EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios has won a heated auction among four other studios and streamers for a Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston comedy vehicle. The untitled body swap comedy was pitched last week by Max Barbakow, who will write and direct the film. LuckyChap Entertainment, the production label of Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley and Josey McNamara, will produce alongside Roberts and her Red Om Films banner, Aniston’s Echo Films, and Barbakow. Red Om’s Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres Gill will also be involved in a producorial capacity.
Barbakow is best known for directing Palm Springs, the Andy Samberg-Cristin Milioti 2020 comedy won by Neon and Hulu at Sundance for a then-festival record sum. The comedy is based on his original pitch.
The appetite for a two-hander star vehicle comes after the surprise box office success of Ticket to Paradise, the comedy that re-teamed Roberts with George Clooney. For Amazon’s Jennifer Salke and Head of Movies Julie Rapaport, this signals an uptick in Amazon stepping up to bolster its film slate.
Amazon was in the bidding for the Sundance hot title Flora and Son, and won the auction for Red Shirt, a Simon Kinberg pitch that Channing Tatum will star in for director David Leitch , and before that the Nick Stoller-helmed wedding comedy to star Reese Witherspoon and Will Ferrell.
CAA handled the auction, and it is further evidence that star packages that can be fast tracked and slotted into release schedules is the best way to get top dollar. By the time the Roberts and Aniston comedy gets made, I’m told that each actress will hit a payday high water mark, counting salary and backend buyout.
Roberts is repped by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein; Aniston is CAA, Lighthouse Management, and Hansen Jacobson; Barbakow is CAA, Range Media Partners, and Jim Gilio and Jonathan Sauer at Sloan, Offer; and LuckyChap is CAA, Entertainment 360, and attorney Jeff Bernstein.
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