Michael De Luca is leaving his job as president of production at Sony’s Columbia Pictures to produce movies for Universal Pictures, Variety has learned.
At Universal, De Luca will oversee the remaining two installments in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. The financial rewards for his involvement could be upwards of $20 million, according to a knowledgeable insider, making that a difficult opportunity to pass up. Beyond working on the next “Fifty Shades” movie, De Luca is expected to shortly announce an overall production deal at Universal.
De Luca’s ex-boss, newly appointed Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman, had tried to convince the production chief to stay on board because of the close relationships the executive enjoys with top creative talent. But his pitch was not successful. De Luca and Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group president Doug Belgrad were considered for the top studio job after Amy Pascal was pushed out from Sony’s senior executive ranks last February. Both were blindsided by news that Rothman was tapped by Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Michael Lynton.
“There are fantastic things happening at Sony right now,” said De Luca in a statement. “I am crazy about Tom, Doug, Hannah [Minghella] and the whole team here, and there is incredible new energy and optimism about what’s going on, so this was a really hard decision for me. I literally wish I could be in two places at once, but the opportunity to resume my producing career right now, including the possibility of continuing on the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy, makes this the right choice for me at this unique moment in time. I look forward to continuing to work with Columbia on my existing productions there.”
De Luca’s boss, Belgrad, said the studio would continue to work with the departing executive on several projects.
“Mike will always be family to us,” he said in a statement. “He is one of those guys who can do it all.”
De Luca was recruited to the studio in December 2013 by Pascal. He also was recently considered for a job at Paramount, where he would have replaced Adam Goodman as that studio’s motion picture group president.
Going to Universal holds significant appeal for De Luca, who has remained close to the studio’s chief Donna Langley. The two worked together at New Line Prods., where De Luca was president for much of the 1990s.
Prior to joining Sony, De Luca was riding a huge wave of success as an independent producer based at Sony with such hits as “The Social Network,” “Moneyball” and “Captain Phillips.”
When he was at New Line he oversaw franchises including “Austin Powers” and “Rush Hour.”