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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Mad Men to the Movies: Weiner Preps Dramedy You Are Here: Television has been very kind to Matthew Weiner. The creator and executive producer of AMC’s Mad Men enjoys one of the richest deals on TV ($30 million for the show’s final three seasons), he’s been honored with four consecutive outstanding drama series Emmys, and the two-hour season premiere March 25 drew 3.5 million viewers, its most-watched episode to date.
Weiner, 46, has had less success jump-starting his planned directorial feature debut, You Are Here. But that soon could be changing.
Weiner wrote the script back in the early 2000s — when Don Draper was merely a twinkle in his eye — and the project could not be more different from Mad Men or The Sopranos, on which Weiner worked as a writer. It’s a dramedy that centers on a weatherman who is dependent on a best friend for his good times. When the friend inherits a business and some land from his father, the weatherman is forced to get his own life in order.
As a small-budget independent film with comedic elements, it’s not completely out of Weiner’s wheelhouse — he worked briefly in comedy in the early 2000s as a writer-producer on shows such as Becker and Andy Richter Controls the Universe.
Here has been a 10-year journey for Weiner. Part of the struggle could be traced to his famous obsession with Mad Men; he’s had a heavy hand in every episode and is signed to remain at the helm of the 1960s-set series through its seventh and (presumably) final season. But casting difficulties have been another reason. Incarnations of the project have had actors such as Matt Dillon, Jack Black, Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey circling, but nothing took hold. In fact, some Hollywood skeptics have wondered if Here would ever come together.
Now, Weiner and his producers — Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz and Scott Hornbacher — are closer than ever, determined to take Here before cameras as early as late April in North Carolina. Sources say Weiner has been splitting time between Mad Men publicity and auditioning actors for the lead Here role and the part of the best friend’s sister. Zach Galifianakis is in talks to play the good-time best friend. But at press time, there were no sealed deals and no official greenlight, so Here isn’t quite here just yet. – Borys Kit
Ben 10 Creators Developing New Film
Man of Action Studios — creators and producers of Cartoon Network hit Ben 10 and Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man animated series — is going to the movies. MoA develops content simultaneously across platforms, including video games, toy lines, comics and even stage productions, and now the company’s The Great Unknown comic — about a slacker’s attempt to find the people raiding his thoughts — is being developed as a film with Mark Gordon Prods. “It’s a quirky book, a ‘low-fi’ sci-fi,” author Duncan Rouleau says. Also, MoA’s graphic novel Kafka, about a government-enhanced agent on the run, is headed to TV with producer Kenneth Branagh, and MTV’s cross-media group MTVX has put into production Disco Destroyer, a series of animated shorts, for its relaunched Liquid Television brand. – Lesley Goldberg
DWA Exec Moves Into Ford Estate
Bill Damaschke, chief creative officer of DreamWorks Animation, and partner John McIlwee, an entertainment business manager, have purchased the home of late President Gerald Ford from the Ford Family Trust for $1.675 million. The deal for the 6,400-square-foot, Welton Becket-designed residence in Thunderbird Estates in Rancho Mirage closed March 22. Until she died in July, Betty Ford lived in the five-bedroom house, which features an interior design by Laura Mako. Damaschke and McIlwee bought the residence, built in 1978, fully furnished. – Daniel Miller
The Fighter filmmaker David O. Russell (CAA, Gang Tyre) is attached to direct American Bullshit, a crime drama set up at Sony and being produced by Atlas Entertainment’s Charles Roven and Richard Suckle.
Castle star Nathan Fillion (UTA, Jackoway Tyerman) will play Greek deity Hermes and Anthony Head (ICM) will play Chiron in Fox 2000’s sequel Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Sea of Monsters. Logan Lerman returns as the title character.
Bad Teacher director Will Gluck (UTA) is in negotiations to helm How to Disappear Completely, Sony and Escape Artists’ remake of the Swiss drama Vitus. He also will develop a draft of the script.
Jake Kasdan (WME) is in negotiations to direct Sony’s Sex Tape, a comedy about a couple that misplaces an intimate video. Jason Segel is attached to star in the Escape Artists production.
Modern Family star Ty Burrell (ICM) will voice Mr. Peabody in DreamWorks Animation’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Max Charles, who plays a young Peter Parker in this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man, is voicing Sherman.
Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Magnet, McKuin Frankel), the writing team behind the recent Friday the 13th remake and Freddy vs. Jason, are developing an untitled horror project at Paramount. Mary Parent is producing via her Disruption Entertainment banner.
Imagine Entertainment and Julie Yorn’s LBI Entertainment are developing a new take on George Orwell’s 1984. Shepard Fairey, the street artist who created the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, was instrumental in bringing the project to Imagine and LBI and might take a producer role.
Pacific Standard, the production banner formed by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea, has picked up rights to the children’s book series Pennyroyal’s Princess Boot Camp by M.A. Larson, a former assistant to director Mike Nichols who now works in animation.
Martin Helgeland (WME), the son of veteran screenwriter Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential), has sold to Legendary Pictures the modern-day fantasy spec script Slayer.
Rodney Rothman (UTA, 3 Arts) will pen a 1940s-set buddy-cop project for Paramount. Seth Rogen and Kevin Hart are attached to star.
Todd Stashwick (APA, Meghan Schumacher, Melissa Rogal), Audrey Marie Anderson (ICM, Untitled) and Alexa Lydon (Gersh, McGowan) will star in Mockingbird, a Blumhouse thriller set up at Universal.
Fast Five director Justin Lin (CAA, Cinetic, Sloss Law) has signed a deal with Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Film Studios to form Perfect Storm Entertainment. Troy Craig Poon, who worked with Lin on Better Luck Tomorrow, will serve as company president.
Writer Andy Burg (ICM, Brucks, Sloane Offer) has sold to Paramount a spec script titled Huck, a 21st century makeover of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark and Matt Lopez are producing.
Samuel Goldwyn Films has picked up U.S. rights to the coming-of-age family film Cowgirls n’ Angels, settinga May 25 release.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has picked up U.S. rights to Sundance title The First Time, a teen romance written and directed by Jonathan Kasdan.
Cinedigm and New Video have partnered to acquire U.S. distribution rights to Citadel from first-time writer-director Ciaran Foy. The Ireland-set horror movie premiered at the SXSW Film Festival.
Sundance Selects has acquired North American and Latin American rights to Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot, a prizewinner at SXSW.
Maria Bello (CAA, John Carrabino, Myman Greenspan) has booked a multiepisode arc on Fox’s freshman Kiefer Sutherland drama Touch. She’ll play the mother of a girl who shares a gift similar to that of Sutherland’s son.
Hugh Dancy (UTA, Parseghian/Planco) will star as FBI agent Will Graham on NBC’s 13-episode drama series Hannibal, from Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies).
Queen Latifah (WME, Flavor Unit, Eisenberg Tanchum), Phylicia Rashad (Innovative, Parseghian/Planco), Jill Scott (ICM, Sports & Entertainment Financial Group, Morris Yorn), Alfre Woodard (ICM, Dontanville/Frattaroli, Stankevich/Gochman), Adepero Oduye (ICM, Washington Square Arts) and Condola Rashad (Harden-Curtis, Brookside Artist) will star in Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias telefilm, a contemporary take on the 1989 feature.
Weeds creator Jenji Kohan (CAA, Jackoway Tyerman) has inked with Lionsgate to continue as showrunner of Showtime comedy Weeds and to executive produce Netflix’s original series Orange Is the New Black.
Brothers & Sisters‘ Matthew Rhys (WME, the U.K.’s United Agents, Management 360) and The Walking Dead‘s Noah Emmerich (Gersh, Brillstein) have boarded FX’s drama pilot The Americans as Keri Russell’s husband, a KGB spy, and a neighbor to the couple, respectively.
Former Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio (Buchwald/Fortitude, Untitled) has joined TV Land’s Happily Divorced, playing a love interest of Fran Drescher.
Dennis Miller (WME, Brillstein) will co-star as the cunning boss at the center of ABC’s comedy pilot Awesometown.
Reno 911!’s Tom Lennon (CAA, Principato Young, Jackoway Tyerman) will guest star in the season finale of Fox’s New Girl, playing a potential roommate for Jess and company, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis (CAA, Flutie) will reprise her role as Nick’s ex-girlfriend for the final three episodes of the season.
Gossip Girl‘s Sebastian Stan (WME, Brookside Artist) will co-star in USA’s Political Animals as the son of Sigourney Weaver’s former first lady character, while Carla Gugino (CAA, Untitled, Sloane Offer) plays a journalist in the six-episode drama.
Former Saturday Night Live player Jenny Slate (WME, 3 Arts, Gray Krauss) has joined CBS’ Super Fun Night, playing the best friend of writer-star Rebel Wilson’s Kimmie. Smallville’s Alan Ritchson (UTA, Michael Yanni, Hansen Jacobson) will play the dim boyfriend of Kimmie’s younger sister.
Kathy Bates (ICM, Susan Smith Co.) will guest star April 30 as the ghost of Charlie Sheen’s character on CBS’ Two and a Half Men.
NBC has renewed freshmen dramas Smash and Grimm. … Starz has renewed period drama Magic City for a second season ahead of its April premiere. … TBS has ordered reality show King of the Nerds, starring Revenge of the Nerds actors Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong. … Spike has ordered Tattoo Rescue, a pilot from the Ink Master team.
Aretha Franklin (WME) has re-signed with Sony Music Entertainment and will record a new album with Clive Davis to celebrate her 70th birthday.
Jessica Alba (WME, Sloane Offer) has inked a deal with Rodale to publish The Honest Life, a handbook for creating a “nontoxic life” for her family, co-written by Christopher Gavigan.
Noomi Rapace, star of the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies and the 2012 summer tentpole Prometheus, has signed with WME.
Director Ava DuVernay, a Sundance award winner for her film Middle of Nowhere, has signed with Paradigm.
John C. McGinley of TV’s Scrubs has signed with UTA. Fellow Scrubs star Donald Faison has signed with APA.
Youssef Delara, who wrote and co-directed hip-hop Sundance drama Filly Brown, which was acquired by Indomina Group, has signed with Verve.
Cole Hauser, whose credits include Pitch Black, has signed with APA.
NEXT BIG THING: Danai Gurira
Reps: Paradigm, Suskin Management
Why She Matters: The Treme actress landed the high-profile role of sword-wielding heroine Michonne for The Walking Dead. “Danai portrayed the power and strength that we need Michonne to exhibit,” says comics co-creator Robert Kirkman.
THE BIG NUMBER: 1,000: Total number of T-shirts and children’s jerseys of new Jets quarterback Tim Tebow sold by Modell’s Sporting Goods stores in New York during the first hour they went on sale March 23, part of a blitz of Tebow-related merchandise.
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