Despite the whole Grace Of Monaco controversy that has overwhelmed early coverage of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, The Weinstein Company showed off an impressive slate of their other films tonight. Harvey Weinstein hosted as usual and brought up stars Naomi Watts who co-stars with Bill Murray in the upcoming (and very funny, based on the footage shown) St. Vincent. And also Ryan Reynolds who is co-starring in Woman In Gold, a 2015 title.
He also gave a solo spot to debuting director Ned Benson whose The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby premieres in Cannes on Saturday night as a single film. It will be released that way in September after being picked up as “a work in progress” by TWC at last September’s Toronto Film Festival where it was actually shown as two different movies, each from the point of view of one of the main characters played by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. All three versions – Him, Her and Them – will be seen in Cannes during the festival, but it’s the new combined and streamlined Them that will get the most commercial play and, in my opinion, real Oscar consideration. In fact, it is one of TWC’s strongest Academy Award prospects and highlights remarkably fine performances across the boar, especially Chastain, McAvoy and William Hurt, and marks the emergence of a real talent in Benson.
Among the other highlights of the presentation were early looks at other award hopefuls including the aforementioned St. Vincent, which seems to sport a classic Murray turn along with the uber hot Melissa McCarthy and Watts. Also the drama Suite Francaise starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Michelle Williams among others, and the intriguing new take on Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and a stunningly photographed Marion Cotillard. There also was footage from Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and a great trailer from Christmas Day release, Big Eyes, the Tim Burton-directed film starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. It was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karasewski who previously collaborated with Burton on the brilliant Ed Wood. I have high hopes for this one based on the footage seen and so obviously does Weinstein, at least considering the release date. I moderated a discussion last year at Cannes with Burton and Waltz before they started shooting the film. Another holiday picture, Paddington, a family flick based on the famous stuffed bear left at London’s Paddington Station would not on the surface seem to have Oscar written all over it, BUT after seeing an absolutely riotous and extremely clever presentation tonight I think it could fall somewhere in the vicinity between Ted and Babe. The latter nailed a Best Picture nomination and this one from Harry Potter and Gravity producer David Heyman looks like a real gem, and perhaps a major year-end surprise. At any rate it should be hugely commercial if the rest of the footage lives up to the stuff shown here at the Majestic Hotel tonight.
There were also trailers shown from the company’s summer lineup including The Giver, which looks like another attempt to crack the YA novel market; Sin City: A Dame To Kill For; the animated Underdogs ; and the only promising awards contender of the bunch, Begin Again with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. It comes from Once director John Carney and won raves when it first played the Toronto Film Festival under the title Can A Song Save Your Life?
The reel also highlighted some future projects including the boxing film Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Antoine Fuqua, Tulip Fever and the aforementioned Woman In Gold. Weinstein thanked his partners, distributors around the world, even the press. He also pointed out Worldview and their head Christopher Woodrow (who was in the crowd), with whom they have forged an alliance.
Before Weinstein himself got onstage, COO David Glasser introduced Hawk Koch, former Academy president and current co-president of the Producers Guild, who made an announcement about something he and another Weinstein partner, Wanda, are involved in promoting. Koch revealed that former New York Film Society and NY Film Festival head Rose Kuo would become CEO of the Qingdao International Film Festival in China, launching in 2017. Koch mentioned that Weinstein was with him in China when the Wanda group brought several members of the industry including the Academy for the groundbreaking of The Oriental Movie Industrial Park in Qingdao last September and even speculated that he bets TWC and Wanda will be doing co-productions in the future. Kuo took a bow in the audience.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.