EXCLUSIVE: As EuropaCorp’s Luc Besson and Christophe Lambert keep building toward the opening of their Red distribution pipeline, they’ve added a new film to the slate and promoted Lisa Ellzey to be president of their U.S. film operation. They’ve hired Harry Brown helmer Daniel Barber to direct Underground, the Ben Collins & Luke Piotrowski-scripted thriller about a Gotham detective who investigates missing persons cases that lead him into a frightening, labyrinth-like underground world beneath the city.
Red is a joint venture with Relativity, but each company is on its own when using the releasing apparatus. EuropaCorp got into this game to control their own distribution and marketing destiny after watching films from the Universal-distributed blockbuster Lucy to the Fox-distributed Taken get released domestically by others. They bolstered financing with more than $900 million in credit facilities and credit lines to facilitate this expansion. Their first Red release will be The Transporter Legacy, a new trilogy spinoff of the popular film franchise which starred Jason Statham. The first film opens June 19, 2015. Other films in the initial batch include the Steven Quale-directed action thriller The Lake, and the Naomi Watts-starrer Shut In. The plan is to mix homegrown productions with acquisitions, and EuropaCorp made its first big deal for a finished film in Toronto under acquisitions head Federica Saint-Rose when it paid $4 million for Big Game, the Jalmari Helander-directed and-scripted film that stars Samuel L. Jackson as the President of the United States, who finds himself in the most unusual position. When Air Force One is downed by terrorists, the fate of the most powerful man on the planet lies in the hands of a 13-year-old boy.
Ellzey will work out of the Hollywood headquarters with the transplanted Besson and Lambert to generate the homegrown projects for the pipeline. A well respected exec who previously worked at Lionsgate and Fox and ran Scott Free for Tony and Ridley Scott, she moves up from executive vice president of film for EuropaCorp in the U.S. to president. Like Lucy and Taken, a lot of these projects will be hatched by ideas from the prolific Besson, who wrote and directed Lucy. That $40 million Scarlett Johansson-starrer grossed $458 million worldwide.
On Underground, UTA reps Barber and Collins & Piotrowski, with the writers also repped by Gotham Group.