UPDATE (3.10.16): David Grann’s KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON officially triggered the fiercest bidding war of the year. As we exclusively reported on Monday, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Brett Ratner and Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy were just a few of the names vying for this property before names like Bruckheimer, De Luca and JJ Abrams wanted their shot at this massive deal brokered by CAA.
The latest: IMPERATIVE ENTERTAINMENT has won the war for David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon with a massive $5 million dollar bid. Imperative beat out a bid put together by JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot shingle with Steve Golin and Anonymous Content, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star.
Imperative is headed up by Heroes creator Tim Kring, Bradley Thomas and Zak Kadison with financial backing from Dan Friedkin. The company brands itself as a next generation entertainment studio focusing on the development, production, and financing of original & branded entertainment across all media. Their current projects in development include Arabian Nights with Universal and Imagine and the adaptation of the Paula McLain novel Circling the Sun.
This comes just ours after we exclusively reported that the bids had eclipsed $3 million, and multiple offers had come in with at least $2 million, including a $2 million bid from AG Capital, as agencies and producers were starting to hone in on directors and talent to build a package. CAA took their time to find the most strategic fit in the bidding war, and to secure big money for their client, Grann, skirted some of their own A-listers in the process. With the $5 million mega-bid from Imperative, however, the rest of the packages didn’t stand a chance.
Star Wars director JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot shingle had partnered with Anonymous Content – fresh off of their Best Picture win for Spotlight – to take this for Paramount, with one major asset included: Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star. DiCaprio and his Appian Way had been in the mix early on, but RatPac Entertainment eventually won the Warner Bros. territory with a co-financing package. Leo found a way back into this battle behind Abrams and Anonymous’s Steve Golin, and the sheer fact that DiCaprio was willing to team up with another studio outside of his first-look home base suggested the newly minted Oscar winner wanted this one badly.
We’re hearing Palmstar, headed up by CEO Kevin Frakes, Mark Fasano, and partners Stephan Paternot and Peggy Taylor, spurred the high-roller bidding by pushing a $3 million bid. This is the same company that won last year’s biggest auction, the 2015 Hit List spec Collateral Beauty from Allan Loeb, after teaming up with Likely Story and paying $2.25 million for the package.
Netflix made a late entry into the fray after putting together an offer with Scott Stuber‘s Bluegrass Films. Stuber was also working outside of his first-look at Universal. Scott Rudin is also made a move outside of his first-look deal studio by partnering with Blumhouse to take this into Universal, after Pascal Pictures and Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures partnered for Sony. Pitt’s Plan B – which has a proven track record of bringing Grann’s material to the big screen with The Lost City of Z – took this for New Regency. Kennedy Marshall took this into DreamWorks, but DreamWorks ultimately decided not to throw their hats into the ring. Warner Bros. put together the aforementioned co-financing package with Ratner’s RatPac.
The bidding war began with CAA fielding nearly a dozen offers of high six against seven figure offers on Tuesday before countering to 6 of those offers, but as word got out, more of Hollywood’s heavy hitters wanted in on the action. The bidding war has reinvigorated a market that was trending down in the first two months of the year. But as the heat has been building around this property, we’ve seen another dozen major book titles and even more specs hit the market in just the past two weeks.
It’s a property so hot literally everyone in America is talking about it:
The book, from New Yorker staff writer Grann, isn’t set for publication until the fall, but it’s already triggered a feeding frenzy on the rights market. The non-fiction chronicles the real-life 1920s mystery surrounding the suspicious deaths of several Osage Indians, who were at the time among the richest people on the planet. The story follows the twists and turns of the investigation that eventually became the first major case solved by J. Edgar Hoover’s brand new FBI.
Grann is the author of The Lost City of Z, the adaptation of which is currently in production with Pitt’s Plan B, and he wrote the article The Brand, which is the basis for the new Showtime series from Narcos executive producer Jose Padilha. Grann’s latest is a period murder-mystery thriller, which doesn’t necessarily scream franchise potential, and has thus left some wondering why, exactly, the studios are swarming over it. For one, it shares elements with one of the biggest movies of 2015/16, The Revenant – which rode its A-List cast, red hot auteur director and excellent reviews to over $400 million worldwide and multiple Oscars. But this frenzy is also an example of the quality of the material trumping everything else; anyone who has had their hands on this manuscript insists it’s a remarkable read.
Josh Lyons | Managing Editor