EXCLUSIVE: The writer/director Wachowski siblings have begun to invite actors to meet on their new film Cobalt Neural 9 about a taboo gay romance between an American and Iraqi soldier. But agents are telling me it has become yet another “top secret” project they and their actors can’t read. That means they can’t advise their clients whether to be in the pic sure to be controversial because of its “Hard R” storyline. But I’ve learned there is an increasing Hollywood obsession with keeping scripts under wraps right now because of the ease with which these copyrighted documents get published on the Internet. So much so that this is changing the way actors audition for hot button or fanboy friendly projects. More and more, reps don’t get to read full scripts. In some cases, on films like Spider-Man or The Avengers, the actors don’t, either. “CN9 is just the latest of a growing list of scripts that are being kept under lock and key,” one frustrated dealmaker tells me. “How do you do your job and advise clients when studios and filmmakers don’t want agents and managers to see scripts? If actors are lucky, they go to an office and read it with somebody watching. This kind of secrecy only used to happen with Woody Allen and maybe Steven Spielberg. But now it is rampant.”
Reps say it has happened recently on such scripts as Universal’s Battleship, the Planet of the Apes prequel Rise of the Apes, Thor, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Wolverine, the Twilight Saga films, and the two installments of The Hobbit. Regarding actors, agents said filmmakers are shielding scripts is focused on newcomers trying to jump start careers in superhero roles, not with big stars. I’m told that many of the actors vying to play superheroes in Marvel Comics films, Spider-Man included, didn’t get to read entire scripts when they were testing. Instead, they were given pages with villains glossed over to keep their identities fuzzy and had to rely on director Marc Webb to explain the plot and character.
It’s no mystery why this is happening: security. Producers and studio executives claim that if they email or messenger even one copy to an agency, it goes into that tenpercentery’s library — and then becomes fodder for low-level employees who trade the content of those scripts like currency. Suddenly, that copyrighted document is on the Internet. Disturbing but not illegal is having the script picked apart in a forum, or presented as a blog scoop that gives away story reveals. “I doubt a blogger with 60 readers will ruin a movie even if they publish a script or rip it apart,” said one dealmaker who considers the increased secrecy “ridiculous” but acknowledges the bigger problem. “What is more important is the number of movies that are being leaked onto the internet before they are released.”
The box office success of Chris Nolan’s Inception demonstrates the benefit of keeping story details secret. Expect the same under cover treatment with Nolan’s next Batman and his production of a rebooted Superman. Every superhero movie gets this approach nowadays, and increasingly controversial motion pictures like the Wachowskis’ Cobalt Neural 9 whose “Hard R” gay romance storyline Deadline revealed.