The future of the Randall Miller-directed Midnight Rider is in question nearly four months after camera assistant Sarah Jones was struck and killed by a train on set. The latest lawsuit in the case was filed this week making the fate of the Gregg Allman biopic all the more murky, Deadline's Jen Yamato and Dominic Patten report.
The lawsuits are piling up following the February 20 train accident that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones on the Georgia set of Midnight Rider. Makeup artist Antonyia Verna and her husband Richard Brewer filed a suit June 12 in Chatham County seeking damages against the film’s producers and additional parties, naming 16 defendants as responsible in the tragedy that left Verna injured alongside Jones and five other crew members. Verna is suing over damages she suffered in the accident, including physical injuries, medical expenses, post-traumatic stress, and pain and suffering.
The lawsuit is the latest in a mounting legal skirmish over the incident that occurred during filming on the Gregg Allman biopic helmed by Randall Miller. He and producer Jody Savin, their Unclaimed Freight production banner, location scout Charley Baxter, exec producers Nick Gant, Michael Lehman, Don Mandrik, and Jay Sedrish, 1st AD Hillary Schwartz, Gant’s Meddin Studios, property owner Rayonier, railroad company CSX Transportation, and distributor Open Road Films are named in the new suit. The defendants also were named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Jones last month seeking unspecified damages “for the full value of Sarah’s life.”
UPDATE, 9:55 AM:Open Road has made it official, announcing this morning that it acquired Jon Stewart‘s Rosewater. A fall release is planned and the OddLot-financed adaptation will be shown and to select buyers in Cannes. The full release is below our original exclusive.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, FRIDAY PM : Open Road is nearing a deal to acquire U.S. rights to Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s feature directorial debut Rosewater, an adaptation of the Maziar Bahari book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity And Survival. Stewart wrote the script and took a summer hiatus from his Comedy Central show to direct. OddLot Entertainment fully financed the film and Gigi Pritzker and Scott Rudin produced it.
EXCLUSIVE: In its latest aggressive pre-buy to line its slate with star-driven pictures, Open Road Films has on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival closed a deal to acquire U.S. rights to The Gunman, the action thriller that stars Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Jasmine Trinca. It was directed by Taken helmer Pierre Morel. The film was expected to be one of the hot titles for domestic distribution at the market that starts next week. The deal was made by Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg and Studiocanal chairman/CEO Olivier Courson. It is a commitment for a big wide release.
Based on the Jean-Patrick Manchette novel The Prone Gunman, the film stars Penn as a former Special Forces soldier and military contractor suffering from PTSD. He tries to reconnect with his longtime love, but first must go on the run from London to Barcelona and across Europe in order to clear his name. Joel Silver, Andrew Rona and Sean Penn are the producers. Adrian Guerra and Peter McAleese are exec producers. It is one of Studiocanal’s biggest productions to date. Read More »
Filmmaker Jon Favreau takes a break from comic books and cowboys to return to his comedic roots with Chef. And while it’s easy to align Chef next to such Favreau faves as Swingers and Made, the title is more prime for the comfort food subgenre of chef-in-crisis cinema that includes such films as Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s Big Night, James L. Brooks’ Spanglish and Sandra Nettlebeck’s Mostly Martha. Favreau plays Los Angeles Master Chef Carl Casper, who locks horns with his restaurant boss (Dustin Hoffman) after a blogger (Oliver Platt) slams their menu. Casper makes lemonade out of lemons by launching his own food truck in the city with the help of his co-worker (John Leguizamo). Also along for the ride are Favreau’s Marvel theater company duo of Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson, as well as Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale and Amy Sedaris. Open Road acquired rights to Chef in June and will release the film stateside on May 9, Mother’s Day weekend. Reviews coming out of SXSW were largely upbeat. Sample for yourself:
EXCLUSIVE: Open Road Films has just completed a deal to pre-buy domestic distribution rights on Triple Nine, the John Hillcoat-directed heist thriller, which begins production this summer with a killer cast. Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan, Breaking Bad and Need For Speed‘s Aaron Paul, Warm Bodies’ Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs. Superman film) and End Of Watch‘s Michael Pena are in talks to join previously announced 12 Years A Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor, Out of the Furnace’s Casey Affleck and Kate Winslet. Hillcoat, who just helmed that distinctive Super Bowl spot for Coke, wrote the script with Matt Cook. Open Road will release the film in 2015.
The rights deal comes on the eve of the European Film Market, where Sierra/Affinity is handling international sales for the project and will sell select territories in Berlin. In the drama, a crew of dirty cops is blackmailed by the Russian mob to execute a virtually impossible heist. The only way to pull it off is to manufacture a 999, police code for “officer down”. Their plan is turned upside down when the unsuspecting rookie they set up to die foils the attack, triggering a breakneck, action-packed finale filled with double-crosses, greed and revenge. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: A week before Sundance, Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road Films is strengthening its film acquisition team by hiring Peter Lawson and giving him the newly created title of executive vice president of Productions and Acquisitions. Lawson is a top-flight acquisitions exec who served stints most recently at The Weinstein Company and before that Miramax. He left to get a taste of production experience in big-sized studio films by joining Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road as production president.
After two years, I’m hearing that he has shaken up his career GPS and is taking the exit from Thunder Road onto Open Road. Before he left TWC, Lawson worked on such films as the John Hillcoat-directed Lawless, The Iron Lady, The Company Men, Blue Valentine, The Intouchables and the docus Undefeated, Bully and The Tillman Story. At Miramax, his acquisition deals included The Diving Bell And The Butterfly. Before that at First Look Pictures, he bought Chopper and Hillcoat’s The Proposition.
Lawson takes the job after wrapping the Keanu Reeves-starrer John Wick, on which he is exec producer for Thunder Road. There, he set up remakes of the French organized crime thriller Gang Story, the French crime thriller 36 and an Arash Amel-scripted film about Marie Colvin based on the Marie Brenner Vanity Fair article. Awaiting confirmation from Open Road but expect Lawson to once again be a familiar face in Park City.
Spike TV has grabbed the broadcast TV premieres of Open Road‘s Homefront — which hits theaters next month – Machete Kills, End Of Watch, The Grey and Killer Elite. The first to air will be Killer Elite, which premieres November 11 on the cable net. The first-position windows for the remaining films are spread out through 2016.
BREAKING: Open Road Films has made a first look distribution agreement to release select IM Global titles in the U.S. Open Road CEO made Tom Ortenberg and IM Global CEO Stuart Ford made the deal. This comes after the two companies worked together on the hit A Haunted House last January. The sequel comes in March.
“Stuart Ford and his partners at Reliance Entertainment have built a formidable business and reputation with great projects under their belt and many more in the pipeline,” stated Ortenberg. “We’ve had success together on A Haunted House and are looking forward to more great things in the future.”
Said Ford, “Open Road has established itself as a pre-eminent mini-major in the U.S. distribution arena and it will be a privilege for many of our forthcoming releases to be handled by Tom Ortenberg and his team.”
BREAKING: Open Road Films CEO Tom Ortenberg has re-upped for another four years through 2018, solidifying the distribution company. Ortenberg founded Open Road in 2011, backed by theater chains AMC and Regal. The move comes after Open Road extended its $100 million credit facility and set premium pay TV deals through Showtime and Netflix. Ortenberg’s deal was to scheduled to expire next year. “Working with AMC and Regal to establish Open Road Films — and growing the company over the past two and a half years — has been the most satisfying and exhilarating experience of my career,” Ortenberg said in a statement. “I could not be more proud of the job our team has done so far and I am looking forward to the future with great excitement.”
In Ortenberg, AMC and Regal got a savvy pro to launch a company designed to acquire and distribute wide release fare. Ortenberg previously served top posts at The Weinstein Company and Lionsgate. Open Road finds itself in an interesting position, given that one of its main wide release rivals, FilmDistrict, is being folded into Focus Features with the ascension of Peter Schlessel to take over the Universal-based prestige film label. It is unclear how that will impact competition, but even if Focus does more genre fare it gives Open Road room to breathe. Read More »
Animated 3D pic The Nut Job follows the adventures of a mischievous squirrel named Surly and his rat friend buddy as they plan a nut store heist. Voice cast includes Will Arnett as Surly, along with Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, Stephen Lang, Sarah Gadon and Jeff Dunham. The film is directed by Peter Lepeniotis and scripted by Lorne Cameron and Lepeniotis, and based on the latter’s 2005 short film Surly Squirrel. Open Road releases the pic on January 17, 2014. Here’s a first peek:
UPDATE: Open Road just confirmed Deadline’s scoop on this deal. Release appears below original story break.
EXCLUSIVE: And the Toronto film deals keep coming. Open Road and XLrator have closed an acquisition deal for U.S. rights toAll Is By My Side, the Jimi Hendrix film that John Ridley wrote and directed with OutKast’s Andre Benjamin playing rock’s greatest guitarist in his formative years. The pic also stars Heyley Atwell, Imogen Poots, Ruth Negga and Adrian Lester. All Is By My Side first screened Saturday night at the Elgin. Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg and XLrator’s Barry Gordon made the deal.
The film covers Hendrix’s early years as he failed to find footing in the U.S., found his mojo in England and then returned to America with guitar chops so ferocious that he reportedly made guys like The Who’s Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton contemplate other careers when they first saw his act onstage. Or at least that’s how the apocryphal tale goes. Read More »
Open Road is boasting the first-ever Instagram movie trailer with its new 15-second social media spot for Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. It trumps the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 6-second blitz of Twitter‘s Vine app, which just a few months back was positioning itself as Hollywood’s hip new marketing tool. Or does it? Jobs hits theaters August 16. Watch:
Open Road has released a new trailer for JOBS, the film that stars Ashton Kutcher as Apple genius Steve Jobs. The movie is certainly getting some buzz before its August 16 debut, as Steve Wozniak (who is portrayed by Josh Gad) appeared on Piers Morgan Live last night and vowed to keep an open mind about the film until he watched it. The pic debuted at Sundance and chronicles Jobs’ ascension from college dropout to one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern and written by Matthew Whiteley, JOBS stars Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons and Matthew Modine.
Open Road has shifted two of its upcoming releases: the Robert Rodriguez-directed Danny Trejo-starrer Machete Kills is moving to October 4 from its earlier September 13 perch, and the Jason Statham and James Franco-starrer Homefront moves to November 27 from its previously announced October 4 date. Machete Kills stars Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Demián Bichir, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding, Jr., William Sadler, Marko Zaror and Mel Gibson. Trejo returns as the blade-happy ex-Federale agent, who this time is recruited by the President of the United States for a mission which would be impossible for any mortal man – he must take down a madman revolutionary and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer who has hatched a plan to spread war and anarchy across the planet. I believe Gibson plays the anarchist. Script is by Kyle Ward based on a story by Marcel and Robert Rodriguez, latter of whom produces with Aaron Kaufman and Iliana Nikolic through their QuickDraw Productions banner, as well as Sergei Bespalov of Aldamisa Films, Alexander Rodnyansky of AR Films, and Rick Schwartz of Overnight Films.
The Gary Fleder-directed Homefront stars Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, and Frank Grillo, with a script by Sylvester Stallone, based on the book by Chuck Logan. Statham plays a widowed ex-DEA agent who retires to a small town for the sake of his 10-year-old daughter. The only … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: ITN has dated its grindhouse indie Danny Trejo’s Vengeance to arrive on August 28, deliberately opening two weeks ahead of star Danny Trejo‘s other actioner, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills. Filmmaker Gil Medina hasn’t made a ton of friends with his bold strategy of piggybacking off of P&A for the Open Road-released Machete sequel, which ITN hopes will boost interest in their rival Trejo pic. Unorthodox Medina’s gone directly to smaller exhibitors around the country offering highly desirable splits ranging from 50/50 to 80/20 in select markets. So far he’s struck deals or is in talks to book with chains including Cinemark, Carmike, Harkins, and Megaplex Theatres to run his film ahead of Machete Kills, whose distributor Open Road is owned by top chains AMC and Regal. “I’ve been told that these chains do not care to do any favors for Open Road,” Medina told me. Utah-based Megaplex Theatres even booked the bloody revenge pic, which was shot in-state, despite its relatively conservative market. Read More »
Robert Rodriguez‘s sequel to the 2010 grindhouse-inspired Machete seems to be amping up the camp (over blood and guts) with its first trailer that dropped today. Danny Trejo is back for Machete Kills as the blade-savvy former Mexican Federale, as is Michelle Rodriguez. Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Demian Bichir, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding Jr, William Sadler, Marko Zaror and Mel Gibson co-star. Plans are for a trilogy, so there’s more where this came from if this one does anywhere near the first pic, which made $44M worldwide on a $10M-ish production budget. Open Road is releasing it September 13.
BREAKING: The release date of the Steve Jobs biopic that stars Ashton Kutcher has quietly been postponed. jOBS, which closed the Sundance Film Festival this year, had been set by Five Star Films and its distributor Open Road for April 19. It has moved off that date, and a new date has not been determined. Five Star made a service release deal with Open Road before the festival started, and the film’s backers were eager to release on the month marks the 37th anniversary of Jobs founding Apple. They’ve found instead that there wasn’t enough time to prepare for a proper release and create buzz for the film. The pic, directed by Joshua Michael Stern and written by Matthew Whiteley, details the major moments and defining characters that influenced Jobs covering the years 1971-2001.