EXCLUSIVE: Pierre Morel, the French director who helmed the 2008 sleeper hit Taken starring Liam Neeson that spawned an even more successful sequel, is set to direct NBC’s drama pilot After Hours, from writers/executive producers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. The project, produced by Sony Pictures TV, is an ensemble medical show about a group of Army doctors who return to work the night shift together at a hospital in San Antonio. Last season Morel made his pilot directing debut with ABC’s thriller Zero Hour, which went to series.
EXCLUSIVE: Paul Walker is in talks to star in Brick Mansions, the Americanized remake of the Paris-set Banlieue 13. The film has a script by Luc Besson (who co-wrote the original) and Robert Mark Kamen, Besson’s collaborator on Taken. The idea is for Walker to star with David Belle. Belle starred in the original and the sequel District 13: Ultimatum and he is also credited with creating Parkour, a sport that involves agility and leaping and climbing around obstacles. There is a lot of that in these films.
The film will be set in American city, most likely Chicago. Walker will play an undercover detective chasing a weapon of mass destruction that was stolen by a drug dealer in the ghetto known as Brick Mansions. He seeks help from the incredibly agile Lino (Belle), who knows Brick Mansions better than anyone and is the only person not cowering in fear of the drug dealers. Besson’s Europa Corp is producing, and while a number of Hollywood actors wanted the Lino role, Besson would not make the movie unless Belle was in it.
The original Banlieue 13 was directed by Pierre Morel, who went on to direct Besson’s Taken and From Paris With Love. Besson is giving this directing job to another protégé, but the company would not reveal who he is. Europa Corp will soon make a domestic distribution deal, which never seems …
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.”
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount has turned loose the giant worm, and everything else that was part of the seminal Frank Herbert science fiction novel series Dune. The studio’s four-year attempt to make a movie out of the franchise has fallen by the wayside. Paramount and the rights holders came to a parting of the ways as the rights lapsed. “Paramount’s option has expired and we couldn’t reach an agreement,” said Richard P. Rubinstein, who controls the rights to what is considered the biggest-selling science fiction book ever. “I’m going to look at my options, and whether I wind up taking the script we developed in turnaround, or start over, I’m not sure yet.”
Dune tells the story of an interplanetary battle for control of the desert planet Arrakis and its supply of Melange, a spice that can be ingested. Those who take it live longer and have a prescient sense of awareness. The substance is necessary for space travel. The book was turned into a 1984 flop by David Lynch, but a miniseries that came later fared better.
Rubinstein said that Paramount’s exit came down to dollars, but the producer said he and the rights holders were OK with it. “Sure, it’s frustrating, how long this has taken, but most of what I’ve done that worked out well over the years, like the miniseries The Stand, took a long time,” Rubinstein said. “Since …
The next hot directing job: Ouija, which will follow Battleship as the next Hasbro branded property to move into production at Universal since the Rob Letterman-directed, Taylor Lautner-attached Stretch Armstrong got pushed back and probably won’t start until 2013. The studio is still talking to directors, but I’ve heard that the three candidates in the mix at the moment are Taken helmer Pierre Morel, The Losers helmer Sylvain White, and Scott Stewart, who just completed the Screen Gems pic Priest. The pic is being produced by Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir along with Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. Universal is planning to get the film into production next summer, for release around Thanksgiving 2012. That will follow on the heels of the Peter Berg-directed Battleship, which opens May 18, 2012. Ouija‘s a big picture, with a budget targeted around $80 million-$100 million. The script is by Tron: Legacy writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. A decision will be made in the next two weeks, because all three of those filmmakers are being courted for other jobs.