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Upfronts: Deal to Revive ’24’ Came Together with Real-Time Speed

Brian Grazer: Howard Gordon 'rallied everybody's energy' during past few weeks

True to form, the deal to revive “24” as a limited series next summer came together with real-time urgency during the past three weeks.

Imagine principal Brian Grazer credits longtime showrunner Howard Gordon for driving the final talks that led to Monday’s announcement that Jack Bauer would be back in action for 12 episodes skedded to bow in summer 2014. Ever the enterprising producer, Grazer sees the smallscreen revival as laying the groundwork for a “24” feature down the road.

“It will be a huge event,” Grazer says of the show’s return to Fox in May 2014. The “24: Live Another Day” revival will be paired with another thriller, “Wayward Pines,” from M. Night Shyamalan.

In fact, a movie rendition of Fox’s innovative drama series had kicked around for years, even since the show bowed out in May 2010. Grazer was closing in on a deal 20th Century Fox a little more than two years ago for a feature from a script by Billy Ray. Grazer and Gordon were in the process of hiring a director but it just “never quite got finalized” and ultimately the feature idea went on the back burner. “The timing wasn’t right,” Grazer acknowledged.

But once Fox Broadcasting went public with its plans to develop event miniseries, Gordon was dogged in his pursuit of a deal. And any effort to revive “24,” of course, hinged on getting Kiefer Sutherland back in the fold.

Gordon courted Fox Networks Group topper Peter Rice and Kiefer Sutherland at separate dinners during the past month, and then worked with 20th Century Fox TV toppers Dana Walden and Gary Newman and Fox Broadcasting entertainment chief Kevin Reilly to hammer out the details. Negotiations with Sutherland’s reps went down to the wire on Sunday morning. Sutherland is just coming off two seasons on Fox drama “Touch,” which never clicked for the net and was canceled last week.

Grazer notes that Gordon wrangled all of the “24” elements while juggling numerous other projects, including Showtime’s “Homeland” (another 20th TV show), and a series just greenlit by TNT, “Legends.” Gordon will be back in the saddle as showrunner of “24: Live Another Day,” to be produced by 20th TV, Imagine and Gordon’s 20th TV-based Teakwood Lane Prods.

“Howard just rallied everybody’s energy to make it happen,” Grazer said. “There was a lot of unification among Fox and the studio to get it done. Everything in this business is about energy, and we got a good group of people together and got our energy together.”

Gordon and Grazer are in the process of recruiting more cast members and some “24” veterans to take part in the production (series creators Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran will not have a day-to-day role). The segs will lense in January. The storyline will pick up a few years after the series left off at the close of its final season.

“It’s all evolving right now,” Grazer said when pressed for details on other cast members who may be asked to return. There is no specific plan for the limited series to morph into a feature release — at least, not yet.

“At the right time, we’ll talk to (the film studio),” Grazer said. “They own the IP, and we all have such a good relationship. I love (Fox film topper) Jim Gianopulos.”

The Fox network plans to roll out the “24” revival over 12 weeks beginning next May, exemplifying the net’s push for more event programming, which Reilly says will possess “big scope, top talent and top marketing budget.”

Reilly said doesn’t see a 12-episode order as erosive to “24’s” real-time essence.

“The spine of the ’24’ season was really 12 hours,” Reilly explained. “Those were where the big events occurred, and others were the connective tissues in between.”

He added that the event series will pan out chronologically, but “skip hours,” — “8am, then to 10am,” for example, according to Reilly.

Kiefer Sutherland, who spent the past two seasons on the Fox drama “Touch,” which was axed last week, will be back in the central role as Agent Jack Bauer.

“We’re getting just about all of who’s who of Hollywood coming to the door wanting to participate,” Reilly noted. “There’s literally not a week in my job where someone doesn’t ask about ’24’ and ‘Would you ever bring it back?'”

While “24” will not return to its roots as a full-blown series on Fox, Reilly sees serious “franchise-ability” in the program, saying it could return again “18, 20 months later” for another event series after next summer’s run.

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