EXCLUSIVE: Hot off the hit sequel Taken 2, director Olivier Megaton has been set by Emmett/Furla Films to next helm the $60 million action thriller Taking Gotham. The Thomas Kelly-scripted film, based on actual events, is about a secret unit of the NYPD that was created in response to a string of brutal robberies in New York City. After a deadly sting operation, the elite unit is disavowed by the NYPD, forcing them to go deep underground in order to clear their names. Production will get underway next March. The film earlier had Brass Monkey helmer Nicolai Fuglsig attached, but it will be Megaton who directs this, and casting will begin immediately.
Taken 2 helmer Olivier Megaton will direct Land Of The Living, an abduction thriller scripted by Sean Gullette. It’s an adaptation of the British novel by Nicci French (the pseudonym of British husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerard and Sean French). The film will be produced by Emjag’s Alexandra Milchan, Stone Village’s Scott Steindorff, Battleplan Productions’ Marc Frydman, Film 360′s Scott Lambert, and Dro Entertainment’s Peter Fruchtman. Stone Village’s Dylan Russell and Scott LaStaiti will executive produce the film. Shooting is expected to begin in January 2013. Scott Pictures — Stone Village’s finance arm — is fully financing the film, which tells the story of Abbie Devereaux, a young advertising executive who is abducted on the streets of Los Angeles, manages to escape and — with almost no help from the police — tracks down her would-be killer.
The current wave of French directors making Hollywood films seems to have taken Jean-Luc Godard’s advice (“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl”), amped it up with a healthy dash of special effects or 3D and taken it to the bank.
Louis Leterrier, director of The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans, will in January be making Summit’s movie about magicians who rob banks during performances Now You See Me, with Star Trek writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci producing. Fred Cavayé, director of the original French version of the Russell Crowe-thriller The Next Three Days, is in talks with studios to remake his latest, Point Blank.
“I grew up watching American movies, so my lexicon is American directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas,” Leterrier said. “These movies seeped into my artistic DNA. At the same time, because Paris is the capital of world cinema, I was also watching French films, German cinema or kung fu movies from Hong Kong. What makes me and other French directors different from Americans is that we were feeding ourselves from other cultures.”
The communication revolution and modern travel realities are making it easier for French helmers to cross over to Hollywood. Today an agent in Beverly Hills can watch something online and make contact pretty within hours. “There’s a fluid traffic in information,” says Ron Halpern, executive vice-president of international production at Studio Canal. “The world has gotten smaller. The speed of communication means that foreign directors are on people’s radars much quicker. And when a studio is looking for something fresh and interesting, a foreign eye can often bring something.”
Sony Pictures has issued a trailer for Colombiana, which stars Avatar’s Zoe Saldana as a stone-cold assassin. It’s directed by Olivier Megaton, whom Deadline was the first to tell you would be directing Liam Neeson in Taken 2. The pic is written by the Taken team of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.
UPDATE: Liam Neeson and Luc Besson have come to a meeting of the minds and they have worked out the scheduling snafu that made him iffy for Taken 2. Neeson’s reps at CAA are now closing the deal for Neeson to reprise what has become a signature role. Production is now being eyed for year end or beginning of 2012. Neeson will stick to his plan to take the rest of the year off, after completing the Clash of the Titans sequel he’s shooting in London. He has been working almost nonstop, wrapping The Grey for Joe Carnahan and Battleship for Peter Berg.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE: A fascinating drama has been playing out over the past few weeks on Taken 2, the sequel to the surprise global hit film hatched by Luc Besson that reinvigorated Liam Neeson. I’m told Besson has teamed on a script with Robert Mark Kamen, and that he’s in talks with his Transporter 3 director Olivier Megaton to direct the sequel. But he has been dealing with a huge problem: Neeson has all but withdrawn from reprising his role as Bryan Mills, the retired government operative who in the 2008 original decimated the Paris underworld to free his kidnapped daughter. The reason isn’t money, but rather scheduling: Besson wants to shoot it this year and Neeson wants to take time off. Continuing without Neeson is hard to imagine, but I’ve heard Besson has gone as far …