If Metallica can rock Comic-Con, why not Wong Kar Wai? The Weinstein Co. is bringing the director to the annual San Diego pop culture confab for promo duties and to host the first US screening of the pic about martial arts legend Ip Man, which TWC snapped up hours before it opened the Berlin International Film Festival. Tony Leung stars in The Grandmaster as the man whose exploits include famously training a young Bruce Lee. Wong co-wrote the actioner, whose exec producers include Megan Ellison of Annapurra Pictures. Your fight coordinator is Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, Drunken Master), which means plenty of high-speed and slo-mo action. Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen and Zhao Benshaw co-star in the pic, which smashes its way into theaters August 23. TWC’s Comic-Con premiere is set for Saturday July 20th at midnight at the Reading Gaslamp 15. Here’s the new trailer:
Paramount has confirmed the long in the works deal to cofinance and distribute the reboot of James Cameron’s Terminator franchise …
Megan And David Ellison Will Each Pay 33% Of ‘Terminator’ Costs; Paramount Paying The Rest To Bring Arnold Back
EXCLUSIVE DETAILS: A spate of reports of movement on The Terminator franchise is a good sign that the franchise is finally starting to percolate again. I’ve learned that each Ellison — David and Megan, both scions of Oracle chief Larry Ellison — will finance 33% of the film’s budget, with Paramount finding the remaining third. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself said yesterday during an appearance in Sydney that he’s coming back and the movie will start shooting in January. None of this is really a surprise: Back in December, Megan Ellison, who’d spent $20 million to buy The Terminator sequel rights during 2011 Cannes, partnered on the franchise with her brother David. She makes prestige films and he makes popcorn fare like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible sequels, so the union made sense. The Wrap claimed an exclusive that Paramount would be the distributor. Well, through Skydance Productions, David makes all his movies with Paramount, so it was kind of obvious the films would likely land there. Skydance and Paramount are just coming through the gigantic ordeal of making World War Z, which, despite a massive budget, looks like it will do some serious global business.
As for Schwarzenegger, he’s been attached since back in May 2011, when Megan Ellison beat out Lionsgate and paid around $20 million for the franchise. She bought it from Pacificor, which had paid $29.5 million to pull the property out of bankruptcy. The latest rumor is that Megan Ellison would make a hail mary pass attempt to draft her Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow. That would be a coup, but it’s being denied, which means either that it’s not true, or Bigelow passed already. The project has been director-less since Fast 6‘s Justin Lin bowed out of the project when it was being developed solely by Megan Ellison. I met Lin at Sundance and he made it clear he wouldn’t return because he was not involved in the development of the script. Ellison in January hired Avatar and Shutter Island‘s Laeta Kalogridis and My Bloody Valentine‘s Patrick Lussier to write the script, so it stands to reason that the film should be ready to shoot by early next year.
Berlin: So Much For Bad Blood Between Harvey And Megan Ellison; TWC Acquires Wong Kar Wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’
BREAKING: I’ve read about the supposed bad blood between Harvey Weinstein and Annapurna Pictures principal Megan Ellison over the subpar box office grosses of The Master. But any idea they’re not doing business together seems to be a bit crunched by a new deal they’ve just made. The Weinstein Company has acquired all rights in the U.S. and English-speaking Canadian territories from Annapurna on Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster, which premieres tonight as the opening film at the Berlin Film Festival. TWC also landed rights to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK from Wild Bunch.
The Grandmaster, written by Wong, Zou Jingzhi, and Xu Haofeng, was executive produced by Ellison (she has money in the movie), and produced by Jacky Pang and Wong. The film opened to critical praise last month in China and has just reached over $50 million at the box office there, making it the director’s highest-grossing film in his career.
I’m sure there is uneasiness between Ellison and Weinstein. In an interview I did with him at Sundance, Weinstein acknowledged their mutual disappointment over The Master and how it didn’t break out, with Ellison not coming near recouping the $35 million or so that she spent to make the film. In hindsight, Weinstein felt he could have helped by selling the more relate-able theme of the homebound warrior who’s lost and looking for something to believe in, rather than the origins of Scientology theme that stuck with the film and didn’t get a strong response.
It is an epic martial arts drama set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1930s China and inspired by the life and times of the legendary IP Man (Tony Leung), mentor to Bruce Lee. The story focuses on two kung fu masters, IP Man, and Gong Er, and as their worlds collide on the night of the Japanese invasion in 1936. The plot encompasses themes of war, family, revenge, desire, love, and memory. The all-star cast headed by Tony Leung Chiu Wa also includes Ziyi Zhang, Chang Chen, Xiao Shengyang and Song Hye Kyo as well as hundreds of Asia’s top martial artists.
EXCLUSIVE: Nearly 18 months after Megan Ellison pledged over $20 million for the rights to finish The Terminator‘s humanity vs the Skynet cyborgs storyline with a new series of films, she has finally closed the complicated rights deal with Pacificorp. Other than the fact no progress has been made all this time on a script, the surprise here is Ellison has enlisted her brother, David Ellison, to be her financial and creative partner. There is still no studio attached, but future Terminator films will be done as a co-production between her Annapurna Pictures and his Skydance Productions. The Ellisons will produce, while Dana Goldberg, Paul Schwake and Ted Schipper will be exec producers.
Even though Pacificorp spent $29.5 million several years ago to win the rights after Halcyon turned them over to bankruptcy court, insiders tell me that the big numbers in place 18 months ago have been adjusted downward. That is because of the uncomfortable specter of a ticking clock that has continued to wind down as no forward progress was being made. New copyright laws allow for North American rights to The Terminator to revert back to creator James Cameron in 2019 (that happens after 35 years, and The Terminator was 1984). While that law hasn’t been tested in the courts, no major film company would want to move forward on a project with a potentially catastrophic rights crisis looming. So the original pricey deal — made with the expectations there would be three films — was scaled down because the reality is they might only get to make two installments. Four films have been made so far, the first two directed by Cameron, another by Jonathan Mostow and the last, 2009′s Terminator Salvation, helmed by McG.
The past year has seen the emergence of producers from varied backgrounds who are working on high-profile projects with major talent. This year in Cannes, a constantly heard refrain is that there is an abundance of quality product. Below are some of the key producers responsible:
Megan Ellison: The daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison has deep pockets and good taste that have put her at the forefront of today’s hot producers via her Annapurna Pictures. She’s also respected for what one distributor says is her “strategy of working only with strong directors.” Of the official selection films in Cannes, she produced John Hillcoat’s Lawless. Last year at Cannes, she won a bidding war for the rights to make 2 more Terminator installments. On her upcoming roster are Kathryn Bigelow’s hunt for Bin Laden pic, being sold by the sales company she’s backing, Panorama Media. There’s also Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths (sold by Hanway), Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming The Master, which the Weinsteins have and Inherent Vice starring Robert Downey Jr as well as Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher with Steve Carell and Channing Tatum and also via Panorama. Deadline also recently reported a big deal is in the works for Ellison and Annapurna to fully fund American Bullshit, the drama that has David O Russell attached to direct, with Christian Bale also attached and Bradley Cooper in talks.
Red Granite: When Red Granite Pictures launched its international sales division in Cannes last year, they did so in style. You can tell a lot about a company from the way it throws a party and Red Granite’s last year is one people still talk about. Kanye West performed with Jamie Foxx joining him to duet on Gold Digger while Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt rocked out on the beach. In 2011, Red Granite’s first production, Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids, was released and the company has steadily been building its roster of impressive product including Wolf Of Wall Street with DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese and Out Of The Furnace starring Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana and Casey Affleck which Scott Cooper is directing. Red Granite is also selling those pictures. Exec Joe Gatta tells me the company’s vision is to “make quality movies first and foremost. It’s a tough business; we have a lot of competition and we want to stand out as a company that’s getting the movies made.” Gatta says Red Granite wants to “grow, but grow steadily.” That could “in the future” include distribution, but the company will definitely grow its sales division under Danny Dimbort, the former Millennium/Nu Image partner who Gatta calls “the best in the business.” The goal for Red Granite is to be doing 3-5 productions per year with some third party pick-ups in the mix.
Los Angeles, CA – April 26, 2012 – Annapurna Pictures, Megan Ellison’s nascent production company, has agreed to back Panorama Media, a new production, financing, and international sales entity based in Los Angeles. Panorama will be run by company President Marc Butan and its Head of International Sales Kimberly
EXCLUSIVE: Things are starting to move on The Terminator franchise, but a plan by rights owner Megan Ellison and Arnold Schwarzenegger to put the first of two pictures in production for the fourth quarter of 2012 has forced director Justin Lin to drop out. But borrowing the film’s signature phrase “I’ll be back,” Lin has left the door open to a return if Ellison and Schwarzenegger will wait until he completes the sixth installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise.
The Terminator franchise has been under the radar since Ellison’s Annapurna Films spent over $20 million to buy film rights during the Cannes Film Festival, with Lin and Schwarzenegger attached. Lin wants to make the film but simply won’t be available, the same situation that prompted him to withdraw from Summit’s Highlander. Lin has been working closely with Schwarzenegger and Ellison to figure a way to end the James Cameron-hatched battle between humans and the cyborgs of Skynet. It would require some effort for Ellison to get the film underway by late next year. She hasn’t got a script and I don’t think she’s even hired a screenwriter yet. She also hasn’t set a studio partner, even though several are interested.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Sony Pictures is negotiating to acquire U.S. distribution rights to the untitled Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama about Navy SEAL Team 6′s hunt for Osama bin Laden. Mark Boal, Bigelow’s partner on the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, is finalizing a script that changes the film from a drama about an unsuccessful attempt to hunt the Al Qaeda leader into a methodical hunt that culminates in his death. The film is being fully financed by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. Production will start in the early fall and the pic will be ready for release in 2012.
Deadline pegged the Bigelow-Boal film — formerly titled Killing Bin Laden – as a potentially hot project the night that President Barack Obama interrupted programming to announce that the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center had finally been located and killed. It most certainly has worked out that way. The project was far along at this point, and they were talking to actors like Joel Edgerton even before bin Laden was killed. Sony’s Amy Pascal has been aggressive about the film since that night, and the studio and others heard the pitch from Boal right before buyers headed off to the Cannes Film Festival.
CANNES: FilmDistrict Acquires U.S. Rights To Joe Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis Sci-Fi Action Film ‘Looper’
EXCLUSIVE: A frenzied Saturday auction on the Croisette has ended with FilmDistrict in final negotiations for U.S. distribution rights to Looper, the Rian Johnson-directed science fiction film that stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis. There were at least six bidders spanning major studios and independents, and it sounds like some serious upfront money was paid. But the intriguing part is that the deal orchestrated between CAA and FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel will likely end in FilmDistrict using an option with Sony Pictures, which would release and market the film through the TriStar label. That replicates the distribution structure of District 9, which Schlessel acquired while he was at Sony. The picture has a similarly brainy construct and is also reminiscent of the first Terminator.
Johnson wrote the script, about a contract killer who works for the mob of the future, and who kills victims that are sent back in time 30 years, so there is no trace of the crime in the future. It’s a great gig, until the killer (Gordon-Levitt) recognizes that one of his targets (Willis) is a futuristic version of himself. Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also star. The film was financed by Endgame’s James Stern, who produced with Johnson’s partner Ram Bergman.
CAA still has to paper the deal, but that likely gives Sony and Amy Pascal its second release schedule addition in the last 24 hours. As Deadline revealed early Saturday, the studio acquired the David Frankel-directed Great Hope Springs with Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell starring.
The project that has the Cannes buying crowd most hot and bothered at the moment is the John Hillcoat-directed The Wettest County in the World. Hillcoat, who directed The Road, here covers a band of Depression Era bootleggers in the South, with Shia La Beouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and …