Among many sources of friction, according to sources, is the studio’s handling of the next installment of G. I. Joe., set for release in August 2012. Di Bonaventura, one of Hollywood’s top producers, is said to have objected when Paramount insisted on installing Jon M. Chu (Justin Bieber: Never Say Never), who lacks action experience, as director.
Recently another di Bonaventura project, the reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise, suffered a major setback when writer Steve Zaillian dropped off the project and the studio decided to proceed with star Chris Pine in a Star Trek sequel first. Di Bonaventura is also one of a brace of producers on the upcoming Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which opens in July.
“Lorenzo is an extremely important producer for us at Paramount,” Goodman tells THR. “If the terms of a new deal make sense for everyone, then we’re going to be in business for a long time.”
Di Bonventura’s rich deal with the studio expires in nine months. The producer, who has worked under a series of three year contracts since joining Paramount in 2002, tells THR his “hope and belief” is that he will remain at the studio.
But in the past couple of weeks, the rumor mill has been spinning with speculation about di Bonaventura’s next move. Some believe he could be a candidate for a top job at Universal. But should he leave Paramount, it seems more likely that he might make a producing deal at Warner Bros., where di Bonaventura worked during the 1990s, eventually rising to head of worldwide production. He left that job in 2002 after an unsuccessful attempt to unseat his then-boss, Alan Horn.
Di Bonaventura hired Jeff Robinov, now poised to succeed Horn as president of Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group. With Horn exiting this month, the door might be open for di Bonaventura to return. (Though di Bonaventura’s relationship with Robinov became deeply strained when both were at Warners, sources say the two have mended fences.)
Sony Pictures, where di Bonaventura produced the 2010 Angelina Jolie vehicle Salt, is another possible home.
Di Bonaventura is also raising $2 million a year for two years from Italia, a Middle Eastern distribution company, to develop low- to mid-budget action films–an area that he believes is neglected by Hollywood. Those pictures would be subject to a first-look deal at Paramount.
One agent says he understands why Di Bonaventura, 54, would have issues with Goodman, 38. “For a guy like Lorenzo, who has run the biggest studio in town and who has produced a boatload of movies, to get his marching orders from someone he sees as a kid–there’s got to be some pain in that,” this observer says. “This guy’s making director decisions on his franchise. . . . and look at the director’s body of work. He’s made dance movies and concert movies.”
The friction with di Bonaventura comes at a time when many producers–even those at the top of the A list–are finding the business increasingly difficult to navigate. Even the future of long-standing relationships–such as Jerry Bruckheimer‘s with Disney–is not clear.