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‘Lego’ Duo Pieces Together Alternate Project Slate

Everything is not awesome for the “Lego Movie” franchise now that the co-directors of the smash hit Warner Bros. film have decided against directing the planned sequels.

In-demand duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller want more time to focus on other projects but will stay on as producers of the three planned follow-up films, and as writers of “Lego 2.”

“We’re not going to be like deadbeat dads cheering from the sidelines in a creepy way, but will instead stay super involved and are setting up offices in Hollywood to make these movies,” Miller said.

Lord added, “It’s good that the next three films will each have a different voice because you don’t want them to be a copy of the original. Not returning as directors gives us time to do other stuff.”

The duo have approved the hiring of Rob Schrab, Chris McKay and Charlie Bean to direct the three sequels to the 2014 original, which made $468 million worldwide and received an Oscar nomination for its catchy theme song “Everything Is Awesome.”

Among Lord and Miller’s other projects is Sunday night Fox TV comedy series “The Last Man on Earth,” which they produce and has been renewed for a second season.

For the big screen, he and Lord are developing “23 Jump Street,” the third film in the comedy franchise – they have directed the previous two installments – as well as a movie version of ’80s TV show “The Greatest American Hero.”

Budget Odyssey

The executive producer of NBC’s new Sunday night drama series “American Odyssey” has revealed the network tried to film it on the cheap.

Location filming was done in Morocco for the show, about a stranded female American soldier trying to make her way to safety across the African desert, but not before NBC had explored less expensive options.

“I wanted sand dunes, huge mountains and authentic faces of the local African people, but NBC first suggested it should be shot in Toronto,” said Peter Horton. “When I rejected that idea, they next showed me pictures of another filming location which, if I’m not mistaken, looked an awful lot like Burbank!”

Eventually Horton, previously an actor best known for shows such as “Thirtysomething,” proved himself a forceful producer by getting his way with Morocco doubling for Mali, where the soldier, played by Anna Friel, makes her trek.

“I went to Morocco seven times in 14 months to make this show and realized we couldn’t have replicated what we needed anywhere else. It looks just great,” said Horton, speaking last week at WonderCon in Anaheim.

Altruistic Air

Emirates Airlines prides itself on giving passengers a choice of 500 films on flights out of Los Angeles International Airport, but a movie it has been supporting won’t be among them for some time.

Aviation documentary “Living in the Age of Airplanes” had its premiere at 30,000 feet last week when screened for VIPs aboard an Emirates A380 circling above Los Angeles.

Still, the movie won’t be part of the airline’s entertainment lineup until 2016.

“While I buy the films for the airline, an exclusivity deal wasn’t part of staging this premiere as it was purely an altruistic move for us to celebrate a film which shows the fun of flying,” said Emirates Vice President Patrick Brannelly.

In an ironic side note, the movie is narrated by actor and amateur pilot Harrison Ford, who was unable to attend the in-air premiere as he is still recovering from his recent Venice plane crash.

Short Takes

Annapurna Pictures, an L.A. film production and finance company behind such acclaimed films as “American Hustle” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” has named David Kaminow president of marketing. He was previously with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Miramax Films. … Warren Buffett will play himself in a cameo role in this summer’s “Entourage” movie. … Lance Bass, who shot to fame as a member of ’90s boy band NSync, is getting a special award from the Los Angeles Zoo for his work on behalf of animal causes. He will be presented with the Mankiewicz Award at the zoo’s biggest annual fundraising event, June’s Beastly Ball. … Casting studio Hollywood Casting and Film has launched an initiative allowing actors to not be physically present for auditions in Los Angeles. Instead, they can audition online by logging into the company’s website and putting themselves on film. … Century City’s Annenberg Space for Photography is partnering with KCETLink for five television specials starting with an April 14 episode of “Artbound,” focusing on leading L.A. photographers and the way they depict the city. … All proceeds from Avril Lavigne’s new single, “Fly,” will benefit the Special Olympics World Games, coming to Los Angeles in July.

Staff reporter Sandro Monetti can be reached at smonetti@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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