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OSCAR MOGULS: Amy Pascal Q&A

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:

Sony Pictures Entertainment
17 Nominations: 8 The Social Network, 1 Salt, 1 Country Strong, 1 Animal Kingdom, 1 Another Year, 1 Barney’s Version, 1 Inside Job, 1 In A Better World, 1 Incendies, 1 The Illusionist

DEADLINE’s Nikki Finke: How do you think this awards season has been in terms of quality, quantity, excitement?
AMY PASCAL: My own feelings about it are that this is one of the most exciting times we’ve had in the business for a long time. Because all the movies that we tell ourselves we can’t make — ballets, westerns, dramas, everything that are the hardest things to make — those are the movies that are not only winning awards which is fantastic, but also those movies that are commercial. We won’t see a fascinating season like this for a while.

DEADLINE: What do you think of the competition?
PASCAL: I like all the other movies.

DEADLINE: Well, I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh, Kings Speech is a great HBO movie’…
PASCAL: Everybody says that stuff.

DEADLINE: If it comes down to The Social Network vs The Kings Speech, why should people vote for your movie over the other movie?
PASCAL: I don’t want to campaign, you know? That’s not my job to say why people should vote for The Social Network and not something else. I think we have a lot of competition. I think the other movies are really good. There are performances in all the movies that are astonishing. There are virtuosos directing them. But Social Network is a different kind of movie. It breaks different kinds of barriers than those movies were trying to do.

DEADLINE: At what point in this project did you get into the process?
PASCAL: Actually, the way that it happened was we had made 21 which had been a project at MGM, and Elizabeth Cantillon had brought that over when she came to be an executive here. And through the relationship that we had with Dana Brunetti and Kevin Spacey and Ben Mezrich we got an early look at the proposal for the book Ben wanted to write about the origins of Facebook. Scott Rudin was the one who thought Aaron Sorkin should write the screenplay. We all knew Aaron but it was Scott’s relationship with Aaron so he’s the one who contacted him first for sure. We all felt pretty lucky to get Aaron. And Aaron came in with a fantastic take on the material, but at that point Ben hadn’t finished the book.

DEADLINE: Did it occur to you that maybe you should wait and let Ben finish the book?
PASCAL: No, because Aaron and the filmmakers had a very good take on the story they wanted to tell.

DEADLINE: What at that point was your relationship with Scott?
PASCAL: Scott and I had been working together from the 1980s. He was the one who convinced me to be a studio executive for him at Fox. In terms of Sony, when he had his deal at Disney we always kind of had a second look deal with him. But you know Scott has such excellent taste and he makes so many great movies that he and I have always been going back and forth in trying to work together.

DEADLINE: So it’s all coming together and obviously a big concern must have been ‘Oh my
God, we’re writing about this really rich powerful guy. What the hell is going to happen to us?’
PASCAL: Oh, you mean when we were making the movie? Well, here’s what I think the real challenge was. You have to make the main character likeable. They’re allowed to have like one flaw, but they have to be likeable. And what Mark Zuckerberg did to protect the thing that he was building was to do things that he had to do. I never felt he was unlikeable, but definitely Mark Zuckerberg is not your traditional hero. And I think that’s why Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is so wonderful.

DEADLINE: People feel strongest about the Andrew Garfield character, Eduardo Saverin.
PASCAL: Andrew, or Eduardo, is definitely the heart of the story. He’s the emotional character who wants the relationship and is betrayed. But you know what’s so beautiful is when they were making the film, Jesse and Andrew became like best friends. And so they’re so adorable together. You know all of them, Justin Timberlake, Arnie Hammer, they’re like a little gang now.

DEADLINE: People have said to me that if David Fincher doesn’t win best director for The Social Network it’s only because he’s so “unpopular” around Hollywood.
PASCAL: I’ve worked with David a couple of times. We are now on our third movie together. Ever since Panic Room he’s been developing things at our studio and The Social Network was the first thing that came together that we did together. And David is definitely an iconoclast but David expects people to work as hard as he does and he holds people to a standard that he holds himself to. And that’s really the way it works. First of all, I think David has a much bigger heart than people give him credit for. Those of us who know him well know that secret about him. He doesn’t like the marketing process. He doesn’t embrace it. He doesn’t necessarily embrace everything everybody wants him to do. He is very David.

DEADLINE: Someone at Paramount once told me a hilarious anecdote about David and how he refused to bow down to Oprah just to have her publicize his movie Benjamin Buttons. And everybody was saying to him, ‘But this is so important. You don’t understand,’ and he’s like ‘I don’t give a damn about Oprah’.
PASCAL: Right, well I don’t know about that story. But we didn’t have problems like that and David has been a great partner on this movie. And the very difficult thing of course is that as all this awards thing was starting he was already in Sweden shooting The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

DEADLINE: That’s the best thing that could have happened to all of you.
PASCAL: I think it was definitely the best thing that could have happened to him. I think he was very happy to avoid all of the awards campaigning. Here’s the thing about David: he’s very shy. I don’t think he likes getting up in front of people and public speaking.  I think he’s really comfortable on a movie set. I think he is a born director in every sense. And he likes putting forth the people who work with him, not himself. Read More »

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AMPAS Narrows Makeup Contenders

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”
“Barney’s Version”
“The Fighter”
“Jonah Hex”
“True Grit”
“The Way Back”
“The Wolfman”

On Saturday, January 22, all members of the Academy’s Makeup Branch will be invited to view 10-minute excerpts from each of the seven shortlisted films. Following the screenings, members will vote to nominate three films for final Oscar consideration.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

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OSCAR: Private Screenings Aplenty & ‘The Kids Are All Right’ Campaign Heats Up

Pete Hammond

Screening rooms all over town are booked solid for the tsunami of Q&A sessions being held for WGA, PGA, DGA, SAG and countless media organizations which host their own sponsored screenings of contenders. One SAG Nominating Committee member I ran into at the Arclight said he was skipping the screenings and just hopscotching from one Q&A to another. Someone was asking me this week if I thought there were more Q&As than usual this season. It seems like it but probably not, even though publicists are running their stars and filmmakers ragged trying to get them from one part of town to the other for two and sometimes three post-screening chat sessions in one day. Wednesday night alone at the Arclight in Hollywood, there seemed to be as many “private screening” notices on the multi-screen electronic box office marquee as there were regular features playing. Paul Giamatti was being shuttled from one house to another to talk up his new Sony Classics film, Barney’s Version. And Jada Pinkett Smith and co-star Michael Vartan were also there doing a session in front of SAG nominating committee members in hopes of gaining attention for their TNT medical drama, Hawthorne. (Pinkett–Smith fielded questions like “How do I get financing for my movie?” to “Would you consider making a sports movie? I have a script.”) Despite having won every imaginable trophy several times over (including two consecutive SAG ensemble awards), Mad Men isn’t giving it a rest and … Read More »

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OSCAR: Awards Season Shifts Into Gear

Pete Hammond

If you had any doubt that Oscar season is upon us, the flurry of events and openings this week prove it. The AFI Film Fest  opened last night at Mann’s Chinese with Ed Zwick’s Love And Other Drugs and continues all week with a slew of major contenders getting their official (and unofficial) Los Angeles premieres, including Rabbit Hole, Blue Valentine, Black Swan, Barney’s Version, Casino Jack, Made In Dagenham, and Friday night’s red carpet gala for The Weinstein Company’s The King’s Speech. And across town Thursday night at the Hyatt in Century City, Harvey Weinstein and The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper were hearing lots of praise from the Brits gathered for their black tie Brittania Awards, an annual show put on by BAFTA-LA this year honoring Jeff Bridges, Christopher Nolan, Ridley and Tony Scott, Michael Sheen, and Betty White. Receiving the Charlie Chaplin Britannia for Excellence in Comedy, she teased that she’d never slept with Chaplin, then added, “Well, maybe just once.” 

Hooper had appeared at a BAFTA screening of his film the night before which reportedly played like gangbusters with the understandably partial crowd. Weinstein told me he is “fighting” mad about the MPAA decisions to give his Blue Valentine an NC 17 and King’s Speech a PG 13, the latter for one expletive-laden speech in which Colin Firth’s King George VI tries to lose his stutter through a vocal exercise requiring him to recite a series of bad words. As far as the MPAA is concerned, one “fuck” gets you a PG-13 but two “fucks” get you an R. Harvey pledged to take on the MPAA, at least with Valentine, but has no plans to make cuts in either film. Hooper told me he even refused to put bleeps in the airline version. Speech producer Gareth Unwin, also at the Britannias, told me the version of the scene in the finished film is positively tame compared to a couple of other takes where the King’s language really got down and dirty. If they had known the scene was going to get them an R anyway, Unwin said they might have really gone for the jugular. (Bonus extras on the DVD?) 

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AFI Pays Tribute To ‘The King’s Speech’

This year’s AFI Festival will host an ensemble tribute to The King’s Speech, with director Tom Hooper and stars Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The festival has also made its Centerpiece Gala selections, including director Diego Luna’s Abel, George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack and John Wells’ The Company Men, along with Barney’s Version and Blue Valentine. Also newly slated are several special screenings, including the U.S. premiere of John Sayles’ Amigo, Werner Herzog’s 3D Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole and Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham. The festival takes place November 4-11 in Hollywood and has already announced that Love & Other Drugs will be the opening night film and Black Swan will serve as the closing night selection. David Lynch serves as the festival’s artistic director.

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Sony Classics Acquires Hamptons Fest Opener ‘Barney’s Version’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Moments after I wrote that Barney’s Version was rumored to be headed for Sony Pictures Classics, the distributor has announced that it acquired U.S. rights to the film. They might not be done with acquisitions: I wrote yesterday about Apparition’s mass layoff and the Terrence Malick-directed Tree of Life being shopped. I’ve heard that SPC’s Michael Barker was seen dining with the film’s financier, Bill Pohlad, on Sunday. Guess SPC’s in the hunt for that prestige picture, as well.

EARLIER: The Hamptons International Film Festival will open October 7 with the U.S. debut of the Paul Giamatti/Dustin Hoffman-starrer Barney’s Version in East Hampton. Closing the fest on October 11 will be the Darren Aronofsky-directed Fox Searchlight release Black Swan, which has created strong festival buzz for Natalie Portman’s performance as an overly ambitious dancer. While it would seem that a festival could only have one opening night film, the Hamptons Fest is claiming two, with the Tom Hooper-directed The King’s Speech bowing in Southampton on Friday, October 8. That picture is being distributed by The Weinstein Company. The Centerpiece film will be the John Madden-directed Miramax holdover The Debt, which stars Sam Worthington and Helen Mirren.

Barney’s Version, which is directed by Richard J. Lewis, hasn’t yet picked up a distributor, though Sony Pictures Classics is rumored as a possible destination.

Julian Schnabel will be at the fest for the U.S. premiere of his film Miral, and James Franco will … Read More »

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Paul Giamatti Pic ‘Barney’s Version’ Shopped Abroad

By | Wednesday August 18, 2010 @ 10:01am PDT
Mike Fleming

Essential Entertainment has signed on to rep overseas distribution rights on Barney’s Version, the Richard J. Lewis-directed film that has its world premiere at Venice September 10 and then moved to the Toronto fest two days later. Paul Giamatti plays the title role and the ensemble cast includes Dustin Hoffman, Minni Driver, Scott Speedman and Bruce Greenwood. A U.S. distribution deal is in the works, and E1 just bought Canadian rights.

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UTA Signs Actor’s Actor Paul Giamatti

He just left ICM last week. Paul Giamatti has signed with UTA in all areas. The Oscar nominee (Cinderella Man) and Emmy winner (John Adams) will next be seen in Win Win, and then Barney’s Version based on the best-selling novel. He was nominated for 45 separate awards between 2001 and 2008, and won 26 of them. Giamatti will continue to be managed by Perri Kipperman.

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