7 Days of Deals
Ka-ching! Who’s signing on the dotted line this week
DEAL OF THE WEEK: What Shine-News Corp. Means for Liz News Corp.’s $663 million buy of Elisabeth Murdoch’s TV production company Shine Group is significant beyond the $357 million she stands to make in the deal. Those speculating about who will succeed News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who turns 80 in March, have noted that under the agreement, U.K.-based Liz won’t report to brother James — News Corp.’s Europe and Asia chief — as seemed logical. Instead, she will report to News Corp. deputy chairman Chase Carey and take a voting seat on the News board. Of course, the benefits to Liz, 42, go beyond money: The company she founded produces MasterChef, The Office and The Biggest Loser and has a footprint in 10 countries, making her the sole Murdoch offspring to have launched a company on her own, albeit with some blue-chip connections. While James grapples with the fallout from illegal phone-hacking at newspapers under his control and brother Lachlan appears to have severed his ties to the company, Liz returns as an heir triumphant — just the kind of leader the company might be looking for. — Mimi Turner
WHO’S LANDING PILOT’S PLUM ROLES: High-profile actors in demand for network projects
Broadcast-network pilot season is in full swing. As studios lock in lead actors, many projects, which heretofore consisted of nebulous one-sentence loglines, are beginning to take shape.
Friday Night Lights’ Adrianne Palicki (UTA, Anonymous Content, Myman Greenspan) snagged the lead in David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman reboot for NBC and Warner Bros. TV.
Tim Allen (WME, Messina Baker, Ziffren Brittenham), who hasn’t been seen on series television since Home Improvement ended in 1999, will headline writer Jack Burdett’s comedy for ABC. Originally conceived as a sitcom about a man named Tim navigating a world dominated by women, the ABC Studios and 21 Laps/Adelstein Productions project will get a makeover consistent with Allen’s comedy, sources say.
Maria Bello (CAA, John Carrabino, Myman Greenspan), who passed on NBC’s adaptation of the hit U.K. series Prime Suspect during last year’s pilot season, has agreed to take the gig this season.
Patrick Wilson (CAA, Hansen Jacobson), who passed on multiple projects this season, including NBC’s hot 1960s-set Playboy, has settled on the lead in the CBS medical drama from Erin Brockovich writer Susannah Grant, to be directed by Jonathan Demme.
Kat Dennings (CAA, Management 360, Sloane Offer) will reunite with Sex and the City producer Michael Patrick King on comedian Whitney Cummings’ Two Broke Girls for CBS. She’s the first “broke girl” cast in the multicamera comedy about two waitresses in a Brooklyn diner.
Eric Roberts (ICM, Eric Teitelbaum, McKuin Frankel) will headline the ABC drama pilot Grace, playing a womanizing dance choreographer — a role somewhat reminiscent of Vincent Cassel’s in Black Swan.
Christine Lahti (ICM, Management 360) will topline the Warner Bros. TV drama The Doctor for CBS. The former Chicago Hope star will play the title character, who reconnects with her adult children when she joins the family medical practice. Prolific pilot director David Nutter will helm.
Jason Isaacs (Gersh, the Collective, Jackoway Tyreman) landed the lead in NBC’s REM, a detective procedural from 20th TV and Lone Star creator Kyle Killen.
Orlando Jones (Paradigm, the Collective, Ziffren Brittenham) has been cast in the ABC procedural Identity. Jones, who had a recurring role on CBS’ Rules of Engagement, will play an agent in a police unit that combats identity-related crime.
— Marisa Guthrie
Martin Scorsese (WME, Yorn Management, Bloom Hergott) will direct The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire writer Terence Winter wrote the adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir about his days as a high-flying stock trader who ended up in jail. Alexandra Milchan, DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Scorsese are producing the film, which was originally set up at Warner Bros. with Ridley Scott attached to direct. Financing hasn’t been disclosed.
Carla Gugino (CAA, Untitled Entertainment, Sloane Offer) has closed a deal to join New Line’s ensemble comedy New Year’s Eve, shooting in New York. Halle Berry (CAA, Vincent Cirrincione, Stone Meyer) has rejoined the Garry Marshall film after pulling out because of a custody battle over her young daughter. Her role was recast with Katherine Heigl, but Berry — given approval to travel by a Los Angeles judge — will take a smaller role as a nurse.
Barring scheduling issues, Marion Cotillard is looking to join the cast of The Dark Knight Rises for director Christopher Nolan. The Batman film begins shooting in May, but Cotillard (CAA, France’s Adequat) is pregnant and due in the spring, so she would join the production mid-June in London.
Clash of the Titans director Louis Leterrier (WME, Management 360, Hirsch Wallerstein) has signed to direct Now You See Me, Summit’s heist movie being produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
Phillip Noyce will direct the international action thriller Hunter Killer for Relativity Media. It’s familiar territory for Noyce (UTA, Australia’s Cameron Creswell, Ziffren Brittenham), who directed two Jack Ryan films, Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games, as well as summer 2010’s Salt.
Ray Liotta (UTA, Untitled, Hansen Jacobson) and former Sopranos actor Vincent Curatola (Stone Manners Salners, McGowan Management, Kraditor & Haber) have joined the Weinstein Co. crime thriller Cogan’s Trade. Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini and Sam Rockwell also star in writer-director Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of the 1974 George V. Higgins novel.
Summit has hired Noah Oppenheim (CAA, Management 360, Ziffren Brittenham) to pen its take on master magician Harry Houdini in an adaptation of the biography The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead will play Mary Todd Lincoln in Fox’s period adventure Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Winstead (CAA, Jackoway Tyerman) will star opposite Benjamin Walker, who plays Lincoln. Timur Bekmambetov is directing based on a script by author Seth Grahame-Smith.
MGM has closed a deal to co-finance Paramount’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which will now be shot in 3D. The $60 million adventure pic starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton also has a release date: March 2, 2012.
Sundance Selects acquired North American rights to Goran Hugo Olsson’s The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, which explores how Swedish journalists came to the U.S. to document the Black Power movement.
Arthouse Films bought U.S. rights, plus Australia and New Zealand, to the documentary How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? from filmmakers Carlos Carcas and Norberto Lopez Amado.
Glee creators Ryan Murphy (CAA, Loeb & Loeb) and Brad Falchuk (WME) have sold the drama pilot American Horror Story to FX. The hourlong project is on the fast track, with casting set to begin immediately and Murphy slated to direct the pilot. If all goes well, the show will bow in the fall.
Lifetime has ordered 16 episodes of a docuseries featuring Roseanne Barr (JKA Talent, 5 Boroughs, Fox Law Group). The series will show Barr running a 40-acre macadamia and livestock farm on Hawaii’s Big Island alongside her writer-musician boyfriend, Johnny Argent, and son Jake.
British actor Christian Cooke (WME, the U.K.’s United Agents, Management 360) has joined the Starz period drama Magic City, about the political and criminal machinations of 1960s Miami, opposite star Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Magic City begins shooting soon in Miami and is targeted for a 2012 bow.
IFC has ordered 10 new episodes of the short-based comedy series Portlandia, written by and starring Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen (WME, Brillstein Entertainment, Morris Yorn) and former Sleater Kinney vocalist-guitarist Carrie Brownstein.
Time Warner Cable inked a 20-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to distribute all games beginning with the 2012-13 season. To showcase the games, the company will launch two regional sports networks in HD, including the nation’s first Spanish-language regional sports network. The networks will be available to all satellite, cable and telco distributors in the Lakers’ territory, which includes all of Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Felicia Day (ICM, Lichter Grossman) is launching Dragon Age: Redemption, a web series inspired by the BioWare game Dragon Age. The six-part series will premiere in the summer after the release of the game sequel Dragon Age II.
Emmy winner Mariska Hargitay, star of NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, has signed with CAA. She was with Paradigm. … Madeline Zima, who co-stars on Showtime’s Californication, has signed with UTA. … Dave Franco, who appeared as a regular on the final season of Scrubs and is the younger brother of James Franco, has signed with Paradigm. … Rob LaPlante — creator of the A&E documentary series Obsessed and showrunner for MTV’s Is She Really Going Out With Him? — has signed with CAA. … Writer Rebecca Sonnenshine, who is adapting the novel Thirteen Days to Midnight for Intrepid Pictures, has signed with ICM. … Brady Dahl, staff writer on FX’s Sons of Anarchy, has signed with UTA. … David Matthews, staff writer on Law & Order: Los Angeles, has signed with WME.