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Universal Buys Drew Daywalt Kid Book ‘The Day The Crayons Quit’

By | Wednesday July 30, 2014 @ 4:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal Buys Drew Daywalt Kid Book ‘The Day The Crayons Quit’Universal Pictures has preemptively acquired film rights to The Day The Crayons Quit, the bestselling children’s picture book by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers. Matt Lopez has been set to script and Madhouse Entertainment will produce.

The book tells the story of a box of crayons whose inhabitants decide to go on strike after growing sick and tired of how they’re being used. Among the lead characters: a white crayon with an existential crisis because he doesn’t show up on white paper, a black crayon who longs to color a rainbow or a beach ball, and a pink crayon who is fed up with coloring nothing but princess dresses. The book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 55 weeks running and won numerous awards. Jeff Kirschenbaum and Jon Mone will oversee for the studio, and Madhouse’s Adam Kolbrenner and Robyn Meisinger are producing with Ryan Cunningham the exec producer. Lopez scripted The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Race To Witch Mountain and Bedtime Stories and he’s working for Universal on the upcoming Clifford The Big Red Dog. Daywalt is repped by Paradigm, Madhouse, and attorney Jamie Coghill, Lopez by WME and attorney Melissa Rogal and Madhouse is repped by David Fox. The book deal was brokered by Paradigm on behalf of Dwyer & O’Grady, Writers House and the Bell Lomax Moreton Agency.

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Universal Unwraps Alex Kurtzman As New ‘Mummy’ Man

By | Wednesday July 30, 2014 @ 3:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal Unwraps Alex Kurtzman As New ‘Mummy’ ManTwo weeks after Deadline revealed that Universal Pictures was putting its classic movie monster franchises in the hands of Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, the studio is setting Kurtzman to direct the resuscitation of The Mummy franchise. The studio tapped that duo to come up with a creative game plan and maybe take on some of these monster classics, and clearly The Mummy was the first one to go in production, so this is not a startling development.

mummm kurtzmUniversal has been trying to reopen the sarcophagus on this one for a while. The original trilogy, hatched by helmer Steve Sommers and starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, grossed north of $1.2 billion, but locking down the reboot has been all kinds of frustrating. The studio had Len Wiseman locked to do it, but then he bailed and it was Mama helmer Andy Muschietti, but those talks didn’t work out either.

Related: Fleming Rants On Why Studios Can’t Launch Franchises Anymore, Leaving Us With Retreads Like ‘The Mummy’

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Hot Hot Trailer: ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’

Hot Hot Trailer: ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’Mr. Grey will see you now. But when has there been a major studio film with two less recognizable actors playing the leads? Universal and Focus Features are squarely banking on the numbers here — the E.L. James erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey has sold over 100 million steamy copies around the world — and less concerned that, as they deliver those signature bawdy lines in the erotic love story, newcomers Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey (“I don’t do romance”) and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele (“Enlighten me then”) are less recognizable than some of the actors you see regularly in TV commercials. Did Universal make the right choice in discovering stars who’ll bare all over a three or four movie arc, after Sons Of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam got cold feet? Set to a remix of Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love”, the promo seems like tasty foreplay that only hints at the serious relationship dynamic (a girl’s seemingly perfect first love, who turns out to be damaged perhaps beyond repair and must dominate his partners). Sam Taylor-Johnson directs the adaptation of the mega-bestselling book. The global rollout starts February 11, 2015.

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Universal Announces 2016 Date For ‘The Best Man’ Threequel

Universal Announces 2016 Date For ‘The Best Man’ ThreequelMalcolm D. Lee is back to write and direct the third film in the series, which Universal has titled and slated for April 15, 2016. The studio says the ensemble cast is returning for The Best Man Wedding, which features the group getting back together for a most unexpected nuptials. The previous film in the franchise, $17 million sequel The Best Man Holiday, was a hit right out of the gate, scoring a $30 million opening in November. It was the fifth-largest bow for an R-rated romantic comedy, the second-highest for an urban romantic comedy and the sixth-biggest for an urban-themed film overall. It also received an A+ CinemaScore across all quadrants. Best Man Holiday and 1999′s The Best Man starred Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun and Melissa De Sousa. Sean Daniel also is returning to produce the threequel, which has the release date to itself for now.

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Hot Teaser: Beyoncé Foreplays Breathy Promo For ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Trailer

By | Monday July 21, 2014 @ 2:41am PDT

Hot Teaser: Beyoncé Foreplays Breathy Promo For ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ TrailerThe trailer for Universal and Focus FeaturesFifty Shades Of Grey is due to drop on Thursday this week, but Beyoncé evidently wanted to get a jump on the action, posting a short teaser on Instagram featuring a lot of heavy breathing. The singer’s involvement in the film has not been confiremd, although when some footage was screened at CinemaCon in March, her “Haunted” was heard in the background. The handsy clip below has a remix of Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love”, but no recognizable shots of leads Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. Awareness of Fifty Shades is already through the roof (97% Want To See on Rotten Tomatoes), and given the performer’s 13,936,206 Instagram followers, it’s a wonder she didn’t break the internet, again. The Sam Taylor-Johnson directed pic starts its global rollout on February 11. Here’s a little foreplay for your Monday:

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Universal, Blumhouse Extend To Decade-Long Film, TV Production Pact

By | Sunday July 20, 2014 @ 4:23pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal, Blumhouse Extend To Decade-Long Film, TV Production PactIn the wake of another strong finish for a Blumhouse genre film, The Purge: Anarchy, Universal Pictures and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions have made a new 10-year first-look production agreement. This will include Blumhouse partnerships with NBCUniversal businesses, including Universal Television and Universal Cable Productions. Blumhouse will bring its Sinister franchise to Focus Features, making Universal home to three of the company’s most profitable micro-budget franchises, including The Purge and Insidious, which is already based at Focus. The announcement was made by Universal chiefs Jeff Shell and Donna Langley and Blum.

jason blum“This studio has had an incredible experience working with Blumhouse and it only makes sense to broaden that partnership to NBCUniversal’s broadcast and cable networks,” said Shell. “Jason and his team bring an energy and focus that can be felt across the company and we are thrilled to honor his passion for entertainment with a long term commitment and extension of that relationship.”

Langley brought Blum over to the studio in 2011. “Jason founded a company in Blumhouse that is unique and cutting edge, and we’re honored that they call Universal home. Jason is extremely driven and highly creative. His style coupled with his industry relationships and strategic business model have been a recipe for much success between our companies. We … Read More »

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Universal Buys Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt Pic Deadline Broke In May

By | Friday July 18, 2014 @ 2:10pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal Buys Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt Pic Deadline Broke In MayEvery studio was after it, but Universal Pictures acquired worldwide rights to the script Angelina Jolie is writing to possibly make her next movie, one she’ll star in with Brad Pitt. Deadline broke news of the project in May. It now has a title, By The Sea, and the studio says Jolie will direct. I’d heard that when I broke the story, but they weren’t admitting it at the time. Jolie and Pitt will produce.

Jolie and Donna Langley have developed a strong relationship after Langley tapped Jolie to direct Unbroken, the adaptation of the Laura Hillenbrand book about the late Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini. That film bows on Christmas Day. Jolie has been fully focused on making that date, so don’t expect this next film to happen all that quickly. Read More »

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Universal And Will Packer Close In On ‘Terminal Point’ Spec

Universal And Will Packer Close In On ‘Terminal Point’ SpecEXCLUSIVE: In his latest move at his new Universal home, hitmaking Think Like A Man Too and Ride Along producer Will Packer has acquired spec script Terminal Point from writer Stuart C. Paul. Details are under wraps on the script which Packer and fellow producer David Alpert snagged in a pre-emptive buy. It’s the first spec sale for Paul, who recently wrote and directed short film The Lord of Catan, about a young married couple (Amy Acker and Fran Kranz) whose game night descends into cutthroat competition. Read More »

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Universal Taps Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan To Relaunch Classic Movie Monster Franchises

By | Wednesday July 16, 2014 @ 12:53pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal Taps Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan To Relaunch Classic Movie Monster FranchisesEXCLUSIVE: In recent years Universal Pictures has become defined by its The Fast And The Furious, Despicable Me, Bourne and Jurassic Park franchises. But the studio’s most enduring legacy is its library of classic movie monsters that include Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Creature Of The Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, Bride Of Frankenstein, and The Mummy. Universal is now dedicating renewed resources and an unprecedented, far-reaching commitment to revitalize its monster heritage.

frankenThe studio is in early stages of developing a substantial new production endeavor that will expand and unify a network of classic characters and stories. The architects of that narrative will be Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. Kurtzman recently broke with partner Roberto Orci, but his big-scale projects have included Transformers, Star Trek and The Amazing Spider-Man. Morgan is the writer behind five installments of The Fast And The Furious, which has been Universal’s most reliably lucrative franchise. It’s not set in stone yet if either will write, but they will soon be going around town enlisting talent to bring new cinematic life to these enduring characters from lore, literature and Universal’s own library. While Universal has selectively tapped its Movie Monster library for The Mummy, Van Helsing, The Wolfman, and the upcoming Dracula Untold, this will be the first time that the studio has formalized an approach to these classic characters in a cohesive, connected way rather than as a series of stand-alone projects by disparate filmmaking teams. Read More »

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Seth MacFarlane Sued Over Source Of ‘Ted’ Idea

Seth MacFarlane Sued Over Source Of ‘Ted’ IdeaThe creators of web series about a foul-mouthed teddy bear with a penchant for drinking, smoking and prostitutes has filed a copyright infringement suit against Seth MacFarlane, Universal Pictures and the producers of Ted, the 2012 film about a foul-mouthed teddy bear with a penchant for drinking, smoking and prostitutes. Bengal Mangle Productions claims that Ted “is an unlawful copy” of its own animated teddy, who was featured in two different web series, Charlie The Abusive Teddy and Acting School Academy. The suit (read it here), filed today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, states that those web series aired in 2009 and 2010 on You Tube, FunnyOrDie.com and other streaming websites.

“Both Charlie and Ted reside in a substantially similar environment, including that both Charlie and Ted spend a significant amount of time sitting on a living room couch with a beer and/or cigarette in hand,” the suit claims. “Charlie and Ted each have a substantially similar persona, verbal tone, verbal delivery, dialogue, and attitude.” Read More »

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‘Fast & Furious 7′ Wraps Filming, Thanks Fans On Eve Of Original Release Date

By | Thursday July 10, 2014 @ 12:01pm PDT

‘Fast & Furious 7′ Wraps Filming, Thanks Fans On Eve Of Original Release DateUPDATE: Marketing pulled a Jesse and hit the nitrous early with a Facebook post this a.m. celebrating the final shot filmed on Fast & Furious 7. “…about to cross the finishing line… Social media likes to jump the gun. #stillfilming,” director James Wan (@creepypuppet) Tweeted this afternoon, hours after the pre-planned announcement hit social media. A studio source confirms that the pic indeed wraps today.

PREVIOUS: It’s been a long and emotional road for Fast & Furious 7, which had its premiere postponed from this weekend’s original release date to April 2015 following the death of Paul Walker. Now the Universal sequel has wrapped its Los Angeles shoot under director James Wan, with the help of Walker’s brothers Caleb and Cody. Universal’s official Fast 7 Facebook page today thanked fans for riding with them in what’s been a vocal and loyal campaign of support through the pic’s tumultuous production. The post, accompanied by a shot of star Vin Diesel, has garnered over 120K Facebook likes in just a few hours from the Fast & Furious “family” of social media-connected fans. Last week Uni sped up the pic’s release to April 3, 2015. Here’s the note:

We made it.

Today we completed the last shot in the production of FAST & FURIOUS 7.

We wanted to take this moment to express how thankful we are for your support. We felt the love and strength from our fans throughout this journey, and it’s because of you that we got here.

There was a time when we didn’t know how we could go on, or even if we should. But we listened to you, and you inspired us not only to keep going but to try and make the best FAST & FURIOUS movie yet.

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Universal Options Femme-Driven Workplace Comedy Spec From Laura Solon

Universal Options Femme-Driven Workplace Comedy Spec From Laura SolonEXCLUSIVE: Universal and Bluegrass Films have optioned an untitled female-driven workplace comedy spec from English comedienne-turned-writer Laura Solon. It’s the first feature sale for Solon, who most recently wrote on TV Land’s Hot In Cleveland. The spec, formerly known as Work It, will be retitled and plot details are being kept under wraps. Bluegrass Films and Shine Pictures are producing with Bluegrass’ Beau Beauman overseeing for the company alongside Universal SVP of Production Kristin Lowe.

LA-based Solon got her start across the pond as a sketch comedy writer and performer and won the Perrier Award for her one-woman show Kopfraper’s Syndrome: One Man and His Incredible Mind at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That landed her a deal developing TV and radio projects for BBC, which tapped her to perform on Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry & Paul, Have I Got News for You, and Fast and Loose. For the past three years she’s developed television projects for ABC. Last fall the network gave a script commitment to her untitled nanny project for Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment and ABC Studios. Solon is repped by Gersh, Hugo Young at Independent in the UK, and Jackoway, Tyerman, Wertheimer, Austen, Mandelbaum & Morris.

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Ken Jeong Hitches On To Universal’s ‘Ride Along 2′

By | Thursday July 3, 2014 @ 11:01am PDT

Ken Jeong Hitches On To Universal’s ‘Ride Along 2′Hangover alum Ken Jeong has joined the cast of Universal’s Ride Along 2, joining returning leads Ice Cube and Kevin Hart in the cop comedy sequel to this year’s $153 million hit. Tim Story will direct and Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay are writing the script. Cube and Matt Alvarez will produce for CubeVision alongside Will Packer for Will Packer Productions and Larry Brezner. Jeong recently wrapped The Duff, opposite Mae Whitman and Bella Thorne. He also was recently seen in Pain And Gain and The Muppets, and voiced roles in Universal and Illumination’s Despicable Me 2 and Fox’s Turbo. Jeong is repped by CAA, manager Brett Carducci of Aligned Entertainment and attorney Chad Christopher of Stone, Meyer.

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An Appreciation Of Louis Zamperini, A True American Hero

Mike Fleming

An Appreciation Of Louis Zamperini, A True American HeroWhat sad pre-holiday news: American Olympian track star and WWII hero Louis Zamperini passed away last night at age 97, just one day short of Independence Day. It’s somehow poignant that Zamperini’s shadow hovers over the July 4th holiday; it comes half a year before the Universal Pictures release of Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed adaptation of the Laura Hillenbrand bestseller about a man whose unwillingness to break despite the most difficult of circumstances in a Japanese POW camp made him the personification of struggle and heroism. Part of that struggle included getting a movie made on his extraordinary life; imagine, Universal’s first attempt at a Zamperini film came in the 1950s, when Tony Curtis sparked to playing Zamperini as his follow-up to Spartacus.

louzzMany know Zamperini’s story because of the superb book by Seabiscuit author Hillenbrand, and the world will celebrate him at year’s end when Universal releases the film in Oscar season, with Jack O’Connell playing Zamperini. I have been obsessed with Zamperini since I saw a segment on his ordeal broadcast by CBS during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and have written about the movie at Variety and Deadline since then at the slightest provocation, because it seemed such a worth screen story. When CBS chronicled his story, Zamperini returned to Japan to run with the Olympic torch, covering ground not far from where he spent an unimaginably brutal stretch in a Japanese prison camp … Read More »

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R.I.P. Louis Zamperini, Olympian War Hero Is Subject Of Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’

By | Thursday July 3, 2014 @ 1:27am PDT

R.I.P. Louis Zamperini, Olympian War Hero Is Subject Of Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’UPDATED: Louis Zamperini, the World War II hero and former Olympic long distance runner, has died. The subject of Angelina Jolie‘s upcoming sophomore directorial effort Unbroken, Zamperini was 97. Universal, which announced his passing this morning, had developed the Unbroken project for close to 55 years when it finally got off the ground with Jolie signed to direct in December 2012. The script is based on Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and louis zamperini olympicsRedemption, by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand. Zamperini was a Depression era kid who became a track prodigy and was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team that traveled to Berlin for the 1936 games. He didn’t medal, but was so impressive that Hitler asked to meet him. The 1940 Olympics in Tokyo were cancelled due to the war, and in 1941, Zamperini enlisted in the Air Force. When his plane went down in the Pacific during a rescue mission, Zamperini and two other crew mates survived on a raft in the hot sun for 47 days. They were ultimately caught by the Japanese Navy, beginning a terrifying term of captivity that lasted until the end of the war in 1945. Universal first bought Zamperini’s rights back in the 1950s.

As Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr has written, “Few movies gestate as long as this one, but it’s clear from Hillenbrand’s remarkable book that it … Read More »

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‘Fast & Furious 7′ Sped Up By A Week

‘Fast & Furious 7′ Sped Up By A WeekThe franchise sequel had the April 10 date all to itself, but Universal said today that it’s moving the film’s release ahead a week to Easter weekend. Fast & Furious 7 now is set for April 3, which gives it an extra weekend of play before the April 17 debut of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. F&F7‘s new opening-weekend competition will be Fox romancer The Longest Ride. James Wan is directing this installment of the blockbuster series, which again stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker — in his last film — Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster and others, including franchise rookies Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou and Kurt Russell.

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Jason Bateman To Direct, Star In FBI Wedding Comedy For Universal

By | Friday June 27, 2014 @ 11:43am PDT

Jason Bateman To Direct, Star In FBI Wedding Comedy For UniversalJason Bateman has inked a deal with Universal to star in and direct the Untitled FBI Wedding Comedy, marking his third film as director after debut Bad Words and the upcoming The Family Fang. David Flebotte and Phil Alden Robinson wrote the initial script, which David Bar Katz (The Pest) has been tapped to rewrite. Bateman’s about to dive into production on Family Fang next month in New York City and stars in that pic opposite Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken. He’ll next be seen in This Is Where I Leave You in September and Horrible Bosses 2 in November, both for Warner Bros. Bateman and James Garavente will produce the FBI wedding project for their Aggregate Films banner. Bob Cooper will also produce for his Landscape Entertainment shingle. Kristin Lowe and Sara Scott are overseeing for Uni. Read More »

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UPDATE: Guillermo Del Toro Reveals ‘Pacific Rim’ Animated Series As Universal Confirms Film’s Sequel For April 2017

UPDATE: Guillermo Del Toro Reveals ‘Pacific Rim’ Animated Series As Universal Confirms Film’s Sequel For April 2017UPDATED, 7:28 PM: The Oscar-nominated filmmaker takes a break from working on Crimson Peak in Toronto to tell “Legendary fans” to expect a new TV toon based on Pacific Rim, along with the continuation of the coming book series that started with Year Zero. Watch it below:

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Universal Pulls ‘The Loft’ From Sked, Moves Legendary Pic ‘As Above/So Below’ Into Slot

By | Thursday June 26, 2014 @ 4:18pm PDT

Universal Pulls ‘The Loft’ From Sked, Moves Legendary Pic ‘As Above/So Below’ Into SlotThe Loft was given the August 29, 2014, release date back in August 2013, but now the crime thriller starring Karl Urban, James Marsden, Rhona Mitra, Wentworth Miller and Eric Stonestreet has been pulled, with no word yet from the studio where it will land. In its place, Universal slotted As Above/So Below, a psychological thriller from Legendary and John Erick and Drew Dowdle. That pic, directed by John Erick, revolves around a team of explorers who venture into the Paris catacombs and uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead. It had been scheduled for an August 15 bow, so this moves it back a couple of frames. Read More »

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