EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has tapped the director of one of the studio’s most lucrative and successful franchises to take on the fifth installment of The Bourne Identity franchise. Justin Lin will direct the sequel to the Tony Gilroy-directed The Bourne Legacy, the pic that kicked off storyline of Aaron Cross, the character played by Jeremy Renner. Renner is set to return as Cross in a story hatched by ‘Invictus’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes’ scribe Anthony Peckham. Frank Marshall and Captivate Entertainment’s Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner are also back as producers, and Lin also will produce through his Perfect Storm banner. I’m hearing a summer 2015 release is being eyed for this one, though the studio is saying it doesn’t know when it will open. Universal chairman Donna Langley, co-president of production Peter Cramer, and VP Production Anikah McLaren will oversee the project for the studio. Bourne Legacy, released in 2012, grossed $276 million worldwide.
Lin has plenty of fans at Universal, where he came aboard a flagging Fast & Furious franchise and put it back on the fast track: the last three installments have grossed $1B collectively. He was key to making it probably the studio’s most valuable franchise — especially overseas and among younger fans. Universal has a seventh installment in the works as well as new installments of The Mummy and Jurassic Park.
Lin is repped by CAA, Cinetic Management and Sloss Eckhouse Law Co.
Here’s a new trailer for Universal‘s Lone Survivor, the real-life story of Marcus Luttrell and his SEAL Team 10 in Afghanistan. Peter Berg‘s passion pic stars Mark Wahlberg and opens December 27 — a stealth move into the heart of awards season — before going wide … Read More »
The AFM, which gets underway tomorrow, will see a record influx of Chinese companies and execs. But that’s not the only draw for Mainland players this week. The 2013 U.S. China Film Summit kicks off today in LA … Read More »
Weeks after Deadline revealed that Universal put the brakes on the Peter Billingsley-directed Term Life with Vince Vaughn and Hailee Steinfeld, QED International and Worldview Entertainment have signed on to finance and produce the crime thriller. Universal, which developed … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has made a three-year first-look producing deal with Will Packer, who has displayed a golden touch for generating modestly priced urban-flavored comedies that do strong domestic box office business. Packer is forming a new film label, Will Packer Productions, which will be moving to the Universal lot. He will begin staffing up right away and soon will name an exec to head his company. And he will become an active buyer of pitches and specs, not only in comedy but dramas and thrillers. While he built his business with urban-themed fare, Packer will get the chance to broaden those horizons at Universal. All this comes after Packer worked with the studio for the first time on Ride Along, the mismatched-buddy comedy that stars Ice Cube and Kevin Hart which the studio releases January 17. Packer produced the film with Cube, Matt Alvarez and Larry Brezner. Universal is already hard at work on the sequel, and Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley snatched him up.
Packer, whose television company is already at Universal Television in a two-year deal he signed in July, is one of the few non-writing African-American producers to have been set in an overall deal with a major studio. He never had an overall at Screen Gems, but there, Packer produced four films that opened in the top weekend slot in U.S. box office: Stomp The Yard, Takers, Obsessed and Think Like A Man. Read More »
Universal has moved the release date twice for 47 Ronin, the 3D action-adventure pic set in mythical Japan about a half-breed slave (Keanu Reeves) who joins a band of 47 masterless samurai in a quest for vengeance. Storylines outside the movie are as numerous as those within the pic: as … Read More »
Universal Pictures and Chris Meledandri‘s Illumination Entertainment announced this morning that Despicable Me 2 just keeps shattering records. With this weekend’s estimated domestic grosses of $364.2 million and an international of $542 … Read More »
The director’s next film will be Marwencol, an adaptation of the documentary about a man who battled memory loss by building an elaborate scale-model WWII-era town in his backyard. Universal has optioned the Spirit Award-nominated docu … Read More »
Universal has released a milder green band trailer for Neighbors following last month’s red band version. Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne star in the film directed by Nick Stoller. Pic centers on a young couple (Rogen and Byrne) suffering from arrested development who are forced … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: What’s going on with the two studio-backed movies titled Everest, about two spectacularly different incidents that took place on the same hill? Well let me tell you. Both films have weathered missteps, but the filmmakers behind each say … Read More »
Universal Pictures is circling Josh Brolin to star in Jurassic World, the Colin Trevorrow-directed 3D sequel that the studio will release June 12, 2015. No deal yet, but I hear it’s headed that way. CAA-repped Brolin next … Read More »
It was a big — and emotional — Thursday night for the old Focus Features as their Oscar hopeful Dallas Buyers Club had a very well-received Los Angeles premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The movie, which had a rocky road just getting to the screen, brought strong response both for the film and at the beginning, when the Focus Features logo came up on screen greeted by an unusual burst of applause. It was undoubtedly a show of gratitude for the memorable lineup of movies the company, which is now undergoing a major transformation and apparent change of mission, has turned out since 2002 when it was formed out of remnants of USA Films, Universal Focus and Good Machine. Longtime Focus head James Schamus, who was suddenly replaced two weeks ago as CEO by FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel, held court in the lobby afterward for what he told me was their “last hurrah”. In a classy move, Schlessel stayed away from the premiere, letting Schamus and his team have the spotlight for the Oscar-touted movie that could represent the end of a great art house era for Focus — a company which may be focusing on more mainstream and genre films (at least in part) in the future.
Related: TOLDJA! Andrew Karpen Not Staying At Revamped Focus Features
Schamus was soaking in the praise and taking it all in stride, telling me, “This film is very important and we have believed in it from the beginning. We are taking this one all the way to the altar, all the way, and I am going to be there for it.” We both recalled that he started telling me about the special nature of Dallas Buyers Club at Cannes in May. ”I get the same feeling I got 11 years ago when we saw The Pianist take off, ” he said about the underdog 2002 Roman Polanski-directed movie that won three major Oscars and almost took Best Picture (Chicago squeaked it out, but likely very narrowly). Outgoing marketing head David Brooks also was upbeat about the reaction to the film last night, but acknowledged it was a little bittersweet. The film represents the kind of movie Focus has so successfully shepherded through many an Oscar season. Outgoing co-CEO Andrew Karpen was among other Focus execs in attendance along with parent company Universal’s Ron Meyer, Donna Langley and newly installed chairman Jeff Shell who took over for Adam Fogelson last month. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has abruptly canceled Term Life, the crime drama that had Vince Vaughn starring and producing with partner Victoria Vaughn through their Wild West Picture Show Productions banner. This comes after the studio recently set … Read More »
Universal Pictures has released a trailer for its remake of Endless Love. You might remember the 1981 original, which starred Brooke Shields in this coming-of-age star-crossed love story and introduced Tom Cruise in a small role. More likely, … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: We got another lead casting in Jurassic World, the Colin Trevorrow-directed sequel that will be shot in 3D and which Universal will release in June 12, 2015. I keep hearing that New Girl and Drinking Buddies star … Read More »
UPDATE: I’ve gathered more intelligence on the flashy late night spec script deal made by Universal for Aaron Berg‘s Section 6 script about the formation of the British intelligence agency MI6. It’s not only an exceptional deal for a new writer; I’m hard pressed to come up with the last clean seven-figure deal for a script with no attachments. Four studios bid on the project: Sony, Warner Bros, DreamWorks and Universal. The deal was either seven-figures or very close to it, as some of the bids exceeded that amount, and there was talk that Fast & Furious 6‘s Justin Lin and Hugh Jackman were interested in the subject matter. Universal has attached producers Marc Platt and Adam Siegel of U-based Marc Platt Productions to produce with Lawrence Grey, the Last Vegas and Hope Springs producer who honed the project with Berg, and Caliber Media‘s Adam Marshall, and turned a spy thriller into a fictionalized historical origin story.
One reason Universal made the deal was they offered progress to production deadlines similar to the ones they had on Snow White And The Huntsman, which is exceptional for a film that doesn’t have a star or director attached. The script tells a compelling story that isn’t at all dry and dusty. The focus is Sir Mansfield Cummings, the storied Brit spymaster who was the inspiration for James Bond’s boss M. In 1919, his intelligence section, called Section 1C, was going to be folded into MI5, which is similar to our FBI in that it focuses on domestic threats. Spies coming through 1C all came from Oxford and Cambridge, aristocrats who stuck out like sore thumbs. Cummings got hold of a blue collar war veteran, trained him and sent him on a crucial mission: an attack on the British embassy in Russia (in which is now St. Petersberg) led to the theft of coded assassination orders signed by the King of England. The spy was tasked with recovering them because had they been discovered, WWII would have begun with those countries on opposite sides. Cummings etched his place in history and proved the need for MI6. The script was unusual in that is was peppered with actual newspaper clippings from the period to inform of how the stories were covered by British papers back then. Verve and Caliber Media repped the writer, and WME and attorney Jamie Feldman repped Grey in the deal. Jeff Kirschenbaum handled things for Universal. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and director Angelina Jolie have found their villain for the Lou Zamperini tale Unbroken. Jolie has set Japanese guitarist and singer Miyavi to play the role of Mutsushiro Watanabe, known as “The Bird.” That is the guard who made it his mission to break the spirit of Zamperini, and who haunted the athlete-turned-POW’s every step after he was captured in WWII. I’m told by individuals close to the project that it was no easy task to cast this role. After a long search for the perfect actor, the filmmakers continually found themselves returning to Miyavi’s captivating audition, one that mixed grace, ferocity, sensitivity and sophistication. That audition got Miyavi his first lead role in a Hollywood film. Jolie begins production in Australia in two weeks, and Universal releases the film December 25, 2014.
Miyavi might be a new face onscreen, but he is well known in international music circles for his unconventional guitar and singing skills and music that incorporates period-authentic guitars and playing styles from the 1940s. Now he’s going back to that volatile wartime era in Unbroken. Miyavi will have to reschedule part of an upcoming Asia tour to perform the role.
“As a musician, I questioned whether I should take a break from my craft to pursue this role,” Miyavi said in a statement. “After meeting Angie, it became clear to me that an underlying theme to this story is forgiveness. This resonated with me because that is exactly what I want express through my music. I look forward to taking on this challenge whole-heartedly.”
I must say, I have been fixated on The Bird since I first saw a wonderful short segment broadcast during the Nagano Olympics, where Zamperini returned to Japan in 1998. After running so compellingly in the final lap of his distance race in the 1936 Munich Olympics that Hitler asked to shake his hand, Zamperini was expected to bring home the gold with four more years of seasoning. The 1940 Olympics were scheduled to be held in Japan but all that fell apart in war. Zamperini instead arrived as a bombardier fighting in WWII. Sent on a rescue mission aboard a faulty aircraft, Zamperini and two other crewmen were the only survivors of a crash in the Pacific Ocean. After surviving in a raft for 47 days, the near-dead men were caught by the Japanese navy. And so began a POW ordeal that would have broken most men. In that CBS segment, Zamperini found the grace to forgive his captor, and offered to do it in person. The Bird was interviewed on camera, but he refused to meet with the hero he tormented for so many years. Read More »
The Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken tells the true story of U.S. Olympian-turned-WWII prisoner of war Louis Zamperini. Universal today released the first photo of Jolie alongside Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell in this big-time project adapted from Lauren Hillenbrand’s nonfiction bestseller. Universal optioned the rights to the book … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired The Wedding Dance, a comedy pitch from Jamie Denbo, the Upright Citizens Brigade performer who recently appeared in the Paul Feig-directed The Heat. They are keeping the log line under wraps, … Read More »