ANALYSIS: The appointment of Michael De Luca to share production president duties with Hannah Minghella at Sony Pictures has taken the town by surprise. Insiders on the lot see an improved structure that could position the studio to up the level of quality as it follow through on its mandate to take big swings for global hits. The way the new structure will work is, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group chairman Amy Pascal and Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad will focus on the studio as a whole, including administrative endeavors, and Minghella and De Luca will concentrate on building the film slates.
Related: Sony Taps Michael De Luca As Columbia Production President
Many in town have expressed surprise that De Luca would make such a move at this moment, and not just because he’s most identified with smart and edgy filmmaker-driven films and not the tentpoles that increasingly account for studio slates. They are surprised that, after transitioning from a fabled run as wunderkind production chief at New Line (and a stint at DreamWorks) to become producer, De Luca has built enviable momentum: hits include Sony’s Oscar hopeful Captain Phillips, The Social Network and Moneyball, and De Luca is in the middle of Universal/Focus’s adaptation of the EL James publishing sensation Fifty Shades Of Grey. There are dozens of other promising projects percolating. “There is no way a guy with that hot a hand is going to take that job and probably a pay cut to report to Belgrad unless there is some eventual succession plan,” barked one rival exec.
Related: Q&A With ‘Social Network’s Mike De Luca
Plenty of turbulence has occurred at Sony these past few months leading up to the recent investor meeting, but insiders tell me this structure is not viewed as a short-term solution, and they say no other shoes will be dropping. They say this move will strengthen the studio in several ways. Most important is De Luca’s value as an executive; I have gotten to know him very well, as we spent over a year working on a book about his professional and personal coming-of-age years at New Line. We shelved the project at Mike’s request, so I’m not uncomfortable writing about him here. But what I observed that the above exec is unaware of is just how much De Luca loved being an executive. READ MORE »
As the story about the hijacking of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama unfolded on television in 2009, producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti were transfixed. It was the first time a U.S. vessel had been seized by pirates since the 19th century, and it seemed to have the makings of a great movie. “We weren’t sure because it looked like it was going to be a very grim outcome,” Brunetti explains. “As Mike says, it (could have been) more of a Sundance movie.” But the story did end well. Captain Phillips (Sony) earned $25.7 million domestically in its October opening weekend, and Tom Hanks’ lead performance is drawing awards buzz.
AwardsLine: How did you first become involved with Captain Phillips?
Michael De Luca: We watched the news story, and after the situation was resolved, we thought there was a really good movie in there — stuff you couldn’t get from the news, like what was being said within the lifeboat, what the Navy was dealing with, getting all the assets into the region. So after we decided it would be a good movie, we took the next step, which was to see if the real Captain Phillips would engage with us. That’s where Dana and (production company) Trigger Street picked up the ball.
Dana Brunetti: About a week or so (after the rescue), I got the OK to go and meet with (Richard Phillips) in Vermont. He had just gotten back. I sat down at dinner with him, and he still had bruises on his wrist from being bound. You would never believe that he’d just gone through what he’d gone through because he’s just an everyman — dry sense of humor and just a regular good guy. Actually, I thought I’d have something in common with him because I was in the Coast Guard. So I threw that out and I found out that he’s not a big fan of the Coast Guard. (Laughs.) It was like, “Let’s change the topic.” About a week later, he said he wanted to go with us, but he wanted to wait for the book (A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS And Dangerous Days At Sea, on which the film was based) to be done. He came back to us when it was done, and we went to Sony and set it up there. Read More »
ABC is taking another crack at bringing one of the most famous detective literary characters to primetime, this time teaming with the creator of its most successful crime-solving drama of the past decade. The network has put in development a Philip Marlowe drama project, inspired by Raymond Chandler’s famous hard-boiled detective, from Castle creator/executive producer/showrunner Andrew Marlowe (put your Marlowe pun in here) and feature producer Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips, Fifty Shades Of Grey). The project, from ABC Studios, where Marlowe is under an overall deal, is described as a smart, sexy and stylish update of Chandler’s character which follows the investigations of wisecracking, edgy and rugged private detective Philip Marlowe as he navigates the morally complicated world of today’s Los Angeles — where the bright California sun casts long and dangerous shadows…and where true love can be more difficult to find than justice. Marlowe is writing the script with his wife, Castle writer/consulting producer Terri Edda Miller, through their MilMar Pictures. The two are executive producing with De Luca through Michael De Luca Prods.
ABC previously tried launching a Philip Marlowe drama series during the 2006-2007 season when the project, shepherded by current Disney feature bigwig Sean Bailey, went to pilot with Jason O’Mara playing the famous detective. The Marlowe character is no stranger to television. Powers Boothe played the gumshoe in the early 1980s HBO period drama Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, which ran for several years. On the big screen, Marlowe has been played by Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Elliot Gould and James Garner among others. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Thunder Road has acquired No Quarter, a spec script by The Messenger scribe Alessandro Camon and Michael Wilson that will be produced by Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk and Michael De Luca. No Quarter is a contemporary crime story that touches on the themes of the military and the difficulty of reintegrating back into society after serving as a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those were themes in The Messenger. Set in Los Angeles in 2007, two friends who were combat Marines and side by side survived some of the toughest fighting in the Iraq War, find themselves on opposite sides of the law. One becomes a star cop in an elite undercover unit while the other gets into a heist crew involved with a drug cartel. These men, who once depended on each other for survival, see their friendship and loyalties put to the test. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros won a multiple studio bidding battle for screen rights to an upcoming thriller novel by The Breach author Patrick Lee. Justin Lin is attached to direct and produce with Michael De Luca.
The untitled action thriller was just auctioned in a big pre-emptive, three-book deal that will be published next winter by Macmillan. The book is the first of a series featuring an ex-special operative named Sam Dryden. In the character-driven thriller, Dryden runs into a mysterious young girl who is not quite what she seems, and he embarks on a journey to keep her safe from a powerful government agent intent on hunting her down.
This comes as Lin puts the finishing touches on Fast & Furious 6 for Universal, which he directed and produced. That marks his fourth turn in the high-octane action series he helped revive, and Lin is now looking for other films to do through his Barnstorm Pictures banner. Barnstorm president of production Elaine Chin is also producing with Pouya Shahbazian, who manages the author. Read More »
Next year’s PGA Awards had been set for January 19. Here’s the release on the new date and the announcement of Michael De Luca as the show’s producer. He’s had plenty of experience in awards season, most recently as a producer on last year’s Moneyball and 2010′s The Social Network. Here’s the release:
LOS ANGELES (May 17, 2012) – The Producers Guild of America announced today that it has shifted the 24th Annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony to take place on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Additionally, Producers Guild Presidents Hawk Koch and Mark Gordon announced that the 2013 awards program, which honors excellence in motion picture and television production, will be produced by Academy-Award® nominated producer Michael De Luca.
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EXCLUSIVE: Piranha helmer Alexandre Aja is negotiating to direct Undying Love, an adaptation of the Image Comics title for Warner Bros. The film revolves around an ex-solider who falls for a vampire, though in order to be with her, he … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Michael Mann is in talks to develop to direct The Big Stone Grid, a cop thriller that Sony Pictures bought as a spec script last year by S. Craig Zahler. Michael De Luca, who’s on the Oscar circuit for … Read More »
Although it had a troubled history with original director Steven Soderbergh leaving just days before production was to start, Moneyball is the classic example of producers saying “never say die.” That is certainly the case with Rachael Horovitz, who originally optioned the Michael Lewis book Moneyball: The Art Of Winning An Unfair Game, which dealt with Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane’s attempts to put together a successful team using unorthodox methods and a miniscule budget. Horovitz, a former VP at Fine Line Features and an exec at Revolution Studios, won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her company Specialty Films’ maiden voyage, Grey Gardens, and was bound and determined to make this movie happen. Eventually Sony got into a bidding war with Warner Bros and brought in Horovitz’s former New Line colleague Michael De Luca to co-produce. De Luca — New Line and DreamWorks’ former production head and now a successful producer of films like The Social Network, 21, Ghost Rider and the upcoming Butter and The Sitter – helped shape the film before Soderbergh’s exit and remained a strong force afterward when his Social Network colleague Scott Rudin came on board. Horovitz and De Luca talked to Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond about the many curveballs Moneyball faced on its way to the screen — and six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor for Brad Pitt.
AWARDSLINE: Rachael, you started this project, you optioned the book. Tell me how this came about.
HOROVITZ: The book had terrific heart. I felt that (the role of) Billy Beane would be great for an actor, and that the human story of the material was relatable. I was certain that the rights wouldn’t be available and they were. So, stunned, I took a shot at trying to set it up and discovered that all of the studios passed on it. So then I went back to the drawing board and came up with a pitch and set it up at Sony. Mike was just moving over from DreamWorks to being a producer at Sony and we had worked together at New Line. Read More »
L.A. Noir, the spec script Frank Darabont started shopping shortly after his ouster from AMC’s The Walking Dead, has landed at TNT with a pilot order. The project is based on John Buntin’s book L.A. Noir: The Struggle For The Soul Of America’s Most Seductive City, which chronicles the epic battle between Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker and mobster Mickey Cohen. In addition to writing, Darabont is set to direct the pilot and will executive produce with Michael De Luca (The Social Network, Moneyball ) and Elliot Webb (Tall Time Tales). TNT Original Prods will produce. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan, the team behind three of the Saw films, are currently doing production rewrite work on the Guillermo del Toro-directed tent pole Pacific Rim for Legendary Pictures. At the same time, they are plotting out … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox is closing a deal for screen rights to the oral history ESPN: Those Guys Have All The Fun. The studio will develop a feature about the formation of the 24-hour sports network. The pic will be produced by Michael De Luca, Trigger Street’s Dana Brunetti and Julie Yorn. The book by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales follows a format similar to Live From New York, the oral history they wrote about Saturday Night Live. Here, they use the voices of past and present ESPN personalities and producers to tell the story of how a father and son maxed out their credit cards to scrape together the cash to reserve a satellite transponder so they could show sporting events nonstop on a 24-hour station. The book is a gossipy journey about how that venture turned from a 1970s joke that started with broadcasts of Australian rules football and rodeo, to a dominant brand in the sporting world that broadcast pro football and baseball games and become arguably the most profitable cable network ever created. Read More »
UPDATE: I’ve learned that Memphis won’t be an impediment to Paul Greengrass directing this Somali pirate movie, so I expect this to move quickly and that this will be the director’s next film.
EARLIER: Director Paul Greengrass and Sony … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Entertainment is attaching Tom Hanks to play Captain Richard Phillips, the leader of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama who gave himself up as a hostage to Somali pirates to keep his crew from having to leave the … Read More »