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NYFF: Could Warner Bros. Holiday Entry ‘Her’ Be Poised To Make Oscar History?

Pete Hammond

The New York Film Festival closed Saturday night with the World Premiere of Spike Jonze‘s fourth feature, the irresistibly charming romantic fantasy Her, about a man who falls head over heels for his “operating system”. The studio held a simultaneous screening on the West Coast Saturday afternoon for L.A.-based critics and bloggers. Initial reaction was upbeat.

Whatever the December Warner Bros. release’s many attributes, its awards potential is yet to be determined. But I would say if it catches on with the Academy crowd at all, it could be poised to make Oscar history in at least one category. Scarlett Johansson, who poignantly voices Samantha the computer system that organizes Joaquin Phoenix‘s life and strikes up an intense and heartbreaking personal relationship with him, could possibly become the first solely voice-over performance to win an acting nomination. It’s never happened in the past that an actor, unseen on screen and strictly doing voice work has been able to nail a nomination from the Academy’s actors branch. But if ever it was going to happen this is the year, and Johansson’s is the performance. Her work (she replaced Samantha Morton) is exemplary. She’s also great in the current Don Jon as well. I am told by a Warner Bros. source working on the campaign that they have checked and the role is eligible. They plan to run her seriously for Best Supporting Actress and, if successful, will make … Read More »

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Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond, Episode 45

Pete Hammond

Listen to (and share) episode 45 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Deadline’s awards columnist and host David Bloom wrap up the latest news out of the New York Film Festival, led by the premiere of Ben Stiller’s remake of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty; a winning film adaptation of the best-selling WWII drama The Book Thief that may have some stealthy awards ambitions; whether possible radical changes can fix the perennially controversial Oscar foreign-language film-selection process; and the long, loving TV Academy tribute to one of its stalwarts, omnipresent comedy producer/director James Burrows. Finally, Pete gives his take on this week’s new movie releases, including Captain Phillips, the intense Paul Greengrass telling of the kidnapping by Somali pirates of a ship’s captain played in fine form by Tom Hanks; the action sequel Machete Kills, directed by Robert Rodriguez and featuring Danny Trejo; and a traditional take on Romeo And Juliet, with Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth.

Deadline Awards Watch, Episode 45 (MP3 format)
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NYFF: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Star Chiwetel Ejiofor Hits Fest Circuit, Stirs More Oscar Talk (Video)

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: Ever since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival over the Labor Day weekend, Fox Searchlight‘s 12 Years A Slave has been annointed, at least by some eager-to-call-the-race-early media members, as the movie that could take it all at the Oscars. Though it is far too early to say that with any conviction (it doesn’t open in theaters until next week and hasn’t even played its official Academy screening yet), it continues to register strongly on the Fest circuit. It hit the New York Film Festival Tuesday night where the cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, director Steve McQueen and other key creative players received a standing ovation, just as they did in Telluride and Toronto. Next week the film hits the BFI London Film Festival on October 18th, home turf for its British star and director,  but telling a very American story. Searchlight clearly would be more comfortable not to be shackled with the front-runner label before the movie is able to catch its boxoffice wind. It’s always a perilous position as there is nowhere to go but down (just ask Social Network about that), but the film has drawn critical raves wherever it’s played and early audiences are clearly moved. The subject matter however is not easy, often gut-wrenching to watch, and needs to be carefully nurtured by Fox Searchlight which plans a slow rollout beginning next Friday. Read More »

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IFC Acquires U.S. On ‘Lucky Them’

By | Wednesday October 9, 2013 @ 10:24am PDT
Mike Fleming

IFC Films acquired U.S. rights to Lucky Them, the Megan Griffiths-directed pic that stars Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church and Oliver Platt. Scripted by Emily Wachtel and Huck Botko, the pic premiered at Toronto last month. Collette plays an unconventional rock journalist who dates musicians and is assigned to explore her own pasts. It’s a cathartic assignment. IFC’s Arianna Bocco made the deal with Cinetic Media’s John Sloss.

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Christopher Lee To Receive BFI Fellowship; FremantleMedia Int’l Inks Digital Deal With China’s Youku; More

Christopher Lee To Receive 2013 BFI Fellowship
Sir Christopher Lee will be this year’s recipient of the BFI Fellowship. The organization’s highest honor will be presented October 19during the awards ceremony for the BFI London Film Festival. The Fellowship is in recognition of outstanding contribution to film or television. Last year there was a double recipient in the form of Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. Lee, who was knighted in 2009, has more than 250 acting credits — from his feature debut in 1948 with Corridor Of Mirrors to Hammer Films’ Dracula and The Lord Of The Rings‘ trilogy. The BFI will screen several of Lee’s most iconic performances during its upcoming Gothic season. The BFI today also announced juries for the London Film Festival. The nascent competitive section will be judged by film critic and journalist Phillip French, director Lone Scherfig, visual artist Stan Douglas, actress Miranda Richardson, author Deborah Moggach, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto.

FremantleMedia International Inks With China’s Youku
FremantleMedia International announced Monday a multiyear digital deal with the China-headquartered portal Youku. The agreement will see a variety of FremantleMedia’s premium entertainment and drama content available to online audiences averaging 14 million unique users a day. More than 200 hours of programming will be available on Youku in the first year including recent seasons of American Idol ,The X Factor USA, America’s Got Talent, Project Runway and The Celebrity Apprentice and season 13. Read More »

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Toronto: Image Lands West Memphis 3 Pic ‘Devil’s Knot’ With Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon

Mike Fleming

Image Entertainment has acquired the Toronto title Devil’s Knot and will release it in second-quarter 2014. The Atom Egoyan-directed film stars Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Amy Ryan, Mireille Enos, and Stephen Moyer. Image’s Chief Acquisition Officer Bill Bromiley made the deal with CAA and WME on behalf of financier Worldview Entertainment. The film is the story of three teenagers accused of the brutal 1993 murder of three 8-year-old boys in Memphis, Ark. — two of them sentenced to life imprisonment and one to death even though there was not a shred of physical evidence. The film explores the lives of deeply misunderstood outsiders, their families and communities, and the hysterics that drove the trial. The conviction of the West Memphis 3 — Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley Jr, and Jason Baldwin — riled the American justice system, shocked a tightly knit religious town and outraged the nation. Pic is based on the Mara Leveritt book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three. Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson wrote the script and Boardman produced with Elizabeth Fowler, Richard Saperstein, Clark Peterson and Christopher Woodrow of Worldview Entertainment.

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

By | Saturday October 5, 2013 @ 6:51pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Could The Book Thief come out of nowhere to pull off a heist in this year’s Oscar race? While distributor 20th Century Fox seems to be putting most of its marbles on this weekend’s New York Film Festival launch of its big Christmas Day release, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, the studio has concurrently picked another festival, the lower-profile but respected 36-year-old Mill Valley Film Fest, to World Premiere its stealth entry into awards season. The Book Thief played to a huge standing ovation at its Thursday night unveiling on the Northern California fest’s opening night. Tonight co-star Geoffrey Rush will be the subject of a tribute there. Based on Markus Zusak’s No. 1 best-selling novel, the story set in Nazi Germany during World War II finds a young girl seeking refuge in the world of books while her family hides a young Jewish man in the basement of their modest German home. As they did earlier today with Mitty, Fox has had simultaneous screenings on their lot for bloggers and critics, which is where I caught it yesterday. Read More »

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David Heyman Follows Harry Potter With ‘Gravity’: Can He Finally Orbit The Oscars?

By | Friday October 4, 2013 @ 3:03pm PDT
Pete Hammond

With Gravity looking like it is soaring at the box office today and the Harry Potter 8-pack of films successfully behind him, producer David Heyman is riding high. Of course, director Alfonso Cuaron and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are getting the lion’s share of attention for the space drama, but Heyman is happy to give credit where credit is due. He actually was the one who brought Cuaron aboard for Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. “We had a great experience on Harry Potter“, he said in a recent interview at Chateau Marmont. ” I asked him to do it which was a big thing.” This time around it was Cuaron who asked Heyman to get involved on Gravity and produce it with him.

“When he asked me to do it I jumped — there was not a moment of hesitation” Heyman said. “One, it’s a lovely compliment that he asked, and as a producer it’s what we dream about. I knew it was going to be challenging. He’s always pushing, never settling. We finished the film early this year and we hadn’t done the mix. He looked at the film and he said ‘Damn’. He had an idea which was to take the spacecraft and flip it because it was coming in top-up. You’re in outer space, there’s not up and down, so if you flip it’s fine but it took 10 weeks. One shot, two minutes. But he’s always pushing and never settling. So I knew it was going to be extraordinary, but to actually now be here and feel the response is pretty great,” he said.

That’s an understatement. The film was rapturously received at all three big fall festivals — Venice, Telluride and Toronto — a decision Heyman said was easy to make considering Cuaron is the director of such films as Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess and Children Of Men. “I think Alfonso is a filmmaker where festivals are responsive because there’s real art to his direction. It’s beautiful, fluid motion and I think there was faith in that and I think Warners, to give them credit, took a big leap in making this film. You know a female-driven action movie, not inexpensive, with one character alone for most of the time. But they believe in the filmmaker. Then they poured money  into it . For a year and a half we had nothing . We were trying to figure out how to do it, and then when Alfonso decided he wanted to change the shot around, that’s probably 100K , they said ‘sure, go ahead and do it’. And then putting it on the festival circuit, they just believed in it,” he said.

Related: Venice: ‘Gravity’ Exerts Strong Pull

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RADiUS- TWC, Dimension Acquire Daniel Radcliffe Toronto Thriller ‘Horns’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In what might well be the last major deal for a buzz title that world premiered at last month’s Toronto Film Festival, Dimension and RADiUS-TWC have acquired U.S. rights to Horns, the Alexandre Aja-directed thriller that stars Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner, Heather Graham, David Morse, Kathleen Quinlan and James Remar. The deal was for multiple millions, rivaling the largest deals made for the other Toronto films.

Keith Bunin wrote the script, based on the novel by comic book author Joe Hill. The logline: After being blamed for the death of his longtime girlfriend (Temple), a small-town guy (Radcliffe) awakens one morning to find a pair of horns growing from his head. The film was produced by Red Granite Pictures founders and producing partners Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland in addition to Mandalay’s Cathy Shulman. Aja is also a producer.

Dimension chief Bob Weinstein and RADiUS-TWC co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego have been working on this deal since the festival. It was certainly a talked-up title that several distributors pursued. They haven’t figured out the release configuration but are looking at 2014. Read More »

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Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond, Episode 44

By | Thursday October 3, 2013 @ 4:50pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Listen to (and share) episode 44 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about the challenges facing new Los Angeles film czar Tom Sherak; producer Scott Rudin’s big weekend at the New York Film Festival, where his Inside Llewyn Davis and Captain Phillips debuted strongly ahead of the latter film’s wide sneak previews this weekend; the field of candidates for Oscar’s foreign-language film category, led by Iranian nominee The Past; and some of the movies that won’t be contending this year for Oscar after all. Finally, we’ll get Pete’s take on this week’s new movie releases, including Alfonso Cuaron’s “fantastic” space epic, Gravity, featuring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney; JFK assassination docudrama Parkland, with a sprawling cast featuring Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Jacqui Weaver and Marcia Gay Harden; and divorce comedy A.C.O.D., featuring Richard Jenkins, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch and another large cast.

Deadline Awards Watch, Episode 44 (MP3 format)
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NYFF: ‘Llewyn Davis’ Star Oscar Isaac Stakes A Claim In Crowded Best Actor Oscar Race

Pete Hammond

This weekend the New York Film Festival got rolling and if you mistook it for the Scott Rudin Film Festival you wouldn’t be far from wrong. Rudin’s October 11th Sony Pictures release Captain Phillips world premiered to a standing ovation on Opening Night Friday. On Saturday the much-awaited New York premiere of his December 6th CBS Films pic Inside Llewyn Davis made its local debut with stars Oscar Isaac, John Goodman and writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen among those on hand. But if that wasn’t enough of a Rudin takeover of the Fest (which runs a longish 18 days) there is an unprecedented sold out concert going on tonight at the Town Hall engineered by Rudin, the Coens and T-Bone Burnett called Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis. The concert featuring numerous folk singers of the early 1960s period in which the New York-based film is set also scheduled appearances from some of the movie’s stars including Isaac and Goodman. It’s clear Rudin, using the festival that also launched his The Social Network two years ago, doesn’t have to leave his hometown to make a mark in Hollywood’s nascent awards season. Game on.

In the case of Inside Llewyn Davis, the strategy seems particularly smart. Unlike Phillips or other upcoming Oscar-hopefuls like NYFF World Premieres for 20th Century Fox‘s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty starring and directed by Ben Stiller and playing next weekend, and the October 13th closer, Spike Jonze‘s Her from Warner BrosDavis has already been making the fest rounds since beginning in May at Cannes where it won the Grand Prize (second place), and then in a North American launch at Telluride on Labor Day weekend that included a tribute to the musical movie collaboration between the Coens and T- Bone Burnett. Read More »

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Foreign Language Oscar: Israel Submits ‘Bethlehem’; Palestine Goes With ‘Omar’

By | Sunday September 29, 2013 @ 5:17am PDT

Among the last to do so ahead of the October 1st submission deadline, Israel and Palestine have designated their respective entries for the Foreign Language Oscar race. Israel has selected Bethlehem, Yuval Adler‘s debut feature that he co-wrote with Ali Waked. The movie premiered in Venice before heading to Telluride and Toronto. Over the weekend, it scooped six Ophir Awards — Israel’s Oscar equivalent — including Best Feature and Best Director. The film takes place largely in Jerusalem and the West Bank and focuses on an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant, the younger brother of a sought-after militant. Adopt Films acquired Bethlehem for the U.S. last week. Israel last had an Oscar nomination with Joseph Cedar’s 2011 pic Footnote, but has never won in the category.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture said Sunday afternoon that is is sending Omar to the Academy as its representative this year. Hany Abu-Assad’s film debuted in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section where it picked up the Jury Prize. The political thriller is also an impossible love story that employs themes of trust and betrayal on the West Bank. Palestine does not submit a film to the Oscars each year and Omar is notable for being the first … Read More »

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Deadline’s Film Fest Wrap-Up And Awards Season Preview: Video

Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and International Editor Nancy Tartaglione sit down with host David Bloom to wrap up the Telluride, Venice and Toronto film festivals and the many awards-worthy movies coming out of them, including Gravity, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave and August: Osage County. They also look ahead to potential Oscar contenders that will be playing in the New York and London film festivals, including Her, Rush, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, along with a Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Blue Is The Warmest Color, that won’t be eligible for the Foreign-Language Oscar but will pursue all other categories in the awards chase.

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Music Box Picks Up Pawel Pawlikowski’s FIPRESCI Prize Winner ‘Ida’

By | Wednesday September 25, 2013 @ 2:52pm PDT

The latest drama from the director of My Summer Of Love and Last Resort is coming to North America via Music Box Films. Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Ida follows a young nun in 1960s Poland who’s on the verge of taking her vows but discovers a dark family secret dating back to the Nazi occupation. Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza star in the film, which won the international critics’ FIPRESCI Prize at Toronto this monthand also played fests including Telluride and London. Music Box plans a winter/spring North American festival campaign followed by a theatrical release late in the second quarter of 2014.

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Adopt Films Takes U.S. On Israeli Thriller ‘Bethlehem’

By | Monday September 23, 2013 @ 9:23am PDT

Adopt Films has acquired all U.S. rights to Yuval Adler‘s debut feature Bethlehem. The movie premiered in Venice before heading to Telluride and Toronto. It’s also received 12 nominations at the Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Taking place largely in Jerusalem and the West Bank, it focuses on an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant, the younger brother of a sought-after militant. Adler, who was signed by WME this month, co-wrote the screenplay with Ali Waked. Tsahi Halevi, Sahdi Marei, Haitham Omari, and Hisham Suliman star. Producers are Talia Kleinhendler and Osnat Handelsman-Keren for Tel Aviv based Pie Films, and Diana Elbaum and Sebastian Delloye of Entre Chien et Loup. Adopt’s Tim Grady and Jeff Lipsky negotiated the deal with WestEnd Film’s Maya Amsellem. Grady and Lipsky liken the film to Argo, except that the audience “doesn’t know in advance what will happen to the very charismatic characters at the end of the film and, thus, the suspense is unyielding from the very start. We were literally shaking when we left the Toronto screening and were determined to release it.” They will do so in late winter next year.

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Fantastic Fest: Can Disney-Set ‘Escape From Tomorrow’ Succeed If The Mouse Won’t Roar?

By | Saturday September 21, 2013 @ 2:02pm PDT

Controversy put Randy Moore’s Escape From Tomorrow on the radar at Sundance, where critics predicted that the fictional drama filmed without permission at Disney World would have to get past a courtroom before it reached theaters. As Escape nears its October multi-platform release, it has been deafening silence from Disney; not even Jiminy Cricket is chirping. That is the worst thing that could happen to a film where the venue is the only recognizable thing in a feature made on the cheap with no stars. Escape earned early notoriety for its subversive shoot after the filmmakers got The New York Times to flog a brewing David Vs. Goliath battle at Sundance. Turns out that newspaper was simply slinging hype and reflecting wishful thinking from the film’s backers. Disney doesn’t seem to care and the film is left to fly or die by its merits. At this weekend’s genre-heavy Fantastic Fest, where movie geeks gobble up subversive films, the pic screened with a whimper.

Related: ‘Escape From Tomorrow’ Gets Fall Release

Cinetic sales rep John Sloss, whose Producers Distribution Agency is releasing the picture after it went unbought at Sundance, tells me some interested buyers were wary of crossing Disney when the film first screened. Sloss said he had offers, but Deadline has heard they were smallish and that Disney’s ire wasn’t the big factor. Getting a rise out of a corporation can be the best thing that can happen to a small film; earlier this year, the documentary Blackfish got on the map after its subject, Sea World, publicly griped about the characterization of multiple deaths involving its killer whales. Disney hasn’t made a peep, robbing Escape From Tomorrow of a lot of free publicity. Read More »

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Toronto: UTA Signs ‘Starred Up’ Scottish Helmer David Mackenzie

By | Friday September 20, 2013 @ 12:44pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: UTA has signed Scottish writer/director David Mackenzie, whose latest film Starred Up premiered at Telluride and Toronto. He had been with WME. Starred Up stars Jack O’Connell and Ben Mendelsohn and is about a juvenile offender so troubled and violent that he gets “starred up” to the adult prison system of England, where his estranged and equally violent father awaits him. The film makes its European debut at the London Film Festival October 10. Mackenzie previusly helmed Young Adam, Perfect Sense and Mister Foe. All those films and Starred Up were produced by Mackenzie and producing partner Gillian Berrie’s Sigma Films. Sean Gascoine of United Agents continues to rep him in the UK.

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Craig Borten Enters ‘The 33′ Mining Disaster; Jennifer Lopez Exits

By | Friday September 20, 2013 @ 12:33pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Craig Borten has signed to rewrite/polish The 33, the survival struggle of 33 miners trapped far below the earth after a cave-in in Copiapo, Chile, in 2010. It is Borten’s first job since writing with Melissa Wallack on Dallas Buyers Club, the fact-based drama that generated strong Oscar buzz at the Toronto Film Festival.

In another development on the film, Jennifer Lopez has just dropped out of The 33, because of a scheduling problem that cropped up when she committed to a return to American Idol. The 33 will be directed by La Misma Luna’s Patricia Riggen, with Antonio Banderas and Martin Sheen committed to star in the rescue tale that is being produced by Mike Medavoy, Robert Katz and Edward McGurn. Carlos Eugenio Lavin and Leopoldo Enriquez will be exec producers. Read More »

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Toronto: Cinedigm Acquires Kelly Reichardt’s ‘Night Moves’

By | Friday September 20, 2013 @ 10:18am PDT
Mike Fleming

Cinedigm has acquired North American rights to the Kelly Reichardt-directed Night Moves, which just played Toronto, Venice and Deauville. The film, about environmentalists trying to blow up a hydroelectric dam, stars Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard. Cinedigm is eyeing a spring release. UTA repped the film.

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