QED International has laid off five employees (which includes support staff and a junior lawyer) three weeks after the disastrous opening of Sabotage, directed by David Ayer and led by aging action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bloody pic flopped and is hanging on by its fingernails in the Box office Top 20 — it’s No. 18 in its third weekend — having grossed a mere $10M. John Hegeman, president of worldwide marketing, is still on board as he helps prepare the debut of the next Ayer-directed film, Fury, which has some star power in Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and audience favorite Michael Pena. QED slapped down $1M to buy the WWII spec from Ayer over a year ago; it will bow in November. One insider said that QED is reallocating resources for development spending. To that point, today QED purchased Yellowstone Falls, a 52-page spec script by Dan Kunka, winning what was said to be a heated bidding war. The film, which will be produced by Kevin Misher and QED President Bill Block, is about a mother wolf who must battle to save her cubs after being separated from her mate following an apocalyptic event. The film will have nearly no dialogue and few actors. Sounds a little like Disneynature’s Bears — with mutated humans thrown in.
Bill Murray, aka “The Murricane,” is blowing through Berlin this week on what’s become a sort of one-man comedy tour — and a fun distraction from a thus-far quiet market. Yesterday, he was out in support of Wes Anderson’s opening-night film The Grand Budapest Hotel, riffing that he worked for “low wages and stale bread,” and today he was tickling buyers’ funny bones at a brunch for Rock The Kasbah. Murray shared a stage this morning with QED International’s Bill Block and director Barry Levinson, who were clearly pleased that the movie sold to Open Road for the U.S. just last night. But busy Murray wanted to make something very clear, “I don’t like to leave my house. I am a lazy person and I don’t like to work. But when I work, I work very hard… Did I mention I don’t like to work? I don’t like to be here right now. I like you all very much, but this work thing is crap.”
Regardless, shooting starts June 2 in Marrakech on the pic that also stars Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, Shia LaBeouf and Zooey Deschanel. Murray plays a has-been rock manager who takes his last remaining client on a USO tour of Afghanistan. When he ends up abandoned in Kabul, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice and manages her through Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. The collaborators said this morning that an authentic Afghan singer is being sought for the part of the girl while there will be a lot of Cat Stevens songs and the classic eponymous Clash tune, natch.
EXCLUSIVE: Jason Bateman, who made an auspicious feature directorial debut with the Toronto festival smash Bad Words, next will direct Nicole Kidman in The Family Fang, the adaptation of the Kevin Wilson bestseller. Bateman will also star in the film. The script is by David Lindsay-Abaire, who adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole as a vehicle that got Kidman an Oscar nomination. Olympus Pictures’ Leslie Urdang and Dean Vanech will produce with Blossom Films partners Kidman and Per Saari, Aggregate Films partners Bateman and Jim Garavente, and QED International’s Bill Block.
QED will finance, and principal photography will begin next year.
The Family Fang is about a couple of performance artists who routinely sucked their kids into taking part in a variety of bizarre events. When the full-grown children return home in a state of crisis, they are unwittingly enlisted to help in the execution of a daring and mysterious final performance by their parents, who are hellbent on achieving the act of a lifetime. Their kids harbor more than a little resentment and blame the performance art for how badly their own lives have turned out.
Lava Bear and QED International will finance and co-produce Intrusion, a thriller to be directed by David Bruckner from a script by writer L.D. Goffigan that got a rewrite from Amy Herzog. Quadrant Pictures’ Doug Davison will produce the project with Tariq Jalil, Lava Bear, and QED’s Bill Block. QED’s John Hegeman will executive produce. Bruckner helmed the segment Amateur Nights from the anthology pic V/H/S. A young woman’s life begins to unravel shortly after moving to San Francisco, when she realizes she’s being pursued by a disturbed stalker. As the assaults and creepy incidents escalate she realizes that she has become the target of something far more sinister and horrifying. Pic will shoot later this year.
EXCLUSIVE: QED International‘s Bill Block has made a pre-emptive acquisition of 19, a pitch that will be written by Jim Agnew & Sean Keller. The intention is to turn this into a trilogy. It involves zombies, but takes that genre in a new direction, in that everybody over the age of 19 turns into a walking corpse. That leaves a civilized world to be run by kids. The film will be produced by Film 360 and Wonderland Sound and Vision. The producers also are looking to reverse engineer the 19 idea into a series of books. Attached to direct is Jeff Chan, who got signed by Management 360, ICM Partners and attorney Karl Austen after he made a Call of Duty short film. The scribes are repped by Paradigm and Industry. QED’s Nick Reimond brought it in. QED’s next film is Fury, the David Ayer-directed WWII tank drama starring Brad Pitt.
Here is a look at Chan’s calling card short:
As EVP of International Sales John Friedberg will lead QED’s sales efforts at Cannes, working closely with CEO Bill Block who announced Friedberg’s promotion today. Friedberg’s responsibilities will include spearheading distribution strategies for the company’s film slate, as well as managing relationships with QED’s international partners and overseeing day-to-day operations of the international sales department. Friedberg joined QED in 2006 and his responsibilities have crossed into all areas of the company including production, finance, business affairs, sales and distribution. He was promoted to VP of International Sales in 2011.
QED’s Cannes sales slate includes David Ayer’s Fury, starring Brad Pitt and Shia Labeouf; Ten, also directed by David Ayer and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington and Mireille Enos; Fading Gigolo, directed by John Turturro and starring Turturro and Woody Allen; rom com Are We Officially Dating? starring Zac Efron and Imogen Poots; and the supernatural thriller Haunt starring Jacki Weaver.
EXCLUSIVE: Brad Pitt is in final negotiations to star in Fury, the David Ayer-directed drama that will start production in September. This is the Ayer script that Bill Block‘s QED International paid $1 million to acquire back in February. It was QED’s biggest spec deal ever, and when an indie company hooks a star like Pitt, it’s money well spent. Fury is a WWII script by the End Of Watch writer-director, and QED will produce with John Lesher and his Le Grisbi Productions banner. Ethan Smith, Block and Lesher are producing and they are eyeing a fall production start. QED is selling foreign.
The action takes place in 1945 as the Nazi regime collapses and the five-man crew of an American tank called Fury battles a desperate German army. Ayer and QED reteam after the action thriller Ten, which Ayer directed and which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington and Mireille Enos. Open Road will release it next January. Lesher produced Ayer’s End Of Watch. Pitt most recently starred in and produced World War Z, but he’s back in the WWII territory of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
QED International and Groundswell Productions have joined forces for Birth Of The Dragon, which will focus on Bruce Lee’s career-defining 1965 no-holds-barred TKO battle with kung fu master Wong Jack Man. Written by Oscar nominees Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele, the film focuses on the Oakland fight that launched Lee to martial arts stardom, which happened against the backdrop of the Hong Kong Triads’ criminal control of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The film will also detail a team-up between the two legends to take on the Triads. The fight with Jack Man was the last official one of Lee’s career before he headed into acting, competition and building his martial arts philosophy. “We’re excited to retell the fantastic origin story of the world’s most famous martial arts icon, which in the hands of Christopher and Stephen, lends itself to an action thriller we’re sure will enthrall movie fans around the world,” QED’s Bill Block said in a statement Tuesday. QED is financing the movie. The film will be produced by Block, Groundswell Productions CEO Michael London, Wilkinson and Rivele, and executive produced by Groundswell’s Kelly Mullen. Wilkinson and Rivele, who worked on Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Michael Mann’s Ali, also wrote the Mercury biopic about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury that Sasha Baron Cohen is set to star in for GK Films.
QED International announced today that it will handle non-North American distribution of Drake Doremus’ Sundance Film Festival title Breathe In. President of international sales Daniel Diamond negotiated the deal with UTA Independent Film Group, which represented the filmmakers. “We responded to Breathe In immediately, consider Drake to be one of the most talented new directors working, and look forward to including this exceptional film as part of the growing slate of films we’re bringing to market in Berlin,” Diamond said in a statement Wednesday. Directed and co-written by Doremus, the ensemble drama starring Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce premiered at this year’s Sundance. Ben York Jones co-wrote the screenplay. The director’s last film, Like Crazy, won the 2011 Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Breathe In was produced by Steven M. Rales and Mark Roybal of Indian Paintbrush, and Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling of Super Crispy Entertainment.
Three days after CBS Films acquired domestic rights to Toy’s House at the Sundance Film Festival, QED International has scooped up non-North American rights to the coming-of-age comedy. It’s the first deal for John Hegeman, the former New Regency marketing boss who was appointed QED’s president of worldwide marketing and acquisitions just ahead of Sundance. Park City was his first task with the new title. Here’s today’s release on Toy’s House:
LOS ANGELES (January 25, 2013) – QED International has acquired international distribution rights to TOY’S HOUSE, it was announced today by Worldwide President of Marketing and Acquisitions John Hegeman. Under the agreement, QED will distribute TOY’S HOUSE in all markets outside North America. The film premiered to rave reviews at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and has just been picked up for US distribution by CBS Films which is eyeing a 2013 release date.
BREAKING: Former New Regency marketing chief John Hegeman has been appointed by QED International CEO Bill Block to be its president of Worldwide Marketing and Acquisitions. It is a newly created position for QED, and comes as the company completes the David Ayer-directed Ten with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the John Turturro-directed Fading Gigolo with Woody Allen, and the Mac Carter fright film Haunt. Hegeman is a producer on the latter and was part of the Artisan gang that turned The Blair Witch Project into a word-of-mouth phenomenon. Block and Hegeman first worked together at Artisan during that period. Hegeman will brave the teen temperatures at Sundance looking for new talent this week and next.
EXCLUSIVE: QED International is committing to spend serious coin on scripts and pitches that it hopes will translate into features with global appeal. QED CEO Bill Block has hired Nick Reimond to steer that effort as VP of Development and Production.
QED is getting started quickly, wrapping up deals for two spec scripts: the Zina Zaflow-scripted romantic comedy 52 Percent, and Leave, a thriller scripted by Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari.
Reimond comes to QED from Scott Rudin Productions and before that spent three years at Maguire Entertainment/Material Pictures. He started at Michael De Luca Productions. Reimond will be tasked with bringing in projects as Block intends to make QED a prolific buyer of material at a time when development spending is drying up all over town.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that the deal coming together will turn bestselling author James Patterson’s crime novel Double Cross into a 2nd movie starring Tyler Perry as the famous Washington DC crimefighter/psychologist. Perry’s first turn as Alex Cross opens this Friday from QED. Summit Entertainment is distributing in the U.S. It’s Perry’s first lead role that he didn’t produce or direct or write – and his reviews so far have been rather good. Certainly a lot better than I expected from the star of the crossdressing Madea movies. Although the critics have been harsh on helmer Rob Cohen and the film as a whole. QED International’s Bill Block put together Alex Cross at a cost of only $25M (lowered to $23M with Louisiana tax subsidies). He chased down the book rights from Patterson for under $1 million, then hired Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson to pen the screenplay with Patterson. Then Block and Patterson sought out Tyler’s WME agent Charles King. After meetings in Atlanta, QED signed the actor for $5M upfront. Perry took over the role from Morgan Freeman who first played Alex Cross in the films Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider. Amazingly, Perry didn’t want to write, direct or produce the movie. He didn’t even want to move the location to his home base in Georgia for all his creature comforts. And he had the leverage, too. Instead …
EXCLUSIVE: The Australian actor will star in Haunt, the Marc Carter-directed horror film that is set to begin production next month. Harrison Gilbertson’s Ethan character is an introverted teen that makes friends with his new neighbor. As the duo becomes romantically involved, they also begin to explore the haunted house Ethan’s family has unknowingly just moved into and discover a terrifying alternative dimension. Sabrina The Teenage Witch co-writer Andrew Barrer penned the script; QED International is financing and handling international sales. Gilbertson was recently seen in the Dustin Lance Black-directed Virgina with Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris. He’s repped by APA, Cohn/Torgan Management, Helen Pandos management, and attorney Gregg Gellman.
EXCLUSIVE: QED International has committed to produce, finance and handle international sales for Haunt, an original horror film that Mac Carter will direct from a script by Andrew Barrer. A family that moves into a new home with a dark past. When their son becomes involved with a beautiful girl next door, and together they begin to explore their sexual awakening, they unwittingly invoke an alternative dimension of the house. Haunt will be produced by Sasha Shapiro, Anton Lessine, Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Steven Schneider, Will Rowbotham and Rivergate Entertainment’s Alex Yazlovsky. Production starts in November.
QED adds Haunt to a slate that includes the David Ayer-directed Ten with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the John Turturro-directed Fading Gigolo that stars Turturro and Woody Allen. Daniel Diamond just joined as QED president of International, and he and block will be selling territories on the slate at Toronto and AFM.
“With Haunt, Andrew Barrer has added a terrifying new chapter to the supernatural horror genre and delivered a riveting story that will truly satisfy a global audience,” said QED International CEO Bill Block. “Innovative, highly commercial genre films are a hallmark of QED, and we look forward to working with Andrew and Mac to continue that success.”
Barrer is co-writer with Gabriel Ferrari, of Sabrina The Teenage Witch for Sony and Die In A Gunfight, which made the 2010 Blacklist and is being produced by MRC. Carter is an award-winning commercial director who …
Management/production companies looking for the next sale-able script, it might be right under your nose. Benderspink director of development Christopher Cosmos just sold his first feature script, The Fall, to Bill Block’s QED International. Benderspink will be attached as a producer, and the company now packaging Alexander, a TV pilot Cosmos wrote about the formative years of Alexander The Great. The Fall is a modern take on The Odyssey, about a young man who makes his way cross country carrying with him the cure for a devastating plague. He’s hunted by men who want the cure for himself. Cosmos continues to work at Benderspink, for now at least.
EXCLUSIVE: QED International and Safehouse Pictures have set Brian De Palma to direct the Joby Harold-scripted thriller The Key Man. That film was recently set for U.S. distribution with Tom Ortenberg’s Open Road Films and will begin production by year’s end. QED is financing the movie, about a single father who’s targeted by U.S. government agents because his body contains answers to important national secrets. The style is a throwback to paranoid 70s movies like Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man. The Key Man will be produced by Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Tory Tunnell and Harold. Harold’s recent script work includes Awake, Army of the Dead and All You Need Is Kill. De Palma, who was part of that paranoid 70s thriller movement, last directed the 2007 Iraq drama Redacted and before that The Black Dahlia. He’s also responsible for Scarface, The Untouchables, Carrie and Mission: Impossible. De Palma’s repped by ICM.
EXCLUSIVE: Open Road Films — the new distribution company created by exhibitors AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment — just snagged U.S. rights to The Key Man, a thriller written by Joby Harold. QED International is financing the movie, about a single father who’s targeted by U.S. government agents because his body contains answers to important national secrets. QED chief Bill Block says it “recalls great films like Three Days Of The Condor and Marathon Man and is built on a fantastic story in the vein of The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure, and will appeal to a broad global audience.” The film will be widely released and include “a significant P&A commitment” from Open Road, the companies say. Key Man will be produced by Harold, Block, Tory Tunnell and Paul Hanson with principal photography due to begin by early 2012. The deal was negotiated by Open Road Films CEO Tom Ortenberg, General Counsel Elliott Kleinberg and SVP Acquisitions Ben Cotner with QED’s Block and Paul Hanson. Open Road films go to Netflix in the pay TV window following the DVD release. Ortenberg says Key Man is “one of the smartest, most original scripts we’ve seen” and predicts that it “will attract top notch talent.”
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that QED International has closed a deal with CAA for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s next film, Cry Macho. Bill Block’s financing company can now go to the Cannes Film Festival as the exclusive dealmaker for an Arnold movie (after some initial doubt whether it would be his pic or Lionsgate’s Last Stand). Now the global marketplace will decide whether the 63-year-old former California governor resuming his acting career is still a movie star able to carry a film. The final agreed-upon payday for Schwarzenegger, I’m told, is $12.5 million plus 25% first dollar gross, slightly up from last week’s negotiating position which already was top dollar money. QED is hot right now: it’s also put together I, Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry and Neil Blomkamp’s latest project Elysium.
Al Ruddy, the 81-year-old Godfather and Million Dollar Baby filmmaker, will produce and Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) Ruddy bought the 1975 novel by the late N. Richard Nash who’d adapted it into the Cry Macho screenplay. In his heyday, Schwarzenegger was a $25M/25% first dollar gross mega-player — and one deal even threw in his own giant jet. But only the rarest of the rare get those paydays these days. This pic calls for some acting chops for Arnold as a horse breeder who won the Kentucky Derby but whose wife and child get killed. He sinks into an alcoholic depression and winds up working for a hedge fund jerk who offers him a choice of getting fired or bringing back the rich guy’s son living with the ex-wife in Mexico. Unexpected plot twists ensue, including an Arnold-and-kid road trip back home.