‘Godzilla’ duo Devlin, Emmerich ink 3-year SPE pact

Team to write, helm, produce event-caliber fare

The “Godzilla” team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich have closed a lucrative three-year deal at Sony Pictures Entertainment that will allow them to write, direct and produce a slate of event-caliber films, sources said Tuesday.

The deal, expected to be announced imminently, gives the duo a substantial level of autonomy and their own label on films they create.

Word that the duo was considering an overall deal at Sony has been out for more than a month (Daily Variety, Jan. 14).

Sources said that Devlin and Emmerich are signing one of the most lucrative overall pacts in memory, a deal which could give them between 15% and 20% gross participation for their triple duties of writing, directing and producing.

The cementing of the tie between the Centropolis Films banner and Sony comes as the studio prepares for the Memorial Day opening of “Godzilla,” expected to be one of the summer’s big-ticket offerings.

Though it was unclear until last week that Devlin and Emmerich would actually enter into an overall pact, sources said they so enjoyed the treatment by SPE president/chief operating officer John Calley’s team that they decided to hang their formidable hats at the studio.

That means that whatever the next pic to be written, directed and produced by the duo, it will be an SPE film.

For Sony, which seems on the verge of ending a relationship with Peter Guber’s Mandalay Entertainment, the deal gives the studio a shot at several large-scale films with international appeal.

Neither Sony nor Centropolis would comment on the deal.

The duo’s recent track record suggests that they deliver what studios these days most want: event-caliber fare which does not require gross-player stars to perform, and which the team brings in for comparatively moderate budgets.

“Independence Day,” which the duo sold to Fox from a pitch, cost around $70 million and grossed $805 million worldwide.

SPE first hired Devlin and Emmerich on “Godzilla” after the studio parted ways with Jan De Bont over a budget that was said to exceed $130 million going in. Devlin and Emmerich redrafted the film and brought it in at the comparatively moderate budget level of around $100 million.

It remains to be seen how the Sony deal will affect Devlin and Emmerich’s situation at Fox, where the duo made the sci-fi smash “Independence Day.”

Following the success of that film, the duo set up several projects at Fox, including a remake of “Fantastic Voyage.”

Sources said their relationship with Fox has since soured. Talks for an “Independence Day” sequel have stalled and the duo was demoralized by the abrupt cancellation of their series, “The Visitor,” which got the ax at the Fox Network after seven episodes.

Sources said that the duo felt particularly burned by their treatment from the Fox TV division. The day the series was axed turned out to be Emmerich’s birthday, but the only executive phone call he got came from Sony, where top brass expressed regret about the cancellation.

It is still unclear whether the new relationship with Sony will hamper the duo’s involvement in an “Independence Day” sequel or will jeopardize their other projects at Fox.

In any case, as their relationship with Fox faltered, the duo was embraced by the hit-hungry brass at SPE.

The bonding developed to the point that when Calley decided to mount his own James Bond series, he offered the job to Devlin and Emmerich. They are said to be considering the project if MGM/UA is unsuccessful in stopping the film in the courts.