NBC has bought Vanish, a mystery drama from Moonlight co-creator Trevor Munson, Sony TV and Sam Raimi and Josh Donen’s studio-based Star Road banner. Michael Dinner, who is under an overall deal at Sony, will direct the potential pilot. Written by Munson, Vanish centers on a man with a mysterious past who protects deserving people from danger, and helps them disappear. Munson will executive produce with Sam Raimi, Donen and Dinner, while Robert Zotnowski, who runs Star Road’s TV development, also is expected to produce. The project, which was put together at Star Road, reunites Zotnowski and Munson; Zotnowski was a drama development executive at CBS when Munson co-created with Ron Koslow the cult vampire series Moonlight starring Alex O’Loughlin. Munson’s first novel Angel Of Vengeance, an early incarnation of what became the impetus for Moonlight, came out earlier this year. He is repped by Verve and manager Kevin Donahue. CAA-repped Dinner has drama Furlough in development at FX, where he directed and executive produced Powers and Outlaw Country, two pilots in contention for a series pickup.
NBC Buys Mystery Drama Penned By ‘Moonlight’ Co-Creator, Helmed By Michael Dinner & Produced By Sam Raimi
EXCLUSIVE: If Joe Roth were any more closely associated with fairy tales, he’d be one of the Grimm Brothers. Roth, who help start Hollywood’s feverish devotion to fairy tale films by producing the $1 billion-grossing Alice in Wonderland, is negotiating to become producer of Maleficent, Disney’s re-telling of its 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty, this time told from the vantage point of the evil witch. It’s no secret that Angelina Jolie wants to play that character. The script was written by Linda Woolverton, who scripted Alice in Wonderland as well as Disney’s recently re-released The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. They are looking for a director after a preliminary courtship of Alice helmer Tim Burton didn’t work out.
Aside from Alice in Wonderland, Roth is producing Disney’s Sam Raimi-directed Disney pic Oz: The Great and Powerful with James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz, as well as Snow White and the Huntsman, the Universal Pictures epic that is being directed by Rupert Sanders and stars Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth.
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline told you a week ago that things were looking up for The Lone Ranger for the first time since we broke the shocking news on Aug. 12 that Disney had pulled the plug over budget. I’m hearing that the studio is likely to have everything resolved by next week, and can start rehiring crew so that the picture will be ready to begin production in January or February. How that late start impacts the Dec. 21, 2012 release date remains to be seen, but Johnny Depp will get to play Tonto (Disney wouldn’t make the movie without him), and Armie Hammer will be back in as the title character. Ruth Wilson, the scene-stealing killer from Idris Elba’s British cop series Luther, is also expected back as the female lead.
Disney has gotten to this point after a painful overhaul of the movie by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski to bring to $215 million a budget the studio feared could reach $250 or more. Verbinski’s struggle has been to reach that number while retaining enough of the spectacle that made them say yes in the first place. The cutting process has included the reworking of deals for Depp, Verbinski and Bruckheimer, and trimming the production budget and the long shoot. That would enable Depp, Gore and Bruckheimer to re-team after making the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films together. The Lone Ranger is one of several huge-budget films that Disney’s Rich Ross and Sean Bailey are managing. The others include John Carter, the Andrew Stanton-directed adaptation of John Carter of Mars with Friday Night Lights‘ Taylor Kitsch in the lead role, which has a budget around $250 million; and The Great and Powerful Oz, the Sam Raimi-directed James Franco-starrer, which is hovering around $200 million.
CBS Buys Sony TV Drama Projects From ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Producer Matt Tolmach & ‘Spider-Man’ Director Sam Raimi
EXCLUSIVE: In his first foray into TV, former Columbia Pictures chief-turned-producer Matt Tolmach, who produces the upcoming Spider-Man reboot with Avi Arad, has sold a female-driven drama project to CBS with writer Jessica Goldberg (Refuge). Additionally, CBS has bought a drama project with a female lead from the director of the previous 3 Spider-Man movies, Sam Raimi, which is being written by Sarah Thorp (Hawthorne, The Bounty Hunter). Both projects hail from Sony Pictures TV where both Tolmach and Raimi are based through extensions to their Sony pacts on the feature side.
The Matt Tolmach/Jessica Goldberg project is titled Sleepers and centers on a woman who has the gift to save “sleepers,” people who are caught somewhere between life and death. Tolmach, who is executive producing with Goldberg, exited his post as co-president of Columbia Pictures in October 2010 to launch a film production company and take on producing duties for the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man movie. As an executive, he shepherded the first 3 films in the franchise. Goldberg, who penned the 2008 ABC pilot The Prince of Motor City, is repped by UTA, which also reps Tolmach
Disney Announces Two New Pixar Films
Who needs Comic-Con when you can do it yourself?
That must be exactly what Disney is thinking as it continues its massive second annual Disney D23/ Expo, the “ultimate fan event” taking place all weekend long at the Anaheim Convention Center right next to Disneyland (the name refers to 1923, the year Walt Disney started his studio). It’s an offshoot of the official Disney Fan Club and includes a ginormous exhibition center with every imaginable opportunity to buy Disneyana, numerous fan events and celebrity-sighting opps, and then there was today’s centerpiece: a near-three-hour preview of movies in the pipeline from Disney, Pixar and Marvel (which announced a partnership with the company in 2009 that is just now gearing up).
Call it “Mickey Con”. It’s all a bit overwhelming, so no wonder it takes three days just to get through it all. The event continues through the end of Sunday.
After his major presentation of the new Disney slate in the gargantuan arena in front of 4200 seemingly rabid fans (and a few more restrained press members), I caught up with Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross in the Green Room for an exclusive interview in which he talked about the possibilities of a fifth Pirate.s of the Caribbean film as well as his first comments on the demise of Pirates team Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer’s about-to-shoot Western The Lone Ranger, which Deadline’s Mike Fleming first reported had been dropped by Disney due to budgetary concerns on the pricey pic. When I asked Ross if there was anything new to report he said, ”Nothing definitive. There is nothing new. I’m hoping to do it, I’m certainly hoping. I think it’s a compelling story and no one wants to work with Jerry and Johnny more than me, so we’ll see how it works.” And about the possibility of a fifth Pirates? The situation is obviously clouded with the Lone Ranger situation, but again he used the word “hopeful.”
UPDATE: Johnny Depp is in Europe right now, but really wanted to make The Lone Ranger. According to one insider, “Let’s see how it all shakes out on Monday. There’s always a chance that it could go. You never know until you know.” The deeper story behind this production stoppage is about how movies are costing too much, studios are giving major pushback, and today’s backdrop of a crazy economy. Everyone involved is still intent on the project and still in discussions to see what can be done. But the studio’s concern is spending over $200M on a Western, even with Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp and a comedic slant. So clearly Disney took drastic action. Now the studio and filmmakers are trying to figure out the next step, either to shop it elsewhere or put it back together at a later date at a lower budget.
EXCLUSIVE: In a stunning development, Disney has shut down production on The Lone Ranger, the Gore Verbinski-directed period Western that was to star Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the title character. Jerry Bruckheimer is the producer and the script is by Justin Haythe. I’m told this all just happened, and Disney pulled the plug because of the budget. I’ve heard the filmmakers were trying to reduce the film’s cost from $250 million (some even say $275 million) down to $232 million. But it wasn’t the $200 million that Disney wanted to spend. And between Depp, Bruckheimer, and Verbinski, the gross outlay on the film is substantial.
When the plug was pulled, the film was still casting up, with Ruth Wilson, the serial killer from the BBC’s Luther series, set for the female lead. And The Lone Ranger was scheduled to be released Dec. 21, 2012, smack up against The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opens Dec. 14, and the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z, which was just slated for Dec. 21. This becomes the second major Western-themed project to bite the dust, after Universal halted a mammoth adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. And is it coincidence that The Lone Ranger halted right after another Western, Cowboys & Aliens, proved a pricey disappointment for DreamWorks and Universal?
Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell are readying to remake their cult horror hit The Evil Dead, tapping Fede Alvarez to write and direct the redo and putting the project on the fast track via Raimi, Tapert and Nathan Kahane’s Ghost House Pictures. Alvarez, who came to the producers’ attention via his short film Panic Attack, penned the script with Rodo Sayagues, and scribe Diablo Cody is doing revisions on the latest draft. In the original 1981 film that starred Campbell, five friends at a remote cabin in the woods unknowingly summon demons from an ancient civilization, causing all sorts of bloody and gory problems. The movie spawned a pair of sequels: Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Raimi, Tapert and Campbell, the original film’s producers, will produce the new incarnation, and Ghost House partners Kahane and Joe Drake will executive produce. Nicole Brown and J.R. Young will oversee the project for Ghost House. Lionsgate will handle international sales on the film. Two things come to mind: The in-camera special effects were the best parts of the original, so it will be interesting to see how modern VFX will be utilized. Also, the news that Juno scribe Cody is on the case is interesting, though she does have a horror film under her belt having penned the Megan Fox-starrer Jennifer’s Body, which didn’t do much at the box office. Stay tuned on both fronts.
EXCLUSIVE: Coming up on Starz — another action drama series from Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, executive producers of the pay cable network’s breakout hit Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its offshoot Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. I hear Starz has greenlighted to series Noir, a live-action adaptation of the 2001 Japanese anime series.
The project, which had been in development at the network since last fall, follows two female assassins who team up to fight against a secret society. After discovering they’re mysteriously linked, the two, under the Noir moniker, have to work together until they get answers about why and how they are connected — or until one of them kills the other. Steven Lightfoot (Criminal Justice) wrote the adaptation and will executive produce the series with Raimi, Tapert, fellow Spartacus exec producer Joshua Donen as well as Bill Hamm.
Noir had been gathering momentum over the past few weeks, with producers sending out feelers about assembling a small writers room for the potential series. The number of episodes for Noir is yet to be determined, but Starz’s new shows usually get straight-to-series orders of 8 to 10 episodes. At the network, Noir joins the upcoming Chicago mayor drama Boss starring Kelsey Grammer and 1960s Miami drama Magic City. Meanwhile, costume drama Camelot is still awaiting word on its future after completing its freshman run last week.
EXCLUSIVE: Zach Braff is in final talks to join Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, the Sam Raimi-directed film for Disney. Braff will play the role of Frank, the loyal but under-appreciated assistant to Oz (James Franco), a charismatic circus magician who is treated as a powerful wizard after his balloon blows off course into Oz and the townsfolk want him to eradicate a Wicked Witch and bring peace. Mila Kunis will play the witch Theodora, Michelle Williams will play Glinda and Rachel Weisz will play Evanora. The pic starts shooting in July in Michigan, with Joe Roth, Josh Donen and Grant Curtis producing and Palek Patel exec producing. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the script, with Disney releasing the 3D film March 8, 2013.
Braff takes the role after writing his first play, All New People, which opens off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre with opening night July 25. Braff is also starring in the Tribeca Films feature High Cost of Living. He’s repped by CAA and Management 360.
BREAKING: Disney has staked out the weekend of March 8, 2013 to release the Sam Raimi-directed 3D Oz: The Great and Powerful. The film is still casting, but James Franco stars as the title character, with Mila Kunis playing Theodora, Michelle Williams in talks to play Glinda and Rachel Weisz in talks to play Evanora. The film begins production late July in Michigan. Franco plays the charlatan circus magician whose balloon is blown off course. It lands in Oz, where he’s treated as a real wizard by the colorful citizens who see him as the man to rid the lands of a wicked witch. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the script, and Joe Roth is producing. Josh Donen and Grant Curtis are also producing and Palak Patel is exec producer.
EXCLUSIVE: While the outbreak of zombie and vampire films has been well chronicled, Hollywood has also become flush with Frankenstein films. The latest is an adaptation of the Peter Ackroyd novel The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, which has just gotten Pulitzer-winning Proof playwright David Auburn signed to write the script. The project is set with RT Features, and Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert’s Ghost House Pictures. The story covers the youthful days of Frankenstein, who begins experimenting with corpses, influenced by the outspoken English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose Mary wrote the book. She’s a character in the film as well. RT Features’ Rodrigo Teixeira will produce with Tapert and Ilene Staple, while Fernando Loureiro, Jeff Vespa and Ghost House’s Nathan Kahane and Lawrence Grey will be exec producers.
That’s just one of several Frankenflicks. Universal is developing a new version of the 1931 studio classic movie with Guillermo del Toro and Scott Stuber; Summit Entertainment is developing This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, an adaptation of the Kenneth Oppel novel that is being produced by Twilight Saga’s Karen Rosenfelt; and Columbia Pictures and producer Matt Tomach recently acquired Frankenstein, a contemporary re-telling of the famous tale based on a pitch by Craig Fernandez. If that’s not enough, former Guns n Roses guitar hero Slash, whose Slasher Films is teamed with Scout Productions on a Jay Russell-attached Wake the Dead, a Frankenstein tale based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night). And let’s not forget Fox 2000’s remake of the 1975 camp classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, last heard from around Halloween, when the studio courted Glee’s Ryan Murphy, right after he wrapped an episode devoted to the original movie.
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has acquired screen rights to the book Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip To Heaven And Back, written by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. Joe Roth will produce with T.D. Jakes.
Burpo is a small town Nebraska pastor whose four-year old son, Colton, nearly died during an emergency appendectomy operation. As he recovered, Colton began telling his family that he went to Heaven, actually looking down at the doctors operating on him and his family praying in the waiting room. And he slowly began telling them details about his miscarried sister, and his long-dead grandfather, none of which he should have known about. He then revealed to his family what it was like during his visit in Heaven, before he was sent back to his family. He’s now 11.
Roth produced Alice in Wonderland and has the Sam Raimi-directed Oz: The Great and Powerful and Snow White and the Huntsman on the launch pad. While some might look at the contents of this book and think Roth has another fairy tale on his hands, Heaven Is For Real has caught on as affirming story with a faith-based crowd. Movie interest was high before the Burpo family entrusted the tale to producers and an exec with a track record of devotion to the Man Upstairs. Jakes is himself a Texas-based pastor, who produced and played a pastor in Jumping the Broom, which Sony Pictures …
Disney is in talks with Rachel Weisz to join James Franco and Mila Kunis in the Sam Raimi-directed Oz: The Great And Powerful. I’m told the Oscar winner will play Evanora, the meaner older witch sister of Theodora (Kunis). Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the script, and Joe Roth is producing. Production starts in the summer. Weisz is repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
While James Franco and Anne Hathaway have been busy pulling it together to host Sunday’s Oscarcast, Franco’s CAA reps and Disney have closed his deal to play the title role in Oz: The Great and Powerful. That puts the film on track to begin production in July, with Franco reuniting with his Spider-Man director Sam Raimi in the prequel to the L. Frank Baum novel that was scripted by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Joe Roth is producing.
There had been much discussion around town lately about Disney’s gyrations in trying to pare the budget of the film down to a mere $200 million, but they must have figured it out if they locked in Franco. For Franco, the multi-tasking marvel’s dance card for 2011 now looks like this: he’ll first star in the Noah Baumbach-directed While We’re Young, and then will shoot Oz. That brings him to the late fall/winter, when he’ll star in Sweet Bird of Youth, the David Cromer-directed revival of the Tennessee Williams play that will be produced by Scott Rudin. Kidman will play Alexandra Del Lago, the aging voracious movie star, while Franco will play her gigolo paramour Chance Wayne. While Franco has starred in eclectic indies and is even a recurring soap opera star, he has event film experience from the Spider-Man films with Raimi, and stars this fall in Fox’s Planet of the Apes prequel Rise of the Apes. Still, this is a …
UPDATE: Mandate Pictures has won the auction for The Day of the Triffids. The film will be produced by Ghost House, the partnership between Mandate, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. The deal is seven-figures and I’ve heard it’s the most that Mandate has paid for a project package. Raimi wants to direct it; the original was one of his favorite films as a boy. Raimi and Tapert will board the producer roster, joining Michael Preger, Angry Films’ Don Murphy and Susan Montford, and Mark Gordon, who previously worked with Raimi on A Simple Plan.
EXCLUSIVE: Suitors are bidding on a rights package to do a new version of The Day of the Triffids. I’m told that Warner Bros bidding for David Yates, who graduated from directing the British miniseries State of Play to do the final four Harry Potter films. Among the other bidders is Mandate Pictures, on behalf of Sam Raimi. The deal will be in the seven-figures when the dust clears, and it was wrapped up by Mandate’s Nathan Kahane.
Ghost House Pictures has set Dana Stevens to write The Au Pair, a thriller adaptation of The Sitter, a 2003 novel by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. A young woman flees a troubled relationship for a great summer job as a family nanny in a Hamptons beachfront vacation home. That dream job becomes a nightmare. The picture is being produced by Sean Furst and Bryan Furst, with Ghost House principals Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. Stevens, Nathan Kahane, Yvonne Bernard and Beth Elise Hawk are exec producers. Stevens and Raimi previously collaborated on For the Love of the Game, which Stevens wrote and Raimi directed for Universal. Stevens’s other scripts include Life or Something Like it, City of Angels and Blink. UTA reps her.
While Disney topper Rich Ross and production president Sean Bailey have been beating the drum on both coasts for Tron: Legacy and Tangled, they have just solidified their next 3D event-sized family film followup to Alice in Wonderland. The studio has received a commitment from director Sam Raimi to Oz: The Great And Powerful as his next film. Raimi had become attached to Oz in June, with the hope of landing Robert Downey Jr to play the title character. At the time, Raimi was also hot and heavy into the Legendary Pictures property World of Warcraft and it became a footrace to see which Raimi would make after dropping out of a 4th Spider-Man.
In its first development season since focusing on primetime TV with a first-look deal at Sony TV and the hire of CBS’ Robert Zotnowski as TV head, Sam Raimi and Joshua Donen’s Stars Road Entertainment has sold 3 hourlong projects to 3 networks, Fox, ABC and CBS.
While the company plans to develop across all TV, the the primary focus leading into its first year “was to find early success (on broadcast),” said Zotnowski, who was SVP drama at CBS, co-heading the network’s drama department before he left in August 2009 to join Stars Road. The auspices involved in the company’s 3 series projects, all produced by Sony TV, represent a mix of existing relationships Zotnowski has with TV writers and feature and comic book talent brought in by Raimi.
The ABC project hails from Dee Johnson, with whom Zotnowski worked on The Good Wife. Last year, Johnson served as executive producer/showrunner on the first 13 episodes of the CBS legal drama. The new project centers on a top female prosecutor in Los Angeles, whom Zotnowski describes as a “female vigilante with a law license.”
The Fox project, Smokers, comes from comic book and TV writer Brian K. Vaughan, best known for creating the comic book series Y: The Last Man, and for his work as a writer on ABC’s Lost. The high-concept drama, based on an original idea by Vaughan, is about a documentary crew following working class heroes who exterminate alien threats in deep space.
The third project, set at Zotnowski’s former …
Studios brought stars and film clips to Comic-Con, seeking geek love for all of its superhero and fantasy projects. While they’re paying attention, how about some of the more ambitious films these die-hards have waited years to see? After numerous conversations with agents, writers and studio execs who orbit the geek periphery, I’ve culled the 15 that came up most often. Some of these will happen soon, others might never emerge from development hell, a few might be just too tough to crack in a two-hour time frame. Given the glut of Comic-Con superhero projects, there’s a refreshing lack of capes. Here they are, in no particular order.