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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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R.I.P. George Hickenlooper

Mike Fleming

2ND UPDATE: I’m still trying to discover how George Hickenlooper passed away, but I’m told he had been in Colorado campaigning last night for his cousin, John, who is in the final stretch run of the Governor’s race in Colorado. John, the mayor of Denver, is the Democratic Party candidate. Hickenlooper went early to Denver to help his cousin, and had to be there later this week, when Casino Jack will be shown Thursday at the Starz Film Festival. I’m told that George didn’t wake up this morning, but I’m still not sure why.

UPDATE: George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack star Kevin Spacey has sent me a statement on the shocking passing of his director. “It is with great sadness that I have to even think about writing about George in this way, when I was looking forward to seeing him next week in Los Angeles,” Spacey said. “We have been due to take our film on the road toward its release in December. I can’t believe he’s gone because George was so alive, bubbling with energy, drive, commitment, an open heart and a brilliant sense of humor. He was one of a kind.

“My experience working with him was nothing short of fantastic: from our prison visit with Jack Abramoff, to script meetings, pre-production discussions and finally our first day of shooting. From that day until … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Casino Jack’

Mike Fleming

Here’s a new and longer trailer for Casino Jack, the George Hickenlooper-directed drama about the rise and fall of lobbyist Jack Abramoff that’s being released December 29 by ATO Pictures to take advantage of a strong performance by Kevin Spacey. Nice to see Jon Lovitz back in a movie.

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And In Other Film Deals…

By | Wednesday September 29, 2010 @ 8:26am PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Kennedy/Marshall will try to turn the life of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger into a feature film. They’ve optioned life rights of the pilot who landed his jumbo jet in the Hudson River after the engines stalled when the plane hit a flock of birds on takeoff. He saved all the passengers. How you stretch that into a feature will be the challenge…

ATO Pictures acquired U.S. theatrical rights to Terri, a film that stars John C. Reilly and Jacob Wysocki, with Azazel Jacobs directing. It’s about the relationship between an overweight teen (Wysocki) and a well meaning high school vice principal (Reilly). ATO acquired the Kevin Spacey-starrer Casino Jack at Toronto…Brett Ratner optioned the Charles Robert Jenkins novel The Reluctant Communist as a potential directing project. Ross Katz will write the script based on the true story of Robert Jenkins, a US Army soldier who deserted in South Korea and surrendered to North Korea in 1965. He thought it would be a quick ticket home, but instead he was stuck there 40 years playing the American villain in propaganda films.

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TORONTO: ATO Rolls Dice On ‘Casino Jack’

By | Thursday September 9, 2010 @ 7:36am PDT
Mike Fleming

Casino Jack, the drama that stars Kevin Spacey as disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has a new home. ATO Pictures has acquired US theatrical rights to a film which was orphaned when its original distributor, Metropolitan, failed to meet its commitments and the picture was pulled back for breach of contract. ATO is best known for having singer Dave Matthews and music exec Coran Capshaw as its co-founders.

ATO Pictures will distribute the George Hickenlooper-directed drama in December. The George Hickenlooper-directed film will be platformed at the Toronto International Film Festival, and gets its chance at awards season, with Spacey’s performance in particular garnering raves at early private showings. The film makes its festival premiere at Toronto on September 16, with filmmaker and cast in tow.

“It is not only one of the most refreshing and entertaining films we’ve seen in a long time, but, it also fits in perfectly with a strategy of releasing high quality, engaging stories that appeal to mainstream audiences,” ATO co-founders Johnathan Dorfman and Temple Fennell said in a statement. ATO releases theatrically though Independent Distribution Partners, its partnership with Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Jack Abramoff Pic ‘Casino Jack’ Being Shown To Distributors; Metropolitan Denies It’s Out

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Jack Abramoff Pic ‘Casino Jack’ Being Shown To Distributors; Metropolitan Denies It Is Out

Mike Fleming

100106_CasinoJackMainEXCLUSIVE: Is Casino Jack ever going to see the light of day? The feature drama about the rise and fall of D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff certainly seems to have a lot going for it. Kevin Spacey in the starring role, cooperation from Abramoff — who allowed Spacey and director George Hickenlooper to visit him in jail– and an 8-figure distribution deal by upstart independent distributor Metropolitan.

What a turn of events for the film, and Abramoff! The ex-lobbyist has been sprung and works for a kosher Baltimore pizzeria. He might be up to his eyeballs in dough, but a lack of money due from Metropolitan has prompted the makers of Casino Jack to reclaim the film. They say Metropolitan has defaulted, and CAA is showing it to distributors again. They hope to make a new deal that will keep plans intact for an October opening to exploit what the filmmakers believe is an awards-caliber performance by Spacey.

The Casino Jack development parallels the Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor film I Love You Phillip Morris. In April, Deadline revealed that Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp reclaimed that film from upstart distribution company Consolidated Pictures Group, after CPG was late with funds and canceled three release dates on a movie that has already been released around the world. While CPG denied it was let go, I’m told EuropaCorp—which sued CPG—will close a new deal shortly.

Metropolitan owner, Romar Entertainment’s James Schramm, vehemently denied he has defaulted, or that … Read More »

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