EXCLUSIVE: What’s a Robert Ludlum thriller without an unexpected plot twist? How about Universal Pictures setting Zhang Yimou to direct The Parsifal Mosaic, the Ludlum bestseller that Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are producing with Captivate’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith? I’m told this is the first time that a mainland Chinese director has signed to do an English-language film with a film studio in the U.S. That was the goal when, in May 2012, CAA signed the filmmaker whose film Ju Dou became the first Chinese feature to be nominated for an Oscar, and who also directed the dazzling Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is not clear yet whether this will be his first Hollywood film or not because he has other irons in the fire. Zhang’s films include the BAFTA-winning Raise The Red Lantern, Hero, House Of Flying Daggers and the Christian Bale starrer Flowers Of War. His latest film, Coming Home, is in the process of being acquired out of Berlin by Sony Pictures Classics, which releases most of Zhang’s Chinese films.
EXCLUSIVE: Julie Bush has been set by Universal to script a new draft of The Sigma Protocol, the last novel by the late Robert Ludlum. Captivate Entertainment’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith are producing with Irwin Winkler through his Winkler Films banner. The novel is an action thriller in the vein of Three Days Of The Condor and Bourne Identity, in which an ordinary man vacationing in Switzerland runs into an old friend and watched as the man turns homicidal and guns down six people. The vacationer gets caught up in a conspiracy and is running for his life. A female federal agent following the clues might be his only hope. The first draft of the script was done by Jose Ruisanchez.
Bush has emerged as a writer to watch. After Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter read Julie’s blog and twitter feed, he reached out to her and hired her as a freelance writer on his FX show. At Princeton, Toni Morrison handpicked Bush to be the only student for which she served as senior thesis advisor. She is repped by UTA and Sara Bottfeld & Sarah Dodge at Industry Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is getting the wheels moving on a fifth installment of The Bourne Identity franchise. I’ve heard that studio has hired Anthony Peckham to script a film that is designed to continue the storyline of Aaron Cross, the character that Jeremy Renner played in the 2012 Tony Gilroy-directed Bourne Legacy. Cross was among a group of agents who took part in Operation Outcome. Medically enhanced to be smarter and physically superior, the agents were targeted for termination. Renner starred with Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton. Frank Marshall and Captivate Entertainment’s Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner are producing the new one.
This is all early days, but the studio wants to continue to build the spinoff character and storyline hatched by Tony Gilroy, who was so important in establishing Matt Damon‘s Jason Bourne character in those early films from the books by the late Robert Ludlum. It doesn’t sound like they’ve made headway with Damon about a reprise (he has said he won’t do it without Paul Greengrass, and doesn’t know where the character goes after regaining the memory loss that came back by the end of the third film). Universal, which has a seventh installment of all time top grossing The Fast And The Furious in the works as well as new installments of The Mummy and Jurassic Park, counts Bourne as …
The Irish helmer is also developing Paper Wings at Sony as a potential Tom Cruise vehicle, as well as the Guillermo Del Toro-produced Midnight Delivery at Universal. He most recently directed the BBC miniseries Great Expectations and helmed several episodes of the Idris Elba series Luther.
Scripted by Simon Kinberg and Jesse Wigutow, The Osterman Weekend is classic Ludlum, mixing conspiracy, murder and a man on the run. On the eve of an annual weekend getaway with friends, John Tanner is visited by a reporter who tells him his friends aren’t who he thinks they are. When the reporter turns up dead, Tanner gets caught in downward spiral of doubt and paranoia and, ultimately, a desperate fight to stay alive long enough to figure out who he can trust and who’s out to kill him. The book was previously turned into a 1983 film by Sam Peckinpah.
Peter Davis is producing through Davis-Panzer Productions alongside Simon Kinberg and his Genre Films banner, Doug Liman, and Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith for Captivate, which has The Bourne Legacy coming up with Tony Gilroy directing and Jeremy Renner starring for Universal. Henry Morrison will be executive producer of The Osterman Weekend. Kirk’s repped by CAA and Independent Talent.
Universal has just released its first trailer for The Bourne Legacy, the Tony Gilroy-directed spinoff of the studio’s blockbuster Bourne Identity series. This time, Jeremy Renner takes center stage as the protagonist. Coming off The Hurt Locker and Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol, Renner’s growing into action hero mode. Will the film measure up to the original trilogy that starred Matt Damon? Well, Gilroy’s writing in boiling down Robert Ludlum’s novels into such compelling films was as much the backbone of the series as Damon’s performance as Jason Bourne, or the efforts of directors Paul Greengrass and Doug Liman. Here’s the trailer:
EXCLUSIVE: After re-starting one Robert Ludlum novel franchise with The Bourne Legacy, Universal Pictures is looking to get in gear with The Sigma Protocol, the last thriller Ludlum wrote before he passed away. The studio has set Irwin Winkler and Jose Ruisanchez to write the script. Winkler will produce with Captivate Entertainment’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith.
The novel focuses on a man who, while vacationing in Switzerland, runs into an old friend. He watches as the guy turns homicidal and guns down six people. The vacationer then gets plunged into a conspiracy and runs for his life. A female federal agent is following the clues, and might be the ordinary guy’s only hope of survival from a ruthless assassin.
“What we are really hoping to do is create a franchise, built around this ordinary guy who gets caught up in international intrigue, and who teams with this operative who is declared a rogue by the CIA,” said Winkler. “Unlike Bourne, who is a trained assassin, this is an innocent guy traveling in Europe who gets in way over his head. And it has all the great Ludlum intrigue.”
Universal has been trying to make a movie out of Sigma Protocol since 2002. At one time, the studio had Antoine Fuqua attached, and later, Iron Man scribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway took cracks at the novel. Winkler and his partner have gone back to the book. They got the job after writing a …
EXCLUSIVE: After getting the spinoff film The Bourne Legacy into production with Tony Gilroy directing his script and Jeremy Renner starring, Universal Pictures, Captivate Entertainment and Ludlum Entertainment are moving forward with another feature adaptation of a Robert Ludlum thriller novel. The studio has hired John Hlavin to script The Janson Directive, one of the last novels Ludlum wrote before he died in 2001. Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner are producing through Captivate, which has a first look Universal deal. The production company just signed with UTA.
Published a year after Ludlum’s death, The Janson Directive focuses on Paul Janson, an ex-Navy SEAL and former member of the covert government agency Consular Operations. In the book, he is haunted by memories of the Vietnam War and his mentor and commanding officer, whose sadistic side prompted him to turn Janson over to the enemy to be tortured. Janson escaped and provided the evidence of war crimes that caused his CO’s execution. Years later, Janson is a corporate security consultant who takes a job rescuing an important man, but when the job goes awry, Janson is targeted for a “beyond salvage” termination order. He has no choice but to follow the clues that lead him to a massive scandal.
The start of Summit Entertainment’s trajectory began when the mini-major convinced Stephenie Meyer to sell her Twilight Saga book series after she’d been left so frustrated by how Paramount Pictures let it languish. Was it a billion dollar lucky break? As the vampire-werewolf series that fueled Summit’s recent $750 million refinancing comes to a close, Summit has bet heavily on books for its future franchises. Under production chief Erik Feig, Summit has been as prolific a buyer of books as any studio in town over the past two years. Most are conducive to young casts.
As Deadline predicted, Summit Entertainment has closed a screen rights deal for Veronica Roth’s young adult novel Divergent, which will be published by the HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books. It takes place in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into factions as kids are categorized based on human traits. A teenage girl and guy rebel against the labels, which is a very dangerous thing to do. The buying community has compared it to The Hunger Games in tone and violent content. Red Wagon’s Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher will produce with Pouya Shahbazian. The latter works for FinePrint Productions and stirred up some dust in the early deal brokering with what I’m told were high demands like 35% of the fee from whatever established producer came onto the picture, even though the book fell …
Summit Entertainment signed Jesse Wigutow to do a rewrite of The Osterman Weekend, the Robert Ludlum thriller. The picture was previously adapted into a 1983 Sam Peckinpah-directed film. Summit is trying to move fast to lock in Robert Schwentke, who is attracting buzz for his upcoming Bruce Willis-Helen Mirren starrer Red. Schwentke has competition for his next slot, as Universal wants him for RIPD with Ryan Reynolds. Wigutow just scripted an untitled Steve McQueen biopic, as well Divorcees for Universal and Snepp at HBO.
EXCLUSIVE: Robert Schwentke, whose upcoming Helen Mirren-Bruce Willis-John Malkovich shoot-em-up Red got a big Comic-Con reaction, has taken the plunge on Shadow Divers, the Fox 2000 adaptation of the Robert Kurson book. It is one of a couple films Schwentke’s circling, projects that include a new Simon Kinberg-scripted version of the Robert Ludlum thriller The Osterman Weekend at Summit Entertainment, where Schwentke made Red. It isn’t clear yet what next picture his CAA agents will lock him into.
Last I’d written about Shadow Divers was several years ago, when Ridley Scott planned to direct a script by Cast Away‘s William Broyles. I’m told that Fox 2000 will tweak that script under Schwentke’s supervision. Kurson’s acclaimed book follows two wreck divers who uncover the hull of a German U-boat off the New Jersey coast in 1991. The divers became obsessed with discovering the truth behind the ship and the men who died inside it.
Schwentke has so far helmed The Time Traveler’s Wife and Flightplan since moving from German cinema to Hollywood fare. Here is a recent Red trailer.
The just completed Thrillerfest — think Comic-Con for thriller authors and their fans — featured a lecture that caught my eye. Sleepers author Lorenzo Carcaterra chose the 10 best thriller films made from books, the 10 worst, and the 10 he most wants to see get made.
Carcaterra’s Sleepers was turned into a hit film by Barry Levinson, and most of his subsequent thrillers are under option by studios and big producers. His latest, Midnight Angels – an art history thriller set in Florence — was just published by Ballantine and is just being shopped now. Carcaterra cautioned that his lists (culled with the help of other authors and editors) were subjective, guaranteed to stir rancor, and maybe a frivolous exercise. So I say, what’s wrong with a little subjectivity, rancor, and frivolity on a summer Sunday morning?
The 10 Best: The Bourne Trilogy, Silence of the Lambs, Day of the Jackal, 3 Days of the Condor, The Manchurian Candidate, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Getaway (Steve McQueen version), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The French Connection, Patriot Games and Marathon Man (the last two tie for 10th).
The 10 Worst: The Getaway (Alec Baldwin version), The Eiger Sanction, The Osterman Weekend, The Manchurian Candidate (Denzel Washington version), The Sum of All Fears, The Da Vinci Code, Hannibal Rising, The Chamber, Hostage, Heat (the William Goldman novel adapted into a Burt Reynolds pic). Carcaterra hated …