EXCLUSIVE: Already booked to reprise in the Finding Nemo sequel, Albert Brooks has just signed on to the voice cast of The Little Prince. He joins James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, Benicio Del Toro and Paul Giamatti in Paramount’s animated pic. Brooks will play one of the film’s villains. Brooks, who played the heavy in Drive and most recently starred in This Is 40, has been driving Twitter traffic with a feed that made national news. He mostly uses Twitter to make humorous observations — like the recent one about the record-setting swim from Florida to Cuba: “Diana Nyad is going to be so pissed when she finds out there was a flight”– but Brooks got serious and prescient with a suggestion that the U.S. and Russia join hands to go over and take the chemical weapons out of Syria, among other things. It became the very thing those nations began discussing, and Brooks got ink on Capitol Hill for it. Brooks is repped by WME and managed by Herb Nanas.
Although there are some young Hollywood turks trying to break through in an ‘Extremely Large and Incredibly Close’ race for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, 2011 may eventually become known as the year of the veteran. Acting legends with decades of iconic screen performances and Oscar winners dominate the field of frontrunners in one of Oscar’s most crowded and intriguing categories. With names like Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, Ben Kingsley, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Albert Brooks, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hanks and Robert Forster in the mix, the pedigree of contenders for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role is formidable indeed. But could a relative newcomer like Jonah Hill or Patton Oswalt swoop in and take the whole thing? Here are the major players.
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, BEGINNERS
Plummer turns 82 this month and is enjoying a major resurgence in a film acting career that goes back to 1958, when he made his debut in Stage Struck. Since then his fine screen roles have often been eclipsed by his own stage-struck ways with a number of memorable performances in the theater including a couple that won him Tony Awards. He only just received his first Oscar nomination two years ago for The Last Station, but with his touching role as a 75-year-old widower who finally decides to come out of the closet, he may grab the actual statuette this time. An effective, if small, supporting role in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo only adds to his chances.
MAX von SYDOW, EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE
With a life spent before the cameras for over 60 years, the 82-year-old von Sydow is an acting legend whose work ranges from several landmark Ingmar Bergman films to the harrowing Exorcist. Yet like Plummer (who is just eight months his junior), he incredibly has been Oscar-nominated only once, for 1987’s Pelle the Conqueror. But his touching and completely wordless performance as a distant grandfather in Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close could finally be his ticket to the Kodak stage.
KENNETH BRANAGH, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
Another acting icon, Laurence Olivier, is also part of this year’s supporting race — but in this case he is being channeled by none other than Olivier fan and student Kenneth Branagh, who portrays Olivier in 1956 as he was directing and starring with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince And The Showgirl. Branagh has tackled many Olivier screen roles like Henry V and Hamlet (he even directed the remake of Olivier’s Sleuth), but taking on the actual persona of the man himself was particularly challenging and puts him — and his mentor — right back in the Oscar race.
BEN KINGSLEY, HUGO
Already an Oscar winner for 1982’s Gandhi, Kingsley effectively takes on the role of film pioneer Georges Melies in Martin Scorsese’s valentine to the early days of movies. With a total of four nominations split evenly between lead and supporting categories, Kingsley is an Academy favorite who once again creates a memorable character, one with great meaning for the filmmakers who will be voting. Will being the only serious candidate in a 3D movie also separate him from the pack?
ALBERT BROOKS, DRIVE
Until now Brooks was only known for comedy — those he wrote and directed and those he starred in. He was even previously Oscar-nominated for his hilarious supporting turn in 1987’s Broadcast News. But none of his previous work prepared critics and audiences for his nasty, villainous Bernie Rose in the noirish thriller Drive. But his brilliant interpretation and cool new screen persona should deservedly win him a second Oscar nomination.
BRAD PITT, THE TREE OF LIFE
Pitt is a double threat this year. He’s already won the New York Film Critics award given for both Moneyball and The Tree Of Life, and ever since its debut in Cannes, Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner has sparked Oscar buzz for Pitt’s effectively low-key change-of-pace and critically acclaimed work as a 1950s-era father. Could he become one of those rare thesps who score both supporting and lead actor nominations in the same year? Don’t bet against it.
JONAH HILL, MONEYBALL
Pitt’s co-star in Moneyball who was best known for his antics in movies like Superbad enjoyed his first taste of awards buzz for shedding several pounds and shrewdly underplaying the whiz-kid genius who comes up with an inexpensive formula to create a winning baseball team. Going head to head with Pitt, Hill proved he could hold his own just as he did in last year’s lesser-known Cyrus.
KEVIN SPACEY, MARGIN CALL
Although the film was well-received at its Sundance debut, Margin Call was not considered a major awards contender, even by its own distributor. That has changed with several early awards and Oscar talk for two-time winner Kevin Spacey, who has spent a lot more time in recent years running London’s Old Vic rather than on his own film career. A change-of-pace performance won raves and could put Spacey back in the front row at the Oscars.
PATTON OSWALT, YOUNG ADULT
Perhaps best known as a stand-up comedian and the voice of the lead rat in Pixar’s Ratatouille, Oswalt is quickly establishing his credentials as a serious actor, first in the critically acclaimed indie film The Big Fan and now on a larger scale as a lonely man whose life was defined by an unfortunate incident in high school. His scenes opposite Charlize Theron are awkward, funny, poignant and memorable.
UPDATE: ‘The Artist’ Is NY Film Critics Circle Best Picture; Meryl Streep Best Actress For ‘Iron Lady’, Brad Pitt Best Actor
Just in time for Comic-Con, FilmDistrict has unveiled a red band trailer for Drive, the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed drama that stars Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Carey Mulligan. Is it me, or does Gosling seem very much like Steve McQueen-esque in one of those 70s movies and Brooks …
EXCLUSIVE: In the first major deal of the American Film Market, FilmDistrict has acquired North American distribution rights to Drive, the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed adaptation of the James Sallis novel that stars Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver and is targeted for death after a heist goes wrong. Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks round out a strong cast. FilmDistrict was started by GK Films partners Graham King and Tim Headington and run by Peter Schlessel and veteran distribution exec Bob Berney. They hatched the company to generate or acquire films with strong casts that can play on between 1500 and 2000 screens. Drive certainly fits that bill. The film is about two weeks from wrapping and has a budget under $30 million despite shooting in Los Angeles. FilmDistrict will look to release in late summer or early fall, 2011. Michel Litvak’s Bold Films financed the picture with Odd Lot Entertainment ‘s Gigi Pritzker, Linda McDonough and Bill Lischak. Marc Platt is producing with Bold and Odd Lot. Several indie companies chased the film including Summit and Lionsgate, and WME Global’s Graham Taylor closed the deal.
Comedy screenwriter and novelist Monica Johnson died yesterday at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles after losing her battle with esophageal cancer. She was 64. Johnson, considered a pioneer for women in comedy, co-wrote with Albert Brooks some of his best films such as Real Life, Modern Romance and Lost in America. Johnson was the sister of comedy writer Jerry Belson who died of cancer in 2006. Johnson is survived by her only daughter Heidi Johnson and her 7th husband Charles Lohr. Here is a wonderful bio Johnson wrote a few weeks ago for her website that went live today.
Monica Johnson spent her early years in medical and dental assistants’ school, with solid determination to marry a dentist. (She would have gone for an MD but had no self esteem.)
Then she got a lucky break: nepotism. Her brother introduced her to the world of comedy, and she hasn’t looked back, except for occasionally when she catches her coat in the door.
She has received many nominations and awards for writing comedy, TV and movies, starting with an Emmy winning episode for Mary Tyler Moore. She then went on to write and produce Laverne and Shirley – a job she hated because producing meant having to show up somewhere on time. She was a consultant on numerous TV shows, including It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.
Most of her writing has been in movies. With her friend Albert Brooks she co-wrote Real Life, Modern Romance, Lost in America, Mother, and The Muse. She also wrote Jekyll and Hyde Together Again with her brother Jerry Belson, and Americathon (both of which actually got made) and dozens of other films that should have but didn’t. She has won best screenplay awards from the New York Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics, and national film critics. There is much in her writing career that she can’t recall because she has lost all her memory because of environmental toxins.