The true-life spy romance is being directed by Nima Nourizadeh.
Logan Lerman and Olivia Cooke are in final negotiations to star in The Tracking of a Russian Spy for StudioCanal and The Picture Company.
Nima Nourizadeh, who helmed American Ultra, is directing the true-life thriller that is so timely it could be tomorrow’s New York Times headline.
Based on Mitch Swenson’s memoir, the plot centers on a secret romance between Swenson, a journalist, and Katya, a mysterious Russian woman he met in a New York nightclub. She disappeared suddenly after the arrest of 10 Russian-Americans who were charged with spying for the Kremlin. Swenson went to Moscow to uncover who his love really was, leading him down a rabbit hole of intrigue and shadow government operations deep within Russia.
Lerman is playing the journalist while Cooke plays the intriguing spy.
The move is a big break for the actors, considered stars of tomorrow due to being on the cusp of major breakthroughs. Lerman gained notices for starring in Perks of Being a Wallflower and was part of the all-star ensemble of David Ayers’ tank war movie, Fury. Cooke appears on A&E’s Bates Motel and came onto the scene with Sundance darling Me, Earl & the Dying Girl but gets her biggest stage yet this summer starring in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi tentpole Ready Player One.
Chris Salmanpour, a writer who was discovered through a partnership between The Black List, StudioCanal and The Picture Company to find new voices among EU writers, penned the adaptation of Russian Spy, which is using movies such as Marathon Man and Three Days of the Condor as touchstones.
The Picture Company’s Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman, who worked with Nourizadeh on his feature debut, Project X, are producing the thriller, which is targeting a summer shoot.
Rona and Heineman have the Liam Neeson thriller The Commuter in post and war thriller The Last Battle heading for a late summer start. The busy producers are also behind the Escape from New York remake that is getting Robert Rodriguez as director.
Lerman is repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Cooke is repped by CAA, Grandview and Hansen Jacobson.
Ron Halpern and Shana Eddy are overseeing the project for StudioCanal.
DEADLINE – Becca Thomas and Jessica Caldwell are adapting Cheryl Della Pietra’s book Gonzo Girl, inspired by the author’s crazy experiences while working with the late journalist and novelist Hunter S. Thompson. Thomas is set to direct and Oliva Cooke, who just completed a turn in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One at Warner Bros., is attached to star. The film will be produced by Tom Heller and Frank Hall Green under their Catch & Release Films banner.
Thomas and Caldwell collaborated previously on Electrick Children. She is also attached to direct The Little Mermaid at Working Title.
Simon & Schuster’s logline for the book is pretty darn funny. It reads: “Alley Russo is a recent college grad desperately trying to make it in the grueling world of New York publishing, but like so many who have come before her, she has no connections and has settled for an unpaid magazine internship while slinging drinks on Bleecker Street just to make ends meet. That’s when she hears the infamous Walker Reade is looking for an assistant to replace the eight others who have recently quit. Hungry for a chance to get her manuscript onto the desk of an experienced editor, Alley jumps at the opportunity to help Reade finish his latest novel.
“After surviving an absurd three-day “trial period” involving a .44 magnum, purple-pyramid acid, violent verbal outbursts, brushes with fame and the law, a bevy of peacocks, and a whole lot of cocaine, Alley is invited to stay at the compound where Reade works. For months Alley attempts to coax the novel out of Walker page-by-page, all while battling his endless procrastination, vampiric schedule, Herculean substance abuse, mounting debt, and casual gun play. But as the job begins to take a toll on her psyche, Alley realizes she’s alone in the Colorado Rockies at the mercy of a drug-addicted literary icon who may never produce another novel—and her fate may already be sealed.”
Hunter S. Thompson led a well-known gonzo lifestyle. In his early days as a journalist, he wrote (and very famously so) for Rolling Stone about the 1972 Richard Nixon, George McGovern election and from that developed a well-known loathing of Nixon. His The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were both made into films. He once accidentally shot his assistant while firing warning shots to scare off a bear.
He also wrote one of the best letters I’ve ever seen to a studio executive when trying to get the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas up and running, telling her, “We are not even spinning our wheels aggressively.” Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2005.
Heller and Green are also producing A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder and Deceit, which is based on The New York Times’ non-fiction bestseller written by Times reporter Robert Lindsay (author of The Falcon and the Snowman). Heller’s previous credits include Precious, 127 Hours, Foxcatcher, Win-Win, and Mud. Green is a longtime independent film producer, writer and director, whose directorial debut was Wildlike. Green also produced Remittance and the doc Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story, both coming out in 2017.
Thomas is repped by CAA, Circle of Confusion and attorney Bruce Gellman at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller & Gellman LLP.
Caldwell is repped by CAA, Circle of Confusion, and attorney Josh Sandler at Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers LLP.
Cooke is repped by CAA, Grandview, Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller & Gellman LLP.
Author Della Pietra was represented in the deal by Paradigm on behalf of Gary Morris of the David Black Agency.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Olivia Wilde and Antonio Banderas also have hopped aboard the project from ‘This Is Us’ creator Dan Fogelman.
The stars are coming out for Life Itself.
The relationship drama from This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman has added Olivia Cooke, Samuel L. Jackson and Olivia Wilde, who are joining the previously announced Oscar Isaac. Antonio Banderas and Laia Costa also are set to star.
Life Itself centers on a couple (Isaac and Wilde) that lead a multigenerational love story spanning both decades and continents, from the streets of New York to the Spanish countryside, and are all connected by a single event.
The project is filming on location in New York and Seville.
FilmNation, who bought the script after it appeared on The Black List, is financing the project fully and handling international rights, with domestic rights being sold by WME Global.
Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are producing for Temple Hill, along with FilmNation’s Aaron Ryder.
Cooke, who starred in the Sundance breakout Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, recently wrapped as the female lead in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One. The actress also was just in Sundance for her well-received indie, Thoroughbred.
Jackson, last seen onscreen in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, has a slew of movies in the can or in postproduction. Among them: Kong: Skull Island, which opens in March, and the Ryan Reynolds action movie The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
DEADLINE – The deals are beginning to fall like snow in Park City. Focus Features is in exclusive negotiations and soon to close a deal on Thoroughbred, the Cory Finley-directed drama that excited buyers when it premiered yesterday at a noontime first screening at the Library Center Theatre.
The deal should land in the $5 million range for world rights for a movie that quickly established itself as one of the festival’s buzziest titles. Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Kaili Vernoff star. Two teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. In the process, they learn that neither is what she seems to be—and that a murder might solve both of their problems. The film marks the final performance of Yelchin, the Like Crazy and Star Trek star who died in a tragic accident last year.
Thoroughbred was produced by Alex Saks, Andrew Duncan, Kevin Walsh, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, and Ryan Stowell. Saks and Duncan’s June Pictures have notched their second deal; they also sold Fun Mom Dinner, and they have multiple offers on the Sundance docu Joshua.
WME Global and ICM Partners are brokering the deal.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Our last visit to the Bates Motel is coming sooner than expected.
Bates Motel, A&E’s underrated Psycho prequel following the maniacal rise of young Norman Bates, will open for its fifth and final season of business on Feb. 20 at 10 p.m. ET, EW has confirmed.
The series’ executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin have long planned a five-season arc for their story about the psychological breakdown of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga), whose metamorphosis also involved a, shall we say, physical breakdown as well. (Vague 1960 spoiler: In season four, Bates finally bid a gentle farewell to Norma, whose ghostly presence seems far from over on the show.)
Season 5 will also welcome the arrival of one major new motel guest: Rihanna, who makes a bold career stride by stepping into the role of Janet Leigh’s doomed character, Marion Crane, from the original Hitchcock film.
Thoroughbred / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Cory Finley) — Two teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. In the process, they learn that neither is what she seems to be—and that a murder might solve both of their problems. Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Kaili Vernoff. World Premiere