You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Stewart goes boldly; renewed U fills its slate

PATRICK STEWART’S Flying Freehold Prods. and Paramount have set up a remake of “The Assassination Bureau” with “Dumb and Dumber” scribes Mark Steilen and Bennett Michael Yellin.

It’s one of several projects that Stewart has lined up, including a western written by Oscar-winner Michael Blake, and a starring vehicle about a hitman.

While the 1969 “Bureau,” based on a Jack London story, concerned a secret org eliminating those who deserved it, the new version concerns an IRS agent who accidentally infiltrates a club comprised of the world’s best hitmen. The killers try to cancel the audit, and, if necessary, the auditor.

Stewart will produce but not act in the film, and a deal was just closed for Steilen and Yellin by Emile Gladstone of Broder Kurland Webb & Uffner.

Flying Freehold, run by Stewart and partner Wendy Neuss, set their shingle at Par when Stewart reupped to continue playing Captain Picard in the “Next Generation” series.

They’ve made a deal with Par and “Dances With Wolves” scribe Michael Blake for “Winding Stair,” a film Stewart hopes to star in. “It’s a western set in Oklahoma about an unlikely posse that includes a German marshal, two Indians, a black sheriff and a young city law clerk who is being exposed to this kind of world for the first time,” said Stewart. “They have to solve a crime that took place in an Indian nation in the late 1850s.”

Flying Freehold and Par also made a deal for “Delivering Gen,” a script by Kurt Sutter also intended as an acting vehicle for Stewart. Set in Paris, the story concerns a hitman who finds he’s the father of a newborn baby. “After first trying to get rid of the baby, he returns to New York to find the mother and establish a normal life despite her drug addiction and criminal background,” said Stewart.

Stewart and Neuss expect Flying Freehold’s first go project will be an adaptation of “A Conspiracy of Tall Men,” based on a Noah Hawley novel now getting a second draft from scripter Jeff Lieber. As an actor, Stewart’s next big enterprise will be “X-Men,” the Bryan Singer-directed Marvel superhero saga scripted by Ed Solomon. Stewart plays Professor X, the wheelchair-bound leader of the superhero clan who battle Magneto, played by Ian McKellen.

“Aside from getting to work with Bryan, I’m most excited about reuniting with Sir Ian, who I began working with 25 years ago in the Royal Shakespeare Company,” said Stewart, who’s repped by ICM’s Steve Dontanville and David Seltzer of Industry Ent.

NICE U-TURN: Last year, Universal could do little right, but the new management team, under cochairmen Stacey Snider and Brian Mulligan, is fast putting together big star packages they hope will further the studio’s recent U-turn.

After some summer hits (and one big end-of-the-summer stumble with “Dudley Do-Right”), U’s fall dance card includes Beacon’s “For Love of the Game” (which has tested well, though there seems to be bruised feelings with Kevin Costner over some four-letter words excised to get a PG-13), the Jim Carrey-starrer “Man on the Moon” and “Snow Falling on Cedars,” and the studio half partners in “Angela’s Ashes” and “The Green Mile.”

Snider said the studio’s quickly lining up the next bunch. They’re looking to sign Brendan Fraser for another installment of “The Mummy” after the Alphaville-produced original became U’s seventh biggest grossing pic ever (the first six are Amblin-generated fare).

A third “Jurassic Park” installment is definite with Joe Johnston helming, and a firm start seems near for helmer Tom Shadyac on “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” Gary Ross is nearly done with a rewrite of Barry Fanaro’s script about two hetero firefighters who marry for insurance benefits, and Will Smith and Nicolas Cage loom likely as stars.

Cage just pacted for “Captain Correlli’s Mandolin” with “Notting Hill” helmer Roger Michel. “American Pie” helmers Chris and Paul Weitz are reteaming with scribe Adam Herz on an undisclosed new pic, and “The Incredible Hulk” has again become a priority project with Mike France scripting for a spring start date. Snider expects a quick production start for Mike Myers in “Sprockets.”

That’s one of several imminent greenlights for Imagine, which has a near-complete script for “Nutty Professor 2” from “Pie’s” Weitz guys. Imagine’s also prepping “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” for Jim Carrey and Ron Howard.

U’s also poised to move quickly on “Hannibal,” the sequel to “Silence of the Lambs” being scripted by David Mamet for director Ridley Scott and producer Dino De Laurentiis. The producer paid a record $9 million to buy the book by Thomas Harris. Though the bestseller had a most uncinematic ending, sources said Harris has come up with a more Hollywoodesque climax.

CAST IN FAMILIAR ROLE: After a six-year stay, Paramount head of casting Deb Aquila will recast herself as an independent. Aquila, whose thesp discoveries include Edward Norton (for “Primal Fear”), is leaving mainly to work with a bunch of directors who make pics for other studios. She’s lined up several immediate jobs, including “Uprising” for Jon Avnet, “The Gift” for Sam Raimi and “Bijou” for Frank Darabont.

ENTERPRISING PERCENTER: Newcomer Susan May Pratt has been tapped to play one of the leads in the untitled Nicholas Hytner-directed film about the cutthroat world of ballet for Sony. The actress follows with the lead in the Myra Paci-directed indie “Searching For Paradise.”

Her deals were made by newly minted Gersh agent Jason Spire. Born and raised in L.A., he left a trainee positions under CAA’s Bryan Lourd to move to New York. After working on the desk of Gersh’s Lindsay Porter, Spire got his percentery stripes. Aside from Pratt, he’s also booked Kris Park into a role in Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled.”

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content