Thursday, September 9, 2004

Warner Bros. takes on
‘Hawaii Five-O’ film

Production could start in spring
2005 if the budget is approved

Jack Lord was Steve McGarrett in TV's "Hawaii Five-O." The star of the movie version has yet to be named.

Thirty-six years after "Hawaii Five-O" debuted on CBS, Warner Bros. Pictures confirmed yesterday that it will co-produce the long-awaited feature film based on the hit series.

"After winning a highly competitive challenge for the (movie) rights, the studio will co-produce the film with George Litto (Productions)," said a Warner Bros. official who requested anonymity.

The tentatively titled "Hawaii Five-0 the Movie" "will be a gritty, realistic cop drama set in the lush tropical setting of the Hawaiian Islands," the official said.

Jeff Rubinov, Warner Bros. president of production, was "the powerful force in getting this project to Warner Bros," according to the official.

Litto, an agent for Leonard Freeman, who created the "Five-O" series, owns the rights to the title. The film, which is expected to cost about $100 million, will be executive-produced by Andria Litto, George Litto's daughter.

"Ocean's Twelve" screenwriter George Nolfi will write the story.

"Ocean's Twelve" -- also a Warner Bros. film -- stars George Clooney, who has long been rumored to be one of Litto's choices for lead character Steve McGarrett. Clooney has not spoken publicly about whether he has been offered the role. But Nolfi has "a close" personal and professional relationship with Clooney and "Ocean's Twelve" director Steven Soderbergh, a source said.

The film's star and director will not be selected until the script is completed and then approved by the studio and producers, which Litto hopes will occur this fall. If that happens on schedule, the 80-day Hawaii filming could begin late next spring for a summer 2006 release, Litto said.

"We are in discussions with a major director and have been in negotiations for some time with a major star, which will be ongoing until the script is finished," Litto said.

In earlier interviews, Litto said he could also see the McGarrett role played by Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas or Harrison Ford.

A Warner Bros. spokesman emphasized that while the project is considered "a hot property in Hollywood ... all there is now is a good idea."

After Nolfi's script has been accepted, a budget will be determined, then casting will take place, the spokesman said.

"Then the studio will determine whether the cost benefit works out in our favor," the spokesman said. "Is there a market for this film worldwide, and, if not, is there enough gross domestically to make it worth doing?

"If it comes out on the balance sheet, then we green-light the film and move forward to begin pre-production."

Roger Towne wrote the original screenplay, but Warner Bros. executives wanted to take "a different approach" that was approved by Litto.

Nolfi wrapped up a two-week Hawaii visit earlier this month after scouting locations. While here, Nolfi met with law enforcement officials on each island and visited several airports. According to sources, a major part of the film could be a statewide chase involving some neighbor islands.

Two islands certain to be locations are Oahu and the Big Island, though other islands might also be used, Litto said.

The producer said he had offers from "every studio" in Hollywood, including Dreamworks SKG and Spyglass Entertainment, to co-produce the film. Litto selected Warner Bros. after nearly five months of discussions with WB's Robinov, who initiated the partnership.

Litto, who hopes to create a franchise with "Hawaii Five-O" akin to the James Bond films, would not disclose the financial terms with Warner Bros., only saying they are "comparable to the other studios' offers."

"But there were other considerations as to how my company and the Freeman estate would have a meaningful voice in the film's creative elements," Litto said.

That's Hollywood jargon for script, director and casting approval, a source said.

Dan Lin, a Warner Bros. senior vice president of production, will oversee the "Five-O" project for the studio.

"Hawaii Five-O," the longest-running police show in the history of television -- 1968 to 1980 -- was the subject of a rights dispute between CBS and Freeman's estate. But producer Litto and Freeman's widow, Rose, prevailed in January 2000.



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