EXCLUSIVE: After another vigorous bidding battle for a star-cast package, Netflix prevailed and won world rights for Julia Roberts starring with Denzel Washington and Mr Robot‘s Sam Esmail directing Leave The World Behind, a feature adaptation of an upcoming novel by Rumaan Alam. I heard that it came down to Netflix and Apple and MGM but that there were 10 offers on the project with studios and streamers bidding for movies and limited series. Esmail will adapt the novel.
The novel will be published this fall by the HarperCollins publishing imprint Ecco. The book portion was a 7-figure deal and the outline for a budget was part of the negotiation, sources said. This becomes yet another in a spate of precedent-setting deal, including salaries and backends for the stars and filmmaker. Word spread quickly that the worth of this deal will rival the one made by Apple for the Antoine Fuqua-Will Smith runaway slave drama Emancipation, which landed in the $120 million range, counting backends. It is also a re-team for Roberts with both Washington and Esmail. Washington and Roberts starred together in The Pelican Brief and have long wanted to work together again. Esmail and Roberts worked closely together on the first season of the Amazon drama series Homecoming, on which Esmail is co-creator exec producer and director.
Roberts is producing through her Red Om Films banner; Denzel Washington is producing and so are Sam Esmail and Chad Hamilton through Esmail Corp. Alam will be executive producer and Red Om’s Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres Gill will also be involved in a producorial capacity
The drama has a timely premise, given the disorienting nature of events in the world so far this year: Amanda and Clay’s aspirational vacation with their teenage children is interrupted by the arrival of a middle aged couple who own the holiday home and who have fled an unprecedented blackout in the city. When the internet, television and radio stop working, as does the landline, they have no way of finding out what is happening. As strange sonic booms shatter the peace of the countryside, and animals start to migrate in strange ways, the physical and mental health of the families begins to disintegrate. The renters are upscale and White; the owners are upscale and Black. The issues of race and clash become distractions to the more alarming things are happening all around them.
Roberts will play the mother of the family that rents the house. Washington will play the homeowner.
CAA reps the author along with Julia Barer at The Book Group; CAA reps Roberts with Hirsch Wallerstein; Washington is WME and Hansen Jacobson, and Esmail is CAA and McKuin Frankel Whitehead.
Deal comes in the wake of Netflix setting Joe & Anthony Russo to direct Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in an adaptation of the Mark Greaney novel The Gray Man, an attempt to launch a blockbuster espionage franchise with a budget upwards of $200 million.
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