The 1963 Oscar ceremony marked a significant milestone in the history of the Academy Awards—and for African-American actors. Sidney Poitier took the best actor prize for Lilies Of The Field, an “Amen” moment, to quote the best picture nominee’s famous song, if ever there was one. Until Poitier, only Hattie McDaniel, who won best supporting actress in 1939 for Gone With The Wind, held the distinction for any African-American actor, and it would take another two decades after Poitier’s seminal win for it to happen again (when An Officer And A Gentleman’s Louis Gossett Jr. won a supporting statuette in 1982). After presenter Anne Bancroft opened the envelope and excitedly read Poitier’s name, he bounded to the stage as the orchestra played “Amen” and he famously called it, “a long journey to this moment.” Poitier said he didn’t expect to win, and many predicted Tom Jones star Albert Finney would take it. (Neither Finney nor the other nominated actors—Paul Newman (Hud), Richard Harris (This Sporting Life) and Rex Harrison (Cleopatra)—were in attendance, but that was not uncommon in Oscar’s earlier days.) After all, Tom Jones would prove to be the evening’s big winner, taking best picture and three other Oscars.
OSCARS: A Look Back On The 50th Anniversary Of Sidney Poitier’s Historic Win – How Far Have We Come?
BAFTA Awards: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Wins Best Film But ‘Gravity’ Carries Most Weight With Six Total Nods; Chiwetel Ejiofor & Cate Blanchett Take Actor Wins; ‘American Hustle’ Scores 3 Including For Jennifer Lawrence
UPDATED WITH FULL LIST OF WINNERS AND REACTIONS: Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave rallied from a slow stat to win the Best Film award tonight at the 62nd BAFTA Film Awards in London. The slave drama from Fox Searchlight had 10 nominations but won just two awards, after Chiwetel Ejiofor took the Leading Actor prize for playing Solomon Northup. Despite the marquee victory in the last major kudofest before the Oscars, it still seemed as though the night belonged to Warner Bros’ Gravity. The space drama picked up a leading six wins from its 11 overall nominations, including for Outstanding British Film — which will keep the debate going about just how British the pic is. Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director and the pic cleaned up in the craft categories, taking Sound, Cinematography and Special Visual Effects in addition to a nod for Steven Price’s Original Score. The BAFTA crowd at the packed Royal Opera House in Covent Garden exploded with each win for the movie, which had a leading 11 nominations going into the night.
Still, the 12 Years A Slave victory tonight maintains the film’s front-runner status going into the Oscars on March 2; the film also won the Golden Globe for Motion Picture-Drama. Many feel the Academy will lean the same way, honoring Gravity in the craft categories but not for the Best Picture. The two films have been going head to head all awards season, even scrapping to a rare tie in the PGA Awards contest. “It’s very important,” McQueen said backstage after the victory. “The way the public here — but not just here, in the U.S. — by going to see the picture, means a hell of a lot.” Added producer Brad Pitt: “This is an excuse for us to all get to gather and say job well done. We’re very proud of our work here, and it means a lot to us because of the people we got to work with.”
Open Road Acquires Domestic On ‘Triple Nine;’ Michael B. Jordan, Aaron Paul, Gal Gadot, Michael Pena Join Killer Cast
EXCLUSIVE: Open Road Films has just completed a deal to pre-buy domestic distribution rights on Triple Nine, the John Hillcoat-directed heist thriller, which begins production this summer with a killer cast. Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan, Breaking Bad and Need For Speed‘s Aaron Paul, Warm Bodies’ Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs. Superman film) and End Of Watch‘s Michael Pena are in talks to join previously announced 12 Years A Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor, Out of the Furnace’s Casey Affleck and Kate Winslet. Hillcoat, who just helmed that distinctive Super Bowl spot for Coke, wrote the script with Matt Cook. Open Road will release the film in 2015.
The rights deal comes on the eve of the European Film Market, where Sierra/Affinity is handling international sales for the project and will sell select territories in Berlin. In the drama, a crew of dirty cops is blackmailed by the Russian mob to execute a virtually impossible heist. The only way to pull it off is to manufacture a 999, police code for “officer down”. Their plan is turned upside down when the unsuspecting rookie they set up to die foils the attack, triggering a breakneck, action-packed finale filled with double-crosses, greed and revenge.
EXCLUSIVE: Monterey Media has secured rights to Half Of A Yellow Sun, co-starring Golden Globes-nominated 12 Years a Slave thesp Chiwetel Ejiofor. Half of a Yellow Sun is based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and features Ejiofor as a revolutionary who falls in love with Olanna (Thandie Newton), one of two sisters whose stories unfold against the backdrop of the Nigerian-Biafran War. Anika Noni Rose also stars in the drama directed by Biyi Bandele. Half of a Yellow Sun is produced by Shareman Media and BFI in association with Metro International Entertainment and Kachifo Limited in association with Lip Sync Productions LLP and A Slate Films. Metro International’s Natalie Brenner and monterey’s Scott Mansfield negotiated the deal. The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, will open theatrically in early Summer.
2ND UPDATE, 4:10 PM: BIM Distribuzione has officially apologized for the 12 Years A Slave posters in Italy that featured more Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender than the film’s main star Chiwetel Ejiofor – ones that were unauthorized by Summit and Lionsgate. “We apologize for creating and releasing unauthorized posters for 12 Years A Slave in Italy featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in a manner inconsistent with approved advertising materials. All inappropriate materials have now been withdrawn. We are very proud of the film and regret any distraction this incident may have caused.”
UPDATE, TUESDAY PM: We’ve now learned that Italian distributor BIM Distribuzione has agreed to stop distributing the materials in question and is in the process of recalling the unauthorized materials already in circulation.
PREVIOUSLY: Studios want to create buzz for their films, but you can probably bet this is not the kind of buzz envisioned for Oscar hopeful 12 Years A Slave. Posters for the race drama recently released in Italy feature separate images of Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender (who had small roles in the pic) prominently over a much tinier image of the film’s main star, black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.
EXCLUSIVE: Ever since its debut at the Telluride Film Festival over the Labor Day weekend, Fox Searchlight‘s 12 Years A Slave has been annointed, at least by some eager-to-call-the-race-early media members, as the movie that could take it all at the Oscars. Though it is far too early to say that with any conviction (it doesn’t open in theaters until next week and hasn’t even played its official Academy screening yet), it continues to register strongly on the Fest circuit. It hit the New York Film Festival Tuesday night where the cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, director Steve McQueen and other key creative players received a standing ovation, just as they did in Telluride and Toronto. Next week the film hits the BFI London Film Festival on October 18th, home turf for its British star and director, but telling a very American story. Searchlight clearly would be more comfortable not to be shackled with the front-runner label before the movie is able to catch its boxoffice wind. It’s always a perilous position as there is nowhere to go but down (just ask Social Network about that), but the film has drawn critical raves wherever it’s played and early audiences are clearly moved. The subject matter however is not easy, often gut-wrenching to watch, and needs to be carefully nurtured by Fox Searchlight which plans a slow rollout beginning next Friday.
BREAKING: Andrew Dosunmu will direct Focus Features’ drama with music Fela Kuti, which is currently in development. Focus CEO James Schamus and co-CEO Andrew Karpen announced the hiring. This is the film that has been developed with Chiwetel Ejiofor attached to star, and while a deal hasn’t gone down and nothing is definitive, he is hot stuff coming off the lead role in 12 Years A Slave. The film is separate from the Broadway musical. Focus has its own feature rights package that include Fela’s music, rights gathered by producers Lydia Pilcher and Leigh Blake.
Fela, considered Africa’s answer to Bob Marley, is as famous for his Afrobeat musical style — a fusion of jazz, funk and West African drums — as he was for speaking out against government oppression in Nigeria. He was a larger-than-life figure, had 27 wives, and his outspoken nature proved costly when his house was raided and his 78-year-old mother thrown to her death from a second-story window. He deposited the coffin on the steps of the Nigerian leader’s home.
FILM ROUNDUP: Steve McQueen & Chiwetel Ejiofor Join ‘Twelve Years A Slave’, Film Movement Buys ‘Corpo Celeste’, ‘Straight A’s Lands Leads
Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiofor are going to be seeing a lot of each other. McQueen has come aboard to direct Twelve Years a Slave, which will star Ejiofor in a true story about a New York man who was kidnapped in the mid-1800s and forced to become a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. Brad Pitt’s Plan B is producing. The news comes more than a year after Deadline told you that McQueen and Ejiofor are teaming on a Focus Features film based on the Broadway musical Fela!, about African musician-activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Ejiofor has learned to play piano and saxophone for that role. It’s unclear which of these movies will be made first. McQueen — who made waves with his debut film Hunger, about the Irish hunger strike that starred Michael Fassbender and earned the helmer the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2008 — will premiere his latest feature, Shame, this fall in Venice. …
Film Movement has acquired North American rights to the Cannes Film Festival drama Corpo Celeste, the Italian-language feature that played in the Directors Fortnight sidebar. Alice Rohrwacher’s debut feature follows a 13-year-old girl’s coming-of-age in the poor southern Italian province of Calabria. The company plans a first-quarter 2012 theatrical launch day and date with VOD, with a national rollout to follow.
The Isle of Man-based equity investor has announced its first TV drama, a six-part thriller for the BBC. Until now CinemaNX has invested in features, covering up to 100% of the budget. Company Pictures (Skins) is making The Shadow Line, starring …