EXCLUSIVE: Sherlock Holmes screenwriter Simon Kinberg and his Genre Films label has been staked to a two-year first look producing deal with 20th Century Fox. It is the first studio production deal that Kinberg has made, and he’ll hire an executive soon. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll take space on the Fox lot. Production president Emma Watts made the deal with Kinberg, who has a strong track record at the studio. That includes the rewrite work he did on Date Night and the upcoming Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz-starrer Knight and Day. His script work for the studio also includes the New Regency films Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Jumper, as well as X-Men: The Last Stand. Kinberg is also producing with Lauren Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer the spinoff film X-Men: First Class, a high priority for Watts and the studio, he’s writing The Eighth Wonder for 20th and The Hardy Men for Fox 2000. Watts said she saw an opportunity for Kinberg to make the same kind of jump into producing that has been made by Akiva Goldsman–whose Weed Road has become a prolific supplier at Warner Bros–and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman–who are generating multiple projects at DreamWorks.
“I really feel these writer/producer deals have become more valuable as spec scripts have diminished,” Watts told me. “Deals with idea generators, like Weed Road or Kurtzman/Orci, can be most beneficial if you have a strong working relationship. We’ve had a great relationship and Simon provides all kinds of angles for us. He’s also a great idea generator, something that’s hard to come by. He is also an astute, creative and entrepreneurial guy.”
One of the other benefits is it might keep Kinberg writing more projects for Fox, because he’s got stuff going on all over town. He’s currently teamed with Aline Brosh McKenna on an untitled project for Paramount and JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk’s Bad Robot, after selling the project as a pitch last fall in a deal worth nearly $2 million. Kinberg also wrote and is producing Luna, a Paramount project that has Doug Liman directing and Jake Gyllenhaal starring; his Warner Bros script Spys has David Dobkin directing, and he adapted and will be a producer on the Robert Ludlum novel Osterman Weekend at Summit.
“One of the best experience I had on a film was with Akiva when he was a producer on Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and I’m having a great time with JJ Abrams,” Kinberg said. “I look at them, and Bob and Alex, and it’s inspiring to see movies embracing writer/producers the way that TV does. My experience at Fox has always been inclusive, I’ve been on the sets of the movies and gotten to be involved in a producer-like role, a partner in the process of solving narrative and character problems day to day. This felt like a natural evolution. The part I really like is I will get to work with other writers. Usually, you either are replacing or being replaced by them on films, but as a producer you can collaborate with other writer minds. If I’ve got an idea for a movie but I’m not the best writer for it, I can find the best writer for it.” CAA and attorney Karl Austen made the deal for Kinberg.