George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s production company Smokehouse Entertainment have left their longtime friends at Warner Brothers and have signed a two year contract with Sony. It kind of feels like strange timing after Sony just screwed over longtime collaborator Steven Soderbergh and his baseball docu-drama Moneyball.
It kind of feels like the end of an era with this announcement. This was one of the great actor studio partnerships of the past 20 years. It began with the Clooney / Soderbergh company Section Eight. It included such intelligent adult fare as Good Night and Good Luck, Michael Clayton, Syriana, Far From Heaven, Insomnia, Criminal, and A Scanner Darkly. They would recoup their losses through The Ocean’s Eleven Trilogy. Whatever you thought about these films they took risks and tried to inject some originality and intellect into Hollywood. Their critical successes did outweigh the honorable failures (The Good German, Leatherheads). Section Eight disbanded in late 2006 and Clooney started Smokehouse Entertainment with Heslov. The company has just wrapped The Men Who Stare at Goats. Now Sony doesn’t seem as artist friendly as Warner Brothers. But that might be why they want to work with Clooney to help build up a catalogue of prestige pictures. Or Clooney may be planning to make some more profit friendly films to ensure the production of more artistic fare in the future. It would be interesting to know the details of their agreement. Let us hope it’s for the best. But Smokehouse does still have six films in development with Warner Brothers. And they do look interesting. Here’s a list of the films:
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. An adaptation of Jonathan Mahler’s nonfiction book chronicling the historic Supreme Court case in which two lawyers sued the Bush administration on behalf of accused terrorist Salim Hamdan.
OUR BRAND IS CRISIS
A satirical comedy about American spin doctors competing in the same Presidential election in Bolivia. Based on the documentary by Rachel Boynton, with a script by Peter Straughan (MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS).
An adaptation of Beau Willimon’s critically acclaimed play, set during the Iowa primary of a presidential race.
ESCAPE FROM TEHRAN
The true story of how the CIA used a fake movie project to smuggle hostages out of 1979 Tehran. Chris Terrio is writing the screenplay.
A contemporary spy thriller about a spy who risks everything to reveal a conspiracy after he’s accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Based on the bestselling book by Olen Steinhauer. Tony Peckham is writing the screenplay.
THE INNOCENT MAN
Based on the bestselling nonfiction book by John Grisham, the true story of murder and injustice in a small town in Oklahoma. Adapted by David Gordon Green.
It’s official now Steven Soderbourgh is has left Moneyball. Sony called quits on the project 96 hours before filming was about to begin (but still costing the studio $10 million). For a film starring Brad Pitt (name me a film he starred in that didn’t make a profit!) that was a big deal. Soderburgh reportedly made some drastic changes to Steve Zillian’s script, by making room for some documentary elements (inserting bits form hours of interview footage with the real players already shot). The story involves Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his successful attempt at putting together a baseball club on a budget by using computer generated analysis to draft his players. Sony now needs to find a director and fast. Something tells me that Pitt will not linger too long. His time is money.
Cloverfield director Matt Reeves has finally shed some light on the American version of Let the Right One In. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Reeves said: “The film is now officially titled Let Me In, which is a more accurate English language translation of John Ajvide Lindgvist’s original novel. A second draft of the screenplay is completed. The Americanized story is set in the snow covered mountains of a Ronald Regan-era Colorado. “Currently, Matt Reeves and casting director are searching for the latest pre-teen actors to play the lead roles: Eli and Oskar, or will they be typical American names? Let The Right One In, was originally a Swedish production directed by Tomas Alfredson. The Let Me In release date is scheduled for Fall 2010.
Duncan Jones will follow up his critically acclaimed Moon with the Berlin centered thriller Mute. Screen daily reports that the film will be produced by Stuart Finnegan with a $25 million budget (very comfortable compared to Moon’s $4 million). Jones has described the piece as a “big city mystery story that takes place in a future Berlin.” Jones sites Ridely Scott’s Blade Runner as an inspiration for the films visual style. He has also hinted that Sam Rockwell may be a part of the UK – German coproduction. Finnegan, the producer also described the film:
“Mute is about a woman whose disappearance causes a mystery for her partner, a mute bartender. When she disappears, he has to go up against the city’s gangsters”
In an interview with io9 Jones gives further details about the concept and story.