Paramount has released the second trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic Noah starring Russell Crowe. Co-star Emma Watson intros the latest look at the pic after the trailer debuted earlier in the day on her social media feeds. There’s been plenty of back and forth on the Paramount-New …
Transformers: Age Of Extinction isn’t due in theaters until June 27 , but the first real trailer for the Michael Bay pic is here now. As was teased during the 30-second spot that ran during the Super Bowl last month, it looks like it’s a whole new world …
EXCLUSIVE: Big news on the MLK movie front. Paramount is in final negotiations to acquire domestic distribution rights to Selma, a feature drama about Martin Luther King‘s 1965 landmark voting rights campaign regarded as the peak of the civil rights movement, and none other than Oprah Winfrey has boarded the project as producer. Paramount is tying down U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to the film. Ava DuVernay, who came aboard the project in July, rewrote the original script by Paul Webb and slipped it to Winfrey, who sparked to DuVernay’s rewrite. We’ve been waiting for a strong cinematic tribute to the iconic civil rights leader, and this remarkably becomes the second MLK project that Winfrey is involved with. Her Harpo also is behind a seven-part HBO miniseries America: In the King Years. Selma is on a much faster track. The plan is to get rolling in front of cameras as soon as possible. Lining up a domestic deal and a name of Winfrey’s caliber were key to getting the ball rolling, and when the deal makes production is expected to start right away. Pathe UK, Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Christian Colson are already aboard as producers.
Winfrey’s presence both on and off the screen was a big reason Lee Daniels’ The Butler traveled so well overseas. The Butler has grossed $167.7 million to date — more than $50M of that internationally. This gives Selma a leg up on the other two major features that are percolating. Oliver Stone last month saw a script rewrite on his MLK biopic rejected by DreamWorks and Warner Bros, and it caused him to back out of the project. Meanwhile, Paul Greengrass still isn’t ready to move on his biopic Memphis that he plans to make with Scott Rudin.
The casting for one of the key characters in Paramount and Skydance Productions’ Terminator: Genesis is almost complete — but not finalized. What’s true is that Jai Courtney has been offered the role of Kyle Reese, a gig that figures to span at least two movies that will end the story of Skynet’s battle with the resistance that began with James Cameron’s two films and two more that followed. As we told you last week, it was down to Courtney and Boyd Holbrook to land the Reese role originated by Michael Beihn in the first pic. If the Courtney deal makes, he will join Arnold Schwarzenegger as the signature cyborg, Game Of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke as Sara Connor and Zero Dark Thirty’s Jason Clarke as her son John Connor in the time-travel saga that will be directed by Alan Taylor. The film has a July 1, 2015 released date.
After coming off a year in which its World War Z was touted to be about the worst movie ever until it turned out to be a worthy edge-of-the-seat summer hit, Paramount Pictures isn’t sitting by while the tide rises on bad buzz involving Noah, its biblical epic that Darren Aronofsky directed with Russell Crowe starring. Our sister publication Variety bannered a story titled “Survey: Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied With ‘Noah,’ Hollywood Religious Pics”, which cited a general poll by something called Faith Driven Consumer. While a movie like Noah will need a faith-based crowd in order to be a hit, this story sits on a slippery slope in that no one surveyed has seen the movie, and while the story says 98% of those surveyed were not “satisfied” with Hollywood’s take on religious stories, it doesn’t appear they were even asked specifically about Noah. I’ve heard the rumors that Noah was a tough shoot, and I have no idea whether it is any good or not. About all we know is that co-financier New Regency staked Aronofsky to a long-term deal after the movie wrapped, and that Aronofsky turned down a lot of big jobs after Black Swan specifically because this movie was burning in him. Why a flimsy survey was used as a club to wallop Noah probably comes down to a desire to stir up traffic (which it certainly did). From here, it looks like Paramount has a right to gripe. Here is Paramount’s highly unusual rebuttal to the Variety story:
EXCLUSIVE: Writer-director William Monahan has signed a two-year first-look deal with Paramount Pictures. His company, Henceforth Pictures, has a number of projects already in development, including several Monahan originals. The deal comes as the Monahan-scripted reboot of The Gambler is in production at Paramount with Mark Wahlberg and Jessica Lange starring and Rupert Wyatt directing. Monahan also adapted the book Cocaine Cowboys into Desperado, a film that will re-team Lone Survivor helmer Peter Berg with Wahlberg and which Paramount will put into production in the fall.
Monahan separately has turned in a scripted adaptation of John Le Carre’s most recent novel, A Delicate Truth, to BBC Films. He has numerous other projects in the pipeline, including Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For, as well as an adaption of Sympathy For Lady Vengeance that will star Charlize Theron, with Monahan producing with Theron and Megan Ellison. He also adapted the adventure novel The Wild Geese, which was previously turned in to the 1978 film that starred Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore. Monahan is producing that with Greg Shapiro and Patrick Milling Smith.
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount is negotiating with 3 Arts Entertainment to acquire the film rights to the forthcoming book Thirteen Hours: A Firsthand Account Of What Really Happened In Benghazi. The book, scheduled for publication in late spring, was written by author Mitchell Zuckoff with surviving members of the Annex Security Team who fought the battle. Their names are being kept confidential. The book is going to be published by Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group, with Editorial Director Sean Desmond editing.
The script will be written by Chuck Hogan, whose novel Prince Of Thieves became the Ben Affleck-directed The Town and who teamed with Guillermo del Toro to write the vampire novel trilogy The Strain which is being turned into a series by FX. Erwin Stoff will produce, and Richard Abate is executive producer. Stoff is producing the upcoming Unbroken and Edge Of Tomorrow.
UPDATE: Bert Fields Slams “Bizarre” $1B ‘Ghost Protocol’ Lawsuit Against Tom Cruise, Paramount & Others
UPDATE, 10:12 AM: Tom Cruise’s longtime lawyer wasted little time responding to the $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit filed against his client, Paramount Pictures, CEO Brad Grey, Skydance and David Ellison, JJ Abrams and others over 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. “Tom Cruise has never stolen anything from anyone. This bizarre lawsuit against 13 people for combined copyright infringement and ‘age discrimination’ will be quickly dismissed by the Court,” Bert Fields said in a statement just sent to Deadline.
PREVIOUS, 8:14 AM: Accusations of stolen screenplay ideas and the lawsuits that follow are pretty standard stuff in Hollywood. Some come from established writers but many come from creditless claimants banging on the gates for big bucks seeking what they say is rightfully theirs. In that vein, Timothy Patrick McLanahan has filed a $1 billion copyright infringement suit (read it here) against Tom Cruise, Paramount Pictures, studio CEO Brad Grey, Skydance Pictures and David Ellison, JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk (who is called Brian Burke in the suit) and their Bad Robot company and more over 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Representing himself, McLanahan is alleging that the successful fourth MI pic was based on a script he wrote more than 15 years ago titled Head On. “Upon reviewing and watching the script and movie of Ghost Protocol, I immediately recognized that the scripts for this movie had been illegally written and produced from Head On’s 1998 copyright. Ghost Protocol was released on December 16, 2010 and this lawsuit is being filed within three years of when that movie was released,” he states in the 10-page-plus exhibits federal court filing in California. In the suit, lodged December 20, 2013 and filed on January 13, McLanahan also claims intellectual property theft and age discrimination and basing his damages claim on the more than $694 million the pic has made worldwide and what he says is “were DVD and blu-ray sales of $144,500,000.”
EXCLUSIVE: Although Megan Ellison and her Annapurna Pictures started the process on reviving the Terminator franchise, she has divested herself financially of involvement in the final two or three pictures that will now be solely financed by her brother David Ellison’s Skydance and Paramount Pictures. This has been confirmed to me, and I’m told she will retain an executive producer credit. No one was specific about how the funding of the films will be handled, but I’ve heard that Skydance will now fund 66%, and Paramount will pay for the rest. Others say this has not been determined, as the film is now being budgeted.
Coupled with a changeover at the top of her sales company Panorama yesterday, it might seem that Megan Ellison is tapering off. I don’t believe that’s the case. Even when she took control of The Terminator franchise when she paid $20 million or more to acquire the rights at auction around the time of Cannes 2011, this property was an anomaly for her. Her heart is in taste-maker auteur-driven fare, and she has become a patron saint of prestige films that might not otherwise get made. That is what she will focus on. Her efforts include recently named Best Picture nominees American Hustle and Her, last year’s Zero Dark Thirty and The Master, and the upcoming Bennett Miller-directed Foxcatcher.
For her brother David, Terminator: Genesis and possibly two other films to wrap up the storyline are right in his wheelhouse. He’s at home co-financing and producing large-scale popcorn pictures, and this one fits right in with his other franchises: Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and World War Z. Both of the Ellison siblings confirmed this has happened.
OSCARS: Best Actor Nominee Leonardo DiCaprio On Scorsese, ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’: “I Knew It Would Be Polarizing”
A Best Actor nomination is just one award-season reward this year for Leonardo DiCaprio, who not only stars in Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf Of Wall Street but produced the passion project alongside his mentor and five-time collaborator. The dark biopic based on ex-Wall Streeter Jordan Belfort‘s memoirs has sparked debate among audiences — and DiCaprio, speaking with Deadline after Wolf scored four more noms this morning (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Jonah Hill), says that was his and Scorsese’s goal from the start. “I knew that this film was going to be polarizing in some respect,” he said. “We knew that Jordan’s life was written as a cautionary tale but displayed the hedonistic, flagrant world of Wall Street at that time. We wanted for there to be a dialogue about this attitude — his is a very destructive attitude, and what some people don’t get is that is ultimately not a cautionary tale but an indictment of this world.”
DiCaprio won the rights to Belfort’s story in 2007 and began developing it with Scorsese, with whom he’d by then made Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed. “I became obsessed with putting it up on screen, certainly after 2008,” he said. “But what Marty does is he doesn’t judge his characters. He ultimately puts these people onscreen as authentically as he possibly can and lets the audience extract what they can from it.”
Considering that global movie ticket sales reached precedent levels after a particularly robust holiday period and a mostly sizzling summer, 2013 was one of the most turbulent years I can remember in the executive suites of major studios. Studios were overhauled all over town to better compete in an arena that is more of a global pursuit than ever, with victory belonging to whoever can build and maintain the most franchises.
Purists will decry the fact that Hollywood’s brightest minds are mostly focused on repackaging derivative concepts for maximum global grosses, but evidence of the rewards are right there in the gross charts: Six of the top seven biggest films were sequels that provided the kind of results that keep studio conglomerate parents happy, keep studio chiefs employed, and slate co-financiers coming back for more. Sure, studios will still get involved with awards-season prestige films like The Wolf Of Wall Street, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, but often only when someone else pays to make them. This franchise fever pushed costs of blockbusters to ridiculously high levels, and left top execs and producers explaining, and sometimes packing, when some badly misfired. Add that to internal power struggles at places like Universal and Warner Bros, and you needed a scorecard to keep up with the executive changes — which came fast and furious, especially after the brutal summer blockbuster season. Among them:
*Universal fired film chairman Adam Fogelson in a move that surprised him along with everyone else in town but Ron Meyer and Donna Langley, with whom he engaged in a quiet power struggle. Fogelson was blindsided by the result, coming hours after he presided over the Toronto premiere of Rush. The Comcast-orchestrated move that put Jeff Shell in charge of filmed entertainment after he did well running NBCUniversal’s international operations. Meyer was upped to vice chairman of NBCUniversal and Langley as sole Universal Films chairman and picture picker. Even though the studio placed third in market share and Despicable Me 2 could become the studio’s biggest-ever box office hit when it plays in China, Universal also flubbed franchise launch attempts like R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin, and Kick-Ass 2 proved that once was enough. Universal has sequels to Jurassic Park, The Mummy and Ted coming, and a new salty adult franchise in Fifty Shades Of Grey for 2015. Thomas Tull’s Legendary Pictures moved in to hatch pictures and co-fi Universal titles like Jurassic World, hedging the studio’s bets as it moves forward. Langley’s biggest challenge has been retooling the studio’s most lucrative franchise, Fast & Furious, which was halfway completed when star Paul Walker died tragically in a fiery car crash. Right after Fogelson was ousted, longtime Focus Features chief James Schamus was dismissed just as suddenly. He was replaced by Peter Schlessel, the whip-smart former Sony dealmaker who’d been running FilmDistrict and who clearly will be charged with broadening the highbrow Focus slate to include more low-risk high-return genre films like the FilmDistrict hit Insidious. Schamus’s co-chairman, Andrew Karpen, declined to relocate and stay on, dramatically changing the complexion of that prestige company.
*The final shoe dropped after Warner Bros gave the top job to Kevin Tsujihara instead of Warner Bros movie chief Jeff Robinov. At a time when Robinov should have been taking victory laps after his bets on filmmakers paid off so well with Ben Affleck’s Argo, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Robinov instead left in a frosty exit to form his own moneyed film venture. This, and the equally tempestuous exit of Legendary’s Tull after a lucrative franchise-fueled run, left Robinov’s successors Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll under big pressure to assert themselves to find new franchises. The studio re-upped Village Roadshow Pictures and replaced Legendary with James Packer, Brett Ratner and Steven Mnuchin’s RatPac Dune in a slate co-financing deal that will spread $450 million or more over 75 films. While Warner Bros brass tired of Tull imposing his creative will and cherry-picking Warner Bros titles to co-fi, RatPac Dune will not do that, and I heard the studio was able to exclude certain plum titles from the arrangement. But Warner Bros also gifted RatPac Dune with a co-fi stake in Gravity after it was completed, creating a big windfall for a fledgling venture. It’s ironic given nobody in Hollywood but Robinov seemed to want to make that movie — an expensive auteur effort that has zero sequel potential. One challenge for the new team at Warner Bros: keeping Robinov from peeling away the directors he empowered, from Christopher Nolan to Affleck, Snyder, Luhrmann, The Hangover‘s Todd Phillips and Cuaron to make movies at the new company he and Graham King are expected to launch at Sony. Silverman is respected and Kroll is regarded as arguably the best marketer in town and the studio’s global distribution and marketing operation is as good as there is, but the pressure’s on even though Warner Bros topped other studios in market share. It also has what seems like a strong year with franchise launches in Godzilla and LEGO, another installment of 300 (so what if everybody died in the original?), and a Hobbit finale. Beyond Hobbit, New Line continues to do its part on the franchise front, hatching a Horrible Bosses sequel for 2014 and gearing up another installment of its sleeper 2013 road trip comedy We’re The Millers.
*After two costly summer misfires in After Earth and White House Down, a lackluster Smurfs sequel that fizzled the franchise, and disappointing returns on the Matt Damon-starrer Elysium, Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal found herself in the cross-hairs of minority activist shareholder Daniel Loeb. The result: seismic changes in its executive structure and game plan moving forward. The studio dropped marketing head Marc Weinstock, corporate PR chief Steve Elzer and home entertainment chief David Bishop, and then added former New Line president-turned Fifty Shades Of Grey producer Michael De Luca to share president of production duties with Hannah Minghella. The studio vowed heading into its fall investor meetings that it would cut $250 million in costs through 2016, and make fewer movies in 2014 and pour the money into TV. I keep hearing that was temporary window dressing, and after adding former Fox chief Tom Rothman to revive TriStar, which creates another buyer on a lot full of them, Sony will continue to try and create franchises to go along with its Spider-Man and 007 stalwarts. Sony secured a big slate co-fi investment from John LaViolette and Joseph Singer’s Blue Anchor that begins with George Clooney’s The Monuments Men. And then there is the prospect of the venture by Robinov/King which would give Sony huge movies to release and gain market share and bragging rights, without actually having to fund them if they don’t want to. If 22 Jump Street and especially The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit as well as is hoped, some of that pressure could be alleviated as the studio presses ahead with reboots of past franchise successes Ghostbusters and Men In Black.