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industry news

George Clooney sets up shop at Sony Pictures

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Movie studios are a lot like individual people. Some develop a reputation as being thrifty and don't want to spend a lot, some are known for being more open to taking chances on arthouse projects while others make their bread on mainstream movies filled with lots of explosions. Over the past decade one of the studios that proved itself to be willing to take equal chances on big budget, high concept tentpoles and smaller dramatic fare is Warner Bros. For the past decade WB has been the place that George Clooney has developed his personal projects, first with director Steven Soderbergh under their Section 8 production company banner and then later with writer/director Grant Heslov under the new company Smokehouse Pictures.

Now, after three years working with Warners, Smokehouse is now cutting a deal to develop new movies for Sony Pictures. A press release went out today from Sony announcing the imminent closing of the agreement.

"Warner Bros. has been a great place to work and I've felt like part of a family for almost 20 years," said Clooney in the release. "So in moving on, I'm leaving a terrific company and a lot of dear friends. They're a class act. In looking ahead, I'm tremendously excited to be working at Sony Pictures, and we all feel like it's a perfect match for Smokehouse. Grant Heslov and I hope to deliver the kind of films that will make them proud."

Included in the announcement was a list of six productions that Smokehouse is currently in development with:

The Challenge
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. An adaptation of Jonathan Mahler’s nonfiction book chronicling the historic Supreme Court case in which two lawyers sued the Bush administration on behalf of accused terrorist Salim Hamdan.

Our Brand is Crisis
A satirical comedy about American spin doctors competing in the same Presidential election in Bolivia. Based on the documentary by Rachel Boynton, with a script by Peter Straughan (Men Who Stare at Goats).

Farragut North
An adaptation of Beau Willimon’s critically acclaimed play, set during the Iowa primary of a presidential race.

Escape From Tehran
The true story of how the CIA used a fake movie project to smuggle hostages out of 1979 Tehran. Chris Terrio is writing the screenplay.

The Tourist
A contemporary spy thriller about a spy who risks everything to reveal a conspiracy after he's accused of a murder he didn't commit. Based on the bestselling book by Olen Steinhauer. Tony Peckham is writing the screenplay.

The Innocent Man
Based on the bestselling nonfiction book by John Grisham, the true story of murder and injustice in a small town in Oklahoma. Adapted by David Gordon Green.

Under their time spent at Warner Bros., Section 8 (Clooney/Soderbergh) made two dozen films including all three Ocean's Eleven movies, Syriana, A Scanner Darkly, The Good German, Good Night, and Good Luck and Michael Clayton.

"We admire and respect George and Grant as filmmakers and producers and we couldn’t be more excited to be in business with them and their talented team at Smokehouse Pictures," said Amy Pascal, the chairman of Sony's motion picture division. "The broad range of quality projects they have championed and the compelling and sometimes provocative material they support says everything about their company and their creative aspirations. While we have been trimming production deals overall for the last few years, we see real value in opening our doors to producers with their critical and commercial track record and their artistic point of view, and we know they will be a fantastic addition to the Sony Pictures family."

-Sony Pictures.

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