MGM has landed feature film rights to screenwriter Terry Hayes’ debut novel, the just-released espionage thriller I Am Pilgrim. The scribe, whose film credits include Payback, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Dead Calm, will adapt his book, and Lloyd Braun will produce the film through his Whalerock Industries. Whalerock’s Andrew Mittman will be executive producer. This is a franchise play for the studio.
In the book, “Pilgrim” is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed a secret U.S. espionage unit. Now in anonymous retirement, he is called upon to lend his expertise to an unusual investigation but ultimately is caught in a race against-time to save America from oblivion. Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, published the book in May, with plans to translate it into 20 languages. Read More »
Months after setting acclaimed theatre director Thea Sharrock to make her directorial debut with Me Before You, Warner Bros. has locked an August 21, 2015 release for the MGM-produced lit adaptation. Brit author Jojo Moyes penned the original script based on her 2012 novel and (500) Days Of Summer scribes Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber then came aboard as writers. Story follows small-town girl Lou and wheelchair-bound Will, who share a series of life-changing adventures when he hires her as his caretaker. Sharrock’s TV directing resume includes Sam Mendes’ BBC miniseries The Hollow Crown and Call The Midwife.
Dutch entertainment mogul Joop van den Ende is one of Europe’s savviest producers of movies, TV and legit, but he just can’t catch a break on Broadway. His latest venture, the musical adaptation of Rocky, was a hit on the Continent — it’s still selling out in Hamburg — but the tuner will shutter August 17 at the Winter Garden Theatre at a complete loss of its estimated $16 million-plus capitalization. Van den Ende will share the pain with a four-star roster of partners including Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone, MGM, the two leading Broadway landlords, the Shubert Organization (which owns the Winter Garden) and the Nederlander Organization, along with a host of independent producers.
Rocky began previews February 13 and opened a month later to mostly critical yawns that tamped the box office despite some enthusiastic patrons getting in on highly discounted tickets. The show offered a certified coup de theatre from set designer Christopher Barreca in the final scene, which called for the folks in the front rows of the orchestra to move to stageside bleachers, offering a simulacrum of a live boxing event. The boxing ring in which Andy Karl’s Rocky Balboa fought Terence Archie’s Apollo Creed was drawn out on risers directly into the house, a knockout move. Strategic miking and custom-made props — including soft gloves that allowed the actors to actually pummel one another — enhanced the illusion. Read More »
To quote heavy metal rock gods Judas Priest, if Universal think they’re going to get the multi-claim copyright infringement Section 6 lawsuit from MGM and James Bond producer Danjaq easily dismissed, the plaintiffs just told them they’ve got another thing coming. “Plaintiffs have alleged past and ongoing conduct by Universal sufficient to constitute direct and secondary copyright infringement,” says the opposition filed this week to Universal’s motion to dismiss late last month the lawsuit over the proposed pic about the WWI creation of the UK’s MI6. The intelligence agency is the same one Bond works for in the Ian Fleming books and their hugely successful big screen adaptations. “Accordingly, this action is not, as Universal claims, “premature,’” the June 25th filing adds with a slap on the Comcast-owned studio’s past attempts to “to trivialize the monetary damages its infringing conduct has thus far inflicted.” And MGM and the Bond producers are more than a little peeved at the legal maneuvers Universal are using to get the matter out of the courts. “Universal’s reliance on the assertion that it did not write or contribute to the Screenplay is inconsequential,” says the filing (read it here) from Robert Schwartz, Cassandra Seto, and Brian Finkelstein of LA’s O’Melveny & Myers and Marc Becker of LA firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
This all started in the federal courts on April 3 when MGM and Danjaq whacked Universal for unspecified damages and an injunction against the announced … Read More »
MGM is sticking to the vague boilerplate language companies typically use — ”general corporate purposes” — to describe its plan for the cash. The company originally intended to take on $200M in debt, but increased the second lien term loan to $300M, it says this morning, because the offering was “several times oversubscribed” by a consortium of lenders. But people who follow the company probably will wonder whether this makes it more or less likely that MGM will go public, whether the funds may be used to pay out its private investors who’ve been looking to cash out — or perhaps whether it might used for more productions or an acquisition. MGM indicated two years ago that it was seriously considering an IPO, but that looked less likely last month with the departure of Ken Schapiro — a deal guy who had been promoted in January to Chief Strategic Officer.
Read More »
MGM is negotiating with Dean Israelite to direct and Arash Amel to script WarGames, the remake of the smart 1983 John Badham-directed film that starred Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy as teenage hackers who unwittingly find a back door into a Defense Department computer. They start a game with the machine that puts the world in danger of WWIII.
Talks are early, but I’ve heard the studio is close to signing Israelite, who just made his directing debut on Project Almanac for Paramount and Platinum Dunes. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Israelite the U of Witwatersrand studying Dramatic Art before moving to Australia to attend Curtin University, where he received his undergraduate degree in Film and Television. An MFA from AFI followed. He wrote and directed Acholiland, a short that won three Student Emmys as well as a BAFTA/LA award. He met director Jonathan Liebesman and scribe Scott Silver on Battle Los Angeles, and they are mentoring him on Chase Liberty, which he wrote and will direct.
Amel most recently scripted Grace Of Monaco, the Nicole Kidman starrer about Grace Kelly’s transition from Hollywood star to Monaco princess. The film made its debut at Cannes, where a long-gestating deal was finally closed with The Weinstein Company. He has also scripted Seducing Ingrid Bergman, about the romance between the actress and war photographer Robert Capa, and Marie Colvin’s Private War, based on the courageous war correspondent who was … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: MGM has hired Sascha Penn to write the latest version of The Idolmaker, the remake that has Craig Brewer attached to direct and Justin Timberlake circling to star. Hawk Koch and Gene Kirkwood are producing and Cassidy Lange is overseeing for MGM. The 1980 Taylor Hackford-directed original starred Ray Sharkey in a story about the life of rock promoter/producer Bob Marcucci, who discovered Frankie Avalon and Fabian; Koch and Kirkwood produced that one too. Penn is currently writing an untitled firefighter project at Lionsgate, which has Jeff Chan attached to direct and he sold the pitch Yakuza Vs. Mafia to Good Universe and adapted the sci-fi novel Walls Of The Universe for Andrew Adamson. He also served as writer-producer on the Starz TV series Survivor’s Remorse. He’s repped by CAA and Madhouse Entertainment.
Now, here’s a project I’d pay to see. MGM is in early discussions with Denzel Washington to star and Antoine Fuqua to direct The Magnificent Seven, a remake of the 1960 John Sturges-directed film. The talks are early stage, but if you get those two committed, it won’t be hard to get six other guys to round out the cast in the story of a town that assembles a squad of seven elite gunmen to protect it. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson were part of the ensemble cast of the original, which was released by United Artists and is a library title for MGM. The revived studio has coveted a remake for some time, originally developing a version for Tom Cruise. Nic Pizzolatto, who went on to write and exec produce HBO’s True Detective, wrote a draft and John Lee Hancock came on to rewrite a movie whose inspiration was Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The setting is post Civil War, right at the end of the Wild West. Roger Birnbaum is producing it.
No one this side of the late director Tony Scott is better at unleashing Washington’s inner badass than Fuqua. Fuqua directed Washington to an Academy Award in Training Day, and the two of them re-teamed at Sony on The Equalizer. That film, scripted by Richard Wenk, got the studio so bullish that Sony and Escape … Read More »
“I only want to be a husband and a father,” Hercules says humbly. So we all know what’s gonna happen to the family. Dwayne Johnson stars as the Son of Zeus, out for vengeance against men, beasts and descendants of Hades — who cannot be killed by an ordinary mortal. Based on Radical Comics’ take on the mythical muscle man, the Paramount-MGM actioner co-stars Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and John Hurt. Brett Ratner directs from a script by Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Check out the new trailer for Hercules, which invades theaters July 25.
EXCLUSIVE: MGM has set The Strangers writer-director Bryan Bertino to script Abe, the feature based on the chilling short film by British writer/director/VFX artist Rob McLellan. McLellan will make his feature directing debut based on the short about a robot serial killer, and Kevin Misher and Steve Tzirlin will produce it. McLellan wrote the first draft, but the intention always was to bring in a genre heavyweight, and now they’ve got one in Bertino.
When I originally broke the story about MGM acquiring the project, I noted that it is a short that sets your teeth on edge but makes you curious about where McLellan will take it from there. (Watch the film below.) Jonathan Glickman and Cassidy Lange will oversee for MGM, and Andy Berman and Kevin Chang will oversee for Misher Films, which produced Carrie for MGM and Screen Gems and is prepping a reboot of The Crow for Relativity. Bertino, who made his feature debut on the hit The Strangers, most recently wrapped writing/directing Mockingbird for Universal and Blumhouse. The scribe is repped by UTA and Jason Sloane. Here’s a refresher on that Abe short: Read More »
Big day for reboots. First it was Cliffhanger, and now MGM and Warner Bros. announced they are teaming with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to create a re-imagined trilogy based on the sci-fi hit Stargate, one of the biggest titles in the MGM library. Emmerich, who directed and co-wrote the original 1994 film with Devlin, is on board to direct this one, with Devlin producing. Those two are already hard at work on a new version of Independence Day at Fox.
Related: Climb Toward ‘Cliffhanger’ Reboot Moving Forward; Joe Gazzam Set To Write
MGM’s Gary Barber called Emmerich and Devlin “world-class creators of the original Stargate,” and said they will “bring their reinvigorated vision of this wildly popular property to audiences of multiple generations.”
Said Emmerich and Devlin: “The Stargate universe is one that we missed terribly, and we cannot wait to get going on imagining new adventures and situations for the trilogy. This story is very close to our hearts, and getting the chance to revisit this world is in many ways like a long lost child that has found its way back home.” MGM’s Jonathan Glickman will oversee it with Warner Bros’ Greg Silverman. Warners will distribute with MGM handling some international territories. Back in its … Read More »
In a move that comes as about as much as a surprise as James Bond liking his martini shaken not stirred, Universal today responded to the multi-claim Section 6 lawsuit from MGM and Bond producer Danjaq with a request that the federal court throw out the “threadbare allegations about hypothetical future infringement in works yet to be produced.” In fact, Universal accuses MGM and Danjaq of using the possibility of their Aaron Berg-written WWI-themed pic about the formation of the UK’s MI6 as a pretense for larger aims. “In an effort to claim an unfounded monopoly on the British spy genre, and to scare away Universal and any other would-be competitors to James Bond, Plaintiffs rushed to file this needless action,” notes today’s filing (read it here). Berg himself has also filed a heavily redacted motion for dismissal (read it here) for his “undeniably original creative work.” This latest move from entertainment legal mastermind Bert Fields and Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP partner Aaron Moss requests a June 30 hearing on the motion for Universal Studios and NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Represented by David Aronoff and Amber Henry of LA firm Lathrop & Gage LLP, scribe Berg is seeking the same date for a hearing on his motion too.
“Universal moves to dismiss on the ground that the Complaint states no claims upon which relief may be granted against Universal,” says the 19-page filing … Read More »
UPDATE, 10:12 AM: MGM has responded to the ruling: ”While we agreed with the Ninth Circuit’s conclusion that laches is an available defense against stale copyright claims, the Supreme Court has spoken,” MGM lawyer Mark Perry of DC-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher told me today. “The decision, however, does not end this matter as we continue to believe that the plaintiff’s case is legally and factually unsupportable. We look forward to vindicating our rights in the film Raging Bull in the lower courts.” What this politely means: this is going to be a no-holds-barred grudge match.
PREVIOUS, 7:44 AM: It’s not a total TKO, but the Supreme Court today gave the green light to Paula Petrella to take her Raging Bull copyright lawsuit against MGM back into the ring. In an opinion from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the SCOTUS said in a 6-3 vote that Petrella, daughter of deceased screenwriter Frank Petrella, could pursue a lawsuit against MGM for infringing the copyright of a 1963 screenplay upon which she says the movie was based. The younger Petrella first launched her $1 million suit in 2009 after the release of the latest DVD of the 1980 Martin Scorsese film on the life of boxer Jake LaMotta. MGM claimed that the doctrine of laches barred any such legal action. Separate from the statue of limitations, the doctrine is meant to prevent lawsuits being filed after long delays. Read More »
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.’s Chief Strategic Officer Ken Schapiro is exiting the studio at the end of this month after joining the company in 2011 as COO. He was a key figure at MGM in recent years, helping to guide the studio’s strategy, and was promoted in January to his current post. Analysts saw his promotion as a sign that MGM possibly was going public (which it indicated in 2012 was a distinct possibility). It’s not clear where that stands now. However MGM Chair Gary Barber did tell analysts recently in a conference call that he would continue to evaluate that and promises to do what’s best for the company. Schapiro has been involved in all of the company’s financials. He helped to structure debt and its $75M stock repurchase, helped coordinate MGM’s investments in new media and the 2012 divestiture of the company’s overseas channels, and oversaw MGM’s home video campaign for its 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. Before joining the studio, Schapiro co-founded investment management company Qualia Capital and was COO of Artisan Entertainment — helping to turn around the video distributor and merge it with Lionsgate. Schapiro said he was thankful to be part of the restructuring at MGM and was looking forward to another challenge. Read More »
New Line Cinema/Warner Bros have stepped in to co-produce the Reese Witherspoon-Sofia Vergara buddy comedy known under its previous working title as Don’t Mess With Texas. The comedy originally was set up at Universal but ended up at MGM, where Witherspoon has had a long relationship. Her first film The Man In The Moon was produced by MGM, and she became a breakout comedy star with its Legally Blonde series. The new film, which will be retitled, will roll before the cameras this month in New Orleans for a Mother’s Day (May 8) 2015 release with Anne Fletcher (The Guilt Trip, The Proposal) at the helm. By putting the movie into that date, it pushes the Jennifer Aniston comedy Mean Moms off the date. Aniston is currently shooting the indie drama Cake and needs to wrap that before heading into her next feature. Mean Moms is getting a script polish in the meantime. NL and Warner Bros. have not scheduled a date for Moms yet. Read More »
BREAKING: After scoring huge ratings with the miniseries The Bible and carving out a second theatrical hit with the same footage in Son Of God, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures’ Ben-Hur. Deadline has long been telling you about this ambitious new adaptation of the Lew Wallace 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale Of Christ, with script by Keith Clarke and Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave scribe John Ridley, and Timur Bekmambetov directing.
Sweet Chariot! MGM is Rebooting ‘Ben-Hur’
MGM In Talks With Timur Bekmambetov For ‘Ben-Hur’ Reboot
Paramount signed on to co-produce and distribute, and after the rocky time the studio had with the Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah convincing the faithful that the Biblical epic didn’t blaspheme the Old Testament tale and having the film banned in Muslim territories, it’s not surprising that they would add Burnett and his wife, the former Touched By An Angel star Downey, to help steer the project with producer Sean Daniel. The film will be released February 26, 2016. Faith-based audiences turned the Mel Gibson-directed The Passion Of The Christ into the biggest-grossing independent film ever, but the recent turn of audiences from Biblical epics to films about the existence of heaven and faith in general, shows that these audiences want faithful adaptations of the Bible stories they want to see celebrated onscreen. The next big Biblical epic coming is the Ridley Scott-directed Exodus with Christian Bale starring as Moses. Fox opens that film December 12 and if it even approximates the ticket sales of 1956′s The Ten Commandments, it will be a huge blockbuster story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
Related: Biblical and Faith-Based Movies: In Hollywood To Stay?
The film consists of the core story that drove the 1959 William Wyler-directed MGM film that starred Charlton Heston as the falsely accused nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on the best friend who betrayed him, as both have to choose retribution or forgiveness. In the backdrop is the journey of Jesus Christ, leading up to him being crucified. It is sensitive stuff, and a guiding hand from those producers can be like a Good Housekeeping seal to a faith-based audience that has been flocking to sleeper hits like Heaven Is For Real. Noah has crossed $300 million in worldwide grosses. Read More »
UPDATED, 4:10 PM: The Section 6 lawsuit that sees two studios pitted against each other is starting to move faster than the opening sequence of a James Bond movie. Just three days after Universal responded to the multi-claim complaint from MGM and Bond producer Danjaq, the plaintiff today fired back with a response to the response. “Defendants thus admit that they not only have no plans to stop their infringing conduct, but that they are forging ahead—right now,” says today’s 4-page filing in federal court (read it here). “Even worse, as Universal knows from public reports, plaintiffs are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the next James Bond motion picture, slated for theatrical release in October 2015 and home video release in early 2016,” the filing adds. On April 3, MGM and Danjaq hit Universal with a complaint for unspecified damages and an injunction against the announced Aaron Berg-written World War I spy drama. The plaintiffs charged that Section 6 was a rip-off of the James Bond properties, which they own. On April 11, Universal claimed in a filed of its own that the film was not even greenlighted and was still in the very early stages of development and did not infringe on the Bond copyright at all when the script was in its final form. “In essence, Universal’s response is to claim: ‘Just trust us, we’re trying to fix it. But it will take time.,’” the filing says. “That is no basis for Universal to avoid the targeted discovery plaintiffs seek. Without that expedited discovery, any attempt by plaintiffs to obtain preliminary relief would be tantamount to shooting at a moving target. The Court cannot possibly ascertain the status quo under such circumstances, let alone fashion appropriate relief to address it.” Judge Dean D. Pregerson will have to weigh in on this soon, but it sounds like both studios can use an M to separate them in this you said/I said schoolyard brawl.
PREVIOUSLY, 10:39 AM: Looks like Universal have brought their own legal license to kill on board in the Section 6 lawsuit with MGM and James Bond producer Danjaq — in more ways than one. Just over a week after being hit by a multi-claim copyright infringement suit by the duo, the studio has responded and they’ve brought a top operative in Bert Fields to handle things for them. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: MGM has set acclaimed theatre director Thea Sharrock to direct Me Before You, the adaptation of the Jojo Moyes best-selling novel. Karen Rosenfelt is producing what would be Sharrock’s feature debut.
The novel tells the story of Lou, a small-town girl caught between dead-end jobs, and Will, a success all his life who finds himself wheelchair-bound after an accident. He finds no reason to live until they meet when he hires her as his caretaker for six months, and she becomes determined to prove to him life is worth living. They head for a series of adventures together, which changes each of them. The author wrote the first draft of the script, and (500) Years Of Summer scribes Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber did the most recent draft. Read More »