"Universal Pictures and Peter Berg will develop a drama about the 1973 kidnapping of oil heir Jean Paul Getty III. Studio has acquired screen rights to the John Pearson book “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty.” Robin Shushan has been set to write the script. She is adapting “The Contortionist’s Handbook” for GreeneStreet.
The grandson of the oil billionaire, Getty was snatched at age 16, with a $17 million ransom demanded. When the family didn’t reply fast enough to the ransom note, Getty’s captors forwarded an envelope that contained his ear, with a promise that more pieces would follow. Ultimately, the ransom was paid, Getty was found in southern Italy, and the kidnappers got away with the fortune. Berg, who is coming off “The Kingdom,” recently pacted to make a movie about the 2006 Kentucky Derby-winning racehorse Barbaro and its attempt to heal after shattering a leg in the Preakness, based on a Buzz Bissinger-penned article in Vanity Fair.
Berg is shooting “Hancock,” with Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman."
Berg is a busy guy. He's an executive producer on television series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, which he developed for tv (and also directed the pilot episode) based on his feature film version of the book. He's completing a big-budget superhero movie with Will Smoth called HANCOCK. And In addition to this new flick and the Barbaro movie, Berg is also attached to direct the Hong Kong remake THE MISSION, a gritty crime/hitman action project and a fantasy epic called BRAN MAK MORN. He's also producing a cool sounding CIA/black-ops actioner called THE LOSERS.
Berg is quite the journeyman. He made his acting start on television (21 JUMP STREET) and has had a long career of small, character-actor parts in a wide range of movies/genres. He's done everything from low-budget sci-fi (FIRE IN THE SKY); cheesey comedy (ASPEN EXTREME, THE GREAT WHITE HYPE); hard-boiled noir (THE LAST SEDUCTION, where he was damn good); and gritty cop stuff (COPLAND). He then got a big break when he landed a pivotal role on the successful hospital drama CHICAGO HOPE, aka, the other ER. Recently, he's had small roles in Michael Mann's COLLATERAL, Joe Carnahan's SMOKIN' ACES, and the upcoming LIONS FOR LAMBS for director Robert Redford. Hell, he even showed up in his own flick, THE KINGDOM, for a brief line or two.
But of late, it's been his work behind the camera that's been really impressing me. His nasty and unrelentingly dark debut film, VERY BAD THINGS, bombed during its theatrial release but has since become a big cult hit. I know I've seen it 20 times. And every time I feel dirty for watching it. It wasn't art but it showed some promise. Next up as director was the underrated action movie THE RUNDOWN, which starred The Rock, Sean William Scott, and Christopher Walken. Again, nothing revolutionary, but a step up from his first film, and a generally entertaining and funny action movie that took it's PG-13 rating to the limit. THE RUNDOWN also looked beautiful, and started to show Berg's emerging visual style. Then, he did the brilliant football movie FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, which is my favorite pig-skin drama of all time. The gritty, hand-held shooting style worked tremendously both on the field and off in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and is an obvious stylistic trait of the television show. But it was the carefully drawn characters (Berg wrote the film's screenplay) that added an extra kick to the tale of high school football that really got me. It was a sports movie that bucked some of the typical cliches of the genre and dared to really be about something more than just winning or losing. I loved the film. And now with THE KINGDOM, which new buddy Michael Mann produced, Berg has joined the big-leagues of action movie directors. It's a gripping, highly entertaining movie that also happens to have a brain as well as balls. My full review will appear later today.