U.S.

Amazon Snags Huge $13 million 'Late Night' Mindy Kaling Project

Telling a women’s story and an outsider’s story wrapped into one, actress-producer Mindy Kaling has landed a lucrative $13 million deal for her Late Night comedy series. The announcement emerged from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival happening now in Park City, Utah.

The deal with Amazon makes Late Night the second-biggest acquisition, behind Fox Searchlight’s $17.5 million deal for director Nate Parker's 2016 film The Birth of a Nation, but a notc above Amazon’s $12 million dole-out for The Big Sick (2017), as Variety reported Saturday.

Most of the above deals were for global rights, added Variety, meaning Kaling can still negotiate overseas distribution for Late Night.

As star, producer and writer of her new project, Kaling, 39, has attracted major A-list star power for the satirical Late Night in two-time Academy Award winner Emma Thompson and two-time Oscar nominee John Lithgow. 

While deal speaks volumes for greater inclusion in Hollywood, Thompson emphasized that wasn't the central thrust of the series. “It’s a political piece without banging you over the head with its message,” she told Variety in an earlier interview.

Kaling has successfully worked her way into power positions in Hollywood, with her work as an actor, writer and producer on The Office and The Mindy Project. The Cambridge, Massachusetts native continues to break barriers for women and people of color, both in front of and behind the camera.

Late Night sees Thompson plays a cantankerous comic, Katherine, who reluctantly mentors Kaling – a writer – after Katherine is shamed into hiring more women and minorities.

Sound like real-life in Hollywood? Kaling has worked her multi-talented magic in the face of old-school patriarchal power in the industry. She has immersed herself in the #MeToo movement, as well, in which actresses and other business women had taken strength from one another in speaking up against powerful studio bosses, like the accused Harvey Weinstein and Leslie Moonves. Both men were fired following The New Yorker’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, then Ronan Farrow in 2017 busted wide-open the sexual allegations previously swept under the carpet in Hollywood.

Kaling told Variety that she saw Late Night as a chance to retell a familiar story of someone trying to break into the entertainment business from a fresh perspective.

“So much of this movie is about being a fan and being on the outside of the entertainment business,” Kaling said in the Variety interview. “That story has been told many, many, many times by 52-year-old white men, and I love all those movies. And as a comedy nerd I’ve always identified with them because it was the closest thing that I could identify with. There was no one like me making those kind of films.”

Kaling secured independent financing and hired Nisha Ganatra to direct Late Night after the start date for the show was delayed due to Kaling’s pregnancy and an illness in Thompson’s family. Ganatra and Kaling previously worked together on The Mindy Project, and Ganatra landed the Late Night job after giving a slideshow presentation of her own struggles breaking into show business.

“I knew all about the power of holding the door open behind you instead of slamming it shut and saying, ‘Thank God I got in,’” Ganatra said.

Megalyn Echikunwoke, Ike Barinholtz, Max Casella, Faith Logan and Hugh Dancy will also star in the series. Amazon has not yet announced a release date for Late Night.  

 

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