EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has re-upped Date Night director Shawn Levy and his 21 Laps banner to a new 3-year deal that makes the company a first-dollar gross producer and solidifies the studio’s laffer quotient.
Levy will also get the extra funding to beef up his executive staff, which will rise from 5 to 8 and include a new president to replace Tom McNulty, who left last year. While most studios are trimming or eliminating deals, Levy has been a proven hit-maker for Fox.
Movies he has directed and/or produced have generated about $2 billion for the studio, including the Night at the Museum and Cheaper By the Dozen franchises, Just Married and What Happens in Vegas. Levy’s latest, the Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy Date Night, will be released April 9 by Fox.
Levy’s deal didn’t expire until August, but he is preparing to direct the Hugh Jackman-starrer Real Steel at DreamWorks, and Fox wasn’t taking any chances. Levy has a particularly close relationship with 20th production president Emma Watts, who said she wasn’t worried about him straying.
“We’ve built our careers together and I treasure him,” she told me. “While I’m not going to comment on specifics in his deal, he does the work, gets the results, and he should be rewarded accordingly.”
Levy said he wants 21 Laps to broaden its quantity and range, which is reflected in a deal he just made at Fox to direct an adaptation of Oscar co-host Steve Martin’s novella The Pleasure of My Company. The script is being written by Jonathan Tropper, the novelist who wrote Harvey. Levy has deals with every Fox division. He’s developing to direct The Cutlass Islands for Regency; his 21 Laps has Night at the Museum writers Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant writing The Devil You Know; Amy Adams is attached to star in The Ten Best Days of My Life; Jared Stern has written Neighborhood Watch; Cyrus directors Jay and Mark Duplass attached to direct their script Table 19.
“I want to be able to have more experiences like Date Night, where I came up with the idea over dinner, worked out the details with my small executive staff, and was shooting the movie a year later.,” Levy told me. “Fox is betting on the company to become a bigger supplier, and they were also willing to roll the dice on a gem of a Steve Martin novella, which allow me to grow as a director.”