Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, whose The Hunt was in the Cannes competition last year, will make his studio-produced English-language helming debut with the adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, Far From The Madding Crowd. The UK’s DNA Films is producing with Fox Searchlight, which confirms that Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts will star in the new take. They’ll play Bathsheba Everdine and Gabriel Oak in the story of the ill-fated passions of a willful young woman and her three suitors. Production is scheduled for this fall in the UK with Searchlight marketing and distributing for the world. A previous film version was directed by John Schlesinger in 1967 and starred Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Peter Finch and Alan Bates (as Oak). Mulligan is in Cannes this week in support of The Great Gatsby and Inside Llewyn Davis. Schoenaerts was in Cannes last year with Rust And Bone and is here now with Blood Ties. They are both repped by CAA; Vinterberg is repped by ICM Partners.
EXCLUSIVE: As packages firm up for AFM, here’s one that will surely reverberate in Santa Monica. Robert Pattinson is signing on to star with Carey Mulligan in Hold On To Me. The film will be directed by James Marsh, who won an Oscar for the docu Man On Wire and followed with Project Nim. Pic is based on a true story about a femme fatale who with her boyfriend kidnaps and ransoms the town’s richest man. They bury him in a box and things go horribly awry. Pattinson plays the flashy supporting role of the woman’s life love, Jimmy, who isn’t involved in the crime. The project was scripted by Brad Ingelsby.
Across town, as President Barack Obama was drawing every celebrity not in contention for awards this season, the 15th annual Hollywood Awards Gala was taking place at the Beverly Hilton. All of the Oscar hopefuls who agreed to show up to accept an award were there in their Monday finest as this was a place to be seen if you want an ego boost at this early point in the season.
With 19 above- and below-the-line categories to plow through, this was a surprisingly fun show that, if it didn’t already exist, Hollywood would have to find some way to invent. Billed as the ”official” kickoff to awards season (if you don’t count all those film festivals we’ve just been through), The Hollywood Awards were created — and basically chosen — by executive director Carlos de Abreu, who, with Janice Pennington, founded the gala and accompanying film festival. They are the result of a months-long negotiation between him and the studios and distributors, who are using this early opportunity to get key positioning for the players they hope to advance during the long awards season leading ultimately to Oscar. The only caveat is that to get the award, you have to agree to show up.
This year, de Abreu has his pulse on some real contenders and handed out acting awards to — among many others — Michelle Williams, George Clooney and Christopher Plummer, who all could realistically be considered close to frontrunners in their respective categories.
A real highlight of the show was when Marilyn Monroe’s Oscar-nominated Bus Stop co-star Don Murray showed up to present Hollywood Actress of the Year to Williams, who plays the iconic star in The Weinstein Company’s My Week With Marilyn. “I’m the last of the the on-screen lovers of Marilyn Monroe, and I still just happen to have a body that actually works, ” the 82-year-old actor said to much laughter. “Michelle re-created moments I was so intimately familiar with as I spent 14 months working with Marilyn. There’s not one thing in this film that’s not truthful. It was a revelation. Michelle’s performance made me appreciate Marilyn Monroe so much more.”
Williams, noticeably nervous, said her friends always wanted to see her win a award so she could basically sweat through the experience. She did well though, closing with a touching perception about Monroe. “It seems to me that all Marilyn Monroe wanted was to be taken seriously as an actress, and she studied so hard and never really got there,” she said, adding that it was ironic Williams herself could get this kind of recognition that so eluded the star she played.
EXCLUSIVE: Mark Romanek has emerged as frontrunner to direct The Lost Symbol, Sony Pictures’ third installment of the Dan Brown-penned thrillers focusing on symbologist Robert Langdon. After directing the global blockbusters The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Ron Howard this summer opted out of directing a third, preferring to produce with his Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer. Grazer produced the first two films in the series with the late John Calley, who acquired the property before he left the Sony Pictures executive suite to become a producer.
Sony Pictures has been interviewing helmers for one of the more prominent open directing assignments. Romanek hasn’t got the job locked up yet, but I’ve heard negotiations should begin soon. Romanek, a top video director, made his feature helming debut on One Hour Photo, and most recently directed Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. Romanek has so far made mostly budget films. He nearly helmed a big one in The Wolfman but left weeks before production started in a dispute with Universal over budget and other creative disagreements.
Warner Bros. has set The Great Gatsby to open Christmas Day 2012. Director Baz Luhrmann began filming his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel last month in Australia. The 3D production stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke and Elizabeth Debicki.
UK-based Momentum Pictures has put up a trailer for Shame, the controversial, NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed drama that stars Michael Fassbender as a man caught in a spiral of promiscuity. Carey Mulligan plays his sister. Both are being mentioned for awards for a film that Fox Searchlight acquired for US distribution …
Toronto: Distribution Deal For Luc Besson’s ‘The Lady’ Puts Michelle Yeoh And David Thewlis In Oscar Race
EXCLUSIVE: The Oscar race just got a little more interesting. EuropaCorp has made a U.S. distribution deal with Cohen Media Group for the Luc Besson-directed The Lady, the story of Burmese pro-democracy activist and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Upstart Cohen Media Group plans to release the film for an Oscar-qualifying platform release late this year to capitalize on strong performances by Michelle Yeoh, who plays Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis, who plays her Oxford professor husband Michael Aris. The film will get a wider release in early 2012. Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest by the repressive Burmese military-controlled government. Leaders cruelly barred her husband and two sons from visiting her, thinking that it would drive her to leave. Because she knew that once gone she would never be permitted re-entry, Suu Kyi sacrificed everything to stay and become an iconic symbol of democracy and human rights. Her husband and sons bolstered her spirit and campaigned for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 1991. The distribution deals came quickly after the film premiered Monday evening at Roy Thomson Hall, where Besson, Yeoh and Thewlis received a rousing standing ovation. The deal was brokered by EuropaCorp Group CEO Christophe Lambert and Cohen Media Group CEO Charles S. Cohen.
The Lady becomes the second Toronto title to become an instant entry into upcoming awards season, after Fox Searchlight acquired the NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed Shame with plans to campaign for Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.
After establishing himself as France’s answer to Steven Spielberg directing hits like La Femme Nikita and The Professional and co-writing and producing action films like Taken, Besson has become very selective in the projects he directs. While he has always had a soft spot for strong female protagonists, it has always been in action settings. The Lady is a decided departure and certainly his most personal film to date. Besson made it to refocus the world’s attention on an activist whose continuing plight gets easily forgotten in a turbulent world, even though she won that Nobel Peace Prize and U2′s Bono and The Edge wrote the song Walk On about her sacrifice (which got U2′s album banned in Burma).
Just as it did last year, the 2011 Toronto Film Festival has gotten off to a slow start on the acquisitions front. I spoke with many buyers after last night’s onslaught of acquisition title premieres, and the common feeling was these distributors need to fill slots in their schedules and they want to fall in love, but haven’t quite gotten there yet with most of these films. They had some reservations on just about all of the films they saw. These films will clearly find distribution homes, but the reaction means that deals will drag out because those distributors aren’t going to be posting large minimum guarantees, the way they did in Cannes.
Even the big sale of the festival so far, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 sex drama Shame, wasn’t a huge commitment for all the press hoopla that followed Deadline’s reveal that the film had sold to Fox Searchlight. I am hearing the deal was a mid-six figure minimum guarantee around $400,000, and a P&A commitment around $1.5 million. That sounds about right, because the filmmakers were most concerned with entering this year’s Oscar race to capitalize on the performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and ensuring that not a frame of the picture was changed. But it doesn’t sound like a wide release picture.
As for the wide release titles, they are going to sell, but it will be a struggle for sellers to get the dollars they want. I saw one of those titles that sit atop buyer lists last night. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was scripted by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The film is sophisticated, funny, timely and utterly charming, and I would be surprised if it isn’t snapped up by Monday or sooner. That film got the best reaction from the buyers I spoke with. The pace of auctioning has been complicated by the volume of premieres last night, including Rampart, Take This Waltz, The Oranges, the hockey comedy Goon and the Morgan Spurlock-directed documentary Comic-Con: A Fan’s Hope. Buyers had to make choices, and some were seeing films like Salmon this morning. I expect a flurry of deals toward the end of the festival, which is how it played out last year.
Since there’s little going on so far, you have time to notice things. Here are a few things I’ve noticed:
Toronto: ‘Descendants’ Premiere Gets Big Reaction, Searchlight Has No Shame About Pickup Of Controversial ‘Shame’
Fox Seachlight’s annual party at the Thompson Hotel for the Toronto International Film Festival seemed especially ebullient Saturday after its growing Oscar contender, The Descendants, premiered to a standing ovation. Exactly a week earlier, the film received a similar enthusiastic response in Telluride. On top of that, Searchlight’s co-presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula had just won rights over The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures Classics to the controversial Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which missed out Saturday on the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival but did nab star Michael Fassbender the Best Actor prize for his raw, let-it-all-hang-out performance as a sexually addicted man in freefall.
Utley confirmed that Searchlight will release Shame this year in time for the Oscar race, possibly December. Although they have not dated it, they do want enough time to put a campaign together. She was thrilled that Fassbender got the Venice prize for the film, which premieres in Toronto tomorrow night, after
EXCLUSIVE: In the first major deal of the Toronto Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has acquired Shame, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 drama that was the talk of Telluride. Bidding came down to Searchlight and The Weinstein Company. The film is said to showcase a tour de force performance by Michael Fassbender, who plays a New Yorker unable to manage his sex life when his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment, and his world spirals out of control. Searchlight had been the frontrunner in the bidding. The film is a provocative purchase for a number of reasons: It is unabashedly NC-17, features graphic sex scenes and nudity — one source said “think dungeon sex” — and McQueen has final cut and will not change a frame. It will be a controversial release for Searchlight, whose parent company has already weathered plenty of scandal lately. Also, the deal calls for a late-year release and Best Actor campaign for Fassbender; Searchlight will already be waging a campaign in the same category for George Clooney in the Alexander Payne-directed The Descendants. Hanway brokered the Shame deal.
Just in time for Comic-Con, FilmDistrict has unveiled a red band trailer for Drive, the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed drama that stars Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Carey Mulligan. Is it me, or does Gosling seem very much like Steve McQueen-esque in one of those 70s movies and Brooks …
EXCLUSIVE: Joel Edgerton has been set by director Baz Luhrmann to play Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. He will join Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Isla Fisher as Myrtle (Tom’s mistress), and Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker. Edgerton, the Australian actor who was on the short list to star in The Bourne Legacy spinoff at Universal and other plum roles, takes a part that was going to Ben Affleck until his schedule didn’t work when he committed to direct and star in Argo for Warner Bros. Luhrmann’s update of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic will be made for Warner Bros, which will release it in 3D. Edgerton next stars with Tom Hardy in Warrior, the Gavin O’Connor-directed drama about brothers who square off in the mixed martial arts arena. Edgerton has an imposing physicality that makes him an intriguing choice for the role of Tom, played by Bruce Dern in the 1974 film.
Luhrmann, who took the above photo of Edgerton as Buchanan, confirmed he’d found his man: “In casting Tom one had to find an actor who could credibly be (as Fitzgerald describes him) ‘one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven,’ had five-star acting chops and in the big dramatic showdown scenes between Gatsby and Tom, hold the screen against Leonardo DiCaprio, in the appropriate age group.