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Like all media empires Springbok wasn't built in a day, It took years of planning on the part of visionaries like Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron, and Jennifer Todd to make Springbok what it is today. The roots of Springbok Productions can be traced back to the formation of Exploitation Records, which was originally formed under Nirvana's five-album deal with Atlantic Records.

For more supplementary material relating to Exploitation Records and Nirvana see Supplementary Material: Exploitation Records and Supplementary Material: Nirvana.


"Nirvana Launches Own Label," Billboard, April 23, 1998

Nirvana has announced that they are launching their own vanity label, Exploitation Records, to help look over and administrate the albums under their current five-album deal with Atlantic Records. After fulfillment of that deal, it shall be turned into a full-fledged independent label, with which they will administer all future albums and then hope to expand with signing other artists of different genres.

"It's a real ironic name," frontman Kurt Cobain says. "It's a piss-take on the old Asylum Records label, and it's also making fun of people thinking people are being exploited. When the Atlantic deal is done, we'll use it for not only Nirvana albums, but other artists, established and not. And, just for fun, I'll record street bums, disfigured people, people considered freaks, then release limited copies of them in their hometowns, as further irony of the name, of those who think I'm exploiting these people. There'll be 500 copies of the Singing Flipper Boy from Kansas City, and so on. At the very least they, their families and friends will be happy to have an album."

The success of Exploitation Records past the Atlantic deal is not by any means a sure thing. Artists have started vanity labels before with the art of receiving (or at least getting the appearance of) independence yet within the parent label. Some have had reasonable success, like Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor's Nothing Records, whose works are distributed by Interscope, and include not just NIN's music but also includes Marilyn Manson, PIG, Pop Will Eat Itself, Prick, 12 Rounds, Einsturzende Neubaten and Meat Beat Manifesto. Others become quite disappointing, as in the case of Prince and his Paisley Park Records label when still with Warner Bros., which often became only for signing acts that he helped start himself with very little outreach or success. Then there are others that basically only exist just for the artists themselves, like The Rolling Stones did with Rolling Stones Records, which is now shuttered.


"Recent Buzz: Kurt And Charlize Looking To Open Shop In Hollywood?" Entertainment Weekly, August 24, 1998

Rumor around town is that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his new wife, Mighty Joe Young actress Charlize Theron, are looking to join the ranks of celebrities owning and operating their own production companies under vanity deals with major studios. A recent source says they spotted the rock star and his wife at the Universal Studios lot, negotiation to open a vanity production company that would have a deal at Universal to distribute film projects by the prospective company, financed or invested in by the duo, and possibly starring and/or produced by Theron.

The same source says that they have also been seen at the offices of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entetertainment, located on the lot, deep in discussions and seeking advice from the master director. "Steven told them they shouldn't jump in yet, that they should wait a while before producing films, or even securing a studio deal. He said they should invest some of their own money into film and TV projects, and learn the ropes from the sets and production offices about how things are done, then they can spread their wings." According to the source, Spielberg suggested they invest in two forthcoming film projects by director and close friend Robert Zemeckis, as well as an HBO series in percolation. Calls to Nirvana's management, Gold Mountain and Theron's agent for a comment went unanswered.


"Cancelled DreamWorks Lot Purchased By Mystery Buyer," by Adam Dawtrey, Variety, July 6, 1999

Back in 1995, the newly-founded DreamWorks SKG, the new studio founded by industry heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, had announced that it had found the site for their offices, or rather, the first studio lot built from scratch since the Great Depression. 100 acres in Playa Vista, California, right near the town of Marina del Rey, would be the site for a massive campus, built like a college campus and also featuring a massive live-work area. The project was announced with massive fanfare at a former airplane hangar used by mogul Howard Hughes to house the "flying boat" called The Hercules, but referred to by the press as the "Spruce Goose," even after its one and only flight. In attendance were figures like director James Cameron, not yet the "king of the world" and director of Titanic, watching in admiration as Spielberg articulated the vision for the property when it opened in 2001.

Then, the plan ran into a number of problems. Environmental groups complained about whether marshland wildlife nearby would be displaced and their ecosystem destroyed. The continually strapped-for-cash DreamWorks, which came into headwinds launching its film group, TV production arm, record label, and an arcade venture with Sega called GameWorks, couldn't raise the financing to buy all 100 acres, especially as the company's record releases didn't perform as robustly as expected (notably buying the contract of REM from Warner Bros.) and each hit film the studio had was met with two or three flops in succession. Finally, DreamWorks couldn't even raise the money needed for its revised plan of buying only 47 acres for the lot, and three days ago announced that it was cancelling the project.

However, things are looking to change. The town of Playa Vista announced that all 100 acres in the proposed lot site have been purchased in full for $750 million by a "serious and very important, very credible buyer. It was all sold to a production company, newly founded, looking for a place to hang their shingle." When pressed as to who the production company was, the mayor's office would not answer, saying that the purchase was made on the condition of confidentiality, and that "they will reveal themselves to the public within the week."

Questions immediately arise as to who could've purchased the property. Naturally, some major celebrity-fronted production companies, such as Tom Cruise's Cruise/Wagner Productions and Mel Gibson's Icon Productions have significant clout and money to make such a move, but there is no indication either company is leaving its current offices on the Paramount and Warners lots, respectively. Most other such companies don't have the financial werewithal to make such a move either, as "vanity shingles" are not considered such a wise investment these days.

There are certainly rumors that George Lucas is moving downstate to add new Lucasfilm offices in the town, but Lucasfilm flatly denies this. Given the degree of how secrecy and whispered rumors are now taking on a much more sinister turn after Giancarlo Parretti nearly destroyed MGM by looting the company and Harvey Weinstein was forced out of Miramax after allegations of sexual misconduct, these whispers are being bandied about in a very concerned and worried tone that something similar is about to drop.

"Frankly, there hasn't been this much buzz since Parretti bought MGM or when Harvey was accused," says Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan. "It's a frightening precedent."


"Springbok Productions: Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron Form New Hollywood Company," by Adam Dawtrey, Variety, July 11, 1999

Today, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, his new wife, actress Charlize Theron, along with veteran film producer Jennifer Todd (attached to forthcoming projects Idle Hands, Memento and Boiler Room), announced the creation of a new production company. Dubbed Springbok Productions, in paying tribute to Theron's South African roots, the new company is "intended to be a massive new force in the production of films and television programs, as well as the potential for staged musicals, music albums, amusement park attractions, book publishing and Internet content," as Todd explains it. "We intend to stake out a new frontier in Hollywood, to officially help bring it all into the new millennium and help it evolve."

If you think you've heard something like this before, you likely have. Only five years ago, Steven Spielberg, former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, and music mogul David Geffen announced the creation of DreamWorks SKG, which was the first new major studio formed since the Great Depression, and promised much of the same ambitious goals, that it would bring about a new paradigm shift in Hollywood. But while DreamWorks certainly has achieved some noteworthy successes during its first few years (among them Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Shrek, The Prince of Egypt and the new film American Beauty), its path has been incredibly rocky, as every success has been greeted with at least two more setbacks, and much of Spielberg's grand vision has yet to come to fruition. In fact, just recently, it announced that it was unable to secure financing for a long bandied-about new studio lot for itself in Marina del Rey, California, which was set to go online in 2001.

Springbok, for one thing, has also announced that it has reached enormous capitalization worth billions of dollars from Cobain's Nirvana royalties, his and Theron's investment in the Planet Hollywood chain, and personal investments by notable tech, sports and business luminaries such as Paul Allen (also a DreamWorks investor), Steve Wozniak, Dan Marino, Irving Azoff, Richard Branson, and so on, and has also officially bought the abandoned DreamWorks lot property and plan for $750 million, and plan to keep to the original scheduled timeline. It also has announced its debut project, a live action film adaptation of the Japanese animated film Ghost in the Shell, with Sony's Columbia Pictures, which will come out in early 2001. It has also planned to finance projects that it won't produce and other companies will, including the brand new HBO series The Sopranos, and two forthcoming films by director Robert Zemeckis, both of which will be in theaters next year, and hopes that their investments in these projects will pay off and that the proceeds will further add to their war chest.

Of course, some are skeptical of whether Springbok can actually deliver on its bold promises. For much of the last decade, Hollywood has been overrun by so-called "vanity shingles", in which actors set up their own production companies and set development deals with major studios for office space and money, similar to the old studio contract system of yesteryear, and hope to develop hits together. Some such companies, like Mel Gibson's Icon Productions and Tom Cruise's own Cruise/Wagner Productions, have reaped enormous benefits and success with their studio partners. But more recently, such pacts have led to either massive flops, or no projects being greenlit at all. Most recently and infamously, Clueless star Alicia Silverstone's production company, First Kiss, was forced to fold after its first film with Sony, Excess Baggage, failed spectacularly at the box office. Former Walt Disney Studios head Joe Roth (having left to form his own production/financing company) announced last year that Disney would shred dozens of vanity deals it no longer considered valid business. As one industry insider states, "Springbok is coming out at a time when vanity deals are basically considered an absolute money pit. This is likely to be more of the same, and its founders have no experience in the field. He's the biggest rock star in the world, and she's a promising actress who has yet to have a breakout role. Not exactly management material, or worth much in running a company."

Todd is nonplussed at this charge. "Springbok is definitely not a vanity deal." She stresses that unlike these deals, the company will not take up space on an existing lot owned by a major studio, and will not be tied to one distributor, but rather plan to cultivate relationships with all of them. She also says that Springbok is casting a wide net to find experienced people to run the company's planned various divisions, among industry titans, and that "whatever experience we don't naturally have or can't find that are free agents, we'll buy them in acquisitions. I also am coming onboard as the CEO, who will run the actual business, and leave Kurt and Charlize free to tend to their own careers. Simply put, we have far more in common with the likes of Mel Gibson than Alicia Silverstone."

There are other factors that could be obstacles to Springbok's potential success. By now, there is a massive debate in American society as to whether violent media influences acts of violence in real life. Films, TV shows, video games and music have been criticized by figures like Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman and Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper for "excessively glorifying" violence and helping young people be inspired to commit atrocities. The recent massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, back in April, brought intense scrutiny on all these factors. So-called "first-person shooters" like Doom and Quake have targeted as "murder simulators" by their critics. Warner Bros.' The Matrix was criticized for being a direct link to the shooting. The film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was similarly maligned, especially when reports came that young moviegoers would buy tickets for the much tamer Wild Wild West and instead sneak to see the R-rated animated feature. A recent joint North American tour by Nirvana and controversial "shock rocker" Marilyn Manson was cancelled because both bands were targeted as directly inciting violent acts with their lyrics, a charge that Manson and Cobain both angrily deny. And David Fincher and 20th Century Fox's film Fight Club was lambasted by many as a grim, nihilistic film advocating for anarchy and violent revolt against society. At a time when the entertainment industry is facing all this harsh scrutiny, and debates about influence and potential censorship of media have become a major talking point to debate, along with gun control, security measures and dress codes, Springbok are effectively racing into fierce headwinds.

As to whether Springbok will become what its founders promised, the outlook is not so clear. "It could potentially become everything they say it will," Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan states. "If managed right, it could possibly become a game changer at a time when Hollywood really needs one. On the other hand, it could basically end up like all these vanity shingles and be considered a huge embarrassment. You never know. Maybe they'll pull it off."


"Questions with Charlize Theron about New Venture," Empire, May 23, 2000

On what is planned for the production of Ghost in the Shell: "Besides the fact that we want to be faithful and respectful of the material, we also very much want to help push the limits of visuals. Digital Domain is onboard to do the effects, and Kurt and I have gotten friendly with Jim Cameron and Stan Winston. Stan personally is going to work on the production and supervise, and Jim's company (Lightstorm Entertainment) is helping fund it."

On what films are planned afterwards: "As you know, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith are now taking their projects to us, though it's more a case of us merely financing and not producing in the latter case, and we plan to certainly nurture them. But it doesn't stop there. We'd like to do every genre of film, aren't choosy about whether the scripts are dazzling and brilliant or turn your brain off junk food entertainment, and want to work with all of the studios. Hire young upstart directors, or seasoned veterans like Spielberg, Scorsese, David Fincher and so on. The point is, whatever we do, it'll be projects we firmly believe in and put our weight behind completely."

On whether Theron will only do films connected to the company: "Oh God, no! That's very presumptuous and vain. I'll do projects with other production companies, as long as I believe in the script and the director. Also, we'll also connect ourselves to films that aren't started in house by us, to give funding for, be it funding the production as a whole, or just the marketing."

On what kind of connections and advice will Springbok will have: "Jerry Weintraub is an informal advisor, and he's helping throw his weight around. We're also making inroads with people like Jim Cameron, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, George Lucas, and so on. There's our manga/anime connections. We're very interested in helping bring a lot of great series to North America. In fact, because of that, we've been talking with people over at Turner Broadcasting and Cartoon Network. They're planning to launch a late night programming block for adult entertainment next year, and we want in on that, have a say in what is produced, even come up with series ourselves. Of course, they'll only take us on if Ghost in the Shell succeeds."

On where Springbok would expand to be involved in: "Kurt and I would like to have our fingers in the pies of television, animation, video games, Internet content, and music. Once Nirvana's Atlantic deal is over, Exploitation Records will be merged into the Springbok family. Maybe even a hand in theatrical stage productions. Not as in creating musicals or plays, but helping with the stage rights, the staging, the funding. Kurt talks about boosting stage lighting to be more like concerts, same with sound design. We'd also like to become informal advisors over theme park attractions, the way George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are with Disney and Universal. We wouldn't be picky of choosing one over the other, though. We'll invest and purchases stakes where necessary to do so. Thank goodness for the Planet Hollywood money!"

On if there are any particular dream projects or existing series they wish to have a hand in: "Kurt and I have talked about rehabilitating the Alien franchise somehow. If we grow big enough, we can go to Fox and start talking with them about it. There's also that long rumored adaptation of The Giver. In addition, maybe doing some kind of anthology production regarding The Devil's Advocate would be interesting, to revolve around other people and their connections to John Milton."

On how successful she imagine the company will be in its hope, dreams and projects: "Of course not everything will be a success. Something won't pan out for one reason or another. But I think we have a good judgment over what will work and what won't, which speak to us personally, and the people will reward that."


"Springbok Productions Snaps Up Shuttered Fox Animation Studios," by Paul F. Duke, Variety, June 28, 2000

Springbok Productions, the company founded last year by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, his wife, actress Charlize Theron, and producer and company CEO Jennifer Todd, has officially made a deal to purchase Fox Animation Studios, the shuttered Phoenix-based division of 20th Century Fox that closed its doors yesterday due to the financial failure of its new film, Titan A.E. The purchase, the financial details of which were not enclosed other than it was for an incredibly cheap price, gives the fledgling Springbok its own animation division with which to create film and television projects.

"Animation is part and parcel of the Springbok strategy," Todd said. "Fox Animation Studios had scores of talent, and we plan to keep them in business with us, and hopefully give them a new beginning, better than what came before." Todd stated that many of the animators at the Phoenix division that had been laid off or stuck to the company to its disastrous exit, will be rehired and/or kept on to help make projects for Springbok.

Furthermore, Todd has announced the animation division's first project, an adaptation of Don Bluth's iconic video game Dragon's Lair. Bluth and his longtime business partner Gary Goldman ran the Phoenix facility and made its two theatrical releases, 1997's Anastasia, and Titan. "Don Bluth is an absolute legend in the field of animation, and we are truly honored to be working with him on a film based on his most iconic work, the one that made his reputation as an independent animator. Together we will certainly be able to achieve great things."


"Movie 'Vanity Deals' Fade to Black-Megastars Are Told: 'Put Out or Get Out,'" by Peter Fearon, The New York Post, July 6, 2000

Hollywood studios are showing some of Tinseltown's top stars the door, virtually bringing to an end one of the favorite perks of stardom: "vanity deals" to produce movies that never seem to get made.

Among the latest to have their production company phones disconnected are Nicolas Cage, Madonna, Denzel Washington, Demi Moore, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith.

Under the vanity deal system, favored stars form a production company and ally themselves to a studio. The stars get fully equipped offices and access to the studio's top executives, a staff of a dozen producers, readers and gofers and a multimillion-dollar budget for buying whatever scripts, treatments and books the star is interested in. In return, the studios are supposed to get the inside track with the stars when casting their movies and first refusal of any movie the stars' production companies set up.

The system was designed to keep stars happy, tied to their studio partners and churning out profitable movies for them. For the studios, vanity deals add up to expenditures of anywhere from $3 million to $5 million per year per star, and when it works, it's a sound investment. "It's like panning for gold," said Hollywood agent Grant Jackson. "If you are looking in the right place, the more dirt you pan, the more gold you are likely to find." But when it doesn't work – and, more often than not it doesn't – it's a drain on resources.

DAILY VARIETY, the trade newspaper of the entertainment business, has been keeping track of studio production deals since the mid-'90s. It concluded recently that the "vanity deal" is virtually dead and producers have been told: "put out or get out." "If you want to keep your gig, your energy level better be frenetic and your output significant or you'll be sent packing," Charles Lyons of Variety advised.

Only a select group of stars still have personal production deals with major studios. Among them are Michael Douglas, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy and Will Smith at Universal; Sean Connery, Helen Hunt and Jennifer Love Hewitt with Sony; Drew Barrymore at Fox; Tom Cruise, Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson at Paramount; George Clooney, Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood at Warner; Pierce Brosnan and Robert De Niro at MGM; and Bruce Willis, Robin Williams and Glenn Close at Disney.

Producer Barry Green, a former Universal executive, says vanity deals used to make sense, but more and more studios are finding them a burden. "The typical attitude used to be that there is prestige in this or that star being tied to your studio, that one of them is going to come up with a money maker and it will pay for all the others that don't get made," he said. "Sure, a lot of money is wasted, but then wasting a lot of money is one of the things that Hollywood does best."

As the cost of making movies soared, studios looked for leaner and meaner deals. But in the last couple of years the studios have gotten themselves into difficulties. The costs of making movies have jumped in the last 10 years and so have the costs of marketing them. "The real cost of a movie is about $75 million now," Green said. "That means they stand less chance of making profit. So these deals with middle rank stars began to give way. Every little million counts."

Among the recent big-name casualties are Griffith and Banderas. Griffith's Crazy in Alabama was intended to be the vehicle for her to get back into Oscar contention. But the $10 million movie, developed by Griffith and Banderas' company Green Moon, took just $600,000 at the box office –a new definition for the word flop. Although Griffith personally paid for the rights to the novel on which the movie was based, Warner played host to the production company. After the flop, someone at the studio cried "Enough!"

Other casualties: Universal unloaded Sylvester Stallone's Cop Land Ventures, Moore's Moving Pictures and Penny Marshall's Parkway Productions while Warner offed Madonna's Madguy Films, Sony ditched Michelle Pfeiffer's Via Rosa, and Disney ended a long association with Cage's Saturn Films.

As long ago as 1998, Joe Roth, then the studio chief at Disney, told Variety that the days of Hollywood's vanity deals were numbered. "The math doesn't add up," he said then. "We're just coming to the realization that it's a bad business practice. How many of these deals add value to our movie program?" Roth set about cutting the number of production deals at Disney from 70 to about 30. Diane Keaton, Sean Connery and Dolly Parton were among stars told to hand in their mouse ears then. Within a year, the other big studios were doing the same thing and about 20 percent of all the production deals in Hollywood were torn up. "A lot of [Porsche] Boxsters got send back to the dealers," said Green.

Now Roth has left Disney to set up shop himself and, ironically, he has taken the most powerful woman in Hollywood, Julia Roberts with him. Her production company, Shoelace Productions, has a deal with Roth's Revolution Studios. But he is making unprecedented demands of Roberts: a movie production deal that must produce movies. "We will support her," he said recently, "but, in return, she has to give us three movies over the next five years," Roth said. "That way, we are pretty certain to get our rent back. And that might just be a first in Hollywood."

Into this atmosphere, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife, Charlize Theron, recently founded their own production company, Springbok Productions, which is currently producing an adaptation of the manga/anime series Ghost in the Shell, due to be released in April by Sony. However, as cofounder Jennifer Todd has taken pains to state, Springbok is "definitely not a vanity deal. We're not tied to one studio, we're not taking space on a major's studio lot, and we are not relying on a studio to pay our overheads. We are going to take our own initiative, bring the projects to fruition ourselves. We can get that done with our own pool of capital, from Planet Hollywood, Miami Subs Pizza & Grill, the group of investors we brought for startup funds, Nirvana's earnings, and Charlize's royalties from her own films, not to mention the money invested in What Lies Beneath and Cast Away. Basically, we're more like what Mel Gibson has done with Icon Productions, than people like Alicia Silverstone." Springbok also took over the ownership and construction of a 1087-acre studio lot in Playa Vista, California, that was originally earmarked for DreamWorks SKG, to be their operating space. It will officially open for business in the spring, along with a small town around it, as Springbok officially gets its first project out to the public and after paying $750 million for the project.

Time, as always, will be the ultimate arbiter of fate for Cobain and Theron's venture, to see whether it is everything Todd claims, or yet another shingle that will fall apart.


(OCC: This is pretty much the same New York Post article from OTL just with the bit about Springbok being inserted in at the end.)

"Gores Technology Group and Springbok Productions Finalize Deal For Carmen Sandiego," PRNewswire, October 2, 2000

LOS ANGELES - Gores Technology Group and Springbok Productions have finalized a deal, made while The Learning Company was owned by Mattel, for Springbok to take ownership of creative rights for the Carmen Sandiego franchise. This deal includes ownership of the Broderbund/The Learning Company CD-ROM games as well as rights for the live action game shows Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego? as well as the animated television series Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? Springbok intends to revive the two game shows as well as create remasters of the CD-ROM games for future Windows operating series.

"This is a great deal, a win-win for all parties," Alec Gores said. "Springbok will be great creative custodians of Carmen, and we will further help ensure a return to profitability for The Learning Company and make it a viable force in edutainment games once more."

"It is an honor for us to officially take ownership of Carmen Sandiego," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd says. "The character has been one of the most culturally important of the 1990s, and we plan to ensure that growth and recognition continues well into the new millennium. This is truly an impressive deal for all parties."


"Springbok Productions: Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron Roll the Dice," by Peter Edmonston, Forbes, February 19, 2001

Springbok is the unlikeliest of companies, with a thoroughly bizarre list of people involved. The arena-packing god of the grunge movement, Kurt Cobain; his second wife, the earnest and slowly emerging talent, Charlize Theron; legendary music and film promoter and producer Jerry Weintraub; emerging producer Jennifer Todd, who is also the company's CEO; and many of the founders' friends and peers. Among those that have invested in the fledgling company already are the likes of Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Michael Stipe of REM, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, actor Chris Farley, recently retired Miami Dolphins star quarterback Dan Marino, venture capitalists Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, Starbucks CEO Howard Schwartz, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, CJ Group heiress Miky Lee, former Kentucky governor and fast food franchisee John Y. Brown, Jr., Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, recently retired General Electric CEO Jack Welch, mammothly successful music manager Irving Azoff (now also helping lead Springbok's record label Exploitation Records in addition to being rumored to take over as Nirvana's manager), and comics industry veterans like Jim Lee.

Using the money provided by these people, as well as drawing on Cobain's Nirvana royalties, Theron's salaries from films, and their various investments (Planet Hollywood, Miami Subs Pizza & Grill, HBO's The Sopranos, Robert Zemeckis' back to back successes of What Lies Beneath and Cast Away, and the recent ABC miniseries Life with Judy Garland: Me & My Shadows), Springbok has amassed a pot of billions to draw from and begin. Already, their headquarters, 1087 acres in Playa Vista, California, which houses the first studio built from scratch since the Great Depression and the largest studio in North America, and a complete small town surrounding it as well, has been completed and gone online, all for the price of $750 million. This comes as Springbok's debut project, a film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell by Sony and directed by Alex Proyas, is on the verge of being released. They've also set a long-term release deal with Blockbuster Video as the initial release and distributors for their projects on home video, as well as supporting the company's massive reorganization to branch out beyond brick-and-mortar retail to selling and renting DVDs by mail, creating vending machine kiosks for short-term rentals in places like supermarkets and gas station food marts, and creating a focus on streaming video-on-demand via the Internet.

Springbok seems poised to enter the world of various different forms of media. Done well and as close to perfect as possible, Springbok could emerge as the next big powerhouse, with billions of dollars in annual revenue and potentially the greatest amount of influence in Hollywood. Done poorly, it will be a crushing and humiliating defeat and considered the greatest act of hubris yet. "It is truly time to sink or swim and see where things end up," an industry insider says. "We've been waiting almost two years, waiting to see if it's worth all the hype. It has to yield results now, or it will fall apart."

Everything is riding on the outcome of Ghost in the Shell to see how far Springbok will fly. Is this a truly serious venture, or a flash in the pan destined to join the ranks of many vanity labels since The Beatles launched Apple Corps?


"Exploitation Records Hits The Ground Running," Billboard, June 2, 2001

Exploitation Records, the record label arm of Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron's newly established production company Springbok Productions, has celebrated its move from vanity label under Nirvana's five-album deal with Atlantic Records to the music industry's new wunderkind, by going on a signing spree from their new headquarters at the BT Tower in New York. Besides being Nirvana's label, it has already signed the likes of its grunge peers Soundgarden and Alice in Chains (as well as Layne Staley's side project Mad Season), and artists like Stone Temple Pilots, Rush (said to be recording their first album since Test for Echo five years previously), Hootie & the Blowfish, Boston, Kansas, Skid Row, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Meat Loaf, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dolly Parton, Method Man, Nas and Ice-T. In addition, already in accordance with Cobain's wishes, it has already been recording albums of "street bums" and "deformed people", only making 500 copies each of these particular albums, only available in their hometowns. "I think we're about to really take off like never before," Cobain tells the press.

To make some of these signings, Exploitation Records had to pay to buy out some artists' remainder of their contracts with current labels, such as Rush and Stone Temple Pilots from their deals with Nirvana's former label Atlantic, Taylor from Sony.


Interview with Jennifer Todd for PBS Frontline episode "The Monster That Ate Hollywood," conducted October 2001

Most people only know of you because of being an investor, cofounder, and the CEO of Springbok Productions, the new entertainment company founded by Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron. But you're not exactly new this field, are you?

No. With my sister, Suzanne, I helped produce the likes of Memento and Boiler Room, we also did the movie Idle Hands and the Austin Powers franchise.

So, you consider yourself in a good position to answer our questions we've had for the other interviewees regarding blockbusters, indies, windows of exhibition, conglomerates and the broadband revolution?

It's my business to be, especially since my role at Springbok means I have to know how things operate, and the types of things that we hope to be able to change in the industry.

I guess I'll start off here: this past summer, your debut movie, Ghost in the Shell, was one of the biggest hits of the year. In a year where we had a string of movies going to number one, yours particularly stood out, seems like it's on track to the be one of, if not the, most successful at the box office for 2001.

Yes, and we're extremely proud that audiences came out in droves to see it. That movie was a labor of love, a passion project for us, and our partners at Sony that distributed the film did an amazing job helping make it that way.

I'm going to refer a lot to the interview we did with Elvis Mitchell last month, and his comments bemoaning the state of Hollywood and the movies it makes, to see what you have to say. First off, the first thing I want you to respond to is this: he says that the fact we had so many movies go to number one this year is a sign that there is no real word of mouth, compared to how it took four weeks for There's Something About Mary get to number one, that's a real grassroots support. Therefore, the studios are now manufacturing word of mouth for their releases.

I don't agree with that. I think the word of mouth about movies is quite real, you can't really build something out of nothing in that case. If people want to see a movie, they're going to go see it no matter what, you can't convince them one way or another, they just want to see it. It doesn't matter if it takes four weeks or one to get to number one, that's a real accomplishment to be proud of. The quality of the film is almost irrelevant in that factor. It definitely helps if the movie is actually good, of course, and that's what you should aim for.

As for saying that studios manufacture word of mouth, isn't that basically what studios have done since Hollywood was born? I don't see how Elvis Mitchell thinks it's actually different than before. The thing that is different is that now there's a more sophisticated and technologically advanced engine to do it with, and the studios have gone through lots of changes to reflect that. We don't have have the studio system, the star system, anymore, and studios can't be exhibitors as well. Advertising also has to evolve and change so that we can reach audiences better, especially with trailers, TV spots, and websites. And then, there's the fact that audiences' tastes evolve and change over the decades. What audiences like now is always going to be different from what it was 5, 10 or 20 years ago. Studios and production companies have to work in tandem with the filmmakers and actors to craft the movies that work best.

If a movie works, it works. It's a simple as that.

The major Hollywood blockbusters, like Jaws, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Titanic and The Mask of Zorro have been derided by some as basically having destroyed cinema and turned it into something less averse to risk, less receptive to creativity, incredibly determined to play things safe, and churning out sequels and remakes only.

That's a myth, and one that has very little basis in reality. The people who say those comments tend to be based on their personal tastes in film and often are overzealous intellectuals that see everything but the point. They look at the "New Hollywood" movement of the '70s, celebrate that as the time filmmakers had absolute freedom and could do what they wanted, and then when Heaven's Gate came out and flopped, it killed that movement.

But that movement, as portrayed in that image, didn't really exist. Yes, filmmakers had more leeway, but that's because of the nature of the people who ran the studios back then. Back then, studios were run by no more than three or four people at the top, who basically oversaw everything, greenlit the projects and budgets, got the progress reports, and so on. Nowadays there are like 200 people in the organization to oversee the studio's film divisions, including dozens of people just to read the scripts, treatments and pitches and read books, plays or see movies to base new projects on. There's a whole bureaucracy there that wasn't there for several decades, and this is actually necessary, not all based on who the corporate parent is, but because the money at the studio's disposal and to play with is so much bigger now.

The fact is that movies weren't necessarily better or smarter or greater in those days. Most movies released, ever, have been forgotten because they're either lost or they just weren't very good. Every decade in Hollywood has that. It was true in the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. It's going to continue to be true. We just remember the ones that were truly outstanding, or those that are bad to a legendary extent.

As for the sequels thread, there's always someone out there who wants more, not just the studios. When Paramount announced that "we're going to do Top Gun 2," there were people eager for it. If they say they'll do another movie, I guarantee you that there are audiences for that.

There's also complaints about the budgets, that movies are getting to be too expensive and budgets like that are recipes for failure.

Not necessarily. For the most part, movies have the budgets they need in order to tell their stories effectively. That's through securing talent; getting the best writers, directors and producers; securing locations; utilizing the best visual effects; and marketing effectively. So, if a movie costs more than $100 million, there's usually a good reason for that. I'll admit that abuses of that and padding and other shenanigans will happen, as well as moments of studios going in the opposite direction and being far too stingy. But on balance it works out.

A movie's budget is not a main driving factor in how it does in the theaters. Each movie has the same chance, 50/50, of succeeding or failing, depending on how much it cost. What helps make a movie succeed or fail is how it's received, and how the audiences react. Titanic cost $200 million, and it's the biggest box offices success of all time. On the other hand, you have something like Wild Wild West, which cost $180 million to make and an obscene additional amount of money to market, and it was a huge flop. While at the same time, The Iron Giant was modestly successful, and then became a true hit on home video sales.

The other major thing people like Elvis Mitchell say is that blockbusters are a chokehold on the industry, keeping indie films from succeeding. That the only indies with success aren't real indies, because they come from studio divisions for art house projects, and they're a transparent ploy for that. He says, "Miramax made a $100 million art house film, so the studios co-opted that."

Listen, you need to have blockbusters to get foot traffic in the door to see the art house flicks. One hand washes the other, and you need to have surefire hits to do the riskier films, both in budget and spectacle, and for the art house crowd. A big action thriller like Mission: Impossible II can help get people in the door to see the latest Merchant Ivory film. Especially if trailers for such movies come in the previews for the action thriller. If you were take the blockbusters out of the equation, you don't have a net to hold you in place, no support.

I'm also not an absolutist regarding what is or isn't an indie or art house film. When Miramax operated, yes, they basically made art house fare for the multiplexes, but that was true even before Disney bought them. It just became more true afterwards, and it's still true with Touchstone Pictures taking over that side of things. Then you have people at New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures Classics, and Fox Searchlight basically entering the arena because they have to keep pace. If they didn't, Disney would have a monopoly, and that would be worse. And it's also true that these divisions are doing it for the bottom line, but they're also giving filmmakers a voice they never had before, finding rising talent in writers, producers, directors and actors. A classic example is New Line and Boogie Nights. It propelled Mark Wahlberg as a true star in acting, and made Paul Thomas Anderson a bona fide talent as writer and director. And Elvis Mitchell spits on that?

As for material that studios necessarily won't touch, even in their art house divisions, well, there's still bound to be someone who will take a chance on it. For example, Memento was a film that my sister Suzanne and I shopped around to all of the studios, none of them would handle it, but we secured a deal with Newmarket Films, who released the movie Donnie Darko. They could see the potential of this movie, and it's become one of the most talked-about films of 2001. That's a movie that fits every definition of what a snob like Elvis Mitchell thinks is a real, creative, authentic indie film, but he completely ignores it because it doesn't suit his narrative.

And that's not the only case, there's plenty of other notable examples out there. One of the most recent is Requiem for a Dream, which Artisan Entertainment released, and Artisan also did The Blair Witch Project. Both of those movies did exceedingly well, and they succeeded on their own merits, even with all the blockbusters and "phony" art house projects out there. There's also the people at Troma Entertainment, who made The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High, both really impressive cult films that did surprisingly well in both theatrical performance and home video sales, and also acquires films made by other people instead of in-house, like Cannibal! The Musical, which Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park made well before they got famous. It has been extremely popular, especially lately, and it achieved that on its own, so feature films of this caliber are still going to break out. Same with continuing releases of short films and indie animators, like Don Hertzfeldt's short Rejected, which was nominated for Best Short Film at the Oscars and has won nearly 30 other awards. So this just shows that Elvis Mitchell simply does not know what he's talking about.

Now, we at Springbok think both types of films, blockbusters and art house, are necessary, and we plan to do both types of films for our resume. We plan to work to make every kind of project, with every studio and every creative partner out there. We certainly believe that Sumner Redstone had it right with his philosophy, "content is king." We believe that the stories, the work, speaks for itself and should be the driving focus. That's why our motto is "Stories matter."

What are your thoughts regarding how best to market a film?

Ted Turner once said, "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise." You can have an incredible movie, maybe the best in the world, but people don't know about it, that doesn't matter.

I'm of the opinion, oftentimes, that the studios don't necessarily know the best way to promote their movies. Also, the fact that studios do the marketing costs themselves often is the deciding factor in whether, mathematically, it's a flop or a hit. So, we at Springbok plan to shoulder a lot of the marketing costs ourselves, to lighten the studios' burden and make it easier for the movie to reach a profit. Also, we tend to feel that outside marketing firms, people who aren't too close to the project and too precious about things, can identify what makes a movie accessible and attractive to audiences. You can tell this from certain tracking numbers, gauging word of mouth, familiarity, especially what is called "unaided awareness" or spontaneously naming your movie as among those coming up, and "must see" status.

The best example of that case is what happened with Total Recall. That movie nearly flopped, because the Sony/TriStar people that just come in didn't know how to market it, and the numbers weren't good. So Arnold Schwarzenegger had to hire an outside firm, Cimarron/Bacon/O'Brien, to market it, just a few weeks from release. They cut a new trailer, new TV spots, and came up with new taglines, like "They stole his mind. Now he wants it back." And the numbers shot up exponentially, and made it a huge hit. That's the model we're following.

I also believe you can never be too aggressive in terms of how you market a film. I mean, I've seen movies that spend $30-60 million in P&A costs, but I don't see the effects of that. The trailer isn't playing before a lot of movies, the TV spots aren't being aired much, radio and magazine ads are nonexistent. So where did that money go? But if you take that money and unleash a blitzkrieg of promotion, spread awareness, if you market when you don't even need to, you've got a winner. Cameron Mackintosh, the stage musical producer, once said, "advertise when you don't have to. Make it something that sells out, make the fact that tickets are sold out part of the ads." That's a big reason why Les Miserables is such a massive hit.

What do you think regarding focus groups, test screening previews, and whatnot?

They're certainly an important aspect of the business. You need to put some meat on the bone, have some kind of baseline for gauging audience reactions. Having their answers, test cards and survey answers can give you valuable insight in what works or doesn't work for a film, pointing out issues you haven't thought about during the production, so you can do some last-minute tweaking to improve it, so that you're ready to go on opening day. Marketers look for cues on how to position a film, what to focus on in their campaigns.

Of course, it's a double-edged sword. Sometimes the answers tend to reflect or bring out the laziest, cheapest, most cliched answers to things, and studio executives will pander to that. You know, give a movie a happy ending where it's undeserved, stick in a hackneyed romance plot, an emphasis on crude humor. There's also the fact that you can't use the test screenings and focus groups as the be-all-end-all of how to make a movie. Then it becomes a crutch, a way to simply focus on milking every last penny out of the audience, and a lack of emphasis on story and writing and all the elements that really make a movie.

So the best way is that you have to nurture the films and the audience, you have to be as insightful as possible with the audience so they can be as insightful as possible with you. I make a habit of going to every test screening and helping steer the conversation so as to get intelligent answers. The cast and crew will often fall into a trap of getting cues of how talk about the movies from marketing, but the test audiences can give it to you directly, without misinterpretation. Someone may say, "this isn't just a romance story, it's a journey from innocence to experience," and we like that, we'll write that down and use it later. It also helps that I pick and find writers, directors and stars who can take constructive criticism well, will attend as many test screenings as possible, and aren't just defensive about their work. Likewise for going to conventions like ShoWest, the National Association of Theatre Owners' convention to help promote films and land deals for as many screens as possible. The distributors, the middlemen at the studios that make the deals with the theaters should have your support, know you're not going to let them twist in the wind, so going to the convention helps. Screening the movies there, taking photos with the theater owners and pressing flesh, doing Q&As and press conferences and speeches, it goes a long way, so that Carmike Cinemas might come over and say "I'm putting your film on two screens for every location instead of one. That's because your speech really helped, you're pushing the movie real hard, and since you said you'll come to town to promote it, we'll help you out."

As to the matter of conglomeration, how does it make you feel to see studios have big corporate parents, often from other industries, and to see them get bigger and bigger? Take Disney, for example. In the last decade it has bought Miramax, ABC, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Jumbo Productions, and signed distribution deals for Studio Ghibli and Jerry Bruckheimer, and a global exclusive marketing alliance with McDonald's. Or what about the fact that Sony controls Columbia Pictures, or Vivendi owns Universal?

I don't think it necessarily changes much in the equation of how movies are made, what movies are made, or how successful they are. What it does change is whether these different divisions mesh together under different owners, and whether their respective cultures work well together or not. Sony struggled a while, but its culture meshes well with Columbia and TriStar; when Matsushita owned MCA/Universal, they clashed too much, so that's why Seagram, and then Vivendi, bought it.

The other thing that has be taken into consideration is the overall company's balance sheet. The equity, debt and operating earnings. You can overpay for a company, even if it's a good choice, and your balance sheet will take a big hit. For example, the AOL Time Warner deal. It's ridiculously overpriced, there's no way they have the earnings to avoid writedowns or be saddled with continual increases to their debt and a stock price that refuses to budge.

If you have either an unsuitable target or an overpriced deal, it can be fatal to the deal or even the company itself. If you have both, then you're really in trouble. The biggest such case is not in Hollywood, but Wall Street, with RJR Nabisco. Even before the LBO deal, the original merger of the two companies made no sense. Why should a snack foods company merge with a tobacco company? (Even Philip Morris was mistaken.) The LBO made things worse, saddled it with excessive debt. It was already going to fall apart, but the tobacco litigation and whistleblowers revealing the industry's deceit hammered the final nail in the coffin.

In terms of "vertical integration", you know, Sony having a studio for movies to play on their televisions, VCRs, DVD players and computers, and Sony doing video games to play on their PlayStations, I think it only becomes a problem if a company like Sony has a monopoly on the market, and also owns exhibitors outright. That's anticompetitive. But that's the not the case right now, and I don't foresee it ever happening.

As for expansion and growth like Disney, I think it suits them quite perfectly. These expansions added arrows to the quiver, ensure that Disney can reach greater audiences and drive their growth. The people at Disney currently are quite talented at that.

One of the biggest things people factor in now, that determines how successful a movie is, are the "windows of exhibition." The exclusivity periods movies have in theaters, and later on, home video, pay-per-view, network and cable TV, and syndication. The first major one, the theatrical window, can last between two weeks and a year. What are your thoughts about it?

The theatrical window is the most important aspect for a movie's release and success. It is also often the best place to see a movie, on the big screen, with other people, with your popcorn, soda and candy. It's an experience that can't be truly replicated, not even if you have a home theater.

Now, as for length, we believe that 45-60 days is a great length of time for a window of exclusivity in theaters. Currently, the average is 90-120 days, and that's too long. Why? Because most people go to the theaters in the 45-60 day period, even as many as multiple times. If you want to see the film in theaters, if it's a long window like that, you might stall, not wanting to be in crowds or pay too much, because the ticket prices go down later on. You think, "I'll see it later." But you might end up waiting too long. And you have to wait forever, it seems like, for the video or DVD to come out. Because the home video release is another great window, which can be profitable, moving to that as quickly as possible is in the everyone's best interest.

The other thing about the window is that currently, on average, box office is split 50/50 between studios and theaters. Keep in mind a movie has to make back not only its budget, what it cost to make, but the marketing costs to do prints and advertising. A 50/50 split is too rich for the theaters, because a movie can be technically profitable, but the studio can still lose money. I'm not bashing the theaters, because they are an important and vital part of the industry, and they should be compensated. But a 60-75 percent share for the studios and production companies is best. Because films will be easier to be profitable, and studios will be less inclined or able to use "Hollywood accounting" to cheat profit participants out of their backend deals. A sliding scale regarding how the box office proceeds are spread will certainly also help stabilize the positions and make it more equitable, including having the studio maintain the early 90 percent split in the beginning weeks. I do agree that the dollar theaters that make up the last part of the theatrical window should keep 90 percent of the proceeds, or 90 cents for every dollar, because that makes sense.

We hope to be able to bring about these changes in the industry during our time in operation. But I think that we're more likely to get the latter to change before the former, because theaters are not going to budge at this point in time, maybe won't for 10 or 20 years.

As for the other windows, I don't think that much about them, because that's the studios and video chains' concern, not ours. But there is a solution that can please everyone out there.

What are your thoughts about the coming "broadband revolution?" Studios are convinced there is a great future in the Internet and digital movies, and Blockbuster is going big on that. But a lot of the Internet content companies of the last few years went bust, the dot-com bubble bursting especially helped in that, companies like Amazon seem ridiculously overvalued, and a number of Web advisory researchers, like those at Jupiter Media Matrix, say the revolution will not come, because broadband isn't becoming cheaper fast enough, streaming video will never be as good in quality as broadcast television, and dial-up will continue to dominate for years to come. This line of thinking appeared in an article in Technology Review, I believe. There's also a lot of people wondering about digital cinematography.

The revolution is indeed coming, and it's real. It's not some pipe dream, and it's not a fantasy. Some people think that just because a bunch of Internet companies cratered after having big IPOs due to not fulfilling their promises or turning a profit, that the entire thing was just phony to begin with. But that's an incredibly reductionist and shortsighted way of looking at things. Just because Amazon isn't profitable now doesn't mean it won't be later. I think it's going to be one of the survivors, because the website saw a very real need to fulfill and it's doing it. In another decade's worth of time, it's going to be extremely big, bigger than ever, and its absolute stock high before the bubble burst will be peanuts in comparison.

Digital cinematography is becoming a major force in Hollywood, George Lucas is making the new Star Wars film with digital cameras, the first mainstream film to be done this way. Up to now, the only people shooting digitally have been people like Lars Von Trier, but they release films well off the beaten path, or of course movies done on video like The Blair Witch Project, and they use cameras that can't shoot in widescreen; George is rectifying all of that. I don't think that 35 mm film stock to go anywhere and I don't want it to, I think we need those cameras still, because there's a lot there you can't achieve digitally. But there's also things with digital you can't achieve on film, so they complement each other.

The Internet is going to be a real game changer in Hollywood, especially not just in releasing films, but marketing. The Blair Witch Project was really big in that regard, using the Web to help spread the word, build up an entire lore around the world and narrative of this film, a folklore that was invented just for it but is utterly convincing. It was a stroke of genius, so we're going to have lots of things like that in the future, and promoting movies in this manner is possible because of all the potential that the Internet gives us.

The idea that we're going to be stuck with dial-up for another 5 years is quite ludicrous. I don't think AOL and its business model has that much real staying power. Broadband is going to get cheaper and more available, quite quickly and surprisingly so. In a year or two, prices are going to be halved. And broadband connections will get more advanced, to the point we don't need the cables to hook directly into our computers to be able to connect to the Internet. That means connection speeds will get faster, and if we have faster speeds, we can have greater visual clarity and fluidity of images for streaming video. That means we'll be able to watch videos smoothly, which means we can see entire TV shows and movies online. Blockbuster knows this, that's why they're going big for streaming video-on-demand. And once we're there, we'll have original content made directly for the digital realm. Digital shows, digital movies, released without theaters or home video or TV broadcast.

Of course, I could be wrong about some of this, so we and the studios are hedging our bets on other, nonexclusive options if the Blockbuster project doesn't become viable within a set period of time. Like Moviefly, for example. But I don't think that I am.

So you don't see the forces prevalent in Hollywood as a monster that ate the industry and turned it into something else?

There has been no change. The industry is the same as it was decades ago, just more so and more visibly so.


"Springbok Hits Jackpot of New Investors," by John Emshwiller, The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2002

Springbok Productions, coming off a successful first year of releasing projects with the massive critical and commercial praise and profits for Ghost in the Shell and the premiere of the animated series Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and the coming of the new live action TV series Workshop on ABC, has attracted some deep pockets to further capitalize the company. Among the new investors include the likes of hedge fund manager George Soros, legendary investor Warren Buffett, NBA superstar Michael Jordan, media mogul Ted Turner, Limited Brands founder and chair Leslie Wexner, Azure Capital, August Capital, Elevation Partners, TPG Group and Providence Equity Partners. In addition, the company has secured lucrative revolving credit lines and important investing relationships with the likes of General Electric Capital, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Wells Fargo, Citibank/Citigroup, the Bank of New York, JPMorgan Chase, Toronto-Dominion Bank, HSBC, Rothschild & Co., Societe Generale, Austria's Oesterreichsiche Nationalbank, The State Bank of India, MUFG Bank of Japan, and Australia's Westpac Bank.

In all, this adds more than $12.5 billion to Springbok's disposal, as equity investments. Clearly the young upstarts, founded by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, his second wife, actress Charlize Theron, and CEO Jennifer Todd are on to something, if they are attracting this much faith in their performance after just one year's worth of releases.

Springbok is looking to ramp things up this year with the rollout of their first animated film, Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair; the comedy Noble Rot, starring Chris Farley and Don Novello and based from a script written by Novello and the late John Belushi; a Disney-distributed adaptation of the novel Tuck Everlasting; and a big Broadway musical, Dance of the Vampires, by massively successful composer/lyricist and producer Jim Steinman. Furthermore, with the news that All Girls Productions, the company founded by Bette Midler and Bonnie Bruckheimer, would be shutting down this year with the upcoming film The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood being its last project, Springbok has officially hired many of the employees of that company to report to them, adding considerably to its staff.


"Springbok And MTV, Sony Partner For Revolutionary New Animated Series," by Army Archerd, April 19, 2003

Springbok Productions announced that its animated projects division, Denver and Delilah Animation, has officially signed a deal to release a new animated series on MTV this time next year.

The new series, entitled Code Lyoko, is about a group of schoolchildren who do battle with an evil computer virus bent on destroying the world by traveling into a virtual landscape, all the while trying to balance their lives in the real world while attending a prestigious school on the outskirts of Paris. The series is described as being heavily inspired by the Disney film Tron, and is referred to in the press notes as "whip-smart, mature storytelling for intelligent audiences."

The show will begin broadcasting on MTV on April 20, 2004, and Sony's Columbia Pictures has also confirmed a deal to release at least three full-length theatrical films to supplement the show.

Joining Springbok and MTV Studios/MTV Films as production partners and producers on the project are Luc Besson, the director of movies such as La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element, and his production company EuropaCorp; and Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell and their company Renaissance Pictures, responsible for the Evil Dead trilogy as well as TV series like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.Besson is also slated to direct the theatrical films and his wife, actress Milla Jovovich, is also a producer and has a role in the series. Campbell, who played Ash Williams in the Evil Dead films, also has a role in the show. Raimi helped come up with the show's story bible, but will not have a hands-on role on the show, as he is busy directing Spider-Man 2. A French animation company, Moonscoop, will partner to help create the actual animation with Springbok.

The main story bible writer and showrunner is Ryan Murphy, who created the short-lived series POPular for The WB and who has sold a new series, Nip/Tuck, to FX.

The series will consist of hourlong episodes, which will end with "animated music videos", combining animation of the episodes with famous music videos that have played on MTV throughout its more than 20 years in existence. Springbok also confirms that it has signed a deal with Interscope Records to release soundtracks based on the show and the songs used in the video segments, rather than giving that job to its own record label, Exploitation Records. Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine will also be an executive producer for the show.

"This will start a landmark chapter in the history of television animation," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd told the press. "Code Lyoko is set to be a watershed series for this decade, and we thank MTV, Sony, and our co-producers for the faith they have placed in us to make this as great as it can be."

While MTV remains firmly focused on music and news programming, mainly through its catalog of music videos, concert broadcasts, and MTV News, it has branched out into other types of shows. The Real World effectively started the modern era of reality television, Jackass remains as firmly popular as ever to the point of a feature film being forthcoming, and MTV has tackled animation with the likes of Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria and Aeon Flux. MTV also broadcast the short-lived WWE reality competition series Tough Enough. MTV's sister channel MTV2 has broadcast more reality/competition series than the main channel, but also remains firmly focused on music, and sibling channel VH1 is likewise branching out in a similar manner.


"Springbok Goes All In for ABC Daytime," by Army Archerd, Variety, May 17, 2003

Springbok Productions has signaled they are more than willing to bury the hatchet with Disney after the Mickey Mouse fiasco by giving a generous support of cash infusion to the soaps lineup on ABC Daytime. Consisting of One Life to Live, All My Children, General Hospital and its spinoff series Port Charles, ABC and its daytime programming has long been beloved by soap opera fans nationwide, even if it has long had to fight against the massive ratings success that NBC and CBS have held to dominate the field.

"ABC Daytime is an absolute staple in the world of television," Springbok cofounder and operating head Jennifer Todd states. "But when the ratings have a tendency to falter and it gets harder to attract sponsorship revenue, no matter how beloved, these shows could very well disintegrate. And when leadership in charge of the network programming tends to be more focused on the bottom line and chasing trends rather than taking care of the viewers, then the audience is basically screwed over. Thankfully, Michael Eisner's error in judgment and the way Bob Iger has moved to correct the course has also woken Disney up to the need to institute more sweeping change in their various divisions, especially regarding television."

Up until last month, the so-called Disney-ABC Television Group was under the purview of Anne Sweeney, who also was in charge of The Disney Channel, a position she'd held since 1996, after Disney's purchase of Capital Cities/ABC took effect. And ABC Daytime was led by Brian Frons, who had also worked at NBC Daytime and CBS Daytime, and who had only held the position since last August, when Sweeney herself named him to head the division. However, Roy Edward Disney, nephew of Walt, had very harsh criticisms for both of them after the Eisner/Mickey controversy died down, referring to them as "corporate suits who couldn't find the magic and show it on the air even if it was right in front of them." Indeed, he had constantly talked with some of their subordinates and lobbied to undermine decisions they made which he felt would've hurt ABC in the long run. He was especially doing so with Disney's COO Bob Iger, who also was head of ABC itself, and Iger frequently was convinced.

A prime example occurred in late 1996. During this point in time, The City, a 30-minute spinoff of the long-running soap Loving, was going head to head against The Young & the Restless on CBS, airing at 12:30 PM, and constantly managing no better than a 2.9 rating, a situation partly driven by the fact that a considerable number of ABC's affiliates were choosing instead to use that slot for local news and move the show to later in the day, if they aired it at all. Very serious talks were held, with Sweeney planning to cancel the series and use the newly-announced Port Charles, focusing on a group of interns working at the titular General Hospital, to take that slot instead, especially pointing out that by reusing the parent show's sets, it would also cut costs considerably. However, prodded by Mr. Disney, Iger overrode this decision, stating that if ABC simply bought the noon-1:00 PM time slot from all the affiliates and reshuffled their programming lineup, The City could easily improve in status, and there would be room for Port Charles as well when it premiered on June 1, 1997. As a result, One Life to Live was moved to noon-1:00, All My Children to 1:00-2:00, The City remained at 2:00-2:30 until it concluded in 2001 (having garnered an average rating of no lower than 6.2 by then), Port Charles at 2:30-3:00 (it was moved later to The City's slot after that show concluded), and General Hospitalat 3:00-4:00 (now 2:30-3:30).

Despite having a more conducive time slot thanks to Iger's intervention, Port Charles still struggled to survive, with ratings constantly hovering at 5, and a seeming lack of interest in many General Hospital fans to watch a series that was basically its half-sized kid sibling, as well as little interaction between the two shows. Moving to shake things up, the show, now under new head writers James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esenstein, decided to reinvent itself by abandoning the traditional open-ended method of storytelling, where plots often take years to resolve, to 13-week "books", where arcs were given a more definite beginning, middle and end, somewhat reminiscent of Latin telenovelas. The show also decided to delve into supernatural elements and themes of gothic intrigue, incorporating vampires, angels, time travel, love after death, and so on, turning itself into a modern-day Dark Shadows. The method also allowed cast and crew, who tape two episodes a day, to work only six months out of the year, which also helped save money.

As a result of these changes, the critics universally praised the new storytelling method, and the show's ratings began to grow, though not as much as ABC had hoped. Esenstein confirms that Frons and Sweeney were going to ax the show fairly soon. "Brian and Anne just kept saying that 'a half-hour show simply isn't financially viable, there's no reason to keep this around, especially if it's not getting double digit ratings.' Of course, we're all in the middle of hiatus right now, and if the show was cancelled before July, that would mean that the last arc that we finished taping would end on a cliffhanger, and we couldn't return to tape resolutions to it all. I speak for all of us when I say that we are grateful that Springbok is funneling money to keep us, and our three compatriot shows, alive. Port Charles is an essential show in the lineup, especially to all the young viewers who have been following us since at least the Tainted Love book. And mark my words, it wouldn't have stopped at us. Sooner or later down the line, they would have cut One Life to Live and All My Children, simply because their ratings have never been as good as General Hospital. That would have been a massive blow to soaps fans everywhere."

With a steady stream of working capital at the shows' disposal, the remaining shows of ABC Daytime are likely secure for as long as they will continue running. By now, thanks to an Emmy nomination and Springbok's capitalization, Port Charles may especially benefit from this and grow by as much as 30 percent in the ratings. The show's current book, Desire, is scheduled to end on the Fourth of July, and the most recent arc that was taped, The Gift, will start the following Monday. When asked about where the series will go afterwards, Esenstein plays coy. "All I can say is that it's time to go big or go home, and for the fans that we've gained, their loyalty will be rewarded."

Springbok also announced that they will provide cash for one of the network's biggest primetime series, The Practice, which has been hailed as a refreshingly un-glamorized legal procedural compared to its predecessors and peers, especially regarding ethical dilemmas. "We are content with keeping shows like this alive and not actually producing," Todd states. "Sometimes, the money and the credit doesn't matter."


"Springbok Buys Out Dixie Chicks' Contract From Sony," Billboard, July 15, 2003

Springbok Productions' record label arm, Exploitation Records, has officially chosen to buy out the Dixie Chicks' contract from Sony Music to show support and solidarity with the beleaguered country music trio.

The band has been buffeted with criticism and anger after lead singer Natalie Maines' comments denouncing President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, which led to an industry blacklist, bonfires, radio stations pulling support, several dates on their North American tour being cancelled, and death threats aplenty.

Exploitation Records has announced that they have the rights to the Dixie Chicks' entire discography and all future records, and will relaunch the album the band has been touring behind, last year's Home, in order to boost its performance. This includes releasing a previously planned, then cancelled, remix of the song "Travelin' Soldier" by Sheryl Crow that was supposed to have been played on adult contemporary stations this spring. The label will also take over the rights to a live album and video of the current tour from Sony.


"Springbok's Saudi Surprise," Reuters, November 25, 2003

Springbok Productions received a surprise investment of an additional $3.5 billion today. $500 million of that money came from businessman Ronald Burkle, founder of Yucaipa Companies, the private equity firm, as well as for his fundraising and acquaintance with Democratic politicians. Another $500 million came from Deutsche Bank. However, the rest of the money comes from a very powerful face, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. Known as the "Arabian Warren Buffett", Al-Waleed is known for being founder and CEO of Kingdom Holding Company, which has investments and/or minority stakes in Four Seasons, Hotel George V, Ford Motor Company, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, News Corporation, PepsiCo, McDonald's, Saks Incorporated, eBay, Apple, Citigroup, AOL Time Warner, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Marvel and Disney.

Besides being involved in these companies and the Saudi royal family, he owns a great deal of his wealth to his family's involvement in the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, or Saudi Aramco, which holds the world's second-largest proven crude oil reserves, which clearly means massive revenues.

It has come out through a transcript of the minutes of the meeting and an investors' call that co-founders Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron were not supportive of having Al-Waleed invest in the company, because of his oil company ties and and wanting to stay out of Middle Eastern politics. However, Springbok's board of directors, especially CFO James W. Keyes and the accountants, overrode the founders, stating that the prince would crowbar his way into the company some way or another, and it would be best to accommodate him. They also stressed, through the wording of the term sheet, that it would be a one-time only investment, with no further involvement or contact with Al-Waleed, the rest of the Saudi royal family, or Saudi Aramco. It also included a planned "ejection" clause with which to kick Al-Waleed out should "the situation materially change." A press release, with appropriate disclaimers and clarification, including an implicit distancing from Al-Waleed, would be included.

For now, at least, Springbok's capitalization is further shored up by Al-Waleed's infusion of capital, as well as gaining a powerful figure regarding the company's potential expansion and release of its projects in the Middle East. Springbok has come off a record year of success with films like Kill Bill, The School of Rock and Monster.


"Springbok, MTV, Sony And Partners Hack Into New Series Code Lyoko," IGN, April 5, 2004

In little more than two weeks, MTV will premiere a bold new animated series called Code Lyoko, a fantasy-adventure action series set in the heart of cyberspace. The show, which is heavily inspired by the 1982 Disney film Tronand more recent fare such as the short-lived Fox series Dark Angel, focuses on a group of French high school students that live double lives; part of the day, they are normal students with all the normal concerns, the rest of the time, they are fierce warriors that travel to a virtual world called Lyoko to defeat a malignant virus named XANA and prevent it from destroying the world.

The show, which premieres on April 20, comes from Denver and Delilah Animation, the animation projects division of Springbok Productions, the young upstart company founded by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife, Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, alongside MTV Studios. Joining them in the venture are EuropaCorp, the company founded by French director Luc Besson; Renaissance Pictures, the production company founded by director Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and actor Bruce Campbell; and a French animation company, Moonscoop. In addition to having a commitment for at least three seasons at MTV, the producers also have a deal with Sony's Columbia Pictures division to release three full-length theatrical films, to be directed by Besson and co-produced by MTV Films.

Springbok and several of their partners decided to drop by and give IGN the inside scoop on the new show.

Says Besson: "The story starts with the two creators, Thomas Romain and Tania Palumbo. They had an idea for a Tron-inspired animated series, with high-stakes adventure and fantasy, RPG-like combat in a virtual world against a malignant enemy trying to destroy the human race. I happened to meet them in the late '90s, at a cafe, and they came up to me, recognized me, talked about how much they liked my films, and that I'd inspired them to work on this concept they had. They shared it with me, and I was hooked from the word go. It happened that with my leaving Gaumont and setting up EuropaCorp, one of the things I really wanted for the company to find or create a viable children's franchise, something for the young, an audience certainly different than what I'm used to delivering for. I also wanted to find a project suitable for my wife (actress Milla Jovovich), because we'd lost the Katheryn Bigelow Joan of Arc film (Company of Angels), and I'd promised her I'd give her something. As it turned out, she wanted this one just as badly. So I told Thomas and Tania that I wanted in on the ground floor, and I'd help them make it as great as it can be."

While Besson, Jovovich, and Besson's frequent collaborator Robert Mark Kamen began coming up with initial ideas for the franchise alongside the creators, the tenor of the show really changed and word got around to Springbok Productions, by virtue of a time Besson ran into Cobain and Theron. And because of their own industry connections, they found people who were just as interested in the idea.

As Theron says: "Luc really sold us on the whole thing at once. Then, because Kurt and I knew Sam and Rob, because of our guest slot appearances for Xena,Jack of All Trades and Cleopatra 2525, we knew that they had the juice to help sell this concept for television, so it took all of us little time to join in and begin the process of really planning out how we were going to pull it off."

Work on the show's story bible, which gathers together all the information, plot background, character traits and outline of the story's events, began in earnest. Romain, Palumbo, Besson, Jovovich, Kamen, Raimi and his brother Ivan all came up with ideas. But the main person responsible for marshaling it together into a coherent form and making it a polished diamond is Ryan Murphy, a young and ambitious writer who had created a short-lived show, POPular, for The WB, and also has a new and hugely successful show, Nip/Tuck, on FX. Murphy found the key to make the project work, and became the showrunner as well.

"Ryan has a brilliant mind, and a singular talent," Tapert says. "He could see through the muck and the mire and ascertain the way forward to create a story that hit the target at last. We predict great things for him in the future, and he will truly be someone to look out for and notice in the years to come."

As to what the background is that was so painstakingly crafted? "Definitely can't give too much away. Just know that we have a really strong and interesting narrative, a grand scale adventure, and a lot of effort went into it, starting with a lot of painstaking research, examining history and technology. We also talked with some notable filmmakers and storytellers to get some input and for them to look at things, give pointers here and there. Throughout this project and working on it, we've had the likes of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon, John Lasseter and Brad Bird all dropped in, take a look at the story bible and the scripts, and they gave their opinions about the series quite freely, gave us some interesting leads to follow and see if they'd pan out. It was a lot of fun, being in the company of the masters, knowing they really loved what we were doing and wanted it to succeed."

Everything about Code Lyoko is clearly built with the intention to really stand out, complete with its animation style. Stan Kinsey, head of Denver and Delilah Animation, explains it. "The real world is two-dimensional animation. It's made in a style very similar to anime, though definitely tempered with a Western sensibility. It's also made to be painstakingly natural and believable, to make one think that it could very well be happening in our own world right now. Lyoko is CGI, it definitely has a video game aesthetic to it, particularly familiar to those who play fantasy RPG titles often. Lyoko also has different sectors with different terrain: ice, mountain, desert and forest. They have their own character, their own behavior, their own identity. They're also made to essentially be an abstraction of Earth's biomes rather than be realistic, Matrix-like simulations. They represent both the possibilities and the limitations that we, as a collective species, face already with the Internet and the idea of virtual reality. We've been anticipating and salivating at the ideas of how these things can bring us together and also make us more than we are, but that concept isn't fully there yet. We certainly have visionaries and talented people trying to cobble it, the figures and people like a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates, but they can only do so much."

Among other notable elements is that at the end of each episode, there will be an interlude for "animated music videos." The concept is that famed music videos that have played on MTV over its nearly 25-year existence will be brought out to played in relation to the episode, and footage from the video and/or live performance footage will be combined with both animation of the show and new animated sequences created solely for the video interlude. The intention is to be similar to Beavis and Butt-Head, when the duo riff on music videos, except featuring no commentary and using the videos and/or songs in full length. A deal has also been signed with Interscope Records to release soundtrack albums compiling the songs, rather than having Springbok reserve it for its own label, Exploitation Records. "A lot of songs are going to be licensed from other labels, anyways, so it doesn't matter who releases the albums."

Cross-promotional opportunities are abounding for the show. Hasbro has signed a deal to create merchandise and toys based on the show. Burger King will do meal and kids meal tie-ins. Pepsi/Frito-Lay will do some tie-ins. General Mills has a deal for a promotional cereal. Hot Topic has signed to be the exclusive retailer of apparel for the series. Video games are in the planning stages. Dark Horse Comics will create comics based on the series. And Springbok's own publisher, Autumn Deer Publishing, will create novelizations of the series as well. And sweepstakes and giveaways aplenty are planned, especially through the series' website.

"Basically, just everything that you can imagine to be done to promote this series, is being done," Jennifer Todd states. "An aggressive marketing push is definitely planned out and we will truly make the most of it all. All of it adds up to making quite an impressive work that will hopefully be one of the most important animated series today, we truly believe. Of course, that's no guarantee of success. If it finds its intended audience, then it will. If it doesn't, it doesn't, and we're perfectly fine with however it pans out. Besides we have plenty of other ideas and projects in the works and we'll make sure to really give each one the care, love and attention that it deserves."


"In Talk: Springbok Productions," by Peter Edmonston, Forbes, May 1, 2004

Springbok Productions, the entertainment company founded by Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd back in 1999, has revealed itself as the best new company to emerge in the last decade. The golden string of success it has had in film, television, musical theater, animation, book publishing and music releasing shows that it is no mere fluke, but a very real company with strong legs to stand on. To give us an idea of how much this can unfold, I had the honor of asking a few questions to Theron, Todd, Jerry Weintraub and Walter Yetnikoff.

Q: In the space of just five years, Springbok has gone from startup and another vanity production studio to a real powerhouse that everyone wants to work with. How do you explain this?

CT: Well, Kurt has really honed my instincts, and I have for his. It also helps that we have the likes of Jennifer, Jerry, Irving (Azoff) and Walter at our side.

JT: There are many project ideas that land at our desk, more than we can count. It is somewhat humbling to know that.

Q: Jennifer, do you still work with your sister, Suzanne, who now works at Ben Affleck's production company, Pearl Street?

JT: Of course. I know our last production together (Idle Hands) wasn't anything special, but should failure be held against someone forever? Everyone has a dud, and Springbok is not immune to this. When we fail, it's not because we didn't try our damnedest or didn't believe in the project.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the Devil's Advocate series that is in development right now?

CT: Kevin and Mary Ann Lomax will only be featured in the pilot, which will take place right after the end of the movie. The rest of the episodes, of which we plan for at least two seasons, will be about all sorts of people and their connection to John Milton. We'll get to look into the lives of people from the movie, like Christabella, Eddie Barzoon and Alexander Cullen, and many new characters as well. Everyone from the film is reprising their roles, with the obvious exception of Jeffrey (Jones, who was recently convicted for possession of child pornography).

Q: Is there anything that you can tell us about what kind of projects that haven't yet been formally announced in the trades that you're working on?

CT: Well, now that we have an in at Fox, hopefully we can get the Alienfranchise back on track, and rescue it from the hole that the third film placed it in. We've had conversations with them, Jim (Cameron) and Ridley (Scott) about doing all kinds of things, like expanding on the "Space Jockey" and creating an actual, worthy sequel to Aliens. I, personally, have also always wanted to pay respects to where I came from, to identify, nurture and assist South African talent and bring them out in the mainstream.

JT: The Disney connections are truly paying dividends. Bob Iger is definitely on the same wavelength as us, and he knows how to keep Michael Eisner in line. Disney's America is truly taking shape, complete with a 5000 seat amphitheater for live music that Nirvana will play on opening day. With our interest in musical theater, we plan to be involved in future Disney stage productions, like their planned transfers of The Little Mermaid and Tarzan, as well as an English stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Besides the productions Springbok has already made for ABC, we're also involved on the sidelines of much of their other programming. We funnel necessary funds to keep the ABC Daytime lineup alive, and we also committed to saving The Practice. In fact, Bob listened to us and Roy Edward Disney, and got rid of two individuals who could easily hold Disney back in terms of TV, Brian Frons, who was head of ABC Daytime, and Anne Sweeney, who headed the Disney-ABC Television Group. They were very much trend-setting, cost-cutting, bottom line-driven people, who didn't necessarily care about the quality of the shows or respecting the audience's intelligence. For example, we got them to start making home video releases of soaps, as well as to do so for on-demand video, so people can follow the storylines from the beginning.

JW: I personally have been pursuing a chance to do a reboot of Westworld for some time now. It's basically my pet project, and I have faith that here at Springbok, we will unlock the key to making it happen. I also very much like to look forward to everything that I can also bring in terms of stage and musical ventures as well. I'm personally getting quite involved in the Michael Jackson vehicle MidKnight, and helping find a suitable director for that.

Q: Is there a reason that only two divisions of Springbok have different names than the rest of the organization? What was the rationale behind Exploitation Records and Denver & Delilah Animation?

CT: Kurt had the name Exploitation Records long before he even met me. And I always wanted to name something after our dogs.

Q: Exploitation Records has certainly made a name for itself in terms of the artists that it has signed, and how visible new releases by legacy artists surprisingly are now. It's like they have a new lease on life. Who are you especially pleased that you managed to do that for?

WY: Kansas, definitely. They are a beloved institution in music, and one of the greatest bands to ever exist. It was definitely an honor to help relaunch their Somewhere to Elsewhere album and make it a bona fide hit, along with (frontman and keyboardist) Steve Walsh's album Glossolalia. Boston is also another band that felt wonderful to make a hit all over again. Corporate America, especially the song "I Had A Good Time", truly feels like the best album Tom (Scholz) and Brad (Delp) have done since Third Stage.

Q:Is there anyone that you wanted to sign, but couldn't get?

WY: Well, when we managed to get Michael and Cyndi Lauper, we knew that Sony wasn't going to let go of Celine Dion, who I definitely wanted. They also wouldn't want to lose the likes of Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, because of the importance and name recognition they brought to Columbia Records. Universal/Interscope/Geffen is holding on firmly to Guns N' Roses, and Warners has Van Halen. You make do with what you can.


"Springbok Announces New Animation Projects," by Diana Lodderhouse, Variety, July 14, 2004

Springbok Productions' animation division, Denver and Delilah Animation, has announced two upcoming animated series, one for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, and the other for HBO.

The first is Squidbillies, about a family of squids in rural Georgia struggling to get by, and their frequent altercations with the law, a megalomaniacal billionaire developer, and polite society in general. The patriarch of the family, Early Cuyler, will be voiced by comedic psychobilly performer Unknown Hinson, as a gesture of thanks from Springbok for his assistance with Nirvana's incendiary political concept album Dixie Dope.

The other series will be a limited, ten-episode series version the 2000 film Titan A.E., a sci-fi movie directed by Don Bluth that was a massive box office flop upon release. The new version is intended to be a radical restructuring of the entire project, with a length of 20 hours.

No premiere dates have been given.


"Springbok Acquires Two Record Label Groups For $10 Million," Billboard, August 23, 2004

Springbok Productions announced two record label acquisitions for a total of $10 million, one active, and one library group that is nearly shuttered. These acquisitions are made with the intent to add the releases under these groups to Springbok's record label arm, Exploitation Records, and do a remastering campaign.

The active label being acquired is Sh-K Boom Records, a pop-oriented label started by Broadway actress Sherie Rene Scott; it also includes the label Ghostlight Records, intended for releases of Broadway and stage production cast recordings. Springbok paid $7 million for the label and imprint, and will soon move to relabel the library and remaster them as Exploitation Records releases.

The less active label being acquired for a mere $3 million is Compendia Music Group, a record label and distributor based in Nashville that used an in-house system of distributing the artists on its own labels (as well as being the third-party distribution apparatus for other labels) from the warehouses directly to the retailers.

The Compendia group has been quite troubled for nearly a decade. The main bedrock of Compendia is the former label Intersound Records, formed by former Pickwick Records executive Don Johnson (no relation to the Miami Viceactor), who purchased some Pickwick assets in 1982 and formed Intersound. Intersound had a notable in house distribution system from warehouse to retailers based in Roswell, Georgia and Alpharetta, Georgia, which did well financially for the privately owned company, especially since Intersound's roster of artists did not do massively well in terms of sales figures. The most notable artists signed to the label were Kansas, during a period after losing their CBS Music/Sony Music deal and could only link up with Intersound for their 1992 live album Live at the Whisky and their 1995 studio album Freaks of Nature. (Kansas ended up signed to Exploitation Records in 2001.) In 1996, Intersound was purchased by Platinum Entertainment in a $29 million cash and debt deal.

Platinum Entertainment, founded by Steve Devick in 1991, was a company focused largely on gospel music, but also branched out by signing older artists in other genres rather than developing new talent. Besides Intersound, Platinum Entertainment's main label was River North Records, named after a famed Chicago-area recording studio, knowng for releasing The Beach Boys' much-maligned country artist mashup tribute Stars and Stripes Vol. 1. It also acquired the Christian label Diadem. Platinum Entertainment lost its footing after the turn of the millennium, and filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

In 2001, several Platinum assets were reorganized into Compendia Music Group, with its distribution apparatus based in Alpharetta, until choosing in 2003 to shutter it and sign a distribution pact with Koch Records. However, Compendia did not fare well in either case, and is well on the verge to bankruptcy once more and having its library acquired on the cheap by someone who will then fold the company. That someone happened to be Springbok.

Exploitation Records also relies on an in-house distribution system, without a third party, but in its case, with many notable veteran artists in a variety of genres, the profit margins are extremely high, especially thanks to established industry connections with retailers, the Internet, radio, MTV and VH1. Exploitation Records will take the libraries of both labels, remaster and re-release them in a spirited campaign. Among the first such release planned is a re-release of Live at the Whisky, both the album and the concert video, which was released only on VHS and has since gone out of print. The video has been disowned by the band, but Exploitation Records promises that it will do right by the project and the band with the release and remastering of the video.


"How Springbok Changed the Music Industry," Forbes, September 13, 2004

"I think that what Springbok, and Exploitation Records in particular, has done has made things far less stressful and acrimonious," Irving Azoff, who is a key player in the organization, states firmly. The massively successful manager (who has managed The Eagles (as well as the solo careers of Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh), REO Speedwagon, Journey, Lindsey Buckingham, Dan Fogelberg, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Sammy Hagar (until after the drama-filled Best Of Both Worlds tour with Van Halen, after which he split from the Red Rocker to manage Van Halen itself), Meat Loaf, and Nirvana; and who also managed MCA Records in the '80s before moving to Warners and founding Giant Records in the '90s), best known as being described by Don Henley as "our Satan", gives a "cat who ate the canary" smile as he talks. "A precedent was set. Every artist on the roster has artistic freedom, with the potential to earn the right to not have their albums rejected by the label. They have full ownership of their masters and timely and equitable royalty payments. The label treats each act and their release as a priority, with full connections to radio stations, MTV, VH1, and all the possibilities that the Internet has provided. You have to spend money to make money, and give the artists plenty of rope, including raises. Because it's the long-term revenue streams that matter most, not the money that comes in immediately."

Azoff chuckles a little. "For too long, the labels and the executives that run them have been guilty of shortsightedness, continual laziness in wanting to repeat formulas, and milking every last cent out of their acts, without regard to the future. And without Springbok, that paradigm was never going to change. Because it's not just gaining all the acts we can that gives us joy. It's getting all the other labels, major and indie, to wake up and smell the coffee at last. I can say that our poaching of so many legacy acts and giving them a new lease on life did the trick. Because now, you have Sony, UMG, WEA, Disney and indies like Sanctuary, Frontiers and Edel AG sweetening the pot to their remaining artists so that they wouldn't jump ship and come to us. Because of that, we have almost eradicated litigation in that sector, and, along with how the industry as a whole changed by sensing that the Internet was going to be an important part of selling music and embracing selling MP3 files through their own websites early on, ensured that the coffers of the industry will always be nice and fat."

Besides the recent purchases of two old independent labels to add prestige and assets to the company, as well as being the first new label (besides Jimmy Buffett's Mailboat Records) to retail directly to consumers without a third-party distributor (such as how the Disney-owned Hollywood Records is distributed via UMG), Springbok/Exploitation recently created a special advisory board in which many of the leading managers in the music industry today, regardless of whether or not any of their clients are signed to Exploitation Records, can get together and discuss new developments and use each other's clout to their advantage. Besides Azoff and Springbok figure Jerry Weintraub (who besides his legendary film production credits also managed John Denver and The Carpenters, and helped book Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley's performances), the advisory board is filled with many notable managers, including:

-Howard Kaufman, once Azoff's lieutenant in the '70s, but later created his own agency with some of Azoff's clients, and manages the likes of Aerosmith, Stevie Nicks and Michael Jackson currently

-John McClain and Dieter Weisner, other members of Michael Jackson's management team

-Ray Danniels, longtime manager of Rush, and previously also managed Extreme and Van Halen during the '90s

-Larry Rudolph, manager of Britney Spears

-Punch Andrews, longtime manager of Bob Seger and now also manages Kid Rock

-Allen Kovac, manager of Meat Loaf, Richard Marx, Yes, Blondie, Deborah Harry, Hanson, Ashba and Motley Crue

-David Sonenberg, manager of Meat Loaf's famed collaborator Jim Steinman, and also manages the likes of Joan Osborne, The Spin Doctors, The Fugees and Wyclef Jean

-Jerry Heller, hip-hop manager who cut his teeth with N.W.A.

-Roger Davies, longtime manager of Tina Turner and Janet Jackson, former manager of Olivia Newton-John and also currently manages Cher and Pink

-Merck Mercuriadis, current manager of Elton John and Guns N' Roses

-Andy Gould, manager of Rob Zombie and co-manager of Guns N' Roses and Pantera

-Walter O'Brien, manager of Pantera and related side projects Down, Superjoint Ritual and Damageplan

-Jim Beach, longtime manager of Queen, even after the death of Freddie Mercury

-Sandy Gallin, former manager of Cher and Michael Jackson in the late '80s and early '90s, manager of Dolly Parton and partner in their production company Sandollar Productions, responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer

-Rene Angelil, manager and husband of Celine Dion

-Elliott Roberts, founder of Asylum Records with David Geffen in 1970, former manager of Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Talking Heads, and longtime manager of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman and The Cars

-Jeff Rosen, current manager of Bob Dylan

-Richard Bishop and Seppo Vestrinerien, former managers of '80s glam metal band Hanoi Rocks, whom Exploitation Records has recently signed with hopes to make the reformed band finally break through in North America

-C.M. Murphy, manager of Australian band INXS

-Guy Oseary, manager of Madonna and partner in Maverick Records

-Paul McGuinness, longtime manager of U2, as well as PJ Harvey

-Frank DiLeo, former manager of Michael Jackson and Madonna

-John Silva, once Nirvana's main manager in Gold Mountain Entertainment, but still part of their management team

-Danny Goldberg, once Silva's partner in Gold Mountain, and previously cut his teeth being North American manager for Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers Band

-Steve Stewart, longtime manager of Stone Temple Pilots

-Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein, heads of Q Prime, management branch for Metallica, The Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers

-Doc McGhee, manager of Kiss, Scorpions, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Skid Row, former manager of Motley Crue and Bon Jovi

-Susan Silver, manager of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains

-Phil Ehart, drummer and manager of Kansas

-Bud Carr, former manager of Kansas until 1989

-Joe Rascoff, business manager for The Rolling Stones

-Joyce Smyth, lawyer and manager for Mick Jagger as well as co-manager of The Rolling Stones

-Jane Rose, Keith Richards' manager

-Lee and John Eastman, manager and lawyer for Paul McCartney, also father and brother of his wife, Linda

-Danny Sugerman, manager of The Doors as a brand since the death of Jim Morrison and manager of the new live version, The Doors of the 21st Century

-Bill Curbishley, manager of The Who and Roger Daltrey's solo career

-Richard Flanzer, manager of Jackson Browne and former manager of Roger Daltrey

-David Spero, former manager of Michael Stanley and Joe Walsh, manager of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam and Dave Mason

-Tony Smith, manager of Genesis and the solo careers of Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford

-Anita Camarata, credited as manager of the Sex Pistols as a brand, and personal manager of Steve Jones

-Eric Gardner, chairman of tour coordination company Panacea Entertainment and manager of Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon and Todd Rundgren

-Sharon Osbourne, wife and manager of Ozzy Osbourne as well as manager of Black Sabbath

-Wendy Dio, wife and manager of Ronnie James Dio

When queried about whether the new advisory board effectively means the music industry is now a de facto oligarchy, Azoff merely chuckles once more. "What else is new? If anything, it's always been that way. We're basically making it more honest."


"Springbok And New Line Sign Three-Picture Deal," by Army Archerd, Variety, October 4, 2004

Springbok Productions officially signed a deal to produce three films to be distributed by New Line Cinema. The intent is to produce films that fit the New Line aesthetic and are vastly different from each other.

"New Line is a great partner for us," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd says. "Their history is one of incredible resilience and success, in fields of artistry, story, comedy, drama and sweeping epics. We are justly proud of this deal."

"I am thrilled to be working with Springbok," New Line co-CEO Robert Shaye states. "Springbok has achieved so much in a short amount of time, and we are honored to work with them."


"The First Five Years...And What We Can Expect The Next Five To Be Like," Springbok Press release, October 16, 2004

As to the future, much can be expected. New additions to help lead (or be point men for) the various branches of the company, taken from various legends of the industry, continue to occur. Among these additions are legendary film producers David V. Picker, Robert Evans and Albert S. Ruddy, former CAA head Michael Ovitz, former New Line Cinema/DreamWorks figure Michael De Luca, former Disney and 20th Century Fox producer Bill Mechanic, film producers Mark Damon and Donald Kushner (who both worked on Monster, and Mr. Kushner also was a producer for Tron as well as creator of the Kushner-Locke Company, which created The Brave Little Toaster, and is now official folded into Denver and Delilah Animation) and Sony Music chairman Don Ienner. And while not directly involved in the company, Springbok also has very cordial and close relations with Howard and Robert Stringer of Sony; Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal; Michael Eisner, Bob Iger, John Lasseter and Meryl Poster of Disney, Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert of Renaissance Pictures and Ghost House Pictures; George Lucas and the entire Lucasfilm family, film producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall; Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg and much of the Amblin Entertainment/DreamWorks Pictures family; Interscope Records/Universal Music Group head Jimmy Iovine; film director Luc Besson; Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne of New Line Cinema; longtime Batmanexecutive producers Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan; visionary director James Cameron and his production company Lightstorm Entertainment; director Ridley Scott, his brother Tony and their production company Scott Free Productions; film producing legends Barry Diller and Bill Haber (and their stage production group USA Ostar Theatricals); Studio Ghibli and other anime production companies; Shonen Jump and Viz Media; Stuart Levy and Tokyopop; Adult Swim founder and head Mike Lazzo; Broadway producers Barry and Fran Weissler, Leonard Soloway, Bob Boyett, Lawrence Horowitz, Roy Furman and Michael Gardner; concert promoters Michael Cohl, Robert F.X. Sillerman, Randy Phillips, David Fishof, David Gest, Frank Barsalona, Harvey Goldsmith and Mr. Udo; stage producer Cameron Mackintosh; and Andrew Lloyd Webber and his Really Useful Group production company.

Springbok has officially announced the creation of a new division dedicated to creating English dubs of popular anime, as well as film and television adaptations of the same. Dubbed Enima (anime spelled backwards, as well as reflecting Kurt's sense of humor), this division is expected to help bring about a massive upswing in international popularity for a notable art form, and attract the absolute best, talented individuals to bring the characters and stories to life. Enima will have much to talk about by this time next year, having been invited to be keynote speakers at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2005, and is also currently working hand in glove with Disney for their dubs of the films of Studio Ghibli and visionary director Hayao Miyazaki.

Denver and Delilah Animation officially is proud to confirm the reports are true...a ten episode, 20-hour adaptation of the film Titan A.E. is in the works. Produced in conjunction with Tom Hanks and his production company Playtone, the series will premiere on HBO in the summer of 2007. Titan A.E. tells the story of an alien invasion that destroys the Earth, the human survivors struggling to adapt in the far reaches of space, and other intelligent life forms that they interact with. But when embittered loner Cale Tucker learns that his long-deceased scientist father hid a powerful ship known as the Titan, which contains the ability to create a new planet for humanity, an intense, white-knuckle race to find it is on. The series will take the basic story of the original 2000 film and expand upon it, with further fleshed out backstories, thrilling obstacles at every corner, and a greater list of supporting characters to bring the universe into great detail. The show features a highly talented cast, including Nathan Fillion (Firefly) as Cale, Patrick Swayze as Joseph Korso, the swaggering captain of the Valkyrie and oldest friend of Cale's father, Gwendoline Yeo (Final Fantasy X-2) as Akima, the ship's pilot and foil to Cale, Dana Snyder (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies) as Preed, the sarcastic and sardonic first mate, Winona Ryder as Stith, the temperamental weapons specialist and gunner, and Jeff Goldblum as Gune, the neurotic navigator and inventor. Also featured in the show, as a variety of new characters, are the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, Ken Watanabe, Michael Madsen, Viola Davis, Tara Strong, William Fichtner and Tom Hanks. And as a link to the past, Ron Perlman reprises his role in the film as Professor Sam Tucker, the inventor of the Titan. The series is co-created and developed by Brian Helgeland, the talented screenwriter behind L.A. Confidential and Mystic River, who is also the show's frontrunner. Original film directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman will serve as executive producers.

In addition to its work on Adult Swim that is currently known, such as ATHF and the forthcoming Squidbillies, another production for the programming block is in the works. Entitled Metalocalypse, the show, created by Brandon Small of Home Movies, revolves around metal group Dethklok and their dealing with a level of fame and fan hysteria that puts The Beatles to shame. It is expected to drop in 2006. But Denver and Delilah is not content to simply create animation for more mature audiences. Besides its continuing involvement in Code Lyoko, it is proud to announce, that debuting shortly on Nickelodeon, it will be involved in a breathtaking and wholly original new concept entitled Avatar: The Last Airbender. Set against a dazzling backdrop inspired heavily by Chinese mythology and martial arts, the show tells the story of world, centered on the four elements of water, earth, fire and air, at war against the encroaching and tyrannical reach of the Fire Nation, where only the Avatar, the master of all four elements, can save them. But the road to such a victory is long and arduous, and filled with discovery along the way.

While development on massive tentpole features for 2005 such as Batman Begins and Memoirs of a Geisha have been underway, Springbok was in successful negotiations to officially purchase fellow production company Brandywine Productions, the group responsible for the Alien franchise, and which has been sitting dormant since the polarizing 1992 release of Alien 3 and a cancelled sequel to that film. While it is far too early to say anything definitively, Springbok is confident that a legendary franchise can surely be resurrected to its former glory that the original two movies established. After all, the success of the Disney theme parks attraction Alien: Terror Incarnate has demonstrated that there is a definite audience waiting for such an event. Springbok has also purchased Lexington Road Productions. An active financier in film, television and theatre, it is managed by sister company, East of Doheny (East of Doheny will remain independent). Theatre credits include Broadway productions of Not About Nightingales and Sweet Smell of Success; National Tour of Art; London productions of Cressida and Napoleon, L.A. production of Flower Drum Song. Films include Merchant of Venice shown on the BBC and Masterpiece Theatre (PBS); the John Sayles movie Men With Guns; the IMAX film Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box; and theatricals A Time for Dancingand The Big Empty. The coin of Lexington Road Productions will help in financing and production of other projects, including the financing of documentaries by other producers. In addition, it has been officially confirmed that negotiations to enter a three-picture deal with Mel Gibson's Icon Productions have concluded satisfactorily. We are truly blessed to be working with Mel, Bruce Davey, and the rest of the Icon family, the same team responsible for the likes of Braveheartand We Were Soldiers. Mel's work behind the camera is truly something to admire, and we are proud to help make more cinematic history together.

Kurt and Nirvana's very good friends Tenacious D, headed by actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass, are also considered important members of the Springbok family. Ever since assisting with the production and release of their 2001 self-titled album and JB's iconic role in the Springbok-produced 2003 hit film The School of Rock, plans for a feature length Tenacious D film and a soundtrack album are proceeding quite smoothly. Scheduled to be released by New Line Cinema sometime in 2006, it promises to be hilarious and truly rocking.

With the success of legendary lyricist and producer Jim Steinman's Dance of the Vampires, the early workshop production of the forthcoming musical Lestat, and impressive reviews for the film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, Springbok's musical theatre arm is naturally keen to continue to grow. Plans for a somewhat revamped stage version of Phantom for a North American tour and a Las Vegas spectacular are in the works, to incorporate some of the changes in the film, and possibly encourage the same to happen in the main New York, London, Toronto and L.A. productions. Springbok also plans to assist in a Broadway transfer of Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical, The Woman in White, currently playing in the West End, as well as mounting an American tour and later a full production of Whistle Down the Wind, his collaboration with Mr. Steinman, which broke box office records during its three-year run in London's Aldwych Theatre. Springbok has officially signed a deal with Walt Disney Theatrical to help work on their planned stage transfers of Tarzan, The Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins, as well as an English version of their stage transfer of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which played successfully for three years in Berlin, Germany. Springbok has thrown money into (though is not fully producing) a film version of the successful Broadway musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' The Producers, is fully producing additional stage versions of the same, and is working with Mr. Brooks on planned musical versions of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. In addition, Springbok is throwing money to produce a large-scale revival of Barry Keating's Starmites, which played on Broadway in 1989 and had a recent revival in 2001, along with countless high school and college productions since. They will be assisted by Mr. Steinman, who is Mr. Keating's oldest and best friend, as well as Mary Keil, who produced the original version and joined Mr. Steinman in producing Starmites 2001. Mr. Steinman is also keen to turn the legendary Bat Out of Helltrilogy into a full-fledged stage musical spectacular, based somewhat on his original 1977 Stuart Ostrow Musical Theatre Lab production Neverland at the Kennedy Center (itself based on his 1969 Amherst College production The Dream Engine), which evolved into the albums, which Springbok is eager to make a reality. (Sadly, despite rumors, Mr. Steinman's other big dream, a musical version of Tim Burton's Batman, will not come to fruition, as Batman Begins has officially made Warner Bros. decide to break away from the past once and for all. Nor will there be London and/or New York productions of Warner Brown's musical Garbo, to which Mr. Steinman composed melodies and which opened to indifferent reactions in Stockholm in September 2002.) Springbok is keeping tabs on the announced collaboration between Stephen King and John Mellencamp, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which promises to be unlike any other musical in the past. It is also hoped that an English-language production of Michael Kunze's popular European musical, Elisabeth, will also be in the works. Herr Kunze wrote the original book for Dance of the Vampires, and he truly is an underrated talent that must be more renowned. And long-gestating plans for film versions of the legendary musicals Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables are planned to be in Springbok's future.

Exploitation Records plans to take advantage of its recent signing of Finnish glam metal band Hanoi Rocks to help bring them to the forefront. The band, which the members of Guns N' Roses have long acknowledged as being a major influence on them, were on the verge of megastardom when their drummer, Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley, died in a vehicular manslaughter incident involving Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil in December 1984. The band broke up shortly afterwards, but in 2002, the two key members, frontman Michael Monroe and lead guitarist Andy McCoy, decided to reform a "reborn" Hanoi Rocks, that did not involve any of the other surviving original members. Their 2002 return album, Twelve Shots on the Rocks, was initially released without any real traction. So, to take advantage of the release of their forthcoming new album next year, Exploitation Records will relaunch the entire Hanoi discography to give them the spotlight they deserve. Particular attention will be given to the last album as well as 1984's Two Steps from the Move, with their anthemic hits "Don't You Ever Leave Me", "Underwater World", "Million Miles Away" and a rousing cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Up Around the Bend." Exploitation Records is also takings its efforts to relaunch and showcase a band that actually is not currently active (and never will be again)...Oingo Boingo, the band fronted by Danny Elfman, who later went on to a renowned career scoring films, particularly his lengthy collaborations with director Tim Burton. Treating the group as an active entity, the entire Oingo Boingo discography will be relaunched with extensive promotion, including splashy, high-concept music videos combining footage from the pre-existing clips, live performance footage, and all new scenes in live action or animation to demonstrate the stories in the lyrics. A special remastered version of their live album and video Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre-Halloween 1995 is in the works, as is a massive CD/DVD box set showcasing the band's entire series of its legendary Halloween concerts at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre and Universal Amphitheatre over its career. With all this, a band that toiled in obscurity its entire career will be admired and beloved by the public at large at last.

And lastly, Springbok has officially decided to drop its hat in the ring of the world of video games, veering from simply throwing in money to help fund titles on a "special thanks" basis, to being actively involved in the development. While the plans for this part of the company are admittedly empty at the moment, that will change in time.


"Springbok Throws Its Hat into Anime Ring, Links Arms With Disney, Miyazaki," Anime News Network, October 18, 2004

Springbok Productions, the five-year-old success story founded by Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron, has announced as part of its aggressive expansion plans that it is expanding into the world of anime dubs and live action film and television adaptations of renowned anime series.

Dubbed Enima Studios (called as such by Cobain, because it is "anime" spelled backwards and also is clearly meant to be a humorous name, sounding like "enema"), the new Springbok division is hitting the ground running. It already announced a long-term partnership with The Walt Disney Company to be of assistance in the House of Mouse's distribution partnership in the films of Studio Ghibli, especially those of legendary director Hayao Miyazaki. Enima is joining Disney and Pixar/Walt Disney Animation Studios creative head John Lasseter in overseeing the English dubs yet to come in the deal. Currently, they are working on dubs for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso, and the mid-length film The Cat Returns, a semi-sequel to the renowned 1995 film Whisper of the Heart (though that film is definitely coming up soon on the list.) Both are also hard at work making the English dub for Miyazaki's latest film, Howl's Moving Castle, which will be released in North America next summer.

As for the film adaptation element, Enima is said to be looking into the rights for the recently-published manga series Death Note and to co-produce James Cameron's teased adaptation of Battle Angel Alita. Springbok, especially Cobain, has notable bona fides in the world of anime and manga, as Springbok's debut film was a live action film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, and Cobain is known to be friends with several notable manga authors like Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takaeuchi and Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha author Rumiko Takahashi, as well as with Tokyopop head Stuart Levy. Cobain and his ex-wife Courtney Love are also inspirations for the main characters in Levy's recent manga series Princess Ai.


"Anti-Defamation League Condemns Springbok-Gibson Pact," by Army Archerd, Variety, October 24, 2004

News of Springbok Productions' recently announced three-picture deal with Mel Gibson's Icon Productions has brought some of Gibson's old enemies out of the woodwork, with their ire also aimed at Springbok founders Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement on its website, blistering Springbok for the deal. "What Mr. Cobain, Ms. Theron and Ms. Todd fail to appreciate or understand is that in aligning with Mr. Gibson and his horrific film The Passion of the Christ, Springbok will be on track to normalize a new wave of anti-Semitism in this country and our public discourse. The film's whitewashing of Pilate's role in the crucifixion, its framing and lighting of the Jewish community and their particular appearance in the film, not to mention its excessive violence and focus on torture rather than Jesus' teachings, represents a new low for popular culture and its portrayal of the Jews. It is an abhorrent, appalling scene that makes Laurence Olivier's role in the 1980 version of The Jazz Singer seem tactful by comparison. And for every new attack on the Jewish faith that comes in the next few years, and from Mr. Gibson's mind, Cobain, Theron and Todd will share the blame."

The ADL's president, Abraham Foxman, gave no public statement of his own, and was not available for comment.

Todd issued a statement of her own. "Springbok has proudly donated to and worked on behalf of the ADL for several years, and also did likewise for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Elie Wiesel's foundation. Springbok has many close ties with the Jewish-American community, and we take their concerns seriously. If we weren't sure that Mel was a good man and a great artist, we wouldn't work with him."

The Passion of the Christ, about the last 12 hours of Jesus, has broken all records to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, but has been a flashpoint for controversy since it was announced.


Interview of Jennifer Todd by Charlie Rose, broadcast on PBS November 25, 2004

Today we're joined by Jennifer Todd, cofounder and CEO of Springbok Productions, and a veteran film producer with extensive experience in the '90s prior to that. She produced films such as Austin Powers, Memento andBoiler Room. Jennifer, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me, Charlie.

So, it's been five years since Springbok was founded by you, Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron, and you've become one of the biggest success stories in Hollywood in recent memory. How does it feel to be considered such a rising star in the industry?

Well, when we created Springbok, it was always our intention to create a company that could be a great vehicle for storytelling, be it in film, television, animation, musical theater, and now video games. Our motto is "Stories matter," and that's because we feel that the story is the star. It's the main point that sells a project, and to have stories be told the best they can be is why we're in the business.

Did you seek to change the world, be considered trailblazers at that?

It's complicated. We certainly wanted to have a real positive influence on the entertainment industry, and leave an impact so that it as a whole can evolve and grow, and put the emphasis on the story. It's great to have the stars, the director, the best visual effects, but you need to have the story to match.

Did you want to move to be considered in the running for the biggest production company, and a potential mini-studio to boot, when you founded the company?

Certainly not. We just wanted to get our projects up and running and out for audiences to enjoy. We weren't thinking about being the biggest or the most fearsome or anything like that. I don't think anyone does when they create such works. I don't think Walt Disney founded his studio with the intent for it to become a major and arguably the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. He just wanted to really impress audiences as an animator and utilize the best and most innovative methods to do so.

What does storytelling mean to you?

It means telling a narrative that resonates with everyone, that they like and would be happy to pay to experience. It can be extremely clever, it can be quite dumb and ridiculous, it can be funny, it can be scary, it can be tragic, it can be chronological or not, and it can be quite fun. It just needs to have a logic, not necessarily the standard logic, that makes it all make sense and work on a level the audience can accept, no matter what the reason is. It means finding the best way to tell that story, then hiring the best people that can bring it to life.

By hiring the best people, does that also apply in terms of working with fellow producers and companies?

Yes, quite. We often want to partner up with the best. We can easily go things alone, and will, but we really want to have someone to share the responsibility and the fun in making these projects. Having input like that to bounce off of sharpens the work, makes sure that it can be as best as possible.

Now, you recently raised a lot of eyebrows with your announcement that you had signed a special three-movie deal with Mel Gibson and his company, Icon Productions, who have come under so much fire recently for their movie The Passion of the Christ. Can you explain the reason for making the deal?

This ties in quite nicely with our philosophy of how we work. Icon fully finances their films, so that the studios are never on the hook for making them financially successful. We don't necessarily go that far, because of how our money is spread, but we provide up to half of our films' budgets, and we also take on a great chunk of the marketing budget as well. The idea is to shrink the studios' burden and thus make it easier for our projects to break even and be profitable. With lower hurdles to clear in terms of the combined budget and marketing costs, this will make it so that nine times out of ten, we will rake in massive profits.

And you don't foresee any problem working with Mel Gibson or feel at all uncomfortable for collaborating with him?

Not at all. Mel is an incredibly passionate and talented director, who knows how to tell stories well. I saw all that, not just in the likes of Braveheart, but his very first directorial effort, The Man Without a Face. I don't necessarily agree in terms of religious beliefs with The Passion, but it was a resonant and powerful film nonetheless. And we knew that someone who can manage something like that, and make the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, must have quite the gift. We were quite fated to end up together.

And what do you say to all those who have complained about Mel Gibson and his movie, have hurled accusations of anti-Semitism?

We very much believe that Mel is not a bigot, is not someone with hatred in his heart, and he has shown himself to be quite a jovial and generous figure, and a sparkling conversationalist. We may have diametrically different beliefs than his, especially politically, but he's quite fun to be around. You know, someone like Jodie Foster, someone as liberal as they come, is best friends with an unreconstructed ultra-conservative like Mel, so it works that way for us. And for all of those who have a problem with him, we certainly understand where they're coming from, and they have the right to feel that way, and to not like the movie. But in our experience, the Mel Gibson we know is not a man consumed with hatred, who despises the Jewish people.

You're known for having quite a large and diverse group of executives at Springbok.

You have me, Jerry Weintraub, Robert Evans, Al Ruddy, Michael De Luca and Bill Mechanic heading the studio part. There's Irving Azoff, Don Ienner, Walter Yetnikoff and Jason Flom at Exploitation Records. Much of the old Fox Animation Studio staff heads our animation division. That also happens to be made up of veterans of Don Bluth's old studio in Ireland; one of his key lieutenants, Fiona Trayler, has considerable day-to-day responsibility on all our animated projects. Michael Ovitz is there to help us rein in a lot of the best actors for projects. And there are our industry connections that are friends in a personal and financial sense. And we're actually in talks to bring Jon Peters and Peter Guber into the fold, as well.

Doesn't that sound like too many cooks spoiling the broth?

We know how to balance egos, keep leadership tight at the wheel, and ensure that we're not stepping on each other's toes. You know about Pixar and their "brain trust" meetings, where everyone in all parts of the company gets to talk frankly about projects? Disney has employed that model for themselves as a whole, and so have we, and believe me, it works. Besides, all that combined leadership experience will pay dividends.

Springbok has earned considerable operating profits for a private company. Have you ever considered the possibility of going public?

An IPO is something that we're always kicking around. We have made no firm timetable about holding one, but we certainly intend to hold one when the time is right. Right now, we don't yet feel we've reached that point. Right now, our focus has been operating and maintaining profitability. We helped this along because for the first five years, Kurt and Charlize did not draw a salary from the company. They specifically said they saw no reason to have that until they felt secure and that the company was on sure footing. They do own stock and options, as do I and all the employees, but the holdings aren't that big, because we plan to float a vast majority of the shares when we do have an IPO. We basically learned from the mistakes that a lot of companies made in the '90s, especially the dot-coms. The vast majority of those companies failed because they were rushed to market, wll before they were remotely profitable.

Where do you see Springbok in the next five years?

Besides our plans for going public, we just hope that the projects we come up with will be received well by the public. At the end of the day, that's all we want.


"New Springbok Executive Hires Announced," by Army Archerd, Variety, December 16, 2004

Springbok Productions today announced the hiring of several new executives to help project development at the company, all experienced and veteran hands in the industry.

As previously announced and hoped for, Springbok has hired Jon Peters and Peter Guber to the company. Peters got his start in the industry as a producer for the 1976 remake of A Star is Born starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, having previously been Streisand's hairdresser and then boyfriend. With Guber as partner, they produced various notable films such as Caddyshack, Flashdance, Clue, The Color Purple, Rain Man and Batman. Peters and Guber were hired to run Sony Pictures Entertainment after the Japanese conglomerate bought Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures, but were lured there by Sony overpaying and the duo seemed unable to get a handle of how to operate the division, leading to them being kicked out in very short order. The duo founded Mandalay Pictures, but Peters soon left to found his own company, responsible for producing fare like Rosewood and Wild Wild West, while Mandalay had films like Donnie Brasco, Seven Years in Tibet and Sleepy Hollow.

In addition, they have hired Alan Ladd, Jr., Ted Field and Robert W. Cort. Ladd helped run 20th Century Fox and MGM/UA, as part of both separate studios, and then was hired to run Pathe Communications, the infamous sham company founded by Giancarlo Parretti, which bought MGM and was used in order to loot the fabled studio for Parretti's own pockets, bringing it to the brink of ruin. Ladd also has had his own company, The Ladd Company, which helped produce the likes of Blade Runner, The Right Stuff, Police Academy and Braveheart. Field and Cort founded Interscope Communications, a notable powerhouse in film producing in the '80s and '90s, and from which Field cofounded Interscope Records as the music arm of that company with Jimmy Iovine. The two Interscopes became separate companies eventually, with Interscope Communications being folded after Seagram, the then-corporate parent of Universal Studios, bough PolyGram, which owned Interscope Communications. Interscope Records is a thriving record label as part of the Universal Music Group, with Iovine as CEO. Field also runs the independent producer company, Radar Pictures.

Springbok also announced that its staged theatricals division, responsible for creating stage musicals, has hired three notable Broadway producers; Leonard Soloway, Elizabeth Williams and Anita Waxman; to help run that division. All three joined Springbok independently to co-produce its debut stage project, the popular Jim Steinman rock musical Dance of the Vampires.


"Springbok And Ellen DeGeneres Bring Back ABC Sitcom," by Cynthia Littleton, Variety, January 2, 2005

Springbok Productions and comedian/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres have announced that that ABC has officially picked up a revival of her '90s sitcom Ellen (not to be confused with her Warner Bros.-produced syndicated talk show officially called The Ellen DeGeneres Show but shortened to just Ellen), for a summer premiere. The pilot and first 21 episodes have already been filmed and are ready for broadcast. Springbok will co-produce Ellen: The Second Comingwith DeGeneres' A Very Good Production (which produces her talk show), original producers The Black/Marlens Company and ABC Studios, to be distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television.

DeGeneres said, "I'm very happy to know that Disney and ABC have decided to take a plunge and bring back this show that I was proud to be involved with for five years, and I couldn't be happier to have someone like Springbok in my corner. We are all looking forward to weaving more TV magic for everyone."

"Ellen is one of the truly integral and amazing talents of modern times," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said. "Her coming out in 1997 was truly an historic moment, and laid the foundation for wider acceptance of gay and lesbian characters on the big and small screens. We wouldn't have the likes of Will & Grace without Ellen. For that, and for the brave stands she has taken in her offscreen life, she is truly to be commended."

Ellen revolved around the day-to-day life of Ellen Morgan, the owner of an independent bookstore called "Buy the Book" in Los Angeles. In 1997, Ellen and her real-life counterpart made history by coming out as a lesbian, DeGeneres in a Time magazine cover story with the heading "Yep, I'm Gay," and the TV Ellen in "The Puppy Episode," where she comes out to a character played by Laura Dern. The episode generated massive ratings and attention, but also a wave of backlash from the more puritanical sectors of the American population. In February 1998, Ellen was cancelled by ABC amid complaints that the show was "too gay."

DeGeneres and Disney made very quick amends, landing her the role of Dory in the 2003 Pixar film Finding Nemo and the spot for her talk show that same year. Prior to her coming out, DeGeneres also starred in the 1996 Disney romcom Mr. Wrong and starred in the ride film Ellen's Energy Adventure for Epcot's Universe of Energy pavilion, alongside Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. The attraction remains a popular point of Epcot to this day.

In her personal life, DeGeneres had a high-profile relationship with actress Anne Heche before breaking up amid the ruins of Heche's infamous mental breakdown in 2000, and the latter received condemnation from the gay community for following up with a relationship with a man, being accused of having "faked" being gay to advance her career. DeGeneres went through several more relationships and is now currently dating Portia DeRossi of Arrested Development.


"Springbok Announces Last Dance, Dates For New Productions," Broadway Online, March 29, 2005

It has been made official, after months of rumors. Jim Steinman's Dance of the Vampires will bow out from the Minskoff Theatre this summer. Despite statements to the contrary from Springbok Productions, the musical is going to give its final performance on June 15. The reason for this sudden about face? Walt Disney Theatrical wants to move its production of The Lion King to a bigger space, and the operating staff at the Minskoff made the decision. "Believe us, this is not the outcome that we wanted," Leonard Soloway, head of Springbok's musical theatre division, replied in a statement. "This show has been so beloved, and we were fully committed to entertaining the audiences for quite some time yet. But, with our other productions of the show elsewhere, including plenty of choices right here in the States (a North American tour and various regional productions in the likes of Atlanta, St. Louis, Denver, Houston and Fort Lauderdale), the fans won't be missing out on chances to see it. And we did have quite a healthy run on the Great White Way, so we can be proud of it."

Not that Springbok will be merely twiddling its thumbs after Vampires closes. Springbok's highest forthcoming priority is Lestat, the much-ballyhooed musical adaptation of Anne Rice's popular novels, and the first notable stage musical composed by the legendary partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It will also reunite much of the talent responsible for Disney's highly successful stage version of Beauty and the Beast, including librettist Linda Woolverton, choreographer Matt West, makeup designer Angelina Avellone, fight director Rick Sordelet, and director Robert Jess Roth. It will also feature sound design by Jonathan Deans, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, costumes by Susan Hilferty, and set design by Derek McLane and Dave McKean. "The production is basically the retelling of Lestat's story, especially the first two books in the series, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. It's the story of how a mortal man has to come to terms with immortality, a gift that comes with a terrible price of having to kill to live, and how he comes to develop his moral compass, grapple with the question of whether or not he is evil. Anne's books have always been so powerfully evocative with their imagery and flowing language, and Elton and Bernie's score is incredibly strong, possibly the best work they've done yet." The show will begin a tryout at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco on December 17, with a transfer to the Palace Theatre the following spring.

At the moment, a second reading for the Disney/Springbok transfer of Tarzanwill be held on April 2 at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, of all places, followed by four successive workshop productions; Milwaukee on April 18-20, Calgary on May 5-9, Boston on July 11-14, and Providence on September 23-26. The show will then begin official previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the largest of all Broadway theaters, on March 24, 2006, and will open on May 10. The show will be directed by Bob Crowley, who also is the set designer, choreographed by Meryl Tankard, with lighting by Natasha Katz, a score by Phil Collins, and a book by David Henry Hwang and David Ives. When queried about the production, Soloway had this to say. "I can't give too much away, but I do want people to know that the ending will be quite memorable, and certainly be much closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels in its execution. I think we've got a truly kinetic, fast-paced, exciting rush for the audiences, and it will pay off handsomely."

Springbok is also hard at work on helping Disney transfer The Little Mermaidand Mary Poppins (which premiered to a rave reception in London last September, with Springbok helping tweak the show for American audiences), as well as an English-language version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Soloway was quite terse and matter of fact about these productions. "We have no official dates set for these shows, because they're still in the process of development. I do know that The Little Mermaid was originally set to come out around this time, but Disney wasn't happy with David Ives' book for that production, so it's back to the drawing board there. I can't speak for David, but I'm sure he's grateful he at least got the chance to be involved with Tarzan as a consolation prize." In addition, Soloway admits that part of the reason that Hunchback is slow to come to the States is because of an unexpected bit of litigation. "Dennis DeYoung of Styx did a version of Hunchback in Nashville back in '97, and he's a little miffed, to say the least, about the Disney version. He's saying that all his investors for a New York run were scared off and that he had a lot of his own money in that, so he's threatening to sue us and Disney for money lost in that venture."

Regardless of how that turns out, Springbok still has plenty of irons in the fire. Buoyed by the success of the recent film version of The Phantom of the Opera, a revamped stage tour, incorporating certain elements of the movie, is officially opening at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on April 19, and is expected to run for quite some time. Also, a Las Vegas spectacular will be staged at The Venetian starting next June, with "updated technology and effects, and plenty of exciting surprises." Springbok is also at work helping bring Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical, The Woman in White, to Broadway, where it will premiere at the Marquis Theatre this November. Alas, it will have to make do without Michael Crawford, the original actor who portrayed the villainous Count Fosco, as he recently collapsed after a performance from intense dehydration caused by the fat suit he was wearing. Michael Ball has taken his place, and is likely to do so when the show arrives in New York. Springbok has a massive North American tour for Whistle Down the Wind, Lloyd Webber's collaboration with Jim Steinman, starting in Providence at Christmastime. "It will be very much based on the West End production," Soloway asserts. "There is precious little that needs to be changed, regarding staging and effects, though we certainly have helped brush up the book. If this succeeds like we think it can, there's no reason it can't move on to Broadway." And Springbok has entered a handshake deal with Lloyd Webber to help produce a long whispered about and gestating sequel to Phantom. "If this production comes about, then we want to help Andrew make it the best it can be, and hopefully temper some of his weaknesses."

This kind of workload would be enough for most organizations. But that's still not the end of Springbok's work in theater. Despite not fully producing it, they have ponied up considerable money in the forthcoming film version of the highly successful stage musical version of Mel Brooks' The Producers. The film, which will open this December, reunites the highly successful leading duo of Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom, which won the hearts of critics and the public during the show's run at the St. James Theatre. In addition, the film will host the likes of Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell in important roles, and despite rumors that Susan Stroman, the director of the stage version, taking over directing duties for the film, the honors have been split between Alan Parker (Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning, Evita) and an unexpected figure...Mel Brooks himself. "The whole thing is Mel's baby, starting when the original movie came out back in '68," Soloway explains. "There is no one better to assist with the job, and to further demonstrate that he still has the comedic chops that made him famous." Springbok is also hard at work producing a US touring production of the show, and plans to work with Brooks on stage transfers (and potential movie versions) of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

And lastly, Springbok is also expanding with yet more impressive projects, such as a revival of Barry Keating's Starmites, an English version of Michael Kunze's Elisabeth, and planned film versions of Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables. When asked how Springbok can possibly manage all these potential ideas at once, Soloway merely shrugs. "Hope and faith go a long way."


"Springbok And The Donners' Company Divvy Up Bryan Singer's Assets," by Cynthia Littleton, Variety, April 3, 2005

Today, Bryan Singer's shuttered production company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, was officially parceled off between Singer's former X-Men collaborators Richard Donner and Lauren Shuler Donner for the film library, and Springbok Productions for the TV assets. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Donners' Company, the film production company of Superman and Lethal Weapon director Donner and his producer wife, has officially purchased out their former collaborator's stake in the highly successful X-Men films, to maintain sole producer's credit besides Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox. The Donners also have secured the library rights to Singer's films The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil.

Springbok has secured Bad Hat Harry's TV unit, which only has one title to its name, the successful freshman medical drama House M.D., created by David Shore and starring Hugh Laurie. Fox had officially renewed the series prior to the rape allegations against Singer, who was an executive producer and had also directed the pilot episode. The network and Springbok have announced that Bad Hat Harry and Singer's names will be scrubbed from reruns and DVD releases of the first season, while Springbok assumes responsibility for the series for the remainder of its duration.

Furthermore, Springbok announces that DADP Holdings, its division for financing film and television projects that other people will produce, is planning to expand its reach with a focus on documentaries. DADP has dipped its toe in the water already with the documentaries Lost in La Mancha, about the collapse of Terry Gilliam's film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which was set to star Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort; The Fog of War, Errol Morris' incisive and cutting interrogation of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara about the Vietnam War; and the forthcoming Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, set to be released by Magnolia Pictures on April 22 and based on the bestselling book on the breathtaking accounting fraud by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. DADP plans to become busy in financing documentary films for HBO, PBS, the BBC, movie theaters, and so on. Among the prospective pitches being offered are an in depth and massive documentary about the life and times of Tina Turner, a film about the Cuban hip-hop scene, and Preston Tucker and his unique car the Tucker Torpedo, which was immortalized in Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas' film Tucker: The Man and His Dream.


"Springbok's $8 Billion Gift," Reuters, May 5, 2005

Springbok Productions has received another massive wave of investments today, totaling $8 billion. This is all because of the company finding new allies with deep pockets who want a piece of the action.

Among those investing in the young successful upstart founded by Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron are the likes of Elon Musk, the South African-born creator of web finances service X. com (which was later merged with PayPal, and ended up purchased by eBay, making a massive return on his investment), the Web software company Zip2 (later purchased by Compaq), privatized space exploration company SpaceX and electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla; Mortimer Zuckerman, the founder and owner of real estate investment trust Boston Properties as well as owner of the New York Daily News; Ronald Perelman, the billionaire businessman and investor as well as chairman and CEO of the diversified holding company MacAndrews & Forbes Incorporated; Kirk Kerkorian, the businessman who formerly owned the Las Vegas Hilton, Bally's Las Vegas and the MGM Grand as wells formerly owning the MGM film studio; billionaire investor Mark Cuban, who earned his fortune when his Internet startup Broadcast. com was bought out, who is the majority owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team; Larry Silverstein, founder and CEO of real estate investment trust Silverstein Properties, which owns a 99-year lease on the World Trade Center and is helping spearhead the aggressive rebuilding of the site after 9/11; Vornado Realty Trust, the real estate investment trust focused on New York City and of which Cobain and Theron have been known to have some investment in; and investment bank Allen & Company.

Furthermore, Springbok has also received lucrative relationships and revolving credit lines from KeyBank, Union Bank, Comerica Bank, Barclays and RBC. All together, this adds significant clout and deep funds to the company with which to fund its expansion and various projects. Springbok is also known to reinvest 80 to 90 percent of its profits back into the company to further keep itself flush with capital.


"Springbok Signs Pacts With Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson," by Jem Aswad, Variety, January 21, 2006

Springbok Productions announced that it has inked two more three-picture deals; one with brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, the filmmakers responsible for Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou?; and the other with writer-producer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, the auteur behind Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love.

Unlike Springbok's earlier, much-publicized three-film deal with Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, these new pacts are nonconsecutive, meaning that the Coens and Anderson can take their time fulfilling the pacts, and continue to make films without Springbok. Both deals, however, will start with each director(s)' next films, both of which are set at Paramount Vantage and will be co-produced by Scott Rudin.

As for the Icon deal, Gibson's latest directorial project, Apocalypto, an epic set in the Mayan civilization before the conquistadors arrived and set to be released by Disney, has run into considerable weather-related delays on location in Mexico, and is set to be moved from its August release date in favor of a Christmas release.


"Springbok, Todd Haynes Set Bob Dylan Movie At New Line," by Jem Aswad, Variety, February 1, 2006

Springbok Productions and writer/director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven) have officially linked arms for a new project called I'm Not There, a biopic of Bob Dylan with an unconventional narrative.

Written by Haynes and Oren Moverman, the film will use multiple actors as multiple characters to represent the various different eras of Dylan's career, rather than a standard chronicle directly portraying Dylan.

The film is set to be distributed by New Line Cinema, who will market it as an art house picture.


"Springbok Sets Development Deal For Alien, Cameron Projects," by Peter Bart, Variety, March 11, 2006

Springbok Productions has set a special, two-pronged development deal at 20th Century Fox regarding several artistic projects close to the company's heart.

The first prong involves Springbok's commitment to create new films and ancillary product in the Alien franchise, the creative rights to which it inherited with the purchase of Brandywine Productions. The franchise, which started with Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien, and continued with James Cameron's 1986 sequel Aliens, revolves around Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and her experiences fighting against the titular creatures, creatures which have acid for blood and can impregnate humans to have them give birth to "chestbursters", which kill them. The franchise's last release was 1992's Alien 3, the directorial debut film of David Fincher, and which was a box office success, but was universally panned by critics and fans. A proposed followup, Alien Resurrection, written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator Joss Whedon and directed by Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, finished principal photography, but was cancelled prior to its summer 1997 release. Fox licensed the IP for a successful Disney Parks attraction, co-designed and co-produced by Springbok.

Springbok seeks to revive the franchise with both a "legacy sequel" and expansionary content, including the idea of a prequel to explain the "space jockey" whose fossilized dead body was shown in the first film. Scott and Cameron have signed on to be reunited with the franchise to co-produce the new content through their respective companies, Scott Free Productions and Lightstorm Entertainment. This follows especially in the continued career renaissance of Scott, who has bounced back from a considerable slump in the '90s to come out with films like Gladiator, Matchstick Men and Kingdom of Heaven, the last of which was a massive critical and box office success after Scott fought Warner Bros. to have his director's cut be the released product.

The second prong in the deal is a deal directly with Cameron for Springbok to co-produce his next two projects, an adaptation of the manga and anime series Battle Angel Alita and an original concept entitled Avatar, which will be named by Springbok as James Cameron's Avatar on the release materials to avoid confusion with its animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Avatar, about a group of humans who explore a remote planet control artificial bodies made to resemble the native populace, was conceived and announced by Cameron while directing Titanic, but decided against jumping into making it right afterwards after judging that digital technology was not yet up to par to suit the concept.


"Cast And Synopsis Of I'm Not There Finalized," by Peter Bart, Variety, March 13, 2006

Springbok Productions and Todd Haynes have released the final official cast and plot details of their upcoming Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There.

The film, written by Haynes and Oren Moverman, is not a standard biopic, and also does not approach the "many lives" of Dylan as such. Instead, these "many lives" will be spread among six different characters, representing the different points of Dylan's career, and switch between them at random.

The first is Woody Guthrie, representing Dylan's early fascination with the legendary folk singer and fantastic tall tales of a vagabond upbringing, an 11-year-old boy played by Marcus Carl Franklin. This is followed by Jack Rollins, played by Christian Bale, who represents Dylan as "the voice of a generation" with his "finger-pointing songs", and who later denounces his past to become an ordained minister, referencing Dylan's period as a born-again Christian. Robbie Clark, played by Heath Ledger, is an actor who portrays Rollins in a film entitled Every Grain of Sand, and also represents the marital strife between Dylan and his first wife Sara, as captured on the album Blood on the Tracks. Jude Quinn, portrayed by Cate Blanchett, is a stand in for the "electric Dylan" controversy of 1965/66, the "wild thin mercury sound" that many state represents Dylan's best work, and who spirals into drug use before being killed in a motorcycle accident, referencing a famous bit of Dylan lore. Billy McCarty, played by Richard Gere, references the "outlaw" side of Dylan, his fascination with Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, as well as the third-act renaissance with his recent albums and his Never Ending Tour. And loosely connecting all of it is Arthur Rimbaud, played by Ben Whishaw, who is interrogated in his scenes, represents the poet and the fatalist in Dylan, and serves as a kind of narrator to splice the different facets together.

The film is set to go into production in Canada very shortly, with plans to release it next fall. New Line Cinema has the rights, and is pushing it as an art house film.

Also of note, a massive soundtrack, featuring Dylan's own recordings as well as reinterpretations of the works by a variety of artists, will be released to coincide with the film. Springbok is giving up claims to the soundtrack, instead allowing it to be released by Dylan's longtime label, Columbia Records.


"Busker Alley Aiming For 2008 Broadway Bow With Springbok And Tony Winner Dale," by Andrew Gans, Playbill, November 30, 2007

Busker Alley, which was scheduled to arrive on Broadway in 1995 before star Tommy Tune broke his foot, is gearing up for another stab at Broadway.

According to a press announcement, the musical, which features a score by Mary Poppins' Robert and Richard Sherman, is aiming for a Broadway debut during the 2008-2009 season with Springbok Productions, the entertainment company founded by Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd and which has scored notable success with the musicals Dance of the Vampires, Lestat, Tarzan and The Woman in White, producing the show and Tony winner Jim Dale set to star. Dale and his Barnum co-star, Glenn Close, had taken part in a one-night-only concert version of Busker Alley in November 2006 at the York Theatre, which was recorded and released as an album.

Tony Walton will direct and design the musical. Richard Pilbrow will be the show's lighting designer. Although no theatre has been announced, the show's six additional producers joining Springbok include Margot Astrachan, Robert Blume, Kristine Lewis, Jamie Fox, Joanna Kerry and Heather Duke. Astrachan told Variety, "I knew when I read the script that we wanted to see it, but [the November 2006 performance] was everything we could have imagined."

Elizabeth Williams, who helps run Springbok's stage theatricals division, was similarly excited. "I remember all the buzz about Busker Alley back in '95, when Tommy Tune was going to be in it and it was going to play at the St. James Theatre. I mean, the Sherman Brothers are amazing tunesmiths, and they definitely wowed again, and I was looking forward to seeing it. I was so disappointed when the show was cancelled, and I felt insurance was too cautious, because Tune would've been fully healed by opening night. But I'd resigned myself to thinking nothing would come of it. Then the York Theatre benefit concert energized me, and I told everyone, 'We have to be a part of this one.'"

Based on the 1938 British film St. Martin's Lane, Busker Alley features music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman and a book by AJ Carothers.

Busker Alley, according to press notes, concerns "a devil-may-care busker [one who entertains in public on London's famous streets], Charlie, no longer 'as young as he was,' [who] takes a gutsy, young sneak thief under his wing. He discovers her gift for music and performing and, with his tutelage, her talent blossoms along with his growing infatuation for her. Although Libby becomes part of the busker family, she wants more out of life. Her natural charm and drive feeds her need for 'being on the inside.' When she attracts the attention of a major West End producer, she leaves Charlie to follow her dream. She soon becomes a major stage, and after she unsuccessfully tries to introduce Charlie to her new world, Charlie comes to the realization that he and Libby belongs in different worlds."

Tommy Tune starred in a pre-Broadway tour of Busker Alley in 1995. Six weeks prior to the musical's Broadway debut, Tune broke his foot during a performance in Tampa, and the show never reached New York.

The Busker Alley CD is available for purchase in physical or digital formats on the Jay Records website.


"Springbok's Enima Studios Announces New Rights Deals," by Cynthia Littleton, Variety, July 20, 2008

Springbok Productions' Enima Studios, the division of the company responsible for English dubs of anime projects as well as live action film adaptations of them, has announced several new forthcoming deals.

First off, Enima will be producing a new English dub of the popular '90s series Sailor Moon, which was quite a sensation in that decade and responsible for helping revive the "magical girl" genre, though purists did complain that the English dub created at that time and licensed by DIC Entertainment was quite clumsy and ruined much of the feeling that went into the original work. As with the original dub, the new one will be broadcast in first-run syndication, through deals with Tribune Broadcasting (responsible for selling and broadcasting Andromeda and Mutant X as well as the forthcoming Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert series Legend of the Seeker alongside Disney-ABC Domestic Television) and Fremantle Media, syndicator of Baywatch and its spinoff Baywatch Nights. Enima has also secured rights for a planned two-part live action film, tentatively set to be released by DreamWorks Pictures and whichever new partner ends up separating it from Paramount, with speculation that it will be either Disney or Universal.

Enima also has secured rights for a film adaptation of the popular manga and anime series Inuyasha, whose English dub has become a popular staple on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block. Gale Anne Hurd and her Valhalla Entertainment banner are set to produce, and distribution of the two or three-part film will be handed by Paramount for North American distribution and 20th Century Fox for international screens.

Enima has also secured rights to dub the anime version of the newly published and popular manga series Black Butler, about an adolescent boy in Victorian England who is served by a demon to whom he owes his soul.

No further information about these projects has been released.


"Disney's Surprise Deal With Competition, Springbok Stakes Claim in Partnership," by Anne Thompson, Variety, February 9, 2009

Disney has made a surprising acquisition for a new jewel in the crown of the Magic Kingdom, and it's with one of its oldest sworn rivals. DreamWorks Pictures, long suffering from a yo-yo pattern of success and failure and desperately in need of a cash infusion, sought a $175 million loan from Disney, to supplant an earlier such loan it got last year from India's Reliance Entertainment, in exchange for being named as production partner in all its films. Disney allowed the loan, under massive concessions. Under its Touchstone Pictures banner, long used for nearly 30 years for projects not fitting its family friendly image, Disney will distribute 30 DreamWorks films and own them in perpetuity. It will also grant DreamWorks access to Disney's pay television agreement with Starz. The deal is nonexclusive, and will allow DreamWorks to release movies by itself or other studios at the same time.

The deal was struck after DreamWorks tried to renegotiate a deal it had struck with Universal Pictures back in October and get the studio to pay P&A costs, infuse $250 million into DreamWorks, and offer more pay-TV slots through Universal's deal with HBO, but Universal balked at the new demands, leading to the deal with DreamWorks being aborted and beginning talks with Disney instead. This deal also comes after both companies lost the figures in charge that had spearheaded the 15-year rivalry, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and after Steven Spielberg, once done with last summer's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which was a healthy box office success despite a middling critical reception), moved, along with Reliance, to reorganize the company to bring it more sustained success and stability, especially after a long alliance with Paramount ended. Together, they have reorganized it as DreamWorks Studios, which the official name for the parent company overseeing their film and television productions (but not animation, as Katzenberg spun off DreamWorks Animation as a separate company in 2004, where he still is in charge, to raise badly needed capital for DreamWorks as a whole.) Spielberg also sold their old offices to move to new ones on the Universal Studios backlot, to be closer to his old home and by the offices of his production company, Amblin Entertainment. Universal also expects to assist in the new DreamWorks considerably.

The first film under the Disney pact that will be released is an adaptation of I Am Number Four, the first book in a young adult series by James Frey (infamous for the controversy around his book A Million Little Pieces), under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, which will come out in 2011. Also expected to be part of the deal are Spielberg's immediate next projects, War Horse and the long-gestating Lincoln, which Springbok Productions have committed to producing as well. "Steven is one of the greats, and we are honored to be associated with him," Jennifer Todd states confidently.

Springbok also have at least two other projects to be released in the Disney/DreamWorks deal: a film series version of Sailor Moon to be written by Diablo Cody (Juno) and creator Naoko Takeuchi and directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), and a film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Jim Steinman musical Whistle Down the Wind. The latter marks Springbok's first ever flop in stage musicals, as after a reasonably well (in ticket sales) North American tour, it was savaged by critics on Broadway and closed after only 54 performances, not coming close to earning back its capitalization. Still, the company, along with Amblin Entertainment, feels that there is a Stateside home for the West End hit, and state that Lloyd Webber and librettists Patricia Knop and Gale Edwards will write the script, along with veteran Broadway hand James Lapine, and Garry Marshall (Beaches, Pretty Woman) will direct. Original choreographer Anthony van Laast will come aboard, and the film will be shot on location in Louisiana.


"Springbok Sets Jay Firestone At TV Division, Buys Mainframe Entertainment/Rainmaker Studios," by Cynthia Littleton, Variety, February 10, 2009

Jay Firestone, founder of Canada's Alliance Films and of television production company Fireworks Media, has officially been slotted by Springbok Productions to lead its television division. This is especially because Springbok seeks to create projects that will go to first-run syndication rather than to a broadcast network or cable channel, something that Firestone has massive experience in.

"I'm thrilled to be joining a great company in Springbok, and to help oversee its television slate," Firestone said. "I look forward to being able to create great projects with them."

Furthermore, Springbok has announced that is purchasing Rainmaker Studios (formerly Mainframe Entertainment), the Vancouver-based computer-animated television series producer of projects such as ReBoot, Transformers: Beast Wars and Beast Machines, Fox Kids' Action Man and Cartoon Network's Max Steel, as well direct-to-video films like Hot Wheels World Race.


Springbok's 10th Anniversary Press Release, February 20, 2009

Springbok is quite pleased to announce that 2009 is shaping up to its busiest year yet! In the matter of live action films, there is plenty to share. First off, after some time to figure out a release schedule, the two-part HBO biopic Phil Spector: Tearing Down the Wall of Sound, will be released on March 12 and 13. Featuring Al Pacino as the infamous and reclusive genius producer who was also convicted of second-degree murder, the film moves to track the entirety of Spector's life and career, the agony and the ecstasy. Thanks to resolving our differences of the past year, Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker will finally see the light of day on May 5. A passion project that Chris Farley has kept close to his heart for more than a decade, it is well past time for the silver screen to admire and fall in love with the well-intentioned, over the top, motivational speaker who lives his life in a van down by the river. Christopher Nolan's latest film, Inception, a pulsating cerebral and contemplative thriller, is set to be the summer tentpole when it is released. Quentin Tarantino's newest project, Inglourious Basterds, a World War II revenge fantasy involving a group of American vigilantes seeking a chance to kill Hitler, is another uproarious, humorous, ultraviolent installment from one of the modern auteurs of our age. Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22, then will enter a staggered release schedule of the UK in September, Europe as a whole in October, and North America on Christmas. Insanity Row, a big, bombastic action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, is another big release scheduled for the fall, sure to attract plenty of popcorn sales. And James Cameron's latest passion project, Avatar, is certain to once again create a new paradigm in the world of filmmaking and visual effects, set amongst a world where humanity is seeking for raw materials to sustain their race on an alien world, and a man paralyzed from the waist down gets a chance to live once more using synthetic bodies called "avatars" to walk amongst the natives.

The future is just as exciting as this year, to be sure. Springbok is pleased to announce that it is working with Disney on a live-action sequel to Alice in Wonderland, though using the same name (because it's more marketable!), to be directed by Tim Burton, who is eager to bring his signature style and visual flair to the world of Wonderland and its inhabitants. Along with Sony's Columbia Pictures and producer Scott Rudin, Springbok has officially secured the rights to make a film franchise of the Millennium novel series by Stieg Larsson, who died before his books could be published. Steven Zaillian is set to write the script and David Fincher to direct the first installment, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, with hope to release it in 2011. Work on the Alien prequel/spinoff Prometheus is officially underway. The film, directed by Ridley Scott and penned by Jon Spahits and Damon Lindelof, will be released by 20th Century Fox in two parts in 2010 and 2011, and contains an impressive cast with the likes of Noomi Rapace (who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish miniseries version of the Millennium novels), Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, and Charlize Theron will indeed have a significant role in the film. Springbok is also partnering with Imagine Entertainment and Walden Media to create a film adaptation of The Giver and its followups, Gathering Blue and Messenger. Jeff Bridges, who has long been attached to the title role, is looking forward to finally having this adaptation ready to go in 2010. Though he will certainly be kept busy with Springbok for a while, as it will release the Coen brothers' forthcoming project, a remake of True Grit, with Bridges attached as Rooster Cogburn, and also featuring Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are reteaming for an adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel Shutter Island, and Springbok will release the film next year. Richard Linklater is reuniting with Springbok to work on his latest work, a film examining the strange and true case of Bernie Tiede, a funeral service worker and local philanthropist much beloved in the town of Carthage, Texas, who was later convicted of murder. Springbok is also in the midst of doing research for a projected film about the life and crimes of baby snatcher Georgia Tann, who used helping parents adopt children to mask her actions. And of course, there are the forthcoming Enima adaptations of Sailor Moon and Inuyasha, and its recent stake in the distribution deal between Disney and DreamWorks.

Regarding animation, besides our continued past projects still ongoing, Springbok is reunited with Robert Zemeckis and his ImageMovers company for his latest project, a rendition of A Christmas Carol, to be released by Disney this holiday season. Once again taking full advantage of the motion capture technology utilized to impressive effect on The Polar Express, this also allows the same actor to portray various characters at the same time; featuring Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge at various points in his life as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come; Gary Oldman as Bob Cratchit and Jacob Marley; as well as the likes of Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn in additional roles. Springbok is also planning to work on a continuation of new songs for Schoolhouse Rock, which will once again air on ABC on Saturday mornings, as well as The Disney Channel, and on ABC Classic and Disney Channel Classic, as well as be on new DVD and Blu-ray releases.

For television, while Springbok did have to deal with a major disappointment with the collapse of the CBS sitcom Looking for Lucky last year after two seasons of dismal ratings, there is still the massive of its continued work with Carmen Sandiego on PBS, the past success of Workshop and The Devil's Advocate, bringing The Practice to a highly well-received finale last year, the taking over of the massive juggernaut House, M.D., the surprise hit of The Chris Farley Show on NBC, and the revival series Ellen: The Second Coming on ABC (pushing her to have two highly successful series on the same channel running at the same time). Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, hot off the success of Nip/Tuck and their invaluable assistance in other series, are also working on an anthology series of their own for FX, which Springbok is certainly pleased to be involved in from the ground up.

The premiere of Dixie Dope will be held at the Berkeley Repository Theatre this September, before transferring to New York, and further workshops for The Book of Mormon will also be held. Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, will simultaneously premiere next year at the Adelphi Theatre in London and at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York.

In the world of video games, Zophyre 2 is coming close to release, as are BioShock 2 and a sequel to Portal. A sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, is also in the running to be one of the biggest success stories of the year, especially after the reception of last year's Call of Duty: World at War.


"Springbok Sells $7.5 Billion In Bonds," Deadline Hollywood, March 2, 2009

To help shore up its position in the midst of the struggling economy, Springbok Productions has sold several tranches of bond notes, assuming $7.5 billion in debt, $1 billion of which was made into a series of zero-coupon convertible notes. $6 billion of it is secured debt, $1.2 billion of senior bank debt, and the remaining $300 million mezzanine debt. This also comes along with an infusion of another $12 billion in equity from investments by hedge fund manager Bob Jain, his wife, fashion executive Carola Jain, a doubling down by X PayPal/Tesla founder Elon Musk, who invested in Springbok in 2006, Allen & Company, investment and a new revolving credit line from Capital One, and a non-ownership investments by One Equity Partners, Apollo Global Management, Quadrangle Group and Fortress Investment Group, the last of which may or may not be a precursor to an eventual IPO and taking Springbok public. Fortress has certainly expressed interest in helping take Springbok public in the past, but calls to the Fortress offices went unanswered. It also announced that Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal and his investment would be officially cut loose from Springbok, as he was being made to sell his investment stake.

The notes have three tiers of interest rates and maturity dates. They come in at 2.875% and December 2010, 3.0215% and December 2011, and 3.17% and December 2012, respectively. Springbok CFO James W. Keyes expressed confidence that the debt will be taken care of in a timely fashion and assuming it at this moment in time makes strategic sense. "This is a decision to help protect Springbok's position and help propel its growth. And we will be able to repay all debt well before the maturity date." The notes were easily snapped up in a three-day financial roadshow in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.


"Producers Withdraw From Broadway-Aimed Busker Alley Production," by Andrew Gans, Playbill, August 25, 2009

Springbok Productions, along with co-producers Margot Astrachan, Robert R. Blume, Heather Duke, Joanna Kerry, Kristine Lewis and Jamie Fox have withdrawn from the previously announced Broadway-aimed production of Busker Alley.

It was in November 2007 when producers announced that Busker Alley, which was scheduled to arrive on Broadway in 1995 before star Tommy Tune broke his foot, was gearing up for another stab at Broadway.

In a collective statement released August 25, 2009, the producers stated, "Due to the loss of one member of the writing team and the health issues of another, it is with great regret that we withdraw from this project. We will be returning all of the money to our investors and release all of our sponsors from their obligations. We have been very fortunate to be associated with such an amazing team including director/designer, Tony Walton, lighting designer Richard Pilbrow and performers including Jim Dale, Glenn Close, John Bolton, Jessica Grove, Elizabeth Inghram, George S. Irving, Gavin Lee, Noah Racy and Ann Rogers who have been very supportive of our efforts in preparing this show for Broadway. We wish everyone the very best for the future."

Based on the 1938 British film St. Martin's Lane, Busker Alley features music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman and a book by AJ Carothers.

Busker Alley, according to press notes, concerns "a devil-may-care busker [one who entertains in public on London's famous streets], Charlie, no longer 'as young as he was,' [who] takes a gutsy, young sneak thief under his wing. He discovers her gift for music and performing and, with his tutelage, her talent blossoms along with his growing infatuation for her. Although Libby becomes part of the busker family, she wants more out of life. Her natural charm and drive feeds her need for 'being on the inside.' When she attracts the attention of a major West End producer, she leaves Charlie to follow her dream. She soon becomes a major stage, and after she unsuccessfully tries to introduce Charlie to her new world, Charlie comes to the realization that he and Libby belongs in different worlds."

Tommy Tune starred in a pre-Broadway tour of Busker Alley in 1995. Six weeks prior to the musical's Broadway debut, Tune broke his foot during a performance in Tampa, and the show never reached New York. The new production was to be directed by Tony Walton and star Tony winner Jim Dale.

The Busker Alley CD is available to purchase either in physical or digital formats on the Jay Records website.


Springbok/Disney Joint Statement, PRNewswire, November 9, 2009

After several decades worth of pestering and questions, it has been announced Disney's 1946 feature film Song of the South, the live action/animation hybrid based on Joel Chandler Harris' stories and the basis for the hit attraction Splash Mountain, will receive its first official home video release in full in North America in March. Springbok Productions will officially handle the marketing, advertising, special features, and restoration of the film from the original master reels, while Buena Vista Home Entertainment will remain in charge in distribution, as has been the case with each film.

The film, which was the first blend of live action and animation in cinematic history, has long been a flashpoint of controversy, regarding the treatment of the African-American characters, its depiction of life during the Reconstruction-era South, as well as regarding how African-American oral tradition and dialect was handled. Much like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and early films like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind, the movie has long been dissected and analyzed to death, with scores of admirers and detractors from all walks of life, and been in the center of a debate regarding censorship and political correctness. The film is also of course similarly afflicted by two tropes in cinematic storytelling that have long been condemned: the "Magical Negro", and the "white savior narrative", claimed to be showcased in films like Mississippi Burning, Driving Miss Daisy, The Legend of Bagger Vance and Dances with Wolves.

"Naturally, when faced with a quandary like this, as how to release something so dogged by bad press and word of mouth, you have to walk quite a fine line," Jennifer Todd muses. "Our idea is to release the film, to showcase a certain point in cinematic history, especially on a technical level, but also demonstrate everything in a proper context, especially for children, who might have a tendency to internalize the messages so literally and end up very confused. After all, Disney has had little asides in their past films with depictions of other cultures that were less than enlightened, intended at the time as throwaway jokes, that rub modern viewers the wrong way, but they don't particularly detract from said film as a whole. The main difference with this movie is that it's washed completely in that depiction, so it can color a viewer's entire experience."

The three-disc, DVD/Blu-ray hybrid set is crammed full of plenty of special features, made under Springbok's direction, besides the usual introduction and disclaimer given to the like of old Warner Bros. cartoons of the period. Entire featurettes about the history of the production, how it has been received, why certain depictions are considered wrong today, and the steps made towards tolerance and understanding in the modern world. These include interviews and commentary with historians, sociologists, and various figures, including actors and filmmakers associated with other films, such as the main figures behind Schindler's List: Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley. "Our hope is that with this release, we can show and start a dialogue that is quite necessary," Whoopi Goldberg, who plays a big part in the special features and has long advocated for Song of the South to be released, states firmly. "It's time to open up."


"Springbok Smacks Down WWE, Walks Away From Development Pact," by Anne Thompson, Variety, April 5, 2010

Springbok Productions announced that it is officially walking out on a development deal that it had struck with WWE Studios to create theatrical film properties together. After nearly two years' worth of effort, the pact had borne no films being actively produced, though at least one appeared to be getting real close.

In the statement given to the press, Springbok publicly castigated WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon as the reason that the deal was not being consummated with a finished product. "Vince McMahon, simply put, doesn't know when to leave well enough alone," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said in the release. "We had a great dialogue going with the people running WWE Studios, and also were in constant talks with former and active WWE Superstars about identifying properties that would properly utilize their strengths. As a result, we had seven scripts in the pipeline, and were getting ready to move to principal photography on the first. But Vince couldn't just trust the process."

According to Springbok, the project getting ready to be filmed was a thriller entitled Jornada del Muerte, set to star Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of WWE's eminent Superstars during the so-called Attitude Era of the late '90s and early 2000s. But McMahon would consistently try to override decisions made by Springbok and the WWE Studios executives about the film, and frequently make notes suggesting it to be more in line with standard action thrillers, changes that "would dumb down the plot to a ludicrous extent and be focused only on pandering to WWE fans, when crossover appeal was the intent. Vince also made constant, disparaging remarks to many female employees of Springbok, constantly asking if any of them wanted a job joining the female WWE matches as a fallback position, and kept insisting that he knew better than anyone else what a film needed. And Vince simply can't admit failure on a lot of things."

Apparently, McMahon's actions even derailed Springbok's efforts to find a studio distributor for the film, even attempts to launch it at a film market and presell it like an indie film. "Vince spooked off all buyers because of his actions, complete with his making inappropriate comments at the wrong time, which would only make things worse. Because of that, the film was basically dead in its tracks, and our supporting actors were getting ready to jump ship. As a result, it simply wasn't fixable. We certainly wish WWE Studios well with their efforts, but we strongly suggest to Vince that he needs some restraint and that it may come a time for someone else to take the reins."

WWE, through McMahon, gave a terse response to Springbok's release: "Springbok Productions' account is verifiably false. Everything has always been done in good faith, and if there was any fault during the pact, it was that Springbok couldn't deliver what they promised. Our work stands for itself."


"Springbok's IPO Roadshow(s) A Massive Vote Of Confidence," by Peter Eavis, The New York Times, May 27, 2010

As Springbok Productions, the entertainment conglomerate founded by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife, actress Charlize Theron, prepares to launch its initial public offering in a week, and become the most expansive IPO in corporate history, the roadshow to gin up investor interest and get orders for the shares has been possibly the most anticipated, most heavily attended, and most flashy such experience in recent memory, if not ever.

Technically a series of multiple roadshows by several different teams making sure no corner of the globe is untouched, the result has been the same. Throngs of institutional investors, mutual funds, pension funds, bankers and the like have been hungrily clamoring for IPO shares on not just the New York Stock Exchange and/or the NASDAQ (the first such American IPO to debut on both exchanges simultaneously), but also corresponding IPO shares to be available on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the London Stock Exchange, al thel branches of Euronext (covering exchanges in Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Milan, Oslo and Paris), Frankfurt Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange of India, Tokyo Stock Exchange, Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Australian Stock Exchange, all under the stock ticker of SPBK.

The syndicate of 55 underwriters, with the majority by Fortress Investment Group, Allen & Company, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Lazard, ABN AMRO, HSBC, RBC, Deutsche Bank, Raymond James Financial and Credit Suisse First Boston, announced that after recent restructuring of placing additional shares the market and raising the price, the combined worldwide IPO will sell over 3 trillion common shares as well as 2 trillion warrants to buy stock between June 1, 2011 and June 1, 2012, with the price being the equivalent of $35 a share on each exchange. There will be an option to bring another 500 billion common shares to the market if demand is there on the first day of trading.

Springbok looks set to raise roughly $25 billion worldwide in the IPO, if the option for additional shares is not exercised, whereas the option would bring in an addition $5 billion. This makes Springbok, in either case, the largest IPO in corporate history, and the value of 5 trillion common shares outstanding and corresponding dilution would bring the company to a market valuation of around $75 billion, which does not put it in the company of notable companies like Visa, General Motors, Disney and so on, but would put it already among various greats in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index.

Because Springbok has been hugely profitable for the last five years due to its success in film, television, animation, book publishing, music and video games, there is no corresponding doubt that would follow a potential IPO of social media company Facebook, for example, or the many companies in the long string of Internet IPOs of the late '90s, which involved companies with little revenue and no profits. However, because of the way the IPO has been structured, Springbok could see a "pop" of more than 100 percent. Unlike those companies, the proceeds will largely go to Springbok, not to the institutional investors, underwriters and IPO buyers, who have been made to sign ironclad contracts not only to that effect, but to prevent them from flipping the shares virtually immediately, which would then drive the stock price down. Also unlike those Internet companies, Springbok is putting 60 percent of its shares on the market, while those earlier companies had "thin floats" due to most of the stock being in the hands of the executives and employees, only for their value to drop significantly before the lockup periods expired.

Mr. Cobain and Ms. Theron have only personally been at only four stops in total on any of the roadshow tours, but a massive pitch video featuring them plays at each stop. Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd has appeared at ten stops, and CFO James W. Keyes has been at every stop on the American roadshow. "I've never seen such an amazing sight," Mr. Keyes replies. "Every hotel ballroom has been stuffed full, there are throngs of people turned away because capacity is maxxed out, we've been oversubscribed 25 times. This looks to be the best real blowout on Wall Street."


"Springbok IPO Rockets 135 Percent In Market Demand," Reuters, June 4, 2010

Springbok Productions' IPO has taken off to considerable heights, raising the company $30 billion and making it the biggest such public offering in corporate history.

The stock went on sale at $35 a share and closed at $82.15, giving it a "pop" of about 135 percent.

Among those waiting to get their hands on stock included business luminaries like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, George Soros, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Ronald Perelman, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, Kirk Kerkorian, Nell Minow and Robert Monks, as well as the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS). The entertainment conglomerate has reached a market valuation of around $77 billion.

However, since the company put about 60 percent of its 5 trillion common shares on the combined public markets, this also means that company founders Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron have surprisingly small stakes in the conglomerate, though the successful IPO has definitely rocketed them considerably on the billionaires' list.

The company, under the stock ticker SPBK, has been hugely profitable for several years and is expected to keep on growing.


"Springbok's Enima Division Revs Up, Admits Alita Delay," Anime News Network, June 8, 2010

By this point, Springbok Productions has proven itself a formidable powerhouse, and its division focused on anime adaptations, Enima, has already more than earned its stripes. Currently, the division is filming the first installment in an intended franchise adaptation of Sailor Moon in Tokyo, with intent to release by DreamWorks Pictures via Disney's Touchstone Pictures banner sometime in 2012, just in time for the original series' 20th anniversary. "Sailor Moon has always been a landmark in anime and manga," Jennifer Todd relates. "Our intention has always been to do justice to it, especially because it is also a landmark in female empowerment and achievement. And with the likes of Diablo Cody working with (original creator) Naoko Takaeuchi on the script, Patty Jenkins directing, and Kim Basinger playing Queen Beryl, we've got quite a vehicle to attract the old fans and bring in new ones."

Springbok is also deep in preproduction for a franchise adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha, co-produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski, to be distributed by Paramount in North America and 20th Century Fox internationally. Todd admits that there is still not a lot of firm information to hand out. "The script by Gale, Jonathan Hensleigh and Rumiko is still being worked over, and we're probably going to hire someone to further polish it. Nic Cage really is psyching himself to play the villain, Naraku, but we haven't gotten a firm commitment as of yet, to say nothing of the fact that no one else has been cast yet. We also don't have a release date in mind yet, but we're certainly getting there."

Enima is also continuing to help with Disney's English dubs of the films of Studio Ghibli, of which Springbok recently bought a 20 percent stake to create a North American division. Of special importance is the upcoming film The Wind Rises, which acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki has announced to be his last film. The story is a fictionalized account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the inventor of the Mitsubishi Zero, the creation of a peaceful man who despised war but wanted to create flying machines he could be proud of.

Of course, of bigger importance is a project Enima has been circling around for several years now. Back in 2005, Springbok announced its intent to co-produce an adaptation of Battle Angel Alita, written and directed by James Cameron, who had announced his interest in such a project back in 2000. However, Cameron chose instead to focus on Avatar, which ended up becoming the biggest box-office success of all time. So where does this leave the Battle Angel film? "Jim hasn't forgotten about that at all, he's still just as passionate as ever," Todd remarks. "But he's also gotten a bee in his bonnet about wanting to continue the story of Avatar, in addition to interests in doing an adaptation of The Informationist as well as something about free diving. He's got a lot of irons in the fire, and his head goes into many different directions at once. So, this project is going to take some time yet to come to fruition, but when it does, we'll be there." This is hardly the first time Cameron has had different projects in the works at once, and he's let some go to other directors while keeping a producer's and/or writer's credit. A prime example being the 2002 film Solaris, based on the novel of the same name, which ended up directed by Steven Soderbergh. Cameron and his Lightstorm Entertainment production company also co-produced the recent Springbok project Prometheus, a prequel to Alien directed by original director Ridley Scott.


"Rapid Growth as Springbok Goes on Purchase Spree," Financial Times, June 18, 2010

Springbok Productions' meteoric rise continues unabated, as the success of their recent stock offerings on the NYSE, NASDAQ, Toronto Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, Euronext, Frankfurt Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange of India, Australian Stock Exchange, Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Tokyo Stock Exchange (through which Warren Buffett's holding company Berkshire Hathaway ended up owning 3 percent of the company and Ronald O. Perelman's holding company MacAndrews & Forbes ended up with a 1.8 percent stake), along with Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron's individual investments in Polaroid, Planet Hollywood, Miami Subs Pizza & Grill, Roadhouse Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Dan Marino's Town Tavern, and Blackstone Restaurant Group (Michael Jordan's restaurant properties) give the company a fresh infusion of $20-30 billion to sit on and put to good use. And it appears that they fully intend to branch out in many ways that will add to their profitability, starting with paying off the debt they incurred with a series of bond sales last year, which also takes care of that debt well before the maturity date. Springbok CFO James W. Keyes crowed about this fact. "Let it be known that Springbok takes care of its financial house in a responsible manner." Keyes also stated that Springbok will never commit stock buybacks in order to boost its position. "It's simply not fair to the public to use our money to repurchase stock. We'll take our lumps, whatever those might be, and live with it."

The multiple IPO debuts, and a stock price increase ("pop") average of 135 percent on each market, were held thanks to multiple massive financial roadshows by several teams, hitting all the financial markets in the world to talk up the mutual funds, VC funds, and financial services companies. Several of Springbok's notable investor sources and bank partners underwrote the massive offerings of trillions of shares combined across the world, with the main underwriting done by Fortress Investment Group, Allen & Company, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston; main allocator recipient being Massachusetts Mutual. There was no shortage of investors, and it was made sure that the public would end up able to access the vast majority of the shares, with neither IPO allocators nor the company itself taking too massive a slice of the pie, that the shares wouldn't be flipped, and that the money raised would go to Springbok's coffers.

Springbok has recently made two significant purchases to add to the company's assets. First it bought Revolution Studios, the production company/financing group responsible for much of Sony's output since 2000 and founded by former 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios head Joe Roth, for a whopping $450 million. Revolution Studios' output has long been considerably profitable for Sony, if very few of them were also critical hits, Springbok now will own all home video library rights for those titles, as well as international rights to the library of Morgan Creek, which Revolution purchased before it went dormant. Springbok thus holds international library rights to films like Young Guns I and II, Dead Ringers, Freejack, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Last of the Mohicans, Major League and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. They also convinced Lionsgate to part with Artisan Entertainment, having purchased it from them for $375 million. Artisan was considered a mini-major in its own right up until Lionsgate's purchase of it, and also owned the libraries of Republic Pictures, EMI Pictures, Hemdale Film Corporation, and Carolco Pictures.

For much cheaper prices, Springbok is also entering deals for libraries only of certain other companies, among them Rysher Entertainment and the Disney-owned Caravan Pictures, which was founded by Joe Roth and Roger Birnbaum in 1992 and shuttered in 1999, after Birnbaum left to found Spyglass Entertainment. It has also emerged that some of the film producing figures Springbok has brought on board have gifted their libraries/investments to Springbok, but until now that was never made public. Such gifts include Jerry Weintraub Productions, Azoff Entertainment, Interscope Communications, the production credits of David V. Picker, the Kushner-Locke Company, Jon Peters and Peter Guber's Mandalay Pictures, and Quentin Tarantino's 1990s filmography, as gifted to the company by the director himself.

Picker, one of the main figures responsible for the gifting, is quite sanguine. "Any company worth their salt works to expand their library rights. Springbok has shown themselves to be not only financially sound stewards, but artistically responsible ones as well. Libraries are lucrative investments and there is so much money that comes on the home video, broadcast and streaming rights."

But this also does not seem to be the end of it. The Revolution Studios and Artisan deals now position Springbok to be a film distributor along with production company, and it appears they are now making entreaties regarding acquisitions of cinema chains to enter the exhibition business as well. "Such deals would not just be for us to control the box office and show our films at the expense of others," Picker emphatically reiterates. "If anything, we'd make it easier for any film project to be shown on the silver screen, no matter how decidedly out there or uncommercial it would be. We'd also make incentivized rates to make better deals and ensure these people aren't getting ripped off, and we'd operate quite differently from major chains like Regal, AMC and Cinemark in that regard. We'd also choose not to make exclusivity deals with Coke or Pepsi, but instead have all soda brands represented and sold there."

Springbok purchased the library and assets of the defunct record label Artemis Records, which had been founded by former Nirvana co-manager Danny Goldberg and Daniel Glass, future founder of GlassNote. The label, before it went under in 2006, released works by Jimmie Vaughn, the BaHa Men, Todd Rundgren, John Hiatt, Lisa Loeb, Rickie Lee Jones, The Pretenders, Black Label Society, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ruff Ryders and Warren Zevon, most notably his final album, 2003's The Wind. Exploitation Records will remaster all the albums and re-release them.


"Springbok Launches New Magazine Ventures," by Diana Lodderhouse, Variety, July 5, 2010

Autumn Deer Press, the book publishing division of Springbok Productions, announced that it is branching out into the field of magazine publishing with four different titles and focuses.

First off, it announced that it is reviving two dormant titles. New West, the investigative magazine who is best known for breaking the first stories investigating Jim Jones and the People's Temple, creating the drumbeat of criticism and controversy leading up to the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, shall be brought back, with the intent to focus on investigative journalism about world events and to cut a path differing from the mainstream media, with a voice and lens meant to be far more biting and more unfiltered and raw, unafraid to call things like they are.

The other title being revived is George, the magazine founded in 1995 by John F. Kennedy, Jr., with a focus on combining celebrity and politics. That magazine started well enough at first, but floundered afterwards, particularly when many considered the execution of its concept to be strained and vapid, trying too hard to tie the likes of Madonna to politics. The magazine was on a downward trend when Kennedy died in a plane crash with his wife and sister-in-law in July 1999. Hachette took over the magazine and attempted to ride the wave of mourning to keep it afloat, but it did not last, and the magazine folded in January 2001.

"Springbok and Autumn Deer Publishing is honored to take over these venerated brands," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd told the press. "We will help maintain the integrity and the legacy of New West and George and bring their work and those meanings to a new generation. With a focus on hard-hitting investigative journalism, unafraid of the truth and unwilling to soften a message to toe the line of the mainstream, the new New West will become a paragon for other publications to follow. And by taking a new approach and a new balance, the original aim of George can be achieved in a meaningful and impactful manner at long last."

Autumn Deer has also purchased the UK music magazine Vive Le Rock, with an intent to publish it worldwide and build it into a meaningful and serious competitor to the likes of Rolling Stone, with a focus on all genres of music, but especially rock, as well as commentary. "We will take this magazine and make it into the first real major player to compete on the scene since Jann Wenner founded Rolling Stone back in 1967."

And lastly, Autumn Deer will found a magazine of their own, called Animation Domination, a sort of counterpoint to the long-running Disney Adventuresmagazine, which offers its readers in-depth and exclusive looks at its projects. This will be done for Springbok's animated, anime dub, and live action anime adaptation projects, though with a decidedly different voice, fused with sardonic humor and light sarcasm. "This will be a unique and interesting voice for animation fans, by talking to them at their own level and engaging in them quite thoroughly."

Autumn Deer Press was launched in 2001 with release of the memoir of actress Anne Heche. Besides auctioning for the rights for fiction and nonfiction titles like other publishers, the company has made real-world versions of book titles invented solely for films and TV shows. Its highest-selling title is a real-world version of Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooey, a title that is the favorite of Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes.


"Autumn Deer Publishing Press Group Announces Key Team Hires," BusinessWire, July 7, 2010

Autumn Deer Publishing Press Group has announced that it has officially hired the team of journalistic talent, both part-time and full-time, that will anchor its magazine operations (New West, George, Vive Le Rock and Animation Domination), as well as expansive additional press operations in television, radio, webcasting, audio podcasting and Internet content, in partnership with YouTube, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, radio conglomerate groups, and Apple.

The key hires are the following:

-Marshall Kilduff, author of the series of articles in the original New West about Jim Jones and the People's Temple, the first to shine the light of scrutiny on the organization and reveal the secrets underneath the surface. Marshall has been rehired to his old job to help ensure the spirit of the original iteration remains intact.

-Eric Boehlert, former author for Salon and key writer for media watchdog group Media Matters for America, who has studiously tracked and rebutted lazy, right-wing based takes in the mainstream media and especially focused on the antics and coverage of Fox News and of Rupert Murdoch's other news ownings.

-Eric Alterman, author of the bestselling book What Liberal Media?, a thorough dissection and debunking of the tired conservative talking points of "the liberal media", showing how news coverage, even outside of openly right-wing pundits and operations, tends to be overwhelmingly conservative in its slant, especially among corporate-owned platforms, and whose employees are overwhelmingly conservative as well.

-Lowell Bergman, former reporter for the San Diego Street-Journal, Rampartsand The San Francisco Examiner; former producer for ABC News' 20/20 and CBS' 60 Minutes; and currently a correspondent, writer, producer and director for PBS' Frontline. Lowell is also the founder of the nonpartisan journalism watchdog the Center for Investigative Reporting (reporting on inequities, abuse and corruption in journalism and holding those responsible accountable) and conducts reporting seminars at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. Lowell is best known as the producer of the 60 Minutes report with Mike Wallace interviewing tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, the events of which were dramatized in the 1999 Eric Roth/Michael Mann film The Insider, distributed by Disney, where Lowell was portrayed by Al Pacino. In his tenure with Frontline, Lowell has done the reports "Murder, Money and Mexico," "Inside the Tobacco Deal", "Hunting Bin Laden", "Blackout", "Target America", "Looking For Answers", "Gunning For Saddam", "Saudi Time Bomb?", "Chasing the Sleeper Cell", "The Secret History of the Credit Card", "A Dangerous Business", "Al-Qaeda's New Front", "The Enemy Within", "The Casting Couch: Hollywood's Dark Soul" and "The Talented Mr. Epstein."

-Marcela Gaviria, writer and producer for PBS' Frontline. Often in tandem with correspondent/producer/writer/director Martin Smith, Marcela has done notable reports such as "In Search of Al-Qaeda", "Dot Con", "The War Behind Closed Doors", "Truth, War and Consequences", "Beyond Baghdad", "The Storm", "Britney: An American Tragedy", "The Madoff Affair" and the upcoming "The Spill."

-Walt Bogdanich, former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, former producer for ABC News and CBS' 60 Minutes, and assistant editor for The New York Times. Walt is best known as producer of the report "Smoke Screen", for ABC's newsmagazine Day One in 1994, reporting on manipulation of nicotine levels in cigarettes by R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, a report that the latter bullied ABC into apologizing for and paying $10 million to settle a libel suit, despite the report being factual.

-Diana B. Henriques, longtime financial reporter for The New York Times, best known for her articles reporting on the bankruptcy of Donald Trump in the early 1990s and the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Diana is also currently writing a book about Madoff, set to be published by St. Martin's Griffin next year.

-Cynthia McFadden, anchor and correspondent for ABC News and the ABC newsmagazine Nightline.

-Candy Crowley, longtime anchor and correspondent for CNN.

-Brian Ross, anchor and correspondent for ABC News and ABC News Network, producer of print reports on the ABC News website and the Internet-based 24-hour streaming site ABC News Now. Brian has dipped his toe into the water of writing with the publication of the book The Madoff Chronicles: Inside the Secret World of Bernie and Ruth.

-James B. Stewart, financial and business writer, best known as author of the books Den of Thieves and The Numbers Game: Accounting Frauds, Bad Companies and Fake Profits.

-Vicky Ward, former staff writer for Vanity Fair and lately freelancer who has worked for Rolling Stone and Newsweek. Vicky was the first journalist to investigate mysterious financier Jeffrey Epstein with her March 2003 cover story.

-Marie Brenner, staff writer for Vanity Fair. Marie is best known for the Donald and Ivana Trump piece "After the Gold Rush"; "The Man Who Knew Too Much", about Jeffrey Wigand; and "American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell," about the investigation and exoneration of a security guard who saved countless lives in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

-Jeanne Marie Laskas, an author and writer of various articles and books. Her best-known work is the GQ article "Game Brain", about the NFL concussion crisis.

-Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, writers and correspondents for ESPN and PBS' Frontline. Mark also wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle about the BALCO steroid ring, and co-wrote the book Game of Shadows.

-Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica, who is also collaborating with PBS's Frontline on the upcoming report "The Spill."

-John Miller, ABC News and ABC News Network correspondent, best known for two interviews of Osama Bin Laden, in May and December of 1998.

-Sheila MacVicar, former correspondent for CBC Television, ABC News and CNN, and currently the London correspondent for CBS News.

-Michel Martin, former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, ABC News and ABC News Network correspondent for Nightline and Day One, and correspondent with NPR.

-Alison Hope Weiner, currently of Deadline Hollywood.


"Springbok and Disney Announce Live Action Partnership for Retellings," by Anne Thompson, Variety, July 20, 2010

Back in March, Disney released a Springbok-produced live action film entitled Alice in Wonderland, which despite the title, was actually a sequel to, and not a remake of, the original animated film. The movie, written by veteran Disney scribe Linda Woolverton and directed by Tim Burton, focused on an Alice in her late teens, who returns to Wonderland after a long, unremembered absence, to find it under the tyranny of the Red Queen, and unwittingly becoming the leader of a revolution to break her control. Starring upstart Mia Wasikowska as Alice, and featuring the likes of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, and Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, the film boasts Burton's signature kooky visuals and a surprisingly mature narrative and subject matter. And while purists were definitely displeased with the movie, the film still received generally positive reviews (earning a 76 on Rotten Tomatoes) and making over $1 billion at the box office.

Buoyed by this success, Springbok and Disney are eager to keep it coming. The two companies have announced a new partnership deal with which they will create new, live action retellings of several of Disney's most popular properties, veering from straight remakes to bold new reinterpretations, and which other production companies are free to join in on through a case by case basis. Among the projects strongly hinted to be in development are a reinterpretation of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of Maleficent, and a remake of Cinderella. It is also confirmed that both are also currently seeking Burton to do a stop-motion remake of his short film Frankenweenie, a project that remains close to his heart.

Disney has dabbled in remakes of past films before, having done a 1994 version of The Jungle Book, a John Hughes-penned version of 101 Dalmatiansstarring Glenn Close in '96 (which spawned its own sequel four years later), a retelling of The Absent-Minded Professor as Flubber starring Robin Williams in '97, a remake of The Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan playing a dual role in '98, a remake of Freaky Friday starring Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis in 2003, and several remakes of similar other properties for ABC and The Disney Channel in the '90s. But this is the first time Disney has truly decided to tackle the filmography that makes up what is considered its legacy, films that many consider near perfection and potentially sacrilege to do over again.

"There is actually a good, creative reason to do so," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd, who helped produce Alice, opines. "When you look at the original movies, great as they are, and they definitely are great, there lots of little threads in the stories that aren't explored, things that could really add dimension to the story and the characters, really flesh them out. The types of things that certain trolls on the Internet say are plot holes, even though they aren't, that are too ridiculous to believe, and other similar nitpicks that don't matter. Our idea, going in, is to basically pretend we're actually creating the original version, like we're mapping out these characters, their motivations, and their actions from scratch, and thus bringing a modern sensibility into reflection. It also gives newer generations and newer audiences a window to access these stories, older ones to share their memories and the feelings they had seeing the original versions, and adding lots of new flair to them. Make no mistake, this is not us moving to replace the original films in any way. We would never want anything like that. These films are complements to them, they will reinforce each other and build up each other's popularity. That's why we're doing this."

Even with such films now coming on Disney's plate, the company is hardly relying on what some cynics may call retreading past glories. Their 30-film distribution pact with DreamWorks Pictures through their Touchstone banner will continue to attract fare not directly suited for the family-friendly House of Mouse, as will future projects solely through Touchstone. Disney is also seeking to create other live action films itself that bring fresh success, even if some projects being touted as in development are being dropped (ideas for a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film and tackling The Lone Ranger have come to nothing), the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to keep rolling out Iron Man 2 and a Captain America film, and while it has remained fallow for a while, Lucasfilm Ltd. is strongly hinted to be revving up for a return to Star Wars sometime soon. Disney continues to seek to blaze new trails with its animated and Pixar slate, with the latest offering, Tangled, a take on Rapunzel, expected to do quite well. The Disney-ABC Television Group is also actively working to keep up beloved programming on their channels and create impactful new shows as well.


"Springbok's Purchase of Vue and HOYTS Approved, New Division of Company By Territory Goes Into Effect," PRNewswire, July 31, 2010

Today, Springbok Productions' bids to purchase Vue Cinemas in Europe and HOYTS Cinemas in Australia have officially been approved, ensuring that Springbok will now be a true power in the exhibition business, along with the earlier purchases of Muvico and Cobb Theatres in North America. As a result, Springbok is now an official member of the National Association of Theatre Owners, which allows the constant schmoozing at conventions like ShoWest/CinemaCon to become even more effective, in terms of reaching maximum potential for all our films to reach as many screens by our competitors as possible, and to allow impressive, fair-minded deals for all other product on our own screens, allowing as much product as possible to be screened, no matter its commercial prospects. We will also choose not to seek exclusivity deals for soft drinks, and let Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper/7UP products all be sold at our locations alongside our concessions.

With the success of Springbok's public stock offerings and side investments bringing fresh billions in revenue, as well as the recent acquisitions that have been made, Springbok is implementing a new shakeup in the corporate structure, to officially divide responsibilities and duties by territory, complete with new offices to match!

Springbok's main business will continue to be located in the North American division. Our official headquarters in Toronto will oversee the full structure of the company, all acquisitions and investments (including the distributor and exhibition work), financing for films, television series and video games by other production companies, and the accounting offices. The main work will continue to be in our offices at the Playa Vista studio lot, overseeing all creative projects, where most of our executives and employees will report, and the official offices for Denver and Delilah Animation, which also maintains a secondary office at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. We will maintain offices on the different studio lots specially dedicated to overseeing our products released by them, scattered through Century City, Culver City, Burbank and West Hollywood. An additional Denver and Delilah office is based out of Vancouver, using the employees formerly of Mainframe Entertainment/Rainmaker Studios. The 20 percent minority stake in Studio Ghibli allowed the creation of Studio Ghibli North America, overseeing all the major work on English dubs of their filmography, with our offices located at Pixar headquarters in Emeryville, California. And Exploitation Records continues to host its worldwide headquarters in New York, at the BT Tower. Springbok is also looking to buy a property for a secondary studio lot in Atlanta with plans to have it online by the middle of the decade, as well as establishing offices in both Orlando in Miami for both sales and other work.

All of our new international divisions will handle distribution deals (both for ourselves in making deals with studios to release our work, and being direct distributors whenever needed), and exhibition, where that applies. Springbok Latin America is based at Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City, Springbok UK near Shepperton Studios in London, Springbok Europe in the heart of Paris alongside secondary offices near Studio Babelsburg in Berlin and others in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Athens, Springbok Italy near Cinecitta in Rome, Springbok Africa in Charlize Theron's birthplace of Johannesburg, Springbok MDE in the Media City area of Dubai and another one in Istanbul, Springbok Japan in Tokyo and Osaka, Springbok Asia in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, Springbok ANZ in the HOYTS offices in Sydney, and Springbok South Asia in Mumbai, Singapore and Shah Alam.


"Springbok Gains New Heavy Hitters, Hooks Up With Johnny Depp," The Hollywood Reporter, August 10, 2010

Springbok Productions announced today that Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise's longtime agent, former Disney executive Nina Jacobson, and former Paramount head Sherry Lansing are officially joining the film division. In addition, their television productions and record label arms are also being shored up by the hiring of former executives Fred Silverman (NBC, CBS, ABC), Anthony Thomopolous (ABC), Lloyd Braun (ABC), Channing Dungey (ABC), Mo Ostin (Warner Bros. Records, DreamWorks Records), Lenny Waronker (Verve Records, Warner Bros. Records, DreamWorks Records), Marylou Badeaux (Warner Bros. Records) and Kaz Utsonomiya (Virgin Records). Their foreign sales and acquisitions division, focusing on buying and selling projects at film markets, is also being shored up with that division's head, Brad Wyman, being joined by Bradley Fischer and David Glasser. And joining as general board members, not tied to specific divisions but having a say in all project development include former HBO head Michael J. Fuchs, notable film producers Denise Di Novi, Robert Simonds and the team of Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna, former Brandywine Productions founders David Giler and Walter Hill, former Michael Bay apprentices Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, former Disney Channel programming head Rich Ross, and former Walt Disney Studios chairman Peter Schneider. Between all of them, Springbok has gained considerable muscle and clout that many insiders consider a definite win for them.

Wagner, along with Cruise, formed Cruise/Wagner Productions in 1993, with the intent to give her client more creative control over his projects and retain more of the profits. The company, which Springbok bought as part of Wagner's pact, has earned almost $3 billion over its life, through such films as the Mission: Impossible franchise, Vanilla Sky, The Last Samurai, Minority Report, the 2005 War of the Worlds, and Lions for Lambs. C/W also moved into more arty territory in films that Cruise wouldn't star in, such as The Others (starring his ex-wife Nicole Kidman), Narc, Ask the Dust and Shattered Glass, Billy Ray's 2003 film starring Hayden Christensen (at one point a serious contender to play Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas' Star Wars prequels) as disgraced New Republic journalist Stephen Glass. Cruise and Wagner also attempted to stretch themselves by taking control of United Artists, buying a 30 percent stake in the venerable studio owned by MGM, and moving to restore its luster. However, their tenure was brief and bitterly disappointing. As part of her Springbok contract, Wagner and Cruise have sold their ownership stake of UA back to MGM. "Paula is not on board as an executive," a member of Springbok's legal team present at the talks states. "She is here in a creative capacity, and she knows her way around film production. She has invaluable insight, and will only be a plus. As to whether we can get Tom signed on to any projects, that's hard to tell, especially since, because of previous disputes they had with Paramount, we don't own any part of future M:I installments. He's not the most highly paid star for nothing, and we'd really have to provide an extremely nice sweetheart deal to attract him here, but he'd certainly be worth every penny."

Jacobson was part of the team at Walt Disney Studios, which overlooks the live action filmography, having sat through the tenures of Jeffrey Katzenberg, Joe Roth, Peter Schneider and the early days of Dick Cook and Meryl Poster, until her suddenly and controversially being fired by them while recovering from giving birth in the hospital in late 2006. Her final days at Disney were fraught with continuous headaches, where she oversaw the folding of Miramax Pictures into the Touchstone brand (and subsequent partial rebranding) after Harvey Weinstein's exposure, the shuttering of Caravan Pictures and Hollywood Pictures, which had ended up becoming Disney's toxic waste dump, the controversy regarding Mel Gibson's 2006 film Apocalypto, and a breaking of ties with M. Night Shyamalan. The director, after having been credited as a wunderkind creative genius with films such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakableand Signs, began to lose his groove soon after. His 2004 film The Village was found to be underwhelming, and Jacobson, among the rest of the division, refused to greenlight his followup film, Lady in the Water. As a result, Shyamalan broke the contract Disney had with his production company, Blinding Edge Pictures, and gave the film over to Warner Bros. The film exceeded even Disney's worst fears when they passed, and Shyamalan then went to 20th Century Fox for his latest film, The Happening, which did even worse. Currently, the director, after having been denied a chance to direct a live action adaptation of Springbok's animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, is said to be working on a project with Will Smith. As for Jacobson, apparently Springbok's offer for a chance to join was too good to pass up and she put off any plans of retirement.

Lansing, during her tenure at Paramount Pictures, solidified herself in its history with an incredible success rate. Under her watch, 80 percent of Paramount's films turned a profit, an unheard of feat. She also negotiated the success and release of Braveheart and Titanic with surprising budget and profit sharing deals with 20th Century Fox. Fox put up two-thirds of the budget and handled the international sales, but Paramount ended up keeping most of the overall profit and ownership of those films' Oscar victories. "Sherry is an absolute delight, and a true master at her art. Springbok is all the more blessed to receive her." Silverman, Thomopolous and Braun all were network heads in their past, and contributed impressive victories. Silverman turned around ratings for NBC's news division and nighttime lineup, as well as achieving success with ABC's programming, Thomopolous helped further solidify ABC as a force to be reckoned with and justified Disney's purchase of them, and Braun helped conceive the massive juggernaut series Lost. Dungey was considered an impressive up and comer with the potential to be head of the network in the future, but chose to tie her fortunes to Springbok and its television slate. Ostin, Waronker and Badeaux are best known for their tenure at Warner Bros. Records in the '70s, '80s and '90s, during which they moved to make it artist-friendly and a notable player in the rock world, with signings like Neil Young, Eric Clapton, REM, Van Halen, Maria Muldaur, Black Sabbath, Curtis Mayfield and Prince. Utsonomiya is a veteran of Virgin Records, having served as A&R for the label during the '90s, after Richard Branson sold it to EMI. Among his notable moments were solidifying Virgin's record promoting the Sex Pistols especially in the middle of their 1996 Filthy Lucre reunion tour and John Lydon's post-Pistols solo career, and signing The White Stripes to V2 as well as allowing Jack White to create his Third Man Records label as a vanity label, which slowly gained independence and became more than the home of The White Stripes or White's various other musical activities.

Fuchs has been a former member of and executive producer for HBO, having been involved in sports TV production for the cable network, and becoming CEO of the company by 1984. He also helped produce numerous concert specials for the network, as well as being involved in the administration of C-SPAN and Comedy Central. Fuchs became Vice President of Time Warner in 1995, then chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, before he was fired by Time Warner vice chairman Gerald Levin. Di Novi produced several notable films with Tim Burton, including Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Ed Wood; then also parlayed that into producing films like Almost Heroes, Little Women, What a Girl Wants, Original Sin, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and Life as We Know It. Simonds has been attached to several notable Adam Sandler comedies such as Airheads, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer and Little Nicky; as well as films like Joe Dirt, Cheaper By the Dozen, Problem Child, the 2006 The Pink Panther and the 2006 The Shaggy Dog.

Giler and Hill created Brandywine Productions, which Springbok bought in 2004, and it is known as the production company behind the Alien franchise, though Hill is also known as an idiosyncratic director of films like The Warriors, Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs., Streets of Fire, Brewster's Millions, Extreme Prejudice and Red Heat. Kassar and Vajna founded Carolco Pictures, best known for the Rambo franchise as well as films like Angel Heart, Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Air America, The Doors, L.A. Story, Basic Instinct, Chaplin, Showgirls and Cutthroat Island; Vajna also formed and ran Cinergi Pictures, an indie with a long distribution deal with Disney that was responsible for Medicine Man, Super Mario Bros., Tombstone, Renaissance Man, Color of Night, Judge Dredd, The Scarlet Letter, Nixon and Evita. Form and Fuller founded the production company Platinum Dunes with Michael Bay, at the time considered one of Hollywood's biggest blockbuster directors with films like Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon. The company was planned to break in music video directors to create "blockbuster but reasonable in budget" horror remakes, with budgets not exceeding $20 million. Their sole output was a 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Bay's financial problems and eventual retirement from directing did the company in. Ross helped lead and run programming at The Disney Channel, especially during its transition from premium cable access to basic access channel and helped establish its identity. Schneider helped run Walt Disney Animation Studios during its notable '90s resurgence with classics like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beastand Aladdin; he became the chair of The Walt Disney Studios in 1999, but left the post after a mere three years due to restlessness.

Springbok's foreign sales and acquisitions division, focusing on buying projects at film markets and festivals as well as selling distribution rights to individual distributors on a territory-by-territory basis has been headed by Brad Wyman, who first was involved as a producer on Springbok's 2003 film Monster, starring cofounder Charlize Theron as convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and chose to help keep the company running. He has personally selected his new deputies; Bradley Fischer and David Glasser, who've been involved in sales divisions of other companies as well as a myriad of other jobs in their lives.

In addition to all this, Springbok decided to solidify a future with Johnny Depp, who starred in Springbok's adaptation of Sweeney Todd and the recent Disney outing Alice in Wonderland, both directed by his constant collaborator Tim Burton. They also helped finance his 2005 film The Libertine and secured a distribution deal for the movie with Disney under its Touchstone Pictures banner and roped in Mel Gibson's Icon Productions to produce it. Depp, who is also the lead in Springbok's upcoming animated project Rango (reuniting him with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski), has officially signed up to do yet another project with them, a semisatirical biopic of Saddam Hussein, playing the lead. The film project came to life as they took an option on a hagiographic account of Hussein's life written by anti-imperialist gadfly Tariq Ali, which was brought to them by comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, who hooked up the company for the mockumentary films Borat and Bruno. Baron Cohen will also star in the film, projected to open in 2012, as Hussein's right hand man, and Larry Charles, who directed both earlier films, is back in the director's chair for this project as well.

To further solidify their relationship, Springbok has also committed to providing a cash infusion for Depp's film production company, Infinitum Nihil, run since 2004 by his sister Christine Dembrowski, and his indie music label Unison Music. The latter was formed only recently by his good friend Bruce Witkin, a studio engineer and producer who was a childhood friend of Depp's and recorded his vocals for Sweeney Todd, and Ryan Dorn, with an aim to produce and release albums by indie rock artists, with Depp an unofficial A&R man, and contributing guitar and vocals (as well as directing music videos) when he feels. Their first signing was the band Babybird, whose first album with Unison Music, Ex-Maniac, was released in March, propelled by the lead single "Unloveable" (sic), which Depp played guitar on and directed the video for. Springbok used its record industry contacts to solidify Unison Music a distribution deal with Atlantic Records, which will manufacture and distribute all Unison releases.

Depp also recently proceeded with a rash of selling off of several of his dozens of properties around the world, and some of his more expensive belongings, to help fund both endeavors, as well as "reorient" himself. He and his romantic partner, Vanessa Paradis, have always been fairly private, especially regarding their two children, Lily-Rose and Jack. But lately, they have been more reclusive, and rumors suggested that Depp was considering packing it in.

"None of that is remotely true," a Depp associate replies. "But Johnny is getting himself into a better place. After Lily-Rose got sick and recovered, he came to the realization that he needed to work on himself, for his family's sake. He's given up smoking, he has largely cut back from drinking, and he doesn't really party with any kind of substances anymore. He also has slowed down his spending habits and sold things off because his accountants pointed out that he was on the verge of getting himself into a hole he couldn't dig himself out of. He's learning to be prudent, especially because, as he says, 'I don't want to have to take a film role just because I need the money to provide for my family.' Johnny wants what's best for Vanessa and the children, and the people at Springbok indirectly brought him to this point. He is truly grateful that they came into his life."


"Springbok Buys Mandeville Films," by Cynthia Littleton, Variety, September 26, 2010

Springbok Productions today announced that it has purchased David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman's Mandeville Films, a shingle set up in 1995 to produce films for Disney at the behest of then-studio chair Joe Roth. It has produced a number of films for the Mouse as well as some for other studios, including George of the Jungle, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Walking Tall, The Shaggy Dog, Raising Helen and Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Springbok will inherit its library as well as its offices on the Disney lot in Burbank. However, Hoberman and Lieberman will not join Springbok, announcing they would form a new company, Hyperobject Industries, with additional financing from comedy director Adam McKay, who founded Gary Sanchez Productions with actor Will Ferrell. None of Mandeville's employees are guaranteed employment with Springbok, and mass layoffs are expected. Mandeville will finish its remaining Disney commitments under its own name, a new film with The Muppets, simply entitled The Muppets, for next year as well as a potential sequel, and also has a deal for a film adaptation of the hit animated series Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers.


"Leonard Soloway Interview," Broadway Online, October 23, 2010

In an editing room at Skywalker Ranch, the movie ranch compound owned by George Lucas, Springbok Productions' stage theatricals head, Leonard Soloway, is among the group glued to the screens. He, Amblin Entertainment cofounder Kathleen Kennedy, composing legends Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman, and director Garry Marshall have joined editor Michael Kahn in watching over the latest rough cut of the film Whistle Down the Wind, a screen adaptation of a popular West End musical by Lloyd Webber and Steinman, the latter of whom is still dressed head to toe in black leather and dark shades offset by his silvery mane, but whose body has blown out and shows the scars of cardiac health problems of years past (reportedly due to a continuous length of hard living and excess). "I think we can trim off twenty seconds in that scene," Marshall, the ebullient director of films like Beaches and Pretty Woman, says in his inimitable, Yiddish-flavored voice. "But I really like the bridge," Steinman rebuts in a whiny, Staten Island-inflected tone. "The guitar break is really killer." Soloway just looks straight ahead at the screen. "Jim, what have I told you about killing the darlings? Besides, the pacing of film is different than on the stage."

Scenes like this are fairly common during the production and post production process of Whistle, a parable about a group of young children in 1959 Louisiana who discover a convict hiding in a barn and mistake him for Jesus. The show was a massive hit during its two-and-a-half-year London run, but a North American jaunt by Springbok less than a decade later did not fare so well, as it was eviscerated by the critics, calling it "insipid", "juvenile fantasy", and "overwrought melodrama to the point bordering on Lifetime movie," leading to it becoming Springbok's first ever flop in musical theater. "American critics were never going to get it, especially not the New York ones," Soloway reflects. "It's very much an aberration to their senses, especially with how earnest and sincere it is, surprisingly so from Jim's lyrics. They can't buy that a teenage girl, who falls in love with the convict, would easily follow the other children in mistaking him for Jesus. But it was in the original novel that Andrew adapted, so you can't write it without having that scene. It's just baked in."

The lavish film production, filmed entirely on location in the Acadiana region of Louisiana, and boasting a cast including Garrett Hedlund, Elle Fanning, Paul Dano, Michael K. Williams, Idris Elba and Adrienne Warren, and produced in conjunction with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment for a May 20 release, certainly goes all out to deliver something that's both a document of the show, and a deeper, richer experience. "Andrew, Jim, Nigel (longtime Lloyd Webber right hand man Nigel Wright), Rink (longtime Steinman assistant/engineer/mixer Steven Rinkoff) and I definitely talked a lot in handling the orchestrations for the movie. We decided to really enrich them with more of a regional flavor. In the stage show, the songs are very straightforward orchestral and/or rock numbers, big emphasis on pounding drums, rollicking piano, screaming guitars and swooping strings. We definitely still have all that, but we wanted to really deepen the sound, and capture the location. We're in Cajun country, in the late '50s, during the birth of rock and roll, which got a lot of its influence from gospel, country and the blues. So now certain songs have more of that authentic flavor. We also mixed in zydeco arrangements, to definitely fit location better."

Given how much the original stage production was rejected, how could it possibly fare better on the silver screen? "There's a very good chance it won't," Soloway admits. "This is very much a love it or hate it work, like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But, given the strong Christian-based message of redemption, it could certainly play well with the Bible Belt, especially if there are entirely faith-based screenings like The Passion of the Christ had. Not to mention, quite a few musical productions were reviled at first, but the public's love made them turn around. Les Miserables was absolutely loathed when it opened, but they turned around in less than a year."

Speaking of, the news that Springbok will be tackling a film adaptation of the world's longest-running musical, to be released in 2012, came as little surprise, especially with their past successes in filmed adaptations of musicals, most notably The Phantom of the Opera. When pressed about the project, Soloway plays coy. "I'm not really at liberty to say anything about how that will turn out. Just that we were in talks with Cameron Mackintosh (producer of the stage version and of lavish anniversary concert specials) and he basically approached us first. He said, 'you know what a film of the show needs, what makes it work, how to bring the plot and the themes to life and resonating so powerfully.'"

Springbok's continued work in musical theater is also sure to keep Soloway busy. Especially working with Disney on the new stage transfer of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, though it was expressly planned to not be a Broadway-bound show, but play seasonally every October through New Year's. "If you're doing something like Nightmare, it only works if you do it from Halloween through New Year's, and unless you're a revival of a big show that previously played the Great White Way like Fiddler on the Roof, you're not allowed to do seasonal runs. But going off-Broadway, and to regional productions, that's how you can make an impact. It will run for the last three months of the year, every year until the end of time!"

One of Springbok's most surprising stage projects, The Book of Mormon, by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker along with Robert Lopez, after countless workshops, will finally open on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on March 24, 2011, after one month of previews. "It took time, but we finally got it together. Our young leads, Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, are perfect embodiments of the protagonists, and we found the perfect director in Casey Nicholaw to bring the vision to life." When queried as to why Springbok hooked up with Stone and Parker, after a notable and heated falling out because of an episode in which they skewered the company and Nirvana, Soloway remains chipper. "Just because you have personal differences...and still do, shouldn't prevent you from working together if you believe in a common creative vision. The book for the musical was absolutely amazing, and the comedy is just incredibly incisive, cutting and on point. It would be an aesthetic crime not to be involved."

Springbok also helped produce Lloyd Webber's latest stage production, Love Never Dies, a sequel to Phantom, which has done reasonably well, even if it is agreed that the show is nowhere near equaling the original. "To be honest, Anita (Waxman), Elizabeth (Williams) and I fought a lot with Andrew over his vision of the show. In fact, we told him that there simply wasn't enough material to justify a sequel. But he wouldn't let go of the idea, so we did a lot of brush-up work and directly told him that his original idea was nowhere near up to scratch, and devaluing Phantom to boot. I mean, basically it was pandering the fangirls that want Christine to end up with the Phantom, even though there is no realistic way for that to work. We were definitely hoping that we could at least produce a decent enough coda, but no more, and I feel that's what we did."

Despite feeling that there is no real sequel to the story of Phantom, Soloway asserts that there actually is more to the story to make another production. "There's a lot of material in Gaston Leroux's original novel that Andrew excised when he did Phantom, especially the last third of the story, the parts involving the Persian. You could easily use that as the bones to make a prequel. In fact, it could easily be powerful enough to match the original production and really flesh out the Phantom. In fact, I've told Andrew that he should really get on that at once. I can totally imagine the story of Phantom playing out like The Godfather; two parts and a coda."

In addition, Soloway states that a stage transfer of Disney's Aladdin will soon have a tryout in Seattle (with all the original songs from the film by Alan Menken with Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, discarded songs Ashman and Menken wrote that didn't get used in the film, and new songs by Menken and librettist Chad Beguelin), as well as a transfer of the 1992 film Newsies, containing a rejiggered score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, which will have a tryout at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey starting on September 25. Work on an English version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame will finally soon be underway. "We've resolved all our differences with Dennis (DeYoung, frontman of Styx), and we're now deep in the creative process of working out an adaptation, what to keep from the Berlin version, what to cut, what to add, and how to bring this story to life. We certainly want to make it fit more in line with Victor Hugo's original text, and make it a darker story. "The ending of the novel is extremely powerful, with Quasimodo throwing Frollo off the belltower, Esmeralda dying in his arms, and staying by her side until he dies from starvation. It really is needed for the stage version, and will definitely make audiences appreciate it more."

And notably, Soloway states that they are reteaming with Mel Brooks to work on a stage transfer of Blazing Saddles to premiere sometime in 2012. "That movie is Mel's magnum opus, the masterpiece by which everything else is judged, and we know it can work quite well on stage. Now, Mel likes to say that the original movie couldn't be made today, simply because of the advent of political correctness, but I don't think that's true. Mel didn't throw around the racial slurs and stereotypes just for shock value, he did them to make a point to show the absurdity of prejudice. That has always been what he's done. In The Producers, for example, it's easy to conclude that Carmen Ghia and Roger DeBris exist solely as mincing, preening gay stereotypes and nothing more, but there is a reason. During that scene, especially the musical version with 'Keep it Gay', Max Bialystock moves to reassure Leo Bloom that Roger's group is nothing to fear or be uncomfortable from. He even tells him, 'this is showbiz', showing that he doesn't actually think anything about their sexual orientation. They're just people, and they're so common, especially on Broadway, that their lifestyle soon doesn't factor at all. Mel has always been good at doing this, even though he's not fully aware of the fact he's imparting messages in works that are just meant to be absurdist, meta comedy. That's why we're tackling Saddles and bringing it to life."


"Springbok Goes Big for Trio of TV Movies," by Scott Collins, The Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2011

This year is shaping up to be a big one for Springbok Productions, with the release of nine movies, at least two big video games (a new Call of Dutyinstallment and the first game in the Deus Ex series in eight years), a new Broadway musical by the creators of South Park, a new anthology series by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk this October for FX, American Horror Story, and a new animated series for first-run syndication.

But apparently this is not enough for them. Springbok's television division has apparently inked a massive deal with NBC to produce three made-for-TV movies for them. And they have decided to tackle a very ambitious project for such a deal. Springbok took an option to acquire the rights to a trio of bestselling true crime novels by author Joe McGinnis; Fatal Vision, about the conviction of Green Beret Jeffrey R. MacDonald for the 1970 killing of his wife and daughters, Blind Faith, about the conviction of Robert O. Marshall for the 1984 murder of his wife to cover massive debts and a torrid affair he was having, and Cruel Doubt, about the 1988 murder of Lieth Von Stein, for which his stepson Chris Pritchard and two friends were convicted of. All three books were made into massive event miniseries by NBC in 1984, 1990, and 1992, respectively. Levinson/Fontana Productions, the TV project company founded by director Barry Levinson and partner Tom Fontana, will co-produce the films, alongside Levinson's feature films company Baltimore Pictures. Levinson is set to direct one of the films as well.

However, unlike the earlier versions, Springbok is not settling for a straight dramatization of the crimes and the lives of the men who were imprisoned for them. "We don't simply want to retread old ground and settle for lurid, voyeuristic glee and shock value, like the books and the earlier miniseries did," Channing Dungey, one of the executives of Springbok's TV division replies. "While the crimes and the lives of Jeffrey MacDonald, Robert Marshall and Chris Pritchard will still be shown, we're also going to shine a spotlight on the media, especially the role McGinnis and his books had, and examine whether the well was poisoned against them."

McGinnis has come under controversy from the accused, and from other journalists, as taking advantage of them and getting releases to write freely under false pretenses. MacDonald in particular alleges that McGinnis came offering his services, stating he was interested in writing a book that would prove his innocence, and signed a release form, only to be betrayed. He and other writers who have written books afterwards have stated that McGinnis withheld potentially exculpatory evidence from the manuscript, and had incredibly slanted beliefs about the prosecution. Pritchard and his family also attacked McGinnis for blaming their hobby of playing Dungeons & Dragons as having an influence in the alleged murder.

Thus, Springbok's trio of films will also explore McGinnis' role in the cases, his research methods, and show contradictory evidence that may or may not exonerate the convicted, at least in the court of public opinion. "We're not going to make a definitive statement that 'yes, they're guilty' or 'yes, they're innocent,'" Dungey says. "Unlike other cases like, say, the West Memphis Three and the Paradise Lost films, there isn't enough evidence to really clinch it either way, and admittedly, the stronger evidence probably is that in favor of their guilt. But no one has really asked the questions before until now, and the questions have to be asked. Because just simply taking the verdicts, the books and the earlier films as gospel simply does a disservice to everyone."

The films will come out one a year, starting next year, up through 2014. While Fatal Vision was the first book and miniseries released in the past, it will now be the second of Springbok's versions, because they have also taken an option on a forthcoming book about the MacDonald case by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, who definitely is well versed in the area of exoneration. His 1988 documentary, The Thin Blue Line, helped bring about the exoneration and release of Randall Dale Adams for a crime he did not commit, and 15 years later, his film The Fog of War, an interview/interrogation of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, resulted in the subject admitting wrongdoing and culpability regarding the leading of America to war in Vietnam.


"Springbok Provides First Look at Sailor Moon and Inuyasha," Anime News Network, January 15, 2011

Springbok's Enima Studios division has officially provided the first look at their forthcoming live action adaptations of Sailor Moon and Inuyasha, complete with full information about the cast and crew for both endeavors.

We were placed in conversation with Paula Wagner, recently added as helping film development at Springbok and known as Tom Cruise's longtime agent, about the productions. "First off," she states, "both of them are going to be two films each, a story that is neatly divided into two parts and filmed simultaneously. Both parts of Sailor Moon and Inuyasha are three hours each. This is because Springbok's version of Death Note was three hours long, and also a way to really condense the full story, but also ensure that it is fully fleshed out. This way you can cut a lot of tedious filler, and keep the driving focus on the main plotline. After all, both series have a lot of arcs and character development that occurs over the period of their journeys, and to not show that to the best of our ability would do a great disservice to the story, and the fans."

Sailor Moon, to be released next year by DreamWorks Pictures via Disney's Touchstone Pictures banner, in co-production with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment (the latter of which is a co-producer on Springbok's adaptations of Lois Lowry's loose trilogy of The Giver, Gathering Blue and Messenger) boasts a lengthy script by Diablo Cody (best known for Juno and also the writer of another Springbok vehicle due at the end of this year, Young Adult) and series creator Naoko Takeuchi, which predominantly focuses on the first and second seasons/arcs of the anime, and is directed by Patty Jenkins, who directed the mesmerizing 2003 film Monster, in which Springbok cofounder Charlize Theron gave an incredibly transformative, Oscar-winning performance as convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos. In addition, the movie boasts a mixture of impressive newcomers and familiar faces: Kiralee Hayashi as Usagi Tsukino, the clumsy schoolgirl who transforms into the titular hero; Doona Bae (also in the Springbok-produced adaptation of Cloud Atlas by the Wachowskis), Zoe Weizenbaum (from Springbok's adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha), Catalina Yue and a score of unknown, previously undiscovered actresses as the remaining members of the Sailor Scouts; Karl Yune (another Geisha alum) as Mamoru Chiba, Usagi's love interest who transforms into the hero Tuxedo Mask; Ken Watanabe (from Geisha and Batman Begins) as Usagi's father Kenji; Drew Barrymore and Adrien Brody as the voices of Luna and Artemis, the Sailor Scouts' mentors/guardians trapped in the bodies of cats; Sean Young (Rachael from Blade Runner) as Queen Serenity; Kim Basinger as the season one/part one villain Queen Beryl; and Kurt Russell as season two/part two villain Rubeus. The film also includes a character created for the film versions, an American exchange student named Andy Rodgers, played by Ezra Miller, who knows the Sailor Scouts' identities from instantly recognizing their faces and becomes involved in their circle. Alan Silvestri will score the films.

"We've been looking a lot at the rushes that have been coming out of Tokyo," Wagner states. "It's definitely shaping up to be an impressive film, true to the original source, and also full of its own identity. Fans of the original will be pleased, and a window will be open that will bring a lot of new converts. The fact that part one will also premiere when the original series is celebrating its 20th anniversary is also quite important. Sailor Moon is a milestone in manga/anime, creating strong and empowered female characters with their own agency in popular fiction, and showcasing the best of what creativity can do. Our amazing cast and crew will certainly do justice to this powerful, beautiful series."

Details of Inuyasha have finally begun to be nailed down. The two-film series, distributed by Paramount Pictures in North America and 20th Century Fox internationally, will premiere in 2014, with the second part the following year. Joining Springbok as producers are Valhalla Entertainment (formerly Pacific Western Productions) and its founder, Gale Anne Hurd (second ex-wife of James Cameron, and was a critical part of The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Aliens and The Abyss; and later producer of films like Switchback, Dante's Peak and the 2003 Hulk; as well as producing the recent hit TV show The Walking Dead), and Jerry Bruckheimer, best known for bombastic productions like Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide, The Rock, Enemy of the State, Black Hawk Down, National Treasure and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Bruckheimer and Hurd also worked together to produce Armageddon in 1998.

This set of films has a script by Hurd, husband Jonathan Hensleigh (who did script doctoring on The Rock and was a main writer of Armageddon), and series creator Rumiko Takahashi, with further polishing by Robin Swicord (Matilda, Memoirs of a Geisha) and further script doctoring by Carrie Fisher. Lilly Kilvert, production designer for films such as Legends of the Fall, The Crucible and The Last Samurai, is signed to the project, with James Horner scoring. Gore Verbinski, the director best known for The Ring and the Pirates trilogy, as well as directing Springbok's newest animated film, Rango, is in the director's chair for both films.

The films boast a fairly impressive cast. Ellen Wong (Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is Kagome Higurashi, the schoolgirl who finds herself in Japan's Warring States era; Johnny Yong Bosch (Power Rangers alum and voiceover actor in many anime projects) is the titular half-demon Inuyasha; Charlet Chung portrays Kikyo, the priestess who was later reincarnated as Kagome; Kelly Hu (most recognized as Yuriko/Deathstryke in X2) is the demon slayer Sango; Karl Yune will also appear in this adaptation, as the lecherous monk Miroku; Merle Dandrige (Alyx Vance in Half-Life 2 and its episodic expansions and Kala in the stage musical adaptation of Disney's Tarzan) is Kaede, Kikyo's sister and elderly priestess in a nearby village; Krista Marie Yu portrays Ayame; Youki Kudoh (Pumpkin in Geisha) is Kagome's mother; Keiko Agena as Inuyasha's mother Izayoi; Adam Driver will bring his trademark intensity as Inuyasha's half-brother Sesshomaru; veteran voiceover actress Tara Strong will be the voice of the young fox demon Shippo; Sopranos lead James Gandolfini provides the voice of Sesshomaru's companion Jaken; and Nicolas Cage will receive top billing in a practical effect/motion-capture blend as the antagonist Naraku. Invented for part two is the original character Caleb Hart, played by Mark Wahlberg, an American on a business trip to Japan who ends up caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, stuck with Kagome and Inuyasha's group while going between the past and the present, and is forced to play peacekeeper in the group.

"I think that our version will be very much adored and loved when it comes out. Especially since Rumiko has always been on good terms with us, and we actually even helped her temper some weaknesses in her material, better planned out its execution to a satisfying end for all involved. This film will capture all of that, and more. Our group, packed with amazing talents, will all bring their A game to the project, make their mark, and provide a thrilling experience for the audience."


"Springbok Signs Prince for a Sweetheart, Artist-Friendly Deal," Billboard, February 2, 2011

Exploitation Records, the record label arm of Springbok Productions, officially signed the legendary and legendarily reclusive Prince to a long-term deal. The 52-year-old multi-instrumentalist, renowned for his record-smashing success in the '80s, committed to an eight-album deal, with an option for four more, and the rights for compilations, unreleased material, and live recordings.

To encourage this deal, Springbok essentially met Prince with everything he would ever want. First off, Exploitation Records is not actually officially signing Prince as an artist, but are pressing and distributing his albums, which remain under the control of his NPG Records imprint, following similar one-off album deals he's made in the past. Prince will therefore maintain the rights to the masters of the albums that Springbok will distribute, and all the physical recordings. In addition, Springbok resolved an issue that has long been a thorn in Prince's side: the ownership of the masters of his hit albums when signed to Warner Bros. Records, as well as the rights to the albums released by other artists on his Paisley Park Records label, a joint venture with Warners that lasted nine years, until Warners terminated the distribution deal. Aggressive negotiations by the Exploitation Records team convinced Warners to hand over the rights.

"This is truly a landmark deal," Jason Flom, part of Exploitation Records, states. "We not only get to work with one of the true living legends of popular music, but managed to bring closure to one of the industry's longest-running dramas. Prince will thus have all of his music truly be his and his alone." The artist himself was quite pleased. "Eye am truly happy 2 report that Springbok and eye will make lots of music 4 U, and that eye own everything now. Thank U, Springbok, 4 making this possible."

There is no rush or timetable for Prince to churn out a new studio album to begin the deal, but Exploitation Records plans to hit the ground running with a deluxe remasters campaign of Prince's catalogue. Most especially of interest to fans is a deluxe campaign for Purple Rain that will unfold in time for the album and film's 30th anniversary in 2014. Exploitation Records will also remaster and reissue the works released by Paisley Park Records of various Prince side projects and non-Prince related works by the likes of The Time, Vanity 6, The Family, releases credited solely to his '90s backing group the New Power Generation, George Clinton, Mavis Staples and Ingrid Chavez.

Prince set himself above many of his peers with his incomparable mastery of dozens of instruments, playing many of them himself on the same recording, as well as a fairly eclectic base of musical influences, predominantly funk, rock, R&B, pop and hip-hop. He established himself as a revolutionary in the vein of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis or John Coltrane, mixed with John Lennon and David Bowie through various and notable commercial successes like Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, Sign O' the Times and Diamonds and Pearls. And when his albums failed to sell as much as expected or critics weren't as impressed, his dedicated and loyal fanbase kept buying them, and many agreed that, in the words of Rolling Stone's review of his 1988 album Lovesexy, "Prince's chaff is often times more intriguing than other artists' wheat."

However, Prince felt stymied by Warner Bros., his managers, and many former members of his inner circle by their attempts to convince him to slow his release output, and he often refused to follow their suggestions for song and single selection, tour routing, or often refused to shoot music videos. He also despised their views on the releases on his Paisley Park Records label, and their decision to try to veto them. As a result, Prince launched a blistering attack campaign against Warners, including changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol and referring to himself as a "slave."

Prince eventually won freedom from the label (but ironically, the main heads of Warners at the time, Mo Ostin, Larry Waronker and Marylou Badeaux are now members of Exploitation Records), and decided to focus on using the Internet to release his music directly, as well as switch to attracting one-off distribution and pressing deals with other labels to work on an album, where he'd then move on to the next. He worked with the now-defunct EMI America Records for Emancipation in 1996, Arista Records for Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic in '99, Columbia Records for Musicology in 2004, Universal Music Group for 3121 two years later, then back with Columbia for Planet Earth the following year. Prince followed that with the Lotusflow3r/MPLSoUND package, released and distributed directly on his own, exclusively released by Target in 2009, and his most recent album, 20Ten, was released as a free covermount with European newspapers.

"Prince is the one who led the way regarding how the music industry is run now," Flom states. "Were it not for him and his work to break away from Warners and take control of his music, the paradigm would never have changed, and it's unlikely that Exploitation Records, or Springbok as a whole, would ever exist. And he caught a lot of flak for what he did in the '90s, and lost just about every battle along the way. But he won the war in the end."


"CalPERS Makes Notable Injection Into Springbok," by Greg Kilday, The Hollywood Reporter, May 3, 2011

The California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS, which manages the largest public pension fund in the United States, has officially announced that it is directly investing $1 billion into Springbok Productions. CalPERS bought a considerable amount of Springbok's common stock in the IPO, but is now having money put directly into the company's coffers.

"We think this is a great investment, and will produce a great return, especially for employees' pensions," CalPERS says in a press statement. "Springbok is a great company."


"Arnold Schwarzenegger Picks Drama Cry Macho for Big-Screen Return," by Greg Kilday, The Hollywood Reporter, May 4, 2011

The former California governor, who also is attached to a Terminator package, will play a horse trainer in the film for Springbok Productions, Godfather producer Al Ruddy and Lincoln Lawyer director Brad Furman.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has zeroed in on the film that will mark his return to the big screen: Cry Macho, a drama about a down-on-his-luck horse trainer who is hired to kidnap a 9-year-old boy. Springbok Productions, whose founders Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron are, like Schwarzenegger, longtime investors in Planet Hollywood, will produce the film. Al Ruddy, an Oscar winner for both The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby and part of Springbok, will join Cobain, Theron and Jennifer Todd as lead producer, while Brad Furman, who helmed the recent The Lincoln Lawyer, has been tapped to direct, with filming set to begin in September.

"It has always been a lifelong dream to work with Arnold," Todd states. "Kurt, Charlize and I have known him for a long time, since the Planet Hollywood days, and starting in the last few months of his term as governor, we really began talking projects to bring him for his return to acting. This is just the first of quite a few to come."

"I guarantee that you'll get another look at Arnold Schwarzenegger in this movie," Ruddy said. "Arnold always plays these big muscular guys, but there's a sweetness to Arnold in real life, and we want to bring that sweetness to the screen. Now that Brad's met with Arnold, he's convinced there's an accessibility and vulnerability there that he wants to bring out."

The project, which Ruddy has been nurturing for years, will be financed by Bill Block's QED International, which will begin offering it to international buyers in Cannes next week. Block will serve as exec producer along with QED's Paul Hanson, and Springbok figures Ted Field, Robert W. Cort, and David V. Picker. The deal, hammered out by the actor's reps at CAA, calls for Schwarzenegger to receive $12.5 million plus 25% of first-dollar gross. Ruddy and Schwarzenegger also will end up co-owning the negative on the film, in a concession blessed by Springbok.

While the former governor also is attached to a Terminator package that is being offered to studios, and Springbok has offered yet another project for him, a sequel to the 1993 film Last Action Hero, with Macho, he is opting for a movie that is more a character study than a full-blown action piece - although some action elements have been added to accommodate the star.

The film is based on the 1975 novel, Cry Macho, by N. Richard Nash, who also wrote the play The Rainmaker. Nash, who died in 2000, wrote the screenplay, which Ruddy has re-optioned over the years, including after he joined Springbok in 2004. "I just would never let go of this one," Ruddy, 81, said, "and Springbok saw as much potential in it as I did." Actors ranging from Burt Lancaster to Pierce Brosnan have been interested in the lead role. And at one point, it looked as if Clint Eastwood might star in and direct. Because he didn't want to lose control of the property, Ruddy said, he took it with him to Springbok, but never looked for any major studios to deliver it to, preferring to find ways to package it independently.

Schwarzenegger, 63, will play Mike, a once well-regarded horse trainer whose wife and son have died. His former boss makes him an over he can't refuse: $400,000 to kidnap the boss' trust fund son, who is living with the man's ex-wife in Mexico. But when Mike locates the boy, a real troublemaker, the ex-wife doesn't want the kid. But as Mike and the boy head back to the States, with the Federales are on their trail, they develop a father-son bond of their own.

"If it works, and I think it will," Ruddy said, "this could be a classic. There's an emotional line to the story that really works. At the end of the movie, I'm hoping audiences will be laughing and crying at the same time."


"Arnold Schwarzenegger's Governator, Cry Macho, Terminator on Hold as He Halts Acting Career," by Tim Appello, The Hollywood Reporter, May 19, 2011

The news comes amid the unfolding scandal surrounding the child he fathered while married to now-estranged wife Maria Shriver.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is putting the brakes on his acting career in the wake of the unfolding scandal surrounding the child he fathered while married to Maria Shriver. The former California governor's lawyer Patrick Knapp released a statement Thursday saying that Schwarzenegger will not be acting in the immediate future.

"At the request of Arnold Schwarzenegger, we asked Creative Artists Agency to inform all his motion picture projects currently underway or being negotiated to stop planning until further notice," the statement reads. "Gov. Schwarzenegger is focusing on personal matters and is not willing to commit to any production schedules or timelines. This includes Cry Macho, the Terminator franchise and other projects under consideration. We will resume discussions when Gov. Schwarzenegger decides."

The immediate impact of the decision will be felt most by producers of Cry Macho, which is in preproduction and was to mark Schwarzenegger's return to acting after years running California.

Cry Macho producer Albert Ruddy declined to comment beyond the statement issued by Schwarzenegger's team. On Tuesday, he told THR that he was certain shooting would begin August 24 despite the paternity scandal.

"I've seen scandal after scandal," Ruddy said Tuesday, "and after a few months, nobody remembers it. It's totally irrelevant. After Osama and the Wall Street prosecutions, who's talking about Charlie Sheen (referring to his recent firing from Two and a Half Men)? All you have to do in America is keep your mouth shut for a day or two."

However, Springbok Productions, the main producer of the project, officially nixed the film soon after Ruddy's response. "In light of recent events, Cry Macho is no longer considered an active project for us," CEO Jennifer Todd stated. "There are simply too many plot elements that would hit too close to home for Arnold and his family. We don't feel too disappointed in losing the film, since this is a moment where healing is required. I speak for everyone when I say that all our thoughts and best wishes are with Arnold, Maria and the children."

Earlier Thursday, the producer of the animated series The Governator, starring Schwarzenegger as a superhero fighting crime in a lair secretly located beneath the Los Angeles home he shares with wife Maria, told THR that the scandal will not impact the show.

"The U.S. broadcaster has not pulled out," A2 CEO Andy Heyward said just hours before Schwarzenegger's announcement. "It will be announced June 14 at [the] Licensing Show, in Las Vegas. The series is fictional of course, and that's what we are focused on. Broadcast begins worldwide in September 2012."

Hours after Schwarzenegger's announcement, TMZ reported that a rep for the show said, "In light of recent events, A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics and Archie Comics have chosen to not go forward with the Governatorproject."

Schwarzenegger's other planned project, the proposed reboot of the Terminator franchise with Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures and director Justin Lin (Fast Five), is in the early stages of development. Springbok also has a development deal for Schwarzenegger to do a sequel to his 1993 film Last Action Hero, and as there isn't even an outline for that yet, that movie is still very likely to occur down the line.


"Springbok Productions Completes Secondary Offering Of 400 Billion Common Shares Of Stock," Reuters, May 20, 2011

Springbok Productions, less than a year after its record-breaking IPO, has just completed a successful secondary offering of another 400 billion shares of common stock to the public, raising another $10 billion for the company.

"I am heartened that the public is hungry for Springbok's stock," CFO James W. Keyes told the press. "Our IPO and secondary offering demonstrate just how beloved we are, and will contribute a great deal towards financing our ongoing operations and expansion."


"Springbok Creating Trio of Slavery-Related Projects," by Cynthia Littleton, Variety, August 20, 2011

Springbok Productions are no strangers to making big, ambitious projects, and there certainly is no exception with the announcement that they will be releasing three films that all have some relation with the topic of American slavery in the antebellum South. Though very different in tone from each other, they all have that one linking element in common.

First off, after having finished production on the film War Horse for Christmas, Springbok and Steven Spielberg will soon begin production on the long-announced Lincoln for release by DreamWorks Pictures via Disney's Touchstone Pictures in North America and 20th Century Fox internationally the following holiday season. Despite the title, the film, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's bestseller Team of Rivals, is not a chronicle of his entire life, but instead focuses on the effort to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment in January 1865, while the war was still officially on and to ensure that slavery would be extinguished. Daniel Day-Lewis will play the title role, while Sally Field will portray Mary Todd Lincoln. The movie also features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln, David Strathairn as William Seward, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair, James Spader as Republican operative William N. Bilbo, and Jackie Earle Haley as Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens.

At the same time and release point, Springbok and Fox will release Quentin Tarantino's next project, Django Unchained, a film in which a former slave becomes a bounty hunter to search for and free his wife, shot in the vein of a spaghetti western. Jamie Foxx has been signed on to play the titular role, with Christoph Waltz, who broke out to receptive audiences as Hans Landa in Tarantino's last film Inglourious Basterds, as his foil, Dr. King Schultz. Leonardo DiCaprio has been confirmed as the movie's antagonist, the slave owner Calvin Candie, master of "Candyland," his ode to subjugation, with Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson as his right-hand man, a house slave named Stephen. Don Johnson, Bruce Dern and Jonah Hill have also been confirmed to have roles in the movie, though Hill's role is expected to be short, since he and DiCaprio are also working together on another Springbok project, Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, expected in 2013.

Lastly, Springbok, along with Regency Enterprises and Brad Pitt's production company Plan B Entertainment, have announced that they are working together on 12 Years a Slave, based on the narrative by Solomon Northup, a free man from upstate New York who was mistaken for a runaway slave and made to toil at plantations down south. British director Steve McQueen will helm the project, with a script by John Ridley. Chiewetel Ejiofor will star as Solomon, while Michael Fassbender will star as Edwin Epps, the cruel, vindictive slave owner who kept him the longest. Pitt will star in a brief supporting role, as will Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard and Paul Dano. The film will be released sometime in 2013, with Fox Searchlight Pictures distributing it in North America, Entertainment One in the UK and Ireland, Icon Productions/Icon Film Distribution in Australia, and Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment elsewhere.


Jennifer Todd interview on Entertainment Tonight, September 15, 2011

Q: Does all the rush of success ever make you feel something like, "it's good to be the king?"

A: Not seriously, and never more than a few seconds. We don't consider ourselves to be that big, no one can possibly be bigger than the major studios. We're basically nothing more than an extension of them, truly. But even that doesn't faze us that much. You can't simply rest on your laurels, and you have to stay hungry to keep doing quality work. We're always looking ahead, never backwards.

Q: You're basically the one who runs the show at Springbok, you, along with the other big executives, but do the founders put in their hours as well?

A: Neither Kurt nor Charlize have talent for administration, and they knew that going in. Especially since he's always out working on music and she has lots of non-Springbok films on the table that she's happy to appear in. But they keep tabs on all of our projects, even if it's from a distance, over a speakerphone, because they also are essentially the creative heart and soul of the company. We get more than 2000 scripts and treatments a year sent to us, and we're very picky about what we choose. Simply put, if any one of us doesn't like the idea at all, not just a matter of modifying, but that the thing doesn't appeal to the company, doesn't work, can't be done or whatever, then we walk away from it. We don't put out any product that we're not passionate about.

Q: I know that earlier this year, you all were quite passionate about working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Cry Macho, then that was off the table. Tell us about that.

A: Al Ruddy had the rights to this idea for several decades, and he'd been holding it for a while. He then specifically started holding it with Arnold in mind, and Arnold loved it. We also thought it was a terrific idea, especially something to show that Arnold could be more dramatic than he's given credit for.

Q: How far along was preproduction before Arnold pulled out?

A: The script and casting was complete. Al, because he didn't want to lose control, went to secure independent financing, and he found it. Costumes and scenic design were almost complete. We were set to begin filming by August 24. Basically, we had a muscle car with a full tank of high-octane gas ready to roll. Then the dam broke.

Q: Were you disappointed with that?

A: Somewhat, but not overly so. We fully understood that Arnold needed time to sort things out with his family, especially to make sure that the children are going to be fine.

Q: Do you feel that Cry Macho can be picked up again, even with a different star?

A: Sadly, no. This project is too attached to Arnold, it only got financing and was on the fast track because of his involvement. Everyone in Hollywood is still willing to work with him, on anything but this, because of how close the story is to home. And even if another star could be found and supported, it would only remind people too much about it. Al was forced to let the option expire.

Q: Will Springbok ever bring a project for Arnold to work on?

A: Naturally. He's such a towering talent that it would be profoundly stupid not to hook up with. We already sold him on the idea of a sequel/reboot to Last Action Hero, and we're working to get it to come together.


"NBC Buys Hannibal Series From Bryan Fuller, Springbok & Gaumont International Television," by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, November 7, 2011

In its first U.S. sale, recently launched L.A.-based indie studio Gaumont International Television has set up hourlong drama Hannibal at NBC. Written and executive produced by Bryan Fuller and executive produced by Martha De Laurentiis, the project, based on the iconic literary and film character Hannibal Lecter, was bought by NBC preemptively, especially after Springbok Productions announced its interest in the project and joined GIT in helping with the sale and becoming a producer on the series. It marks a reunion between the network and GIT CEO Katie O'Connell, who previously served as NBC head of drama. Fuller is developing a script against a 13-episode commitment, meaning that the project won't go through a pilot stage but straight to series if NBC brass like the script. The network has a short window after receiving Fuller's script to pick it up. In a model similar to that for NBC's midseason drama series The Firm, GIT, the U.S. arm of French film studio Gaumont (best known for the early filmography of director Luc Besson before he broke with the studio to form his own company, Europacorp), will fund the potential series by a mix of a U.S. network license fee and international sales. The project was taken to MIPCOM last month, and a number of international deals are already in the works.

I hear that Fuller, a well-known foodie as evidenced by his previous series Pushing Daisies, loved the dark, sick side of Hannibal, who tends to feast on his victims. (Who can forget Anthony Hopkins delivering the line: "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti" from The Silence of the Lambs?) De Laurentiis — who has a preexisting association with Hannibal Lecter having secured the rights to all projects following Lambs and has, to date, produced the films Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising — and CAA brought the rights to GIT, which opened its doors at the beginning of September. O'Connell brought in Springbok, who had been looking to do something with the character to "restore his luster", as well as Fuller, with whom she had had a long relationship going back to the time she was at NBC and WME-repped Fuller worked on the network's drama Heroes. (O'Connell also bid on Fuller's Pushing Daisies, which ultimately went to ABC.)


"Springbok Lands Development Deal for Paul Greengrass," by Nancy Tartaglione, Deadline Hollywood, December 12, 2011

Springbok Productions officially announced that it has given a development deal to English director Paul Greengrass. Best known as the director taking the reins from Doug Liman (Swingers, Go) to continue the Jason Bourne film series and for his harrowing 2006 feature United 93, Greengrass is already considered one of the most influential filmmakers in history, an auteur with an ease fitting into any genre.

The deal, consisting of five pictures, takes effect after Greengrass finishes his next project, a film with Sony and Trigger Street Productions about the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking and tense rescue by Navy SEALS of Captain Richard Phillips, featuring Tom Hanks, and set for release in October 2013. Already, Greengrass and Springbok have a number of potential projects to consider. These include Greengrass' proposed film about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled Memphis (which was supposed to be his next film until Universal pulled out), a Karen Carpenter biopic film, work on a rumored Freddie Mercury biopic that currently is supposed to feature Sacha Baron Cohen in the role, a Meat Loaf biopic, a film about the Trail of Tears, a potential anime adaptation, and Greengrass being assigned to either of the two projects Johnny Depp's Infinitum Nihil shingle and Disney have picked up to produce shortly. Details remain quite sketchy at the moment, but more will become available after Greengrass has finished his current production.


"We Walk A Special Balance: James W. Keyes On Springbok's Financial Strategy," by Andy Serwer, Fortune, December 17, 2011

James W. Keyes, the Chief Financial Officer of Springbok Productions, is certainly not considered one of the most well-recognized cogs in the machine of the rising juggernaut. But he may be one of the most integral. It is, after all, his job to focus on the company's financial performance, coordinate with its accountants, auditors and consultants, and come up with the strategy that moves the company to the massive heights it has scaled in only a decade.

After Springbok went public on several different stock exchanges simultaneously (achieved thanks to having teams in each region and country doing financial roadshows for each stock exchange simultaneously), the company truly reached new heights with $30 billion (two-thirds of that from the American exchanges) immediately added to the company's coffers, which helped it branch out in impressive ways, especially regarding library acquisitions and representation deals, and buying some notable smaller cinema chains. How exactly has Springbok been able to pull all this off?

"We walk a special balance regarding our plans," Keyes explains. "Obviously, we're perfectly willing to gamble and put ourselves on the line for something we really believe in, something that can always make or break us. But we don't make deals for the sake of doing deals or put ourselves in real scary places that it's hard to really grasp. You have to have confidence in yourself, a willingness to go to the wall, but also a discerning eye for which deals or plans are least likely to bring acquisitive value or simply don't particularly fit the company. We never just turn things away immediately, we always look at them and talk things over, and if we don't feel comfortable with it, we're not going to do it."

That particular rule has certainly helped Springbok keep on climbing even through the worst of the recession, and kept them safe when one particular deal could've have easily left them in the lurch. "We'd always wanted to go public," Keyes says, "and we were looking at various partners who would work with us in that regard. Our original plan was to have done it in 2008, and we had talks, it happens, with both Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers to do that. They also wanted to sell junk bonds attached to us to help us raise debt on our balance sheet in order to fuel our growth, they both were particularly insistent that they wanted to do that with us."

Naturally Keyes feels a degree of satisfaction about the fact that didn't happen. "Maybe if the junk bond sale had happened, Bear and/or Lehman would've had enough financial wherewithal to ride out the storm in 2008. Or most likely, our exposure to either or both would dragged us under and toppled us considerably. We already were certainly dinged in our relationships with various banks because of the meltdown that year, and everyone's homes and properties lost considerable value, so that definitely affected us all. But in the balance of things, Springbok came through it all with a clean bill of health, especially because of the success of our film and television slates. The Dark Knight alone really helped sustain us considerably."

Much of the reason Springbok's impressive financial status has been achieved is because of a policy regarding their profits. "80 to 90 percent of our profits end up reinvested back into the company, to help fuel our projects. And since we've gone public, there's also a lot of restraint regarding everyone's stocks and options; especially with Kurt (Cobain) and Charlize (Theron). For the first five years of the company, they did not draw a salary, wanting the focus to be on building it up. They also are quite indifferent about their salaries, bonuses, stocks and options. Much that money ends up divided between being back in the company or donated to their various charitable efforts. It's honestly amazing how much people are devoted to the company that they want it to succeed, rather than necessarily they themselves succeed."

Keyes also assures Fortune that reckless gambles with compensation are prohibited. "We don't let employees put their 401(k)s and IRAs into company stock, we definitely stress the need for diversification and reliance on the safe, reliable investments - bank CDs, mutual funds, index funds, real estate investment trusts, Treasury bills/bonds/notes. And of course, investments in playing the market or personal desires are allowed, though we definitely urge caution. Kurt and Charlize have demonstrated an interesting knack in that regard, with their investments in various restaurant properties, certain retail efforts, and their investment to help save Polaroid. Clearly, they've got quite sharp instincts."

And Springbok makes pains to state that it will never take actions solely to enrich the stockholders. "We will never do stock buybacks, no matter how dire things might be with our price. When we get hits, and we certainly will get hits, we'll take them. We'll admit any time that we're going to miss earnings targets, that things didn't turn out the way that we wanted. Because if you don't admit your failures and mistakes, you'll never learn from them. That's often been the problem regarding the accounting frauds of the past and the strategies that felled Bear, Lehman and AIG. We're not going to be anything like that, even when the likes of Disney, Sony, Warners, Universal, Paramount and Fox are doing stock repurchases at certain times. We'll also never make our debts outpace our earnings and make ourselves heavily leveraged."

Of course, any company needs loans and debt to operate, it's simply impossible not to do so. "We obviously need to roll commercial paper, which is the short-term loans for many of the basic workaday things like payroll. Every company needs that, and so we do. And we do get loans and debt at various times, including to help us grow. But we never have a debt to equity ratio higher than one-to-one, we always pay our debts in a timely fashion, and often do the repayments early. We will not burden ourselves with mezzanine debt, like others. But we are open to using it at certain times. This is all to ensure that Springbok is trusted, and it especially helps when people buy our debt on the bond market."

Standard & Poor's, Fitch's and Moody's all rate Springbok's debt at AA+, which a considerable achievement. "Maybe someday we'll get that to AAA," Keyes says. "I don't know. But we definitely do what it takes to ensure our rating never goes below AA whatsoever, not even to AB. That's how hard we work at it all."


"Mel Brooks and Springbok Saddle Up for New Musical Premiere," Broadway Online, December 24, 2011

In April, comedy legend Mel Brooks will debut his third stage musical, Blazing Saddles, the buzz about which has been quite massive. And deservedly so. The new Broadway musical, based on the 1974 Western spoof that is considered to be Brooks' masterpiece, is not only the third musical he has done after The Producers and Young Frankenstein, but also his second go-round in launching a show with the stage theatricals division of Springbok Productions. They worked together to bring Young Frankenstein to the Great White Way in 2007, definitely hoping to repeat the success of Brooks' inaugural stage delight. Sure, the show received extremely mixed reviews and closed after only two years, compared to the unparalleled six-year success that The Producers had, but there are no regrets among the group.

"Mel is an absolute delight and a joy to work with," Springbok theatre head Leonard Soloway asserts. "When he's around you, everyone steps up their A-game and works their asses off. We knew going in that people were going to compare Young Frankenstein to The Producers and that it was never going to win that contest, but we did it because we wanted to and we were passionate about it. We had a great time doing that show, as did the actors and crew, and we were definitely wanting the good times to continue. Mel had the vision of doing Blazing Saddles as a musical in that time, and we supported it from day one. And it's going to pay off considerably."

Springbok and Brooks first came into contact when the former stepped up to the plate to help finance the 2005 film adaptation of The Producers, bringing back original Broadway cast members Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Gary Beach and Roger Bart, with the additions of Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell. Thanks to Springbok's help with the budget and the marketing, the film was quite successful, even if not nearly to the extent the stage show was when it opened in 2001. In return, Springbok got the rights to tackle North American regional productions of the stage version, as well as the 90-minute Vegas spectacular that originally debuted with David Hasselhoff in the cast (which he was doing at the time that the infamous video of him drunkenly struggling to eat a cheeseburger on the floor was made). This made Springbok want to collaborate fully with Brooks on his next project, all of which leads us to now.

Like the first two musicals, Blazing Saddles boasts music and lyrics solely by Brooks, a book co-penned by Brooks and Annie librettist Thomas Meehan, orchestrations by Doug Besterman, and choreography and direction by Susan Stroman. Springbok is joined as producers of this project by Producers alumni Rocco Landesman, concert promoters Robert F.X. Sillerman and Michael Cohl, and the Frankel-Baruch-Viertel-Routh Group, and additional producer East of Doheny. "The old gang is back together," Stroman states, "and nothing can drive us apart." The main cast features notable regional Shakespeare actor Daveed Diggs as Sheriff Bart, and Mandy Gonzalez, who first came to prominence as the female lead in Springbok and Jim Steinman's Dance of the Vampires and lately was in the original Broadway cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, will play the role of Lili von Shtupp. "Ever since Vampires, Mandy has risen to incredible heights," fellow Springbok theatricals executive Anita Waxman muses. "She's a true diva with a powerful voice to match, and she was quite happy to come aboard." Waxman will neither confirm nor deny rumors that Springbok has given Miranda a development deal for his followup to Heights.

"Mel is an absolute machine of inspiration," Soloway states. "The book and the songs just poured out of him. When we did an initial staged reading back in March, the laughs couldn't stop. We know we've got a definite winner here." Unlike either of Brooks' other musicals, Saddles will not have an out-of-town tryout, and will instead open cold in New York at the Foxwoods Theatre on April 17, after a month of previews. "I will take full responsibility for that," Soloway asserts. "I feel so strongly that this show is amazing that I pushed for us to head straight to Broadway, and that the preview audiences will be all we need to fine-tune the show prior to opening. If it blows up in my face, that it was a big mistake, then so be it." Meanwhile, with Springbok also moving to open Disney's Newsies at the Nederlander Theatre this spring, prepping for the Atlanta tryout of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, postponing the New York opening of the stage transfer of Disney's Aladdin to work out the kinks of that show after a middling reception at its Seattle tryout earlier this year, a limited engagement revival of The Who's Tommy for the spring, continued work on crafting the book for the American version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, gathering working capital for Michael Kunze's Rebecca and the upcoming film adaptation of Les Miserables by Universal Pictures for next Christmas, Springbok certainly has a lot on its plate besides Saddles.


"Springbok Completes Secondary Stock Offering, Raises $3.5 Billion," Financial Times, February 12, 2012

Springbok Productions finished a successful secondary public offering of another 1 billion shares of common stock as well as 1 billion warrants. The secondary offering, between the sales and the underwriting by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Donaldson Lufkrin & Jenrette and Morgan Stanley, enable Springbok to raise $3.5 billion in proceeds.

The massive numbers of shares and warrants did little to dilute the stock price, and the New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks closed at $90.34 a share, the NASDAQ-listed stocks at $92.


"Look to the Future: Springbok Announces Plan for Inuyasha Soundtrack," Anime News Network, March 2, 2012

Springbok's Enima Studios division is about to unveil the first part of its two-part live action adaptation of Sailor Moon less than three weeks away. The second part will then release around this time next year. But despite the immediate concern, Springbok is also thinking big about its following project, the two-part live action adaptation of Inuyasha that will release in 2014 and 2015, respectively. That film, directed by Gore Verbinski and co-produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Jerry Bruckheimer, is still deep in principal photography at this moment, but it hasn't stopped plans with how to promote it from percolating.

One thing that has been revealed is plans for Exploitation Records to release a special concept album to coincide with part two, separate from the orchestral score, which has recently been announced as given to renowned composer and conductor James Horner, with music supervision and production by his right hand, Simon Franglen. "It will be a really big soundtrack, composed of rock and pop songs that fit the vibe of the story, that fit to tell the lives and emotions of the characters. Most of them will not be in either part of the film, but a few of them will, including the two songs we've already chosen for the lead singles," Jason Flom, who will be credited as executive producer of the album, explains. "Those singles will appear in the closing credits of part two, and will have all the stops given, including full videos."

The first track is "Faule dr Roane," by legendary group Kansas, the band behind iconic hits like "Carry On Wayward Son," "Point of Know Return," and "Dust In the Wind." The band found a new lease on life when they signed to Exploitation Records and they relaunched the 2000 album Somewhere to Elsewhere, as well as keyboardist and lead vocalist Steve Walsh's solo album Glossolalia. The band has so far released three more studio albums with the label, including 2005's Shadowman, 2008's Lightning Strikes Twice, an album of orchestral versions of notable past songs and a sequel to 1998's Always Never the Same, which followed the same conceit, and 2009's Native Window, as well as various live and compilation releases. This track is the first, and to date only, track recorded for the band's next album, believed to be titled Black Butterfly. "It's a raging, furious rocker, heavier than one would associate with Kansas, and Steve really stepped up to the plate on this one. It's a perfect battle anthem to fit the story. We'll also shoot a video for the song, featuring the band performing both in feudal Japan and modern day Tokyo, against footage of the movie and some archival pictures and clips of the band in the past. It will definitely create a lot of buzz for the band, the most they've had since the '70s."

The second of the two singles is actually a repurposing of an old song, by a very famous pop artist not signed to Exploitation Records. That would be "Then You Look At Me," a plaintive ballad by Celine Dion which originally featured in the 1999 Disney/Sony co-production Bicentennial Man starring Robin Williams as an android who seeks to learn what it means to be human. The movie flopped hard both critically and commercially, and plans for a single release of the song were cancelled by Sony, especially since it was also at the time that one of Dion's biggest post-Titanic songs, "That's the Way It Is," was still strong on the charts. A remix of the song did still feature on Dion's 1999 compilation All the Way...A Decade of Song, and a video of the song was made at the time, though it was largely ignored. "That song deserved so much better, and it's also perfect to represent the character arcs of the story, especially when it comes to love," Flom states. "We've talked to the people at Sony, and to Rene (Angelil, Dion's husband and manager), and they were quite willing to allow us to use the song. We also talked to Celine about making a new video, and she's quite happy to do it. It will also feature her performing the song in both eras in time, against footage of the movie. We're even planning to make videos of the other songs on the soundtrack, even if it's simply repurposing old footage and putting movie clips along it. That's how strongly we feel it will work." Flom would not let us know what other tracks besides the two end credits songs and singles would be featured, other than it would continue the mix of rock and pop songs.


"NBC Gives Straight-To-Series Order To Hannibal," by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, March 5, 2012

NBC has pulled the trigger on a 13-episode order to Hannibal, a straight-to-series project from Gaumont International Television and Springbok Productions, written and executive produced by Bryan Fuller and executive produced by Martha DeLaurentiis and Springbok television executives Jay Firestone, Anthony Thomopolous and Channing Dungey (Like all Springbok projects, founders Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd will credited as producers, in this case along with Carol Dean Trussell, Michael Wray and Child's Play creator Don Mancini). The project is described as a contemporary thriller series featuring the classic characters from Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon – FBI agent Will Graham and his mentor Dr. Hannibal Lecter – who are reintroduced at the beginning of their budding relationship. The project was bought by NBC preemptively in November with a script against a 13-episode commitment, meaning that the project wouldn't go through a pilot stage but straight to series if NBC brass liked the script. The network had a short window after receiving Fuller's script to pick up the series, which it just did. This marks the second series order for GIT, launched in September with Katie O'Connell as CEO. The company also has a 13-episode pickup at Blockbuster Entertainment, the streaming service for Blockbuster Video, for Hemlock Grove, an hourlong thriller/horror series executive produced and directed by Eli Roth. In addition to Hannibal, Fuller also has the Munsters reboot in the works at NBC. The pilot, Mockingbird Lane, was recently pushed to June because of difficulties with casting.


"Springbok Announces 2-for-1 Stock Split," Reuters, May 26, 2012

Springbok Productions has such faith in sales of its common stock that it has announced a 2-for-1 split, doubling the number of shares.

This of course means that increasing the number of stock to 10 trillion worldwide will lower the stock price by half. But Springbok CFO James W. Keyes is confident the increased number of shares will make them more attractive for people to buy and the price will soar again in short order.

"Companies worth their salt split their shares several times, and this is only our first. The fact that we're doing so represents there is a real hunger for the stock."

Going into the split, Springbok's stock had been trading at $147.46 a share.


"Springbok Signs Licensing Contract With Experience Hendrix," by Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, June 24, 2012

Exploitation Records, the record label arm of Springbok Productions, announced today that it has secured licensing rights to the catalog of Jimi Hendrix in perpetuity for the price of $600 million.

The deal, made in conjunction with Experience Hendrix, the family-owned company, set up by his father Al Hendrix, that has overseen the guitarist's body of work since 1995, gives Exploitation Records the rights to the albums Hendrix released in his lifetime, the posthumous material released after his death in 1970, and the vault of material, studio and live, that has yet to be released officially to the public, some of which has been released as bootlegs. Experience Hendrix previously had licensing deals with MCA, now part of Universal Music Group, and Sony Music's Legacy Records.

The contract deal also calls for massive restrictions on the power and position of Janie Hendrix, Hendrix's stepsister, who has run Experience Hendrix since the death of Al Hendrix in 2002. Janie has been charged by the rest of the family as being driven by a mercenary spirit rather than her late stepbrother's creative legacy, in releasing material he would not have wanted to be shared with the public; of misleading the public about the extent of her connections and memories of him, citing that she only saw Hendrix a few times when she was extremely young; of refusing to identify all the blood siblings of Hendrix and his brother Leon so as to deny legitimacy and monies due them; of collusive conduct and fraud to lay claim to the family legacy, to the point that Al Hendrix's will was contested in court as a fraud and not reflecting his actual wishes and intentions; and of withholding funds in the family trust fund from them. While the court case over the contested will found in her favor, Janie Hendrix was removed as overseer of the trust fund. The Exploitation Records contract officially removes her as main executor of the creative estate, identifier of product to release and executive producer of all new releases, and also forbids her from being the point person to promote the new releases in press kits, liner notes, interviews and the Jimi Hendrix website. She will be allowed to remain as an officer of Experience Hendrix. A new CEO of the company will be handpicked by John McDermott, who will continue as executive producer on new releases.

"This deal is a dream come true for Exploitation Records," chairman Don Ienner said. "Jimi Hendrix's unparalleled creativity is unrivaled, even to this day. In just a short but brilliant career, he painted aural landscapes that redefined rock and roll and inspired countless generations of guitarists. Exploitation Records will help nurture and grow Jimi's creative legacy to an extent never before seen, and demonstrate why he is considered the greatest of all time."

"Today marks the righting of a grievous wrong," Leon Hendrix said. "Buster (Jimi) would be happy to know that Janie's machinations have defeated, and that Experience Hendrix is now led by people who truly care about the music and what he did in his life, what he wanted to achieve."


Public Statements by the Crew of The Dark Knight Rises After Aurora massacre, July 21, 2012

Christopher Nolan: "Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting, but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."

Kurt Cobain: "My heart is sick over the fact that such an appalling and profoundly disturbing act of violence could occur in one of the most wholesome and pure places left in the world, the movie theatre. It's a place where friends and family can forget about the troubles of the real world and escape in the art of a great story. I cannot express enough the grief that I and my family feel over this."

Charlize Theron: "Nothing is more sacred to me than the idea that watching a movie should be a joyful event, where all the hassles and pressures of ordinary life vanish, and for a brief moment, everything is right in the world. Going for a night out with your family and your friends is an incredible experience, and the idea that such a cowardly and despicable individual chose to use that to their advantage and make it a war zone is beyond horrifying. My thoughts are with you all, as I keep my own family close to me at this time."

Springbok: "We at Springbok Productions are devastated that such a horrific act could take place, and we would be feeling exactly the same if it was at a screening for a film we were not involved in. Humanity is sacred to us, and to know that so many people died needlessly before their time is truly despicable. As of this moment, all of our proceeds from the film will go to benefit the families of the victims in Aurora, as this is the truly the least we can do to help the community heal."


"Springbok and Christopher Nolan Bone Up Jonestown Film," by Rachel Abrams, Variety, January 7, 2013

Springbok Productions and Christopher Nolan have been wasting no time in identifying the followup to their massively successful Dark Knight trilogy. First off, they are working on a new sci-fi film entitled Insterstellar, which Paramount will distribute domestically while Nolan's longtime studio partner Warner Bros. will handle the overseas distribution. The film deals with a space exploration crew who travel into a black hole and their journey afterwards, which already has Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway attached as the leads.

However, they're also already working up yet another film to be ready to go in short order, a New Line Cinema feature entitled Jonestown. As the title suggests, it is a film about the infamous murder-suicides committed by the People's Temple cult led by Jim Jones. Jones was a figure who attracted member's to his cult by a message fusing Christian redemption with socialist ideals, neither of which he actually believed. Still, his cover was convincing and he soon attracted thousands of recruits and grew in power in California, particularly after the group moved to San Francisco; attracting adoration and alliances with the likes of Mayor George Moscone, Harvey Milk, Rosalynn Carter, Willie Brown, Angela Davis and others.

However, the true nature of Jones' leadership was soon revealed, as defectors told stories of sexual and physical abuse, suicide drills, embezzling members' money and property for himself, faked healings, and forcing parents to surrender custody of their children to Jones himself. Rather than face the scrutiny, Jones and nearly a thousand followers fled to the jungles of Guyana, where they established a settlement named Jonestown after their leader. The situation went from bad to worse. In November 1978, California Congressman Leo Ryan, a crew of journalists from the San Francisco Examiner and NBC News, and concerned relatives of church members, flew to Jonestown to investigate for themselves. In the end, Ryan and four other members of his party were murdered in a hail of gunfire at the airstrip, while Jones admonished over 900 members of his flock to drink or be injected with cyanide-laced Flavor Aid, mistakenly referred to as Kool-Aid by the press and being the origin of a facile phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" to refer to brainwashing.

Springbok and Nolan's film, to be directed by Nolan and written by him along with his brother Jonathan, is planned for release in 2015, and will cover the massacre, Jones' leadership and everything in between. Johnny Depp has been cast as Jones, and he will co-produce the film with his company Infinitum Nihil. Powers Boothe, who played Jones in the 1980 CBS miniseries Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, will portray Congressman Ryan in this new film. Ben Affleck will appear as NBC anchor Don Harris, who was also killed in the massacre, and his and Matt Damon's company Pearl Street Films is also joined as co-producer. Tom Cruise is also signed to star as journalist Tim Reitermann, who wrote the best-selling and iconic book on Jonestown, Raven, and Cruise will also co-produce this film.

Joining these top-tier stars are Richard Dreyfuss as concerned relative Sherwin Harris, Jonathan Tucker as Jones' son Stephan, Nicole Kidman (who plays someone who never met Reitermann and so will not shoot at the same time as ex-husband Cruise) as Harris' ex-wife Sharon Amos, Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd as Harris and Amos; daughter Liane, Kirsten Dunst as Grace Stoen-a defector who went to the media and fought Jones for custody of her son John Victor, Anika Noni Rose as defector Monika Bagby, Armie Hammer as airstrip massacre gunman Larry Layton and Michael Keaton as lawyer Charles Garry, who was recruited by People's Temple to address the criticism and media scrutiny. For reference of Jones' political connections, Sean Penn, Victor Garber and Josh Brolin will reprise their roles of Harvey Milk, George Moscone and Dan White from Gus Van Sant's critically acclaimed 2008 biopic Milk.

Depp joins this work while also working with Springbok on the forthcoming biopic Black Mass, in which he will play notorious Boston gangster and long-running FBI fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, which also is co-produced by Infinitum Nihil and Pearl Street, and is also expected to be released in 2015.


Production notes for two-part live action version of Inuyasha, March 22, 2014

Kagome Higurashi was a simple, ordinary, teenage Japanese schoolgirl who thought nothing about the legends of her home, or the Shinto shrine her family lived on and cared for. But one day, she fell through the well on her property and emerged several centuries in the past, during Japan's Warring States era, the prime era of the Tokugawa shogunate, Oda Nobunaga, and persecution of newly-minted Christians introduced to the faith by missionaries from Europe. There she finds the brooding and arrogant Inuyasha, son of a dog demon and a human noblewoman, who was pinned to a sacred tree by a piercing arrow for 50 years until Kagome pulls him out. Soon they become an inseparable, if often quarreling duo, facing down the might of the evil demon Naraku, who plans to take control of both the feudal era and the 21st century by collecting and assembling the shards of a powerful wish-granting item called the Shikon Jewel, and have to rely on their own strengths, and those of several new friends of theirs, in order to persevere, all the while focusing on their personal feelings, Inuyasha's family turmoil, and Kagome's needing to stay on top of her schoolwork.

So goes the hugely popular series Inuyasha, created by Ranma 1/2 author Rumiko Takahashi. The manga has been immensely successful in sales in both East and West, and the anime series has likewise drawn millions of devoted fans, especially after it began airing on Cartoon Network's Toonami and Adult Swim blocks, and then even more when it was picked up by streaming giant Blockbuster Entertainment. "I've been truly blessed to know that the series has caught on so well," Takahashi muses. "It makes me quite happy to know that everyone loves these characters and the story, and I couldn't have asked for more."

Now, Enima Studios, the highly acclaimed anime dub and adaptation division of Springbok Productions, presents an epic live action adaptation of this rich and breathtaking story, to be split into two three-hour films, in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Paramount Pictures will handle North American rights to both films, while 20th Century Fox will tackle the overseas distribution. The film is written from a script by Takahashi, Hurd, Jonathan Hensleigh and Robin Swicord, and directed by Gore Verbinski. The film is produced by Springbok founders Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd along with actor Nicolas Cage and his Saturn Films banner, Gale Anne Hurd and Valhalla Entertainment, and acclaimed action blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Executive producers are Takahashi, Chad Oman, Mike Stenson, Jeff Levine, Robert Evans, Paula Wagner and Sherry Lansing.

The project has long been a passion project for Springbok, especially given Cobain and Theron's longstanding friendship with Takahashi and actually had considerable input into the narrative and how it would unfold and resolve itself. "Rumiko and the anime needed a bit of guidance to ensure that they didn't trip at the finish line," Cobain states. "We helped trim a lot of narrative fat, filled some holes, and basically helped ensure that the character arcs were quite fulfilling. We sort of had an idea of laying a foundation for a film version even back then, though it certainly took time to ensure that it would all come together." Given Springbok's experience with helping create impressive anime dubs, including for this one, and then making films out of Ghost in the Shell, Death Note and Sailor Moon, it was clear that they certainly had the pedigree and the experience to make it so.

To ensure that would happen, they turned to two seasoned and veteran producers who would bring both a massive scale and an impressive extra perspective. First on their list was Gale Anne Hurd, founder of Valhalla Entertainment (formerly Pacific Western Productions), and renowned for her involvement in films such as The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Switchback, Dante's Peak, and Armageddon, and most recently on the popular TV series The Walking Dead. Hurd is also the second ex-wife of filmmaker James Cameron, helped write the original Terminator, and is known for her independence and eagerness to focus and flesh out strong female protagonists. "Gale has definitely earned her stripes in this industry, and her insight is keen and very appreciated," Theron states. "Having her involved in this project is a definite positive, and she helps provide the feminine touch that is needed here." "I was drawn to this film because I saw the potential for weaving a great story, with great themes and deep resonance, mixed in with romance, action, violence, and even a bit of family tenderness," Hurd replies. "I am honored to help bring this to fruition."

The other main producer brought in is Jerry Bruckheimer, renowned for big-bucks action blockbusters such as Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide, The Rock, Armageddon, Con Air, Enemy of the State, Gone in 60 Seconds, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, National Treasureand Coyote Ugly. "Jerry is still among the top producers in the business," Todd points out. "He may not exactly be known for high art, but he knows exactly what audiences want in action-oriented popcorn flicks. And sometimes, he gets involved in something a bit deep. This is another one of those times, and he helps ensure that the action in this movie is as big as it can be." Further involved as producer is Saturn Films, the production company founded by actor Nicolas Cage and his partner Jeff Levine, who also often gets involved in films that Cage stars in, such as this one.

To begin work on distilling the five-season anime series into six hours of silver screen excitement, maintain the essence, add further elements and even deepen the themes in the narrative, a lot of work was done in crafting the script. The work began at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch, where many Springbok projects have gone for editing and postproduction, but this was the first time the preproduction process was ever taken here. The reason had to do with research and input. "Skywalker Ranch includes a massive research library, particularly regarding history and mythology," Theron explains. "George personally loves the original series, and he told us that adding a bit more historical flavor would really help the world building, as well as telling us to go back and examine the roots of mythic storytelling, with Joseph Campbell and the monomyth and all of that. He personally recommended some titles in the library to help us with our notes and outline. These also helped us incorporate more of the historical era as the background, such as with the treatment of Christians at the time, which also doubles as helping our work for Marty Scorsese and the adaptation of Silence we are working on. There's probably going to be an Easter egg relating to this story in that movie! Our intention was quite simple, to not only condense the story to fit a briefer runtime and maintain the same essence as the show, but to also add flavors and nuances that weren't there before. Really looking at how the characters interact, their motivations, why their development arcs go one way and not the other, and helping really flesh out this world like never before. We really had to wrestle with it all."

Also adding certain valued input was James Cameron, likewise an anime buff (Springbok has a deal to work with him on adaptation of Battle Angel Alita) and adding things to further sharpen the narrative, especially how it would unfold and how to look at the characters. These were all things that original creator Takahashi, Hurd, her screenwriter husband Jonathan Hensleigh, and Robin Swicord all took into consideration as they labored on the script to create a compelling new vision of the story. Then, for further cooking, uncredited script doctoring by Carrie Fisher, long a close friend of Springbok, added the missing final ingredients to make the story impressive. "I feel that we have quite an impressive cinematic journey here," Hurd posits. "A rich tapestry of emotions and storytelling."

With the vision well in hand, the choice of director to bring it to life was equally important, but everyone felt that Gore Verbinski was a natural fit. The director of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, as well as The Ring and having worked with Springbok in the past on the animated film Rango, he soon was hooked by the concept and the script that he was given. "It was just an absolute thrill ride, something that I was already anticipating in the point of view of an audience member on the outside," Verbinski admits. "Clearly, if I'm that excited about just the script, then clearly the movie is going to be great, and I felt quite honored with being given the chance to rope it into reality."

The matter of casting was naturally the next hurdle to clear. Of course, they already had their top-billed talent and primary marketing element in hand, even if it technically was as the villain. Enter Nicolas Cage, a man with an incredibly varied resume to match his background, with an inimitable screen presence and known for having a very singular talent. Among his many films include a number of past collaborations with Jerry Bruckheimer, most notably The Rock, Con Air, Gone in 60 Seconds and National Treasure. He has also won the Academy Award for Best Actor in Leaving Las Vegas, and also done other notable films like Matchstick Men, Moonstruck, Vampire's Kiss, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Croods, The Wicker Man, Next, Knowing and Face/Off. Cage has even invented his own style of acting, which he refers to as "noveau shamanic", which is often punctuated by quirky tics and displays of fury in the middle of a scene.

"Nic is an incredible actor, with quite a singular instinct that no one else has," Theron states. "We made the decision that we could offer something that give him the chance to show off the full range of his talent, an ability to really get under the skin of Naraku and fully examine why he is so devoted to his plans of conquest, why he leaves ruin in his wake, and what's actually driving him. It's a way to show pathos and real introspection, but we also give him plenty of time to really let loose and freak out as well." "I was really quite floored after I read the script," Cage replies. "I just looked at this description of Naraku, and I thought to myself, 'I know this guy. I've seen him many times on the street', the overachievers who compensate for some kind of inadequacy, the time bomb waiting to explode, who lash out and take out all their insecurities by killing, raping and/or torturing. But there is also a real intelligence there, someone patient and waiting. If you work real hard at it, you'll get there. I thought it was a great opportunity."

"We made a conscious decision regarding casting," Hurd explains. "We made the decision that compared to the other characters, full-fledged demons would have more Caucasian characteristics, while everyone else would definitely have a more Asian appearance, especially in the case of Inuyasha himself. This way we could really not only ensure that the best people were chosen for the parts, but also help people instinctively understand the choice of Nic as Naraku. Of course, with a story like this, you definitely have to take culture into the equation, and demonstrate incredible respect for the folklore of Japan. We also had to definitely find the actors that would help bring both feudal and modern Japan into full color and also make them blend seamlessly, especially regarding the characters constantly traveling back and forth in time through the well."

Getting the heroes and other characters certainly was of great importance for casting director Mary Vernieu. For the choice of Kagome, they found what they were looking for in actress Ellen Wong. Best known for portraying Knives Chau in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Wong was found to best demonstrate her wide-eyed naivete regarding the situation she is in, her tempestuous feelings for her friends and family, and her growing steely resolve that helps her decide to stay and fight, no matter the danger or the potential cost. "Kagome is a very ordinary girl thrust into an extraordinary situation," Wong says. "She goes from worrying about what normal teens fuss and fret over to literally fearing for her life as well as having to learn how to fight, especially through enchanted archery. She's immensely kindhearted, sensitive and compassionate, but she's also capable of incredible selfishness, petulant anger, being reactive to the point of getting in her own way. That's because she's very relatable, especially to teenagers, because they see themselves in her. She has the unenviable position of basically having the fate of humanity on her shoulders, and having to fret about having time for school and her normal life at the same time, especially when she worries she's letting her family and normal friends down with absences and excuses from school and the gatherings she should be having instead. Kagome has to grow up a bit too fast, but it becomes how she learns to take initiative and agency in her life."

For the titular character, they all turned to Johnny Yong Bosch, a notable Power Rangers alum and also a frequent anime dubbing cast member, especially in the 2001 English re-dub of Akira. "Inuyasha is quite a complex young man," he states. "He's grown up essentially with two strikes already in his life, and is fretting about when the third one will hit. Constant bullying and bigotry over being not fully human and not fully demon, losing his family, and Naraku's interference in his plans for his future, his love life, has left him with a massive chip on his shoulder, and he puts up quite a front of constant arrogance, brattiness, insulting chauvinism. But it's a shell, because the truth is that deep inside, he's badly wounded and wants to love and be loved, he basically is the type of person that therapy was practically invented for. He needs to let go, admit to all his misgivings and faults, and wants to, but he's too stubborn and proud to do so. He lets his anger fuel his fighting, his swordsmanship, but it also means he's difficult to be around when there's no action. He feels his way to be stronger is to wish on the Jewel to be fully demon, even though Kagome doesn't want that."

Kikyo, the undead former priestess and ex-lover of Inuyasha, is portrayed by Charlet Chung, a notable bit actress who has appeared in various TV series such as Mad TV, Cory in the House, Drake & Josh, Greek, Boston Legal, The Practice, Weeds, Desperate Housewives, Chuck and Touch, and has also done video game voiceover acting. She explains, "Kikyo resents the fact that Naraku took her life, and destroyed her romance with Inuyasha. She is absolutely consumed with thoughts of vengeance and regret, and cannot let go of the past. She also feels possessive of Inuyasha and resents Kagome's presence, let alone the fact that Kagome is technically her reincarnation. But the coming war for the future of humanity will also test her, force her to make a choice to see if she can put her pride aside and trust Kagome, because that is also her only chance to get the closure she needs."

Adam Driver portrays Inuyasha's bitter and resentful full demon elder half-brother Sesshomaru, who has hated him since the day of his birth and frequently taunts him for his faults and perceived weaknesses. Driver is known as a fiercely intense and moody actor, who came to prominence taking the role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the second and third parts of George Lucas' prequel trilogy. He has also worked with Springbok in the past as Near in their adaptation of Death Note and a scene-stealing turn as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. He also had notable roles in J. Edgar, Gayby, Lincoln, Bluebird, Inside Llewyn Davis, and as a recurring character on the HBO series Girls. "Sesshomaru is both what Inuyasha aspires to be, and also resents," Driver says. "He's naturally confident, and he also has considerable mastery and talent with the blade, more technical precision. It's not so much love-hate as it is hate with a side of unadmitted love. Of course, he's also a great potential ally against Naraku, but that's something neither want to admit or face. I will say though, the best part was actually wearing a long snow-white wig to change things up a bit!"

For the role of Sango, the haunted and yet immensely gifted demon hunter, seeking to take down Naraku for corrupting her younger brother to become his servant, the filmmakers turned to Kelly Hu, an actress who had bit parts in productions like Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, L.A. Law, The Doors, Strange Days, Night Court, 21 Jump Street and Pacific Blue. But it was one role in particular that made her stand out to them, that of the vicious assassin Yuriko/Deathstryke in X2. "That movie still holds up after all this time," Cobain says. "And her part, even though she doesn't have any dialogue, really makes her stand out. She's a true match for Wolverine in the film, given that she also is an adamantium-powered killing machine with incredibly agility and regeneration. I basically told everyone, 'that's who we need for Sango, right there! I wouldn't fuck with her.'" "Sango is one of the best roles I've ever had," says Hu. "She's feisty and ferocious, she doesn't take any shit from anyone, even her teammates, but she's also quite tender and sweet, basically like a sister to them at the same time. She's someone you want in your corner, and she's also someone you can basically approach and shoot the breeze with, she can just switch on a dime."

Karl Yune, who worked with Springbok on Memoirs of a Geisha and for the role of Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask in their Sailor Moon adaptation, plays Miroku, a monk on borrowed time, living under a curse that will consume him in time, but gives him the abilities to essentially open a black hole to suck in his enemies; but when not battling, he is a lecher with a wandering eye that lusts after every pretty woman in his sight, even though he's in love with Sango, and also frequently gropes her. "Miroku is a perv, who just follows where his lust points him. Of course, he really loves Sango, and wants her to marry him and bear him children, but he presses his luck not just by chasing other women, but frequently groping her at times she doesn't want it, and which she absolutely resents. It's easy to assume there's either no redeeming value to him, or that Sango is just being a bitch on wheels who is physically abusing him, but it's actually quite an interesting dynamic, and they get to know each other, bring out the best in each other as time goes on. I think the writers even said they were inspired by the unfolding relationship of Monica and Chandler in Friends, because that's comparable to how much they grow as time goes on."

The character of Shippo, a young, small orphaned fox demon who is incredibly small but loyal, naturally couldn't be done physically and had to rendered with CGI graphics and brought to life in that manner. To give him his voice, the movie called upon veteran voice actress Tara Strong, one of the industry's true heavyweights, with experience stretching back to her teenage years. Among her numerous voice roles include the title character of Hello Kitty, Kylie Griffin in Extreme Ghostbusters, Dil Pickles in Rugrats, Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls, Princess Daphne in Don Bluth and Springbok's film adaptation of Dragon's Lair, Rikku in Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, Princess Clara and Toot Braunstein in Drawn Together, Timmy Turner in The Fairly OddParents, Ben Tennyson in Ben 10, Melody in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Terrence in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Truffles in Chowder, Harley Quinn in the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, Margaret Moonlight in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Dr. Elizabeth Cadence in Rage, and Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. "Shippo is basically the tagalong, an orphan who needs a new family of his own. He finds it in Kagome, Inuyasha and the others, and he basically is like a sibling to them. He's intensely loyal and he'll do anything they need, but they give him love, even Inuyasha, in his own fashion, even if they both grate on each other's nerves all the time."

For the purposes of the movie, the script decided to invent an additional character to get involved with the team during the second film; Caleb Hart, an American employee of a conglomerate, in Japan on a business trip, who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and is forced to help them in their struggle with Naraku. This additional role is filled by Mark Wahlberg, who broke out as a star with his lead turn as Dirk Diggler in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, and also landed notable roles in films such as The Basketball Diaries, Fear, Four Brothers, The Perfect Storm, The Departed, The Happening, and Seth MacFarlane's Ted. He also is the producer of the HBO series Entourage, inspired by his own rise to stardom. "Caleb is basically an everyman character, almost an avatar of the audience, especially since he's an outsider, and definitely has no fighting skills of his own. He's also very much in a state of crisis in his personal life when we see him in part two. He ends up having to play peacekeeper in the group, keeping them all on the same page, lampshading some problems that the original manga might have had regarding character interaction and development. He also ends up learning a few things that he will take with him to apply to his life when he heads back to America in the end."

The cast is rounded out with the likes of The Sopranos star James Gandolfini as the voice of Sesshomaru's companion Jaken, Keiko Agena as Inuyasha's mother Izayoi, and Merle Dandridge, best known as the voice of Alyx Vance in the video game Half-Life 2 and its episodic sequels as well as portraying Kala in Disney and Springbok's stage transfer of Tarzan, as Kikyo's elderly younger sister and priestess Kaede, who becomes the closest thing the group has to a guide and mentor to help them through their struggle. With casting complete, it was time to basically gather up some of the best names in the business to further create the intended vision to life. Among their choices was makeup artist Greg Nicotero, a legend with roots in horror films. He has notably done makeup effects for George A. Romero's Day of the Dead, Predator, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, Misery, The People Under the Stairs, Pulp Fiction, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, In The Mouth of Madness, Eraser, Boogie Nights, Very Bad Things, Little Nicky, The Haunting, The Green Mile, From Dusk till Dawn, The Cell, Unbreakable, Spy Kids, Minority Report, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Mulholland Drive, House on Haunted Hill, Cabin Fever, Bubba Ho-Tep, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Kill Bill, Serenity, the 2002 The Time Machine, the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Casino Royale, Vanilla Sky, The Mist, Paul, Water for Elephants and Oz the Great and Powerful. "My intention was basically to really create looks for the demons, show how they are different from humans when maintaining their shape and form, differentiating them. I particularly focused on their facial structures and their hair, especially in the case of Nic. I wanted to definitely show a sign of menace under the surface, but also make it appealing. I did consult Rumiko's original character designs as a reference point, but I didn't want to be slaved to it, I needed to put my own stamp on them. To definitely build as much of a baseline as possible with them, then focus on things like having Merle look like an elderly woman, and so on. In the case of Naraku, I put a lot of work there, then we enhanced a little with the facial scan part of motion capture, to further embellish and enhance it, and then have the work of getting the makeup and scanline to blend seamlessly."

To build the environments for the location and soundstage sets, the filmmakers turned to production designer Lilly Kilvert, known for her work on Legends of the Fall and The Crucible, and for being quite familiar with Japan already because of her work on The Last Samurai. It was imperative to certainly bring both modern and feudal Japan to life, for her to create sets that definitely help show both worlds quite vividly. And to capture it all, they turned to Australian cinematographer Dean Semler, notable for having both ACS and ASC honorifics and an interesting resume. He got his start on the indie film Hoodwink, and then really cut his teeth with the Mad Max franchise, having shot The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He has also shot the likes of Razorback, Young Guns I and II, Dead Calm, Cocktail, Dances with Wolves, The Coca-Cola Kid, Super Mario Bros., Last Action Hero, Waterworld, The Bone Collector, We Were Soldiers, Bruce Almighty, The Alamo, Click, Apocalypto, Get Smart, Secretariat and Maleficent. Semler is also known for being adaptable with the times and the latest tech. "After doing numerous camera and lens tests, we decided to go with one of the newer digital camera systems, Arri's Alexa, which I heard that John Seale is also using on the new Mad Max film. We got eight Alexas, and five Alexa Pluses to work with, especially to help work with battle scenes and close-contact shots. I also employed a few tricks I've done in the past, like using Spydercam, which I used for overhead shots on The Alamo and Apocalypto, to really get more of a sense of scale with battle sequences, and using it along with helicopter plate shots for establishing locations. I also even did some sequences with CableCam, which capable of moving along a track at 35 miles an hour while filming, for things like car and motorcycle chase sequences, and now employed it for other means during battles."

Then, to help flesh out the visual effects, primarily during postproduction, they employed the services of several of the biggest names in digital effects. These were Industrial Light and Magic, the VFX arm of Lucasfilm Ltd. and pioneered many important methods of creating effects and which also frequently allows itself to be employed on works of other producers and studios; Digital Domain, the company formed by James Cameron and Stan Winston which has also become known as revolutionary in their work; and Weta Digital, the group founded by filmmaker Peter Jackson, which also did many advances in the field of digital effects. Together, they would help further build and flesh out the look of the film, alongside numerous practical effects methods including makeup, practical and digital matte paintings, miniatures and optical effects.

While many of the modern era sequences were all filmed on location in Tokyo, the feudal era scenes were divided between a soundstage at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney for all interiors, and New Zealand for the exterior sequences. This not only gave the production access to Aussie tax credits and Kiwi tax rebates to help the budget, but also made a lot of sense on a number of levels. New Zealand has often lent itself to double for otherworldly and mythical locations, most notably as Middle Earth in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Ringsand The Hobbit trilogies and the world of Pandora in James Cameron's Avatar, and has also been a frequent location for the television productions of Renaissance Pictures, the company founded by director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert, and actor Bruce Campbell; they have used it for the likes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Jack of All Trades, Cleopatra 2525, Legend of the Seeker and the forthcoming Ash vs Evil Dead.

To prepare for the battle sequences, the cast members underwent physical training and tutoring in their distinct fighting styles and methods, with Bosch and Driver getting finer points in Japanese swordsmanship, and Wong and Chung taking archery lessons from American and Japanese Olympic coaches in the sport. This was especially helpful regarding a massive battle sequence involving all the characters against Naraku and his minions in the heart of downtown Tokyo. "We basically have been taking notes from what Marvel has been doing with their movies," Bruckheimer points out. "In fact, we basically looked at the Battle of New York in The Avengers as a reference point of what exactly we were aiming for. It certainly was one of the more complex and difficult scenes to shoot, given the number of elements that have to work in tandem, with actors, stunt doubles, makeup, squibs, striker boards for timed effects, miniatures of damaged buildings, chroma key enhancement, and so forth. But we definitely got it done, and it's one of the biggest elements of part two." "I can honestly say that this has been a real adventure for me and the others," Wong states. "I've never had to do so much to prepare for an experience like this. I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world."

Besides the obvious postproduction work of enhancing the visuals and editing the film, great care was also taken with the sound mix. At Skywalker Sound, the sound editing area of Skywalker Ranch, the best available methods of ADR, foley and sound design to enhance the action. And given Springbok's joining with Lucasfilm in owning a stake of THX and turning it from just a specification to an actual sound system as well that has become the industry standard in the vast majority of the world's multiplexes as well as home theater systems, the likes of which Dolby Atmos has been struggling just to merely catch up with, this would definitely ensure that the absolute best sound would be made, pressing the 7.1 surround sound systems to their absolute limits. "It's a film that can only truly be experienced if it's loud and bombastic. Lots of rumble, high end and low end, great clarity and crispness, and a massive full range hitting you from all sides of the theater. Then of course all the work done for preparing it for the IMAX treatment, blowing up the film and such, which is meant to be one of the biggest parts of our business and viewings."

To finish off the film, the renowned film composer James Horner was brought in to score the film. His method for approaching it was to include fully orchestrated versions of notable tracks and scores from the original series, and new pieces combining both standard orchestral elements and Japanese musical styles, either as separate pieces, or even playing at the same time. He also sneaked in some of his fondness for Celtic instrumentation and styles as well at certain points, even incorporating the theme of Braveheart. The scoring sessions at the legendary EMI Abbey Road Studios in London, with Horner conducting and the sessions arranged and produced by his longtime right-hand man and the film's music supervisor Simon Franglen, were quite pleasant and joyous. "I've never had an experience where I had a standard orchestra along with Japanese instrumentalists together in the same room, but we all actually got along like a house on fire. We actually all complemented each other quite well, and I think it truly was a great way to broaden our horizons a little."

With all this going on, the inevitable question that arises is, "what about a sequel?" "I've got some ideas, but I don't know if they'll become more than that," Takahashi explains. "But it would be nice to imagine that happening, wouldn't it?"


"Springbok Buys Dark Horse Comics," by Brent Lang, Variety, August 25, 2014

Springbok Productions decided to throw its hat into the ring of comic books and comic book cinematic universes by purchasing Dark Horse Comics for $7.2 billion. This transaction gives Springbok ownership of Dark Horse Comics, several hundred different IPs and characters (as well as printing comics on licensed IPs and manga publishing in the West), and Dark Horse Entertainment, the film and television studio arm of the company responsible for The Mask and Hellboy, among others.

Dark Horse Entertainment will become another division within Springbok itself, with the name kept for film and television projects based on its characters. Dark Horse Comics will now also become an imprint of Springbok's book and magazine publishing division Autumn Deer Publishing.

"Dark Horse is one of the most respected and important imprints in the world of comics and in Hollywood," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said to the press. "There is a wealth of material to draw from, and a definite cinematic universe to be spun from this. We intend to make a cinematic universe deserving of Dark Horse, perfectly able to stand on its own laurels with Marvel and DC. But we will not rush into this and go into it half-baked. Something like this deserves patience and careful effort, and we'll certainly do that."

Among the works being considered for such a cinematic universe is a third Hellboy film, a sequel to the original 2004 and 2008 films.


"Miramax to manage TV, Digital for Revolution Studios Films: MIPCOM," by Mike Fleming, Jr., Deadline Hollywood, October 12, 2014

Heading into MIPCOM, Springbok Productions has arranged for Miramax to manage global television and digital distribution licensing for all film titles in the Revolution Studios library. That includes the Morgan Creek international film library that Revolution had acquired prior to its going dormant, and then its assets being purchased by Springbok for $450 million in 2010. This extends a relationship Springbok has with Miramax in helping the tarnished old brand return to its former glory by helping put money into the joint venture Filmyard Holdings, the current owners of the Miramax name, alongside Colony Capital and Qatar Investment Authority. Springbok continues to retain home video rights for the Revolution titles and the international home video rights for the Morgan Creek library, and will also maintain 25 percent of the TV and digital fees going forward.

The Revolution titles include the likes of Black Hawk Down, America's Sweethearts, 13 Going on 30, Maid in Manhattan, XXX and Daddy Day Care, while the Morgan Creek films include Young Guns, Young Guns II, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, True Romance, Freejack, The Last of the Mohicans and Major League.

Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd called the deal the "next step in our relationship with Miramax, and in helping a venerated brand that produced hundreds of quality titles, acres of harvestable diamonds, return to prominence. Their sales team is among the most respected and creative in the industry. Miramax representing Revolution globally is the next natural step in continuing our collaboration of our already established and strong domestic foundation."

Said Miramax EVP of Worldwide TV sales Joe Patrick: "This fantastic collection of content is highly complementary to the Miramax catalog, providing us unique positioning within the international TV and digital landscape."


"Daniel Tiger: Won't You Be His Neighbor?" by Erika Beras, NPR website, October 13, 2014

Lexi Schaefers' preschoolers squeal with excitement. Their eyes are trained on an animated tiger dressed in a red hoodie and sneakers, peeking out of the TV at them.

These 3- and 4-year-olds at Shady Lane Preschool in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sing along with the songs and laugh and mimic what the characters are doing onscreen.

It's been 13 years since Mister Rogers' Neighborhood went off the air and more than a decade since the passing of its host. But the world Fred Rogers created for preschool children — one that's safe, nurturing and accepting — lives on in a PBS program called Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

The animated show is now in its second season. Much of it is produced in Pittsburgh — Rogers' hometown — and there's no question that kids love this show.

So who is Daniel Tiger?

"Daniel Tiger is a cat," says one of Schaefers' preschoolers, Teddy Weissberg. "He has stripes on him and on his ears," says Avery Kendall, another student. "He's just a tiger," says August Yoest.

But Daniel is a lot more than that. He's their friend, a 4-year-old who lives with his family. Some of his friends are animals; some of them are humans.

They're all based on characters from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. That show had a puppet, Daniel Tiger, who's now grown up. He's married, and he has his own son — also named Daniel — around whom this new show is built.

Schaefers says she grew up watching Mister Rogers, and sees the similarities: "Small things throughout the show, like his towel in the bathroom has the trolley on it, and his friends are all related to the characters from Mister Rogers."

Fred Rogers taught kids not to be afraid of new things. Four-year-old Daniel learns that same lesson with Mom Tiger. Like Mister Rogers, Daniel wears a red cardigan and sneakers. Even the music is similar.

We're living in an age of mounting anxiety about children, especially young children, and screen time. There are many conflicting ideas about its proper role in education.

But PBS, the pioneer in "educational" media, seems to have broken through parental resistance. Those nostalgic and emotional connections resonate with the 3- and 4-year-olds in Schaefers' class and many more; the show gets 36 million video streams a month.

"They know that he is a tiger on the show, but I think that they also relate to him as a boy that is their age," says Schaefers. "That's who he is: somebody like them."

Somebody like them — that's what Fred Rogers was to generations of children, and what this new show's creator set out to emulate with Daniel.

"I like to think that he embodies Fred in a lot of ways, but he really truly is his own character," says Angela Santomero.

From 'Blue's Clues' To Daniel

In the 1990s, Santomero's first television success was Blue's Clues, which also took cues from Mister Rogers.

Then one day, she got to meet her hero.

"I went over to him and said, in my New York way, I just want you to know the whole reason I went into television was because of you. I truly hope that what I do for kids has any, a little bit of an impact as you have for millions of kids and ... "

Rogers stopped her mid-sentence, and she remembers him saying, "What's your name? Let's slow down, let's start over."

They forged a friendship. A few years later, after Rogers' death, his company contacted her about creating a new show. They also contacted Denver and Delilah Animation, the animated projects division of Springbok Productions, the multi-armed entertainment company founded by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife, actress Charlize Theron, about the idea, and they accepted at once, specifically honored at the idea of continuing Rogers' legacy.

Santomero says social and emotional learning through television is essentially a marriage between child development theory and research on how kids learn from media.

"They developed a whole curriculum based on Fred's research and teaching," says Linda Simensky, vice president of children's programming at PBS. "It's very carefully designed for a certain age group to get the rules of how the world works — to see what happens when things go right and when things go wrong."

The goal is to mirror, for millions of children, what Lexi Schaefers does daily in her classroom.

After the episode finishes, Schaefers asks her students if they've learned anything from it.

"Did Daniel Tiger do anything on the show that might help you play better with your baby sister?" she asks.

"Yes," one student shouts out, "like sharing things!"

She asks another question: "Was he happy about Daddy and Mommy having the baby with them when he wanted to talk or wanted to play?"

"Nope," another student replies. "He had to wait, he had to wait plenty of time."

The students sing, repeating the characters' song, "There's time for baby and time for you."

Mister Rogers couldn't have said it better himself.


"Let's Get Together And Do It Again: Springbok and Mel Gibson Reteam For New Partnership," by Diana Lodderhouse, Variety, January 13, 2015

One may be convinced that they are in a time loop with a recent announcement: Springbok Productions has entered a three-picture deal with Mel Gibson and his production company, Icon Productions. If this seems familiar, that's because it is. Springbok and Icon made such a deal back in 2004, after Gibson hit paydirt with The Passion of the Christ, and worked together on Gibson's 2006 film Apocalypto. However, Gibson's litany of controversies made Springbok scrap the deal and leave the newly toxic actor and director to himself. Now, almost a decade later, it appears that they wish to try again.

Jennifer Todd, CEO of the production company founded by Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron, trumpeted the new pact. "Mel Gibson and Icon are one of the leading lights in the entertainment industry. We never regretted our original deal, and it was worth it when we made Apocalypto together. That's a film we still are very proud of. Time heals all wounds, and we feel the time is now to give Mel and Icon another chance and make some magic together."

Bruce Davey, Gibson's longtime partner and cofounder of Icon, was similarly pleased. "Kurt, Charlize, Jennifer and the Springbok family have always been good to us. Even after the original deal fell through, they have kept in touch with us, and helped finance some of post-2006 films. Most notably, they helped Mary and Max (a 2008 claymation film involving a pen pal relationship between an Australian girl and a morbidly obese man with Asperger's syndrome from New York) find a receptive audience in the theaters outside of Australia, and also gave a lot of attention and help to Stonehearst Asylum. Now, we get to roll up our sleeves and head back to work together. Mel and I couldn't be happier."

After Gibson's 2006 DUI arrest, where he was captured commencing into a bizarre anti-Semitic tirade (as well as attacking Springbok), as well as his being accused of domestic violence in 2010 by former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva (who released a damning series of voicemails Gibson left her to the public), Gibson and Icon's stature was not considered very much. Gibson's role in the 2011 film The Beaver, directed by Jodie Foster, was now looked at under a very harsh and unflattering light, and failed to gain traction. His movie Get the Gringo was shunted to the direct to video graveyard, and his appearance in Robert Rodriguez' Machete Kills was similarly ignored. Icon, meanwhile, has lost its North American and European operations, the Majestic film library, its television production arm, and, while maintaining its Santa Monica offices, is mainly focused as a distributor of films (its own and others) in Australia, as well as owning the Dendy Cinemas chain. The Icon UK production and distribution team is owned by Access Industries and Prescience, respectively.

When queried as to why Springbok is suddenly deciding to take the risk in hooking up with Gibson again, Todd is nonplussed. "Mel has always been a very good friend of ours, and after his last round of troubles, we let him know that if he needed help, we could offer it to him. And he was perfectly willing to admit that he needed help. We've spent a lot of time together, giving our support as he worked on himself and wrestled with his demons. Even though our beliefs may not be the same, he's also a lovely conversationalist, and fun to be around. And besides, even with what one may think about Mel, what happened to Icon after Apocalypto was not in any way fair to them. It's very much a 'help me help you' situation, as they're not only helping us in making new movies, we're helping them get back to where they should be. We're also helping provide working capital for them to rebuild their original three-continent empire, and possibly even more."

In order to bring the "help me help you" plan to fruition, Springbok and a group of other investors, including billionaires Larry Ellison and James Packer, are ponying upwards of a combined $5 billion in financing for Icon, with the intent to allow Icon to repurchase their UK distribution group and the library rights to Majestic Films, rebuild their North American operations, and relaunch their television arm, and include better synthesis between the North American, UK and Australian divisions.

Springbok and Icon's first film under the new deal is Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson's return to directing after a decade, starring Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who served in World War II and demonstrated his courage and service to the nation by rescuing wounded soldiers and bringing them back for treatment during the Battle of Okinawa. The story first came to light in a 2004 documentary by Terry Benedict, and work to get it dramatized on screen took a full decade to come to fruition. Robert Schenkkan, writer of the play All the Way, did the script, which was then polished by Randall Wallace and Andrew Knight. Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment will distribute the film, while other producers will join Springbok, including AI Film, also part of the Icon UK Group. Icon Film Distribution Australia will release the film Down Under.

Both companies have also mapped out their next two intended films in the deal. First there is The Professor and the Madman, a co-production also involving Voltage Pictures, about the work on compiling the Oxford English Dictionary by Scottish professor James Murray, and his friendship with William Chester Minor, an American doctor being treated at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, who provided 10,000 words for the project. Gibson will star as Murray in the film, but directing duties will be given to Apocalypto scribe Farhad Safinia, who also co-wrote the script. Icon has had the rights to Simon Winchester's book The Surgeon of Crowthorne for almost 20 years, but have only now decided to get to work on bringing the story to life. Vertical Entertainment and Bleecker Street share distribution rights, with Icon Film Distribution UK and Icon Film Distribution Australia releasing the film in their respective territories.

The other film in the deal is an adaptation of the manga/anime series Black Butler, who Springbok's Enima Studios division bought the rights to and helped provide the English dub. Randall Wallace, writer of Braveheart, and who wrote and directed We Were Soldiers for Icon (as well as working with Gibson on the script for a sequel to Passion of the Christ focusing on the Resurrection), is co-writing the script with series creator Yana Toboso, and directing the project, which may end up as two films. Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures have ensnared the rights. The new partnership deal also has an option for Springbok to provide financing for two additional Icon films without joining them as producers.

Icon Film Distribution UK has a bit of a busy slate coming up, with releasing Mr. Holmes (Miramax will release in North America) this year, and the following year will come out with The Neon Demon, City of Tiny Lights and the UK and Ireland distribution of Shane Black's upcoming neo-noir film The Nice Guys (Warners will release the film, featuring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Kim Basinger, in North America next year, with various other smaller foreign distributors gaining rights on a territory-by-territory basis). Icon Film Distribution Australia likewise has a busy slate of releasing 12 films per year, often selecting prestigious ones. For example, they joined Entertainment One and Universal Pictures Australia in releasing Russell Crowe's directorial debut The Water Diviner back in August, while Warner Bros. will release the film in North America shortly.


"Springbok Productions Inks First-Look Deal With Universal Cable Productions," by Elizabeth Wagstein, Variety, January 16, 2015

Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron's Springbok production banner has inked a first-look deal with Universal Cable Productions to develop and produce scripted programming for NBCUniversal's portfolio of networks.

The company has four projects percolating at NBC, USA, Bravo, and Blockbuster Entertainment, through Universal Cable.

The announcement was made by Jeff Wachtel, president and chief content officer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, at Thursday's Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

Laverne McKinnon has also joined Springbok as head of scripted television. McKinnon was formerly exec VP of original programming and development at Epix and senior VP of drama development at CBS.

The pact marks UCP's growth in diversified programming development, under the direction of exec VP of development Dawn Olmstead.

"I had the pleasure of working with Charlize recently and was determined to keep working with her once I joined Universal Cable Productions," said Olmstead. "I'm thrilled that Laverne has joined forces with them. Together they are rapidly growing an impressive slate of thought-provoking, standout shows. I look forward to a fun, smart, and classy ride with this group."

Theron commented, "Jeff and Dawn are fantastic partners. They are creative, smart and aggressive. They've been so supportive of our ambition and slate of projects. We're excited to be collaborating with them."

Springbok's development prospects in this deal include the following:

-Diblings, a romantic comedy for NBC written by Andrea Abbate (Accidentally on Purpose), about a young, uptight business man and a rebellious, purple-haired tattoo artist who will never be together but can't stand being apart.

-The One, a drama for Bravo written by Roger Wolfson (Saving Grace, The Closer) that revolves around assistants and billionaires and CEOs.

-Pandora, an action thriller series for Blockbuster Entertainment written by Josh Pate (Legends, Surface), about former CIA agent Pandora whose curiosity unleashes worldwide "sleepers" who are the personification of all evils. Jonas Pate (Aquarius, Prime Suspect) is set to direct the pilot.

-Mythos, a drama for USA written by Spenser Cohen and produced by Anna Halberg, is a high-stakes, serialized adventure about myths and a world protected by two opposing orders, each with differing agendas for humanity.

Other projects the banner is grooming include a stop-motion animation series with comic book writer Greg Rucka based on the Web series The Most Popular Girls in School; Get Well Soon, written by Erika Cervantes and based on the book by Julie Halpern; and an adaptation of the novel A Life in Men by Gina Frangello.


"Springbok and Sony Creating Cruel Intentions Series For Blockbuster," by Elizabeth Wagstein, Variety, March 25, 2015

Springbok Productions and Sony Pictures Television have recently announced they are working together on a new digital series for Blockbuster Entertainment, an official sequel series to the 1999 hit movie Cruel Intentions. The film, dealing with a scheming pair of step-siblings who work to deflower the daughter of the incoming new dean of their private school, has remained a beloved cult classic since its release, and is quite notorious for helping lead directly to the long and tempestuous marriage of costars Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon, as she became pregnant with their first daughter, Ava, during the shoot.

The film was a modernization of the novel Dangerous Liaisons, which itself was a hit film directed by Stephen Frears in 1988, and starred Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves. In the new telling, unrepentant teen playboy Sebastian Valmont (Phillippe) makes a bet with his stepsister Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to see if he can claim of the virginity of the charming and unassuming Annette Hargrove (Witherspoon) before school starts again. If Sebastian succeeds, he will get the chance to bed Kathryn, whereas if he fails, he will lose possession of his beloved Jaguar. And so he sets off to seduce Annette, not prepared to the possibility that he may just in fact actually fall in love with her. At the same time, there is a running subplot where Kathryn moves to help ruin the reputation of naive and trusting Cecille Caldwell (Selma Blair), including a moment where Sebastian gets her drunk and performs oral sex on her in a scene that has certainly not aged well.

The film was written and directed by Roger Kumble, and happened to be the first notable film produced by Neal H. Moritz and his company Original Film, who has also gone on to produce the Fast and the Furious franchise and films such as XXX, starring Vin Diesel. Now, for the Blockbuster series, Kumble and Moritz will both come on board, with Kumble as showrunner and directing the pilot. Original composer Edward Shearmur will also be involved, and several of the more notable tracks in the film, such as The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and Placebo's "Every You Every Me", will make a return as well.

The series is an official sequel to the film, set in the present day, where a young man named Bash Casey, claiming to be Annette and Sebastian's son, makes his way to Kathryn, now seemingly having put her scandalous past behind her by running a rehab service, comes to get to know the family he never had, while Kathryn has bigger and grander plans in store, planning to use Bash to fulfill the void Sebastian left behind. Gellar has signed on to reprise her role, while the role of Annette has been recast.

The show will debut on Blockbuster Entertainment sometime in 2016, and Springbok television head Jay Firestone predicts that it will do quite well. "The movie remains quite dear to the hearts of a lot of people who saw it in their adolescent years back in 1999, and it continues to gain lots of new fans to this day. The show is an organic extension of that." When queried as to how this choice of a series to develop can square with the long-held social beliefs of Springbok's founders, Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron, Firestone seems quite nonplussed. "They both understand that appreciating art that has moments that represent everything they're against doesn't mean that you are supporting or believing in that in reality." This will mark Springbok's second show for the streaming service, having delivered BoJack Horseman to Blockbuster last August.


Notice on Springbok Productions website, May 28, 2015

Exciting new developments are on the horizon! We are proud to announce several different forthcoming projects that we are proud to be involved in!

-The Edge of Seventeen, a coming of age comedy starring Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, in co-production with Huayi Brothers Studios and Brownstone Productions

-Alice Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, produced by Tim Burton, directed by James Bobin, and reuniting the characters and cast members you love with several new ones, including Sacha Baron Cohen as Time

-The BFG, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book, directed by Steven Spielberg and reuniting him with Melissa Matheson, the screenwriter of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

-Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back, a fast-paced, inspiring biopic of the legendary singer, to be directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Chris Farley

-A Nightmare on Elm Street: Perchance to Scream, the special return to glory of this legendary horror franchise, starring Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger and marking the return of original writer and director Wes Craven; also starring Drew Barrymore, who is co-producing via Flower Films

-Silence, a tale of Jesuit priests traveling to feudal Japan and witnessing the persecution of Christians there, directed by Martin Scorsese from a script by him and Jay Cocks; starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson

-Our forthcoming remake of Westworld, now an HBO series, featuring Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson

-American Crime Story, the latest FX series by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, with each season retelling some of the most infamous crimes in American history, beginning with our first season, The People v. O.J. Simpson

-Feud, yet another new FX series by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk that will tell the stories of famous bitter rivalries in history, starting with the feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and the making of the classic film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

-American Gothic, a new dramatic anthology series from Amblin Television to premiere on CBS

-Assassin's Creed, a limited series on Blockbuster Entertainment based on the bestselling video game franchise from Ubisoft, telling a story that is both a standalone experience for those not familiar with the games, and also canonically part of the franchise's universe; starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons

Look for these exciting new projects in 2016 and 2017!


"Michael Easton to Play Black Butler in Hollywood Adaptation," Soap Opera Network, June 25, 2016

Confirmation has emerged that Springbok Productions and Icon Productions' adaptation of the manga and anime series Black Butler for Annapurna Pictures has already landed its titular character, from an unexpected source. Soap actor regular Michael Easton! Best known for having broken out into the world of daytime television as the vampire Caleb Morley on the General Hospital spinoff series Port Charles on ABC, Easton soon became an established actor and a fan favorite. Port Charles attracted real heat for the first time with its supernatural story arcs, especially thanks to Easton, whether it was directly in the form of his charismatic bloodsucker, or his alter ego as rock star Stephen Clay. Springbok Productions, which helped provided financing to keep the ABC Daytime slate alive, even released the music of "The Stephen Clay Experience", in reality the show's music director RC Cates with lead vocals by Joey Lugassy, frontman of the band DAYSIX, on their Exploitation Records label, as well as granting a record deal to Lugassy's own band.

Even before PC finished its decade-long run in 2007, Easton was so beloved that he landed a second ABC Daytime role, as Detective John McBain on One Life to Live, and his character also became an important part of General Hospital, and he still appears in both to this day. Icon Productions CEO Vicki Christianson says, "Michael exudes the charisma we need for the character of Sebastian Michaelis, and he's definitely shown there's far more to him than meets the eye."

Black Butler, which will be released as two films in 2018 and 2019, has already landed its casting. The film features Timothee Chalamet as Ciel Phantomhive, Suki Waterhouse as Elizabeth "Lizzie" Midford, Amy Okuda as Mey-Rin, Benedict Wong as Tanaka, Keira Knightley as Madam Red, Jim Broadbent as Undertaker, Margot Robbie and Alexander Skarsgaard as Rachel and Vincent Phantomhive, Hayley Atwell and Ralph Fiennes as Frances and Alexis Midford, Genevieve O'Reilly as Lizzie's maid Paula, Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Victoria, Tom Cruise as Grell, and Steve Buscemi as American shipping magnate Bill Pollard, a character created for the movie.


"Springbok Opens New Atlanta Studio Lot," by David Lieberman, Variety, July 18, 2016

Springbok Productions formally opened a new, secondary studio lot in Atlanta, to a massive housewarming party. The new 100-acre facility in southwest Atlanta will supplement the main, 1087-acre studio lot and creative headquarters for Springbok in Playa Vista, California, especially to help provide jobs for citizens and for productions to take advantage of Georgia's tax incentives. The facility has ten functional soundstages for film and television productions, a backlot, and a small office building as a supplementary home for Denver and Delilah Animation and the video game division.

"This is a great day for Springbok and the city of Atlanta," CEO Jennifer Todd said at the dedication. "We will only further our close relationship by helping create amazing new productions together for film, television and streaming, and will give many many citizens a chance to work for us and help the city continue its amazing expansion."

Springbok had been looking to build an Atlanta studio for years, and had originally negotiated to purchase 300 acres on the site of the former Fort McPherson, which would make it the largest studio in the Southeast; however they were outbid by Tyler Perry, the writer/director/actor best known for the Madea franchise. Springbok's choice for the replacement studio then was a vacant site in the southwest corner of the city. Atlanta has also become known for film and TV production shoots, and the Pinewood Group, the UK group best known for the studio where many of the James Bond films have been shot, made an expansion to North America with a 280-acre facility in Fayette County, which opened two years ago.

Springbok is also making entreaties to help finance the building a generic studio in Northern California to help bring movie productions there and bring back some that have flocked to Vancouver over the last two decades. It would be a studio not owned or controlled by any studio or production company. This comes ironically after a fraudster named Carissa Carpenter made a scheme to bilk people to invest in building such a studio, claiming Springbok would be involved in, when all she was doing was taking the money to use on herself.


"Queen Movie Amping Up With Paul Greengrass & Rami Malek As Freddie Mercury," by Mike Fleming, Jr., Deadline Hollywood, November 30, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Greengrass is officially confirmed as directing Bohemian Rhapsody, the long-in-the-works movie about the seminal British rock band Queen, with Mr. Robot's Rami Malek playing frontman Freddie Mercury. The film is coming back together and is on the fast track at 20th Century Fox and New Regency with original producer Graham King and his GK Films, and Springbok Productions joining in.

Fox and New Regency have stepped up for the joint project in the latest maneuver for a movie that has been in development with King for eight years. The most recent script, which focuses on the band and its iconic lead singer, is from renowned scribe Jay Cocks, best known for his works with Martin Scorsese such as The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York and the upcoming Silence. King, Queen manager Jim Beach, Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd are producers, and executive producers are Denis O'Sullivan, Arnon Milchan, Jane Rosenthal, original planned director Dexter Fletcher, Paula Wagner, Michael De Luca and Irving Azoff. Original Queen bandmembers Brian May and Roger Taylor will serve as music producers. It's being eyed to shoot early next year.

On the film side, Greengrass is best known for his taking over the reins from Doug Liman in the Bourne franchise, and for his harrowing dramas United 93and Captain Phillips. He has since done several films for Springbok, including Memphis, Karen Carpenter: Goodbye to Love, Trail of Tears and the upcoming Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back with Chris Farley, set at Universal.

Malek won the Lead Drama Actor Emmy this summer as the star of USA Network's hit hacker series Mr. Robot. His film credits include this year's Buster's Mal Heart, which was at Toronto, and he was in Short Term 12 with Brie Larson. He's now shooting the Papillon remake with Charlie Hunnam. Malik is with WME and Brillstein Entertainment.

Previous incarnations of the project originally had been rooted at Sony. Sacha Baron Cohen had been aboard as Mercury and Peter Morgan writing, before creative differences scotched that plan. Later, Ben Whishaw was to star with Dexter Fletcher directing, but more creative issues nixed that teamup. A second script by The Theory of Everything scribe Anthony McCarten had also been turned in during this time, but was allegedly pulped by orders from Springbok, particularly Cobain.

King worked with Springbok in the past for The Departed, and next up for his GK Films is the Robert Zemeckis-helmed Allied at Paramount starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, which bows November 23.

Fox and New Regency, of course, teamed on back-to-back Oscar Best Picture winners in Birdman and The Revenant, the latter of which was also co-produced by Springbok, earned Leonardo DiCaprio his second Best Actor Oscar and Alejandro G. Iñárritu his second consecutive Best Director Oscar.


"Springbok Almost Invested in Theranos, Company Reveals," by John Carreyrou, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2016

As the wreckage of Elizabeth Holmes' startup company Theranos continues to be unveiled, there is a staggering number of well-known names who personally invested in the company, giving it a onetime market valuation of $9 billion. These included the likes of venture capitalists Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Oracle co-investor Don Lucas, Marc Andreessen, former Apple executive Avie Tevanian, the Walton family, the Cox family, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Betsy DeVos, and Rupert Murdoch. Theranos also boasted a board that included former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Senators Sam Nunn and Bill Frist, USMC General James Mattis, lawyer David Boies (also Theranos' own counsel), and former Wells Fargo CEO Richard Kovacevich. There were other investors, to be sure, but most of those were never revealed.

However, one notable party that avoided the chance to be entangled in Holmes' deception is a particularly bizarre, and yet unsurprising choice, Springbok Productions, the massive multi-armed entertainment conglomerate founded by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, his wife, the actress Charlize Theron, and longtime Hollywood producer (and the company's CEO) Jennifer Todd. Since 2013, the company has operated a venture capitalist group, Springbok Ventures, which has disbursed billions of dollars for entrepreneurial and activist projects. An investment from Springbok, of which she hoped to extract billions, would've further established Theranos' credibility, given Ms. Holmes a mammoth war chest to draw upon, and may very well have changed the outcome of what came next.

So it was that in 2014, while Theranos was being considered the hottest new success story and Holmes a revolutionary that would change the healthcare industry forever, Ms. Holmes made a phone call to Mr. Cobain's personal secretary. "I told Ms. Holmes the fact that Kurt and Charlize weren't at the offices at the time, and that they were both at work at their day jobs. I also told her quite frankly that it wasn't particularly in good form for her to try and talk to them off the bat, and that the VC group would be a more fitting place for her to pitch us. She grew very irate at that, saying that the fact Kurt and Charlize weren't there to pick up the phone to talk to her right now was a considerable insult to her."

Indeed, in the call, which was recorded and shared to The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Holmes is quite livid, and even raises her trademark (and now, as it comes to be realized, affected) baritone voice to lecture the secretary in a condescending and demeaning manner, even going so far and unprofessionally to boast about herself in an obscene manner. "I am Silicon Valley's latest hard-on right now, everyone wants to fuck me. I'm on Fortune's 100 Most Powerful Women, and I'm the only one who's both a founder and a CEO, unlike your own company there, and I did all this before I was fucking 30. You're not shit compared to me, frankly you should be begging to invest with me."

"I was stunned," the secretary continues. "Like most people at Springbok, I didn't know who Elizabeth Holmes or Theranos was off the top of my head, and certainly wasn't left with impressions that much, but I'd heard vaguely about it. And she was behaving so unprofessionally, absolutely trying to bully me into submission, but I kept explaining that it wasn't any use, that I couldn't just make Kurt and Charlize come here and drop everything." The refusal to see things Ms. Holmes' way led to Ms. Holmes hanging up angrily. A few hours later, she had cooled down, gave a runaround comment in which she never actually apologized, and said she was willing to send a prospectus over to the VC group, as long as the founders were informed about this potential deal. However, Springbok Ventures faxed over a list of questions they wanted Ms. Holmes to answer about Theranos and their Edison diagnostic machines to be better informed about a potential investment. Simple direct questions such as: how could 200 diagnostic tests be done using only pinpricks of blood from a fingertip, especially at the same time, from the same sample? Why didn't Theranos create lines of machines dedicated to certain tests to focus on one or so at a time, instead of trying to do all these tests at once? What were the actual schematics for the Edison? Why did Theranos' board have almost no one with a background in medicine? And why was Theranos doing a rollout with Walgreens in Arizona at this very moment, with no guarantees or press statements showing progress on the machines?

Ms. Holmes sent a venomous and defensive email back to Springbok Ventures, absolutely castigating the company for a "lack of backbone and courage to do something truly important" and saying that they "lack(ed) an understanding of how things work in Silicon Valley." Ms. Holmes never returned to resume negotiations. So what exactly had she been trying to achieve? "Clearly, she just felt entitled to have Kurt and Charlize's money, no strings attached, and that because she'd gotten all these notable people to throw in with her, she just assumed we'd fall in line. She wanted to do some kind of marketing with us to further her myth, and, if she was in any way even dimly aware that reality wasn't matching her words and it wasn't possible, that when it all fell down, we'd be the ones to suffer, not her. It's truly astonishing to see the levels to which people will stoop in order to defraud the public."


"Springbok and Icon Win Suit Against Voltage Pictures," by Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, August 11, 2017

Springbok Productions and Mel Gibson's company Icon Productions resoundingly won their joint lawsuit against producer Voltage Pictures for breach of contract regarding production of their upcoming film The Professor and the Madman.

The film, about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary by Scottish professor James Murray and his friendship with American prisoner Dr. William Chester Minor, had been a labor of love for Gibson and his producing partner Bruce Davey, cofounder of Icon, for nearly two decades, after Icon had purchased the rights to Simon Winchester's book The Surgeon of Crowthorne. The actor-producer is set to star in the film as Murray, alongside Sean Penn as Minor, and Apocalypto co-writer Farhad Safinia writing and directing the picture. Springbok, which had inked a three-picture deal with Icon in 2015, through which they made and released last year's hit film Hacksaw Ridge, signed on to co-produce the film, and the two companies signed a pact with Voltage to join in shortly thereafter, with a tentative release date of this year.

A few weeks ago, Springbok and Icon sued Voltage for "jeopardizing" the film by failing to honor the co-production agreement and allegedly engaging in fraudulent behavior.

"[T]he Agreements require that things such as material changes to the screenplay, change of director from Mr. Safinia to someone else, the final production budget and schedule, and selection of filming locations be agreed to by Springbok, Icon and Mr. Gibson," writes attorney Jeffery McFarland in the complaint. "Further, as extra insurance that his vision of the film was protected, Mr. Gibson and Springbok have the right, if necessary, to select the final cut of the film that is released between a cut prepared by Mr. Safinia and a cut prepared by Voltage."

Gibson and Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd claimed Voltage failed to live up to its end of their deal by failing to provide a budget, secure a completion bond, allow something resembling the full screenplay to be shot, shoot "critical" scenes in Oxford, execute Safinia's directing deal and pay Icon and Springbok their producing fees, among a laundry list of other complaints that had the result of "eviscerating" Gibson and Springbok's approval rights. The two producers also said Voltage screened to potential distributors an unapproved cut of the film at Cannes.

Gibson and Davey, via Icon, and Todd, via Springbok, sued Voltage, and its CEO Nicolas Chartier, for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and promissory fraud. They sought not only damages but also a declaration that they can exercise their right to terminate the co-production deal and regain their rights to the film.

In a surprisingly swift move, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan looked over the affidavits and evidence submitted by the teams of Springbok and Icon for the plaintiffs and Voltage for the defendant, moved the action to a bench trial, without witnesses and letting the documents and lawyers' arguments speak for themselves, and ruled in favor of Springbok and Icon.

Judge Kwan wrote in her decision, "The evidence regarding the defendant's conduct is quite clear and concise, as while there are certain ambiguities in the contract hammered out between the plaintiffs and the defendant, the intent in the wording is meant to be clear, and the defendant simply did not live up to their end of the deal. As a result, the defendant is forced to oblige by the terms of the contract."

With the announcement of their victory, Springbok and Icon announced that they will move to complete the film and shoot scenes from the script that were simply not done because of Voltage's conduct. They will then strike on to secure distributor pacts for the film (besides Icon's own distributors in the UK and Australia) on their own terms, presumably releasing sometime in 2019. Despite their past conduct, Voltage will still be credited on the film.

"This is a great day for all of us, and for this film," Gibson told reporters gathered outside. "We're quite happy that we have managed to ensure that a labor of love like this will be allowed to be seen in the form it was meant to be."


"Springbok Denounces Sony's Millennium Continuation," by Nancy Tartalgione, Deadline Hollywood, October 9, 2017

Sony Pictures Entertainment recently announced that it is working on The Girl in the Spider's Web, a film that is a continuation of the series started by Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, using the posthumously published fourth novel by David Lagercrantz as the basis. Evil Dead (2013) and Don't Breathe director Fede Alvarez is helming the new installment, out next year.

However, it is going forward without its original partner that helped bring the original trilogy into reality, Springbok Productions. They helped sell Sony and MGM on doing the series in North America, and helped secure the talents of David Fincher for the first film, Samuel Bayer for the other two, and the continuous presence of Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for all three. Now, Springbok is pulling up stakes from the series and moving on, calling the move to continue with Lagercrantz's book (and likely sequels) "ghoulish, exploitative, and in extremely poor taste."

The official statement given for pulling out further describes the artistic frustration Sony's decision has given them: "The Millennium series ended with Stieg Larsson's death in 2004. There is nowhere else to go in the series, because its architect is not here to complete it according to his vision. David Lagercrantz's book is nothing more than fanfiction churned out by the publisher, greedy for profits, without care for the integrity of the series, and any film based on this book will merely propagate that disservice."

In this, Springbok is echoing the viewpoint of Larsson's domestic partner, Eva Gabrielsson, who has denounced the Lagercrantz novel quite vehemently, and jealously guards over the incomplete manuscript of a fourth book Larsson was working prior to his death. Springbok's statement goes on to say, "Our decision is completely an artistic one, and has nothing personal behind it. We have always maintained a great working relationship, and even friendship with Amy Pascal, Doug Belgrad, Doug's replacement Tom Rothman, Michael Lynton, and now Michael's replacement, Tony Vinciquierra, and we will continue to work alongside Sony in releasing many wonderful projects together. But sometimes, you have to know where to draw the line."

Regardless of Springbok's refusal to join, Sony has gone full speed ahead for the project, and pronounces it will be pleasing to the fans of the trilogy. The role of Lisbeth Salander has been recast, with The Crown's Claire Foy taking the reins from Mara. Craig, meanwhile, is currently cooling his heels to wait for the go ahead on Bond 25, which has been announced to be his last film as 007.


Production Notes for Bohemian Rhapsody, May 31, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of the music and legacy of Queen, and its legendary frontman Freddie Mercury. Experience a journey covering the whole story, from the time the band first came together in 1970 London to Freddie's tragic death from AIDS in November 1991. It is a thrilling, emotional, and ultimately hopeful story that demonstrates how breaking all the rules can pay wonders and why these four bandmates and friends were and are so loved by the world.

20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises are proud to present this labor of love that took almost a decade to become a reality, and finally has thanks to producer Graham King and Springbok Productions, the powerhouse conglomerate founded by Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd and has racked impressive successes in film, television, streaming video, musical theatre, video games and in the music industry. As with all Springbok projects, the three founders are credited as producers, alongside King and Queen's longtime manager Jim "Miami" Beach. Executive producers are Arnon Milchan, Denis O' Sullivan, Justin Haythe, Dexter Fletcher, Jane Rosenthal, Paula Wagner, Michael De Luca and Irving Azoff.

"This is a project that we are truly proud to be involved in," Cobain states. "As a kid, the music of Queen always entranced me, and I enjoyed it immensely. Freddie Mercury was a larger than life individual that also caught my imagination, and I still remember all too well where I was when I heard that he'd died. That day, we were performing in Amsterdam, doing a show at the Paradiso club, being filmed for TV broadcast. So, when we all heard that there was a project in the works to tell his story, and that of Queen, I personally instructed the Springbok brass, especially Jennifer, to keep tabs on the situation, and see if it would suit us."

The story of the movie's conception begins in 2010, when Graham King had a conversation with British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan, best known for scripts like The Last King of Scotland, The Other Boleyn Girl, Frost/Nixon and The Crown. "I told him I really wanted to do the story of Queen, that it might be an interesting thing to make a film for. Now, I didn't have the rights at that moment, and I knew getting them would take quite some time, if it was even going to happen at all. That said, Peter was hooked and began writing a script on spec at once." The wishful thinking seemed to pay off, as Jim Beach and surviving band members Brian May and Roger Taylor were definitely interested in doing a movie. A preliminary deal came together, in which comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen was in talks to play Freddie, and Dexter Fletcher was set to direct. However, this did not come to pass, as Cohen, and then eventually Fletcher, dropped out. (Fletcher is currently directing Elton John biopic "fantasy musical" Rocketman, which Springbok is also attached to.)

For a brief moment, actor Ben Whishaw was in talks to play Freddie, but this was scuttled on King's orders, when he went to his erstwhile partners and declared, "I've found Freddie." The actor he had in mind was Rami Malek, best known for the lead role in the USA Network series Mr. Robot. "I just looked at him, and I realized, this what we're looking for," King states. "Rami has charisma, a quiet strength, and he truly is a director's actor. If I can be blunt, I never liked the ideas of Sacha or Ben, because I simply felt that a fully white actor would not fit Freddie, and that's why those ideas didn't work out, because I said so. Well, that and Sacha wasn't taking things seriously enough, still acting like he was doing Borat or Bruno, a total caricature." Malek was quite entranced by the idea, and auditioned by sending a video of him singing Queen's works, and doing a faux-interview in the role of Freddie, and Fox and Regency were convinced at once. "When I got the role, I'll admit, I was a bit nervous, because I thought to myself, 'this is going to affect the arc of my career in a way I can't take back, no matter what.' It's big shoes to fill, but I also felt that I could take on the challenge. So I went to read every book about Freddie and Queen there was, see all the documentaries, interviews and concert footage. It was quite a rush. It's a fascinating journey, since we're dealing with someone who was unlikely to be a rock star, an immigrant dealing with fitting in. Could he have been as big as he became if he stayed Farrokh Bulsara from Zanzibar? I don't think so."

"We also liked the idea of Rami," Todd states. "We knew him already from him playing the recurring character of Flip McVicker on BoJack Horseman, and we knew there was more to him than he's shown previously. So naturally, we grew quite excited." Springbok attached themselves at once, though not without some demands that threatened to once again upset the trajectory of the film and ensure it wouldn't get made. By this time, a director had not been chosen, but Peter Morgan's script was dropped, and a new one by Anthony McCarten, writer of The Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour, and who had personally done interviews with May and Taylor for his notes, had been submitted, along with further uncredited rewrites by Justin Haythe. While Fox, Regency and King were impressed, Springbok's founders were not, to say the least. "Kurt was ripshit," Todd states bluntly. "He was so angry, he threw his copy of the script across the room and his hands were shaking. When he spoke, he just said in this low, growling voice, 'I can't support something that's just standard hackneyed, formulaic Hollywood drivel. The entire focus of the story is wrong, the chronology is in tatters, and they took the standard cheat route in showing tension.' After he calmed down, we went right up Graham and the others and told him that this script was not going to work for us. I also remember, Kurt looked at Brian and Roger and he said, 'Why would you be okay with this?' Brian just looked at us, clasping his hands and saying, 'Well, it's just a movie, and this is how movies are done. All that matters to Roger and I is that the music and Freddie are done right. Besides, we did the standard signing away the rights, so Roger and I don't get a penny.'"

Thankfully, Springbok did have an alternative on hand to offer at once. "Back when Kurt told me to keep tabs on the project back in 2010, I also put out feelers to see who could come up with their own script on spec, and for us to offer if we didn't like what the powers that be didn't provide something good enough. And we found a great choice for that." That person was none other than Jay Cocks, the former magazine critic turned screenwriter who wrote notable scripts such as Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York and Silence; Katheryn Bigelow's Strange Days (cowritten with James Cameron) and her Joan of Arc biopic Company of Angels; and who also did uncredited dialogue polishing for Titanic. "He fully immersed himself into the world of Queen and Freddie, becoming basically an expert in the level of say, Deadheads are," Theron posits. "He was determined to nail all the details down, capture everything, such as Freddie's treatments for AIDS, his various relationships over the decades, Queen's blowback for performing at Sun City. He kept elements of Peter's and Anthony's scripts, mainly in terms of video and concert reenactments, especially the entire Live Aid set, but it was predominantly new. He also came out with a script that told the entire story, and that was an hour longer, giving it a running time of 215 minutes." When the new script was checked, everyone agreed it was a far better version, and that this was the vision used going forward. Morgan and McCarten are given writing credits for story, while Cocks has full credit for the screenplay.

Armed with a new script, the search was on for a director, and thankfully, Springbok also stepped to the plate again with the offer of Paul Greengrass. While having a resume that stretches to the '90s, Greengrass first became prominent for handling The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, as well as for his harrowing 9/11 film United 93. Greengrass has also channeled his sensitivity to facts and admiration for courage in movies such as Captain Phillips, Midnight Ride, Memphis, Trail of Tears, Karen Carpenter: Goodbye to Love and Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back, all but the first two of which were also produced by Springbok. "Paul is one of the best filmmakers out there today," Todd states, "and we knew he was perfect for the job. He captures verisimilitude in spades, and he knows how to make a story soar." Greengrass, quite humbly, shrugs. "I just like stories, and I like telling them. And making sure the story is real matters a great deal to me."

Now with a perfect Freddie, a script that hit the target, and a director to take on the project, casting and crew was next on the bill. The most important matter was casting the other members of Queen. Landing the roles were Gwilym Lee as guitarist Brian May, Ben Hardy as drummer Roger Taylor, and Joe Mazzello, also American like Malek, as bassist John Deacon, who retired from all things Queen-related in 1997. "I knew going in that next to Freddie, Brian was the most important to get right," King says. "Brian is in many ways, the unsung hero, the secret weapon that made Queen great, and he has also been the one that has been the most outspoken and open. Gwil really captured him so well, it's uncanny." "It's often better to land relative unknowns for roles in movies like this than give them to big A-list talents," Todd replies. "The diamond in the rough will shine more and tend to actually be able to stretch themselves for the part." Among the ways of stretching were for the four men to learn how to play the songs. Although the actual studio and live recordings of Queen, as well as vocal stems by Canadian singer Marc Martel, who is the singer in the officially authorized Queen Extravaganza band for his uncanny soundalike vocals echoing Freddie, to cover a cappella moments of Freddie composing the songs and singing to himself, would be what the audiences heard, the actors would actually play the notes and Malek would actually sing the lyrics when the cameras rolled, to ensure it looked as real as possible. "Merely lip syncing simply was not going to do," King responds. "Even if it's the recordings being used, to actually do the parts was needed."

Malek hired a dialect coach to nail Freddie's speaking voice, and a "movement coach" to learn all of Freddie's stage movements. "A choreographer can't do the job, because for someone like Freddie, planning everything mark by mark doesn't work for him. Knowing the ins and outs of what made him such a dynamic frontman requires more specialized training." Malek also took piano lessons to tackle that famous element as well. The other three actors got specialized guitar, bass and drum tutors, and in Lee and Hardy's cases, even received some pointers from May and Taylor, who were hired as executive music producers to especially ensure the music was done well and respectfully. "It was quite impressive, even if it was a bit short-lived," Lee states. "We only had about two months to really get up to speed on all the material before we began filming, and we had to look like a band that has been together for years. That requires the vaunted '10,000 hours', and we didn't have time for that, especially not to learn everything directly from Brian and Roger. But what we did learn was incredible enough, it will last forever, especially given how often Brian and Roger were on set when they weren't on tour with Adam (Lambert, the American Idol contestant who has a burgeoning career of his own and now sings with May and Taylor doing Queen's music)." For further verisimilitude, May and Taylor lent instruments from their actual collection, such as the drum kit Taylor used when recording A Night at the Opera, using May's original Red Special guitar for certain scenes, and the actual Fender Telecaster May used to play "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" during their legendary Live Aid set.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, who is known as constantly collaborating with the now-disgraced director Bryan Singer on his filmography, was put in charge for making these reenactments of performances and Queen's iconic music videos come to life. "Production designer Aaron Haye and I had this particular soundstage area set aside to do several of the reenactments," Sigel reports. "It could serve as a pub during Queen's early days, become a stage for their first tour of America, and be transformed to represent Hyde Park, the Budokan, the old Montreal Forum, Milton Keynes or Madison Square Garden. We found an abandoned English airfield for the Rock in Rio, Live Aid and 1986 Magic Tour scenes, to which we'd built the stage area, and digitally recreate the crowds at the original Rock in Rio or the old Wembley Stadium (which was demolished and replaced with a new one in 2007) around it. It was important to get the lighting right, so we had to get actual old, gel canister lights and some basic PARs to rig up and use, because Vari-Lites, LEDs and modern lights wouldn't work. Of course, by using the old styles, the stages got extremely hot, around 150 degrees. But the guys didn't complain and didn't quit, and were always eager to go again and do better." To augment the audience in the live recordings, Queen + Adam Lambert recorded several shows during their 2017 European tour and used the audience reactions to be mixed in with the preexisting audience for more intensity and heft.

A lot of work was also done recreating Queen's music videos, notably the Top of the Pops rendition of "Killer Queen", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Don't Stop Me Now", "I Want to Break Free", "One Vision", "I Want It All", "Headlong", "I'm Going Slightly Mad", and "These Are the Days of Our Lives." For assistance in that area, Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher, a duo of Austrian music video and documentary filmmakers operating as DoRo Productions, and who had an extensive history of collaborating with Queen on video projects, offered their generous assistance. "It was great of them to do so," Sigel admits. "They provided all their notes and raw dailies to us to use as reference, and we took great care in getting it right." Of course, most of this material is shown in an abridged form in the movie. "We had to whittle down most of the reenactments of concerts and videos down for the movie to fit 215 minutes. The only thing shown full length in the movie is the Live Aid set, which simply had to be complete to work, and a 'fantasy sequence', in which we did a video for 'The Show Must Go On', the type of thing Queen might have made if Freddie had been healthy enough to do a shoot. Though the full versions of these other scenes will make great bonus content on the Blu-ray. Maybe it'll need two discs, even!"

Much care to bring all this to life also had to be done with getting the outfits done. Costume designer Julian Day (also engaged in the same capacity for Rocketman) had invaluable help from Justin Shirley-Smith, the official Queen archivist, who also helped the other aspects of production, to open the photo database to show what each man looked like. "We were obsessive in that sense," Day replies, "down to asking, 'What kind of socks did Roger wear that day?' A lot of work went to getting the Live Aid outfits, such finding a tank top that was cut the exact same way as the one Freddie wore, the same brand and cut of jeans, the same belt, the same singlet on his arm, and the exact same pair of Adidas sneakers he wore." May and Taylor also revealed that they'd held onto a lot of their past outfits, and lent them to the production. These included a lot of "glam rock" outfits of the '70s, and of Japanese-inspired fashion that the band picked up from their many visits there. Great care was taken also create a series of wigs and facial hair for Malek to copy Freddie's various changing appearances, especially in the length of his hair and his famous mustache, and prosthetics to mimic his equally famous teeth that were never fixed. And the sets also had to really capture Freddie at the massive home for himself, from his interests in collecting artwork, fashion sense, admiration for singers like Aretha Franklin, and his love for his numerous cats. "I think we definitely have a sense of who these people were, especially Freddie."

Admittedly, the most challenging part to do well was the last hour of the film, which begins after the Live Aid scene and has a predominant focus on Freddie's final lasting relationship with Jim Hutton, his final works with Queen, and his final years, living with AIDS. One element of invaluable assistance was the recently published biography of Freddie, Somebody to Love by Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne, which includes many details about the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide and the treatments Freddie took for his condition. "It gave us a lot to work with," Greengrass states. "And we knew we could do something to really show how Freddie lived with this condition for as long as he did. Of course we couldn't go into the detail the book did in putting it against the context of AIDS as a whole and how treatment has evolved, but we did decide to create something for the behind the scenes material to go with the Blu-ray release, a 45-minute documentary about AIDS, its spread and the evolution of treatment. It's especially riveting for those whose exposure about the early years of AIDS is still only really based on And the Band Played On,The Normal Heart, Dallas Buyers Club and Angels in America. Dallas Buyers Club in particular is big to address because, while it's a great movie, it distorts so much about the early treatment AZT, which while it IS worthless after a year, it's not the useless garbage that movie portrays it as. After all, AZT is still part of modern combination therapy, and the Mexican drugs shown in the movie have been found to be quack products, which is why the FDA cracked down on them. It's probably as big a pernicious myth as Gaetan Dugas being Patient Zero of AIDS. The documentary will certainly help put Freddie's last days in context and really open a lot of people's eyes."

Other major casting for the film includes Lucy Boynton as Freddie's first lover, Mary Austin, whom he left his entire estate to in his will; Aidan Gillen (best known for roles in The Wire, The Dark Knight Rises and Game of Thrones) as John Reid, Queen's early manager who was also best known for managing Elton John (another GoT alum, Richard Madden, will play the role in Rocketman); Tom Hollander as Jim "Miami" Beach; Allen Leech as Paul Prenter, Freddie's personal assistant and lover who was quite a negative influence on him and a parasite who betrayed him after he was cast out; Aaron McCusker as Jim Hutton, Freddie's final lover; Dermot Murphy as Live Aid organizer and hero Bob Geldof; Tim Plester as Queen's famed early producer Roy Thomas Baker; and Chris Farley in the composite role of Ray Foster, an EMI executive based on several who is unhappy with A Night at the Opera and initially rejects "Bohemian Rhapsody" as a single. "Besides being on old friend, Chris has proven himself as a surprising talent," Cobain declares. "He especially did so when he worked under Paul for Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back, and really brought out what a rollercoaster ride Meat has had in his life. It was also a chance to acknowledge a debt that can never be repaid." Farley chose the role as a tribute to the late Mike Myers, who died in 2001 from viral pneumonia; specifically doing the character in the style of Fat Bastard, the obese henchman of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers films, who speaks with an exaggerated Scottish accent. "Before he died, Mike told Chris that if he'd done Shrek instead, he would've used the Fat Bastard voice for him. Not to mention, there's a line in there that specifically does a meta reference to Wayne's World, and the scene where they headbang in the car to 'BoRhap.' The world still misses Mike's comic genius every day, and he definitely helped Chris just as much as Adam Sandler, David Spade and Phil Hartman did."

Other particular care was chosen with regard to the soundtrack, in terms of handling what songs from Queen's discography to use. "In a sense, it's another compilation album," May states. "And there definitely have been quite a few of those for us. But it also is a bit different in that regard. While a lot of hits are there, there's also a few of the deep cuts, things that weren't singles or videos, that were only played live up to a certain period of time." The soundtrack features the full Live Aid set, marking the first official release of the legendary performance in audio form. There are also scattered live performances in the double-disc set, including a few never before released, such as the version of "Love of My Life" from Rock in Rio. Some of Freddie's solo recordings are also represented, to show the full picture. And some songs have special "movie mixes", combining studio and live versions together. Such is the case with "Liar", a song from the first album, combining the studio master with a live performance at the Rainbow Theatre in 1974 (recently released to the public), and a special such mix for "We Will Rock You," which starts out as the familiar studio version, then switches to a live recording.

There are also some new recordings May and Taylor have contributed to the soundtrack. The version of "Don't Stop Me Now" has the original vocals, piano and bass, but some new, more powerful guitar and drum tracks, to make it more like how it has been performed live. "I've been quoted on record saying I don't like the track in a lot of places," May explains. "I actually do like it, but I always thought it represented Freddie's separatism, about something we weren't so privy to. Also, there's not a lot of guitar in the track, so I really wanted to rip it up this time." May and Taylor's original band Smile, with bassist and vocalist Tim Staffell, is represented in the movie and soundtrack with their catchy single "Doing All Right,"…in a complete reunion re-recording. "We've always been good friends with Tim," Taylor says, "and we've never begrudged each other the way things went down…even if we've always ribbed him about Humpy Bong. Anyways, we were talking about having 'Doing All Right' in the soundtrack, and Tim actually suggested we redo the song. It was loads of fun, and it made us remember the good times." For the icing on the cake, May and Taylor did a version of the famous 20th Century Fox fanfare for the beginning of the movie.

In 1970 London, Zanzibar-born Farrokh Bulsara is looking for something new and exciting to his life. Suddenly, Smile, the band he has been following and associated with for some time, is on the verge of breaking up when bassist and vocalist Tim Staffell leaves. Not wanting guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor in the lurch, Farrokh offers himself as the new lead singer, especially when he shows the songs he has been writing on the side. Together with him and new bassist John Deacon, the band, soon renamed Queen, starts to build a reputation for itself gigging on the pub and university circuit. It is also at this point Farrokh changes his name to Freddie Mercury, a name more befitting a rock star, and also is entranced by the lovely Mary Austin, who seems to be his soul mate.

Seeking a leg into the business, the band signs an "ownership" deal with a group called Trident Productions, and also has the money to record their first album for EMI Records. While the first album seems to go nowhere, their next gets a bit of a leg up, thanks to songs like "Killer Queen" and "Seven Seas of Rhye." Tours in America and Japan also get them much-needed experience and exposure. They also land a deal to take on John Reid as their manager as well as a new lawyer, Jim Beach, christened "Miami" Beach by Freddie. But all seems to be for naught as after three albums, the band has not achieved a breakthrough success, EMI is pressuring for a worthy enough followup to keep them on the label, and Trident is squeezing them for more money, the prohibitive cost of which may very well necessitate them breaking up. Backs against the wall, Queen retreat to Rockfield Farm in Wales, where, amidst ego-driven fights over writing credits and song placement, they record their landmark album A Night at the Opera, with its centerpiece track, "Bohemian Rhapsody." They know they have their hit, but EMI is not convinced and refuses to issue it as a single, citing its length. A "discreet" slipping of the song to a friendly DJ, Kenny Everett, changes opinion, and it soon becomes a #1 smash.

Buoyed by the success, Queen keeps on trucking worldwide, especially with an American record deal as well. The critics slam their records and dismiss them huffily, but the general public embraces them with open arms. The bigger they get, the bigger the changes that occur, as Freddie comes to an important realization about his sexuality, though he and Mary remain lifelong friends. Queen also loses John Reid, citing his other commitments, and "Miami" Beach steps up to take the reins. Year in and year out, Queen churns out anthem after anthem, tour after tour, hitting venues like Hyde Park, the Budokan, Madison Square Garden, the Montreal Forum, South American soccer stadiums and Milton Keynes, and their march continues unabated.

As a new decade dawns, it becomes a time of big changes. Brian, Roger and John have to deal with family issues of theirs, and Freddie takes to the nightlife of London, New York and Munich quite handily, with a cadre of different lovers at his side. Among them are struggling actress Barbara Valentin and his personal assistant Paul Prenter, who proves himself to be a negative influence on Freddie. Of course, not every band can stay together doing only group activity, and to creatively recharge, they all seek out a chance to expand with solo activities. Freddie in particular is anxious to spread his wings and express himself with material not fitting Queen. While the band comes back together handily, their releases suddenly begin not to reach the same enraptured welcome as before, and they also court considerable backlash by their peers for agreeing to play the Sun City entertainment complex in South Africa during the height of apartheid. While attracting enough success on tour to even get the headlining slot at the inaugural Rock in Rio festival, Queen are definitely not on a hot streak, and are strongly considering packing it in. Then an offer to perform at Live Aid, a benefit concert to help famine victims in Ethiopia, is handed to them, and they accept. Their 20-minute set steals the show and gives them a badly needed shot in the arm.

Recharged by this, the band is inspired to record the soaring anthem "One Vision", record a soundtrack album for the cult classic movie Highlander, and launch their biggest tour yet, taking in the premiere European stadiums. Freddie also becomes interested in creating a collaboration album with renowned opera singer Montserrat Caballe, and finally finds true love and a stable relationship with Jim Hutton. Brian and Roger also find loving, lasting relationships of their own. All seems to be going their way once more.

But not everything is as it seems. Freddie soon learns that he is suffering from AIDS, and tells Jim and "Miami", with a promise they won't tell anyone else. However, it becomes clear that he can't hide the condition from the band or Mary, and so he eventually tells them as well, and they are willing to protectively circle around him ensure that the press, which has hounded Freddie like vultures for years, will not find out, though speculation does run rampant.

The members of Queen buckle down to work on new music, filled with new purpose like never before, especially after they decide to share writing credits from now on. The band also works hard to project the image that they could still go on tour but are choosing not to, thanks to their performance-styled music videos. They also receive a strong presence in North America like they haven't had in years, after signing a deal with Hollywood Records, a new label founded by The Walt Disney Company and its CEO Michael Eisner. In time for their 20th anniversary, they release Innuendo, a true return to regal glory. Knowing that time is not on his side, Freddie keeps on recording songs as basic scratch vocals on drum machines for the band to finish after he is gone. But soon his strength fails him and he lives his final days in home in peace. On November 23, 1991, Freddie allows the release of a statement to the press, admitting his condition…only to die 24 hours later.

Left to pick up the pieces, the surviving members memorialize Freddie with a special all-star concert at Wembley Stadium and finish off his final recordings for one final album, Made In Heaven, as well as making one last song as a trio, "No One But You (Only the Good Die Young)." Brian and Roger continue to pay tribute to Freddie in various activities, including touring with the likes of Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert, to this day.

The film will be released by 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises in the UK on October 24, 2018, and elsewhere on November 2. The soundtrack will be released on October 19 by Hollywood Records in North America, and Virgin EMI Records elsewhere. The album will be released in a standard two-disc form, and a deluxe version with an extra disc, a T-shirt, lithograph, hologram, three Queen-logo guitar picks, a 120-page book of liner notes, and bonus DVD/Blu-ray of video and concert footage by the real Queen.

CD 1

-20th Century Fox Fanfare *

-Somebody to Love

-Doing All Right (...Revisited) (Smile) *

-Keep Yourself Alive (Rainbow Theatre '74)

-Liar (Movie Mix) (Studio/Rainbow Theatre '74 hybrid)

-Seven Seas of Rhye

-Killer Queen

-Stone Cold Crazy

-Death on Two Legs

-Bohemian Rhapsody

-You're My Best Friend

-Now I'm Here (Odeon '75)

-We Will Rock You (Movie Mix)

-Fat Bottomed Girls (Paris '78) **

-Don't Stop Me Now (...Revisited) *

-Crazy Little Thing Called Love

-Another One Bites the Dust

-Tie Your Mother Down (Sao Paulo '81) **

-Under Pressure

-I Want to Break Free

CD 2

-Love of My Life (Rio '85) **

-Living On My Own (Freddie Solo)

-Bohemian Rhapsody (Live Aid) **

-Radio Ga Ga (Live Aid) **

-Ay-Oh (Live Aid ) **

-Hammer to Fall (Live Aid) **

-Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Live Aid) **

-We Will Rock You (Live Aid) **

-We Are the Champions (Live Aid) **

-One Vision

-Who Wants to Live Forever

-The Great Pretender (Freddie Solo)

-Barcelona (Freddie Solo, with Montserrat Caballe; newly remixed version replacing synth orchestra and instruments with a live orchestra)

-I Want It All

-The Invisible Man (Remix; Early Version/Master Version hybrid)

-Scandal

-Innuendo

-Headlong

-I'm Going Slightly Mad

-These Are the Days of Our Lives

-The Show Must Go On

-Mother Love

-Let Me Live

-No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young)

Bonus Disc

-Lazing On a Sunday Afternoon

-I'm in Love with My Car

-Doing All Right (Marc Martel vocal)

-Love of My Life (Marc Martel vocal)

-'39 (Queen + Paul Rodgers, Ukraine 2008)

-Let Me in Your Heart Again

-Love Kills (The Ballad)

-Is This the World that We Created? (Live Aid) **

-Mr. Bad Guy (Freddie Solo)

-Time Waits For No One (Freddie Solo)

-In My Defence (Freddie Solo)

-Breakthru

-The Miracle

-Driven By You (Brian May Solo)

-Somebody to Love (Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert '92, with George Michael)

-Made In Heaven

-Heaven for Everyone

-Too Much Love Will Kill You

-Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen + Adam Lambert, Summer Sonic in Japan 2014) **

-We Are the Champions (Queen + Adam Lambert, Summer Sonic in Japan 2014) **

* New recording

** Previously unreleased to the public

All proceeds of the ticket sales, home video sales and soundtrack sales will benefit The Mercury Phoenix Trust, Nevermind…We're Here To Help! and the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Program.


"Like Newlyweds Still: Kurt Cobain And Charlize Theron Break Down 20 Years Of Marriage," by Vicky Ward, Vanity Fair, June 2018

They're the most famous wedded couple in the world, and their entertainment industry empire is the envy of everyone. And yet, they remain in the honeymoon stage of their marriage and show amazing contentment and chemistry together. Now, they break down the secret to that success.

It's a balmy evening in Sebastian, Florida, a town on the state's Treasure Coast, where a sluggish, warm breeze makes the palms lightly sway. On the coastline, there's a particularly interesting home. This happens to be the domain of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife, the Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, just one of several properties in their portfolio. Across the street from the main house are several houses on land owned by them that were recently built. One is a guest house, another is the home for the recording studio used by Nirvana and Cobain's eldest child, daughter Frances Bean Cobain, for their albums these days.

The happy family don't live quite ostentatiously; the most ornate property they own is Nellcote, the famed villa in the South of France once owned by Keith Richards and where The Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street. (They own a number of various other properties: a home in Seattle, Joan Crawford's old property in the L.A. neighborhood of Brentwood, an apartment complex in the living area surrounding the Springbok Productions lot in Playa Vista, a loft in New York, a home once owned by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Palm Beach, Ringo Starr's old flat in London (which was famously inhabited by Ono and Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix before them), apartments in Sydney, an apartment in Tokyo, and the penthouse in the forthcoming Leonardo Hotel in Theron's hometown of Johannesburg.) But you won't see them lording it up in massive mansions, buying mammoth castles, or private islands, like some of their peers. "Kurt's a really simple guy," Theron says. "He could easily live the rest of his life in a shitty apartment, living on Kraft macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles. And I don't need much either. If anything, having lots of flashy jewelry and gowns and servants at your beck and call, that's a pretty empty life to me. I need close contact, especially with the kids and the dogs."

The Theron-Cobain brood is quite a fascinating, yet simple brood. Besides Frances, there is also Cobain's eldest son Patrick James Cobain, like his older sister, born while their father was still married to Hole frontwoman Courtney Love. After he and Theron married, they had twins Daniel and Olivia, and then for more than a decade, they thought their family was complete. Then, around the time Theron got ready to film her much-acclaimed role of Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, they adopted two African children, Jackson, a transgender girl, and August, who was born a girl and still identifies as such. And then of course, there are their dogs, Denver and Delilah, source of the name of the animation division of Springbok Productions. "Actually, those names get transferred down," Cobain explains. "The original Denver and Delilah have passed on, so we ended up getting two new dogs and gave them the names."

Tonight, the entire family is gathered together for a loving moment. Despite being adults, Frances and Patrick still spend much of their time with their father, stepmother and half-siblings. Theron is busy making dinner, vegan sausages, brown rice, green beans and Evian water. Even Cobain, who is more omnivorous compared to his wife, loves the vegan meals she prepares. "I've certainly opened a lot of doors to experiences I've never imagined. Charlize definitely helps push me to be open for anything, and I basically am spending the rest of my life paying her back. I don't think I can ever come close to doing so, but I'm sure as hell going to try."

Over a sparkling dinner, with lots of friendly teasing and conversation between each other, the affection between them is all is certainly in evident display. Cobain in particular exudes and air of contentment, similar to the many stories of John Lennon in his househusband years, having stepped away from his career to raise his son Sean, learning to make macrobiotic meals and baking bread. Of course, Cobain and Theron's careers have been going full steam ahead during the entirety of their marriage, especially where Springbok is concerned.

With dinner done, and the older children taking Jackson and August aside to their playroom for quality time together so their parents can do a more thorough interview, Cobain and Theron settle in, quite relaxed in their demeanor. They even look at and nuzzle each other with the same expression and manner as newlyweds on their honeymoon, and given the fact that Hollywood marriages rarely last long, that's certainly no small achievement. "I don't quite know how to explain it," Theron admitted. "Things just clicked between us from the day we met, and we've really taught each other so many things. If anything, I'm always looking forward to the next day, knowing that things are going to be quite lovely."

Even though Cobain and Theron seem basically joined at the hip, there certainly are a number of notable differences between. The most notable is their dietary preferences. Theron is a proud, somewhat militant vegan and animal rights activist, though Cobain did talk her out of joining PETA. He is a proud omnivore, who likes to enjoy just about anything. "You know, she sometimes likes to tease me whenever I go to Taco Bell and have burritos, or things like that, but it's all good. I do think that she's quite a lovely vegan cook." The other differences tend to be regarding the fact that she is quite upfront and direct about everything, whereas he somewhat recedes into the back and is somewhat prone to bottling things up.

Like all couples, they argue, and things can even get fairly heated. "We do have two rules about our fights. One, that we never fight in earshot of the children, and two, that we never go to bed angry," Theron says. "That's especially mainly for Jackson and August's benefit, to ensure that they don't have to worry about whether Mommy and Daddy are going to break up or feel less than secure." It's a lesson taken from the reminders of their painful childhoods and the strife between their own respective families; Cobain, a child of divorce when he was nine as well as continual bad blood between his own parents, Theron the recipient of abuse and scars from an alcoholic father, until her mother was forced to shoot him in self defense.

"Even back when I was with Courtney, I'd always promised myself that my children would never know the pain of what I had to go through," Cobain says. "That I wouldn't fuck them up for the rest of their lives, and that we'd find a way to be on good terms no matter what." Indeed, Love is quite civil with Cobain, frequently makes social visits, and remains very involved in Frances and Patrick's lives. "It's astonishing, really," he admits. "Even though they're both adults, Courtney shows lots of affection at moments. I remember a time, during (Nirvana's induction into) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Frances had a chest cold, and Courtney spent the night rubbing Vicks Vaporub on her chest and soothing her. I'm still grateful to a lot of things Courtney did and showed me in our marriage, I'm honestly grateful to every woman I've been in a relationship with, because they nurtured me in different ways at different time."

Theron admits that sometimes, it astonishes her how much Cobain's family has particularly ingratiated with her and taken to her. "Kurt's mom and sister really like to hang out with me a lot of times whenever I happen to be in Seattle, and I certainly can't help but like them immensely. They were the members of the family who got Kurt when no one else did when he was a kid. They've been so inviting, when Edward and Olivia were born, and they really pulled out all the stops when Jackson and August came into the picture. They've definitely loved to spoil them rotten."

The children are very different and they come together nicely even still. Frances, of course, has her own musical career, and definitely moves to differentiate herself from both her parents and march to her own drummer, but personality wise, many say she is a virtual twin of her father. "She wears a lot of my shit," Cobain says. "She loves cardigans, especially, and it can be like looking into a mirror. In fact, Dave (Grohl) sometimes looks at Frances and calls her me by accident." Patrick is also into music, but he's closer in temperament to Love, and also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. "He's quite a sensitive soul, and he can be very temperamental. It comes out in his work, it's a lot of noise, more so than even Courtney has done, not so focused on melodies or Fleetwood Mac references."

Edward apparently is more interested in the world of science, particularly learning about insects. "He actually keeps roaches in a cage," Theron says. "He can't even stand to squash them, which we've all given him grief over. Especially here in Florida, where they're massive!" Olivia has been taking acting lessons at various schools. "She really wants to be just like me," Theron replies. "Of course, I'm thinking to myself, 'are you gonna be willing to play a role like Monster, because things like are brutal to prepare for, even when it's loading up on lots of carbs and empty calories. Or Fury Road, having to work in heat so intense, sometimes the gasoline evaporates before it actually enters the car's tank!"

As for Jackson and August, neither Cobain nor Theron are doing anything to influence their futures or their interests, and are not willing to predict what will happen. "Who they become is not for Kurt or me to decide," she states. "Our focus has always been just to give them a loving home, where they can be themselves, and grow up without having to experience the strife and hatred I saw all around me in South Africa. Growing up in the midst of apartheid, knowing that I was technically considered a lucky one even with my family being what they were, it just filled me with anger that I buried deep inside me for decades. I'm only just now coming to terms with that, and I definitely want them to not have to experience that feeling."

Because of the nature of their respective careers, and how they intertwine via Springbok, Cobain and Theron have an enviable, massive network of connections of friends and acquaintances in the film and music industries, and the children have grown up thinking of them as aunts, uncles and cousins. "They've played hide-and-seek with Eddie Van Halen, Valerie Bertinelli and Wolfgang, a constant playmate, especially of Frances," Cobain says. "They've shopped department stores with Victoria Beckham, done sumi-e paintings for Yoko Ono, sat at the piano with Brian Wilson, been bounced on Eminem's knee, serenaded to sleep by Lady Gaga, ridden motorcycles with Steven Tyler, picked blueberries with Keith Richards in Connecticut, and on and on. They're certainly privileged to a degree I don't think even other celebrity kids can't really match, and we've certainly made sure they don't emerge corrupted by it all."

Of all their friends and connections, Cobain is particularly pleased by their proximity with The Beatles, who have always been his favorite band. "I used to pretend I only cared about John and his work," he admits. "Especially in the early days, and anytime I was caught playing or listening to any of Paul's work, I'd be teased and try to deny it. But Paul certainly is just as good, and I can admit that now. And I admire George and Ringo in their own right." The one part of the equation they have the most contact with is Paul and Linda McCartney and their children. "We just seem to run into Paul and Linda everywhere, and we've spent time at their farm. Really lovely, all of it." Theron has done ad work for Linda's frozen vegetarian meals and daughter Stella's fashion line, and Linda has frequently photographed them. "I admire the purity of it all," Theron says. "The sincerity of it. After all, Linda is just as driven as Paul is, which is why they complement each other so perfectly."

Cobain and Theron own a loft in The Dakota, the famed apartment building where John and Yoko lived, and Yoko and Sean still do. "There's so much of John still in that apartment," Cobain says. "I actually half-expect to run into him when I'm there, that's how much his presence lingers. Yoko is such quite a presence herself, and you really understand why she appealed to him, how she pushed him to become a better man. It's really despicable, how she's so hated."

The family has visited George Harrison, wife Olivia and son Dhani at their lovely home, Friar Park, known for the massive and lovely garden that surrounds it, on more than one occasion. "George is George, what else can you say? I can see why the garden gives him so much peace of mind, like it's all he lives for. I also have to say the fact that he loves ukeleles is also quite nice. I can't really play them for shit, but I'll strum along when he pulls them out. Plus, his wit is so enjoyable, it's quite a joy. Especially when Eric Idle drops in for a visit as well, with or without any of the other surviving Pythons in tow as well."

Because Ringo Starr has called L.A. home since the '70s, it's very easy to find him and wife Barbara Bach. "Who doesn't love Ringo? I think if anything, he's really the glue of The Beatles." He also has plenty of praise for Ringo's son Zak, also a drummer and the one who ended up inheriting Keith Moon's drum stool in The Who. "I totally see it, he really is the type of drummer they should've had all along after Moon died, but it took them forever to get there."

Friends come and go through the years, but the main sticking point, through it all, is the couple themselves and their family. "It's hard to believe we've been married for 20 years, and we're certainly looking forward to what the next 20 will be like," Theron says. "The fact that so many things have come to us is really something to marvel at. I feel quite lucky, and we're simply going to make sure that all of it counts for something by the time we're both dead. If you haven't left such a legacy, if you haven't really spent your days making sure it adds up to something, what have you done? Regrets, I don't want a few."


"It's Good to be the King: Inside the Court of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain," by David Fricke, Rolling Stone, February 1, 2019

I have interviewed Kurt Cobain five times over the decades prior to this current session, two of those times with his bandmates. One would think that means that I know exactly what to expect from the Nirvana frontman turned entertainment mogul, but in fact, he always surprises me each time I see him after a period of intervening years. There is always something new, about his field, and the world at large, when I sit and talk with him.

When I first sat with him in the fall of 1993, Nirvana was in the midst of touring In Utero, playing general admission venues of an average capacity of 5000, working to confirm that their mainstream success with Nevermind was no mere fluke. Cobain was 26 years old, still married to Courtney Love, still grappling with feuds with Pearl Jam and Guns N' Roses, and while being an adoring father to his eldest child, daughter Frances Bean Cobain, there was also always a coterie of nannies to step in, as they didn't particularly trust him or Love to take on most of the day-to-day responsibility. Nirvana was signed to DGC Records, a relatively small hard rock imprint of Geffen Records, and David Geffen himself, along with Miramax cofounder Harvey Weinstein, were the undisputed kingmakers, having amassed considerable power and respect. The Internet was in its infancy, Michael Eisner was in the middle of pulling Disney out of a dark age, and it was at the point people were just starting to always have a VCR in their house.

Fast forward to today, and it's a very different world. Geffen and Weinstein are gone and long discredited, Cobain divorced Love and is happily married to actress Charlize Theron, with a fairly expansive family, whom they have long been hands-on and direct in rearing. Their production company, Springbok Productions, has emerged to fill the void that Geffen and Weinstein left behind, with untold billions from their sudden dominance in film, television, digital media, animation, video games and musical theater. And Nirvana, as well as Cobain himself, have basically cemented themselves as the most credible challengers to the legacy of The Beatles, selling out tens of thousands of tickets everywhere they play, and Cobain is now seen as a pioneer who has completely disrupted the entire world.

And yet, as I sit to talk to him, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Taylor Hawkins at Springbok's L.A. offices, surrounded with pictures of their many, many friends over the decades, and an enshrined photo of Mel Brooks with the quote "It's good to be the king," from History of the World-Part I, embossed in gold, the 52-year-old Cobain is still very much the same man I talked to in a Chicago hotel the first time around. "I've never been very ostentatious with all the money I've earned, enough to last several lifetimes. The houses I own are fairly simple and spartan, in terms of wealth, I don't like to go to fancy restaurants that often because I don't like the scene even though I'm part of it, I could easily just live off of eating nothing but ramen and Kraft macaroni and cheese. I'm also not a business-minded guy. I don't run Springbok, nor does Charlize. It basically runs itself, with all the people we've hired. I can still barely fill out my tax forms."

It would be easy to dismiss these comments as disingenuous, as Cobain wanting to downplay himself for effect, were it not for the fact that everyone who knows him and his family on a day to day basis have all vouched for it. "Kurt is still very much a luddite when it comes to the deeper nuances of the industry," Jennifer Todd, cofounder and CEO of Springbok, chimes in. "He knows enough to stay informed of new developments, but not enough to actually administrate. Charlize is better in that regard, but she's also not quite there. If she were in charge of things, Springbok may not have crashed and burned, but it might never have grown beyond a standard vanity shingle. That's not a knock on either of them, as they're both immensely talented and compassionate, just stating the facts."

At this moment, Nirvana is about to go out and promote their new album, a concept piece entitled Artificial Tension, mark the 30th anniversary of their debut album Bleach with a limited edition vinyl-only release of the 20th anniversary box set for Record Store Day, and mark the 20th anniversary of Springbok's founding. The band, along with Theron, are also being named Disney Legends this year. The five members of the band clearly wanted to take stock of it all, and show that even now, at the height of their fame and influence, they still feel they have something to prove.

Q: By all rights, you've essentially accomplished everything you possibly could. You were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame five years ago, and you and Springbok are being named Disney Legends this year. That's the type of position where many would feel that's it and pack it all in.

KC: If anything, we've got a lot of mileage left in us. If we weren't at the age of musicians keeping on making music and touring well into their 80s or 90s, then we probably would feel that way and say it's the time to stop. But I feel that if anything, we're still only in the middle of our career, not the end. The idea that rock and roll has a retirement age is pretty ridiculous.

DG: When you break it down, the really great acts are those that continue for decades, that weather every storm to keep on turning out new art, even if they're not always in the most favorable of circumstances. I always get a thrill of entertaining crowds no matter where we are. For two, three hours on that stage, everything is right in the world and we can escape from our hassles.

Q: What would you say has really changed in terms of how Nirvana operates since the early days?

KN: Other than being bigger and working on concept albums? Nothing really. Kurt is still the one who comes up with the songs, we work our asses off to really get the sounds down, and each time we do is a big risk. We don't go out with the album thinking, "we've got it made, this is another easy day for us." No, we're always thinking that somehow, we've reached the album that will turn everyone off and people will hate. Each one is a risk for us.

Q: Are Pat and Taylor full members of the band?

KC: Absolutely. I love having someone to work off with, as well as ensuring we're louder for bigger places, especially when Taylor takes the drums and Dave comes out on guitar and sings.

PS: I've always been really good friends with them since the In Utero days, and I've always felt like part of the band. That was a real trial by fire for me, and it really prepared us for what was to come afterwards. I really feel that.

TH: I may seem to have the easiest time of everyone, since I only have to play a portion of the shows, but I put my all into it every night. I've even done some nights playing drums on a lot of the songs Dave normally does that for, to really build my chops. It's been quite an experience for me, and I'm grateful.

Q: Did you really think you'd be as influential as you've become?

KC: Not at all. I certainly didn't expect that we'd grow to what we are now, and I certainly didn't think we'd be considered the heirs to The Beatles at all. In my heart, no one can ever be that, and I'll always feel that way even if the rest of the world says otherwise. Simply put, I never thought the band would be in this position, and I never once imagined myself as an entertainment industry executive. Springbok was not a reality to me, even after it was founded 20 years ago.

Q: Springbok is considered the greatest success story of the 21st century. What do you think is responsible for that?

KC: Finding the right people to work with, to control things, freeing you from being a company director. It's basically the opposite of when The Beatles launched Apple Corps, which really is the precedent for Springbok. Apple was intended to become everything and anything in the entertainment industry, but it didn't have a leader. John, Paul, George and Ringo were incredibly naïve about how a business could be run, lots of people were hired and paid to do nothing, and lots of people took advantage of the breaking in new acts that was intended by taking the advance money and running. Then you add the whole Allen Klein situation, someone who didn't care for the integrity of The Beatles or Apple, who even personally was responsible for George's plagiarism lawsuit for "My Sweet Lord," because he also represented the other act. Apple was then only able to succeed as a brand, much as The Beatles have stayed on as a brand.

DG: I certainly could never have come up with an idea for something like Springbok, and I never would've tried. I just don't care at all about business, I want to get out and play. I speak for myself and the other guys, that only Kurt could've made that leap.

KN: At least it hasn't turned him into another suit, that's the best part. You gotta respect Kurt's integrity.

Q: Among the projects Springbok has in the pipeline is Clint Eastwood's film Richard Jewell. Nirvana was performing at Centennial Olympic Park that night.

KC: I still have nightmares about it. We were just having a great time onstage, performing for the MTV cameras, which was a real historic part of Olympics coverage. The audience was definitely enjoying themselves, and it felt real magical. Then we could see that people were starting to move back, wondering what that meant.

KN: I was in the middle of telling a joke to the audience when the bomb went off. MTV even captured it in their broadcast, it was chilling. The panic started to set in, especially when we saw it came from a sound and lighting tower, and Dave immediately shouted out for people to stay away from it, that the tower was going to collapse.

DG: Thankfully it didn't, because someone had nudged that backpack a few inches. If that hadn't happened, regardless of what Mr. Jewell had done, a lot more people would've died with that tower coming down.

Q: Is it true that you're going to appear in the film as yourselves to reenact the performance?

KC: Yes, because that's part of what drew us to the script, a chance to sort of exorcise some demons, that and the fact Mr. Jewell's story needed to be told, and I wanted to ensure it was told respectfully.

Q: I imagine that it was a bit of a titanic struggle, between you and Clint Eastwood.

KC: It had to be done, because Clint intended something very different. He was going to really tear into his political biases to basically say that the "dirty liberal media and Democrat-stooge FBI" were purposefully in cahoots to railroad Jewell, that Bill Clinton was pushing the thumb on the scale for it, and that the reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that broke the initial story was just a bitch on wheels who slept for sources and was personally driven to take Jewell out and make a name for herself. It was just beyond the pale, and I went right up to Clint and told him that he couldn't do this, that it would be slander against a woman who was merely doing her job, and he would be doing Richard Jewell's memory a disservice. Now he didn't like that, and he definitely laid into me, into Springbok as a whole, in that way of his, saying he was going to pull the film away from us, from Disney, and get Warners to make it, since that's where all his movies end up.

Q: How did you manage to come out on top?

KC: Jennifer's really the unsung hero, she really went to the bat, and told the scriptwriter, Billy Ray, to try again and rework the material. She's very blunt, and he basically made it clear that Clint's reputation wouldn't simply push into silence. She especially was going to go to the press and denounce the film quite viciously if he was going to pursue this path, and that we'd personally make it our mission to sink it. I think part of the reason he's so hit and miss these days is because no one questions him, because they're too in awe of his legend, whereas we dealt with him like a human being, took him down a notch. I'm glad we took on the project, because if we didn't, he would've pulled out his blatant character assassination and smeared a reputable organization just to push his own agenda.

Q: Obviously, there are people who feel that you, Nirvana and Springbok have gotten too big, and that you're ruining everything about our culture, that you're overrated and need to simply die.

KC: Are their first names Matt and Trey? (Chuckles) No, in all seriousness, no matter who you are, not everyone will like you, and you've just got to roll with that. If you spend your time worrying about that and trying to win them over, then you become everything they accuse you of. Paul Stanley's told me that time and time again. How do you think KISS is what it is, despite having legions of detractors or grizzled ex-fans who like to dogpile on them all the time? Because they simply don't give a shit about complainers and know they're a minority, when the real fans are the ones who show up every night.

DG: It's a bit of jealousy too. They'll never admit that, but it's obvious.

PS: I read somewhere that during the French Revolution, a lot of them were actually envious of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the ruling class and wanted to be them, that they were just frustrated people who took their anger out to that extreme to compensate. It's a very compelling theory.

TH: Meanwhile, we're still rolling along, and this train ain't stopping anytime soon.

Q: What do you think the future holds, especially in the next decade?

KC: I don't have a fucking clue. I never have. That's part of what makes the future exciting, not knowing what's to come. If you do know, it's pretty boring.


"Dirty Harry Alleges Dirty Tricks By Springbok Over Richard Jewell," Esquire, February 22, 2019

Clint Eastwood is the quintessential loner in Hollywood. The actor and director has long established a pattern of running things his way and his alone, especially when he's solely behind the camera on a film. But now, Eastwood, who turns 89 this May, is seething with anger over his current project, Richard Jewell. Principal photography is mostly complete, except for the actual recreation of the horrific terrorist attack during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, which will take place in July and August, and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority is reviewing a request to use Centennial Olympic Park for the scene. But Eastwood is not focused on that so much as the demands of his co-producers, Springbok Productions, who attached themselves to the project.

"Let me put it this way," Eastwood intones in his trademark growl. "There's a reason that I've always been distrustful of executives, marketing, budgeting people, or actors trying to impose their own vision on a project. They'll go ahead and spoil that the director intends to do. I learned that lesson when I was roped into Paint Your Wagon, and that lesson has always been proven true. So, Springbok is just another name on that list of meddlers, ruining my work."

This is a very serious charge. Springbok, the company founded by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife, actress Charlize Theron, has become the biggest new conglomerate of the day. They are renowned for their creative passion, nurturing the relationship with their audiences, as well as always taking a stand to defend against executive meddling. Up to this point, none of their collaborators have ever been dissatisfied with their work, and this includes people with very different social and political beliefs from their founders, such as Mel Gibson and his company Icon Productions. Now Eastwood is basically accusing them of being the complete opposite of their image.

"I took on this film because I wanted to tell the story of Richard Jewell, an innocent man who had his life uprooted by baseless allegations by the FBI and the people purporting to be journalists who didn't bother to check their sources or cared about the harm they were doing to him and his family. But Springbok and their lily-white, bleeding heart special snowflakes said they wanted to go easy on these culprits of character assassination, that what I was doing was wrong. I'm mad as hell that they softened up my film to advance their own agenda."

But, as I point to him, Kathy Scruggs, the author of the initial article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who broke the first story on Jewell as a suspect, and who died in 2001 and isn't here to give her side, has been described by her colleagues and friends as a woman who may have been somewhat of a wild card and overly salty, but who cared about the integrity of her job, who checked her sources rigorously, and above all, never slept with an FBI agent to get her scoop. "The original script is based on lots of rigorous research and verified proof," Eastwood snorts. "It's just the liberal media moving to cover their asses. I guarantee you that they've destroyed a lot of the incriminating material against themselves and have whitewashed their history. The FBI, under the thumb of the Clintons, especially took it upon themselves to railroad this man because he wasn't a conventionally attractive hero and didn't support their socialist agenda enough."

I try again, pointing out the AJC was the first media source to exonerate Jewell, pointing out the impossibility of him having been able to be at the payphone where the bomb threat was called in, which led directly to the FBI writing their letter clearing him. That both Presidents Clinton, in their respective memoirs of 15 years ago, have described great regret at what happened to Jewell and authorities being so sidetracked, they didn't identify perpetrator Eric Robert Rudolph before he infamously bombed abortion clinics and a lesbian bar. That Rudolph, at his sentencing, identified himself as a Christian white supremacist and even said he hoped to disrupt the Games because of its "glorification of a socialist New World Order, as John Lennon extolled in 'Imagine.'" Eastwood simply ignores this and moves on.

"I tell you, that those ungrateful little shits simply ruined a great film. That prissy wimp lead singer and his band have been responsible for polluting our youth's minds and desecrated American values for far too long. And why the hell were they even performing at the Games anyway, or wanting to recreate that for this film? It reeks of self-importance and vanity, a monument to themselves." So, why is Eastwood pushing forward with finishing the film for its December release? "Because I don't leave anything half-finished. I have too much pride in my work ethic to do that. But I have basically disavowed this film. It's not mine, and I'm not going to see it when it's finished. I'm glad I'll never work with them again."

I point out another fact, that Mel Gibson is quite a hardcore conservative, and he's had a very fruitful collaboration and friendship with Springbok. Eastwood looks away. "I thought I knew Mel. I guess I never knew him at all. It's quite disappointing. Who would've thought the man who made Passion of the Christwas more like Pontius Pilate?"


Springbok Productions' Website Home Page Message for 20th Anniversary, July 11, 2019

Welcome to the website of Springbok Productions! 20 years ago, we were founded with an intent to help push the envelope of storytelling and bring Hollywood into the future, and today, we are celebrating two decades of entertainment!

From humble (or not-so-humble) beginnings in 1999, when Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, his wife, Charlize Theron, and veteran film producer and our CEO, Jennifer Todd, Springbok was intended to lead a paradigm shift in the entertainment industry, pushing films, television, animation, video games, staged musicals, the record industry, book publishing, amusement parks, and Internet content to reach new heights.

The story of Springbok is one of both inspiration for creative work, and cooperation with partners around the world, bringing out the best in each other, as well as one of ensuring that everyone who has notes to share, and opinions to give on a project will be heard. We have longstanding and fruitful partnerships with all the major studios, several mini-majors, indie distributors, and many other production companies around the world. We are also noted for making critical investments and seed money with other groups to help give them a leg up, with the intent of mixing business with pleasure.

Springbok Productions also incorporates Denver and Delilah Animation, Enima Studios, Enima Games, Springbok Games, Exploitation Records, Autumn Deer Press, Cobb Theatres, Muvico Theatres, Vue Cinemas and HOYTS Cinemas, and our studio lot in Playa Vista, California is the first studio lot to be built since the Great Depression. We are also a Fortune 50 and a Dow 30 company, with our stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, London Exchequer, Nikkei index, Australian Securities Exchange, and so on.

And so, here we sit, 20 years of success! May the next 20 be even better!


"VC Capital Infusion for Springbok," by Manori Ravindran, Variety, July 20, 2019

Deep pockets continue to be attracted to Springbok Productions for non-ownership equity or non-equity investments, with notable venture capital firms ponying up more money for a company that has been around for 20 years and traded publicly for slightly less than half of that time.

Among those that have jumped in to currently give money either for the first time or as an additional part of earlier funding include the private equity/financial services firm The Gores Group (headed by Tom and Alec Gores), the Andreessen Horowitz firm cofounded by Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen and Loudcloud/Opsware cofounder Ben Horowitz (Andreessen cofounded that company as well, and he is an OG Springbok investor from 1999), the Silicon Valley-based VC firm Benchmark (invested in 2002, and mezzanine investment prior to Springbok's IPO), Bain Capital's VC arm Bain Capital Ventures, Vornado Realty Trust (which Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron have invested in), Accel Partners, Japan's Nomura Securities and Mizuho Capital, Canada's Clearbanc, M/C Partners, One Equity Partners, Apollo Global Management, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Lee Equity Partners, France's Crédit Agricole and Germany's Hydra Partners.

Altogether, this adds another $8.75 billion to the pot Springbok has at its disposal. While small compared to the money they already have, it represents the fact that Springbok has rocketed so far in so little time that everyone wants to do business with them.

For example, Springbok has announced that it has purchased So So Def Recordings, the hip-hop/R&B label based in Atlanta and founded by Jermaine Dupri. Springbok currently plans to remaster and re-release So So Def's entire discography.


"Springbok Brings You Fast & Furious Meets American Ninja Warrior In Blockbuster Entertainment's Hyperdrive," by Patrick Gomez, Entertainment Weekly, July 24, 2019

Fast & Furious 9. Mad Max: Fury Road. The Italian Job. Charlize Theron is no stranger to thrilling audiences with an adrenaline rush of car-focused features. Well, now the Academy Award winner is bringing her real-life need for speed to Blockbuster Entertainment's new reality competition series Hyperdrive.

Theron, husband Kurt Cobain, and Springbok founder Jennifer Todd are producers on the streaming series, which launches Aug. 21 and is described by Blockbuster thusly: "Elite street racers from around the world test their limits in supercharged custom cars on the biggest, baddest automotive obstacle course ever built." It also marks Springbok's first ever unscripted series, a division Theron in particular had wanted Springbok to branch out into. Their closest thing to unscripted series prior to this was The Chris Farley Show on NBC, a full-length version of Farley's famous Saturday Night Live skit.

Here, the show's fellow executive producer, Whalerock Industries' head of unscripted division, Chris Cowan, gives EW an exclusive preview of what viewers can expect from the series, how making a car racing show was risky, and why Theron was the perfect fit to bring Hyperdrive to a screen near you.

Q: How would you describe the series?

CHRIS COWAN: This is an homage, because it's one of my all-time favorite competition series and I think there is DNA shared in there: We like to call it American Ninja Warrior meets Fast and Furious. We wanted to create a groundbreaking spectacle that you could only find on Blockbuster Entertainment — something that was too stupid to attempt anywhere else.

Did this come from you all really loving cars?

I'm not a car person. I don't lift the hood of my car and do repairs, or anything like that. But when a really cool car drives by, I stop and look. There's something magical about a car that's fully tricked out with an engine that really roars. I've always felt like there hasn't been really anything out there in the reality space for fans of cars. When you're putting together a reality series — Survivor, etc. — you always want your viewers to be possible future cast. We wanted to provide this democratic global competition where car enthusiasts have a place to go to try and win a championship and really compete for something that matters. We wanted to create the one competition that takes in all the different competitive car events into one competition — not professionals, real people.

How did you find your cast?

We had a fantastic casting team. It took them about 12 months. We wanted to be as internationally diverse as possible. We basically got into every race track, drag strip, and social media sites and groups where amateur enthusiasts were showing off their skills. We found them on drag strips where they were drifting on weekends, at the Nürburgring in Germany, in mountains of Japan. We really found them everywhere.

Why was Springbok a great fit to come in as a producer?

Springbok, particularly Charlize Theron, has really wanted to break out into unscripted television, and this was the property that they used as their debut in this area. And she was at the top of our list, because I don't know that there's a more badass female star out there that can authentically rep this space — not only because of her association with the Fast and Furious franchise and Mad Max and all these other films she's done, but because she kind of grew up tinkering on a farm in South Africa and learned to drive a car at a really young age. She knows a lot about this space. She was the first call we made, and she instantly said yes, and she convinced Kurt, Jennifer and the rest of Springbok in little time.

What were the challenges of bringing a show like this to life?

Truthfully, the biggest problem was danger. Any time you're going to do an actual race, you need to be able to allow cars to do what they want to do. It was incredibly important for us that they drive their own cars. Most of the time in TV, you try and mitigate your liability in trying to make the playing field fair, and you'd maybe give them the cars and kind of control it, but we wanted them to bring their own machines to the course and try and dominate it however they possibly could. Modify your car, bring the fastest thing you can. We weren't looking to restrict anyone's speed. But that was a big concern and logistical issue for us. We needed a field that was big enough for that, so our location in Rochester was over 100 acres. We wanted it to look badass but then be able to turn into a race track on a nightly basis. Shooting the whole thing at night, think of the scale of all this, and then you have to light the whole thing! It was basically like lighting a 100-acre movie set.


"1996 Bombing To Be Reenacted At Centennial Olympic Park for Clint Eastwood Film Richard Jewell," by Rodney Ho, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 27, 2019

Any highlight reel of Centennial Olympic Park would likely omit what happened July 27, 1996, during the 1996 Summer Olympics: Eric Robert Rudolph's bombing that killed a woman and injured more than 100. But Clint Eastwood is shooting a film about the man falsely implicated in the bombing, calling it Richard Jewell. And he, along with co-producer partners Springbok Productions, have convinced the park's overseer Georgia World Congress Center Authority to use the actual location for shooting a reenactment. The Georgia World Congress Center released this statement in regards to its thought process behind accepting the shoot on its property: "As with any film shoot in Centennial Olympic Park, we have done our due diligence to understand the subject matter of the film and its impact to the park. While the backdrop of the film is the park, the focus of the story is on Mr. Jewell." A notice was sent to nearby residents on the borders of the park this morning. The filming will eat up nine days and shooting of the bombing itself will happen August 1 and/or 2.

"In July and August, the north Park will be closed to the public as Disney/Fox reconstructs Centennial Olympic Park of 1996 for a movie they are filming in the Park. Set up starts July 12, filming is set for July 23-26 and July 29 - August 2.

The night of August 1 to morning of August 2 will has a noise permit (midnight Thursday to 2 am Friday). There will be about 800 cast and actors in the area during filming."

The note does not cite the specific movie but it's obviously the Disney film Richard Jewell, set to be distributed under its Touchstone Pictures banner, along with the recently acquired 20th Century Fox, who originally had the project on its schedule. The film stars Mad Men star Jon Hamm as an FBI agent, Olivia Wilde as an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, Kathy Bates as Jewell's mom and Sam Rockwell as Jewell's attorney. Relative unknown Paul Walter Hauser will pay Jewell. The band Nirvana, whose frontman, Kurt Cobain, founded Springbok along with his wife, actress Charlize Theron, will appear in the film as themselves. Production has just begun. Based on the casting, it appears the film will focus on the lead up, the bombing itself and the immediate aftermath when Jewell was first deemed a hero, then a false target of suspicion.

During a late-night concert by Cobain and his bandmates at a packed park during the first week of the Olympics, which was also being broadcast live on TV, security guard Jewell noticed the suspicious package and alerted other authorities. But it detonated before the entire area had been cleared. Still, his sharp eyes saved lives. Rudolph later bombed a lesbian bar and two abortion clinics. Once targeted, he became a fugitive for many years before he was found in North Carolina. He is now in a maximum security prison for life. The movie is currently seeking extras for another portion of the film. At some point, they will seek extras for the bombing scene. In a coincidence, Charter Communications' Spectrum Cable is currently filming season two of an anthology series Manhunt also focused on the Jewell case but it's shooting in Pittsburgh. That TV show recently filmed a bombing reenactment as well.

The movie, set for release on December 13, was recently the target of controversy when Eastwood publicly disavowed the film because of creative differences with Springbok, but stated he would complete the film because of his work ethic.


"Robert Evans Departing Paramount Lot After 52 Years," by Anthony D'Alessandro, Deadline Hollywood, July 30, 2019

Deadline has confirmed that Paramount won't be re-upping its deal with Robert Evans Productions, which has been in place since 1974 after Evans stepped down from running the studio.

Evans began at Paramount in 1967, at the age of 36, the youngest studio production boss at the time. During his tenure he revitalized 1970s cinema with such blockbusters as The Godfather, Love Story and as a producer of such classics as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby.

While Evans had a staff that includes development exec Jay Sikura, Exec. Director of Development Melissa Prophet and executive assistant Michael Alfred, he has been working from his Woodland estate in Beverly Hills due to poor health. The last feature that Evans, 89, produced, was the 2003 Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Dayswhich grossed more than $177 million at the global box office.

Since 2004, Evans has also been an executive at Springbok Productions, helping spearhead film development, particularly films intended for Paramount to release. It gave his career new life and he was attached as executive producer on Springbok films as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inuyasha, Inuyasha: Time's Arrow, The Hateful Eight, Silence and most recently, the Elton John fantasy biopic Rocketman. While doing his Springbok duties, Evans was allowed to keep on working with his independent shingle on the Paramount lot. Springbok has also announced that Evans will not be actively involved in development anymore. Sikura, Prophet and Alfred will join Springbok to assume Evans' responsibilities.

"Bob Evans has been an iconic part of the Paramount legacy for over half a century. His contributions to the studio and film industry have been innumerable, from Rosemary's Baby to The Godfather, to Love Story, to The Wolf of Wall Street, to Rocketman, to name just a few," a Paramount spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. "Today we mark the end of our formal relationship with Bob as a producer, but his legacy will endure in our studio and in our hearts. There aren't words to express our gratitude and reverence for the man whose name is synonymous with this company and the magic of movies. We're proud to announce the dedication of the Robert Evans Screening Room, may many more generations of film lovers share his passion for great cinema. We wish him the very best."

"It is with a sad heart that we officially announce the end of our relationship with Bob Evans as an executive," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said. "Bob has given his all to Springbok for the last 15 years, and he helped make us what we are today. We still have a project or two with his name attached in the works, but it is time for us to go our separate ways, for the good of his health and peace of mind. We miss him already."

Evans started off selling women's apparel with his brother. During a business trip, he was spotted by actress Norma Shearer who thought he'd be right to play the role of her late husband Irving Thalberg in Man of a Thousand Faces. An acting career flourished.

His 1994 memoir The Kid Stays In the Picture detailed candidly his rise and fall, and triumphs again in Hollywood. The title came from a line attributed to studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, who defended Evans after some of the actors involved in the film The Sun Also Rises (1957) suggested he be removed from the cast. The book was later turned into a 2002 documentary from Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen.

Evans also provided the voiceover and executive produced his own Comedy Central animated series, 2003's Kid Notorious, which was a parody of his life.


D23 Legends Website, added August 2019

Kurt Cobain

LEGENDS CATEGORY: MUSIC, FILM, TELEVISION

YEAR INDUCTED: 2019

Kurt Cobain was born with music with music in his system. From his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, he was raised on a musical diet of The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Meat Loaf, Aerosmith, Terry Jacks and others. He also had a real passion for artwork, having started out making doodles of Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. "My family always said that I could grow up to be an animator with Disney."

In 1985, Kurt formed the band Nirvana with friend and bassist Krist Novoselic, and they began a journey of rising from obscurity, starting with the release of their 1989 debut album Bleach. Their journey kicked into overdrive after they hired Dave Grohl to take over on drums, then released their 1991 major label debut Nevermind. The album rocketed to #1 on the Billboard charts, and began a long and fruitful career of critical and commercial success, including various Grammy Awards, all the way up to the release of their most recent album, Artificial Tension.

In 1999, Kurt branched out by cofounding the production company Springbok Productions with his wife, actress Charlize Theron, which soon emerged as a multi-armed entertainment conglomerate with success in film, television, digital content, musical theatre, video games, amusement park attractions, book publishing, the music industry and venture capitalism. Springbok soon gave Disney many of its projects, with films like Kill Bill, Monster, Apocalypto, The Help, Lincoln, Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015), Beauty and the Beast (2017) and the upcoming Richard Jewell; television shows like Workshop, Ellen: The Second Coming, Star vs the Forces of Evil and Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure; video games like Epic Mickey and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two; and stage productions like Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Newsies. Springbok has also helped Walt Disney Imagineering with the creation of the five additional gates for Walt Disney World Resort, and is working on the overhaul of Epcot.

Kurt had this to say about it all: "I'm truly quite grateful for our long and fruitful relationship with Disney. It's the culmination of a childhood dream, and it's certainly a chance to help bring Disney into the future. Working together is what helps bring about change and evolution, and pushes us to be the best we can be."

Kurt is also a notable patron of charitable giving, having donated to dozens of various charities over the years. He also founded his own, Nevermind...We're Here To Help!, focused on trauma therapy and lending an ear to those with stories to tell.

Charlize Theron

LEGENDS CATEGORY: FILM, TELEVISION

YEAR INDUCTED: 2019

The road to success has always been quite a struggle for Charlize Theron. Determined to make something of herself beyond the confines of Johannesburg, South Africa, Charlize threw herself into upward mobility through modeling and acting. "I always knew that I could become something more than just another average woman, frustrated with her life. I worked hard to apply myself to get where I am."

She demonstrated an incredible talent for acting with roles in films like 2 Days in the Valley, That Thing You Do!, The Devil's Advocate and The Cider House Rules. She also began her long association with Disney by taking the lead role in the 1998 film Mighty Joe Young, where she was praised for her performance, as well as appearing in the 2002 Touchstone Pictures release Trapped. In 2004, she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the Touchstone film Monster, with special focus on the physical transformation she underwent for the role. She also especially won considerable attention and applause for her role as Furiosa in George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road.

Soon after she married Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, they founded Springbok Productions together, which over the past 20 years has established itself as the entertainment industry's greatest new success story. A long and fruitful relationship with Disney also paid rich dividends to both parties, from the recent live action remake slate, to incredibly perceptive and emotional animated series, to prestigious television projects, to mature and incredibly dark storytelling for adult audiences. Springbok has done it all, and much of it is owed to the vision of its founders.

As Charlize puts it: "The body of Springbok's work is a testament to creativity, of passion and belief over all other concerns. Our resume speaks for itself. We are especially quite satisfied with our longstanding relationship with The Walt Disney Company, and look forward to a promising future to continue our work for a long time to come."

Charlize has given time and money to dozens of charities of different types over the decades. She also founded the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project to pay homage and tribute to her roots.


"Springbok Sells Half-Stake Of Print Publisher Unit," by Dave McNary, Variety, August 3, 2019

Springbok Productions has announced that it will sell 50 percent of its book publishing unit, Autumn Deer Press, to publishing conglomerate HarperCollins, part of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation, to refashion the imprint as a joint venture of the two companies. Springbok will earn $5 billion from the sale.

"This is the next step forward for Autumn Deer Publishing," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said in a prepared statement to the press. "For nearly 20 years, we have made sure to really ensure that the company represents quality in publication of fiction and nonfiction titles, and are quite proud of the millions of books that we have sold in that time, both in physical and digital formats. We are proud to have a valued partner in HarperCollins, long one of the biggest book publishers in the world, and together we will bring Autumn Deer Publishing to the next level."

Autumn Deer Publishing began releasing works in 2001, starting with the memoir of actress Anne Heche. Besides buying rights to fiction and nonfiction titles at auctions like every other publisher, Autumn Deer has made titles invented solely for films and television series, such as the Amazing Amy titles from Gone Girl and the Calvin and Hobbes title Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooey, available in the real world. It also entered the magazine publishing business with the publishing of Vive Le Rock and Animation Domination, as well as the revivals of New West and George. In 2014, after Springbok purchased Dark Horse Comics and its film and TV unity Dark Horse Entertainment, that brand became an imprint within Autumn Deer, and the comic division too will now be split between Springbok and HarperCollins, while the studio (which just released the incredibly popular Blockbuster Entertainment streaming series The Umbrella Academy) remains under Springbok's full control.

While, like the rest of Springbok, it has certainly grown considerably over the years, unlike the other divisions, it has had the slowest rate of growth overall, unable to move past the Top 20 list of biggest book publishing imprints, with its competitors having too big an advantage to overcome. Many expect that Springbok offloading half of the publisher will have a massive effect on its stock price worldwide, and that it will be found that the publisher was acting as a bit of an anchor on the company. Indeed, after news of the sale, its stock rose $25.


"Springbok Sells Stake In Six Flags New Orleans," by Stewart Clarke, Variety, October 12, 2019

Springbok Productions announced that its considerable equity stake in Six Flags New Orleans, which it has held since 2004, is being sold back to Six Flags' parent company, Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, for a cool $3 billion. This investment has returned considerably to Springbok over the past 15 years, and the company felt that it was time to flip it and reap the reward.

"We could not be prouder of our time involved with Six Flags New Orleans," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said in a prepared statement. During the past 15 years, we helped turn around the fortunes of one of Six Flags' struggling properties and made it a landmark tourism stop for the Greater New Orleans area and among the most profitable parks in Six Flags' portfolio. Under our watch, attendance has increased sevenfold, and revenues have likewise increased. We know that we return full control of the park to the company, and that it will be in great hands."

Springbok's involvement in the park coincided with the massive devastation of New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which included massive flooding of the park and the need for heavy, intense restoration work. Springbok personally took charge in that, to get the park on its feet again and keep it as part of its 75-year lease with the city. The efforts paid off, and Six Flags New Orleans reopened in time for the 2007 season, after which, people noted that it seemed like a very different park, made far more attractive to crowds and to entice bigger crowds to it. As a result, many consider that without Springbok's involvement, Six Flags may have chosen to abandon the property instead after the storm.


"Robert Evans Dead: Chinatown Producer and Paramount/Springbok Chief, Dies at 89," by Richard Natale and Carmel Dagan, Variety, October 28, 2019

Robert Evans, the Paramount and Springbok executive who produced Chinatown and Urban Cowboy, and whose life became as melodramatic and jaw-dropping as any of his films, died on Saturday night. He was 89.

Even though Hollywood history is filled with colorful characters, few can match the tale of Evans, whose life would seem farfetched if it were fiction. With his matinee-idol looks, but little acting talent, Evans was given starring roles in a few movies and then, with no studio experience, was handed the production reins at Paramount in the 1960s. When he left the exec ranks, his first film as a producer was the classic Chinatown, and he followed with other hits, like Marathon Man and Urban Cowboy. Eventually, his distinctive look and speaking style turned him into a cult figure, and he had the distinction of being the only film executive who starred in his own animated TV series.

His life was a continuous rollercoaster. Amid the successes, Ali MacGraw left him for Steve McQueen, her costar in the 1972 The Getaway, a love triangle that got huge media attention. (MacGraw was the third of Evans' seven wives.) In 1980, Evans was arrested for cocaine possession and a few years later, was involved in an even bigger scandal: the murder of would-be Hollywood player Roy Radin during the production of The Cotton Club. Due to his association with Radin, Evans became a material witness in the execution-style slaying, though no proof of Evans' knowledge of or connection to the murder was ever established.

Drug dependency and the studios' changing corporate culture plagued Evans' later career. When he eventually resurfaced at Paramount in the '90s, his production track record was mostly undistinguished (The Saint, Sliver). He seemed to have bottomed out, until Springbok Productions hired him to be an executive, where he rebounded yet again. But even if that hadn't happened, by then his larger-than-life persona was already the stuff of Hollywood legend. Evans parodied himself in the film Burn Hollywood Burn (1998), and Dustin Hoffman, a longtime friend, borrowed liberally from Evans in creating the character of an outrageous producer in the 1997 satire Wag the Dog, earning an Oscar nomination in the process.

Evans was born Robert Shapera in New York. Before the age of 18, he had worked on more than 300 radio shows and the occasional TV show and play. A collapsed lung forced him to recuperate for a year, and when he returned, he realized he'd lost his momentum. He worked his charms as a salesman at the sportswear firm Evan-Picone, co-founded by his brother Charles.

Several years later, however, his show business career was revived: In the perhaps apocryphal tale, he was spotted by the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel with actress Norma Shearer, who asked him to play her deceased husband, the legendary MGM exec Irving Thalberg, in the film Man of a Thousand Faces. Darryl Zanuck then cast him as a bullfighter in the 1957 version of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. The other actors pleaded with Zanuck to replace Evans, but Zanuck sent a telegram, saying, "The kid stays in the picture," which provided the title for his eventual autobiography. Evans' good looks carried him only so far, however. His stiff onscreen presence in those movies and in The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958) and The Best of Everything (1959) did not warm the hearts of reviewers, however, and he returned to the garment industry.

After Evan-Picone was sold to Revlon (netting Evans $2 million, according to some sources), he decided to return to the industry in a producing capacity. He purchased the rights to a novel, The Detective. New York Times reporter Peter Bart chronicled Evans' tale in an article that caught the attention of Fox executives Richard Zanuck and David Brown, who put him in charge of such projects as Achilles Force (which was never made) and The Detective, starring Frank Sinatra. But his stay at Fox was brief.

He befriended and charmed Charles Bluhdorn of Gulf & Western, which owned Paramount Pictures. The born salesman recognized another born salesman when he met him. In 1966 Bluhdorn controversially named the neophyte Evans VP in charge of production. By 1969 he was exec VP of worldwide production.

Evans' early Paramount tenure included such monumental flops as Paint Your Wagon and Darling Lili, which were Bluhdorn's pet projects. Evans oversaw disappointments including Catch-22 and the 1974 The Great Gatsby.

But they were more than offset by Evans' successes, starting with Rosemary's Baby, Romeo and Juliet, Goodbye, Columbus, Love Story and The Godfatherfilms. The degree to which he personally deserved credit for any of these has always been debated, and even Evans claimed that some of the best decisions made during his tenure, particularly with respect to The Godfather, were arrived at over his objections.

Evans hired Bart at Paramount; Bart eventually joined Variety in 1989, and profiled Evans in his 2011 book Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob, (and Sex).

As a studio ambassador Evans was a success. His attention to day-to-day production, however, soon deteriorated, exacerbated by his public divorce from MacGraw and growing cocaine dependency. He clashed openly with Francis Ford Coppola on The Godfather (and was slighted by Coppola when he accepted his screenplay Oscar). After Barry Diller was brought in over him in 1974, Evans eased into a producing deal. His first crucible was Chinatown, a tempestuous but ultimately successful enterprise that was nominated for 11 Oscars.

After that, Evans started to slowly go downhill even as a producer. Thriller Marathon Man, starring Dustin Hoffman, was a hit in 1976, and 1977's Black Sunday did OK, but did not live up to expectations. His tennis drama Players(starring MacGraw) was a flop, and neither Urban Cowboy nor Popeye (both 1980) were big enough hits to restore his goldenboy reputation.

In 1980, at age 50, he was convicted of cocaine possession, during a period when widespread drug use was plaguing the industry and tarnishing its reputation nationally. Evans' Rat Pack-style behavior was by then quickly falling out of fashion in an increasingly buttoned-down corporate town.

A personal dream, The Cotton Club, became a neverending nightmare, taking up several years of Evans' life and almost $50 million. The hybrid of music and gangsters found Evans begging Coppola to take over the reins. The results were uneven, but artistically interesting; the production was tied to underworld money and, in attempting to raise more funds for the film, Evans became involved with Radin, whose murder seemed to be a case of life imitating art. The scandal cast a large shadow over Evans that he never successfully overcame. The Cotton Club, released by Orion Pictures in 1984, went down in flames.

Evans planned to make an acting comeback in 1985 in The Two Jakes, a sequel to Chinatown to be directed by Robert Towne (who wrote the original). But he had not grown as an actor and, soon after production began, Evans was fired. The film was shut down, only to be revived in 1990 under the direction of Jack Nicholson, who co-starred with Harvey Keitel. Evans was distanced from the sequel, which was a failure.

He returned to Paramount in the early '90s as a producer, but the salacious Sliver (1993) and Jade (1995) were both significant failures. The comic book-like The Phantom (1996) also sank without a trace. In 1997 Evans produced The Saint, based on the long-running TV espionage-adventure series. He'd been nurturing the project for several years and hoped the film would be the first entry in a franchise. But the movie, starring Val Kilmer, didn't turn out as well as expected and the sequels never came to pass.

His private life once again made the headlines when Evans' name was mentioned among the customers for Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss' service. An entire chapter on his sexual habits was detailed in the salacious and hyperbolic book You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again. Evans had already published a frank memoir of his life, 1994's The Kid Stays in the Picture, admitting some of his virtues and his vices.

In 1998 Evans suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on one side and unable to speak, but he eventually made a full recovery after much therapy.

He made a triumphant return in some sense with the 2002 documentary adaptation of The Kid Stays in the Picture, directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, in which Evans idiosyncratically discussed his life.

Taking advantage of the increased exposure, he exec produced Kid Notorious, a 2003 animated series based on his unique persona for Comedy Central. The same year he produced the successful romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

In 2004, Springbok Productions hired him as an executive, mainly to help with developing film projects, especially those being distributed by Paramount. Among the Springbok/Paramount projects that Evans received executive producer credit for are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Shutter Island, Young Adult, The Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar, Inuyasha, The Hateful Eight, and the recent Elton John fantasy musical Rocketman.

Even with his Springbok duties, Evans maintained an office on the Paramount Pictures lot, and continued to develop projects outside of Springbok, though none came to fruition: He had long planned a movie based on the renegade car builder John DeLorean, written by James Toback to be produced with Brett Ratner; he also had in development a sci-fi movie set in a futuristic Manhattan and based on a graphic novel, NYC2123; Whip Smart, the story of a young dominatrix to be directed by Catherine Hardwicke; and a superhero film, Foreverman, based on an original character created by Stan Lee and to be produced with Lee.

He was married and divorced seven times, first to actress Sharon Hugueny, then to actress Camilla Sparv and, after his divorce from MacGraw, to former Miss America Phyllis George. His brief 1998 marriage to actress Catherine Oxenberg was annulled. Thereafter he was married to Leslie Ann Woodward and Victoria White.

He and MacGraw had a son, Josh, an actor and director. Survivors also include a grandson.


"Why Springbok Said 'No' to Cats," by Leonard Soloway, Playbill, January 2020

By now, many of you, at least those in the theater community, have probably gone and seen Tom Hooper's adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, the show that basically gave birth to the megamusical, and has long divided many people about its merits for nearly 40 years now. But if there is one thing that a lot of you are probably in agreement on, it's that the film is an absolute monument to misguided effort, that simply attempts an impossible task, and horribly mangles the source material beyond recognition. It simply was quite a colossal failure by any standards, and those of us at Springbok, especially here at the theatrical division, recognized it from the start. But how? How did we see that coming, and why did we refuse?

By all accounts, given the nature of Springbok's work in staged musical theatre and film adaptations of popular shows, this seems like something we'd be spearheading ourselves, like this is something that we'd sink our teeth into and make it come to life. Well, the people at Universal certainly felt that way, and repeatedly asked us to be part of their and Andrew's dream to make a film of the show, something they'd been attempting since the '90s. Many people had tried and failed to make it work, including Steven Spielberg, who wanted to do an animated film at the time, but let the project fade after he formed DreamWorks and because he said he couldn't figure out how to do it justice. Universal held onto the rights by helping distribute the famed 1998 concert video of the stage version, which did well in home video sales and was repeatedly broadcast by the BBC and PBS. This was to buy themselves time to figure out to achieve their dream. Especially after musical theatre made a spectacular renaissance, and the film musical definitely did, thanks in no small part to Springbok's efforts over the past 20 years.

This was particularly the case after we worked with Universal on the adaptation of Les Miserables, which also happened to be directed by Tom Hooper, and was a zestful and inspired collaboration where everything went right for us, at least in my humble opinion. So naturally, when Universal started sparking the engine that was their dream of a film of Cats, we were among the people they naturally wanted to help them bring it to life. They repeatedly talked to me, Elizabeth Williams and Anita Waxman at the theatrical division, and put in calls to Kurt, Charlize and Jennifer Todd as well. And all of us stunned the Universal folks by saying "no." No matter how much they begged, pleaded and wheedled for all of us to see things their way, the answer was always the same.

The reason for this was quite simple: Cats is not a stage production that CAN be adapted into a film. The musical, which we've seen many times, is just a good old-fashioned song-and-dance show that is held together by a loose concept, but can't be truly called a concept musical because of too many deviations from that formula. The narrative, such as it is, is slight, but the songs, staging, choreography and performances speak for themselves to carry it all. Of course, this has been a double-edged sword, as Cats is a love it or hate it musical, with no middle ground, and many detractors have ample grist to bawl out the show for its lack of an intricate plot, making an ensemble piece where most character don't drive events forward, orchestrations fully rooted in the '80s with layers of synths alongside the standard orchestral textures, and frequent breaking of the fourth wall, and often interacting fully with the audience, certainly not something a theatergoing audience is necessarily in the mood for. The polarizing nature of the show simply does not bode well for crossover appeal. There are lots of musicals that can convert people that aren't already fans of the musical genre, and they can sweep people in. Les Mis, The Phantom of the Opera, The Producers, Disney's stage theater work, West Side Story, Into the Woods and the like have made considerable mainstream inroads, either directly onstage or through some kind of filmed record, and brought new fans to the fore. Cats has never had strong enough legs for that, so the audience for a filmed adaptation was already considerably limited, ensuring box office would already be disappointing enough.

Even if that hadn't been the case, the show as written and staged is not compelling enough to turn into a silver screen version; at least not without heavy revisions. But we knew from experience that Andrew is not someone who naturally goes for revisions, unless they come from him; he is often his own worst enemy in that regard; and we've only succeeded in working with him by tempering his weaknesses, which could sometimes cause agony to all of us. In this case, Andrew was wanting this piece to be turned into a book musical; which means a more concrete plot, more defined characters with a clear arc, dialogue, a lot things nailed down and less left to the imagination. I remember Elizabeth saying, "Well then, it's not Cats, it's more like other musicals, and you want to rob it of its defining traits. I understand this is the only way a film can be made, but it shows why one shouldn't be done." Of course, Andrew and one nameless Universal executive kept saying they wanted to go forward, because this was a great opportunity, and it could certainly do better than we were giving it credit for.

Anita said, "If we are going to do that, then a lot of the songs need to be cut to make room for scenes, dialogue and motivation." Andrew cut her off with, "I want the score as written in the show, plus the customary new song that the films get." Anita was flustered at that. "Then what's the point of making it a book musical? There's no room to do it this way, because if you fit as many songs as possible, there's precious little room for dialogue and story, especially if you want to keep it down to 90-120 minutes, as I'm sure you do. This isn't going to work, Andrew." Simply put, all of us thought that it was unfilmable, and that there simply was no way to do something on the big screen for a story so slight.

Simply put, that was where the talks ended, and we'd firmly refused to be involved. Of course, Andrew and Universal were still going to press on, so the three of us at the stage division sort of kept watch where things were going, with the detached view of outsiders. We were aware that Tom was hired as director, and that Lee Hall, who worked with Elton John on the stage transfer of Billy Elliot, and whom we'd worked with by him doing the script to Rocketman, was going to handle the scriptwriter duties for this film. We also knew about their decisions to hire the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, James Corden and Judi Dench for the cast, but up until last year, we basically did not really bother in terms of being "in the loop." Universal and Tom kindly extended all of us an invite to see the film when it was "more or less" complete, which of course was not a very good sign, but hopefully it wouldn't be as bad as we'd feared.

It wasn't that bad. It was much worse. Naturally, the fact that they decided to transform it into a book musical, stuff it with cringe-inducing jokes, and a bizarre visual aesthetic basically confirmed everything that went into our minds when we saw that there was nothing to be done with the musical. I personally went to talk to those who'd worked on the film afterwards, and I got a sense of how tense and wearying the shoot was, and a good sign of where things went from merely bad to beyond incomprehensible.

The shoot began in December 2018, only a year out from the intended release date, which was also going to be the release date of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Besides the obvious fact that the audiences were clearly going to choose Star Wars over Cats, this was in no way a realistic target to hit. Depending on your budget and the postproduction work involved, it's now becoming customary for films to often begin shooting 18 months to two years before the intended release date. Springbok and Disney's live action Beauty and the Beast, for example, started shooting in the late spring of 2015, well before the release of March 17, 2017. That was because we knew that after three months' worth of principal photography, there was heavy postproduction work for the visual effects, and lots of tweaking that would need to be done, not just with editing, scoring and planning the marketing, but also for test screenings and nailing things down. Regardless of what one thinks of that film, it wouldn't have been anywhere near what it became if we'd shot on a schedule such as the one that Tom and Universal had planned out.

Another thing that is worrisome is that Tom had never done a CGI-heavy film before, and Les Mis was the only film he'd done with notable CG work, which were mere enhancements that didn't have to support the whole endeavor. He didn't have the experience to know if something rendered looked good or bad, especially because he made the VFX team fully render absolutely every take and element for him to determine which take was best. This is not remotely how things are done, because you have to tell what's best before you do the full workup. Tom also did not know how to talk to the team, and came off as arrogant and condescending. We know from experience that he's not, but because he was out of his element and didn't know how effects work is done, his ignorance blinded him to the state of things, particularly how laborious and taxing it is, even under the best circumstances. The deadline didn't help either, as the team experienced massive crunch, and there were far too many errors that made it into the released product.

This is not to take away from Tom or Lee, as they both are quite talented individuals, but many of the decisions they made simply were the product's detriment. His decision to have the actors sing and dance live with only partial mocap suits (he actually said to do a full suit would be "too distracting to do an effective performance", if you can believe that) and large-sized practical stages for scale was unnecessary, the cat design, even if it had been at its best potential quality visually, was beyond ludicrous, as the hybrid human/cat look is beyond distracting; the songs were not served well in either the new arrangements or by the cast, the attempts to flesh out the story didn't go far enough especially with lame humor and too many songs still in place, and the film was just a joyless slog that felt longer than it actually was.

If anything, we hope the experience is a lesson that sometimes, some things just can't be made into a film.


"Hugh Jackman Relaunches Seed Productions with Springbok," by Manori Ravindran, Variety, January 4, 2020

Springbok Productions continues to add to its reputation for business-oriented charity to help keep Hollywood companies and studios alive, or relaunch them in some way. Today, Springbok announced that it is giving a special cash infusion to actor Hugh Jackman, with the intention to relaunch his shuttered production company Seed Productions, which was founded by Jackman, his wife Deborra-Lee Furness and business partner John Palermo in 2005, but closed up shop only five years later.

When originally founded, the plan was to make up to five Australian films a year with a production budget of under $10 million for each project. They'd also been commissioned to produce a number of television productions and had plans to establish a theatre company in Sydney. Seed – a name which Palermo said came from the notion that "everything comes from a seed, every little idea"- was also to have a specialist artists' management division, representing filmmakers, actors and writers locally and overseas.

"Australia is where Deborra and Hugh are from, this is where their best friends live and a lot of the relationships they closely maintain," Palermo said at the time. "Our goal is to make four to five films a year under $10 million. It is ambitious but you have got to set your goals high, you have got to aim for something."

Seed had head offices on the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles, where the company had development deals with Fox, Disney, Universal and CBS. It also had Australian operations at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, signaling the main overriding intention of locally-developed film and television projects. "We are committed to putting back into the industry here, to create work, build bridges and develop synergies between Australia and the US," Furness said. "Our aim is to support Australian filmmakers, to stimulate the creative community and provide international opportunities for Australian artists," Jackman said.

Seed had very big ambitions, with the first locally-developed film project to be a love story epic directed by Stuart Beattie. Another film, to be directed by Nadia Tass, would star Furness in the title role and be shot early in 2007. Regarding Hollywood films, the only projects it brought to fruition were Deception, starring Jackman and Ewan McGregor, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It was credited for, but not actually involved in, James Mangold's 2013 film The Wolverine. None of its other planned projects, including the Beattie and Tass films, involvement in Nicolas Wending Refn's Drive, or a reenactment of the April 7, 1994 attempted hijacking of FedEx Flight 705 by Auburn Calloway from Memphis International Airport, ever got off the ground.

For television production, Seed signed an exclusive output deal with pay TV provider Foxtel. A documentary series based on the forthcoming Ashes cricket tour was be hosted by Jackman, while Furness would host a 26-part profile series, called The Directors, featuring interviews with well-known Australian filmmakers. The latter didn't happen, but Seed managed to get the short-lived series Viva Laughlin out along with the three various cricket documentary series with Jackman's best friend, cricket fan Gus Worland, starting with An Aussie Goes Barmy.

The failure of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which led Fox on a course correction for the franchise, was what did Seed in. But now, Springbok feels that it should be given another chance.

"Hugh Jackman is not only a great actor, he certainly has the potential to be a great producer," CEO Jennifer Todd states. "Seed Productions was ahead of its time, but now its time has come, especially if the chance means he is able to give something back to Australia. Our experiences with Icon Productions and friendships with Margot Robbie and her LuckyChap Entertainment certainly helped push us here, and our own business and cultural friendships with Australia, as well as Charlize (Theron)'s own work to push and develop talent from South Africa, has made it clear to us that this is a wonderful opportunity."

Springbok is expected to have a development deal for projects with Seed, as well as help nurture and replant its old connections with the major studios.


"MGM Executive Shakeup Could Foreshadow Bigger Changes at Storied Studio," by Kim Masters and Tatiana Siegel, The Hollywood Reporter, January 8, 2020

As Michael De Luca replaces Jonathan Glickman atop the film unit ahead of April's James Bond pic No Time to Die, top brass hope to parlay its vast library into a rich sale to an acquisitive rival (or even Apple).

On March 1, veteran producer Michael De Luca (who has a history of work with New Line Cinema and DreamWorks Pictures, and has helped lead all film development at Springbok Productions since 2004) will take the reins of MGM's motion picture group as the studio attempts to define its future at a time when mid-budget films have largely fallen by the wayside and merger mania reigns in Hollywood.

For the past two years, MGM has been the subject of acquisition rumors thanks to a rich library that includes the James Bond films, Tomb Raider and Legally Blonde. (The Bond films alone would be enough to attract the interest of major studios.) Nine years removed from its emergence from bankruptcy, MGM stakeholders believe the company could command up to $10 billion, but it appears that leadership hopes to burnish the asset before undertaking a sale.

In the era of media giants working to stake out their territory in a more highly fraught and specialized box office thanks to streaming, MGM stands on its own, highly leveraged and facing an evolving marketplace. While it went unreported in the media, the company in recent months wrote down $480 million on its investment in the Epix channel, which it bought for more than $1 billion in 2017. The service has 14 million subscribers and faces the same headwinds as other pay TV channels.

MGM declined to comment on the writedown or even to confirm recent moves at the company, including the supposed addition of Sony Pictures co-chairman and producer Amy Pascal to the board in late summer.

De Luca, 54, replaces Jonathan Glickman, a nine-year veteran of MGM who, according to sources, departed in part because of friction with Mark Burnett, chairman of the MGM Worldwide Television Group. The addition of De Luca appears to be part of an attempt to remake MGM — which has had recent success relaunching the Rocky series with Creed and its sequel and launching an animated franchise with 2019's The Addams Family — into a more attractive asset.

Glickman's exit is the latest shakeup at a company that saw CEO Gary Barber (a cofounder of Spyglass Entertainment) abruptly ousted in March 2018, just five months after he signed a new contract, only to be out and returning to Spyglass.

Barber has not been replaced. Former TV executive Nancy Tellem, a longtime board member who became executive director of the "office of the CEO" in February, departed that role after six months — also in part because of clashes with Burnett, according to sources.

Tellem, who remains on the board, did not respond to a request for comment. A source close to the company also says he was told on good authority that Steve Stark, president of scripted TV production and development, revised his deal in recent months to no longer report to Burnett but instead to the board (as will De Luca). But Stark tells THR he does indeed still report to Burnett.

Multiple individuals with knowledge of the situation say CAA agent Bryan Lourd suggested bringing Pascal onto the board because of her vast creative experience and her relationship with producer Barbara Broccoli, keeper of the Bond franchise. (Sony Pictures distributed Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre.) She did not respond to a request for comment, even a statement to clarify whether or not she is jumping ship from Sony, or merely adding another board to sit on while staying at her main job (like many executives do) soon.

Pascal has a longstanding relationship with De Luca, dating back to when De Luca ran New Line Cinema during the 1990s and Pascal was an executive at Turner. De Luca helped spur film and script development at Springbok, including a number of projects for Sony, such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. De Luca also did extramural work in this time and produced The Social Network and Moneyball, two award-winning hits for Pascal at Sony. And in addition to her longstanding executive work at Sony since 1996, Pascal also has a production shingle, Pascal Pictures, on the side, which has done some Sony films like the recent Spider-Man films with Tom Holland and the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It is likely that Pascal, whose most recent project for the shingle is Little Women, will produce films for MGM, though her deal currently is with Universal.

De Luca, who also did not respond to a request for comment, is said to be setting his sights on quality mid-budget films. The executive has extensive relationships in the industry and is known as filmmaker-friendly, even before his lengthy tenure with Springbok. (He has been open about substance abuse issues and wild behavior in the past; a knowledgeable source says the MGM board raised the issue and came away satisfied, especially since Springbok also discussed his past history when vetting him.)

The transition at the studio comes in the midst of postproduction of the 25th Bond film, No Time to Die, set for April. Glickman will continue to oversee production and has a first-look deal with the studio. He will become a producer on the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, currently in production with Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul.

Who might buy MGM? Comcast, which already has international rights to No Time to Die, is said to be a potential acquirer, as is Sony, which once owned MGM and either way has a familiar board member in Pascal. Shari Redstone's ViacomCBS recently acquired a minority stake in Miramax and needs to continue content shopping for her newly merged company, which could benefit from MGM's film library and its rights to such TV series as The Handmaid's Taleand Vikings.

But Apple, which has already made overtures, might be the best fit. While all media companies are looking to bolster content, Apple wants to have a leg in production, especially since it, along with the individual media companies have been shut out of the potential of doing streaming services of their own thanks to Blockbuster getting in on the ground floor early on. But it could still have a foot in the door to stand with the majors, mini-majors, production companies and the like, by purchasing a company and entering it into film and TV production this way.

"Apple is so huge. Paying up for this would be nothing," says Wall Street analyst Hal Vogel. "They are sitting on $250 billion in cash." Still, he thinks that no move toward a sale would take place before No Time to Die. "You'd want to sell it after the Bond film. That will make the debt more serviceable, and the valuation of the equity should be higher."

Another knowledgeable source believes MGM could run into money trouble because it is so highly leveraged. This person estimates that the company needs No Time to Die, the fifth and final Bond film starring Daniel Craig, to hit the $1 billion mark — no small feat given that 2015's Spectre grossed $880.6 million worldwide. (In 2012, Skyfall did cross that threshold with $1.1 billion.) An MGM source calls that notion unfounded, noting that the company enjoys ample liquidity and strong support from banks and lenders. Another source says De Luca can exit if cash constraints become a problem.

MGM board member Kevin Ulrich, whose Anchorage Capital has the largest stake in the company, is said to be enamored of the entertainment business and has been resistant to selling in the past, but some insiders say he has become more amenable in recent months. Sources say Burnett wants to flip the asset, but the call will be made by majority shareholders Ulrich and Highland Film Group's Jim Dondero. (Dondero remains on the MGM board, though in December he was ousted from his bankrupt hedge fund business, Highland Capital Management LP.)

"Management and the board are always looking to optimize value and are focused on making decisions in the best interest of the company and our stockholders, which includes the recent hire of Michael De Luca," an MGM spokesperson says. "Coupled with the leadership of Mark Burnett as the head of the studio's successful TV business, MGM is and continues to be well positioned to grow as we head into this next decade."

Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd added, "While we are certainly sad to see Michael leave Springbok, we had an incredible 15-year-run with him, and enjoyed his participation and work to make our projects as great as they can be. MGM is certainly getting a winner with Michael at the helm. We wish him, and MGM, the best of luck in their future endeavors."


"A Tale of Two Companies: How Apple Corps' failure became Springbok's Success," by Mikal Gilmore, Rolling Stone, January 10, 2020

By this point, it is quite impossible to go somewhere in the wider world and not encounter the presence of Springbok Productions, the massively successful conglomerate founded by Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd. For more than two decades, this production company has obtained a massive influence in the worlds of film, television, animation, digital content, video games, musical theater, book publishing and the music industry. The company earns tens of billions every year, especially having a consistent track record at the box office and award circuits. It may very well be the biggest success story of the 21st century.

But Springbok is hardly the first celebrity-fronted company, especially when it comes to film and TV. It's also not even the first such conglomerate with an eye to focus on multiple fronts and divisions. That honor goes to The Beatles and their group, Apple Corps, which was founded by the Fab Four back in 1968 as a multimedia company. It was to be their new home as a record label (though still technically bound to EMI as well as Capitol Records for North America, distributing Apple Records releases as a vanity label), a film studio, an electronics company (not computers, though-that's a separate company!), a clothing retailer, and some type of manufacturing concern as a sideline. During a press conference in New York, John Lennon and Paul McCartney referred to it as "a system whereby anybody who just wants to make anything don't have to go down on their knees in somebody's office…a trick to see if we can get artistic freedom in a business structure."

While The Beatles' Apple wasn't yet even the very first type of celebrity-fronted company of any kind (those honors go to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's Desilu Productions, John Wayne's Batjac Productions, Judy Garland and Sid Luft's failed Transcona Enterprises (which had a prospective nine-picture slate with Warner Bros. as long as three of the prospective nine films starred Garland, and then folded because of the controversial release method of the 1954 version of A Star is Born) and Clint Eastwood's Malpaso Productions), it was definitely the first with an impressive and ambitious aim beyond a very narrow scope, especially in terms of moving to create a new paradigm in the business that it was aimed to be in. Springbok, when it was founded in 1999, essentially promised much the same thing, as Cobain, Theron and Todd announced all their aims from the start.

But otherwise, there is very little in common between the two companies, and indeed the fate of one became a case study of lessons learned for the other. Indeed, as McCartney admitted in the documentary and book The Beatles Anthology, "The theory was that we'd put all our affairs in one bundle into our own company. It'd be all the things we'd ever wanted to do. A lot of people do that now, they have their own companies, take their lawyers to meetings and get good deals. (McCartney and his wife Linda have their own company, MPL Communications.) It was the start of all that, but it was a really haphazard start."

Though Apple was very ambitious in its goals, its formation was actually approached with a considerable amount of reluctance. At the point it happened, The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein had died from an accidental overdose of barbiturates, and the group was getting into Transcendental Meditation, a very critical fork in the road for them. The late Neil Aspinall, who was the group's roadie and longtime friend until his death in 2008, and who helped the initial setup for Apple as interim leader, said in the Anthology, "The idea for Apple came, as usual, from the accountants, who told them, 'You must diversify.' So Brian had set up a company called Apple Publishing, that's all it was, a little music publishing company." Lennon went further in a 1972 interview, saying, "Originally, we didn't even want an Apple. Clive Epstein (Brian's brother) told us like, he had every few years, 'If you don't do this, it'll go into taxes.' So we really didn't want to go into fucking business, but we thought, 'If we have to go in, let's go in doing something we like.'"

The Beatles certainly moved to get things off the ground, starting with the Apple Boutique, a retailer on London's Baker Street, for selling outfits and other assorted sundries, including albums of what would now be called world music. It opened with a flourish, complete with a dazzling psychedelic mural by the art group The Fool, though citizens' complaints forced them to repaint it all white. It was however, not profitable from the start due to constant shoplifting by customers and staff, and the band also soon became bored with the shop, folding it on July 31, 1968, only eight months after it opened.

The real work then began in earnest after the May 1968 press conference, as Apple got a headquarters at 3 Savile Row, with a recording studio being built in the basement, the record label on the ground floor, second floor an office for Aspinall and one for each Beatle, and the third floor the press office, domain of the group's press officer Derek Taylor, who'd been in their circles since 1963 and remained so until his death from cancer in 1997. They put out an ad in magazines saying they were open to receive tapes of burgeoning songwriters, works of poetry, and scripts for films in the mail, that Apple would look through everything without chucking it in the garbage bin, and that if they found the work interesting, they would give seed money to help these aspiring artists build themselves on and contact information for potential followup communication.

Of course, that didn't work out as well as advertised. As McCartney later admitted, "We never really got much from the sent in tapes, but we let people know we were interested." Although in fact, they may have actually got even less, as many people who sent in material and got payment from Apple simply took the money and ran, and never bothered to get back in touch with them. Though Apple did manage to find and nurture talent (complete with the band members producing recording sessions) with the likes of Jackie Lomax, Mary Hopkin, Badfinger, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, the Modern Jazz Quartet and a young James Taylor, the plain and simple fact was that the label was The Beatles' domain (for the rest of their career together and even persisting into all four's early solo work), and nothing really changed in that regard, as even the more notable artists the group discovered didn't hit critical mass until after they moved on from Apple to other labels, especially Taylor. Lennon moved to get a specialty label, called Zapple Records, which would cover more avant-garde material (including the idea of spoken word recordings, presaging what we now know as "audiobooks"), thanks to the influence of the beginning of his relationship with Yoko Ono, but its output was incredibly slim and sales nonexistent, especially when it was priced like regular albums, against the initial wishes Lennon and McCartney wanted for its product.

As for its other works, the film division had a few notable Beatles works, among them Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, the film of Let It Be, and the film of George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh, but precious little not tied as Beatles projects. Those they did have include the Marc Bolan/T. Rex concert film Born to Boogie (directed by and featuring Ringo Starr) and the dramedy Little Malcolm. The electronics division was put in the control of Yanni Alexis Mardas, better known as Magic Alex, a friend of Lennon, but his designs for home electronics were completely impractical and burned through at least £300,000. The music publishing arm ended up used as a stopgap by Harrison and Starr for emancipation from Northern Songs (the same publishing arm later sold by Dick James to Sir Lew Grade in 1969 to become ATV Music, and then famously purchased by Michael Jackson in 1985) before they founded their own separate publishers, and published some works by other Apple Records artists, but never really stockpiled songs to its arsenal. A book publisher division put extremely few titles.

The novelty of Apple wore off fairly quickly. McCartney constantly popped into the Apple offices, far more than the other Beatles, because "(you) didn't have to do anything, it wasn't compulsory." The company soon became an absolute money pit, with a staff of 40 (including four secretaries for Derek Taylor alone) racking up massive "business expenses" of drugs, alcohol, half-eaten food being wasted and thrown into the garbage, company lunches at expensive restaurants with full meals and cocktails, lengthy international calls on office phones, and employees frequently giving themselves raises. One typist would spend all morning on a letter, then pop out until the next day, other employees would only report to work on payday. Harrison quite pointedly recollected in the Anthology, "we just gave away huge quantities of money…I think John and Paul got carried away with the idea and blew millions, and Ringo and I just had to go along with it…Apple was a free-for-all, with every weirdo in the country heading into Savile Row and being given office space by John and Yoko. The Hare Krishnas, the Hell's Angels, the Diggers-everybody was in there."

Already by 1969, the company was in freefall, with gallons of red ink. Lennon went public around the time of the fraught Let It Be sessions, saying, "You can't offer facilities to poets and charities and filmmakers until you definitely have money coming in. It's been pie-in-the-sky from the start. We did it all wrong…It's got to be a business first, we realize that now. It needs a new broom and a lot people need to go, it needs streamlining." That "new broom" ended up being Allen Klein, the former manager of Donovan and The Rolling Stones, whose mercenary ways had caused (and still do, even after his death in 2009) no end of stress to Jagger, Richards et al., to the point that the band doesn't own or control their pre-Sticky Fingers discography, even to this day. While Klein certainly did a lot of "streamlining" by laying off personnel, he left greater dissension and acrimony in his wake, especially with The Beatles themselves, due to McCartney refusing to accept his appointment and moving to have Lee Eastman, father of his wife Linda, representing him. The last gasps of The Beatles came shortly thereafter, along with a myriad of legal tangles (including Lennon, Harrison and Starr suing Klein to be free of his pernicious orbit) which were not fully resolved until 1975. Apple Corps has continued to exist since then, after effectively mothballing the various divisions and reorganizing as the controllers of The Beatles as a brand. Aspinall became head of Apple officially at that point, running it until his retirement in 2007, overseeing the initial CD releases of the catalogue, the Anthology project in its various forms, Let It Be…Naked, the Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show LOVE, and the beginning stages of the 2009 remaster of the catalog. He also oversaw various lawsuits against the more famous company named Apple regarding trademark infringement and violations of an earlier agreement regarding music (mainly with the release of Apple Inc.'s hugely popular iPod) and battles with EMI. Jeff Jones runs Apple Corps currently, though ownership and full control continues to reside with McCartney, Harrison, Starr and Lennon's estate via Ono. Since 2007, it has seen the full 2009 remaster campaign, the massively successful video game The Beatles: Rock Band, the recent box set releases of Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be, the Ron Howard documentary Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years, and the Peter Jackson documentary on the Let It Be sessions.

Cut to the late '90s. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain has long been an admitted Beatles fan since boyhood, and was well aware of the various hassles the band went through, especially regarding Apple. After his divorce from Courtney Love and his subsequent romance of Charlize Theron, they discovered many shared interests, including a fondness for manga and anime, and an urge to expand its reach to Western audiences, particularly through film adaptations. The idea of a production company came to them when discussing the ideas of adaptations of Akira and Ghost in the Shell.

To get an idea of how to proceed, Cobain and Theron started reading industry trades such as Variety, and looked at the recent success of Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey's Icon Productions, the so-called Disney Renaissance, the organization of the Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios, the way that Miramax and its (eventually disgraced) founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein had positioned it especially with finding promising young talent, as well as the tumultuous journey of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen's DreamWorks, especially how the latter failed to live up to the bold promises Spielberg made when launching the company in 1994. "Charlize in particular had this yellow notepad to really jot down takeaway lessons from a bunch of different companies," Cobain said. "A lot of little pointers about what to do, what to avoid, how a certain event could've gone better for a company." Among those companies being dissected were the notable actor-fronted "vanity shingles" that proliferated Hollywood in the '90s, but also the likes of Apple Corps, and how it utterly failed to realize its full potential. "The biggest thing we realized was that neither of us has a head for the nitty-gritty details of business, the paperwork hassles, the accounting, the payroll. We needed someone with a firm hand to guide the whole thing from the start. We also needed to ensure a steady stream of cash going in the door from day one, so that we could always pay our overheads. We also didn't want to tie ourselves to just one studio and be dependent on them, like a lot of these production companies were doing."

Though Cobain's Nirvana royalties were definitely coming in by this point and it would certainly be plenty to help get things started, he and Theron wanted to cover their bases. They invested in Planet Hollywood, became close friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also prevailed upon the board to adopt his various proposals to ensure its viability. Both of them became equity investors in the Florida-based fast food chain Miami Subs Pizza & Grill, as well as later taking on a stake in the Roadhouse Grill chain, and helped spearhead aggressive expansion worldwide. They invested in the game changing HBO series The Sopranos and in Robert Zemeckis' massively successful films What Lies Beneath and Cast Away, ensuring massive returns for them both. They gathered additional startup investments from the likes of actor Chris Farley, Alice in Chains members Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, REM frontman Michael Stipe, venture capitalists Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson, VC group US Venture Partners, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, Apple Inc. cofounder Steve Wozniak, Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen, CJ Group/CJ Entertainment heiress Miky Lee, GE CEO Jack Welch, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Miami Dolphins star quarterback Dan Marino, former Kentucky governor (and fast food chain franchiser) John Y. Brown, Jr., renowned music manager Irving Azoff and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. But most importantly, they received both seed money and important tactical advice from movie producers Jerry Weintraub and Jennifer Todd, and also gained both of them, and Azoff, as members of the company. They had $3.6 billion in startup funds, $750 million of which went to buy and develop a massive 1087-acre studio lot for them in Playa Vista, California. (It serves as their main hub of business, though their corporate headquarters is in Toronto.)

Starting with the release of Ghost in the Shell in 2001, Springbok began a runaway train of success in its various fields. Boffo box office, and plenty of awards, including Theron's Best Actress win for Monster, the 2018 remake of A Star is Born winning Best Original Song for "Shallow", and Best Picture wins for films like The Wolf of Wall Street and Bohemian Rhapsody. A massive group of library acquisitions to really further pad out its resume and revenue from home video, broadcast, pay TV and streaming rights. And even some smaller-rung exhibition ownings to have a leg in that field, as well as give favorable rates to the work of other studios and producers for theatrical runs on their screens.

The founders have attributed much of their success to the crack team they have assembled over their run. A veritable cream of the crop of invaluable experience in the various fields they are interested in, and certainly bold personalities to match. From Pixar, and then later Disney as a whole, they adopted the so-called "brain trust meeting" method, in which writers, producers, directors, and board members will look at projects and discuss them quite frankly in order to assess the state they are in, what can be done to improve them, and how to ensure its best chance for success. This method came first came to existence at Pixar, when Vice Chairman and CCO John Lasseter used it to help shore up the success of projects like the Toy Storyfranchise. Lasseter also took the method and gave it to Disney as a whole to adopt, which has helped it maintain its massive growth since the '90s. Springbok chose to follow its example, which has helped ensure its consistent track record, and inspired newer, smaller companies like Dan Lin's Rideback Productions to do likewise.

The employees at Springbok, even the most minor members, are obviously a much more diligent and disciplined pair than those in Apple's run. There is a centralized expense tracking system in place, and perks are distributed in a more meritocratic manner, though each of Springbok's various offices worldwide make sure to keep morale high and the atmosphere pleasant. "Obviously everyone goes to work and takes it seriously," Beth Kono, a close friend and assistant of the founders, states. "But we also make it like a game, a competition between friends. We also often put ourselves down, bust each other's balls, to ensure our heads don't get too swollen. Staying hungry ensures you never lose sight of your passion."

Then there's of course the manner of how often Cobain and Theron come to work and are involved in how the company is run. Naturally, given their respective careers continuing full steam ahead (especially the latter's continued acting work on non-Springbok projects), they can't come to the offices every day, and Cobain doesn't come in as often as his wife due to his constant time writing, recording and performing with Nirvana. But they always work to stay in the loop. "Kurt and Charlize get emails and conference calls just about every day," Todd states. "They know how our projects are shaping up, give notes about them, and are always in contact with the board members, writers, producers, directors and actors. It especially helps we don't go overboard with industry jargon, and get right to the point, communicate as directly and simply as possible."

All this and more helps bring Springbok maintain its massive perch in the industry, including financing of projects that other people will produce, and acts of a sort of business-styled charity, like putting together cash infusions for other production companies, studio reorganizations, and seed money for people starting out, such as when they gave startup funds to actress Margot Robbie to help with the formation of her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment. There is also the founders' constant work and donations to dozens of charities around the world, as well as doing fundraisers for their own charitable organizations.

Thus, in many ways, while The Beatles' dream with Apple turned rotten, to use an obvious and cliched analogy, it clearly remained a viable dream to pursue in the future for someone to turn around and do it properly. Springbok ended up being that company, a fulfillment of the original Apple Corps ethos, of mixing business with pleasure.


"Just Another Day at the Office: The Day-to-Day Life at Springbok Productions," Forbes, January 15, 2020

For the employees of Springbok Productions, every day essentially falls into a basic pattern. "It's just like any other company," a secretary replies. "You wake up, shower, dress, get a bite to eat, then report to your station, day in and day out. In my case, I shuttle forth calls between different parts of the company, connect them, forward calls to outside parties and clients, so on and so forth. It's always buzzing with activity, but even with things running apace, it's easy to get bored. Sometimes it's not that far from The Office."

Many would think that since Springbok has asserted itself as a massive powerhouse, with its fingers in all corners of the entertainment industry and raking in untold billions per year, that daily life has a considerable amount of glamour attached to it. "That might be true to an extent," Beth Kono, a close friend and personal assistant of co-founder Charlize Theron, states quite cheerfully. "But work is work, and drudgery is unavoidable. There's actually precious little in terms of drama with setting up deals and contracts for projects. Not that there isn't hustle and bustle in all the wheeling and dealing, but it tends to proceed smoothly."

Though Springbok's main corporate headquarters are in a skyscraper in Toronto, it mainly oversees the accounting side and corporate structure. The real hub of activity is in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Playa Vista, near Marina del Rey. Here, a massive nearly 1100-acre studio lot, the first studio lot to be built from scratch since the Great Depression, sits as Springbok's creative headquarters since 2001. The property was originally planned to be the headquarters for DreamWorks, but founders Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and the late, disgraced David Geffen abandoned the plan in July 1999 because they couldn't arrange the financing. Springbok was founded and incorporated by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, along with Theron at this exact moment. Using Cobain's Nirvana royalties, his and Theron's investments in Planet Hollywood, the fast food chain Miami Subs Pizza & Grill, HBO's The Sopranos, and the films What Lies Beneath and Cast Away; and the considerable monies put up by a load of different investors in the entertainment industry and business (including two figures also involved as investors for DreamWorks, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and CJ Group heiress Miky Lee), Springbok was able to put up the money ($750 million) to take over the Playa Vista lot development and bring it to fruition.

The massive lot is an absolute bustle of activity. It surrounds an eight-acre lake, looking quite bucolic and serene. (To settle concerns local environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, raised about the development, including back when DreamWorks was doing it, Springbok dedicated themselves to reforestation efforts in the area and ensuring buildings did not threaten nearby wetlands and the life inside them.) It is also located at the site of the factory where Howard Hughes built his infamous "Spruce Goose" seaplane in the '40s, and the original hangar where it was housed before its one and only flight in 1947 is still standing, converted for new usage as a soundstage. Here 9000 full-time employees call this place home, an area that feels more like a university campus than a standard Hollywood lot. There is ample room on the roads and spaces between buildings for massive trucks, even 18-wheeler semis, to turn easily and fluidly in one motion.

As for the buildings themselves, they are quite a diverse bunch. These include 18 fully-equipped soundstages, a massive costume department, two technical buildings (for editing, screening and post-production work), a building devoted solely as Springbok's archives (which also hosts their media preservation joint venture Project Phoenix), the separate headquarters for Springbok's animation division Denver and Delilah Animation, a building hosting Springbok's joint ventures (the high-resolution mobile audio recording group Serenity Sonics Corporation and film and digital intermediary and conversion group Heaven Research), a commissary, a special recreational area, and the office building, which houses Springbok's film, television, musical theater and video game divisions, as well as the individual offices of the heads of these divisions. Cobain and Theron have their own offices in this building. Also notably, CEO Jennifer Todd retains her office here, and rarely ventures to Toronto, where the board of directors, which she, Irving Azoff and Michael Ovitz are on, is set up.

Springbok also contains a lot of additional tenants on the lot. Powerhouse television producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have set up their semi-independent vanity shingles here, as does Avi Arad, the former head of Marvel Studios. Tom Cruise's production company, TC Productions (successor to his Cruise/Wagner Productions, which he did with longtime agent Paula Wagner, who is now on the Springbok board) and Robert Downey, Jr.'s production company with his wife Susan, Team Downey, have office space here as well. Companies like Saban Capital Group, IBM, Miami Subs Pizza & Grill, Silicon Graphics, Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital, and special effects firm Digital Domain have office space supplementing their respective main headquarters on this lot. (Springbok also has additional offices not on the lot. An office space on the Disney studio lot in Burbank, which belonged to a company they acquired called Mandeville Films, is dedicated solely to projects Springbok makes that Disney distributes. Springbok contains smaller office spaces on the Paramount, 20th Century Fox (of course now owned by Disney), Warner Bros., Universal, and Sony lots in Hollywood, Burbank, Universal City, Century City and Culver City, dedicated solely to overseeing releases of projects with each of the studios. Springbok has an office space at Blockbuster Entertainment's headquarters in Los Gatos, dedicated to the projects the streamer releases. Denver and Delilah Animation has a secondary office at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch, as well as additional offices for Heaven Research. Studio Ghibli North America, formed by Springbok having a 20 percent equity stake of the legendary Japanese animator, has an office on the lot of Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. Springbok recently opened an additional studio lot in Atlanta, which includes ten soundstages for film and television production, a functional backlot, and an additional office space for Denver and Delilah Animation and the video game division. An additional Denver and Delilah Animation office is located in Vancouver, and was the original office of one of the company's acquisitions, the computer animation company Rainmaker Studios. Springbok's record label arm, Exploitation Records, is based in New York, in the BT Tower, and Springbok's book publishing division, Autumn Deer Press, is based out in 189 Broadway, along with its recent co-owner, HarperCollins. They also have various headquarters for their foreign divisions, which oversee not only overseas distribution for their projects, but also are involved in the productions of foreign projects meant solely for specific markets, such as for the UK, France, Latin America, Spain, Germany, Italy, India or Australia.) There are also homes, apartment complexes, schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, parks and museums, effectively making the lot a small town. Indeed, many compare this town aspect to the Disney-conceived (and formerly owned) town of Celebration, Florida, which never quite came together to be what was planned. A considerable number of employees live in the town area, to make their commutes to work as short as possible. Cobain and Theron even own an apartment in one of the complexes, to mirror the small apartment Cobain lived in in Olympia, Washington, with his first girlfriend, Tracy Marander, back in the late '80s, as a sort of paean to his young, hungry days. (He even still owns the small, boxy Volvo he temporarily lived in before Nevermind was released, with one bald tire, despite obviously having numerous costlier and newer vehicles at his disposal.)

Springbok's office building looks very much like any typical corporation, but there are signs that this is not a standard company scattered around, especially in the executive offices. Framed portraits of many of Springbok's collaborators hang on the walls, as do posters for many of its past projects. A life-size picture of composer and producer Jim Steinman, a wan smile under his silvery mane, dressed head to toe in imposing black leather, is framed by golden light bulbs, with one of Steinman's designer leathers hanging on a coat rack as a display. "Steve Barton wore that outfit at the workshop for Dance of the Vampires back in May 2001, right before he died," Leonard Soloway, head of Springbok's stage theatricals division, muses sadly. "Jim wanted the head vampire, Count von Krolock, to look imposing even in street clothes at the workshop, so he lent this to Steve. Jim let us have it after the show was a success, as a token of thanks."

There are certain other trinkets on display. Just to name a few, a Harley-Davidson that belonged to Steven Tyler is mounted in the lobby, with a signed note from the Aerosmith frontman. In Cobain's office, there is a framed portrait of Mel Brooks, with the phrase "it's good to be the king", from History of the World-Part I embossed in gold. But everyone who works here is never particularly overwhelmed by the collection, treating it all just like it's nothing more than furniture, an attitude that Todd states ensures that the company doesn't grow complacent and rest on its laurels.

When it comes to finding and moving on projects, Todd points out there is a very definite process. "Springbok is always bombarded with ideas, be they mere treatments or full-fledged scripts, or just sending books, novels, plays or TV series for us to look at. We get sent upwards of 2000 such items a year, and also receive a lot of design notebooks with storyboards. In order to decide what we will take on, we have a lot of spirited reads, and hold open forums with as many people as possible. They all share their input and give notes about what they think, it's like holding a test screening or a workshop, except just for an idea and when we're only relying on our imagination. The main criteria that we keep in mind is this: is this something we can be passionate about, regardless of what the critics say or the box office receipts are? Is this something that we can personally add something to, something that no one else can? And lastly, does it reflect what we're about?"

When asked as to why she doesn't report to board meetings personally in Toronto that often, Todd is sanguine. "I do Skype, videoconferencing and emails to them all the time. I'm not the only one who doesn't go up there, Irv doesn't like to head there that often either. But I also feel that the real board meetings tend to be right here on the lot, with the different division heads, to talk over our projects, so I like to attend them personally. There's a lot of hustle and bustle going on here, and you'd be surprised how often things cook. Of course, Kurt and Charlize, because of their careers, don't come here in person that often, but they stay informed and report in through some means every day. They're fully aware of what we're doing, and everything has an approval process. Essentially, we don't do anything unless the two of them say yes to it."

Springbok has done massive studio tentpoles, with one or more studios doing the distribution and paying the budgets; and they've also done indie films, including films that they've launched presales with different smaller individual distributors on a territory by territory basis, using the film festivals and markets to buy and sell projects. They've even done presales for smaller distributors when having a major studio have the North American/UK/Australasian rights, implementing a hybrid strategy. "We do whatever suits the project best, linking with whatever partner will bring the best out of the work. We have done major releases, mini-majors, indies, smaller people, and preselling. Our foreign sales and acquisitions division has certainly gotten much work done over the years, especially when we go trawling Sundance, Tribeca, Telluride, Toronto, Berlin, Cannes-the festival and the Cannes Film Market, Venice, Tokyo, the European Film Market and the American Film Market."

Regarding Springbok's foreign divisions and the projects they do for those certain territories, there is a lot more latitude given from the Playa Vista lot. "We don't want to be babysitters, controlling what everyone does there. I mean, I know virtually nothing about Italian cinema or Bollywood, or about what kind of native stories Mexico wants to see in the Spanish language. So the division heads there, when it comes to developing fare specially for those markets, have the final say about what they'll do, casting, scripts, budgets and distribution. Occasionally they'll check in with us, but it's more of just for progress reports or to see the finished product. When it comes to distribution and scheduling of our worldwide films, however, that's a different story. For example, say you have something like 1917, and you have to also plan out the release schedules in other territories, get the box office receipts there, plan out the marketing. There, the lot offices here are very involved in the planning."

When it comes to doing preparation and nurturing of their work, market research, test screenings and focus groups are certainly a big part of the process. "Those are definitely needed, because they can certainly provide input and insight that you never noticed before. Of course, both of those can also be a double-edge sword, as focus groups and test screenings can also bring out the worst impulses in crowds, and films and series may end up butchered to pander to the lowest common denominator. So, we tread cautiously, in that we don't slave ourselves to either what we already have or what the comments and research say, so we basically prep and test everything twice, in-house, and out in these groups, and if there's something correlating or matching up in both instances, we know we're on the right track. May not necessarily guarantee success, but more often than not, we get real winners."

Springbok also does internships, incubation and project development programs, not necessarily for material they will produce or even finance. "Giving back, having people get a leg up in this business is very important. It's much with our seed money, cash infusion and other such deals for other studios and production companies. We've also looked to find and harness individual talent and nurture it. Charlize, for example, has always had a bee in her bonnet of finding promising talent in South Africa, so she helped us find people like Sharlto Copley and Neill Blomkamp and give them an in. The work has certainly paid off, as I'd say that 60 percent of the projects in our incubators have found buyers and brought to life on the big and small screens, and the vast majority of them aren't even ones that we've produced or financed ourselves."

One might naturally wonder if Springbok has anything left to prove at this point. "I think so," Todd says. "We've still only just begun."

Special Addendum: Inside Springbok's Technical Buildings

Springbok's Technical Buildings and Archives are quite expansive, especially regarding the way that the company has kept a foot in both the analog and digital filmmaking styles throughout its career. During its existence, it has done analog projects on Panavision, Arri or Fujifilm 16 mm, 35 mm and 70 mm cameras and lenses, French Eclair cameras circa 1972, and IMAX Corporation cameras and lenses, using either Kodak or Fujifilm stock. For the digital world, it has used Sony HDF or "CineAlta" cameras (both on their own or as hooked up to the so-called Fusion Camera System devised by filmmaker James Cameron and cinematographer Vince Pace), Sony F23 cameras, Panavision Genesis cameras, Viper FilmStream cameras, Arri Alexa and Alexa Plus cameras, Red One 4K cameras, Red Pro 5K cameras, Red DSMC "Dragon" 6K cameras, and Red DSMC2 "Helium" 8K cameras. Springbok projects have also used equipment such as SpyderCam, CableCam and SkyCam systems.

There is certainly a lot of film stock kept in a cold storage vault, both master negative reels and outtakes, but they also keep an astonishing amount of material in other formats in terms of physical storage. These include 3/4-inch videotape, 1-inch videotape, 2-inch videotape, Umatic, VHS, BetaCam, HDCAM, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray and digital files, including those used for digital projectors in movie theaters. Springbok's projects are edited and/or restored using a mix of vintage and modern equipment, including flatbed Moviola editors (especially Steenbeck editors), FastForward stations, optical scanners/printers, helical scanners, rewash scrubbers, photochemical restoration, wetgate sync restoration, digital sound reproducers, EditDroid stations, Avid and Lightworks DAW stations, Thompson Spirit 4K scanners, ScanMaster 4000 scanners with Digital ICE technology, and RE Scan 6K scanners. There is also a wealth of telecine machines for intermediary and conversion of film to digital, digital to film, video to film, film to video, and so on. This is all done not only for Springbok's own projects, but also for a lot of other parties' work, especially restoration-wise. While most Springbok projects are edited here, they have decamped to other locations, such as Skywalker Ranch, for editing work. All their projects do go to Skywalker Ranch regardless for the final sound mixes at Skywalker Sound and THX, and many have utilized Lucasfilm's visual effects firm, Industrial Light & Magic, for creating visual enhancements.

Springbok has rented itself out or been attached to film restoration projects from other producers, often working hand in glove with other groups like The Criterion Collection, YCM Laboratories, PRO-TEK, Cineon, Image Trends, MPI, Lowery Digital and Vinegar Syndrome, as well as The George Eastman House, the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Library of Congress and the in-house restoration units of the major studios. Chief among its latest restoration works is The Godfather Trilogy 1901-1980, a 1992 home video release which featured deleted scenes re-inserted into the films (based on a 1980 TV broadcast version of the first two films), though everything now occurred chronologically in the timeline, meaning that the prequel scenes of The Godfather Part II would now occur first in this version. This version has not had an official release outside of the '92 VHS box set, but Springbok is helping Paramount and Francis Ford Coppola bring it back to life. "After Francis and Paramount did the restoration of the original master negatives in 2007 for DVD and Blu-ray, it helped give us a point to jump in from, especially with half the work done already. Of course, some the material has been lost since the 1992 VHS set, both in original negatives and even duplicates, so to fill in the gaps, we have to go back and simply use the VHS material, give it to a firm that has done conversion work on VHS tapes to bring them up to the best quality available, they've done this work for NASA tapes and the DVD/Blu-ray release of Michael Jackson's Wembley Stadium concerts in 1988, during the Bad Tour, which came from Michael's personal VHS copy, because the original Umatic masters have been lost." In a surprising act, Springbok even proceeds to help preservation and restoration of Troma Entertainment titles, and even used their positions at the AFI and The Film Foundation to get Troma's founder, Lloyd Kaufman, into both organizations. Furthermore, Springbok has also lobbied Congress to create a permanent federal stipend and nationalized restoration division, to finally help these various organizations work freely without the burden of relying on previous limited grants and private donations.

These buildings and a museum in the town area also contain various different methods of writing scripts, news articles, books and magazines. Namely typewriters, computers of varying brand and vintage from 1976 to now, linotype operators, and varying printing presses of different eras. These are done for movie shoots, for demonstrations, creating memorandums to spread among the staff, and even helping create products for release by Autumn Deer Press. "We're living and making history as we go along, giving homage and respect to the old, using it along with the new."


"Fred Silverman Dead: TV Exec Who Led Programming at All Three Networks and Springbok, Dies at 82," by Paula Bernstein, Variety, January 30, 2020

Fred Silverman, the executive who became the only person in TV history to have headed programming for each of the Big Three broadcast networks and who also ended up a massive player in Springbok Productions' TV work, died on Thursday at his home in the Pacific Palisades, California. He was 82.

Silverman died with his family by his side. ABC and CBS paid tribute to Silverman at the start of primetime on Thursday night with slate cards noting his passing. Springbok blacked out its website to mourn him, and posted a tribute picture as the opening image for all who brought up the site.

During his prolific career, Silverman was credited with helping to launch some of the most successful shows and miniseries of all time, including All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, The Waltons and Roots.

After turning both CBS and ABC around in the ratings, Silverman failed to work his magic at NBC in the late 1970s and early '80s. Once he left the Peacock net to branch out on his own with the Fred Silverman Co., Silverman forged another career as a producer, turning out a number of successful series, including Matlock, In the Heat of the Night, Jake and the Fatman and Diagnosis Murder. In 2010, he joined Springbok's TV division, and became credited among such successful broadcast and streaming series as American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Feud, BoJack Horseman, Mindhunter, The Haunting of Hill House, Rick and Morty and Roger Rabbit's Toontown Follies.

"Fred Silverman was a titan of the media industry and an influence on so many," said CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl, who was close to the executive who once sat in his seat at the Eye. "His impact on television was incalculable. All of us at CBS salute his tremendous talent and cultural influence at our network, and throughout broadcast television."

Legendary producer Norman Lear, the shepherd of All in the Family, the groundbreaking comedy series that established Silverman's bona fides as a bold programming executive, hailed the executive in a tweet.

"There would be no All in the Family, or Maude, or The Jeffersons, or Good Times without Fred Silverman. Bless his every memory," Lear wrote on Thursday.

"Fred Silverman was a great member of our team, and he brought real class to our TV projects," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said. "It's a sadder place without him, especially after losing a few key family members already." (Springbok also recently lost legendary film producer Robert Evans due to his death last year, and key executive Michael De Luca is departing to lead MGM, which altogether marks Springbok's first ever losses of key executives.)

An often controversial figure, Silverman was revered by some for his natural ability to predict what the country wanted to see and reviled by others for programs that were seen as appealing to the lowest common denominator.

After rising for seven years at CBS, Silverman was promoted to VP of programming in 1970. He helped the network transition away from its rural-oriented series to more sophisticated comedies and dramas, which would attract more upscale and more urban audiences that would have greater appeal to advertisers; the axing of shows such as Petticoat Junction and Green Acreswas dubbed the "rural purge." During his tenure at CBS, he was behind the launch of some of the most successful and respected shows of all time, including Maude, The Bob Newhart Show, Mannix and Hawaii Five-0.

Silverman also revamped CBS' Saturday-morning cartoon lineup and, as a result, helped the network catapult itself from third place to first in that daypart.

But Silverman never felt comfortable at CBS and believed that CBS chairman William Paley didn't appreciate his programming talent.

"The top management was never satisfied. If I went to Paley and said, 'We have nine of the top 10 shows in the daytime,' he would say, 'God, that 10th show. Isn't there anything you can do about that 10th show?' Good was not good enough. Great was not good enough," Silverman told the Los Angeles Times in 1996.

Silverman jumped to ABC in 1975. As president of the network's entertainment division, he was responsible for programming Rich Man, Poor Man, Roots, Charlie's Angels and Starsky & Hutch. Famously, Silverman suggested to the producers of Happy Days that the Fonzie character be the focal point of the show. That suggestion contributed significantly to the show's ratings success.

In 1977, Silverman was featured on the cover of Time magazine as the "man with the golden gut," referring to his ability to know what shows would strike a chord with the public. In just three years, Silverman had reversed ABC's flagging fortunes, boosting the network from third place to first in the ratings with programs such as Laverne and Shirley and Three's Company. Though he had brought more sophisticated programming to CBS, he was credited with — or derided for — bringing to ABC what was dubbed "jiggle TV," programming that made prominent use of scantily clad women to score in the ratings including Charlie's Angels and Three's Company.

Silverman told the Television Academy that the high point of his career came at ABC in the wake of Roots.

"Roots was a risk. Who knew whether people were going to be interested? It was about slavery. I didn't know," Silverman told the Television Academy as he was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1999. "But we had the biggest ratings not only for Roots, but also for our regular primetime schedule, and daytime was number one! You know, they talk about Camelot. It just doesn't get a hell of a lot better than that."

With ABC firmly ensconced as the No. 1 network, Silverman was looking for a bigger challenge. NBC lured him with the title of president and CEO. He boldly predicted that the Peacock would be No. 1 by Christmas, but he couldn't deliver. Aside from Diff'rent Strokes, few of the shows developed under Silverman at NBC seemed to work. The network was further hurt by the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which NBC had counted on airing.

As president and CEO of the entire network, rather than just entertainment programming, Silverman had responsibilities for sports, news, radio and other areas, and he was spread thin. One of his smartest decisions was to hire a hotshot young TV executive out of Chicago — Brandon Tartikoff — as president of the network's entertainment division in 1978.

In 1981, NBC fell to its lowest ratings ever. MTM Enterprises chief Grant Tinker was recruited to replace Silverman. Tinker would preside over a remarkable rebound at NBC with Tartikoff's help.

Rather than program shows elsewhere, Silverman formed the Fred Silverman Co. and ventured into independent production in the early 1980s with the animated series Pandemonium and Meatballs and Spaghetti. With funding from MGM-TV, he moved into primetime and late-night production, serving as exec producer of the syndicated talk show Thicke of the Night, hosted by Alan Thicke. The show was a notorious disaster.

After a number of primetime misfires, Silverman and partner Dean Hargrove found their first success in 1985 with a Perry Mason movie that returned Raymond Burr to the starring role; almost 30 more Mason telepics followed. He continued with the strategy of casting an older actor in a central role in a genre drama with Matlock, starring Andy Griffith; Jake and the Fatman, with William Conrad; In the Heat of the Night, starring Carroll O'Connor; and Diagnosis Murder, featuring Dick Van Dyke. All four series ran for years. Another show from the same mold was Father Dowling Mysteries, starring Tom Bosley, which ran for 44 episodes.

In the wake of the huge success of ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2000, Silverman exec produced a revival of the (disgraced) 1950s quiz show Twenty-One for NBC.

After Diagnosis Murder ended its eight-season run in 2001, Silverman exec produced a series of telepics: Murder Among Friends (2001); A Town Without Pity and Recipe for Murder (2002), both featuring Van Dyke in his Diagnosis Murder role; Without Warning (2002); and Drive Time Murders (2006).

In 2010 Silverman appeared in the A&E documentary The Battle for Late Night. That same year, he joined Springbok Productions and helped bring its massively ambitious TV slate to achieve its full potential, making it clear that he still had the magic touch.

Born in New York City, Silverman received an undergraduate degree at Syracuse University before going on to receive a Masters in television and theater arts from Ohio State University. In his Masters thesis, he analyzed programming practices at ABC.

The son of a television repairman, Silverman aspired to a career in television from early on. After stints at WGN-TV in Chicago and New York's WPIX-TV, Silverman became, at age 25, the youngest-ever department head at CBS when he joined the Eye as head of daytime programming in 1963.

Silverman was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame in 1999. In later years, Silverman taught courses on television at USC.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine Ann Kihn, whom he married in 1971; a daughter; and a son.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in his name to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.


Springbok Response To COVID-19 Pandemic, March 12, 2020

In compliance with the latest directives by President Clinton and her administration, the CDC and the WHO, we at Springbok Productions are taking the necessary steps to flatten the curve and do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, effective immediately, all Springbok offices worldwide shall be instituting a work-at-home order from now until at least early June. All offices shall be left in the hands of skeleton crews to maintain the facilities, continue regular maintenance, and perform deep and intense disinfection to help ensure that a minimum of illness is prevalent here. In addition, we fully support the need to delay some of our projects from their intended release, most notably our and Disney's upcoming feature Mulan, in order to wait for a more opportune time to release the film. Likewise, our staged theatrical ventures for 2020, our work with Disney Theatrical Group's stage transfer of Hercules, the premiere of the Michael Jackson jukebox stage musical MJ: The Musical along with MJJ Productions and Sony's stage theatrical division Columbia Live Stage, the premiere of the Gilbert and Sullivan crossover mashup Dick Deadeye or Duty Done at Playwrights Horizons, and Paul McCartney's stage musical version of It's a Wonderful Life, all of which had been scheduled for this year, have to be postponed. Likewise, it appears that our and Disney's stage transfer of The Princess and the Frog, which has run since 2018, will be forced to close in the interim, without a grand final performance, which is surely disappointing, but our planned Australian production in Sydney is still alive and in the works.

To help maintain that it is largely business as usual, Kurt, Charlize, Jennifer and all executives will be forfeiting their salaries for the entirety of 2020, as well as all stock options scheduled to vest in 2020, and even a third of all stock options scheduled to vest in 2021. With these monies freed up, in addition to the fresh billions received in 2019 for the sales of Springbok's stake in Six Flags New Orleans and half of its stake in Autumn Deer Press, this will enable Springbok to fully protect its payroll, and prevent the need for furloughs or layoffs, or the need to file for unemployment benefits. This will also ensure that Springbok does not need to ask for loans or take on debt in order to remain liquid for the length of the crisis. We are quite confident that we will be able to ride out the storm and emerge safely on the other side.

According to best estimates, by the implementation of a national mask mandate, required hygiene, germ guards everywhere needed, and the observance of social distancing (keep six feet apart), by maintaining all of this (which has been done to some extent already since February), we as a society should be safe to return to life more or less as normal by the beginning of June. Indeed, it has been determined that restaurants, grocery stores, malls, retail outlets, theme parks, gyms, outdoor parks and playgrounds, beaches and pools will be able to continue operating safely during the next few months, especially in implementation of a robust system of testing and contact tracing and temperature checks, much as is happening in South Korea and Japan. However, because of studios exercising caution with regards to films by delaying certain projects' release dates, movie theaters worldwide have no choice but to close, as they cannot operate the next three months with no new product. Likewise, the concert and festival industry will experience staggering losses of up to $9 billion this year, as organizers and insurers simply will not feel remotely safe to go ahead for the rest of the year, feeling that without a vaccine, there is no upside. This will mainly affect road crews, who depend on tours for their paychecks, and small, independent venues like bars, clubs and theaters, for whom live performance is their lifeblood. Sports is also off the table, and to better ensure safety for our children, schools will operating with remote learning at least until January. Broadway and the West End will have to remain completely shut down until 2021, in order to best insure safety for audiences watching live theatre. And there is naturally concern about whether film and television shoots are safe because of fears about infection and how it does not seem possible to maintain social distancing.

As a result, we have been lobbying hard with Congress, the Clinton administration, the UK Parliament and Prime Minister for direct intervention in all these areas, alongside the National Association of Theatre Owners, the Director's Guild of America, the Writer's Guild of America, the Broadway League, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the National Independent Venue Association, and various other groups to help keep them alive. We are proud to say that it is successful, leading the first major incentivized arts program since the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal. The plan will involve direct payments (essentially a bailout) to cinema exhibition owners, Broadway theaters, independent venue owners and the various guilds to keep them flush with liquidity, not just for the planned three months, but in case the crisis is prolonged. The option is also open for partially-forgivable seven-year loans either as part of, replacement for, or complementary to the direct assistance. In addition to these untold billions, there is also the option to temporarily nationalize cinemas and Broadway theatres, if it is felt to be needed by the owners/operators. A major insurance war chest will be built for shoots of film and television projects to ensure a restart of work and that it is done safely and comfortably. This will all operate in addition to the massive assistance programs underway with unemployment insurance benefits, direct cash payment surpluses, and a moratorium on rent payments already underway. Furthermore, expect many of our Exploitation Records artists to use webstreams to perform "concerts from home" to entertain audiences starved for live entertainment and also serve as fundraisers for various organizations doing their part in the pandemic.

In addition, we have helped broker a new game plan for exhibition and studios, and the National Association of Theatre Owners when we inevitably return to work as usual, which will hopefully be late May/early June as currently scheduled. Given the nature of how Blockbuster Entertainment, and streaming in general, has seemed to create a predicament regarding box office for studios and theatres, as well as made many people wonder about the viability of the theatrical window even before the pandemic totally upended things and made clear change of some kind was on the horizon regardless, we decided to work in good faith to ensure that that the new normal will be far better and advantageous than what came before. (It also helps that through our ownings of Cobb Theatres and Muvico Theatres in the US, Vue Cinemas in the UK and HOYTS in Australia, we're already NATO members).

The new gameplan calls for relaunching of films newly released and already playing at the time of shutdown (Onward, Bloodshot, Emma and so on) with a full return to theatres to boost prospects, though early release for digital sale, PVOD and streaming can occur for these films in the meantime for those who can't wait. Then, with the new films that will roll out with reopening, the release strategy is different. The industry standard for an exclusive theatrical window has now been lowered from 72-90 days, down to 42-60 days. This will ensure that more people who wish to see movies, but don't want to do so immediately, will remember to see the films before they leave theatres. Of course, this is just a baseline, as demand and performance can easily push the film to be in theatres longer on a case-by-case basis, and with the basic idea that a film that makes at least $50 million in opening weekend should be in for a minimum of 31 days. Furthermore, a baseline of prints & advertising for films of all kinds, no matter the genre, length or budget, will be established, in that each film must have a minimum amount of marketing. It also calls upon studios and cinemas to be far more aggressive to ensure maximum visibility for films and better ensure box office success. While this trend has already been happening over the last few decades (thanks in part to Springbok's work in directly marketing its films and ensuring studios' marketing arms work in tandem with outside firms), it has never been put into writing until now. All of this should account for greater ticket sales, box office receipts and concessions.

However, there is also a degree of greater flexibility as well. If after three weeks, a film is underperforming and meets a list of criteria (soon to be established), a film can be pulled from theatres and released early to PVOD or streaming to better ensure a profit. Furthermore, certain films can have a three-week theatrical schedule before a digital or streaming release, if studios, exhibition and Blockbuster Entertainment or digital sales groups meet and work out a strategy in advance. Films can also still have the option of being bought by streaming and PVOD for the original studio to be "made whole" or to move to a day-and-date release (simultaneous PVOD and theatrical release), if the studio feels it is in the best interest of the project. For films released in theatres before early digital release, individual exhibitors can take single-digit slices of the proceeds to further boost their revenue for the film. The hope is that this will allow a greater expansion in the types of films that go forward and are released, a wider and more diverse range of choices. Many cinema exhibitors outside of our holdings, including Cineworld, Regal Entertainment Group (Regal Cinemas, Edwards Theatres, United Artists Theatres), AMC/Dalian Wanda Group (including AMC Dine-In Theatres and the Planet Theatres by AMC joint venture with Planet Hollywood), Cinemark (including Century Theatres and Rave Cinemas), Landmark Theatres, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, Mann Theatres, Marcus Theatres/BistroPlex, National Amusements/Showcase Cinemas/Showcase SuperLux/Cinema de Lux/Multiplex Cinemas, Pacific Theatres/Arclight Cinemas (including the historic and venerated Cinerama Dome), Harkens Theaters, Santikos Theatres, Studio Movie Grill, Cineplex, Cinemex, Cinepolis, Village Cinemas, Picturehouse, Yes Planet, Vox Cinemas, Odeon Cinemas, Kineopolis, Dendy Cinemas, Australian Theatres, and the like, will now also follow the standard we set to allow streaming releases to more readily play on their screens, overcoming much acrimony on both sides. There is also now further opening and pathways for the resurgence and usage again of four-wall distribution, particularly for Blockbuster Entertainment films. We also further helped support Blockbuster's purchase of Graumann's Egyptian Theatre to ensure a ready venue for screening of Blockbuster films, as well as restoration to allow it to be able to screen nitrate, 16 mm, 35 mm, 70 mm and digital films. This is all part of the process adhering to our beliefs that cinema, broadcast TV, cable TV and streaming can successfully and peacefully coexist in harmony, and that a rising tide lifts all boats.

We are confident that this will all help guide us through this unprecedented time and emerge safely on the other end. We're all in this together. See you later!


"Inuyasha Series Continues as Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon," by Patrick Frater, Variety, May 11, 2020

Japanese production company Sunrise is to revive the iconic Inuyasha anime franchise and deliver a series called Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon. Viz Media has come on board to handle digital streaming rights, electronic sell-through, and home video in North America and Latin American territories. Enima Studios, the anime dubbing and adaptation division of Springbok Productions, has clinched a deal to produce the English dub and to create a live action film adaptation, as it did with the original series.

Up till now, most of the Japanese film industry has been shut down as a result of the nationwide anti-coronavirus lockdown and social distancing rules. Even with work beginning to resume, no details of the production schedule or delivery date were available.

The Inuyasha franchise first started as a critically acclaimed manga series about a modern Japanese schoolgirl, Kagome Higurashi, who falls through an ancient portal and emerges in Japan's feudal era, where she meets the embittered and arrogant half-demon Inuyasha, and a series of adventures that followed. The English print version was featured regularly on The New York Times Bestsellers list throughout the 2000s. The anime adaptation, with the English dub produced by Enima Studios, aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block for five years, and became well-loved by the general public, especially as anime went mainstream. In 2014 and 2015, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox released a two-part live action film adaptation, produced by Enima Studios/Springbok, along with Gale Anne Hurd, Jerry Bruckheimer and Nicolas Cage's Saturn Films. Cage even starred in both films as the villainous demon Naraku, and both parts were massively successful with critics and at the box office.

The original creator Rumiko Takahashi returns to handle character design. The series is to be directed by Teruo Sato. Katsuyuki Sumisawa is responsible for the screenplay. Yoshihito Hishinuma is responsible for animation character design, and music is from Kaoru Wada. The animation production is by Sunrise, which has worked on many of the Mobile Suit Gundam series movies, Gintamaand Gintama: The Movie, and Tiger and Bunny. Enima Studios will produce the English dub, as well as a future live action film version. Paramount and Fox/Disney have already also signed on to reteam with them for the future film, as have Hurd and Bruckheimer. They will be joined there by Seed Productions, the relaunched production company of actor Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, and Blossom Films, the shingle of actress Nicole Kidman.

The new series focuses on half-demon twins Towa and Setsuna who are separated from each other during a forest fire. The elder wanders into a mysterious tunnel that sends her into present-day Japan, where she is found and raised.

Ten years later, the tunnel that connects the two eras reopens, allowing the two women to be reunited. But the younger one who had been left in the Feudal Era has now become a demon slayer and has lost all memory of her older sister. They are joined by the daughter of Inuyasha and Kagome, and travel between the two eras on an adventure to regain their missing past.

"The Inuyasha universe has been a true pinnacle when it comes to delighting fans of all generations and we're seeing that now, two decades later, with original Inuyasha episodes still continually airing on Adult Swim, and streaming on Blockbuster Entertainment. We're excited for fans to revisit this magical world created by the iconic Rumiko Takahashi," said Brad Woods, CMO of Viz Media in a prepared statement.

"Inuyasha has long been an absolute source of joy for us, for Kurt (Cobain), Charlize (Theron), and the rest of us. The English dub remains a critical touchstone of bringing anime to the mainstream, and the films also helped bring the story to new waves of fans. We look forward to helping continue the story and also for the film to follow," said Paula Wagner, key production head at Springbok, and executive producer on both Inuyasha films.


"Springbok, James Cameron Reorient Plans For Future, Television Projects on the Horizon," by Matt Donnelly, Variety, May 22, 2020

Springbok Productions and filmmaker James Cameron announced that they are reorienting the future of their non-Avatar projects. Last year, while commencing with principal photography on the Avatar sequel films, they released two additional films that Cameron had helped write and produce, but not direct; Alita: Battle Angel and Terminator: Dark Fate, both of which received positive reviews and were modestly successful at the box office. While they certainly did well enough to justify continuations at the box office, and the narratives of both did tease sequels, the plan has changed.

Springbok and Cameron announced plans for Terminator: Hope for the Futureand Alita, both of which are streaming series that will release on Blockbuster Entertainment in late 2021. Cameron's story bible for the original films, including his Alita script with Laeta Kalogridis will continue to be used, and he will be credited as producer, along with his company Lightstorm Entertainment, for both series, along with partner Jon Landau and Springbok founders Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd, and 20th Century Fox Television. Charles H. Eglee, one of the writers for Dark Fate, will be showrunner and executive producer for both series along with Jay Firestone, Channing Dungey and Anthony Thomopulous. Skydance Media founders David Ellison and Dana Goldberg along with Paramount Television will be producers on the Terminatorshow, Robert Rodriguez and Troublemaker Studios will join as producer for Alita.

The Terminator series will continue the narrative from Dark Fate, which was the first film in the franchise in a decade, and considered what was needed to rescue it from a past of mediocrity with everything that followed T2: Judgment Day. Natalia Reyes, who played Dani Ramos, the future leader of the human resistance, will return for the show. Original series stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will not be present in the show, as Dark Fate was intended to be the swan song for both of them. Though not confirmed, it is strongly rumored that Mackenzie Davis' augmented super-soldier Grace will return in some capacity, despite her character being killed off at the end of the film. Likewise, there are also strong rumors that Edward Furlong will return as John Connor for the series. Furlong got his start in T2, and did a voiceover-only reprising of the role, as a side figure paralyzed from the waist down for Dark Fate. While welcome, it sadly confirmed the public downfall of a promising young actor. Furlong had parlayed his start into reprising the role for the Universal Studios Florida attraction "T2: 3-D Battle Across Time" and in films like A Home of Our Own, American History X, Detroit Rock City and Animal Factory, and also appeared in the music video for Aerosmith's "Livin' On the Edge." However, Furlong self-destructed in a haze of drug addictions and domestic violence arrests, and also frequently appeared in TMZ news reports. Up before his voice-only return for Dark Fate, Furlong's credit in the industry was virtually nonexistent, as he was completely uninsurable and had to hustle to appear in direct-to-video films to survive. If Furlong does appear, what the extent of his role can be, and what a paralyzed John Connor can do is certainly debatable.

Alita original stars Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz and Jennifer Connelly will be present, as will Michelle Rodriguez, and Edward Norton will appear as the main antagonist. For both series, Eglee's role as showrunner and main writer will be augmented by several skilled and talented writers. Rene Echevarria, who worked with Eglee and Cameron in the past, will be part of both series, as will Douglas Petrie, known for writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and on the Springbok/Ryan Murphy anthology series American Horror Story, and Jessica Sharzer, another AHS alum. Cameron will be creative consultant for both series as well.

"Our decision to move the continuation of the narratives to television makes logical sense," Cameron said. "Though we could certainly go forward with additional movies, the risk-to-reward ratio shows that this is a better step. Without having to worry about exhibition data and pressure, especially in a streaming environment, to have full creative freedom to unfold the story as you see fit, and to take as much as time as needed to get it all done successfully."

This is not the first time Cameron has dived into the world of television. Back in 2000, he and Eglee created the Fox series Dark Angel, a dystopian sci-fi series starring Jessica Alba, which received rave reviews but lasted only two seasons due switching time slots in the second one and the ratings nosedived. Also notably, Cameron did not involve Lightstorm Entertainment in that series, and instead created another company, Cameron/Eglee Productions, and this ended up being the sole project by the company. In addition, this is not the first time Terminator has been used for a TV series, as Fox broadcast Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was created and overseen by Josh Friedman, another writer for Dark Fate. It also only lasted two seasons due to a sharp decline in ratings. Meanwhile, the Avatar sequels are proceeding for the first one to be released for Christmas 2021, and plans for the future of the Alienfranchise beyond the currently running Blockbuster Entertainment series Alien: Collective continue to be mulled over by Springbok, Cameron, Ridley Scott, and Disney, who inherited the IP after their purchase of the Fox assets. Springbok and Cameron/Lightstorm also have plans to make an adaptation of the novel The Informationist and a film about the bombing of Hiroshima. Rumors of a TV series for Cameron's 1994 film True Lies have also been bandied about, potentially with Springbok also being involved.

Springbok has also lined up two more additional TV projects in the pipeline, alongside Annapurna Television. Together, they emerged the winners of a multi-studio bidding war for the rights to Everything I Never Told You, the debut novel from author Celeste Ng.

The company will develop the New York Times bestseller as a limited series, following the release of Little Fires Everywhere, the Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington-starring, Springbok co-produced Blockbuster Entertainment drama based on Ng's novel of the same name.

Ng and Mary Lee of A-Major Media, a production company dedicated to championing Asian American voices in film and TV, will serve as executive producers on the limited series adaptation. Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle, Patrick Chu and Ali Krug will executive produce the project for Annapurna. Firestone, Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas will executive produce for Springbok.

UTA and Julie Barer at The Book Group brokered the deal on Ng's behalf.

Everything I Never Told You explores the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle to understand each other over a lifetime. Set in a small town in 1970s Ohio, protagonist Lydia is the adored but put-upon child of Marilyn and James Lee. When her body is found in a local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, sending them into chaos.

Published in 2014 by Penguin Books, Everything I Never Told You became a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon's #1 Best Book of 2014 and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. The title also won the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA's Alex Award and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. It has been translated into over 30 languages.

Annapurna TV and Springbok also snagged another hot property last year, in the scripted rights to the Blockbuster Entertainment documentary The Staircase. Harrison Ford is attached to star in the adaptation as novelist Michael Peterson, who was accused of murdering his wife in 2001. Peterson claimed his wife died after falling down the stairs at their home, but police suspected he bludgeoned her to death and staged the scene to look like an accident.


"MGM Signs New First-Look Production Deal With Springbok," by Brent Lang, Variety, June 9, 2020

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has closed a first look production deal with Springbok Productions, the company founded by Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd, who has also been known as the producer of Alice In Wonderland and Memento.

There have been murmurs that Springbok, or to be more accurate, Todd, was going to ally herself with MGM for months. She has a long-standing business relationship with Michael De Luca, who took over as MGM's Film Group chairman in January. The pair worked together when De Luca oversaw New Line Pictures in the 1990s, producing hits such as Boiler Room and the Austin Powers franchise. When Todd helped found Springbok and assumed the position of CEO, among the numerous skilled executive hires was De Luca, who held his chair from 2004 to 2019. They also teamed up to produce the Academy Awards in 2017 and 2018 — both shows were hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

Since taking the reins at MGM from Jonathan Glickman, De Luca has made several splashy moves. He tapped former New Regency executive Pamela Abdy to serve as MGM Film Group president and made a play to snag Springbok and Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon when Paramount got worried about the budget, though ultimately losing out to Blockbuster Entertainment to take it as a purely streaming film.

Many things have panned out, however. MGM tapped Phil Lord and Chris Miller to direct Ryan Gosling in an astronaut movie, nabbed Hamilton director Thomas Kail to oversee a remake of Fiddler on the Roof (which Springbok is also attached to produce), and acquired North American rights to the George Miller-directed Three Thousand Years of Longing with Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, and Springbok may potentially join as producers of that film. Other upcoming MGM films, produced before De Luca joined and not involving Springbok, include the upcoming James Bond adventure No Time to Die and Respectstarring Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin.

"MGM's enduring legacy as a home for great storytellers is further burnished with the addition of Springbok, and especially the addition of Jennifer to our studio family," said De Luca in a statement.

In her own statement, Todd said, "I started my career producing films for Mike, have been so thrilled and happy to have him on the Springbok board for 15 years, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him again. Kurt, Charlize, Mike, Pam and I share a deep love of film and I'm very excited to see what we can make together".

Todd has occasionally returned back to co-producing with her sister Suzanne (who is a key founder and producer for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Pearl Street Films) and their Team Todd shingle, and some extramural films on her own. Recently, she did such an extramural project when she produced The Way Back, a basketball drama that snagged some good reviews for Ben Affleck, but failed to ignite at the box office. She and Springbok are credited as producers of Showtime's City on a Hill starring Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge. Her deal was negotiated by Michael Gendler of Gendler & Kelly.


"Promised Neverland Live-Action Series in Development at Blockbuster," by Joe Otterson, Variety, June 10, 2020

The Promised Neverland could be coming to Blockbuster Entertainment as a live action series.

Variety has learned that the streamer is developing a live action English-language adaptation of the popular manga series written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu.

Meghan Malloy is set to write the script. The series will be directed and executive produced by Rodney Rothman, with Masi Oka executive producing along with Roy Lee and Miri Yoon of Vertigo, and Jay Firestone, Channing Dungey and Laverne McKinnon of Springbok Productions. Fox 21 Television Studios and Springbok's anime dubbing and adaptation division, Enima Studios, will produce. Malloy and Rothman both worked on the Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

In Promised Neverland, a group of the smartest kids at a seemingly idyllic orphanage uncover its dark truth when they break a rule to never leave the orphanage grounds. Once the truth is discovered, they begin to plan an escape to save all of the children. To date, the series has sold over 20 million copies. The English dub of the anime, made by Enima Studios, has naturally attracted a lot of attention on both network broadcast on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, as well as streaming.

Oka is an Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor, best known for his role on the hit NBC series Heroes. He also produced the 2008 Enima Studios-produced live action film adaptation of the anime series Death Note. His other current projects include a film adaptation of Mega Man as well as Attack on Titan, the latter of which, if it is made, is also expected to feature Enima Studios.

He is repped by UTA, Luber Roklin and Ziffren Brittenham.

Rothman is the credited co-writer and co-director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. He previously served as a producer or writer on films such as 22 Jump Street, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

He is repped at UTA and Ziffren Brittenham.

Malloy started her career as a development assistant at NBCUniversal and Mick Jagger's Jagged Productions before working as Jon Favreau's assistant for the films Chef and The Jungle Book. In 2015 she started working as Rothman's writer's assistant.

She is repped by Fourth Wall Management and Hansen Jacobson.


"MGM Roaring Back Under Michael De Luca With High-Profile Projects With Springbok, Ryan Gosling, Lady Gaga," by Brent Lang and Justin Kroll, Variety, June 24, 2020

Paramount was worried.

The budget for Killers of the Flower Moon, a historical epic about a conspiracy to steal oil rights from Osage Native Americans, had ballooned to $200 million. The film was set to star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro and was to be directed by Martin Scorsese and produced by Springbok Productions, but period pieces, even those with A-list talent, are dicey commercial propositions. The studio let it be known that it was interested in finding a co-financier. Along with heavy-hitters such as Blockbuster Entertainment and Universal, there was a surprising bidder in the mix — MGM. And though the studio ultimately lost out to Blockbuster on rights to the movie, MGM's hot pursuit of the Scorsese picture was a statement-making moment.

"In the industry, we certainly felt it conveyed it was a new day at MGM and we were going to stretch ourselves for certain filmmakers," says Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM's film group.

Indeed, aggression has been the hallmark of MGM since January, when De Luca took the reins at a studio that many in the movie business felt was seriously lacking in ambition. In short order, the company has landed several buzzy projects, all of them teamups with Springbok, including Fiddler on the Roof, which will be directed by Hamilton wunderkind Thomas Kail; Ridley Scott's Gucci, a salacious true-crime thriller with Lady Gaga; and Project Hail Mary, an adaptation of The Martian author Andy Weir's novel of the same name that's set to star Ryan Gosling and be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. MGM also landed a first-look deal with Springbok as well. In a sign of its newfound willingness to pay for hot properties, MGM shelled out $3 million for the rights to Project Hail Mary.

"We thought it was one of those films that would eventize itself based on the people involved," De Luca says.

Pamela Abdy, a former New Regency and Makeready executive who De Luca tapped in April to serve as motion picture group president, says that the company is committed to being filmmaker driven.

"If you look at the projects we've been announcing and securing, the one thing in common with all of them is a director at the center who has real authorship," says Abdy. "We will always go after filmmakers who have a strong point of view."

There are other commonalities to the films they've decided to back.

"Themes are really important," says De Luca. "When you look at Hail Mary, the story is about everyone needing to work together on Earth even with an alien species. That feels relevant. Fiddler is about religious persecution and family tradition and wanting a better life for your children. That feels universal."

What's made these deals more surprising isn't just that MGM is the studio that has emerged with the rights to some of the hottest projects in Hollywood. It's that it is outbidding other studios in the midst of the slow recovery from coronavirus, a time when other companies have been reluctant to spend money.

"We took an approach of trying to zig when others are zagging," says De Luca. "In a period of uncertainty, some are choosing to be more conservative. That leaves a lane open to us to be aggressive and pursue material that we think is commercial. I liken it to storing acorns for the winter."

De Luca came to prominence in the 1990s as president of production at New Line, years that saw the studio make hits that included Boogie Nights, Seven, and the Austin Powers series. In the ensuing two decades, he's had brief stints as an executive at DreamWorks and Sony, and then was an executive at Springbok for 15 years, from 2004 to 2019. He also did some extramural work producing films, including Captain Phillips, Moneyball and The Social Network. He says he was intrigued by the offer to run MGM because he believed that the studio could make the kind of movies that he once championed at New Line and Springbok.

"Big studios carry certain burdens that we don't," says De Luca. "Our business plan doesn't call for us to release tentpoles every quarter or spend all our time in franchise management."

Before De Luca assumed control, MGM had a mixed track record, especially in trying to recover from being a shell of its storied self and losing 2200 of its titles to Ted Turner, then to Warner Bros. The company had emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 and successfully got its balance sheet in order by leveraging its most durable franchises, The Hobbit and James Bond. However, its other efforts to reenergize its library of classic titles achieved only intermittent success. It scored with Creed, revitalizing the Rocky franchise in the process, but stumbled badly with a costly remake of Ben-Hur. De Luca and Abdy are developing sequels to Creed and another past hit, Legally Blonde, but they seem more focused on restocking the cupboard with fresh material than they are with searching for titles to revisit.

Of course, the rumor du jour is that De Luca has been tapped to prepare MGM for a sale to Apple, which is looking for a library to exploit and some filmmaking expertise to tap into by an expansion into production, both of which MGM and its newly minted chairman offer in abundance. De Luca plays down that suggestion.

"Pam and I," he says, "are going to make movies that add value to the studio and its library."


"Lady Chatterley's Lover To Be Revived by The Mustang director, Springbok and Disney," by Justin Kroll, Variety, June 25, 2020

Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre is in active negotiations to direct Lady Chatterley's Lover for Fox 2000 Pictures, the midbudget and drama film arm of Disney-owned 20th Century Fox led by Elizabeth Gabler.

Life of Pi scribe David Magee wrote the script.

Springbok Productions, Oscar nominee Laurence Mark and Pete Czernin and Graham Broadbent of Blueprint Pictures are producing.

Based on the classic D.H. Lawrence novel, the story revolves around the life of Lady Chatterley, a woman born to a life of wealth and privilege, who soon finds herself married to a man that she eventually falls out of love with. She engages in a torrid affair with a gamekeeper on their English estate, discovering more desire and intimacy than she thought possible.

Lawrence's risque novel has been adapted several times, including a 1981 version with Emmanuelle star Sylvia Kristel and a less-explicit 2015 TV version with Richard Madden.

Marisa Paiva and Nikki Cooper are the executive producers overseeing the project for 3000 Pictures, the side shingle started by Gabler, along with Springbok's Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Paula Wagner and Sherry Lansing.

De Clermont-Tonnerre's drama The Mustang premiered to acclaim at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She also helmed multiple episodes of the Emmy-winning The Act and most recently worked with Springbok on the FX limited series Mrs. America.

As for Gabler, Fox 2000, and 3000 Pictures, the side banner has been busy in recent months since signing their new deal with the studio acquiring sought-after titles that include Where the Crawdads Sing and Nothing to See Here. They also recently set Johan Renck to direct and executive produce the limited series Girl A. Some of these projects will be added to the Fox 2000 roster, others won't. And Fox 2000, for its part, continues to aggressively add projects to further pad out Disney's slate, including negotiating for a project to be produced by Springbok and Hugh Jackman about the failed hijacking of FedEx flight 709 by Auburn Calloway on April 7, 1994.

De Clermont-Tonnerre is repped by CAA, MGMT Entertainment and Rosalie Cimino at UBBA. Magee is repped by Lichter, Grossman, Nicholas, Adler, Feldman & Clark.


"Cate Blanchett Signs First-Look Production Deal With Springbok; Foreign Sales and Acquisitions," by Dave McNary, Variety, June 30, 2020

Cate Blanchett has signed a first-look feature film production deal for her Dirty Films production company with Springbok Productions; more specifically to be aligned with its foreign sales and acquisitions group, headed by Brad Wyman, David Glasser, Brian Oliver and Bradley Fischer. Blanchett and Fischer previously worked together on The House With a Clock in its Walls and Truth.

Dirty Films, founded by Blanchett and Andrew Upton, recently executive produced the miniseries Mrs. America for FX with Springbok. In the show, Blanchett starred as the late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. The company also co-created and executive produced the limited series Stateless, set at an immigration detention center in the Australian desert, which will launch globally on Blockbuster Entertainment in July.

Los Angeles-based producer Coco Francini, who executive produced Mrs. America, has joined Dirty Films as a partner. Francini was an associate producer of Quentin Tarantino and Springbok's The Hateful Eight, and a co-producer on Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here. She's held executive posts at Activision Blizzard Studios and Stacey Sher's Shiny Penny.

Blanchett closed a deal recently to star in director Eli Roth's movie adaptation of the video game Borderlands at Lionsgate. She will also star in James Gray's upcoming Armageddon Time (also produced by Springbok) and Adam McKay's Don't Look Up. Blanchett won Academy Awards for her performances in The Aviator and Blue Jasmine, and was nominated for Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Notes on a Scandal and I'm Not There, yet another Springbok project she starred in.

"I've known Cate and Andrew for almost 10 years now and have had the great privilege of working with Cate on two films," Fischer said. "While it is well-settled that she is among the greatest screen and stage actresses of our time, Cate also happens to have a fierce entrepreneurial vision and instinct for finding, developing, packaging and producing the kind of poignant and transportive film events that are at the heart of what all of us are building at Springbok, especially the foreign sales and acquisitions group that Brad, Brian and I are building."

Oliver received a Best Picture Academy Award nomination in 2011 for Black Swan and joined Springbok's foreign sales and acquisitions group, headed by Wyman since 2004, in 2017. The division helped secure notable foreign distribution sales for 1917 and Rocketman last year. CAA negotiated the deal on behalf of Dirty Films.


"Thomas Kail, Springbok Ink Overall Deal With 20th Century Fox TV," by Elaine Low, Variety, July 10, 2020

20th Century Fox Television has signed Hamilton and Fosse/Verdon director-producer Thomas Kail and veteran producer, and Springbok Productions cofounder and CEO Jennifer Todd to a new overall deal, through which they have created a new TV company that will develop for all platforms under Kail's Old 320 Sycamore banner.

"Jennifer and I have been looking to find a project together for years, especially one that Springbok could be part of and help co-develop fare for," said Kail. "Now, an even better thing happened: we have joined forces. This gives us the chance to find many projects to make together with ABC/Disney where Dana and her team have built an ideal landscape for us to work. And Springbok will continue to certainly be part of the process, coming on board these projects that we greenlight."

The multi-year deal kicked off in February, and covers TV projects only. Kail also directed and produced Grease Live! for Fox, and produced the upcoming documentary We Are Freestyle Love Supreme for Blockbuster Entertainment. His Broadway credits include Hamilton, In The Heights, Freestyle Love Supreme, Lombardi, and Magic/Bird; off-Broadway he directed, among other productions, Hamilton, In The Heights, Dry Powder, Tiny Beautiful Things, Kings and The Wrong Man.

Besides her Springbok work, Todd is a producer of Warner Bros. film The Way Back starring Ben Affleck. She also exec produced the 89th and 90th Oscars telecast and sits on the board of governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

"I am thrilled at the opportunity to partner with the brilliant Tommy Kail in a television company," said Todd. "The chance to work with him and bring new stories to the ABC/Disney platforms is a dream come true."

Kail and Todd will produce films under their own separate banners; Springbok has a first look deal with MGM. Kail is repped by WME, and Todd is repped by attorney Michael Gendler.

"I was worried that my quote about the great Tommy Kail might seem hyperbolic, but everything I'm about to say about him is undeniably true, starting with: he's a genius," said Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden. "Throughout our time working together, we've watched Tommy mount a masterful live television event with Grease: Live, for which he won an Emmy; then, he turned to the spectacular, multi-award winning drama, Fosse/Verdon. And, as Blockbuster subscribers experienced last weekend, Tommy's film version of his and Lin Manuel Miranda's breathtaking Hamilton is a masterpiece that will be celebrated by generations to come. Tommy's incredible degree of perfectionism, high level of specificity and brilliant creative vision runs throughout all of these great projects. Craig Hunegs, Carolyn Cassidy and I feel so lucky to be partnering with Tommy and the very talented Jen Todd and we look forward to seeing what they do together."


"Cate Blanchett's Dirty Films and Springbok Set First-Look TV Deal at FX," by Joe Otterson, Variety, July 10, 2020

Cate Blanchett and her Dirty Films production company have signed a first-look TV deal with FX Productions.

Dirty Films is headed by Blanchett along with Andrew Upton and Coco Francini. News of the deal comes after Blanchett and Francini served as executive producers on the FX limited series Mrs. America, in which Blanchett starred as Phyllis Schlafly and was also co-produced by Springbok Productions. The agreement covers all scripted and unscripted programming for FX, as well as potentially other divisions of the Disney-ABC Television Group. It also includes the provision to link arms with Springbok for projects as determined.

"Cate Blanchett is a legendary talent and it was little surprise that her first role as an Executive Producer and star in an American television program – Mrs. America – was such an overwhelming success," said Gina Balian, president of original programming for FX Entertainment. "Cate, Andrew and Coco are equally talented at crafting and producing incredible stories and we welcome this opportunity to support their future television projects under this overall agreement. And of course, our continued work with Springbok being part of it is a tremendous plus."

Mrs. America received widespread critical acclaim upon its release, holding a 95% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The series is considered a strong contender for the upcoming Emmy Awards as well.

Dirty Films is an independent film and television production company, founded by Upton and Blanchett. In 2020, LA-based producer Francini joined as a partner. The company's film credits include The Truth, Carol, Little Fish, and The Turning, which also was a co-production with Springbok. Dirty Films is also producing the upcoming Blockbuster Entertainment series Stateless.

"We are excited to continue working with John (Landgraf), Eric (Schrier), Gina and the entire brilliant team at FX," the Dirty Films partners said in a joint statement. "Through our collaboration on Mrs. America, we've experienced firsthand their enthusiasm for robust conversations, and their unwavering support for bold and ambitious entertainment."

CAA negotiated the deal on behalf of Dirty Films.


"Springbok Turns to John Hughes for Inspiration," by Dave McNary, Variety, August 17, 2020

Springbok Productions is beginning a real renaissance of the works of the late influential writer and director John Hughes in a big way, with two new projects aimed at paying homage to him.

First off, Will Smith and Kevin Hart will star in and produce a remake of the 1987 road comedy Planes, Trains & Automobiles for Paramount Pictures and Springbok.

The original Planes, Trains & Automobiles was directed by Hughes, and starred Steve Martin and the late John Candy as a pair of mismatched businessmen trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving in the face of a variety of travel disasters.

The remake will be a modern update of the original, with Smith and Hart playing characters who are forced to team up to tackle travel obstacles to get home to their loved ones.

Hart's HartBeat Productions and Smith's Westbrook Studios are developing the remake alongside Springbok. Aeysha Carr (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is set to pen the screenplay, marking her feature writing debut. Hart and Smith will produce the film alongside Springbok founders Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd; and alongside Westbrook Studios co-president and head of motion pictures Jon Mone and HartBeat's president of film and television Bryan Smiley.

Smith was most recently seen in Bad Boys for Life. He's in production on King Richard, in which he stars as the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. Hart was last seen in Jumanji: The Next Level and has completed production on the drama Fatherhood, which Sony will release in April 2021.

Carr most recently executive produced the upcoming Blockbuster Entertainment series Woke, starring Lamorne Morris and Sasheer Zamata, and set to air in September. Her recent writing credits include episodes for a number of sitcoms, including the series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, for which she also served as a supervising producer.

The other Hughes-related project Springbok is working on is infinitely more ambitious. Entitled Shermer, it will be a massive anthology series and crossover of Hughes' various films interacting together and also seeing more of what became of their lives after the movies' end, done in the vein of the similar Blockbuster Entertainment anthology series Castle Rock, involving the stories of Stephen King.

Set in the fictional Chicago suburb of Shermer, Illinois, where Hughes' films largely took place, the series will see the crossing over and further adventures of Ferris Bueller, John Bender, Andie Walsh, Del Griffith, Kevin McCallister, and other such beloved characters. The series will be overseen and created by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote and directed the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which owed a significant influence from Hughes and was at one point considered as Hughes' comeback vehicle before negotiations broke down, and who worked with Springbok penning the script for their and Disney's live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.

Joining as co-producers with Springbok are Dakota Johnson and Ro Donnelly's TeaTime Pictures, John Malkovich's Mr. Mudd, and Judd Apatow. The series will include the various characters being recast by younger actors, as well as surviving Hughes veterans like Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Matthew Broderick, Steve Martin and Daniel Stern playing new characters that interact with the familiar ones. The series also plans to attract a wide variety of celebrity guest stars, many of whom are Hughes fans, to appear in various episodes. Theron herself is confirmed to appear in an episode. Blockbuster Entertainment will release the series, with a release date yet to be given, though it has confirmed that the series will be filmed on location in the Chicagoland area.


"The Thief and the Cobbler To Be Finished By Springbok," by Dave McNary, Variety, September 1, 2020

Richard Williams' legendary unfinished animated opus, The Thief and the Cobbler, will get a new lease on life and finally be finished in accordance to the late director's original vision by Denver and Delilah Animation, the animated projects division of Springbok Productions. Sony's Screen Gems imprint will distribute the finished product in theaters, PVOD, streaming and home video.

Williams was a maverick in the field of animation, best known for his insistence on perfection, attention to detail, and also of hating being constricted by the storyboarding process. He made a name for himself creating animated shorts in Britain like The Little Island, Love Me-Love Me-Love Me and The Dermis Probe, making animated commercials, and for making title sequences for What's New Pussycat?, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Return of the Pink Panther, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the 1967 Casino Royale, and the 1971 A Christmas Carol. But Williams wanted to branch out to make a full-length feature, envisioning a film that would be known as the best animated film of all time. It was supposed to be based on the tales of Mulla Nasrudin, and be an anthology of sorts, and worked to get a business deal and financing together to begin working. However, Williams fell out with his partners, in large part because of discovering they were embezzling the funds, and lost the rights to most of the characters, save for a nameless thief. As a result, Williams reimagined the story to focus on this thief, and a simple cobbler named Tack who would become an unlikely hero, fighting to foil a scheming grand vizier, Zigzag, voiced by Vincent Price. The film would be fashioned like a silent film, except with a lot of background sound and minimal dialogue, and Tack and the Thief being completely mute. It went through several titles, including Tin Tack, The Thief That Never Gave Up and Once..., before settling on The Thief and the Cobbler. Williams would establish it by "not following the Disney route" and calling it "the first animated film with a real plot that locks together like a detective story at the end."

Williams had to hustle to find side projects to attract new animators and new funding, such as continuing his title sequences and commercial work, and a full-length film called Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure. However, the process was slow, as he kept on envisioning bigger ambitions, and revised the script and designs. A Saudi prince funded a ten-minute test sequence in 1978, and it came forward a year later, but because of missing two deadlines and budget overruns, the prince backed out of the production. Former Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, impressed after seeing the 20-minute sample reel Williams had put together, worked to help Williams secure new backers. In 1986, Jake Eberts and his Allied Filmmakers company, ponied up $10 million, and Majestic Films began promoting the film in attempt to land further sales in film markets. However, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis ended up giving the most help, as they gave Williams the job of directing the animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and helped it obtain its massive success, as well as getting two Oscar wins for himself. Williams chose to strike while the iron was hot and return with a vengeance to his opus, though potential plans of having Disney and Spielberg co-produce and distribute the film died aborning.

Williams landed a negative pickup deal with Warner Bros. and some Japanese investors for financing and distribution, and production ramped up in 1989, complete with Williams deciding to bend his rule and begin storyboarding at last, because he needed to move beyond two and a half hours of pencil tests and 20 finished minutes. However, Williams' perfectionist methods only continued, complete with firing artists that weren't doing work up to his standards in a very arbitrary manner. While much more progress was done, Williams missed the deadline Warners had set, and the threat of Disney's Aladdin taking the wind out of their sails made them worried. As part of Williams' contract, The Completion Bond Company had gotten in a clause to ensure Williams would deliver a finished film, or the completion guaranty firm would take the film and finish it themselves. When they sent producer Fred Calvert to assess the situation, and it was determined that Williams was over budget and well behind schedule, they asked him to assemble a workprint so they could see what was done and what was still needed. Unsatisfied with the rough version, Warners and the Japanese investors terminated their deal, and CBC decided to exercise the guaranty clause and fire Williams from the project. They asked Calvert to take over and complete it as quickly and cheaply as possible. This was done by cutting the runtime, refashioning it with music and more dialogue to go along with the lines Vincent Price had recorded for the villain, Zigzag, between 1967 and 1973, and going in the opposite direction from Williams' vision, by adding four songs. The film was then outsourced to other animation studios to finish it off.

Calvert finished his job in 18 months, then released it as The Princess and the Cobbler on September 23, 1993, but only in Australia and South Africa, to virtually no reception. Then Miramax Films, the company founded by the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob and then under the ownership of Disney, got the North American distribution rights, and Weinstein ordered yet more revisions, cutting it down to only 72 minutes, rewriting the dialogue and recasting the characters, complete with making Tack speak, and the Thief as well (though only as internal monologue), and having the likes of Jennifer Beals, Matthew Broderick and Jonathan Winters. This version was released as Arabian Knight on August 25, 1995, to negative reviews and box office. The home video version was delayed and released under the original title in February 1997, but is since out of print.

Roy Edward Disney, nephew of Walt, made a deal with Williams to release the original version on DVD, but rights negotiations broke down. Williams' workprint was archived by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and fanmade edits, called The Recobbled Edition, was made, combining the workprint and pencil tests and more polished animation together, to create a version more in line with Williams' vision, but it was still technically incomplete, and remains so, especially after Williams' death last year.

But now that is changing. Denver and Delilah Animation will finish the version, using the animation methods and styles in use at the time Williams labored hard on the project, to make his vision finally come to pass, which Sony will distribute. "At long last, Richard Williams' dream will come true," says Stan Kinsey, head of the division. "The closest comparison I can make is to how the music world felt when Brian Wilson finished SMiLE at long last, and released it to the world, that had long wondered what that lost masterpiece was like, and it was all they'd hoped for, and more. Now, we get to help make this come to pass as well. Best of all, we can take our time, without a deadline, and we also have the patience to ensure that the team that does it is the best it can be, and it will proceed as smoothly as possible."


"Cleopatra Epic To Reteam Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot And Patty Jenkins; Paramount and Springbok Win Wild Auction," by Mike Fleming, Jr., Deadline Hollywood, October 11, 2020

Paramount Pictures has won an auction for an epic that will have Gal Gadot wearing the crown of a real wonder woman of history. Wonder Woman helmer Patty Jenkins will direct Gadot in Cleopatra, a period biographical drama scripted by Laeta Kalogridis. This project was won in an auction that came down to Universal, Warner Bros., Blockbuster and Fox/Disney, I've heard.

The film will be produced by Atlas Entertainment's Charles Roven; Springbok Productions' founders Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd; Jenkins; Gadot and her Pilot Wave Motion Pictures partner Jaron Varsano. Kalogridis will be the exec producer alongside Sherry Lansing, Paula Wagner, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. Deal closed yesterday after Gadot — the film was her idea and generated by Pilot Wave — took part in a select number of Zoom pitches, accompanied by Jenkins, Roven and Varsano, with Kalogridis laying out the beats of an epic story that is based on the research she did after Gadot enlisted her.

Deal is more than a development pact. There is an accelerated timetable and Paramount prevailed because the studio — led by chairman/CEO Jim Gianopulos and the film division group now being headed by new leaders Michael Ireland and Daria Cercak — created an urgency to mount a big budget theatrical release film as quickly as possible. Kalogridis, whose credits include Alexander, Shutter Island, and most recently Alita: Battle Angel and the forthcoming Blockbuster Entertainment continuation series, will begin writing immediately, with Gadot, Jenkins, Roven, Theron, Todd and Varsano helping to shape a narrative they all hope might be the next film together for Gadot and Jenkins, who teamed on two Wonder Woman films. Jenkins is also a familiar face to Springbok, having first come to prominence directing the 2003 film Monster, starring Theron in an Oscar-winning turn as convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos; then directed the two-part live action adaptation of the manga/anime series Sailor Moon.

The Egyptian queen's tale has all the makings of a big female empowerment story, told by women. She was mostly played as a seductress by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 Joseph Mankiewicz-directed Cleopatra. That film cost more than any film to date and despite winning four of the nine Oscars for which it was nominated and being a big hit at the box office, Cleopatra nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. Despite that, Hollywood has continued its infatuation with the Queen of the Nile. Sony Pictures and producers Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin have for years developed an adaptation of the Stacy Schiff biography Cleopatra. Angelina Jolie was attached and Lady Gaga was later rumored for a possible coronation following her Oscar-nominated performance in A Star Is Born. The list of potential directors has included James Cameron, Denis Villenueve and David Fincher. The film has been through many rewrites, last from David Scarpa. I hear most recently that Eric Roth is working on it, meaning there might be a footrace here between Sony and Paramount to go first.

Cleopatra is the daughter of Ptolemy, ancestor of the leader of Alexander the Great's army. When Rome's ruler Julius Caesar's mentor-turned-rival Pompey fled to Egypt after a brutal war for control of the empire, Egypt became a fixation of Roman rulers. Two siblings battled for the throne of Egypt. After winning that internal struggle by appealing personally to Caesar, Cleopatra had a complicated relationship with Rome, becoming the lover of Caesar and later Marc Antony. The latter alliance would become the undoing of both Antony and Cleopatra. Both prospective films would also feature a notable focus on Cleopatra's little-commented on role as mother to her children with Caesar and Antony.

Gadot, Jenkins and Roven most recently completed the Warner Bros sequel Wonder Woman 1984, which released to rave reviews and box office back in August. It is somehow heartening to see a theatrical release studio step up for an epic project, at a time when most of these big package deals have lately been won by the streamer.

Gadot's Pilot Wave is separately developing with The Affair's Sarah Treem the series Hedy Lamarr at Blockbuster, and Polish WWII heroine Irena Sendler at Warner Bros. Both are star vehicles for the Israeli-born actress. Gadot is currently shooting Red Notice, the Rawson Marshall Thurber-directed heist film for Blockbuster, which also has her involved with a project co-produced by Springbok, and where she'll next be seen.

Roven, who produced the two Wonder Woman films, is in production on Uncharted, the Ruben Fleischer-directed action film that stars Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas for Sony, and wrapped the James Gunn-directed The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros.

Gadot is repped by WME and Jenkins by CAA, and Kalogridis by attorney Shep Rosenman.


"Springbok To Make TV films On Various American Greed Cases," by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, October 24, 2020

Springbok Productions clearly seems to be big fans of the CNBC documentary anthology series American Greed. That program, which has run since 2007, has documented the cases of many notable swindlers, grifters, con artists and Ponzi schemers that have wreaked financial havoc and stolen money from unsuspecting victims.

The company announced that they are developing various single-part TV films for both Blockbuster Entertainment and HBO regarding several notable cases, cases they say that deserve greater public consciousness, but are still have a limited crossover appeal that rules out making theatrical films or making a massive season arc about them for their preexisting true-crime anthology American Crime Story, as well not wanting to step on the toes of American Greed by making a brand new anthology series; figures who committed offenses but not considered necessarily on the par of Bernie Madoff or Elizabeth Holmes or even Jordan Belfort.

Among the criminals whose exploits are being developed for this loose umbrella include Barry Minkow, the mastermind behind the fraud regarding his carpet cleaning and restoration business ZZZZ Best in the '80s by the time he was 21, was later caught, then claimed to be a repentant sinner who positioned himself as a Christian pastor and fraudbuster; only to embezzle church monies and short stock of various companies based on false allegations, then commit insider trading on top of it. He also did all this partially to fund an independent movie based on his life, during which he starred as himself; the movie, Con Man, finally came out through digital-only sale and PVOD in March 2018, seven years after his second conviction, where it died an ignoble death. Springbok's TV film would thus show the full story of Minkow's crimes.

Other fraudsters being targeted include Scott Rothstein, the energetic Fort Lauderdale-based attorney who claimed to be selling cash settlements for victims of Jeffrey Epstein to give them immediate cash infusions, all to fund his own lifestyle to a point he was dubbed "Madoff on crack"; Rudy Kurniawan, a wine-tasting wunderkind who faked bottles of rare and prestigious vintage to sell at auctions; Kenneth Chatman, a Svengali figure who ran a fake drug treatment center and a string of "sober homes" throughout South Florida where patients would be kept strung out on their various addictions with the catch of following his tyrannical directions and allowing him access to their health insurance; Joseph Medawar, a shadowy producer claiming to be making a drama about the Department of Homeland Security but had no product; Gigapix Studios, a boiler room claiming to be an animation studio; Carissa Carpenter, a woman who claimed to have deep Hollywood pockets (including Springbok) invested in a proposed film studio in Northern California but had nothing real ever planned (a generic, 300-acre movie studio, owned by no one studio or production company, near Sacramento is about to go online, with help from Springbok, but Carpenter had no part in it); Allen Stanford, who sold fake certificates of deposits from a fake rent-a-bank he set up on Antigua; Samuel Israel III, CEO of the Bayou Hedge Funds Group, which was never successful and ended up as a Ponzi scheme (through which he showed a high life like when he rented a mansion from Donald Trump, Jr.) and attempted to fake suicide to escape; Tom Petters, who positioned himself as head of a diversified company that owned the likes of Sun Country Airlines and Polaroid, as well as diverting merchandise to Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's, was merely bilking consumers for a $3.65 billion Ponzi; and Agriprocessors, once the largest supplier of kosher meat in North America but which was done in by accounting fraud, violations of kashrut law, and labor violations such as a lack of safety standards and usage of undocumented immigrants, including underage children, as employees.


"Springbok Answers the Call of Duty: A Look Back," Kotaku, November 13, 2020

To commemorate the simultaneous release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare-Alliances and Call of Duty: Black Ops-Cold War, both of which are soft reboots/revisits of the two most popular subseries of the juggernaut FPS franchise, we look back at the history of this venerable IP, and the role that the video game division of Springbok Productions had in taking it to the next level.

Back when Steven Spielberg was making Saving Private Ryan, he noticed that his eldest child, son Max, was a big fan of the Nintendo 64 title GoldenEye 007, which has long been considered one of the most important titles in video game history. The Oscar-winning director realized there was a market for first-person shooter titles based in World War II, especially for those who enjoyed Ryan in the theaters and wanted to recapture the excitement. This led to the creation of the title Medal of Honor, with Electronic Arts, in 1999. That series became extremely successful, proving Spielberg correct. However, after the first PC-centric title, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, was released in 2002, the co-developers, 2015 Inc., disbanded, and its founders, Jason West and Vince Zampella, decided to create a new company to make their own FPS titles, independent of the supervision and notes of Spielberg. That company, Infinity Ward, then landed a publishing deal with Activision, and the resulting title, Call of Duty, became a massive success when it released in 2003, proving that West and Zampella's instincts were correct. They then hit the ground running in making a followup, Call of Duty 2, which would hit consoles in addition to PCs, in 2005, and notably also make improvements such as implementing a regenerating health system for players. At the same time, Activision made a deal with a company named Treyarch (formerly Xatrix Entertainment, then later Grey Matter Interactive) to create titles in the series as well, starting with Call of Duty 3 in 2006.

Watching all of this from a distance was Springbok Productions, the entertainment conglomerate formed by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, his wife, actress Charlize Theron, and veteran producer and company CEO Jennifer Todd. They had just established a video games division, headed by Warren Spector, best known as the director of Deus Ex and its sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War. While putting in work on their groundbreaking original RPG/adventure title Zophyre, Spector approached Activision with an offer to join in the creation of Call of Duty titles as a partner with the other companies, both of which Activision had purchased outright by this time, to help relieve pressure on the teams by assisting in development and avoiding crunch and rushing, as well as sharpening the narrative scripts to make them and the characters more fleshed out with longer cutscenes and dialogue, as well as making unlockable audio and video explaining things by finding collectibles in the campaign, each of which unlocked something, with the full picture being discovered by finding them all.

Activision was impressed by the offer, and Springbok began work with Infinity Ward on their next title, the game-changing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Spector proceeded to expanded the story bible and the main script, and the Springbok staff began to help ensure the title was on schedule. The effort paid off, and when it was released in 2007, it sold like hotcakes, earned rave reviews, and earned Game of the Year. Springbok continued work to make each title as good as possible, with many saying they became the secret weapon to keep players from finding them repetitive and cannibalizing each other. When a third company to split titles, Sledgehammer Games, entered the picture, Springbok assisted that company's work as well, changing the development schedule for each Activision-owned developer to make a game every three years instead of two.

The biggest sea change came in 2016. Springbok presented a new strategy to Activision Blizzard (so owned after the merger of Activision with the company responsible for Diablo, Warcraft/World of Warcraft and most recently Overwatch) to release two titles a year, with a main game and another that was technically an expansion pack/DLC, but did not require the main game to play and would also be available as a physical copy. Spector cited the success that Ubisoft had had in releasing Far Cry 3 and following it up with the tongue-in-cheek Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon in the same year, as well as when they released Assassin's Creed Rogue and Assassin's Creed Unity the same day for two different generations of consoles. Spector stated that with Springbok's help, they could release vastly different titles at the same time (for example launching a sequel to Call of Duty: Ghosts and the space-centric Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare both during 2016), keep to a core sub-series while simultaneously launching a new, standalone idea, and that Springbok's staff would ensure that Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer could finish their work on the deadline without crunch. Once again, Spector's argument won the publisher over, and once again, the gamble paid off handsomely.

As Call of Duty nears its 20th anniversary and begins its latest chapter with the ninth generation of consoles, marked by the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, its touch is as nimble as ever, especially with Springbok by its side.


"Springbok Lands First-Look TV Deal With HBO, HBO-Branded Content for Blockbuster Entertainment," by Will Thorne, Variety, December 1, 2020

Springbok Productions is pushing further into the TV space.

The company founded by Kurt Cobain and Charlize Theron has inked a two-year first-look deal with HBO and HBO-branded content on Blockbuster Entertainment, Variety has confirmed.

Under the deal, the company will develop TV projects for both the premium cabler and the streamer, looking to add to its TV slate, including notably adding to an unscripted television slate with the upcoming John Lurie HBO series, Painting with John, premiering January 22.

Andrew Haas, who recently joined the company, will oversee Springbok's television slate. The company was previously under a first-look at Universal Content Productions, the series of which are only now coming out.

CEO Jennifer Todd managers the outfit, alongside Cobain, Theron, a variety of skilled executives, and producing partners Beth Kono and AJ Dix. Springbok's past feature credits include Monster, for which Theron won an Oscar, the Jason Reitman-directed films Young Adult and Tully, the Rosamund Pike-led drama A Private War, the Paul Greengrass-directed Bohemian Rhapsody, and Universal and Focus Features' Atomic Blonde. Springbok's TV slate includes the likes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Code Lyoko, BoJack Horseman, Girlboss, Mindhunter, The Alienist, The Looming Tower, the company's first fully unscripted series Hyperdrive and others.

Back in 2017, Variety spoke with Theron about making the move into producing because she wanted her voice heard on behind-the-scenes decisions.

"I really think I became a producer because I love the nuance of storytelling, and even if I hadn't met Kurt, I would have have done it anyways," Theron said.

Springbok is represented by WME; Ziffren Brittenham; O'Melveny & Myers, Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman, Newman Warren Richman Rush Kaller & Gellman LLP and The Lede Company.


"Springbok Purchases Minority Stake In Nintendo," by Jill Goldsmith, Deadline Hollywood, December 14, 2020

Springbok Productions has ramped up its video game footprint by announcing that it has purchased a 10 percent minority stake in Nintendo, the video game publisher, developer and console manufacturer, and the oldest surviving such company. The stake amounts to $6.7 billion. Springbok and Nintendo also intend to spin off parts of their respective stakes to make an IPO on NASDAQ sometime in 2021 to raise over $5 billion. Nintendo already trades on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the OTC Pink Sheets.

In a statement given by Springbok's video games division head, Warren Spector, he states, "Nintendo has long been one of the leading lights in the video game industry, and they have brought joy to countless consumers for nearly 40 years. One of the most important things Nintendo has is their amazing and iconic exclusive IPs for their consoles, which represent a mark of quality, mechanics and storytelling. This special alliance will now create the next step in Nintendo-exclusive IPs and new brands, including those for mature audiences, and represent that Nintendo can easily stand on its own merits in that regard."

Longtime Nintendo developer, director and board member Shigeru Miyamoto penned a statement for the press. "Springbok Productions is one of the absolute greats of the last 20 years, especially in the world of video games. We are honored to link arms with Springbok in this manner to create exclusive content and push our works to the next evolutionary step on the ladder. The future of Nintendo is brighter than ever."

Longtime Nintendo North American head Reggie Fils-Aime also gave a statement. "Springbok represents a mark of quality unparalleled in the entertainment industry as a whole, and to see them commit to video games like never before with this deal is a heartwarming and hopeful sign for gamers everywhere. Together we will now officially unlock the true potential of both companies like never before."

Springbok first entered video games with developing the console ports of Valve Software's bestselling title Half-Life 2, and co-developing the three episodic sequels to it. Springbok then created their first original title, Zophyre, which was a massive success, as was its eventual sequel. Other Springbok game titles include Portal, the Call of Duty franchise (since 2007), the Deus Ex franchise (since 2011), the tie-in video games for Code Lyoko, Epic Mickey, Life is Strange and Alien: Isolation.

Nintendo's best-known exclusive franchises include Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Fire Emblem and Metroid.


"Springbok Announces Projects With Simpsons Creator Matt Groening," by Will Thorne, Variety, December 21, 2020

Springbok Productions announced that its animation division, Denver and Delilah Animation, will team up with Matt Groening and his Curiosity Company banner on a series of new projects.

Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, Futurama and Disenchantment, announced that his very first creation, the long-running comic strip Life In Hell, will be adapted to create an animated streaming series for Blockbuster Entertainment. The series, focusing on a pair of anthropomorphic rabbits and a gay couple, was launched in 1977 and ran until 2012. He received an offer to make an animated series in the '80s, but declined, fearing that he would lose control of the property, and created The Simpsons instead. Unlike his other three series, Life In Hell is known for having a more jaded and bitterly cynical tone in its humor, focusing on love, sex, work, death, angst, social alienation, self-loathing, and fear of inevitable doom.

"We are honored to work with Matt Groening and his fertile imagination," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said. "By offering him a deal equitable to all sides, we are happy to make this come to life and show a different side of the man than has previously been seen in animation."

There is no timetable for the series, but there is a stopgap project coming the works. Along with Drew Barrymore and her shingle Flower Films, they are creating a sequel to the 1999 animated Christmas special Olive the Other Reindeer. Groening and Barrymore collaborated on the beloved original, in which a dog named Olive, voiced by Barrymore, decides to journey to the North Pole to stand in for an ailing Rudolph on a foggy night after mishearing a radio report. The sequel will drop on Fox for Christmas 2021.

And though not directly tied to Groening, Springbok is reviving the short-lived animated series The Critic, which was created by Simpsons executive producer and showrunner Al Jean and was co-produced by Simpsons producer James L. Brooks and his Gracie Films banner. The series focused on a snobbish, elitist film critic named Jay Sherman, voiced by Jon Lovitz, who runs a TV review program, often saying of a movie "it stinks!" He manages his job while dealing with his family and social lives in New York. Despite strong reviews, the show was considered a failure in the ratings. A short-lived revival through pioneering Internet video site AtomFilms was made in 2000.


"Springbok Sells $3 Billion of LYONs, $1.5 Billion In Senior Debt, Receives $2 Billion Syndicated Bank Loan and New Credit Facility," by Brent Lang, Variety, January 21, 2021

Springbok Productions announced that it has successfully sold $3 billion worth of liquid-yield option notes (LYONs), a type of convertible bond with interest between 10-12 percent, as well as $1.5 billion in 6 percent senior debt, having secured a $2 billion syndicated bank loan from its many bank friends/associates. These same banks also built a new $1 billion credit facility for Springbok, to go along with its other facilities and revolving credit lines.

The LYONs and 6 percent senior debt are due to be paid in 2036, while the rest of the debt is much shorter-term. But Springbok CFO James W. Keyes stresses that those will be repaid early, like always.

"This infusion of debt will further help us spearhead our aggressive new phases of expansion, and will also not choke our financial health."


"Springbok Joins Forthcoming Indiana Jones Trilogy," by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, February 2, 2021

Springbok Productions has announced that it is joining as co-producers on not only the forthcoming fifth Indiana Jones film, but that an entire new trilogy is now in the works, that the fifth film, currently scheduled to be released in March 2022, will be the first salvo of.

The new trilogy will be done in the vein of legacy continuations on new characters like Creed and its sequels, which continue the story of the Rocky franchise and Rocky Balboa appears as a supporting character in, but the main thrust of the story is on Apollo Creed's son Adonis building his own career, mentored by Rocky. As a result, the new Indy trilogy will focus on Shia LaBeouf's character Mutt Williams, introduced in 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, with Indy taking on a supporting mentor role in the story.

As has been previously announced before the trilogy plans were revealed, the fifth film is being written by David Koepp, who helped write Crystal Skull as well as the first Jurassic Park, while Steven Spielberg has relinquished the director's chair and handed it to James Mangold, best known for his taking over of the Fox X-Men franchise as well as films such as Walk the Line and Ford v Ferrari. Besides LaBeouf and Harrison Ford reprising their roles, John Williams returns to score the trilogy. Springbok joins Lucasfilm Ltd., Amblin Entertainment and The Kennedy/Marshall Company as producers. Despite not being part of Lucasfilm since 2012 or involved in the story, George Lucas remains an executive producer on the trilogy, along with Spielberg. Springbok founders Kurt Cobain, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Todd join Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall as producers on the trilogy. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures will distribute the trilogy, while the original films' distributor Paramount Pictures is a financial participant.

Besides the trilogy, Springbok, Lucasfilm, Amblin and The Kennedy/Marshall Company announce that a new spinoff streaming series for Blockbuster Entertainment, showing Indy's ancestors, down the line to his father (famously portrayed by the late Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), and their experiences with notable figures and events in human history, similar to The Young Indiana Jones and its showing pre-Raiders of the Lost Ark Indy growing up and witnessing people and events in history. The series is being worked on, and has no set premiere date.

Lucasfilm is undergoing its biggest creative expansion since it was purchased by Disney 25 years ago, as its main focus has been on Star Wars during that period. (Disney did not fully distribute Crystal Skull but was a financial participant, because of a clause in Lucas and Spielberg's contract with Paramount giving them rights to the fourth film.) Besides following up the success of The Mandalorian and announcing ten other forthcoming streaming series as well as returning to films down the line, Lucasfilm has announced projects in both film and television for followups to THX 1138, Willow, Labyrinth, The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and so on. It has also announced new forthcoming projects like Children of Blood & Bone and an adaptation of the anime Yona of the Dawn, also with Springbok.


"Springbok Partners With T-Street Productions On Four Film Projects," by Dave McNary, Variety, March 5, 2021

Springbok Productions announced a partnership deal with Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman's T-Street Productions banner for four theatrical films together. Johnson, the director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Knives Out, is expected to direct at least one of the films in the deal.

The projects being developed have already been announced. First off, there is a biopic film about the career and crimes of the late David Geffen during his reign as a music and entertainment mogul. The film, called The Operator, after a 2000 expose book that Geffen sued and forced to go out of print, but ended up re-released and updated after his 2006 conviction and suicide (and became an inspiration for last year's book, The Mephistopheles of Hollywood), will come out sometime next year.

The other projects being bandied for the partnership include a live action film adaptation of the manga and anime series Fullmetal Alchemist by Springbok's Enima Studios division, a film about the WorldCom accounting scandal called Landlines, and a biopic of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC.

"Rian Johnson is one of the true rising talents in Hollywood," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd says. "From Brick to The Last Jedi to Knives Out, he has demonstrated his incredible strength as a writer, a director, and now as a producer. We fully intend to make incredible, passionate films for the multiplexes, films that are also quite cerebral and provocative. T-Street and its talent complements Springbok perfectly."

"I am quite honored to be in business with Springbok and its founders," Johnson says. "Springbok has long been one of the inspirations throughout my career, especially in the formation of T-Street. Together, we plan to collaborate on making films that critics and the general public will love."

The Springbok/T-Street deal will occur at the same time as Johnson and T-Street are working on a Knives Out sequel and a recently announced film called Satellite.


"Springbok Interested In Buying Pacific Theatres/Arclight Cinemas," Deadline Hollywood, April 13, 2021

Springbok Productions has signed a letter of intent to purchase the Pacific Theatres chain, which includes Arclight Cinemas and the famed Cinerama Dome theater, which consists of 300 screens in California.

Springbok already has exhibition interests in the small Cobb Theatres and Muvico Theatres chains in America, which only make up 65 locations each in all 50 states. It also owns UK and Europe exhibitor Vue Cinemas and Australian and New Zealand exhibitor HOYTS Cinemas. A purchase of the Pacific Theatres/Arclight Cinemas chain would not only grant them an additional 300 screens, but also effectively give them a chain better known for art house and indie fare being among its choices, though unlike Landmark Theatres, it does also play mainstream releases.

Furthermore, Springbok may be interested in bundling the different chains together into one new company, and possibly even spin off at least a portion of the stock for an IPO. Already, Springbok is in the midst of a financial roadshow for helping spin off half of its 10 percent ownership stake in Nintendo, along with half of Nintendo's own remaining 90 percent stake, for an IPO on the NASDAQ. An IPO of Springbok's cinema ownings would put it up against Regal Entertainment, AMC, Cinemark and National CineMedia in the US and Cineworld in the UK.

Springbok's cinema chains have also notably not been used to boycott non-Springbok projects, but on the other hand, have been known to play virtually any film that is released, not just mainstream fare, foreign releases, art house and indie films, but even some downright uncommercial works, like Troma films.

Springbok is also rumored, because of the recent expose on Hollywood producer Scott Rudin (with whom Springbok has done several projects and viciously denounced after the article was released), to be seeking a deal to purchase Rudin's company and its library.


"Springbok Denounces Scott Rudin In Public Statement," by Brent Lang, Variety, April 17, 2021

In a public statement today, Springbok Productions doubled down on its previous official denouncing of its sometime creative collaborator, producer Scott Rudin, who was buffeted by allegations of workplace bullying and abuse over the decades.

"In the time we've worked with Scott Rudin, we've only seen the pleasant side of him, but we have no doubt that these allegations are true," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd said. "We understand that in this business, you have to be tough, you sometimes have to raise your voice and shout in order to crack the whip and get things done, but there is a definite line that you don't cross. And Mr. Rudin has clearly trampled over it repeatedly over the decades, and we cannot in good conscience be party to it any longer. Our time with Scott Rudin is at an end, and while we remain proud of the work we did together, there is a definite taint that cannot be ignored. Scott Rudin does not have a place in Hollywood any longer."


"Springbok, Silver Lake, Clinches Deal For Pacific/Arclight," Deadline Hollywood, April 18, 2021

Springbok Productions and private equity firm Silver Lake officially clinched a deal to purchase the cinema chain Pacific Theatres, which includes Arclight Cinemas and the historic and famed Cinerama Dome. The 15 locations gives Springbok, which has some notable exhibition holdings already, another 300 screens, especially the Cinerama Dome, which is connected to the flagship Arclight Hollywood complex, home for indie premieres.

The deal is expected to close within two months, and Springbok then plans to make an IPO of their cinema holdings on the NASDAQ. Silver Lake is also expected to buy at least $300 million worth of convertible bonds in the new company.


"Springbok Buys Scott Rudin Productions, Adds Library And Employees To Organization," by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, April 25, 2021

Springbok Productions announced that it has purchased Scott Rudin Productions, the company of the newly-disgraced uber-producer, for an undisclosed sum, believed to be around $500 million. Springbok will add Rudin's library of 100 films and TV shows (including films like Flatliners 1990, First Wives Club, Ransom, Doubt, The Truman Show, Sister Act, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Team America: World Police, Revolutionary Road, Moneyball, Captain Phillips, Zoolander, Wonder Boys, I Heart Huckabees, Lady Bird, Uncut Gems and The Other Boleyn Girl) to its own expansive library, which already includes another 500 films and TV shows not originally produced in-house and take in these projects' home video, broadcast television repeat and streaming rights. Springbok will also inherit Rudin's extensive Broadway theatrical credits, including taking on Rudin's planned involvement in a forthcoming revival of The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman.

Springbok will also hire Rudin's remaining employees to add to their ranks, and is expected to turn Rudin's offices into a Springbok adjunct.

"This deal is a win-win for all parties," Springbok CEO Jennifer Todd told the press. "As Scott Rudin is held to account for his misbehavior, Springbok will protect and guard his very real and undeniable creative legacy, a true mountain of work that will endure in spite of who shepherded it. And the valuable employees of Scott Rudin Productions will be very real and important additions to Springbok's ranks, who will finally know security and a sense that their jobs are protected, and finally be treated with the respect they deserve."


"Tyler Perry And Springbok Plan Atlanta Expansion; New Development To Include Theater District, Restaurants, Retail," by Jill Goldsmith, Deadline Hollywood, June 17, 2021

Tyler Perry, Springbok Productions and T.D. Jakes got the go-ahead from local authorities Thursday to purchase over 130 acres in Atlanta including a proposed expansion of Tyler Perry Studios for an entertainment district with theaters, retail shops and restaurants.

Perry will acquire 37 acres adjacent to Tyler Perry Studios, adding to the more than 330 acres he purchased in 2015 and grew into one of the biggest production facilities in the country.

Religious leader, author and filmmaker Jakes is buying 54 acres. Springbok is purchasing the remaining 41 acres. All three purchases were approved by the Fort Mac LRA Board (McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority), which is overseeing the reuse of a 145-acre former military base site in southwest Atlanta.

Springbok's portion will include additional ancillary offices for their Atlanta-based operations (they already have a 100-acre facility on the outskirts of the city), and more live-work facilities, including apartments, cinemas and live performance theaters.

"Today is a good day. I'm grateful for the opportunity this gives Tyler Perry Studios to extend our footprint in Atlanta and create more opportunities for the people of Southwest Atlanta with restaurants, entertainment venues, and other business opportunities," Perry said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to collaborating with my friend T.D. Jakes on his separate but adjacent project and I also want to thank Governor Kemp and Mayor Bottoms for their continued efforts to make Atlanta a better place."

T.D. Jakes Real Estate Ventures develops real estate and programs centered on affordable and workforce housing for families in underserved areas.

Republican Governor Brian Kemp called the join announcements "a real shot in the arm for an important community within the state of Georgia. Significant job creation such as this will create more opportunities for hardworking Georgians and surrounding small businesses, which are the real backbone of our state's economy."

Kemp has had frequent clashes with Atlanta's Democratic mayor, but not on this. Keisha Lance Bottoms said the pact "marks another monumental chapter in the history of Fort Mac. Thank you to Tyler Perry, Springbok and Bishop TD Jakes for their vision and investment in the Southwest Atlanta community. The positive impact will be felt for generations to come."


"Springbok, Ryan Murphy, Fox/Disney Detail 'Project Blitzkrieg,'" by Brent Lang, Variety, July 25, 2021

Springbok Productions, Ryan Murphy, and the 20th Century Fox division of Disney have announced that 2022 will be the launch year for what they are calling, "Project Blitzkrieg," a yearlong campaign in TV and film to tell the story of the late, disgraced David Geffen, and his connections and effects throughout Hollywood. It is a campaign of three TV seasons and a theatrical film, all of which share the same cast members.

The year starts with the latest season of Murphy and Springbok's FX anthology series Feud, to be entitled The House of Mouse. This season will focus on the breakdown of the working relationship between former Disney CEO Michael Eisner and his onetime lieutenant, Jeffrey Katzenberg. It chart their relationship from being mentored by legendary businessman Barry Diller, to their initial jobs at the network ABC, their tenure running Paramount Pictures, and their nine-year run as the team in charge of Disney, where they engineered what came to be called the "Disney Renaissance." But in 1994, when Disney President and COO Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash, Eisner refused to name Katzenberg to the post, leading to a bitter rivalry where Katzenberg left, sued for residuals he claimed was owed him, and then founded DreamWorks with Geffen and Steven Spielberg, leading to a long period of conflict and one-upsmanship between the two companies and their CEOs.

Following that is the first of two seasons of Springbok and Murphy's American Crime Story for 2022. The first season, The Devils of Hollywood, details the sordid cabal of sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein, Bryan Singer, Kevin Spacey, the founders of Digital Entertainment Network, Gary Goddard, Lou Pearlman, Garth Ancier and David Neuman; a cabal that Geffen aided and abetted the crimes of by helping cover it up and running smear operations against other individuals to distract attention from them, in exchange for getting their loyalty.

At the same time as this, Fox will release the theatrical film The Operator, about the life and career of Geffen, a career built on continually destroying rivals and taking them out to leave himself standing. The film is written and directed by Rian Johnson, the writer and director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Knives Out, and co-produced by Johnson's T-Street Productions.

Lastly, the second ACS season, The Talented Mr. Epstein, will cover the sordid crimes and antics of billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, who had considerable ties to Geffen and the cabal.

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