Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 is officially just a month or so old, but the $1 billion-backed company already is well on its way to building a slate of film projects with some high-profile names.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Robinov is in negotiations on a number of fronts and is in the process of acquiring projects that involve Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence and The Book of Eli co-director Albert Hughes. And befitting a company which has major Chinese-based financing, a third project would be a remake of a Chinese crime thriller.
The projects, if they come together, show that the former Warner Bros. film chief is not just focusing on one genre with his new studio but is aiming wide and far, from a survival tale set in prehistoric times to a drama in the Middle Ages to a modern day police story.
The prospective slate also shows that Robinov is marrying one of his strengths — industry relationships — with another, that of betting on talent and pushing that talent into new fields.
Studio 8 is in negotiations to acquire the film rights to The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France, by Eric Jager. The adaptation of the 14th century-set drama has Lawrence attached to direct and would be produced by Erwin Stoff.
The book details the true story of the last legal trial by combat in France. Knight Jean de Carrouges and the squire Jacques Le Gris were in a dispute, with de Carrouges accusing Le Gris of raping his wife. The wrangling went up the flagpole to King Charles VI, who decided that a duel would be the best way to handle the matter. Whoever was still alive at the end of the duel would be declared the winner as a sign of God’s will. The stakes were high: If de Carrouges lost the duel, Marguerite de Carrouges would be burned at the stake as punishment for committing a false accusation.
No writer is on board at this point.
The second potential project is untitled but sounds both epic and quirky: The story is set in the era of 25,000 BC and centers on a young caveman and his wolf-dog. (Robinov is said to be very fond of dogs and while head of Warners Bros. pushed to make Cats & Dogs.)
The script was written by Dan Sebastian Wiedenhaupt, a creative exec at Atlas Entertainment, Charles Roven’s company, and the deal is rumored to be in the $1 million range, although one source says the number is lower. Roven is attached to produce.
The project would reunite Robinov with Hughes, who directed such movies as the post-apocalyptic Denzel Washington thriller Book of Eli and Menace II Society with his brother Allen Hughes. Robinov represented the Hughes as an agent in the 1990s before he became a studio executive.
The final project would remake the Chinese crime thriller Overheard. With its large cast of characters, a larger than life mob boss, double crosses and reveals, the project draws comparisons to The Departed, a remake of another Chinese thriller that Robinov oversaw while the head of Warners.
Overheard centers on three detectives of a commercial crime task force who monitor the communications of a publicly traded company. A bad investment decision, a murder gone wrong, and the mob boss’ revenge figure into the story.
The movie was written and directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, who wrote Infernal Affairs, the movie that was adapted into The Departed. The movie swept up nominations for the Hong Kong Film Awards and begat two sequels.
The Robinov slate is diverse and intriguing, but absent — at least so far — is a project from Interstellar director Christopher Nolan, despite industry rumors that Nolan will reunite with the executive behind his Batman trilogy and the megagrossing Inception.
Studio 8 sewed up all its financing in early October. Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group is a major investor as is Sony Pictures Entertainment, with whom the company has a five-year deal to release Robinov’s movies. The company also has debt facilities with JPMorgan Chase, Union Bank, CIT, OneWest Bank and Bank of America.