Another piece of the Oscar-season puzzle was unveiled Sunday night when Sony held the first major screening of David O. Russell‘s American Hustle at the Cary Grant Theatre on the Culver City lot. The packed crowd was largely made up of SAG and a few Academy members, plus select press. Since this and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (which begins screening at the end of the month) have been the two remaining question marks before we have a clear view of the complete competitive landscape, the unveiling of this one was hotly anticipated. It was definitely the place to be. In fact, one New York-based consultant working on the film flew in Sunday afternoon specifically for the screening and flew back on the red-eye immediately afterwards.
If rivals were hoping it would be a bust, or at the very least a disappointment, I hate to bring them the bad news. Although formal reviews are verboten until early next month, I can say that from my vantage point, Russell — whose last two films Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and The Fighter (2010) were nominated for Best Picture and Director, as well as taking some acting Oscars — has another winner with a film that will have strong appeal particularly in the actors branch and at SAG. I also think, even in this fiercely contested year, Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing and Costume nods could be in the cards along with any number of possibilities for its superb ensemble including lead actor Christian Bale, lead actress Amy Adams, supporting actors Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, and supporting actress Jennifer Lawrence. Especially Lawrence; she is simply dazzling as Bale’s wife, a total knockout scene-stealer throughout. If she hadn’t already won last year as Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, there is no doubt she might be unbeatable here. At 23 years old and the star of this weekend’s all-time November record breaker, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, she may well become the frontrunner anyway to take back-to-back Academy Awards after this performance is seen. It’s prime Oscar bait. The actors, including voters I spoke to afterward, were clearly blown away. In fact the entire cast — which also includes a terrific unbilled one-scene cameo from Robert De Niro, who was nominated last year for Silver Linings — will certainly figure heavily for the SAG Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture award. One person connected to the film to whom I spoke said early reaction had been on the mixed side, but I couldn’t detect that at this screening. It was all upbeat. Time will tell. READ MORE »
Since graduating from Juilliard in 2005, Guatamalan-born and Miami-bred Oscar Isaac has been on a steady rise. With noticeable roles in films such as Robin Hood, Drive and The Bourne Legacy, Isaac has been proving his worth as a film actor with something extra. That “something extra” has been fully realized with his breakthrough role as the title character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s tale of a struggling folk singer in the early 1960s, Inside Llewyn Davis. Since winning the Grand Prize at Cannes in May, the film has been building a high profile this season and promises to put Isaac, who does all of his own singing, right in the heart of the race.
AwardsLine: Recount how you got this role, because the audition process was drawn out for the film. The Coen brothers thought the movie wouldn’t get made if they didn’t find the right actor.
Oscar Isaac: I heard about the audition process early on, and I was like, “I have got to get into this thing because I love the Coen brothers, I play music and I can sing.” I went in (to the audition) knowing that it was loosely based on (folk musician) Dave Van Ronk’s memoirs, and I knew he was this huge 6-foot-5, 200-pound Swede. I knew (I would be) a stretch, if they were trying to do a biopic. So I came in and I had a beard and I saw a photograph of this well-known musician—dark hair, dark beard. Suddenly, I calmed down and said, “So is this a reference shot? You guys are looking for people like that?” (Someone in casting) says, “Oh, no. He came in; he killed it.” It was like all the blood being drained out of my veins. They had been looking at a lot of really great musicians for the part because they wanted to have full songs performed live in the film, which is very unusual. I learned three songs and did the audition, and about a week later, they called me in to meet with the Coens. They’re the best to audition for. They are incredibly generous, and they’re quick to laugh, even just in conversation. So it was impossible to tell how it went because, apparently, they’re like that for everybody. A month went by, and I was just begging the universe to give me this one shot. Then I got a call (from) Joel. I remember him talking for a while before saying it, but then he finally said, “We’d love for you to do (the film), if you’d want to be a part of it.” I couldn’t believe it. Read More »
Listen to (and share) episode 15 of Deadline’s audio podcast “Global Showbiz Watch, with Nancy Tartaglione.”
Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about The Rocket, the best film to come out of Laos in perhaps ever, and why the Laotian government is banning it; Keshet’s Rising Star continues to rise in the U.S. and U.K.; so-past-rising star Simon Cowell’s newest three-year deal with ITV; what new EU film-support rules may mean for getting more films made there; and a French film debut that may redeem a poor year at the box office for local productions. Read More »
Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is constantly reviewing their rules and regulations, the changes are usually minor. But this year one major change regarding the foreign-language category could cause a few tremors in that race: For the first time, the entire Academy will vote on the winner.
Related: OSCARS: Controversial Foreign Language Race Begins
The nominating process to select five foreign-language contenders from the 70-some entries from individual countries remains the same. But in the past, only members who had proven they had seen all five nominees in a theater were able to vote. Now everyone gets to vote without proving they’ve seen the films, just like the rest of the major categories.
But will this change the dynamics of the race, perhaps favoring higher-profile titles? Last year, Austria’s acclaimed Amour won the foreign-language Oscar the old-fashioned way. Had the new rules been in effect, it almost certainly would have won anyway because it was the rare foreign-language entry that also received a best picture nomination. Would lesser-known winners such as Argentina’s The Secret In Their Eyes (2009) or Japan’s Departures (2008) have reigned in an unsupervised Academy-wide vote against better-known nominees? Read More »
A recent, and unsolicited, email from a producer friend of mine demonstrates what a lot of people are saying about this year’s best picture race: “Now this is a year for film! Tremendous. Going to be a fun one, my friend.” It is going to be a fun one. Nearly every Academy member to whom I have spoken seems excited about the level of quality in this year’s race, which is a strong indication that this could be the first year 10 films are nominated since the rules changed to allow a variable number. Just consider what’s already out there in theaters or on Blu-Ray: 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, All Is Lost, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Before Midnight, Mud and The Place Beyond The Pines.
The fact is, this is a year in which there could be room for 20 films. Consider those yet to open or just opening: Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, Her, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. All of those films have played the fest circuit, and most pundits—including this one—already have seen them and can say definitively that it’s a formidable list. Of those yet to be seen by just about anyone outside of rarefied circles are The Wolf Of Wall Street and American Hustle, both December releases expected to be major players in several races.
Related: OSCARS: Fest Circuit A Must For Majors Chasing Award Season Gold
With this kind of lineup, it is no wonder some movies once thought to have awards aspiration—such as Foxcatcher, Grace Of Monaco, The Immigrant and George Clooney’s The Monuments Men—have all opted out. And why not? Read More »
Charles Lyons is an AwardsLine contributor.
Late last year, the acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Morell, took the unusual measure of voicing the CIA’s distaste for a Hollywood film. “The film takes significant license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate,” Morell wrote in a letter to CIA personnel, later widely republished. “What I want you to know is that Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts.”
Of course, no one thought Sony’s Zero Dark Thirty was a documentary, but Morell’s letter speaks to the conundrum that any screenwriter crafting a script based on real events must confront: How to tell the story in a dramatically engaging way while remaining true to the facts. Read More »
Well here is an idea that could be very intimidating for other tunes trying to get a foothold in the Oscar race for Best Song this year. Pharrell Williams, who has been on the circuit performing his Academy Award contending song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, has created what is being billed at the world’s first 24-hour music video to showcase it. Shot over 11 days in L.A entirely on Stedicam (the camera crew estimates they walked over 8 miles each day) more than 400 extras appear in it, including several celebrities and the film’s stars Steve Carell and Miranda Cosgrove. All of them hand off to one another as the song continues in a loop. Williams appears in the video 24 times, at the top of every hour, and then followed by 14 additional performances in the same hour. Here’s a sample:
The emphasis on the song is a big part of Universal’s awards campaign for the movie which at over $900 million worldwide is the biggest grossing hit in the studio’s history. Read More »
Listen to (and share) episode 51 of our audio podcast “Deadline Awards Watch with Pete Hammond.”
Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about more highlights from Deadline’s recent The Contenders event, including Meryl Streep‘s all-business approach behind her sterling performance in August: Osage County; how screenwriter Kelly Marcel had to make the irascible author of Mary Poppins just a wee bit more cuddly to help save Saving Mr. Banks; and behind the scenes with the tech and design gurus who helped make Spike Jonze’s latest, Her, another unique cinematic experience.
We also talk about the looming voting deadline for the shortlist of Oscar documentary features, a publicists’ pre-Oscar frenzy at the glitzy and star-filled Academy Governors Awards and how recent festival fever among the major studios might help their entries scoop up more Oscar gold.
Finally, we’ll get Pete’s take on this week’s new movies, which should be dominated by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as the sequel goes for all kinds of box office records.
With the long Thanksgiving weekend just ahead, however, several other substantial entries will open in U.S. theaters this weekend, including Disney’s animated tale Frozen, which also features a marvelous Mickey Mouse short, Get A Horse, that Pete picks as a can’t-miss for the animated short Oscar; the big festival favorite Philomena, with Judi Dench and do-everything sidekick Steve Coogan; and the somewhat serious comedy remake Delivery Man, with Vince Vaughn in perhaps his most well-rounded performance ever.
Deadline Awards Watch 51: The Governors Hunger Games Episode (.MP3 version)
Deadline Awards Watch 51: The Governors Hunger Games Episode (.M4A version)
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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 »
Until now David O. Russell‘s American Hustle (12/13) has been largely unseen, and along with Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (12/25) is the last 2013 awards contender to be unveiled. (I’m told screenings start this weekend for Hustle and at the end of the month for Wolf.). So all … Read More »
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
A film with no dialogue about a man adrift at sea doesn’t sound like a slam dunk of a project, but All Is Lost producers Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb say J.C. Chandor’s pitch piqued their interest immediately. The project also had two key elements giving it momentum: First, Robert Redford agreed to play the lead. (“Bob was the only person J.C. wanted to try to make the film with,” Dodson explains.) And second, Chandor’s first feature, Margin Call, earned an original screenplay Oscar nom close to the time All Is Lost needed financing. Despite production challenges, Dodson and Gerb say intense preparation and storyboarding paid off in the end.
AwardsLine: You also worked with J.C. Chandor on Margin Call — how did All Is Lost come to you?
Neal Dodson: Basically, J.C. had been writing secretly — he’s not a big sharer of stuff until he knows what he wants to do. He had been writing before the Sundance Film Festival (in 2011) and then right after Sundance, once he had first come in contact with (Robert Redford). At (the) Berlin (International Film Festival), when we were there for Margin Call, he pitched the movie to me, (Before the Door Pictures producer) Zach Quinto and (FilmNation Entertainment CEO) Glen Basner. (He wanted Basner’s) perspective on if he thought this was an insane idea or if he thought there was a place in the international world to get something like this financed.
Anna Gerb: Not even a month later, (Chandor) handed each of us a 31-page document for us to read.
Dodson: It was one of those things where you go, “OK, this is a great outline for what you’re looking to do, but let us know when you’ve written the script,” and it turns out that was the script.
Gerb: It was very detailed so you felt a feature-length, action-packed, adventure-filled film within it, even though it was a lot leaner than most of the scripts we traditionally see. Read More »
There are officially 151 films vying for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar this year. For that huge number of entries, a deadline looms this Friday: That is the last day of voting by the Academy’s docu branch for the lucky 15 that will make the shortlist of finalists, which will be announced in early December. That list will then be whittled to the five nominees. But for many docu filmmakers, just receiving early shortlist recognition would be a huge boost not just to their films but could do even more for the movies’ real-life subjects.
The steady, emotional journey of award-winning documentary Bridegroom continues with its availability for sale beginning today on iTunes and Amazon. But it is an Academy Award nomination — or even just making that shortlist – that filmmakers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and husband Harry Thomason really want in order to carry their message of love and tolerance for gay couples worldwide. It demonstrates the importance of Oscar for many filmmakers who recognize its worth as a worldwide symbol. “We’ve done the research, and that would be so huge in getting it overseas,” said the film’s writer-director-producer Bloodworth-Thomason, a multiple Emmy nominee who created Designing Women. “Our goal now is to get it into as many countries we can. Even if it is underground, I want to get the film into places like Russia and the Middle East. I think we do have Oscar buzz. We are getting on these lists, but not ever having had it before, I am not sure I recognize it.” Read More »
Anna Lisa Raya is Deputy Editor of AwardsLine.
If the pressures of Oscar season are getting to American Hustle producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle of Atlas Entertainment and Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, they don’t show it. While they’re working hard at finishing David O. Russell’s latest film, which is loosely based on events and people surrounding the 1970s Abscam FBI sting, the industry is busy prognosticating and predicting American Hustle’s chances in the race. And why wouldn’t there be Oscar talk, considering the film’s pedigree? Not only is Russell coming off two consecutive best picture noms, with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, but the cast reads like any director’s wish list: Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jeremy Renner. The film is set for a December 13 release, nestled firmly in the awards season sweet spot.
AwardsLine: How did each of you get involved with American Hustle?
Richard Suckle: It started (in 2009) with (screenwriter) Eric Singer. He pitched it to me, and then we pitched it to Chuck. We essentially got the (life) rights to Mel Weinberg, whose character is the inspiration behind Christian Bale’s character. (Weinberg) is the con man who worked for the FBI and created Abscam.
Charles Roven: Then we developed a really great script that was more procedural-based, in terms of the events that took place in and around Abscam. When David (O. Russell) got involved, he felt very strongly that rather than having the spine of the movie be Abscam, he wanted the spine to be character-based. So he rewrote the script and moved (it) in that direction, and it became more fictional as a result.
Megan Ellison: I stepped in when it was an Eric Singer draft, and David had just come on. I sat down with David, and he talked about how to shift it to be a more character-driven piece like most of his work. I don’t think any of us suspected the page-one rewrite that we ended up getting, which was really phenomenal. He took a lot of the work that Eric did and just fleshed out the characters.
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Captain Phillips newcomer and Oscar-buzzed Barkhad Abdi, who plays the lead Somalian pirate in the film, told me he thought the Governors Awards meant prizes actually handed out by the Governor and he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole occasion. Of course these honorary awards bestowed on Saturday night at the Hollywood & Highland Grand Ballroom are not presented by Jerry Brown, but rather voted on by the Board of Governors of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And in addition to the formal duty of putting a shiny new Oscar statuette in the hands of Jean Hersholt Humanitarian winner Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Claudia Cardinale (standing in for absent Costume Designer Piero Tosi who couldn’t make the trip from Italy), this signature awards season event now in its fifth year also has become the official “must schmooze” event of the entire six month awards corridor, a place where Oscar nominee hopefuls can jump from table to table full of Academy members. As presenter Martin Short put it, “the Governors Awards are the highest honor an actor can receive in mid-November.” And there can be no question the timing of the event is extremely important for those out on the campaign trail.
Related: Governors Awards Gallery: Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin
But ultimately this event is about honoring those the Academy feels are worthy of career recognition, generally a lifetime achievement award. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, new president of the Academy, welcomed each of the honorees and noted the importance of the honor. “Congratulations to all of you. Your work on screen and off captivates and invigorates society. You challenge us to see each other and the world in different ways. We are all richer for your brilliance,” she said before breaking for dinner.
Once the 90-minute show began, Jolie’s In The Land Of Blood And Honey cast, actress Gena Rowlands, and George Lucas presented Jolie, the youngest winner of the Hersholt award, with her Oscar. A detailed film package clearly explained why this tireless global humanitarian is getting the award but she seemed overcome by it, saluting her late mother for the inspiration (father Jon Voight was in the audience). Read More »
The Academy‘s fifth annual Governors Awards kick off tonight at 8 PM at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, hosted by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson and the Academy’s Board of Governors. Receiving honorary Oscars tonight are three-time Oscar nominee Angela Lansbury, three-time Oscars host Steve Martin, and costume designer Piero Tosi (The Leopard, Death in Venice), a five-time Oscar nominee. (Tosi will not be in attendance.) The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award will be awarded to Angelina Jolie. Paula Wagner is producing tonight’s event. Hit the jump for the photo gallery and check back tonight for Pete Hammond’s coverage.
Related: OSCARS: Governors Awards Provide Lots Of Opportunity For Schmoozing
Related: OSCARS: Big Names, Deserving Recipients For Governors Awards Read More »
The race for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars this year is shaping up to be another impossibly competitive contest. Jared Leto, Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Steve Coogan, Harrison Ford, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Bruhl, Chris Cooper, Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill, Casey Affleck, George Clooney and so many others already are staking a place in this crowded field. Fox Searchlight alone has viable contenders in its fall films with 12 Years A Slave’s Michael Fassbender and Enough Said’s James Gandolfini, who could grab a rare posthumous nom for one of his final film performances.
But Searchlight also has another contender who might be forgotten since his film came out way way back in June. Right. June. Can we remember back that far? When The Way Way Back was winning acclaim at the beginning of summer, the one name pundits found to ignite a nascent Oscar supporting contest was the wryly funny, smart and memorable turn from the criminally never-nominated Sam Rockwell as Owen, the wisecracking manager of Water Wizz Water Park and mentor to 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James), who has one unforgettable summer working there. Rockwell, who easily could — and should — have been nominated for last year’s Seven Psychopaths or his extraordinary work in another Searchlight film, Conviction (2010), always has been good. He’s an actor’s actor who first gained major notice after more than a decade acting in TV and films by playing game show host and CIA looney Chuck Barris in Clooney’s Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2002). Mainstream moviegoers probably know him best as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, while he has also gained a cult following for 2009′s Moon, a low-budget predecessor to Gravity (a film Rockwell says he loved). But his performance in The Way Way Back (which also deserves recognition for the sharp original screenplay from writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash of Oscar-winning Descendants fame) was a real standout — and that’s in a cast that includes fine work from Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Allison Janney, among others. No one pitched Sam Rockwell to me in this endless season of pitching. I sought him out to talk about it.
Related: ‘The Way, Way Back’ Slides Into A Hot Holiday Opening
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Radius-TWC, the specialty division of The Weinstein Company devoted to multi-platform strategies, has only been in business now a couple of years. But it is clearly setting out to make its mark in the Oscar race in a big way this year with four documentaries, all with a strong chance of making the Academy’s short list if industry buzz is any factor at all. Cutie And The Boxer, Inequality For All, Twenty Feet From Stardom and The Unknown Known are the titles Radius co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego highlighted when we met for coffee to discuss their awards strategy.
Oddly, though the company is known for day-and date VOD and theatrical releases — like the recent Ryan Gosling film Only God Forgives, Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut Man Of Tai Chi and Lovelace to name a few — all four of its docu contenders are traveling the more traditional route by hitting theatres before rolling out to other platforms. The pair have a definite strategy, not only for financial success but also hopefully at the Oscars. “We have I think approached this in a pretty transparent way. And we have put together our blueprint for what we think puts us into the race for each film — and the good news is they are all different”, Quinn said. “I feel like they each fit a very different mold in what could be a possible doc nominee. None of these have been released day and date.” He added that they don’t currently believe there is an audience for these movies on VOD, but there will be one day. “In order to build bigger value for these films in ancillary platforms we need to build them theatrically first,” he said.
And they look at all of these contenders as movies first. They pointed out that their first “traditional release” — the highly successful Twenty Feet From Stardom, the Morgan Neville-directed music docu about background singers — has grossed nearly $5 million (the year’s best for a docu) after successfully taking on non-docus in the specialty realm during its summer release including Frances Ha and Much Ado About Nothing. It’s also brought renewed heat in the music business to the careers of the veteran singers it chronicles. Music- and showbiz-centric documentaries have a tougher time with the Academy committee, which seems to gravitate toward heavier subject matter, but Quinn and Janego are hopeful about Twenty Feet, which I think transcends the genre in the same way as last year’s docu feature winner Searching For Sugar Man. Read More »
Listen to (and share) episode 50 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond.
Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about more highlights from Deadline’s recent Oscar race preview event, The Contenders, including notable … Read More »