7 Days of Deals
Ka-Ching! Who’s inking on the dotted line this week.
DEAL OF THE WEEK: How the Tupac Shakur Biopic Came Back to Life: For two years, it seemed the biopic of the slain rapper Tupac Shakur had met a similar untimely death. Long in development at production outfit Morgan Creek, the company thought it had struck a deal with Afeni Shakur-Davis, Tupac’s mother, whose Amaru Entertainment was demanding broad creative approval before handing over the necessary life and music rights. But in February 2009, Morgan Creek abruptly sued Amaru, claiming Shakur-Davis had closed a deal but “instead attempted to use the contract as a floor to pursue further negotiations.” Amaru quickly hired Hollywood litigator Skip Miller and countersued, arguing that there was no legally binding agreement and that Morgan Creek and its topper, James Robinson, were interfering with Shakur-Davis’ negotiations with other studios, including Fox and Paramount, to make the movie. The project then entered litigation purgatory: Depositions were taken, lengthy motions were filed, and hundreds of thousands were spent preparing for a scheduled Feb. 15 trial to determine whether Morgan Creek had the right to make the movie. Behind the scenes, lawyers for both sides were trying to convince Shakur-Davis — known as being especially protective of her son’s legacy — that a settlement would benefit both sides. Morgan Creek, after all, was one of the few companies willing to make a deal, given her required creative input. On the eve of the trial, cooler heads prevailed. Sources say Shakur-Davis sat down with director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and agreed with his vision of the film. A deal was soon negotiated that allows Morgan Creek to make the movie, with Shakur-Davis receiving an undisclosed flat fee, a chunk of the backend and an executive producer credit. The studio said Feb. 10 that the task of casting Shakur would begin immediately, with a shoot planned for late spring and Universal handling the film’s release. “This is certainly a better result for everyone involved,” Miller says. — Matthew Belloni
Troll 2 alum seeks to Destroy
Michael Stephenson was the child star of the 1990 horror pic Troll 2, a movie so infamously bad, he used the experience to write and direct Best Worst Movie, about the film becoming a cult phenomenon. In a twist of fate, that documentary enabled Stephenson, 32, to line up financing for his first narrative feature, a dark comedy titled Destroy, about a would-be vampire hunter who thinks he’s saving the world but is murdering innocents. The script was co-written by Zack Carlson, programmer of Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema; the two became friends when Troll 2 played at Drafthouse. “I was embarrassed by this movie my whole life,” Stephenson says. “But now, a lot of good has come from being in one of the worst movies ever made.” — Borys Kit
BERLIN’S HOT MARKET
Magnolia Pictures picked up U.S. rights to three films: Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland; Magic Trip, a documentary on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey from Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood; and the French thriller Point Blank.
The Weinstein Co. bought U.S. rights to Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut, Coriolanus. The $10 million pic stars Fiennes, Gerard Butler and Vanessa Redgrave.
FilmDistrict took U.S. rights to Miramax’s horror title Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, produced by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Johnson and co-starring Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes.
ATO acquired North American rights to The Woman in the Fifth, a thriller from director Pawel Pawlikowski.
ARC Entertainment teamed with XLrator Media to pick up U.S. rights to John Carpenter’s thriller The Ward.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Samuel Goldwyn partnered on U.S. rights to the ensemble comedy A Good Old Fashioned Orgy.
Sony Pictures Classics nabbed U.S. rights to Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground and Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness.
Lionsgate took the Paul Walker vehicle Pawn Shop Chronicles, from director Fred Durst and Mimran Schur Pictures.
Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Productions bought U.S rights to Wong Kar Wai’s martial arts epic The Grandmasters.
Tom Cruise (CAA, Greenberg Glusker) has closed a deal to co-star in Rock of Ages, New Line’s adaptation of the hit stage musical. Adam Shankman is directing from a script by Chris D’Arienzo. Cruise will play Stacee Jaxx, who sings Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the theater production. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are also circling.
Director Bryan Singer’s fantasy tentpole Jack the Giant Killer is lining up its cast, with Stanley Tucci (CAA, Theodore L. Blumberg) as the villain and Bill Nighy (WME, Jackoway Tyerman) and John Kassir (Henderson/Hogan, Vincent Cirrincione) as a two-headed giant. Nicholas Hoult (UTA, the U.K.’s Independent Talent) is negotiating to play Jack.
Disney has set Win Win filmmaker Tom McCarthy (Gersh, Schreck Rose) to write Million Dollar Arm, based on the inspirational story of sports agent J.B. Bernstein discovering professional pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel through his Indian reality show. Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray’s Mayhem Pictures is producing with Joe Roth.
Charlize Theron (WME, One Talent, Hansen Jacobson) is joining Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller Prometheus for Fox.
Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (UTA, 3Arts, Hansen Jacobson) is negotiating to work on Summit’s remake of Highlander. Neal H. Moritz and Peter Davis are producing the update of the 1986 movie that starred Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery and Clancy Brown. Justin Lin (Fast Five) will direct.
Eclipse director David Slade (WME, Anonymous Content) will helm the vampire horror pic The Last Voyage of Demeter for Phoenix Pictures. Noomi Rapace and Ben Kingsley are attached to co-star; the lead role has not been cast. Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer and Bradley Fischer are producing, with a script by Bragi F. Schut.
Changeling writer J. Michael Straczynski (CAA, Gendler & Kelly) has sold the original screenplay Voices From the Dead to DreamWorks. The thriller, which centers on the relationship between Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, creates a fictional account of the two teaming with a psychic to solve murders in 1920s New York.
Julia Roberts (CAA, Hirsch Wallerstein) has closed a deal to star as the Queen in Relativity’s Snow White, directed by Tarsem Singh. Set to begin shooting in April, the script by Melisa Wallack and Jason Keller takes the title character on a quest for revenge with the seven dwarves after her evil stepmother kills her father.
Warner Bros. and producers Joel Silver and Akiva Goldsman are lining up Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (WME, Anonymous, Nelson Davis) to helm Logan’s Run. The sci-fi remake is being developed as a vehicle for Ryan Gosling, who stars in Refn’s upcoming action thriller Drive.
Michelle Pfeiffer (CAA, Management 360, Hirsch Wallerstein) is joining Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, opposite Johnny Depp.
The Debt has found a U.S. distributor in Focus Features. The Miramax production, which stars Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington, found itself adrift when Disney shut down the label. Now the John Madden-directed film will be released domestically Aug. 31.
Roadside Attractions will handle U.S. distribution of Maryam Keshavarz’s Iranian drama Circumstance. Participant Media had acquired North American rights after the film’s world premiere at Sundance in January. Roadside plans a summer release.
Zooey Deschanel (CAA, Seven Summits, Hansen Jacobson) has closed a deal to star in Fox’s untitled Liz Meriwether comedy pilot from 20th TV and Chernin Entertainment.
Rachel Bilson (CAA, Untitled, Eisner & Frank) will star in the CW pilot Hart of Dixie for producer Josh Schwartz, his Fake Empire shingle and WBTV.
Amanda Peet (Gersh, Management 360, Hansen Jacobson) has booked the lead in the NBC single-camera comedy pilot Bent, from writer/executive producer Tad Quill.
Rob Riggle (CAA, Principato Young) is the lead in CBS’ comedy pilot Home Game. The CBS Television Studios/Leverage production is inspired by the life of Super Bowl champion and ESPN commentator Mark Schlereth.
Debra Messing (Gersh, 3Arts, Stone Meyer) and Katharine McPhee (Gersh, Schiff Co.) will co-star in the NBC musical-drama pilot Smash, from DreamWorks TV and Universal Media Studios.
London’s Escape Studios, a computer-graphics academy, has established its first U.S. campus. The company signed a five-year lease, valued at $1.4 million, for 7,986 square feet at Santa Monica’s Yahoo Center.