Universal appoints Ben Smith as president of Ludlum Entertainment’s production unit

Mumbai: ICM agent Ben Smith has been tapped by Ludlum Entertainment to become president of its newly established production entity which maintains a first look arrangement with Universal Pictures. Smith will oversee the development of projects based on the renowned author’s novels as well as original material alongside Ludlum Entertainment chairman and CEO Jeffrey Weiner. ICM, which will continue to represent the Ludlum estate with Henry Morrison, in concert with Weiner, recently closed a long-term deal with Universal that gives the studio exclusive rights to the Jason Bourne character and first look at other Ludlum novels.

"We are very pleased to be working with the Ludlum Entertainment and Ben Smith is a welcome addition to the team," said Universal Pictures president production Donna Langley.

"As a young adult the first novel I was given was The Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlum and I have been a tremendous fan of him and the genre ever since" said Smith. "This is a natural progression in my career and I am grateful and aware that this fantastic opportunity would not exist if it weren’t for the incredible work Universal has done with the Bourne series. I look forward to working alongside Weiner to help create new films from the Ludlum library as well as finding other original material that will fit within the brand."

"Smith has been instrumental in setting up every Ludlum package since the release of The Bourne Identity in 2002," said Weiner. "He has a unique understanding of the Ludlum properties and how to get them from the pages Ludlum wrote to today’s motion picture audience. I’m thrilled he agreed to head our development office and look forward to working together to bring more Ludlum and other projects to our loyal and growing fan base."

Added ICM chairman and CEO Jeffrey Berg, "We will miss Smith as an agent but this is a brilliant opportunity for him to build upon his entire agency skills and creatively supervise the film activity of one of the most popular authors on the market. This also allows us to continue in business with Smith and Weiner to help create new film franchises from Ludlum’s remarkable catalogue as well as other film projects that they intend to attract."

With the first three films in the Bourne franchise grossing a total of more than $1 billion worldwide, Universal and the Ludlum estate are working on a fourth installment. The film will again star Matt Damon and be directed by Paul Greengrass with George Nolfi writing the screenplay. Frank Marshall, Weiner and Patrick Crowley will produce the latest installment in the franchise.

Other Ludlum properties in active development include The Sigma Protocol at Universal; The Matarese Circle with Denzel Washington attached to star and David Cronenberg to direct for MGM; The Chancellor Manuscript with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star for Paramount; and The Osterman Weekend with Simon Kinberg writing and directing for Summit Entertainment.