Africa, the feature about paleo-archaeologist Richard Leaky’s battle with ivory poachers in Kenya that was to be directed by Angelina Jolie and star her husband Brad Pitt, is said to be on shaky ground. The feature was being produced through David Ellison’s Skydance Productions from a script by Oscar winner Eric Roth.
Sources close to the project say things started to turn just recently over budget involving creative issues. Tons of development money was poured into this project over years. Sources said that Ellison was going to put in 50% and then pulled back and said Skydance would put in 25%. One of the complicating factors that contributed to where the film is now, is the role that the love story would play in the movie. Jolie always intended for the love story to be only a part of the movie; Skydance wanted the love story to become the centerpiece of the film. That’s apparently not the film that Jolie wanted to make. After that, Skydance halved its commitment, though sources on that side denied Skydance was ever in for more than 25%, the same commitment that Paramount Pictures made to the financing equation. Regardless, the budget is at $110M, and people are blinking. (Hey, everyone, we’re not in the ’80s anymore.) A draft of the script came in about five weeks ago and by all accounts, it was well-received. With a sweeping epic — and budget — of this nature, the sides are at odds now as to how to move forward. This has been a passion project for Ellison for many years, and they are now reaching out to other studios to find a partner.
If they can’t find one, the picture is likely to fall completely apart. Who might come in for a production budget plus marketing and distribution fees is anyone’s guess. Doesn’t seem realistic. Stay tuned.
The project was to be produced by Ellison, Jolie, Dana Goldberg and Jon Peters and also was going to reteam 11-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins with his Unbroken director Jolie.
In the past, Skydance has been the muscle behind big-budget tentpoles including the Terminator reboot Terminator: Genisys, which is coming in July. It’s also working on the next Mission: Impossible pic, a second Jack Reacher movie and Star Trek 3.
Mike Fleming contributed to this article.