Keplinger’s coming-of-age novel. She’ll star as Bianca, a 17-year-old girl who deals with the ignominy of being labeled the “designated ugly fat friend” of her social group by leading her fellow DUFFs in a scheme to overthrow the school’s evil queen, Madison. McG is producing via his Wonderland Sound and Vision banner alongside Mary Viola and Lane Shefter. CBS Films’ Alex Ginno and VP of Production Mark Ross are overseeing for the studio. Ari Sandel, who won an Oscar for the 2007 live-action short West Bank Story, is directing with filming set to begin this summer in Atlanta. Bandslam‘s Josh Cagan wrote the screenplay. Whitman is best known for playing Ann Veal on Arrested Development and most recently appeared on the big screen in The Perks of Being A Wallflower. She’s repped by ICM.
McG has boarded NBC’s drama pilot The Mysteries Of Laura as director/executive producer, reuniting with Warner Bros TV — where his company, Wonderland Sound Of Vision, was based for 12 years before going indie in June. Mysteries Of Laura, from WBTV, writer Jeff Rake, Greg Berlanti’s Berlanti Productions and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, is based on the popular Spanish series Los Misterios De Laura. It follows the life and relationships of a female homicide detective who can handle murderous criminals — but not her evil twin sons. McG’s Wonderland continues to co-produce with WBTV the CW’s long-running drama Supernatural as well as its upcoming spinoff. Last season, WME-repped McG directed the ABC/WBTV drama pilot Westside.
EXCLUSIVE: Chris Evans will make his feature directorial debut on 1:30 Train, a Ron Bass-scripted film that will be funded by Wonderland Sound And Vision. Evans will star and produce with Mark Kassen, Howard and Karen Baldwin, Bill Immerman, and Wonderland’s McG and Mary Viola. I’ve heard Evans plans to direct the movie this fall, completing production before he picks up his shield to play Captain America in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the Joss Whedon-directed sequel for Marvel. The film is a romance in the vein of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, focusing on two strangers who meet in Manhattan and spend one night together as the conflicts in their own lives become the basis for their exploration of each other and themselves.
This becomes the first financed feature for Wonderland since director-producer McG re-launched his Wonderland banner last month with a multi-year funding partnership with Mickey Liddell’s private equity-backed LD Entertainment. This has enabled Wonderland to be a buyer and independently develop, produce and finance its own slate of feature film, television and digital projects. Wonderland’s McG and Viola worked with Evans on the upcoming Justin Reardon-directed A Many Splintered Thing, and 1:30 Train grew out of that. Evans had been involved in an earlier incarnation of the film with another director. And he never forgot the material. Now’s he’s in a position to do something about it. Evans is repped by CAA and 3 Arts. …
EXCLUSIVE: Director-producer McG has re-launched his Wonderland Sound and Vision with a multi-year funding partnership with Mickey Liddell’s private equity-backed LD Entertainment. The arrangement makes McG a buyer with the financial backing for Wonderland to independently develop, produce and finance its own slate of feature film, television and digital projects. The two sides are not disclosing the size of LD Entertainment’s investment but sources indicate that the deal includes an eight-figure overhead component for Wonderland’s current offices on Sunset Boulevard. McG has brought in Alloy Entertainment’s SVP Television Gina Girolamo to run the television division of the now independent company. She succeeds Peter Johnson, who has left after a nine-year stint. Mary Viola, who has been with Wonderland for four years, will continue to oversee the company’s film slate. We hear Wonderland plans to produce 5-6 shows a year, serving as a virtual studio: co-financing, sharing distribution and owning copyright. Wonderland is believed to be the only independent production company of this scale run by a creative type, writer or director. It is a step up for Liddell’s LD Entertainment; he primarily has invested in distribution rights to prestige films like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, and started a distribution arm to get in the releasing game.
For the past 12 years, Wonderland was based at Warner Bros Television where it produced more than 500 hours of primetime TV series, including the CW staple Supernatural, Nikita, Chuck and digital series Aim High. McG was offered to stay at the studio with a very lucrative new deal but wanted to step out of the traditional system, an idea he had been bouncing around for years. Here is how McG explains the philosophy and the goals of the company in its new incarnation: “Wonderland is built for the most talented directors, writers, and actors to come over and get their films and television shows made. Our focus is to support the artist and get the material into production. This new relationship now puts Wonderland in a position to go straight into production on our projects. We are now a buyer and, in turn, plan to deliver product to the marketplace quickly and efficiently via traditional and emerging distribution platforms.” Liddell called McG “one of the most creative and innovative talents in the entertainment industry.”
ABC made a late charge on the pilot pickup front to end what will likely be the busiest day this season. (For full list of all broadcast pilots, click here.) The network has given the green light to comedy Pulling, from Bad Teachers scribes Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky and producer Aaron Kaplan. On the drama side, picked up are dramas Betrayal from David Zabel; Venice from McG and Byron Balasco, with McG set to direct; and The Returned, from writer Aaron Zelman, Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
Single-camera comedy Pulling is based on the praised 2006 British series. Eisenberg and Stupnitsky wrote the adaptation, produced by ABC Studios and Kapital Entertainment. Sharon Horgan and Dennis Kelly, creators of the original series, executive produce with Eisenberg, Stupnitsky and Kaplan. Pulling revolves around three dysfunctional women in their 30s living their lives the way they want, even if society tells them they should have it all figured out by this point. This marks the second pilot order for Kaplan today, joining CBS’ Dana Klein comedy, and third so far this season, along with NBC’s The Gates.
McG’s Kevin Costner Thriller Officially Adds Hailee Steinfeld; Amber Heard & Connie Nielsen Also Join
We told you back in November that Hailee Steinfeld was boarding McG’s untitled action thriller starring Kevin Costner. Now Relativity Media and EuropaCorp are confirming that Steinfeld has closed her deal for the co-starring role, and Amber Heard and Connie Nielsen also are joining the movie. The darkly comic pic, in production in Paris and Serbia until April, stars Costner as a Secret Service agent who comes out of retirement for one last mission in exchange for access to an experimental drug that could save his life, all while trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter (played by Steinfeld). Hallucinatory, narcoleptic action ensues as he tries to complete the mission while battling the drug’s side effects. Luc Besson and Adi Hasak wrote the script, which was called Three Days To Kill. EuropaCorp’s Besson and Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh are producing; Marc Libert and Relativity’s Tucker Tooley are executive producing. Heard is repped by WME and Media Talent Group, and Nielsen by UTA and manager Estelle Lasher. Steinfeld is repped by ICM and Anonymous Content.
EXCLUSIVE: McG has teamed with The Mentalist executive producer Daniel Cerone for a female-lead crime drama, which has sold to CBS. Carrying the social media-influenced title #Resistance, the project from McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision and Warner Bros TV centers on an unconventional young female detective for the San Francisco Police Department who won’t let criminals get away with their actions. After she finally goes too far, she gets fired from the force — only to be secretly recruited by the Chief of Police to become an undercover officer posing as a vigilante, allowing her to break the law in order to serve justice. Cerone will write the script and executive produce with Wonderland’s McG and Peter Johnson.
The project, somewhat of a female Equalizer, was put together by Wonderland VP Jeff Grosvenor. It stems from McG’s history and interest in empowered female characters and Cerone’s experience on Dexter, where he served as executive producer/showrunner, and on The Mentalist — both shows centered on characters that fight crime from outside the conventional system.
File this one under, exclusive, my ass. Back in early August, Deadline broke the story that Kevin Costner would star in Three Days to Kill, and also told you that McG was going to direct and Relativity Media would distribute in North America, with Luc Besson writing the script with Adi Hasak and producing through his Europacorp. We even told you Costner would star in the France-set action film as Ethan Renner, a government assassin who is dying and wants to reconcile with his daughter while taking on one final mission. This was in a story about how he would join the Jack Ryan picture, and how good it would be to see him back in the action fold after Hatfields & McCoys.
Two months later, Variety is breathlessly claiming an exclusive just because Relativity decided to leak a press release (the company has been leaking heavily in the last 24 hours), by revealing only that the film has no title. Here is Relativity’s press release.
(Beverly Hills, Calif.) October 2, 2012 – EuropaCorp and Relativity Media have closed deals with Oscar®-Winner Kevin Costner (The Bodyguard, Dances With Wolves, Open Range) to star as the lead in this upcoming gripping action tale with McG (Charlie’s Angels, Terminator Salvation) attached to direct from a screenplay by Luc Besson (Taken, Transporter) and Adi Hasak (From Paris With Love). The two companies will work in tandem throughout the creative and production process on
EXCLUSIVE: The CW is jumping down a rabbit hole to Wunderland, putting in development a contemporary reimagining of Alice In Wonderland. Fittingly, Wunderland hails from McG‘s Warner Bros TV-based production company Wonderland Sound And Vision, in association with WBTV. Written by The Playboy Club creator Chad Hodge, the drama project centers on a young female detective in present-day Los Angeles who discovers another world that exists under the surface of this ultra-modern city. Hodge will write the script and executive produce with McG and Wonderland’s Peter Johnson. This is one of two public domain properties the CW is developing as potential drama series for next season, along with Sleepy Hollow, which also is being produced by WBTV. Lewis Carroll’s classic has been closely associated with Disney via the 1951 animated film and Tim Burton’s 2010 extravaganza. Characters from the book also have been featured on Disney-owned ABC’s fairytale drama Once Upon A Time.
EXCLUSIVE: In one of ABC’s first major development commitments for next season, the network has bought a soapy drama from McG, producer of Fox’s The O.C., which helped usher in the current resurgence of the primetime soap genre. ABC, home of some of the most popular nighttime soaps on TV, including Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge, has handed out a put pilot commitment to the McG-produced project, which will be written by Byron Balasco (Detroit 1-8-7).
The untitled drama, which echoes the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, revolves around the haves and have-nots of one of California’s most seductive cities, Venice. It focuses on two rival families and a forbidden and dangerous romance emerging between them as the two families battle for control of Venice. McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision is producing with Warner Bros. Television where the company is based. McG and Balasco are executive producing with Wonderland’s Peter Johnson.
This would mark McG’s first series on ABC. He currently executive produces the CW’s Supernatural and Nikita. Additionally, he has Fox drama pilot Guilty in consideration for fall 2013. His previous series credits include NBC’s Chuck and Fox’s Human Target and Fastlane. ICM-repped Balasco also worked on Happy Town, FlashForward and Without A Trace. This would mark the his first series as a creator. WME-repped McG has history of shepherding writers’ first series, including Josh Schwartz’s The O.C. and Eric Kripke’s Superatural. McG and Balasco are with …
EXCLUSIVE: In a symbolic move, on the day Chuck, whose pilot McG directed, is ending its 5-season run on NBC, McG has closed a deal to direct his first pilot since Chuck, Fox’s Guilty. The legal drama, from Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, centers on a brilliant, morally questionable defense attorney who, after being falsely convicted of fraud and stripped of his legal license, uses his unorthodox methods to solve the cases he’s been banned from handling and to exact revenge on the men who set him up. The project, written by Guggenheim who is a former lawyer, hails from Warner Bros. TV where Berlanti and McG’s companies are based. As part of McG’s deal, his Woderland Sound and Vision banner will join Berlanti Prods. and WBTV as a production entity on the show. In addition to directing the pilot, McG will executive produce the pilot and the potential series alongside Berlanti, Guggenheim and Wonderland’s Peter Johnson. Berlanti Prods.’ Melissa Kellner Berman co-executive produces.
Guilty, which will be filmed in New York, reunites WME-repped McG with Fox where he directed his only other previous pilot besides Chuck, Fastlane, which also went to series. It also reunites him with Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly who, in the same capacity at NBC, developed Chuck and picked it up to series before his abrupt departure from the network. On the feature side, McG’s next feature, This Means War, opens on Valentine’s Day.
Chris Pine and Tom Hardy play spies who discover they’re dating the same woman — Reese Witherspoon. The decide to go at each other rather like another 20th Century Fox pairing (we’ll let you guess which one) and “may the best man win.” Occasional hilarity and physical comedy ensue. You be the judge. Directed by McG, screenplay by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg. Opens February 17.
Chris Shafer & Paul Vicknair To Pen Amanda Seyfried-Starring ‘The Girl Who Conned The Ivy League’ Pic For McG
Up-and-coming scribes Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair have been hired to write The Girl Who Conned The Ivy League, the feature adaptation of a Rolling Stone article that McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision will produce. Amanda Seyfried has been tapped to star in the true story of a woman who creates a fake identity and scams her way into Columbia University. Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote the original article. McG and Wonderland production president Mary Viola are producing with Michael Nardelli (Another Happy Day), who is financing development via his Taggart Productions banner; Pam Schachter is co-producing. Shafer and Vicknair recently sold a TV pilot, the romantic comedy Girlfriend Season, to CBS, and their feature spec A Many Splintered Thing was a Nicholl Fellowship finalist this year. They are repped by UTA and Brillstein. McG, repped by WME, is in postproduction on his upcoming film This Means War, starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy. Also on the feature side, Wonderland is developing Dead Spy Running at Warner Bros with Stephen Gaghan directing and Tink at Disney with Elizabeth Banks starring.
EXCLUSIVE: Summit Entertainment is in talks with McG to direct Puzzle Palace, the cop drama script by David Guggenheim. Summit acquired the project at a pitch early last year from Guggenheim after the scribe sold the spec script Safe House to Universal, which set Daniel Espinoza to direct Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. Puzzle Palace is being produced by Temple Hill partners Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen, who produce the Twilight series for Summit. McG most recently directed the 20th Century Fox comedy This Means War with Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon. McG is repped by WME and Management 360.
20th Century Fox has released a trailer for This Means War, the McG-directed comedy that pits the world’s deadliest CIA operatives and inseparable best friends against one another when they find they are dating the same woman. The operatives use all their skills and gadgetry in an attempt to prevail. Chris Pine and Tom Hardy play the rivals, and Reese Witherspoon plays the woman in the middle. The film opens February 17, 2012.
Is it a gimmick or a true interactive programming innovation? Warner Bros Digital Distribution has launched what it claims to be the first “social series” from a Hollywood studio in Aim High. It’s an action comedy series that has McG among its producers, is directed by Diary Of A Wimpy Kid helmer Thor Freudenthal, and stars Twilight Saga’s Jackson Rathbone, Friday Night Lights’ Aimee Teegarden and Ally McBeal’s Greg Germann. It launches October 18. The plot: A handsome high school junior moonlights as a highly trained teenage government operative. The social networking innovation: Viewers can supply their Facebook profile information, with photos and text, and see it worked into scenes, from a photo appearing on a student body election poster to a name scrawled in graffiti on a wall. “Facebook is an increasingly influential destination for discovering and acquiring movie and television content,” Warner Bros Digital Distribution president Thomas Gewecke said in a statement. “This effort takes video distribution to a whole new level by making the actual viewing experience personal and social in a truly innovative and entertainment way.” The series is created and written by Heath Corson and Richie Keen.
EXCLUSIVE: As it enters its second decade as a company this month, McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision is ramping up TV development this season with 5 drama sales at ABC, NBC, Fox and the CW and several comedy and reality pitches in the works. Additionally, McG plans to direct a pilot this season for the first time since Chuck in 2007. Through the years, Wonderland has become one of the most prolific pods. The company has 3 series on the air this coming season, NBC’s Chuck and the CW’s Supernatural and Nikita. Since its very first TV pitch, the drama Fastlane which was taken out on Sept. 10, 2001, Wonderland has been based at Warner Bros. TV. And six months ago, Wonderland quietly renewed its mega deal at the studio through 2013, extending its tenure at WBTV to 13 years. “Warner Bros. bet on us 10 years ago and has helped us build an amazing business,” said McG, who has been dividing his time between features and TV, most recently directing the upcoming film This Means War. But “while the big features are exciting, nothing makes me more proud than a Wonderland TV series,” he said and acknowledged his partner at the company Peter Johnson. “Peter doesn’t chase the same writers as everyone else: we look for people on the verge, and for people who can tap into the youthful …
Universal has dropped another board-game film adaptation from its groundbreaking six-year exclusive pact with Hasbro, sending Ouija into turnaround to join previous projects Clue, Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. The Ouija film — which has McG attached to direct and Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form producing with Ian Bryce and Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir — will most likely be set up elsewhere, as will Clue, which is funded by Hasbro and is being produced by director Gore Verbinski’s Blind Wink shingle (see Universal Drops ‘Clue’; Gore Verbinksi Moves Forward With Hasbro Cash And New Writers). For Universal, the move is purely economics: Ouija is budgeted at north of $100 million and the studio has Oblivion, R.I.P.D., 47 Ronin, Safe House and Battleship — all big-ticket movies — already in its lineup. (Remember, it also said goodbye to the ambitious film/TV series hybrid The Dark Tower over cost concerns. Vulture is reporting that Universal was serious enough about the cost of Ouija that it is paying Hasbro a $5 million penalty for dropping it, as per terms of its 2008 mega deal with the toy giant.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has quietly dropped out of Clue, one of the seven Hasbro games properties the studio contracted to make into movies in a ground-breaking six-year exclusive deal signed in 2008. Clue becomes the third project out of seven to be dropped by Universal (Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering were also kicked to the curb), but none of those projects are dead. In the case of the murder mystery board game Clue, Hasbro is funding the development and producing the film with Gore Verbinski’s Blind Wink. Verbinski, director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, Rango and the upcoming Lone Ranger, still plans to direct Clue, and he and Blind Wink’s John Krauss are producing with Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir.
They’ve just hired Flash Gordon scribes Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama to write the Clue script. The writers will draft a take that Verbinski and his fellow producers came up with that retains the murder mystery spirit of the board game, but broadens the setting to a global stage. Beyond scripting Flash Gordon for Sony Pictures, Sharpless and Sazama are redrafting Dracula Year Zero. That project’s still hanging on at Universal, after being halted just short of the start line because of a high budget, when Alex Proyas was directing and Sam Worthington was going to star. ICM reps the writers.
Is all this a clue that Universal no longer wants to roll the dice on board game movies? Insiders say no. Rather, they tell me that Universal and Hasbro gradually narrowed their focus to the four films that most made sense for the studio: Battleship, the Peter Berg-directed summer 2012 action movie that stars Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson, with Universal just releasing its first trailer (below); Stretch Armstrong, which has Rob Letterman directing and Twilight Saga’s Taylor Lautner attached to play the rubbery title character; Candy Land, which is being written by Kung Fu Panda 2 co-writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who’ve described the film as Lord of the Rings, with edibles; and Ouija, which has McG attached to direct and Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form producing with Ian Bryce and Hasbro’s Goldner and Schneir.