EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Stephen Frears‘ Lance Armstrong movie is further along than I thought. I’m told that Ben Foster is already in final talks to play Armstrong in the film, which was scripted by Trainspotting’s John Hodge and covers Armstrong’s career from his cancer ordeal to the scandal that brought him down. Always a good actor, Foster has a lot of momentum coming into what could be a careermaking role. He will next be seen in two films that premiered at Sundance, IFC’s Ain’t Them Body Saints and Sony Pictures Classics’ Kill Your Darlings. Foster, who last spring made his Broadway debut opposite Alec Baldwin in Orphans, stars opposite Mark Wahlberg in the Peter Berg-directed Navy SEAL saga Lone Survivor, which Universal releases December 27. The hope is to begin production on the Armstrong film this fall. He is repped by WME, Hodge by United Agents. Still no official comment from reps or Working Title.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 10:19 AM: Director Stephen Frears, in Hollywood promoting his HBO film Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight at TCA, is moving fast on another fact-based movie based on an iconic athlete. I’m told that Frears and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have teamed up on a feature film on the doping scandal that enveloped the Tour de France and led to the downfall of 7-time champion Lance Armstrong in the biggest doping scandal in the history of sports. I’m still trying to get all the details, but they are eyeing a start as soon as this fall on the movie. That makes Frears a surprise entry in a crowded field, and that doesn’t even factor in a Sony Pictures Classics deal this week to release the documentary The Armstrong Lie.
EXCLUSIVE: After crushing it on Les Miserables, Eddie Redmayne is being fought over for his next lead role. I heard that he’s going to land on Theory Of Everything, and that he’ll play physicist Stephen Hawking in the film that Working Title is fast assembling with director James Marsh, who shared the Best Documentary Oscar for Man On Wire. The film focus is on the relationship between Hawking and his wife and it marks a re-team of the actor and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner from Les Miserables. They are actively discussing the female lead, with an early fall start being eyed. Redmayne has also been courted to star with Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts in the Thomas Vinterberg-directed Far From The Madding Crowd, but I believe that his priority is the Hawking project written by Anthony McCarten. It is a potential tour de force role as Hawking, who has achieved so much despite his affliction with ALS. This opens the opportunity for the kind of work Daniel Day-Lewis turned in in My Left Foot and Mathieu Amalric in The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.
BREAKING: StudioCanal has filed suit against Universal Pictures alleging failure to honor fiduciary and contractual responsibilities in their longtime joint venture to fund movies produced by Working Title Films. StudioCanal says Universal owes “tens of millions of dollars and likely much more” as a result of an October 2012 audit of the joint venture’s development and overhead expenses on six of 44 movies made through the joint venture. The audit of the expenses, which according to the suit were managed by Universal, revealed that it had hidden certain off-balance sheet financing arrangements and misreported ancillary revenue from music publishing and other sources. The suit (read it here) also claims Universal double-charged the partnership for producing and other fees paid to Working Title without StudioCanal’s approval and deducted millions of dollars in unsubstantiated expenses before reporting results to StudioCanal. ”
StudioCanal says it has attempted unsuccessfully to discuss the audit and claims with Universal. StudioCanal executives flew to LA from Paris in late October for what they believed based on emails was a scheduled meeting with Universal’s team to discuss the situation. When they arrived, the Universal execs claimed they didn’t know anything about such plans, according to the suit. After that meeting Universal stopped providing accounting statements and payments, and StudioCanal alleges that subsequent attempts to communicate with Universal have proved similarly fruitless: “Universal is behaving as if its partner StudioCanal does not even exist”. The suit says Universal’s lack of cooperation has forced StudioCanal to litigate the matter.
LOS ANGELES, CA (November 14, 2012) – The Producers Guild of America (PGA) is pleased to announce that Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, co-chairmen of Working Title Films, will receive the 2013 David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures. The award recognizes a producer’s, or a producing team’s, outstanding body of work and is the PGA’s highest honor for motion picture producers. Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will be presented the award at the 24th Annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony on Saturday, January 26th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.
Tolstoy as re-imagined by Joe Wright and Tom Stoppard came to the Toronto International Film Festival in a big way Friday night as Focus Features’ adaptation of Anna Karenina made its North American debut. “They gave us a nice little standing ovation,” said a modest Wright who told me at the Soho House after-party this film means so much to him that he doesn’t know how he is going to follow it. He had great success early in his directing career with Oscar nominees like Pride & Prejudice and Atonement (which both featured his Anna Karenina star Keira Knightley) but then detoured to different kinds of films like The Soloist and action flick Hanna. Now that he’s back in this literary space he can appreciate the success more, he says.
Wright came up with the concept of staging the story in a theatre and then moving it in and out of that setting. It’s a unique and risky idea but really pays off in the execution. As Focus Features chief James Schamus told me, “This film is ravishing to look at.” A couple of critics have been naysayers but Schamus isn’t concerned about them. He says most will get it. Schamus plans an aggressive platform release strategy after the November 16th opening and should be relatively wide by December. Focus hopes it will draw upscale audiences who flock to this sort of thing but also younger women who may relate to the plight of Anna and the young actors cast here. It premiered in England earlier in the week and opens there this weekend.
This Anna Karenina certainly is a lot different than the version MGM and Greta Garbo served up in the 1930s. Wright’s bold concept of losing some of the naturalism and putting it in a theatrical setting wasn’t in Stoppard’s script – and he had to convince the writer it was the way to go. But in the end it all worked out. He said the premiere at Toronto’s classic Elgin theatre was almost surreal since it looked like the theatre-in-the-film-in-a-theatre. It’s an instant contender for a Best Picture, Director and Screenplay slot. Knightley’s go-for-broke work is likely to land her in the Best Actress race again, and producers also hope Jude Law as her husband gets attention in the supporting category. Pic also can easily expect Oscar nominations in numerous categories including the cinematography of Seamus McGarvey, production design of Sarah Greenwood, costume design of Jacqueline Durran, and musical score of Dario Marianelli (who is already an Oscar winner for Atonement).
Simon Baker, Rafe Spall and Stephen Merchant also star in the comedy from Studiocanal and Working Title. The companies today announced a February 14, 2013 UK release date for the Dan Mazer-scripted film about a young couple in their first year of marriage. Principal photography starts at the end of April in London. Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Kris Thykier are producers with Debra Hayward and Liza Chasin exec producing. This is Mazer’s feature directing debut; he’s best known for collaborating with Sacha Baron Cohen as a writer/producer dating back to the days of Da Ali G Show and through to the upcoming The Dictator (in which Faris also stars). In a statement, Mazer said: “I am utterly thrilled to have the opportunity to make my directorial debut supported by such outstanding producers and a brilliant cast. I consider myself blessed to unequivocally be the weakest link in the whole equation. I am foolish enough to make a film where I am unable as a director
It’s official: Atonement director Joe Wright and star Keira Knightley are reteaming for Anna Karenina, the Working Title films adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel that was written by Tom Stoppard. The film will be distributed by Focus Features in the U.S. and Universal Pictures International worldwide sometime in the second half of 2012. Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Paul Webster; the trio were 2008 Oscar nominees as producers of Atonement.