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Alec Baldwin Circles ‘M:I-5′; Football Concussions And A Rob Ford-Type Mayor Also In The Offing

By | Wednesday July 9, 2014 @ 1:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Alec Baldwin Circles ‘M:I-5′; Football Concussions And A Rob Ford-Type Mayor Also In The OffingEXCLUSIVE: Alec Baldwin has two killer movie projects lined up, along with a possible TV successor to his Emmy-winning turn in 30 Rock. He’s in talks to star in Mission: Impossible 5, playing the head of the CIA. He’s also in talks to join Will Smith in the Peter Landesman-directed movie about football concussions at Sony Pictures. Here’s the capper, though: Baldwin is developing a new TV show with NBC Productions, in which he would play the central character, a Rob Ford-type Mayor of New York City.

Ford is the buffoonish Toronto, Ontario mayor who has had his troubles with the crack pipe and behaves outlandishly on a fairly regular basis. That should be edgy stuff, since it is being fashioned as a one-hour cable series. Wells Tower is writing the pilot, and Baldwin will exec producer with Cary Brokaw.

Baldwin teamed with James Toback on the hilarious Cannes documentary Seduced And Abandoned. He turned down numerous roles to stay close to home while his wife was pregnant, but is starring in the untitled Warren Beatty project on Howard Hughes (he also starred in Martin Scorsese’s movie about the renowned billionaire recluse), and stars in the upcoming Cameron Crowe-directed untitled film. He has generated headlines for his clashes with paparazzi and recently announced in New York magazine that he was through with public life. I wish he wouldn’t take the bait, but his penchant for rising to the occasion does somehow make that TV series seem pretty promising.

Baldwin is repped by … Read More »

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Is Jared Leto Ready For ‘Brilliance’?

By | Tuesday June 17, 2014 @ 10:47am PDT
Mike Fleming

Is Jared Leto Ready For ‘Brilliance’?EXCLUSIVE: In what would be his first major starring role since he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto is in early talks to star in director Julius Onah’s Brilliance, the Legendary Pictures adaptation of the Marcus Sakey novel that has a script by David Koepp. Noomi Rapace has been attached to play the female lead and Universal will release through its Legendary deal. This is the role that Will Smith exited, shortly before he aligned himself to the Sony project about the effect of concussions on football players, which Peter Landesman is writing to direct.

Brilliance focuses on a world where a rare set of people are born with extraordinary abilities and are called “brilliants.” At the center of the story is a federal agent with great hunting gifts who is drafted to track down a terrorist, another such brilliant who intends to start a civil war. Onah directed The Girl Is In Trouble, and Joe Roth and Palak Patel are producing with Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni. Leto  is very selective about the films he commits to, and this process has been a slow roll. Leto met the director yesterday. He won his Oscar for playing a transgender woman with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club, the first film he’d done in five years. Leto is repped by CAA.

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Will Smith Eyeing Gridiron Concussion Pic At Sony With Peter Landesman Directing

By | Tuesday June 3, 2014 @ 2:30pm PDT
Mike Fleming

willsmiNow that Will Smith has stepped off the pic Brilliance, the whole town is after him. I’m hearing he has aligned himself to that football concussions project that Ridley Scott and Giannina Facio have been developing. The pic, still untitled and inspired by the GQ article “Game Brain,” is at Sony, and Peter Landesman wrote the script and will direct. He made his helming debut on the JFK pic Parkland. Back when Deadline broke the story, Scott was looking to direct the concussions movie project after his massive Moses movie Exodus with Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton. Scott moved over and now will produce with Facio, along with Shuman Company’s David Wolfhoff and Larry Shuman. Landesman has completed the script, and the plan is to shoot this fall. Smith will play Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who was a total outsider and made the first discovery of CTE, the concussion syndrome that has been fatal in contributing to the suicides of such former NFL superstars as Dave Duerson and Junior Seau.

Related: NFL Reaches $765M Settlement In Concussion Cases

nfAs I wrote in November, Scott got in early, intending to create a drama focusing on the debilitating effects that concussions are having on our sports heroes, and the role that league owners play in allowing it to happen. His plan is to create a morality tale on that issue, much the way that Michael Mann’s The Insider took on the tobacco industry’s complicity in covering up the addictive and cancer-causing effects of cigarette smoking. Smith’s camp denied this a couple of days ago, but things move quickly when an actor has a slot open. Smith met with the director this week, and the intention is to try and be first, as there are other concussion projects brewing. Read More »

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Will Smith Exits Legendary Pic ‘Brilliance’

By | Thursday May 29, 2014 @ 6:20pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Will Smith has decided to drop out of director Julius Onah’s Brilliance, the Legendary Pictures adaptation of the Marcus Sakey novel that has a script by David Koepp. Universal is releasing the film, which was to willsmibegin production this summer. The film’s start has moved a couple of times, and the exit came down to timing. Legendary has been in negotiations with Noomi Rapace to star alongside him. The pic focuses on a world where a rare set of people are born with extraordinary abilities and are called “brilliants.” At the center of the story is a federal agent with great hunting gifts who is drafted to track down a terrorist, another such brilliant who intends to start a civil war. Onah directed The Girl Is In Trouble, and Joe Roth and Palak Patel are producing with Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni. Smith, who recently decided to not reprise his role in the Independence Day sequel at Fox, next will be seen starring with Margot Robbie in the Glenn Ficarra/John Requa-directed grifter tale Focus, which Warner Bros opens February 27.

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Will Smith Ponders ‘Brilliance’

By | Thursday February 20, 2014 @ 5:32pm PST
Mike Fleming

willsmiThe 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 is in very early talks to make the project as soon as May, I’ve confirmed. The Wrap broke it. I thought Smith showed a sense of fun as Jimmy Fallon’s first Tonight Show guest this week (particularly in the eveolution of hip-hop dance) than he’s displayed on screen. Following After Earth, an original movie with a fresh director sounds more promising for him than yet another reprise, this one Independence Day 2, which he stepped out of recently. The David Koepp-scripted adaptation, which Joe Roth and Palek Patel are producing with Legendary, is set in a  world where a rare set of people are born with extraordinary abilities and are called “brilliants.” At the center of the story is a federal agent with great hunting gifts who is drafted to hunt down a terrorist, another such brilliant who intends to start a civil war.

Related: Legendary Sets Julius Onah To Helm ‘Brilliance’

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Will Smith Won’t Appear In Sequel To ‘Independence Day’

By | Friday February 7, 2014 @ 3:12pm PST
Mike Fleming

wsEXCLUSIVE: 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. Read More »

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HBO Developing Electronic Music Comedy From DJ Calvin Harris, ‘Trainspotting’ Author Irvine Welsh, Will Smith & Jay-Z

By | Wednesday January 22, 2014 @ 9:00am PST
Nellie Andreeva

harrisEXCLUSIVE: Top UK DJ Calvin Harris has teamed with Will Smith and Jay-Z for Higher, a half-hour comedy series project that has been set up at HBO for development. Written by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh and developed with Harris’ help, the fictional comedy is set in the world of electronic music. It comes from Overbrook Entertainment, Three Six Zero Group and Marcy Media, with Overbrook’s James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Miguel Melendez serving as executive producers alongside Three Six Zero Group’s Mark Gillespie and Dean Wilson, along with Harris and Marcy Media’s Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Jay Brown, and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith. This expands the smithjayzrelationship between Smith and Jay-Z who also are producing together the upcoming feature musical Annie.  Harris is a Grammy award winning songwriter and producer, who was the first DJ to win the Ivor Novello Songwriter Of  The Year Award. He has two more Grammy nominations this year, Best Dance Recording for Sweet Nothing, and Best Dance/Electronica Album for 18 Months. Released last October, 18 Months has sold over 1m albums and 28 million singles worldwide. The album produced 9 UK top 10 singles, including We Found Love feat. Rihanna, breaking Michael Jackson’s record for the most Top 10 singles from one album (7). Harris is managed by six-year-old Three Six Zero Group where he was the first client.

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TCA: Jimmy Fallon Announces First ‘Tonight Show’ Guests, Talks Jay Leno Transition

Nellie Andreeva

The Tonight Show with Jay LenoWhen The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon premieres on Feb. 17, it will feature Will Smith as first guest and U2 as musical guests. Smith has been on Fallon’s current show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, but this will be U2′s first visit with Fallon, who had pursued the Irish band for a long time.

Related: Year-End Late-Night TV: ‘Tonight’s Move To NY May Give NBC More Clout With Talent, But Digital May Make Booking War Obsolete

Fallon addressed his relationship with his predecessor, Jay Leno, and the Tonight Show host transition, going back to the time immediately following the Leno-Conan O’Brien debacle when Leno was moved to 10 PM and then reinstated at 11:30 PM, with O’Brien pushed out. “After the whole Conan‑Jay thing went down, I called up Jay, and I said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know that I’m not gunning for your position at all.  I’m very happy at 12:30AM… I’m in New York.  I’m trying to have a baby.  I’m very happy at my job.’  So he goes, ‘I appreciate that.’  I said, ‘And when eventually you decide to step down, let’s do it the right way.’  And he said, ‘Yeah, of course.’… Read More »

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D.J. Caruso Set To Helm ‘Selling Time’; Will Smith Still Circling Supernatural Thriller

By | Tuesday January 7, 2014 @ 5:20pm PST
Mike Fleming

djcEXCLUSIVE: Things are coming back around again for Selling Time, the supernatural thriller at 20th Century Fox. D.J. Caruso is signing on to direct, and he will oversee a new draft by Dan McDermott that is being written in hopes that Will Smith will star in the film. John Davis and Jennifer Klein will produce with McDermott.

willsmiThough he still has not committed to starring, Smith has long been interested in playing the lead role in the thriller about a man who sells chunks of his life in an attempt to relive the worst day of his life so that he can change a tragedy. I feel like I have relived this project several times; I first wrote about it when McDermott sold it as a spec to Fox 2000 while he was president of DreamWorks Television in 2001. Smith has been intrigued for almost that long. There have been numerous incarnations by various scriptwriters including Spike Lee and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes scribes Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. But now McDermott is going to take another pass at the script with Caruso, who helmed Disturbia, Eagle Eye and I Am Number Four. Caruso is repped by CAA and Media Talent’s Geyer Kosinski.

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Will Smith Pays Tribute To ‘Fresh Prince’ Uncle James Avery

By | Monday January 6, 2014 @ 10:57am PST

Will Smith James Avery Uncle PhilSunday 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.” Read More »

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Sony Eyeing ‘Safe House’ Scribe David Guggenheim For ‘Bad Boys 3′

By | Tuesday December 10, 2013 @ 4:24pm PST
Mike Fleming

Bad BoysEXCLUSIVE: 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 David Guggenheim to script Bad Boys 3, which the studio hopes will bring back Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as fast-talking undercover cops who solve crimes with spectacular action, gunplay, and harsh language. Guggenheim scripted Safe House, the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds action thriller.

Bad Boys II was released a decade ago, and the sequel grossed $273 million on a $160 million budget. Michael Bay directed the first two, but he doesn’t seem to be involved, at least at this point. Jerry Bruckheimer is producing the pic. Sony is trying to do this with the original cast, which makes it different from the other big franchise reboots in the works, Men In Black and Ghostbusters. Those are being rebooted. With Ghostbusters, that has a lot to do with Bill Murray being unwilling to reprise his signature role. With Men In Black, the deal making on that film got to be prohibitively expensive with all the talent and producer back ends, to the point it was becoming impossible for the studio to make money.

guggenheimSince making a splash with Safe House, Guggenheim has been working steadily on action thrillers that include … Read More »

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Shawn Levy To Direct Fox’s ‘City That Sailed’ With Will Smith Aboard To Star

By | Thursday November 14, 2013 @ 3:39pm PST
Mike Fleming

Shawn Levy City That Sailed Will SmithEXCLUSIVE: Shawn Levy has been tapped to develop and direct City That Sailed, the 20th Century Fox adventure pic that now officially has Will Smith aboard to star. Audrey Wells is penning the script for the tentpole and Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment will produce. The story centers on a father and daughter on the island of Manhattan as it breaks loose and sails across the Atlantic Ocean. The pic reteams Levy and Fox, where his 21 Laps banner is based. They begin production early next year on the third installment of the lucrative Night At The Museum franchise that is set for a Christmas 2014 release.

Smith’s name had been attached to this project for some time among many starring vehicles — as far back as 2010, after finishing up shooting Men In Black 3. This makes him officially aboard.

Levy recently wrapped This Is Where I Leave You for Warner Bros, directed Fox’s comedy The Internship that came out this summer and also produced the recent specialty hit The Spectacular Now. His director credits include Date Night for Fox and Real Steel for DreamWorks. He is repped by WME.

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WME Signs ‘Pursuit Of Happyness’ Director Gabriele Muccino

By | Monday October 21, 2013 @ 2:39pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: The Pursuit Of Happyness helmer has decided to pursue things with a new agency. Gabriele Muccino has come aboard WME after departing CAA earlier this month after several years, I’ve learned. Muccino is currently directing Voltage’s Fathers And Daughters starring Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried as a family struggling with the death of the mother and mental illness. Craig J. Flores and Nicolas Chartier of Voltage are producing with Busted Shark Productions’ Sherryl Clark from a Black List script by Brad Desch. After the Sundance Film Festival success of comedy/drama L’Ultimo Bacio in 2002, Muccino was picked personally by star Will Smith to direct The Pursuit Of Happyness as his first Hollywood project. The 2006 drama of a man and his son pulling their way out of poverty was a hit for both, making more than $307 million worldwide. The Italian went on to do 2008’s Seven Pounds with Smith also as well as 2012’s tepid box office performer Playing For Keeps with Gerald Butler. While he’s changed agencies, Muccino is sticking with Untitled Entertainment for management.

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Wacky Weekend For Hollywood Media On Sharon Stone, Scientology

By | Sunday June 2, 2013 @ 9:32am PDT
Mike Fleming

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 suspect in the recent rash of jewel thievery that got so much press during the Cannes Film Festival. It was meant to be a silly parody: the report said that Stone reenacted her famous interrogation scene from Basic Instinct, only to be told by authorities that nobody has wanted to see that since in the 1990s. But it was picked up straight-faced by Yahoo and the Chicago Tribune, among other outlets that took Variety’s good name as reason to trust a report that Sharon Stone is a suspect in a robbery. Yikes. (Stone has been a longtime ardent supporter of AMFAR, so there was every legitimate reason she would be at Cannes.) This dispatch wasn’t funny and it’s clear that media around the globe expect Variety to be a seed bed for accurate entertainment news – and not knee-slapping guffaws at the expense of an actress with a good name and a clean record. That’s the danger of combining parody news with legitimate news: people can’t tell the difference.

THR went in an even stranger direction, hiring a former Scientologist named Marc Headley to review the Will Read More »

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CinemaCon: Who’s Bankable In 2013? Exhibitors Spill

By | Friday April 19, 2013 @ 1:55pm PDT

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.Oblivion IMAX 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.

Related: Theater Owners Forecast Summer 2013 Hits And Bombs

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. Read More »

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Sony Shifts ‘After Earth’ Release To May 31

By | Friday April 19, 2013 @ 10:00am PDT

The Will and Jaden Smith sci-fi starrer had been slotted for June 7 but Sony Pictures has pushed up the wide release date to May 31, where it will open alongside Lionsgate/Summit’s Now You See Me and Universal’s The Purge but get an extra week of summer play. Sony gave exhibitors a first look at Columbia Pictures’ After Earth on Wednesday at CinemaCon, where attendees were quiet about the M. Night Shyamalan pic ahead of the studio’s presentation.

Related: Will Smith Kicking ‘American Can’ With Ed Zwick

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Will Smith Kicking ‘American Can’ With Ed Zwick; ‘The Accountant’ Also On Ledger?

By | Friday April 19, 2013 @ 9:16am PDT
Mike Fleming

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. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘After Earth’

By | Thursday March 7, 2013 @ 8:30pm PST

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 today reveals a little more than one we saw in December. The movie opens June 7th. What do you think?

Watch this video on YouTube.

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Ex-CAA Agent Ken Stovitz Moves From Overbrook To Paradigm

By | Wednesday February 27, 2013 @ 4:23pm PST
Mike Fleming

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. Read More »

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