‘Willard’ sparks change in remake rat race

As more old movies and TV series get set up for bigscreen treatment, it’s a wonder nobody has tried to stockpile properties ripe for the remaking.

Endeavor has taken steps to do just that by aligning with Intellectual Properties Worldwide, the company run by veteran rights chaser Marc Toberoff.

The move was sparked by a deal for “Willard” the agency made that gave Glen Morgan and James Wong a 50% gross take after New Line recoups and takes its distribution fee. It showed the power in holding remake rights, said Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel. What better way to commission more deals of this size than by bringing buyers a neat rights package with a pitch or script under the agency’s control?

In the first half year of its IPWW arrangement, Endeavor’s clients got first crack at IPWW-controlled movies “The Asphalt Jungle,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Piranha,” “It’s Alive,” “C.H.U.D.,” “Death Race 2000” and “Black Caesar,” and TV series “Ironside,” “Police Woman,” “Sanford and Son,” “Hart to Hart” and “F-Troop.” Toberoff acts as consultant when asked by the agency to track rights of properties coveted its clients. He’s free to package pics elsewhere, and is working with WMA on possible client alignments on “Sanford and Son” and “Ironside.”

“We’d prefer to put these together with our clients first, but this is mainly about owning the intellectual property and being able to extract value right down the line,” Emanuel said. “If the client controls the property, they could conceivably make a videogame deal even before the movie is sold. Rather than assign an agent, we’ve got a guy who is the best there is at untangling these things.”

WHILE REMAKES ARE STILL THE RAGE, the genre wasn’t helped by the failure of “Swept Away,” “The Truth About Charlie” and “I Spy,” the latter of which was exec produced by Toberoff. And dealmaking can be hellish. For every remake that comes together like “The Manchurian Candidate” did with Denzel Washington and Jonathan Demme or “The Stepford Wives” with Frank Oz and Nicole Kidman, others stall over control and money.

Disney has rights to the classic telepic “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” which interested the ideal tandem of “Seven” director David Fincher and scribe Andrew Kevin Walker. The dealmaking has been so tough that nothing has closed, months later. “Fat Albert” came unglued when director Forest Whitaker left after creative clashes with creator Bill Cosby.

DreamWorks recently asked for redos on remake deals for both “Billy Jack” and “Hawaii Five-0.” “Billy Jack” creator Tom Laughlin landed with Intermedia. “Five-0” rights holder George Litto (who agented series creator Leonard Freeman) was so determined to have it his way that he secured a credit line from JP Morgan for the $100 million budget. DreamWorks balked at giving the gross position Litto asked for, as well as creative controls said to be comparable to those held by the Broccoli family on James Bond.

DreamWorks exec Michael De Luca must have rejected both deals nicely, because both Laughlin and Litto hope DreamWorks reemerges as domestic distributor. Litto, who intends to make the script by Roger Towne (“The Natural”), wasn’t sorry he held out. He’d financed films before, and had a previous credit line with the lender.

“The upside potential is always more substantial if you’re the producer as well as financier, but this was more about the reluctance to give up rights if the studio put up all the money,” Litto said. “I’ve been involved in the series since its inception and have never rushed to remake this. What mattered to me was this: What is the script? Who plays McGarrett? And who directs? I wouldn’t waive my rights to be part of those decisions, because I believe if the first is done right, it has the franchise potential of James Bond or ‘Mission: Impossible.’ Do it wrong the first time and it’s over.”

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