Lightbox and XBox Studios earned a ton of press this weekend when an excavation crew unearthed hundreds of buried cartridges of Atari‘s 1982 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial video game in a dumpsite in Alamogordo, N.M. The archaeological discovery confirmed a long-held legend in the gaming world that Atari had buried millions of unsold units of what’s believed to be one of the worst games ever made when it tanked over 30 years ago. Saturday’s dig was filmed for a docu directed by Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, Incident at Loch Ness) and produced by Oscar-winning docu producer Simon Chinn (Searching for Sugar Man, Man On Wire) and his cousin, Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn (American High) for their Lightbox banner. Fuel Entertainment obtained the rights to excavate the landfill. Docu series Atari: Game Over is set to air this year on Xbox One and Xbox 360. Just how bad was the E.T. game, famously rushed into production to capitalize off of Steven Spielberg’s hit blockbuster?
Len Wiseman (Total Recall, Sleepy Hollow) is set to direct Black Chapter, about an FBI agent drawn into a top secret military program in which spies train in paranormal abilities. Skydance Productions is co-financing and producing the science fiction thriller, scripted by Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand) from a story conjured up by Penn and Wiseman. “Black Chapter is a science fiction story that draws from our own history,” said Len Wiseman. “I’ve always been fascinated by the mysteries surrounding the CIA’s astral projection program during its MK-ULTRA era. What if those experiments had actually worked? Would we even know?” Wiseman will also produce for his Sketch Films banner alongside Skydance’s David Ellison and Dana Goldberg. Skydance’s Paul Schwake is exec producing alongside David Bernardi for Sketch Films. Wiseman is repped by CAA and Behr & Abramson. Penn is repped by CAA and McKuin Frankel Whitehead, LLP.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has bought an untitled science fiction pitch hatched by Chris Morgan and Zak Penn. Penn will write and direct, and Morgan will produce.
It’s described as an action film in the vein of Chronicle, the Josh Trank-directed supernatural sleeper hit for Fox. Morgan will produce through his Chris Morgan Productions, the Universal-based shingle from which Morgan wrote and is producing The Fast And The Furious 6. Read More »
Zak Penn has scripted superhero movies like X-Men: The Last Stand, The Incredible Hulk and Electra and has the story-by credit for the upcoming The Avengers. Now he is creating his own superhero for comic books: Avatar Press said Penn’s series Hero Worship will launch in July. The six issues will be co-written with Star Wars: The Clone Wars screenwriter Scott Murphy and drawn by Michael DiPascale. It centers on Zenith, an indestructible hero who has legions of fans following every disaster, trying to catch a glimpse of the ultimate celebrity and risking their own lives in the process. One of his fans becomes so obsessed it leads to the development of his own powers. Penn is the co-creator of Syfy’s Alphas, which has been renewed for a second season to premiere this year.
EXCLUSIVE: Star Trek veteran Ira Steven Behr has joined Syfy’s newly picked up series Alphas as executive producer/showrunner. Alphas, from BermanBraun, Universal Cable Prods. and writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow, stars David Strathairn and follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. Behr will serve as an executive producer alongside Penn and BermanBraun’s Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein. The series’ 90-minute pilot was directed by Lost director-producer Jack Bender. Behr has an extensive sci-fi background. He worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. On Deep Space Nine, he rose to executive producer/showrunner and wrote a total of 53 episodes, more than any other numbers. Behr also served as executive producer/showrunner on USA’s sci-fi drama The 4400 as well as on the second season of Starz’s series Crash, based on the Oscar-winning feature. Syfy had ordered 2 pilots set in the world of real-life superheros, Alphas and 3 Inches. Alphas has been picked up to series while 3 Inches is being reworked and remains in contention.
It is usually a great problem for networks to have when all the pilots they’ve orderered come in strong. But, in the case of Syfy’s similarly-themed Alphas and Three Inches, it created a dilemma. Syfy had been looking to launch a series set in the world of real-life superheroes. To increase its chances of success, the network ordered two such pilots, Alphas and Three Inches, “that were slightly different in tone but very similar in subject matter,” said Syfy EVP original content Mark Stern. Alphas, from BermanBraun, in-house studio UCP, writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow and director Jack Bender, stars David Strathairn and follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. Three Inches, from writer Harley Peyton, director Jace Alexander and Fox TV Studios, centers on an underachiever (Noah Reid) who can move any object three inches with his mind and recruits a team of fellow heroes. The hope was for one of the pilots to become a series.
Instead, unexpectedly for everyone at the network, “we found ourselves with 2 pilots that we loved,” Stern said. “They were both excellent and tested very well. Ultimately it came down to which pilot would work best as an hourlong franchise. We thought they both did but felt Alphas had a little bit more potential for that.”
So Syfy on Tuesday gave Alphas an 11-episode series pickup. But it is not giving up on Three Inches just yet and is looking … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: David Strathairn is in negotiations for the lead in SyFy’s action-adventure 90-minute pilot Alphas, directed by Jack Bender. Additionally, Ryan Cartwright is set to co-star in the pilot, from BermanBraun and writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. Alphas follows a team of ordinary citizens possessing extraordinary and unusual mental skills who take the law into their own hands and uncover what the CIA, FBI and Pentagon have not been able or willing to solve. ICM-repped Strathairn would play the overseer/team leader/prescribing doctor and all around mother hen to the team: an eccentric, absent-minded professor at times, who is also a cunning and manipulative power-player willing to bend the rules in pursuit of his objectives. Cartwright will play a member of the team who has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. His Alpha ability allows him to “read” wireless transmissions passing through the ether – e-mails, cell phone communications, television signals, etc. Read More »