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As TriStar Lands Ang Lee, Who’s In Line to Replace Sony’s Pascal?

As TriStar Lands Ang Lee, Who's In Line to Replace Sony's Pascal?

Following a rough 2013, SPE co-chairmen Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal have been shifting gears of late, on the one hand letting go of distribution and marketing execs Jeff Blake and Marc Weinstock, and on the other bolstering their executive roster with strong players like Michael De Luca, who now runs production under Columbia motion picture president Doug Belgrad. They are also buttressing the Sony release slate by investing in well-financed production labels run by powerful ex-studio chiefs Tom Rothman (Twentieth Century Fox, now TriStar Productions) and Jeff Robinov (Warner Bros., now Studio 8). 

The question is whether Lynton and Pascal are shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. They make a tight and loyal team, but by any measure Pascal is in a tentative position, and any one of these men could be poised to fill her shoes. 

That does not mean these players all want to return to the chores of administration and management. Popular Pascal protege Belgrad, who is second in line overseeing the movie side, may be the Sony heir apparent to supervise the big picture (Columbia, TriStar, Studio 8, Screen Gems, Animation) with De Luca ready to move up to the Columbia president slot.

So far Rothman has lined up a remarkable roster of films, most recently landing coveted A-list director Ang Lee, who won his second Best Director Oscar for Fox’s “Life of Pi” ($600 million worldwide) for their fifth film collaboration. Lee will helm Film4 and Oscar-winning writer Simon Beaufoy’s adaptation of Ben Fountain 2012 novel “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” which won the fiction National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Lee made “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Sense and Sensibility” at Sony.

Lee was working on a 3D Muhammed Ali vs. Joe Frazier movie for Universal, but the right cast was not materializing. Pascal had been wooing him for Angelina Jolie vehicle “Cleopatra,” based on Stacy Schiff’s bestselling biography. The star loves Eric Roth’s script but is still seeking the right director.

The movie shows what happens when a 19-year-old soldier and his squad are filmed by embedded cameras in Iraq and return stateside to endure a promo tour and half-time show at a Thanksgiving football game –before going back to war.

Rothman said, “Ang Lee is constitutionally incapable of repeating himself.  His very DNA requires him to always find new challenges.  ‘More of the same’ may be the film fashion these days, but thankfully not for this exceptional artist. Ang Lee’s ‘Billy Lynn’ will be a true original, and TriStar is in the business of investing in originality, here combined with innovation.  Big movies come from such combinations, as witness ‘Life of Pi.’ We are grateful to Ink Factory, Simon Beaufoy and Ben Fountain for trusting TriStar with Billy’s story.”

Rothman’s other films in the TriStar pipeline include “Ricki and the Flash,” starring Meryl Streep, “The Walk,” from Robert Zemeckis, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “The Lady in the Van,” starring Maggie Smith, and “Money Monster,” starring George Clooney, in addition to projects with Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, and others.

Respected ex-Warner power-monger Robinov is just getting started at Sony with Studio 8, which is expected to raise $1 billion from financiers and a partnership with China’s Fosun Group, which will feed to certain Asian territories Robinov’s output of some six prestige and franchise titles a year, some developed in-house and some acquired. Sony will release in remaining countries worldwide.

Robinov has built strong relationships with marquee filmmakers such as recent Oscar-winners Ben Affleck and Alfonso Cuaron as well as the Wachowski brothers, Clint Eastwood and Christopher Nolan.  So he’s likely to round up some pretty fabulous usual suspects himself. 

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