The Raven is looking closer to achieving lift off. Gerard Butler is in deep negotiations to play the lead in the sci-fi conspiracy thriller that Ricardo de Montreuil is set to direct for Gold Circle Films and Universal Pictures. The feature, based on a 2010 short film by de Montreuil and Antonio Perez, was penned by Michael Gilio and Justin Marks. Butler is the second actor in as many months named for the movie’s potential lead; The Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth had been in talks before. Universal picked up rights to the short in late 2010. The studio and Gold Circle will co-finance the feature, which Gold Circle will produce and Universal will distribute worldwide Paul Brooks will produce for Gold Circle with COO Scott Niemeyer executive producing. Mark Wahlberg will produce alongside Steve Levinson, who originally brought the project to the studio. Nick Osborne, Trevor Engelson and Oly Obst will executive produce for Underground Films. Butler is repped by CAA and Alan Siegel Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has optioned Red Queen, a novel by 22-year-old author Victoria Aveyard. Benderspink and Pouya Shazbazian are producing, and Christopher Cosmos producing in some capacity. The first in a trilogy, Red Queen is set in a fantasy world where society is divided by the color of blood. It features a 17 year old girl who, to save her family, must assume the role of a long-lost princess while secretly aiding a revolution; her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and her against her own heart. It is pitched as Divergent meets Game Of Thrones.
UPDATE, 9:36 AM: Forget the trade reports that Joe Wright will be director of Fifty Shades Of Grey. His schedule doesn’t work and he’s completely out of the mix, I’ve learned. The process of choosing a director for the global blockbuster book has just begun, and all Universal can hope is that audiences get as hot and bothered when the film is released, as journos are in spinning rumors based on little more than preliminary conversations.
PREVIOUS, FRIDAY AM: Gotta call bullshit on the spate of reports that say Joe Wright either has the directing job or is close to getting it on Fifty Shades Of Grey, the Focus/Universal adaptation of the E.L. James sexy novel trilogy. The script by Kelly Marcel is in, and there’s no question that Focus, Universal and producers Mike De Luca and Dana Brunetti are beginning the search for a director. Insiders tell me this process has just begun — I don’t think anyone has evaluated that spec scene that Gus Van Sant directed with Alex Pettyfer, the one that prompted some outlets to report the actor was set to play Christian Grey. It is too early to call a winner, or even assemble a real short list.
EXCLUSIVE: Here is a shocker. Al Pacino and Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment have parted company on Despicable Me 2. Pacino had long ago signed to provide the voice of the film’s villain, Eduardo, in the follow-up to the 2010 hit. The surprise here is timing: the film has a July 3 release date, and this occurred on the first weekend of summer film releases. Pacino had done a lot of the voice work, but ultimately his last-minute exit came down to creative difference. The studio and Chris Meledandri’s Illumination are in the process of landing someone to take over and I’m told there is time to get all this done and not imperil the film’s release date. Animation makes that much easier; no re-shoots.
The studio confirmed Pacino’s exit, and gave me this statement: “Over the production of Despicable Me 2, there were creative differences between us and Al Pacino, who had been cast as the voice of Eduardo in the film. We have mutually decided with Al to replace the voice of Eduardo with a new actor. Universal and Illumination thank Al for his many contributions to the process and look forward to a new actor bringing this memorable character to the screen upon its release this summer.”
EXCLUSIVE: Mad Men star Jon Hamm has signed on to provide the lead voice (alongside Sandra Bullock) in Minions, the Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise. Bullock is set to voice Scarlet Overkill, a stylish bad-ass super-villain who is (what else?) bent on world domination. Hamm will voice her husband, the inventor Herb Overkill. The 3D CG animated comedy has been set for release December 19, 2014.
At the same time, veteran animated feature film executive Tito Ortiz has returned to Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment in the position of VP Development. Ortiz was one of the original employees at Illumination when it opened its doors in 2007, serving as Director of Development until 2011, when he left the company to pursue opportunities in the music industry. Even during his hiatus, Ortiz stayed close to the company by assisting in development across multiple properties. In his new role, Ortiz will be involved in the development of new feature film projects, and has already started in that mission with the recently announced animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which will be directed by Pete Candeland.
Fast & Furious 6‘s Luke Evans stars in Dracula, about Prince Vlad, the man who would become the mythological bloodsucker. Gary Shore came aboard as director more than a year ago after the studio scrapped the …