The former Miramax and Weinstein Co publicity executive recently relocated to Los Angeles temporarily overseeing publicity at Screen Gems. She will remain in L.A. for her new position at LD Entertainment, where she will report to company president David Dinerstein. Previously, Berger was publicity SVP at FilmDistrict overseeing campaigns for Insidious and Soul Surfer. In addition to Berger, LD Entertainment has hired vet independent casting director Deanna Brigidi-Stewart as VP Casting. Brigidi-Stewart will oversee casting for all LD Entertainment properties. The company will continue to use outside casting resources for its slate of films. LD Entertainment’s slate includes William Friedkin’s Killer Joe starring Matthew McConaughey, which will have its U.S. premiere at SXSW; the horror film The Collection from Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, the writers of Saw IV, V and VI, Disconnect starring Jason Bateman and Alexander Skarsgard from director Henry-Alex Rubin; and the thriller Black Rock, which was acquired at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The company produced The Grey, starring Liam Neeson, and Albert Nobbs. LD plans to release four to six films in its initial year.
On the morning of Oscar nominations, most actors wait nervously to hear their own name announced. But Janet McTeer, Best Supporting Actress nominee for Albert Nobbs, was hoping to hear another name first: Glenn Close, who stars as Nobbs and has spent 30 years trying to bring this unusual tale to the big screen. The British actress got her wish: Close was nominated for best actress, so the two can enjoy the moment together. She spoke with AwardsLine contributor Diane Haithman.
AWARDSLINE: You are also in the cast of Glenn Close’s FX series Damages. You must have breathed a sigh of relief when both of you made the cut for the Oscars.
McTEER: If she hadn’t been nominated I would have cut my wrists. Oh, yeah. That would have been horrible. I wouldn’t have wanted it either. I was watching the announcements on the sofa in the green room at the Today show, and I was just sort of holding my breath to see whether Glenn was nominated, and she was. Then I was very excited.
When a big studio decides it has a shot at Oscars, it often rolls out a spectacular Academy Award campaign with a budget rivaling that of the actual film. In the case of the $8 million independent movie Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close — star, writer and producer — is the campaign. Her Oscar nomination for Best Actress and Golden Globes noms for her and her co-star Janet McTeer are helping to get the word out. But a lot depends on Close being available to tell the story of her 30-year labor of love despite the time demands of her TV series, the DirectTV legal drama Damages. Close spoke about her journey with AwardsLine contributor Diane Haithman.
AWARDSLINE: Let’s see — a period drama adapted from a play, set in Dublin, in which you portray a woman living as a man. Obviously this is a “special needs” project. Doing so much press must be a huge demand on you as a working actress.
GLENN CLOSE: I’ve tried to show up for as much as I can. It’s just amazing to me that I finally got it made. I must have walked into every single office of every single independent film company that existed in the past 30 years.
AWARDSLINE: One can imagine some of the things that must have been said in some of those meetings. What kind of reaction did you get? Just … huh?
CLOSE: [Laughs] Yeah, I go into an office, looking like me, and say: “Well, I’m gonna be a butler, and then I die.” It was a pretty hard sell. And I never resented that. I’ve always felt that an independent film is a film that almost doesn’t get made. When we went on our foray into Dallas, we found John and Cami Goff; John Goff is a very, very successful real estate guy, and he just liked what he heard and believed in the team. I told him: “You are like the one pearl in a vast beach of white stones.”
One of the last pieces of this year’s increasingly hot Best Actress race puzzle fell into place this week as The Weinstein Company unveiled Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady at an exclusive media screening Tuesday night at the Warner Bros Screening Room in New York and Thursday morning for a handful of journalists at the 10-seat Weinstein Co. screening room at their new offices in Beverly Hills. Deadline was represented on both coasts. If there was any question about Streep’s viability as a major Oscar contender again this year, her performance as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will erase all doubts. Again she is extraordinary, absolutely capturing the essence of Thatcher in every way, but is particularly powerful in those scenes depicting her enveloping dementia. She shows a poignant side, not really known about this woman who rose to the top of an exclusive men’s club and triumphed for nearly 12 years in the top job in her country. Jim Broadbent as her husband Dennis also has his moments but the film, expertly directed by Mamma Mia’s Phyllida Lloyd, belongs to Meryl. Even in England where Thatcher is sooooo well known and dissected, both early reviews in The Guardian and Daily Telegraph are singing her praises.
The 9/11 anniversary was a strong memory in Toronto because it happened right in the middle of 2001′s film festiva – even though it was business as usual today. In fact the pace of this place just seems to be quickening. Deals, as Deadline’s Mike Fleming reports, were slow to percolate but may be picking up. Most buyers I talk to are irritated by some sellers’ insistence that their film be released this year in time for Oscar consideration. That’s a tall order and leaves little time for creating a marketing campaign, much less an awards strategy. Nevertheless, that was one of the demands made by the sellers of the controversial Shame during negotiations. Fox Searchlight agreed, others didn’t. In fact I was told that Sony Pictures Classics, which wanted the picture, came up with a smart strategy they compared to The Weinstein Company’s for Colin Firth. That consisted of Firth doing a lot of campaigning and earning a nomination for A Single Man in 2010, thus laying the groundwork for his The King’s Speech win the next year. SPC was going to put Michael Fassbender out there and get him recognition for their November release of David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and then release Shame later in 2012 for a one-two punch that the Academy would notice. No go. The sales people behind Shame insisted it be released this year, thereby throwing the Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor winner into an already overcrowded awards race that among others includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, and Leonardo DiCaprio who are better known — at least at this point.
One former studio head-turned-producer complained loudly to me today that this kind of strategy is not necessarily what’s good for the movie and asked, “Isn’t that what we should be concerned with over anything else?” For example, Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg is here with his first release Killer Elite but is not rushing into a year-end release if it might end up hurting the bottom line. “Isn’t the 2012 Oscar race just as good as this year’s?” he asked. He might consider putting the Liam Neeson film The Grey into a year-end qualifying run since Neeson’s performance is said to be so strong. But only if it was in the best interest of the film. When he was at Lionsgate, Ortenberg acquired Crash at Toronto but held it for a May release. Then he did a now-legendary and successful Oscar campaign almost 1 1/2 years after the Toronto buy. The same strategy worked for The Hurt Locker two years ago. Both went on to win Best Picture.
Nevertheless, several films for sale in Toronto are said to be eyeing a 2011 release in order to get into the Oscar race. These include Luc Besson’s The Lady, which premieres Monday night and which I have already seen. It contains two powerhouse performances from Michelle Yeoh who could jump into the lead actress race. There’s also David Thewlis for Supporting Actor. The Lady will certainly be part of any sales discussion, but I know of at least one mini-major who would like the film but just not for this year. As I mentioned yesterday, Barrymore with its sensational title performance from Christopher Plummer also wants to make a deal that includes a 2011 year-end release. Also director Zhang Yimou’s epic The Flowers of War (formerly Nanking) starring Oscar-winner Christian Bale had a 20-minute footage presentation here and hopes to get a domestic deal in place in time for a possible year-end run at Oscar. I am told it could certainly be ready what with its debut in Beijing in December.
I ran into Jennifer Garner Saturday afternoon at the candy counter of Telluride’s tiny Nugget Theatre and told her I was looking forward to seeing the new film she produced and stars in, Butter, which was having an official sneak preview at the festival later that night. “Thanks, but I hate it when people tell me that. It makes me too nervous,” she said. She shouldn’t have worried. The edgy smart comedy played liked gangbusters at its first packed screening at the Galaxy Theatre. There were big laughs for the small-town butter-carving satire, which might get a year-end release from The Weinstein Company to qualify for awards, especially for the Golden Globes and its comedy category. Garner nails the Michele Bachmann-like character in a way that’s smooth-as-buttah. The film itself is reminiscent of Michael Ritchie’s Smile and Alexander Payne’s Election, with both comparisons meant to be a compliment. In fact, shortly afterward, Payne told me he is anxious to see the film himself. Before it rolled, director Jim Field Smith told the crowd what pressure he was under to finish the film in time for next week’s Toronto Film Festival — and then was told it would be needed even earlier for Telluride. “Come on, you can do it,” Harvey Weinstein told him. Then there were the unexpected earthquakes, hurricanes, and a scary landing at the Tellruride airport that all contributed to his feeling he wasn’t going to make the deadline, but he did. “This is the first audience anywhere to see the film, so we could just die,” Garner added before forgetting to introduce co-star Ty Burrell (Modern Family).
EXCLUSIVE: It appears Glenn Close may be shaking up the Best Actress Oscar race this year. Today’s announcement that Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment have acquired all U.S. rights to Albert Nobbs, in which Close plays a woman passing as a man in order to survive in 19th century Dublin, and plan a fall release and likely Oscar campaign adds a bit of drama to 2011′s budding Academy race. Meryl Streep, a two-time winner and 16-time nominee, is the presumed front-runner as Margaret Thatcher in the Weinstein Company’s The Iron Lady. Streep hasn’t won since 1982, and many think (sight unseen) that Thatcher could be her ticket back to the winner’s circle. Ironically, that was also the year Close received the first of her five nominations (for her first film, The World According To Garp) in a remarkable run between 1982 and 1988 when she received her last nod for Dangerous Liaisons. Of course she’s won Tonys and Emmys, but the Oscar has famously eluded her.
In fact, 1982 was also the year she first played Albert Nobbs in an off-Broadway production of the play and won an Obie Award for it. Even though that was near the beginning of her career, she’s had her eye on it as a possible film ever since and has been actively trying to get it produced for the past 15 years. In addition to starring, she also co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay, enlisting her Nine Lives and Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her director Rodrigo Garcia to helm.
When I caught up with her today on the phone from her Maine vacation spot, she still couldn’t believe this dream project was finally going to be seen this year. “I’m kind of pinching myself. It’s a story I never ever forgot and an extraordinary character. It’s a simple story that has huge resonance,” she said, adding that ultimately this is a very human tale dealing in part with the power of secrets that people hide about themselves.
She offered words of praise for Roadside, which had a very big year in 2010 with Oscar contenders Winter’s Bone and Biutiful, saying the film got wonderful response from other potential distributors but that Roadside was the most passionate. “They got it to the depths of the story. No one has been a part of this project without bringing committment and passion to it, so they just extended all that, which was thrilling for all of us,” she said.
Liddell Entertainment and Roadside Attractions have acquired US rights to Albert Nobbs, which stars Glenn Close as a woman passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Dublin. Rodrigo Garcia directed the drama, which also stars Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Janet McTeer, Pauline Collins, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Brendan Gleeson. Close has a vested interest in this one: she played the character off-Broadway in the early 1980s, the script with Gabriella Prekop and John Banville marks her first screenplay credit (the story is by Istvan Szabo, adapted from the George Moore novella), and she’s a producer alongside Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn and Alan Moloney. The deal was announced by Mickey Liddell of Liddell Entertainment and Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff; the companies, who partnered on the distribution of Biutiful last year, plan a fall release for Nobbs, which puts it in awards season. WestEnd is handling international sales.