EXCLUSIVE: Naomi Watts is in talks to star in St. Vincent De Van Nuys, the film that Ted Melfi will direct from his script for The Weinstein Company, Chernin Entertainment and Don Cheadle’s Crescendo. Watts will join Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd. Watts will play a Russian prostitute who develops a close relationship with the title character (Murray), a cantankerous guy who becomes a chief influence on an angelic 12-year old boy whose hardworking single mother (McCarthy) foists child care duties on Murray’s character. The project, which Chernin Entertainment developed for two years with Melfi’s Black List script, has been compared to As Good As It Gets or even TWC’s recent Silver Linings Playbook for the way it mixes comedy and human pathos. Watts is coming off an Oscar-nominated performance in The Impossible. Every age appropriate hot actress in town chased this role. She’s repped by CAA and Untitled.
Melissa McCarthy To Get Offer For Coveted Female Lead Opposite Bill Murray In ‘St. Vincent De Van Nuys’
EXCLUSIVE: Melissa McCarthy will soon be offered the female lead in St. Vincent De Van Nuys, the film that Ted Melfi will direct from his script for The Weinstein Company and Chernin Entertainment, with Bill Murray in the starring role. This is a role that all the top comic actresses chased, and it should give McCarthy a chance to show some of her colors as an actress after playing vulgar characters in Identity Thief (which grossed over $116 million domestically) and when she next opens opposite Sandra Bullock in The Heat, helmed by her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
Murray plays the title character, a cantankerous train wreck of a neighbor who takes under his corrupt wing the 12-year-old son of a struggling single mother who has moved in next door. McCarthy is the choice to play the single mother and she campaigned hard for this. The project, based on Melfi’s Black List script, has been compared to As Good As It Gets or even TWC’s recent Silver Linings Playbook for the way it mixes comedy and human pathos. Much the way that Jennifer Lawrence Skyped an audition that got her the Oscar-winning role in Silver Linings Playbook even though David O Russell initially thought she might be too young, McCarthy auditioned for this role and her work put her atop the list and will win her this job.
McCarthy will first make Tammy, which she’s directing with her husband and co-writer Ben Falcone. She’s got time from her series Mike & Molly, so the scheduling right after July 4 fits into her wheelhouse.
Of the single mom’s decision to entrust Murray’s character with her son, Melfi called it “the worst parenting decision ever made by this single mom, but she works two shifts at the hospital and the guy next door seems harmless enough.” Melfi told me this when TWC acquired his Black List script, which he’d spent two years developing with Chernin Entertainment. “The relationship transforms both the man and the boy and even though he teaches the kid everything about his decadent lifestyle, from fighting to drinking, gambling and how to cheat lie and steal. And the 12-year-old has such a pure soul that he only extracts the good from all this.”
Melfi makes his directorial debut on the $13 million budget movie, which became a big priority all over town when Murray agreed to play the title character. Shooting begins in July. The film will be produced by Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping, Melfi, Fred Roos and Don Cheadle who is producing via Crescendo Prods. TWC production president Dylan Sellers is overseeing it.
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
Oscar hopeful Hyde Park On Hudson with Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt is this weekend’s highest profile debut in the specialty market. There’s also In Our Nature with Jena Malone and John Slattery, and Robert Carlyle headlines California Solo in a role written with him in mind. The late Ernest Borgnine stars in The Man Who Shook The Hand Of Vicente Fernandez in a role that turns the idea of celebrity upside-down. Plus Elizabeth McGovern stars in Cheerful Weather For The Wedding that her Downton Abbey fans will likely appreciate. On the non-fiction front, a re-mastered 3D version of The Art Of Flight hits AMC Theatres for one night only in select markets followed by a campaign for screenings via Tugg.com, the online marketing platform that allows moviegoers to push collectively for a theatrical booking in their area.
Hyde Park On Hudson
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Richard Nelson
Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Samuel West, Elizabeth Wilson
Distributor: Focus Features
Focus Features and Film 4 waited a year to see if Bill Murray would take the role of America’s longest serving president, Franklin D. Roosevelt in a story written by Richard Nelson that observes the little known story about the relationship the four-term President had with a distant cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney) who lived near his mother’s Hudson Valley, NY retreat. The story revolves around that relationship coinciding with a historical visit by the British monarchs George VI and Queen Elizabeth before the dawn of World War II. “It’s the fourth movie we’ve worked on with Bill,” said Focus Features CEO James Schamus. “Taking on a role like this – there’s no safety net. You either have to do it or not. It took him about a year to come on board, but once he commits, it’s 100 percent and he’s all in.” The film was shot in the UK with Roger Michell at the helm and with British co-financing. Schamus noted the terrain looks similar to the Hudson Valley and the relatively plentiful estates outside London made finding the right setting easier than it might have been in New York. “We couldn’t get approval at the actual Roosevelt mansion,” Schamus said of the movie, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival after a Telluride screening over Labor Day weekend.
EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company is in final negotiations to finance and distribute St. Vincent De Van Nuys, which has to be the hottest $13 million budget movie to come down the pike in some time. Numerous studios have chased this one, especially after Bill Murray agreed to play the title character. Ted Melfi wrote the script and will make his feature directorial debut, with production to begin next June. The film will be produced by Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping, Melfi, Fred Roos and Don Cheadle.
Murray will play a cantankerous train wreck of a neighbor who takes under his corrupt wing the 12-year old son of a struggling single mother who has moved in next door. “It’s the worst parenting decision ever made by this single mom, but she works two shifts at the hospital and the guy next door seems harmless enough,” said Melfi. “The relationship transforms both the man and the boy and even though he teaches the kid everything about his decadent lifestyle, from fighting to drinking, gambling and how to cheat lie and steal. And the 12-year old has such a pure soul that he only extracts the good from all this.”
Although Bill Murray is beloved for his work in comedy classics like Ghostbusters, Stripes, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, and others, it was 2003’s Lost In Translation that really cemented his reputation as a serious actor, earning him the Golden Globe, British Academy Award, Independent Spirit Award, and several best actor honors from critics groups including Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. He also earned his one and only Oscar nomination for the film, losing to Sean Penn in Mystic River, though many regarded him as the favorite that year. Now with his performance as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park On Hudson, a comedy-drama focusing on the odd relationship between Roosevelt and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley over the course of a weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen of England made a visit to the United States, Murray is once again generating strong awards buzz for this unexpected turn as one of America’s greatest presidents.
AwardsLine: You are a great actor, but I never saw you as Franklin Roosevelt. Did you see yourself in the role right away?
Bill Murray: I don’t think I ever did, either. I was a little surprised to be asked, and then I read the script, and I thought, I can do this. Even though it’s reaching, it’s kind of a good reaching, where you have to push yourself. (Director) Roger (Michell) was helpful. He was very attentive to what I was doing. And there are scenes that are just so joyous to play, like the scene with the King (of England) and the library. It couldn’t get any better.
If you think the Presidential election ends today, think again.
Although America will cast its vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney today, the other campaign that really matters is for the Oscar, and there’s a strong Presidential flavor brewing. That’s true particularly in the Best Actor race, where one of the early frontrunners, Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln (to be released Friday), could find himself squaring off against Bill Murray playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park On Hudson (12/7). And yet another President, Jimmy Carter, could have a positive impact on the tight Best Picture race. Or in a less direct way, maybe even on Barack Obama himself.
Scores of actors have played Presidents over the course of cinema history, but few have scored at the Oscars with those portrayals. In fact, no one has managed to win an Oscar for actually playing a President — real or fictional. (This year, campaigners for Day-Lewis and Murray are determined to change that fact.) Even nominations for actors playing real Presidents have been hard to come by: Richard Nixon provided the best opportunity winning a Lead Actor nomination for Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995), and for Frank Langella in 2008′s Frost/Nixon. Hopkins also got a supporting nomination in 1997 as John Quincy Adams in Amistad.
Awards buzz has grown around Bill Murray ever since it was announced he would be playing FDR in Focus Features‘ Hyde Park On Hudson. His is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of serious portrayals of U.S. Presidents. But he pulls it off without a hitch, and early reaction at its first-ever public screening Friday night at the 39th Telluride Film Festival was very good. Maybe we’ll have a Presidential shoot-out at the Oscars between Murray’s FDR and Daniel Day Lewis’ Abe Lincoln?
I have always thought Murray got robbed of a much deserved Best Actor Oscar in 2003 for Lost In Translation when Sean Penn swooped in and stole it for Mystic River. The problem this year is that the category is overloaded with so many genuine contenders that Academy voters easily could find 10 deserving performances to fill only the 5 slots. Murray’s is a subtle but engaging portrait. And Oscar voters are suckers for performances which not only show an actor can play against type but also take on well-known historical figures. Murray’s FDR fits the bill as definite Oscar bait. Hyde Park On Hudson also has another plus that gives it plenty of Academy potential. It is the second film in three years to deal in some way with England’s King George VI. This plot, set in 1939, involves an invitation for the new King to visit President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. So the stuttering monarch, this time played by Samuel West, is back in Telluride where the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech debuted on its first stop to Best Picture glory in 2010.
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Hyde Park On Hudson’
The competition portion of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival began in earnest tonight as the fest opened with the World Premiere of Wes Anderson’s new comedy, Moonrise Kingdom. And the results certainly pleased Focus Features chief James Shamus, who assessed the evening for me at the film’s swinging late night afterparty at Carlton Beach (which started after the usual opening night formal dinner). The movie received a 5-minute standing ovation that in fact brought co-star Bill Murray to visible tears in the audience. Of course every film gets some kind of ovation from these twice-a-night opening crowds. But there seemed to be genuine enthusiasm for Anderson who has never brought a film to Cannes. “I contacted [Fest director] Thierry Fremaux and really fought hard for the opening night slot because I believed in this film,” Schamus told me. It is somewhat unusual for the opening nighter to be in competition also. (Schamus said he thought it was maybe only the second or third time in the last couple of decades.) “Wes is also an auteur so I thought it would be only natural that his film would compete,” Schamus told me. Many of the opening nighters I spoke to felt it was worthy of a prize.
Anderson’s film is the first of 22 which the Cannes jury (headed by Italian director Nanni Moretti) will see over the next 12 days. Today, virtually the entire Moonrise Kingdom cast (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, and tweens Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) met the press. ”These were so many people I wanted to work with for so long. I like to think of movies I do as a bit like a theatre company,” Anderson said. Typical of the camraderie felt by Anderson casts, “It’s clearly a family,” said Swinton. “Wes has made it feel as if we were all invited to a wedding. It was quite an adventure.”
Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters 3 has been in developmental limbo for years, held up in large part by the studio’s inability to get leading man Bill Murray to commit, or for that matter even read a script. Today, franchise co-star …
There’s nobody in Hollywood quite like Bill Murray. Even though Sony Pictures and the Ghostbusters creative team built a sequel around Murray, I’m told the actor still hasn’t contacted the studio to tell them if he’s even read the script script by The Office writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky that was delivered to him at the beginning of the year. The movie won’t happen if Bill doesn’t say yes, plain and simple. Now, Murray is being courted to play Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Roger Michell-directed Hyde Park on the Hudson, the film set up at Focus Features and Film Four with script by Richard Nelson. Like Ghostbusters, this is a film that becomes an immediate go picture if Murray says yes. I’m not sure it happens if he says no, or doesn’t say anything at all.
For days, I’ve heard that Focus has been approaching cast and basically telling them that Murray will do the picture. Focus has denied that to me several times. Perhaps Focus doesn’t want to jinx things because you never really know that you have Murray until he shows up to go to work, which is the reason Ghostbusters III has languished so long–you can’t prep a $150 million picture on a wing and a prayer.
The Toronto pickup, a noirish thriller starring Mickey Rourke, Bill Murray and Megan Fox and written and directed by Mitch Glazer, begins its platform rollout in New York and Los Angeles. That’s a little less than two months before the rollout of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which Fox fell …