EXCLUSIVE: Enid Blyton has been called the JK Rowling of her time. The English writer who was born in 1897 is one of the biggest selling children’s authors in history with global sales of over 600M books. One of her most iconic series is The Famous Five, and I hear Working Title has just acquired theatrical rights to the full library. That includes over 20 novels which center on the adventures of a group of four young children and their dog Timmy. I understand the plan is to launch a live-action franchise based on the books, the first of which was published in 1942 under the title Five On A treasure Island. The deal was sealed with publisher Hodder, a subsidiary of Hachette which owns the Blyton estate.
This is spiffing news for Working Title which is understood to be out to directors and on a fast-tracked development schedule. A first live-action family-friendly epic adventure film would feature the kids as well as eyeing star cameos in the various adult roles. The books all take place during summer vacations when the friends return from boarding school and get mixed up in an adventure. Working Title has a history with family brands that include the Nanny McPhee and Johnny English films. The Famous Five series will look to tap into a similar space as the Tintin and … Read More »
Here’s one to get the Comic-Con crowd going as things ramp up in San Diego. I’m hearing that Edgar Wright has found his next film, after stepping away from Marvel’s Ant-Man. Wright’s looking to next direct Baby Driver for Working Title Films. The project, which Wright wrote, is described to me as a collision of crime, action, music and sound. That sounds like a close cousin to the Cornetto Trilogy of films that Wright did at Working Title, but at this point at least, it doesn’t appear that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are part of this. They made the three comedies World’s End, Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead together. Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Nira Park. This is all happening on a fast track, and I will keep you posted as more details emerge. It isn’t at a studio yet, but Working Title’s deal is at Universal and so it seems natural that the film will be made there or by Focus Features, which released World’s End. CAA and Anonymous Content rep Wright.
Shooting has just started on Legend, the Working Title period gangster pic that sees Tom Hardy step into dual roles as the infamous Kray twins Ronnie and Reggie. Studiocanal, which is fully financing, nearly sold out on the Brian Helgeland-scripted and directed film in Cannes. Cross Creek has North America on Legend which will go out via Universal through its distribution deal with the studio. Release is expected in late 2015. Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri, Tara Fitzgerald and Taron Egerton have also been confirmed in the cast of the film that follows the rise and fall of the notorious London gangsters in the 50s and 60s. It’s based on John Pearson’s book The Profession Of Violence. Check out the versatile Hardy as Reggie and Ronnie:
EXCLUSIVE: After teaming with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner on Les Miserables, director Tom Hooper and actor Eddie Redmayne are reuniting with them on The Danish Girl, a film inspired by the novel written by David Ebershoff. The film is a love story about Danish painters Einar Wegener and his wife Gerda. In 1930, Wegener was one of the first men ever to undergo operations to become a woman.
Hooper, who won the Best Picture Oscar for The King’s Speech, hasn’t declared a follow to Les Miserables. He’s attached to direct this, and Redmayne will play the artist in what will be a most challenging role. Lucinda Coxon adapted the screenplay. Gail Mutrux developed the film and will produce through her Pretty Pictures banner alongside Anne Harrison and Linda Reisman. Working Title’s Fellner and Bevan will produce with Hooper. Hooper’s repped by ICM Partners and Independent Talent Group in the UK, and Redmayne is repped by CAA and manager Gene Parseghian.
EXCLUSIVE: Sofia Coppola is negotiating to direct The Little Mermaid, a live-action version of the classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale for Universal Pictures and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Caroline Thompson of Edward Scissorhands fame is rewriting the script, about the mermaid willing to make a Faustian bargain to live on land after she falls in love. Previous drafts were done by Fifty Shades Of Grey scribe Kelly Marcel and Shame scribe Abi Morgan, and Joe Wright was at one time eyeing this to direct.
The intention is to move quickly. This is a departure for Coppola in that her projects are usually focused on adult themes. She’s got kids and it wouldn’t be shocking if she wanted to please them with a movie they can see and understand. Working Title is currently in production on Everest, the drama about the climbing disaster. The director is repped by ICM Partners and attorney Barry Hirsch. ICM also reps Thompson. Coppola last helmed The Bling Ring.
EXCLUSIVE: Cross Creek and Walden Media are backing the $65 million Working Title feature for Universal, which Baltasar Kormakur is directing. Everest stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers, Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, and John Hawkes as Doug Hansen. Shooting starts January 13 in the Dolomites in Italy and will continue in Nepal and Iceland.
This is one of two studio-backed films titled Everest — the other being the Doug Liman-helmed pic for Sony. And on Monday, Fox landed a 10-part event series from Alcon Entertainment about a group of hikers trying to hike Mount Everest. Working Title’s feature, produced by the company’s partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, was weathering a storm just a few weeks ago, after Emmett/Furla Films had exited as co-financier and the producers were trying to secure new funding. The pic is based on the disastrous 1996 attempt to scale the world’s tallest mountain. Three different expeditions were hit by a sudden blinding storm, resulting in the deaths of eight climbers. The film will be sourced from various books and interviews with survivors. Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson will join Bevan and Fellner as producers.
Now it’s a race to the top … Read More »
Deadline told you exclusively in July that Stephen Frears would be directing Ben Foster in a movie about disgraced Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong for Working Title. Now, they’ve finally confirmed all this and that Studio Canal will fully fund the untitled project for an October 18 start date. Foster will be joined by Chris O’Dowd, who’ll play journalist David Walsh. Guillaume Canet and Breaking Bad‘s Jesse Plemons have key supporting roles. Trance‘s John Hodge wrote the screenplay based on sportswriter Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit Of Lance Armstrong. The film charts Armstrong’s rise through the 1990s and early 2000s, his battle with cancer and his dominance of pro cycling. It also follows Walsh who was at first charmed by Armstrong, but ultimately became an integral figure in exposing the doping rife within the sport.
Related: Ben Foster To Play Lance Armstrong
Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing as is longtime Frears collaborator Tracey Seaward — who most recently worked with the director on Philomena — and Kate Solomon (United 93, Green Zone). Working Title’s Liza Chasin and Amelia Granger will executive produce. Studiocanal is distributing in its own territories and will kick off international sales at the AFM.
They are in a race … Read More »
Kate Fasulo is joining Miriam Segal’s UK indie Good Films after 10 years at Working Title. There, the exec recently completed work on Richard Curtis’ About Time and Hossein Amini’s upcoming The Two Faces Of January. She will oversee Good Films’ six-feature slate which includes the adaptation of LAbyrinth, Randall Sullivan’s 2002 book that chronicles detective Russell Poole’s late-1990s investigation into ties between hip-hop, street gangs and the LAPD. The company and its packaging and development label, George Films, are working on pictures with budgets that range from $10M-$52M. The rest of the slate includes crime thriller Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Swedish author Liza Marklund and Peter Godwin’s When A Crocodile Eats The Sun. The company has a long-term international sales pact with Glen Basner’s FilmNation. Fasulo starts work at Good Films later this month.
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. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke are in discussions to star in Everest, a mountain climbing disaster film that The Deep helmer Baltasar Kormakur will direct. He’s the one that’s putting the cast together and is aiming for a November shooting start. Universal Pictures and Emmett/Furla Films are in discussions to co-finance the project. Kormakur already has worked with Universal and Emmett/Furla’ Randall Emmett and George Furla: He directed 2 Guns starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg that Uni releases August 2. Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce Everest, based on the 1996 disastrous expedition to scale Mount Everest. Three different expeditions were hit by a sudden blinding storm and by the time it was all over, eight climbers died. The tale was first made famous by Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, his first-person account of being among the lucky ones to make it back down the mountain. This film will be sourced from various books and interviews with survivors.
Here’s the U.S. trailer for the Edgar Wright-directed The World’s End, the third film that teams him with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hellbent on trying a marathon pub crawl in their hometown, 20 years after attempting the last one. But the old stomping grounds have changed — a lot — since they were last there. Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Rosamund Pike co-star. Pegg co-wrote the script for the Working Title comedy. Focus Features releases in the U.S. on August 23, a month after the film’s UK debut July 19.
About Time stars Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander and Margot Robbie and was written and directed by Love Actually‘s Richard Curtis. The Universal/Working Title pic centers on a young man (Gleeson) who learns he can travel through time. But as he finds his true love (McAdams) and sets off on their life together, he discovers his gift has its complications too. The movie’s platform release date is November 1 before going wide the next weekend.
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. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Working Title UK has acquired Dunkirk, a spec script by Gavin Scott that has Oliver Parker attached to direct. The script chronicles the courage of British civilians, men and women who used small boats to cross the English Channel and rescue 200,000 British troops and 140,000 French troops from the advancing Germans. Dunkirk was one of the battles that changed the course of WWII. Scott wrote the script and brought to Parker, whose credits include Dorian Gray, and Johnny English Reborn. Scott’s script work includes Small Soldiers and The Borrowers and series that include Young Indiana Jones. He’s currently teamed with Terry Jones on an adaptation of Good Omens, the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett comic novel. He and Jones also scripted Absolutely Anything, which Jones is directing with his Monty Python mates and Robin Williams. Scott is repped by Original Artists in the US and Linda Seifert Management in the UK, and Parker is repped by Independent Talent Group.
Working Title is developing holiday film School For Santas as a vehicle for actor James Corden. The movie will reteam Corden with One Man, Two Guvnors playwright Richard Bean who is scripting. A director has yet to be named. School For Santas follows a down-on-his-luck dad who needs to find his inner Father Christmas to win back his kids. Shooting will take place next year in New York and London. Corden won a Best Actor Tony Award for One Man, Two Guvnors earlier this year. Since then, the Gavin & Stacey co-creator and star has booked roles in Keira Knightley pic Can A Song Save Your Life? and in David Frankel’s One Chance, playing Paul Potts, the British cell phone salesman who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2007. Kick-Ass producer Kris Thykier is producing School For Santas and One Chance.
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.
Related: Toronto Oscar Talk: Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’ And Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’
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.
Related: ‘Looper’, ‘On The Road’, Marion Cotillard Kick Off Festival Packed With Oscar Hopefuls
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). Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Working Title has attached Saoirse Ronan to play the title role in Mary Queen Of Scots, a Michael Hirst-scripted period drama. Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are already talking to directors, and aim to begin production next year.
Crowned the queen of Scotland before she was a year old, Mary added to that pedigree when her first husband became France’s king and she became queen consort in 1559. Despite that auspicious start, things didn’t go well from there. She later married her first cousin, a bad match that ended with his murder. When she quickly married the man suspected of orchestrating the killing, an uprising against the couple resulted in her imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. Forced to abdicate her throne to her year-old son, she failed in an attempt to wrest back the throne and fled for the protection of her cousin, England’s Queen Elizabeth 1. If you’ve seen Elizabeth or any movie about that period, you know how well that worked out for Mary, who’d once claimed to be the rightful queen of England, a view embraced by Catholics. Once she was perceived as a threat by her cousin, Mary was confined and ultimately executed for complicity in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth.
It becomes another high profile project for Working Title, which wrapped the Joe Wright-directed Anna Karenina, with script by Tom Stoppard and Keira Knightley and … Read More »