Disney dives for ‘Pearl’

Mega-budgeted WWII epic finally gets its greenlight

After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”).

A few legal issues were still being ironed out Wednesday evening, but the film is on track to begin production in April or May for release around Memorial Day, 2001.

Disney will finance the film’s entire budget, making “Pearl Harbor” one of the most expensive films ever at the greenlight stage.

The studio will control worldwide distribution, though it is a distinct possibility that Disney could later lay off a large percentage of the budget on Spyglass, its foreign partner on such films as “The Sixth Sense.”

Estimates are that Disney could recoup as much as 40% of that budget in exchange for Spyglass stronghold territories Germany, Spain, Italy and France.

Spyglass, run by Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber, has offered to finance the entire film, a scenario that Walt Disney chairman-CEO Michael Eisner and Walt Disney Studios chairman Peter Schneider have resisted while making the decision.

The greenlight ends the high-profile jockeying between the studio and Bay and Bruckheimer. That duo gave up their upfront fees and delaying gross participation until the studio reached breakeven — and thought they had gotten a greenlight on a $145 million budget from studio chief Joe Roth and Eisner.

That changed when Roth exited the studio this month when his contract expired. Suddenly, Eisner and his new lieutenant Schneider had second thoughts, and spent the last two weeks in a tense negotiation with Bruckheimer and Bay to shave an extra $10 million off the film’s negative cost.

One source said Bruckheimer and Bay’s waiving of upfront and gross could make a difference of $40 million to $50 million for the studio. That’s a significant chunk of change, and a significant move for the duo.

Casting will begin in earnest, with the early favorites being that “American Beauty” star Wes Bentley, “Thin Red Line” star Jim Caviezel and Charlize Theron will be offered the lead roles (Daily Variety, Jan. 25) in a storyline about two fighter pilot pals from Tennessee who fall in love with the same nurse.

More Film

  • Les Arcs Film Festival

    Les Arcs European Film Festival's Industry Village Kicks Off with Strong Roster

    After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”). A few legal issues […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rockets to $215 Million Opening Weekend

    After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”). A few legal issues […]

  • Disney-Fox Deal Sets Up Scramble for

    Disney-Fox Deal Unleashes Flood of Free-Agent Executives, Talent

    After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”). A few legal issues […]

  • Anita Hill

    Anita Hill Chairs Hollywood Anti-Sexual Harassment Commission Formed by Top Execs

    After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”). A few legal issues […]

  • Warren Beatty

    Arnon Milchan Sues Warren Beatty Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”). A few legal issues […]

  • Oscar Isaac Addams Family

    Oscar Isaac in Talks to Voice Gomez Addams in Animated 'Addams Family' Movie

    After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”). A few legal issues […]

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Publicists for Jennifer Lawrence, Daisy Ridley, Amy Adams Form New Firm

    After months and months of budget scrutiny and talent talks culminating in the tension of the last two weeks, Disney has greenlit — at a budget of $130 million-$135 million — the WWII epic “Pearl Harbor,” with Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing from a script by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”). A few legal issues […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content