There’s a lot of sex in Showtime’s new series Masters Of Sex, an explicit depiction of the relationship between William Masters and Virginia Johnson and the groundbreaking research they did on the subject — a lot of it through direct observation of thousands of sexual encounters between hundreds of male and female subjects.
Loads and loads of sex. Sex as an intimate act of love and/or passion, sex under hot lights while wired like lab rats and being closely watched by scientists. Sex with strangers, sex with lighted dildoes.
Sex sex, sex, sex, sex.
So much sex, complained one critic during the Masters Of Sex Q&A session at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013, it was “challenging to tweet some of this.”
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
EXCLUSIVE: The paint is still wet in post-production on Mariah Mundi And The Midas Box, the steam punk teen adventure adapted from Graham Taylor’s popular novels, but producers have given the greenlight to an as-yet untitled sequel. Key cast including Aneurin Barnard and Michael Sheen will return, though it’s expected a new director will take over from Jonathan Newman. “The decision to greenlight a sequel has been very much based upon how happy we are with the first movie as it comes together, and reactions from test audiences,” producer Peter Bevan tells Deadline. The ambitious independent production has already sold in territories including Germany, Latin America, Russia and China and will screen a sizzle reel at AFM on Friday. “We’ve already covered our at-risk equity investment based on early sales, so we’re ready to push ahead,” Bevan says.
EXCLUSIVE: Michael Sheen, best known for portraying Tony Blair and David Frost in films, will get to play another famous person, this time on a TV series. In his first regular series role, the British actor is set to star in Showtime’s drama pilot Masters of Sex, portraying 1960s human sexuality pioneer William Masters. In addition to starring, Sheen and his manager Tammy Rosen will serve as producers on the show. The project, written by Michelle Ashford (The Pacific) and directed by John Madden (Shakespeare In Love), is an adaptation of Thomas Maier’s book Masters of Sex: The Life And Times Of William Masters And Virginia Johnson, The Couple Who Taught America How To Love. It chronicles the lives, romance and pop culture trajectory of Masters (Sheen) and Johnson, whose research touched off the sexual revolution. Sheen replaces another Brit, Paul Bettany, who was originally attached but parted ways with the producers last month. With Sheen set, the focus will now shift to casting the Johnson role, for which Lizzy Caplan has been in negotiations. Masters Of Sex is produced by Sony Pictures TV, with Judith Verno and Timberman/Beverly Prods’ Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly executive producing. Production on the pilot is slated to begin in March in New York. Sheen is the latest feature actor tapped as the lead of a Showtime series follwoing the recent castings of Claire Danes in Homeland, Don Cheadle in House Of Lies, and Liev Schreiber in the pilot Ray Donovan.
UPDATE EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have reached a milestone unusual in Hollywood: partners for 25 years. When they first got together, Grazer was a TV producer. Howard, after growing up on the small screen in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, had only directed a couple of TV movies and the low budget Roger Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto. Grazer and Howard have been at it together ever since, building a company that over 25 years has been one of the most consistent generators of content. Their TV series output includes 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights; their movies have grossed $13.5 billion worldwide. That includes A Beautiful Mind, which won Howard the Academy Award for Best Director. Grazer and Howard shared Best Picture Oscars that night as well. Not everything they’ve done has succeeded, of course. They they took their company public and repurchased the shares; they helped launched and fold the online venture Pop.com; their most recent film together, the adult comedy The Dilemma, was a misfire that created controversy over the inclusion of the word “gay” in a trailer. They’ve had way more hits than misses.
In honor of Imagine’s Silver Anniversary, Deadline invited Howard and Grazer to look back over their quarter century together, and into a future that includes something never tried before by anyone in Hollywood. They’re adapting Stephen King’s 7-novel series The Dark Tower into a film trilogy, and a limited run TV series in between. It has pushed the envelope enough that their longtime home studio, Universal Pictures, postponed a planned late summer start until next year and asked the filmmakers to cut the budget. Some question the studio’s resolve on such a massive undertaking. The studio has to green light the film by next month or the rights revert to Imagine, Akiva Goldsman and King, who are determined to make it regardless.
DEADLINE: Not many marriages of any kind last 25 years in Hollywood. What is most important about the anniversary?
HOWARD: It’s such a challenging time to get movies made. And yet, look at all we have coming out. Tower Heist, the Gus Van Sant movie Restless, J Edgar with Clint Eastwood and Leo DiCaprio, Cowboys & Aliens, this big broad appeal four quadrant fantasy adventure story with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. With The Playboy Club getting on the air, and Parenthood getting picked up, I’m proud we’re doing what we’ve always done. A wide variety of projects that got made because we care and put in the energy to get them done in light of how difficult it is these days.
DEADLINE: Simple as that?
HOWARD: Because I’m in New York, we’re not forced to stare at each other’s faces 24/7. But I think that’s not really it. We love what we’re doing, we have fun doing it and our sensibilities are in sync. In a business that can create so many feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, I learned to trust in that. Brian is smart and cares about me doing well and feeling good about what I’m doing. It’s a partnership built on support. It has been that way since the beginning.
GRAZER: It works because we have similar tastes and not only gravitate toward the same material but also what lives inside the core of the movie it becomes. We’ve done, and Ron has directed, all kinds of genres. We have a common interest in the humanity aspect of a movie, regardless if it’s a comedy or a drama. We also share a similar work ethic.
DEADLINE: When you cover all genres, does Imagine have a wheelhouse? For a company looking to last, is it advisable to have one?
HOWARD: The process is what gets Brian and me excited, whatever the genre. Not specializing has given our company a sense of flexibility and adaptability to whatever the market or the zeitgeist is suggesting. We’ve always respected each other as creative people. If Brian loves something and I don’t quite get it, I’ll tell him that but I’ll never try to impede the progress. He’s the same with me. With Apollo 13, I wasn’t sure the genre would work, because space films hadn’t done that well. Brian was instantly so excited about it, and made me realize we were onto something. 8 Mile, I don’t know anything about rap. This was something he understood. I didn’t know how to make that movie, but I recognized a great idea. Whenever the two of us get excited, on films like Splash, Night Shift and Parenthood, those have resulted in the building blocks of the company. I’ve always liked TV but I phased it out for awhile and it was Brian’s perseverance that has made us strong in both TV and films. Independent companies are rarely strong in both.
GRAZER: What we’ve do is agree on the moral center of a project, but nobody’s better at finding the language of a particular movie than Ron. He’s got a grasp of understanding new vocabularies, whether it’s the The Da Vinci Code, fantasy like Cocoon or Splash, or Backdraft and The Grinch. He is great at inhabiting a world and completely understanding and expressing its language. In A Beautiful Mind, he entered that world and understood the medical science of mental illness. So there have been times where he led the charge, and I was drawn in by his excitement.
DEADLINE: What was the last hard conversation or professional disagreement you can remember?
HOWARD: I can’t think of one offhand, but even when we have disagreements, I can’t think of a case where one of us ever said, ‘Oh, please don’t do this.’ If there’s a lot of passion from one or the other, then the support of the company is going to be there.