Some people were surprised when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 2013 Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron back to run the 2014 telecast. After all, that was the Seth MacFarlane-hosted show that …
OSCARS: Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Play It Safer This Year With Star-Studded Show Led By Ellen
Even though the theme of the upcoming Academy Awards is heroes, you knew that Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron weren’t going to limit this to spandex-clad superheroes and Gladiator‘s Maximus. So Zadan and Meron, best known for the …
EXCLUSIVE: Storyline Entertainment partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have signed on with The Weinstein Company to produce Pippin, the screen adaptation of the musical that recently won Best Revival of a Musical among a four-Tony Award haul. This puts Zadan and Meron back with Weinstein, with whom they most successfully teamed on Chicago, the 2002 screen adaptation that won Best Picture among six Oscars. The duo also produced the hit movie musical Hairspray.
With book by Roger O. Hirson and music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Pippin originally launched in 1972 with Bob Fosse directing. It focused on the existential journey of the title character, a son of King Charlemagne trying to find his place in the Middle Ages. The Spectacular Now helmer James Ponsoldt is writing the screenplay adaptation of Pippin.
Q&A: Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron On “Historic” ‘Sound Of Music’ Special And ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini, ‘Smash’, Miley Cyrus
It is a big week for producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. They have the live staging of The Sound Of Music starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer on NBC tomorrow night, and four-hour miniseries Bonnie & Clyde starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger airing Sunday and Monday on History, A&E and Lifetime. While most producers abandoned the longform genre when it went out of fashion over the last five years, Zadan and Meron stuck with it through their longform deal at Sony TV, producing mostly movies for Lifetime, including the highly rated Steel Magnolias reboot with an all-black cast. Their loyalty has paid off and the two now are at the forefront of longform’s resurgence. (Zadan and Meron just sold a high-profile Eliot Ness miniseries to NBC.) Coming up for the duo next year is the launch of their new MTV comedy series Happyland, the return of Lifetime dramedy Drop Dead Diva and the filming of E! pilot Songbyrd. Oh, and they also are returning as producers of the Oscars in March. I caught up with Zadan and Meron to talk about Bonnie & Clyde and The Sound Of Music — find out why they call them “historic”, how Underwood traveled to Austria to prepare for playing Maria in SOM and how close Miley Cyrus came to playing Bonnie in B&C — as well as the Oscars, Smash and a possible Steel Magnolia sequel.
DEADLINE: Were you surprised by the longform genre’s resurgence?
ZADAN: We did expect it would come back. Everything is cyclical and we thought that event television had become so scarce between all the reality shows and all the other things that were going on (and also the fact that there were still great movies on HBO and a few other places), that eventually everybody would catch on to bring it back if there was a big hit that warranted it. I think Hatfields & McCoys was so enormous that no one could ignore it anymore; they had to bring it back at that point.
EXCLUSIVE: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who are behind NBC‘s upcoming live staging of The Sound Of Music, are developing another ambitious event program for the network. The duo has teamed with NBC for Nemesis, an eight-hour miniseries about famous Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, who was portrayed by Kevin Costner in Brian Fe Palma’s Oscar-winning The Untouchables. The project, from Sony Pictures TV — where Zadan and Meron’s Storyline Entertainment has a long-form deal — is based on the book Nemesis: The Final Case Of Eliot Ness by William Bernhardt. It tells the true story of Ness in 1935, post-Untouchables, as Cleveland’s newly appointed Director of Public Safety. Bodies have started turning up — each one decapitated and dissected with a doctor’s skill and a madman’s bent. The police are baffled and the population is terrorized over America’s first serial killer, the so-called “Torso Killer.” Though it’s not his turf, Ness is forced to take over the case, but the more energy he pours into the investigation, the more it takes over and threatens to destroy his life.
Here’s the first look at NBC‘s three-hour adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. The Sound Of Music Live! airs live December 5 and stars Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer, Audra McDonald, Christian Borle and Laura Benanti. It’s directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller and Rob Ashford and exec produced …
EXCLUSIVE: I have learned veteran publicist Jasmine Madatian, head of communications for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences since June of 2012, has decided to leave the full-time post and return to her own consulting firm, AshTam. However, despite departing her Academy job, she will still have some involvement with the upcoming Oscarcast scheduled for March 2nd. She plans to work independently with Oscar show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, focusing on the campaign for the broadcast. The trio worked closely together on the most recent Academy Award show in her official capacity at the Academy and sources tell me Madatian and the returning producers wanted to continue the relationship.
UPDATE, 12:12 PM: After an initial denial, Deadline can now confirm that Seth MacFarlane did 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.
Even as much of the industry was in Las Vegas at CinemaCon for the past few days (including myself) seeing snippets of films still in production that could possibly turn up as Oscar contenders, the normally rigid Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences surprised us all by announcing 2013 show producers Zadan and Meron would be returning to produce the 2014 show as well, 11 months from now. Normally this is the first duty of an Academy President to choose after elections are held in August, and since current one-term President Hawk Koch will not be that person, it was quite unexpected to see him delivering this news in April, just a month and a half after the last show and before a new President would have any say in the matter, something Nikki specifically expressed shock at in her story on Tuesday.
After talking to numerous Academy insiders and board members this week who were directly involved in the process that led to this early bird choice, the word that comes up over and over is “continuity”. Other awards shows such as the Tonys, Grammys and even Emmys tend to go back to the same producers year after year, but as one former Academy President told me the Oscar show producing chores have lately been done “trial by fire”. Since the late Gil Cates produced his 14th and final Oscarcast in 2008, there has been a new team of producers every single year. The Board, which I am told was very much behind this decision, agreed that “continuity”, the kind they had in the Cates era, is important. That’s another reason the Academy has already announced show dates for both 2014 and even 2015 quelling any speculation the Oscars would move any earlier than the last Sunday in February (due to the Winter Olympics the 2014 show will be a week later on March 2).
OSCARS: ‘Les Mis’ Cast, Jennifer Hudson, Catherine Zeta-Jones To Sing Live In Musicals Tribute; Show Producers Reveal More Behind-The-Scenes Details
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 Miserables will 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.
This year’s Oscar show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who last month announced the musical tribute would be part of their show, have kept the participants who will be singing a secret until finally first breaking the news to Deadline this morning.
They have produced musicals for film like Chicago 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.
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.
Related: OSCARS: New James Bond Promo Ad
“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
OSCARS: Academy President Defends Controversial Online Voting, Says More Members Voted Than Ever Before
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Hawk Koch vigorously defended the Academy’s controversial 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.
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.
2012 Primetime Emmys: Oscar Producers Check Out TV’s Big Night Plus All The Behind-The-Scenes And Party Action
Who knew the Emmys might have such an impact on the Oscars? The newly minted Oscar producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron actually 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.
EXCLUSIVE: Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have set up the first project through the first-look deal they signed with Universal TV and NBCUni’s international TV production division in July. NBC has bought an hourlong drama from the duo and former General Hospital head writer Sri Rao. Tentatively titled White House Confidential, the project is described as an upstairs-downstairs-type soap set in the White House, told from the point of view of a young female doctor who has a secret from her past.
Academy President Hawk Koch Reveals Why He Chose Oscar Producers, Says They May “Speed Up” Presentations
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).