EXCLUSIVE: Clearly Johnny Depp‘s reps are in publicity overdrive following a week of bruising bad press when The Lone Ranger bombed and his star status was questioned. The purpose, of course, is to demonstrate that Johnny is very much in …
Anthony Zuiker found himself in a familiar situation today. In 1999, he was an up-and-coming feature writer with no TV experience who wrote a drama project for ABC Studios (then Touchstone TV) and one of its pods, Jerry Bruckheimer TV. After ABC passed on the pitch, it was taken to another network. But when the Touchstone TV-produced pilot was picked up to series by CBS in May 2000, the studio pulled out as the company’s leadership didn’t want a Disney-owned studio to deficit finance a series on another network. The project, CSI, spawned a $1 billion franchise.
This season, another up-and-coming feature writer with no TV background, Whit Anderson, wrote a drama project for ABC Studios and two of its pods, Zuiker’s Dare To Pass and Brillstein Entertainment, which collaborate on development. ABC again passed on the pitch, which landed elsewhere with ABC Studio attached. But when NBC today greenlighted the project, Alice In Wonderland, to pilot, ABC Studios was replaced by NBC sibling Universal Television. I hear that Uni TV stepped in after ABC Studios opted out.
Times have changed since 2000, and such studio defections are very rare, unless a project moves to the CW, a network only sister studios CBS TV Studios and Warner Bros. TV do business with. Besides CBS Studios, the other network-affiliated production arms have been actually looking to expand beyond supplying their own networks. ABC Studios has been particularly aggressive on that front. It sold three high-profile drama projects to NBC and just yesterday, one of them, the modern-day Hatfields & McCoys, got a pilot order. ABC Studios is producing that pilot but won’t do the same for the modern-day Alice In Wonderland one.
EXCLUSIVE: The CW is jumping down a rabbit hole to Wunderland, putting in development a contemporary reimagining of Alice In Wonderland. Fittingly, Wunderland hails from McG‘s Warner Bros TV-based production company Wonderland Sound And Vision, in association with WBTV. Written by The Playboy Club creator Chad Hodge, the drama project centers on a young female detective in present-day Los Angeles who discovers another world that exists under the surface of this ultra-modern city. Hodge will write the script and executive produce with McG and Wonderland’s Peter Johnson. This is one of two public domain properties the CW is developing as potential drama series for next season, along with Sleepy Hollow, which also is being produced by WBTV. Lewis Carroll’s classic has been closely associated with Disney via the 1951 animated film and Tim Burton’s 2010 extravaganza. Characters from the book also have been featured on Disney-owned ABC’s fairytale drama Once Upon A Time.
The Deadline Team of Nikki Finke, Pete Hammond, and Mike Fleming have spent recent days interviewing the studio moguls to gauge their perspective on this very close Oscar race:
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
12 Nominations: 5 Toy Story 3, 3 Alice In Wonderland, 1 Tron: Legacy 3D, 1 The Tempest, 1 Tangled, 1 Day & Night
DEADLINE’s Nikki Finke: You’ve never done an Oscar campaign before. These weren’t even your movies. What was the biggest challenge you were facing?
RICH ROSS: For me to be able to support films that I didn’t greenlight was putting me in the brain of a marketer. I certainly knew I was lucky that I saw Alice In Wonderland before it was complete, and I saw Toy Story 3 way before it was complete. I think what made it very easy for me, in all honesty, was working with Tim Burton on Alice or working with John Lassiter — people who pour their heart and soul into these movies. And seeing how these movies both performed and were talked about and heralded is no less thrilling because I didn’t greenlight them. I see the faces of the people who win and you know they are thrilled. And that makes me happy. I would say that the most challenging situation was coming in and coming up with a strategy of support. At the same time you don’t have relationships which people have had for 20, 30, 40 years with the different organizations who determine the outcome of those races — people in the Directors Guild or people in the Producers Guild or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or the National Board of Review. These are many, many organizations aside from the critics who are giving out kudos.
DEADLINE: But you had Oscar consultants.
ROSS: We already had Tony Angelotti on the animation side, and we had Kira Feola on the live action side. They’ve split up the responsibilities. And the late Ronni Chasen was working on Alice In Wonderland, too, because she had worked with the Zanucks for a very long time. So Dick had asked me if it was possible to bring in Ronni to help support the film, and of course to support the filmmaker we said sure.
DEADLINE: It must have been such a blow for everyone at Disney when she died.
ROSS: Well, it was beyond shocking because I saw her the night before and she was very much in the heat of the moment because she was very close with the Zanucks and so when it happened it was very tough.
DEADLINE: You’ve done plenty of Emmy campaigns. What is the difference do you think now?
ROSS: The Emmy campaign is so much more targeted because you’re really going for one group of people who are voting on that series of awards. The Oscar campaign difference is the diversity of the groups. You have to thread the needle. You are going from literally that first National Board of Review list through every critics group that are in Iowa and St. Louis to all the Guild groups til you get to the Oscar nomination and an Oscar win.
DEADLINE: Let’s talk about Alice in Wonderland first. It didn’t get a Best Picture nomination.
ROSS: My feeling on Alice was I knew going into it we had a proverbial issue of timing. Obviously, it made a billion dollars. But that doesn’t help you. It opened in March. So it was about getting people to remember what they saw. Aside from the problem of when they do see it, the No. 2 challenge is commercialism which seems to come up every year. Last year the ultimate was with Avatar vs The Hurt Locker where people felt Avatar already had its success because the box office was there. It’s not that it doesn’t get attention but it’s definitely a challenge in terms of people’s interpretation of the Awards season. And one of the curious things for me was Mia Wasikowska who was doing her first film and held together a $150 million plus film that made a billion dollars. And when people are talking about breakout stars, I would stand around talking about her, and they are like, ‘Really?’ Now she’s getting huge movies and I believe she will be a huge star. But to me that was the most curious.
DEADLINE: And then Tim Burton has been pretty much ignored by Oscar voters.
ROSS: I think he’s clearly at the top of his game. This was a giant year for him and I assume he wanted to be appreciated. I do believe that day will come before it has to be an honorary Oscar. And I don’t believe it will be a small movie, Nikki. I do believe it will be some substantial commercial film where people will say, ‘It’s about time.’
You know the oft-repeated phrase heard this time of year, “It’s an honor just to be nominated”? That was never more true for some who might have actually won the Academy Award but tripped on their way to the Kodak stage by failing to get to first base with a nomination this past Tuesday. This year, presumed frontrunners in different categories weren’t moved forward in the Oscar race because of their own peer group. In case you’re not aware, peer groups pick the individual nominees in their categories. In the final vote, the entire Academy votes for the winners. The membership at large, thought not to be as technically judgmental as the formidable peer groups (or, in some situations, as swayed by petty jealousies), usually tend to select the more obvious choices. But what should be an anomaly happens a lot when it comes to Oscar. In 1989, Driving Miss Daisy was the big winner with four Oscars including Best Picture. Its director Bruce Beresford almost certainly would have made it five except for one small thing: the Director’s branch didn’t nominate him so the Academy at large couldn’t vote for him. It was the first time since Grand Hotel (1931-1932) that a director was not nommed for a movie that won Best Picture. (Instead, Oliver Stone won for Born On The Fouth Of July.) Most famously, Hollywood was shocked when the actors branch didn’t nominate Bette Davis for 1934’s Of Human Bondage even though it was considered one of the greatest female performances ever and its omission caused such a stir that the Academy augmented their rules to allow a write-in vote. (The write-in didn’t work, and Claudette Colbert triumphed.) Out of embarrassment, the Academy tried to make amends and gave Davis the Oscar the next year for the much-lesser Dangerous.
For instance, this year in the Best Make Up category, Alice In Wonderland was considered the frontrunner among the seven finalists – but shockingly failed to even be nominated. Instead, the final three nominees were Barney’s Version, The Way Back, and Universal’s early 2010 dud The Wolfman, forcing Academy voters to choose from these far more obscure entries. Which is why I have to ask: Was Paul Giamatti’s disheveled hair in Barney’s Version really better than the Make Up artistry on the Red Queen or the Mad Hatter? It’s all a very closed club, and the answer may not lie in the work itself but in who did the work and who is a member of the club.
For instance, the critically drubbed The Tempest‘s Sandy Powell, a 3-time winner in Oscar’s Costumes category, can get nominated for just about anything she does because she is one of Costume branch’s inner circle. The same is true for the Music branch and John Williams who doesn’t score for movies as much anymore. But any time he does, he’s likely to get a nomination because he’s an icon among musicians.
Regarding the Best Documentary nominations this year, I heard that one Governor of the Academy’s Documentary branch told a consultant that if Waiting For ‘Superman’, Davis Guggenheim’s widely favored education doc from Paramount, received a nomination it would win Best Feature Documentary with the membership at large. But he wasn’t voting for it and neither were some other branch members he knew due to questions they had about the way some of the documentary was conducted. Specifically, objections were raised about one scene recreated for the camera after it happened in real life. The result is that Guggenheim won’t be getting that second Oscar this time around (he won for An Inconvenient Truth) since his documentary didn’t make the cut with his branch.
Christopher Nolan was now infamously passed over in the Best Director category, first for The Dark Knight and this time for Inception. Would he have won this time out for staying true to his passion project? We’ll never know. My guess is there’s a certain level of jealousy because he pretty much can do whatever he wants and wherever he wants. (I often say he could go in and pitch a remake of Howard The Duck and studios would say yes.) Steven Speilberg was famously not nominated as Best Director for the Best Picture nominee Jaws. (Worse, a TV show following around Spielberg that day the Oscar nods were announced showed him anxiously anticipating a nomination that never came.)
Lee Smith’s dazzling Editing for Inception was thought to be an easy winner in that category once it got to the general vote. Problem is, the editors themselves dissed it. No Oscar for Lee this year.
Diane Warren won a Golden Globe this month for the anthem she wrote for Cher in Burlesque called “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me”. And she was considered a likely Academy Award winner this time after 6 previous Oscar nominations. Plus, Cher was expected to perform it on the telecast. Unfortunately, the Academy’s grumpy Music branch decided we had seen the last of Warren this awards season and nominated only four tunes, none of them from the critically reviled Burlesque. Talk about a backlash. (A publicist connected with Warren’s campaign even wanted to ask for a recount but knew the Academy would never allow it.) The same Music branch disqualified Clint Mansell’s soaring blend of original music and Tchaikovsky in Black Swan which almost certainly could have triumphed with the general Academy membership when voting starts on February 2nd.
Beverly Hills, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that seven films remain in competition in the Makeup category for the 83rd Academy Awards.
The films are listed below in alphabetical order:
“Alice in Wonderland”
“The Way Back”
On Saturday, January 22, all
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