SCRIPTLAND: Scorsese's Oscar does not buy him freedom
The director's next possible project stalls as Warner Bros., Paramount battle over co-production.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Apparently, winning an Academy Award and scoring your biggest box office hit in four decades of filmmaking with the year's best picture doesn't buy you any smoother a ride in Hollywood. Right now, with Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. scrabbling over a suitable co-production arrangement, director Martin Scorsese's next potential project, "The Wolf of Wall Street," remains stuck in its cage.
On paper, the movie looks like a great investment: Scorsese once again directing his "Aviator" and "Departed" star Leonardo DiCaprio in an adaptation of the just-published cash-coke-and-corruption memoir "The Wolf of Wall Street" adapted by Emmy-winning "Sopranos" writer-producer Terence Winter. The hitch is that it's set up not at Paramount, where Scorsese has his directing deal, but at Warner Bros., the studio that released "The Departed."
"Wall Street," released last week by Bantam Books, is the autobiography of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort, a flashy, drug-abusing, hooker-hiring, model-marrying master of the universe sent to jail for securities fraud and money laundering in the '90s. It's a juicy part for DiCaprio, and he and Scorsese are looking to make this their next movie, ideally completing production before any potential talent strike next summer.
But the film's immediate future remains iffy.
In late March, right after Scorsese finally won his directing Oscar, Warner Bros. and DiCaprio's Appian Way production shingle beat out Paramount and Brad Pitt's Plan B in a brief bidding war for the Scorsese-DiCaprio-Winter "Wall Street" package. But in November 2006, as "The Departed" was shooting its way past the $100-million mark for Warner Bros., Scorsese signed a four-year, first-look directing-producing deal with Paramount.
The hook, similar to arrangements Steven Spielberg has made with DreamWorks, was that if Scorsese were to make a film at a competing studio, Paramount had the option to own half of it and co-distribute. The director has personal and professional ties at both studios, so Scorsese and Co. have been trying to massage a preemptive deal between them before the film's likely greenlight.
But Scorsese may be sending mixed signals by having taken the Paramount deal (which reportedly is enormous) while Warner Bros. was in the midst of its "Departed" Oscar campaign and then turning around to push for his follow-up to be back at Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. and Paramount have other high-profile co-productions, such as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Beowulf," which typically entail Paramount taking domestic distribution and Warner Bros. taking international. But thus far on "Wall Street," Warner Bros. has offered financial halfsies but no co-distribution, which Paramount has rejected.
Technically, Paramount's option isn't triggered until Scorsese's contracts are signed at Warner Bros. and the film is a go, but in the context of an impending strike, nailing the arrangement down as quickly as possible behooves all parties.
As it is, Scorsese has four other features in development at Paramount, which is also releasing his Rolling Stones documentary, "Shine a Light," sometime next year. And Warner Bros. has two other potential Scorsese projects, so there's plenty of the beatific Italian genius to go around. (And Scorsese, apparently finding himself under-committed, last week announced that he's also going to make a documentary about George Harrison over the next couple of years.)
The smart money's on everyone eventually deciding that they want to be in the Scorsese business even if it means sharing more than they'd like. If they don't, and this "Wolf" is released back into the wild, there's bound to be some howling.