EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has won a four-studio bidding battle to acquire Humbug, a spec that is fast coming together for Ice Cube to star in the title role, with Tim Story directing a contemporary retelling of the Charles Dickens’ tale A Christmas Carol. In the modern version, Cube will play a wealthy real estate mogul shown a path to redemption by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
Universal prevailed over MGM, New Line and Disney in a script deal worth high six figures against low seven-figures for scribes Todd R Jones and Earl Richey Jones. They originally set this script up at Relativity, and got it back as that company was heading into Chapter 11. UTA reps all the elements here, and the agency packaged it and went back out and it’s going to be a happy Christmas for everybody: Cube is poised to crack the eight-figure salary mark when the film gets made. He is producing alongside Jeff Kwatinetz, with Jones & Jones aboard as co-producers.
It becomes the latest in a line of Relativity refugee projects getting second chances elsewhere. Those include acquisitions like The Bronze, which just moved to Sony Pictures Classics, and Jane Got A Gun, which shook loose in late July. It was expected then to move to The Weinstein Company (which has a stake), and that has now happened.
Cube and Story are now poised to work together after they teamed with Hart on Ride Along 2, the sequel that Universal opens Martin Luther King weekend. They first teamed on Barbershop. It is remarkable how adept Universal has been in finding gold in projects discarded elsewhere. Ride Along shook loose from New Line, and Cube is soaring off of that and Straight Outta Compton, the late summer smash that was developed by New Line and kicked to the curb by Warner Bros before Universal agreed to make the F. Gary Gray-directed drama. Now, Universal has a strong holiday slotted picture in Humbug. I’ve heard it’s a possible 2017 release, but studio said all that remains to be seen.
Aside from UTA, Cube is represented by The Firm and Ziffren Brittenham, Story by Ziffren Brittenham, and Jones & Jones by attorney John Meigs at Hansen, Jacobson & Teller.