The Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures adaptation of the Marcus Sakey novel Brilliance became one to watch when they hired up and comer Julius Onah (The Girl Is In Trouble) to direct it. Now, Will Smith …
EXCLUSIVE: After spending several years looking to generate a sequel or two to the 1996 Fox smash hit Independence Day, it looks like director Roland Emmerich and co-writer and producer Dean Devlin are going to have to take on those Earth-leveling aliens without Will Smith. I’m told reliably that Smith informed the studio that he won’t be joining in on a sequel that the filmmakers hope to have in theaters for July 4 weekend, 2016. That marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996 original that grossed $811 million worldwide and launched Smith on a trajectory to become the world’s most bankable movie star.
Sunday night Will Smith paid tribute to actor James Avery, who passed away Wednesday following complications from open heart surgery. The 68-year-old Avery had played Uncle Phil to Smith’s onscreen alter ego through six seasons (and two Aunt Vivs) on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996 and made a star out of Smith. “Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace,” Smith wrote on Facebook, posting a photo of the two with Fresh Prince cast mates Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, and Alfonso Ribiero. Ribiero, who played Uncle Phil’s son Carlton on the show, Tweeted his condolences after Avery’s passing on New Year’s Day: “I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.” Tweeted Ali: “James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor. We’re feeling his loss very deeply. He’ll always be a part of me.”
EXCLUSIVE: The mantra behind Sony Pictures’ recent restructure that brings in Michael De Luca as production co-president was to make higher quality tent poles. That means spending money on hot writers. I’m told the studio is in early talks with …
Must be a case of spring fever this weekend after both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter posted head-scratcher stories that prompted extreme reactions. First, Variety, under the guise of something called “Hollywood and Swine,” labels Sharon Stone the prime …
Exhibitors I polled this week at CinemaCon had more faith in franchises than star-driven blockbusters on the 2013 slate. Like Tom Cruise in Oblivion, Will Smith is still a big deal to theater owners. He’s just not a sure thing in a slow-moving sci-fi vehicle like Sony’s After Earth, which now opens May 31. Johnny Depp scored biggest with a surprise appearance in front of elated NATO members and the promise of another eccentric blockbuster role, but the specters of Universal’s Cowboys & Aliens and Disney’s own John Carter loom over the Western. Paramount even trotted out an uncomfortable-looking Brad Pitt to boost World War Z, but exhibitors worry the zombie pic won’t be a must-see for moviegoers. Jennifer Lawrence and Lionsgate’s Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, on the other hand, had CinemaCon attendees seeing dollar signs. Meanwhile the problem with Aubrey Plaza winning CinemaCon’s Breakthrough Performer Of The Year award (on the heels of her MTV Movie Awards stunt) is that exhibitors still have no idea who she is. The Parks And Recreation star is better known to younger TV viewers than the corporate-leaning CinemaCon crowd. And many theater owners still see television as the enemy, including Regal CEO Amy Miles, who said as much at a CinemaCon luncheon Thursday.
But mid-sized theater owners are realizing they have to cater to their audiences, and those may not always be blockbuster crowds. “My biggest movie of last year was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“, a 40-year owner of a Michigan resort-town cinema said. “At my theater, the biggest star is Kevin James”, another operator of a California second-run multiplex told me. One thing that was not bankable at CinemaCon 2013: High-frame-rate technology. The Hobbit stumbled at last year’s confab by pushing its 48 FPS HFR 3D to exhibitors. Despite the first pic’s $1 billion global box office, nobody this year was pinning hopes on HFR specifically in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug this Christmas — even Peter Jackson, who conspicuously made no mention of it in his taped message to the CinemaCon audience.
EXCLUSIVE: As Tom Cruise today looks to strengthen his box office foothold with Oblivion after a huge overseas opening last weekend, I’ve been wondering when Will Smith was going to start cranking them out again. Looks like he’s chosen this week to really get back into the mix: He signed to do the Warner Bros grifter pic Focus, and I’m told that Sony Pictures and his Overbrook Entertainment partner James Lassiter and Jada Pinkett Smith have revived American Can, and are now looking to Ed Zwick to direct Smith in a reluctant hero role that seems like a tailor-fit. He will play John Keller, a real guy who returned from Gulf War service looking for a new challenge, and found one after Hurricane Katrina devastated his home city of New Orleans. He found a boat and was moving to safety when he saw a blind elderly woman, stranded and calling for her son. Knowing she would certainly die if he passed by, Keller brought her back to safety in the American Can building. Shortly after, he found many more stranded seniors, and brought each of them back, around 244 in total, to American Can, a building that at least was dry. It was tricky business, but using his resourcefulness and his military training to get food drops to feed his new friends, he kept them alive and eventually found enough boats to lead them all to safety.
Here’s the latest trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, which pairs Will Smith with his son Jaden as a father and son who crash-land on a hostile Earth a thousand years into the future. The Sony/Columbia release has been teased since last year’s Comic-Con, and the trailer posted …
BREAKING: Ken Stovitz has joined Paradigm as a senior agent and will begin working in the agency’s Beverly Hills offices beginning this Monday, March 4. He walks in the door repping Jada Pinkett Smith and Jaden Smith, after working extensively with both at Overbrook Entertainment. Stovitz will join the Paradigm Management Committee, which oversees the agency’s day to day operations. There has been a lotta movement of clients and agencies lately, particularly with Jeff Berg’s launch of Resolution. For Paradigm, Stovitz is a good get, a seasoned agent who knows what he’s doing.
BREAKING: Sony Pictures is setting Will Gluck to helm Annie, the re-imagining of the Broadway musical. The helmer who directed Easy A and Friends With Benefits for Sony-based Screen Gems takes on a high-profile project that will be produced by James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith through their Overbrook Entertainment banner, and by Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Jay Brown, and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith through Marcy Media. Willow Smith is no longer attached; she was 9 when development began and she has outgrown the role of Annie.
Gluck will revise the film’s screenplay, which was written by Emma Thompson and rewritten by Aline Brosh McKenna based on the musical and its book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin. That’s based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip. The movie is contemporized and will shoot in the fall for a 2014 release.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith will host this latest fundraiser for Michelle Obama later this month. Tickets range from $2,500-$40,000 for the event at the Smiths’ Calabasas home. Salma Hayek is also co-hosting with Hancock producer and Smith’s longtime business partner James Lassiter and his wife Mai. Roc Nation president Jay Brown and his wife Kawanna, head of Magic Johnson Enterprises, are also listed as co-hosts along with Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter and his wife Rebecca. The Lassiters held a fundraiser for the president last October at their Hancock Park home, with the Smiths, the Browns and the Carters in attendance.
Toronto: Will Smith’s Overbrook, Jay Z’s Roc Nation Board Docu ‘Free Angela & All Political Prisoners’
EXCLUSIVE: Overbrook Entertainment and Roc Nation will lend their clout to the Realside Productions/De Films Aiguille-produced documentary Free Angela & All Political Prisoners, which was directed by Shola Lynch. They will become executive producers on a film that premieres at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival and marks the 40th anniversary of the acquittal of Angela Davis on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy. The docu was produced by Carole Lambert, Shola Lynch, Carine Ruszniewski, and Sidra Smith.