EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Morgan has stepped onto In The Heart Of The Sea, Ron Howard’s adaptation of the Nathaniel Philbrick high-seas drama for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures. Principal photography starts in the UK on September 10 and marks a reteam for Howard and Morgan who previously collaborated on Frost/Nixon and the upcoming racing pic Rush. Charles Leavitt wrote the original Heart Of The Sea adaptation and Morgan recently came in to work extensively with Howard on some redrafts. Philbrick’s source material tells the fate of the crew of the Whaleship Essex. It blends fact and fiction, describing in palpable detail how the ship was stalked and attacked by a sperm whale in 1820, leaving the crew adrift for 90 days and forced to turn to cannibalism. The attack on the boat largely influenced Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Morgan’s involvement also marks a reteam with Chris Hemsworth, who stars in Heart Of The Sea and Rush. Rush, on which Morgan is also a producer, will be screened as a gala presentation in Toronto. His other upcoming projects include a collaboration with Ang Lee on a look at the boxing world of the 1960s and 1970s, as seen through the prism of its biggest rivalries and greatest fights. That 3D picture is set up at Universal. He’s also working on a project with Film4 about Salman Rushdie and the … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE:CAA has signed screenwriter and playwright Peter Morgan. Morgan, who left UTA, got an Oscar nomination for scripting The Queen and for adapting his play Frost/Nixon. He shared the BAFTA Award for teaming with Jeremy Brock for The Last King Of Scotland. Morgan most recently scripted the Formula One drama Rush, which Ron Howard directed with Chris Hemsworth starring. Morgan continues to be repped in London by Greg Hunt of Independent Talent Group.
After executive producing the London Olympics’ closing ceremony, Stephen Daldry is turning his attention to another live spectacle with The Audience, a stage play written by The Queen scribe Peter Morgan. The Queen Oscar winner Helen Mirren will return to the stage and the role of Queen Elizabeth II for the run in London’s West End beginning February 15, 2013. For 60 years, the Queen has met with each of 12 Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace. The meetings are private with an unspoken agreement never to reveal their contents. The Audience imagines a series of pivotal, sometimes revealing meetings between the Queen and the PMs. Matthew Byam Shaw for Playful Productions, Robert Fox and Andy Harries are producing.
EXCLUSIVE: Tate Taylor, who last wrote and directed the Best Picture nominee The Help, is in talks with Fox 2000 to write and direct The Jury. The film is a movie transfer of the Granada-produced 2002 British miniseries that was written by Peter Morgan and directed by Pete Travis. The mini focuses on the inner workings of the trial of a young Sikh student charged with murdering a classmate tormenter. The mini dug into the lives of the jurors and what propelled them as they moved toward a verdict. Gerard Butler and Mark Strong were part of the ensemble.
The project was acquired back in 2007 in a seven-figure deal and an attachment of Marc Forster as director and The Ides of March scribe Beau Willimon to write the script. It never got off the ground, but the subject matter certainly resonates in the current climate on a number of levels. Guymon Casady of Film 360 is producing with Forster, Brad Simpson and Quentin Curtis. Taylor is repped by CAA. Here is a clip from the original mini:
Magnolia Pictures bought U.S. rights to 360, the Fernando Meirelles-directed ensemble drama that stars Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Ben Foster, Jamel Debbouze and Moritz Bleibtreu. The film is a series of intersecting storylines that deal with love and infidelity, written by Peter Morgan and inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen, the play most famously turned into the 1950s film La Ronde. 360 was high on buyer lists coming into Toronto, but despite the pedigree and starpower, many of the distributors found the subject matter too challenging to see a wide release. The film recently was chosen as the opening-night film of the BFI 55th London Film Festival. “Fernando Meirelles and Peter Morgan are two exceptional talents that have crafted a unique and truly special picture,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said. He called it “a stunningly well made film, and a fantastic showcase for some of the most talented actors from around the world.” The film was produced by Andrew Eaton and David Linde, with Chris Hanley, Danny Krausz and Emanuel Michael. UTA Independent Film Group made the deal.
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures partners Elton John and David Furnish are launching their most ambitious movie project, one that will tell the story of John’s illustrious musical career. They are teaming with Billy Elliot scribe and playwright Lee Hall on Rocketman, which they are calling a biographical musical fantasy that will weave together John’s life and his music. Rocket Pictures’ Steve Hamilton Shaw and Furnish will produce. John will be executive producer and will play an active role in creating a film that will follow his life story from a child piano prodigy (who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music) to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records that just about any musical artist of his era.
Rocketman will mark the second collaboration for John and Hall. When Hall adapted the 2000 feature Billy Elliot for the West End, John wrote the score for a production that moved to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. They’re planning an inventive way to cover John’s life and career: One device will be to feature choreographed sequences using John’s biggest hit songs. Those tunes will be part of the movie package and will drive a story that will cover the rough spots in John’s journey of self-discovery. … Read More »
Last year’s Toronto Film Festival started slow for acquisitions, but finished with a flurry of modest distribution deals that served notice the specialty film business had finally pulled out of its nosedive. This year’s festival hasn’t started and already there are fireworks. Deadline broke news yesterday that Harvey Weinstein would start a VOD business, making the acquisitions market for fringe films more competitive; and last night, I heard that a bidding battle had already broken out for the Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which should be sold by the time it screens Sunday. Fox Searchlight is the favorite, Sony Pictures Classics is in the mix and I’ve heard that The Weinstein Company is hovering. Bidding began right after its Telluride screening, and the mid-six figures thrown around yesterday will probably go higher. That’s huge, considering the movie is an unabashed NC-17, McQueen has final cut, and the sex-obsessed protagonist is unlikable. Oh, yeah, and the sellers want it released this year for Oscar consideration to capitalize on Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan’s Oscar-caliber performances.
Does this mean we’re in for a drunken buying frenzy? Hardly, buyers tell me. They are eager to see the films, but say there’s no title here that’s going to guarantee somebody will overpay. They are also mindful that many of last year’s deals turned out to be box office busts. More deals will be made than … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Rush, the Peter Morgan-scripted drama about the battle between ’70s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, will rev up for action this week. The Ron Howard-directed film doesn’t really start principal photography until after Chris Hemsworth (he plays Hunt) completes Marvel’s The Avengers in a couple of months, but he and Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Bruhl (Lauda) will be around this weekend at Nurburgring Race Track in Germany. A race will be held there, featuring the Formula One classic cars that were driven during the 70s. Howard will be shooting 35mm all weekend with his cast.
This is more than just an opportunity for Howard to get generic footage on a race track; Nurburgring plays a pivotal part in the drama. That’s the track where Lauda, when he was reigning world champion and the only driver to ever complete a lap on that track in less than 7 minutes, tried to rally the other drivers to boycott the German Grand Prix race from being held there in 1976 because he felt safety arrangements weren’t up to snuff. When the other drivers voted against it, Lauda took the wheel and crashed his Ferrari on the second lap. Because it was so early in the race, Lauda’s car was full of fuel; his face was badly burned and he inhaled toxic hot gases that scorched his lungs before three rival drivers got out of their cars and pulled him from the wreckage. The film focuses on Lauda’s competitive spirit, which prompted him to get back behind the wheel despite being in severe pain six weeks later in Italy to stop Hunt from taking the world title. Read More »
The BFI 55th London Film Festival will open with the European premiere of 360, the Fernando Meirelles-directed drama that stars Rachel Weisz, Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins. The film opens Oct. 12 and the festival unveils the rest of its titles next Wednesday. I’m told that the opening film came down to 360 and My Week With Marilyn, but the latter film couldn’t make it because star Michelle Williams could not free herself from the production schedule of Disney’s The Great and Powerful Oz, and co-star Kenneth Branagh will be onstage in Belfast. These fest openers are sometimes determined by availability. For instance, the New York Film Festival seriously eyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy for its opener, but the film’s star, Gary Oldman, could not free himself from The Dark Knight Rises. The festival opens with Carnage, even though that film’s director Roman Polanski will certainly be a scratch.
360 is a Peter Morgan-scripted drama of interconnected stories about fidelity. It’s considered one of the hot acquisition titles that will unveil next month at the Toronto International Film Festival, and a possible Oscar contender. (Weisz won Best Supporting Actress for 2005′s The Constant Gardener, which was her last film with Meirelles.) The film is produced by Andrew Eaton and David Linde, Emanuel Michael, Danny Krausz and Chris Hanley. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Chris Hemsworth will get behind the wheel to star in the role of British Formula One driver James Hunt in Rush, the Peter Morgan-scripted drama that shapes up as the next directing effort for Ron Howard. Cross Creek Pictures is the backer, with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Howard producing alongside Brian Oliver and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.
Talks are underway for Hemsworth to play Hunt in the story of his rivalry with Niki Lauda for Formula One circuit dominance in the 1970s. Deals aren’t done yet, but it’s all shaping up for this picture to happen early next year. Hemsworth is already set to reprise his role as Thor in the Marvel Studios sequel that has been dated for a July 26, 2013 release by Disney. There is no distributor aboard yet on Rush, but considering that both Imagine and Working Title are based at Universal, the likelihood is that the picture will land there. The prime mover has been Oliver’s Cross Creek, which, after making a killing on Black Swan, is in the middle of several major pictures including the George Clooney-directed The Ides of March. Hemsworth’s repped by IFA and ROAR.
EXCLUSIVE: Remember Spy vs. Spy, the running comic strip of one-ups-manship between rival spooks from Mad Magazine? A live-action bigscreen version is moving forward at Warner Bros for Ron Howard to direct. David Koepp will produce with Howard and his Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer. Right now, Koepp will oversee a script that will be written by John Kamps. Kamps just teamed with Koepp to write Premium Rush, the Sony Pictures movie directed by Koepp, who also just rewrote the Jack Ryan film for Paramount Pictures. The film will be a physical and highly visual action comedy with two spies going mano a mano in ruthless fashion.
Spy Vs. Spy will be down the line for Howard, who always has a busy dance card. As Howard and Grazer and Akiva Goldsman prepare to turn in the rewrite of The Dark Tower over the next couple of weeks to see if Universal Pictures will fund the ambitious adaptation of the Stephen King novel series planned to span three films and two TV series runs, Howard has been eyeing projects he might be able to squeeze in before. He met on the film that’ll have Tom Hanks playing Captain Richard Phillips, who gave himself up to be a hostage to Somali pirates, that Paul Greengrass has wound up directing. He’s been rumored for a Frankenstein project at 20th Century Fox that Max … Read More »
Graham King’s GK Films has hired Focus Features exec Kahli Small to be executive vice president of production and development. She will report directly to King and will work out of GK’s Santa Monica headquarters. Kahli is a seven-year vet of Focus Features and most recently held the title of executive vice president of production and development. Her projects have included the Oscar-nominated Harvey Milk biopic Milk, the David Cronenberg-directed Viggo Mortensen starrer Eastern Promises, and The American, which starred George Clooney. Before Focus, she was head of production at Key Entertainment, and was an exec at MGM.
“Her reputation in the industry and track record for success are exactly the qualities that we are looking for in executives as we expand our company,” King said in a statement. The appointment comes at a time when GK (run by King and partner Tim Headington) are gearing up on several major projects. They include a movie adaptation of the hit stage musical Jersey Boys, the untitled biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury that has a script by Peter Morgan and Sacha Baron Cohen starring, and a reboot of Tomb Raider. GK is about to start production on the Tim Burton-directed Johnny Depp starrer Dark Shadows at Warner Bros, and is in post production on the Martin Scorsese-directed 3D film Hugo Cabret, which Paramount releases Nov. 23. GK has also wrapped the William Monahan-directed London Boulevard with Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley and … Read More »
The answer is yes — and no. Hereafter screenwriter Peter Morgan told Deadline that he took a meeting with Steven Spielberg “and went to the Universal lot for a meeting at 1 o’clock, and I went into the boardroom, and then an assistant came in and drew the curtains and said Mr. Spielberg is taken to have his meetings in the dark and she turned all the lights off.” Before a lot of crazy rumors start flying, let me clear up any confusion: ”It’s a slightly embellished tale,” an insider tells me. “The conference room has a huge window. Sometimes we close the drapes when the sun streams in. The meeting did not take place in the dark.”
In a career now spanning over 20 years Peter Morgan has become one of the film industry’s most prolific writers, best known for crafting screenplays based on real life people and events. He won an Oscar nomination for adapting Frost/Nixon (2008) based on his own play. In 2006 his original screenplay for The Queen was also Oscar nominated, winning numerous other awards including a Golden Globe. The same year he won a BAFTA award for The Last King Of Scotland about the notorious dictator Idi Amin. (Both Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker won Oscars for their work in those two films.) His other credits include the sports biography The Damned United, and The Deal, and a lot of television work including his Emmy nominated effort this year on HBO’s The Special Relationship. He is both writer and executive producer of his latest film Hereafter with director Clint Eastwood. It opened well in limited release last weekend in LA and NY and goes wide Friday in 2,181 locations. A complete departure from his previous scripts, it’s a multi-character piece telling three distinct stories about people affected by death or near death in one way or another. It’s also the most personal of all Morgan’s work and he wrote it on spec not knowing if it would ever be made. How it wound up in the hands of some of the film industry’s most powerful figures is a story in itself, a turn of events even Morgan couldn’t quite believe as he explained to me when he was in LA for screenings and interviews recently:
Deadline’s Pete Hammond: What was your reaction when you saw the movie?
Peter Morgan: I spent most of the time when I watched for the first time loathing my work, wishing I had done more here or there. And then the second time, at the New York Film Festival, I really enjoyed it — not my work but the pace, of being allowed in. There’s extremely honest things about it. I can assure you this is the most honest piece of writing I have ever done. I wrote it in a hut on a mountain for nobody because I wanted to. I don’t know, it just came to me.
PH: What drew you to this material?
Morgan: The stuff that I have perhaps become known for that’s based on fact, and English statesmen shouting at each other all the time, doesn’t entirely represent who I am. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Hopkins is joining the cast of ’360,’ the Fernando Meirelles-directed drama that stars Rachel Weisz. The Peter Morgan-scripted drama is a series of intersecting storylines that deal with love and infidelity. Morgan wrote the project on spec, and then brought on David Linde, who’ll be exec producer. Andrew Eaton is producing. The financing is being finalized, with Linde and Eaton working with UTA to square funding through a combination of sources including Austrian financiers and BBC Films. Production will begin early next year in Europe. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Former Universal co-chairman David Linde is aboard as executive producer. Rachel Weisz will reunite with her Constant Gardener director Fernando Meirelles on the psychosexual drama 360 that Peter Morgan has written. The drama is being produced by Austrian producer Dor Film and co-financed by BBC Films and its Austrian TV counterpart ORF Fernsehfilm. 360 is inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s play Reigen. Schnitzler’s Vienna-set fin-de-siècle drama has been filmed many times, including Max Ophuls’ 1950 film La Ronde. Reigen consists of short scenes between couples, shown before or after a sexual liaison. After each scene, one character from the pairing is then shown with another partner, who is then shown with another partner, and so on. Finally, the promiscuity comes full circle.
EXCLUSIVE: Whether it’s Marvin Gaye, Janis Joplin, Phil Spector or a host of others, enough announced music pics stall that it’s hard to find one worth worth getting excited about. Try this one: Sacha Baron Cohen has closed a deal to play Queen front man Freddie Mercury in a film that’s being scripted by Peter Morgan for a 2011 production start. The untitled film will be financed by GK Films partners Graham King and Tim Headington, who’ll produce in partnership with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions, and Queen Films. Morgan is already working on a script focused on the band’s formative years, leading up to Queen’s appearance at Live Aid in 1985. Queen’s performance is considered one of the rock’s all-time great live concert appearances.
A rights package has been set that includes the band’s tunes, including Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions , Another One Bites The Dust and You’re My Best Friend. It is unclear whether Baron Cohen will sing—I’m told he can sing—or whether Mercury’s vocals will be used. Nobody sang like Mercury, so trying to replicate him would be a tall order. These decisions will be made as a director gets hired. Mercury died November 24, 1991 of complications from AIDS. Though his death helped to remove the stigma of AIDS sufferers prevalent at that time and particularly in the … Read More »
Clint Eastwood will unveil his Peter Morgan-scripted Matt Damon-starrer Hereafter as the closing night film of the New York Film Festival. The fest previously set the David Fincher-directed Facebook film The Social Network to open the festival and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest to be its centerpiece. All three figure to be players in the Oscar race this year.
Here is the rest of the NYFF program:
Mike Leigh, 2010, UK
Cristi Puiu, 2010, Romania
BLACK VENUS (Venus noire)
Abdellatif Kechiche, France
Olivier Assayas, 2010, France
CERTIFIED COPY (Copie conformé)
Abbas Kiarostami, 2010, France/Italy
Jean-Luc Godard, 2010, Switzerland
Charles Ferguson, 2010, USA
LE QUATTRO VOLTE
Michelangelo Frammartino, 2010, Italy
LENNON NYC, Michael Epstein, 2010, USA
Kelly Reichardt, 2010, USA
MY JOY (Schastye moe)
Sergei Loznitsa, 2010, Ukraine/Germany
MYSTERIES OF LISBON (Misterios de Lisboa)
Raul Ruiz, Portugal/France
OF GODS AND MEN (Des homes et des dieux)
Xavier Beauvois, 2010 France
OKI’S MOVIE (Ok hui ui yeonghwa)
Hong Sang-soo, 2010, South Korea
OLD CATS (Gatos viejos), Sebastian Silva, 2010, Chile
Lee Chang-dong 2010, South Korea
Pablo Larrain, 2010, Chile/Mexico/Germany
Mariana Chenillo, Fernando Embecke, Amat Escalante, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo Garcia, Diego Luna, Gerardo Naranjo, Rodrigo Plá, Carlos Reygadas,
Patricia Riggen, 2010, Mexico
THE ROBBER (Der Räuber)
Benjamin Heisenberg, Austria/Germany
ROBINSON IN RUINS
Patrick Keiller, 2010, UK
SILENT SOULS (Ovsyanki)
Alexei Fedorchenko, Russia
THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA (O estranho caso de Angélica)
Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal
TUESDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS (Marti, dupa craciun)
Radu Muntean, Romania
UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL PAST LIVES (Lung Boonmee raluek chat)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010, UK/Thailand
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Somos lo que hay)
Jorge Michel Grau, Mexico
BAFTA and the British Film Institute are hosting a series of screenwriter lectures throughout September. Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, September 20), David Hare (The Reader, September 9), Ronald Harwood (The Pianist, September 23), Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, September 17), Christopher Hampton (Atonement, September 10) and Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, September 21) will all speak. The season has been organised by screenwriter Jeremy Brock, who says: “The idea is to celebrate screenwriters as collaborative authors of films, rather than adjuncts of the director’s vision.” Public perception that somehow director’s are the sole author of a movie has irritated screenwriters for years. Likewise, that possessory credit on movie credits. As the old joke about two screenwriters in a car driving past a director’s house goes: “Oh, there’s Joe Smith’s house … Or should I say, a house by Joe Smith?”