Universal Pictures served as the distributor for both Jordan Peele's 2017 breakout psychological thriller Get Out Certified Fresh at 98%and this year's slasher film Us Certified Fresh at 93%. This week, Universal solidified their relationship with Peelewith a five-year deal with his Monkeypaw Productions that ensures they will release all of his films. This new deal includes two features that Peele himself will write and direct within those five years, but no details have been revealed about either. In addition to this new deal with Universal Pictures, Jordan Peele is also still producing The Twilight Zone for CBS, the upcoming series Lovecraft Country, and next summer's remake of Candyman 6/12/2020.
Last week's biggest news was all about the new deal between Disney and Sony for Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige to remain involvedin future Spider-Man movies starring Tom Holland. That news, however, also broke on Friday afternoon, and the story continued to develop over the weekend after last week's Ketchup column ran. In the seven days since, that movie, and another Tom Holland project, both received updates. Jon Watts, who directed both Spider-Man: Homecoming Certified Fresh at 92% and this year's Spider-Man: Far from Home Certified Fresh at 90%is now in talks with Marvel Studios and Sony Picturesto return fora third installment 7/16/2021. It's not yet known which villainwill appearin the next Spider-Man, but the final scenes of Far from Home suggest it could be a J. Jonah Jameson-related threat, like the Scorpion or the Spider-Slayer robots. In related news, it was also revealed that Tom Holland himself played an integral behind-the-scenes role in making the new deal possible. In addition to the third Spider-Man scheduled for the summer of 2021 7/16/2021, Holland also remains attached to star in Sony's video game adaptation Uncharted 12/18/2020. That project has gone through a few directors now, but this week, we learned Travis Knight Bumblebee, Kubo and the Two Strings is now in talksto take it on.
2. THE ORIGINAL HALLOWEEN NURSE RETURNING FOR 2020'S HALLOWEEN KILLS
Last year's soft reboot of HalloweenCertified Fresh at 79% wenta long wayto disregard most of the sequels and establish itself as a direct follow-up to the original film, including the return of Jamie Lee Curtis but without the details established in later films. As the next two planned movies get closer to being filmed back to back Halloween Kills on 10/16/2020 and Halloween Ends on 10/15/2021, the casting news has focused on the returns of other characters from the first movie, including the casting of Anthony Michael Hall as the adult Tommy Doyle, who was the kid Laurie Strode was originally babysitting. We can also now report that Nancy Stephens, who played Nurse Marion Chambers in the first Halloween, will also return for Halloween Kills. Nurse Marion had a crucial role in the original Halloween, as it was her car that Michael Myers stole as part of his escape from the Smith's Grove Sanitarium. She also had a key role in Halloween 2, but these new films act likethat movienever happened.
3. DISNEY ANIMATION DEVELOPING FOUR NEW PROJECTS AS PART OF NEW INITIATIVE
The next movie from Disney Animation Studios is going to be this December's sequel, Frozen II, but it appears that the studio's future will be mostly original stories for at least the next few years. Having said that, the only confirmed title past Frozen II is next year's Raya and the Last Dragon, scheduled for 11/25/2020. This week, Disney confirmed that they are now developing not one but four new animation projects as part of the “studio's commitment to diversity and inclusion.” The four directors now working on these untitled Disney Animation projects are Carlos Lopez Estrada Blindspotting, Certified Fresh at 94%; Suzi Yoonessi Unlovable, Fresh at 81%; Josie Trinidad credited as a story writer on Zootopia; and Marc Smith a longtime animator who worked on movies like Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. No premises have been revealed about these four projects, including whether any of them might be adapted from existing classic stories.
Clint Eastwood is one of those directors who can get movies producedvery quickly. This week's news, however, is one of the most surprising examples of his expediency. After a long development phase which included a time when Jonah Hill might have starred, before his recent weight loss, Eastwood started filming Richard Jewell, about the 1996 bombing at the Atlanta Olympic Games, in June of this year. The start date was June 14, 2019, which is one day shy of six months before the December 13, 2019 release date that Warner Bros announced for the film this week. Paul Walter Hauser, who was arguably the breakout star of I, Tonya, will star as Richard Jewell when it's released, up against Jumanji: The Next Level and the remake of Black Christmas which was also produced really quickly this year. Warner Bros. also released the first trailer forthe filmthis week, which will be attached in many theaters to Joker.
5. PIPPI LONGSTOCKING TO BE REBOOTED BY PADDINGTON PRODUCERS
Although Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's original Pippi Longstocking books were originally published from 1945 to 1948, the super strong female children's book character has had a decades-long legacy thathas included multiple movies and TV shows. Having said that, the mainstream influence of Pippi Longstocking in the USA has been relatively thin for decades, and hasn't been updated for over 20 years. That appears likely to change relatively soon with the news this week that a new Pippi Longstocking movie is now being developed by the producers of Paddington Certified Fresh at 97% and its even better-received sequel Certified Fresh at 100%.
Children's author R.J. Palacio had something of a runaway hit with her 2012 novel Wonder, which was then adapted in 2017 as a well-received live action movieCertified Fresh at 85% starring Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts. This week, Lionsgate picked up the feature film rights to Palacio's upcoming graphic novel called White Bird: A Wonder Story. That book will tell the World War II story of a young Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied France who would go on to become the grandmother of Julian, the central character of Wonder. It is not yet known if White Bird will be adapted as live action like Wonder or in animation in the style of the graphic novel.
Photo by Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection
It was just last week that we learned that the Micronautsadaptation 6/4/2021 will be directed by Dean DeBlois, who spent most of the last ten years working on the various How to Train Your Dragon animated movies. Now that the How to Train Your Dragon franchise is finished,DeBlois' agents are apparently working double-time to find him new projects, because there's another one this week. Universal Pictures and Mandeville Films Beauty and the Beast, Warm Bodies are now developing a new adaptation of the classic pirate novelTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, which was most famously adapted as a live-actionWalt Disney film in 1950 Fresh at 100%. Dean DeBlois is reportedly attached to direct the newfilm, which is being adapted by screenwriter Evan Spiliotopolous co-writer of Beauty and the Beastand The Huntsman: Winter's War. With Micronauts already scheduled for 2021, Treasure Island will probably be released no sooner than 2022.
For trivia fans, “the Demeter” has long been a little gem to keep in one's back pocket, as it is the name of the deserted ship on which Count Dracula sails to England from Transylvania in Bram Stoker's original 1897 novel. Fans of movie development news might also recognize that ship's name as part of Last Voyage of the Demeter, a long-in-development since 2001 horror film about the on-board massacre as Dracula and his vampire cohorts killed the ship's sailors on their way to England. Basically, Last Voyage of the Demeter attempts to fill in one of the story beats that Bram Stoker left as an untold spooky side-story. We can now report that Norwegian director André Øvredal Trollhunter, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now in talks to direct The Last Voyage of the Demeter. At one point, Viggo Mortensen was attached to star in the film as the Demeter's captain, but it's not yet known ifhe is still attached nearly 10 years later.
9. BORAT CO-WRITER WORKING ON HOME ALONE REBOOT FOR DISNEY+
The growth and popularity of streaming services continue to pose an interesting challenge for how they're reported on are they movies, are they TV, or are they something completely unrelated?, but when the streaming feature is intriguing enough, we still report on them herefrom time to time. Netflix is obviously the big player in this realm, but the Disney+ streaming app which launches next month is also looming out there with some very promising projects. In August, Disney CEO Bob Iger mentioned several potential Disney+ feature films, and this week, one of those was confirmed to be moving forward in development. Borat co-writer Dan Mazer is now working on adapting the original Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin as a new children's feature film for the Disney+ streaming app. The reboot is expected to be a twist on the original premise, as the young boy will now be the thief who has stolen something from a married couple and apparently, no adult thieves are involved this time around. It's not yet known who Disney will cast as the married couple.
EXCLUSIVE: A remarkable, little known slice of Black American history is coming to light with Boley, an premium event series in development at Universal Television from writer Dianne Houston When We Rise, Empire, Take the Lead and producer Rudy Langlais The Hurricane, Sugar Hill.
Hailed as “television's first premium Black western,” Boley is inspired by the e true story of an early 20th century black utopia, Boley, Oklahoma, which was established in 1904 as one of the largest and most thriving black towns in the country.
In 1930s Oklahoma, a group of proud Black citizens and businessmen took up arms against notorious gangster Pretty Boy Floyd and his band of outlaws to defend their community. Boley was a bourgeoning, prosperous town in the middle of the American Depression and its citizens were determined to protect what they had built. They were successful.
The rich legacy of this revolutionary all-Black town and this infamous battle as the backdrop for the limited series, which has been a passion project for Langlais and Universal TV President Pearlena Igbokwe for two decades.
They first started talking about a Boley TV project when she was a development executive at Showtime. Langlais and Igbokwe developed a script which didn’t get made but the duo never lost their enthusiasm for the story. In the past few years, they renewed their efforts, launching a search for a writer to tell the story that led to bringing in Houston. She has been commissioned by Universal TV to write the script, which will then be taken out to cable and streaming networks. Houston and Langlais are executive producing.
“Boley was one of those mythic places, like Camelot, that I heard fleeting but exciting tales about,” Langlais said. “They described a place impossible to believe was real…in the middle of Oklahoma…mentioned Nikolai Tesla…and Pretty Boy Floyd…and a shoot-out during a bank robbery…all in the same breath. So when Pearlena called 20 years ago and asked if I was interested in telling this story, I was ready to jump on a train to find this mythic place. However long it took.”
Langlais and Igbokwe successfully told another important story together with the 2000 Showtime TV movie Who Killed Atlanta’s Children?, which Langlais produced. Nineteen years later, they are re-teaming for Boley.
“Rudy Langlais and I have been trying to tell this story for a long time,,” Igbokwe: said. ” It is yet another piece of American history that has been overlooked. The showdown in Boley Oklahoma is incredibly emotional and incredibly cinematic.”
The town of Boley, once described by Booker T. Washington as “the finest black town in the world,” had a thriving economy and residents who would do anything to defend their beloved town. On November 23, 1932, three members of Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s gang tried to rob the town’s Farmers and Merchants Bank, the state’s first nationally chartered black-owned bank. When all was said and done, the bank’s president and two of the bank robbers had been killed, one by a bank bookkeeper and the other by townspeople who grabbed their guns and opened fire as the robbers tried to flee. All the money was recovered.
Houston has served as a writer, supervising producer and director on Fox ‘ Empire and wrote for the ABC limited series When We Rise. In features, she recently co-wrote the upcoming movie Seacole starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Worthington.
Universal Television has promoted several members of its burgeoning programming ranks and added one new senior-level executive to its roster.
Erik Rechsteiner has been boosted to SVP, Current Series and NBCUniversal International exec Kristen Del Pero has been brought over to Universal TV as SVP, Current Series and International Development.
The moves come as Universal has reached 40 series currently ordered to production, most in the studio's history.
“I'm extremely proud of the unprecedented growth at Universal Television over the last three years,” Universal Television president Pearlena Igbokwe said in a press release. “It gives me great pleasure to recognize those executives who have helped make it possible and will continue to advance our studio.”
Del Pero and Rechsteiner will report to JoAnn Alfano, EVP, Current Series and International Development.
Universal also promoted three director-level execs: Brittany Little, to VP, Drama Development; Brian Salb to VP, Current Series; and Megan Macmillan to VP, Comedy Development.
Rechsteiner has worked on breakout shows like The Good Place and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He also oversees Superstore, new fall comedy Sunnyside and the recently announced NBC comedy from executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, which stars Ted Danson as the mayor of LA. Rechsteiner also handles NBC's second-year drama New Amsterdam.
Del Pero, who arrived at Universal TV a few weeks ago, is charged with overseeing freshman drama Bluff City Law and NBC midseason entries Council of Dads and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. She will also help the company explore new business models and development opportunities around the globe. Prior to Del Pero previously served as VP, Scripted Programming for NBCUniversal International Studios since 2014, producing series like Gone and The Disappearance. Prior to NBCU, she worked at Dare to Pass, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, Lifetime Networks/AETN, TV Tray Entertainment, Broadway Video Television and CAA.
Little has helped develop several series currently on the air or soon to launch across several networks, including FBI and FBI: Most Wanted on CBS, Almost Family on Fox and Lincoln on NBC.
Salb's current series responsibilities include long-running drama Chicago P.D. and new shows Perfect Harmony and Lincoln for NBC; FBI at CBS; The Baker and the Beauty at ABC; and A.P. Bio, which is headed to NBCU's Peacock streaming service.
Macmillan has been involved in developing NBC's A.P. Bio, Sunnyside, The Kenan Show, and Russian Doll for Netflix, and Little America for Apple, among other projects.
EXCLUSIVE:Deadline has learned that Universal Pictures and Mandeville Films are in development on Treasure Island,a new feature take inspired by the 1883 Robert Louis Stevenson novel whichtwo-time Oscar nominated How to Train Your Dragon filmmaker Dean DeBlois will direct.
Beauty and the Beast scribe Evan Spiliotopoulos will write the script, collaborating with DeBlois on the story. Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman of Mandeville Films will produce via their Universal deal alongside DeBlois. It was recently announced that Paramount/Hasbro's Micronauts would rep DeBlois' first live-action feature directorial. With that pic dated for June 4, 2021, the thinking is that Micronauts will likely go first given that Treasure Island is in early development.
Lewis Stone and Jackie Cooper in Treasure Island MGM
Treasure Island tells the story of young Jim Hawkins who is torn between his loyalty to his benefactors and his affection for Pirate Captain Long John Silver as they seek a buried pirate treasure. The three notable movies on Treasure Island include Victor Fleming's 1934 movie starring Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper in the respective roles of Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins. Then there's Walt Disney's 1950 version with Robert Newton and Bobby Driscoll and the 1972 adaptation which starred Orson Welles as Silver. There were also two TV versions: TBS' 1990 version starring Charlton Heston, Christian Bale, Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee and Syfy's 2012 edition with Eddie Izzard, Donald Sutherland, Elijah Wood which was nominated for two Primetime Emmys including TV movie costumes and cinematography.
Senior Vice President Alex Young will oversee the project on behalf of Mandeville Films. Universal's Director of Development Lexi Barta will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.
Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman Associated Press
Mandeville's 2017 slate Beauty and the Beast, Wonder,and Strongerall together grossed a phenomenal $1.57 billion at the worldwide box office. This year, they have for awards consideration the Eddie Redmayne-Felicity Jones reteam Aeronauts from Amazon Studios which made its world premiere at Telluride, continued on to TIFF and plays the London Film Festival on Oct. 7 before its theatrical debut on Dec. 6. Mandeville also produced the ABC series The Fixand the Netflix film Extinction.
Evan Spiliotopoulos Courtesy
DeBlois is represented by WME and Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler Feldman & Clark. His How to Train Your Dragon trilogy for Dreamworks Animation has minted over $1.6 billion at the global box office. Spiliotopoulos' credits also include Universal's The Huntsman: Winter's War, a story by on Sony's upcoming Charlie's Angels,Netflix's Bright 2and Paramount's Snake Eyes. He is represented by Cover 1 Entertainment, Inc, Fourth Wall Management and MARKS law group.
With a five-year, nine-figure exclusive production deal, Universal Pictures is banking on Jordan Peele’s proven ability to excite critics and bring audiences to theaters. Like everyone else, the studio recognizes that brand names — whether they’re superheroes or cutting-edge filmmakers — are crucial investments in the franchise era.
The arms race among streamers has weaponized megadeals, turning names like Ryan Murphy Netflix, Oprah Apple, and J.J. Abrams Warner Media into arrows for their respective quivers. For traditional studios, however, it’s a model that’s largely fallen out of favor. Studios have decades of hard-won experience when it comes to overpaying producers with lavish offices and guaranteed release slots.
However, the market does make one exception, and it’s the same model demonstrated by streaming: Work with talent, and pay for the brand. The new five-year contract with Monkeypaw is an upgrade of the first-look deal he made in 2017 following the enormous financial and critical success of his directorial debut, “Get Out.” He followed that with “Us,” which cemented Peele as a master mixologist of horror, comedy, and social commentary.
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By signing Peele to this rare, rich, and exclusive deal, Universal essentially coronated Peele as a brand — one with a built-in fanbase and name that signals exactly what the audience can expect. In a superhero world, familiarity is the gold standard.
Peele’s brand is based on smart, critically acclaimed storytelling that’s committed to diversity as it tops the box office. He’s fast, he’s prolific, and he works in the zone that studio executives love — familiar genres, with a twist. And he does it all for a price.
“Get Out,” which gave Peele his first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, made $255 million worldwide on a $5 million budget. The next year, the worldwide gross for “Us” was nearly identical, on a $20 million budget.
This has been a good year for Universal, which saw more number-one openings this year than any studio — even Disney. However, unlike Disney, it doesn’t have Marvel or Pixar, much less Disney’s own IP. It has the aging “Fast and the Furious” and “Jurassic Park” brands, and its Illumination and DreamWorks Animation arms can only go so far. It needs Peele, and others who can deliver at his level.
Universal is developing Peele’s next two films as director, writer, and producer, while Peele and Monkeypaw will continue producing original films from other directors, as it did with Spike Lee’s 2018 Oscar-winning “BlacKkKlansman.” Monkeypaw is in production on “Candyman,” written by Peele and producing partner Win Rosenfeld and directed by Nia DaCosta “Little Woods”.
Unlike Peele’s first three features, Jason Blum’s Blumhouse is not a producer on “Candyman;” nor, according to a representative, is Monkeypaw currently developing anything with Blumhouse. That speaks volumes to how Universal views the company’s success: Jordan Peele is his own Kevin Feige.
In March, Peele told IndieWire how he struck the balance between creative freedom and financial realities when developing “Us.”
“I was like, look, I want to be able to take my filmmaking up a notch, so I want to be able to make a bigger budget movie,” he said. “But I don't want to make such a big budget movie that all of a sudden we've crossed this line where the risk means you're going to be fucking with my story. That was the key for me. Otherwise, I may not have had my freedom. As a filmmaker, I also thrive with a certain restriction. I didn't want to overreach with the budget and all of a sudden have a studio being responsible on me.”
Peele got his story, Universal got its profits. And now they have a deal that promises more of the same.
After Get Out and Us, Universal wants more Jordan Peele movies – and I can’t say I blame them. Peele just inked a five-year first-look deal with Universal, which will result in two films that Peele plans to write, produce, and direct. Peele’s films with Universal have both been acclaimed and hauled in a total of $500 million at the box office, so the studio would be crazy to lose him at this point.
Ready for more Jordan Peele movies? Universal sure is. THR says they just signed a five-year exclusive, first-look deal with Peele and his Monkeypaw Productions. We can expect at least two new Peele-directed movies as a result of this. Regarding the deal, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley said:
“Jordan has established himself as a premier voice and original storyteller with global appeal. He is leading a new generation of filmmakers that have found a way to tap into the cultural zeitgeist with groundbreaking content that resonates with audiences of all backgrounds. We also share an important goal with Monkeypaw when it comes to increasing representation onscreen in the characters that are portrayed, the stories that are told and the people who tell them.”
“It would not have been possible to make Get Out and Us without the endless trust and support we received from Donna Langley and the team at Universal. Their willingness to take risks and their commitment to original content makes them the perfect collaborative partner for Monkeypaw. I couldn’t be more excited for what lies ahead.”
Peele’s Get Out won the filmmaker a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and while the reaction to his follow-up Us has been a bit more mixed, I personally think it’s one of the year’s best films. I don’t know if it’ll get any awards season attention, but I do know that I’ll be thinking about Us, and revisiting it for years to come.
There’s no word on what Peele’s next two directorial efforts might be, but he’s expressed a desire to stay within the horror genre, so one can assume they’ll have horror undertones. Meanwhile, Peele has kept busy with producing projects, like BlacKkKlansman, the CBS All Access reboot of The Twilight Zone which he also hosts, and the upcoming HBO series Lovecraft Country.