Screen Gems is clear to go forward with the title Friends with Benefits for its new comedy starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, the studio confirms. Screen Gems was waiting for Paramount Pictures to drop their protest on the title — Paramount is currently in production with director Ivan Reitman on a film with the same title. (The studio did drop their complaint Thursday.) Now Friends With Benefits will begin production in July in New York and Los Angeles.
But to complicate matters, NBC is planning a Friends with Benefits sitcom as a mid-season replacement. It comes from 500 Days of Summer screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber and centers on five friends looking for love but settling for “friends with benefits” instead. The duo is executive producing along with David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers). Considering the show doesn’t yet have a concrete air date, there is no real confusion yet in the marketplace. But a heated battle may come sooner than later. An NBC spokesperson tells EW.com that the series title is locked and they are expecting the feature to change its name. Screen Gems contends that due to its production schedule, they don’t expect an issue to arise.
In Hollywood, title protests usually occur on most films, with studios competing for similar phrases and words to use in the titles of their own projects. Titles are approved once the other studios drop their protests. That usually happens once it’s determined who first registered the title with the MPAA. The project’s registration was filed back in 2003, the first to do so. Proof of intent to make the film is also required. (That includes a start date, a full cast, and a director hired on to the project.)
The Reitman film, which was originally titled F*** Buddies and was only changed to Friends with Benefits due to the obvious limitations the original title held, will now be given a third name for the marketplace. It’s currently in production with Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman and Kevin Kline. Based on a Black List script from Liz Meriwether, the R-rated comedy deals with a friendship turned sexual, but in this case, Portman’s character is calling the shots, while Kutcher is hopelessly in love with her.
In contrast, Friends with Benefits, also about a couple whose friendship turns sexual, centers on two friends who meet through business. Both are extremely tired of the dating world and agree to start sleeping together, swearing off any emotional attachment. Will Gluck (the upcoming Easy A) will direct.
Lynette Rice contributed to this report.