Spielberg is a director who has a hard time making up his mind. Hence the many projects he’s constantly attached to. (Sometimes, producers find, the good news of having Spielberg attached becomes bad news, when the movie never gets made.) But the rash of announcements over the past few months leads one to suspect that Spielberg’s partner Stacey Snider is cleaning house and getting things in order before her imminent departure, presumably to run Fox.
Spielberg’s partner at DreamWorks is working on possibly exiting the company sometime before her contract expires in November, with blessings from Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who wants her to join him at Fox, where Rupert Murdoch and motion picture chairman Jim Gianopulos have been courting her. The box Snider has to function at DreamWorks has gotten ever smaller–hits “Lincoln” and “The Help” were not easy to push up the hill, and she wound up supervising three recent disappointments–“The Fifth Estate,” “Delivery Man” and “Need for Speed.”
So what happens after Snider leaves DreamWorks, its financing partner Reliance and distributor Disney? Unraveling that Gordian knot has proved to be difficult in the past. Spielberg will continue to do what he wants as one of the most sought-after filmmakers at the top of the Hollywood food chain. He always has. Would he bring back his old DreamWorks production cronies Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and reconstitute Amblin?
If there’s one thing that could add that extra burst of momentum to Spielberg picking his next project, it’s the Coen brothers coming on board as screenwriters. And that’s exactly what’s happened with the Cold War thriller shaping up at DreamWorks, with Tom Hanks set to star. We’ve been wondering what project the busy Spielberg would commit to, and we finally have some answers, thanks to an announcement from DreamWorks laying out the release dates for his next two projects.
First up, his untitled Cold War spy thriller with Tom Hanks set to star is due out on October 16, 2015. The Coen brothers are writing the screenplay, taking over from first draft writer Matt Charman. The story centers on the true story of James Donovan, an American attorney recruited by the CIA to negotiate with the KGB for the release of downed U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers.
Hanks and Spielberg have collaborated on three films, “Saving Private Ryan,” “Catch Me if You Can” and “The Terminal,” the only soft box office performer of that trio. The two men are close friends; Hanks is coming off the hit “Captain Phillips.” (Expect more Cold War plots to return as Russia becomes a convenient enemy again.) A September production start is likely. Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger are producing.
(Meanwhile, the Coens have settled on their next directing project: Working Title’s “Hail Caesar,” which follows a fixer in 1950s Hollywood whose job is to keep the stars’ reps shining and untarnished. George Clooney and Josh Brolin will headline.)
Next, for Spielberg will be “The BFG,” adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1982 children’s classic by “E.T.” writer Melissa Mathison. It will come out in theaters on July 1, 2016. DreamWorks acquired rights in 2011 to “BFG,” the story of a Big Friendly Giant who makes friends with a young orphan girl. Frank Marshall is now producing solo, as partner Kathleen Kennedy runs Lucasfilm; over the development of “BFG” several directors have come and gone, including Chris Columbus and John Madden, who executive produces with Michael Siegel. The book was also made into a 1989 British animated movie for television. Dahl’s”James and the Giant Peach” spawned a fab animated movie, and “Matilda” yielded both a live-action film and a Tony-winning Broadway musical. Spielberg and Marshall will produce, with Kathleen Kennedy, Michael Siegel and director John Madden executive producing.
Of course, Hollywood’s highest profile director will continue to have several projects on the back burner. Among them are the adaptation of David Kertzer’s novel “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” “Robopocalypse” for Fox and “Montezuma.” More details below.
Spielberg may or may not direct religious drama “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” the true story of a six-year-old Italian Jewish boy who was taken from his family in Bologna, in 1858, by papal police who believed the boy had been baptized a Catholic. An escalating battle ensued between the boy’s real father, and Pope Pius IX — who came to see himself as the boy’s spiritual father. At stake was not only the heart and mind of one boy, but a battle for freedom from religious oppression, the separation of Church and State, and the fight for Italy’s nationhood.
Two Mortara projects recently merged. Spielberg had optioned the rights to David Kertzer’s nonfiction book, which is being adapted by “Lincoln” scribe Tony Kushner. Another original script based on true events was almost made as a film by Film 4 but lost financing. It made sense to combine the two projects, so DreamWorks and Film 4 are producing the movie with The Weinstein Company as a distributor. The producers are Spielberg and Julia Chasman for RubberTreePlant, with Nick Wechsler as Executive Producer. All writing chores from this point on will be handled by Kushner, and the new version will be based on Spielberg’s vision for the story.
This certainly sounds like the type and pedigree of film that Spielberg would direct if he weren’t caught up in the Hanks thriller. There’s also “Robopocalypse” and “Montezuma.” The former was reportedly Spielberg’s frontrunner, with the script rewrite complete and a budget near finalized and Chris Hemsworth attached to star. “Robopocalypse” has the advantage of being a Fox/DreamWorks co-production. Besides, that’s where Snider is likely heading.
“Montezuma” is from a screenplay originally written by Dalton Trumbo in the 1950s. DreamWorks brought on screenwriter Steve Zaillian — writer of “Moneyball,” Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Oscar-winner for Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” — to rewrite the script. Javier Bardem is in talks to play Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes.