Will the last person to leave United Artists please turn out the lights? I’ve just learned that veteran studio executive and film/TV producer Jeff Kleeman has left his position as EVP of production at UA after only 11 months to work with David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, Shanghai Noon) who just signed a first-look deal at Warner Bros. Kleeman will be helping Dobkin develop and produce film and TV projects. (This was Kleeman’s second go-round at UA…)
So now with Kleeman’s departure, and that of prez of worldwide marketing and publicity Dennis Rice in mid-July, UA is populated by only Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Don Granger and a few junior execs. Sources tell me that not long ago Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner almost parted ways inside the company, but they got back on good terms. However, the studio once again is virtually moribund, which is heartbreaking considering that big fat credit line UA has in these tightfisted times. “If anything, there’s frustration inside and outside UA that, in an economy where it’s so difficult to come by money, what’s there is just not being spent,” a source tells me. “Do the UA people even know how to develop in an appropriate or effective manner?”
I’m told the problem seems to be Wagner, not Cruise. Sources tell me she doesn’t pull the trigger. Just look at her history: Paula had unlimited ability to develop projects under C/W at Paramount and still got only two or so movies done all those years that didn’t involve Tom. She squandered an incredible opportunity. Like she’s doing now.
So what’s in store for UA’s future? As one source tells me, “Paula calls it a day, or the company implodes on its own, or a gun is put to Wagner’s head by financiers and she greenlights things and then trusts in luck…”