Steven Spielberg, Javier Bardem, Steve Zaillian Circle Montezuma-Cortez Epic From Script By Blacklisted Writer Dalton Trumbo

Mike Fleming

Steven SpielbergEXCLUSIVE: One of the most compelling movie questions coming into 2014 is, what film will Steven Spielberg direct? I don’t know if this is next or far down the line, but here is a tantalizing possibility: I’m told that he has his sights on Montezuma, an epic tale of the kinship and ultimately the bloody collision between Montezuma and Cortez as the latter led the Spanish infiltration into Mexico. I’ve heard that Javier Bardem has sparked to playing the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez, and that the catalyst here is a nearly 50-year old script by Dalton Trumbo that is being rewritten by Steve Zaillian, who teamed with Spielberg on the Oscar-winning Schindler’s List.

Zaillian is boarding this project as producer, likely alongside Spielberg and his DreamWorks team. The rights are now controlled by DreamWorks, but Zaillian’s first look deal is at Fox and I don’t know if a team-up there is in the works. Zaillian is currently producing the Moses epic Exodus for Fox, with Ridley Scott directing Christian Bale in the lead role.

"Skyfall" Royal World Premiere - ArrivalsThis project could be retitled Cortez, since the viewpoint will be from the latter character to be played by fellow Spaniard Bardem. The project, considered one of the great unmade scripts in moviedom, has an illustrious history. Trumbo wrote it for actor/producer Kirk Douglas, with whom he did the classics Spartacus and Lonely Are the Brave. Trumbo turned in a 205-page draft in 1965, when Martin Ritt was supposed to direct Douglas in the film. It never happened. Read More »

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Fox And Film Rites Win ‘Red Sparrow’ Spy Thriller Auction

By | Thursday April 25, 2013 @ 11:59am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After a spirited bidding battle involving multiple studios, 20th Century Fox has just closed a 7-figure deal for film rights to the international spy thriller Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews. Film RitesSteve Zaillian and Garrett … Read More »

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Roger Ebert Memoir To Become Doc From Martin Scorsese And Steve Zaillian, Helmed By ‘Hoop Dreams’ Steve James

By | Friday September 7, 2012 @ 4:38pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian are teaming to produce a documentary on Roger Ebert inspired by the film critic’s 2011 memoir Life Itself. Steve James, who directed the doc Hoop Dreams, will helm it. Garrett Basch is … Read More »

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20th Century Fox Spins ‘Wool’ For Scott Free And Film Rites

By | Friday May 11, 2012 @ 7:11pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: I’m hearing that 20th Century Fox is the frontrunner to acquire Wool, a self-published e-book that has become an internet sensation and is being called the sci-fi version of Fifty Shades of Grey. Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free … Read More »

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Chris Terrio To Write ‘A Murder Foretold’ For Paramount And Indian Paintbrush

By | Thursday October 13, 2011 @ 1:15pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount and Indian Paintbrush have hired Chris Terrio to write A Murder Foretold, the fact-based drama based on the David Grann  article in the April 4 issue of The New Yorker about a series of high-level murders in … Read More »

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Toronto: Where Are The Film Deals?

Mike Fleming

Just as it did last year, the 2011 Toronto Film Festival has gotten off to a slow start on the acquisitions front. I spoke with many buyers after last night’s onslaught of acquisition title premieres, and the common feeling was these distributors need to fill slots in their schedules and they want to fall in love, but haven’t quite gotten there yet with most of these films. They had some reservations on just about all of the films they saw. These films will clearly find distribution homes, but the reaction means that deals will drag out because those distributors aren’t going to be posting large minimum guarantees, the way they did in Cannes.

Even the big sale of the festival so far, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 sex drama Shame, wasn’t a huge commitment for all the press hoopla that followed Deadline’s reveal that the film had sold to Fox Searchlight. I am hearing the deal was a mid-six figure minimum guarantee around $400,000, and a P&A commitment around $1.5 million. That sounds about right, because the filmmakers were most concerned with entering this year’s Oscar race to capitalize on the performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and ensuring that not a frame of the picture was changed. But it doesn’t sound like a wide release picture.

As for the wide release titles, they are going to sell, but it will be a struggle for sellers to get the dollars they want. I saw one of those titles that sit atop buyer lists last night. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was scripted by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The film is sophisticated, funny, timely and utterly charming, and I would be surprised if it isn’t snapped up by Monday or sooner. That film got the best reaction from the buyers I spoke with. The pace of auctioning has been complicated by the volume of premieres last night, including Rampart, Take This Waltz, The Oranges, the hockey comedy Goon and the Morgan Spurlock-directed documentary Comic-Con: A Fan’s Hope. Buyers had to make choices, and some were seeing films like Salmon this morning. I expect a flurry of deals toward the end of the festival, which is how it played out last year.

Since there’s little going on so far, you have time to notice things. Here are a few things I’ve noticed: Read More »

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Disney, Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Turn ‘Quantum Hoops’ Doc Into Comedy About Caltech Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Disney has acquired remake rights to Quantum Hoops, the 2007 documentary that followed the 2006 Caltech basketball team that had 21 seasons and 245 conference games without a single win, routinely getting walloped by 60 points or more. Ben … Read More »

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MRC Buys Black Hole Thriller For Cronenberg

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Media Rights Capital has made a pre-emptive acquisition of the Jonathan Lethem novel As She Climbed Across the Table, in a package that has David Cronenberg directing, Bruce Wagner writing and Film Rites’ Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch producing. Lethem is the author of Motherless Brooklyn.

The novel is a love triangle among an academic, his particle-physicist girlfriend, and the black hole that comes as the result of her lab experiments to replicate the origins of the universe. The physicist dumps her boyfriend to spend all her time with the black hole — which she calls Lack — and the university professor will do anything to win her back, even confronting his rival for her affections and risking a trip down a cosmic rabbit hole. The premise has comedic and thriller elements, and Film Rites brought it first to Cronenberg, who has covered dangerous and creepy obsessions in films ranging from The Fly to Crash and Dead Ringers. The film reteams Cronenberg with Wagner. Cronenberg was exec producer on Wagner’s adaptation of his own novel, I’m Losing You. Read More »

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UPDATE: Not-As-Hot Trailer: ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE, WEDNESDAY AM: Sony has released an “official” green-band trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, after the slightly less tame red-band one we had for you over the weekend was taken down all over the Internet by the studio, which claimed it was unauthorized. Publicity ploy … Read More »

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Script Delays Puts ‘Star Trek’ Sequel Before Jack Ryan For Chris Pine And Paramount

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has scrapped a tentative plan for Chris Pine to resuscitate the Jack Ryan franchise before he reprises his James T. Kirk role in a Star Trek sequel. The slow process of nailing the Ryan script has prompted … Read More »

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Producer Scott Rudin Joins Martin Scorsese’s Frank Sinatra Biopic At Universal

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has set Scott Rudin to produce Sinatra, the film Martin Scorsese will direct about the life of singer-actor Frank Sinatra. Rudin joins Mandalay’s Peter Guber and Cathy Schulman, who brought in the project to the studio almost two years ago after they secured life and music rights from Frank Sinatra Enterprises, which is a joint venture of the estate of Ol’ Blue Eyes and the Warner Music Group. Phil Alden Robinson had been the original writer, but I’m told they are looking for another scribe. Scorsese’s Sikelia is also producing as is Tina Sinatra.

Rudin, nominated twice in the Best Picture Oscar race this year for producing The Social Network and True Grit, produced the 1999 Scorsese-directed Bringing Out the Dead. Rudin’s currently producing the David Fincher-directed  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which Steve Zaillian adapted from the Stieg Larsson novel, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the Stephen Daldry-directed adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel that stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. He is prepping at Paramount the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy The Dictator, and at Universal he’s got the Paul Greengrass-directed Martin Luther King Jr.  assassination drama Memphis. Read More »

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‘True Grit’ Co-Financier Skydance Targets ‘Star Blazers’ For Christopher McQuarrie

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: David Ellison’s Skydance Productions is negotiating a rights deal to turn the 1970s animated science fiction TV series Star Blazers into a large scale live action feature. Ellison will hire Christopher McQuarrie to write the script, with Ellison and … Read More »

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Michel Gondry Meets His Quirky Sensibility Match In Philip K. Dick

Mike Fleming

Michel Gondry is adapting and is attached to direct Ubik, the legendary book by scifi author Philip K. Dick. Steve Zaillian and Steve Golin are producing through Film Rites and Anonymous Content, with Golin putting up the financing for development … Read More »

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Goran Visnjic Joins ‘Dragon Tattoo’

Mike Fleming

Former ER star Goran Visnjic has signed on to play Dragan Armansky in Sony Pictures’ The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the David Fincher-directed adaptation of the Stieg Larsson bestseller. Visjnic’s character, the CEO of a security firm that employs … Read More »

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Steve Zaillian On To Rewrite Jack Ryan

By | Wednesday February 2, 2011 @ 11:59am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Steve Zaillian is being brought aboard by Paramount to rewrite the new Jack Ryan film. Chris Pine will play Ryan in the Tom Clancy-created series, and Lost‘s Jack Bender is directing. Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing.

The … Read More »

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DreamWorks Acquires ‘Time Crimes’ Which Steve Zaillian Now Re-Writing

By | Tuesday January 18, 2011 @ 3:22pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Time Crimes, the remake of the 2007 Spanish time travel film, has been moved by Steve Zaillian from United Artists to DreamWorks. Zaillian, who’d set it up at UA to produce, has also committed to rewrite the script. Tim … Read More »

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Al Pacino And Joe Pesci Circling Martin Scorsese And Robert De Niro Mob Movie

By | Monday September 13, 2010 @ 2:50pm PDT
Mike Fleming

It’s Goodfellas meets Casino meets Heat. So if you’re a fan of those great crime movies, get ready: I’m told Al Pacino and Joe Pesci are now circling The Irishman, the mob drama that Martin Scorsese and Robert De … Read More »

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Sony Starts Talks With Steve Zaillian To Script ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Entertainment has begun deal talks with Steve Zaillian to adapt The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second installment of the Millennium Trilogy of crime novels written by Stieg Larsson. Zaillian adapted The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which SPE puts into production this fall after director David Fincher and producer Scott Rudin end the well-publicized search for an actress to play the troubled genius computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Like Daniel Craig, that actress will sign a deal with two options covering The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Craig is playing journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
Read More »

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Sony Pictures Skeds ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ – But Two Leads Not Set Yet

Mike Fleming

the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattooEXCLUSIVE… UPDATE: The plot is thickening on the David Fincher-directed adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the internationally hot Stieg Larsson mystery novel. Of course, with the Swedish film version having made $100+M worldwide so far … Read More »

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