Universal Pictures has set in a first-look film production deal with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the franchise-launching duo who shared the Best Animated Film Oscar for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and who hatched the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie franchises. Their films have collectively grossed $3.3 billion.
While studio competition for talent in mega-buck deals is these days mostly restricted to television, Lord Miller has been the exception. Deadline revealed last month that studios were hot and heavy in the chase to bring the deal to their lot, and this was the film deal everyone wanted. Universal was led in its pursuit by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley and Peter Cramer, president of Universal Pictures.
This is a natural next step for Lord & Miller, which has been expanding its ambitions and recently brought in former Genre Films president Aditya Sood to head film for their Lord Miller banner. This is the first overall movie deal for the duo; they set their TV operations at Sony Pictures Television in an epic-sized five-year deal last April.
Under the new deal, Lord Miller will develop films in the comedy and drama space, based on original content, existing IP and other media formats with an emphasis on championing fresh voices. Besides Sood, Lord Miller’s motion picture exec roster includes SVP Will Allegra and VP Rebecca Karch. Both were recently upped within the company.
“In this competitive landscape, our ongoing ambition is to partner with visionary filmmakers who have true authorship and a voice that is unmistakable,” Langley said. “Phil and Chris speak to the culture and have their singular, original perspective to every project they’ve touched. We are thrilled to collaborate with them and welcome them to the Universal family.”
Said Lord & Miller: “Universal has a history of breaking new ground and championing unexpected voices, so for us it’s a very welcoming environment to make bold, original films that push the medium forward. We also feel a deep obligation to leave something behind for future generations of studio executives to reboot. We’re very grateful to Donna, Peter and the entire Universal team for inviting us to partner with them in reaching that goal.”
Lord Miller has several percolating projects including Artemis, an adaptation of The Martian author Andy Weir’s novel, and The Last Human, a tentpole at Sony. They plan to direct both films.
Their TV division was responsible for the Fox series The Last Man on Earth, for which they earned an Emmy nom for directing the first two episodes. They’ve got the animated Emily Spivey-created series Bless the Harts that will debut on Fox this small, and a bunch of television series they are developing based on Sony’s universe of Marvel comics characters, an outgrowth of their Oscar-winning Spider-Verse work.
Lord Miller’s deal was brokered by UTA and Ziffren Brittenham.