The large graphic hovering above today’s CinemaCon luncheon filmmaker interview event said “Interstellar THE WORK OF CHRISTOPHER NOLAN“, but any theatre owner who was there anxious to get details of the blockbuster filmmaker’s latest learned very little. Nolan said he is still involved in his favorite part of the process – putting the first cut of Interstellar together – and wants to keep it all under wraps for now. He did praise star Matthew McConaughey’s work just as he did when I saw him at an event on the Paramount lot last week. Today he told the crowd he cast the brand new Oscar winner because he has a sort of “everyman” the audience could see the story through, saying he got interested in him particularly after seeing Mud. He also said his brother Jonah had actually written the initial script and that he became involved years later incorporating other ideas and elements that shaped the final screenplay. But in terms of real scoops we got none. “Really it’s about travel to other places we couldn’t reach through travel through space because the time expanse is far beyond anything we could conceive of,” was the most detailed description moderator Todd McCarthy could wrest out of him in a 50-minute interview, despite repeated tries.
CinemaCon: Christopher Nolan Warns Theatre Owners: How ‘Interstellar’ Is Presented Will Be More Important Than Any Film He’s Done Before
Welcome to the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Scientific & Technical Awards which were handed out last night during a surprisingly entertaining ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I have been to just about every different conceivable kind of Academy function over the three decades I have been covering Oscars but this was my first time at this event which the Academy has been doing in one form or another since they started handing them out in the Oscars‘ fourth year, 1930-31. I guess I always thought this might be a rather dull sort of thing to sit through. I barely understand how to get my emails so imagine a ceremony that is all about honoring the ILM Plume System, the Flux gas simulation system, the Zeno application framework, a thesis on the fundamental concepts of deep shadowing technology, the design of the Pneumatic Car Flipper or the Flying-Cam SARAH 3.0 system? And that’s just for starters in a show that handed out a LOT of Technical Achievement certificates, Scientific and Engineering Plaques and even a couple of real Oscar statuettes toward the end of the evening (Peter W. Anderson won one of those as recipient of the Gordon E. Sawyer award this year). But there was a lot of spirit in the room and judging from the whoops and hollers that went for five guys in tuxedos going up to accept for the development of the ASC Color Decision List technology you’d think they just won Best Picture. “When I was a kid nobody told me if I wanted to win an Academy Award I should study mathematics,” one winner said wryly. Like I said this was an entertaining evening, particularly considering the geek factor. And the clips were great too, going a long way to shedding light on just what these unheralded wizards do for the movie industry.
Slamdance: Christopher Nolan’s Advice For Indie Helmers, And Memories Of Papering Main Street With His $6000 Debut Film
You can go home again, it turns out. Christopher Nolan, who works on larger scale studio films than just about any director in Hollywood, took time out from posting his time travel tentpole Interstellar to fly in to the Slamdance Film Festival and accept the fest’s inaugural Founder’s Award. Flanked by his wife/producing partner Emma Thomas, their children and longtime agent Dan Aloni, Nolan recalled the days 15 years ago when he came to Slamdance a wide-eyed first timer with his directing debut, Following. Gazing out at an audience of indie filmmakers crammed into the cramped space where the fest shows movies at the Treasure Mountain Inn, Nolan opined that nothing had changed from his last visit here, and recalled braving the cold and personally papering Main Street with his Xeroxed one-sheets for his $6000 budget film, and reacting giddily when Following was panned by Weekly Variety (who was that genius reviewer?) simply because it meant somebody noticed.
“What Slamdance teaches you is that while it’s wonderful to have a great community of filmmakers around you, you have to be prepared to do everything yourself,” said Nolan, interviewed by Slamdance president Peter Baxter. “That’s something that never goes away…you have to be prepared to carry the flag for the film because if you’re not, nobody else is going to bother. The tricky thing is, it can seem like arrogance because it’s the film you made, but there’s no way around it. You just have to do it.” Asked how he made the transition to large-scale budgets while many others flounder when they step up to that sandbox, Nolan said the key was taking incremental steps, and trying to look at each project from the vantage point of an audience member, making sure as director your vision matches up with a studio’s expectation of the film it will receive for its investment. It is sound advice; how many times have we seen directors become insulated, go way over budget and deliver a mess of a picture, pissing off a studio to the point it writes off the film as a failure, cuts its losses and doesn’t spend P&A, and stunts the filmmaker’s trajectory?
Slamdance, the tiny indie film gathering that plays out quietly as most are consumed with the Sundance Film Festival, is trying to make at least a little splash for itself. They’ve established a Founder’s Award and will bestow it Saturday, …
Christopher Nolan has gotten underway on his latest directing effort, the ambitious Interstellar. I’m not big on start of production announcements–we’ve written much about the movie while it was being assembled–but it’s Nolan and here is how the cast stacked up and how he’ll shoot it:
2ND UPDATE: WARNER BROS SHAKE-UP – Jeff Robinov Quitting Movie Studio After No New Contract Offered And Kevin Tsujihara’s War Of Silence; Sue Kroll, Dan Fellman, And Greg Silverman May Become Triumvirate
FRIDAY 5 AM, 2ND UPDATE: I’ve learned that Jeff Robinov’s attorney Skip Brittenham officially notified Warner Bros on Thursday that it is in breach of the movie mogul’s contract, and he wants to negotiate his exit.
THURSDAY 6 PM UPDATED THROUGHOUT… EXCLUSIVE 2:45 PM: The destabilization of once rock-solid Warner Bros continues. I’ve learned that Jeff Robinov has decided to leave as Warner Brothers Pictures Group President after months of waiting in vain for Time Warner Jeff Bewkes and Warner Bros Chairman Kevin Tsujihara to offer him a new contract when his expires in December. Robinov is on vacation in New Mexico and this week enlisted both his attorney Skip Brittenham and his friend and former Warner Bros chairman Bob Daly to negotiate his exit. Robinov’s frustration follows Bewkes and Tsujihara placing him inside the ‘cone of silence’ in recent weeks ever since the home entertainment chief was appointed as the new Warner Bros CEO and soon to be chairman. No phone calls of congratulations came from Bewkes or Tsujihara to Robinov after last weekend’s record-setting global successful opening of Man Of Steel or any of the studio’s Summer 2013 big worldwide releases, The Great Gatsby and The Hangover Part III.
[EXCLUSIVE below: Ben Affleck and Baz Luhrmann reflect on their relationships with Robinov while Christopher Nolan's is detailed.]
Witnesses tell me that on the LA to NY plane trip to the Superman premiere June 10th, Tsujihara sat for the five hours not saying a word to Robinov who was sitting opposite him. This cruel behavior was in full view of not only Robinov’s execs but also of the Man Of Steel filmmakers like Christopher Nolan whom Robinov had brought to the studio. I’m told that at the Red Carpet gala at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, which should have been his triumph, Robinov left demoralized after just 15 minutes. This, after he and Tsujihara used to be close friends who went on family vacations together. “I’m constantly being marginalized. My job is shrinking day-to-day,” Robinov confided to a pal the other day. “Kevin is starting to push me out by both the things he’s doing and the responsibilities he’s assuming. It’ll end up with everyone reporting to him. The result is that people at the studio are wondering how they can benefit from this or how they can not get hurt by this. Sitting around is not something I can do, or, by the end of the year, the studio will be in a massive mess.”
I’ve learned that the structure being contemplated for Warner Bros Pictures is not for any one person to replace Robinov, who was a rarity in recent Hollywood in that he did both the business and creative top job at a studio. Instead, his Warner Bros Pictures executives Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing; Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution; and Greg Silverman, President of Production, would run the studio as a triumvirate under Tsujihara who will take over the business side even though he has no such movie experience.
To understand how Warner Bros Pictures filmmakers may feel about today’s developments, my conversations below may provide some intel. When rumors about Jeff Robinov being forced out as President of Warner Bros Pictures Group first surfaced this spring (Related: NEW WARNER BROS SHAKE-UP: Jeff Robinov Quitting Movie Studio After No New Contract Offered), I spoke to Ben Affleck to get his thoughts on what he called their “dream relationship” during and after The Town and Argo:
On the record. We have history. After Gone Baby Gone  was well regarded but didn’t make money. The phone was not ringing off the hook. but Jeff called. ‘I’m a fan. I loved the film. Let’s sit down and have coffee. I’d really like you to direct movies for us. What do you want to do.” I went from no scripts to 15 Warners’ scripts, he was giving them all to me. He was the only person at a studio doing that. I also have a great relationship with Sue Kroll. But with Jeff, I never hear from anybody to make changes. I’m not told, ‘It tested poorly. Fix it.’ He sticks with me through screenings. I needed $1 million for a couple of reshoots on The Town. ‘You’re the horse I bet on,’ he tells me. ‘I believe in filmmakers.’ It’s a dream relationship.
When George [Clooney] moved his deal out of Warner Bros, all the projects didn’t move with him. Jeff gave me the script for Argo after calling George and Grant [Heslov] to see how I’d hit off with them. I stayed on budget. But I always felt if I had a problem I could call Jeff. Argo was viewed as a very challenging movie itself, skewing older when the public wants a superhero movie. But those two guys – jeff and Sue – really found a way to sell the movie. Sue supported by Jeff was 100% on board. They’re almost a symbiotic relationship. It was obviously an incredible year but if they wouldn’t have bet on us, if they’d not spent a lot of money on us, we wouldn’t have won the Oscar. It was a wonderful experience and why I want to support Jeff.
I’ve seen Jeff’s sensibility change into his job, gracefully and gradually leading with a lot of authority. I have spoken with [Jeff] Bewkes and Kevin [Tsujihara] and Barry [Meyer] but not in great detail as things are evolving at the studio. I’ve kept abreast. I’ve talked about it to Jeff. He’s what I really care about. How we’re going to make it down the road or get along without him I don’t know. Jeff naturally was very disappointed when he didn’t get the top job. He and I have spent a lot of time cultivating this relationship and I never thought that would have culminated in this career high or the most incredible year of my life.
Again, on the record, I don’t know what I would do if Jeff weren’t there. I don’t know from my view anyone else there who knows how to make movies. I would like to support him. So many places are filled with frustrations and run by people who haven’t been sure-footed or have the right taste. Hopefully, it’s about taste. Not everybody has it. Picking Zack Snyder was not obvious. Being able to take risks and make decisions not supported by conventional wisdom. Studios have the power and don’t often cede the power to the director.”
I also received this on-the-record statement from Baz Luhrmann at the same time, which was right before The Great Gatsby hit theaters in May:
Last year, when we were moving towards a Christmas release date for Gatsby, Jeff Robinov said to me, ‘Perhaps you’ll be able to make the release date. But will it be the movie that you want it to be? If you had more time to work on the visual effects and music, would you have a better chance of realizing your vision for the film?’ Jeff was resolute that the most important thing was for me to do my best possible work, and by moving ‘Gatsby’ to the summer, he gave me the time and resources to do it. He showed incredible leadership in not being concerned with the possible media controversy about moving the release date; his sole concern was that Gatsby be the best film that it could be. For which I’ll always be profoundly grateful.
But no Warner Bros Pictures film relationship is more important than with Christopher Nolan. According to several accounts, Robinov’s relationship with Nolan began right after Memento was released in March 2001. Within a month, Nolan’s agent Dan Aloni called Robinov and told him he should meet with the helmer. At first Nolan was going to direct Troy (released in 2004) but wasn’t feeling it. With that Robinov asked if there was anything else Nolan wanted to do – and learned that the director had always had an interest in Batman. At the time, the studio didn’t have a take on a reboot of its lucrative DC Comics franchise. But Nolan came in and brilliantly pitched Robinov who immediately set up a meeting with then studio chief Alan Horn who also bought into it.
UPDATED: Paramount Pictures has officially found a slot for Interstellar, the next movie from Christopher Nolan: It will be released on November 7, 2014, smack in the middle of awards season. The date first mentioned when Paramount and Warner Bros announced a rare tie-up to co-produce the sci-fi pic. The cast has been shaping up for a while, with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Nolan regular Michael Caine already aboard. Nolan and Emma Thomas are producing with Lynda Obst, and Jordan Goldberg is exec producing. Obst commissioned the original treatment and Steven Spielberg came aboard in 2006, when Paramount owned DreamWorks and after the filmmaker became intrigued by Caltech physicist and relativity expert Kip S. Thorne and his scientific theory that wormholes exist and can be used for time travel. Spielberg set Jonah Nolan to write the script, which made it easy for Christopher Nolan to come aboard after Spielberg left the project. The ambition is that Interstellar will depict a heroic voyage to the farthest borders of our scientific understanding. There is one other film that has set that date: Disney’s 3D-animated Big Hero 6, based on the Marvel comic property.
The fallout continues from Dan Aloni’s firing from CAA and move to WME last year. On Tuesday. Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan sought to get his legal action against his past and present agencies dismissed so the parties can go to arbitration. Nolan’s lawyers filed the paperwork in LA Superior Court to dismiss the commissions suit he launched against CAA and WME last September without prejudice. The next step is for everyone to go before a trio of judges on an arbitration panel; a case management hearing has been set for next week to move the matter forward. Nolan’s suit last fall erupted over which agency pockets his commissions. The director, his wife Emma Thomas Nolan, and their production company Syncopy filed the suit to end any potential threat that they themselves could be sued by either CAA or WME over the money. They requested the court to determine which agency they were supposed to pay the 10% commission from deals struck between late 2005 and early 2012. The Nolans said in the suit that they “are ready and willing to deliver the Commissions to the party who is legally entitled to receive them.”
Matthew McConaughey has confirmed he’ll star in Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar for Paramount and Warner Bros, which Deadline told you exclusively a week ago. The actor doesn’t say much about the role, just that he’s doing it. Having veered from the rom-com, he’s having a nice second wind to his career. Now, you might think it douchey of me to feel the need to remind that Deadline broke the story, but there are so many online sites creating businesses by swiping our stories, many with no credit, that we need to drop reminders of who’s putting in the work and turning over the hard ground. These aggregating sites are getting more brazen. The one that has been grating on me lately is Slashfilm. I don’t see a lick of original reporting, and I don’t think that site would exist without Deadline or the work of trade reporters like Borys Kit and Justin Kroll.
EXCLUSIVE: Here’s an intriguing casting possibility to chew on going into the holiday weekend. I’m told Christopher Nolan has offered the male lead of his next film, Interstellar, to Matthew McConaughey. The character’s name is Cooper and while there is no deal yet, who says no to Nolan? The project is a co-production between Paramount and Warner Bros. Interstellar was originally set up in 2006 by Steven Spielberg, when Paramount owned DreamWorks, and after Spielberg became intrigued by Caltech physicist and relativity expert Kip S. Thorne and his scientific theory that wormholes exist and can be used for time travel. It was Spielberg who set Jonah Nolan to write the script, which made it easy for Christopher Nolan to come aboard after Spielberg left the project. After all, the Nolan siblings have a collaborative track record, with Jonah hatching the short story that became Christopher’s first hit Memento, and following that with two Batfilms and The Prestige. Christopher Nolan signed on in January to write a script that merged an original idea of his with the script that Jonah wrote. The ambition is a film that will depict a heroic interstellar voyage to the farthest borders of our scientific understanding. Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are producing with Lynda Obst. Jordan Goldberg is joining as exec producer alongside Thorne, who’ll remain on as technical consultant.
Scoop hounds like myself love to lock filmmakers into projects and move on in search of the next splashy headline. A look at some recent big director developments, and at the tortured road several directors traveled before getting Oscar nominations this morning, shows that good movies really do find their way into the right hands, even if it takes forever to happen.
Among today’s Best Director nominees, Steven Spielberg only found the handle on Best Picture nominee Lincoln after he trashed an earlier version and labored more than a decade; David O Russell got Silver Linings Playbook because Sydney Pollack could not figure out how to meld humor with mental problems; Ang Lee got to crack the challenging Life Of Pi — which recently became the highest-grossing film in his career — after previous tries by Dean Georgaris and M. Night Shyamalan ended in futility. None of this is as dramatic as, say, when Spielberg traded Martin Scorsese Cape Fear in exchange for Schindler’s List, but it is intriguing how the moves of one major director impacts another, how the right guy for the picture usually ends up in the director’s chair, and why patience can be a virtue.
Some Oscar dreams flourished and some were dashed with this morning’s announcement of the 85th annual Academy Award nominations. Academy voters can be as harsh as they can be predictable, and some snubs seem designed to sting. Thankfully some take it with a degree of humor. “I just got snubbed for a flu shot at CVS,” tweeted Prometheus co-writer Damon Lindelof today. Here are some of the directors, films and actors who got left out today even though they might have deserved better.
Kathryn Bigelow – The Zero Dark Thirty director was the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker– she won’t be repeating that feat this year even though her film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden was nominated for Best Picture. “Kathryn Bigelow was robbed. So f—ed up. #recount,” tweeted ZD30 producer Megan Ellison after the nominations were announced Thursday.
Leonardo DiCaprio – He got a Supporting Actor nomination from the Golden Globes for his Calvin Candie in Django Unchained but nothing today — cast mate Christoph Waltz got the nod.
Marion Cotillard – No Best Actress for her Rust and Bone performance?
The Intouchables – A big hit at home and France’s submission for Best Foreign film, this comedy-drama Weinstein released movie got treated like an untouchable.
Ben Affleck – No Best Director or Best Actor for Argo. Really? Even though it got a Best Picture nomination?
Skyfall – Yes it’s a James Bond movie. But, as the PGA recognized, it is a Sam Mendes-directed Bond movie starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem. It would have been a nice addition to the tribute the Academy plans for the Bond movies’ 50th anniversary during the Oscarcast, but Oscar himself was neither shaken nor stirred beyond Adele’s best song nom.
Cloud Atlas – Not even a technical nomination? The Academy must have really hated it.
John Hawkes – His performance in The Sessions made this past nominee seem a sure thing for a Academy Award nomination – what happened Oscar?
Rise Of The Guardians – That must have really hurt over at DreamWorks Animation this morning.
Related: OSCARS: Nominations By Picture
Quentin Tarantino – The Golden Globes gave the Django Unchained helmer a nomination and the Academy gave the movie itself a Best Picture nomination today but no Best Director for Quentin? Too much controversy?
Perks Of Being A Wallflower – If any movie called out for Best Adapted Screenplay, it was this coming of ager directed and written by Stephen Chbosky based on his own acclaimed 1999 novel. And yet Oscar offered no perks at all.
Christopher Nolan – Holy Oversight, Batman! Even though Inception was nominated for Best Picture in 2010 and he’s picked up a pair of writing noms, The Dark Knight Rises director has never received a nomination for his helming work — including on the hugely successful Batman franchise. And just like with 2005’s Batman Begins and 2008’s The Dark Knight, Nolan was again left off the Best Director list.