EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired an untitled comedy based on a pitch from Pitch Perfect star Rebel Wilson. She hatched the original idea and is attached to write, produce and star. After starring in Universal/Gold Circle’s sleeper comedy Pitch Perfect, Bachelorette and before that Bridesmaids, Wilson will next be seen in the Chris Colfer-written Struck By Lightning and the Michael Bay-directed Pain & Gain, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson. READ MORE »
The Bridesmaids rip-offs were inevitable. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay through their Gary Sanchez productions just released the red band trailer for Bachelorette starring Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, and James Marsden. Written by ex-Harvey Weinstein assistant Leslye Headland (FX’s Terriers), the low-budget indie generated some buzz …
Cari Lynn is a contributor to AwardsLine
Despite creating one of the year’s biggest box office hits, Oscar-nominated Bridesmaids co-screenwriters and longtime friends Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wigg are self-effacing, readily confessing to embarking on their script by buying a how-to book. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Wiig says. “We bought Syd Field’s book, and then we were like, “OK, I think on page 30, our first act has to be over…?’”
Wiig and Mumolo met in the early 2000s at L.A.’s improv and sketch theater group The Groundlings, where they describe gravitating toward each other. “Some of my favorite things that I wrote at The Groundlings — all of them, I think — were with Annie,” Wiig says. “We just have a great writing marriage. I call her my creative wife.”
It’s been quite a roll for Melissa McCarthy. This former Gilmore Girls best friend took home the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her role in Mike & Molly, but it was her deft and hilarious portrayal of Megan, the Dockers-wearing, secret operative, sexually aggressive sister of the groom in Bridesmaids that propelled her to a household name — plus numerous critics kudos and an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress. She spoke with AwardsLine contributor Cari Lynn about her breakthrough film role, written by Kristen Wiig (who also stars in Bridesmaids) and Annie Mumolo; about the friendships — and romance — that started at the LA-based sketch and improv comedy troupe the Groundlings; and about how she might react if she wins an Oscar.
AWARDSLINE: You got your start with The Groundlings, as did the co-writers and much of the cast of Bridesmaids. Were you at The Groundlings at the same time as Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo?
McCARTHY: Yes! They’re two of the greatest ladies I know, really, they’re remarkable. I want them to write 700 more things. I was in with Annie a little longer, and I only did one show with Kristen and then she went to SNL. I was also in [The Groundlings] with Wendi [McLendon-Covey] and Maya [Rudolph].
AWARDSLINE: You had so many scene-stealing lines in Bridesmaids. Do you know if that part was written with you in mind?
McCARTHY: It wasn’t, and they had seen quite a few people. Annie told me that they were about to get rid of the Megan character because it wasn’t working out. I came in and, luckily, they did not, because I loved it.
Perhaps a victim of too many participants and too little time, a panel featuring the WGA screenwriting nominees Thursday night at the guild’s Beverly Hills theater was heavy on niceties with only traces of insight. Three Moneyball writers — Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin and Steven Zaillian (who also wrote The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) — were joined by The Descendants’ writer-director Alexander Payne, Hugo‘s John Logan, Bridesmaids‘ Annie Mumolo, 50/50‘s Will Reiser and The Help‘s Tate Taylor for an hour-plus discussion mostly peppered with practical advice dished to a large audience of new or aspiring screenwriters. The event was billed as a pre-cursor to Sunday’s WGA Awards, featuring the WGA’s and Oscar’s nominees for original and adapted screenplay.
A couple of panelists did offer up moments of insidery detail. Payne tackled his screenplay for The Descendants after drafts were delivered by the project’s other writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, but he said he had to overlook their take on the story before warming up to the project. “I couldn’t get into the film through their drafts,” Payne said. “I respected their work very much but I had to return to the novel. I learned some of the things I didn’t want to do [with the story] through their drafts.” Payne said the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings paved the way for his version of the screenplay, noting that this was his most “faithful adaptation” he’s done to date. “The [Hawaiian] aristocracy is very insular. They’re very suspicious of outsiders who come in and see what they want to see and leave,” he said. “My principal audience is the people who live there and I wanted people in Hawaii to believe I got it right.”
Payne said previous drafts of Descendants played up the high jinks of the younger daughter (played in the film by Amara Miller), but he said he “jettisoned that” and instead focused on the relationship between George Clooney’s character and the older daughter, played by Shailene Woodley. When writing, Payne said he likes to keep things “austere.” Though he may write a long script with details, when he’s ready to show it, minimalism wins out. “I like to keep it super austere. Ninety-one pages is the best length for a script.”
Beverly Hills, CA – Six actresses – Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig – from the hit comedy “Bridesmaids” will be presenters at the 84th Academy Awards, telecast
Deadline’s Awards Columnist Pete Hammond contributed commentary for this article.
Despite Warner Bros’ pricey campaign to put the final Harry Potter in the mix for Best Picture, its efforts only resulted in the same old technical noms the series usually gets (Visual Effects, Art Direction, Makeup). Universal also did a sizeable campaign to get its raunchy summer comedy Bridesmaids into the Best Picture conversation, but conventional wisdom that the Academy frowns on broad comedies in the category proved true again, relegating the hit movie to screenplay and Supporting Actress Melissa McCarthy — exactly the two categories the film was always thought to have its best chance.
David Fincher, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Steven Spielberg, War Horse
Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Tate Taylor, The Help
Bennett Miller, Moneyball
George Clooney, The Ides Of March
DGA nominee Fincher was the one anomaly between the usually reliable DGA list and the Oscar nominees in this category. Terrence Malick grabbed that spot, while Spielberg not only was snubbed here but in animated feature too for The Adventures Of Tintin. At least he has a Best Picture nom for War Horse to comfort him. Daldry, Taylor and Miller join him in the Snubbed Club even though their films were deemed Best Picture-worthy.
Actor In A Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio, J Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Ryan Gosling, The Ides Of March or Drive
Perhaps it was a sign when the Makeup branch failed to list DiCaprio’s Hoover makeup in their original seven finalists. The Academy thoroughly rejected Clint Eastwood’s movie, and DiCaprio went down with the ship too.
Motion Capture just isn’t a favorite with actors so that doomed Serkis from the start. Brooks missed SAG too, so that should have been a sign. Perhaps the film was just too violent for some? (Brooks had the best anti-reaction quotes of the day on his Twitter feed, posting “And to the Academy: You don’t like me. You really don’t like me” and “Looking forward to the State of the Union tonight. Hope the new Axis of Evil includes Hollywood.”)
Both of the above were more talked-about for noms than Rooney Mara, but in the end the newcomer triumphed over some Oscar-winning vets.
Actress In A Supporting Role
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Youth was not served in a tough category.
The Writers Guild nominations seemed to fall right in line with expectations, with one glaring exception. The noticeable absence of Oscar frontrunner The Artist in Original Screenplay was not a diss but simply because that film — written by its director, Michel Hazanavicius — was ineligible under the WGA’s award rules as it was not produced under a guild contract. Mike Mills’ Focus Features film Beginners was similarily ineligible in the Original Screenplay category along with titles like Shame and Margin Call, with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Drive among those in the Adapted Screenplay lineup.
The Writers Guild, unlike SAG, DGA or PGA, will only consider movies made under their auspices, which means often that likely Oscar nominees in the writing categories are often AWOL at the WGA, which believes these awards should be restricted to union-approved productions. Animated and foreign films also regularly fail to make the cut at WGA but often wind up on the Academy’s list, so the absence of Paramount’s Rango for instance shouldn’t be an indication of its ultimate chances with Oscar.
Certainly The Artist, even though it is a silent film, will likely be nominated by the Academy’s writers branch at the expense of one of the WGA’s strong list of nominees: 50/50, Bridesmaids, Midnight In Paris, Win Win and Young Adult. Terrence Malick’s Cannes winner The Tree of Life, missing from the WGA lineup along with the WGA-ineligible screenplay for the Iranian Oscar entry A Separation, would also appear to be strong contenders to replace one or two of the WGA choices when Academy Award nominations are announced January 24.
If anyone were to have told you back on May 13 when Universal’s raunchy female comedy Bridesmaids opened that we would seriously be discussing its Best Picture Oscar nomination prospects a week before Christmas, the status of their mental health would been called into question. But even though it remains a…
HAMMOND: ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Artist’, ‘Paris’ Try To Buck Oscar’s Prejudice Against Comedy; HFPA Says ‘The Help’ Is Not Funny
Dying is easy, comedy is hard. Someone said that, right?
Judging by the paltry number of “pure” comedies that have won Best Picture Oscars in the past, apparently the Academy doesn’t think it’s hard at all. But could this actually be the year comedy will once again get its due in the Best Picture race? Will we ever see another genuine laugher taken seriously? “It’s crazy when you see what these great comedy people do,” says Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow. His film was a huge surprise summer hit and has one of the highest critics ratings on Rotten Tomatoes with 90% fresh reviews. That’s a lot better than many dramatic contenders that pundits take more seriously as true Oscar pictures. Broad, hit-’em-in-the-gut comedy is almost always dismissed.
Apatow told me he was really surprised when Bridesmaids started to become part of the awards conversation this year but now believes they have a shot, at least in some categories — although not daring to dream of Best Picture yet. “We’re very hopeful about Melissa McCarthy in supporting. (Co-writer and star) Kristen Wiig should get recognition too. It’s very hard to do what she does,” Apatow said, adding that he thought Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover (which Apatow did not produce) should have been recognized a couple of years ago for the “perfect supporting part” but was obviously overlooked.
Further proving disrespect for comedy in the Acad, Apatow himself was dissed even to become an Academy member until finally getting the invite in 2008. Considering the Academy’s usual reluctance to reward the genre, Wiig is shocked they are even in the hunt, but Bridesmaids is the only movie Universal is significantly campaigning this year. “It’s nuts,” she said. “Recently we were looking at our original draft and thinking the fact people are even talking about it in this way is very strange. But I think ultimately it’s about the story and characters. You have to care about them or you’re not going to care about the movie whether it is comedy or drama.”
Bridesmaids is also hoping for recognition as a Best Picture Comedy or Musical nominee in the Golden Globes, where it actually does have a realistic chance of making the cut (The Hangover actually won). Many have called for the Academy to institute separate categories to honor comedy, like the Globes have always done, but it has never flown.
It is not hard to see why.
Often there’s a very gray line between what constitutes a comedy in the first place. The Hollywood Foreign Press lets studios determine which categories they want to be in but has final say. In other words, if a studio tries to squeeze J. Edgar into comedy because there is less competition, forget it. This year, there has been lots of discussion among distributors about what constitutes a comedy. Fox Searchlight initially debated whether to enter its George Clooney starrer The Descendants in the Comedy or Musical category because there are definite laughs, but the dramatic elements ruled the day and it is submitted as a drama. Same with Sony’s Moneyball, which had some TV ads with quotes calling it “hilarious.” In the end, it wasn’t that hilarious — it’s in drama.
On the other hand, DreamWorks officially submitted The Help in comedy or musical even though it has some very heavy dramatic moments. On Monday, an HFPA committee rejected it in comedy and determined it would compete as a drama, where it will go head-to-head with Disney/DreamWorks’ other big hopeful, War Horse (assuming both get nominated, as seems likely). It’s not surprising: At a recent event I attended, a lot of HFPA members were voicing concerns about having to judge The Help as a comedy. The film was indeed initially sold by Disney and DreamWorks with an emphasis on its lighter elements, and past Globe winners in the category such as Driving Miss Daisy were similar in tone. Still, that would have meant Viola Davis would compete in the Best Actress-Comedy or Musical category, and no matter how you slice it, her character — a civil rights-era maid — just wasn’t that funny. Other entries that remain in the category that border comedy and drama are Focus Features’ Beginners and Summit’s 50/50, both dealing with main characters with cancer; Paramount’s Young Adult; and The Weinstein Company’s My Week With Marilyn. But the placement seems logical, and their chances against stiff competition in the drama categories would be considerably lessened. Last year, Focus entered the dramedy The Kids Are All Right in the comedy categories and bagged Globes for both the picture and Annette Bening.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Working Title Films will need a new director for Bridget Jones 3, and I hear they want a Brit. Paul Feig has withdrawn after developing the most recent draft of the script with the intention to direct. I’m told that both sides agreed it didn’t work out and that maybe this is just a quintessential British comedy that needs a British sensibility. They will set a director soon as they are still slated to start production in January, with Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant all eager to return.
Feig has enough to keep him busy at Universal, where he just directed the sleeper hit Bridesmaids. He’s got two projects there including an untitled comedy that he’s writing to direct for producer Judd Apatow, with the hope that Jon Hamm will play a guy obsessed with a woman who’ll be played by Melissa McCarthy. That certainly puts much of the Bridesmaids team together, and it will have to do until the studio figures out a way to get moving on a Bridesmaids sequel after the first one grossed $286 million worldwide on a $32 million budget.
In one of its biggest movie-acquisition deals in the last few years, USA Network has bought a package of more than 30 titles from Universal Pictures. Nine of them include network premiere rights, including Judd Apatow’s sleeper comedy hit Bridesmaids; the Fast & the Furious sequel Fast Five; the latest installment in the Meet the Parents franchise, Little Fockers; as well as the Matt Damon starrer The Adjustment Bureau. All four will debut on USA. There was some corporate synergy at work in making the deal, with virtually all other NBCUniversal TV networks contributing financially, including NBC, Syfy, E!, Bravo, Oxygen, Style, G4, Chiller, Sleuth and UniHD. In exchange, those nets get rights to some of the titles in the package. For instance, NBC has committed to airing Bridesmaids and The Little Fockers after their premiere on USA and has an option to pick up more. Syfy will debut two of the nine movies, to which USA is getting network premiere rights: Repo Man and Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take.
Mea culpa, I took today off rather than suffer more of Universal’s humiliating slings and arrows inevitably directed at me. Because, thanks to matinee and pre-sale tickets, the studio’s Bridesmaids passed Knocked Up around noon as Judd Apatow’s …
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: After last weekend’s disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney’s Cars 2 and Sony’s Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year. Here’s the Top 10.
1. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.3M, Weekend $68M
Wow, even Pixar’s clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar’s 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids’ tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D’s higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of “just” $68M. Surprising that gross was -10% from Friday despite those Saturday kiddie matinees, indicating that word of mouth wasn’t good. It’s still a big bump up from the original’s $60.1M despite far less favorable reviews. Audiences gave Cars 2 a ‘A-’ CinemaScore vs ‘A’ for the first Cars back in 2006 – but critics called the sequel a lemon and Pixar’s worst movie ever because of the lame espionage story and over-use of Larry The Cable Guy (a little of him goes a loooong way). No doubt his good ol’ boy tow truck voiceover will go down well in flyover country. But critics expected better of Pixar CEO John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since Cars. Still, the moolah puts the sequel #5 on the Pixar food chain.
But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market – Cars Kleenex, anyone? — and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It’s a supremely cynical move — lousy movie, great crap – that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. ”Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,” an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me. “Critics not liking a movie doesn’t seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?”
Besides its licensing bonanza, Cars 2 builds on the original’s brand overseas. Cars 1 made “only” 47.2% of its $462M internationally, so Pixar/Disney decided to rev up the sequel’s foreign appeal by sending its vehicles on a race to Tokyo, Italy, London and Paris after the studio found that the tow truck resonated with kids around the world. (The Japanese washlet toilet scene is sight to behold.) Cars 2 is opening in 18 international markets including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Already Russia scored the biggest opening day of all time for a Disney animated film (but there also are more theaters there now than before), while Australia is pitting Cars 2 against Kung Fu Panda 2, and the Pixar film has pulled a little ahead. Even the music is global, with a score by American composer Michael Giacchino, plus alternative rock legend Weezer, country music hitmaker Brad Paisley, best-selling British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, French superstar Bénabar, and the power pop Japanese girl band Perfume.
2. Bad Teacher (Sony) NEW [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $12.1M, Saturday $10.9M, Weekend $31M
Welcome to the brave new moviemaking world of Bad Gals and raunchy ‘R-rated’ movies starring women. (Hard to believe feminists fought for this kind of film equality, huh?) Exit polling showed the pic attracted 63% female/37% male audiences, while 57% were over age 25/43% under age 25. Given the mega-success of Bridesmaids and now Bad Teacher, expect a lot of clones coming to the megaplex near you. Even though audiences gave foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz et al a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, this sleeper overperformed with Sony expecting a $20+M result. I’m told this under-$20M budgeted comedy was championed internally by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad, and, like so many other films that Sony has successfully released of late, he was able to put the film together with the producers for the right $20M-$40M price. (If you look at the last several years, Sony still overspends on tentpoles but also has developed a solid portfolio of modestly produced films like The Social Network, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Bounty Hunter, Karate Kid, Julie and Julia, Easy A, Vantage Point, The Ugly Truth, etc. These titles, when done right, allow for decent upside…)
Once again, Sony had pitch-perfect marketing thanks to Marc Weinstock, Tommy Gargotta, and of course Jeff Blake. The buzz began developing weeks ago thanks to an irreverent outdoor campaign with Cameron and her desk continuing through the trailers and TV ads that shouted the subversive concept of the film. “We had a lot to work with on this title. From the movie itself to the cast, we used all our assets to build heat and awareness for the film while having fun with the campaign,” a Sony exec tells me. For example, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the studio sent apples with Post-it notes that read “Eat Me” to top radio DJs in key markets to get a lot of air chatter going. Online, there were initiatives like the Worst Teachers In History Collection on collegehumor.com. Of course, Cameron, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel all worked the talk-show circuit. On TV, spots aired on many of the more mouthbreather-targeted season finales and premieres, while the two-minute trailer ran during MTV’s Jersey Shore in March to gain early awareness. Sony also had a strong footprint throughout the recent NBA playoffs and finals.
Bad Teacher opened first in the UK where it has done very well, taking in nearly $4M in its first week of play there and holding to a strong -41% Friday. It opens day and date in 25 smaller countries this weekend, including Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden.