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Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures Taps Focus Exec Matthew Plouffe For SVP Post

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures has hired Focus Features executive Matthew Plouffe to be its new SVP Production. Plouffe, who has spent the past six years in the New York headquarters of Focus, will move to Los Angeles and start the job Oct. 1. Plouffe is currently Focus’ Director of Production and has worked on such Focus films as the Sam Mendes-directed Away We Go, Shane Acker’s 9, the Ryan Fleck/Anna Boden-directed It’s Kind of A Funny Story and most recently on the Lone Scherfig-directed adaptation of One Day that stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Plouffe wanted to move West, and the transition was done with the blessing of Focus Features chief James Schamus, who wrote and produced Maguire’s breakout film as an actor, The Ice Storm. “All of us at Focus have been blessed over the past six years to see Matt grow to become one of the smartest, hardest-working and kindest execs out there, and while we’re sad to see him go, he couldn’t have found a better opportunity than the one Tobey has offered. It’s great to see two of the smartest people in the business teaming up,” Schamus said. Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: UK, India, Korea

Solid First Half For UK’s Pinewood Shepperton Studios
Revenues are up 68% over the first half of the 2011 according to interim results released today, from $27M to $42M over the same period a year ago. The largest film production based at Pinewood Studios during the period was Dark Shadows (Warner Bros), and the largest production based at Shepperton Studios was Wrath of the Titans (WB). Other films that used Pinewood Shepperton facilities included The Iron Lady (DJ Films/Pathé), Gravity (WB), Woman in Black (Hammer Films), 47 Ronin (Universal) and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (Fox). Universal’s Snow White And The Huntsman has just begun shooting at Pinewood. The surge in film business offset a drop in TV revenues from $8.3M last year to $7.6M, which the studio attributed to using more space on movie productions.

Off-Track Bond 23 May Exit India For South Africa
Unhappy that permission to shut down portions of two railways outside Mumbai still has not been granted, Take One Productions is threatening to move production of Bond 23 from India to South Africa. Originally scheduled to shoot in the fall, the Sam Mendes-directed project starring Daniel Craig is now pointing for a January start. “South African authorities are waiting to provide everything that is required to support this movie,” said Take One’s Pravesh Sahni. “If we can’t get this cooperation from India, the film will no longer be shot here.” The railroad scenes will be a major part of the film, Sahni told The Times of India. Read More »

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Javier Bardem Closing ‘Dark Tower’ Deal

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Javier Bardem is close to sealing his deal with Universal Pictures to play gunslinger Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower, the mammoth adaptation of the Stephen King 7-novel series that’ll span three movies and a limited run TV series in between each film. Director Ron Howard begins production on the first film in September, and he’ll also direct the first TV segment. Akiva Goldsman has scripted the film and the initial TV component. Imagine Entertainment chief Brian Grazer is producing the films with Goldsman and King. Goldsman will produce the TV part through his Weed Road banner.

Bardem, who won the Oscar for his ferocious portrayal of a hit man in  No Country For Old Men and who was more recently nominated for Biutiful, is a strong match to play the last living member of a knightly order of gunslingers. Deadline revealed in late January that Bardem had been offered the role of Deschain, who becomes humanity’s last hope to save civilization as he hits the road to find the Dark Tower. Along the way, he encounters characters, good and bad, in a world that has an old West feel.

Bardem’s WME reps are putting the finishing touches on the deal, and they are close enough that Howard has begun meeting with other actors to cast the roles around Bardem. It’s a complex deal, almost unprecedented, because it calls for Bardem to star in the feature film and the TV component. His deal will also include options for two sequels (the TV program that runs between the second and third films will be a prequel). I’m told it will add up to a career-best payday for Bardem. Howard and Goldsman have told me they see the trilogy as their answer to the Peter Jackson-directed adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While Middle Earth had a mystical medieval feel, The Dark Tower vibe is one that Goldsman described as “an alternate Americana, one part post-apocalyptic, one part Sergio Leone.” Read More »

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‘Tron: Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski Passes JJ Abrams To Become King Of First-Timers

Mike Fleming

Before it got released on DVD today, Tron: Legacy managed to play in theaters long enough to establish Joseph Kosinski as the highest-grossing first-time director of a live-action film in Hollywood history. The film’s $399 million global gross recently eclipsed the $397.5 million gross that JJ Abrams turned in on 2006′s Mission: Impossible 3.

Now, such a distinction is relative. Tron: Legacy cost between $165 million and $170 million to make and a comparable amount to market. Sam Mendes made his debut on the $15 million American Beauty, which grossed $356 million worldwide in 1999. Jan De Bont’s debut on the $30 million Speed turned in a $350 million worldwide gross in 1994. Ticket prices were lower when American Beauty and Speed were released, and Tron: Legacy had the extra benefit of higher 3D pricing. American Beauty and Speed were extravagantly profitable. Disney will make some money on Tron: Legacy, but they won’t need to back up the Brink’s truck.

But Tron: Legacy’s performance certainly gives the studio reason to think it has poured the foundation for a franchise. Disney has begun work on a sequel, which Kosinski is constructing with original writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Maybe because of Tron: Legacy’s pricey launch and heightened expectations, I had the impression that the film had been a bit underwhelming, despite a $44 million opening weekend. But looks are deceiving. For one … Read More »

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Sony About To Recapture James Bond #23; UPDATE: MGM Leverages 007 For Deal On Sony’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

2ND UPDATE:  The new MGM brass, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum managed to leverage the James Bond #23 film for a piece of Sony’s in-the-works big movie based on the Stieg Larsson bestseller, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which has already been shooting in Sweden under director David Fincher and starring Rooney Mara. Deadline has learned that Sony Pictures bosses Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton agreed to give MGM a co-financing deal for the big title and possibly other films already shooting, too, to help the reconstituted studio generate quick cash flow. This allows MGM to have revenue which it hasn’t had in a long time, so the books look better, and more funds for production could be forthcoming. (That’s exactly how Birnbaum and Barber built their Spyglass Entertainment in the first place: by investing in films it didn’t make, like the recently rebooted Star Trek.)

UPDATE: We’re told Paramount dropped out of the Bond bidding when MGM insisted on bringing the distribution fee under 8% and when MGM got “grabby” in wanting a piece of a Paramount established franchise that studio didn’t want to give up.

EXCLUSIVE 5 PM: Deadline hears that Sony Pictures is close to landing distribution rights to MGM’s James Bond franchise again, and specifically for the next untitled Bond #23, even though several studios are still very much in the hunt. Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton distributed both Daniel Craig 007 pics, Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, and now have moved into first position to recapture 007. That’s because Sony is agreeing to allow MGM’s new leadership to leverage the next Bond pic, and indeed the Bond franchise, to create more cash flow for the reconstituted studio post-bankruptcy. The new brass, Spyglass Entertainment co-owners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum who are now the Co-Chairmen andCEOs of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, are finishing negotiations to co-finance a number of films with Sony. Deadline has learned that Pascal and Lynton have already found a title on the Sony slate for MGM to co-finance. That’s exactly how Birnbaum and Barber built Spyglass in the first place: by investing in films it didn’t make, such as The Sixth Sense and the recently rebooted Star Trek.

There’s no doubt this is a shrewd move by MGM, but Deadline also learned it wasn’t sitting well with the majors. Top execs at Sony and Fox and Paramount and Warner Bros were increasingly frustrated with the way that the Spyglass duo were playing one studio off another — “and enjoying it,” in the words of one exec involved. Sony at the time even described its strategy to win Bond #23 as ”pleading”. Now it looks like that worked along with agreeing to much of MGM’s negotiating terms.

Even though MGM holds sway on where Bond #23 lands, a 007 return to the Sony fold would please EON partners Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson. Amy Pascal in particular has developed a strong personal and professional relationship with Broccoli when they were making the transition from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig. Broccoli  and Wilson found Craig among a list of possible 007s, and the choice wasn’t popular at first. But Pascal supported Craig. Also Sony has a reputation for spending big to market Bond: for Casino Royale, Sony spent a humongous sum worldwide to introduce the new Bond. MGM was supposed to distribute the 23rd Bond film itself, until the studio was pushed into bankruptcy. Read More »

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Javier Bardem Offered Big Bond #23 Role; MGM Leveraging 007 Distribution With Co-Financing Deal To Improve Its Cash Flow: Jockeying Studios “Increasingly Frustrated”

By and | Sunday January 30, 2011 @ 1:44pm PST

EXCLUSIVE: Deadline has just learned that Javier Bardem has been offered a starring role in the upcoming James Bond film recently set for a November 9, 2012, release. Details about the character are being kept under wraps for now. But traditionally the biggest male role opposite 007 is the villain, and Bardem played a truly villainous villain in his Oscar-winning turn in No Country For Old Men two years ago. The EON Productions offer by principals Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to Bardem to join star Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes was made last week, at around the same time that  the WME-repped Bardem received his Best Actor nomination for Biutiful and another high-profile offer of a lead role, that of gunslinger Roland Deschain in the Ron Howard-directed trilogy based on Stephen King’s novel series The Dark Tower. (Amidst all this career activity, Bardem and Penelope Cruz welcomed their first son into the world.) But it should be noted that Bardem was offered the high-profile villain role in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and turned it down.

The other Bond #23 news is this: Deadline has learned that MGM’s new leadership is trying to leverage the next Bond pic, and indeed the Bond franchise, to create more cash flow for the post-bankruptcy studio. The new brass, Spyglass Entertainment co-owners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum who are now the Co-Chairmen/CEOs of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc, are in the middle of negotiating to make an overall deal for worldwide theatrical and home entertainment distribution of not just Bond but also MGM’s new product as well as its library of films. But what isn’t known is that, as part of that deal, MGM wants whichever studio is chosen to distribute Bond 23 to co-finance a number of films with MGM. ”That would provide MGM quick cash flow,” an insider tells Deadline. “The quick cash flow allows MGM to have revenue which it hasn’t had in a long time. Thereby their books look better, and therefore the possibility of getting more funds for production is increased. So expect whichever studio lands Bond to also announce it is several co-financing deals allowing MGM into other pics that are already shooting.”

There’s no doubt this is a shrewd move by MGM, but Deadline has learned it’s not sitting well with the majors. Top execs at Sony and Fox and Paramount and Warner Bros who are all involved in the negotiations to distribute Bond ”are growing increasingly frustrated with the way that the Spyglass duo are playing one studio off another — and enjoying it,” in the words of one exec involved. One studio even described its strategy to win Bond #23 was reduced recently to ”pleading”. Read More »

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BOND IS BACK! Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes Set For Nov. 9, 2012 Release Date

EXCLUSIVE: MGM is announcing that “BOND 23″ is set to go into production in late 2011. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions, together with Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, the Co-Chairmen and Chief Executive Officers of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., today announced that the 23rd James Bond film will have a worldwide release on November 9, 2012 — just as Deadline last month reported it would. Daniel Craig will be returning as the legendary British secret agent, with Sam Mendes directing a screenplay written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. That script is being kept under wraps but the story begins after Quantum Of Solace leaves off. The reason for the 007 delay is this: Broccoli and Wilson had been in pre-production on Bond #23 for release in 2011 but then it took almost a year for MGM’s future to sort itself out what with the failed auction sale of the studio, then the pre-packaged bankruptcy getting approval, and eventually Spyglass taking over studio filmmaking.

Meanwhile star Daniel Craig filled in the time with various film commitments which he had to finish. The actor began work on the Hollywood remake of the Swedish original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as soon as he completed shooting Cowboys and Aliens in a nifty bit of schedule coordination between two studios and James Bond rights holders Broccoli and Wilson. 

Mendes at first was brought on as a “consultant” because of the delays, and is now officially the director. He responded to the Bond delay by setting a feature adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel On Chesil Beach and directing the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Yet another James Bond videogame, which also had been held up because of the uncertainty, recently got the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the latest 007 vidgame was for sale this Christmas.

It’s still not clear who will distribute the next Bond. Deadline’s Mike Fleming reported in November that, if MGM isn’t the distributor, the next installment of James Bond will be “a jump ball”. Expect Sony (which distributed Casino Royale) to battle it out with Warner Bros and Fox, but Paramount could emerge in the thick of it because of its close relationship with Spyglass over the film reboot of Star Trek and sequel.

Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and at the mercy of its creditors, MGM was in the news for more than a year because of its financial woes. While the studio’s beleaguered backers unwisely allowed MGM and its library to languish by not making new movies and benching MGM’s creative and marketing/distribution executives while it staged a futile sales auction that attracted bottom-fishing bids, MGM made sure to meets the minimum obligations to its two gems, James Bond and The Hobbit

As you know, the James Bond filmmakers operate with great autonomy and watching the MGM situation unfold with a mixture of dismay and curiosity. Dismay because Bond’s longtime studio home was a mess. And curiosity because Broccoli and Wilson hoped to move Bond to a fully functioning studio. Like Sony, where Amy Pascal was dying to keep the famous franchise. Or Fox, which handled Bond’s DVD distribution. Broccoli and Wilson very deliberately made certain they didn’t do anything on Bond #23 which tied the movie further to MGM. (That’s why Mendes was hired as a consulting, not the director. Because once EON hires a director on their Bond films, it triggers a first payment from MGM.) Once the MGM auction apparently busted, EON Productions wanted to keep all its options open.

Meanwhile, Bond 23 may now be casting.  Read More »

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Confirmed: Kevin Spacey And Sam Mendes Firm Up ‘Richard III’ Dates

Mike Fleming

American Beauty‘s Kevin Spacey and Sam Mendes have formalized their plans to re-team in a stage production of Richard III, which will premiere at Spacey’s haunt The Old Vic June 29, 2011 and transplant to the Brooklyn Academy of Music the following January. Here’s the official release:

The final season of The Bridge Project starring Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of The Old Vic, in the title role of Richard III, will open at The Old Vic in London on June 29, 2011. The Bridge Project will then embark on an international tour, arriving at BAM’s Harvey Theater in New York in January 2012. The Bridge Project will again be directed by Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes with whom Spacey worked on the film American Beauty, for which they both won BAFTA and Academy Awards.

The Bridge Project is a unique three-year series of co-productions by The Old Vic, BAM and Neal Street, devoted to producing large-scale, classical theatre for international audiences.

The full company will again be drawn from leading American and British actors, with complete casting and international dates to be announced. Tickets will go on sale at The Old Vic from January 31, 2011 and at BAM in Fall 2011.

Commenting on the final season, Sam Mendes says:

“I am absolutely delighted to be working with Kevin again for the first time since American Beauty, and I am doubly thrilled that he will be leading year three of The Bridge Project. Richard

Read More »

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Three More Directors Circle ‘Hunger Games’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: I need to add three more directors to the list of filmmakers meeting in New York this week with Lionsgate brass for the feature adaption of the Suzanne Collins bestseller Hunger Games. I’d already reported that Gary Ross, Sam Mendes and David Slade were meeting, but am told that Lionsgate motion pictures group president Joe Drake and producer Nina Jacobson are also meeting with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe director Andrew Adamson; Rupert Sanders, a major British director of commercials including Microsoft’s Halo, who has been in the hunt on several of these big films to make his directing debut; and Susanna White, the Nanny McPhee Returns helmer who also directed episodes of the HBO mini Generation Kill and the British minis Bleak House and Jane Eyre. They could expand the field–Francis Lawrence seems a late candidate–but I gather it’s down to this group and that a decision should come shortly.

EARLIER: EXCLUSIVE: The next big film directing job in Hollywood will be decided late next week. That’s when Lionsgate chooses a filmmaker for The Hunger Games, the first installment of a trilogy based on the Suzanne Collins novel series that many feel could be the next Twilight. I’m told that Lionsgate (partnered with former Disney production topper Nina Jacobson’s Color Force) has gotten Billy Ray’s rewrite, and will meet with three elite directors next week before making a decision. Gary Ross, Sam Mendes and David … Read More »

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Sam Mendes And Kevin Spacey Reunite

Mike Fleming

Here’s some exciting stage news. Director Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey, who each won Oscars for American Beauty, have announced they will reunite in a production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III. Mendes will direct and Spacey will star in a production that will open at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater in early 2012. An international tour follows before the production arrives in May, 2012 at the Old Vic, where Spacey is artistic director. I can only guess the scheduling means that Mendes hopes to direct the James Bond film sometime next year, before taking on the stage project. Bond has been frozen because of the continuing troubles of MGM, which seems finally poised to plunge itself into a prepackaged bankruptcy, and then emerge with Spyglass partners Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber steering the ship.

Mendes has separately been working on a stage musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and planning to direct Carey Mulligan in an adaptation of the Ian McEwan novella On Chesil Beach. Mendes originally hoped to bring Charlie in for a holiday 2011 premiere in London, before moving it to Broadway.  He’ll have to multi-task.

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STIRRED, NOT SHAKEN: Sam Mendes & Daniel Craig Will Wait For James Bond

Mike Fleming

james_bond1Reading these obits on James Bond, I think reports of 007′s motion picture demise because of MGM’s near-bankruptcy have been greatly exaggerated. Despite an article out of the UK that spread virally, insiders insist nothing tangible has happened. While Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros would love to grab the Eon Productions franchise, I’m told reliably that as long as MGM’s debt restructuring is preceded by a pre-packaged bankruptcy, Bond isn’t going anywhere. [UPDATE: “You are absolutely right, there is no new news. Development will resume once MGM is viable again, as Danjaq can't go anywhere without them.  So all bets are off.  No idea when this will get resolved,” a source integral to the Bond franchise told Deadline London editor Tim Adler today. Eon is a subsidiary of Danjaq, the Broccoli family holding company responsible for the copyright and trademarks to everything James Bond on screen.] While the studio’s beleaguered backers unwisely allowed MGM and its library to languish by not making new movies and benching MGM’s creative and marketing/distribution executives while it staged a futile sales auction that attracted bottom-fishing bids, MGM has made sure to meets the minimum obligations to its two gems, James Bond and The Hobbit. The studio is mulling whether to change its lethargic strategy and free up money for back-to-back Hobbit films to keep the first film on track for a December 2012 release. That’s because Peter Jackson is willing to direct the films but might not if … Read More »

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