Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films and BBC Two are partnering on the final two TV movies in writer/director David Hare’s The Worricker Trilogy. The first installment, Page Eight, aired in 2011 on BBC Two and PBS and starred Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon and Judy Davis. Nighy will reprise his role as British intelligence officer Johnny Worricker for parts two and three, respectively titled Turks & Caicos and Salting The Battlefield. Fiennes also returns for both. Turks & Caicos is adding Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter, Ewen Bremner, James Naughton, Dylan Baker and Zach Grenier. Davis, who was nominated for a supporting actress Emmy for Page Eight, will return for Salting The Battlefield as will Bonham Carter and Bremner along with Saskia Reeves, Kate Burdette and Malcolm Sinclair.
Page Eight, which closed the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, saw Worricker uncover a plot to turn control of MI5 directly over to the prime minister after the head of the organization’s death. Part two will pick up after Worricker leaves his MI5 post and heads to Turks & Caicos where the CIA forces him to deal with a group of ambiguous Americans who are on the islands for a high-level conference. At the same time, an old girlfriend is being asked to betray her boss in London in order to establish an illicit connection between the prime minister and dark goings-on in the war on terror. Salting The Battlefield sees Worricker and the girlfriend on the run from MI5 until Worricker returns home to confront the prime minister in a duel of wits. Read More »
“Being infamous is not fun. It becomes a weird occupation in and of itself.” Michael Cimino spoke those words at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday as he introduced a digitally remastered version of Heaven’s Gate. One of the most notorious box office flops of all time, the film is credited with contributing to the demise of United Artists and halting the auteur movement of 70s Hollywood. Cimino was coming off Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for The Deer Hunter when Heaven’s Gate came out in 1980 and cratered his career. On the Lido Thursday to accept a life achievement award along with debuting the updated pic, he said he at first didn’t want to revisit it, “I’ve had enough rejection for 33 years.” Cimino oversaw the digital remastering and said technology had advanced enough that seeing it now was like seeing a new movie. It’s also a longer movie. The new version runs 216 minutes.
Meanwhile, a lot of heat surrounded Ariel Vroman’s out of competition title, The Iceman. Michael Shannon has drawn great notices for his take on real-life contract killer/family man Richard Kuklinski. Reaction was also positive for strong performances by Winona Ryder and Ray Liotta. Ryder, who’ll next be seen in Gary Fleder’s Homefront, said she’s scaling back on work in general. “I want to have a good life and so a film has to be pretty great to make me want to leave my life. I’m not in a place where I want to keep working just to work,” she said. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Winona Ryder has just committed to star with Michael Shannon and Chris Evans in The Iceman, the Ariel Vromen-directed drama based on the Anthony Bruno book about Richard Kuklinski, a family man who secretly carried out contract killings for the mob. Millennium Films/Nu Image is financing. Shannon is playing Kuklinski, aka The Iceman, and Evans is playing his mentor, Robert Pronge. Ryder, most recently seen in Black Swan and The Dilemma, will play Kuklinski’s wife, Deborah, who did not know that he was a contract killer. Gersh-repped Ryder just wrapped the indie The Stare opposite James Franco.
Waterstone Entertainment has optioned screen rights to Og Mandino’s bestselling self-help book The Greatest Salesman In The World into a feature film. This is a book that has sold over 25 million copies. Waterstone, which just wrapped the James Franco-Winona Ryder-starrer The Stare, is headed by producer Jeff Kalligheri and Texas real estate developer/producer Stephen Bowen. They are producing with Dave Blanchard, who’s CEO of The Og Group. Published in 1968, the book focuses on Hafid, a poor camel herder who seeks money to fund a dowry to marry the daughter of a wealthy man. This leads him to 10 scrolls that hold the secret to wealth and success. “I have been a huge Og Mandino fan since my youth,” Kalligheri said. “It is time for Og’s work to hit the big screen.” They are out to screenwriters.
EXCLUSIVE: KatzSmith Productions partners David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith have just signed a two-year first-look feature producing deal at Warner Bros. While rights are still being worked out, one of their first projects is expected to be a sequel to Beetlejuice, the 1988 Tim Burton-directed hit that starred Michael Keaton as a ghoul hired by a recently deceased couple to drive the new owners out of their house. Burton and Keaton made the movie while they were working on the studio’s first Batman film, which was released the following year. Beetlejuice also starred Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder and Geena Davis. The film will not be a remake; the intention is to reboot it by advancing the storyline of the original, which was done by The Geffen Company and Warner Bros.
The Warner Bros producing deal grew from the screenwriting work that Grahame-Smith did for Burton on Dark Shadows, currently in production with Johnny Depp heading the cast. While Warner Bros and other studios continue to cut back producing pacts, in KatzSmith the studio gets two partners who while just getting started producing features bring a lot of their own ideas to the table and are established writers and aspiring feature directors.
“We first got to know Seth through his fantastic work on Dark Shadows, and it immediately became a priority to expand our relationship with … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: James Franco will star with Winona Ryder in The Stare, a Jay Anania-directed film that is the first project funded by Waterstone Entertainment, a new producing/financing company formed by producer Jeff Kalligheri and Texas real estate developer and producer Steve Bowen.
Waterstone intends to generate projects it develops and has several other projects percolating, including two that will be produced by Franco (one he’ll direct) and his Rabbit Bandini partner Vince Jolivette. Waterstone’s core business will be to build a distribution business through a partnership it will strike with an independent distributor, Kalligheri said. Waterstone will put up minimum guarantees on films, and will also be looking for structured finance opportunities on films that are in the works. Kalligheri said he will be meeting with potential strategic partner distributors at Cannes, with Waterstone repped by Gersh’s head of Packaging and Finance, Jay Cohen. Bowen has funded several projects but no hits and is looking to step it up. Kalligheri had most recently been president of production at Queen Nefertari Productions, which had been been developing Adrenaline for Entourage’s Kevin Connolly to direct. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Tim Burton is going to familiar people to voice cast Frankenweenie, Burton’s stop motion animated Disney feature based on his 1984 short about a man who reanimates his dog after it gets hit by a car. Burton has set Winona Ryder (Edward Scissorhands and Beetle Juice) to play the role of Elsa, and Martin Landau (his Oscar-winning portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood) to provide the voice of Mr. Rzykruski. Martin Short (Mars Attacks!) and Catherine O’Hara (Beetle Juice and A Nightmare Before Christmas) take on the voices of five characters each. Short plays Bob, Nassor, Toshiaki, Victor’s Dad and Mr. Bergermeister. O’Hara voices Edgar, Weird Girl, Victor’s Mom, and Gym Teacher. Scripted by John August, the pic’s slated for release by Walt Disney Pictures on March 9, 2012.
Darren Aronofsky’s ballet psychological thriller will open the 67th Venice International Film Festival on September 1. Natalie Portman stars as a ballerina who finds herself locked in a web of competitive intrigue with new rival Mila Kunis. Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder also star in the Fox Searchlight release. Aronofsky won the Golden Lion two years ago for The Wrestler. This year’s Venice – reckoned to be one of the top three festivals in the world with Cannes and Berlin – runs from September 1-11.