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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Die Hard Drama: The Casting of Bruce Willis’ Son: On Feb. 22, when Jai Courtney landed the role of John McClane’s son in A Good Day to Die Hard, it marked the end of an unusual five-month search that illustrates the challenge of casting major franchise movies.
In November, 20th Century Fox, director John Moore (Max Payne) and star Bruce Willis thought they had their finalists in Liam Hemsworth (Hunger Games), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, Contraband) and James Badge Dale (Shame, The Pacific). But chemistry reads with Willis left the filmmakers unable to settle on a choice for the meaty role in the Moscow-set actioner, so additional actors were tested in December.
Part of the problem, according to sources close to the project, was that Fox, Moore and Willis each had their own idea about who should play the part. Willis pushed for D.J. Cotrona, with whom he stars in this summer’s G.I. Joe 2 and who screen-tested at least twice. Hemsworth, who co-stars in this summer’s Expendables 2 with Willis and is about to become a big star in Hunger Games, was a favorite throughout the process, but the studio was concerned about pairing him or Cotrona in a second action movie with Willis.
Courtney, a star of Starz’s Spartacus: Vengance with little film experience, came to the fore in late January when buzz began to build about his work as the villain in next winter’s Tom Cruise thriller One Shot. Soon it was down to Courtney and fellow Aussie Hemsworth — but even then, the studio put the duo on a 10-day hold and conducted a last-ditch search in Australia. (Fox didn’t like that One Shot is due to open a week before the Die Hard film next February, worrying there might be confusion in the marketplace.)
When Fox finally got over that fear, Courtney received an official offer. But by then, the studio’s option had lapsed and Courtney had moved on, taking a supporting role in the monster movie I, Frankenstein.
Producer Lakeshore Entertainment wasn’t about to let him go, so Fox — facing the prospect of starting the process over — booked a new round of tests, only to scrap them and quietly negotiate with Lakeshore. Once the schedule issue was resolved, Courtney was again offered the part, catching even the actor’s reps at UTA and the Collective by surprise. — Borys Kit
A-List Architect on Hollywood Campus
Architect Thom Mayne is strengthening his showbiz ties. On March 8, Emerson College will break ground on a $110-million Hollywood campus designed by the L.A.-based Pritzker Prize-winner. The 10-story building at 5960 W. Sunset Blvd. will feature faculty apartments, dorms and a screening room. Set for completion by late 2013, the facility is meant to provide Boston-based Emerson — whose alumni include Jay Leno, Norman Lear and David Cross — with a higher profile for its semester-long L.A. program, during which 100 juniors and seniors take on internships. Mayne worked with an advisory committee that included MTV Networks’ Doug Herzog, Lionsgate TV’s Kevin Beggs and agent Bob Gersh to develop a design plan inspired by traditional studio layouts. Says Mayne, “We walked through Warner Bros. and got very interested in the idea of soundstages.” — Gary Baum
Comedy Central Preps Book Label
Comedy Central is launching an imprint with Perseus Books Group’s Running Press. The first title from Comedy Central Books will be a holiday-themed tome from Denis Leary set to coincide with a Leary TV special in the fall. The Viacom channel already offers DVDs, consumer products, digital content and stand-up tours. “Publishing is something we needed to address,” says Mitch Fried, executive vp enterprises. “Our audience is reading. It’s a natural way to get the message out about comedy in multiple formats.” The imprint will focus on up-and-coming talent, but at the start, its bread and butter is likely to be spinoff books of series such as Workaholics and the Indecision franchise (though Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will stay with Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing). Says Fried, “I want my own Comedy Central-dedicated section at bookstores.” — Marisa Guthrie
Christian Bale (WME, Bloom Hergott) is in talks to star in Relativity’s revenge drama Out of the Furnace (formerly The Low Dweller), which is being directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart).
Guillermo del Toro (WME, Exile, Hirsch Wallerstein) is returning to his Mexican roots with Day of the Dead, a CG-animated movie he will produce with Reel FX. Jorge R. Gutierrez, co-creator of Nickelodeon’s El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, is directing.
Moira Buffini (CAA, the U.K.’s United Agents), who wrote the recent adaptation of Jane Eyre, will pen The Night Circus for Summit. David Heyman (Harry Potter) and Jeff Clifford are producing the adaptation of the fantasy best-seller by Erin Morgenstern.
The Killing actor Joel Kinnaman (UTA, Magnolia, Hansen Jacobson) is negotiating to star in MGM’s Robocop reboot directed by Jose Padhilla (Elite Squad).
Lebanese actor Fares Fares (Don Buchwald/Fortitude, Magnolia) has joined Kathryn Bigelow’s untitled film about Navy SEAL Team Six’s takedown of Osama Bin Laden. The ensemble cast includes Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt and Kyle Chandler.
Transformers writer Ehren Kruger (Sloane Offer) will pen Disney’s untitled explorers movie. First-timer Brian Beletic is attached to direct the film, initially written by Jason Dean Hall.
Ryan Reynolds (CAA, Sloane Offer), Paul Giamatti (UTA, Kipperman) and Samuel L. Jackson (ICM, Anonymous, Jackoway Tyerman) have joined Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Kurtwood Smith and Snoop Dogg as voices in Turbo, a feature from DreamWorks Animation that’s set to bow on July 19, 2013.
James Woods (Gersh, Morris Yorn), Mary-Louise Parker (WME, Frankfurt Kurnit) and Ving Rhames (Innovative) will star in Jamesy Boy, an indie prison drama toplined by newcomer Spencer Lofranco. Trevor White is directing and wrote the script with Lane Shadgett.
Horrible Bosses writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (UTA, Hansen Jacobson) will direct New Line’s reboot of Vacation from a script the duo wrote.
Sundance Selects has acquired North American rights to Alison Klayman’s documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which will be released to coincide with the artist’s first trip outside of China since his detention. The label also bought North American rights to Beyond the Hills, written and directed by Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days).
Martin Lawrence (UTA, The Collective, Gang Tyre) will star in a CBS police comedy pilot from $#*! My Dad Says duo Mike Lisbe and Nate Reger (ICM, McKuin Frankel), who will write and exec produce.
Dennis Quaid (WME, Hansen Jacobson) and Michael Chiklis (WME, Management 360, Stone Meyer) will star in CBS’ untitled Western pilot from Ralph Lamb. Quaid will play Lamb, a former Las Vegas sheriff, and Chiklis will portray a mob fixer.
Bill Pullman (ICM) will play the president and Brittany Snow (ICM, Brillstein, Ziffren Brittenham) his eldest daughter in NBC’s White House comedy pilot 1600 Penn.
Former Big Love star Jeanne Tripplehorn (Gersh, Brillstein) has booked a two-episode stint on Fox’s New Girl, playing the ex-wife of Jess’ new love interest.
The Hangover‘s Justin Bartha (CAA, Management 360) will co-star as Andrew Rannells’ husband/partner in Ryan Murphy’s NBC comedy pilot The New Normal. Scottish actress Georgia King (Paradigm) will play the couple’s surrogate.
Californication‘s Eva Amurri Martino (Paradigm, One Talent) has been cast in Fox’s Greg Berlanti drama pilot Guilty, playing an attorney.
Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Doris Roberts (WME, Del Shaw) will star in ABC’s Texas diner-set comedy pilot Counter Culture.
Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito (Domain Talent, Principal) will star in J.J. Abrams’ NBC sci-fi pilot Revolution, playing a tough military man.
The West Wing‘s Bradley Whitford (WME, Greenlight) will play the head of the New York CIA station in Fox’s spy drama pilot The Asset.
David Morrissey (Collective, the U.K.’s Troika) has joined AMC’s The Walking Dead in the plum season-three role as villain The Governor.
Felicity‘s Scott Foley (ICM, Brillstein, Sloane Offer) will play Becki Newton’s brother in the Fox comedy pilot The Goodwin Games.
Annie Potts (Innovative, Frontline) will star in Hallmark Channel’s musical telefilm The Music Teacher.
Twilight‘s Chaske Spencer (Abrams, Buchwald/Fortitude, Josselyne Herman) will play a cook in NBC’s Western drama pilot The Frontier.
ABC’s Dancing With the Stars has cast Season 14 with 12 hopefuls: singers Gavin DeGraw, Katherine Jenkins and Gladys Knight; actors Roshon Fegan, William Levy, Jack Wagner, Jaleel White and Melissa Gilbert; athletes Donald Driver and Martina Navratilova; and TV personalities Maria Menounos and Sherri Shepherd.
Brothers & Sisters‘ Ken Olin (Innovative, Jackoway Tyerman) has joined ABC’s drama pilot Americana, a project about a fashion designer (Anthony LaPaglia).
Dollhouse‘s Dichen Lachman (Gersh, McKeon-Myones, Stone Meyer) has joined Shawn Ryan’s spy thriller pilot Last Resort.
Jack & Bobby‘s Matt Long (UTA, Authentic, Felker Toczek), Homeland‘s Maury Sterling (Innovative) and Army Wives‘ Brigid Brannagh (Innovative) have joined Shonda Rhimes’ period drama pilot Gilded Lilys.
Daniel Chun (UTA, Price), the head writer on NBC’s The Office, has inked an overall deal with ABC Studios to develop and produce comedy projects for the studio.
Cheers vet Phoef Sutton (CAA, Hansen Jacobson) will serve as showrunner on the Cedric the Entertainer Hot in Cleveland spinoff tentatively titled Have Faith.
Cheers vet Dominic Monaghan (APA, Morris Yorn) will star in Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan, an adventure series for BBC America, Channel 5 and Canada’s OLN, in which the former Lost star travels the globe looking for scary and bizarre insects.
Undercovers‘ Carter MacIntyre (UTA, Magnolia, Felker Toczek) has been cast as a regular on Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva’s fourth season.
The X Factor‘s Rachel Crow (Azoff, Geary Paul Smith) has inked a talent deal with Nickelodeon to front a musical comedy pilot and recur on Fred: The Show. She also has signed with Columbia Records in partnership with Simon Cowell’s company, Syco.
FX has renewed Archer for a fourth season. … The CW will bring back America’s Next Top Model for a 19th, college-themed cycle. … CMT has renewed freshmen Bayou Billionaires and My Big Redneck Vacation.
Barbra Streisand (Marty Erlichman, Manatt Phelps) has re-signed with Columbia Records, her label of 50 years.
Emmy-winner David Hyde Pierce (Frasier) has signed with WME.
Radha Mitchell (Finding Neverland, Lionsgate’s upcoming The Frozen Ground) has signed with ICM.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has signed with WME for off-the-field endeavors like endorsements, books and TV/movie roles. (CAA retains him for football.)
Cinematographer Russell Lee Fine (The Wire, Starz’s Crash) has signed with CAA and will direct the pilot of Graceland for USA.
Actress Sarah Snook (the recently wrapped indie film Not Suitable for Children) has signed with UTA.
THE NEXT BIG THING: AnnaSophia Robb
REPS: CAA, Untitled, Schreck Rose
WHY SHE MATTERS: Robb, 18, whose credits include the 2005 remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has landed one of pilot season’s most coveted roles — Carrie Bradshaw in the 1980s-set CW prequel The Carrie Diaries.
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