EXCLUSIVE: One day into production in Europe on the global spy thriller 355 that he hatched with Jessica Chastain for Universal, FilmNation and Freckle Films, Simon Kinberg’s Genre Films is quietly exiting his overall film deal at Fox this month. That brings to an end a 20-year run where he has worked steadily, pretty much since he sold to the studio his first script out of Columbia University, Mr and Mrs. Smith. Genre has had an overall Fox film deal since 2010.
Even though the exit comes on the heels of disappointing returns on the X-Men First Class film Dark Phoenix, the timing is coincidental. Kinberg had planned this exit for at least half a year, as Disney was making plans to take it over, with the X-Men franchise steered by Marvel impresario Kevin Feige. Sources said that Kinberg could have, but decided not to make another deal with a major studio. Instead, he aligned with private backing — his camp wouldn’t be specific about the new backer — that sources said gives him ample overhead and more freedom because he is able to spread the projects he writes, produces and directs across town. He’s trying to take full advantage of the various studio and streaming outlets hungry for films that are making it confining to be shackled to one studio.
Kinberg closes up shop with an enviable Fox run: the 17 films he wrote, directed or produced generated nearly $7 billion in global box office, with a recent streak of having his name on Fox’s top grossing film of the calendar year five years in a row. He had been a creative backbone for some of the studio’s big scale pictures.
Going independent on the film side is the opposite of the strategy Kinberg employed when he recently aligned himself to Apple for television projects. The first that will go into production there is a tentpole sci-fi series inspired by HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds. He and David Weil (The Hunt) teamed to write the first few episodes of a show they are exec producing. The concept has evolved enough that it won’t be named after that famed public domain sci-fi property. It will go into production later this year as the rest of a season’s worth of episodes are being written by staff. The Kinberg/Weil series hails from Platform One, and marks the first series green light for the company run by CEO Katie O’Connell Marsh.
As the Fox exit happens, Kinberg just promoted Audrey Chon to be the new president of Genre Films, this after she, as head of Genre’s TV division, spearheaded the sci-fi series and the Twilight Zone series that Kinberg teamed on with Jordan Peele for CBS All Access. She will run both Genre’s film and TV ambitions, after earlier stints at Imagine Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment, Good Universe and Shine Entertainment. Longtime film head Aditya Sood is exiting.
Genre Films has been TV heavy, with the Noah Hawley-created FX series Legion, the Kiefer Sutherland-starrer Designated Survivor for Netflix, the Marvel/Fox co-production The Gifted, and The Twilight Zone all going.
Kinberg didn’t want to be interviewed for his Fox exit piece. While he publicly owned the shortcomings of Dark Phoenix — it couldn’t have been an easy launch when the marketing staff strategizing to sell the picture got laid off mid-stream — Kinberg exits with numerous projects still to come at Fox. Hits he was involved with at Fox include some of the X-Men films and spinoffs including Logan and the Deadpool blockbusters, The Martian, and Murder on the Orient Express. Pictures still likely to get made at Fox/Disney despite the shakeup include the Kenneth Branagh-directed sequel Death on the Nile, and Artemis, the adaptation of The Martian author Andy Weir’s novel that Phil Lord & Christopher Miller will direct at Fox/Disney from script by Captain Marvel‘s Geneva Robertson-Dworet that Kinberg is producing with Aditya Sood. Kinberg is also producing at Fox/Disney an adaptation of the William Gibson book Neuromancer that Deadpool and Terminator: Dark Fate helmer Tim Miller is set to direct. There is also the Logan’s Run remake he’s producing with Silver Pictures at Warner Bros, the studio where Kinberg was one of the writers on Sherlock Holmes.
Most pressing for Kinberg is 355, which sold two Cannes Film Festival markets ago, in one of the splashiest packages seen on the Croisette. There is every hope that the finished film could play next Cannes, presented in the spirit it was sold in. That was, a film that would give pay parity to the female cast on a global thriller scripted by Theresa Rebeck — original castmember Marion Cotillard exited, but Chastain stars with Penelope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Fan Bingbing and Diane Kruger, and showcase the commercial possibilities of a female-driven action film. It was an idea that Chastain shared with Kinberg while they were shooting Dark Phoenix, the film that marked Kinberg’s directing debut.
CAA and Jackoway Austen Tyerman rep Kinberg.