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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Hunger Games 2: How a Director Was Chosen: On April 19, directors Francis Lawrence and Bennett Miller were invited to separate meetings at Lionsgate’s Santa Monica offices. Studio co-chairman Rob Friedman and his key executives had whittled a short list of possible Catching Fire directors to two after considering such notables as Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Tony Scott (Unstoppable) and Duncan Jones (Moon) for the Hunger Games sequel.
Lawrence and Miller each made an impressive pitch, according to a source with knowledge of the meetings, but by the end of the day, the choice was made: CAA-repped Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) was offered the reins to the follow-up to Gary Ross‘ blockbuster Hunger Games, which has grossed nearly $575 million worldwide. A deal is expected to close shortly, though Lawrence will likely be paid less than the $3 million to $4 million upfront plus 5 percent of backend that Ross received for Hunger Games because Ross also co-wrote the first installment.
Lawrence, 41, who was selected to direct the movie without having read the script, will now work with Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) to finalize a screenplay based on the Suzanne Collins best-seller. In his meetings with Lionsgate, Lawrence is said to have revealed that he has read all three Hunger Games books and holds the second in the series as his favorite. A familiarity with the material will be helpful because the clock is ticking on the production, which must be finished by early January so star Jennifer Lawrence (no relation to the Austrian filmmaker) can begin shooting a sequel to Fox’s X-Men: First Class later that month. The tight time frame and the potential conflict with Fox’s movie was a key factor in Ross’ decision to bow out of the sequel.
“As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make,” Ross wrote in an April 10 open letter to Hunger Games fans. Miller, who scored a home run with Moneyball last fall, also had a potential conflict with Fox, having committed to direct the studio’s Foxcatcher, a passion project of his.
Lionsgate declines to comment, and the studio won’t confirm that the production will return to North Carolina. But sources say a fall shoot is likely, which would give Lawrence plenty of time to prepare the film for its Nov. 22, 2013 release date. — Matthew Belloni
Couric Doc Tackles Kids’ Obesity
Katie Couric and An Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David are partnering on The Big Picture, a documentary about childhood obesity. For the past year, producer Stephanie Soechtig has been following 10 kids ages 11 through 17 who have been contributing personal video diaries about their struggles with weight, peer pressure and food choices. Couric, who mentors students at New York’s Harlem Village Academy, was struck by her mentees’ lack of familiarity with fresh produce during a trip to a farmer’s market. “Some of the kids had never eaten a raw carrot,” says Couric, who will likely narrate. Soechtig, who will produce and direct, plans a grass-roots distribution model with film festivals and community screenings across the U.S. Couric and David will executive produce with Atlas Films’ Michelle and Michael Walrath. — Marisa Guthrie
MiB Team Re-Ups With Mideast Cash
The husband-and- wife producing team of Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald (Men in Black 3) saw their first-look deal with DreamWorks end in January. But they have formed a new joint venture, Parkes+MacDonald/Image Nation, which builds on the $10 million revolving development fund that Imagenation Abu Dhabi set up for the producers in 2009. Under the three-year deal, Image Nation or one of its associated companies like Hyde Park or Participant has first right to partner on projects, though the producers also expect to work with other companies, even studios. Right now, for example, they have several projects — the Martin Campbell-directed action movie The Fall Guy and a new adaptation of the Graham Green story Fallen Idol — that Studio Canal will co-finance. Says Parkes, “This gives us complete flexibility.” — Gregg Kilday
Ben Affleck (WME, Ziffren Brittenham) and Justin Timberlake (WME, Ziffren Brittenham) are set to star in Runner, Runner, a New Regency drama set in the world of online gambling. Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) directs.
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (WME, Jackoway Tyerman) will star in Fruitvale, about a hot-button 2009 Bay Area police killing. Michael B. Jordan, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz are co-starring in the indie film, to be written and directed by Ryan Coogler.
Bridesmaids director Paul Feig (CAA, Sloane Offer) is in talks to helm Disney’s comedy fantasy Wish List, with Reese Witherspoon attached to star. Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray of Mayhem Pictures are producing.
Haywire star Gina Carano (Gersh, The Syndicate, Ziffren Brittenham) is in negotiations to join Universal’s Fast & Furious 6. Justin Lin returns as director.
Antoine Fuqua (CAA, Ziffren Brittenham) is in talks to direct Olympus Has Fallen, a Nu Image/Millennium action thriller about a White House terrorist attack.
James Van Der Beek (Paradigm, Brillstein) is negotiating to join the cast of Labor Day, Jason Reitman’s adaptation of the Joyce Maynard novel for Paramount.
Taken director Pierre Morel (CAA, Sentient, Hansen Jacobson) will helm Bastille Day, an action thriller produced by Vendome Pictures and Anonymous Content and written by Andrew Baldwin.
Richard Jenkins (Gersh, Bill Treusch) will star as a track coach who bonds with a young man (Cameron Bright of the Twilight films) from the wrong side of the tracks in the indie drama One Square Mile.
Comedy writers Sean Anders and John Morris (CAA, Mosaic, Morris Yorn) will pen Warner Bros. football comedy 3 Mississippi, which has Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg attached. Anders will direct.
Former Grey’s Anatomy actor T.R. Knight (Innovative, Thruline) has joined 42, Legendary Pictures’ Jackie Robinson biopic. Chadwick Boseman plays the first black major leaguer for filmmaker Brian Helgeland.
Resident Evil producer Constantine Film has picked up movie rights to The Iron Trial, the first book in a new fantasy series from authors Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. They will pen the screenplay and serve as executive producers.
Ray Liotta (UTA, Untitled, Hansen Jacobson) is in negotiations to play the villain in The Rut, an indie drama directed by Karyn Kusama.
John Cho (Gersh, Principato Young, Morris Yorn) and Clark Duke (WME, Mosaic, Myman Greenspan) have joined the cast of The Identity Thief, a Universal comedy starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy that will be directed by Seth Gordon.
The Allegiance Theater, the production banner run by Daniel Dubiecki, is launching an Australian unit headed by Torus Tammer. Its first film, Undercover, is from Red Hill director Patrick Hughes.
Digital distributor Cinedigm has acquired New Video Group, a distributor and aggregator of independent content, for $20?million.
Ryan Seacrest (CAA, Hansen Jacobson) has inked a two-year, $30 million deal to remain host of Fox’s American Idol.
Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay (CAA, Grubman Indursky) has inked a deal to continue with the NBC series, now awaiting word about a 14th season.
NBC has given series orders to Go On, a single-camera comedy starring Matthew Perry from former Friends writer Scott Silveri; Howie Mandel’s White Elephant, a seven-episode game show; and Ready for Love, an unscripted relationship series hosted and produced by Bill and Giuliana Rancic and produced by Eva Longoria.
Ellen Burstyn (Innovative, Schiff Co.) has joined USA Network’s Greg Berlanti miniseries Political Animals as the mother of Sigourney Weaver’s former first lady.
William Petersen (UTA, Ziffren Brittenham) will star in and executive produce Hurt People, a crime drama ordered to pilot at Cinemax. Peter Macmanus (UTA, Rain, Myman Greenspan) will write the script for Graham King’s GK-TV.
Homeland writer-producer Alex Cary (WME, New Wave, Hansen Jacobson) has inked a new multiyear overall deal with 20th Television and has been promoted from co-executive producer to EP of the Showtime drama.
Bravo has renewed Shahs of Sunset for a second season and put six unscripted projects into development, including fashion and fitness offerings Shop With Stella and Tone It Up and a divorce lawyer docudrama, Splitsville.
George Lopez (CAA, 3 Arts, Rohner Walerstein) will host Fox dating series Take Me Out.
Parenthood‘s Skyler Day (ICM, Main Title, Loeb & Loeb) will have a recurring role on Lifetime’s Army Wives, playing the daughter of Kelli Williams’ character.
Christine Estabrook (Don Buchwald/Fortitude, Koopman) will reprise her role as Martha Huber in the May series finale of ABC’s Desperate Housewives.
VH1 has given series orders to Big Ang, revolving around Mob Wives‘ Angela Raiola.
PBS has ordered Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, a weekly half-hour culinary master class.
Syfy has put eight unscripted series into development, including Fan Girl/Fan Boy, which explores the culture of the misunderstood from Jersey Shore producer SallyAnn Salsano.
Style Network has ordered five new series, including Jerseylicious spinoff Chicagolicious, and renewed Tia & Tamera and Glam Fairy. … FEARnet is bringing back its first original scripted series, Holliston, for a second season. … TLC has renewed freshman My Crazy Obsession.
Travel Channel has greenlighted three pilots, including car search effort Barn Finds, and is in development on two original series, Coffee Hunter and City Swappers.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will host The Gavin Newsom Show, a weekly talk show for Current TV.
Producer Peter Chernin has sold “a significant minority equity stake” in The Chernin Group for $200 million to investors led by private-equity group Providence Equity Partners.
Disney’s Marvel Studios has partnered with Beijing-based DMG Entertainment to co-produce Iron Man 3 in China. DMG will make an unspecified investment in the film and help Disney work around China’s strict quota for releasing foreign films.
Hulu has given series orders to The Awesomes, from SNL‘s Seth Meyers, about a superhero and his cohorts; We Got Next, about pals who play pickup basketball; crime drama Flow; Adrian Grenier’s musical project Don’t Quit Your Daydream; and Up to Speed, an unscripted tour guide effort from director Richard Linklater.
Songwriter Bonnie McKee (Pulse), whose hits include Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” has signed with L.A. Reid’s Epic Records.
THE BIG NUMBER: $4 million: Earnings for reality star DJ Pauly D (real name: Paul DelVecchio) from Seasons 4 and 5 of MTV’s Jersey Shore, according to an April 12 lawsuit filed by his former talent agency ICM.
Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (CAA) has signed with the law firm Ziffren Brittenham.
Eric Stoltz, best known for his performances in Pulp Fiction and Mask, has signed with UTA.
Christopher Stanley, who plays Betty Draper’s husband on AMC’s Mad Men, has signed with APA.
Tamzin Merchant, who starred in two seasons of Showtime’s The Tudors, has signed with ICM.
Amir Blumenfeld, a writer and performer for CollegeHumor who now appears on MTV’s I Just Want My Pants Back and co-hosts the network’s Pranked, has signed with ICM. — Daniel Miller
THE NEXT BIG THING: Gattlin Griffith
Reps: Paradigm, Curtis Talent
Why He Matters: After small parts as Angelina Jolie’s abducted son in Changeling and a young Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern, Griffith, 13, has landed the key starring role in Oscar nominee Jason
Reitman’s drama Labor Day opposite Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.
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