Just days after producing the most memorable Oscars telecast in the history of the Academy Awards, Michael De Luca is in discussions with Viacom CEO Bob Bakish for the top job at Paramount Pictures, nearly a dozen sources have told the Tracking Board.
De Luca has been among a group of top Hollywood executives who had previously been rumored as candidates to replace Brad Grey atop Paramount, along with fellow Universal-based producer Scott Stuber and former 20th Century Fox chief Jim Gianopulos.
Sources say Bakish zeroed in on De Luca this week, prompting Stuber to begin discussions with Netflix to run their film division, which had been operating without a leader since Pauline Fischer left in November. With Stuber heading to Netflix and De Luca poised to take over the film division at Paramount, it’s possible Gianopulos will take the top job at Legendary, where he’ll work alongside Mary Parent, who is said to be happy with her position there.
Multiple executives who spoke to the Tracking Board on the condition of anonymity praised Paramount’s decision, calling De Luca a “smart choice” who has “great taste,” though some worried what will become of the projects he has set up around town as a producer.
As of Wednesday night, De Luca still had a first-look deal at Universal, though those kinds of contracts often contains an “out” clause and the lot was buzzing all day with the news of his imminent departure.
A representative for Paramount did not immediately respond to a late-night request for comment.
A respected Hollywood veteran who has held key positions at New Line, DreamWorks and Sony, De Luca recently produced The Social Network, Moneyball and Captain Phillips, all of which earned Best Picture nominations. He is also a producer of Universal’s hit Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, though that shouldn’t pose a conflict since the last installment is already in the can.
Paramount is coming off its worst fiscal year ever under Grey, having lost $445 million. Viacom’s Bakish told investors on Wednesday morning that the studio would get a new chief in the “near term,” yet no one in Hollywood realized just how soon that would be. Bakish also said that Viacom will rely on its flagship brands like BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon to generate movie ideas for Paramount, which had been operating like “an island” under Grey.
While some candidates for the Paramount gig were said to be turned off by plans for a greenlight committee that would include Amy Powell, Andrew Gumpert, Megan Colligan and Marc Evans, De Luca is very collaborative and is known for working well with others.
While this year’s Oscar telecast was marred by Envelopegate, many people throughout the industry praised the job that De Luca and fellow producer Jennifer Todd did up until that point.
Expect there to be more clarity later this week regarding De Luca’s new title at Paramount and how the studio’s executive leadership will be structured. Until then, stay tuned to the Tracking Board for more details.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief