Today in films and television: Brian Grazer finds a home for the Dark Tower TV series, how to market an Oscar hopeful that's rated NC-17, and Sylvester Stallone's rag-tag-mercenary movie may not have been his own idea.
- At Imagine Entertainment producer Brian Grazer probably has hundreds, maybe even thousands of projects on the books at any given time. So why can't he get over the Stephen King Dark Tower novels which he and director Ron Howard had dreams of developing into three movies and a spin-off TV show before Universal put the project into turnaround because of budget? None of the other major studios jumped on the project, but Grazer and Howard kept hope alive, insisting in August to the New York Post that they were working "get outside financing to make [the films]" and then "distribute it through a major studio." As for the TV series, they said it could work "through other networks or even Netflix." At the time it seemed like they were grasping at straws or just really determined to show Universal what a big mistake this would be. If Grazer's update on the project during a break from the Tower Heist press tour is correct, he's managed to pull it off, with a few semi-serious strings attached. Explains Grazer, while Brett Ratner fidgets: "We lost $45 million out of the budget. When people say no to you enough you have to lose money. Which we've done, without harming the scope of the film ... We'll do the TV with HBO. We'll do the movie with to-be-determined." That's good news for fans of King's gunslinger Roland Deschange, especially since Grazer says Javier Bardem is available and ready to strap on Roland's post-apocalyptic spurs. [MTV News]
- Speakking of Stephen King, AMC renewed The Walking Dead for a third season yesterday, but it looks like the show may have to do without scripts from the horror writer and his son, Joe Hill. Last March, King told Entertainment Weekly (where he used to be a columnist) that then-Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont (who directed King's The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist for the screen) wanted the author to write an episode and "expressed enthusiastic interest for season 2 or possibly 3" for King to write his episode. Darabont, of course, was ousted as showrunner during a messy split with AMC over the summer. While Darabont's replacements said all the right things about maintaining continuity, horror blog Bleeding Cool hears from a source that ""the moment Stephen King‘s plan to write an episode of The Walking Dead with his son Joe Hill was extinguished was the moment that Frank Darabont came unbound from the show." [Deadline and Bleeding Cool via Comicbook.com]
- In addition to being a parade for aging action stars famous and less-famous. Sylvester Stallone's 2010 shoot-'em-up The Expendables was also technically a movie, which means it had a script. A script that a writer named Marcus Webb says Stallone copied from him. Right now the clearest similarity seems to be that both The Expendables and Webb's script for The Cordoba Caper is that both involve a team mercenaries hired to kill a dictator named General Garza. That's interesting, but perhaps not a smoking gun, since General Garza is also the name of a Star Wars character and Major General David C. Garza is currently the Inspector General of the Marine Corps. Beck is seeking a court order preventing further infringement by Stallone and co-writer David Callaham before The Expendables 2 opens next August. Webb also want unspecified damages. [Deadline]
- As expected, Steve McQueen's Shame has been hit an NC-17 rating. The NC-17 has stigmatized films far less serious than Shame over the years, but it's also been an albatross around the neck of serious-minded adult movies since Henry & June. The thing about Shame is that it's an Oscar contender that happens to include scenes of graphic straight sex, gay sex, group sex, implied incest, and plenty of full-frontal nudity. Fox Searchlight is placing its bets on a slow rollout for the film and a PR strategy that will stress the rating as a sign of the film's seriousness. "I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter. We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner," says Fox Searchlight co-president Steve Gilula. "The sheer talent of the actors and the vision of the filmmaker are extraordinary. It's not a film that everyone will take easily, but it certainly breaks through the clutter and is distinctive and original. It's a game changer." It helps that film is receiving rave reviews at every festival this fall, but isn't this the same logic that drove the Showgirls marketing? Granted, that was about titilation and camp, but making the rating the thing seems like a slippery slope to go down. [The Hollywood Reporter]
- Just when it looked like Starz was ready to put that 'z' and all it stands before behind and concentrate on original shows very loosely adapted from King Lear like Boss, and the upcoming Mad Men-with-guns-in-the-tropics series Magic City, the network has greenlit a new show called Da Vinci's Demons from Dark Knight screenwriter David S. Goyer. In the release, Goyer makes it clear his focus will be less on Da Vinci's rudimentary theory of plate tectonics and be more "about secret histories, genius, madness, and all things profane." [Arts Beat]