7 Days of Deals
Ka-ching! Who's inking on the dotted line this week.
DEAL OF THE WEEK: TV Development: Slow Start At Cautious Networks: With the summer coming to a close, many are wondering when -- and, more significantly, if -- television buying season will pick up. "It's been slow and lackluster," says one top agent of development, which typically kicks off in June. To blame: NBC's Bob Greenblatt and ABC's Paul Lee, who were largely responsible for last year's frenzied pace, are buying fewer projects this year. "That adrenaline rush is over," says one source. Other insiders suggest the increased activity didn't bear fruit, discouraging repeat behavior. "For all of the scripts they bought, I don't think they necessarily wound up with a better collection of pilots to choose from at each network," notes one exec. Also, many writers were either occupied on other projects at the start of the season or restricted from developing altogether because of deals they have in place.
Including scripts, writer-producer pacts and pilots, the nets typically invest about $100 million in development each season before a single show is ordered to series. It's too early to tell whether overall spending this year will be up or down, but writers are lamenting the smattering of major deals: NBC scooped up Rand Ravich's untitled Secret Service thriller; CBS added Hart Hanson's crime drama Backstrom; Fox locked down Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci's Sleepy Hollow adaptation; and ABC nabbed a soapy drama from McG.
Fox, which has super-sized singing competitions in The X Factor and American Idol, an animated Sunday slate and no 10 p.m. hour, still has fewer needs. And while chief Kevin Reilly is still searching for 24 and Prison Break replacements, sources say he's less interested in medical dramas given his confidence in fall entry Mob Doctor.
CBS' Nina Tassler, who is seeking to replicate the character-driven procedural style of The Good Wife, is likely to buy about what she did last year. The net remains a bastion of stability, if not predictability. NBC is said to be less focused, with a desire for more dramas. ABC is after its usual femme-skewing, soapier fare, with sources suggesting it will look to finish drama buying before Oct. 1. Notes one exec of Lee's penchant for promotable fare, "The show's title is one of the most important pieces of a pitch over there." -- Lacey Rose
New Homes For Two Top Execs
Two Hollywood moguls are beating the summer heat in new houses. Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairman Patrick Wachsberger has purchased a three-bedroom home in Malibu for $4.37 million. The oceanfront property, which includes a large deck, gourmet kitchen and a cedar sauna, is located in Malibu Cove Colony, a private, gated community. The 2,948-square-foot house had been listed for $5.2 million and hit the market in June 2011. Across town in Studio City, USA Network co-president Jeff Wachtel has purchased a six-bedroom residence for $3.92 million. The 6,477-square-foot traditional house, which was built in 1941, is located in Fryman Canyon, the tony section of Studio City in which George Clooney resides and Gene Autry once lived. The residence includes a home theater room, tennis court, expansive lawn and large swimming pool perfect for cooling off. -- Daniel Miller
The Real Big Bird to Be Revealed
Caroll Spinney started puppeteering on Sesame Street when the iconic kids' show launched in 1969 and at age 78 still works his magic with Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Now the last of the original Sesame performers will be the subject of a documentary from Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker of Copper Pot Pictures. The duo has secured Spinney's life rights for the pic, titled I Am Big Bird, and has raised more than $100,000 on Kickstarter to begin production. Although a private man, Spinney has been documenting his life since the 1950s, and the filmmakers will have exclusive access to boxes and boxes of home movies and shorts he made with his kids, plus behind-the-scenes videos ranging from interactions with Jim Henson to the making of 1985's Follow That Bird. "This is a guy who really affected so many lives, but no one knows who he is," says Walker. "It's a unique story." -- Borys Kit
Reese Witherspoon (CAA, Management 360, Hansen Jacobson) is attached to star in and produce The Beard, a romantic-comedy written by Becca Greene (MTV's Good Vibes). Mason Novick, Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping also are producing.
Eric Bana (WME, Sloane Offer) will join Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster in writer-director Peter Berg's Lone Survivor, about a Navy SEAL mission gone wrong, at Universal.
Keira Knightley (WME, United) is in negotiations to star opposite Chris Pine in Paramount's Jack Ryan for director Kenneth Branagh.
Tim Robbins (UTA, 3 Arts) will direct City of Lies, Endgame's adaptation of the Arthur Phillips short story Wenceslas Square. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are writing.
Jonathan Daniel Brown (CAA, Black Box, Jeff Endlich), a breakout star of Project X, has joined New Artists Alliance's horror comedy Milo.
Scrubs' Donald Faison (APA, Fuller Downs) is joining Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall. Yancy Butler (Don Buchwald/Fortitude, Framework) will reprise her role as Christopher Mintz-Plasse's mother.
Boardwalk Empire's Michael Kenneth Williams (The Collective) will join MGM and Sony's remake of RoboCop.
Sony Pictures Animation has acquired rights to the 1980s sitcom ALF and will develop the property into a hybrid CG/live-action feature. Jordan Kerner (The Smurfs) will produce with show creators Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco, who will return as ALF's voice.
Joss Whedon (CAA, Ziffren Brittenham) will write and direct Marvel's Avengers sequel and develop a TV show for ABC as part of a deal that runs through June 2015.
Dennis Gansel (Gersh) will direct the supernatural horror project Grim Night for Universal.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers (CAA, Brillstein) will join The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, an adaptation of Cassandra Clare's young-adult fantasy novel from Constantin Film and Unique Pictures.
Richard Dreyfuss (Emptage Hallett, Schiff) will co-star as a dying man in Cas & Dylan, the directorial debut of actor Jason Priestley.
Garcelle Beauvais (SDB Partners, Luber Roklin, Edelstein Laird), who starred on The Jamie Foxx Show, will reteam with Foxx in White House Down, Sony's action thriller directed by Roland Emmerich.
Dawn Olivieri (APA, Mosaic) of Showtime's House of Lies is joining Catherine Hardwicke's erotic thriller Plush.
Focus Features International will begin shopping Woody Allen's next film, starring Alec Baldwin, to foreign buyers at the Toronto Film Festival.
Designing Women producer Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Innovative) will direct Bridegroom, a documentary about gay marriage that she hopes to have in theaters before November's election.
Mark Wahlberg (WME, Leverage, Sloane Offer), Stephen Levinson (WME, Sloane Offer) and Paul Davies (WME, 3 Arts) have nabbed a script order for an NBC drama set at a Beverly Hills law firm. Davies is set to write the Universal TV project.
Miley Cyrus (CAA, Management 360, Edelstein Laird) will guest star as a love interest for Angus T. Jones on CBS' Two and a Half Men.
Ringer creators Nicole Snyder and Eric Charmelo (UTA, Shuman Co., Lichter Grossman) will write and executive produce an untitled thriller set in New Orleans for Universal Television and NBC.
Wilmer Valderrama (UTA, Collective, Gendler & Kelly) will romance Melanie Griffith on Raising Hope in a recurring role on the Fox comedy.
Secret Circle's Phoebe Tonkin (ICM, Management 360, Stone Meyer) is going from one Kevin Williamson series to another, booking a recurring role on The Vampire Diaries.
Lost alum Said Taghmaoui (Innovative) has joined Fox's Touch as a series regular, playing a priest-turned-killer.
Greek alum Dilshad Vadsaria (Kohner, Kass) is joining ABC's Revenge as a financial expert. … Mark-Paul Gosselaar (James/Levy) and Frankie Muniz (Paradigm, Jackoway Tyerman) will guest star with Busy Philipps in the second-season premiere of ABC's Don't Trust the B-- in Apt. 23.
Olympic swimming gold medalist Ryan Lochte (Erika Wright, Shawn Zenga) will appear as himself Oct. 29 on an episode of The CW's 90210.
Reno 911! alum Thomas Lennon (CAA, Principato-Young, Jackoway Tyerman) has joined CBS' How I Met Your Mother.
Bridesmaids' Ben Falcone (CAA, Schiff) will star in TV Land's comedy pilot I'm Not Dead Yet.
Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke (CAA, Gang Tyre) have inked an overall deal with Fox Television Studios to develop and produce series.
Raymond Barry (MTA, McGowan) will play a man claiming to be a future version of Jake Johnson in Fox's New Girl.
Dr. Dre (King Holmes) and writer Sidney Quashi have inked a script deal with FX for an hourlong drama pilot exploring music and crime in Los Angeles.
FX Productions has inked a first-look production deal, exclusively for cable, with The Hunger Games producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson and their Color Force production company to develop projects for FX and secure rights to published material.
Lifetime is developing Whisper of Fear, a two-hour back-door pilot based on a book by Rhonda Saunders about stalkers. Craig Piligian will exec produce alongside Last Resort scribe David Wiener, who will write.
FX has ordered 13 episodes of KGB drama The Americans, starring Keri Russell. … ION Television has acquired off-network rights to Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Alicia Silverstone (WME) has inked a two-book deal with Rodale Books; one is a guide for expecting/new mothers and another a cookbook, for publication beginning in 2014.
The New York Times Co. is selling About.com to Answers.com for a reported $270 million. It purchased the site in 2005 for $410 million.
Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs has written a song, "Strange Love," for Tim Burton's Frankenweenie at Disney.
Ultra Music and Ultra Music Festival are joining forces to link such electronic dance music artists as Deadmau5, Steve Aoki and Calvin Harris with the organizer of six festivals worldwide.
Circle of Confusion is merging with D/F Management to create a full-service management and production company.
Meredith Vieira and her husband, former CNN producer Richard Cohen, have bought a mid-century house in the Hollywood Hills for $1.1 million.
Writer-producer Kevin Williamson has sold his contemporary house in the Hollywood Hills to NBA player Danny Granger for $3.7 million.
Jennifer Lopez has jumped to CAA from UTA.
David Thewlis, who appeared in War Horse and played Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter films, has signed with CAA and the U.K.'s Ken Mcreddie.
Tom Holland, who stars opposite Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts in the Toronto premiere The Impossible, has signed with WME.
Jim Breuer, the former Saturday Night Live castmember who starred in Half Baked, has signed with APA.
Reece Thompson, who will appear in the Toronto premiere The Perks of Being a Wallflower, has signed with ICM Partners.
THE NEXT BIG THING: Wentworth Miller
Reps: ICM, Gotham Group, Sloane Offer
Why He Matters: The Prison Break star, 40, is becoming a go-to writer. After setting up next year's Nicole Kidman-starrer Stoker and penning another film, he'll rewrite Universal's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for producers Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey.
THE BIG NUMBER: $4 Million
Price paid by publisher Henry Holt and Co. for a Billy Crystal-penned book about aging to be released for his 65th birthday in March.