Kiri Hart, Stephen Feder and Ben LeClair have been named producers at the new company.
Just as they prepare for the launch of their latest movie, Knives Out, filmmaker Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman are beefing up T-Street, their new independent studio.
Kiri Hart, Stephen Feder and Ben LeClair have been named producers at the company, which announced the hiring on Thursday.
According to T-Street, Hart, Feder and LeClair will "spearhead films of all sizes and scales, championing storytellers with distinct voices and building long-term partnerships with filmmakers." The trio will shepherd projects from inception through production to release.
In a statement, Johnson and Bergman said, "We wanted T-Street to be a place where filmmakers would feel supported throughout the entire process. That thinking led us to Kiri, Stephen and Ben, who we've been lucky enough to work with in different capacities over the years. They are not only experienced producers committed to taking the best possible care of filmmakers and their projects, they also happen to be really good people who share our passion for making movies."
Hart most recently served as Lucasfilm's senior vp development from 2012 to 2018. She formed the Lucasfilm Story Group and oversaw the creative development of all Star Wars content across film, animated television, publishing, gaming, immersive media and theme parks. Johnson worked with Hart when the latter co-produced his Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Hart has plenty of Star Wars experience, having also been a co-producer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and a producer on all four seasons of the animated television seriesStar Wars Rebels. Upon departing Lucasfilm at the end of 2018, Hart formed a producing partnership with Feder, who had worked on her team there. Hart is also a creative consultant on Pixar Animation Studios' summer 2020 film Soul, directed by Pete Docter, a post she will continue to operate. She is also consulting on several other Pixar projects.
Feder most recently served as vp film development at Lucasfilm, reporting to Hart. Prior to joining Lucasfilm, Feder was senior vp production and development at Annapurna Pictures. Among the projects he oversaw were Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!!, Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster and Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers.
Going from the galaxy far, far away to more earthbound productions, LeClair brings to the table indie movie cred, having produced movies such as A243's The Lovers and Woodshock, and the self-distributed Upstream Color. He also has credits on several Fox Searchlight productions. LeClair most recently had a first-look deal with Blumhouse Television and last year was nominated by Film Independent for the Piaget Producers Award.
Kiri Hart, Stephen Feder and Ben LeClair have been named producers at T-Street, the indie studio launched by the Knives Out tandem of Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman with funding from Valence Media.
Hart, Feder and LeClair bring a wide range of experience across all genres, and will spearhead films of all sizes and scales, championing storytellers with distinct voices, and building long-term partnerships with filmmakers. Producers at T-Street will oversee film projects from the earliest stages of inception all the way through production and release.
“We wanted T-Street to be a place where filmmakers would feel supported throughout the entire process. That thinking led us to Kiri, Stephen, and Ben, who we've been lucky enough to work with in different capacities over the years,” said Johnson and Bergman. “They are not only experienced producers committed to taking the best possible care of filmmakers and their projects, they also happen to be really good people who share our passion for making movies.”
Said the trio: “Rian and Ram have created the place we've always dreamt of working — a company where producers can truly partner with artists in a culture of collaboration and bravery. We believe in tailoring the process to the people we are making the movie with, and we're excited about the films that will result from that approach.”
Hart most recently served as Lucasfilm's Senior Vice President of Development from 2012-2018. She formed the Lucasfilm Story Group and oversaw the creative development of all Star Wars content across film, animated television, publishing, gaming, immersive media, and theme parks. Hart co-produced Johnson's film “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” as well as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and was a producer on all four seasons of the award-winning animated television series “Star Wars Rebels.” Upon departing Lucasfilm at the end of 2018, Hart formed a producing partnership with Feder, who had worked on her team there. Hart will also continue in her current role as a creative consultant on Pixar Animation Studios' summer 2020 film “Soul,” directed by Pete Docter, as well as several other Pixar projects.
Feder most recently served as Vice President of Film Development at Lucasfilm, reporting to Hart. Prior to joining Lucasfilm, Feder was the Senior Vice President of Production and Development at Annapurna Pictures, where he oversaw production and distribution for Richard Linklater's “Everybody Wants Some!!,” Wong Kar-Wai's “The Grandmaster” and Harmony Korine's “Spring Breakers.” Previously, he was an independent film and television producer working on several projects including the independent film “Kumaré,” which took home the SXSW Audience Award.
LeClair most recently had a first-look deal with Blumhouse Television, and last year was nominated by Film Independent for the Piaget Producers Award. Prior to Blumhouse, he produced “The Lovers” for A24, written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, “Woodshock,” written and directed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy, and the self-distributed film “Upstream Color,” written and directed by Shane Carruth, which premiered in competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. LeClair's other producing credits include Mike White's “Year of the Dog,” “The English Teacher,” starring Julianne Moore, and Jared Hess' comedy “Gentlemen Broncos,” for Fox Searchlight. LeClair has also worked as a producer and executive at COTA Films, Rip Cord Productions, and Black and White Productions. He began his career as an assistant to Scott Rudin.
There’s a lot of pressure on J.J. Abrams to not only finish the final chapter of this new Star Wars trilogy but bring an end to the entire Skywalker saga that began all the way back in 1977. It’s a Herculean task for a fanbase that has proven to be rather divisive in recent years, especially since the franchise started to appeal to people other than grown men desperate to hang on to the nostalgia of their childhood. But rather than take The Rise of Skywalker back to the safe place where The Force Awakens began by not veering too far from the structure and style of the original trilogy, J.J. Abrams said he felt “freer” and more “daring” on the new film, and that’s thanks to The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson.
In the latest issue of Total Film via sister site Games Radar, Abrams talked about how The Force Awakens compares to The Rise of Skywalker, at least as far as his directing approach is concerned:
“On this one, I let myself be, at least in the way I was approaching the thing, freer. In Episode 7, I was adhering to a kind of approach that felt right for Star Wars in my head. It was about finding a visual language, like shooting on locations and doing practical things as much as possible. And we continue that in Episode 9, but I also found myself doing things that I’m not sure I would have been as daring to do on Episode 7.”
Some fans have thought J.J. Abrams was being brought in to “fix” the trajectory of the franchise after the events of The Last Jedi, but it was actually director Rian Johnson who inspired Abrams to venture out of his comfort zone a bit. Abrams explained:
“Rian helped remind me that that’s why we’re on these movies – not to just do something that you’ve seen before. I won’t say that I felt constrained or limited on 7, but I found myself wanting to do something that felt more consistent with the original trilogy than not. And on 9, I found myself feeling like I’m just gonna go for it a bit more.”
That seems like a bold approach to a movie that puts so much weight on his shoulders, but Abrams had no problem going renegade. But if you’re finishing something like the Star Wars saga, then maybe you need to leave it all out on the field, if only to do some things that fans might not expect. As of now, we’re not too sure how this story is going to come to an end, but we’re putting a lot of trust in Abrams to send us out on a high note. And if it’s anywhere near as emotional as that final trailer was, then there will be a lot of tears in theaters next month.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives on December 20, 2019.
Rian Johnson has an acclaimed new film opening this month with the star-studded murder mystery “Knives Out,” but that doesn’t mean he’s escaped talking about “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” fan backlash. During a Wired live Q&A event this weekend via GameSpot, Johnson addressed his “Star Wars” critics yet again after one audience member implied some fans had an issue with the increased diversity in the space franchise. “The Last Jedi” was the most inclusive “Star Wars” yet thanks to stars like Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Kelly Marie Tran. Johnson’s response was blunt: “If someone’s responding to diversity negatively, fuck them.”
The filmmaker clarified that not everyone who hated “The Last Jedi” had a problem with the film’s increased diversity. There were a number of reasons “The Last Jedi” polarized franchise fans, but Johnson said the backlash was not too surprising. “I grew up as a ‘Star Wars’ fan,” he said. “I was in my 20s when the prequels came out. This whole idea that it’s been sunshine and roses, and then everyone’s yelling at each other, is baffling to me.”
“People care deeply about ‘Star Wars,’ and every single person has a slightly different version of what they think ‘Star Wars’ is,” Johnson added. “And so much of the fun of it is arguing about it.”
While “The Last Jedi” left some fans upset about the direction of the Skywalker trilogy, the movie dazzled film critics 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and still managed to gross $1.3 billion worldwide. The next “Star Wars” film, “The Rise of Skywalker,” is opening December 20 and features “The Force Awakens” helmer J.J. Abrams back in the director’s seat to close out the long-running movie saga.
As for Johnson, his “Star Wars” future remains somewhat unclear. Lucasfilm has announced plans for Johnson to develop a new trilogy of “Star Wars” movies, but not even Johnson knows when that will start. The director has said multiple times this year he’s simply waiting for Lucasfilm to figure out its schedule before he begins work on another “Star Wars” movie. The director’s latest movie, “Knives Out,” opens in theaters nationwide November 27 from Lionsgate.
The Star Wars-verse has been in a state of flux over the last year and a half, starting with the underperformance of the prequel spin-off A Solo Story. The last week alone saw Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss leaving their in-the-works trilogy, thus raising alarms over the franchise’s future. But don’t worry, Tatooine fanatics: Rian Johnson is still with the company.
Johnson was speaking at Deadline’s ninth annual Contenders event, which hosts dozens of panels with the industry’s hottest players. The filmmaker was there to talk about Knives Out, his forthcoming murder mystery, which has been the talk of every festival it’s played. Naturally he was asked about his role in the Star Wars biz, which he answered briefly.
“We’re still engaged with Lucasfilm and we’ll wait and see,” Johnson told the crowd. But he wouldn’t specify what, exactly, his Star Wars films will be. “No updates on it at this moment, but yeah.”
He was far more wordy about Knives Out, which he said was partially inspired not only by Agatha Christie but by his experiences being trolled and harassed online by fans who took umbrage with his previous Star Wars episode, The Last Jedi.
“Anyone who’s on Twitter these days, God bless you because it’s rough waters out there, but there’s also wonderful stuff about it,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’re all still on it, I guess. That’s one of the things [ Knives Out] engages with, the current state of online culture. Whether you made a Star Wars movie or you have a cooking show, whatever you’re doing on there, someone’s going to be screaming at you about it probably. Let’s put it on a screen in a way we can all maybe have a laugh about it.”
He also discussed making an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery set in the present, while still sticking to her many classic tropes.
“What we try and do is place it in modern day,” Johnson said. “That for me meant not just skinning it with cell phones, modern cars and music. That meant actually plugging it into 2019. We do character types who are slight caricatures of the type Agatha Christie used to do but with people who for better or worse you could only meet in 2019.”
Knives Out hits theaters on November 27. Meanwhile, the Star Wars show The Mandalorian drops on Disney+ on November 12, the same day the streamer goes live, while The Rise of Skywalker, aka Episode IX, arrives on December 20. But you probably already know that because you probably already have your ticket, because Star Wars films are very, very, very popular.
Bombshell tells the story of how Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly Charlize Theron and Gretchen Carlson Nicole Kidman, along with other women in the newsroom, brought sexual harassment charges against then-chairman Roger Ailes John Lithgow. Margot Robbie plays a composite character named Kayla, and the film dramatizes a scene in which Ailes calls her into his office and asks her to lift her skirt.
“John and I were equally as disturbed by that scene,” Robbie said during Lionsgate's The Contenders Los Angeles panel today. “It was obviously an incredibly safe place on a set. I'm very grateful that I got to do that scene with John. [Director] Jay [Roach] was in the room with us every step of the way and our crew was incredible, but the content of that scene is incredibly disturbing.”
To convey Ailes' methodical pattern recounted by the many accusers, screenwriter Charles Randolph and Roach let the harassment scene run long.
“I think it was important, the way Charles scripted it, to be in that room as long as you are,” Robbie said. “That's what made it so disturbing. There's no escape. You're in that room as long as Kayla is.”
Lithgow agreed, adding that what makes it so disturbing is how much happens without Ailes saying anything.
“It's almost entirely stage directions,” Lithgow said. “We acted out exactly what Charles wrote. There are about 12 syllables that pass in the course of about three minutes and yet your heart just starts pounding. It's so disturbing.”
Roach elaborated on the scene.
Roach, left, and Randolph Shutterstock
“How they were manipulated, the darkness of Roger's approach, the psychological manipulation of how he would move women and take advantage of them past the line they thought they would never cross, just a little bit and take them further the next time,” the filmmaker said. “Just that dark intensity of that character. I felt for [the women].”
Carlson is still under an NDA, so she could not speak with Kidman about playing her. The Oscar-winning actress said she watched Carlson on air and tried to capture her essence underneath the on-air persona.
“It's a fighter,” Kidman said. “It's like, 'I'm not going down without a fight.' It's a very confident woman that underneath — this woman who was very vulnerable and alone and frightened but fiercely, fiercely determined to do what was right. I wanted to be able to make sure that she was seen as the catalyst and the godmother of this particular movement because that's really the ground she breaks in this.”
Theron, who also produced Bombshell, is hoping the real women portrayed in the film get to see it.
“We've sent invitations to each and every person who's part of the story, but we do not know if they've taken us up on that,” Theron said.
'Knives Out' Trailer: Daniel Craig Wants To Know Whodunit In Rian Johnson's Agatha Christie Homage
Also today, writer-director Rian Johnson and producer Ron Bergman presented Knives Out. Daniel Craig stars as Benoit Blanc, a Southern detective investigating the death of Harlan Thrombey Christopher Plummer. Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford and Jaeden Martell play Thrombey's family members and suspects.
The 'Knives Out' cast Lionsgate
“Very much drawing from the Agatha Christie movies I was watching as a kid with my family, with Peter Ustinov as Poirot,” Johnson said. “They had an all-star cast and just had a cheeky, self-aware tone, but they were still a good mystery,” Johnson said. “They weren't a parody.”
Johnson added that once Craig signed on, the rest of the cast followed. They just had to schedule the film before the James Bond actor had to film No Time to Die.
“Daniel Craig came first,” Johnson said. “He was the first piece of the puzzle. He's the reason the movie got made. Once Daniel's on board, that started the snowball. Michael Shannon signed up next. Those guys are actor bait and drew more people [like] Chris Evans. Once Daniel was on board we were off to the races.”
Bombshell opens December 20. Knives Out will be unsheathed November 26.
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