Longtime Sony Pictures EVP Elizabeth Cantillon will transition from a production exec to producer with a three-year first-look deal at the studio. Cantillon has been a key exec on some of Sony’s big projects, and she will moonlight in that capacity and shepherd with MGM the next James Bond film that is gearing up for a year-end production start, as well as R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, which Jack Black will vamp this week at Comic-Con in San Diego.
At the same time, Cantillon will join several studio films as producer, including some she developed as an exec. This will keep her busy as she begins building her own projects. Cantillon’s first producing project is Game Brain, the drama about what causes the debilitating long-term effects of concussions in football and other contact sports that has led to suicides of several gridiron stars. Peter Landesman is writing to direct Will Smith in the role of Dr. Bennett Omalu, the man who was first to discover CTE, based a GQ article by Jeanne Marie Laskas that was developed by producers Ridley Scott and Giannina Facio.
Cantillon will also become a producer of the Luca Guadagnino-directed adaptation of the Robert Goolrick novel A Reliable Wife, which Andrew Kevin Walker is adapting, as well as the live-action adaptation of the PlayStation property Gran Turismo. Several other alignments are in the works for her.
The 007 franchise is just one of the big movie properties Cantillon has steered at Sony, with others including the Best Picture nominated Paul Greengrass-directed Captain Phillips and the David Fincher-directed The Social Network; she also worked with Fincher on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, with George Clooney on The Monuments Men and with Robert Luketic on 21.
Any transitioning exec always is met with the question of who decided on the switch. Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad tells me that the answer here is that it was a choice made by Cantillon and embraced by he and Amy Pascal.
“This grew out of a conversation when we were renewing her deal as an executive,” Belgrad told Deadline. “It became about what Elizabeth wants to do with her life. What I want to be abundantly clear is, she could have had an executive job here for as long as she wanted. This is about how she sees her future, and we are glad to be part of it. She has been integral to some of our great critical and financial successes here. Amy Pascal feels more strongly about this, because they started out together at Turner Pictures.”
The producing transition will be easier for Cantillon than some execs; she spent a chunk of her career doing that before serving an exec stint at MGM and then a long run at Sony. “I was a producer, lucky to come up with and learn from two incredible producers, Mark Johnson and Michael Shamberg, who taught me what the job was,” Cantillon told Deadline. She began raising a family just around the time location shoots migrated across the country and the world. It was at that point that an executive job became most palatable to being a mom. The kids are grown, and Cantillon is ready to be on movie sets again. While an exec, Cantillon had a shorter list of projects than some but a higher ratio of films that got made. Still, she sparked to the idea of being able to focus more closely on the projects as producer.
“It’s an immersive process, and there is the beginning, middle and end you reach where you’ve helped create something that wouldn’t exist without you,” Cantillon said. “Being a studio executive here was so much fun, but at this point in my life I am looking for that deeper sense of gratification.”
In a statement, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman and SPE Motion Picture Group chairman Pascal said: “I have worked with Elizabeth for over 20 years, and know that she is one of the most talented executives in motion pictures. She is returning to her first passion, and I can’t wait to work with her as a producer.”