Universal Pictures has entered into a three-year, first-look production agreement with Michael De Luca, who exited the Sony executive ranks earlier this month to produce the Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy. Those sequels will be only a couple of the projects he will produce for the studio. The announcement was made this morning by Universal chairman Donna Langley.
De Luca ankled Sony as president of production of Columbia Pictures not long after an executive shake-up at the Culver City-based studio that resulted in Sony chairman Amy Pascal being replaced with TriStar head Tom Rothman. It was Pascal who had hired De Luca. The deal at Universal was a natural given that one of their top box office grosses (Fifty Shades) was produced through the studio and that the former executive also had a strong relationship with Langley who he had help champion early in her career.
Both executives acknowledged that long friendship in their statements today about the deal.
“Mike has been an incredible friend and mentor to me for many years and I’m thrilled to have him on the lot with us,” said Langley. De Luca also echoed that, saying, “Donna Langley is not only completely brilliant and inspired in her job but one of the best human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. She is truly one of my best friends in the world and I am beyond excited to work with her, Peter Cramer, Jeff Kirschenbaum, Josh Goldstine and her whole Universal team on this next phase of our collaborations.”
While at Columbia, De Luca oversaw a slate that included the upcoming films Pixels and Grimsby, as well as the Ron Howard film Inferno, the studio’s remake with MGM of The Magnificent Seven, and Paul Feig’s new Ghostbusters. He has also been credited with bringing in such high-profile projects as Passengers, with Morten Tyldum directing Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, as well as The 75 with Yann Demange directing, and The Gray Man with Joe and Anthony Russo adapting.
De Luca has gone back and forth between being an executive and producing pictures over his long career in the film business. He began as a New Line Cinema executive who helped make Cameron Diaz a star when he cast her in The Mask opposite then-Ace Ventura star Jim Carrey. He also was the executive behind the successful Rush Hour and Austin Powers franchises.
After that, he was the head of production at DreamWorks where he oversaw the live-action division until 2004 when he segued to becoming a producer at Columbia. During that stint, he successfully produced the Oscar-nominated Captain Phillips, Moneyball and The Social Network.