UPDATE: Warner Bros has been as stingy as any major on handing out overall production deals to actors in recent years. But I’ve learned the studio has just given a first look 2-year deal to Zac Efron. And Warner Bros plans to buy pitches, spec scripts, and books for Efron and his still unformed company to develop as star vehicles. His manager, Alchemy Entertainment’s Jason Barrett, will be an exec producer on the projects. But that’s not all at Warner Bros: I’m told the studio also is in the process of making an overall deal with its Sherlock Holmes star Robert Downey Jr who’s about to form a production company with his wife, seasoned development exec and now producer Susan Downey. And Warner Bros also will make an overall deal with duo Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who are moving over the first-look pact they had together at Media Rights Capital (MRC). All this talent joins Steve Carell, Johnny Depp, and Leonardo DiCaprio who already have overall deals at Warner Bros. Gee, pretty soon Jeff Robinov’s lot will resemble the star-studded heyday of Terry Semel/Bob Daly when superstars like Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, and Clint Eastwood ruled the roost. (Oh, wait, Clint still does!)
At 22, Efron is by far the youngest actor with an overall Warner Bros film deal. I’m told he hasn’t named his company and is still working out details like whether he’ll take office space on the lot. My insiders said the studio has been high on him for several years, especially his hustle on the New Line film 17 Again which he promoted heavily in six overseas territories. (That pic grossed $136 million worldwide). Warner Bros is determined to find him a franchise. Which begs the question whther he’ll be the next DC Entertainment superhero, or Bourne-like action thriller leading man, or buddy comedy co-star, or all, or none. True, Efron has made a determined effort to steer away from his High School Musical teen heartthrob image, dropping out of a Footloose remake to attach to Universal’s serious dramatic vehicle The Death And Life of Charlie St. Cloud releasing this fall. But one of Zac’s upcoming projects I’ve already announced will be the first developed under his new Warner Bros — the Back To The Future-like film, as yet untitled, that melds two projects: a pitch from writers Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski, and the other called Algorithm that the studio was already developing.