A Chip Off Dr. Evil
I broke the news that Mike Myers has started writing Austin Powers 4 with Baby Mama’s Mike McCullers, who collaborated with Myers on Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember. There’s no deal in place yet, but New Line is panting after No. 4 despite Myers’ recent box-office bomb, The Love Guru, for Paramount.
But does Myers realize he may no longer be a draw? (Probably not. Before Guru opened, he reportedly made diva demands to Conan O’Brien staffers last month for stupid stuff, like Twizzlers and raspberry seltzer. Ugh.) As for AP4, “It’s very personal, with a father and son theme loosely based on his own life,” an insider tells me.
This fourth installment of the superspy-spoof movie series will focus on Austin’s arch-villain Dr. Evil, who was based on Blofeld of the Bond films, and his son, introduced already as Scott Evil, played by Seth Green. Myers conceived the film during a “spiritual quest” of self-discovery to help him cope with his dad’s death in 1991 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. And it was also during this time that he was inspired to create the character of the Love Guru.
Interestingly, I’m told that Myers had a Love Guru character in the original Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery but decided not to shoot it and then wrote it out of the series. Nevertheless, Paramount demanded that New Line sign a pledge that it had no claims to the Love Guru character.
Studio Piracy Hits Home
A Universal Studios hot line confirms that the studio has canceled all nonexecutive employee screenings, saying the popular program has shut down until further notice. It occurred “because some dumb fuck pirated Wanted at one of the lower-lot venues,” a Uni source tells me.
At first, the studio told me the piracy never happened, then finally confirmed to me that a female filmgoer did it but hasn’t yet been caught. According to the studio: “We are assessing how to go forward in September and fully intend to do so.”
But my insiders disagree, telling me that despite a warning against piracy, during the showing of Hellboy 2, it happened again. So the studio brass canceled the screening program altogether. But the pissed peons don’t understand why the studio doesn’t make use of the security scanners already installed at each of the Universal theaters. Says the insider: “I know it would be a pain for employees to be checked for illegal video recorders, but people would put up with that inconvenience to have the screenings return. We don’t get many perks, and that was a nice one.”
Chasing Gossip Girl’s Chace
Chace Crawford just won the Teen Choice award for Breakout Male TV star on August 3. So, naturally, ICM is trying to hang onto the 23-year-old media darling. But CW’s Gossip Girl hunk has just let the 10-percentery know he’s taking meetings with other agencies: specifically CAA, Endeavor and Paradigm. He also plans to come in to talk to the top guys at ICM now that his longtime agents there have left or been let go. In the agency biz, you either grow stars or steal stars. ICM has had little recent success with either.
The Interpublic-Endeavor Marriage
Not content with owning Hollywood management companies and entertainment flackeries, the advertising conglomerate Interpublic has quietly moved from a minority to a majority stakeholder in Endeavor talent agency’s N.Y.-based Endeavor Marketing. I’m told that IPG has held a 40 percent interest since 2005 but has now moved up to a 50 percent-plus holding in the company, which reps such brands as American Express and Revlon.
Run by CEO Mark Dowley, Endeavor Marketing keeps raising cash for the 10-percentery; as well, it gives the agency a foot in the door to the lucrative corporate-branding market, which all the Hollywood agencies are chasing these days. CAA and William Morris, in particular, have very active corporate consultancies. And United Talent last year opened United Entertainment Group, a N.Y.-based branded-entertainment firm that’s a joint venture between UTA and Jarrod Moses.
So it was surprising that the recent New York Times profile on Endeavor didn’t even mention its aggressive move into marketing. Dowley came from McCann and IPG before joining Endeavor in 2003. I hear he’ll stay on.
Lionsgate Dumps on Clive Barker
With Lionsgate expanding production and landing a $340 million credit line, it’s easy for the studio to forget about its fan base. Or is it? As I reported previously, horror aficionados are furious that Lionsgate’s Joe Drake is moving away from this genre of films in favor of more mainstream fare, like Tyler Perry. (Recently, Lionsgate signed hit-factory Perry to a new three-year first-look deal to distribute at least three more Perry films — after releasing five Perry pics since 2005.)
Well, the weekend of August 1, Lionsgate officially dumped Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train. And not just into a paltry 102 theaters but humiliatingly into the dollar- and second-run theaters, where it made $32,000 ($313 per screen).
Now, fans are worried Lionsgate will do the same to other films they’re hotly anticipating, like Repo! The Genetic Opera and The Burrowers. All are ex-Lionsgate head Peter Block’s films, so Drake has a vested interest in making Block’s movies look bad at the box office even if he may be doing it for moral reasons. (I’ve long campaigned that execs should look inward before releasing “hard R” horror films, especially those with torture porn.)
As one horror fan asked me, “The question is, Why does Lionsgate want the movie to make less money than it would normally in limited theaters? Something seems off.” The answer may well be studio politics.
New IATSE President
So I was right. As I tipped first, IATSE’s four-term union president, Tom Short, did indeed step down by announcing his retirement, on July 31. Immediately, the union’s General Executive Board unanimously named Matthew Loeb to replace Short. Loeb was IATSE’s first division director of Motion Picture and Television Production. Now, let’s see if Loeb will side with Hollywood guilds or continue Short’s policies in Big Media’s pocket.
Green Light for DreamWorks-Reliance
I’m told that the DreamWorks financing deal with India’s media and entertainment conglomerate Reliance ADA — for at least $500 million — is almost completed and will be announced in the next week to 10 days. The Reliance people were in Los Angeles last week meeting with DreamWorks.
I hear they also met with Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose publicly held company DreamWorks Animation has an “out” clause from its Paramount distribution deal after 10 films. David Geffen officially severs his ties with Paramount as soon as August, and Steven Spielberg can then leave in October.
After that, DreamWorks has to make a distribution deal, probably with Universal, where Spielberg still keeps his office. To refresh your memories, Geffen had on speed dial the newest Big Media mogul names of Rajesh Sawhney and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (one of the world’s 10 richest men) to help with a planned $1.2 billion total financing for DreamWorks 2.0, the new independent film company the principals are starting post-Paramount. The intent is to make about six movies a year. Meanwhile, DreamWorks and Paramount will battle over Spielberg’s exit and all that joint development.