If the last few weeks are notable for anything in the film world, it’s the emergence of two billionaire twentysomethings who look to be giving a much needed adrenaline shot to film financing. David Ellison, 28, and Megan Ellison, 25, are the children of Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, and the sixth-richest person in the world, and have seemingly been connected to every other announced project in 2011 so far. Their first major foray into film production was hugely successful; pairing up to back the modestly-budgeted Coen Brothers western “True Grit,” they’ve seen their investment richly rewarded, with the film taking close to $200 million worldwide so far, and picking up ten Oscar nominations.
Megan is clearly the cineaste of the two. Basically what would happen if you gave a Playlist staffer a magic green-light wand, she’s displayed exceptional taste so far, announcing financing or co-financing Andrew Dominik‘s “Cogan’s Trade,” John Hillcoat‘s “The Wettest County,” the untitled new thriller from Kathryn Bigelow and, potentially, “Inherent Vice” and “The Master,” from Paul Thomas Anderson. David seems to have more mainstream taste — his company, Skydance Productions, have so far partially backed “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” with a number of other projects in the works, including the reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise, and the comedy “My Mother’s Curse,” which is set to star Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand.
The latest announcement from Skydance has had geeks aflutter for the last 24 hours, as Deadline reported that the company was negotiating to pick up the rights to the 1970s Japanese animation series “Star Blazers,” and intended to hire “The Usual Suspects” scribe Christopher McQuarrie to write the script for a big budget live-action film version. The series, an American dub of the Japanese anime “Space Battleship Yamato,” follows a spaceship, built from the remains of a WW2 battleship, that flees Earth after a war with a race known as the Gamilons.
The property has gained traction in recent months, with a big-budget Japanese adaptation of the original series making a pretty penny in its home country since December (watch the trailer below). The rights aren’t locked up yet, by any means — Ain’t It Cool reports that Lucasfilm is also in the race, but it looks like Skydance are the front runners, particularly with an Oscar-nominated writer attached, one who’s gotten tentpole experience of late, penning “The Wolverine” for Darren Aronofsky.
Ellison’s business model is intended to mimic that of Legendary Pictures, who’ve put up 50% of the budget for Warner Bros tentpoles like “The Dark Knight” and “Clash of the Titans” in recent years, and he’s got a similar deal with Paramount to co-finance 4-6 movies a year; it’s entirely possible that should “Star Blazers” move forward, it’ll land at that studio.
While we’re less than enamored of the idea of yet another cartoon adaptation, the series has a reputation among anime fans for relative maturity, and McQuarrie’s hire suggests that this could be on the more promising end of the geek-friendly spectrum. If the deal closes, we’re sure it won’t be too long before a director and prospective cast follows.