UPDATE, 11:16 PM: The 24 movie postponement broken by Deadline this morning is getting interesting. Word is racing around agency circles that Kiefer Sutherland was not only unhappy about the pic’s postponement, but also what I’d heard was a $1 million offer to play Jack Bauer in a deal that was heavily back-loaded to reward success. Insiders said that Sutherland would have gotten at least $2 million, though that was below his original $5 million and then $3 million ask. Fox wanted a budget around $30 million, while the filmmakers wanted $45 million to $60 million. Fox’s idea was always to make the film at a cost, and reward in the upside. The studio’s proposal, made a couple weeks ago, wasn’t addressed until this week, and when the crap hit the fan yesterday, the studio felt there wasn’t enough time to pull the picture off in seven weeks of prep. The studio was following its experience with X-Files, a TV property turned into a hit film, but made at a cautious budget. I’m told that Fuqua’s deal hadn’t been made yet. Sutherland, Imagine and Fuqua stood to reap up to about 25% of the proceeds after breakeven, to make up for the low upfront payments. I reached out for comment to Sutherland and Imagine this morning, but no one returned yet.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 7:40 AM: I’m hearing that fans of the Fox series 24 are going to have to continue waiting for the long-awaited 24 feature film. 20th Century Fox isn’t going forward with the film this year. It hadn’t been greenlit, but it was scheduled to get going in late March, with Kiefer Sutherland jumping into Jack Bauer mode when his new series Touch goes on hiatus in April. The studio was zeroing in on a director — Antoine Fuqua was the most recent conversation I’d heard of — when the decision was made this week to not go forward, at least this year.
There are rumors this came down to budget and that Sutherland is upset because he was sparked up to resume his role as the rough-and-tumble government operative, who over eight seasons prevented numerous apocalyptic terror attacks. Studio insiders tell me Fox wasn’t convinced it had enough time to complete the film before Sutherland has to go back to work on Touch‘s second season, and didn’t want to rush and neither did Sutherland. The picture is being produced by Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Sutherland and they have a script written by Billy Ray, and polished by Mark Bomback. It’s ready to go.
The big question is whether Fox will continue working on the film and readying it for Sutherland’s next hiatus. Having been a big fan of the series, I am disappointed. I’ve heard that Ray constructed the script to play out in a three-picture arc. Maybe it was the real-time format, or perhaps the writing and endless cliffhangers, but the twists and turns and intensity created a blood pressure-spiking viewer experience that was unmatched — at least until AMC unveiled The Walking Dead. It seems a natural transition to features, with the potential to turn into a Die Hard-type action franchise.
Giving the picture some hope is Grazer’s inability to take no for an answer. American Gangster was scrapped and then came back together and turned into a memorable crime drama. And Grazer, Ron Howard, Akiva Goldsman and Stephen King are now firming up a deal for The Dark Tower at Warner Bros, which will put the picture on course to begin production in the first quarter of 2013 after Universal last year rejected the ambitious plan to make three movies and two limited-run TV series that could land at HBO.