UPDATE, 11:05 AM: Focus Features has made Jim Burke’s deal to become president of production as I told you was happening fast last month. In addition, Focus has upped SVP Production Josh McLaughlin to EVP, reporting to Burke. Burke will report to CEO Peter Schlessel. Focus company’s full release is below the original story.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, FEBRUARY 25 PM: Focus Features is in talks to hire Jim Burke as president of production. Focus CEO Peter Schlessel is in talks with the veteran exec/producer, who partners with Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor in the production company Ad Hominem, which they formed in 2004. Before that, Burke was a founder of film/TV company Rysher and put that company into the movie business.
With Payne and Taylor, he was nominated for Best Picture for The Descendants, and he also produced such films as Kingpin, Election and Cedar Rapids. He’s been developing to produce Downsizing, the film that Payne will direct with Matt Damon, Reese Witherspoon, Alec Baldwin and others, but the project has been delayed until after Damon films the fourth installment of The Bourne Identity. Burke started his career as veep of Warner Bros Television Domestic Distribution.
This marks a significant next step for Schlessel at Focus, which is still finding an identity after Schlessel’s FilmDistrict was combined with Focus Features, and the established prestige picture operation’s top execs James Schamus, Andrew Karpen and Jeb Brody left. The label is coming off The Theory Of Everything, which won Eddie Redmayne the Best Actor Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking. Focus also supervised production of Fifty Shades Of Grey, but that became a Universal project.
The company has Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, the Tarsem Singh-directed Self/less with Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley, the Ciaran Foy-directed Sinister 2; the Babak Najafi-directed London Has Fallen, which brings back Gerard Butler in the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen; the Juan Antonio Bayona-directed A Monster Calls, which stars Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson; and the Jesse Owens pic Race, starring Stephan James as the Olympic runner and Jeremy Irons and Jason Sudeikis.
Keep an eye on this one. It could fall apart, but right now is on track to happen quickly. Burke is an intriguing choice for this.
Focus Features announced today that Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe® winning producer and executive Jim Burke has been named President of Production. Burke’s appointment continues Focus Features diversification and expansion of its film slate to include a greater number of specialty and wide release films. Additionally, current Focus Features Senior Vice President of Production, Josh McLaughlin, has been promoted to Executive Vice President, reporting to Burke. Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel, to whom Burke will report, made the announcement.
“I have known Jim for many years and not only does he have a tremendous talent for both developing and producing films, he’s also a passionate advocate for filmmaking talent,” said Schlessel. “Jim’s breadth of experience is the perfect fit to lead our production efforts as we continue to grow the Focus Features brand with a mix of both specialty films and wide releases. Josh’s contributions since I joined the company have been invaluable and I am pleased to announce his promotion, one that he earned by taking stewardship of our production slate while the company transitioned under our new mandate.”
Jim Burke’s film and television career spans several genres and formats from prestige pictures to wide release films and television programming. Most recently he produced the Golden Globe winning feature THE DESCENDANTS which was also nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture; and a win for Best Adapted Screenplay. Burke also produced the film CEDAR RAPIDS and served as executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated film THE SAVAGES. In 2004, Jim, along with Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, created the production company Ad Hominem.
Prior to Ad Hominem, Burke spearheaded the Rysher’s foray into feature films and oversaw the development, production and release of the company’s motion pictures. Rysher’s diverse slate included the Sundance audience award winner BIG NIGHT, as well as PRIMAL FEAR, KISS THE GIRLS, PRIVATE PARTS and THE SAINT. Burke also co-produced 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY, KINGPIN AND ELECTION. Prior to Rysher, Burke was Vice-President of Warner Bros. Television Domestic Distribution.
Focus Features’ Josh McLaughlin has been with the company since 2012 where he joined as Senior Vice President. Prior to that he held the posts of Executive Vice President at Chernin Entertainment and as Executive Vice President and Co-Head of the motion picture division of The Mark Gordon Company. While at The Mark Gordon Company McLaughlin produced Kasi Lemmon’s TALK TO ME starring Don Cheadle, which was released by Focus Features.