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A fire that broke out at Tyler Perry's southwest Atlanta studio caused serious damage only to a backlot facade, the filmmaker's publicist said Wednesday.
On Tuesday evening, over 100 firefighters, 13 engines and 12 trucks responded to a four-alarm fire at Perry's 30-acre complex. The morning after the fire was contained, Perry thanked firefighters in a statement for "limiting the damage" and said he was "grateful that there were no injuries."
The cause of the fire that broke out on the 200,000-square-foot property will be recorded as undetermined, according to the Atlanta Fire Department, because the fire destroyed any evidence that would help lead to its cause. The fire caused damage only to the exterior of one structure due to "the concrete masonry construction behind the exterior fascia," and there was some water damage inside the building, a department spokesman said.
The prolific writer-actor-director's next film is "Madea's Witness Protection," which is being released by Lionsgate on June 29. The filmmaker is currently in post-production on "The Marriage Counselor," which is set to hit theaters next January, as well as his TBS sitcom "For Better or Worse."
[Updated, 11:40 A.M., May 2: An earlier version of this post said that the Atlanta Fire Department was still investigating the cause of the fire; the cause has since been recorded as undetermined. Meanwhile, post-production on Perry's films is taking place in Los Angeles, so none of his upcoming films were affected by the fire.]
"The Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire" will likely be directed by Francis Lawrence, a filmmaker whose résumé includes the big-budget event film "I Am Legend" and the intimate drama "Water for Elephants," a person close to the production but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed. According to that person, the studio has yet to close the deal.
Independent studio Lionsgate offered Lawrence the job on Thursday, little more than a week after "Hunger Games" director Gary Ross departed in a dispute over financial terms and the amount of time he would have had to prepare to make the sequel, which starts production in August and will hit theaters in November 2013.
Lionsgate considered a number of directors for the job, including Tomas Alfredson ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), Tony Scott ("Unstoppable") and Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"). By Wednesday, the negotiations were down to Lawrence and Bennett Miller, the Oscar-nominated director of "Moneyball" and "Capote."
Lawrence had been considered the leading candidate, however, because his schedule was open; Miller was supposed to begin shooting another movie, "Foxcatcher," this fall. In addition, he has experience with the type of special effects necessary to make "Catching Fire."
Bringing in a new director to a popular franchise is a tricky proposition, though Lionsgate subsidiary Summit did it successfully with its "Twilight" series. In Lawrence, the studio apparently believes it has found a director capable of balancing the high-octane action, personal relationships and social commentary that many critics praised Ross for capturing in "The Hunger Games."
Lawrence will have to move quickly to prepare to start shooting "Catching Fire." Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is currently working on a script for the film.
The 42-year-old Lawrence was born in Austria and worked on music videos and commercials before making his feature film debut in 2005 on the comic-book adaptation "Constantine," starring Keanu Reeves.
Now that Lionsgate and director Gary Ross have parted ways, the studio behind "The Hunger Games" franchise is in a rather unenviable position. Sure, they are likely to land a director for less then what it would have cost to have kept Ross in the chair, but now they must find someone who pleases both the gregarious fans who have turned the movie into such a juggernaut and, perhaps more importantly, appease Suzanne Collins, the author of the three-book series, who was a close collaborator with Ross during his tenure on the project.
The studio has been quickly cobbling together a list of directors who would fit their criteria. According to a source with knowledge of the list who isn't permitted to speak on the record, Lionsgate needs to find a director with enough credits and accolades to appeal to Collins, who is much more interested in quality filmmaking than box-office prowess. This director also needs to have an even keel; no petulant crybabies allowed. The studio wants to get the sequel, "Catching Fire," into production by August, and the task will require someone who can wrangle a large ensemble of actors, juggle the demands of a swift schedule and collaborate on a script with Collins and writer Simon Beaufoy.
The master list is seven or eight names long, all men, and all have some significant credits to their name. Lionsgate is basically hoping to re-create the "Harry Potter" moment when Warner Bros. brought Alfonso Cuaron to direct the third film in the series. (Chris Columbus left after helming the first two.) Cuaron was a creative choice who excited critics, journalists and author J.K. Rowling, who all were interested in what the director of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" would do with the series.
In fact, Cuaron is in the mix for "Catching Fire," along with David Cronenberg and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, among others. All have been working in the industry for decades and trend more toward darker, indie fare than commercial hits.
Cronenberg has frequently been offered big commercial gigs over the years, including "Return of the Jedi," "Top Gun," and "RoboCop," only to turn them down for arty, independently produced work, often in the horror genre. Though Cronenberg's best-known film is still 1986's "The Fly," the Canadian director has been making movies for decades, with his most recent work, the adaptation of Don DeLillo's "Cosmopolis" starring Robert Pattinson, likely to debut in Cannes next month.
For Inarritu, joining "Catching Fire" would mark a reunion with his producer from the Academy Award-nominated film "Babel" Jon Kilik, who is producing the "Hunger Game" series along with Nina Jacobson. While “Catching Fire” deals with the heavy themes of rebellion and children-on-children violence, it is still significantly lighter than Inarritu’s most recent work, “Biutiful,” the Javier Bardem-starrer that chronicled a dying man’s attempts to make amends.
Cuaron entered the blockbuster genre with "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2004, but despite great reviews didn't stick with the boy wizard beyond the one film. Rather, he took on ambitious fare within the studio system, including Universal Pictures' "Children of Men." The Mexican director recently finished production on "Gravity" for Warner Bros. The film, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is about a lone survivor of a space mission trying desperately to return to Earth to reunite with his family.
Any of the three men would be a reassuring choice for fans and Collins. And all three auteurs could have compelling takes on the material. Other names are sure to rise to the surface, but Cronenberg, Inarritu and Cuaron should give fans some reassurance that Lionsgate is doing its best to try to preserve their beloved franchise.
Proving the adage that there’s nothing as complicated in Hollywood as a hit, Gary Ross won’t direct “Catching Fire,” the second installment in Lionsgate's massively popular “The Hunger Games” franchise.
After several weeks of reports that the parties were haggling over money and deal points, both studio and director made statements in an email from Lionsgate that sought to dismiss those reports even as they confirmed that they were parting ways.
Ross led the statement, saying that “Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct 'Catching Fire.' As a writer and a director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule."
The second installment of the Jennifer Lawrence-starring franchise based on Suzanne Collins' book series is scheduled to come out in November 2013. That’s about 19 months away — not a luxurious timetable, but hardly a bang-bang one either.
Ross went on to call directing “The Hunger Games” “the happiest experience of my professional life.” Then, addressing the reports, he said, “Contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.”
Lionsgate followed the Ross statement by saying that it was “very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct ‘Catching Fire,’" adding that he “did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work.” It also said, "This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future."
The news will inevitably spark a new round of speculation, calling to mind another famous director-studio separation after a hit: Catherine Hardwicke’s high-profile departure from Summit’s “Twilight Saga.” As in that case, the studio in question was run by Rob Friedman (Summit and Lionsgate were recently combined into one entity), though there are also some differences. Hardwicke’s “Twilight,” for instance, did not earn reviews as strong as Ross’ “The Hunger Games.”
The guessing game can now begin in earnest on which director should take on "Catching Fire," which centers on Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark after they leave the Arena in the titular games. The film already has a shiny pedigree in one respect: Simon Beaufoy, the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe, is penning the new film.
As it rolls out one of the biggest movies of the year, Lionsgate is looking to quell a skirmish over its response to an independent charity effort.
A petition protesting the studio has sprouted up on the social action website Change.org after Lionsgate asked that Imagine Better, a nonprofit group, remove all references to the new action adventure “The Hunger Games” from the organization’s site.
Imagine Better, an umbrella organization that includes international anti-poverty nonprofits such as Oxfam, received a notice from the company’s counsel asking that it take down a page touting an anti-hunger and potable-water initiative it had promoted under the heading “Hunger is Not a Game.”
On the page, the group includes riffs on the Lionsgate property, referencing “The Water Games” and “districts,” as the geographic areas in the film are called.
Although titles are not generally covered by copyright protection, the company said it could make a case for infringement.
“We request that you immediately remove any mention of ‘Hunger is not a Game’ from all of your websites and its affiliates and stop using the slogan in your interviews and publicity or press releases,” Liat Cohen, Lionsgate senior vice president of business affairs and litigation, wrote, according to a report from the group Think Progress. “We have the ability to take down your sites as a violation of our trademark and other intellectual property laws.”
A Lionsgate spokeswoman said the company supported anti-hunger initiatives and had simply been concerned about the effort because it could conflict with an exclusive deal the studio had made with several other anti-hunger groups; that deal gave two other groups rights to marketing material during the theatrical release of the film.
"Lionsgate's partnership with the United Nations' World Food Program as well as Feeding America, both tied to the release of ‘The Hunger Games,’ is helping to generate awareness of this global issue," a spokeswoman said. "Our requests to other fan-based initiatives center more specifically around the use of copyrighted materials which have been committed to the WFP and Feeding America. We absolutely support and encourage the efforts of organizations battling world hunger."
The spokeswoman added that the company did not intend to pursue further legal action against Imagine Better.
One of the most-publicized scenes from Will Ferrell’s new film “Casa de Mi Padre” shows the comedian with a couple of ranch hands at a campfire, singing the song “Yo No Se.” Translated into English, the chorus means “I Don’t Know,” which might describe how hard it is categorize the movie itself.
Opening Friday in limited national release of about 380 theaters, “Casa de Mi Padre” is a $6-million Spanish-language parody that its makers hope will play equally well to fans of Ferrell’s comedies and Latino moviegoers. Ferrell has made a number of promotional appearances on TV prgrams such as CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NBC’s “Today,” but you’re far more likely to find “Casa de Mi Padre” commercials on variety shows like Univisión’s “Sábado Gigante” and “El Gordo y La Flaca.”
“It’s a tough film to put in a marketing box,” said Darlene Caamano Loquet, whose Nala Films financed the movie that Ferrell’s company, Gary Sanchez Productions, developed. “But it’s one of those movies that can bring those two audiences together.”
Latinos make up more than 16% of the U.S. population, but can often account for a larger proportion of ticket buyers, particularly for family and genre films. At the same time, any number of movies that have tried to target the Spanish-speaking audience — including “A Better Life,” “Selena” and “The Perez Family” — have failed to sell many tickets.
“Casa de Mi Padre” is an R-rated spoof not only of telenovelas, or Spanish-language soap operas, but also spaghetti Westerns and 1970s B movies. Ferrell plays the not-too-bright Armando Alvarez, a member of a Mexican ranch family drawn into a drug war. The cast includes Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez. Early reviews have been mixed to negative.
“It gives us a chance to laugh at ourselves, which Hispanic Americans are not given a chance to do,” Loquet said.
In 2009, when “Warrior” director Gavin O’Connor first cast Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as two estranged brothers who meet in the ring of a mixed martial arts tournament, both actors were relative unknowns in Hollywood. By the end of 2012, moviegoers will have seen the British Hardy and the Australian Edgerton in several high-profile roles, including Hardy as the villain in Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel “The Dark Knight Rises” and Edgerton in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.”
“We’re always trying to judge that X-factor, that charisma, that thing that you can’t really define or put on a piece of paper,” said Joe Drake, president of Lionsgate’s motion picture group, of slotting Hardy and Edgerton into the roles. “They had it, they had a great look. And their performances at that time, they were extraordinary. Our job is to try to identify that and then bet on it.”
Hardy has a more utilitarian view of his and Edgerton's casting.
"A lot of imported actors are probably here because they have a certain amount of credibility, but they’re not bankable and they’re useful to the machine," he said in an interview conducted in July at a screening of "Warrior" for Marines at Camp Pendleton. "They fill a spot in the machine. How it turns out in the long run, we just don’t know.... We were available. [Director Gavin O’Connor] could break our noses and ribs." (That interview — which includes Hardy and Edgerton's discussion their training and theories about the rise of MMA fighting — appears in Thursday's newspaper.)
For a primer on the stars’ careers—the roles that put them on the map and the ones soon to follow, here’s a cheat sheet, with video interview of Edgerton discussing his upcoming projects:
What put him on industry radar screens: Edgerton played hot-tempered Stanley Kowalski opposite Cate Blanchett’s Blanche DuBois in a critically praised 2009 Sydney Theatre Company production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which later traveled to New York.
What put him on audience radar screens: Edgerton was Luke Skywalker’s uncle in two of the “Star Wars” prequels (in 2002 and 2005).
What’s next: He’s a heroic helicopter pilot who stumbles onto some extraterrestrial activity in Antarctica in October’s “The Thing,” a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter sci-fi horror film; a wishful dad married to Jennifer Garner in next September’s family movie “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”; and the arrogant Tom Buchanan opposite Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrman’s 2012 adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.”
Hot project: Edgerton has also met with Kathryn Bigelow about her untitled 2012 movie on the capture of Osama bin Laden, though is not yet officially attached to the project. See him field questions from Amy Kaufman about that film and his other future projects in this video from "Warrior's" red carpet premiere Tuesday.
“Warrior” role: Stoic Marine Tommy Conlon
Hometown: London, England
What put him on industry radar screens: Hardy had delivered some strong soldiering performances in “Blackhawk Down” (2001) and HBO’s “Band of Brothers” (2001), but the actor’s breakout was his role as the notoriously violent British prisoner Charles Bronson in Nicholas Winding Refn’s stylized 2008 biopic “Bronson.”
What put him on audience radar screens: Hardy was the identity forger “Eames”—the least nerdy dream hijacker—in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.”
What’s next: He plays a scalp-hunting hit man in the John Le Carré adaptation “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy” in December, a violent bootlegger in the Depression-era yarn “The Wettest County in the World,” and a spy vying for Reese Witherspoon’s affection in "This Means War," set for February 2012.
Hot project: The role fanboys are waiting for is next year’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” in which Hardy is Bane, the comic book villain perhaps best known for breaking Batman’s back.
Marc Forster may have brought Lionsgate an Academy Award with “Monster’s Ball,” but the studio says it can’t make room for the director’s new movie, “Machine Gun Preacher,” and has sold it to Relativity Media.
Lionsgate and Relativity said Thursday that Forster’s new film will switch studios, with Relativity scheduling the fact-based drama starring Gerard Butler for a limited release starting Sept. 23 in the hopes it might attract some awards attention.
Lionsgate, which released 2001’s “Monster’s Ball” (which won star Halle Berry the best actress Oscar), acquired the independently produced “Machine Gun Preacher” from financier Gary Safady last summer, with tentative plans for a fall 2011 release. The film stars Butler as Sam Childers, a former drug dealer who becomes a minister to refugee children in Sudan.
“We didn’t feel we could give it the attention it needed,” Mike Paseornek, Lionsgate’s president of motion picture production and development, said in explaining why it was selling the film to Relativity. “The slate was just packed." At least one other distributor looked at "Machine Gun Preacher" but did not buy it from Lionsgate.
Lionsgate does not currently have a film scheduled for release between Oct. 29 and the end of the year. But the studio is set to release six films in the next few months, including the mixed martial arts drama “Warrior” on Sept. 9. The studio also has several films set to debut in early 2012. Relativity's fall slate includes "Immortals" on Nov. 11.
Lionsgate will continue to handle “Machine Gun Preacher’s” international release. Said Paseornek: "We love the movie."
The rumor mill was running on overdrive over the weekend regarding Jennifer Lawrence and "The Hunger Games." The 20-year-old actress, who spent much of 2010 in the spotlight due to her star-turning role in "Winter's Bone," is definitely the front-runner for the highly coveted role of Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the uber-popular dystopian series by Suzanne Collins.
But the actress has yet to be offered the part.
Lionsgate, the studio behind the publishing sensation that may have just enough romance, danger and high-concept adventure to dethrone "Twilight" from its perch as the "it" phenomenon, is being very careful as they make their selection for the lead part. And they are not talking. People with knowledge of the casting process who spoke on condition of anonymity tell us that Lawrence is loved by a few key executives at the studio but due to the importance of the property, Lionsgate wants to conduct a few more tests of the actresses in contention before making an offer.
(Hailee Steinfeld, the 14-year-old actress who also won acclaim last year with her performance in "True Grit," is up for the role too, but there may be concern that she is too young to actually pull off the adventuresome huntress.)
There's no denying part of Katniss is compelling. The 16-year-old is a brave protagonist and caretaker of her family. She volunteers for the Hunger Games, an annual event where children between the ages of 12 and 18 fight each other to the death, after her younger sister is first chosen to compete. The story features a compelling love triangle but shares little else with the "Twilight" franchise.
Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit") has been hired to direct what could be a trilogy, should the first film connect with audiences. The studio hopes to begin production shortly with a release date already set for March 23, 2012.
Photo: Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party on Feb. 27 in West Hollywood. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images
The rain fell heavily in Toronto Thursday, and the deals kept pouring down too as Lionsgate picked up North American rights to grieving-mother drama "Rabbit Hole." The Nicole Kidman film, which elicited mostly favorable reviews when it premiered earlier this week, will likely be released in 2010. That should help fill out the ranks of the Oscar best actress race, which until now had been considered fairly thin.
Adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire's stage hit and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, "Rabbit Hole" centers on a mother (Kidman) coping with the loss of a young child, with Aaron Eckhart playing Kidman's husband.
The move marks Lionsgate's second acquisition of the film festival; it previously joined Roadside Attractions in acquiring Robert Redford's period morality play "The Conspirator." Though the company is not primarily known for awards fare, the pickup was reminiscent of its 2006 acquisition of Alzheimer's drama "Away From Her." That film wound up landing star Julie Christie a best actress Oscar nomination.
It also means that numerous distributors now have bought multiple movies at the festival; others to walk away with their pockets full are IFC, Sony Pictures Classics and the Weinstein Co.