EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winning actress Shirley MacLaine is negotiating to star in Men Of Granite. The project, based on the book of the same name, is the true story of how a group of poor, immigrant high school boys rose above bigotry in a small town in Illinois by proving themselves on the basketball court to become the 1940 state champions.
MacLaine would play the role of Sophia Prather, a schoolteacher who watches over her “boys of Lincoln Place” (the name of the poor area) with a steely eye, takes no guff and prods the boys into getting out of their broken-down neighborhood gymnasium and onto the high school court. By mentoring, encouraging and helping to pave the way for these downtrodden boys, she firmly believes that she is doing God’s work. Prather stands up for the boys against the bigotry of the time as most of them were Slavic and Eastern European. She was a true champion in making these kids rise above their circumstances.
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William Hurt, who two weeks ago dropped out of the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider after the tragic on-set death of camera assistant Sarah Jones, is circling the basketball drama Men Of Granite written by new scribe Armand Kachigian. The project was adapted from the book of the same name by Dan Manoyan (a Milwaukee Sentinel sportswriter) and is based on a true story of how a group of poor, immigrant high school boys from the wrong side of the tracks rose above bigotry in 1940s small-town Illinois by proving themselves on the basketball court. There is no deal and his involvement is contingent upon financing.
The role that has Hurt’s interest is that of a high school coach suffering a string of losses and resigned to never winning a game. It’s not until this band of Armenian-speaking kids take the court that his passion for the game reignites. What’s really nice for a basketball movie, is that there is a fully-realized, strong female lead — that of Sophia Prather — a 50 year-old to 60 year-old schoolteacher, who watches over her “boys of Lincoln Place” with a steely eye, takes no guff and prods the boys into getting out of their broken-down neighborhood gymnasium and onto the high school court. By mentoring, encouraging and helping to pave the way for these downtrodden boys, she firmly believes that she is doing God’s work.
The project is set in my hometown of Granite City, a steel town in Southern Illinois across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. These families — Markarian, Hagopian, Parsaghian, Eftimoff — Read More »
Check out the top film stories you missed on Deadline this week:
William Hurt Pulls Out Of ‘Midnight Rider’ Movie
By Anita Busch and Jen Yamato
William Hurt, who was set to play Gregg Allman in the feature film Midnight Rider, has pulled out of the movie. The exit of its star casts even more doubt over whether the Randall Miller-directed biopic will move forward following the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones during filming in February in Georgia.
‘Midnight Rider’ Producer Made Controversial Comments About Local Filming Days Before Sarah Jones Death
By Jen Yamato
The weekend before the February 20 train accident that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones, Midnight Rider producer Jody Savin made controversial public comments at a meeting of local production crew in which she touted her company’s methods and complained about the Savannah film commission for keeping a close watch on her previous film, CBGB.
Weekend B.O.: ‘The Other Woman’ Rules And Sets Up Nicely As Counterprogramming For ‘Spidey 2′ Onslaught
By Mike Fleming Jr
So now we have a good grasp of a weekend that resulted in nearly $100 million in box office, which is up around 19% from comparable weekend last year. It is still the calm before the storm, when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 takes the stage and better do three times what The Other Woman did, or else. Read More »
BREAKING: William Hurt, who was set to play Gregg Allman in the feature film Midnight Rider, has pulled out of the movie. The exit of its star casts even more doubt over whether the Randall Miller-directed biopic will move forward following the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones during filming in February in Georgia. A source close to the production tells Deadline the filmmakers “were already looking to recast some roles,” including the Gregg Allman character.
Related: The Death Of Sarah Jones: Safety Concerns Raised Over ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew’s Previous Film In Georgia
Most recently, Miller and his production company Unclaimed Freight were looking to restart pre-production on the movie in LA in a few weeks, even as investigations are ongoing over who is to blame for the February 20 accident in Wayne County, GA where a film crew was struck by a train while shooting on a trestle. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has decided to simulcast Science Channel’s first stab at scripted programming — the 90-minute The Challenger Disaster — when it premieres on November 16 at 9 PM, to ensure it gets the biggest possible audience and because the movie fits Discovery’s footprint. Discovery Channel this calendar year, is averaging 1.3 million viewers – 660,000 of them aged 18-49. Science Channel this year is averaging 304,000 viewers – 117,000 of them in the demo. When Science first announced the project in July, its GM Debbie Myers said it was the “biggest swing” in the network’s history. Produced in collaboration with the BBC and based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, the movie details Feynman’s participation in the Presidential Commission put together to investigate the Challenger explosion. William Hurt plays Feynman – the Caltech physicist/Nobel laureate who, in a televised hearing, demonstrated that the Challenger’s O-ring was not sufficiently pliable, submerging a piece of it in a glass of ice water, causing it to grow stiff and bend, and Feynman to note, “I believe that has some significance for our problem,” according to press reports. At the investigation’s conclusion, Feynman’s report, “Appendix F – Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle,” was presented to POTUS, independent of the commission’s report.
The Challenger explosion was one of those where-were-you-then moments in American history; millions of TV viewers watched in horror on January 1986 as the space vehicle burst apart, killing all seven astronauts on board, including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, who’d been added to the crew because space travel was considered that safe; she was going to provide terrific PR for the space program by teaching some classes to school children from space. Read More »
A mix of North American and British talent will topline an untitled BBC/Science Channel movie about the search for what caused the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion. William Hurt and Bruce Greenwood will star as physicist Richard Feynman and Air Force General Donald Kutyna, respectively. Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner who also assisted on the Manhattan Project, was instrumental in uncovering the truth, as was Kutyna whom he befriended in the process. Brian Dennehy is also on board as William Rogers, the chair of the presidential commission and Joanne Whalley will play Feynman’s wife. British actors Kevin McNally (Downton Abbey), Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: William Hurt has been set in the final major role of Winter’s Tale, the Warner Bros adaptation of the Mark Helprin novel that marks the feature directing debut of Oscar-winning scribe Akiva Goldsman. Goldsman worked for seven years on the project, directing episodes of the TV show Fringe to get ready, while he worked on the script to get a green light from a studio which usually doesn’t make $46 million fables. It has helped Goldsman that he was able to lean on his past collaborators Russell Crowe and Will Smith (Goldsman made three films with each actor) to ramp up the star power in smaller roles. Hurt plays the father of a dying young woman who falls in love with a thief who breaks into her home, a palatial West Side mansion, in a drama that takes place in 19th century and contemporary Manhattan. Goldsman cast Colin Farrell to play the thief and Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay plays the dying young girl. The film is being made on that budget while shooting entirely in New York, switching from 1899 to the present. The film begins production in October, with Marc Platt and Michael Tadross producing. ICM Partners rep Hurt.
Films Distribution heading into Cannes tells Deadline it is in full-blown negotiations for the U.S. on War Witch, which is Kim Nguyen’s Tribeca winner. The label’s co-founder Nicolas Brigaud-Robert also tells Deadline the company is on track to close the U.S. on Israeli drama Yossi. It has international sales on Maddened By His Absence (which has a special screening in Critics’ Week), 30 Beats (though Lionsgate has U.S.), and SXSW Midnighter Audience Award winner Citadel (Cinedigm and New Video have U.S. rights).
Bankside Films has taken worldwide sales rights to iLL MANORS, the directorial debut of British rapper Ben Drew who’s better known as Plan B. Revolver is releasing in the UK on June 6. The film was developed through Film London Microwave, a scheme set up in partnership with BBC Films and with support from Skillset to develop emerging London talent.
Arclight Films has boarded writer-director Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road. The $A2 million pic was financed by Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Arclight has world sales rights outside Australia/NZ where the film will be released by a new distributor, Michael Wrenn’s Management of Doubt. Sen is the vanguard of a group of Aboriginal filmmakers who are making distinctive films. Read More »
The four-time Academy Award and Emmy and Tony nominee and one-time Best Actor Oscar winner (for Kiss Of The Spider Woman) just made the move to Adam Schweitzer, co-head of ICM’s motion picture talent department. He’s currently filming the lead role in the HBO film Too Big To Fail about the financial crisis directed by Curtis Hanson.
HBO has assembled the cast of Too Big to Fail, the Curtis Hanson-directed movie about the 2008 financial crisis and the power brokers who decided the fate of the world’s economy as the system teetered on collapse. Joining William Hurt, previously set to play Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, are James Woods as Dick Fuld, the last chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers nicknamed the “Gorilla” on Wall Street; HBO regular Paul Giamatti as Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke; Billy Crudup as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Ed Asner as Warren Buffett; Kathy Baker as Wendy Paulson and Cynthia Nixon as Michele Davis. Also cast in the movie, set to begin production in mid-October, are Ayad Akhtar as Neel Kashkari, Topher Grace as Jim Wilkinson, Dan Hedaya as Barney Frank, Michael O’Keefe as Chris Flowers, Tony Shalhoub as John Mack and Joey Slotnick as Dan Jester. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has set William Hurt to play Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Curtis Hanson to direct Too Big To Fail, a dissection of the 2008 financial crisis and the power brokers who decided the fate of the world’s economy as the system teetered on collapse. Shooting begins in early fall. Peter Gould wrote the script, based on the book by The New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin who is a consultant on the project. Also consulting are Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera.
HBO had originally intended to make the film using their financial crisis book, All the Devils Are Here, as the basis for the film, but it wasn’t completed in time to be used as source material for Gould’s script. Hanson will be executive producer along with Spring Creek Productions’ Paula Weinstein and Jeffrey Levine. Carol Fenelon is co-executive producer and Ezra Swerdlow is producer. It marks the first time Hurt and Hanson have made films for HBO.
Paulson is the central focus of a film that dissects how the co-dependency between D.C. and Wall Street nearly destroyed and then repaired the crisis. HBO will begin casting the other major players that will include Paulson’s successor Timothy Geitner, Lehman Bros CEO Richard Fuld and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.