Among the barrage of pilot pickups this evening, CBS closed two casting deals for Under The Dome, its 13-episode summer series from Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. Natalie Martinez and Alex Koch have joined the show based on King’s bestselling 2009 novel. Under The Dome is set in Chester’s Mill, a small New England town suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome. The town’s inhabitants must deal with surviving the post-apocalyptic conditions while searching for answers to what this barrier is, where it came from and if and when it will go away. READ MORE »
UPDATED: This should bring back wistful memories for gamers who recall how products including Pong, Tank, and the Atari 2600 shaped the video game industry back in the 1970s — and painful ones for media industry veterans. The French company that owns Atari said today that its U.S. business filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it looks to sell or restructure the operation. Hours later, Atari S.A. also filed for bankruptcy in France under Book 6 of that country’s commercial code, according to the LA Times. The Execs made the decision after Atari’s main shareholder and lender, investment firm BlueBay, said it couldn’t find anyone to buy the game company — and couldn’t continue to fund it. (Two of BlueBay’s funds are in liquidation.) The filing comes in advance of a credit facility due on March 31 as the company says it “has been starved for funds and unable to finance its continued growth.” Atari CEO Jim Wilson says that by auctioning the U.S. assets “we will seek to maximize the proceeds in the best interest of the company and all of its shareholders.”
DreamWorks, which rousted former President Bill Clinton to introduce the Steven Spielberg-directed Lincoln at Sunday’s Golden Globes, continues to pull out the stops to get the movie noticed in Oscar season. Today, they’ve released a behind-the-scenes special entitled …
Scoop hounds like myself love to lock filmmakers into projects and move on in search of the next splashy headline. A look at some recent big director developments, and at the tortured road several directors traveled before getting Oscar nominations this morning, shows that good movies really do find their way into the right hands, even if it takes forever to happen.
Among today’s Best Director nominees, Steven Spielberg only found the handle on Best Picture nominee Lincoln after he trashed an earlier version and labored more than a decade; David O Russell got Silver Linings Playbook because Sydney Pollack could not figure out how to meld humor with mental problems; Ang Lee got to crack the challenging Life Of Pi — which recently became the highest-grossing film in his career — after previous tries by Dean Georgaris and M. Night Shyamalan ended in futility. None of this is as dramatic as, say, when Spielberg traded Martin Scorsese Cape Fear in exchange for Schindler’s List, but it is intriguing how the moves of one major director impacts another, how the right guy for the picture usually ends up in the director’s chair, and why patience can be a virtue.
This morning’s just-announced DGA Award nominations are good news for the major studios and bad news for Harvey Weinstein. With Ben Affleck for Warner Bros’ Argo, Kathryn Bigelow for Sony’s Zero Dark Thirty, Tom Hooper for Universal’s Les Miserables, Ang Lee for 20th Century Fox’s Life Of Pi and Steven Spielberg for Disney/Dreamworks Lincoln, it was a clean sweep for the majors — a continuing roaring comeback in Oscar contenders for the big boys who the past two years have watched The Weinstein Company take Best Picture (and top DGA) honors with small indies like The Artist and The King’s Speech. Clearly, even as their focus is on money-making blockbusters and popcorn entertainment, the majors are no longer sitting on the sidelines when it comes to the Oscars and seem fully invested in the process this year at least.
Related: DGA Award Nominations Announced
It’s highly unusual since the advent of the Miramax takeover of Oscar seasons the past quarter century to see no independent contender in a strong position. But, at least as far as the DGA is concerned, that’s the story here, along with the fact that four of the five nominees are past DGA- and Oscar-directing winners, with Affleck the only newcomer to the DGA club after directing only his third feature film (he is an Oscar winner for co-writing Good Will Hunting). Bigelow and Hooper both won in the last three years and have made a quick return to the golden circle. Spielberg, meanwhile, is the Big Kahuna of the DGA as he is a three-time winner (The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan) and now 11-time nominee as well as winner of the guild’s Life Achievement Award. Lee’s enormously impressive technical feat in bringing what was thought to be an unfilmable book, Life Of Pi, so successfully to the big screen is clearly something that appealed to the sensibility of directors, so his nomination was definitely expected. This will make for one of the tightest and most interesting directing races in years at the DGA.
It looks like the U.S. Senate, a body used to politics of every stripe, is now injecting itself into Hollywood’s Oscar politics by taking visible public stands on two major Oscar contenders, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. Disney/Fox/Dreamworks’ Oscar contender Lincoln was the beneficiary of an almost unheard of bi-partisan screening for the U.S. Senate tonight. But that was almost overshadowed earlier today when Deadline broke news of a bi-partisan letter from three key U.S. Senators, Republican John McCain and Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, to Sony Pictures. It complained about certain aspects of the depiction of torture in the hunt for Osama bin Laden as characterized in the studio’s major Oscar contender Zero Dark Thirty. (It opened today in limited release and goes wide on January 11th, the day after Oscar nominations are announced). The scenes in question were roundly denounced by the trio: “We write to express our deep disappointment with the movie Zero Dark Thirty. We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Osama bin Laden.” They said they have reviewed CIA records and know the film’s “implications” are incorrect.
Whether this kind of ringing denouncement of the admittedly “fictional” film about the hunt for bin Laden is true or not, this is not the kind of publicity the studio wants for its Oscar campaign even though controversy is usually great for box office. With Oscar voting just starting this week any suggestion that the film’s credibility is lacking (particularly from the likes of such high ranking members of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence) is not generally on any Oscar strategist’s wish list. But Zero Dark Thirty has been enveloped in controversy right from the beginning, and today Sony strongly suggested that the pic is being misunderstood in certain quarters. The Senators are asking the studio to put a disclaimer on the film regarding events depicted as “facts” in the movie. Whether that has any ultimate effect on the film’s awards prospects, particularly at the Oscars, remains to be seen. So far it has cleaned up with critics groups’ year-end honors and fared very well with Golden Globe and Critics Choice Movie Awards nominations. It was also named one of the AFI’s top 10 movies of the year.
Controversies like this have made their mark in past Oscar races with mixed results. Attacks on the credibility of the 1999 biopic, The Hurricane, in which Denzel Washington played boxer
The Senate took a break this evening to watch a screening of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in the Capitol Visitors Center. Spielberg and star Daniel Day-Lewis attended. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes the message of the movie …
EXCLUSIVE: It’s easy to imagine that when Steven Spielberg sets his sights on a movie, Hollywood’s most storied director doesn’t struggle like most others. That most certainly wasn’t the case with Lincoln. It took Spielberg a dozen years to find a handle on the 16th U.S. President’s sprawling political and personal story, three times as long as it took to fight the actual Civil War that defined Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. It took Spielberg half that many years to convince Daniel Day-Lewis, who looks so much like Lincoln that he could pose for the $5 bill if the image needs updating. Here, Spielberg explains to Deadline why it was worth the long years he and screenwriter Tony Kushner spent finding an under-told facet of the president’s life story that elevated Lincoln above a dusty history lesson.
DEADLINE: It seems unusual for the most successful director in Hollywood to wage an extended courtship as you did to get Daniel Day-Lewis to play Lincoln. Daniel once told me that he tries to find reasons not to do every movie offered him, and only says yes to the ones he can’t talk himself out of. This is because he pays such a high personal price to turn in these amazing performances. How did you court him and how did you finally convince him?
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, it took a long time. Daniel certainly had about six years to think about it. But there were really two things going on. The first time around, I offered him not this Lincoln, not the Tony Kushner-written Lincoln, and not the Lincoln written on Doris’ book Team Of Rivals. It was an original Lincoln script that I developed. And that was when he first turned me down to play the character based on what he freely admitted was an intimidation based on the size of the figure, of Lincoln himself. I don’t think he ever forgot our encounter, though. And I don’t think he ever forgot the challenge that was offered to him.
DEADLINE: What finally turned him around?
SPIELBERG: What really, really did the trick was when he read the Tony Kushner script and I was able to get a take two. My good buddy Leo DiCaprio simply called him up one day and said “you need to reconsider this. Steven really wants you for this and he’s not willing to make the movie without you.” Based on Leo’s phone call to him, Daniel offered to read the Tony Kushner script, which he had never read, and also the Doris Kearns Goodwin book, which he had never read. That’s when the courtship part was over. Once he read the script, then he really had to come to terms with that big decision he would eventually have to make. Can I, with honor, equip this character in a way that I’ll be able to live with this the rest of my life?
DEADLINE: What’s the closest in any of your films where you put as much time into convincing an actor to star in your movie? Has there been another instance like this?
SPIELBERG: Never. Never. I’ve never gone on a campaign before, I pretty much take no for an answer. It’s one of the few times in my entire life where I was not willing to accept that answer.
UPDATE 5:36 PM: I’m now told that, within the hour, the screening date just moved to December 19th.
BREAKING… EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has invited Steven Spielberg to screen …
CBS Orders ‘Under The Dome’ Series From Steven Spielberg & Stephen King; Neal Baer To Run, Niels Arden Oplev To Direct
In a departure from its signature drama procedurals, CBS has given a 13-episode straight-to-series order to Steven Spielberg and Stephen King‘s Under The Dome, a drama based on King’s bestselling 2009 novel, which will be produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Television. The series will air next summer and will mark CBS’ biggest effort with original scripted fare in the off-season in years with Under The Dome and Unforgettable. Under The Dome tells the story of a small New England town suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome. The town’s inhabitants must deal with surviving the post-apocalyptic conditions while searching for answers to what this barrier is, where it came from and if and when it will go away. I hear the project’s writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost) kept the general conceit and many of the characters from the book but also introduced new characters as regulars and tweaked some details and backstory for the existing ones. I hear King has blessed all the changes. As for the book’s much-talked-about ending, which has divided King fans, I hear the series won’t follow it, and as in success, CBS would like to do another season.
CBS landed Under The Dome in turnaround. The supernatural thriller was originally set up at pay cable sibling Showtime in August 2011. When Amblin sensed the project was not moving forward at Showtime, they asked the network to release it and took it out to the broadcast networks. In an effort to keep the show in the family, Showtime entertainment president David Nevins, who liked the project despite feeling it was not right for Showtime, recommended it to his CBS counterpart Nina Tassler, who was interested. The network subsequently laid the show off at CBS TV Studios, which will produce it with Amblin; attached veteran Neal Baer, who is under an overall deal at CBS Studios, as showrunner; and brought in original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo helmer Niels Arden Oplev to direct the first episode. The network has history with Oplev — in his U.S. debut, he directed the pilot of the CBS procedural Unforgettable, which coincidentally will be Under The Dome‘s companion on the CBS summer schedule unless the network changes its plans. “This is a great novel coming to the television screen with outstanding auspices and in-season production values to create a summer programming event,” Tassler said.