Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald Prep Documentary On Malala Yousafzai
Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are to produce a feature-length documentary chronicling the story of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student who last year survived a brutal assassination attempt by the Taliban. Davis Guggenheim is directing the film that’s financed by Image Nation Abu Dhabi. Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by gunmen who targeted her for speaking out on behalf of education for girls in her community. She recovered in Birmingham, England, and became the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Parkes says, “There are few stories Laurie and I have ever come across that are as compelling, urgent or important as the real-life struggle of Malala and her father Ziauddin on behalf of universal education for children. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to try to bring the lives of these extraordinary people to the screen.” The film will debut in theatrical release in late 2014. Yousafzai is repped by Ron Bernstein of ICM on behalf of Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.
Coach Danny O’Donoghue Exits ‘The Voice UK’
BBC One’s The Voice UK has lost last season’s winning coach Danny O’Donoghue. The Irish musician will not be returning to the show due to recording commitments … Read More »
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
When Walter Parkes and his wife and partner Laurie MacDonald read the first 40 pages of John Gatins’ script for Flight in 2006, the adult drama about a substance-abusing airline pilot piqued their interest. The dark, character-driven story hearkened back to the type of films the major studios used to make on a regular basis. Neither Parkes nor MacDonald envisioned a high-wattage actor like Denzel Washington taking on the role — not only was Washington way out of the price range of a film that needed to be made on a modest budget, their main character worked in a field with few African-American pilots. Nevertheless, once the script made its way to Washington’s agent, the late Ed Limato, the actor read it and was hooked, according to Parkes. “The excellence of a project is no longer enough to get it made: It’s a combination of the quality of the material, the quality of the people making it, and, honestly, the financial circumstance under which the movie is made,” says Parkes, who points out that Washington’s enthusiasm (and, well, severe price cut) helped push Flight to the finish line. Parkes recently spoke with AwardsLine about how it all came together.
AwardLine: Hindsight suggests that Flight was a great project to take on, but did doing a midrange-budget adult drama give you pause when it first came across your desk?
Walter Parkes: It’s been so long that the business was slightly different then. We first got involved with the project in 2006. John Gatins sent us 40 pages, the only 40 pages he’d written, which only really took us to the crash and the immediate aftermath. While it wasn’t exactly clear where the movie was going, the quality of the writing and the strength of that premise were enticing enough that we felt that, if the script was completed correctly, it would attract terrific elements. And at the end of the day, that is necessary to get a movie like that made. We’re talking 2006, before the (financial crisis) and the way it affected Hollywood. You know, there were many independent labels then — Paramount Vantage would have been a good place for this — but over the course of the development, they pretty much stopped being in business, as did many of the specialty labels of other studios. All that meant was that it was less of a sure bet that the project would get made, regardless of the quality of the script. It really put it upon us to meet certain other criteria — mainly, get really amazing people to do it for very little money. (Laughs.) Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have acquired an untitled action-comedy set in the world of the Secret Service. Aaron Buchsbaum & Teddy Riley are writing the script. Parkes/MacDonald utilized funds from its development fund with Image Nation. The project came out of a general meeting the writers took with Parkes and MacDonald after exec Marc Resteghini brought them in. The writers pitched the project and it was bought preemptively. The Image Nation deal allows the producers to give development projects the time they need to percolate. Parkes and MacDonald will produce, and Resteghini will be exec producer. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: NBC is making a major move in the event programming arena with The Slap, an eight-episode limited series based on the 2011 Australian short-run series. Brothers & Sisters creator Jon Robin Baitz will write the adaptation, which is being produced by Universal Television and Australia’s Matchbox Pictures, which produced the original. Playwright/screenwriter Baitz and Matchbox’s Tony Ayres will executive produce with Universal TV-based Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald as well as Ted Gold.
The Australian series, an adaptation of the 2008 best-selling novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, examines what happens when a man slaps a child (unrelated to him) at a suburban barbecue. Subsequent episodes focus on the different viewpoints of those who attended the barbecue. (Watch trailer below) The original, which also had a limited 8-episode run on ABC1 last fall, starred Jonathan LaPaglia, brother of Anthony LaPaglia, Melissa George and Hotel Rwanda‘s Sophie Okonedo. It earned nine nominations at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, winning five awards, including best telefilm, mini-series or short-run series. The Slap also was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best international program.
NBC brass have talked about adding event programming to the network’s lineup. In June, NBC announced its plans for The Sound Of Music, a live broadcast of a new production of the original Broadway musical to be produced by Smash … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In one of its first buys of the season, NBC has gone global with a geopolitical project set at the United Nations. Described as “West Wing in the United Nations,” the drama, which has received a script commitment, follows an interpreter at the international organization’s New York HQ working with ambassadors and politicians from various countries as they deal with political and military crisis around the world. Hell On Wheels’ scribe Tom Brady is writing, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Parkes/MacDonald’s Ted Gold executive producing. The project stems from Parkes/MacDonald’s fist-look deal at NBCUniversal, which has yielded one series, the 10-episode Crossbones based on the book The Republic of Pirates. The U.N. has long been a dramatic backdrop for film and TV. Cary Grant was filmed approaching exterior of the actual building in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958’s North By Northwest, though all interior scenes were shot on a soundstage. The 2005 thriller The Interpreter, with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, was actually the first film to shot inside the U.N. itself. In 2008’s The Day The Earth Stood Still remake, the aliens communicate with world leaders gathered at the U.N. A great deal of the political drama in the 2009 satire In The Loop is supposed to take place in the halls and conference rooms of the U.N., though the film wasn’t shot there. The United Nations was the primary setting of the final … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have acquired film rights to Other Desert Cities, the Jon Robin Baitz stage play. Parkes/MacDonald used the development fund it launched with Imagenation Abu Dhabi to make the deal. Baitz will write the script and will co-produce, with Parkes and MacDonald producing. They haven’t yet involved a studio.
The play opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre this month after a run last season at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre. In the play, Stacy Keach and Stockard Channing play an old Hollywood couple who’d once counted Ronald and Nancy Reagan as close friends. Their retirement to Palm Springs is upended by continuing friction with their kids, a reality TV producer and a novelist daughter who has gotten past her writer’s block by writing a tell-all memoir that bares family secrets.
Parkes and MacDonald produced the screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd, and they adapted Catch Me If You Can, for the stage (they produced the film). They are currently in production on the Robert Zemeckis-directed Flight starring Denzel Washington, and they are in post-production on Men In Black 3D, which Sony releases May 25, 2012.
EXCLUSIVE: Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz, whose recent credits include Thor and X-Men: First Class, have made a deal with the Penguin imprint Razorbill to publish their first novel. Colin Fischer is about a 14-year-old boy with severe Asperger’s syndrome and a unique way of viewing the world. He’s constantly tormented by a bully named Wayne, a troubled kid from the rough side of town. When a gun goes off in the school cafeteria, Wayne’s pinned for the misdeed by police and the school principal. Colin’s hyper-rational mind perceives Wayne is innocent and he sets out to unravel the mystery. He enlists Wayne to be his assistant, and an unlikely detective team is created. The writers plan to turn the novel into a feature. They most recently scripted The Fall Guy for DreamWorks and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, with Martin Campbell recently signing on. They are also adapting the Lev Grossman fantasy novel Magicians for producers Michael London, Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein. The scribes are repped by WME and Principato-Young.
Director Martin Campbell is in early discussions to come aboard The Fall Guy, the movie adaptation of the Glen Larson-created 1981 TV series. The film’s being developed by producer Walter Parkes. The series starred Lee Majors as a stuntman who worked as a bounty hunter on the side, and the movie’s being scripted by Thor and X-Men: First Class writers Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. The project was initially set up at DreamWorks, but it’s unclear at the moment if the studio will be involved. Campbell last directed Green Lantern, but it wasn’t that long ago that he helmed Casino Royale, which for my money is the best of the James Bond films.
Back in June, Deadline revealed that Fox 2000 had acquired the Robert Harris thriller novel Fear Index, about a scientist who uses a revolutionary system of computer algorithms to trade on the volatility of the world’s financial markets. His hedge fund is wildly successful until he is targeted by an intruder who breaks into his home. At the time, I’d heard that Paul Greengrass was attached to direct, and his reps at CAA denied it. I wrote it anyway. Now, Harris has said in an interview for his soon to be published book that Greengrass is indeed going to direct and the filmmaker’s reps are now acknowledging it’s true. The novel will be published next month in the UK and January in the US. Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark and Jenno Topping are the producers. and Harris is scripting it. Greengrass next directs the Somali pirate pic A Captain’s Duty with Tom Hanks starring for Sony Pictures.
Robert Zemeckis has officially dropped out of the Warner Bros drama Replay, and the studio is trying to put the Jason Smilovic-scripted film back together with another filmmaker. Zemeckis exited because he has finally committed to direct Denzel Washington in the Paramount thriller Flight. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has bought Valentine, a half-hour comedy script from writer Bryan Sipe and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, with Kevin Bacon attached to executive produce and potentially star. Additionally, Sipe has signed on to do a re-write on the Parkes/MacDonald-produced feature The Kid Who Knew Too Much for Paramount, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 and 1956 movies.
Valentine, which Sipe wrote on spec, centers on Johnny Valentine, the role that would be played by Bacon. With three ex wives and his glory days behind him, Johnny Valentine is the new voice of talk radio. He’s not on the left, the right, or the middle, he’s on the bottom. Sipe is executive producing with Parkes/MacDonald Prods.’ Parkes, MacDonald and Ted Gold as well as Bacon and his manager David Schiff. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: When feature producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald got their newly launched TV company up and running with the October hire of Ted Gold as president of television, it was the tail end of the broadcast selling season. So now they’re jumping right in, selling a project to NBC earlier this month under Parkes/MacDonald Prods.’ first-look deal with UMS. Tentatively titled Republic of Pirates, it became the first drama buy this development cycle for new NBC chief Bob Greenblatt and his team. Co-written by Jim Hart and Amanda Wells and executive produced by Parkes, MacDonald, Gold and Tom Fontana, the potential series is based on the book The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard. Set during the 10-year “Golden Age of Piracy” from 1715 to 1725, it follows some of the world’s most notorious pirates as they forge their own rogue nation, called New Providence, which became the first democracy in the Americas.
Probably spurred by the headline-making Somali pirates, pirate TV projects have been red-hot in the past couple of months, with Graham King and Gale Anne Hurd producing Port Royal for FX Prods. and Fox International Channels, which just tapped Scott Rosenbaum as writer, and Ridley and Tony Scott developing Pyrates, a 10- to 13-episode event-type limited series at Fox created by Barry Schindel and to be directed by Stephen Hopkins, which is eyed for next summer. While the sale of Republic of Pirates comes on the heels of the other pirate projects’ announcements, Parkes/MacDonald had been developing the project internally with Fontana since November, and it was picked up by NBC based on a very detailed pitch. Also, there is a big distinction between Republic of Pirates and the other two projects, Gold said. “The ‘pirates’ of all the other shows we know of — the ones who lived in the time of Ridley’s show and in the time of Port Royal -- were actually ‘privateers,’ private sailors and ships that were authorized by their governments to attack foreign shipping during wartime,” he said. “Our pirates are not ‘privateers’ working on behalf of other governments. They are disenfranchised or unemployed sailors who are completely self-governing and work on behalf or their own pirate nation.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In the past month, the screenwriting team of Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz have seen their script work on Thor and X-Men: First Class lead to big opening weekends. The scribes are capitalizing on their heat by making film and TV deals. The duo just made a pre-emptive pitch deal worth high six-figures with Skydance Productions principals David Ellison and Dana Goldberg for an untitled contemporary disaster/action film. The style is ’70s fare like Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and Earthquake. Specifics are being kept under wraps.
Miller & Stentz have also just sold a pilot to 20th Century Fox for mid six figures, with Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein producing. The scribes are currently writing a remake of the Lee Majors stuntman TV series The Fall Guy for producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. The project is set up at Imagenation, with an eye toward distribution through DreamWorks. They wrote an untitled “Knight Project” for Fox, and did production rewriting work on the Dimension Films “found footage” thriller Apollo 18. The feature success comes after Miller & Stentz spent years as writers/producers on series that include Fringe, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Andromeda. The scribes are repped by Principato-Young and WME.
EXCLUSIVE: In a $500,000 against $800,000 deal, Warner Bros is finalizing a deal to acquire Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses, the Matthew Aldrich spec that Deadline told you yesterday had five bids on the table. The deal is just happening, and I expect the next development to be that Matt Damon is working on this picture as its star and also eyeing it as potentially the one on which he’ll make his feature directing debut. He will also produce through his WB-based company Pearl Street, with partner Ben Affleck, Chris Moore and Drew Vinton also producing.
This has been a spec auction with some big twists and turns, because one of the bids that rivaled the one from Warner Bros was made by Damon and Moore, with money from a private financier. Other bids came in from Paramount (with JJ Abrams attached to produce), Fox (for Peter Chernin), Mandate, Walter Parkes through his discretionary fund, with Relativity Media and others also in the mix.
The script focuses on a man who goes on the lam with his daughter, his accomplice on a three-state crime spree.
CAA, Aldrich’s manager Jewerl Ross and attorney Jamie Feldman were working on the auction all day yesterday and by last night, it looked like Damon and Moore would land the deal, but this morning Warner Bros upped the ante. Since the studio has a first-look deal that Damon made with his and Moore’s former Live Planet partner Affleck, it shouldn’t be a difficult maneuver to plug Damon right into the center of the film. Read More »
There’s a hot spec script that has the town hot and bothered. I’m told that Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses has five bids on the table and a deal is expected to close by tonight. The script by Matthew Aldrich is about a man who goes on the lam with his daughter, his accomplice on a 3-state crime spree. I’m told that offers have been made by Warner Bros, Paramount, Relativity Media, Walter Parkes through his discretionary fund, and Matt Damon and Chris Moore, through a company with money raised through a private investor. CAA, Jewerl Ross and attorney Jamie Feldman are handling the sale.
Veteran TV development executive Ted Gold has joined Parkes/MacDonald Prods. as head of television. The Gladiator producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald entered the TV arena this summer with a first-look deal at NBC Universal. Gold was most recently Head of TV Development for Deuce Three Prods. and executive producer on the CBS medical drama Three Rivers. Previously, Gold served as SVP of drama series at Fox where he developed and helped launch such series as Prison Break and Bones. Before Fox, Gold oversaw television development for Spelling Entertainment and worked at New World Entertainment. Parkes/MacDonald’s film credits include Catch Me If You Can, Men In Black and Minority Report.
Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) have been hired to write an original action thriller by the Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald of Parkes/MacDonald. The thriller, devised by producer Michael Lieber and Parkes, follows an American anthropologist called back to the Sahara to help clear the name of a friend accused of a terrorist attack. The story will be set among the Taureg tribes of Sahara West Africa, a nomadic people whose uranium rich land has become a flashpoint for both energy companies and terrorists. “We’re always looking for interesting character-based movies and this one has a fascinating man at the centre of it,” Purvis tells Deadline. “The fact that it takes place in a magical, forgotten part of the world and we get to work with great producers is of course a bonus.”
No word on what it’s called yet, but Purvis and Wade are no strangers to this kind of conspiracy thriller, having written both the latest Bonds and an adaptation of John Le Carré’s The Mission Song for UK producer Potboiler. The Constant Gardener, Potboiler’s previous Le Carré adaptation, was also about African corruption. They are repped by Jenne Casarotto in London and Jeremy Barber of UTA in the States.
Parkes MacDonald/Imagenation was established in October last year with a $10 million revolving development fund. The company invests in future Parkes/Macdonald projects developed under their first-look deal with … Read More »