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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Dark Knight Rises With Year One: Comic book writer Frank Miller is often credited with honing the antiheroes who have defined modern superhero movies. Now one of Miller’s landmark works is getting an animated-film treatment. Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku and Katee Sackhoff will star as the voices in Batman: Year One, from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu are directing the 12th entry in the series of DC Universe animated originals, from a script by Tab Murphy. And it’s perhaps the most-anticipated of the group. Year One, a four-issue story written by Miller and drawn by David Mazzuchelli, first appeared in 1987, on the heels of Miller’s seminal work, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The tomes, along with The Watchmen, helped elevate the comics medium, influencing the writers who would turn superheroes into Hollywood blockbusters. The Year One story centers on a young Bruce Wayne (McKenzie) as he starts out as a costumed vigilante, creating an early bond with Lt. James Gordon (Cranston). Dushku voices Catwoman, and Sackhoff is Detective Sarah Essen, a Gordon love interest. Additionally, Alex Rocco plays crime lord Carmine Falcone. Year One will be closely scrutinized by fans for faithfulness, but superhero animation veteran Bruce Timm, who is executive producing, says there is very little in the movie that isn’t in the comic. “The source material is surprisingly cinematic; it’s a pretty straightforward literal retelling,” he says. Cranston initially turned down the gig, but he blames his ignorance of the medium. “I wasn’t aware of this level of storytelling in animation. I confess that freely,” he says. “They didn’t give the characters the short shrift. I was stunned.” Batman: Year One, which will be rated PG-13, is scheduled to hit home video in the fall but will have its world premiere in July at Comic-Con in San Diego. — Borys Kit
Rare Studio Deal for Fast Scribe
As a boy, Chris Morgan often celebrated birthdays with a tour of Universal Studios. Now Morgan is moving from the tram to a bungalow on the lot. The writer of the third, fourth and fifth installments of Universal’s The Fast and the Furious franchise (Fast Five opens April 29) has signed a two-year first-look production pact with the studio, a rare move in a time when companies are slashing deals. Beyond the Fast movies, Morgan also wrote Universal’s 2008 hit Wanted and 47 Ronin, the Keanu Reeves samurai epic currently in production, and he’s developing a movie based on the popular Japanese monster game Bakugan. Although some might see the deal as simply a just reward for past success, Morgan (ICM, H2F, McKuin Frankel) takes the opposite view. “I don’t want to be the guy who gets a vanity production deal and does nothing,” he says. “I want to be the guy who goes out there and busts my ass and fixes broken stories and finds material to bring back — quite frankly, as a reward to the studio that has worked with me for so long.” — Borys Kit
Bradley Cooper is in talks to star in Relativity’s remake of The Crow, directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Cooper (CAA) will play a rock musician who is murdered while trying to save his fiancee from thugs and is resurrected by supernatural forces.
Craig Gillespie (UTA, Sloane Offer) has closed a deal to direct Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for Lionsgate, Natalie Portman’s Handsomecharlie Films and Darko Entertainment.
Paramount has picked up an untitled comedy from Anna Faris (Gersh, Anonymous Content, Sloane Offer) as a starring vehicle for the multihyphenate. Joe Roth and Palak Patel are on board to produce the story of Faris and a stalker roommate.
Sony Pictures Classics will release Roman Polanski‘s Carnage in North America at year’s end. Polanski (ICM) penned the script with Yasmina Reza, based on her 2009 Tony-winning play God of Carnage. Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet lead the cast.
Hugh Laurie (WME, Ziffren Brittenham) will star in an adaptation of the best-selling novel Mr. Pip for writer-director Andrew Adamson (Shrek 2, The Chronicles of Narnia).
Michael Mann (CAA, Gang Tyre) is teaming with Paul Haggis (CAA, Intellectual Property Group, Weissmann Wolff) for Gold, a thriller centering on a search for the precious metal. Patrick Massett and John Zinman (Friday Night Lights) wrote the script.
Paramount has bought rights to Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. John Davis (ICM, Bloom Hergott) will produce.
Sony has inked a deal with MGM to distribute the next two James Bond films. Bond 23, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Sam Mendes, is due in November 2012.
Nico Tortorella (Gersh, Kritzer Levine, Hirsch Wallerstein) of Scream 4 is in talks to play the villain opposite Anton Yelchin in Odd Thomas, Stephen Sommers’ adaptation of the Dean Koontz book series.
Liars All, an indie thriller written and directed by Brian Brightly, begins production April 24 in Los Angeles.
MGM has re-upped until 2016 its deal to release films on home video through Fox.
Michael Clarke Duncan (APA, Industry, McKuin Frankel) will voice Kilowog in Warner Bros.’ June release Green Lantern, joining Geoffrey Rush as voices in the Ryan Reynolds tentpole.
Bieber Entertainment has acquired film rights to Lionel Goldstein’s The Chinese General, about the British aide to China’s first modern president. Denis Bieber and Wayne Duband will produce the $45 million pic.
Michael Stuhlbarg (ICM, Viking Entertainment) of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire has been cast in Men in Black III, in production for director Barry Sonnenfeld.
Lionsgate has acquired U.S. rights to The Bay, a “found footage” eco-horror thriller directed by Barry Levinson (ICM, Hirsch Wallerstein) and written by Michael Wallach (ICM, Myman Greenspan), from Alliance Films.
Former Daily Show correspondent Lauren Weedman (UTA, Mosaic) has joined Universal’s Five Year Engagement, produced by Judd Apatow. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt topline for director Nicholas Stoller.
Relativity will distribute House at the End of the Street, a thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Max Theriot. FilmNation and A Bigger Boat are behind the movie from director Mark Tonderai (Verve, Gang Tyre).
James Tupper (ICM, Untitled, Jackoway Tyerman), known for his TV roles in Men in Trees and Grey’s Anatomy, will co-star in Playing the Field, the Gerard Butler-starring romantic comedy from Millennium. Gabriele Muccino is directing.
A.J. Cook (Paradigm, Pacific Arts) has inked a two-year deal to return to CBS’ Criminal Minds as a regular after having been let go at the end of last season.
Julia Ormond (Gersh, Artists Independent, Hirsch Wallerstein) will guest star in the final season of USA’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
CBS has picked up the reality series Same Name for the summer. It features celebrities who swap places with strangers who share their name.
HBO has greenlighted to series Veep, a Washington political comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
TNT has nabbed off-network rights to CBS’ freshman drama Hawaii Five-0 from CBS Television Distribution.
Jane Alexander (WME) has been cast as Queen Elizabeth II in Hallmark Channel’s original movie about Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Nick Cannon (UTA, NCredible Management, Del Shaw) will premiere his first stand-up comedy special May 14 on Showtime.
Former MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe‘s online gaming platform MindJolt has acquired Hall Pass Media and SGN, setting up a three-pillar (web, mobile, social) strategy.
HOT NEW SERIES FROM CABLE UPFRONTS
Discovery will launch Velocity, a channel targeted at “upscale” men, as well as four new series including Penn & Teller’s Secrets of the Universe, which has the Vegas duo answering head-scratchers like, “Can you lift a 5,000-pound car with human hair?”
BET has greenlighted another season of The Game, a second season of Let’s Stay Together and the new scripted series Reed Between the Lines, starring Tracee Ellis Ross.
Style has picked up three series, including Jerseylicious spinoff Glam Fairy, which centers on makeup artist Alexa Prisco, and Big Rich Texas, about wealthy Dallas women.
TruTV announced the acquisition of the ABC game show Wipeout and eight new series including Chill, about a profanity-spouting Brooklyn ice sculptor, and Bear Swamp Recovery, about an Italian-American New Jersey family that runs a repo business.
OWN has six new series including Louie Spence Dance Project, which centers on the Brit choreographer; and Sweet Pies, a docusoap about former Ikette Robbie Montgomery.
Science will air a second season of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s An Idiot Abroad, as well as Weird Travel, about American subcultures, and a new series about video game designer Will Wright (The Sims).
TLC is prepping 18 new series and specials including Homecoming, a Billy Ray Cyrus-hosted series that reunites soldiers with their loved ones; I Kid, a Ryan Seacrest-produced show fronted by Brad Garrett; and two series about gypsies.
Animal Planet will air 14 new series and specials including Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer, Rat Busters NYC and My Extreme Animal Phobia.
— Marisa Guthrie
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