EXCLUSIVE: With The Lone Ranger in the can, Disney, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp have turned their attention toward setting sail on a fifth installment underway of Pirates Of The Caribbean. While a number of pie-in-the-sky giant directors are being mentioned, here are three helmers I hear are on the short list. Fredrik Bond, who helmed The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman, has been a favorite of Bruchkeimer and has been rumored for some time. The hot new candidate is the Kon-Tiki directing team of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who just fell out of the Legendary Pictures film Spectral; and I am also hearing buzz about Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders. The Kon-Tiki guys are the names I’m hearing most often, but no offer has been made and there will probably be a few more meetings prior to any of that happening. Production is being slotted for late this year or early next year, but the director will be locked within the next few weeks. Disney made an unexpected choice for the last film, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with Rob Marshall, and that grossed over $1 billion. Given the names here, they’re clearly looking to inject fresh creative energy to the mix. Stay tuned.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has just acquired the Dean Unkefer book 90 Church: The True Story Of The Narcotics Squad From Hell, to be published by Random House in the US and Virgin Books in Europe in May 2013. This is a significant deal and it will reteam Snow White And The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders with producers Joe Roth and Palak Patel, who’ll produce with Deborah Giarratana. They will begin looking for a high-end writer immediately.
The book was sold by CAA in a preemptive deal with the studio, with execs Jeffrey Kirschenbaum and Maradith Frenkel overseeing it. Sanders has been developing the sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman, a movie which did just under $400 million worldwide. That project is now moving on a slower track, as the studio tries to figure out whether it wants to make a sequel, or instead a spinoff that focuses on Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman character. David Koepp, who I’d reported back in April was hired to script a straight sequel, isn’t going forward at the moment and no script will be written until Universal figures out the next move. Studio likes the spinoff idea greatly. Because the Huntsman package sold in a five studio bidding battle, Sanders has no option tying him to either film, but he is squarely in the mix.
Last week we got a glimpse of Universal’s Snow White And The Huntsman directed by Rupert Sanders. The first trailer for Tarsem Singh’s take on the fairy tale arrived today. Relativity’s Mirror Mirror will make it to theaters March 16 ahead of Universal’s version set for June 1.
Universal Pictures has released a new teaser trailer for Snow White And The Huntsman, the studio’s big revisionist fairy tale that stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. Rupert Sanders directed the film, which will be released June 1, 2012. That’s several months behind Relativity Media’s Mirror, Mirror, but …
BREAKING: NBCUniversal’s new owners at Comcast have given a vote of confidence to the studio’s feature film operation. They’ve exercised an option on Universal Pictures’ Chairman Adam Fogelson and extended his contract through 2014. I’m told that Fogelson is, in turn, in the process of exercising the option of Donna Langley and she will continue as the studio’s co-chairman. They will also keep their executive team intact. Fogelson will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and will now also report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke.
While Universal has had its ups and downs, higher-ups are clearly convinced that Fogelson, Langley and their team are making progress. They’ve had recent hits –Bridesmaids, Hop! and Fast Five– but also had some recent misses that include The Dilemma, Change-Up and Cowboys & Aliens. In the latter case, the studio was on the hook for one-third of the film, and shared that third with Relativity Media. It has also been a year in which Fogelson and his team have made some painful decisions and let pricey productions go. That began with the Guillermo Del Toro-directed At the Mountains of Madness, which Universal developed for years and which was ready to go with Tom Cruise, until the studio made a late decision not to go forward because of the possibility the $150M film could carry an R-rating. Universal also dropped two projects that were in advanced stages of development: The Dark Tower, the Akiva Goldsman-directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel series that was to be made into three feature films and two limited-run TV series, with the first film and TV segment directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer and Goldsman; and Oiuja, the Hasbro board game that had McG directing and Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners producing with Hasbro. The moves were surprising because Howard and Grazer are cornerstone filmmakers for Universal; and Del Toro and Hasbro have overall deals there. Ouija is one of several Hasbro properties the studio dropped, the others being the Gore Verbinski-directed Clue, the Ridley Scott-directed Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. These were part of a groundbreaking deal the studio made with the toymaker several years ago, but the studio and Hasbro have re-focused their attention solely on Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, and Candy Land.
EXCLUSIVE: Sensing a possible opening with Hugh Jackman because The Wolverine lost its director and a plan to shoot in Japan turned precarious, Universal Pictures has offered Jackman the huntsman role in Snow White and the Huntsman. The Rupert Sanders-directed film has Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron ready to star. Also, I’ve heard Universal is in talks with Hossein Amini to come aboard and do some script work on a project slated to begin production mid-September.
Whether Jackman accepts is unclear. Jackman would obviously have to be paid a premium to pump up the star power of a film that will reach theaters after its rival, Relativity Media’s The Brothers Grimm: Snow White. That film has Julia Roberts playing the evil queen, but unproven thesps Armie Hammer and Lily Collins in the leads. Clearly, Jackman’s priority is his signature razor-clawed X-Men mutant hero. He has been very hands on developing The Wolverine with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, and he himself drafted Darren Aronofsky, who exited earlier this month. Jackman and the studio are just getting started on finding a replacement. I’ve heard names like Duncan Jones, director of the well-reviewed Source Code, and David Slade, the Twilight Saga: Eclipse helmer who was in the mix before Aronofsky got hired.
UPDATE: I’m told that the deal being finalized will be worth $1.5 million against more than $3 million, easily making it one of the biggest spec deals of the year.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Universal Pictures is putting the finishing touches on a multi-million dollar deal for Snow White and the Huntsman, a revisionist take on the fairy tale scripted by Evan Daugherty and produced by Alice in Wonderland‘s Joe Roth. Attached to direct is Rupert Sanders, who has been on a short list for many plum studio jobs including The Hunger Games and All You Need Is Kill, based on his reel of stylishly-directed commercials