EXCLUSIVE: This was a very competitive signing, with all major agencies pursuing the Downton Abbey star who didn’t have an U.S. agency representation. WME will represent Michelle Dockery in all areas. Dockery’s role as Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey, which returns for Season 4 on PBS January 5, earned the British actress two Emmy nominations and a Golden Globes nom. Dockery will next be seen in Universal’s Non-Stop, and she was just tapped to play Sir Ben Kingsley’s daughter in Self/Less for Focus. On stage, Dockery earned a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for her role in the play Burnt By The Sun. She continues to be managed by Sandra Chang at Anonymous Content and by Christian Hodell at Hamilton Hodell in the UK.
UPDATE, 10:51 AM: After the scathing lawsuit filed earlier this week against her by the producers of Jane Got A Gun, director Lynne Ramsay has responded. In a brief statement today, Ramsay’s reps says she hasn’t seen the suit yet but that from what has been reported, the claims in it are “simply false.” The director suddenly exited the Natalie Portman pic the weekend before filming was scheduled to start in New Mexico in March. If that wasn’t controversy enough, the breach of contract and fraud complaint (read more below) filed on in federal court on November 4 lashed out at Ramsay, calling her “abusive” and “disruptive.” The suit also goes after her for failing “to provide the writing and directing services” she was already paid $140,000 for before filming was set to start. Additionally, the suit alleges that Ramsay instructed her WME agents not to give the producers back the $360,000 that the agency is holding in escrow as part of her pay from the film. Ramsay was supposed to receive $750,000 for directing Jane Got A Gun plus bonuses. The complaint is seeking more than $500,000 in damages to be determined at trial. Here’s the full Ramsay statement from today:
Lynne Ramsay has not been served with this lawsuit and, when she is, she will respond in court and not in the media. That said, the allegations as recently reported are simply false. Lynne looks forward to presenting the truth about this situation in the proper forum.
PREVIOUSLY, NOV. 6 PM: She left the Natalie Portman Western in March before shooting was set to start and now the producers want Lynne Ramsay to pay up. More specifically, Jane Got A Gun Production, LLC wants an injunction to force Ramsay’s agency WME to give back $360,000 it claims is still being held in escrow as well as more than $500,000 in damages to be determined at trial. The breach of contract and fraud complaint (read it here) was filed earlier this week in federal court in New Mexico. Ramsay is the only defendant named in the filing that local station KRQE first reported. The producers, who include Scott Steindorff and Regency Boies, allege that under a contract agreed to in July 2012, Ramsay was initially paid $90,000 to direct the pic and $50,000 to fine-tune the Brian Duffield script. She was to receive $750,000 in total for her directing work on the pic plus 5% of adjusted gross and box office bonuses. Ramsay would have gotten another $25,000 for each Oscar or Golden Globe nomination the movie received and $50,000 more if it won one of those awards. However on location in New Mexico during early 2013 the complaint says the We Need To Talk About Kevin helmer “failed to provide the writing and directing services” on the film. The plaintiffs also claim that this “unreasonably delayed completion of a final budget for the Picture, and of the Picture itself.” Further more, they luridly allege in the 44-page complaint that Ramsay was “repeatedly under the influence of alcohol, was abusive to members of the cast and crew and was generally disruptive.” Portman herself and producer Aleen Keshishian are not party to the suit.
EXCLUSIVE: Hip-hop mogul, film and television producer and entrepreneur Russell Simmons has signed with WME for representation in all areas. He was at CAA. The representation shift follows the Def Jam founder’s decision earlier this year to move full time to Los Angeles to focus on building his film and TV businesses, run by Jake Stein and recently appointed Chris Conti, respectively. Under a two-year first-look deal at HBO, which Simmons inked in May, he is executive producing a high-profile new drama project from 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen.
Reporting from Jerusalem
With the TV business evolving at a rapid pace, Lionsgate COO of television, Sandra Stern, mused on Tuesday that “every generation is now 15 minutes old.” She made the remark on a panel here at Keshet’s Innovative TV Conference and was joined by eOne TV CEO John Morayniss and WME agent and partner Marc Korman. The execs discussed shifting paradigms, a potential talent shortage and the wisdom of remakes.
Business models are changing and “Everybody is looking around saying ‘How do we make noise?’” But “if you do good work, the audiences are going to find you,” Stern commented. Lionsgate’s Orange Is The New Black found a lot of love when it debuted on Netflix this summer. Morayniss noted that along with Netflix and other new entrants, there are “probably over 50 networks in the U.S. that are commissioning original scripted programming.” EOne is teamed with Discovery on Klondike, the net’s first original. “Good shows will rise to the top, there will be a market, and money will be made.”
Yet another Halloween-themed video, this time from the WME Motion Picture Department. It’s called ‘The Pitching Hour’ and I spent 5:47 minutes of my vacation watching it. I want that time back.
The sales market at the Toronto Film Festival was the healthiest and most vigorous that I can remember, certainly since that barren year when the prestige film bubble burst and the sole festival sale was the Tom Ford-directed A Single Man. During the first five days at least of this Toronto, there was deal action going into the wee hours of the morning. One quality, crowd-pleasing acquisition title after another un-spooled each night and then distributors were left trying to restrain themselves from going past their sober revenue projections as they tried to fill holes in 2014 slates.
At last count, around 28 Toronto films have sold in deals large and small, agents tell me. I thought the biggest challenge for sellers would be to get distributors to focus because of the inordinate amount of titles they launched into the Oscar race with lavish Toronto premieres. Instead, the biggest challenge for sellers, and buyers for that matter, was stamina. We are all getting older, and pretty much everyone was walking around like zombies after taking part Friday and Saturday in the fest’s biggest deals—Focus paying $7 million for world rights to the Jason Bateman-directed comedy Bad Words, and The Weinstein Company paying $7 million and $20 million in P&A for U.S. rights to the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life?
Dare I say that Toronto was the first seller’s market in as long as I can remember? I asked the top agents at the three most prolific deal making agencies if that was true. None of them were cocky enough to use the “S” word, but all three of them said they expect to clear their considerable inventories by the end of next week. Even if nothing got done until the time everyone but insomniacs are asleep.
EXCLUSIVE: WME plans to tap into ideas and stories from 155-year-old The Atlantic magazine and digital properties like TheAtlanticWire to create opportunities across the film, television, and digital space. The Atlantic has a monthly audience of about 30 million across through its print, digital and live platforms. The mag that has published the likes of Updike, Twain and Hemingway continues to showcase writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, who won this year’s National Magazine Award for Best Essay for “Fear Of A Black President”; James Fallows; Jeffrey Goldberg; Molly Ball; Alexis Madrigal; and Derek Thompson among others. Several articles have already been optioned for TV or film treatment including Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” (July/August 2012), Kate Bolick’s “All The Single Ladies” (November 2011), Hanna Rosin’s “The End Of Men” (July/Aug 2010), Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him!” (March 2008), and Don Peck’s “How A New Jobless Era Will Transform America” (March 2010).