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UPDATE: James Cameron on ‘Avatar’ Sequel Timetable Following Rupert Murdoch’s Comments

avatar_poster-200x300Update, Saturday 10:25 AM: In a Reddit AMA this morning, Avatar director James Cameron expounded on the franchise’s timetable in regards to the screenplays, writing, “The second, third and fourth films all go into production simultaneously. They’re essentially all in preproduction now, because we are designing creatures, settings, and characters that span all three films. And we should be finished with all three scripts within the next, I would say, six weeks. There’s always pressure, whether it’s a new film or whether it’s a sequel, to entertain and amaze an audience. I’ve felt that pressure my entire career, so there’s nothing new there. The biggest pressure I feel right now is cutting out things I love to get the film down to a length that is affordable. There hasn’t been a problem finding new and wonderful things to include in the movie.”

In a Fortune interview earlier this week, Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch reiterated what Deadline reported back in August: That there will be three Avatar sequels released respectively in December 2016, 2017 and 2018. Read More »

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Need For Hit Fuels DreamWorks’ Lively And Raucous ‘Need For Speed’ Hollywood Premiere

By | Friday March 7, 2014 @ 2:54pm PST
Pete Hammond

Premiere Of DreamWorks Pictures' "Need For Speed" - Red CarpetThere may be lots of speculation about the future of DreamWorks in its current incarnation at Disney as my colleague Mike Fleming wrote earlier this week, but you would never know it from last night’s rip-roaring premiere of its latest film, Need For Speed, at the Chinese Theatre. I went in expecting a poor man’s Fast & Furious and instead got a riveting and fun entertainment with lots of heart and emotion in addition to all the stunt driving. The film, which opens Friday and stars Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as a street racer out for revenge after being framed for a death of a young street-racing rookie, has all the requisite action you would expect from this kind of movie, but there’s so much more.  The fact that it marks the second feature directed by former stuntman Scott Waugh (the son of another stuntman, Fred Waugh, who passed away while his son was in preproduction) would lead one to believe it would be all pedal-to-the-metal and no soul, but that’s not the case. Waugh’s first feature behind the camera, Act Of Valor, proved he knew how to put humanity into a genre film. What he’s made here is a good old-fashioned movie that doesn’t rely on CGI, has a genuine story  to tell with three-dimensional characters (in 3D, no less), and great locations.

posterIt also presents yet another reason the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences needs to re-consider its decision not to create a 25th category for stunt work. Come on, these people deserve the recognition on a regular basis. I do understand the ticklish situation with the Actors branch, the Academy’s largest and most powerful, but this kind of work is definitely Oscar worthy. The Television Academy has a stunt peer group and recently even split comedy and drama stunt coordination into two separate Emmy categories. Veteran stuntman-director Hal Needham got an Honorary Oscar in 2012, and I suppose the Academy feels that’s enough recognition for now (Needham passed away several months after getting that Oscar). But it’s not.

Related: Hot Trailer: DreamWorks’ ‘Need For Speed’

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Fox Revives ‘West Side Story’ For Steven Spielberg As Town Ponders Stacey Snider Move And DreamWorks’ Future

By | Wednesday March 5, 2014 @ 9:20am PST
Mike Fleming

ANALYSIS: Even though the Robert Wise original musical West Side Story is WestSideStory2about as sacred a cow movie as you are going to find, Fox has unlocked that movie title for a remake specifically because Steven Spielberg is interested in making it. No writer has been set yet and Spielberg hasn’t done anything more than register his interest, which traditionally has always been enough to get a studio hot and bothered. Between this project and the Fox/DreamWorks team-up Robopocalypse, the Daniel H. Wilson sci-fi novel that has a Drew Goddard script and which Spielberg has said he will direct even though he stepped away to make Lincoln, it would be easy to see Spielberg directing movies at Fox for the next several years if in fact Stacey Snider makes a move to that studio after her contract expires at year’s end.

dworThat’s just part of why the town sees Snider’s move over there as such an easy transition. It is an easier fit than when Jeff Robinov eyed Fox at a landing place but he did not want to report to Jim Gianopulos, who likes calling the shots after sharing power so long with Tom Rothman. Snider is apparently willing to do that and she has a lot of experience to offer managing a studio pipeline, skills that are rusting with DreamWorks’ comparatively small output.

Robinov is now well on his way to finding his money to start a company that will allow him to take big swings at Sony, and I’ve heard that there’s a good chance the bulk of that investment will come from Len Blavatnik, the Ukraine-born billionaire whose worth has been pegged at north of $17 billion. What better way for a man with that kind of money to jump into the perilous Hollywood movie business than with Gravity and Argo architect Robinov and the distribution and marketing might of Sony Pictures?

Related: Is Jeff Robinov Headed To Sony Pictures?

robinoAfter a strong run when DreamWorks was sold to Paramount, a nasty divorce that left behind plum properties like the Transformer series, a near move to Snider’s past home Universal, and the Reliance financing/Disney arrangement which has been stepped down and has hobbled the company, I can easily imagine this finally calling a halt to the great DreamWorks experiment. The one that started with Jeffrey Katzenberg being denied the crown at the Mouse House by Disney’s Michael Eisner, and then joined into building what was to become the next great major studio by his pals Spielberg and David Geffen. I look at the recent crop of DreamWorks films, from the upcoming Need For Speed, the good but disappointing at the box office flop The Fifth Estate and the solid hit The Help, and DreamWorks just seems like an ordinary production company to me. That certainly didn’t have to be the case if the supremely ambitious principals hadn’t made all those deals that disrupted the company and instead stayed a solid course from the beginning and kept building a company on a consistent track. Read More »

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Vince Vaughn Changes Pace And Delivers For DreamWorks At ‘Delivery Man’ Premiere

By | Monday November 4, 2013 @ 2:14pm PST
Pete Hammond

Hoping to gain some traction not only at the box office but also this awards season, DreamWorks and Disney unveiled their holiday comedy Delivery Man on Sunday night at the El Capitan in Hollywood. And judging from audience reaction (which included several members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association), star Vince Vaughn could find himself in the running for a Golden Globe as Lead Actor in a Musical or Comedy. It’s a career-best change-of-pace role for him as this is a rare studio comedy — or “dramedy,” or he puts it — that’s full of heart and poignant moments mixed with the laughs. Vaughn plays a meat truck driver who unknowingly fathered 533 kids thanks to endless sperm bank donations he made in the early ’90s to earn cash to pay off debts. Now about 150 of them have filed a class action to try to determine the true identity of the biological father they know only as Starbuck. It is based on writer-director Ken Scott’s 2011 Canadian film Starbuck. Scott helmed the American version as well.

Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Delivery Man’

DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider and Disney Chair Alan Horn were among those gauging reaction to the November 22 release, which goes head to head that day against juggernaut sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Snider told me … Read More »

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Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ Closes AFI Fest, Marches Into Oscar Season

Pete Hammond

“It has all been leading up to this night,”  AFI CEO and President Bob Gazzale told me at the Hollywood Roosevelt pre-screening reception for the AFI Fest closing film, the official World Premiere of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. It was actually first presented in “unfinished” form at the New York Film Festival, a fact that didn’t bother Gazzale. “We ask the studios ‘how can we help you with your movie? We were thrilled to get it as our closing’,”  he said and felt this was a very big deal. It made nice bookends for the festival that opened with Hitchcock and now was closing with Lincoln.

It was indeed a big deal with virtually the entire principal cast turning out. Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones as well as Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner and most of the key crew were there. DreamWorks chief Stacey Snider, Participant’s Jim Berk and Jeff Skoll and Disney’s Bob Iger also attended, along with many others.

Spielberg was excited to see the long gestating project finally premiere at the Chinese Theatre. The film, which details Lincoln’s battle with Congress to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, is ironically relevant to today’s fractured Congressional fights and the director thinks the post-election timing is perfect, especially with looming debates about several hot button issues. “I didn’t want to see this released in front of the election or see it politicized”, Spielberg told me. “I think now it can almost be a kind of cleansing for the country”. Read More »

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DreamWorks Adds More Offshore Strategic Distribution Partners

By | Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:10pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Related: TOLDJA! DreamWorks Makes Multi-Year Offshore Output Deal With eOne

LONDON/TORONTO/LOS ANGELES – September 17, 2012 -DreamWorks Studios is pleased to announce that through their newly created collaboration with Mister Smith Entertainment, they have concluded the first of many key partnership deals with independent distribution companies Entertainment One (eOne), announced earlier today; Constantin Film; Nordisk Film; and Italia Film; reflecting the previously announced shift in DreamWorks’ international strategy. These deals signal the first phase of DreamWorks’ plans to create a network of partnerships for their product across all of Europe, Africa and The Middle East with the top independent distributors. This strategy will provide the Company with additional financial flexibility, while also taking advantage of a burgeoning global market.

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TOLDJA! DreamWorks Makes Multi-Year Offshore Output Deal With eOne

Mike Fleming

DreamWorks-eOneUPDATE, 11:32 PM PT: eOne has confirmed its new output deal with DreamWorks. Press release follows below.

PREVIOUS…BREAKING…4:52 PM PT: I’m told that DreamWorks will shortly be announcing that it has made a four-year output agreement with eOne, with that company releasing DreamWorks product in the UK and Benelux. The arrangement begins with Starbuck, which stars Vince Vaughn and shoots in October. This will be the first of several deals after DreamWorks aligned with Mister Smith in an effort to be more hands on in arranging distribution in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Disney distributes in North America, Latin America, Asia, Russia and Australia. DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider was at the Toronto Film Festival, and I believe one of her missions was to meet potential distribution partners. This deal was put in place by Mister Smith’s David Garrett and DreamWorks COO Jeff Small.

Now, Reliance fully finances all of DreamWorks films, but this offshore effort will result in advances on films. While DreamWorks reupped its financing deal with Reliance that would cover three to five movies each year, getting offshore advances should allow DreamWorks the cash flow to make more films if Snider and partner Steven Spielberg choose to do so. It also gives them a more hands-on relationship in the foreign releases of their films, which can only help performance. Upcoming DreamWorks films include the Steven Spielberg-directed Robopocalypse with Chris Hemsworth starring (that isn’t part of this arrangement because the film’s foreign is being handled by Fox International) and an adaptation of the vidgame Need For Speed, among others. Read More »

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DreamWorks Duo Stacey Snider And Steven Spielberg Staying Put

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The not-so-discreet backroom discussions that were going on between Stacey SniderSteven Spielberg and Comcast for Snider to take a top post at Universal Pictures are now as dead as disco, I’m told.

There were widespread (but murky) reports in the last few weeks that Ron Meyer might move up to make room for the former top Universal exec Snider in a senior post at the studio. Spielberg was in the middle of those discussions, though it was unclear what role he would have played beyond a supportive one. The timing of the whole thing was unusual, given that Universal is poised to have its best annual domestic box office results ever.

I’m told that Snider and Spielberg are definitely staying where they are at DreamWorks, after solidifying a new round of funding from Reliance. They continue in a distribution deal at Disney that would have required a complicated exit. After leaving Paramount, Snider and Spielberg got their Reliance funding and made the Disney deal at the last minute after it was expected they would release their films through Universal, the lot where their headquarters are based. That created strained relations, but they seem to be thawing with forward progress on another Jurassic Park, a big piece of business for both parties. Spielberg most recently directed Lincoln, and has Robopocalypse up next with Chris Hemsworth, while he continues to circle the Moses epic Gods and Kings with Warner Bros.

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DreamWorks Gets Fewer Bucks In Reliance Deal Renewal: NYT

Mike Fleming

The New York Times reports that after a long negotiation, DreamWorks is re-upping its deal with India-based Reliance. But with a plan to streamline its production pace down to 3-to-5 movies per year. Neither the renewal nor the tightening of purse strings are a surprise as it was widely expected since before the Oscars that both would happen. The second phase of Reliance’s investment was originally supposed to be less than the original $325 million, and the new money is upwards of $200 million. But the fact that it’s now about to happen means a lot: it’s another buyer back in the game at a time of contraction with Lionsgate and Summit merging.

DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider had been unable to move forward with production starts while awaiting word from their India-based partners, or even buy much new material as they awaited the decision from Reliance. The staff has continued to develop properties they had already acquired, and Spielberg has been plenty busy anyway, directing the biopic Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis. That film had financing partners beyond Reliance, as Fox and Participant Media are also in the mix. Fox is already in the mix on Spielberg’s next pic, Robopocalypse, and he might certainly help his cause by making a big scifi popcorn film that can succeed on a global level. That DreamWorks twisted in the wind this long is shocking, and some … Read More »

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Movie Moguls Talked, Joked, Mused About Oscars At Deadline’s ‘The Contenders’ Event

I hoped there would be fistfights. Or at least a chair thrown or two. “I tried but no one wanted to rumble,” Jeffrey Katzenberg told me later. Instead, Jeff Robinov, Tom Rothman, Rob Moore, Stacey Snider, Harvey Weinstein, Rob Friedman, and Katzenberg demonstrated remarkable restraint as they talked, joked, and mused about the Oscars process today. Everyone was ribbing everyone, and a few zingers landed as well. There were so many studio bigwigs at the first day of Deadline Hollywood’s two-day ‘The Contenders’ event (which continues Sunday at 10 AM with still more moguls) that it became a running joke. Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond opened up the 2 PM ‘Moguls Panel’ by saying, “This kind of event has never been held before. You realize that, if a bomb dropped in here, Amy Pascal would own Hollywood.” (The Sony Pictures chairman couldn’t attend.) The other studio chiefs came from hither and yon to attend ‘The Contenders’, and the packed crowd was obviously appreciative. ”Just sayin’ it doesn’t get any better than that. So rare in these times to have as august a group come together and discuss,” one of the attendees emailed me afterwards. That’s why our venue, the Landmark Theatre, pulled out all the stops, even reupholstering the seats in anticipation of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters and select Hollywood Guild members who’d sit in them. More details about ‘The Contenders’ in coming days. Next week we’ll be posting the unedited video of the ‘Mogul’s Panel’ which was moderated by Hammond and Deadline Film editor/NY Editor Mike Fleming. Here’s some of the studio chiefs’ 1 1/2-hour-long discussion:

DEADLINE: “This is one of the most wide open Academy Awards seasons. Does that make you more likely to launch an aggressive campaign?”
TOM ROTHMAN, Chairman/CEO Fox Filmed Entertainment: “Yeah, we have a lot of pictures between the studio and Fox Searchlight. But I am a contrarian about this. I think the whole notion of a race and spending is hugely exaggerated. I think voters know what they want to vote for once they’ve seen the movies. Our job is to get them to see the movies. To advance positions for them to think about. Ultimately the Academy is gong to decide. And I think in contrast to what is often said, ultimately I think it comes down to the movies. As it should.”

DEADLINE: “Can an aggressive Oscar” campaign hurt?”
ROTHMAN: “Well, I don’t know, I guess there’s some truth to it. I suppose it depends on what you mean by campaign. Academy Award winners sometimes gain a momentum because of a particular performance, and sometimes for length of career and all the work that has been done. Look recently at Paul Newman. You might not say [1986's The Color Of Money] was his best performance. But he won for his great body of nominations and work. I don’t really think, being on the stump so to speak, when in the privacy of the voting booth which is their living room that it necessarily makes a difference.”
JEFF ROBINOV, PRESIDENT OF WARNER BROS: “I’d say Mr. Weinstein proves him wrong every year.”
HARVEY WEINSTEIN, CO-CHAIRMAN THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY: “That is the only thing that counts, so Tom and I agree more than you think.”
ROTHMAN: “You have just witnessed an historic moment.”
WEINSTEIN: “I’ve said this a thousand times. The most important job is getting voters to see the movie. If they don’t see the movie, they won’t vote.”

DEADLINE: “But it’s not as good to see these movies on a small screen via screeners.”
ROTHMAN: “It’s hard to get them to see movies on the big screen. Planet Of The Apes is not as good on a small screen. Also the other thing I think is time. It’s hard because of the crush of films that all come in at the end. Voters try to be responsible, but sometimes they’re seeing multiple movies [in one day]. I agree with Harvey completely on the need to see films in the theater as they were intended.”
KATZENBERG: “We could end up with a horse against an ape this year.”

DEADLINE: “Isn’t that especially true of 3D films?”
JEFFREY KATZENBERG, CEO DREAMWORKS ANIMATIONS: “Yeah, just to sort of cut to the chase on this, we spend 4 years and $150 million on trying to make an exceptional experience in the movie theater. And use tools one of which is 3D. So we settle for the fact that many many many people will never see it this way.”

DEADLINE: “Is it best to release an Oscar contender earlier in the year and get out early like The Hurt Locker did in June?”
ROB FRIEDMAN, CO-CHAIRMAN/CEO SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT: “I think what everybody’s saying is it’s vital to get the movies seen. In this case having the film out in June gave more time to build critical and audience response.”

DEADLINE: “How did The Hurt Locker manage to compete since its revenue cycle was over by the time big Avatar came out?”
FRIEDMAN: “By the way, I did offer Tom [Rothman] and Jim [Gianopulos] the offer to trade revenue streams.”
ROTHMAN: “We thought about it.”
FRIEDMAN: “Actually we had not completed our revenue cycle. It was not out on DVD yet. It performed massively in those revenue environments. We knew that any kind of Middle East/Iraq film was challenging at best. It found its level theatrically, but was enormous in the home market.”

DEADLINE: “Tom, would you have been happy to forget awards for Avatar as long as could count the money?’
ROTHMAN: “I guess the technical answer to that would be fuck, yes. [BIG LAUGH] Yes, we were disappointed to lose. I think Robbie and I found ourselves waiting for our cars by the heater that night, and I congratulated him mightily. But I made my career being honest, and if I said I wasn’t brutally disappointed it would be an understatement. I think it is a common problem that happens. David and Goliath is a very good narrative. It is easy to root for the little guy. I understand that emotionally. Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire was small and won. The Academy giveth, and the Academy taketh away. We had a good year with Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan and Best Actress last time. Those things happen. I do think, if I can get on my bully pulpit for a few seconds, that sometimes I think the craftsmanship and artistry in what is thought of as commercial cinema is not always given its proper place. Hurt Locker was ultimately thought the better film that year, that I understand. But when you look down categories, sometimes I think that other crafts get swept along. I was surprised and I would also say disappointed that the hard-working creative folks on Avatar were not recognized.”

DEADLINE: “Which other of your films were unfairly overlooked over the years?”
ROBINOV: “I think the quality of Harry Potter films has been somewhat discounted. Especially the last one.  It feels like the type of movie that traditionally would receive some Oscar attention. Also Inception was a very bold movie, yet it was not rewarded for risk-taking, I do think there is some bias against Hollywood and the resources that it has. Nice when a movie like Titanic actually gets what it deserves.” Read More »

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Will MGM/Sony Bid KO Competition For Eminem Boxing Drama ‘Southpaw?’

By | Wednesday October 19, 2011 @ 3:07pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing a bid made by MGM–with Sony Pictures distributing–is now the frontrunner for Southpaw, the Antoine Fuqua-directed boxing film that will star Eminem. The other suitors in the ring on this have been Alcon Entertainment and Summit Entertainment. There was no comment from the parties involved. Deadline revealed in August that DreamWorks had dropped out of the  boxing drama that had Eminem poised to return to the screen for the first time since 2002′s 8 Mile, and Fuqua directing a script by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. Suitors were all over it, quickly. DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider, who bought the project as a pitch last year and who worked closely with Eminem and his team on 8 Mile while she ran Universal, basically gave the project back to the filmmakers to set up elsewhere. Several outlets were impressed by the script and how it was a custom fit for the tribulations overcome by Eminem after he became a big hip hop star. Eminem will play a fast-rising welterweight boxer who brawls his way to the title, only to see his world crash down around him due to a tragedy. The drama is about his fight to reclaim past glory for himself and his young daughter. Sutter told me at the time that the project was partly inspired by Eminem’s own struggles that inform his music and mirror his … Read More »

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Can ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ Lasso Youth?

Mike Fleming

Studios usually view Comic-Con as a venue to start momentum on projects that won’t be in theaters for up to a year. This Saturday, DreamWorks and Universal will try to turn the rabid youth demographic at Comic-Con into true believers for Cowboys & Aliens, a week before the picture opens. It’s crucially important to a movie that has a budget pegged by insiders at $163 million (whispers around town are it could be higher) big stars in Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, and the god-fathering  presence of Steven Spielberg and Imagine’s Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. It is also directed by Jon Favreau, whose Iron Man films and past Comic-Con patronage has made him a hero to that crowd.

Despite this pedigree, Cowboys & Aliens has endured a tortured development history involving more than a dozen writers. (Just five writers got screenplay credit after the Writers Guild not surprisingly held an arbitration trying to figure who did what over 14 years.) Now the movie faces even bigger challenges. It’s a mash-up of two genres that usually don’t cross paths, Westerns and science fiction. Word around town is the film has a  cash break participation pool in the 35% range. In the wake of the behemoth opening of  Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, tracking has been soft, there is no 3D conversion to justify higher ticket prices, factors that could put the … Read More »

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Q&A: Brian Grazer And Ron Howard On 25 Years Together As Imagine Partners

Mike Fleming

UPDATE EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have reached a milestone unusual in Hollywood: partners for 25 years. When they first got together, Grazer was a TV producer. Howard, after growing up on the small screen in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, had only directed a couple of TV movies and the low budget Roger Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto. Grazer and Howard have been at it together ever since, building a company that over 25 years has been one of the most consistent generators of content. Their TV series output includes 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights; their movies have grossed $13.5 billion worldwide. That includes A Beautiful Mind, which won Howard the Academy Award for Best Director. Grazer and Howard shared Best Picture Oscars that night as well. Not everything they’ve done has succeeded, of course. They they took their company public and repurchased the shares; they helped launched and fold the online venture Pop.com; their most recent film together, the adult comedy The Dilemma, was a misfire that created controversy over the inclusion of the word “gay” in a trailer. They’ve had way more hits than misses.

In honor of Imagine’s Silver Anniversary, Deadline invited Howard and Grazer to look back over their quarter century together, and into a future that includes something never tried before by anyone in Hollywood. They’re adapting Stephen King’s 7-novel series The Dark Tower into a film trilogy, and a limited run TV series in between. It has pushed the envelope enough that their longtime home studio, Universal  Pictures, postponed a planned late summer start until next year and asked the filmmakers to cut the budget. Some question the studio’s resolve on such a massive undertaking. The studio has to green light the film by next month or the rights revert to Imagine, Akiva Goldsman and King, who are determined to make it regardless.

DEADLINE: Not many marriages of any kind last 25 years in Hollywood. What is most important about the anniversary?
HOWARD: It’s such a challenging time to get movies made. And yet, look at all we have coming out. Tower Heist, the Gus Van Sant movie Restless, J Edgar with Clint Eastwood and Leo DiCaprio, Cowboys & Aliens, this big broad appeal four quadrant fantasy adventure story with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. With The Playboy Club getting on the air, and Parenthood getting picked up, I’m proud we’re doing what we’ve always done. A wide variety of projects that got made because we care and put in the energy to get them done in light of how difficult it is these days.

DEADLINE: I’ve watched filmmaker partnerships fail because of jealousy, ego, greed, or lack of sustained success. Why have you avoided those pitfalls?
HOWARD: The bi-coastal relationship!

DEADLINE: Simple as that?
HOWARD: Because I’m in New York, we’re not forced to stare at each other’s faces 24/7. But I think that’s not really it. We love what we’re doing, we have fun doing it and our sensibilities are in sync. In a business that can create so many feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, I learned to trust in that. Brian is smart and cares about me doing well and feeling good about what I’m doing. It’s a partnership built on support. It has been that way since the beginning.
GRAZER: It works because we have similar tastes and not only gravitate toward the same material but also what lives inside the core of the movie it becomes. We’ve done, and Ron has directed, all kinds of genres. We have a common interest in the humanity aspect of a movie, regardless if it’s a comedy or a drama. We also share a similar work ethic.

DEADLINE: When you cover all genres, does Imagine have a wheelhouse? For a company looking to last, is it advisable to have one?
HOWARD: The process is what gets Brian and me excited, whatever the genre. Not specializing has given our company a sense of flexibility and adaptability to whatever the market or the zeitgeist is suggesting. We’ve always respected each other as creative people. If Brian loves something and I don’t quite get it, I’ll tell him that but I’ll never try to impede the progress. He’s the same with me. With Apollo 13, I  wasn’t sure the genre would work, because space films hadn’t done that well. Brian was instantly so excited about it, and made me realize we were onto something. 8 Mile, I don’t know anything about rap. This was something he understood. I didn’t know how to make that movie, but I recognized a great idea. Whenever the two of us get excited, on films like Splash, Night Shift and Parenthood, those have resulted in the building blocks of the company. I’ve always liked TV  but I phased it out for awhile and it was Brian’s perseverance that has made us strong in both TV and films. Independent companies are rarely strong in both.
GRAZER: What we’ve do is agree on the moral center of a project, but nobody’s better at finding the language of a particular movie than Ron. He’s got a grasp of understanding  new vocabularies, whether it’s the The Da Vinci Code, fantasy like Cocoon or Splash, or Backdraft and The Grinch. He is great at inhabiting a world and completely understanding and expressing its language. In A Beautiful Mind, he entered that world and understood the medical science of mental illness. So there have been times where he led the charge, and I was drawn in by his excitement.

DEADLINE: What was the last hard conversation or professional disagreement you can remember?
HOWARD: I can’t think of one offhand, but even when we have disagreements, I can’t think of a case where one of us ever said, ‘Oh, please don’t do this.’ If there’s a lot of passion from one or the other, then the support of the company is going to be there. Read More »

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Emanuel Nunez, Key Architect Of Reliance DreamWorks Deal, Has Left CAA

Mike Fleming

Emanuel Nunez has exited CAA. Nunez is the financing wiz who helped put bring offshore companies into Hollywood, particularly at a time in 2008 when those companies decided to bet on specific talent. He was a key point person on making the match between DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider with India-based Reliance Entertainment’s Amit Khanna. Reliance also made first look deals with the production companies of CAA clients that included Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey, Brett Ratner, George Clooney and Jay Roach. He plugged in India-based UTV with Overbrook partners Will Smith and James Lassiter, and also M. Night Shyamalan. The Cuban-born Nunez had been at CAA since 1991, brought in by Mike Ovitz and Ron Meyer to find offshore funds for film. The agency confirms he’s no longer there, but claimed it had no information on where he went.

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Brett Ratner Signs To Direct ‘The 39 Clues’

By | Monday May 9, 2011 @ 4:21pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has set Brett Ratner to direct The 39 Clues, the live-action adaptation of the bestselling young-adult Scholastic Media book series, online game and card collection. The series, which just had its 11th installment published, focuses on the most powerful family in the world, the Cahills, and the books give clues as to the secret of the clan’s power. When DreamWorks partners Stacey Snider and Steven Spielberg set up the project in 2008, it was developed as a directing vehicle for Spielberg. He’s been busy, moving from War Horse to the Daniel Day-Lewis starrer Lincoln.

The script has been written by Jeff Nathanson, who has collaborated with Ratner on the Rush Hour films and most recently on Tower Heist, the Universal Pictures film that Ratner just directed and which will be released Nov. 4, with Ben Stiller starring alongside Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck and Tea Leoni. Scholastic Media’s Deborah Forte and Spielberg are producing The 39 Clues with Nathanson. Ratner’s repped by CAA.

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DreamWorks Enters WikiLeaks Movie Sweepstakes, Buying Two Major Books

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has officially entered the derby to turn the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks into a feature film. The studio has acquired rights to two books by pivotal players in the WikiLeaks drama. DreamWorks has secured screen rights to Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website, the Crown book by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. He’s the former top WikiLeaks former executive who defected because he wanted WikiLeaks to exercise journalistic discretion instead of the document dump that took place.  ICM brokered that deal. DreamWorks has also bought WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, written by David Leigh and Luke Harding, the two journalists from the UK-based The Guardian who worked with Assange on bringing his first revelations into play through their paper,  as well as Der Spiegel and The New York Times. That book was published by Guardian Books. They detail their dealings with Assange, who at one point hid from the CIA in Leigh’s London house. The book covers the WikiLeaks phenomenon from its 2006 launch onward.

I’m told that DreamWorks executives from Stacey Snider, Steve Spielberg to co-presidents Holly Bario and Mark Sourian, are intrigued enough by the Assange story to cobble together rights that will allow them to attack the story creatively from any of several angles. They are content to gather string, but haven’t hired a writer yet. A good … Read More »

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DreamWorks Teams With Eminem And Kurt Sutter For ‘Southpaw’

By | Monday December 13, 2010 @ 3:26pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has made a preemptive acquisition of Southpaw, a pitch for a star vehicle for Eminem (Marshall Mathers) that will be written by Sons of Anarchy creator/exec producer Kurt Sutter. Like in Eminem’s 2002 screen starring debut 8 Mile, Southpaw will be fueled by the struggles that inform Eminem’s music and mirror his life. Eminem will play a fast-rising welterweight boxer who brawls his way to the title, only to see his world crash down around him due to tragedy. The movie is about his fight to reclaim past glory.

The pitch was bought in the room by DreamWorks co-chairman/CEO Stacey Snider, who got first crack because she championed 8 Mile when she was Universal Pictures chief. The film will be produced by Eminem’s Shady Films’ managers and producing partners Paul Rosenberg and Stuart Parr, and Alan and Peter Riche of Riche Productions. The deal comes as Eminem’s comeback album, Recovery, just got 10 Grammy Awards nominations.

Sutter, who just completed the third season of his FX series, said the project was borne out of his observation of Eminem’s struggles. “I took meetings with Marshall’s producing partners over the past 7 years, looking for something to do together,” Sutter told me. “I know he’s very selective and doesn’t do a lot. But he shared so much of his personal struggle in this raw and very honest album, one that I connected with on a lot of levels. He is very interested … Read More »

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John Hamburg Back In DreamWorks Fold

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has given a two-year first look deal to John Hamburg, who got separated from the studio in its divorce with Paramount Pictures. Hamburg’s move puts the writer/director/producer on familiar ground, figuratively and literally. Aside from reuniting with DreamWorks, he’ll stay in the bungalow on the Universal lot where he has long had offices while co-writing all three films in the Uni/DreamWorks co-produced Meet the Parents franchise. He most recently co-wrote and produced Little Fockers. The deal was made by DreamWorks co-presidents of production Holly Bario and Mark Sourian. Read More »

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