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While other major Hollywood studios are grinding to a halt, MGM is making showy moves.
Film chairman Michael De Luca, who was installed in January, is taking this time to attempt to reshape the company not just as a library of IP — think the James Bond and Creed franchises — but one that has a future with original material. In March and early April alone, he has hired executives and closed several splashy deals as some rivals appear to be in pause mode.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that MGM is acquiring Ridley Scott’s Gucci — a true crime drama about the murder of fashion trailblazer Maurizio Gucci — and is in negotiations for Lady Gaga to star. The studio beat out Netflix and at least one other streamer for the project about the machinations behind the fabled fashion house. MGM won out partly because it offered the opportunity for a theatrical release, a key appeal for Scott, according to sources.
Gaga would star as Patrizia Reggiani, Gucci’s ex-wife who was convicted of orchestrating his hit after he had an affair. The script by Roberto Bentivegna is based on The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, written by Sara Gay Forden and published by William Morrow in 2001. The book used the murder to delve into the complex yet dishy family history, filled with infighting, corporate intrigue and gobs of money. Maurizio Gucci was the grandson of Guccio Gucci and ran the company in a declining period in the 1980s after wresting it out of an uncle’s hands.
“This project has long been a labor of love for both Ridley and me,” says Giannina Scott, who will produce with husband Ridley via the couple’s Scott Free banner. “The story is so epic, the stakes so high and the characters so richly drawn that we were determined to get it to the big screen. To say we are thrilled to be teaming with Mike De Luca and his brilliant film group at MGM is an understatement. We can’t wait to see this come to life next year.”
Scott was in the middle of shooting The Last Duel, a drama set in the Middle Ages with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Adam Driver, but that movie is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. The plan is for Scott to restart work on that when Hollywood and the world returns to work, and then dive into Gucci after.
MGM is so ready to wear Gucci that it has set a Nov. 24, 2021, release date. “Nothing typifies bold, audacious originality more than a film by Ridley Scott,” says De Luca in a statement. “All of us at MGM are incredibly excited to be in business with Ridley, Giannina, Kevin and the whole team at Scott Free.”
MGM’s Gucci buy follows De Luca’s March 27 deal for Ryan Gosling to star in an untitled space drama based on a new novel by The Martian author Andy Weir. The studio edged out rivals with a whopping $3 million deal for the book, now in manuscript form. Earlier in March, the studio acquired the road-trip comedy Dog, to be co-directed by Channing Tatum (who also will star) and Reid Carolin.
Meanwhile, MGM has enlisted veteran executive Pam Abdy as motion picture group president, reporting to De Luca, as well as executive vp Elishia Holmes and senior vp Johnny Pariseau, both from his previous shop, as a solo producer. The Gucci project, in particular, aligns with De Luca’s strategy to court A-list directors while other studios are taking a beat on everything but future tentpole planning.
MGM, like other studios, has been reckoning with the theater chains’ shutdown and was forced to move its $250 million James Bond outing No Time to Die from April to November.
Pushing back the tentpole likely resulted in a $30 million to $50 million loss for the studio. But sources say that MGM is not planning layoffs or furloughs despite the revenue hit it is expected to take from the Bond sequel’s delay. (The studio declined to comment.) One insider observes of MGM’s moves amid Hollywood’s shutdown, “This time is an opportunity as much as it’s a liability.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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