UPDATE, 12:12 PM: After an initial denial, Deadline can now confirm that Seth MacFarlanedid indeed get a call about returning as host of next year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards but has not given an answer yet. The big problem for MacFarlane, we are told by highly reliable sources, is his already full plate with a new Western comedy, A Million Ways To Die In The West, going into production soon as well as initial work on Universal’s sequel to Ted, which has amassed a worldwide gross of over half a billion dollars and is obviously a priority for the studio.
Despite saying after this year’s Oscars that he wouldn’t consider coming back, MacFarlane is mulling the offer but at this point isn’t sure he has the time to do it. For the 85th Oscar show, he was closely involved for four months, and that is a big-time commitment. The Academy, returning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and MacFarlane’s PR reps aren’t commenting so far, and neither is Academy president Hawk Koch.
MacFarlane’s comic Western film is being produced by the Ted team of Media Rights Capital and producers Scott Stuber and Jason Clark. MacFarlane, who directs, co-writes with Ted and Family Guy colleagues Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, also stars as a bumbling sheep farmer in the comedy said to be in the vein of Blazing Saddles. Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Giovanni Ribisi co-star.
PREVIOUSLY, SATURDAY PM: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron aren’t talking yet (an Academy spokesperson said they are too busy at the moment producing their History Channel production of Bonnie And Clyde). But after the surprise announcement this week that they would be returning to produce the 2014 Oscar show, gossip blogs like HuffPo and others started spreading the obvious rumor that their handpicked — and controversial — 2013 Oscar host Seth MacFarlane already has been asked to do the gig again next year. Not true at all, Deadline has learned from MacFarlane’s reps. And shortly after the 85th Oscar show was over MacFarlane himself swore off any ambition to do the show again next year – or ever (of course never say ever). So with the false rumors out of the way let’s discuss what is true about the Academy’s Zadan/Meron play this week.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA — The acclaimed motion picture, television and theater producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will return to produce the Oscars for a second time next year, Academy President Hawk Koch announced. The
EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls and Catherine Zeta-Jones for Chicago will be performing their Oscar-winning roles on Sunday’s Academy Awards as part of a celebration honoring the resurgence of movie musicals of the last decade. In the same segment revisiting their roles from this year’s Best Picture contender Les Miserableswill be several of the film’s key cast members including Oscar nominees (and former Oscar hosts) Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway along with Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tevit, Samantha Barks, and Helena Bonham Carter.
They have produced musicals for film likeChicago and Hairspray, for television films like Cinderella and The Music Man, on Broadway with How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and Promises Promises, and on series TV with their current NBC drama Smash. Music is obviously in Zadan and Meron’s DNA and, as evidenced by the musical talent they are luring to the telecast, that is clearly what their Oscar show is going to be all about. Host Seth MacFarlane will be merging music with his comedy bits right from the opening as well. Read More »
Oscar telecast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron know their stuff when it comes to putting on a show. With huge musical successes in movies (Chicago, Hairspray, Footloose), TV (The Music Man, Cinderella), and Broadway (Promises Promises, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying), they have the chops to pull off the film industry’s biggest night of the year, though it has sometimes proved a pitfall for other producers. It can be challenging when the Academy mandates that valuable airtime goes to all 24 categories, including sound mixers, makeup and hairstylists, and producers of documentary short subjects, to name a few. But that doesn’t faze this veteran producing pair who say they started assembling the show’s elements from the day they got the job in late August.
“We certainly are going to be celebrating the nominees and winners like a regular Oscar show, but they are fitting into the design of the show that we’ve created, so there’s going to be an enormous amount of entertainment”, Zadan says, pointing to the 50 years of James Bond tribute they have announced, which won’t be a reunion Read More »
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Hawk Koch vigorously defended the Academy’scontroversial new system of online voting when we spoke right after the nominations announcement this morning. He said despite the kinks and some complaints from members about difficulty in voting electronically that it actually brought out the biggest voter participation the organization has had. “It’s the first time, yes. But the first time you do anything of course there’s problems. Remember the first time you walked? Of course there’s problems. But the truth is we’ve had more people voting for nominations than we’ve ever had. And we had more people in each branch, every single branch had more people voting. So that portends two things. One, the online voting worked and two, everyone was excited about the films this year. They wanted to make sure and vote. And three, the questions about ’oh has everybody had a chance to see all the films?’ Our members saw all the films,” he said breaking with the long held tradition of keeping Academy voter turnout totals secret and not commenting at all on the subject. There had been speculation the Academy’s sometimes-rocky transition into online voting might actually depress voter participation but Koch said that definitely turned out not to be the case according to their internal figures.
Of course the Academy has been under strong scrutiny for the way it has conducted its first foray into the perilous waters of online voting, something every guild and most voting organizations have been doing for the past few years. Because the Academy (which could be a prized target for hackers) has to be overly concerned about security and the threat of having their system infiltrated they devised a “foolproof” system involving the use of codes and passwords and special phone numbers for member verification which confused some members and angered others. Others I spoke with over the course of voting seemed fine with it, so it was a mixed bag. The Academy tried to accommodate everyone and extended the registration period by two weeks after the first Deadline article appeared on November 28, and later changed its rules to automatically send a paper ballot for those who didn’t register online. As more members expressed frustration about being “locked out” of the system the Academy took another unprecedented step and even extended voting by one day to January 4th instead of the original announced date of January 3rd. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Smash executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are developing another hourlong series for NBC in which music plays a key part. The duo is executive producing a dramedy written/executive produced by Grey’s Anatomy alumna Krista Vernoff. It will feature the music catalog of songwriter Diane Warren, who serves as a consulting producer.
The hour-long dramedy centers on a 30-something songwriter who has written the most epic love songs of our time, despite, or perhaps due to the fact that she is painfully unlucky in love. While the logline understandably draws parallels to Warren, the central character is original and not based or inspired by her though the plot represents a fictionalized version of Warren’s career. Warren’s songs are expected to be organically integrated into the narrative with music used in a very different way than the Broadway-themed drama Smash. Warren’s catalog includes such songs as LeAnn Rimes’ How Do I Live, Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me, Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart and Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.Read More »
Who knew the Emmys might have such an impact on the Oscars? The newly minted Oscar producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meronactually spent the entire weekend following Emmy producer Don Mischer (who also produced the Oscars the past two years and will direct this year). The Oscar team told me they spent all day Saturday and Sunday in the booth watching how the big TV show came together to get a few helpful tips. This particular Emmy show and the Oscars both air on ABC. ”We’ve been shadowing Don Mischer all weekend to get an idea of how it is done,” Zadan told me at the Emmy Governors Ball. “We’re already having a ball doing the Oscars. We have ideas that have never been done before.” Meron assures they are actively beginning the Oscar process and hope to have a host in place sooner rather than later. Zadan says a host is key and sooner is better.
For his part Mischer, who produced and directed the Oscarcast for the past two years, does not want to be part of the producing team this year. “After last year I promised my wife I wouldn’t do it again,” he says. “‘But I am happy to come back and direct. That way I will actually get my holidays. And Craig and Neil have wanted to do this for several years. They are consummate showmen.”
Mischer told me the reason the Emmy show seemed rushed at the end last was because he had to have it over by no later than 8 PM PT because the West Coast replay began then — if it was a few minutes late people tuning in might think they missed something watching the end rather than the beginning. He said the biggest West Coast audience by far watches the show at the 8 PM rerun rather than live at 5. But Mischer, a true veteran of the live awards show wars, regretted having to cut off winners in their acceptance speeches. Among those who got the hook were the Drama Series Writing winners for Homeland and Miniseries/Movie Supporting Actor winner Tom Berenger. But it was the very big final award for Best Comedy Series to Modern Family that really made Mischer feel bad: Presenter Michael J. Fox received an elongated standing ovation (the only one of the evening it turns out) when he was introduced and that took up precious time that cut into executive produer Steve Levitan’s speech. Mischer said he had no choice but to cut him off with almost zero seconds to spare until 8 PM. ABC was telling him in one ear they had to get off the air but he didn’t want to stop Levitan. At the Governors Ball, Mishcher apologized to Levitan who said he understood the timing problem — even though ironically Modern Family was Emmy network ABC’s big win this year. In fact, it was the biggest win for any broadcast network on the cable-centric Emmycast.
Hawk Koch has not even been President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for a month yet but he’s already got his producers lined up for the Oscars - no small feat considering the awkward attempt to put a producer and even a host in place (widely reported to be Lorne Michaels and Jimmy Fallon) before he even got elected on July 31st. Koch always told me, on the record and off, that as far as he was concerned his first priority was to get a producer(s) hired and none of the media speculation about who it would be or how it was being done was going to affect that goal. He just forged ahead. And he said it was always going to be his decision, at least from the moment he got elected. And as he told me when we spoke Thursday evening that’s exactly how it has turned out with yesterday’s well-received announcement of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron as this year’s Oscarcast producers.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time but I have only been on the job for three weeks or so”, he said. “But about a week and a half ago it suddenly hit me at 2 AM in the morning. Neil and Craig! They’ve done movies, Broadway, TV, they have great taste and they’d be great to work with. They are real producers”.
The latter point is particularly important to Koch who, in order to do the one term Academy gig, has taken a leave of absence from his post as Co-President of the Producers Guild. So after his brainstorm he called a mutual friend and ran the idea past him, getting a very enthusiastic agreement that this was the perfect team for the job. When he called Zadan to inquire as to whether they might be interested in producing the Oscars if such a role was offered he says Zadan didn’t hesitate a moment and responded ‘yes’ immediately . “That really surprised me since usually it takes a lot longer to get your choice to agree or they are too busy, not this time though. Craig and Neil are busy but Craig said producing the Oscars was at the very top of their own bucket list,” (the pair produced Rob Reiner’s movie The Bucket List).Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Storyline Entertainment’s Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have signed a new two-year deal with Sony Pictures Television for TV movies and miniseries. The duo, who just closed a first-look deal with Universal TV and NBCUniversal International for series and specials, have set up several high-profile new longform projects: movies about Anna Nicole Smith and Warren Jeffs at Lifetime and a Bonnie & Clyde miniseries at History.
Sony’s TV movie/mini EVP Helen Verno brought Zadan and Meron to the Sony TV fold nearly twenty years ago, making Zadan and Meron’s partnership with the studio one of the longest in the TV movie/miniseries business. Their first collaboration was the award-winning 1994 movie Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story. Since then, Zadan, Meron and Sony TV have done more than a dozen movie and minis together, including new takes on titles from the Sony libraries like A Raisin In The Sun and Zadan and Meron’s upcoming passion project, a Steel Magnolias remake for Lifetime starring Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard. “(Sony TV president) Steve Mosko is a one of a kind executive and a true inspiration and supporter of our longform work, while others have walked away from the genre”, Zadan and Meron said.
Storyline’s longform development slate with Sony TV includes a biopic of the late Anna Nicole Smith at Lifetime written by John Rice and Joe Batteer. Also in the works at Lifetime is a biopic of another controversial figure, jailed FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs, which is written by Art Monterastelli. On the two movies, as well as Lifetime’s recently aired Blue Lagoon film, Zadan and Meron teamed with Judith Verno who executive produces with them. Also at Lifetime, Zadan and Meron are in early development on a movie about the true story of Constance McMillen, the lesbian student who was denied going to her own prom. The project, written and directed by John Gray, was previously set up at ABC Family.
On the heels of the runaway success of its Hatfields & McCoys miniseries, History has partnered with Zadan and Meron to develop another mini about another famous duo from America’s past. A four-hour event miniseries based on the true story of Bonnie and Clyde is being written by Rice and Batteer. Read More »
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron already executive produce NBC/Universal TV’s series Smash and recently teamed with the network for a live Sound Of Music TV special. Now the duo has inked a first-look deal with Uni TV and NBCUniversal’s international TV production division to produce series and specials for U.S. and international markets. “The incredible creativity, vision and intelligence that they bring to all their projects — on television, in film and on Broadway — is exactly what the future of Universal Television is all about,” Uni TV EVP Bela Bajaria said. Added NBCU International TV Prods president Michael Edelstein, “We look forward to bringing their extraordinary ideas to the global television marketplace.” Read More »
NBC is looking to bring back to broadcast television event musical programming with The Sound Of Music, a live broadcast of a new production of the original Broadway musical to be produced by Smash executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “There used to be a tradition of broadcasting musicals live back in the 1950s and we’re thrilled to do it once again with a musical that has been a family classic for five decades,” said NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt. “There is no more talented and creative producing team than Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to bring Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final — and most beloved — collaboration to network television in this groundbreaking live telecast.” Casting will begin immediately and an air date will be announced shortly. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Lifetime is heading back to The Blue Lagoon. The cable network has greenlighted a contemporary remake of the 1980 romance/adventure movie starring Brooke Shields, which centered on a boy and a girl marooned on a tropical island, where they grow up together, fall in love and discover sexuality. Neil Meron and Craig Zadan’s Storyline Entertainment and Judith Verno’s Peace Out Prods are producing the film in association with Sony Pictures TV, with Meron, Zadan and Verno executive producing. The project was originally set up at Lifetime in 2004 with Heather Rutman and Matt Heller as writers. Casting is already underway, with filming eyed for a February start in Puerto Rico. The Blue Lagoon movie franchise is known for giving young actresses their big break. The 1980 film made Shields a household name, while the 1991 sequel Return To The Blue Lagoon launched the career of Milla Jovovich. Read More »
The CW is joining the treasure hunt trend this development season with Golddigger. The project, from Bill Haber’s Ostar Prods., centers on a young female treasure hunter who tracks down artifacts for a variety of mysterious and interesting clients. … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The 1989 film Steel Magnolias is getting a contemporary remake with an all-black cast. Lifetime is developing an original movie based on the hit feature, which will be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Sony Pictures TV, where the duo’s Storyline Entertainment has an exclusive deal for event long-form programming. Kenny Leon, who directed Storyline/SPT’s previous collaboration, the 2008 ABC movie A Raisin In The Sun, is attached to direct the new Steel Magnolias, which, like the movie, will be set in Louisiana and explore the bond among a group of women in the present day.
Both Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias and ABC’s A Raisin In The Sun are based on properties that span a famous play and a feature. But while the Emmy-nominated Raisin In the Sun was based on Lorraine Hansberry’s play (whose 2004 Broadway revival Leon directed), Steel Magnolias, penned by Sally Robinson (Iron Jawed Angels), is an adaptation of the screenplay for the movie, which was written by Robert Harling based on his play. The feature boasted an all-star cast of Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Darryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts. The goal of the TV movie’s producers is to assemble a similarly high-wattage cast of black actresses. The film, said to be a passion project of Lifetime president Nancy Dubuc and EVP Programming Robert Sharenow, has not been greenlighted but is on a fast track, with some preliminary work on casting choices for the leads expected to begin soon. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The news is brimming with symbolism – the young actor who portrayed Harry Potter in viral online videos to step in for the actor who played the boy wizard on the big screen. I hear that Darren Criss, breakout … Read More »
Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:
Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.
What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three. Read More »