Universal cuts ties with Shadyac

Studio opts not to renew director's pact

Universal has decided not to renew its production deal with “Evan Almighty” helmer Tom Shadyac.

Shadyac’s Shady Acres shingle will exit the lot in about four months, upon the expiration of his pact. Departure ends a long — and often lucrative — association between the filmmaker and studio. Shadyac operated out of a big building on the lot and at one time his deal was one of the most important for the studio.

Relations between the two became strained during the making of “Evan Almighty,” but the parting of ways stemmed from a number of issues. Originally intended as a Jim Carrey sequel to “Bruce Almighty,” “Evan Almighty” morphed into a Steve Carell spinoff geared to family auds. Tensions flared over cost overruns — pic’s budget swelled to at least $175 million on lavish special effects — and escalated further when Shadyac battled the studio over its religious themes and marketing.

The movie went on to gross $100.5 million domestic and $72.9 million overseas, and a U exec recently insisted to Daily Variety that actual losses on the film didn’t go much beyond $40 million.

“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” a project Shadyac produced, came out after “Evan Almighty” with happier returns, but the studio and helmer-producer, whose films have generated $1.9 billion worldwide for U, parted ways anyway.

Universal declined to comment on the decision to part ways with Shadyac, who set up shop on the lot in 1999, when Stacey Snider headed production. He directed “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty” for the studio, in addition to “Patch Adams,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Dragonfly.”

Shady Acres has several projects set up at the studio, but nothing in active development.

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