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Monday, March 3, 2003

CROSSGEN'S TV/MOVIE SLATE

By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Branded Entertainment producer Michael Uslan unveiled 11 television and movie projects based on CrossGen Comics characters at a special MegaCon panel on Sunday.

Uslan, who was hired by CrossGen president and CEO Mark Alessi last year, continually emphasized that in all of the CrossGen deals, CrossGen creators will have input into projects. "We're trying to re-invent the wheel on how comic-book movies are done," Uslan said.

Following is a rundown of the current CrossGen projects and where they stand.

WAY OF THE RAT

A live-action film is set up at DreamWorks, with Chuck Russell writing and directing, with Frank Daramond producing.

"This is going to be the first CrossGen project I believe will go into production," Uslan said.

Russell, whose last movie was The Scorpion King, couldn't make MegaCon because of an injury, but sent along a video message for the panel. For an edited transcription of Russell's comments and plans, CLICK HERE.

Russell has finished the screenplay and was expected to submit it to the studio on Monday.

"It is only when the screenplay is done and approved and everybody is happy will the process begin regarding casting," Uslan said. "That's something the studio will be an important part of, Chuck will be an essential part of, Frank Daranont will be an important of, and everyone will have a chance to put in their two cents in the process."

Uslan said he expects Way of the Rat to be shot in the Los Angeles area.

SCION

Russell will make this his next movie after Way of the Rat, Uslan said. CrossGen posted several pieces of pre-production artwork for its projects, including the above image for Scion.

CRUX

Said Uslan: "As part of CrossGen's continuing and expanding relationship with Chuck Russell, Chuck is going to make his first foray into television and he is going to co-writing a pilot and plans to direct a pilot based on Crux."

Plans are for Crux comics writer Chuck Dixon to co-write the pilot.

ROUTE 666

This film is set up with Robert Zemeckis and DreamWorks.

"You will be hearing very, very shortly an announcement coming from Bob Zemeckis, Image Movers and DreamWorks that will be announce a major screenwriter who is going to be writing this feature film," Uslan said. "This screenwriter is Bob's first choice and turned down some other plum assignments in order to write Route 666.

"I'm not going to get into that right now and reveal the name. I want to save it for Bob and Image Movers and DreamWorks. But you'll be hearing about that very shortly."

SIGIL

Originally intended as a television series from Threshold Entertainment, Sigil is now being developed as a live-action feature film.

MYSTIC

Originally intended as a television series developed by Wes Craven, Sigil is now being developed as a live-action feature film.

"As the creative people have gotten involved in the material with the people from CrossGen on Sigil and on Mystic, in both cases, they've decided it's too rich to go to TV," Uslan said.

MERIDIAN

Uslan confirmed trade reports that Bob Gale, best known from the Back to the Future movies, is writing the CGI-animated feature film.

"Bob has had a creative breakthrough on Meridian and on this script, thanks largely to the CrossGen team on Meridian," Uslan said.

Uslan said that Gale's involvement makes Meridian stand out in a growing pool of CGI-animated films in development. "A lot of people will be seriously interested with this level of talent attached," Uslan said.

THE CROSSOVERS

CrossGen is in final negotiations for a live-action, prime-time television series with Davis Entertainment.

"With The Crossovers, it is the only comic book in the longest time that made me laugh out loud," Uslan said. "The sensibilities are wonderful, and there is such talent in this comic book that it instantly appealed to people in Hollywood who are looking for some new kinds of thing to bring to TV."

Uslan said an announcement will be made soon on a show-runner for The Crossovers.

THE FIRST

CrossGen is in final negotiations with New Line Television to develop and produce a live-action TV series.

"This is complicated," Uslan said, drawing laughs from the crowd. "Those of you that read The First realize that there is such continuity stitched into that book with the entire CrossGen Universe, that it was really important that the creative discussions go really, really cleverly and well with the CrossGen creative team involved."

Uslan said the project is being moved along in a way appealing to first-time viewers as well as comics fans. Pre-production art (shown above) gives The First a new look.

"We are moving them out of Spandex," Uslan said. "The approach we are taking is one that I can best sum up as 'The West Wing of the Gods,' involving political intrigue of the two houses. The characters are still there, but in contemporary dress, involved with man and gods. And it's going to be unique, it's going to be wonderful and I think it's going to attract a major, major show runner."

BRATH

CrossGen is in final negotiations with Tom Lassally and his Giant Robot Entertainment.

"Tom also has a talent management company and represents some very important screenwriters," Uslan said. "Very, very shortly - which in Hollywood terms come be forever - but I'll call it in the next 30-60 days you'll be hearing an announcement on who the screenwriter is on Brath."

NEGATION

Former Warner Bros. studio head Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing.

"Lorenzo describes Negation as another Matrix," Uslan said. "We are very, very pleased that this is going with first-rate, top-notch attention and when you hear by springtime who the major screenwriter is going to be, there will be lots of smiles on lots of peoples' faces.

Uslan said he expect Negation to be a "very, very big picture."

"Sometimes you have a property that can only be done by thinking big," Uslan said. "And when you think big, I do not mean financially you need to spend $200 million as the only way to execute something properly.

"What I mean is that it's big in scope, but is a very, very personal story. And like all the CrossGen books, the characters are really what drives it."

MORE DETAILS, OTHER PROPERTIES

* "A lot of major announcements will only come from the studios and companies who become involved in these projects," Uslan said. "We anticipate that by the time San Diego rolls around this year, we are going to have an entire new group of CrossGen movie, TV and animation announcements to present at that time."

Uslan hinted those projects might include Sojourn, Ruse and The Path.

* Uslan said that all of the CrossGen properties are potential franchises.

"Comic books and franchises are one and the same as far as Hollywood is concerned," Uslan said. "They learned their lesson well.

"When you say franchise, that means long-lasting, something that can really spread its wings as a property. So, yes, that includes videogames. Yes, that includes merchandising. Yes, it definitely includes sequels and potential spin-offs into animation or television. Things that will grow the life and prolong the life of the brand."

* Uslan said that the properties will stand as their own entities in other media.

"The main thing regarding the translation into television series, for example, is that we cannot afford to get bogged down into the continuity details," Uslan said. "I think, personally, is that's one of the things that hurt Birds of Prey. I just found that unless I read every issue of the comic book, I couldn't follow the TV series. That's just me and I could be wrong.

"So you want to have something that's accessible to the general public."

* All of the television projects will be live-action; none is committed to a network yet.

* Uslan said he would be surprised if CrossGen personnel were not involved in storyboarding aspects of the productions.

* Sigils in the productions? "Each of the creative people have their own ideas as to what do to with the Sigil, how to make the Sigil work, whether or not to use the Sigil," Uslan said. "Trying not to tie it into the big picture, again trying to keep each project independent. These are creative differences that have not yet ultimately to be made.

"With Way of the Rat, it does not figure strongly in any sense."



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