Weinstein brothers return to their roots, reunite with Miramax
The role: Dr. Ryan Stone, the beginner astronaut suddenly stuck in space when her space shuttle is damaged, and her thirst for life deepened.
The final pick: Sandra Bullock. Jolie was set to star alongside Robert Downey Jr. But Jolie’s management team wasn’t able to come to an agreement with Warner Bros.
The movie: “The Matrix” series
The role: Neo, a superhuman with the power to perform every single martial art and fighting style.
The final pick: Keanu Reeves. Smith passed on the role because he couldn’t envision the concept of “The Matrix.” Looking back, Smith said he wouldn’t have been “smart” enough to play the role at the time. He later starred in the sci-fi action film “I, Robot.”(Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner Bros.; Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images for MTV)
The role: Bella Swan, a teenager turned vampire with the skill to shield herself and others from mental harm. All the while, she’s madly in love with mind-reading vampire Edward Cullen.
The final pick: Kristen Stewart. Lawrence later landed the role of Katniss Everdeen in the equally popular series “The Hunger Games.”(Samir Hussein / Getty Images; Kimberley French)
The movie: “Michael Clayton”
The role: Michael Clayton, an attorney with a conscience, who breaks down the corruption surrounding a chemical scandal.
The final pick: George Clooney. To this day, Washington regrets turning down the role. “With ‘Clayton,’ it was the best material I had read in a long time, but I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong,” Washington said.(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press; Myles Aronowitz)
The role: Forrest Gump, a not-so intelligent former military man set to tell the story of his life.
The final pick: Tom Hanks. Travolta simply turned down the role and later admitted his decision was a mistake. For Hanks, the role earned him an Oscar for best actor in 1994.(Francois Durand / Getty Images )
The role: Cher Horowitz, the wealthy Valley girl up for anything that involves fashion, makeovers and, like, boys.
The final pick: Alicia Silverstone. Gellar couldn’t commit due to scheduling conflicts.(Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press; Paramount Pictures)
The role: Will Turner, an ace swordsman and budding pirate.
The final pick: Orlando Bloom. Law auditioned for the role to play Keira Knightley’s love interest, but was shoved aside for Bloom.(Jonathan Leibson / Getty Images; Peter Mountain / Disney Enterprises )
The role: Black Widow, a femme fatale formerly known as a Russian spy.
The final pick: Scarlett Johansson. Blunt passed on the role saying: “Usually the female parts in a superhero film feel thankless: She’s the pill girlfriend while the guys are whizzing around saving the world.”(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times; Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)
The role: Gandalf, a wizard and leader of the Fellowship of the Ring with great mental and physical power.
The final pick: Ian McKellen. Despite director Peter Jackson’s many attempts for Connery to play Gandalf -- he offered Connery $30 million on top of 15% of the film’s box office revenue -- Connery said he simply didn’t understand the story. During his audition read, Connery mistakenly referred to hobbits as bobbits.(Jason Szenes / EPA; New Line Productions)
The role: Vivian Ward, an assertive Hollywood Boulevard prostitute who finds love with a wealthy lawyer.
The final pick: Julia Roberts. Hannah rejected the role since she believed it was belittling to women. “They sold it as a romantic fairytale when in fact it’s a story about a prostitute who becomes a lady by being kept by a rich and powerful man,” Hannah said. Hannah, however, later portrayed a stripper in the drama “Dancing at the Blue Iguana.”(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Buena Vista / Getty Images)
The role: Spider-Man, the web-slinging, wall-crawling figure who has proved to be one of the most commercially successful superheroes.
The final pick: Tobey Maguire. A disappointed Prinze Jr. told late-night radio personality Howard Stern that he was originally cast as Spider-Man, but director Sam Raimi went with Maguire instead.(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times; Merrick Morton / Columbia Pictures)
The role: Han Solo, a sarcastic yet compassionate hero who helps for the common good.
The final pick: Harrison Ford. Al Pacino dismissed the role, saying: “It was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script.” Pacino turned down the “Star Wars” series and later starred in the Godfather trilogy, but found it to be “a long, awful, tiring story.”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Industrial Light & Magic)
The role: J.D., the money-stealing, good-looking thief who strikes up a romantic relationship with Thelma (Geena Davis), and ends up educating her on his holdup tactics.
The final pick: Brad Pitt. Clooney read with Davis several times, only to be booted for Pitt. Clooney admitted he didn’t see the movie for years, then decided to rent it one night and realized that Pitt was perfect for the role.(Brad Barket / Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; MGM)
The role: Scarlett O’Hara, a smart and charming woman searching high and low for love.
The final pick: Vivien Leigh. Davis turned down the role under the impression that Errol Flynn would play the part of Rhett Butler. (Clark Gable actually got the role.) Davis had refused to work with Flynn earlier, as their relationship off-screen was rocky. Davis even reportedly once slapped Flynn on the face.(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles Times Archives)
The role: James Bond, a British secret agent, with the code name 007.
The final pick: Sean Connery. Grant was 58 years old at the time of the audition and turned down the role because he was only interested in doing one Bond film.(Van Ness Films Inc.; Los Angeles Times Archives)
Harvey and Bob Weinstein are getting the reunion they’ve long sought — and moviegoers could end up getting sequels to such older favorites as “Shakespeare in Love,” “Swingers” and “Rounders.”
The brothers’ film company, Weinstein Co., has struck a production and distribution deal that reconnects them to Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and built up with such critically acclaimed movies as “sex, lies and videotape” and “Reservoir Dogs” before selling to Walt Disney Co. in 1993.
Under terms of the 20-year agreement, the companies will collaborate on new content as well as projects that mine Miramax’s library. The deal encompasses film, television and live stage productions.
“It’s wonderful to reunite the brothers Weinstein with the library,” said Jason E. Squire, a film business professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “Its really a full-circle sort of experience. That hasn’t happened too often in the history of the movie business.”
Harvey Weinstein told The Times that he is excited to have access to the “many jewels in the library,” adding that there is value not just in Miramax’s completed films but also in its many development projects.
“There are hundreds of scripts to decipher and remember, and find out why they were loved in the first place,” he said.
Weinstein said that he wants to make sequels to some of Miramax’s movies, including the 1998 Matt Damon poker drama, “Rounders.” The follow-up would center on a card game in which “one of the most beautiful French girls in the world is the stakes,” he said.
“I never have made a sequel ever; my brother has made all the sequels,” he said. “I’d like to have at least a ‘2' in my epitaph.”
The brothers from Queens sold Miramax, which they had named after their parents, Miriam and Max, to Disney in 1993 for about $60 million. They remained involved with it until 2005, when they departed after a bitter dispute with Disney over creative control, and formed Weinstein Co.
In 2010, the Weinsteins tried to buy Miramax back from Disney but lost out to a $663-million bid from a group of investors led by Colony Capital, the private equity firm headed by Thomas J. Barrack Jr., and Qatar Holding, the investment vehicle of the Qatari royal family.
Miramax’s owners, who also include actor Rob Lowe, have not focused on making new films but instead have sought to exploit the company’s rich film library of about 750 movies, cutting digital distribution deals with outlets such as Netflix and Hulu.
Although Miramax has said this business has been lucrative, the company’s direction has been a disappointment for Hollywood’s creative community, which hoped Miramax, under new ownership, would be revived as the major moviemaking concern it had been.
Barrack said he had been “chasing Harvey for a long time,” adding that Miramax under Colony-Qatar ownership was inexperienced making movies, whereas Harvey Weinstein is “a nuclear physicist who could weave tapestries” with film projects.
What’s more, Barrack said that when the Weinsteins departed Miramax in 2005, they left behind about 250 development projects, “but it was like a Rubik’s Cube” trying to sort through and assess the material.
Barrack said that in a conversation he had with Harvey Weinstein last summer, it was clear that Weinstein Co.'s recent success — it produced the 2012 critical and commercial hits “Django Unchained” and “Silver Linings Playbook” — has put the producer in a position to “focus on other things,” which made the alliance with Miramax possible.
As part of the pact, Weinstein Co. will handle domestic distribution of movies made under the agreement, and Miramax, with headquarters in Santa Monica, will handle international sales of the titles.
The partnership also will involve developing television series based on Miramax films, including “Good Will Hunting” and “Flirting With Disaster.” Weinstein Co. will handle domestic TV distribution, while Miramax will head up international distribution. Production of Miramax-Weinstein projects would begin as soon as early next year.
Harvey Weinstein said he was excited about the possibility of a TV show based on “Swingers,” the 1996 Vince Vaughn comedy about a group of friends trying to make it as actors in L.A.
But some observers question the new venture’s focus on movie sequels and TV shows based on existing properties. USC’s Squire said that there would be an appetite for the remakes but acknowledged the trickiness of finding success with a sequel.
“You never know if a project is going to be any good until you can judge a screenplay,” he said.
Denise Mann, a film professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, said that given the Weinsteins’ role in “launching a second indie renaissance” in the 1980s, it is “a little disconcerting” that Miramax’s owners largely appear motivated to work with the Weinstein brothers to exploit their previous commercial successes.
“Do we really need a ‘Swingers 2' or ‘Shakespeare in Love 2' from a duo known for taking risks with groundbreaking filmmakers in the past?” she asked.
Reuniting the Weinsteins with Miramax could restore some luster to the firm.
The Qatar-Colony ownership tenure has been tumultuous, peppered with the departure of two key executives and the exit of an owner.
In March 2012, then-Chief Executive Mike Lang left Miramax a little more than a year after assuming his post.
In January, one of the original investors in Qatar and Colony’s group, construction magnate Ron Tutor, sold his interest in Miramax. And in July, Miramax’s then-Chairman Richard Nanula resigned after two websites published video images of a man they identified as the executive having sex with an adult-film actress.
Barrack praised the former Miramax executives and owner.
“All of those people did a great job,” said Barrack, who now serves as the company’s chairman.
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