Sony Pictures Bearing Down On Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden Movie

By | Tuesday May 24, 2011 @ 4:41pm PDT
Mike Fleming

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. Read More »

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CANNES: FilmDistrict Acquires U.S. Rights To Joe Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis Sci-Fi Action Film ‘Looper’

Mike Fleming

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. Read More »

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CANNES: Forecast Strong For ‘The Wettest County In The World’

Mike Fleming

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 … Read More »

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Cannes: Megan Ellison Wins ‘Terminator’ Rights Auction

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Megan Ellison has won an auction for the rights to make at least two more installments of The Terminator franchise, with Fast Five’s Justin Lin attached to direct and Arnold Schwarzenegger attached to star. The deal came down to Ellison’s Annapurna Films and Lionsgate, which seemed to have had the project sewn up until she came forward with a dramatic bid. The auction at the time was for a guarantee for at least half of the $29.5 million paid by hedge fund Pacificor to pull the franchise out of bankruptcy. Unclear what the winning amount was, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit the $20 million mark. CAA brokered the deal.

Deadline revealed the two finalists in the auction on Wednesday, and I’m told that the deal closed late Thursday. Ellison, the daughter or Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and sister of Paramount-based Skydance producer/financier David Ellison, is winging her way to Cannes right now. She has a lot going on here. Read More »

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Lionsgate, Megan Ellison In Battle For ‘Terminator’ With Arnold Schwarzenegger And ‘Fast Five’s Justin Lin

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: A high-stakes battle is being waged for the right to relaunch The Terminator, with Fast Five helmer Justin Lin attached to direct and Arnold Schwarzenegger attached to reprise his signature role in one of filmdom’s most iconic franchises. Yesterday, it looked like Lionsgate would win the property with an outright purchase, with an upfront payment of at least half of the $29.5 million that Pacificor spent to claim the property in a bankruptcy auction. That was until Megan Ellison and her Annapurna Films came in with a bid that was higher. They are now fighting it out. As she usually does when she commits to a film, Ellison is staking that amount without having a distributor locked in place.

As Deadline revealed late last month, CAA brought out the package to the town, the first real activity on The Terminator project since February 2010, when the property emerged from a bankruptcy auction and into the possession of Pacificor. While there were several dealmaking scenarios offered, including an option and first dollar gross fees, it’s understandable why an outright purchase would be most attractive to the rights holders.

The Santa Barbara-based hedge fund posted a bid of $29.5 million, with the promise that additional multimillion-dollar payments for each film would go to Halcyon, the company that made the 2009 McG-directed Terminator Salvation. That’s a lot of money to lay out for an extended period of time, with interest costs rising.

I’m told that the deal will close shortly, and that the project could become another hot Schwarzenegger title at the Cannes Film Festival market that’s just getting under way. It would be the third Schwarzenegger movie there. Lionsgate also has Schwarzenegger in the action film The Last Stand, set up as the English language debut of Kim–ji-Woon. Schwarzenegger is also at the center of a QED-funded project that Schwarzenegger is also attached to star in, Cry Macho. Lionsgate has long been interested in extending the James Cameron-created universe of Skynet, John and Sara Connor, and the indestructible cyborgs. In fact, when Halcyon ran out of money and went into bankruptcy,  Pacificor beat out a combined bid by Lionsgate and Sony planning to make back-to-back sequels to bring the franchise to a natural creative conclusion. Read More »

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Harvey Weinstein Buys World Rights To Paul Thomas Anderson’s Untitled Next Film

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company has won a quiet but fevered bidding battle for worldwide distribution rights to the untitled next film by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film begins production June 13, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix so far set to star. Megan Ellison is financing. It is Anderson’s first trip behind the camera since There Will Be Blood.

Hoffman and Phoenix are locked. As for the actresses, I’m told that Anderson is eyeing such women as Madisen Beaty (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) for a role, with Amy Adams, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo‘s Lena Endre and Laura Dern also mentioned as actresses Anderson is interested in. The auction was held at CAA headquarters late last week, with Fox Searchlight also squarely in the mix.

This is the project that Anderson has worked on for a long time, once under the title The Master. He has greatly overhauled the script and now, Hoffman stars as a man who returns after witnessing the horrors of WWII and tries to rediscover who he is in post-war America. He creates a belief system, something that catches on with other lost souls. The film is fully financed by Ellison’s Annapurna banner. At a time when the implosion of the indie film marketplace made pricey auteur films so hard to finance, Ellison has emerged as something of a godsend to the small group of auteurs she is working with. She’s enabled Anderson to make the movie at or near the $35 million budget the film was going to cost back when Universal stepped away. Read More »

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DreamWorks Enters WikiLeaks Movie Sweepstakes, Buying Two Major Books

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has officially entered the derby to turn the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks into a feature film. The studio has acquired rights to two books by pivotal players in the WikiLeaks drama. DreamWorks has secured screen rights … Read More »

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Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures Acquiring Reteam From Charlie Kaufman And Spike Jonze

By | Tuesday March 1, 2011 @ 2:09pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is negotiating to acquire an untitled satire that will re-team screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, the tandem behind the mind-benders Adaptation and Being John Malkovich. The project was pitched recently to financiers, and … Read More »

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Berlin: Weinstein Co Acquires UK, Aussie Rights On ‘Grandmasters’ As U.S. Heats Up

By | Friday February 18, 2011 @ 4:13pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company has closed a deal for United Kingdom and Australian distribution rights to The Grandmasters, the Wong Kar-wai-directed Chinese language martial arts film. Harvey Weinstein is among a small group vying for domestic rights, with Fox Searchlight … Read More »

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‘Hurt Locker’s Mark Boal At Center Of WikiLeaks Film Deal As Other Julian Assange Movies Mobilize

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal and Management 360 have partnered with financier/producer Megan Ellison to option The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, an article about WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in The New York Times Magazine written by the … Read More »

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