EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures, which has been gearing up production under new studio chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos after being left with pretty much a barren cupboard from the previous regime of the late Brad Grey and Rob Moore, has several projects in development with female directors. They have only one in production, but the town understands this is an inherited situation that new management is now working to turn around.
We’re told one of the mandates from Gianopulos is to hire more female directors onto projects, evidenced by its development slate both at Paramount and in its Paramount Players division. One of those new projects is the high-profile Nightlife, which Neal Moritz is producing with two strong female roles (see below).
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Here is what’s on the studio slate to date:
The Rhythm Section, starring Blake Lively and Jude Law, is currently in production with director Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale) at the helm. The project, written by Mark Burnell, is based on the author’s Stephanie Patrick novels and is being produced by Barbara Broccoli, Michael Wilson and Greg Shapiro.
The protagonist is a strong female who assumes three distinct identities in her efforts to undercover the terrorists behind the bombing of a plane in which her entire family was killed. With the help of an investigative journalist, she adopts the personalities of a German anarchist, a hard-core corporate executive, and a prostitute. Along the way, she surprisingly falls in love and must choose one of her identities and stick with it.
The film is set for release on February 22 of next year.
Ry Russo-Young is developing Nightlife, which Moritz is producing. Written by Dorothy Fortenberry, Nightlife is about a female cop who goes after a chameleon-like con artist who knows how to steal identities and radically change her appearance – and who’s now morphing into a serial killer. Russo-Young is also attached to MGM/Warner Bros; co-production The Sun Is Also a Star which is going into production this year. She has also acted in and directed short films as she learned to use the camera and eventually directed the feature You Won’t Miss Me and later Before I Fall. Moritz, of course, is the producer on the phenomenally successful Fast and the Furious franchise for Universal Pictures.
Director Anna Foerster is in development on Lou, about a young mother who teams with a mysterious older woman to help recover her abducted child. Two strong female roles grace this feature project from writer Jack Stanley and producers J.J. Abrams, Lindsey Weber and Braden Aftergood. Foerster is one of those filmmakers who began her career as a camera assistant, in 1994, and worked her way up to directing a number of TV episodes (including Criminal Minds and Outlander) as well as Underworld: Blood Wars which starred Kate Beckinsale.
Lisa Cholodenko is developing an English-language remake of Toni Erdmann based on the German pic of the same that nominated for the Oscar Best Foreign Language Film last year. The bittersweet comedy, adapted by Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, revolves around an older man who begins to play pranks on his adult daughter after finding her too self-serious. Kristen Wiig is attached to this comedy which has also garnered the interest of Jack Nicholson. Producing is Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum, Wiig and Maren Ade.
The official logline: An aging practical joker desperate to reconnect with his career-driven daughter drops in on her unexpectedly right when she’s in the middle of a consulting assignment that will define her professional future, and passes himself off as a quirky life coach to her unsuspecting friends and colleagues.
Cholodenko started out years ago as an assistant on post-production and was working her way up the ladder when her writing acumen really helped to launch her. She wrote and also directed Laurel Canyon and then The Kids Are All Right (which Blumberg also co-scripted). The latter film ended up being nominated for four Oscars, including for Best Original Screenplay.
Trevor Noah is putting his autobiography Born a Crime into Liesl Tommy‘s hands. They are developing the project based on his experiences growing up under apartheid in South Africa. Noah scripted and is producing along with Lupita Nyong’o, Norm Aladjem, Derek Van Pelt and Sanaz Yamin. Nyong’o will also star.
Director Tommy, who began directing on the legit stage, is perhaps uniquely suited to helm Born a Crime, having been born and raised until the age 15 in Cape Town under apartheid. Her stage direction earned her accolades including an Obie win for Appropriate and a Tony nomination for directing Eclipsed.
Amy York Rubin is attached to direct Gay Kid and Fat Chick from writer-producer Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade), about two outsider teens who create costumed alter egos to get revenge on the students who have bullied them in school. She began working as a writer and an actress. Over the past year, she has been steadily working as a director, helming episodes for various TV shows including Casual (Hulu), SMILF (Showtime), The Mick (Fox), Fresh Off the Boat (ABC), Grown-ish and Alone Together (both Freeform titles), and upcoming episodes of Dietland (AMC), Angie Tribeca and Wrecked (both for TBS). Rubin also created and directed the original series Boxed In for IFC Comedy Crib, which became the first digital series to cross over to the network’s on-air programming. She will be making her feature directorial debut on this film.
Three Sundays is from writer-director Issa López who is also producing the love story that is said to be in the vein of Saturday Night Fever. The story takes place in the underground banda music dance scene in New York. Also producing is Jon Levin.
López is a force of nature. She has penned 11 features, many of which went on to rank among the biggest box office titles at the Mexican cinema during their release runs. She has directed four of her scripts: Efectos Secundarios (Warner Bros., 2006), Casi Divas (Sony, 2008), Tigers Are Not Afraid, (Filmadora Nacional, Peligrosa, 2017) and Todo Mal (Peligrosa, Traziende 2018).
Tigers Are Not Afraid was a dark fairy tale about the ghosts that haunt the children that survive Mexico’s drug war. The film won awards from genre festivals and got the attention of both Stephen King as well as this year’s Best Picture Oscar and Director winner Guillermo del Toro, who has announced he’s going to produce a film for López.
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