Inside Move: Calley unspools next phase

Exec phasing out duties, preps return to producing

HOLLYWOOD — When John Calley disclosed he was stepping down as chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment last week, the studio wasn’t exactly blindsided. His move had been regularly predicted for some two years. One newspaper report had him out three months ago.

In fact, the 73-year-old Calley has been phasing out his executive duties over the past year. A resolute film buff, he has been eager to return to more direct involvement in moviemaking.

Calley has quietly assembled a slate of movies that he plans to produce, including a film version of bestselling novel “The Da Vinci Code” with Ron Howard directing; “Closer,” based on the Patrick Marber play, with longtime friend and collaborator Mike Nichols; and adaptations of Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying” (Diane English will script) and “The Company” by Robert Littell.

Sony has no plans to name a successor to the chairman position. The company currently operates with a troika of vice chairmen. Jeff Blake (distribution and marketing), Amy Pascal (production) and Yair Landau (digital and TV) will run SPE, in accordance with a plan put together a year ago.

This week, word also leaked that Peter Schlessel, the well-regarded president of Sony’s Columbia Pictures, would be stepping down as early as December, apparently frustrated by his lack of autonomy at SPE and eager for a more entrepreneurial job. It’s unclear if Schlessel will be replaced.

In April, Sony Corp. of America chairman Howard Stringer created a seven-member committee of top execs to oversee SPE’s operations.

With Calley gone, some may again wonder what’s ahead for Revolution Studios topper Joe Roth, who sits on that committee along with Landau, Blake, Pascal, Stringer and SPE chief financial officer Rob Wiesenthal.

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