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‘12 Years A Slave’ Writers Win 2014 USC Scripter Award: John Ridley, Solomon Northup

By | Saturday February 8, 2014 @ 10:00pm PST

Christy Grosz is editor of AwardsLine.

ridley1Screenwriter John Ridley and the late Solomon Northup, author of 12 Years A Slave, won the 26th annual USC Libraries Scripter Award for best book-to-film adaptation. The winner was announced tonight at a black-tie gala, chaired USCScripterAward__140208174515again by Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren and held at the Doheny Memorial Library on the USC campus. Ridley was moved to tears in discussing Northup and his memoir as he accepted the award. “There’s a very special relationship that forms between the writer and the originator,” said Ridley, who was joined by several of Northup’s descendants at the ceremony. Ridley praised the novelist and spoke about how adapting the book has been a new and different experience. “The clarity with which he wrote, the evocative language…” Ridley said. “Until I read Solomon’s memoir, I didn’t know what being a writer was about.” Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Letty Aronson On Her Partnership With Big Brother Woody Allen & Their Collaboration On ‘Blue Jasmine’

By | Tuesday January 7, 2014 @ 7:34pm PST

For almost 20 years, Letty Aronson has been producing the films of her big brother, Woody Allen: She AwardsLineworries about the commercial concerns while Allen focuses on the creative. Their partnership is such a well-oiled machine that Aronson admits, “I’m so used to the way he works, it always bothers me when someone else doesn’t work that way.” Aronson got her start as a producer working with Jean Doumanian, then took over producing Allen’s films after his working relationship with Doumanian ended in a bitter legal battle. Since then, she’s kept up Allen’s pace of making a film a year, and earned her first Oscar nomination for 2011’s Midnight In Paris. Aronson’s most recent production is Blue Jasmine, which has been a hit at the box office and has given Cate Blanchett frontrunner status for a best actress Oscar.

Related: OSCARS: Ballots Are Out And The Race Is On, But Will Voters See The Movies In Time?

Film Independent's 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival Premiere Of Sony Pictures Classics' "To Rome With Love" - Red CarpetAwardsLine: Has it gotten any easier to finance the films you produce, especially considering the strength of Woody Allen as a brand?
Letty Aronson: Not really. (Laughs.) Except for independent financiers in this country, we get no money from any studio, not even a discussion. After all the hullabaloo of Midnight In Paris, I didn’t get one call from any studio. But I can understand that because they don’t work the way we work. In going out and looking for money, I tell people right up front: They can’t read the script; they don’t have input into the cast; they don’t see dailies; they don’t see a rough cut. They’re really investing in Woody and his reputation. They’re not going to make hundreds of millions of dollars, either. We’re low risk, low reward. The studios don’t work that way, but in Europe, there’s never been a studio system. It’s really always been independent financiers. So it’s easier to go there (with) all these different rules and get money. We don’t want to spend a lot on the films because we would like to pay our investors back. For some, we put together a three-picture deal. If we don’t know the people, I don’t love putting together a three-picture deal because who knows if we’ll like working with them after the first picture? But it’s not any easier. A film like Blue Jasmine, which got the most spectacular reviews, is up to almost $34 million in this country. Now another film without Woody’s name on it that got those kind of reviews would earn three times that much. Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Geoffrey Rush Talks ‘The Book Thief’

By | Tuesday January 7, 2014 @ 7:00am PST

Although the Holocaust is a well-visited subject for Hollywood, Geoffrey Rush says he was struck by how The Book Thief — based on the 2007 novel by Marcus Zusak — AwardsLine.LogoBWoffers “another different perspective on everything.” Rush, who has an Oscar for 1996’s Shine and three subsequent nominations, plays Hans, an adoptive father who’s trying to survive World War II and Nazi Germany. Directed by Brian Percival, the film introduces 12-year-old actress Sophie Nelisse as Hans’ daughter, Liesel, and features Emily Watson as the patriarch’s hardbitten, overbearing wife. Although the role was relatively light on dialogue, Rush says learning to play the accordion connected him strongly to his character.

Related: Can 20th’s Under-The-Radar Entry ‘The Book Thief’ Steal A Spot In The Oscar Race?

the-book-thief-starring-sophie-nelisseAwardsLine: What struck a chord with you when you read the script for The Book Thief?
Geoffrey Rush: I think I got about five pages into it and thought, this is a remarkable story. It’s already got me hooked. It’s not what you call a soft opening, to meet this 10-year-old girl whose 6-year-old brother dies on page one. Then in the next scene, her mother’s a Communist and gets taken away. I can’t think of many films that start with a 10-year-old with a burden that’s comparable to Hamlet’s. Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Alfonso Cuaron On ‘Gravity’

By | Friday December 27, 2013 @ 10:57am PST

New filmmaking tools had to be developed to get Gravity to the big screen, and the results are out of AwardsLine.LogoBWthis world. Not only has Alfonso Cuaron’s space drama earned more than $630 million at the worldwide box office, it is successfully maintaining the awards momentum that began after its global premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August. Cuaron, who co-wrote the movie with his son Jonas, also says he always planned for the story about a doctor’s terrifying mission into space to be shot in 3D (“The original title was Gravity in 3D!” he reveals.)

Related: OSCARS: A Crowded Field Vying For Directing & Writing Noms

alfonso cuaronAwardsLine: Did you have a vision of what you wanted Gravity to look like when you were at the script stage?
Alfonso Cuaron: We always thought it had to look like one of those NASA documentaries. We didn’t want it to look like science fiction; we didn’t want it to look like a comic book — we wanted it to look like a documentary.
Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: David O. Russell On ‘American Hustle’

By | Thursday December 26, 2013 @ 1:41pm PST

Exploring the complex inner lives of colorful characters has become something of a signature for AwardsLine.LogoBWwriter-director David O. Russell. Much like his last two Oscar-nominated films, 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, his latest work is less about the setting than the vivid lives of the people operating within it. American Hustle follows a con man named Irving Rosenfeld, played by Christian Bale, who gets caught up in a fictional version of the 1970s FBI sting ABSCAM. Bale is getting raves for his performance (and his elaborate combover), and Russell could earn his third directing Oscar nomination in a row.

Related: OSCARS: A Crowded Field Vying For Directing & Writing Noms

American HustleAwardsLine: How did you change Eric Singer’s original screenplay?
David O. Russell: The romantic triangle (among Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper’s characters) was something that I wrote as fiction; the mayor (played by Jeremy Renner) wasn’t as robust. It’s about people and a community, and (doing) something that helped their town. People’s good intentions matter to me, not just their greed or their darkness. I want to know about the good part of their hearts.

Related: The Contenders: ‘American Hustle’ Producer On Christian Bale
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Oscar Q&A: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Helmers Joel And Ethan Coen

By | Thursday December 19, 2013 @ 9:01am PST

COENAfter making movies for more than three decades, Joel and Ethan Coen still don’t wear the auteur mantle comfortably—they seem to be having too much fun to see their brand of filmmaking as a proper job. They say many of their films begin with an opening scene or a desire to put characters into a specific setting. That includes their latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, the CBS Films release which starts and ends with star Oscar Isaac getting beaten up in an alley outside of a 1960s-era Greenwich Village folk-music club. But as matter-of-fact as they might make their work sound, the brothers have built a formidable career on creating detailed characters steeped in their very American environments. They have four Oscars apiece, for the original screenplay of 1996′s Fargo, and for best picture, director and adapted screenplay for 2007′s No Country For Old Men. More importantly, they enjoy an enviable level of creative freedom that ensures each film always contains their specific vision. They recently sat down with me at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk shop, though their brotherly banter often results in laughing more than answering questions.

DEADLINE: You usually release a film a year. Are you always working on the next project even if you haven’t quite finished the last?
JOEL COEN: We don’t want to glorify it with the description of calling it work. We’re always pretending to work. We are going through the motions.
ETHAN COEN: Yeah, … Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Matthew McConaughey On The Struggle To Get ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Made & Diving Into Dramas

By | Sunday December 1, 2013 @ 4:29pm PST

matthewmccon1Over the last two years, Matthew McConaughey has transformed from simply being a bankable romantic-comedy lead to a gritty performer who doesn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves and plumb emotional depths. In the same year he showed his flashy, exhibitionist side in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, McConaughey demonstrated exceptional range in a trio of smaller films with distinctive directors: Richard Linklater’s Bernie, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe and Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. This year’s slate, which includes Dallas Buyers Club and Mud, shows that the actor isn’t finished taking risks. AwardsLine.LogoBWHe lost 47 pounds to play AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club and was a major force in getting the film into production; he’s working with Martin Scorsese in The Wolf Of Wall Street; and he’s shooting a sci-fi film, Interstellar. All that, and he still finds time to helm his nonprofit JKL Foundation, which focuses on the health and wellness of high-school students.

AwardsLine: What compelled you to help get Dallas Buyers Club produced?
Matthew McConaughey: It was something that I had on my desk that I was trying to do for a while, but it wasn’t popular enough for anyone to come up with the money. So we were like, “Let’s find the right team.” The more pieces you put in place, the more you show somebody that you’ve got a full package, then it becomes a more viable situation to get the money. And (director) Jean-Marc (Vallee) and I were locked, and we’re like, “Let’s set a date and do this thing this year.” We had Jared (Leto) and Jennifer (Garner) cast, and we budgeted for a lot less than Jean-Marc thought he could make it for. A week before the shoot, Jean-Marc calls me and says, “This is just not enough money to make this. We don’t have it, and we shoot in a week. (But) I’ll be there if you’ll be there.” I was like, “Yeah.” I had been losing the weight, and then I kept hearing “This is not happening.” And I was like, “This is happening.” Then that last bit of money came like a wave.

AwardsLine: What kind of feedback did you get from financiers as to why they didn’t want to come onboard?
McConaughey: (Laughs.) Well, Hollywood’s not quick to really expound on the “why not?” Usually the message that gets to me is, it’s not for them. Period piece, AIDS drama? That one line hurt. I’m sure there were many desks where that one-liner was all they read. Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Daniel Bruhl Talks ‘Rush’ & ‘The Fifth Estate’

By | Thursday November 28, 2013 @ 3:00pm PST

AwardsLine.LogoBWAfter elevating his profile with the 2010 best picture nominee Inglourious Basterds, in which he played a loathsome Nazi soldier, Daniel Bruhl is back in the spotlight for portraying two real-life mavericks this year: Racing legend Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s Rush, and former Julian Assange ally Daniel Domscheit-Berg in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. Though he says “there’s always an awkward moment when you meet the characters for the first time,” Bruhl is pleased that both of his living subjects were happy with the way he interpreted their lives. Next up for the trilingual, Berlin-based actor? Tending to the tapas bar he owns and starring opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright in Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man.

AwardsLine: You were able to spend some time with Niki Lauda to research your role in Rush. RWhat was the most valuable information you learned about him in those meetings?
Daniel Bruhl: I was blown away by his bluntness—something that I still envy, and I love playing characters that I partly envy. To be so 100% honest and direct with certain people, and to be fearless when it comes to solving problems or facing conflict with people face to face, is striking. I don’t know anyone who is like that. And the nice thing about him is that underneath it all is that charm, that sense of humor. The more time I spent with him, and the more times he had seen the movie, the more emotional he got. So that surprised me a bit. I’m half-Spanish, so I love hugging people. I do that all the time with friends. And he didn’t like that at first, the contact with men, and he always kept his distance from me. The first few times I stood there like an idiot. Later on, he saw me, and he said, “Daniel! Come here!” And he had that smile on his face. It’s such a relief to know that he is proud of the movie. Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Brie Larson On Indie Drama ‘Short Term 12′

By | Wednesday November 27, 2013 @ 6:00pm PST

In the first leading role of her career, Brie Larson has been getting rave reviews for playing a teacher working with AwardsLine.LogoBW troubled kids in writer-director Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12. Cinedigm picked up distribution at this year’s South by Southwest festival, where the film won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards, and Larson most recently earned a Gotham Award nomination for best actress. Although Larson also appears in two higher-profile films of the season—Don Jon and The Spectacular Now—it’s her performance in this tiny indie that has everyone talking.

brie-larson-short-term-12AwardsLine: Did you initially read the script for Short Term 12 with the idea that you would play Grace?
Brie Larson: I didn’t know what the role was or what the movie was about. I just couldn’t believe that what I was reading was a script. I kept thinking that I was reading some sort of transcript. It felt so honest and natural. I had never read dialogue that was so revealing and simple and complicated with no manipulation. I was totally intimidated by the material. It’s never been easy for me to book any job so I couldn’t imagine that something this rich would be easy for me. I tried to apply for a bunch of volunteer jobs before and learn as much as possible so I could have an in-depth, intelligent conversation with Destin about (the role). I wanted to be viewed as a collaborator and someone who was interested in the subject. I didn’t tell him that I had been rejected by all the volunteer jobs. At the end of a very short conversation—20 minutes or something—he asked if I would do it. I was totally and completely shocked. I hadn’t booked a job before where I haven’t had to audition multiple times. I knew at some point that he had seen my reel, but I don’t even know what’s on that thing. But I know there were certain scenes where he thought, “Why did she put this on her reel? She’s not even in this.” Then he’d rewind it and watch it again and see that it was me. The fact that I blend into whatever character I’m playing was interesting to him, that there wasn’t some sort of set thing that I do every single time. Read More »

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OSCARS: Producers Michael De Luca & Dana Brunetti On The Lure Of ‘Captain Phillips’

By | Wednesday November 20, 2013 @ 8:25pm PST

As the story about the hijacking of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama unfolded on television in 2009, producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti were transfixed. It was the first time a U.S. vessel had been seized by pirates since the 19th century, and it seemed to have the makings of a great movie. “We weren’t sure because it looked like it was going to be a very grim outcome,” Brunetti explains. “As Mike says, it (could have been) more of a Sundance movie.” But the story did end well. Captain Phillips (Sony) earned $25.7 million domestically in its October opening weekend, and Tom Hanks’ lead performance is drawing awards buzz.

AwardsLine: How did you first become involved with Captain Phillips?
Michael De Luca: We watched the news story, and after the situation was resolved, we thought there was a really good movie in there — stuff you couldn’t get from the news, like what was being said within the lifeboat, what the Navy was dealing with, getting all the assets into the region. So after we decided it would be a good movie, we took the next step, which was to see if the real Captain Phillips would engage with us. That’s where Dana and (production company) Trigger Street picked up the ball.
Dana Brunetti: About a week or so (after the rescue), I got the OK to go and meet with (Richard Phillips) in Vermont. He had just gotten back. I sat down at dinner with him, and he still had bruises on his wrist from being bound. You would never believe that he’d just gone through what he’d gone through because he’s just an everyman — dry sense of humor and just a regular good guy. Actually, I thought I’d have something in common with him because I was in the Coast Guard. So I threw that out and I found out that he’s not a big fan of the Coast Guard. (Laughs.) It was like, “Let’s change the topic.” About a week later, he said he wanted to go with us, but he wanted to wait for the book (A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS And Dangerous Days At Sea, on which the film was based) to be done. He came back to us when it was done, and we went to Sony and set it up there. Read More »

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Ryan Murphy Exclusive On Cory Monteith Memorial Episode: “Lovely Tribute And Very Heartfelt Look At How Young People Grieve”

By | Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:02am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Murphy, as part of an Emmy-timed interview this week, updates Deadline/Awardsline’s Christy Grosz about writing Glee‘s Cory Monteith memorial episode and going back to the set of the series without the actor:

Related: EMMYS Q&A: Ryan Murphy

It’s been a difficult circumstance because we basically went straight from the memorial into [reworking] the two Beatles episodes, Ryan Murphywhich I think are fun and optimistic, that we had always had planned. The hard part for all of us is that the past week we’ve been holed up writing the memorial episode. There were a lot of things that we had to decide — how are we going to deal with his death? At one point, we were going to have his character die after an accidental drug overdose — that was something we had considered. But we have decided that we’re not going to have him pass from that. Basically, what we’re doing in the episode is we are not telling you yet, or maybe not at all, how that character died. Cory MonteithThe idea being, how somebody died is interesting and maybe morbid, but we say very early on in the episode, “This episode is about a celebration of that character’s life.” That might be weird for some people, but it felt

Read More »

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EMMYS Q&A: Ryan Murphy

Ryan MurphyFor two years running, Ryan Murphy’s miniseries American Horror Story has earned more Emmy nominations than any other show. This year American Horror Story: Asylum has 17 noms including the marquee movie/miniseries category. But the real question is whether those noms will turn into more wins this time around. To date, the genre show has taken home only two statuettes: one for leading lady Jessica Lange and one below-the-line for makeup. Murphy has made no secret of the fact he covets his own Emmy for AHS and spoke to Deadline’s AwardsLine editor Christy Grosz:

Deadline: Do you think this is your year to win for the series?
Ryan Murphy: I never would think about, “Oh, are we going to win? Do we deserve to win?” I like that people who have worked so hard on the show have, for the most part, been nominated. That thrills me to no end. It’s a very ambitious show in its scope, in its breadth. It’s 13 hours worth of material. From start to end, it takes almost 18 months to cook it up, to work it, to write it, to shoot it. It’s a really large endeavor and thankfully Fox Studios has given me the time and financial resources to do that. Last year, in particular, it was more than a horror show to me. What we really tried to make it be was a social commentary. It really was a look at the mental-health industry in the 1950s and 1960s and how it eventually was shut down and how that in itself was a great “American Horror”. Every year we take that phrase and try to make it specific. I thought it really came together in a great way. So should we win? I never know about those things. I’m just glad we were acknowledged. I think our competition is incredible. All of those nominees are certainly deserving. You never know. It’s really just a crapshoot at the end of the day, but I was really happy we were in there in such a big way two years in a row. When the show started I think a lot of people didn’t think it was going to fly or have legs. There’s a lot of supposition and stereotyping when it comes to the horror genre, so anything we can do to knock down some walls and make way for other people is great thing.

Related: Ryan Murphy Exclusive On Cory Monteith Memorial Episode: “Lovely Tribute And Very Heartfelt Look At How Young People Grieve” Read More »

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EMMYS Q&A: Vera Farmiga

By | Saturday June 22, 2013 @ 3:00pm PDT

Christy Grosz edits Deadline’s awards publication Awardsline.

Vera Farmiga admits she was skeptical when she first heard about Bates Motel, the series that serves as a modern-day prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. But playing a character who was merely an idea in the original source material has proven to be the right role at the right time for her. The Oscar-nominated actress is almost protective in describing Norma as the parent of a mentally ill child, choosing to see the single mother as sympathetic. While the A&E series has been picked up for a second season, Farmiga also will star in July’s The Conjuring, in which she plays a paranormal investigator.

AwardsLine: When Bates Motel came to you, were you looking for a TV project specifically?
Farmiga: I think I was looking for a career tweak. I have so many other interests in life, and no role is more challenging, rewarding and inspiring than my real-life role as a mom and a wife, so I pretty much just look at the most remunerative offers these days. (Laughs.) But seriously, if I’m going to step away for 18 hours a day, there better be some sort of a paycheck or spiritual salary being offered. And Bates Motel surprised me. (The role) made me reflect so deeply on the love I feel for my children. I was craving a deeper level of, I don’t know, virtuosity. The writers presented me with this deeper level of sophistication, the creation of Norma, and I pounced on the opportunity. Also, I was craving all that cable serial television has to offer, which is the risk and the wackiness, the unorthodox. Read More »

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‘Argo’ Writers Win 2013 Scripter Award: Chris Terrio, Joshuah Bearman, Antonio J. Mendez

By | Saturday February 9, 2013 @ 9:49pm PST

Christy Grosz edits Deadline’s awards publication Awardsline:

Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio, as well as the movie’s origins material authors Joshuah Bearman (the Wired article “The Great Escape”) and Antonio J. Mendez (Penguin book The Master Of Disguise), won the 25th Annual USC Libraries Scripter Award for best literary movie adaptation tonight at a gala held at the university’s Doheny Memorial Library. So Warner Bros’ Argo continues its nearly uninterrupted march towards the Best Picture Oscar. In fact, 4 out of the last five Scripter winners went on to win Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars, and all 5 won theWGA Award. Previous winners include The Descendants, The Social Network, Up In The Air (the only non-Oscar winner), Slumdog Millionaire, and No Country For Old Men. This evening Brokeback Mountain screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana received the group’s Literary Achievement Award.

The Scripter Award goes to both the screenwriters and the author of the material on which the script is based. Although there are normally 5 finalists, this year featured six because of a tie in balloting. The Scripter Award is solely given for adaptations, not for original screenplays, but it still has a prime slot during the final Academy balloting period. Argo beat out the other Scripter Award nominees: Beasts of the Southern Wild – Dramatist … Read More »

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HBO’s Globe Contender ‘The Girl’ Depicts A Darker Side Of Hitchcock

By | Friday January 11, 2013 @ 9:00pm PST

Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.

Alfred Hitchcock built his reputation as cinema’s undisputed master of suspense by using every tool and trick at his disposal to tell tales of powerless peril, circumstance, and betrayal—usually with a lovely blonde starlet front and center.

But the story behind the story has been revealed as appropriately Hitchcockian in its own way, as proven by The Girl, nominated for three Golden Globes for best TV movie or miniseries, best actor in a TV movie for Toby Jones’ portrayal of Hitchcock, and best actress in a TV movie for Sienna Miller’s take on actress Tippi Hedren.

The HBO Films and BBC presentation delves into the rocky relationship the director had at the height of his career with model-turned-actress Hedren during the making of The Birds and Marnie. Hedren’s relationship with Hitchcock, who had long developed a fascination bordering on obsession with his leading ladies, veered from charming and erudite into much darker territory that tested her limits. Read More »

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OSCARS: Studio-by-Studio Look At This Year’s Best Picture Hopefuls

By | Saturday November 3, 2012 @ 9:00pm PDT

With the awards season so dissected and examined these days, it might appear as though creating a successful campaign is simply a matter of shrewd marketing and a key release date. But even the most cynical strategist will admit that luck is still as much a part of earning an Oscar nomination as anything else. When asked about the plan for a particular film in the awards race, a veteran campaigner said simply, “Light candles, pray.” Whether they’re already on pundits’ lists or just looking for a little good juju, here’s a look at the films that are in the conversation, not including animation, documentaries, or foreign-language with a few notable exceptions. (Christy Grosz Is Editor of Awardsline):
Related: Oscar Nominations Shifted Ahead 5 Days to January 10 Read More »

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