DA VINCI CODE SEQUEL IN THE WORKS
As Hollywood scrambles to make deals before the Oct. 31 expiration of the WGA pact, one fast-tracked project has almost flown under the radar -- though it could become one of the biggest films assembled during this frenzied period.
Columbia has formalized a February start in Europe for "Angels & Demons," the Ron Howard-directed sequel to "The Da Vinci Code" that will be released in December 2008.
Producers Brian Grazer and John Calley, Col, Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman are seeking to finalize the shooting script before next week's deadline. Meanwhile, the "Angels" team have begun casting around Tom Hanks, who will reprise his role as Robert Langdon.
The film guarantees a manic year for Howard, who will be multi-tasking to get the picture done. Howard will shoot "Angels & Demons" as he supervises editing and post-production on the screen adaptation of the Peter Morgan play "Frost/Nixon." That film, which Howard wrapped shooting last week, has tentatively been slotted for a late 2008 release.
This means Howard could have a double-pronged post-production schedule and will have two high-profile projects opening in a relatively short time.
The rush-rush schedule echoes Steven Spielberg's back-to-back shooting of "Jurassic Park" and "Schindler's List" and Clint Eastwood's double duty on "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima."
Hanks' character, a Harvard-based expert on religious symbols, this time sleuths a mystery that involves a secret society and a conspiracy that leads to Vatican City and threatens the future of the Catholic Church.
Dan Brown wrote "Angels & Demons" prior to "The Da Vinci Code," but after the first film grossed $218 million domestic and $758 million worldwide, the studio made a seven-figure deal with Goldsman to turn the earlier novel into a sequel.
FACEBOOK GETTING MAKE-OVER
Microsoft's friendship with Facebook just got more expensive.
The company said it will invest $240 million in the social networking site, a move that gives Facebook a valuation of $15 billion.
Central to the investment is an agreement that makes Microsoft the exclusive third-party advertising partner for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook through 2011.
Deal essentially expands an existing agreement Microsoft had with Facebook to sell advertising for the site. Original deal had covered the U.S., but will now include foreign territories as well.
Facebook has more than 49 million users, the company said, with 59% of Facebook's users residing outside the U.S.
In 2006 Microsoft was named the exclusive provider of standard banner advertising on Facebook using Microsoft's digital advertising solutions and its adCenter platform.
"We've been working with Microsoft for over a year now in the U.S., and it's been a partnership that's been really great for both of us," said Owen Van Natta, VP of operations and chief revenue officer.
Partnership doesn't yet call for Facebook to start integrating Microsoft's services like Windows Live Messenger or Hotmail.
MANN AND DENIRO TEAMING UP AGAIN
Helmer Michael Mann has cut a deal at Paramount Pictures to develop "Frankie Machine" as a star vehicle for Robert De Niro.
De Niro and Jane Rosenthal produce through their Tribeca Films shingle. Alex Tse has just been set to do a major overhaul of the concept under Mann's supervision.
The drama is an adaptation of Don Winslow novel "The Winter of Frankie Machine." De Niro will play Frank Machianno, a mob hitman who has retired to run a bait shop. He agrees to help the son of a mob boss resolve a dispute with another Mafioso but is forced to turn into Frankie Machine again when he realizes he's been set up to be killed.
De Niro came aboard the project when Paramount bought the book (Daily Variety, Nov. 14, 2005). A draft was original written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien.
De Niro has of late eschewed playing the mobsters that defined his early career but made an exception after he read the Winslow novel well before it was published. De Niro and Mann previously teamed for 1995's "Heat."
Mann, who last directed "Miami Vice," just made a deal at Columbia Pictures for "Empire," a John Logan-scripted drama that will star Will Smith (Daily Variety, Oct. 11).Return from News October 25 to home page