EXCLUSIVE: Russia’s Wizart Animation produced this 3D animated adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen tale about a young girl who sets out to save her brother from an evil queen. Maxim Sveshnikov and Vlad Barbe directed the pic from a script by Barbe and Vadim Sveshnikov. Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) came aboard as producer and distributed the family pic in Russia through his Bazelevs company. Vertical Entertainment will release The Snow Queen stateside on October 11:
EXCLUSIVE: I first reported last month that MGM was courting Wanted helmer Timur Bekmambetov to helm Ben-Hur. I have now confirmed that the helmer and the studio have closed their deal for him to direct a new adaptation of the 1880 Lew Wallace novel Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ, which in its time outsold every book but the Bible until it was eclipsed by Gone With The Wind. MGM bought a Ben-Hur spec by Keith Clarke (he scripted the Peter Weir-directed The Way Back). Sean Daniel and Joni Levin are producing, with Clarke and Jason Brown exec producing.
This gives MGM its biblical epic at a time when History’s The Bible was such a miniseries success that Fox is going to theatrically release the truncated movie-length version Son Of God; Paramount and New Regency ready the Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah with Russell Crowe playing the boat builder; and Ridley Scott ready to direct Exodus, with Christian Bale playing Moses and Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, John Turturro and Aaron Paul.
Bekmambetov is repped by WME, Clarke by Resolution and manager DJ Talbot.
EXCLUSIVE: I can’t say definitively that the negotiations are going to work out, but MGM is in talks with Wanted helmer Timur Bekmambetov to helm Ben-Hur, a new adaptation of the 1880 Lew Wallace novel Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ, which in its time outsold every book but The Bible until it was eclipsed by Gone With The Wind. This all got set in motion after MGM bought a Ben-Hur spec by Keith Clarke (he scripted the Peter Weir-directed The Way Back), a package that came with Sean Daniel and Joni Levin attached to produce, and Clarke and Jason Brown exec producing. This happened last January, right after MGM got new funding and was flush with proceeds from the 007 pic Skyfall and The Hobbit. I have been chasing the possible deal with Bekmambetov for the past two weeks, and it seemed intriguing enough as another Biblical epic moving forward that I felt it was worth noting despite the fact they haven’t reached financial terms and I don’t know for certain that they will.
EXCLUSIVE: Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter director Timur Bekmambetov is venturing into television with Warriors Of Oz, a mini-series project which has landed at Syfy. It is a fantasy-action reimagining of the classic story in which a warrior from present day Earth is transported to a post-apocalyptic future Oz where he must team up with three other warriors, Heartless, Brainless, and Coward, in order to defeat the evil Wizard who has enslaved the land. Bekmambetov is set to executive produce and possibly direct. Search is under way for a writer to pen the mini, which will be produced by Universal Cable Prods. Syfy has been ramping up mini-series development, announcing two four-hour projects at its upfront presentation in April based on Larry Niven’s Ringworld and on Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End with producer Michael De Luca.
Newbie distributor Vertical Entertainment has snapped up US rights to the Russian 3D animated pic produced by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The Snow Queen tells the tale of a little girl who embarks on a journey to save her brother from the evil witch who’s covered the world in ice. Maxim Sveshnikov and Vlad Barbe directed the pic from a script by Barbe and Vadim Sveshnikov. Yuri Moskvin, Vladimir Nikolaev, Olga Sinelshchikova, Sergey Rapoport, Alexander Ligay and Bekmambetov are producers. Already released in Ukraine, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, Turkey, UAE, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, The Snow Queen has a sequel in the works for Winter 2014. Peter Jarowey negotiated the deal with WME’s Deb McIntosh. Wizart Distribution’s is handling international sales at Cannes, where last week Vertical acquired rights to Josh Duhamel’s SXSW film Scenic Route.
BREAKING: Timur Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs has acquired the 2011 Black List script The Current War scripted by Michael Mitnick. Bekmambetov acquired it to direct. He most recently wrapped Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which Fox releases June 22. Mitnick is currently writing the libretto for the Broadway-bound stage musical adaptation of the 1978 film Animal House.
The Current War chronicles the true-life public battle fought between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse for domination of the early power industry. Bazelevs’ President of Development Michele Wolkoff will oversee the project for Bazelevs. The project was brought in to the company by Bazelevs’ creative exec Alan Khamoui. Bazelevs will fund it through its development fund, similar to the way Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter got put together.
Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch will executive produce through Film Rites. Mitnick’s latest play Ed, Downloaded, will premiere at the Denver Center in 2013. His last play, Sex Lives Of Our Parents, was presented by Second Stage Theatre in NYC. Mitnick is repped by WME and Jeff Silver at Fourth Floor Productions. Bekmambetov is repped by WME.
EXCLUSIVE: In one of the first partnerships of its kind, Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov is teaming with Chinese filmmaker Eva Jin (Sophie’s Revenge) on a Russian/Chinese remake of Yolki (Six Degrees of Celebration). They will be among several filmmakers who’ll direct segments of the film. The deal comes after Yolki 2 topped the box office in Russia last weekend with $7.8 million gross. The 2010 first film became Russia’s most successful local movie in the past three years. Yolki tells the stories of eight different Russians – from eight different time zones – and how their destinies intersect one New Years Eve. The remake will be framed around the Chinese New Year. There will be eight stories connected by a young orphan girl who must deliver a message to the President and whose only hope is to use the theory of “six degrees of separation” – that all people on Earth, from the lowliest migrant worker to government leaders, are connected by six handshakes. As was done in the Russian original, multiple filmmakers will direct the various story lines. Bekmambetov (who co-directed the original) and Jin will each direct one of the vignettes. Dede Nickerson will Executive Produce. Bekmambetov and Jin are discussing a 2013 release. Bekmambetov just wrapped Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for Fox.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has made a whopping deal to acquire screen rights to Unholy Night, the new novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith will write the script, and he and KatzSmith partner David Katzenberg will produce with Heyday Films’ David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. I’ve heard that the deal is in the vicinity of $2 million upfront for the rights to the book and for Grahame-Smith to adapt it. The studio got first look at the book, as both KatzSmith and Heyday are based at Warner Bros. That is where Heyman produced the Harry Potter film series and where Grahame-Smith scripted the Tim Burton-directed Dark Shadows. Unholy Night, an action/adventure surrounding the Three Wise Men of the Nativity, will be published in April by Grand Central.
Setting up a film based around the birth of Jesus Christ gives Warner Bros its third high-profile movie based on a seminal religious story. The studio has been discussing the possibility of Steven Spielberg directing Gods And Kings, an epic-sized film about the life of Moses scripted by Michael Green and Stuart Hazeldine. And Warner Bros recently set up a project being scripted by Joe Eszterhas and Mel Gibson (who has first option to direct) about the heroic story of Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, who teamed with his father and four brothers to lead the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that had conquered Judea in the second century B.C. Maccabee’s triumph and struggle against tyranny and oppression where people gave their lives so that others would be free to worship is celebrated by Jews all over the world through Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
EXCLUSIVE: In a match that seems ideal, Tim Burton is in early talks to come aboard Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, the Ransom Riggs novel that 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment acquired last spring. Burton is in talks to develop the book as a potential directing project, and he would be involved in setting a writer to adapt the tale.
It involves Jacob, a 16-year-old whose childhood was filled with stories his grandfather told him about an orphanage for unusual children. Among the residents: a girl who could hold fire in her hands, another whose feet never touched the ground, and twins who communicated without speaking. When his beloved grandfather dies unexpectedly but leaves a message behind for his grandson, the teen heads off to his grandfather’s home on an isolated island off Wales. There he discovers the abandoned remains of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It is in great disrepair and as Jacob explores its bedrooms and hallways, he can see the children were more than peculiar, they might have been there because they were dangerous. And he can’t shake the feeling they are still lurking around. Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark and Jenno Topping are producing.
EXCLUSIVE: KatzSmith Productions partners David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith have just signed a two-year first-look feature producing deal at Warner Bros. While rights are still being worked out, one of their first projects is expected to be a sequel to Beetlejuice, the 1988 Tim Burton-directed hit that starred Michael Keaton as a ghoul hired by a recently deceased couple to drive the new owners out of their house. Burton and Keaton made the movie while they were working on the studio’s first Batman film, which was released the following year. Beetlejuice also starred Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder and Geena Davis. The film will not be a remake; the intention is to reboot it by advancing the storyline of the original, which was done by The Geffen Company and Warner Bros.
The Warner Bros producing deal grew from the screenwriting work that Grahame-Smith did for Burton on Dark Shadows, currently in production with Johnny Depp heading the cast. While Warner Bros and other studios continue to cut back producing pacts, in KatzSmith the studio gets two partners who while just getting started producing features bring a lot of their own ideas to the table and are established writers and aspiring feature directors.
“We first got to know Seth through his fantastic work on Dark Shadows, and it immediately became a priority to expand our relationship with …
Maggie, the John Scott 3-penned spec script about the six-week metamorphosis of a 16-year-old teenage girl into a zombie, is back on the market. The spec was close to a deal with Timur Bekmambetov (I’d heard it closed), but I’m told the exclusive negotiation has ended without a deal in place. Bekmambetov planned to produce a film that comes with vfx wiz Henry Hobson set to direct. There are three parties now circling a project, which has a $5 million budget. Now, this isn’t your standard flesh-eater zombie film. Much of it is the bond between the young girl and her distraught father as she contracts the plague-like virus that is sweeping the world, and it slowly takes hold of her.
EXCLUSIVE: Timur Bekmambetov has won a spec auction for Maggie, a script that sparked a spirited auction today, with six bidders. Bekmambetov will produce a film that has a script by John Scott 3, and vfx wiz Henry Hobson set to direct. Why did so many bidders spark to the script? Aside from offering some inventive twists on the popular zombie genre, Maggie is a blueprint for a genre movie that can be made for between $4 million and $8 million. That budget range has suddenly become highly desirable for distributors looking to make genre films in the mold of Paranormal Activity.
Maggie is a 16-year old girl from a town in middle America who becomes infected by a zombie. Much the way that Danny Boyle changed the lumbering zombie stereotype by speeding up the undead in 28 Days Later, Maggie changes the lightning quick infection period evident in most zombie films, where victims become zombies in minutes. It will take six weeks for Maggie to turn, and the film tracks the transformation as she stays with her family. Trevor Kaufman will produce with Bekmambetov.
When he’s not writing scripts, the writer builds commanding for NASA’s flagship X-ray satellite. He works with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which takes photos of X-ray photons in deep space. Hobson was trained at the Royal College of Art in London as a graphic designer, and specializes in creating inventive title sequences for films that included Sherlock …
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired an untitled science fiction thriller pitch that will be written by Brian Miller. He’s the scribe whose writing sample won a contest held by Timur Bekmambetov. That script turned into Apollo 18, the Dimension Films “found footage” pic that opens April 22. Brad Weston will produce the pic. The deal came about after a general meeting with Weston, where Miller pitched what I’m told is a big idea with a budget under $30 million. The studio called the next day and took it off the table. Miller is repped by CAA and 3 Arts.
Dimension Films has released a new trailer for Apollo 18, the latest fright film based on “found footage,” this one purporting to be a record of a NASA moon mission that was officially scrapped. Timur Bekmambetov produced it:
For a $200,000 movie, Monsters has created quite a trajectory for its director and star. After Gareth Edwards got the job directing Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla, star Scoot McNairy has landed a lead alongside Brad Pitt and a great supporting cast in the Andrew Dominik-directed Cogan’s Trade. He’s in contention for a lead in the Ridley Scott-directed Prometheus, and is circling the role of Josh Speed in the Timur Bekmambetov-directed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, both at Fox. He’s repped by ICM and The Group Management.
UPDATE: Fox is negotiating with The Devil’s Double star Dominic Cooper to play Abe Lincoln’s mentor Henry, the mysterious ageless guy who teaches Abe to kill bloodsuckers. The studio had been in talks with Joaquin Phoenix for that role, but it’s going to be Cooper, another up-and-comer, whose dual performance as Uday Hussein and the man forced to be his body double was the talk of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
EARLIER, 12:30 PM: Anthony Mackie is in talks to star with Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for 20th Century Fox. Mackie will play the role of Will, Lincoln’s best friend. The role is a good one, he gets to be in the center of the vampire slaying. Director Timur Bekmambetov is putting together a group of up and comers to headline the movie. Mackie is ready to pop and is on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue. He next stars with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau and stars with Hugh Jackman in Real Steel. Mackie is repped by UTA and Inspire Entertainment. Mackie also turned in a fascinating performance as jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden in the Dan Pritzker-directed Bolden!. I’ve seen some footage from that picture, which Pritzker shot in a rather meticulous production that took forever. Pritzker completed and released an offshoot silent film Louis, which toured with a …
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has set Shawn Levy to direct Fantastic Voyage, the James Cameron-produced 3D tent pole film. I’m told that Levy has boarded the re-imagining of the 1966 original about a team of scientists shrunk into a ship in an attempt to save a colleague’s life. Fox and Cameron have been moving cautiously on a big budget film that, from early in the script once they go inside the body, is almost exclusively CGI. The script is by Shane Salerno, with Laeta Kalogridis working on a polish.
The directing job has been one of the big open slots out there since Paul Greengrass ended a flirtation with the picture last year. I’m told that helmers like Darren Aronofsky, Timur Bekmambetov, Jonathan Mostow and Louis Leterrier met with Cameron. Levy is an unexpected choice, but he is a Fox favorite who is broadening beyond comedies into bigger fare.
He has a strong commercial instinct, and made Fox a fortune with the Night at the Museum franchise and before that Cheaper By the Dozen and What Happens in Vegas, which led the film to re-up his 21 Laps banner last year for another 3 years. He last directed the Tina Fey-Steve Carell comedy Date Night for Fox. Levy most recently directed the hi-tech action film Real Steel for DreamWorks with Hugh Jackman and recently signing on for another action adventure …
EXCLUSIVE: Joaquin Phoenix is the front-runner to play the mentor who teaches the 16th President how to kill bloodsuckers in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for 20th Century Fox. Phoenix has met on the project and I’m told that it’s his if he wants it. He would join Benjamin Walker, who last Thursday was set to play the title character in the Timur Bekmambetov-directed adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel whose producers include Tim Burton. It’s an encouraging sign that the fine actor might be returning to form after a surreal detour in I’m Still Here, the mockumentary directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck that purported to be Phoenix’s attempt to build a career as a rapper. While both Phoenix and Affleck initially maintained the docu was legit, they later acknowledged it was an artistic ruse. It was a waste of his considerable talent. From Gladiator, To Die For to We Own the Night and Walk the Line, Phoenix consistently turns in fascinating performances and this is a showy return role. The role is Henry, a mythic, ageless figure who turns Lincoln into an axe-throwing expert slayer of vampires. The pic’s produced by Bekmambetov, Tim Burton and Jim Lemley. Phoenix is cagey and could decide not to go forward. Stay turned to see if his deal makes. WME reps Phoenix.
Ben Walker has been set by Timur Bekmambetov to play the lead role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the 20th Century Fox adaptation of the Seth Graham-Smith novel that’s being produced by Bekmambetov, Tim Burton and Jim Lemley. Deal was just locked. Walker, who most recently starred on stage in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, has been on the short list for a macho role, most recently the Beast in X-Men: First Class. Walker had been the rumored favorite for days, after testing with Benjamin Walker, James D’Arcy, Adrien Brody, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Josh Lucas. He’s repped by WME and Inspire Entertainment.
The 3D project has been one of the hotter ones in Hollywood after 20th Century Fox’s Emma Watts and Peter Kang grabbed it after an auction that pitted Fox against Sony, Paramount, Universal and Summit. It was a fully fleshed out package, as Bekmambetov, Burton and Lemley used their own money to option the book, and get a script by the author. Grahame-Smith’s novel re-imagines Lincoln’s life as an axe-throwing, skilled killer of bloodsuckers, an obsession that dates back to the death of his mother as the hands of vampires. Lincoln vents his wrath on the vampires and their slave-owning protectors. The film was sold with a $69 million budget, but a first dollar gross ask just north of 25% (though insiders said it didn’t end up that high when the deal was made). Fox will release the film …