Screen Talk: Follow that stream

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The Independent Culture

Online streaming of films continues to be largely regarded as a necessary annoyance rather than an actual business with profit.

But studio folks pricked up their ears and upped ambitions after Stateside distributor to the home company Netflix wrote a cheque out for almost $1bn to Epix over five years for online-streaming rights for movies from Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM. In a world where the studios are looking for revenue from any avenue, such a deal is a welcome fillip to the studio's whose big budget movie-making ambitions will continue for a good few years yet.

No Extra time

The Hollywood machine's attempts to shut down references and revelations from Angelina Jolie's unauthorised biography, by Andrew Morton, before publication didn't stop the book flying off the shelves. Angelina: an Unauthorized Biography landed in The New York Times' bestseller list for hardcover non-fiction list at number three, despite a virtual news blackout by syndicated celebrity news shows such as Extra and Entertainment Tonight. Stateside pundits think the shows were worried about losing access to Jolie or Brad Pitt – both among Hollywood's biggest "gets" – and when it comes to big-brand protection, the publicity machine in Hollywood is a powerful and quietly threatening one. The risk of not having Brangelina seems too much for some.

Streep and Fey play mum and daughter

Talent agencies now are more than just collections of pretty faces. Much time is spent by the 10 percenters putting together "packages", which are hawked around town and sold to the highest studio bidder. Sony recently emerged victorious clutching Mommy & Me, a comedy package featuring Meryl Streep (above left) and Tina Fey as a mother-and-daughter duo, to be directed by Stanley Tucci. CAA circulated the project earlier last month. Still under wraps, insiders say the story spotlights funny and spiky sides in mother-daughter relationships. Joby Harold wrote the treatment that went with the package and is exec producing with Tucci, Steve Buscemi and Joshua Astrachan. Streep and Tucci have worked together on-screen in The Devil Wears Prada and Julie & Julia, but it's not certain whether or not Tucci would appear in the movie or just direct.

Fantastic four

Will Eisner's memories of growing up in an NYC tenement, portrayed in his graphic novel A Contract with God, is to be turned into a live-action feature by the writer Darren Dean. No less than four directors are lined up to helm one chapter of the tale each. The quartet are Alex Rivera (above centre, Sleep Dealer), Tze Chun (Children of Invention), Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) and Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway). Focusing on the immigrant struggle, A Contract with God takes a look via four separate but related stories.

A Lively debate

Alfonso Cuarón (above right) is facing the sort of decision many would rather not take. Cuaró*is currently working out if Blake Lively or Scarlett Johansson should land the lead in Gravity, his outer-space thriller. Cuarón, who is directing and co-wrote the script with his brother Jonas, has to choose which actress gets pulled in to star opposite Robert Downey Jnr. Johansson and Lively have both tested for the lead role of a female astronaut lost in space. Cuarón's film revolves around astronauts repairing the Hubble telescope, who are hit by an avalanche of satellite junk. The surviving astronaut must fight her way back to Earth, where she hopes to reunite with her daughter. The project was set up at Universal as a vehicle for Angelina Jolie, but it moved to Warners, where it floated around after Jolie left the project, partially because of the studio balking at paying her a $20m fee. Marion Cotillard, who stars in Warners' Inception, has also tested for the lead role.