NBC’s high-concept new drama Believe is from J.J. Abrams and Gravity’s Best Director Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón (who co-wrote the pilot and directed it) gets a special preview Monday, March 10 at 10 PM following The Voice before launching in its regular Sunday 9 PM slot March 16. Here’s the …
Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki has been recognized with Oscar nominations five times before for his work as cinematographer – from Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life and The New World to Tim Burton’s dark and edgy The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow — but it is this year’s nomination on Gravity that holds a special place for him. “All the movies are very hard, but the difference was that for this movie, we were challenged to do something that we had never done before,” he said. “There was no manual. We had to write our own manual day by day.” Gravity, Lubezki’s 10th film collaboration with director Alfonso Cuaron (the two have worked on many TV projects together), marked the first time in his long career that he was working with a CG world. Facing the unique challenge of lighting and framing a virtual world and integrating it seamlessly with live action, Lubezki realized that he would have to create his own tools and build his own equipment and gear. “You could not go to a place and just rent the equipment,” he said. “And then after you built it, you only had one of each piece of equipment, which made it very scary. It was all very delicate.”
DGA Awards Film: ‘Gravity’ Soars With DGA Win For Alfonso Cuaron But What Does It Mean For Its Best Picture Chances?
When they were walking into the 66th Annual Directors Guild Awards tonight people were talking about a possible split year for the Oscars with one film winning Director and another Best Picture. And after the DGA crowned Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron as the year’s top director people were walking out saying the same thing. Cuaron was widely expected to win this thing. Gravity is a stand-alone directorial achievement second to none. Any other result would have been regarded as a major upset. A DGA win almost always means a corresponding Directing Oscar and a Directing Oscar almost always means a Best Picture win. Normally we would be wrapping up the race and putting a ribbon on it for Gravity, especially with the DGA coming right after its Producers Guild win a week ago (albeit a tie, but it was still significant). But this is a strange year and such a tight race between the three front-runners, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle that a few votes either way could potentially swing this thing. It’s not even inconceivable that a dark horse could come in in this kind of year. The Guilds so far have not clarified a whole lot. Hustle won the big Cast prize at SAG, Gravity and Slave split the PGA and now Gravity has won at DGA. Next week comes the Writers Guild Awards before a two week lull before the BAFTAs and mailing of Oscar ballots on Presidents Day weekend. But Slave (due to guild-ruled ineligibility) and Gravity aren’t nominated there leaving a good opportunity for Hustle to take back some of the glory – that is unless Her pulls off a win for Original Screenplay and deals a major setback for David O. Russell’s major contender.
66th Annual DGA Awards: Alfonso Cuarón Wins Best Feature Film Director For ‘Gravity’, TV Winners Include Vince Gilligan ‘Breaking Bad’, Steven Soderbergh ‘Behind The Candelabra’, Beth McCarthy-Miller ’30 Rock’, Glenn Weiss ‘Tony Awards’ Don Roy King ‘Saturday Night Live’
UPDATED WITH ALL WINNERS AND SPEECHES: The 66th annual DGA Awards was held tonight at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, hosted by Jane Lynch. The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film went to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. This was his first DGA nomination. Cuaron reflected on his research for the film, which in many ways, focuses on Gravity‘s philosophical commentary on humanity. “We saw all these photographs of earth from space, and it’s absolutely beautiful; hues of greens and blues,” explained Cuaron, “Everything seems so organic (from space). Those silly lines and boundaries we put on political maps, you can’t see that from space. It’s a bizarre experiment of nature, that is the human experience. And it’s what we as directors try to sort out as filmmakers.” It’s worth recalling that while cuaron hasn’t made a bad movie, getting Gravity made was very difficult. Universal kicked it to the curb after Angelina Jolie dropped out. Warner bros took it in, but it was in peril after Robert Downey Jr. decided not to play the role George Clooney wound up playing. the studio looked at several actresses including Natalie Portman, before deciding on Sandra Bullock. It was a real show of faith by Warner Bros, whose movie chief Jeff Robinov championed the project. It has become an outsized global hit, following in the footsteps of Life Of Pi and Avatar. It was this movie that inspired TriStar’s Tom Rothman to want to make his first film To Reach The Clouds, the Robert Zemeckis directed film about Philippe Petit’s groundbreaking high wire walk from the North to South Tower of the World Trade Center in 1974. They are hoping Joseph Gordon Levitt will play him and that production will begin by summer. In the other major film award, Jehane Noujaim was honored as Best Documentary Director for The Square. TV winners included Vince Gilligan for Breaking Bad’s “Felina” episode, Steven Soderbergh for Behind The Candelabra and Beth McCarthy-Miller for the 30 Rock finale.
Today’s eagerly awaited DGA nominations are out and there are no surprises in the bunch. Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron, Captain Phillips’ Paul Greengrass, 12 Years A Slave’s Steve McQueen, American Hustle’s David O. Russell and The Wolf Of Wall Street‘s Martin Scorsese were all odds-on favorites to make the five — and they did. Some might have questioned Scorsese’s chances since the film has become a lightning rod for controversy and was the last major release of the year, meaning the 15,000-member guild voters would have to see it in time to cast their ballot. But c’mon, he’s Martin Scorsese. There would be no denying this achievement among his fellow directors. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the guild and 10 other nominations with 3 wins in 3 different categories (The Departed in film, Boardwalk Empire in TV and George Harrison: Living In The Material World in documentary). He’s a god to this guild. Greengrass, McQueen and Cuaron are all first-timers here, while Russell was nominated for 2010′s The Fighter. However, Russell was passed over for a nomination last year for Silver Linings Playbook but went on to receive an Oscar nod for that film anyway.
Generally there is a strong correlation between the DGA and the Oscars. Only seven times has the winner of the DGA Award not gone on to win the Oscar . But the most recent time, last year, was also among the most infamous: Ben Affleck still went on to win the DGA Best Director award for Argo even after the Academy’s much smaller — and quirkier — Directors Branch threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings and snubbed Affleck in its nominations. Life Of Pi’s Ang Lee went on to win the Oscar after losing to Affleck at the DGA, while Argo took Best Picture. In addition to Lee the only agreement the Academy’s Directors Branch had with the DGA was Steven Spielberg’s nomination for Lincoln. It was one of the worst years ever since the DGA Awards were founded in 1948 in terms of a match-up between the guild’s list and Oscar (which also nominated Behn Zeitlin of Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Amour’s Michael Haneke in addition to Russell). I don’t expect the same thing to happen this year. This is a very strong lineup that includes all the likely frontrunners to grab an Academy Directorial nod as well. But as we all learned last year Oscar often has surprises up its sleeve. We’ll see.
New filmmaking tools had to be developed to get Gravity to the big screen, and the results are out of this 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.)
AwardsLine: 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.
From Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron to American Hustle’s David O. Russell to Inside Llewyn Davis’ Joel and Ethan Coen, writer-directors seem to dominate this season. And with so many in the race, there’s likely to be at least some overlap when Oscar nominations in the screenplay and directing categories are announced January 16. But these two categories can also be sources of surprise.
Last year saw the directors branch come up with one of the most astonishing twists of fate in Oscar history by trading Bens—Ben Affleck for Benh Zeitlin. Affleck was considered a frontrunner for Argo, but he was completely snubbed by his fellow helmers. Instead, the directing branch threw a curve ball into the race by nominating Zeitlin, the director of the indie darling Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Although Argo did go on to win best picture (and Affleck received a statuette for that as a producer), it became only the second film in modern times to achieve that feat without a directing nom, the other being Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. It makes you wonder what the quirky branch has in store this year.
Without question a leading contender to take it all at this year’s Academy Awards, Warner Bros‘ Gravity has become the highest-grossing live-action film of the year with well over $600 million worldwide to date. It also has won numerous awards, including Best Picture from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (in a tie with another Warners film, Her) and multiple nominations for Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards along with a SAG nom for star Sandra Bullock. Director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron already has won numerous accolades and stands as an Oscar front-runner for directing. But as he told me when we met at Chateau Marmont last week, all of this is basically just the cherry on top for the intimate outer space saga. “The film has been embraced so beautifully by the reviewers, the media, audiences,” he said. “It’s just been a sweet ride. And this has just been part of that sweetness. It feels good as a complement to that. Also it’s easy for me to be relaxed because the film already kind of performed.”
Cuaron also was very complimentary to other directors this year and looks at it as a particularly great year for film and filmmakers. “I am encouraged because of my eclectic taste in film,” he said. “This happens to be a heavy year in terms of filmmakers’ vision of films, not so much developed projects by studios where a good director got attached. You can see these are films by filmmakers that are very much their projects. I like everything from really obscure arthouse films to really entertaining stuff. It’s funny — I am supposed to be just talking about my movie, but this year what is so refreshing are films that are so successful and happen to be films that are not necessarily the obvious things that happen these days, ” he added, pointing out 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle as two strong examples.
Los Angeles (December 23, 2013) – Today, the Visual Effects Society (VES), the industry’s professional honorary society, named acclaimed filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón as the recipient of its Visionary Award in recognition of his extraordinary career, most recently including his landmark achievement on this year’s hugely acclaimed “Gravity.” The award will be presented at the 12th Annual VES Awards on February 12, 2014 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The VES Visionary Award, bestowed by the VES Board of Directors, recognizes an individual who has uniquely and consistently employed the art and science of visual effects to foster imagination and ignite future discoveries by way of artistry, invention and groundbreaking work. VES will honor Cuarón for his consummate artistry, expansive storytelling and profound ability to use and pioneer technology and visual effects to bring his unique visions to life.
NBC‘s high profile midseason drama series Believe, co-created and executive produced by Gravity director/co-writer Alfonso Cuaron and exec produced by J.J. Abrams, is undergoing a behind the scenes change. Executive producer/showrunner Dave Erickson is expected to depart. He will be succeeded by co-executive producer/director Jonas Pate who has been named executive producer/showrunner, a rare case of a director, not a writer taking the reins of a scripted serie. He directed the important second episode of the series that follows the pilot helmed by Cuaron. Pate joins executive producers Cuaron, Abrams, Bryan Burk as well as Hans Tobeason who will now serve as on-set producer in New York where the series films. This marks the second showrunner change on Believe. Co-creator/executive producer and original showrunner Mark Friedman left the series in July. To accommodate the showrunner transition, Believe is going on a holiday hiatus a week earlier that the previously scheduled Dec. 20 start. The extra week will be used to work on scripts. The series will resume production on Jan. 6 as originally scheduled. NBC has not slated Believe yet but had been looking to launch it after the Winter Olympics, using the sports event to promote the series and benefiting from the strong awards attention Cuaron is enjoying with Gravity.
When Sandra Bullock won the best actress Oscar for The Blind Side three years ago, her position as the number-one female movie star on the planet was secure. But after all the box office and awards success, Bullock was very careful about what projects she chose to do next. Eschewing the easy route of another romantic comedy after her supporting role in 2011’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Bullock took on the role of Dr. Ryan Stone, a novice astronaut stranded in space and struggling to survive in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. At its core, the film is not your average sci-fi blockbuster, but rather an intimate look at summoning the will to go on.
AwardsLine: They created something called the light box for this, a really isolating contraption. What was it like in there?
Sandra Bullock: It was literally a 9- by 9-foot box that was elevated on a platform. On one side, there were black curtains where all the technical geniuses were sitting, and there was a long track in the center. You know the (robot) arms that make the cars in Detroit? They were these massive things with the camera on them. There was a metal harness that I had to get up through that clamped around my waist. It was timed mechanically with the camera, so it would turn my body, and the camera was then spinning, and I had to figure out, “Am I upside down? Or am I right side up?”
UPDATED, 2:35 PM: The LA Film Critics Association held its annual end-of year awards vote today, handing Best Picture to WB pics Gravity and Her in one of multiple ties. The big surprise of the day went down as Best Supporting Actor award resulted in a tie between Oscar contender Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) and James Franco (Spring Breakers). Also tying for LAFCA honors were Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos for Blue Is the Warmest Color, while Nebraska‘s Bruce Dern was named Best Actor and Alfonso Cuaron beat Spike Jonze for Best Director.
Scroll down for full winners.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Blue Is the Warmest Color
Runner-up: The Great Beauty
BEST PICTURE (tie): Gravity and Her
BEST ACTRESS (tie): Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color
BEST SCREENPLAY: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
BEST ACTOR: Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Runner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
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
Gravity blasted into Venice this morning winning huzzahs from the press and upping buzz on the Lido ahead of tonight’s official opening. Helmer Alfonso Cuaron, stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, co-writer Jonas Cuaron and producer David Heyman took the dais for a press conference this afternoon to discuss the challenges of filming a movie set in a weightless environment. There was also talk about Syria, satellites — and even a Ben Affleck as Batman reference.
Alfonso Cuaron said the idea for Gravity was borne from a script his son Jonas had written about two characters stuck in a hostile environment and their journey though adversity. Cuaron said that at the time, adversity was “very present in our lives” so they used it as a point of departure. The satellite debris that destroys Bullock and Clooney’s space shuttle became “a metaphor for adversity.” Bullock’s character, Dr Ryan Stone, has also experienced a tragedy back on Earth that has turned her into “a machine that was a factory for her brain.” A thrust of the narrative is her evolving from someone with no reason to live, to someone who wants to live.
Much of the film is Bullock on her own and the actress said she spent most of her time in a 9’x9’ lightbox or “hanging from 20 foot ceilings.” She called the film, “Physically and mentally, the craziest, most bizarre, challenging thing” she’s ever done. “But you find what you’re made of because if you don’t do it, you’ve destroyed a beautiful story.” Setting the film in a zero-g environment created a big challenge – or as Cuaron termed it, a “mindf***” – because the actors had to learn a whole new set of physics. There were scientific advisers to help. “The actors had to get used to how things act and react in zero-g with no resistance.” The animators also had to learn new rules. “It was the worst case scenario of animation and the worst case scenario for live action film,” Cuaron said.
UPDATED: J.J. Abrams is having a pretty good end of the week. After signing on to direct the next Star Wars movie yesterday, he received two pilot orders today. NBC has greenlighted Believe, Abrams’ project with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. The network also has ordered Undateable, a comedy from writer Adam Sztykiel (Due Date) and producer Bill Lawrence.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros TV is exploring casting of key roles in its high-concept drama project from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams. The project, tentatively titled Believe, already has a pilot production commitment. It is not unusual for studios to do preliminary casting work on high-profile projects before a formal green light, especially those with a strong, hard-to-find lead whose casting can make or break a show. WBTV is doing the same with the lead in its potential Wonder Woman origin series at the CW, Amazon.
Directed by Cuarón and written by him and Mark Friedman, Believe is about a girl in possession of a great gift/powers — which will come into their own in seven years– and the man who is sprung from prison to protect her from those trying to hunt her down. The breakdown, released this week by casting director April Webster, is searching for the young lead: 10-year-old Bo, innocent and beautiful, a regular girl who has a depth and mystery to her.