After True Detective, toplined by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the casting bar for HBO‘s new drama series is pretty high. Enter the pay cable network’s pilot Westworld, which has locked in Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood for lead roles. The project, inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi movie set at an amusement park, hails from from J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot, Person Of Interest creator Jonathan Nolan, writer Lisa Joy Nolan, producer Jerry Weintraub and Warner Bros TV. It landed at HBO a year ago with one of the biggest commitments ever for the premium network, a pilot production commitment, and now has been officially greenlighted to pilot with Hopkins and Wood on board. Described as a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin, the series will keep the setting of the movie, which starred Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin and introduced new digital visual techniques.
Anthony Hopkins leads the cast of Informant Media’s Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, about the 1983 kidnapping of the Dutch beer heir and his chauffeur, Ab Doderer. The famous crime resulted in what was at the time the largest ransom ever paid for an individual at 35 million Dutch guldens, or roughly $50 million today. Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, and Ryan Kwanten have also come aboard with Netherlands actor Mark van Eeuwen and Australian newcomer Tom Cocquerel rounding out the cast. Millennium Trilogy helmer Daniel Alfredson (The Girl Who Played With Fire & The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest) is directing from a script by William Brookfield, based on Dutch crime journalist Peter R. de Vries’ bestseller about the Heineken caper.
EXCLUSIVE: Colin Farrell is closing a deal to star with Anthony Hopkins in Solace, the supernatural thriller that Afonso Poyart (Two Rabbits) will direct with production to begin in May. The film will be sold at Berlin by FilmNation’s Glen Basner, and domestic distribution rights are also up for grabs and are being repped by UTA.
The film’s scripted by Sean Bailey, Ted Griffin, James Vanderbilt and Peter Morgan. It has percolating long enough that the film’s first credited writer, Bailey, is currently president of production at Disney. The film originated at New Line but never came together quite right, and producers Beau Flynn of FlynnPictureCo, Tripp Vinson and Thomas Augsberger. Flynn finally got it back and got the financing through Claudia Bluemhuber’s Silver Reel. Matthias Emcke is exec producer with Bluemhuber, Gerd Schepers and Jacob Pechenik.
An FBI detective seeks the help of a retired and reclusive doctor, to try and solve a series of grisly murders. The doctor was a wiz at the murder game, but lost his mojo when his daughter died tragically. Desperate, the detective presses the doctor to come out of retirement for one more case. Farrell will play the serial killer, putting him mano a mano against Hopkins. That should be fun. They’ve yet to cast the detective.
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
When we think of Anthony Hopkins, psychopaths may spring to mind. After all, the Welsh actor won an Oscar in 1992 for playing Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, a career-defining role. But of course there’s much more to Hopkins than playing brilliant fictional villains. He’s also displayed a knack for portraying complicated historical figures. In addition to playing Hitler (on TV) and William Bligh, the actor has earned Oscar nominations for playing the lead in Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995) and John Quincy Adams in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997). Now, Hopkins has assumed the role of Alfred Hitchcock in Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock, which chronicles the development and making of Psycho.
AwardsLine: What attracted you to playing Alfred Hitchcock?
Anthony Hopkins: The project originally came to me eight years ago. I met the two producers and thought, Yes, it’s interesting. But who wants to see a film about Alfred Hitchcock? Plus, I didn’t want to put on weight, having just gotten fit. So it never happened. But then it came back around. Sacha Gervasi now had it, and he had such passion and blatant enthusiasm for it. He had no experience directing actors, and I thought that would be a challenge. So I decided to just jump in.
Last month Joaquin Phoenix slammed awards season, telling Interview magazine he considers it ”utter bullshit”. Now Anthony Hopkins, whose film Hitchcock is getting Oscar buzz, seems to be joining the anti-Oscar campaign. Hopkins tells the Huffington Post he’s not interested. ”Having to be nice to people and to be charming and flirting with them … oh, come on! People go out of their way to flatter the nominating body and I think it’s kind of disgusting. That’s always been against my nature”, said Hopkins, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 1991 for Silence Of The Lambs. He tells Huffpo he agrees with other actors who want the work to speak for itself. “You know, kissing the backside of the authorities that can make or break it; I can’t stand all that. I find it nauseating to watch and I think it’s disgusting to behold. People groveling around and kissing the backsides of famous producers and all that. It makes me want to throw up, it really does”.
Is this a trend? If so, who will be next to make awards consultants pull their hair out?
Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ The Greatest Movie Of All Time? And The Director Could Have New Oscar And Emmy Contenders
Alfred Hitchcock has been dead for 32 years. The last film he made, Family Plot, was released in 1976 yet his popularity among movie fans and cineastes alike has never seemed to wane. To put it bluntly, Hitch has never been hotter. This week proof of that was offered by the ascension of his 1958 classic Vertigo to the No. 1 spot on the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound survey of the so-called 50 Greatest Films Of All Time as selected this year by 846 critics, film scholars and historians, the largest sampling ever in the once a decade list that has been compiled every 10 years since 1962. Ever since the inception of the esteemed poll the British international film journal has named Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane as the Number 1 greatest film of all time — until 2012 when suddenly Hitchcock vaulted to the top after a slow, steady ascent since first appearing on the list of the Top 10 films in 1982. It is certainly interesting that this particular Hitchcock film starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, not even a huge hit in 1958 and recipient of only two minor Oscar nominations, for Color Art Direction and Sound, has become the master’s masterpiece in the eyes of the world’s top film writers and scholars. The only other Hitchcock film on the list is Psycho at number 35, although I personally count numerous others including North By Northwest, Rear Window, Notorious, even The Birds as equally deserving. I’m not at all sure Vertigo, great as it is, is the greatest of all time. Really? David Lean who directed such immortal greats as Lawrence Of Arabia and The Bridge On The River Kwai doesn’t have a single film in the top 50 and you could argue all day about other omissions and inclusions (there’s no DAVID Lean but there is DAVID Lynch at No. 28 with Mulholland Drive. Hmmm).
EXCLUSIVE: Summit Entertainment wants Anthony Hopkins to join the cast of Red 2. And Hopkins wants to do it. The sticking point is whether or not he can make the dates work with Thor 2, as he’s already committed to reprising his role as Thor’s father Odin. Red 2 will be directed by Dean Parisot, with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich expected to reprise, and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Byung Hun-Li joining the cast. Hopkins would play Edward Bailey, a villain. He’s currently playing Alfred Hitchcock in Fox Searchlight‘s making-of-Psycho pic.
The financing is in place and Anthony Hopkins and Annette Bening are on board for Andy Garcia in Hemingway & Fuentes. Hopkins will play the Nobel Prize-winning author. Bening will portray Hemingway’s third wife, Mary Walsh Hemingway. Garcia will direct the film and play Gregorio Fuentes, the longtime first mate on Hemingway’s boat. The novelist’s niece Hilary Hemingway and Garcia wrote the screenplay. Shooting is scheduled to start in January 2013. Garcia’s CineSon production company and Edward Walson’s Sunrider Productions will produce. Sundrider provided the financing. The Paradigm Motion Picture Finance Group, who arranged financing, will handle the film’s domestic distribution. Cargo Entertainment will handle foreign sales at the Cannes Film Festival.
Hemingway & Fuentes details the writer’s time in Cuba in the early 1950s and his inspiration for The Old Man And The Sea. The 1952 book was the last new work published by the writer before his death in 1961. It was a best seller, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and was mentioned by the Nobel Committee in 1954 as one reason Hemingway was given the prize. Fuentes, who died in 2002 at 104 years old, was one of the novelist’s closest friends during the last decades of his life.
Hopkins, who will soon be …
EXCLUSIVE: Jessica Biel committed today to the second female lead in the Sacha Gervasi-directed Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho. Biel will play the role of Vera Miles, who played Lila Crane in the 1960 classic. Anthony Hopkins plays Hitchcock, Scarlett Johansson will play Janet Leigh, Helen Mirren will play Alma Reville and James D’Arcy is reportedly up for the role of Anthony Perkins. Biel will next be seen starring opposite Colin Farrell in the Total Recall remake for Sony Pictures. Biel beat out several actresses for the Hitchcock role. She’s repped by CAA, Management 360 and attorney Karl Austen.
Magnolia Pictures bought U.S. rights to 360, the Fernando Meirelles-directed ensemble drama that stars Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Ben Foster, Jamel Debbouze and Moritz Bleibtreu. The film is a series of intersecting storylines that deal with love and infidelity, written by Peter Morgan and inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen, the play most famously turned into the 1950s film La Ronde. 360 was high on buyer lists coming into Toronto, but despite the pedigree and starpower, many of the distributors found the subject matter too challenging to see a wide release. The film recently was chosen as the opening-night film of the BFI 55th London Film Festival. “Fernando Meirelles and Peter Morgan are two exceptional talents that have crafted a unique and truly special picture,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said. He called it “a stunningly well made film, and a fantastic showcase for some of the most talented actors from around the world.” The film was produced by Andrew Eaton and David Linde, with Chris Hanley, Danny Krausz and Emanuel Michael. UTA Independent Film Group made the deal.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing that Magnolia Pictures is set to close a U.S. deal for Fernando Meirelles’ sexual drama 360, which opened the 55th BFI London Film Festival last night. Artificial Eye is also in talks to release 360 here in the UK on March 3 2012, I understand. Co-produced by Revolution Films, the UK production company behind IFC’s The Trip, the Peter Morgan-scripted feature follows a sexual circle of prostitution, infidelity and true love. Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz and Jude Law star. Paris-based sales agent Wild Bunch is selling the BBC Films-backed project internationally. Reviews here this morning have been pretty muted: The Daily Telegraph summed up the film as a “glossily unengaging trudge through other people’s love lives,” describing one moment where a character imagines a plane carrying away his lover as “spectacularly stupid.” The Times of London gives the film a pretty dismissive 3-star review, calling the plot improbable, and said the merry-go-round structure “crushes performances into twenty-minute slots that often fail to elicit our sympathy.. The Evening Standard though was much more positive, calling 360 “a well-crafted package” and “a film of beautiful moments, elegant structure and vivid locations.”
Was the 2011 Toronto Film Festival a good one for dealmaking? Even after organizers announced a 20% uptick in film deals last Friday (the festival includes foreign territories in its count), the sales kept coming. A long-expected deal with Lionsgate on the Jennifer Westfeldt-directed comedy Friends With Kids finally got done (in partnership with Roadside Attractions, which will actually release the film), and Music Box announced overnight it had acquired the Rachel Weisz-starrer The Deep Blue Sea. Lionsgate was hotly pursuing another film, the Midnight Madness sensation You’re Next, which of all the festival films seems to have the best chance of approaching the box office turned in by Toronto 2010’s breakout Insidious. There have been about 20 acquisitions so far and that many more could come in the next few weeks.
Still, can you call the Toronto acquisitions marketplace “solid” when no films have been bought so far by The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, or Fox Searchlight (yeah, I revealed that they bought Shame during Toronto, but it was a deal all but sealed in Venice), or for that matter FilmDistrict, Open Road or Relativity Media, each of which jumped into the distribution business to release films that can play on upwards of 2000 screens? Buyers and sellers said it was a pretty good festival at least. One filled with mostly small deals and a show of distributor discipline that is a positive sign for an indie film sector that just started pulling out of a nosedive this time last year.
Last year’s Toronto Film Festival started slow for acquisitions, but finished with a flurry of modest distribution deals that served notice the specialty film business had finally pulled out of its nosedive. This year’s festival hasn’t started and already there are fireworks. Deadline broke news yesterday that Harvey Weinstein would start a VOD business, making the acquisitions market for fringe films more competitive; and last night, I heard that a bidding battle had already broken out for the Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which should be sold by the time it screens Sunday. Fox Searchlight is the favorite, Sony Pictures Classics is in the mix and I’ve heard that The Weinstein Company is hovering. Bidding began right after its Telluride screening, and the mid-six figures thrown around yesterday will probably go higher. That’s huge, considering the movie is an unabashed NC-17, McQueen has final cut, and the sex-obsessed protagonist is unlikable. Oh, yeah, and the sellers want it released this year for Oscar consideration to capitalize on Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan’s Oscar-caliber performances.
Does this mean we’re in for a drunken buying frenzy? Hardly, buyers tell me. They are eager to see the films, but say there’s no title here that’s going to guarantee somebody will overpay. They are also mindful that many of last year’s deals turned out to be box office busts. More deals will be made than …
The BFI 55th London Film Festival will open with the European premiere of 360, the Fernando Meirelles-directed drama that stars Rachel Weisz, Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins. The film opens Oct. 12 and the festival unveils the rest of its titles next Wednesday. I’m told that the opening film came down to 360 and My Week With Marilyn, but the latter film couldn’t make it because star Michelle Williams could not free herself from the production schedule of Disney’s The Great and Powerful Oz, and co-star Kenneth Branagh will be onstage in Belfast. These fest openers are sometimes determined by availability. For instance, the New York Film Festival seriously eyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy for its opener, but the film’s star, Gary Oldman, could not free himself from The Dark Knight Rises. The festival opens with Carnage, even though that film’s director Roman Polanski will certainly be a scratch.
360 is a Peter Morgan-scripted drama of interconnected stories about fidelity. It’s considered one of the hot acquisition titles that will unveil next month at the Toronto International Film Festival, and a possible Oscar contender. (Weisz won Best Supporting Actress for 2005′s The Constant Gardener, which was her last film with Meirelles.) The film is produced by Andrew Eaton and David Linde, Emanuel Michael, Danny Krausz and Chris Hanley.