Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
It was, in the words of production designer David Gropman, “a very large endeavor for a very short moment”. For Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, designers created a faithful reproduction of the real-life Piscine Molitor in Paris in the 1950s. The set did not get much screen time, but Gropman says Lee insisted that the pool be fully rendered as an important key to the story. Pi was named after the swimming pool (full name Piscine Molitor Patel). Besides explaining Pi’s odd moniker, Gropman says Lee wanted to explain Pi’s ability to master the water and his alarming companion at sea, an adult Bengal tiger. Pi’s father survived polio as a young boy so he could not swim, but “he was happy to see his son be able to, not realizing it would one day save his life”, Gropman says. 1) The scene begins with a closeup of the Piscine Molitor sign. As a youth, Pi adopts the nickname to avoid having fellow students call him “Pissing” instead of Piscine. Read More »
In honor of the 85th Academy Awards, AwardsLine is spotlighting memorable moments and winners from the last eight decades. This is Part 1: The Producers. Part 2 will be Actors & Actress; Part 3 will be The Directors.
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In a race as tight as the one this year for Best Actress and particularly Best Actor, there were many deserving performances that might have made the cut in any other year but were overlooked because of intense competition. As … Read More »
The last in a three-part series in which AwardsLine breaks down all nine of the best picture contenders.
What the Academy says: 5 nominations (Picture: Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone; Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz; Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino; Cinematography: Robert Richardson; Sound Editing: Wylie Stateman)
What the public says: $147.5M domestic boxoffice; $111.5M international (as of Feb. 1)
What Pete Hammond says: Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti-western homage was a Christmas Day release and struggled just to meet its late-year release date. That means its five nominations including best picture are an impressive feat considering many members probably didn’t get a chance to see it because of the earlier voting schedule. It just shows the love for all things Tarantino, as this is the third film for which the director has seen a best picture nom. Although unlike Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino didn’t earn a best director nomination this year. Read More »
The second in a three-part series in which AwardsLine breaks down all nine of the best picture contenders.
Silver Linings Playbook
What the Academy says: 8 nominations (Picture: Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon; Directing: David O. Russell; Lead Actor: Bradley Cooper; Lead Actress: Jennifer Lawrence; Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro; Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver; Film Editing: Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers; Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell)
What the public says: $71.4M domestic boxoffice; $19.8M international (as of Feb. 1)
What Pete Hammond says: Because it is a comedy, albeit one laced with drama, Silver Linings Playbook is at a disadvantage right out of the starting gate because comedies don’t traditionally win best picture Oscars. But this critically acclaimed story about two broken people who are trying to get their lives back together benefits from a passionate base of admirers, and that’s key Read More »
The first in a three-part series in which AwardsLine breaks down all nine of the best picture contenders.
What the Academy says: 12 nominations (Picture: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg; Directing: Steven Spielberg; Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis; Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones; Supporting Actress: Sally Field; Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner; Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski; Original Score: John Williams; Film Editing: Michael Kahn; Production Design: Rick Carter, Jim Erickson; Costume Design: Joanna Johnston; Sound Mixing: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Ronald Judkins)
What the public says: $168.0M domestic boxoffice; $14.5M international (as of Feb. 1)
What Pete Hammond says: From the announcement that Steven Spielberg was going to direct Lincoln, this one had the hallmarks of a film that defines what the Oscars are all about. The fact that it was not an easy road for the iconic director and his screenwriter, Tony Kushner, only adds to the gravitas of the whole project. And with Daniel Day-Lewis scooping up best actor awards left and right—plus a sterling cast of supporting players led by nominees Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field—this one smells like a winner. With a leading Read More »
With less than a month to go, the stage is set for one of the strangest Oscar showdowns in memory. Certainly the season started with some clear favorites emerging, like Argo at Telluride, Silver Linings Playbook at Toronto, then Lincoln just after the election, followed by Life Of Pi. I thought Paramount’s Flight also might emerge as a major best picture contender around this time, but when critics awards and early nominations for Globes and CCMAs started coming in, it was clear this was mainly just a play for Denzel Washington and John Gatins’ original screenplay. At Christmas time, we got Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, and the hotly anticipated Les Misérables to complete our seven-pack of best picture contenders. What many weren’t anticipating was that two small indie films that made a splash earlier in the year were also going to come in. Beasts Of The Southern Wild managed to hold on to all that momentum from its Sundance debut a year ago, and then Read More »
Ari Karpel is an AwardsLine contributor.
Matt Damon and John Krasinski are well aware that Promised Land is facing what Damon deems “an uphill climb.” The film, about a community confronting the rock-and-hard-place decision of whether to frack or not to frack—that is, whether to allow a major corporation to come in and drill for natural gas in exchange for millions of dollars and, potentially, the townspeople’s physical health—faces a marketing challenge that teeters on the same fine line Damon and Krasinski walked while writing its screenplay.
“It’s a minefield,” says Damon, mindful of the taint that can adhere to a movie thought of as “an issue movie.” “You can’t get too heavy-handed, and it can’t feel like it’s some polemic.”
And yet that hardly compares to the ups and downs he and Krasinski faced in getting the movie off the ground.
It all started with Krasinski, who wanted to write a screenplay about “some sort of abuse of power in…the green energy movement.” The actor, best known as Jim Halpert on The Office, had previously written and directed 2009’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and starred in Away We Go, written by Dave Eggers, who also consulted on the film. “I brought it to Dave because these are issues close to his heart, too,” Krasinski says. They hashed out characters and a story, set against the backdrop of the wind-farming industry. (Eggers has a “story by” credit.) Read More »
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.
Fast and furious is perhaps the best way to describe the making of Zero Dark Thirty, something Jessica Chastain found out the day after attending last year’s Oscar ceremony.
“I flew 25 hours to Chandigarh, India. I got off the plane and I called in, just kind of joking, ‘I’m here guys, ready to go!’ ” Chastain recalls. “And they said, ‘OK, come on in!’ I didn’t go through hair and makeup — nothing. They put me in a robe, they sent me to a market, I had no idea what time of day it was, and they just started shooting. And it was like that from the get-go.”
Rarely are movies put together as rapidly and with as much timeliness as Zero Dark Thirty, which recounts the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden and culminates in the May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed the 9/11 terrorist leader.
Related: PGA Awards Film: Best Picture List Offers No Surprises Read More »
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
In a season dominated by splashy studio fare from relatively mainstream directors, the quiet African-American focused Middle Of Nowhere is something of an anomaly. Shot in just 19 days in and around Los Angeles, the microbudgeted film about a woman who works to earn her nursing degree while dealing with a husband in prison is the second feature from former publicist Ava DuVernay, who started her filmmaking career just five years ago at age 35. Not only did DuVernay write and direct the feature—which has earned three Independent Spirit Award nominations, plus a breakthrough Gotham Award for star Emayatzy Corinealdi—but she launched her own film collective, AFFRM, to distribute. On the eve of a new year, and in the middle of moving, DuVernay took time to speak with AwardsLine about her work as a businesswoman and as a filmmaker.
Related: OSCARS: Will Earlier Voting Schedule Influence Nominations? Read More »
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.
Remember the 1971 movie Shaft? Ben Affleck doesn’t want you to—at least, not while you are watching his 2012 movie Argo, set in the turbulent 1979-80 era of the Iranian revolution and the Iran hostage crisis.
In creating the look of Argo — the stranger-than-fiction true story of a covert mission to help six Americans flee Iran by posing as a Canadian movie crew — director/star Affleck was adamant that the design team create an authentic ’70s look without falling into disco-era extremes of fashion and style.
“Costume designer Jacqueline West shared with me the goal of not having the ’70s thing upstage the movie,” Affleck explains. “I didn’t want to have just fur coats and bell bottoms — Shaft —to communicate the period. It’s a period that could very easily be exploited for comedy, so have you to be really ginger about what you do. There’s a laugh waiting behind every haircut.”
Related: ‘Argo’s’ Real-Life People Speak Out: Video Read More »
Thomas McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.
Nearly 10 years after The Lord Of The Rings trilogy wrapped its record-breaking run with a best picture Oscar and more than $3 billion in worldwide ticket sales, director Peter Jackson has done the last thing he expected: He got the band back together for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. “I came away from Lord Of The Rings with 266 days of shooting three movies and thought I’d never do that again in my life,” says Jackson. “Then we sat down at the first production meeting on The Hobbit, and I flipped to the last page of the schedule, and it was 266 days! It was exactly the same length of time! And I just said, ‘I cannot believe I find myself back at this place again.’ ”
The first in a new trilogy adapting the first book in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Middle Earth mythology, Jackson and his crew’s steady hand on The Hobbit offers reassuring creative continuity while pushing the technical envelope by adding stereoscopic 3D and, most controversially, shooting at 48 frames per second.
Related: OSCARS: The Directors Read More »
Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine.
“I think she had to be in there for 20 minutes before I yelled action.” Quentin Tarantino is referring to the time that Kerry Washington spent in the “hotbox” — a hole in the ground on a plantation where slaves were sent when they tried to escape. It’s where Washington’s character Broomhilda is locked up when her husband, Django (Jamie Foxx), arrives at Candyland — the vast Southern estate owned by her owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Her voice parched from screaming and her body weakened, Broomhilda doesn’t know that Django has come to rescue her with the help of dentist-cum-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz).
“Kerry is very game to make things as real as possible,” says Tarantino, who as Waltz points out, can often inspire actors with their characters’ back stories, “Leaving her in the box for 30 seconds and then yelling action wouldn’t work. Nor would sticking her in the box for hours. But 10 minutes in the box could feel like 30. The idea was for Kerry to become disoriented, lose track of time in there, and contemplate what eight hours in the box would feel like. She could yell or scream.”
“But there was a safe word,” adds Washington, “so that the crew knew when I was panicking as a person, and not as an actor. This is how a lot of the film went — taking the reality as far as we could.” Read More »
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.
Read More »
Hugh Jackman has carved out an image as a major movie star who can easily switch gears from action to drama to comedy and all things in between. But until now the man who made Wolverine a household name has never done a movie musical. That’s a bit surprising since Jackman also happens to be a classically trained musical star outside of movies. He’s starred in stage classics like Oklahoma!, won a Tony on Broadway as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, an Emmy for hosting the Tonys, and worldwide recognition for his singing and dancing as host of the Oscars. He recently did a one-man musical show on Broadway, and that’s one of the reasons he says he is even in Les Misérables and making his long-overdue debut as star of a musical on the big screen.
AwardsLine: Would you consider this to be one of the toughest screen roles you’ve done?
Jackman: For sure. There is not an element that really wasn’t the toughest. One of the reasons I did the Broadway show was to make sure I was vocally fit to not only sing it, but sing it all day long, wake up the next day, and have another 12 hours of it. I put on 29 pounds from beginning to end. Tom (Hooper) told me, “I want people to worry, I want your friends to think you’re sick.” The physicality, the emotional (aspect) acting-wise, was tough.
AwardsLine: You rarely see musicals of this size anymore.
Jackman: That’s true. It’s a big risk. I’m not surprised it’s taken 27 years to get there. Read More »
Cari Lynn is an AwardsLine contributor.
It’s not likely that any of the 60 million theatergoers who saw the musical Les Misérables would have thought the stage production limiting, but they weren’t charged with taking the longest-running musical, set in 1800s France, and blowing it out to larger-than-life size. In what was described by Working Title producers as a “deceptively difficult” adaptation, director Tom Hooper assembled a team that included his longtime production designer Eve Stewart and veteran costume designer Paco Delgado to create a factually accurate world, sprinkled with the magic and fantasy of the beloved musical.
But what no one on the team knew going in was that all singing (and the film is 99% singing) would be shot live. This posed interesting challenges for determining locations, given sound considerations and the desire to use very little CGI. “But,” says Stewart, who was nominated for an Oscar for Hooper’s The King’s Speech, as well as 1999’s Topsy-Turvy, “new ideas are usually the best ones,” so the constraints didn’t narrow her scope as she scouted locations for 20 weeks. She eventually settled on a pristine mountain range in the south of France; the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in England (where the HMS Victory is moored); an 18th-century rope factory in Kent (the timbers of which were so old that the crew was barred from lighting candles, so imitation flickering lights had to be used); the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich; the River Avon in Bath; as well as a set crafted at Pinewood Studios in London. In each location, Stewart’s crew had to eliminate squeaky floorboards and door hinges, and horses had to be fitted with rubberized hooves. The only location Stewart didn’t have to adapt was Boughton House in Northamptonshire, which dates back to the 17th century and is dubbed the “English Versailles,” where the wedding scene was filmed.
Related: OSCARS Q&A: Tom Hooper Read More »
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
When Walter Parkes and his wife and partner Laurie MacDonald read the first 40 pages of John Gatins’ script for Flight in 2006, the adult drama about a substance-abusing airline pilot piqued their interest. The dark, character-driven story hearkened back to the type of films the major studios used to make on a regular basis. Neither Parkes nor MacDonald envisioned a high-wattage actor like Denzel Washington taking on the role — not only was Washington way out of the price range of a film that needed to be made on a modest budget, their main character worked in a field with few African-American pilots. Nevertheless, once the script made its way to Washington’s agent, the late Ed Limato, the actor read it and was hooked, according to Parkes. “The excellence of a project is no longer enough to get it made: It’s a combination of the quality of the material, the quality of the people making it, and, honestly, the financial circumstance under which the movie is made,” says Parkes, who points out that Washington’s enthusiasm (and, well, severe price cut) helped push Flight to the finish line. Parkes recently spoke with AwardsLine about how it all came together.
AwardLine: Hindsight suggests that Flight was a great project to take on, but did doing a midrange-budget adult drama give you pause when it first came across your desk?
Walter Parkes: It’s been so long that the business was slightly different then. We first got involved with the project in 2006. John Gatins sent us 40 pages, the only 40 pages he’d written, which only really took us to the crash and the immediate aftermath. While it wasn’t exactly clear where the movie was going, the quality of the writing and the strength of that premise were enticing enough that we felt that, if the script was completed correctly, it would attract terrific elements. And at the end of the day, that is necessary to get a movie like that made. We’re talking 2006, before the (financial crisis) and the way it affected Hollywood. You know, there were many independent labels then — Paramount Vantage would have been a good place for this — but over the course of the development, they pretty much stopped being in business, as did many of the specialty labels of other studios. All that meant was that it was less of a sure bet that the project would get made, regardless of the quality of the script. It really put it upon us to meet certain other criteria — mainly, get really amazing people to do it for very little money. (Laughs.) Read More »
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor. It’s not unusual to have big names in popular music perform end-title songs for major movies. Opera singers, though, don’t generally roll that way. But nobody ever said they can’t. Which is why Alexandre Desplat, who composed the music for Rise Of The Guardians, decided to approach soprano Renée Fleming about singing “Still Dream,” which uses the melody he wrote for the picture’s main theme and lyrics by the film’s screenwriter, David Lindsay-Abaire.
“It covers two octaves,” Desplat says of the song. “The music is very orchestral; the melody, very lyrical. So it really made sense to ask Renée Fleming, who is the greatest soprano alive. And she said yes right away. It was a suggestion that could have been rejected, but it was right — though I can’t remember the last time a soprano sang an end-title song.” Read More »
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
Although Ann Dowd has been working regularly in theater, film, and TV for more than two decades, this year marks a decided breakthrough for the actress. Her role in Magnolia Pictures’ Sundance pickup Compliance as Sandra, a malleable fast-food restaurant manager who falls victim to a prank phone call, has earned her a National Board of Review award, as well as supporting actress nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards and the Critics Choice Movie Awards—despite the fact that the film earned just $319,285 in its domestic theatrical run. She also earned the somewhat illustrious distinction of organizing her own informal grassroots Oscar campaign. Nevertheless, Dowd says making the decision was relatively easy, albeit expensive for a working-class actor. “I don’t think I don’t even needed anyone to tell me,” says Dowd, who has appeared in The Informant!, Marley and Me, and ABC’s Pan Am. “When I saw the phrase ‘Oscar-worthy performance,’ I almost fell down. Then I thought, ‘What am I waiting for?’ ” Read More »