DreamWorks and Montecito partners Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock have drafted the writing team of Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield to embark on “The Grand Tour,” a comedy about the harried process in which parents and kids tour college campuses before choosing the one that will be the beneficiary of the second mortgage needed to pay tuition. Blaustein, who made his directing debut on the 1999 grappling documentary “Beyond the Mat,” will direct the film.
The comedy comes from an idea by Reitman that was inspired by experiences he and Pollock had helping their kids choose the right place to matriculate. They turned to Blaustein and Sheffield, longtime partners who hooked up on “Saturday Night Live” and are best known for scripting the Eddie Murphy comic vehicles “The Nutty Professor” and its sequel, “Boomerang” and “Coming to America.”
Aside from those scripting credits, Reitman and Pollock sparked to Blaustein’s “Mat,” a labor of love in which the lifelong wrestling fan sought out his boyhood grappling heroes, and found that each paid a high price for fame on the spandex circuit. CAA put the parties together. Montecito, which scored its first comic hit with “Road Trip” is back in business with that pic’s director, Todd Phillips, on “Old School” starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn.
A WORKING FORMULA: Steve Oedekerk, best known for writing high-grossing comedies like “Patch Adams” and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” spent the past few days working with Tom Shadyac and Jim Carrey on a rewrite of the Universal comedy “Bruce Almighty.” Shadyac will direct and Carrey will star as a self-proclaimed victim who complains so much that he’s empowered by God to run the world he feels is so unfair.
But Oedekerk has another side to his career, and with the Oscar nomination given “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” (which he co-scripted and produced through his O Entertainment), the success of “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist” and the upcoming Imax release of his 3-D film “Santa Vs. the Snowman,” the filmmaker feels he’s found a decidedly non-traditional formula for profitable pictures.
“It started off as a theory, that took me the last two years to prove a reality, and that is to make on-the-ledge animated and live-action films that can come close to grossing their budgets in the opening weekend,” Oedekerk said. The former “In Living Color” writer has always strayed to the unconventional, from his TV special “Steve.Oedekerk.com” to “Thumbtanic” and “Thumb Wars,” two films populated entirely by thespian thumbs. O Entertainment has become a lab for his labors, particularly on “Kung Pow,” the repurposed martial arts film in which he also starred. “We came in at $8 million, and had 2,065 effects shots, more than any film in history,” Oedekerk said. “We passed ‘Pleasantville,’ ‘Titanic’ and then ‘Star Wars: Episode I,’ because this entire movie had to be digitized. … But even when you are lucky enough to have studio budgets, it’s more satisfying to solve problems with creativity than with cash. ‘Jimmy Neutron’ cost under $30 million — less than half any CGI animated movie ever made, and about a third of the budget of the other Oscar nominees. It has grossed $80 million domestically, earned back every cent spent on it including marketing, so now the rest is going to be gravy.” “Neutron” has become a merchandising juggernaut for Paramount and Nickelodeon, which are adding a sequel with plans to turn the whiz kid into a series.
Aside from the Shadyac/Carrey comedy, Oedekerk is ready to test his nontraditional formula further, including another ambitious live-action film he’ll topline. “I will next do a Ray Harryhausen-type Sinbadian adventure, an all-out comedy, with things nobody has seen before, a task made easier because of the learning experience of ‘Kung Pow.’ And we’ll do another animated film, ‘The Barnyard,’ which has been my pet project for 15 years.”
GILLIAM GETS BACK ON TRACK: The state of Terry Gilliam’s directing career is reminiscent of where Ridley Scott found himself in the 1990s, snakebit by the collapse of “Crisis in the Hot Zone.” After spending years to make “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” — the film’s collapse was the subject of the docu “Lost in La Mancha,” which Gilliam preemed at the Berlin Film Festival — Gilliam is hoping to rebound the way Scott has. Gilliam has exited UTA and signed with Endeavor, which will try to heighten his Hollywood profile. He’s also got two promising films he wants to do back-to-back. Gilliam is in talks with Johnny Depp and Robin Williams to star in “Good Omens,” which he and longtime writing partner Tony Grisoni adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, about the battle between heaven and hell to track down the newborn antichrist after it is misplaced at the hospital. The elements are Gilliam stalwarts: Depp starred in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and the aborted Quixote pic, Williams starred in “Brazil” and “The Fisher King” and Chuck Roven produced “Twelve Monkeys.” Gilliam and Grisoni then will do another novel adaptation they’ve already scripted of Mitch Cullin’s “Tideland,” which is set with producer Jeremy Thomas.