EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has re-upped Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner through 2015. This comes after the studio re-upped Imagine Entertainment in January, keeping the studio’s most tenured production companies in the fold. Like Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley did with Imagine, Working Title’s deal has been scaled back; instead of exclusive, it is now a first-look deal. The Working Title pact was due to expire next year. Working Title’s films at the studio have grossed $4.25 billion since they began with Universal in 1999, and Bevan and Fellner bring a British sensibility and a supply of prestige to the studio. The re-up comes at a time when Working Title will release two high profile awards season films in late 2012: the Tom Hooper-directed Les Miserables, and the Joe Wright-directed Anna Karenina, the latter of which will be released by Focus Features.
“Working Title has been an invaluable partner for Universal with our two companies enjoying tremendous success on films that have delighted audiences all over the world,” Fogelson and Langley said. “Tim and Eric are true leaders in the global production space which gives us more of an opportunity to be in business with some of the best international talent and we’re thrilled to be extending our partnership.”
Said Bevan and Fellner, “We are delighted to be continuing our relationship with … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The Full Monty helmer Peter Cattaneo is in talks to direct Bridget Jones’s Baby, the Universal Pictures/Working Title sequel that brings back Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Shooting begins early next year. The directing assignment has been open since early October, when Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig stepped away after working on the most recent script draft. At the time, the feeling was that the Helen Fielding novels and film series has an inherently British sensibility that made it better suited for a British helmer. Cattaneo fits that bill and has been circling the project for some time. Fielding wrote the script with Feig and David Nicholls. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Little Bird Films’ Jonathan Cavendish. Cattaneo is repped by UTA and UK-based Independent Talent Group.
In its second full development cycle, Working Title Television has sold six series projects in broadcast and cable. This is the largest slate in the 21-month history of the TV production company, a joint venture between NBCUniversal International and Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner that in July tapped Daniel Pipski as its new head. Four of Working Title TV’s six projects are at NBC and Universal Television, which have a first-look deal with the company through the joint venture arrangement: dramas We, The Potters written by David Sussman, McMafia written by Matt Johnson & John Turman and Gypsy Tea Room written by Chris Monger, and comedy My Nuclear Family penned by Lucy Dahl. Universal TV also produces The Outside Man, a light drama Working Title TV has in the works at NBCU’s flagship cable network USA with Matt Johnson and John Turman writing. The company’s remaining project, thriller drama Off The Grid, was set up at ABC before the recent relaunch of the former NBC production arm as a full-fledged studio producing for all networks, so it will be shepherded through ABC Studios. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Working Title Films will need a new director for Bridget Jones 3, and I hear they want a Brit. Paul Feig has withdrawn after developing the most recent draft of the script with the intention to direct. I’m told that both sides agreed it didn’t work out and that maybe this is just a quintessential British comedy that needs a British sensibility. They will set a director soon as they are still slated to start production in January, with Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant all eager to return.
Feig has enough to keep him busy at Universal, where he just directed the sleeper hit Bridesmaids. He’s got two projects there including an untitled comedy that he’s writing to direct for producer Judd Apatow, with the hope that Jon Hamm will play a guy obsessed with a woman who’ll be played by Melissa McCarthy. That certainly puts much of the Bridesmaids team together, and it will have to do until the studio figures out a way to get moving on a Bridesmaids sequel after the first one grossed $286 million worldwide on a $32 million budget. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Pipski has been named head of Working Title Television, the joint venture between NBCUniversal International and U.K.-based Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. He replaces Shelley McCrory, who had served as Working Title TV president since the company’s launch in early 2010. Pipski has history with Working Title Films, where he started his career in 1999, eventually rising to VP. He went on to serve as SVP production of Sean Bailey, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Live Planet and Michael London’s Groundswell Prods. and, most recently, as producer for Andrew Lauren Prods. At Live Planet, Pipski helped developed Enemies and Marlowe, both of which went to pilot at ABC. Since its launch, Working Title TV has landed a series order for Love Bites at NBC and has three projects at the BBC: Birdsong, an adaptation of the Sebastian Faulks novel; The Borrowers; and Love in London, starring David Tennant and Rosamund Pike. “We are delighted to welcome Daniel back into the Working Title fold,” said Fellner, Working Title’s co-chairman. “He started his career with us in 1999 and immediately proved himself a star. His taste and relationships are impeccable, and he will be the perfect person to lead our charge into the television arena.”
BREAKING: Looks like Universal Pictures has won the battle for the next film to be directed by Oscar-winning The King’s Speech helmer Tom Hooper. The dealmaking has started for Hooper to direct Les Miserables, a full-blown musical adaptation of the Cameron Mackintosh-produced perennial stage hit. This is the first film he’s begun negotiations on since winning the Oscar, but insiders in Hooper’s camp stopped short of saying it would definitively be his next film. I hear that’s how it will work out.
Mackintosh is producing with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and Bill Nicholson has written the script. The intention is to begin production before year’s end, somewhere in Europe. After the success of The King’s Speech — a $13 million budget film that could reach $450 million worldwide gross when it’s through — Hooper had been widely courted for his next slot. The Weinstein Company tempted him with Tulip Fever, and I’m told there was talk of an adaptation of Macbeth, among others. Hooper was tempted instead to film the musical adaptation of the 1862 Victor Hugo novel, the struggle by ex-con Jean Valjean to outrun his past and his relentless pursuer Javert. The musical, which opened in London in 1985, features such songs as I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, and Bring Him Home. It is certainly a different film from Universal’s stage musical foray … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired domestic distribution rights to Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy, the Tomas Alfredson-directed adaptation of the John Le Carre novel that stars Gary Oldman, freshly minted Oscar winner Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds. The rights were held by Studiocanal, and the film was produced by Working Title. Universal is eyeing a November or December release for the picture, which is in post production. Script was written by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan.
The project was one of the hottest titles shopped in Berlin, where buyers watched several minutes of footage and read the script for Afredson’s follow-up to Let the Right One In. I’m told that Universal, through its first look deal with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, had a first look that it initially didn’t exercise. Then the picture got hot, with The Weinstein Company and Summit Entertainment chasing it hard. I’ve heard the bidding was in the vicinity of $5 million for domestic rights before Universal swooped in and took the project off the table. Studiocanal, which fully financed the film, will distribute in the UK, France and Germany and is handling international sales throughout the rest of the world. Bevan and Fellner produce with Robyn Slovo, with Liza Chasin, Le Carre, Peter Morgan, Douglas Urbanski and Debra Hayward exec producing.
… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: As his new film Unknown gets its international premiere in Berlin today and rolls out in U.S. theaters, director Jaume Collet-Serra is making a deal to direct Red Circle, the remake of the 1970 Jean-Pierre Melville-directed Le Cercle Rouge. The film is being written by Eastern Promises scribe Steven Knight for Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who’ll produce with Arthur Sarkissian.
Collet-Serra was just at the center of a Warner Bros deal for Harker, a potential franchise he’ll direct that focuses on vampire hunter Jonathan Harker character from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with Leonardo DiCaprio among its producers. The director’s stock is up because with Unknown, he delivered a thriller in the $30 million range that, like Liam Neeson’s Taken, was shot outside the U.S. and is geared to do strong business overseas in addition to its domestic gross. The heist film Red Circle has similar potential, as it will be set in Hong Kong. Collet-Serra hasn’t fixed on his next feature assignment. When he returns from Berlin, he will go right to work directing The River, the ABC series thriller pilot hatched by Paranormal Activity‘s Oren Peli. Collet-Serra’s repped by CAA.
EXCLUSIVE: Working Title Films has landed screen rights to The Snowman, the Jo Nesbo novel that is the latest in a bestselling detective series that has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. The book is currently at the top of the UK bestseller lists and will be published by Knopf in the US next spring. Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce, and the author and Niclas Salomonsson will be executive producers. The author, who has turned down numerous film offers for the book, was repped in the deal by Sylvie Rabineau and Salomonsson. The book is set on Oslo and is the latest in a mystery series revolving around detective Harry Hole. A woman is missing and her pink scarf turns up as an accessory that has been wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman that someone has built nearby. As the detective investigates, it appears it might be the work of a serial killer. It’s the seventh novel in the Harry Hole series for Nesbo. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The young British director has just come off directing the This Is England TV series for Channel 4. Working Title is planning to shoot Lost For Words in January. Tom Cruise was going to play the lead at one point after Hugh Grant dropped out. Susanne Bier was set to direct. I’m hearing Working Title is rebooting with a younger cast. Lost For Words follows a movie star approached to star in a film by a Chinese director; after flirting with her translator, he falls for her director. The script is by Richard Curtis and his brother Jamie. Tim Bevan, co-chair of Working Title, tells me: “We are very excited about taking this back to roots and getting an exciting young director and British cast for a modestly budgeted Richard Curtis and WT romantic comedy.”
EXCLUSIVE: Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have made a deal to turn Kurt Busiek’s graphic novel series Astro City into a live action feature. The deal gives the prolific comic book writer Busiek his first chance to write the script. Launched in 1995, the series has a Sin City anthology vibe, set in a world crammed with superheros and super-villains. Stories are told from the vantage point of those heroes and villains, as well as the humans who get caught between them. Heroes range from Samaritan, The Hanged Man, The Apollo Eleven–a group of astronauts mutated during a moon landing–to Winged Beauty, a feisty feminist who always saves women first. The series has won multiple Eisner and Harvey Awards for Busiek, who created the series with artists Brent Anderson and Alex Ross.
Aside from his own comic creations, Busiek has written for Marvel Comics staples like Iron Man, The Avengers and Spider-Man, and for DC Comics on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. He continues writing new installments of Astro City, but is also working with Alex Ross on a revival of Jack Kirby’s concepts, and Busiek is launching his own urban fantasy series The Witchlands. The deal, brokered by Mosaic’s Nick Harris, is worth seven-figures if the film gets made. Bevan and Fellner will produce, with Ben Barenholtz, Busiek and Jonathan Alpers exec producing. The latter trio took a crack at a movie version in 2003, but … Read More »