And we’re off… I received emails and calls from a couple of recently inducted Academy Award voters who reported that the first two screeners of the season arrived in their mailboxes Wednesday from Sony Pictures Classics. The studio beat the competition by sending out the Australian crime thriller Animal Kingdom and the multi-story drama Mother And Child to all of the nearly 6,000 members. It’s a repeat of a familiar strategy employed by SPC in the past when they were first out in 2008 with Frozen River and in 2005 with Junebug. These small earlier-in-the-year releases clearly benefitted from separating themselves from the glut of November/December arrivals – and in the case of Frozen River landed Best Actress (Melissa Leo) and Best Original Screenplay nominations while the little-heralded Junebug pulled off a supporting actress nod for Amy Adams.
With Animal Kingdom trying to stay alive at the box office since its August 13th release, SPC co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard recently told me they plan to aggressively go after a supporting actress nomination for the acclaimed performance of Jacki Weaver, whose dynamic turn in the film would probably be a slam dunk if it could generate any Oscar heat. It’s exactly the kind of gritty character role that actors love to reward. The early screener gambit is a way to start.
As for Rodrigo Garcia’s heartfelt SPC film Mother And Child, which seemed to open and close rather quickly in May, its lower profile makes it a long shot for any nominations, but at the very least the screener’s Academy exposure certainly can’t hurt Annette Bening who is terrific in a supporting role that will only help her gain added traction among the actors’ peer group for her more likely nomination as lead actress in Focus Features’ The Kids Are All Right.
Bening, with husband Warren Beatty sat at the Academy’s table at Monday’s 36th annual Southern California Chapter MS Society Dinner of Champions held at the Hyatt Century Plaza and chaired for the 18th consecutive year by Academy President Tom Sherak, whose daughter Melissa suffers from the disease. He has been a tireless crusader in trying to find a cure by helping to raise $40+ million through this event over the years. Universal Co-Chairman Adam Fogelson was honored with the Dinner Of Champions award this time and the entire studio seemingly turned out to support him from Ron Meyer on down. If you’re wondering about Bening’s Academy connection, she serves on the Board Of Governors representing the actors branch and was also recently elected Secretary. With The Kids Are All Right in contention, it’s probably safe to say she will be hitting this same hotel ballroom and others a few times before the season is finished.
This week, both Disney and Fox trotted out special presentations of their holiday season 3D visual effects extravaganzas (and Oscar hopefuls in that category) with selected footage from the Mouse House’s Tron: Legacy shown on Wednesday in Burbank (along with the work-in-progress animation entry, Tangled) accompanied by an intro from Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross. On Tuesday on the other side of town, Twentieth Century Fox threw a press cocktail party to unveil 30 minutes of its December 10th release, The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader with commentary in-between scenes from director Michael Apted. The studio had done the same dog and pony show in New York the night before. Of course, this is the franchise Disney let go after releasing the first two Narnias: The big hit The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and the not-a-big-hit Prince Caspian. Elizabeth Gabler told the crowd she tried to get rights to Narnia 7 years ago but lost them to Walden Media. So Fox is pretty hyped about finally getting a chance to team with Walden and release this one. Producer Mark Johnson told me he thinks people are “really going to be surprised” by this edition and praised his new director who took over from Andrew Adamson, helmer of the first two chapters. Apted says the 2D version will be ready in about 3 weeks with the 3D’er in about a month and a half.
Chris Ball, Newmarket president and co-founder, will leave to form Wrekin Hill Entertainment, a new specialty film production and distribution label. Ball will continue his association with Newmarket’s owner, Exclusive Media Group, getting the new shingle started by releasing the … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: I hear that MTV’s president of programming Tony DiSanto and his top lieutenant, SVP series development Liz Gateley, will be leaving the network to form a production company that will focus on film as well as scripted and unscripted television. I hear Ben Silverman’s Electus, backed by Barry Diller’s IAC, will own a stake in the new company which has already lined up a number of commitments, including some from MTV. Meanwhile, former WB entertainment president David Janollari, who joined MTV in January as EVP scripted development, will most likely be elevated to a top programming position at the channel. Janollari, who may not inherit DiSanto’s president of programming title, would probably oversee series but not specials, news and events. I hear Janollari has been offered the job and has until tomorrow to accept, which he is expected to do. DiSanto and Gateley are expected to stay through the end of the year to help with the transition. Read More »
Kelsey Grammer, the 5-time Emmy winner and Tony nominee, is moving from CAA to WME where he’ll be repped by the same half-dozen agent team who handle Tyler Perry. Grammer has a … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: George Clooney is close to finding his star for Farragut North. I’m told he’s negotiating with Ryan Gosling to play the lead role of a young communications director who works for a fast rising presidential candidate. During the course … Read More »
Men in Black 3 is casting up. I’m told that Emma Thompson will be taking a lead role of Oh, the head of MIB. She’ll join Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin in the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed film for Sony Pictures Entertainment. She’s negotiating. Principal photography begins in mid-November.
EXCLUSIVE: Lifetime has handed out a pilot order to Meet Jane, a drama from writer Andi Bushell and executive turned producer Mark Pedowitz. This is the first pilot order for Pedowitz, who segued into producing early this year with a … Read More »
Oxygen Media has ordered a new docu-series starring socialite and tabloid fixture Paris Hilton from veteran reality producer Arthur Smith (Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares). Here is the show’s official description: “With Hollywood on one side and real life on the other, this series follows Paris and four important women in … Read More »
After a bidding war, Fox has handed out a put pilot commitment to Connected, a single-camera family comedy from from American Dad! executive producer Nahnatchka Khan and documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler. Khan will write and executive produce the project, an … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Writer Sascha Penn has landed 2 premium script deals: one at Fox for Unknown, a drama with Brett Ratner attached to executive produce, and one at the CW for Confessions of a Back-Up Dancer with Marcos Siega attached to … Read More »
Paramount has restructured its Licensing and Consumer Products division. They’ve laid off 53 people worldwide and will save $10 million annually. Here is the memo just issued:
To: Paramount Employees
From: Frederick Huntsberry and Rob Moore
Date: Sept. 30, 2010
… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Will Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment and The Proposal writer Pete Chiarelli are behind a series adaptation of the hit 2005 romantic comedy Hitch, which has several networks bidding on it. Chiarelli will pen the series project, described … Read More »
I’ve often wondered why William Fichtner isn’t a household name since his face is so recognizable and his acting is always memorable. He came over to Paradigm from Gersh. Fichtner recently wrapped filming on Summit’s Drive Angry 3D penned by … Read More »
EXCUSIVE: Denis Leary and Jim Serpico’s Apostle is branching out into management. The duo’s New York-based film and TV production company is launching Apostle Management, whose main focus will be shaping up the careers of stand-up comedians who aspire to … Read More »
Anderson Cooper has signed a deal to host a new one-hour NYC-based daily daytime strip for Warner Bros Domestic Television Distribution, set for national syndication launch in Fall 2011. This should be very successful: one week, I caught Cooper co-hosting with Kelly Ripa — and he was a natural. Cooper will continue to anchor CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ airing weeknights at 10 PM ET. And, geez, is troubled CNN relieved he’s staying even though his ratings have plummeted. Luckily, both CNN and Warner Bros TV syndication sit under the same Time Warner banner. Said Jim Walton, the president of CNN Worldwide, “I am pleased that Anderson Cooper has extended his relationship with CNN and will be with us for years to come. I am also pleased to congratulate Anderson on his new relationship with Telepictures. We think it will be good for Anderson, good for CNN and good for Time Warner.” And Cooper had this to say, “I remain as committed as ever to my program on CNN, and will be with CNN for years to come.” Here’s the news release: Read More »