As Deadline predicted last month, the deal is done and Plan B — coming off Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight — has moved its production deal to Annapurna. The company has signed a three-year deal, and Annapurna is poised to start the new relationship by taking on the film about polarizing former Vice President Dick Cheney that Adam McKay wrote and will direct as his next feature. Christian Bale is playing Cheney, Steve Carell will play former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Amy Adams will play Lynne Cheney. That project was set by Plan B and McKay’s Gary Sanchez at Paramount, but the studio is putting it in turnaround. That studio, which recently put the JC Chandor-directed $70 million budget Triple Frontier in turnaround, is retooling under new chairman Jim Gianopulos, and balked at a Cheney price tag I’ve heard is in the $50 million range. It sounds like an ideal project for Annapurna, which has backed such provocative films as Zero Dark Thirty and The Master.
Run by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Plan B has been a standout producer over the past few years. The producers in January left their overall deal with New Regency, where Plan B made the Best Picture-nominated The Big Short and where it will make Ad Astra, pegged as Pitt’s next star vehicle. The film’s written and directed by James Gray, who most recently helmed the Plan B-produced Lost City Of Z.
Landing Plan B is a statement move for Megan Ellison’s production-financing-distribution company, which has built itself up and becomes a distributor with Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming film about the Detroit riots. It said today it will handle marketing and distribution efforts for Plan B’s upcoming film releases and partner on at least three films per year.
“We’re excited and honored to be working with Plan B in this new partnership,” Annapurna founder and CEO Ellison and president of film Chelsea Barnard said. “We have always admired their taste and quality of producing since we met six years ago, and we could not be more thrilled for the possibilities ahead.”
Plan B has become a haven for the kind of movies Ellison loves to make. There are commercial films but a lot of prestige pictures too. Along with McKay’s The Big Short, its credits range from Best Picture winners 12 Years A Slave and The Departed to World War Z and World War Z 2 (which they’ve been working on for months with David Fincher), the Netflix David Michod-directed Pitt-starrer War Machine, Beautiful Boy, the Cannes-bound Netflix Bong Joon-ho-directed Okja, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and, for television, The Normal Heart.
“We are very excited to find a home with Megan and Annapurna, who are like-minded in their commitment to backing and curating passionate films and filmmakers,” the Plan B partners said. “We look forward to working closely with Annapurna’s stellar team.”
Annapurna has been very smart in the way it is methodically building the taste maker company with the addition of seasoned executives and having just beefed up its marketing and distribution teams. It also signed a multi-picture output deal with Hulu, the first of its kind for Annapurna as the company moves toward mini-studio status. Annapurna separately has a deal with its Zero Dark Thirty writer-producer Mark Boal and his Page 1 banner, which is developing a 2016 presidential election “political drama” series of between eight and 10 hours. Boal and Ellison are producing the series which we have heard is about Trump.
Annapurna takes the step up after establishing itself as a tastemaking financier/producer of films including Bigelow and Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty, David O. Russell’s American Hustle and Spike Jonze’s high-concept film Her. The company has 32 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture noms for those three films. Ellison is also one of only four honorees ever to receive two Best Picture nominations in the same year, with Her and American Hustle in 2014.
CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners rep Plan B.