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, … 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 … 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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »