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This story first appeared in the May 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
In his first move since exiting the former to join the latter with his agent Jason Heyman on March 31, Pratt officially became attached on April 16 to the action-adventure movie, which sparked a heated bidding war between Universal and Warner Bros. before landing at Universal in a seven-figure deal.
But which agency will collect the actor’s full-freight commission when the dust settles?
Insiders say CAA already has indicated that it will try to make a claim, given that it represented the Guardians of the Galaxy star when the project’s package first came together. The agency reps writer Bill Dubuque (The Judge), who penned the pitch about bootlegger Bill McCoy, whose life might have inspired the phrase “the real McCoy,” meaning the liquor hadn’t been cut. Weeks ago, CAA unofficially attached its in-house star Pratt after he fell for the script about the Prohibition-era outlaw, who ironically was a teetotaler.
But UTA could have the upper hand in this commission dispute — one of several poised to be litigated in separate state-court and arbitration actions pending between CAA and the defectors — given that there is no deal in place for Pratt, simply an oral attachment agreement. If the film moves forward as expected, UTA would be the sole agency negotiating on behalf of Pratt.
The Real McCoy pitch started making the rounds in Hollywood in mid-April, well after the red-hot leading man became ensconced at UTA. Every studio showed interest, but meetings on April 14 and April 15 were canceled after Warners and Universal began bidding aggressively. Universal prevailed when it plunked down $1.5 million against $3 million for the rights to the film, which will be produced by Tom McNulty (The Spectacular Now) and Michael De Luca (Fifty Shades of Grey), who left his Sony executive post April 2 to return to Universal with a three-year, first-look deal.
Losing Pratt, 35, might be the biggest blow to CAA, which already has seen a total of 12 agents leave the fold, taking with them a roster of clients that also includes Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms. Seen as an up-and-coming star, Pratt’s salary for a project like Real McCoy certainly would be worth fighting for, given that the actor recently has turned down offers as high as $6 million (for Sony’s Uncharted). If June’s Jurassic World is a global hit, his quote almost certainly would rise into the eight-figure range for franchise-style roles.
Regardless of the commissions tug-of-war, the producers see Pratt as the ideal fit. “We couldn’t be luckier than to have Chris Pratt fill McCoy’s shoes,” says McNulty, a onetime bartender who first learned of the McCoy legend when working at a former speakeasy in Long Island.
McNulty then pitched the idea to Dubuque, and the two developed the project together. “Bill’s take was amazing. This is a robust world that goes from the dark speakeasies of New York to the corrupt halls of power in Washington while layering in amazing action on the high seas.”
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