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 …
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.
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.
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 …
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 …
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.