EXCLUSIVE: Megan Ellison has won an auction for the rights to make at least two more installments of The Terminator franchise, with Fast Five’s Justin Lin attached to direct and Arnold Schwarzenegger attached to star. The deal came down to Ellison’s Annapurna Films and Lionsgate, which seemed to have had the project sewn up until she came forward with a dramatic bid. The auction at the time was for a guarantee for at least half of the $29.5 million paid by hedge fund Pacificor to pull the franchise out of bankruptcy. Unclear what the winning amount was, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit the $20 million mark. CAA brokered the deal.
Deadline revealed the two finalists in the auction on Wednesday, and I’m told that the deal closed late Thursday. Ellison, the daughter or Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and sister of Paramount-based Skydance producer/financier David Ellison, is winging her way to Cannes right now. She has a lot going on here. The film she is financing about the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has been the subject of an auction for the past week, with mostly independent financiers and a couple of major studios including Sony Pictures hearing the pitch at CAA headquarters last week. That project, which reteams The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, originally was about the unsuccessful hunt by Navy SEALS for the elusive Bin Laden in Tora Bora. In light of his subsequent death at the hands of that SEAL team, the project is being rewritten and will be done in a month and will take a long look at an operation which ultimately succeeded. That picture has a budget in the $30 million range, has actors like Joel Edgerton circling, and will shoot in the fall. Ellison also has The Wettest County in the World, which is creating buzz in the sales market at Cannes. She sold worldwide rights to The Weinstein Company last week for the untitled post-WWII Paul Thomas Anderson-directed drama that will star Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, with Amy Adams and Laura Dern negotiating to star.
I will update more information on Terminator as it comes in, and find out whether CAA plans to shop offshore rights to the franchise here. The expectation is the Skynet storyline will be wrapped up in two features. Ellison made her bid without a domestic distributor attached, so conceivably that project could become about the hottest title in the sales market here.