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Steven Spielberg Takes Second Directing Gig to Warner Bros., Whither DreamWorks?

Steven Spielberg Takes Second Directing Gig to Warner Bros., Whither DreamWorks?

Three years removed from “Lincoln,” amid speculation about the future of Spielberg’s Reliance-backed DreamWorks, Deadline reports that the director is attached to direct a second movie for Warner Bros., Zak Penn’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 sci-fi novel “Ready Player One,” for the studio and Village Roadshow. Does this mean that Spielberg is preparing to hang his shingle at that studio, with which he has long ties? (DreamWorks’ deal at Disney expires in 2016.)

A Spielberg spokesman confirms that the director is still planning to next direct “E.T.” writer Melissa Mathison’s adaptation for DreamWorks of the Roald Dahl children’s classic “The BFG,” to star Mark Rylance and newcomer Ruby Barnhill, which Disney has slated for release in July 2016. And Disney purchased the rights to the “Indiana Jones” franchise from Paramount in 2013, and is rumored to be “eyeing” “Jurassic Park” star Chris Pratt to assume Harrison Ford’s iconic role in “Indiana Jones 5,” with Spielberg possibly helming that installment.

Read: Steven Spielberg’s Has a Title, ‘Bridge of Spies,’ and the Director Has a Full Slate

Spielberg is also attached to direct at Warners (under his Amblin Entertainment banner) “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War,” set to star Jennifer Lawrence as Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario. 

Warners had tried developing “Ready Player One” with Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Nolan, but is thrilled to have Spielberg aboard. Donald De Line, Dan Farah and Kristie Macosko Krieger will produce the Zak Penn script with Spielberg, with Warners production execs Jesse Ehrman and Racheline Benveniste supervising. 

Not unlike Spielberg’s “Minority Report” and “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” the story deals with how the Internet and virtual reality will transform our world, as VR alternative universe Oasis offers an immersive experience that people in the near future prefer more than their real daily lives.  

Spielberg recently wrapped principal photography on DreamWorks/Disney period spy thriller “Bridge of Spies” for October 16 award season release. Hanks plays an American lawyer recruited by the CIA to secure the release of a pilot in the Soviet Union. 

With eleven films down and four to go, the DreamWorks Disney marriage seems not to be a match made in heaven, as production money is tight and Spielberg is the last man standing, with co-founders David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg and recent lieutenant Stacey Snider all going their separate ways. Disney needs DreamWorks less now that they have added Marvel and Lucasfilm to their roster.

Spielberg has always gone where his muse leads him, balancing strong commercial projects with riskier artistic fare. Amblin itself remains based at Universal, as it has been for decades, and Spielberg could well take DreamWorks back there. It is unlikely that Spielberg will set up shop with his old partner Snider at Fox,where Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation is now housed, although old Fox 2000 ally Elizabeth Gabler reports directly to Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos. Spielberg is tight with new Sony motion picture chairman Tom Rothman, but that studio also boasts a plethora of rich deals.

Ironically, Paramount could use DreamWorks’ output the most, but it’s hard to imagine Spielberg getting back in bed with chairman Brad Grey after the DreamWorks/Paramount marriage ended so badly. Judging from where the director’s next films are based, Warners looks more likely. 

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