EXCLUSIVE: FX has put in development They Marched Into Sunlight, a six-part limited series executive produced by Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan. The project, produced by Fox 21 and FX Prods, is based on the bestseller by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist David Maraniss. Oscar-winning documentarian and playwright Eric Simonson (A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin) is writing the series. Maraniss and Simonson are executive producing alongside Gaghan and Suzanne Joskow, who are executive producing through Gaghan’s company, Unsupervised, under his pod deal with Fox 21. They Marched Into Sunlight explores the Vietnam War both on the battlefield and at home. It centers on two simultaneous events in October 1967 — the violent ambush of the Black Lion army battalion in the jungles of Vietnam, and a student protest against Dow Chemical, the makers of napalm, on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin — both of which marked a dramatic turning point for the war and the beginning of an American conversation that is ongoing today. In addition to the FX series, Maraniss’ book also was the basis for PBS’ American Experience 2005 documentary Two Days In October.
Stephan Gaghan has signed a pod deal with Fox 21 to create cable series for the production company. The agreement, which runs until June 2014, will see the writer-directer create, write and produce new projects as well as oversee other writers on new and possibly existing projects for the company. “Stephen has literally been my No. 1 target since I came to this job two years ago, but this deal is first and foremost about Stephen creating his signature show,” Fox 21 president Bert Salke said today. Gaghan wrote the Oscar-winning script for Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. He also directed and wrote the 2005 geopolitical drama Syriana starring George Clooney. Gaghan also wrote the screenplay for the upcoming After Earth, staring Will Smith; the M. Night Shyamalan pic comes out June 13, 2013. Gaghan previously had a deal with 20th Century Fox TV that expired earlier this year. The pact with Fox 21 will not impede Gaghan’s ability to write and direct future features. He is repped by CAA and lawyer Steven Warren.
EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Gaghan has set up his next two directing projects, one covering the smuggling of cocaine from Mexico, the other human cargo from China. Gaghan, who last directed Syriana, has made a deal with Warner Bros for an untitled Cartel Project; and he has made a deal with Flashlight Pictures to direct an independent drama based on the book The Snakehead: An Epic Tale Of The Chinatown Underworld And The American Dream.
The latter is the title of a book by New Yorker writer Patrick Keefe; it will be Keefe who writes the script for the Cartel project at Warner Bros. Gaghan’s Unsupervised Shingle is producing the Cartel project along with Kevin McCormick’s Langley Park. The Warner Bros film will be partly based on Richard Marosi’s four-part series published in the Los Angeles Times this summer, about how an extensive DEA wiretap operation cracked a variety of smuggling rings transporting tons of cocaine from Sinaloa, Mexico, into Los Angeles and then across the country. Those methods included loading cocaine into everything from cars with elaborate hidden compartments to small airplanes and tractor trailers covered by pallets of frozen chicken. The wiretaps elicited highly personal information on smugglers, including one who would not make a move without the advice of a psychic. It’s the second project McCormick has set up from journalistic sources; Warner Bros is in production with the Ruben Fleischer-directed Gangster Squad with Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin …
He has been described as a detective version of Dr. Gregory House. Now Evert Backstrom is heading to the same network that houses the brilliant but flawed doctor. After a heated bidding war, Fox has landed the TV series adaptation of the Backstrom books by renowned Swedish criminologist and novelist Leif G.W. Persson with a big put pilot commitment. I hear every network went after the project, produced by 20th Century Fox TV. The studio won the rights to the books in a bidding war earlier this month for Gaghan, who is under an overall deal at the studio. The project is based on the central character in Persson’s books, homicide detective Evert Backstrom. An equal-opportunity misanthrope, Backstrom is always miserable, and only a good murder case can cheer him up. Persson and his literary agent Niclas Salomonsson serve as executive producers alongside Gaghan. This is Gaghan’s second TV series project. The first one, Metro, which he originally developed at ABC, was picked up to pilot by NBC this past season, missing the cut to series.
Bumble Ward, who halted her career as a personal publicist to take up creative writing in 2005, is in negotiations to head up film publicity at 20th Century Fox, I’m told. She would replace Carol Sewell and report to Oren Aviv and Tony Sella. When Ward stepped away from the PR game, it was a shock. At the time she shuttered the 10-year old firm she built after coming to Hollywood from London in 1987, Ward had a list of clients to die for — repping Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Marc Forster, Tony Scott, Stephen Gaghan, James Mangold, Mira Nair, Tim Burton and Paul Thomas Anderson. She also had a thriving Oscar-season business. I could not get a confirmation from Fox, but I believe this will all go down soon.
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline revealed this morning that Ridley Scott was returning to his sci-fi classic Blade Runner. His Scott Free partner and brother Tony Scott is also getting serious about a new version of a movie classic. Scott is in talks with Warner Bros to direct a reboot of the 1969 Sam Peckinpah-directed The Wild Bunch. This film becomes one of three or so that Scott is most eager to direct as his follow-up to the Denzel Washington-Chris Pine action film Unstoppable.
Scott’s next assignment will be Hell’s Angels, though its timing will depend on whether he gets the actor he wants to play gang leader Sonny Barger. I’m told that he wants Jeff Bridges. They’ve not met face to face yet, because Bridges is right now touring his self-titled musical album that he recorded after he won the Oscar playing Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. Once Bridges gets back to film work, he’s booked to star with Ryan Reynolds in Universal’s R.I.P.D. and Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures’ The Seventh Son. If Scott has his heart set on Bridges and the actor says yes, Hell’s Angels won’t get underway until next spring or later. Fox 2000′s Hell’s Angels is set around the Laughlin riots of 2001 when the Angels were caught up in a war with rival gang The Mongols. The drama revolves around a friendship that develops between …
EXCLUSIVE: How do you say “hot property” in Swedish? After a bidding war, 20th Century Fox TV has nabbed the rights to a series of books by renowned Swedish criminologist and novelist Leif G.W. Persson for Stephen Gaghan to develop as a TV series targeted for next season. Gaghan is in the first year of a two-year overall deal at 20th TV, following his collaboration with the studio on his NBC pilot Metro this past season.
The TV project will be based on the central character in Persson’s books — Evert Backstrom. An equal-opportunity misanthrope, Backstrom is always miserable, and only a good murder case can cheer him up. The character has appeared in two novels so far, Linda and He Who Kills The Dragon, with at least one more on the way. Backstrom is very popular in Scandinavia, where Persson’s books have sold more than 6 million copies. The novels were brought to the U.S. by Scandinavia’s top literary agency for crime writers, Salomonsson Agency, which is allied with Los Angeles’ RWSG Literary Agency. RWSG recently shopped the Backstrom books to TV studios, receiving multiple bids. Niclas Salomonsson and Leif G.W. Persson will serve as executive producers on the TV project alongside Gaghan. Persson, a leading psychological profiler, has also served as an adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Justice. Since 1991, he holds the position of Professor at the National Swedish Police Board and is regularly consulted as the country’s foremost expert on crime.
EXCLUSIVE: CAA has just signed Stephen Gaghan, the Oscar-winning Traffic screenwriter who wrote and directed Syriana. Gaghan, who had been at WME, left right after his 20th TV pilot wasn’t picked up by NBC. He moves at a time when he seemed to have a lot going on. On the film front, he has the Warner Bros drama Dead Spy Running and will direct his script, and he has an untitled project at Lionsgate. He also recently signed a two-year deal at 20th Century Fox TV, where he turned in a pilot script to NBC for an untitled LA drama that was once called SILA. The pilot didn’t get picked up for fall and is being shopped to cable. WME commissions all those jobs.
EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning writer-director Stephen Gaghan just turned in his first TV pilot, an untitled Los Angeles drama at NBC (formerly knows as SILA). Now Gaghan has signed his first TV overall deal with the studio producing the pilot, 20th Century Fox TV. Under the two-year pact, Gaghan will continue to oversee the NBC show if it goes to series and will develop other projects through his newly named Unsupervised TV production company, which will be run by Suzanne Joskow. He already has two projects in very early stages for Fox, a Washington, DC drama and an animated comedy.
Gaghan said he knew he wanted to be a writer when he was 7, much to the chagrin of his mother, who gave him the example of his writing/drinking grandfather, a newspaper journalist and music critic. “You’ll live in misery and you’ll go, and by that I mean you’ll die,” she told him. Gaghan was on track to fulfill his mom’s prophesy when he was kicked out of high school his senior year for driving a go-kart through the school’s administrative offices.
Jimmy Smits has been tapped as the last major lead in NBC’s untitled Stephen Gaghan drama pilot (formerly S.I.L.A.), a complex ensemble drama in the style of Traffic and Syriana set in the world of crime, law enforcement and politics in sprawling modern-day Los Angeles. The pilot, from 20th TV, Chernin Entertainment and Gaghan’s Unsupervised, centers on Los Angeles Mayor Alfonso Morales (Smits) and his Special Investigations Unit led by detective Terry Mullins (Noah Emmerich), who has returned to LA to re-connect with his 15-year-old daughter Jennifer (Emma Dumont) and try to get along with his ex-wife, high-powered attorney Mary McCarthy (Madchen Amick). Morales is described as a man full of ambition who cares deeply about his city, power and women, perhaps in reverse order.
Smits was the first actor approached by Gaghan for the pilot. The NYPD Blue alum had originally planned to sit this pilot season out but was drawn to the opportunity to work with an A-list filmmaker like Gaghan on a character drama, a genre rarely seen on broadcast TV these days. Also appealing to Smits was the chance to reunite with new NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt, who ran Showtime when Smits did a season-long arc on Dexter, a stint that earned him an Emmy nomination. The pilot brings Smits back to NBC where he hit stardom with his Emmy-winning role on L.A. Law. The actor, repped by Brillstein Entertainment, attorney Tom Hoberman and UTA, also co-starred …
Oscar-winning feature writer Stephen Gaghan is making a return to television with a pilot at NBC. In his latest pilot order to a big-name writer, new NBC programming chief Bob Greenblatt has given the green light to Gaghan’s drama S.I.L.A., which will be produced by 20th Century Fox TV and Chernin Entertainment. Gaghan, who won an Oscar for writing Traffic and earned another Oscar nom for writing Syriana, originally penned S.I.L.A. 18 months ago, with the script recently finding its way to Greenblatt. The project is described as a complex drama in the style of Traffic and Syriana set in the world of crime, law enforcement and politics in sprawling modern-day Los Angeles. In addition to writing, Gaghan, who has helmed two movies, including Syriana, will also direct the pilot. He is executive producing with Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope.
S.I.L.A.was laid off at Chernin Entertainment and 20th TV because of Gaghan’s existing relationships there. Through a deal at 20th TV, Gaghan has a drama and animated projects set up at Fox, also through Chernin Entertainment, which he is supervising along with his development executive Suzanne Joskow. On the feature side, Gaghan has Dead Spy Running, a feature at Warner Bros. that he is writing with an eye to direct. Kevin McCormick and McG’s Wonderland are producing.