EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures wants more Transformers. Taking a page from Fox’s incubation of three Avatar sequels and what Disney is doing to revive Star Wars with a sequels and spinoffs, the studio is negotiating with Akiva Goldsman to work with franchise director Michael Bay, exec producer Steven Spielberg and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura to organize a “writer’s room” that will incubate ideas for a potential multi-part Transformers sequel, and come up with potential spinoff films based on the billion-dollar franchise culled from the Hasbro toy line.
Though Goldsman is the Oscar winning writer of A Beautiful Mind and many other big pics, I don’t get the impression the deal being negotiated calls for him to write one of these films. His will be an oversight role to secure writers and hatch the movies they’ll script. This is happening very quickly. Bay, who has directed all four Transformers films and most recently helmed Transformers: Age Of Extinction, is readying to next direct the Benghazi siege drama 13 Hours. He’d like to have something hammered out when he completes production so that the next Transformers pic can move forward quickly.
This is a major priority for new Motion Picture Group president Marc Evans, who’s tasked with getting more movies made. It marks an intriguing new step as studios put even more of a premium on the care and feeding of tentpole franchises.
James Cameron has come through a long incubation process with three Avatar sequels he’ll shoot back to back. He co-wrote Avatar 2 with Amanda Silver & Rick Jaffa, Avatar 3 with Josh Friedman, and Avatar 4 with Shane Salerno. All those writers spent seven months with Cameron in a writer’s room breaking down the beats of the trilogy. Cameron will shoot all three back to back at Peter Jackson’s WETA studios in Wellington, New Zealand (Jackson is the godfather of this multi-film-shoot movement, doing it with both The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies). Fox is investing a reported $900 million in those Avatar movies but one extended principal production period saves money, and News Corp hopes will drive the bottom line for years to come.
Disney has been ultra-aggressive since it bought Marvel, which has cranked out superhero films with regularity, and it has done the same since buying Lucasfilm. It created the infrastructure for three main Star Wars films — one with JJ Abrams directing and two with Looper helmer Rian Johnson. It also has spinoffs aplenty starting with Rogue One, the Gareth Edwards-directed film to star Felicity Jones and Ben Mendelsohn.
It’s not hard to see why Paramount covets more Transformers installments. The most recent, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, grossed nearly $1.1 billion, and became the top grossing release ever in China. And despite gross payouts that included Bay and the film’s star Mark Wahlberg, the film still generated $250 million in net profits to Paramount and was named Most Valuable Blockbuster in Deadline’s annual breakdown of top domestic grossing tentpole films.
Goldsman, like Bay and Wahlberg, is repped by WME.