They say a high tide raises all boats. Perhaps no percolating project in town has benefited more from the record-breaking grosses of Jurassic World than Passengers, the Morten Tyldum-directed science fiction film at Sony that has Jennifer Lawrence and Hollywood’s newest superstar, Chris Pratt. Like Gravity, this film is a sci-fi two-hander, as Passengers tells a love story involving two people aboard a spacecraft where the rest of the passengers are locked in suspended animation. The buzz on the Sony lot has been the discussion of whether the studio gives it the green light for an early fall start that matches the schedules of the two actors and director. I’m told that the budget came in last week at around $117 million, with Lawrence getting $20 million, Pratt at least $10 million and Tyldum mid-seven figures as he comes off the Best Picture nominee The Imitation Game. That budget will likely be trimmed closer to $100 million, and then the countdown to blast-off will begin.
New Sony chief Tom Rothman is a very budget-conscious executive, and the notion of him stepping up on this project he inherited has been met with some skepticism. There is too much momentum in its favor, including the emergence of Pratt. The film is being championed by Doug Belgrad; Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 is standing by if needed, and would certainly jump aboard as a partner, but I don’t think it’s going to come to that. Sony will finance it, using its funding deal with Lone Star.
Despite the talent, it’s a risk; the picture is expensive and was decidedly conceived as a one-off and so it isn’t the tentpole all studios crave. All eyes are on Rothman here, who needs to take big swings in championing original IP and supporting big filmmakers and talent. He did that at TriStar — the Robert Zemeckis-directed The Walk is opening the New York Film Festival — and he’s looking to do it again with Stephen King’s Dark Tower, which now has A Royal Affair‘s Nikolaj Arcel aboard to direct. It’s going to be a gritty process–trust me, the film hasn’t yet been green lit–but how could Rothman turn down a beloved and highly original Jon Spaihts script carried by the two biggest young stars, especially after Pratt was part of such a monster hit?
The answer is, Rothman will make it, perhaps at a slightly trimmed budget. Sony also has Pratt because it partnered with MGM in The Magnificent Seven. Stay tuned.