EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation with 3 networks bidding, ABC has landed a single-camera comedy starring actress/singer Mandy Moore with a put pilot commitment. The project will be written by Wedding Crashers co-writer Bob Fisher, directed by Shawn Levy and produced by Marty Adelstein and Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein in association with 20th Century Fox TV. The untitled half-hour is a single camera family comedy that explores the inherent conflict between the families we grow up in and the families we make. It’s told through the lens of a young, newlywed couple – Annie (played by Mandy Moore) and Ben. Fisher, Levy, Adelstein and Becky Clements are executive producing, with Moore’s manager Jon Leshay producing. This marks the first regular series gig for Moore, who has been busy in features. She is currently in production on Chris Sparling’s Falling Slowly and recently voiced the lead in the Disney animated movie Tangled, with her song, I See The Light, earning an Oscar nomination. On TV, she had a recurring role on ABC’s medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. WME-repped Moore released her most recent album in 2009. Comedy veteran Fisher most recently developed and executive produced the Fox/20th TV comedy series Traffic Light.
EXCLUSIVE: The spec script went out last night and the mid against high 6-figure deal just closed. Century Fox acquired The Three Misfortunes of Geppetto for Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps. He’s attached to direct the screenplay by Michael Vukadinovich. 21 Laps execs Dan Cohen and Billy Rosenberg brought in the script that’s a prequel to the story of Pinocchio. Geppetto endures a life of misfortune, war and adventure all to be with Julia Moon, his true love. The sweep is reminiscent of Big Fish or The Princess Bride and it creates a fresh way into the Pinocchio story at a time when revisionist fairy tales are dominating the movie landscape. Warner Bros last year set up a live action Pinocchio film that has the interest of Tim Burton.
It gives Fox another project with Levy, who most recently directed Real Steel, which opened as last weekend’s top grossing film for DreamWorks. Levy’s now producing the Akiva Schaffer-directed Neighborhood Watch with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, and he’s expected to next direct the Max Landis-scripted Frankenstein for Fox. Levy’s 21 Laps TV division just debuted the Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing to big ratings Tuesday night. The deal is the first big spec sold by Vukadinovich, who wrote the indie comedy Pete & Goat, which has Mark Palansky attached to direct with Ahmet Zappa and Dan Dubiecki …
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has preemptively bought Magicians, a drama series adaptation of Lev Grossman’s popular fantasy novel, with a script commitment plus penalty. It will be written by X-Men: First Class and Thor co-writers Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and produced by Michael London (Milk), Shawn Levy and Michael Adelstein. Based on Grossman’s book, which is described as Harry Potter for grown-ups, the one-hour drama follows a group of 20-somethings in New York who study magic and have access to a magical world. London had optioned the novel, which was published in 2009, while 21 Laps/Adelstein had a deal with Miller and Stentz, who have extensive TV background having worked on such series as Fringe and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. All joined forces on the series project, which will be executive produced by Miller, Stentz, London, Levy, Adelstein and Becky Clements. Following the success of The Magicians, Grossman wrote a sequel, The Magician King, which was published in August.
Contemporary dramas with fairytale elements are hot for a second consecutive broadcast development season. The previous one yielded 2 new series in the genre, ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm. This time around, Magicians joins a project from Michael Green, which recently landed a put pilot commitment at ABC. It centers on a female cop who discovers a magical world that exists within New York City.
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has bought a CIA drama from Karyn Usher (The Playboy Club) in a script deal that has a significant penalty attached to it. The project, a procedural thriller centered on the orphaned 17-year-old daughter of a CIA operative who is recruited to become an operative herself, is being produced by 20th Century Fox TV and Mary Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s studio-based 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods. Usher, Adelstein, Levy and Becky Clements are executive producing. Adelstein approached Usher, who also is under an overall deal at 20th TV, with the idea for the project to find out that she had been thinking about a similar idea. This is the duo’s third project together. Adelstein first met Usher on the Fox/20th TV drama Prison Break, which Adelstein executive produced and on which WME-repped Usher started off as a co-producer and eventually rose to co-executive producer. The two later developed a U.S.
EXCLUSIVE: ABC is going to the circus with Bazirkus, a soap from writer Mitch Kapner (Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful) and Sander/Moses (The Ghost Whisperer). Meanwhile, Fox continues to search for a new medical franchise with a script deal for a dramedy from Gossip Girl writer-producer Jessica Queller and Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein’s 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods.
Bazirkus is based loosely on 32-year-old Nicole Feld of Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus, who grew up in the circus her grandfather bought in 1967 and has become the first female producer in Ringling Bros’ history. The ABC project, which will be set at a fictional circus, is a family/workplace soap about unfulfilled dreams and great expectations in the circus world where everyone is pushing the limits, personally and professionally, to reinvent themselves as they reinvent their world. “This is drama that brings the circus into the 21st century, it will take us behind the curtain as well as center stage,” said Ian Sander and Kim Moses, who are executive producing with Kapner. ABC Studios, where UTA-repped Sander/Moses is under a deal, will produce. Kapner, who also penned The Whole Nine Yards, is with Gersh.
Jessica Queller’s Fox medical dramedy centers on a young neurologist who is a single mother of a sperm-donor baby. The show will chronicle (with humor) her struggle to balance work, motherhood, family and romance as she moves to Boston to start a new job that she hopes will help her find a cure for her ailing brother. 21 Laps/Adelstein is producing with 20th TV, where the company is based. Queller, Levy, Adelstein and Becky Clements are executive producing.
EXCLUSIVE: The classic 1984 action-adventure romantic comedy Romancing the Stone is headed to the small screen. NBC has bought a TV series adaptation of the Robert Zemeckis movie, which was produced by 20th Century Fox and starred Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The TV project, from 20th Century Fox TV and Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein’s studio-based 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods, has received a script commitment with penalty from NBC. The Forgotten creator Mark Friedman will write the series adaptation with Levy attached to direct subject to feature availability. The 1984 film starred Turner as a romance writer who sets off to Colombia to ransom her kidnapped sister, and soon finds herself in the middle of a dangerous adventure alongside a swashbuckling American bird exporter, played by Douglas.
As the 20th Century Fox 3D Fantastic Voyage continues to take forever to get underway (script is there, but it’s pricey and they’ve had trouble casting it), I’m hearing persuasively that director Shawn Levy will likely take another Fox film, Frankenstein, as his next effort. John Davis is producing it. Fox wants to move quickly on the Max Landis-scripted thriller based on the classic monster from Mary Shelley’s public domain novel, and I’m told the studio wants Levy. They are beginning creative conversations with an eye toward this filling his winter/spring slot. The studio is eager to get out in front of the seven other Frankenstein films that are percolating all over town. Levy’s latest film, the Hugh Jackman-starrer Real Steel, will be released Oct. 7 by Touchstone. He’s eyeing a handful of possible next projects, but I’m putting my money on it being Frankenstein. Meanwhile, Levy is producing Neighborhood Watch, the Akiva Schaffer-directed Fox comedy that stars Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, and which just got Jonah Hill aboard.
20th Century Fox might finally be getting going on Neighborhood Watch, a comedy that has long been a priority. The studio is negotiating with Akiva Schaffer, who is one-third of the “Lonely Island” team that created those digital shorts on Saturday Night Live, to direct. The studio likes Ben Stiller for the lead role in the comedy, which has a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg that has got Schaffer and Stiller interested. Shawn Levy is producing. The lead role is a newcomer to the neighborhood whose idea to join the neighborhood watch to get socially acclimated goes awry when aliens get involved. Unclear if Stiller will have the time. He’s coming off a Broadway turn in the revival of the John Guare play The House of Blue Leaves, and he’s got about five films percolating. They include the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Zoolander 2 (Stiller wrote the script with Justin Theroux), the Noah Baumbach-directed While We’re Young, and the Africa-set comedy Help Me Spread Goodness. Stiller most recently wrapped Tower Heist for Universal.
Schaffer, who makes the SNL Digital Shorts with Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, previously directed Samberg in the comedy Hot Rod.
EXCLUSIVE: In the past month, the screenwriting team of Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz have seen their script work on Thor and X-Men: First Class lead to big opening weekends. The scribes are capitalizing on their heat by making film and TV deals. The duo just made a pre-emptive pitch deal worth high six-figures with Skydance Productions principals David Ellison and Dana Goldberg for an untitled contemporary disaster/action film. The style is ’70s fare like Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and Earthquake. Specifics are being kept under wraps.
Miller & Stentz have also just sold a pilot to 20th Century Fox for mid six figures, with Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein producing. The scribes are currently writing a remake of the Lee Majors stuntman TV series The Fall Guy for producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. The project is set up at Imagenation, with an eye toward distribution through DreamWorks. They wrote an untitled “Knight Project” for Fox, and did production rewriting work on the Dimension Films “found footage” thriller Apollo 18. The feature success comes after Miller & Stentz spent years as writers/producers on series that include Fringe, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Andromeda. The scribes are repped by Principato-Young and WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn’t the only case where a film division at 20th Century Fox is monkeying around with a primate picture. Fox Animation has set the team of Christian Magalhaes & Bob Snow to write a modern day twist on the King Kong story. It will be animated, and will tell the story from the vantage point of the ape. It’s an interesting take on the material, because let’s face it, Kong got a bum deal and had no way to verbally complain about it. It is based on a story by Mike Weber, who’ll also produce.
Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps will produce with Ted Field’s Radar Pictures. Magalhaes & Snow’s recent spec script Murder of a Cat made the Black List and is in the process of being set up. Gersh and Madhouse rep the scribes.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing that Hugh Jackman is director Shawn Levy’s first choice to star in 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Voyage, the James Cameron-produced 3D tent pole film. It’s early days, but this would give Jackman a big movie to do while he and Fox sort things out with The Wolverine. The film was on a fast track to start production this year, until Darren Aronofsky dropped out as director. They’ve considered such helmers as Source Code‘s Duncan Jones and David Slade, but haven’t yet hired a helmer. There has also been complications because the Christopher McQuarrie script is set almost entirely in Japan, a country still dealing with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Pushing the picture back wouldn’t hurt Fox that much, because expectations are high for this summer’s X-Men: First Class, which would keep the franchise vibrant. It would also keep Jackman and Levy in the Fox fold at a time when their recent collaboration, Real Steel, looks like it could be a big hit for DreamWorks in the fall.
Deadline revealed in February that Levy had come aboard Fantastic Voyage, the re-imagining of the 1966 original about a team of scientists shrunk into a ship in an attempt to save a colleague’s life. Fox and Cameron are planning an ambitious 3D film with a script by Shane Salerno and Laeta Kalogridis, and the new …
EXCLUSIVE: Disney doesn’t release Real Steel until Oct. 7, but already DreamWorks is getting the machinery moving on a sequel to the Shawn Levy-directed drama that stars Hugh Jackman. I’m told the studio has commissioned John Gatins, who scripted the first film, to start on the second installment. It’s unusual to see that occur so early, but I can recall it happening when Warner Bros commissioned a Hangover sequel after early tests showed the movie was going to be a big hit. Development on the sequel’s just getting under way, and deals will have to be made with Jackman and Levy. Gatins is repped by UTA.
DreamWorks has gotten strong response to internal screenings of the film, and at a CinemaCon presentation of footage in Las Vegas. The film is a Rocky-meets-Transformers tale of a prize fighter whose pugilistic skills are rendered obsolete when human boxers are replaced by robots. The fighter (Jackman) becomes a boxing promoter and finds a discarded robot that wins and wins. The fighter also discovers he has a 13-year old son, who comes along for the ride as the robot heads toward the top against scary competition.
EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has made a preemptive deal for an untitled pitch that will be written by Jonathan Tropper as a potential directing vehicle for Real Steel helmer Shawn Levy. Part of the deal is rights to a December 10 article in The New York Times about the last lab that had the chemicals to process Kodachrome in the final days before Kodak retired the photo development system and conceded to digital cameras. The plan is to shape that event–Kodachrome fans ventured to the Kansas lab from all over the country–into a father-son road trip story to reach the lab and process photos before those still photo images are forever lost.
The film will be produced by 21 Laps’ Levy and Dan Levine and Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Eric Robinson. Gotham brought the project to 21 Laps and they worked out the pitch together. Tropper most recently adapted the Steve Martin novel The Pleasure of My Company for Levy and 20th Century Fox. Tropper is back with DreamWorks after scripting the film adaptation of the Mary Chase play Harvey that had a Steven Spielberg directing commitment several years ago for a co-production between Fox and DreamWorks. That film fell apart over casting. Tropper adapted his own novel, This Is Where I Leave You, for Warner Bros, and several of his other novels are percolating all over town. DreamWorks co-presidents Holly …
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has acquired Scavengers, a script by Chris Baldi that Thor Freudenthal will direct. Freudenthal helmed Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the studio. The film will be produced by Emjag Productions’ Alexandra Milchan and 21 Laps’ Shawn Levy and Dan Levine. The setup: After their adventurous father dies, three brothers who’ve been estranged discover that in order to collect their inheritance, they will have to go out on a scavenger hunt to find treasure he left behind. Clues bring them back to many of the childhood experiences they shared with their father. Freudenthal is repped by Gersh and The Gotham Group.
In a series of stories, I’ll take an analytical look at the current broadcast pilot season and some of its trends and heroes.
In what was probably the last big pilot director signing this season, Jaume Collet-Sera yesterday closed a deal to direct ABC’s The River hours before the premiere of his new movie, the Liam Neeson starrer Unknown. It was a fitting end to a pilot director hiring season that was dominated by feature helmers.
Among those signed for pilots are Jonathan Demme (CBS’ untitled Susannah Grant), Shawn Levy (Fox’s Comedy Album), Phillip Noyce (ABC’s Revenge), Antoine Fuqua (Fox’s Exit Strategy), James Mangold (CBS’ Rookies) Michael Apted (ABC’s Hallelujah), Eclipse director David Slade (NBC’s REM), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev (CBS’ Redlich/Bellucci), Mark Romanek (Fox’s Locke & Key) and Easy A helmer Will Gluck (Fox’s Iceland). Two filmmakers, Stephen Gaghan and Michael Patrick King, are directing their own scripts, NBC’s S.I.L.A. and A Mann’s World, respectively, while Peter Berg is directing NBC’s Prime Suspect, which he also produces. Also approached for pilots were McG, Tony Scott and Brett Ratner, but no deals were made, mostly because of feature scheduling conflicts.
The trend of going after feature directors for pilots started in the early 2000s with the success of CBS’ CSI, which was attributed in part to the show’s distinct look and visual effects brought in by feature director Danny Cannon, who made his TV debut with the …
Mike O’Malley, who is recurring on Fox/20th TV’s Glee, is adding a potential regular series gig to his plate, also for Fox and 20th TV. O’Malley is set to play the lead in the single-camera comedy pilot Family Album, written by Joe Port and Joe Wiseman and directed by Shawn Levy. It centers on Dave (O’Malley), a passionate, overly enthusiastic former jock who, after a breakthrough experience on a family vacation returns home with a renewed conviction to “bond the crap out of his family.”
O’Malley had a choice of a comedy and drama series gig this pilot season with offers for Family Album and NBC’s drama Grimm, ultimately going with the half-hour project. The deal for Family Album calls for O’Malley to continue his recurring role as Kurt’s sensitive single dad Burt Hummel on Glee, which earned him a guest starring Emmy nomination. Additionally, O’Malley, repped by CAA and Principato Young, wrote this past weekend’s episode of the Showtime drama Shameless and the indie feature Certainty, now in post-production. On the big screen, he currently co-stars in Fox Searchlight’s Cedar Rapids.
PILOT CASTINGS: Rob Huebel Gets Fox’s ‘Family Album’ After FX Passes On ‘USS Alabama’, Jamie Bamber To ’17th Precinct’
Rob Huebel has become the first actor cast in Fox’s single-camera comedy pilot Family Album, written by Joe Port and Joe Wiseman and directed by Shawn Levy. Huebel most recently guest starred in the FX sci-fi comedy pilot U.S.S. Alabama. FX just passed on the project co-created and starring Reno 911! masterminds Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. The high-concept comedy was set a thousand years in the future aboard an United Nations peacekeeping spaceship. Meanwhile, Family Album centers on a headstrong patriarch who, determined to get some quality family time, embarks on a vacation with his extended family. Huebel, repped by CAA and Principato-Young, will play the brother. He co-stars on Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital.
Former Battlestar Galactica star Jamie Bamber will reunite with the sci-fi series’ developer-executive producer Ron Moore, TVLine reports. Brit Bamber has joined the cast of Moore’s NBC pilot 17th Precinct, set in the fictional town of Excelsior where magic and supernatural elements rule over science. Bamber, who most recently starred in Law & Order: UK, will play a homicide detective at the precinct, joining recently cast Stockard Channing.
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has set Shawn Levy to direct Fantastic Voyage, the James Cameron-produced 3D tent pole film. I’m told that Levy has boarded the re-imagining of the 1966 original about a team of scientists shrunk into a ship in an attempt to save a colleague’s life. Fox and Cameron have been moving cautiously on a big budget film that, from early in the script once they go inside the body, is almost exclusively CGI. The script is by Shane Salerno, with Laeta Kalogridis working on a polish.
The directing job has been one of the big open slots out there since Paul Greengrass ended a flirtation with the picture last year. I’m told that helmers like Darren Aronofsky, Timur Bekmambetov, Jonathan Mostow and Louis Leterrier met with Cameron. Levy is an unexpected choice, but he is a Fox favorite who is broadening beyond comedies into bigger fare.
He has a strong commercial instinct, and made Fox a fortune with the Night at the Museum franchise and before that Cheaper By the Dozen and What Happens in Vegas, which led the film to re-up his 21 Laps banner last year for another 3 years. He last directed the Tina Fey-Steve Carell comedy Date Night for Fox. Levy most recently directed the hi-tech action film Real Steel for DreamWorks with Hugh Jackman and recently signing on for another action adventure …
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has acquired an untitled action adventure pitch that will be scripted by Lost‘s Carlton Cuse for Hugh Jackman to star in and Shawn Levy to direct. Levy’s 21 Laps Entertainment banner will produce.
While Cuse has done uncredited writing on two Lethal Weapon sequels and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this is the first feature script he’ll write since Lost ended its run. Cuse was the drama’s longtime show runner and executive producer.
Levy and Jackman just teamed for DreamWorks in Real Steel, which Disney will release on October 7. Both have deep ties to Fox. Levy’s 21 Laps is based there, and Jackman’s Seed Productions had a Fox deal until he and partner John Palermo decided to split so Jackman could focus on acting. Jackman is currently prepping to star in The Wolverine, the sequel to the X-Men spinoff that is being directed by Oscar-nominated Black Swan helmer Darren Aronofsky. Levy directed Night at the Museum and Date Night at Fox. Fox prexy Emma Watts and Steven Puri are steering the potential tent pole for Fox with 21 Laps’ Billy Rosenberg and Dan Cohen. Jackman , Levy and Cuse are repped by WME.