EXCLUSIVE: Three months after ending a 25-year run as a Sony Pictures film exec — the last three as Motion Picture Group president after 10 as Columbia Pictures president — Doug Belgrad has christened his new production shingle 2.0 Entertainment. He has hired Open Road exec Sophie Cassidy to be SVP Production, joining at the end of September. It will take until year’s end for him to tie down his outside financing and a while longer to assert himself as a buyer. But Belgrad will get his venture going by becoming a minority co-financier on Sony projects Peter Rabbit, Bad Boys 3, Zombieland 2, Mulan, Charlies Angels, and Mallory. The latter is a Doug Liman-directed drama about British mountaineer George Mallory and his attempts to summit Mount Everest. He has also gotten started in television with four active projects including a sitcom with Jake Kasdan.
Belgrad’s shingle will generate films and TV projects as producer and co-financier, and it will be headquartered on the Sony lot with a first-look feature deal there. He’ll co-finance between 10%-33% of the pre-existing Sony films, but will go 50/50 on packages he brings to the studio. If Sony doesn’t bite, Belgrad can partner with other studios or finance independently and distribute through Sony. The goal is to leverage Belgrad’s skills and relationships to entice talent to play in the mid-size-budget sandbox. Belgrad was certainly part of his share of big films at Sony, but those won’t be the focus of 2.0. He cited projects he helped shepherd, from 21 to The Social Network, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Zero Dark Thirty, Karate Kid, Equalizer, Hitch and This Is The End as the kind he’d like to focus on.
“These were dramas and comedies for sophisticated audiences that gave us the chance to work with high-quality filmmakers, and they made money,” Belgrad said. “There is great gratification in those films, and you can have more autonomy and independence creatively because the fate of the studio doesn’t hang in the balance. They were economically attractive then and they are becoming more so. Don’t get me wrong. Tentpoles are important; every studio needs those billion-dollar-grossing movie. I had a breather where I got to think about what I want to be and who I want to be in business with, and I have a good sense of that now and that is what I want to roll into 2.0.”
When Belgrad exited, Sony chief Tom Rothman told Deadline he intended for Belgrad to become a key supplier and was incentivized to get him started. Sony has helped get 2.0 off the ground by bringing Belgrad in as financier and in some cases producer on key films on the studio slate, most of which Belgrad helped initiate while president.
“Peter Rabbit is the movie Will Gluck will direct, with Animal Logic deep into character development and animatics in Australia, and the live-action shoot starting early next year,” Belgrad said. “Zombieland was one that Matt Tolmach supervised, but producer Gavin Polone, Ruben Fleischer and I have tried to figure out a sequel for the last four years, one that pleases Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin. Wernick & Reese, who did the original before they did Deadpool, came back and polished a script that Dave Callaham wrote and Mike White and Oren Uziel did passes on. It’s very encouraging.” Belgrad won’t produce this, just co-finance.
Bad Boys 3 brings him back to a franchise from his formative years at the studio. “I was fortunate to be the creative exec on the first one early in my career, with Simpson and Bruckheimer and a movie that really broke Martin Lawrence and Will Smith as big feature stars,” Belgrad said. The film, to be directed by Joe Carnahan, is on track to begin production after Smith completes the David Ayer-directed Bright for Netflix. “The script reinvigorates in a smart way a quintessential action comedy franchise,” Belgrad said.
It’s unclear if he’ll be a producer on that one but he will join Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman and Elizabeth Cantillon as producer on Charlie’s Angels, the reboot which Banks will direct. He’ll also be a producer on Mulan, a live-action film that Jason Keller is writing, based on the Chinese myth of the female warrior who disguises herself as a man. “The plan is to shoot predominantly or exclusively in China with a Chinese partner and a mostly Chinese cast,” Belgrad said. “It’s a Hollywood movie made for the world, but which we think will have immense appeal in China.”
He will join Jennifer Klein and Liman’s Hypnotic partner Dave Bartis in producing Mallory, a Sheldon Turner-scripted adaption of the Jeffrey Archer book Paths Of Glory.
Shepherding the projects will be Cassidy, who was a development exec at Summit and worked on acquisitions like The Hurt Locker and Fair Game, and homegrown projects like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, before she was brought into Open Road by Tom Ortenberg. At Open Road she has been SVP Production and Acquisitions, overseeing films including Mother’s Day, Nightcrawler, Dope and Spotlight as well as Oliver Stone’s Snowden, which plays the Toronto Film Festival.
“I met Sophie when she was Scott Greenberg’s assistant and was impressed by her taste and sensibilities,” Belgrad said. “She will help spearhead our activity in television, as well.”