Steven C. Miller is directing the project, which will now be a China-U.S. co-production.

Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista will team up with Sylvester Stallone for Escape Plan 2, the sequel to the 2013 prison-break thriller.

Steven C. Miller, who’s helmed action thrillers such as Marauders and Extraction, is directing the project, which will now be a China-U.S. co-production via Beijing-based Leomus Pictures and Emmett/Furla/Oasis. Mark Canton is also among the producers.

The pairing of Bautista and Stallone is in line with having two high-wattage action stars fight against, then team up with, each other. In the 2013 movie, Stallone, playing a prison-security specialist who finds himself in a near-impenetrable facility, partnered up with his 1980s action rival Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Plot details are being kept in solitary confinement. The $20 million production is tunneling for a spring start in Atlanta.

Bautista is a former MMA champion who segued into acting, slamming through to star status with a scene-stealing performance as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians. He reprises the role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which opens in May.

He had a turn as a villain in James Bond movie Spectre and recently wrapped a role opposite Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049. He is currently shooting Avengers: Infinity War and will then segue to Hotel Artemis, a sci-fi thriller with Jodie Foster.

Bautista is repped by Gersh, Meisner Entertainment Group and Mitchell Silberberg.

-Borys Kit (The Hollywood Reporter)

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After years of quietly assembling an eye-catching stable of sales titles, Highland Film Group is poised to step up to the major leagues with its upcoming slate.

Highland Film Group, the West Hollywood outfit run by CEO Arianne Fraser and COO Delphine Perrier, is at the European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin with plans to launch a production division this year, invest in bigger projects and build on its reputation for sourcing compelling titles. The expansion is a logical progression for a popular, hard-working team with a penchant for action fare and a knack for pulling projects together quickly and smoothly.

Titles such as The Trust starring Nicolas Cage, The Life And Death Of John Gotti with John Travolta, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, which A24 will release in March, the upcoming Terminal with Margot Robbie and Braven starring Jason Momoa have kept buyers happy and are true to the company’s roots.

“I started Highland seven years ago not really knowing what that would mean in the long term,” says Fraser, who cut her teeth in senior executive roles at First Look International and Arsenal Pictures. “Our focus was reverse-engineering content for direct-to-broadcast. We would make these dragon movies [Dawn Of The Dragonslayer and The Crown And The Dragon, to name two] for a price and sell to broadcasters all over the world.”

Fraser learned early on how to maximise spend to deliver the most efficient return on investments. “You have to back into budgets for the content that makes sense,” she notes.

Universal language

It is a strategy that still holds true at Highland and has earned the company a loyal network of partners around the world. “A lot of people gravitate towards us because we understand what the buyer wants — action films that translate into every language and are easier to sell to territories,” says Fraser.

Perrier entered the picture in 2012. Fraser met the former Paramount Vantage and Odd Lot International senior executive at a dinner party in Monaco. Six months later they met again and decided to go into business.

“We have a great partnership — a fantastic understanding of each other and we trust each other,” says Perrier. She echoes Fraser’s belief that while female executive empowerment at Highland is a source of pride it does not inform a particular mission beyond supporting quality commercial fare.
The women have moved quickly on a slate that covers most genres. They spotted the talent of Margot Robbie in The Wolf Of Wall Street and signed her up more than a year ago to noir thriller Terminal before she became a household name with Suicide Squad.

Highland boarded Final Score starring Dave Bautista and Pierce Brosnan, which, thanks to producer Marc Goldberg at Signature, incorporated the partial demolition last autumn of Upton Park football stadium, the former home to English Premier League side West Ham United. Safe to say, the upcoming siege thriller is on the radar of UK filmgoers.

Mindful of the turbulence that continues to unsettle the film world, Fraser and Perrier are keen to diversify and take more control of content, not to mention a move into television. By reinvesting profits into projects, they remain deeply invested, in more than one sense of the word, in what they make.

In addition to production ambitions their goal is to move more aggressively into financing smart, appealing content. Hence the investment with Samuel Hadida’s Davis Films and Electric Shadow on The Crow Reborn, a reboot of 1994 cult classic The Crow that starred the late Brandon Lee.

The parties will finance, produce (with Ed Pressman) and distribute the film, and anticipate a production start towards the end of this year or early 2018. Highland says it will start talks with buyers at the EFM but the real push starts in Cannes once more elements have come together.

“We organically grew to a place that gave us the opportunity to become the rights holder of the source material, granting us more autonomy,” says Perrier. “We look forward to more of those opportunities.”

The Berlin sales slate includes The Last Draw Of Jack Of Hearts to star Josh Hartnett as a former black ops soldier left for dead who resurfaces to avenge a betrayal and reclaim the love of his life. Guy Moshe will direct from his own screenplay.

The project is one of several new titles in the pipeline as Highland responds to the challenges of economics, streaming giants and the draw of television with optimism and vigour. “We’re having to adjust and adapt to the realities of the markets and distribution models,” says Fraser. “But as long as we stay open-minded about what that means, there are smart ways to make movies.”

-Jeremy Kay (Screendaily)

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The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star will topline the pic from Miscellaneous Entertainment and director Eric Bress and is set to shoot in March.

Brenton Thwaites is set to lead Ghosts of War.

The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales star will topline the supernatural psychological thriller to be launched to international buyers at EFM in Berlin by the Highland Film Group.

The indie from Miscellaneous Entertainment is based on an original script by Eric Bress (The Butterfly Effect), who will also direct. Ghosts of War follows five battle-hardened American soldiers assigned to hold a French chateau near the end of World War II.

Thwaites will play Chris Goodson, a brilliant strategist plagued by battle fatigue. Miscellaneous Entertainment’s D. Todd Shepherd, Joe Simpson and Shelley Madison are producing and financing the project.

Adrian Jayasinha will executive produce. Highland will handle international sales, while CAA will shop North American rights.

-Ethan Vlessing (The Hollywood Reporter)

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EXCLUSIVE: Highland Film Group will commences talks with worldwide buyers in Berlin.

Guy Moshe wrote and will direct The Last Draw Of Jack Of Hearts, a thriller project that reunites him with Hartnett after the 2010 action fantasy Bunraku.

Hartnett will play a former black ops betrayed and left for dead during a covert operation in Africa.

When the expert solider resurfaces in Naples, he seeks revenge and resolves to win back the beautiful and mysterious love of his life.

Matthew G. Zamias and Moshe are producing with Chimera Pictures’ Pedro Tarantino, Disrupting Influence’s Glenn Kendrick Ackermann and Jason Piette and Lituanica Film’s Karolis Malinauskas.

Principal photography is set to commence in April on the thriller, one of several titles on the Highland Film Group slate that Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier bring to Berlin.

The EFM roster includes and a likely soft-launch on The Crow Reborn; three thrillers in post – Terminal starring Margot Robbie, Braven with Jason Momoa, and Final Score starring Dave Bautista and Pierce Brosnan; and Jon Avnet’s Three Christs Of Ypsilanti starring Richard Gere.

-Jeremy Kay (Screendaily)

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AChris Gorak is set to direct the sci-fi thriller Attach, based on his original script and starring Chronicle’s Alex Russell. Adam Shroeder will produce under his Adam Schroeder Entertainment banner alongside Rob Paris of Paris Film Inc.
Highland Film Group will handle international sales and launch the project to buyers at the European Film Market in Berlin next week, with UTA repping domestic rights.

Russell plays star athlete Daniel Townsend, who undergoes an experimental surgery that permanently attaches a cutting-edge bionic arm and leg to his body after he loses his own in a car accident. But when he realizes the advanced intelligent prosthetics may have a destructive mind of their own, his rehabilitation quickly transforms into a desperate fight to save himself and everyone around him.

Gorak made his directorial debut on the 2006 Sundance Film festival hit Right At Your Door, which was released by Lionsgate. In 2010, he directed Regency-Summit project The Darkest Hour starring Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella and Joel Kinnaman. Throughout his career he’s worked as both an art director and production designer for the likes of David Fincher, Steven Spielberg and the Coen brothers with credits including Taken, Fight Club, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Minority Report.

Australian actor Russell made his screen debut in 2010 with the local film Wasted On The Young. He went on to star in the Carrie remake for MGM and Screen Gems before landing a role in sci-fi thriller Chronicle for 20th Century Fox. He’s next up in Joseph Kosinski’s drama Granite Mountain starring Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin and Miles Teller; Greg McLean’s thriller Jungle co-starring Daniel Radcliffe; and Del Kathryn Barton’s Red, an experimental short film co-starring Cate Blanchett.

Russell is repped by UTA and Mosaic. Gorak is repped by UTA.

-Dianna Lodderhose (Deadline)

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