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Oliver Stone Buys Edward Snowden Russian Lawyer’s “Novel” About Asylum-Seeking Whistleblower

By | Tuesday June 10, 2014 @ 8:50am PDT
Mike Fleming

snowdenUPDATE, 8:50 AM PT: Oliver Stone and producing partner Moritz Borman are widening their source material for the movie Stone plans to write and direct on CIA leaker Edward Snowden. They’ve made a deal with Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, for film rights to his novel Time Of The Octopus, what seems like a thinly veiled account of his experience with Snowden. It’s the story of an American whistleblower who heads to Russia and the back and forth between the leaker and his lawyer as he waits while that country considers his request for asylum. Stone and Borman already got screen rights to The Snowden Files: The Inside Story Of The World’s Most Wanted Man, a book by Guardian journalist Luke Harding that’s published by Guardian Faber. This might be as close as they can get to actually obtaining rights from Snowden. I wondered if he would be part of the movie. Like Julian Assange, he is a polarizing figure that some would call brave, and others — including the U.S. government — would call a turncoat, or worse after he made public more classified documents than anyone else has done since Daniel Ellsburg released The Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. Stone intends to put the movie in production this year. He’s not alone in his desire to make a Snowden film. Last month, Sony Pictures acquired film rights to Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald‘s upcoming book No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, And The U.S. Surveillance State. That pic will be produced by Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the producers of the James Bond spy franchise.

Related: Sony Acquires Movie Rights To Edward Snowden Book ‘No Place To Hide’

Read More »

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On Eve Of MLK Day, Will Adultery Keep Epic Dr. King Movie Off The Big Screen?

Mike Fleming

mlkOliver Stone has run smack into the same wall on a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr biopic that director Paul Greengrass hit when Universal kicked his MLK project Memphis to the curb two years back. Stone took to his Twitter account today to say that DreamWorks and Warner Bros rejected his script rewrite and that he was done with the movie that also had Jamie Foxx attached. It came down to the studios — which are in lockstep with the MLK estate that brought them the right to use his famous copyrighted speeches — rejecting Stone’s characterization of long-running rumors that King Jr. engaged in extramarital affairs. “I’m told the estate & the ‘respectable’ black community that guard King’s reputation won’t approve it. They suffocate the man & the truth,” Stone tweeted. He also added a message directly to MLK: ‘I wish you could see the film I would’ve made. I fear if ‘they’ ever make it, it’ll be just another commemoration of the March on Washington.”

Related: Opposition To Martin Luther King Films Reveals Hard Truths About Biopic Biz

ostoneThis is almost a carbon copy of what happened two years ago with Memphis, the superb script that Captain Phillips helmer Greengrass wrote and set at Universal with producer Scott Rudin. The project stopped in its tracks after a version of the script found its way to the King family, and Ambassador Andrew Young, who was one of Dr. King’s closest confidants during the turbulent Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. While Universal was never really clear on why it halted the movie, blaming scheduling, it is clear that a film disowned by MLK’s family might hurt its audience appeal. This is an incredibly difficult and emotional situation because it depicts flaws in a man whose message of tolerance and equality and nonviolence still means so much to so many and has made him one of the most galvanizing figures of the 20th Century. Read More »

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The Day JFK Was Shot: 50 Years Later, Hollywood Remembers

(A version of this story first appeared Sunday.)

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was a defining moment of the 20th century. That is even the case for someone like me, who was born after November 22, 1963, in the shadow of the president’s murder. Most of my generation can tell you where they were when they learned of the shooting of John Lennon and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, but everyone of a certain age can tell you where they were that tragic day in Dallas. With the passing of the WWII generation and memories of Pearl Harbor, only 9/11 is as seared into our souls now as much as 11/22. In remembrance of the 35th president, I asked some of the industry’s most notable and insightful individuals — a few of whom had seen JFK just before his death — where they were when they heard the news of the shooting and what they experienced that day. Here’s what they told me:

Ron Meyer – Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal
I had just gotten out of the Marine Corps and I was living in LA. I was working at a men’s clothing store and we heard this news. You know, I was in the Marines during the Cuban missile crisis, during the blockade, so we really felt we knew him and that you had direct involvement with him because, at least during that time, everything that happened to him affected us. We could have gone to war if he’d ordered it. So when he was killed, you felt that someone who had been an integral part of your life, my life, was gone. I was young, 20 years old, but it was the most unexpected loss. You know, my family escaped from Nazi Germany – so to us, he represented the hope of the world. It was tragic.

Jeffrey Katzenberg – CEO, DreamWorks Animation 
I try to focus less on November 22nd and more on November 8th, the date in 1960 when Kennedy was elected president. I was only 9 at the time, but that election, with its down-to-the-wire finish, suddenly made me aware of the excitement and possibilities of politics. Three years later, Kennedy’s assassination was devastating beyond words. But, for me, it further heightened the impact of his 1,000 days. While I was still in middle school, I went to work for another dynamic young leader, New York Mayor John Lindsay. JFK’s example inspired me then, and it inspires me still.

Related: Dan Rather To Narrate ESPN Special Commemorating JFK

Bill O’Reilly – Host, The O’Reilly Factor; Author, Killing Kennedy
Back in November of 1963, I was a 14-year-old freshman at Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York. I was sitting in Brother Carmine Diodati’s religion class when the loud speaker crackled, and the school principal announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. He then put the CBS radio report on the loudspeakers all over the school. The students were stunned. Few of us said anything.

When I got home that afternoon, my mother was watching CBS on television. Her mother, my grandmother’s name was Winifred Kennedy. So the O’Reilly family had a direct emotional tie to the much more famous Kennedy clan. In the weeks that followed, life got back to normal for the teenagers on Long Island. But my friends and I will never forget the first time we heard of the treacherous assassination.

Related: ‘Killing Kennedy’ Draws Record Viewership For Nat Geo Read More »

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As Oliver Stone And Jamie Foxx Mobilize DreamWorks MLK Pic, Paul Greengrass, Isn’t It High Time For ‘Memphis’?

By | Thursday October 10, 2013 @ 4:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Reports are surfacing that DreamWorks is ready to move forward with the authorized version of Martin Luther King‘s life story, the one that MLK’s family is behind and which has the rights to use his copyrighted speeches. They have Jamie Foxx and director Oliver Stone poised for an Any Given Sunday re-team on the project, which they want to do with Warner Bros. All I can think of as director Paul Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin prepare for tomorrow’s opening of Captain Phillips is, Paul, get busy on your MLK film Memphis, because your Oscar-caliber script is just way too good to get relegated to the scrap heap.

I’ve been writing for years about Memphis, Greengrass‘ script about a great man’s final days. It started out at Universal, which put it in turnaround right around the time that the director’s relationship with the studio soured over his unwillingness to do a fourth The Bourne Identity and after he clashed with the studio over the high-budget misfire Green Zone. It became a hot potato project then, when the King family and the activist’s close confidante, Ambassador Andrew Young, objected to it. Among their objections: King is depicted sharing a bed with a woman who was not his wife. The key has always been about opening the film on MLK weekend, and it stalled that first time because they couldn’t set it up again and make it fast enough. They tried again last year, with Veritas in talks to finance with Wild Bunch, but Greengrass instead took on Captain Phillips, the Sony drama about the Somali pirate heist that stars Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips. Rudin joined his Social Network cohorts Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti to deliver a tense, excellent drama.

Related: Opposition To MLK Films Reveals Hard Truths About Biopic Biz

The Memphis script depicts King’s final days as he struggled to organize a protest march on behalf of striking black municipal sanitation workers in Memphis, TN, where he was slain. That storyline is juxtaposed with an intense manhunt for King’s assassin James Earl Ray, involving some of the federal authorities who, at Hoover’s direction, had dogged King’s every step with wiretaps and whispering campaigns before the civil rights leader’s death. The dual narrative is explosive and I don’t know what Kario Salem has written for DreamWorks, but the word biopic makes you worry that it will be reverential and looong. Memphis was a snapshot on parallel with Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday. It is a powerful testament to King’s struggle and his sacrifice, and even if he was portrayed as an imperfect human being, it did not define him. Let’s face it, all those ’60s icons including the Kennedys were not monogamous. Read More »

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Oliver Stone Slams “Ridiculous” Violence In ‘Breaking Bad’ Finale

By | Tuesday October 8, 2013 @ 7:24pm PDT

[SPOILER WARNING!] Not every Breaking Bad-watcher had glowing praise for last week’s historic, ratings-grabbing finale. Oliver Stone jumped on the Bad wagon just in time to see Walter White’s saga conclude in its fifth season. “I happen to not watch the series very much, but I happened to tune in and I saw the most ridiculous 15 minutes of a movie — it would be laughed off the screen,” he said while promoting his Showtime docu series The Untold History of the United States. Per Forbes the director went off in detail on the episode’s violent culmination. Read More »

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CinemaCon: Directors Debate Whether They Should Try To Make Crowd-Pleasing Films

By | Wednesday April 17, 2013 @ 3:43pm PDT

Oliver Stone stole the show at CinemaCon‘s Filmmakers Forum today, making the most challenging comments on a panel with fellow directors Sam Raimi and Guillermo del Toro. Too many movies are made to please audiences, copy each other, and lack a compelling story, Stone said at a session moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell. “I don’t see the difference between one action movie and another…It becomes a form of torture for the eyes. CIA torture: I’d make you watch GI Joe 3,000 times. Just kidding.” All of the directors said that they enjoy seeing their movies in theaters with audiences. “It’s almost like a theater actor who calibrates [his] performance,” del Toro said adding that being a director “is very lonely.” Raimi described himself as “definitely an audience filmmaker….We’re working to move that audience.” But Stone said it’s dangerous for filmmakers to “run after them like dogs” because difficult films “won’t get audiences slavering.” For example, he said that in “the good old days” he didn’t allow Warner Bros to have previews for his film JFK telling execs “you’re going to get mixed cards all over the place. We’ll never get out of here alive.” Del Toro agreed that directors must fulfill their own vision, something he has tried to do in his horror films. “You can’t make a cozy horror film.” If someone screen-tested The Exorcist today many would object “because it’s transgressive.” Read More »

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‘Savages’ Author Don Winslow Hits A Double On Bestseller Lists

Mike Fleming

In my view, there hasn’t been a quality author more underrated than Don Winslow. He hooked me with The Winter of Frankie Machine and Power of the Dog, but various turns in turnaround hell on his movies has made him a well kept secret for close to two decades. While I think that Universal miscalculated by moving the Oliver Stone-directed Savages from its fall berth to last weekend on not enough screens (the films Ted and Magic Mike provided stiff competition in the counter-programming to blockbusters niche that the studio sought for Savages), Winslow’s novel Savages has just gotten back on The New York Times bestseller list, and so has The Kings of Cool, his recently released prequel to the audacious drug tale. Read More »

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#1 ‘Spider-Man’ Blazes $341.2M July 4th Week; Hits ‘Ted’, ‘Brave’, ‘Magic Mike’ Still Hot; New ‘Savages’ Warm, ‘Katy Perry’ Cold

July 6-8 Weekend Actuals

1. The Amazing Spider-Man 3D (Columbia/Sony) Week 1 [4,318 Theaters] PG13
Friday $20.5M, Saturday $23.7M, Sunday $17.9M Weekend $62M, Cume $137.0M
International Cume $201.6M, Global Cume $338.6M

2. Ted (Universal) Week 2 [3,256 Theaters] R
Friday $10.6M, Saturday $11.9M, Sunday $9.7M, Weekend $32.2M (-41%), Cume $119.8M International $15.0M, Global Cume $134.8M

3. Brave 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 3 [3,891 Theaters] PG
Friday $6.3M, Saturday $7.8M, Sunday $5.5M, Weekend $19.6M (-43%), Cume $174.0M, International Cume $36.6M, Global Cume $210.6M

4. Savages (Universal) NEW [2,628 Theaters] R
Friday $5.7M, Saturday $5.6M, Sunday $4.7M, Weekend $16.0M

5. Magic Mike (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,120 Theaters] R
Friday $6.1M, Saturday $5.6M, Sunday, $3.9M, Weekend $15.6M (-60%), Cume $72.8M

6. Madea’s Witness Protection (TPerry/Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,161 Theaters] PG13
Friday $3.5M, Saturday $4.1M, Sunday $2.6M, Weekend $10.2M (-60%), Cume $45.8M

7. Madasgascar 3 3D (DreamWorks Anim/Paramount) Week 5 [2,861 Theaters] PG
Friday $2.4M, Saturday $3.1M, Sunday $2.1M, Weekend $7.5M (-37%), Cume $195.9M

8. Katy Perry: Part Of Me 3D (Insurge/Paramount) Week 1 [2,730 Theaters] PG
Friday $2.7M, Saturday $2.5M, Sunday $2.0M, Weekend $7.1M, Cume $10.2M

9. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) Week 7 [884 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.9M, Sunday $1.2M, Weekend $4.5M (-8%), Cume $26.8M

10. To Rome With Love (Sony Classics) Week 3 [806 Theaters] R
Friday $865K, Saturday $1.4M, Sunday $867K, Weekend $3.1M (+350%), Cume $4.9M

SUNDAY AM, 10TH UPDATE: This big $200M moviegoing weekend is bringing out crowds post Fourth Of July and looking +28% from last year. Sony/Columbia’s The Amazing Spider-Man is an easy #1 with a $65M first weekend. That gives the 3D reboot a 6-day total of $140M through Sunday and $341.2M cume worldwide. The film opened last weekend in 13 countries and this weekend is open in a total of 70 territories. It grossed an estimated $129.1M this weekend, bringing the overseas cume to $201.6M. In North America, the film sold $20.6M in tickets on Friday, then went up 15% on Saturday to $23.8M, and is expected to do approximately $20.5M today. ”In the world of relaunched franchises, this is a  spectacular success by any measure,” Sony gushed. For example, Batman Begins relaunched with $48.7M in 2005 and $79.5M in its first 6 days. For the Spidet reboot, 75% of the audience for the opening were general moviegoers aged 12+, and 25% were families (parents with children under 12). Of those 12 years old or older, 58% were male and 42% female, 46% were under age 25 and 54% were 25 and older. Of the children who attended under 12, 65% were boys and 35% were girls, while 73% were under 10 years old. The film received an ‘A-’ Cinemascore “and that strong word of mouth is also supported by our own exit scores with very high definite recommend numbers across all demos,” Sony said. Approximately 44% of the weekend’s gross came from 3D with IMAX accounting for 10%. IMAX took in $14.3M for the 6 days ($47K per screen). All in all a nice haul, but only middling when it comes to top moneymakers for any first 6-day time period. Especially considering Spidey is Marvel’s most popular character. Little wonder that Sony is fast-tracking the next installment of its new trilogy with fresh villains and storylines that should spark more interest and box office in this too-soon reboot that was just a retread of the original origins saga.

Meanwhile, Universal’s #2 holdover Ted is still strong domestically with a $32.5M domestic weekend and a fantastic 10-day cume of $120.2M. Audiences were starved for a smart laugher. It’s now eclipsing Hangover as the biggest R-rated comedy. Both Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane can write their own ticket by Monday. (I still can’t believe Fox passed…) The foul-mouthed teddy bear also will be the #1 film in Australia this weekend after opening against the web-spinner. Ouch! Overseas total from just Down Under and Taiwan is $15M.

Related: ‘Ted’ Opens ‘Off The Charts’ In Australia

The newest major studio film, Oliver Stone’s adult crime drama Savages, is looking like $16.1M for the weekend. That’s a better than expected opening for a violent ‘Hard R’ pic with no proven stars. As you know, Universal made the decision to move this R-rated actioner from the safe harbor of a September 28th release (where The Town, a similar R-rated crime film, performed so well in 2010) to this very crowded summer slot. As a result, Savages could only release on 2,627 screens. Dumb move? Those better-than-average trailers made this look like a perfect fall movie. But the studio felt midweek numbers would be better and Savages could counterprogram Ice Age 4 next weekend. On the other hand, audiences gave Savages only a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, which will result in poor word-of-mouth. Good thing it was made for only $45M.

Struggling is the $12M low budget Katy Perry’s Part Of Me which will do around $7.1M for its first weekend and $10.2M for its first 4 days in release. “I guess it will take 5 days to gross its budget,” a Paramount exec joked about the Insurge pic’s cold reception at the box office. Earth to Hollywood: no one cares about Katy beyond a handful of tween/teen girls. Not even Russell Brand anymore.

Meanwhile, Woody Allen’s critically panned To Rome With Love from Sony Classics exanded into the Top Ten based on weekend estimates. Refined numbers in the morning along with analysis of the 10-day holiday box office:

1. The Amazing Spider-Man 3D (Columbia/Sony) Week 1 [4,318 Theaters] PG13
Friday $20.6M, Saturday $23.8M, Weekend $65M, Cume $140M
International Cume $201.6M, Global Cume $341.2M

2. Ted (Universal) Week 2 [3,256 Theaters] R
Friday $10.5M, Saturday $11.8M, Weekend $32.5M (-49%), Cume $120.2M
International $15.0M, Global Cume $135.2M

3. Brave 3D (Pixar/Disney) Week 3 [3,891 Theaters] PG
Friday $6.2M, Saturday $7.7M, Weekend $20.1M, Cume $174.5M
International Cume $36.6M, Global Cume $211.1M

4. Savages (Universal) NEW [2,628 Theaters] R
Friday $5.6M, Saturday $5.6M, Weekend $16.1M

5. Magic Mike (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,120 Theaters] R
Friday $6.1M, Saturday $5.5M, Weekend $15.6M (-60%), Cume $72.2M

6. Madea’s Witness Protection (TPerry/Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,161 Theaters]
Friday $3.4M, Saturday $4.1M, Weekend $10.2M (-60%), Cume $45.8M

7. Madasgascar 3 3D (DreamWorks Anim/Paramount) Week 5 [2,861 Theaters] PG
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $3.0M, Weekend $7.7M, Cume $196.0M

8. Katy Perry: Part Of Me 3D (Insurge/Paramount) Week 1 [2,730 Theaters] PG
Friday $2.7M, Saturday $2.4M, Weekend $7.1M, Cume $10.2M

9. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) Week 6 [884 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.6M, Cume $26.8M

10. To Rome With Love (Sony Classics) Week 3 [806 Theaters] R
Friday $860K, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.5M, Cume $5.2M
Read More »

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‘Savages’ Clips Introduce Lead Characters In New Oliver Stone Film: Video

By | Tuesday June 12, 2012 @ 1:15pm PDT

Here are five clips released by Universal to promote Oliver Stone’s new film Savages with cast members Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro and Blake Lively. The movie is set to open in the U.S. on July 6. The first video features Johnson, with the rest on the jump.

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Hot Trailer: Oliver Stone’s ‘Savages’

Mike Fleming

Universal has released its first trailer for Savages, the Oliver Stone-directed adaptation of the bestselling Don Winslow novel about two pot growers from Laguna who are muscled by a Mexican drug cartel. When the cartel kidnaps the woman they share, the growers come up with a novel but dangerous way to pay the ransom. The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch and Demian Bichir. The script was written by Shane Salerno & Winslow & Stone. Universal was impressed enough to move the film from fall into the July 6 slot. The trailer will play in front of American Reunion.


Movie TrailersMovie News

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Simon & Schuster Shifts Pub Date Of ‘Savages’ Prequel To Coincide With Film Release

By | Wednesday February 29, 2012 @ 4:06pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Simon & Schuster has moved the publication date of the Don Winslow novel The Kings Of Cool from fall to June 26. The move was made to bring the book closer to the launch of Savages, the Oliver Stone-directed adaptation of Winslow’s novel that stars Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson and Blake Lively. The Kings Of Cool is a prequel to Savages. After seeing Stone’s cut, Universal Pictures moved Savages from September 28 to July 6, where the film’s summer setting seemed more appropriate and because it seemed like a neat counterprogramming to some of those summer behemoths. S&S is also releasing the Savages movie tie-in novel May 29, and the trade paperback movie tie-in novel on June 5.

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Oliver Stone Starrer ‘Graystone’ Lands U.S. Rights

By | Wednesday February 15, 2012 @ 4:14pm PST

ARC Entertainment and XLrator Media picked up domestic rights to supernatural horror film Graystone by actor-writer Sean Stone who will star in the feature along with his father Oliver Stone. The younger Stone has appeared as an actor in all of his father’s films from Salvador to Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Also starring Alexander Wraith, Antonella Lentini, John Schramm, Monique Zordan and Monique Van Vooren, Graystone follows three aspiring filmmakers trying to document unexplainable events in an abandoned insane asylum known as Graystone. The trio stumble across a mysterious realm of escaped patients, ghosts and demonic shadows, as they try to uncover the mystery behind the asylum. Sean Stone and Alex Wraith wrote the screenplay to the feature that is produced by Giulia Prenna of Mind the GAP Productions and Kaila York of Headlong Entertainment. The deal was negotiated by Barry Gordon, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Marina Fuentes of 6 Sales, which co-repped the US with CAA. 6 Sales is handling international sales. Recent ARC Entertainment/XLRator Media releases include Ironclad, John Carpenter’s The Ward, Bunraku, Killing Bono and the award-winning Sundance documentary Knuckle.  

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Universal Moves Oliver Stone’s ‘Savages’ From Fall To July 6 Opening

By | Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 6:47am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Looks like Universal Pictures smells a summer hit in Savages, the Oliver Stone-directed adaptation of the bestselling Don Winslow novel. After screening a cut late last week, the studio has moved the film up to a July 6 slot. It had been scheduled to be released September 28. That puts it right in the heat of the summer with a shot at counter-programming against the tentpoles. Sony opens The Amazing Spider-Man on July 4 and Fox’s Ice Age sequel opens July 13 (along with the Universal-distributed Seth MacFarlane-directed comedy Ted). The Dark Knight Rises follows on July 17.

Scripted by Shane Salerno & Winslow & Stone, the film focuses on Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), two pot growers who refuse to knuckle under to a Mexican cartel and then have to find a way out after the cartel kidnaps the free-spirited girl they share (Blake Lively), who’ll be killed if the pot growers don’t capitulate and pay a huge ransom. They do it by ripping off the cartel’s shipments, a most dangerous game. The film also stars Benicio Del Toro, freshly Oscar-nominated Demian Bichir, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Emile Hirsch, Twilight Saga‘s Mia Maestro and Salma Hayek. Simon & Schuster recently announced it would publish a prequel novel by Winslow to coincide with the film’s fall release, and it will be interesting to see if the publisher moves … Read More »

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Simon & Schuster To Coincide Don Winslow Prequel Novel Bow With Release Of Oliver Stone-Directed ‘Savages’

By | Thursday January 5, 2012 @ 10:07am PST
Mike Fleming

New York, NY, January 4, 2012: Simon and Schuster announced today that Don Winslow’s The Kings of Cool, the much-anticipated prequel to his New York Times bestseller Savages will be published to coincide with the release of Academy Award winning filmmaker Oliver Stone’s major film of Savages from Universal Pictures in September 2012. Savages stars Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights, John Carter, Battleship), Blake Lively (Gossip Girl, The Town), Demian Bichir (A Better Life), Aaron Johnson (Anna Karenina), two-time Oscar nominee John Travolta, Oscar nominee Uma Thurman, Emile Hirsch (Milk), Mia Maestro (Twilight) and Oscar nominee Salma Hayek. The screenplay is written by Shane Salerno & Don Winslow & Oliver Stone.

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R.I.P. Bruno Rubeo

By | Tuesday November 15, 2011 @ 8:21am PST

Oscar-nominated production designer Bruno Rubeo, who was a frequent collaborator with Taylor Hackford and Oliver Stone, died November 3rd in Trevi, Italy of complications from pneumonia. He was 65. According to his official bio, Rubeo was born in Rome and served in the Italian Navy before immigrating to Canada where he worked as an Art Director on several TV and independent film projects. His big break came in 1986 when Stone tapped him to design Salvador. Stone and Rubeo collaborated on three more films: Best Picture Oscar winner Platoon as well as Talk Radio and Born On The Fourth Of July. In 1989, Rubeo served as Production Designer on Bruce Beresford’s Academy Award winner Driving Miss Daisy and received an Academy Award nomination. In 1992, Rubeo began working with Hackford on the Chicano gang epic Blood In, Blood Out. This relationship became Rubeo’s longest professional collaboration, resulting in five films, including Dolores Clairborne, Devil’s Advocate, Proof Of Life, and Love Ranch. (Rubeo joked that his relationship with Hackford was “A marriage without sex”.) Rubeo also designed films for Ivan Reitman, Mike Newell, John McTiernan, and John Amiel. His wife is Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo (Apocalypto, Avatar, John Carter),  and his son is prolific Art Director Marco Rubeo.

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Warner Bros Acquires Post-WWII Don Winslow Novel ‘Satori’ For Leonardo DiCaprio

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired the Don Winslow bestselling novel Satori and will develop it as a star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio to play a Westerner, raised in Japan and taught an assassin’s skills, who gets caught up in the chaos of post-WWII as the U.S., Soviet Union, France and China maneuver for power in Southeast Asia in the early 1950s. Shane Salerno will write the script with Winslow, and John Lesher’s Grisdi Productions and DiCaprio’s Appian Way partner Jennifer Killoran are producing. Salerno is executive producer.

DiCaprio will play Nicholai Hel, raised in Japan by a martial arts expert and genius at Go, the complex chess-like Japanese game. The master, a Japanese general, passes on all his secrets and the student repays him by murdering his mentor as an act of devotion; the military leader would have been disgraced and killed as a war criminal.

Leonardo DiCaprioFor that act, Hel is thrown in solitary confinement in a Tokyo prison and tortured for three years. He is finally sprung by the CIA after agreeing to assassinate the Soviet commissioner to China. Hel is trained for the task by a beautiful French woman he falls in love with. Though he now sees a happy ending to the dangerous assignment, Hel is betrayed by his backers and, using his Go skills for strategy, makes his way through Vietnam hunted by American, Chinese, Russian and French intelligence agencies as well as a Corsican mob and Vietnamese criminal syndicate. It’s a sophisticated thriller, and the studio sees potential for its own Jason Bourne-type action franchise. Read More »

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Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson Re-Upped Through 2014

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: NBCUniversal’s new owners at Comcast have given a vote of confidence to the studio’s feature film operation. They’ve exercised an option on Universal Pictures’ Chairman Adam Fogelson and extended his contract through 2014. I’m told that Fogelson is, in turn, in the process of exercising the option of Donna Langley and she will continue as the studio’s co-chairman. They will also keep their executive team intact. Fogelson will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and will now also report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke.

While Universal has had its ups and downs, higher-ups are clearly convinced that Fogelson, Langley and their team are making progress. They’ve had recent hits –Bridesmaids, Hop! and Fast Five– but also had some recent misses that include The Dilemma, Change-Up and Cowboys & Aliens. In the latter case, the studio was on the hook for one-third of the film, and shared that third with Relativity Media. It has also been a year in which Fogelson and his team have made some painful decisions and let pricey productions go. That began with the Guillermo Del Toro-directed At the Mountains of Madness, which Universal developed for years and which was ready to go with Tom Cruise, until the studio made a late decision not to go forward because of the possibility the $150M film could carry an R-rating. Universal also dropped two projects that were in advanced  stages of development: The Dark Tower, the Akiva Goldsman-directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel series that was to be made into three feature films and two limited-run TV series, with the first film and TV segment directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer and Goldsman; and Oiuja, the Hasbro board game that had McG directing and Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners producing with Hasbro. The moves were surprising because Howard and Grazer are cornerstone filmmakers for Universal; and Del Toro and Hasbro have overall deals there. Ouija is one of several Hasbro properties the studio dropped, the others being the Gore Verbinski-directed Clue, the Ridley Scott-directed Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. These were part of a groundbreaking deal the studio made with the toymaker several years ago, but the studio and Hasbro have re-focused their attention solely on Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, and Candy Land. Read More »

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Q&A: Brian Grazer And Ron Howard On 25 Years Together As Imagine Partners

Mike Fleming

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: I’ve watched filmmaker partnerships fail because of jealousy, ego, greed, or lack of sustained success. Why have you avoided those pitfalls?
HOWARD: The bi-coastal relationship!

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. Read More »

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Don Winslow To Write Prequel To ‘Savages’ As Oliver Stone Ramps Up Production

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Simon & Schuster has made a deal for Don Winslow to write a prequel novel to Savages, his bestseller that forms the basis of the film that Oliver Stone will begin shooting for Universal Pictures July 6, with Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Emile Hirsch, Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro starring. Simon & Schuster’s Jofie Ferrari-Adler acquired the book from CAA. The Story Factory made his publishing deal.

Savages, a book that got wide acclaim last year before its paperback publication (The New York Times named it one of the top 10 books of 2010), focuses on a couple of Laguna-based pot growers who are muscled by a Mexican drug cartel that kidnaps O, a young woman who’s their best friend and occasional bed partner. Faced with an impossibly high ransom, the growers begin hijacking the cartel’s own shipments to ransom back their friend. That book has something of a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid climax, so a sequel wasn’t in the cards. The idea of the prequel book came from Shane Salerno, who wrote the movie script with Winslow and Stone. The prequel fleshes out the relationship between the pot growers (played by Kitsch and Johnson) and O (played by Lively), and will add interaction with characters from Winslow’s other novels that include The Winter of Frankie Machine and The Power of the Dog. Winslow is already deep into the writing and … Read More »

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