Screen Talk: Hungry for more


There's a race going on in Hollywood and it's one that is run time and time again. It's the race to find the next money-spinning movie franchise. Competition intensifies when the sprint is fuelled by the prize of the next big young adult fiction property.

The US box office of The Hunger Games certainly makes it look worthwhile. Now an auction is under way that means Starters, a book by Lissa Price (above left) that was released a few weeks ago, will almost certainly have a stab at the big screen. Reps from the studios were lining up with their chequebooks for the property as agency ICM touted the book and a script, also by author Price around town. Starters immediately generated reviews and profiles comparing it to Hunger Games. The Los Angeles Times described it as a "worthy successor to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games", which is a massive thumbs-up in Hollywood's studio community and probably added an extra digit to bidders' offers.

Hit and myth

Legendary Entertainment, the production company bankrolling pictures such as The Dark Knight and Wrath of the Titans, recently closed equity and debt financing deals totalling about $275 million. Hollywood is pleased. Financing is hard to come by these days and this is seen as a vote of confidence in entertainment industry players. The label plans to expand beyond financing movies for Warner Bros into producing its own movies and getting into television, digital media, publishing and other areas. So it's going to need the money. Upcoming movies with Warner Bros include Pacific Rim, Jack the Giant Killer and the third of the Batman movies by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises.

The write stuff

It's like something out of a movie. A writer gets paid an enormous amount of money for a script that they've written because they felt like it rather than being paid to do it. That's just what happened to screenwriter James Vanderbilt. The writer behind Zodiac, several Spider-Man movies (including the upcoming franchise reboot) and Total Recall, picked up a cool $3 million from Sony for an action spec script named White House Down. It has no stars and comes with the writer as a producer too. And there are few details on it other than it's written by the hot writer of the moment. Word is that it has the feel of a cross between Die Hard and Air Force One. Vanderbilt also just got a job rewriting the MGM's Robocop remake. The studio is banking on it being fast-paced from Vanderbilt's script.

Neeson's new heights

Liam Neeson is fast becoming one of Hollywood's favourite go-to action stars. He is currently eyeing a starring role in Non-Stop, billed as an airline thriller from LA production banner Dark Castle. While the plot is a closely guarded secret, those in the know in Hollywood describe the project as a contained, gritty action thriller. Neeson will likely play an air marshal on an internal US flight caught up in some kind of mid-air incident requiring his action skills to solve. Dark Castle picked up the script, from John Richardson and Chris Roach, in August. Jeff Wadlow is set to direct.

Royal appointment

There's nothing quite like a literary-themed action-adventure. If you work at Sony Pictures that is. The studio has just nabbed film rights to The Royal Honour Society from Ernest Lupinacci, in what is described as a pre-emptive move. Shrouded in mystery, word is the story involves some of the UK's greatest late-19th-century writers – H G Wells, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson – together in an action-adventure tale. So it would be the authors uniting and not their creations, as was seen in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Alan Moore comic-book series which was turned into a Fox movie in 2003.

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