EXCLUSIVE: Akiva Goldsman is returning his Weed Road to Warner Bros, in a multi-year first look deal.
Weed Road’s President of Production Greg Lessans and Vice President Rachel Wizenberg have re-upped with the company, along with creative executive Shiva Nassab. Weed Road most recently had both its film and TV deals at MGM, and he rejoins studio heads Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, who moved from there to bolster Warner Bros theatrical franchise output.
In a statement, Warner Bros Pictures co-chairs De Luca and Abdy called Goldsman “a consummate producer, a brilliant writer, and a kind and generous human being. We’ve both known and worked with Akiva for years, and never cease to be amazed by his combination of filmmaking mettle and limitless imagination. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome him back to the Warner Bros. family, where he has delivered some of the Studio’s most successful and acclaimed projects of the past two decades.”
Goldsman reminds that “the lion’s share of my career was at Warners; I spent close to 20 years or more. It’s a homecoming and I get to work with Mike and Pam and Jesse [Ehrman], who I’ve known since he started at Warner Bros.”
At a time when De Luca and Abdy are leaning in on IP that can play on a global scale theatrically, Goldsman’s immediate focus will be on two such projects that have been percolating at the studio.
“We’re starting with two projects that are fun and very much Warners; the sequel to I Am Legend, with Will and Michael B. Jordan, and the sequel to Constantine with Keanu Reeves that Francis Lawrence is going to direct. So I’m coming out of the gate fast. We’re doing it with JJ Abrams, and Francis and Keanu and I have been pretty deep in the story breaking stage.”
The 2005 original grossed $280 million worldwide and started with a strong lead and a promising premise to be built upon, but it was a one-off. That was until De Luca and Abdy made it a priority last fall. Reeves will reprise as supernatural exorcist and demonologist John Constantine, who in the original is dying but stays around to save his soul by keeping demons from hell from breaching earth. He also gets between a battle between the archangel Gabriel and Lucifer.
Goldsman is writing the script, and Lorenzo DiBonaventura and Erwin Stoff will executive produce the project.
“This is a credit to Keanu, who endlessly has said, ‘this is the character I want to return to,'” Goldsman told Deadline. “Finally, he said it enough times that it stuck.” Reeves’ revival in the John Wick films surely helped the cause. The new film expands on the themes the original brought, about maintaining the barrier between earth and the evil creatures that are on the other side.
“The character is very much Keanu and the way he and Francis saw the world of good and evil, and the wonderful and authentic noir where there is a world behind the world of good and evil coexist with our world right up close. Beyond that, we are still discovering it as I am writing the script.”
Another tentpole is the sequel to I Am Legend, the 2007 film that grossed $585 million worldwide. Studio has been trying to crack it for years, and Goldsman would not say how Jordan fits into the last-man-on-earth storyline, but said the film will lean into the Richard Matheson novel the original was based on.
“This will start a few decades later than the first,” he said. “I’m obsessed with The Last of Us, where we see the world just post-apocalypse but also after a 20-30-year lapse. You see how the earth reclaims the world, and there’s something beautiful in the question of, as man steps away from being the primary tenant, what happens? That will be especially visual in New York. I don’t know if they’ll climb up to the empire state building, but the possibilities are endless. We trace back to the original Matheson book, and the alternate ending as opposed to the released ending in the original film. What Matheson was talking about was that man’s time on the planet as the dominant species had come to an end. That’s a really interesting thing we’re going to get to explore. There will be a little more fidelity to the original text.”
Goldsman said De Luca and Abdy shared his commitment to “target thoughtful things that can play theatrically. We’re all trying to figure out where that strike zone is, and I want to be able to help with IP I know and find pieces that are a little more actor-ey and story driven but not as IP driven.”
Goldsman had his TV deal at MGM, but said he’s a free agent in that department, as he completes The Crowded Room for Apple TV+. The drama stars Tom Holland, Amanda Seyfried, Emmy Rossum and Christopher Abbott. Goldsman created the show, wrote and was showrunner on all the episodes, eight of the 10 of which are locked. It’s based on the story of Billy Milligan which Hollywood tried to crack as a movie forever. “It became kind of storied, with James Cameron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Schumacher, M. Night Shyamalan trying it at one point or other.”
He has also been busy on the Star Trek spinoff Strange New Worlds, and the final season of Picard, and has numerous projects spread around at studios, like the Major Matt Mason movie with Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone.
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