7 Days of Deals
Ka-ching! Who's inking on the dotted line this week.
DEAL OF THE WEEK: Starz Rewards Its Head Gladiator: Has Starz found its David Chase? in a clear sign that the pay cable network is getting comfortable with its original programming strategy, the HBO rival has signed Spartacus creator Steven S. DeKnight (CAA, Hansen Jacobson) to a two-year overall deal. Under the arrangement, the first pact of its kind for the emerging series player, DeKnight will continue to spearhead the sword-and-sandal drama as well as develop at least two new projects for the network. "We've discussed doing one big, high-concept drama along with something a little bit more intimate," DeKnight tells THR of his early discussions with Starz. "I love working in the genre world, but I'm also very much interested in smaller, human dramas. I studied as a playwright in college, and I've always felt a draw to go back to that world where it's less action and more character." The writer-producer, who cut his teeth in the genre world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Smallville, acknowledges that the deal was conceived as a one-year partnership, but a strong pitch session inspired Starz executives to rethink the time frame. Says Starz managing director Carmi Zlotnik, "Steven is a rare talent who we want to stay in business with." DeKnight's Spartacus, along with its limited-run prequel, has been an integral piece of the network's original programming strategy -- broad, commercial fare with international appeal -- that has generated roughly 19 million subscribers, up 12 percent from late 2009, according to SNL Kagan, when former HBO chief Chris Albrecht took over. For DeKnight, the draws include following in the footsteps of Chase (The Sopranos at HBO), Shawn Ryan (The Shield at FX) and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men at AMC) as a showrunner who puts a network on the map. "It's always a bit of a struggle with the birthing pains," he says, "but the rewards are just fantastic if you're there on the ground floor." -- Lacey Rose
Gertz Builds a Library
Jami Gertz has come a long way from '80s films Sixteen Candles, The Lost Boys and Less Than Zero. The actress-turned-producer's Lime Orchard Productions, which she runs with partner Stacey Lubliner, has picked up the film and TV rights to The Singles, the debut novel by Meredith Goldstein, an advice columnist for The Boston Globe. Plume is publishing the novel next year and hopes to leverage Goldstein's relationship insight and fan base -- her Love Letters blog reportedly gets more than 1 million page views a month. Lime Orchard, in turn, could capitalize on the success of such female comedies as Bridesmaids. The book follows the intertwining stories of five single friends who attend a Maryland wedding as the only guests without a "plus one." Lime Orchard, which has its own development fund as well as access to production financing, has been on a book-buying tear; it optioned Ashley Rhodes-Courter's memoir Three Little Words and attached James Mangold to direct and set up Robert Goolrick's novel A Reliable Wife at Sony, with Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven) writing and Michael De Luca producing. The company's first production, Chris Weitz's A Better Life, was released in June by Summit. -- Borys Kit
Kurt Russell (CAA) is in talks to join Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained opposite Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz. Russell replaces Kevin Costner, who bowed out because of scheduling conflicts.
Melissa Leo (ICM, Untitled) and James Badge Dale (CAA, MJ Management, Jackoway Tyerman) are in talks to join Denzel Washington in the Paramount drama Flight, which is being directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.
Brittany Snow (ICM, Brillstein, Ziffren Brittenham) has joined the Universal musical comedy Pitch Perfect, being produced by Gold Circle Films and directed by Jason Moore.
Writers Derek Haas and Michael Brandt (WME, Industry, Hansen Jacobson) will work on Universal's Wanted 2, the sequel to the hit action movie starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy.
Marc Guggenheim (WME, Ziffren Brittenham) will write Disney's Time Zones, a time-travel fantasy adventure that Mark Gordon and Jennifer Todd will produce.
Fox 2000 will co-finance with Walden Media and distribute Of Men and Mavericks, the Gerard Butler-starring surfing drama being directed by Curtis Hanson. Elisabeth Shue (CAA, Management 360) and Abigail Spencer (ICM, Untitled, Hansen Jacobson) also have joined the cast.
New writer Ashley Bradley (WME, New Wave) has sold an untitled project to Disney to be produced by Marc Guggenheim, who will team with his Collider Entertainment partner Alisa Tager.
New Line has hired the filmmakers of the popular Mortal Kombat digital series to take on a new adaptation of the 1990s video game. Kevin Tancharoen (ICM, Anonymous Content, Myman Greenspan) will direct and Oren Uziel (ICM, Circle of Confusion, Myman Greenspan) will write the script.
Hunger Games studio Lionsgate has optioned the young-adult novel series Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness. Doug Davison, the onetime partner at Vertigo Entertainment whose credits include How to Train Your Dragon and The Grudge, will produce via his new Quadrant Pictures.
Sony Pictures Classics is in talks to pick up U.S. and South Africa rights to the Tanya Wexler-directed romantic comedy Hysteria, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in the real life-based story of a doctor in Victorian England who invented the vibrator.
Production-management outfit Benderspink has optioned rights to Red Station, the first book of a spy thriller franchise by Adrian Magson. The project will be overseen by Jake Weiner and Christopher Cosmos.
Chinatown and Mission: Impossible screenwriter Robert Towne (CAA, Greenberg Glusker) will pen an original screenplay titled The Battle of Britain for GK Films.
Rose McGowan (Gersh, MPE, Ziffren Brittenham) will headline the romantic thriller Napa, playing a soldier who returns from Afghanistan and becomes sheriff. Writer-producer Michael Kerr is making his feature directorial debut for Film Bridge Entertainment.
NBC made freshman drama The Playboy Club the first casualty of the season, with the Brian Williams newsmagazine Rock Center taking its place beginning Oct. 31. The network also gave full-season orders to new comedies Up All Night and Whitney and ordered two additional episodes of Jason Katims drama Parenthood.
The X-Files creator Chris Carter (ICM, Gang Tyre) is heading back to television with Unique, a female-lead mystery police thriller set up at Media Rights Capital. He will write and executive produce the project, which is being shopped to networks.
TBS has picked up Sullivan and Son, a Warner Horizon comedy pilot from executive producers Vince Vaughn (CAA, Jackoway Tyerman) and Peter Billingsley (Stone Meyer) that is set to star Steve Byrne (CAA, Levity). Cheers writer Rob Long (CAA, Greenberg Glusker) will serve as showrunner of the potential series about a legendary Pittsburgh bar.
Will Gluck (UTA, Sloane Offer) and Andy Bobrow (UTA, Hansen Jacobson) have sold a single-camera family comedy to Fox. Bobrow will write and executive produce the Sony Pictures Television project, with Gluck on board as an executive producer.
ABC has picked up a drama project revolving around disgraced Wall Street banker-turned-jailhouse lawyer Bobby Turner. Law & Order's Barry Schindel (CAA, Hansen Jacobson) will write and executive produce for ABC Studios.
Half Baked star Jim Breuer (UTA, Levity, King Holmes) has sold a multigenerational comedy to ABC. According to Jim executive producers Judd Pillot and John Peaslee (UTA, Brillstein, Kleinberg Lange) have been tapped to pen the project and serve as showrunners.
The Shield scribe John Hlavin (UTA, Jackoway Tyerman) and Fringe producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (CAA, Gendler & Kelly) have sold a Western centering on Wyatt Earp to Fox.
Oxygen has ordered The Next Big Thing, which centers on music coach Trapper Felides' efforts to train performers for their big break, and two docu-series, including Tanisha Gets Married from Jersey Shore boss SallyAnn Salsano.
John Hurt (ICM, Independent, John Crosby) will star in Tandem Communications' miniseries Labyrinth, based on the best-seller by Kate Mosse. Christopher Smith will direct.
Starz has renewed the Kelsey Grammer political drama Boss for a 10-episode second season. The Lionsgate series premieres Oct. 21.
Tony winner Sutton Foster (CAA) has booked the lead role in Bunheads, an ABC Family drama pilot from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.
Fox has given a full-season order to its Zooey Deschanel comedy New Girl.
Poison frontman and reality star Bret Michaels is designing a line of rock 'n' roll pet products for PetSmart.
One Life to Live head writer Ron Carlivati will continue with the show when it transitions to the web in January via the Online Network.
Relativity will promote its Nov. 11 release Immortals on Spotify as part of a deal that makes the studio the first movie company to run media on the platform in the U.S.
Studiocanal has closed a $205 million slate financing deal with London-based fund Anton Capital Entertainment. ACE will finance 30 percent of Studiocanal's releases, and the collaboration is expected to include 100 films for up to $682 million over three years.
Joel Courtney, who starred in J.J. Abrams' Super 8, has signed with CAA. … German actress Antje Traue, the lead female villain in Warner Bros.' forthcoming Man of Steel, has signed with UTA. … Jon Amiel, who directed Creation, which opened the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, has signed with Gersh. … French actress Louise Bourgoin, who starred in A Happy Event, which debuted at Toronto, has signed with WME. … Bill Pruitt, a showrunner on Discovery's Deadliest Catch, has signed with ICM.