The writing-directing team of James Wong and Glen Morgan (“Final Destination”) has closed deals for their next two features, the first of which will be a remake of the 1971 horror pic “Willard,” set up at New Line. Morgan will make his helming debut on the film.
In a separate deal, Miramax’s Dimension has inked a mid-seven-figure pay-or-play deal with Wong and Morgan to write, direct and produce a remake of the telepic “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”
On Tuesday, Morgan’s draft for a remake of 1971’s “Willard” — written with input from Wong — went out to studios with a $20 million budget, along with two live, caged rats, courtesy of Endeavor (Daily Variety, Sept. 5).
Asked why he was so enamored of rats, New Line production prexy Toby Emmerich deadpanned, “I’m a little hard of hearing because I used to work in the music business. I swear, I really thought I heard (New Line topper Bob) Shaye say we were doing a movie of ‘Cats.’ I loved that musical.”
More seriously, he said the project is “not cast-dependent, it’s ready-to-go, and it’s the kind of picture you can make for a price, and one on which they are willing to bet on with us. Plus, it seems like it’s franchisable, and New Line was built on the horror franchise.”
New Line pact contains a six-month progress-to-production stipulation; project will be Wong and Morgan’s next pic. The duo will defer all fees in a particularly rich backend deal, with the writing and directing team splitting all gross receipts for “Willard’s” theatrical and homevideo streams after New Line breaks even, which should happen when worldwide box office hits between $60 million and $70 million. New Line is taking a 5% distribbing fee on the pic.
Emmerich and senior VP of production Richard Brenner will oversee “Willard” for the studio.
“Dark” will begin production immediately after “Willard.”
” ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ is one of my favorite films of all time, and when I heard it was one of their favorites, we really wanted to make this deal work,” said Dimension co-chairman Bob Weinstein.
“It was a scary movie then,” Wong said, referring to the 1973 ABC television original. “It will be even scarier now.”
Andrew Rona and Brad Weston, Dimension co-heads of production, and Michael Zoumas, senior veep of development and production, will oversee “Dark” for Dimension.
Wong and Morgan co-wrote New Line’s suspenser “Final Destination,” which Wong helmed.
Wong is completing helming duties on Revolution’s “The One,” starring Jet Li, which he wrote and produced with Morgan.
Senior exec veep Michael Helfant, senior veep of business and legal affairs Andrew Gumpert and Weston negotiated the pact on behalf of Dimension.
Endeavor, along with attorney Robert Offer, repped Morgan and Wong.