WGA's latest aside: deal with the Weinstein Co.
Following the lead of Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner's United Artists, the Weinstein Co. said Thursday that it will sign an interim work agreement with the WGA that will allow the indie film company to resume development of its latest slate of productions.
Just days earlier, well-placed sources suggested that the Weinstein Co. wouldn't ink a deal with the WGA until another indie like Lionsgate became the first to follow in UA's path. But Weinstein Co. co-topper Harvey Weinstein said the company has since agreed to terms of an interim work agreement with the guild.
On Jan. 7, UA became the first film production company to reach an interim agreement with the WGA, where WGA West president Patric Verrone has been seeking to ink such narrowly defined deals with smaller-fry indies to rachet up pressure on the major studios to return to the bargaining table. The guild — now in the 68th day of a strike following expiration of its main film and TV contract — reached an interim agreement last month with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants covering two late-night talk shows.
At the Weinstein Co., Harvey Weinstein tends to focus on the company's main slate of low- to midbudget art film productions and acquisitions, while his brother Bob Weinstein runs the company's genre division Dimension Films. The Weinstein Co.'s pact with the WGA likely will be superseded by any industrywide agreement the WGA eventually secures, but the interim deal will allow the company to hire writers for script revisions and allow guild scribes to resume pitching new projects.
Among the company's higher-profile development projects are a film adaptation of the Federico Fellini-inspired Broadway musical "Nine" and a remake of Akira Kurosawa's classic "The Seven Samurai."
The indie — set up by the siblings after they bolted their beloved Miramax, which remains at Disney — has continued to release films despite the strike, including the currently playing "I'm Not There" and "Control." Under terms of an agreement with distributor MGM, MGM handles distribution on Weinstein Co. films whose print and advertising costs run more than $10 million, like the still-playing Dimension horror film "The Mist."
Harvey Weinstein is in Los Angeles this week to oversee award-consideration screenings of the company's Denzel Washington drama "The Great Debaters." A company insider said the co-topper changed his mind about waiting out Lionsgate after witnessing firsthand the local impact of the writers strike.
A news release formally acknowledging the Weinstein Co. pact would be released late Thursday night or today, spokesman Matthew Frankel said. But as with the WGA's other interim agreements, no deal terms were expected to be released.
Separately, Harvey Weinstein discussed with George Clooney on Thursday the prospect of enlisting A-list Hollywood talent to mediate a broader WGA contract with an assemblage of representatives of the major studios, Frankel said. CAA partner Bryan Lourd served as a mediator in several bargaining sessions between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, before those talks imploded Dec. 7.
The AMPTP has said it would refuse to negotiate further unless the guild took some objectionable demands off the bargaining table, and it was unclear if the suggestion of a star-studded "mediation panel" might advance beyond Weinstein and Clooney's spit-balling session. Most industryites remain poised for word that the AMPTP instead will announce separate contract talks with the DGA any day.
The Weinstein Co. project most benefiting from the company's WGA deal is Rob Marshall's long-gestating adaptation of the Tony-winning musical "Nine," which has Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren and Marion Cotillard attached in starring roles. Anthony Minghella signed on to adapt the screenplay just two days before the Nov. 5 start of the WGA strike, and work on the project quickly shut down once the strike began.
Another Weinstein Co. project that could benefit is Stephen Daldry's post-World War II romantic drama "The Reader." Screenwriter David Hare would be available for any desired changes to his adaptation of Bernhard Schlink's novel before and during the German shoot, tentatively set to begin in late February or March.
Also, Dimension has the apocalyptic drama "The Road" heading into production next month, and screenwriter Joe Penhall now will be on hand to help the film live up to Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning original novel.
Meanwhile, industry figures will resume scanning the horizon for signs that other indies also might ink interim pacts with the WGA. A Lionsgate insider said the Weinstein Co. move could cause its executives to rethink their previous intent to watch and wait for a few weeks.
Lionsgate officials still would prefer the AMPTP to reach an industrywide agreement with the WGA, the source said. But Lionsgate is not an AMPTP signatory and could proceed separately at any point.
Carl DiOrio reported from Los Angeles; Gregg Goldstein reported from New York.