Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
When Walter Parkes and his wife and partner Laurie MacDonald read the first 40 pages of John Gatins’ script for Flight in 2006, the adult drama about a substance-abusing airline pilot piqued their interest. The dark, character-driven story hearkened back to the type of films the major studios used to make on a regular basis. Neither Parkes nor MacDonald envisioned a high-wattage actor like Denzel Washington taking on the role — not only was Washington way out of the price range of a film that needed to be made on a modest budget, their main character worked in a field with few African-American pilots. Nevertheless, once the script made its way to Washington’s agent, the late Ed Limato, the actor read it and was hooked, according to Parkes. “The excellence of a project is no longer enough to get it made: It’s a combination of the quality of the material, the quality of the people making it, and, honestly, the financial circumstance under which the movie is made,” says Parkes, who points out that Washington’s enthusiasm (and, well, severe price cut) helped push Flight to the finish line. Parkes recently spoke with AwardsLine about how it all came together.
AwardLine: Hindsight suggests that Flight was a great project to take on, but did doing a midrange-budget adult drama give you pause when it first came across your desk?
Walter Parkes: It’s been so long that the business was slightly different then. We first got involved with the project in 2006. John Gatins sent us 40 pages, the only 40 pages he’d written, which only really took us to the crash and the immediate aftermath. While it wasn’t exactly clear where the movie was going, the quality of the writing and the strength of that premise were enticing enough that we felt that, if the script was completed correctly, it would attract terrific elements. And at the end of the day, that is necessary to get a movie like that made. We’re talking 2006, before the (financial crisis) and the way it affected Hollywood. You know, there were many independent labels then — Paramount Vantage would have been a good place for this — but over the course of the development, they pretty much stopped being in business, as did many of the specialty labels of other studios. All that meant was that it was less of a sure bet that the project would get made, regardless of the quality of the script. It really put it upon us to meet certain other criteria — mainly, get really amazing people to do it for very little money. (Laughs.) Read More »
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant collaborate on their third project together, Promised Land, headlining the holiday weekend’s specialty releases and the final round of newcomers for 2012. Van Sant came in as director after Damon tapped him to spearhead the film, which is set in small town Pennsylvania. Also headed to theaters is Sony Pictures Classics‘ West Of Memphis, the latest film centered on the so-called Memphis Three who many believe were wrongly convicted of a grisly murder in a notorious miscarriage of justice. The military takes the spotlight in Allegiance with Aidan Quinn and Bow Wow, which opens via XLrator Media and Adopt Films opens its foreign-language Berlin ’12 pick-up Tabu.
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers: John Krasinski, Matt Damon, Dave Eggers (story)
Cast: Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, Hal Holbrook, Rosemarie DeWitt
Distributor: Focus Features
Focus Features came on board with Promised Land after the script was completed in partnership with Participant Media. The story moved from an Alaska mining operation backdrop to a small town in Pennsylvania, which must choose whether to allow an energy company to extract natural gas through the controversial method popularly known as “fracking.” Matt Damon originally was set to direct the film but his schedule made it impossible. He reached out to Gus Van Sant with whom he worked with on Good Will Hunting and Gerry to take on the project. Read More »
With a filmography that includes roles in some of the highest-grossing movies of all time including The Avengers, Iron Man and the Star Wars series Samuel L. Jackson clearly knows how to pick ‘em. And that is entirely intentional. His current film Django Unchained, in which he is reunited with frequent director Quentin Tarantino opened to strong grosses on Christmas Day and is already looking like another solid box office hit.
In the film he plays Stephen, the conniving house slave for Leonardo DiCaprio‘s despicable character Calvin Candie. As the manipulative slave, Jackson says he is playing perhaps the most hated negro in cinematic history. He’s fine with that. “At least he’s a memorable character. I mean Quentin writes interesting characters. I’ve been pretty despicable in most of his films. People loved Jules (Pulp Fiction) but he’s a murderer. People loved Ordell (Jackie Brown) but he’s a murderer. Stephen has an unusual take on slavery. He’s okay with it,” he says and is not worried about what African American audiences might think (Spike Lee has already chimed in to express his displeasure with the film’s depiction of slaves). “I hope he’s reviled, and people want to see him die. People enjoy him, but it’s strange. He’s a funny guy in a way, despicably funny. People laugh at Stephen and what he does, but you know they do want to see him dead.” But still slavery is a serious subject and Jackson … Read More »
Fans anxious for the Internet resurrection of All My Children by Prospect Park have a bit more to celebrate. Vincent Irizarry, who played Pine Valley’s Dr. David Hayward on the long-running ABC soap, announced on his Facebook page that he has come aboard. “Happy to share that I just signed on with Prospect Park for the All My Children reboot! … A great, big thank you to all the fans for your tenacity”. As we reported earlier this week, talks with cast and production team members of AMC and One Life To Live are continuing with an eye toward beginning production of new half-hour episodes by February in Stamford, Conn.
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor. It’s not unusual to have big names in popular music perform end-title songs for major movies. Opera singers, though, don’t generally roll that way. But nobody ever said they can’t. Which is why Alexandre Desplat, who composed the music for Rise Of The Guardians, decided to approach soprano Renée Fleming about singing “Still Dream,” which uses the melody he wrote for the picture’s main theme and lyrics by the film’s screenwriter, David Lindsay-Abaire.
“It covers two octaves,” Desplat says of the song. “The music is very orchestral; the melody, very lyrical. So it really made sense to ask Renée Fleming, who is the greatest soprano alive. And she said yes right away. It was a suggestion that could have been rejected, but it was right — though I can’t remember the last time a soprano sang an end-title song.” Read More »
Talk about a high degree of difficulty. David O. Russell, trying to find laughs in a love story where one of his Silver Linings Playbook protagonists is bipolar and fresh from a stint in a mental institution, and the other is freshly widowed with more than a few problems of her own. It was daunting enough that it held back a seasoned pro like Sydney Pollack, the late filmmaker who controlled the Matthew Quick novel along with his partner Anthony Minghella and Harvey Weinstein, Pollack couldn’t find a way to crack it, but he found the writer/director who was a perfect match for the material. Russell, who has had a number of well publicized fits of anger on movie sets himself and who raised a child with bipolar issues, connected with the subject matter in a way probably few writer/directors could. Here he explains how he pulled it off and how it would have been an inferior film if he gone 15 rounds in the Oscar-nominated The Fighter as a tune-up.
DEADLINE: Silver Linings Playbook started with Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella. How did they draft you?
RUSSELL: Well, I only spoke to Sydney. I never spoke to Anthony about it. Sydney just thought he wasn’t sure it could be pulled off. He had the obvious concerns. When you are dealing with delicate subject matter like this, and when you have moments that are so disturbing, can it be that emotionally intense and delightful? Can it be all of those things? That was the question. I kind of knew right away that I had a good shot because I had lived with some of their issues, which are inherently funny as much they are heartbreaking.
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Dead Accounts, in which Katie Holmes co-stars, is closing on January 6, nearly two months early, according to media reports. Theresa Rebeck’s drama has received mixed to negative reviews since it opened at the Music Box Theatre on November 29. It was scheduled to end on February 24. Holmes plays the role of Lorna, a Cincinnati woman whose con-man brother Jack (Norbert Leo Butz), unexpectedly returns home from New York City with a secret. Holmes made her Broadway debut in the 2008 production of All My Sons. Her other credits include the 2005 feature film Batman Begins and TV’s Dawson’s Creek.
Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained had been rumored as a surprise addition to November’s Rome Film Festival, but it never materialized on the roster. In October, fest director Marco Mueller told Reuters, “You will see Tarantino soon, here. You will see him here soon for a big surprise… You will see that Django will be stepping on the stage of the auditorium.” Fast-forward a couple of months and the fest now plans to honor Tarantino with a Lifetime Achievement Award on January 4 at a gala Django screening. (Although the 7th Rome Film Festival concluded on November 17, the honor will evidently act as an extension of that edition). Composer Ennio Morricone will present the award to Tarantino. A press release follows: Read More »
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
Although Ann Dowd has been working regularly in theater, film, and TV for more than two decades, this year marks a decided breakthrough for the actress. Her role in Magnolia Pictures’ Sundance pickup Compliance as Sandra, a malleable fast-food restaurant manager who falls victim to a prank phone call, has earned her a National Board of Review award, as well as supporting actress nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards and the Critics Choice Movie Awards—despite the fact that the film earned just $319,285 in its domestic theatrical run. She also earned the somewhat illustrious distinction of organizing her own informal grassroots Oscar campaign. Nevertheless, Dowd says making the decision was relatively easy, albeit expensive for a working-class actor. “I don’t think I don’t even needed anyone to tell me,” says Dowd, who has appeared in The Informant!, Marley and Me, and ABC’s Pan Am. “When I saw the phrase ‘Oscar-worthy performance,’ I almost fell down. Then I thought, ‘What am I waiting for?’ ” Read More »
David Letterman, who’s never been shy about his feelings about Jay Leno, gives his old rival a classic back-handed compliment in his upcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey on her OWN program Oprah’s Next Chapter. “He’s an unusual fellow. I’ve never met anyone quite like Jay,” Letterman says in the released promo clip. “And I will say, and I’m happy to say, that I think he is the funniest guy I’ve ever known. Just flat out, if you go to see him do his nightclub act, just the funniest, the smartest, a wonderful observationist and very appealing as a comic. Therefore, the fact that he is also maybe the most insecure person I have ever known — I could never reconcile that.” Ouch! Letterman’s statement on Leno was actually in response to Winfrey’s question when the duo’s rivalry began (not when Leno got the Tonight Show gig according to Letterman), so we’ll presumably find that out. The interview, which comes on the heels of fellow latetnight comedian Jimmy Kimmel bashing Leno, airs January 6. Winfrey, Letterman and Leno have a history together — the trio did the famous Late Night With David Letterman Super Bowl promo, which aired at the height of NBC’s Leno-Conan debacle of 2010. (you watch it again below)
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UPDATE: Friday PM/Saturday AM Box Office: ‘The Hobbit’ #1, ‘Django’ Neck & Neck With ‘Les Misérables’ For #2
FRIDAY 12 PM, 9TH UPDATE: This film trio should stay on top through the rest of the holidays. MGM/Warner Bros’ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made $10.1M Thursday to bring it back to #1 and its domestic cume to $189.7M. Coming off of a strong Boxing Day internationally, Thursday continued to deliver huge numbers generating an estimated $26M from 62 territories, an increase of 34% over last week. Pic continues to rank #1 in key markets and across the world, and the overseas cume to date now stands at $373M. Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth epic is approaching $563M worldwide total. Dropping from #1 to #2 is Working Title/Universal’s Les Misérables which grossed $9.1M Thursday for $39.4M domestic in its first three days of release. Musical grossed $3.8M internationally on Thursday to raise its overseas total to $32.2M. The worldwide total currently stands at $71.6M. Internationally, Les Miz is playing in Australia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Spain. Still in the #3 slot, Quentin Tarantino’s controversial R-rated Django Unchained for The Weinstein Company added $8.3M Thursday for $33.3M domestic in just 3 days. Here’s the Top Ten films based on Thursday estimates:
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (MGM/WB) Week 2 [Runs 4,100]
Tuesday $11.3M, Wednesday $11.3M, Thursday $10.1M (-11%), Cume $189.7M
2. Les Misérables (Working … Read More »
There’s exactly one week left to vote for Oscar nominations and there’s still ‘trouble in River City’.
After reporting on all the problems regarding the registration process for the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ initial foray into the perilous world of online voting for Oscars this year, and then breaking the story about paper ballots being sent automatically to any voter who didn’t register or didn’t want to attempt voting online, there still seems to be frustration on the part of a number of voters.
Since the voting period opened for nominations on December 17th (it runs thorugh January 3rd) , some disgruntled members have told me it just isn’t working very well. As my colleague Mike Fleming reported the site was even completely down early in the process. The system, which requires members to have a special password (this in addition to their regular password that gains them entrance into the Academy’s website) and a code supplied by a phone call to an appointed phone number only when they actually set out to vote, is designed specifically for the Academy by a company, Everyone Counts (the result of an 18-month search), that does the same thing for the U.S. government with clients including the Department of Defense. It’s so loaded with specific safeguards and military-level encryption methods to keep hackers and imposters out that it is causing extreme frustration for some who have tried to vote. As a result some … Read More »
It’s officially over for NBC’s Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane. The project’s creator/executive producer Bryan Fuller made the announcement earlier today on Twitter. “I tweet with a heavy heart,” he wrote. “NBC not moving forward with #MockingbirdLane. From producers and cast, thank you all for enthusiasm and support.”
This marks the end of Mockingbird Lane‘s two-year journey. The project was originally developed by NBC’s previous regime during the 2010-11 cycle. Fuller’s script was one of very few Bob Greenblatt kept in play when he took over the network in January 2011. It was redeveloped and, in November 2011, it was ordered to pilot, which was subsequently rolled to June because of difficulties with casting. The pilot landed Bryan Singer as director and eventually assembled a cast led by Jerry O’Connell as family patriarch Herman Munster, Portia de Rossi as his wife Lily, and Eddie Izzard as Grandpa. The pilot was lauded for its visual style but NBC brass felt the high-concept premise — a show about a family of “monsters” — didn’t quite work. The network unofficially passed on the pilot at the end of September but opted to air it as a Halloween special, in part to offset its high cost, said to be pushing $10 million. The special did a so-so 5.4 million total viewers and a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49 in the Friday 8 PM slot, giving Fuller and the project’s fans a glimmer … Read More »
Here’s episode 16 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. This week, Deadline Executive Editor Lieberman and host David Bloom ponder what are likely to be some of 2013′s biggest questions in the business of Big Media: Are we headed for a fundamental restructuring of the pay-TV business? Will DirecTV and Dish merge? Will Pay-TV providers declare open season on pricey and underperforming channels? Will a cabler get out of the TV programming business altogether? Will there be an Apple TV and what does it mean for Hollywood? And can Netflix corner the streaming video market or will it risk overextending itself?
Deadline Big Media Episode 16 (MP3 format)
Deadline Big Media Episode 16 (MP4A format) Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Appearing on several year-end ten best lists and nominated for 5 Golden Globes, 2 SAG and 7 Critics Choice Movie Awards, Ben Affleck’s Argo is clearly one to watch when Oscar nominations are announced on January 10th. The story, set during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, tells of a top secret CIA mission to rescue six Americans hiding out in the Canadian Embassy in Tehran by passing them off as crew members of a fake Hollywood movie production. The effort was successful and the mission was declassified in 1997 finally allowing all the key players to talk about it for the first time. Producer/Director Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the CIA operative who hatched the wild scheme. In this exclusive featurette Mendez and the six “house guests” as they were known, along with the actors who portray them, detail the extraordinary rescue and the movie version that has now earned over $100 million at the box office, with a major re-release reportedly planned by Warner Bros shortly after Oscar nominations are announced. The critically acclaimed October release ironically finds itself competing for Academy attention against another major studio film about a high profile CIA mission set in the Mideast, Sony’s Zero Dark Thirty which, though winning wide acclaim along with several Best Picture honors from critics groups and showing box office power in its initial limited release, has become a controversial political football and denounced by key Senators and the acting head of the CIA for what they claim is playing with the … Read More »
While awards voters traditionally underestimate the merits of comedians, Sacha Baron Cohen is the best possible proof that a comedic actor can possess a wider range than his dramatic counterparts. Like his idol Peter Sellers, Cohen arrests stereotypes and authority figures through his iconic personalities (flamboyant Austrian fashionista Bruno Gehard; the blunt Kazakhstan journalist Borat Sagdiyev and the fierce Middle Eastern totalitarian Admiral General Aladeen as featured in last summer’s comedy The Dictator). However, Cohen has a leg-up on Sellers in that his alter-egos brilliantly cross the line, as he throws them into real-life clashes with celebrities and politicians, often exposing their prejudices and shortcomings. Equally balancing Cohen’s outrageous laugh facets is his ability to escape into serious roles, (read his turns as Signor Adolfo Pirelli the Barber in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, the Station Inspector in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo). This holiday season Cohen continues to generate buzz in his second musical role following Sweeney Todd as the duplicitous, vivacious innkeeper cum Master of the House, Thenardier, in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables – a part which Cohen takes to another level with his own sense of humor. In 2007, Cohen received a best screenplay Oscar nomination for co-penning Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan. This year, he shares an ensemble award SAG nomination for Les Miserables as well as a National Board of Review ensemble win.
AwardsLine: How did the role of Thenardier come to you? Was this a project you always wanted to be a part of?
Sacha Baron Cohen: Actually, I only have a history with Les Mis in that when I came out of university at age 20 or 21, I went through an open audition for the chorus in Les Mis; not even one of the named roles. And there were about 300 people who were lining up outside the Palace Theater in the West End and I passed the first audition which was singing and then they had a group audition for dancing and they taught a little routine. I had no idea how to learn choreographed steps and so I just decided to freestyle and came to the actual audition. There were seven people doing perfectly choreographed steps and then me just doing some very bad breakdancing in the corner and I did not get the role. So, there is a history. Read More »
The District of Columbia police have launched an investigation into NBC News journalist David Gregory’s use of what he described as a high-capacity ammunition magazine on last week’s Meet the Press. Gregory held up the magazine as a prop during an interview with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre in the wake of the Sandy Hook school killings by a gunman who used such a magazine. DC gun laws restrict the possession of high-capacity magazines, regardless of whether the device is attached to a firearm. According to a statement from a DC police quoted by AP, NBC inquired if they could use a high capacity magazine for their segment before it aired. “NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and their request was denied,” the statement said. However, TMZ claims that NBC did get police permission. Read More »
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
Kathleen Kennedy has worked with Steven Spielberg for more than 30 years, producing box office successes and critical hits in equal measure. But she says that in all that time, one biographical topic came up consistently in their development discussions: “The subject of Lincoln was something that always fascinated both of us,” she says, noting that their current release took 13 years and multiple iterations to make it to theaters. “We were both really surprised that there hadn’t been more done in cinema (on Lincoln) over the years.” With a script from Tony Kushner, their complex—and occasionally humorous—portrayal of the 16th president’s efforts to pass the 13th amendment in the months before his assassination has already hit $100 million domestically and earned seven Golden Globe nominations. Kennedy recently spoke with AwardsLine about Lincoln’s languid path to production and her new role as president of LucasFilm.
AwardsLine: Every film has its own set of rules, but what consistently surprises you or keeps you interested when you’re starting a new project?
Kathleen Kennedy: My tastes tend to be eclectic, so if I’m working on something that’s a small budget where the challenge is in all the nuances of trying to literally get it made, that presents its own set of challenges; if I’m making a big effects-driven studio picture, then it’s really more of managing all the moving parts. For something like Lincoln, we knew that this was going to be a difficult movie to get made, even if Steven Spielberg was directing it. And as you can see on the screen, we had many different partners just in trying to get the movie financed. Read More »