Walden Media has set Cameron Fay to adapt the Frank Cottrel Boyce book Cosmic, which is one among a handful of projects that Walden is moving forward with since restructuring its company in August. The book, which has the whimsical wish-fulfillment tone of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, revolves around a boy who sneaks on the first civilian trip to outer space. Fay is currently scripting the comedy Pros And Cons for Gulfstream Entertainment. He is repped by Paradigm, Kaplan/Perrone, and Lichter, Grossman, Nichols and Adler.
EXCLUSIVE: Cross Creek and Walden Media are backing the $65 million Working Title feature for Universal, which Baltasar Kormakur is directing. Everest stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers, Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, and John Hawkes as Doug Hansen. Shooting starts January 13 in the Dolomites in Italy and will continue in Nepal and Iceland.
This is one of two studio-backed films titled Everest — the other being the Doug Liman-helmed pic for Sony. And on Monday, Fox landed a 10-part event series from Alcon Entertainment about a group of hikers trying to hike Mount Everest. Working Title’s feature, produced by the company’s partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, was weathering a storm just a few weeks ago, after Emmett/Furla Films had exited as co-financier and the producers were trying to secure new funding. The pic is based on the disastrous 1996 attempt to scale the world’s tallest mountain. Three different expeditions were hit by a sudden blinding storm, resulting in the deaths of eight climbers. The film will be sourced from various books and interviews with survivors. Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson will join Bevan and Fellner as producers.
Now it’s a race to the top …
EXCLUSIVE: The studio specializing in children’s fare and backed by Philip Anschutz’s Anschutz Film Group is laying off over a dozen employees across multiple departments, I’m told, as Walden Media restructures. That’s a significant number for a company that only has about 50 staffers on the payroll. Walden, whose hits include the Chronicles Of Narnia films, Bridge To Terabithia, and Charlotte’s Web, is axing development of original content and will instead focus on co-financing studio-submitted and third party-produced film and TV projects. Some of the layoffs are effective immediately and others will roll out in the next few weeks. Here’s a statement from Walden Media on the staffing cuts and new content focus:
EXCLUSIVE: Joe Ballarini has been set by Walden Media to rewrite Atlantis 7, a thriller in which an elite military Navy SEAL force attempts to find the mythical city of Atlantis. A military code breaker seeks out his absentee father, who may hold the secret to unlock the clues that make an Atlantis discovery possible, which is key to saving the world. Dean Parisot is attached to direct, and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps is producing with The Gotham Group. Adam F. Goldberg wrote the first draft adaptation of M. Zachary Sherman’s graphic novel Seal Team 7 and Robert Nelson Jacobs did a rewrite.
Ballarini sold the spec Lockdown At Franklin High to Sony, and has been a steady writer at Fox Animation on such films as Ice Age 4, Leafmen and others. He also scripted The Resident for producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney and Turbo at DreamWorks. Ballarini is repped by Paradigm and Apostle’s George Heller. Pic gives Walden Media another large scale adventure film after Journey 2: The Mysterious Island grossed over $300 million worldwide.
(Los Angeles – April 10, 2012) – Jonathan Helfgot has been named Executive Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Walden Media, as announced by Anschutz Film Group CEO David Weil. In his new role, Helfgot will oversee the marketing of all Walden films and will also manage Walden’s branding strategies across publishing, licensing, promotions, outreach and new media. In addition, he will be responsible for broadening cross-promotional strategies with other divisions of The Anschutz Company.
“We’re thrilled to have Jonathan join the Walden family and guide the growth and development of our brand,” Weil said. “We have worked with him with great success for several years and appreciate his experience in research, digital marketing and creative advertising. He’ll be a major asset here as we continue to deliver a diverse slate of family films to the market each year.”
Added Jonathan Helfgot: “I am incredibly grateful to Fox for allowing me to grow and expand upon my duties over my eight years at the Studio. I’m looking forward to the next chapter at Walden, while welcoming the chance to collaborate on several projects with my friends and colleagues at Fox.”
Helfgot previously served as Senior Vice President of Marketing & Research at 20th Century Fox executing creative strategies for such films as “Avatar,” “X-Men First Class,” the “Alvin & the Chipmunks” franchise, “Taken” and “Rio.”
In a joint statement, Twentieth Century Fox presidents of domestic marketing, Tony Sella and Oren
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has optioned screen rights to Ungifted, a Gordon Korman novel that will be published fall 2012 through the Balzer + Bray imprint of HarperCollins. Korman is the author of two installments of the 39 Clues series that DreamWorks is developing as a film. Ungifted is the story of a 14-year-old kid of average intelligence who’s accidentally placed in a school of gifted students and tries to hide among the brainiacs to escape punishment for a prank he pulled at his old school. He eventually shakes up the uptight, socially awkward advanced students and learns something about his own capabilities. Walden’s Amanda Morgan Palmer and Michael Bostick brought in the book and will hire a writer shortly. The author was repped by Curtis Brown. Walden Media has become quite active, attaching Jennifer Lopez to Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, setting Get Low helmer Aaron Schneider to direct The Conscientious Objector, and getting ready to wrap the Gerard Butler-Jonny Weston surf movie Of Men And Mavericks, which Curtis Hanson directed with help from Michael Apted, who helmed the last 15 shooting days because of a health issue for Hanson. Korman’s repped by Curtis Brown Ltd.
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has acquired rights to turn Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? into a live-action film involving Jennifer Lopez. I’d heard that Walden Media will develop the property as a vehicle for Lopez to play the title character, but Walden Media said at this point, she’s attached to produce only. The hope is to turn the property into National Treasure meets The Thomas Crown Affair. The logline: When the ACME agency’s greatest detective Carmen Sandiego becomes the world’s greatest thief, it’s up to her former partner to follow her clues and track her down. Their cat-and-mouse game leads the partner to confront a greater mystery: Is Carmen really a thief or a hero? The property originated as an educational computer game before it was turned into an animated TV series.
The film will be produced by Lopez and her Nuyorican Productions’ partners Benny Medina and Simon Fields, and Underground Films’ Nick Osbourne, Trevor Engelson and Devin Andre. Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick and SVP Evan Turner are steering the property after it was acquired from Hougton Mifflin. The property fits into Walden Media’s mandate to create properties that challenge kids; Carmen Sandiego is used as a teaching tool in more than half of elementary schools nationwide. The project tried the movie route once before; Disney optioned it in the late 1990s and developed a version for Sandra Bullock, but it never went anywhere.
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has acquired film rights to Flat Stanley, the series of children’s books created in 1964 by Jeff Brown about the adventures of a two-dimensional person stuck in a 3D world. The plan is to shoot the film live action, using visual effects to turn the lead character into a one-dimensional hero (why do I feel like I’ve given Deadline commenters a wealth of ammunition to discuss the current state of 3D and certain leading actors with those last two sentences?)
The protagonist is Stanley Lambchop, who, after being given a bulletin board by his father to put above his bed, is flattened by it in the night. He’s OK despite his appearance and can slip under doors and entertain his brother by posing as a kite. He even solves an art heist by posing as a wall painting. The series has sold millions of copies around the world. The film will be produced by John Carls and his Wild Things Productions banner. Carls’ credits include Where The Wild Things Are as well as Rango. Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick and senior veep Evan Turner set up the project and are meeting with filmmakers for the adaptation.
EXCLUSIVE: After more than 54 years of trying, Universal Pictures is getting closer and closer to telling the unbelievable story of Olympian-turned-WWII POW Louis Zamperini in a feature film. Walden Media has just signed on to co-finance with Universal Pictures the screen adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. The Water for Elephants team of screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and director Francis Lawrence are prepping the story about the unbreakable spirit of Zamperini, the former Olympic track prodigy who endured unimaginable hardship as a WWII POW at the hands of Japanese prison guards. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing; Lawrence and Mick Garris are exec producers.
Universal bought Zamperini’s rights back in the 1950s, when Tony Curtis planned to play him right after he completed Spartacus. Zamperini, still kicking at age 93, has waited all this time to see his story turned into a feature film. Baer has been pushing the ball up the hill for more than a decade, but it turned out that the best thing to happen to the project was Hillenbrand’s book, which has drawn a fresh audience to Zamperini’s story of perseverence. Universal previously turned Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit into the Gary Ross-directed hit. In book form, Unbroken blew past Seabiscuit‘s sales figures in its first four weeks, and has been at or near the top of The New York Times bestseller list since its publication six months ago.
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has has set a May 23 start in Pittsburgh on Still I Rise, the working title of a drama that will star Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. Daniel Barnz, who most recently directed Beastly, will helm the film. Barnz recently rewrote the Brin Hill screenplay. Mark Johnson is producing through his Gran Via Productions banner. The film will be distributed domestically by 20th Century Fox.
The drama is about two mothers who channel frustration into action and join forces to transform an inner-city public school. Inspired by current events, the film takes aim at the crisis of public education in America. Walden’s Michael Bostick and Morgan Palmer are overseeing the project. Gyllenhaal just completed the Tanya Wexler-directed Hysteria. Davis, who won the Tony last year for Fences, just wrapped the DreamWorks adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett novel The Help and is shooting the Stephen Daldry-directed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Barnz is repped by WME, Gyllenhaal by CAA and Schiff Company and Davis by APA and Principal Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: Gerard Butler has been set to star in Mavericks, the Curtis Hanson-directed fact-based drama for Walden Media. The film is based on the true story of Santa Cruz surf phenom Jay Moriarity and his quest to ride the treacherous Northern California breaks known as Mavericks, where winter swells create waves the size of five-story buildings. Butler will play Rick “Frosty” Hesson, the mentor who trained Moriarity for over a year and forged a close relationship with the surfer in the process. Though Moriarity survived those impossible waves, he died at 22 in a diving accident. But he remains an inspiration to surfers, who coined the phrase “Live like Jay.”
Hanson, who just directed the HBO financial crisis drama Too Big To Fail, is directing a script by Kario Salem and Brandon Hooper. Hanson is searching for a young actor to play Moriarity. Butler, who recently starred for director Marc Forster in Machine Gun Preacher and the Ralph Fiennes-directed Coriolanus, will hit the surf for Mavericks after he completes Playing The Field. That Gabriele Muccino-directed film is Shampoo set in the world of pee wee soccer, where a philandering former pro soccer player tries to reunite with his family by coaching his son’s team, only to put himself in dangerous scoring position with a gaggle of beautiful soccer moms. Butler is exec producing Mavericks with Alan Siegel, and Hanson, Hooper and Jim Meenaghan are producing. Michael Bostick and Amanda Morgan Palmer …
Walden Media has picked up rights to Simon Bloom: The Gravity Keeper, and has hired Adam F. Goldberg to write the script. Goldberg’s best known for Fanboys and Aliens in the Attic. The young adult series by Michael Reisman is about an 11-year old who discovers a hidden magical forest in his New Jersey town. He and a pal happen upon a clearing where the Order of Physics has just met and where Simon is hit in the head by a book. It’s filled with scientific formulas the kids learn to wield like magic spells. Joined by a young girl fascinated by their ability to control gravity and friction, the trio battles a mysterious woman tattooed over with scientific formulas, whose goal is to take over the world. Goldberg’s repped by WME and Circle of Confusion.
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has teamed with Walden Media to buy rights to Bil Keane’s venerable syndicated comic strip The Family Circus, and they’ve hired Bob Hilgenberg & Rob Muir to script a live action feature. John Baldecchi and Stacy Maes are producing. Bil Keane started the strip in 1960 and continues to generate the single-panel script with his son Jeff. It is the most widely syndicated strip in the world, according to King Features. A number of studios competed for the rights for what is envisioned as a multiple quadrant family franchise. Though several members of the Keane clan have become film animators, Bil Keane resisted making a film deal all these years. Producer Baldecchi spent two years trying to track them down. He got Keane’s number, but never had his messages returned. One day, Baldecchi called and Keane picked up the phone. He made enough of an impression that Keane introduced the producer to his son Jeff. Soon they had an agreement to move forward and then studios got involved. I’m told the deal was six figures against seven-figures and went to Fox and Walden, which are partnered in the upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
UPDATE: The announcement came through today.
Previous: Sources are telling me that film producer Michael Bostick will be announced as the new Co-CEO of Walden Media today, working with CEO Cary Granat who actively recruited his longtime pal. Bostick has long been director Tom Shadyac’s producing partner, but Shadyac recently lost his deal at Universal. (See my previous, Uni Nixes New $$$ Deal For Tom Shadyac.) Bostick’s hiring follows an extensive executive search during which the job was offered to both Nina Jacobson and Colin Calender. But they weren’t willing to put up with the sticky situation at Walden Media after the January shake-up. That’s when head of production Alex Schwartz and Executive VP Jackie Levine exited the company as well as the physical production department, public relations staff, music staff, legal staff, etc. The moves left CEO Cary Granat hanging by a thread and David Weil, the CEO of Anschutz Film Group which is Walden Media’s parent company, really in charge. At that time, Granat retained his title but his reign was marginalized. For months now, no one has been sure exactly what Granat will do. But now it appears he took control of the situation to save himself. Bostick is “someone Cary was actively involved in recruiting,” an insider tells me. “They go back years as friends and co-workers to when they were both execs at Uni.” According to sources, Bostick will oversee new development, while …