EXCLUSIVE: Avengers: Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo are zeroing in on a major deal with 20th Century Fox for their unnamed production company that will fully launch in January after they complete back-to-back Avengers sequels. Sources said the Russo Brothers are closing a long term non-exclusive pact for Fox to co-finance and distribute worldwide features generated by the new venture. The company will have put pictures included, and the venture will provide the other half of the financing for its films. I understand there was competition among studios to land the deal.
The Russo Brothers had a comfort level with and respect for Fox film chief Stacey Snider that goes back to her days at Universal. Snider was the entry point, and they met and hit it off with production chief Emma Watts, sources said. The duo has been working on the launch of this venture for over a year, with an eye toward directing films and producing others, and creating a feeder system for emerging talent. The Fox deal will allow them to start as a funded mini-major.
Even though by the time they finish two Avengers sequels the Russo Brothers will have directed their last four films at Disney, Fox seems a more logical destination for the new company. For one thing, the mantra of the upstart disruptive company is to empower artists who remind the brothers of their own origins. Raised in Cleveland, they were art house film devotees and Truffaut addicts who started on an avant garde film track before veering off toward commercial TV series and blockbuster movies. While the venture will attempt to build franchises like the Russos are involved in now, its product will also deliberately stray outside that box. That was evidenced by the company’s first deal, when they pacted to make the next film by Swiss Army Man writing-directing team Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, better known as the Daniels.
Beyond a paucity of Disney slots because so many are spoken for among the prime silo companies, some of the new films will be R-rated and others will be prestige films, a business for which Fox and its Fox Searchlight are better suited to handle.
The Russo Brothers are building space in L.A.’s downtown art district, and the venture is expected to have a name, a full creative staff and more film and TV productions set by the time they come up for air in January after completing the back-to-back superhero movies for Marvel/Disney. The Russos are not commenting on the deal, but in May loosely outlined their ambitions to Deadline. The venture, they said, is partly inspired by the disruptive nature of Steven Soderbergh, who helped launch the brothers after seeing their first experimental film Pieces at Slamdance (since they set it to music they couldn’t afford to license, the film was never released), and deciding they reminded Soderbergh of his own early work.
“Our goal in setting up the company was to expand our reach as filmmakers, with creative autonomy over the process,” Anthony Russo in May. “While we are building a large company that will need to deliver major films to be successful. We’re also doing this because of creative inspiration. We saw Swiss Army Man and fell in love with the Daniels, who are adventurous filmmakers and radical storytellers, pushing the boundaries. We do feel we owe a karmic debt to the universe because of what Soderbergh did for us. The mission behind this company is to take ownership of what we do as directors moving forward, while leaving room to help get interesting voices out there.”
“Anthony and I are putting together a company where we won’t lose our jobs based on quarterly earnings and can afford to play a longer game,” Joe Russo said. “That short game is what creates a glut of mediocrity in the market, because people are desperate for hits, and it puts so much pressure on executives to deliver them. We will take that pressure off the artists. Our offices are built around what we call our ‘Storytellers’ Room’, and there we’ll have a meticulous process that starts with a three-page outline on plot and structure. We’ll spend weeks on that before moving on to a 10- to 20-page outline that incorporates characters and theme, and then move onto script after that.
“There won’t be target dates; things will get made when everyone feels they are ready. We are being humble, but we hope this can be a legacy for artists, on their terms and our terms, and not about a corporate agenda,” he said.
WME reps the Russo Brothers.