To understand how Warner Bros Pictures filmmakers may feel about today’s developments, my conversations below may provide some intel. When rumors about Jeff Robinov being forced out as President of Warner Bros Pictures Group first surfaced this spring (Related: NEW WARNER BROS SHAKE-UP: Jeff Robinov Quitting Movie Studio After No New Contract Offered), I spoke to Ben Affleck to get his thoughts on what he called their “dream relationship” during and after The Town and Argo:
On the record. We have history. After Gone Baby Gone  was well regarded but didn’t make money. The phone was not ringing off the hook. but Jeff called. ‘I’m a fan. I loved the film. Let’s sit down and have coffee. I’d really like you to direct movies for us. What do you want to do.” I went from no scripts to 15 Warners’ scripts, he was giving them all to me. He was the only person at a studio doing that. I also have a great relationship with Sue Kroll. But with Jeff, I never hear from anybody to make changes. I’m not told, ‘It tested poorly. Fix it.’ He sticks with me through screenings. I needed $1 million for a couple of reshoots on The Town. ‘You’re the horse I bet on,’ he tells me. ‘I believe in filmmakers.’ It’s a dream relationship.
When George [Clooney] moved his deal out of Warner Bros, all the projects didn’t move with him. Jeff gave me the script for Argo after calling George and Grant [Heslov] to see how I’d hit off with them. I stayed on budget. But I always felt if I had a problem I could call Jeff. Argo was viewed as a very challenging movie itself, skewing older when the public wants a superhero movie. But those two guys – jeff and Sue – really found a way to sell the movie. Sue supported by Jeff was 100% on board. They’re almost a symbiotic relationship. It was obviously an incredible year but if they wouldn’t have bet on us, if they’d not spent a lot of money on us, we wouldn’t have won the Oscar. It was a wonderful experience and why I want to support Jeff.
I’ve seen Jeff’s sensibility change into his job, gracefully and gradually leading with a lot of authority. I have spoken with [Jeff] Bewkes and Kevin [Tsujihara] and Barry [Meyer] but not in great detail as things are evolving at the studio. I’ve kept abreast. I’ve talked about it to Jeff. He’s what I really care about. How we’re going to make it down the road or get along without him I don’t know. Jeff naturally was very disappointed when he didn’t get the top job. He and I have spent a lot of time cultivating this relationship and I never thought that would have culminated in this career high or the most incredible year of my life.
Again, on the record, I don’t know what I would do if Jeff weren’t there. I don’t know from my view anyone else there who knows how to make movies. I would like to support him. So many places are filled with frustrations and run by people who haven’t been sure-footed or have the right taste. Hopefully, it’s about taste. Not everybody has it. Picking Zack Snyder was not obvious. Being able to take risks and make decisions not supported by conventional wisdom. Studios have the power and don’t often cede the power to the director.”
I also received this on-the-record statement from Baz Luhrmann at the same time, which was right before The Great Gatsby hit theaters in May:
Last year, when we were moving towards a Christmas release date for Gatsby, Jeff Robinov said to me, ‘Perhaps you’ll be able to make the release date. But will it be the movie that you want it to be? If you had more time to work on the visual effects and music, would you have a better chance of realizing your vision for the film?’ Jeff was resolute that the most important thing was for me to do my best possible work, and by moving ‘Gatsby’ to the summer, he gave me the time and resources to do it. He showed incredible leadership in not being concerned with the possible media controversy about moving the release date; his sole concern was that Gatsby be the best film that it could be. For which I’ll always be profoundly grateful.
But no Warner Bros Pictures film relationship is more important than with Christopher Nolan. According to several accounts, Robinov’s relationship with Nolan began right after Memento was released in March 2001. Within a month, Nolan’s agent Dan Aloni called Robinov and told him he should meet with the helmer. At first Nolan was going to direct Troy (released in 2004) but wasn’t feeling it. With that Robinov asked if there was anything else Nolan wanted to do – and learned that the director had always had an interest in Batman. At the time, the studio didn’t have a take on a reboot of its lucrative DC Comics franchise. But Nolan came in and brilliantly pitched Robinov who immediately set up a meeting with then studio chief Alan Horn who also bought into it. READ MORE »
Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Anthony Mackie and Gemma Arterton star in this drama set in the world of offshore online gambling. Lincoln Lawyer helmer Brad Furman directs Runner Runner from a script by David Levien and Brian Koppelman. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way produces the … Read More »
Five-time host Ben Affleck brought out wife Jennifer Garner for his opening SNL monologue, then poked fun at his Oscar cred and his Gigli past in a Argo bit featuring Fred Armisen as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Affleck:
Oscar winner Ben Affleck is hosting this weekend’s Saturday Night Live season finale, but it’s musical guest Kanye West who steals the spotlight in SNL‘s set of promos. “Hell no, I’m not going on SNL skits, this is my goddamn life,” he said onstage this … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros Pictures chief Jeff Robinov didn’t waste any time moving to make Ben Affleck‘s next picture after Argo snagged the Best Picture Oscar for the studio in February. I’ve learned that pre-production starts … Read More »
Kristen Wiig will make her first appearance as host of Saturday Night Live on May 11, and Ben Affleck will close out the late-night show’s 38th season the following week. Wiig memorably signed off the … Read More »
The blogosphere is going wild as Marvel chief Kevin Feige does interviews for Iron Man 3 and acknowledges that Daredevil has returned to the Marvel fold at Disney. We told you this was going to happen last August, when … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has just closed a high six-figure against seven-figure deal for screen rights to Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, a book by Nathaniel Philbrick that will be published April 30 by Viking. The project was acquired for Pearl Street Films as a potential directing vehicle for Argo helmer Ben Affleck, who partners in the company with Matt Damon. Word is that Affleck (who is busy adapting the Dennis Lehane novel Live By Night to direct, star in and produce) will turn the book over to his Argo scribe Chris Terrio, making this a major project.
Philbrick is the author of Mayflower and the National Book Award-winning In The Heart Of The Sea, the real story beyond the white whale that informed Moby Dick, and the struggle of the whalers to survive after the giant whale split their ship in half. That book has long been at Warner Bros and looks like it is finally getting made later this year with Ron Howard directing and Thor’s Chris Hemsworth starring.
Resolution’s Rich Green brokered the movie deal for Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, and Pearl Street president Jennifer Todd moving aggressively to bring the book into the fold, with Sarah Schechter overseeing for the studio.
Affleck, who until Argo had directed movies in the Boston backdrop where he grew up, is going home again as Bunker Hill is hailed as the battle that lit the fuse for the American Revolution in 1775. Read More »
UPDATE, 3:51 AM: It turns out that French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, wife and defender of Carlos the Jackal, is not only angling to sue Hollywood over Ben Affleck‘s Oscar-winning Argo, she’s attempting to mount a case against a series of U.S. films that Iran believes have portrayed it in a distorted and unrealistic manner. Coutant-Peyre, according to local media, is looking to bring suit in international court against directors and producers who local officials believe have promoted “Iranophobia,” The Guardian reports today. The attorney is quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying, “I’ll be defending Iran against films that have been made by Hollywood to distort the country’s image, such as Argo.” Other films that have gotten under the skin of Iranians are understood to include 2006′s 300, 1991′s Sally Field-starrer Not Without My Daughter, and Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-nominated The Wrestler. An attendee at Monday night’s “Hoax Of Hollywood” conference in Tehran, Mohammad Lesani, is reported to have said the gathering was intended to “unify all cultural communities in Iran against the attacks of the West, particularly Hollywood.” The real possibility of a lawsuit is thought dubious, but if brought, it would not be in the U.S., New York defense attorney Stuart Slotnick tells Deadline. “Perhaps those in power in Iran will decide to bring a lawsuit in another country where the movie received distribution”, he said. Iran and the U.S. severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 hostage crisis which is the focal point of Argo. Warner Bros. had no comment on the matter. Read More »
Even as tonight’s Governor’s Ball was winding down, Ben Affleck was still off in a corner of the room celebrating his Argo‘s most unlikely Best Picture victory in becoming only the second film in 80 years to win the top prize without even a nomination for its director. Affleck’s roller coaster ride has been remarkable this season and as he told me earlier this weekend, and tonight after the Best Pic triumph, it has been filled with hills and valleys, but it all came together at the Dolby Theatre when First Lady Michelle Obama (from the White House) opened the envelope and announced his film as the winner.
Related: Nikki Finke’s Oscar Live-Snark
When he was left off the list of Directing nominees on January 10th he said he was really depressed, but that same night he won the Critics Choice Movie Award as Director and Best Picture, then the Golden Globe three days later, then the PGA, SAG, DGA, WGA and BAFTA honors to name a few. Suddenly Argo was the one to beat and it never wavered. Affleck’s emotional acceptance was heartfelt and perfectly described the personal journey of this actor turned first-rate director. And his acknowledgement of Steven Spielberg from the stage was a nice touch. He won, with Matt Damon, for Best Original Screenplay in 1997 for Good Will Hunting, but this was different as Affleck told me and he was going to savor this moment as long as he could before moving on into the night. It was the same for Argo’s winning screenwriter Chris Terrio who also was hanging late at the Govs Ball even though he had to catch a flight back to his New York home where he is currently writing a new script based on the Greengrass story. As he was just exiting the Ball at the Hollywood and Highland Grand Ballroom, he told me someone gave him advice that he should just try to enjoy this moment first. He seemed to have a hard time soaking it in, but he was going to give it at least this one night before getting back to work.
Argo, after vitually a clean sweep of awards season since the directing snub (which in retrospect could not have hurt), won a respectable three Oscars (also for Editing and Adapted Screenplay), tying Les Misérables for that number of Oscars. But the big winner of the night (if you can call it that) was 20th’s risky box office success Life Of Pi which nabbed four statuettes including a biggie, Best Director for Ang Lee. Had Affleck been nominated, he likely would have won since Best Picture and Director usually go hand in hand, but for whatever reason in a year with an embarrassment of riches it somehow seems totally appropiate that there was a split and Lee was given this award. If anything, Life Of Pi was a directorial achievement like no other and this Oscar was acknowledgement of that. In fact, right after Affleck was snubbed, I predicted Lee would take it, and in the last couple of weeks it was apparent a tide was building for him among Academy voters. It became one of the easiest calls of the night despite the fact that many pundits were calling it for Lincoln‘s Steven Spielberg. At the Govs Ball, Lee, who has won two previous Oscars (for Best Foreign Language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Director for Brokeback Mountain), told me this one means as much or probably more because of the extreme challenges Pi provided. He was clearly thrilled with it and I told him he becomes the first director since George Stevens in the 50s with A Place In The Sun (1951) and Giant (1956) to win two Best Director Oscars for two films that did not win Best Picture, a rare occurence. Read More »
Ross Lincoln is a Deadline contributor.
Ben Affleck’s historical thriller Argo is a favorite to win Best Picture tonight at the 85th Academy Awards. But with hours to go before the ceremony, former Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor still feels the … Read More »
BREAKING: Ben Affleck, Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence all hope they will take the Oscars stage at some point to accept a golden trophy and thank their agents and everybody else they know. But we’re now guaranteed to see them onstage. The trio has joined the lengthy list of Oscar presenters, the Academy has announced. With so much star power milling around backstage, will it blunt host Seth MacFarlane’s ability to make fun of them as he does on Family Guy? It’s so much easier when they are not in proximity to punch you or at least give you the fish eye.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Academy Award® nominees Ben Affleck, Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence will present on the Oscar telecast, show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced today.
Academy Award-winner Affleck, who is nominated this year for producing the Best Picture nominee “Argo,” won the award in 1997 for co-writing the Best Picture nominee “Good Will Hunting.”
Chastain, who is nominated for her lead performance in the Best Picture nominee “Zero Dark Thirty,” received her first nomination last year for her supporting role in the Best Picture nominee “The Help.”
Lawrence, who received her first nomination in 2010 for her leading role in “Winter’s Bone,” is nominated for her lead performance in the Best Picture nominee “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Read More »
Actual betting on the Oscars is outlawed in the U.S.. But it is permissible in England – and after today’s British Academy Awards show which just wrapped in London, people would be wise to put some pounds on … Read More »
By all coventional signals, Warner Bros is sitting with a hot hand right now with Argo.
After winning a key SAG award for Cast, a very predictive Producers Guild honor for Best Picture and now tonight an all-important DGA … Read More »
Though the media often refer to Outstanding Cast In A Motion Picture award as the Screen Actors Guild’s version of Best Picture, SAG balks at the comparison. The actors say their winners don’t always match up and in fact are … Read More »
It’s starting to get serious. This wild ride of an awards season may not be predictable, according to conventional wisdom. But in the end the winner of the Producer Guild’s Best Picture award Saturday night was completely predictable in … Read More »
Others include writer-directors Ira Sachs (Keep The Lights On), Julia Loktev (The Loneliest Planet) and Jill Soloway (Afternoon Delight). The 12th annual Film Independent Directors Close-Up series will be held on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning February 6 at the Landmark West Los Angeles. Panelists will discuss specific aspects of directing, including sound, writing, cinematography, casting and eliciting compelling performances from actors. Click over for this year’s schedule and topics: Read More »
If anyone thought the Golden Globes results were going to add any clarity to the topsy-turvy atmosphere that has so far characterized this year’s Oscar race, forget it. In a week that has offered crushing disappointment and major highs … Read More »