MGM lands Lion Rock

Woo, Chang exit Sony

There’s a new lion roaring at MGM. Helmer John Woo and producing partner Terence Chang have ankled the Sony lot and signed their Lion Rock Prods. to a first-look film and television deal that will keep them there for the next three years.

“Woo and the studio have enjoyed a wonderful relationship thus far,” said Michael Nathanson, MGM’s prexy and chief operating officer. “It will expand from movies that John will direct here to ones that he and Terence will also produce here.”

Woo is currently committed to helming MGM’s Nicolas Cage starrer “Wind Talkers” and, according to Nathanson, is already in advanced talks to helm and produce a second MGM pic that Nathanson declined to name.

And just as netting Woo is clearly a coup for MGM, it’s a loss Columbia Pictures.

The Hong Kong helmer’s career exploded as loudly as a car in one of his hard-boiled action pics after hits like “Broken Arrow” (1996) and “Face/Off” (1997). Together, those pics produced well over half a billion dollars in worldwide B.O. coin.

In January 1998, then TriStar topper Chris Lee sought to nail down the white-hot helmer with a two-year, first-look deal that began that month.

But soon after Lee departed the exec suites for a deal on the lot, Woo found that his new boss, Col chairman Amy Pascal, was largely unreceptive to many of his pic plans.

Instead, Woo inked a deal to helm the sequel to “Mission: Impossible” at Paramount and, after Pascal passed on the project, set up the WWII espionage thriller “Wind Talkers” at MGM. He will leave Sony without ever having helmed a pic for his home-base studio.

Asked how soon Woo and Chang could be on the lot, Nathanson responded, “We’ve already ordered the trucks.” He hastened to call the new deal “a continued step for MGM to be in the mainstream and attract first class talent.”

The deal also contains provisions for MGM to finance several Lion Rock pics through its United Artists specialty division and makes the venerable Lion home to any Woo-Chang telepics as well.

(Claude Brodesser contributed to this report.)

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