EXCLUSIVE: Hot off helming the kidnap thriller Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve is circling Sicario, a Taylor Sheridan-scripted drama that is fast coming together with Black Label financing, and producing with Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road. Black Label is the finance/production company formed by Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill. Just as Villeneuve’s films Prisoners and especially Incendies presented thrillers with complex moral dilemmas and shocking conclusions, Sicario presents a similar opportunity for the filmmaker. It focuses on the murky legal loophole that allows mercenaries to breach the border of Mexico to corral drug kingpins, as long as they are accompanied by a legitimate law officer. In this case, a female cop from Tucson accompanies two delta force-type rangers across the border to apprehend a drug lord. Once across the border, the cop finds she has stepped into No Country For Old Men terrain, with violence and depravity she never imagined. I’m told that distributors are sparked about this one, and that CAA will broker the domestic deal. The Canadian helmer is being courted for other films, but this certainly sounds like this is right in Villeneuve’s wheelhouse.
EXCLUSIVE: Thunder Road has acquired The Embassy House to use as the basis for a feature about the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya which resulted in the death of four that included U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The book was written by Sgt. Morgan Jones and bestselling author Damien Lewis and will be published next month in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions. It is expected to reignite a hot-button topic. Basil Iwanyk will produce and Kent Kubena will be exec producer. The film will be written by Taylor Sheridan, whose adaptation of Comancheria has Marc Forster attached. Thunder Road is producing Sheridan’s script Sicario, and they’ve set him to script a look at Benghazi that is one part Black Hawk Down and another Lawrence Of Arabia. The book is by the ex-British Army soldier who was in charge of the security detail at the embassy. He was also close with the late ambassador, who was viewed as a positive influence in the region and whose death outraged many Libyans. It’s as much a look at how terrorists were able to breach security after red flags were waved as it is a look at the courage of the men who venture deep into hostile territories to try and win the hearts and minds of very skeptical people.
EXCLUSIVE: Thunder Road has acquired No Quarter, a spec script by The Messenger scribe Alessandro Camon and Michael Wilson that will be produced by Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk and Michael De Luca. No Quarter is a contemporary crime story that touches on the themes of the military and the difficulty of reintegrating back into society after serving as a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those were themes in The Messenger. Set in Los Angeles in 2007, two friends who were combat Marines and side by side survived some of the toughest fighting in the Iraq War, find themselves on opposite sides of the law. One becomes a star cop in an elite undercover unit while the other gets into a heist crew involved with a drug cartel. These men, who once depended on each other for survival, see their friendship and loyalties put to the test.
London and LA-based Cutting Edge Group invests cash in film music budgets and provides or brokers services for scoring, clearances and music supervision. In exchange, it acquires the music rights and recoups from performance royalties and secondary exploitation sources. Under a new deal with Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road, they’re putting a twist on slate financing. Rather than guaranteeing funds as part of a bank closing or acquiring the music rights after a film is complete, CEG is advancing development funds upfront to Thunder Road. Those funds will be secured against the producer’s forthcoming film music slate.
The first film that’s part of the deal is Keanu Reeves action-thriller John Wick, which shoots in September. The slate also includes the Daniel Espinosa-directed Gang Story starring Liam Neeson. CEG has previously invested in such films as The King’s Speech, Drive, Looper and End Of Watch.
EXCLUSIVE: Crazy Heart writer-director Scott Cooper has been tapped to rewrite and helm 36th Precinct, the 2004 French movie directed by Olivier Marchal. Thunder Road optioned remake rights from French producer Gaumont, which made the original thriller. That pic starred Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil and centered on rival Paris cops who ruthlessly seek a coveted promotion and blur the lines between the police and the criminals they’re supposed to catch in the process. I’m hearing the updated version will be set in the NYPD’s anti-terrorism unit. Thunder Road boss Basil Iwanyk will produce the new pic along with Cooper, with Marchal and Thunder Road’s Peter Lawson exec producing. Marchal also helmed Gang Story, the 2011 French pic that Thunder Road also is developing, with Safe House helmer Daniel Espinosa attached to direct, Liam Neeson attached to star, and David Scarpa writing the script.
EXCLUSIVE: Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road has acquired Valkyries, a pitch by scribe Nick Schoenfeld for a large-scale fantasy film based on the Norse hero Sigurd. Thunder Road made the deal in partnership with Christian Angemayer’s Filmhaus Germany. Most famously recounted in the 13th century Volsunga saga and the four-part opera by Richard Wagner, Sigurd’s feature will be drawn about his recruitment to slay the monstrous dragon Fafnir to ward off a generations-long curse. Sigurd’s exploits were also chronicled by The Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien. Schoenfeld, who just scripted Attila for Warner Bros, here pitched a take that blends the traditional dragon-hunting plot with an original thread involving a fallen daughter of Odin (called Valkyries) and her desire to retake a place in the heavens.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is acquiring a pitch for an epic-sized telling of the story of general and Roman leader Gaius Julius Caesar that will be written by Chris Boal and directed by Jonathan Liebesman. The film will be produced by Basil Iwanyk and his Warner Bros-based Thunder Road banner. I’m told that it’s an original pitch that is not a biopic as much a Patton-like approach that covers the time in which Caesar was sent to Spain on a detail no one else wanted. There, he built the 10th Legion fighting force that would eventually march on Rome, overrun the forces of his close friend-turned-rival Pompey, and establish Caesar as the unrivaled ruler of the empire. The idea is to create a sweeping drama with a big movie star part, and the pitch came with some of the action scenes choreographed. The film would end with his coronation but leaves open the prospect of a second film that chronicled his trip to Egypt and eventual assassination. Iwanyk will produce with Liebesman, with David Gardner exec producing.
Liebesman, whose Battle: Los Angeles was just released on DVD, re-teams with Iwanyk just as they wrapped Clash of the Titans 2 for Warner Bros this week. The project comes from an idea that Liebesman and Iwanyk worked on with Boal while making the Clash sequel that stars Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson.