BREAKING: After meeting and reading a group of young actresses for Carrie, MGM, Screen Gems and director Kim Peirce have made their decision and made the formal offer today to Chloe Moretz. If negotiations work out, she’ll play the title role in the remake of the Brian DePalma original that was based on the 1974 Stephen King bestseller. She’s expected to play the shy high school student Carrie White, who is raised by a nightmarish religious fanatic mother, and comes to grip with devastating telepathic powers just as she reaches puberty. She eventually uses those gifts for lethal means when fellow classmates use the prom as an excuse to humiliate her before the entire school in a parable about bullying. Sissy Spacek played the character in the first movie, with Piper Laurie playing her mother, and Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, Betty Buckley and William Katt rounding out the cast. Both Spacek and Laurie got Oscar nominations for their work in the 1976 film.
EXCLUSIVE: When Universal Pictures said no to making three feature films and two limited-run TV series from Stephen King’s mammoth post-apocalyptic Western The Dark Tower, the partners in the film all pledged they were going to find a way to get a movie made. Well, I hear that Warner Bros is now very close to a deal that will give Ron Howard the chance to direct at least the first feature, potentially with Javier Bardem starring as gunslinger Roland Deschain. And Akiva Goldsman (who wrote the script) is producing with Brian Grazer and the author.
Basically the studio bought Goldsman’s script and are paying him to do a polish. Howard remains attached to direct, likely in first-quarter 2013. Pic is a co-production between Goldsman’s Weed Road and Howard and Grazer’s Imagine. Bardem’s participation would depend upon his availability, but he was firmly attached when the project was at Universal.
That is an amazing development for fans of the book and for a movie that has been searching for new backing since Universal let it go last July. Back then, Universal was deciding on three features and the two TV segments, which was perhaps the most ambitious movie project since Peter Jackson shot three installments of The Lord Of The Rings back to back.
BREAKING: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are reuniting in their first real picture partnership since Good Will Hunting. The Boston guys are taking on the story of New England’s most notorious gangster, Whitey Bulger. Warner Bros will make the film, Affleck will direct, co-star and produce with Damon, who’ll play Bulger. They’ll produce under their Pearl Street Films banner. Boardwalk Empire creator and writer Terence Winter is penning the script. Casey Affleck, who also starred in Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, will play a supporting role as well.
“Matt and I have been looking for something to do together for some time,” Affleck said. “We’ve heard about Whitey Bulger since we were kids, and we are excited by the prospect of putting it on screen.” Ironically, Damon played a crooked cop in The Departed, the Martin Scorsese-directed film that took a page from the Bulger story. He is the notorious South Boston crime boss who fled in 1994 and remained a fugitive for 16 years — 12 of them on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. He was arrested in June in Santa Monica. The story will cover Bulger’s youth to his incarceration on Alcatraz, through his rise to become a mob boss while secretly serving as an FBI informant for decades. Pearl Street’s Chay Carter will be executive producer.
BREAKING: NBCUniversal’s new owners at Comcast have given a vote of confidence to the studio’s feature film operation. They’ve exercised an option on Universal Pictures’ Chairman Adam Fogelson and extended his contract through 2014. I’m told that Fogelson is, in turn, in the process of exercising the option of Donna Langley and she will continue as the studio’s co-chairman. They will also keep their executive team intact. Fogelson will continue to have full day-to-day operating responsibility for the Motion Picture Group, reporting to Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer (whose contract was recently re-upped through 2015) and will now also report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke.
While Universal has had its ups and downs, higher-ups are clearly convinced that Fogelson, Langley and their team are making progress. They’ve had recent hits –Bridesmaids, Hop! and Fast Five– but also had some recent misses that include The Dilemma, Change-Up and Cowboys & Aliens. In the latter case, the studio was on the hook for one-third of the film, and shared that third with Relativity Media. It has also been a year in which Fogelson and his team have made some painful decisions and let pricey productions go. That began with the Guillermo Del Toro-directed At the Mountains of Madness, which Universal developed for years and which was ready to go with Tom Cruise, until the studio made a late decision not to go forward because of the possibility the $150M film could carry an R-rating. Universal also dropped two projects that were in advanced stages of development: The Dark Tower, the Akiva Goldsman-directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel series that was to be made into three feature films and two limited-run TV series, with the first film and TV segment directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer and Goldsman; and Oiuja, the Hasbro board game that had McG directing and Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners producing with Hasbro. The moves were surprising because Howard and Grazer are cornerstone filmmakers for Universal; and Del Toro and Hasbro have overall deals there. Ouija is one of several Hasbro properties the studio dropped, the others being the Gore Verbinski-directed Clue, the Ridley Scott-directed Monopoly and Magic, The Gathering. These were part of a groundbreaking deal the studio made with the toymaker several years ago, but the studio and Hasbro have re-focused their attention solely on Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, and Candy Land.
In one of Showtime’s most ambitious undertakings, the pay cable network is partnering with Steven Spielberg and Stephen King for Under the Dome, a drama series based on King’s 2009 novel, which will be produced by DreamWorks Television. The supernatural thriller revolves around locals at a Maine vacation spot who battle one another when a force field suddenly surrounds their town and cuts them off from the rest of the world. DreamWorks’ Spielberg and Stacey Snider nabbed the rights to King’s novel shortly after it was published in November 2009 to strong reviews. Search is underway for a writer to write the project, whose executive producers will include King and DreamWorks TV’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Spielberg has a longstanding relationship with King. He previously teamed with the bestselling author to adapt his 1984 novel The Talisman, which was originally developed as feature and then as a miniseries that was once set up at TNT.
This marks a return to genre series for Showtime, which took a break following the 2003 dramedy Dead Like Me, and the network’s latest collaboration with DreamWorks TV.
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: 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.
EXCLUSIVE: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the playwright and comic book writer who was brought on to rewrite and hopefully save Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, has booked several projects to follow. On the TV side, he’ll become a co-producer and writer of the hit series Glee. And I’m told that he’s just been set by MGM and Screen Gems to write a remake of Carrie, the Stephen King thriller about the telekinetic teenager who gets pushed too far at the prom and wreaks havoc on her fellow high school students. King’s bestselling book was turned into the 1976 film that starred Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Amy Irving and Piper Laurie as the repressive mother.
For Aguirre-Sacasa, these diverse projects are right in his wheelhouse. On Carrie, he will write a version that is more faithful to the King book than the earlier movie, much the same as Joel and Ethan Coen went back to the Charles Portis novel True Grit to present a version that didn’t really feel like a remake. Aguirre-Sacasa has a relationship with the author, after writing the graphic novel version of King’s The Stand, King’s seminal apocalyptic novel.
EXCLUSIVE: TV, film and comic book writer Mark Verheiden has been tapped to co-write with Akiva Goldsman the NBC TV series The Dark Tower. The project is part of a massive joint deal Universal Pictures and NBC Universal TV …