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OSCAR: Warner Bros Film Boss Alan Horn On Awards Campaigns Past And Present

This is Part 1 from my recent long Q&A with Warner Bros’ Alan Horn who will step down as President/COO in April. Warner Bros has more marquee category awards contenders this year than probably any other studio because of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Ben Affleck’s The Town, and Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. It also boasted a remarkable string of recent winners including Million Dollar Baby and The Departed and Slumdog Millionaire and The Blind Side. But in almost every case, Warner Bros underestimated the picture’s Oscar chances. Studio mogul Alan Horn goes back to the future with me and assesses the campaigns:

DEADLINE: I want to talk to you about this year’s Academy Awards. Your studio has been sitting on its duff about campaigning for Inception. The result is that other movies are overtaking the buzz when your movie should be the logical frontrunner because it did well at the box office and with critics and because Nolan’s The Dark Knight was robbed of a Best Picture nomination. Doesn’t Warner Bros win Oscars in spite of itself?
ALAN HORN: Well, I know that’s how you feel. My response is that, first of all, we care about the Oscars and enjoy Oscar attention. A win is a very, very big deal. It’s very prestigious, it’s very exciting, plus we are a filmmaker friendly company and have long-term relationships with filmmakers. Of course Clint Eastwood comes to mind immediately, but now Chris Nolan and even the emerging Ben Affleck are our filmmakers that we really care about deeply and we want to do right by them. We want to do everything we can to have a strong Oscar campaign. Because we want to win. But we feel that for Inception, we have to coordinate it of course with Chris and with Emma Thomas and with Leo. But what comes to mind for me is, did you see the horse race with Zenyatta by any chance?

HORN: This horse won 19 out of 20 times.  It’s a filly racing against all these giant male horses. She’s six years old whereas all the others were 3 years old. She’d never lost, and then just by a nose on the 20th and final race of her career. It was a very exciting thing. I don’t know anything about horses or horse-racing but I happened to see it. And it made me think of our conversation about the Oscars because the nominations come out, as you know, the end of December. Then the ballots go out. And then the voting takes place and all that. Our campaign is scheduled to start in a big way timed to that schedule. We are going to go very big for Inception. But we are also going to push for Hereafter because of the relationship with Clint. And for Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 although no one really expects a lot of attention for Harry Potter until the final installment which will be next summer. And for The Town because we all think that Ben did just a hell of a job, a really good job. We want to do it right. There is no intention on our part to give short shrift to this, to be cheap about it, or to be stupid about it either. So what my understanding is for Inception is that we’re going to start very heavily doing editorial pieces, we are going to screen the picture like crazy, we’re going to have online participation and print too. It won’t be for lack of trying or spending money.

DEADLINE: But are you too late?
HORN: Well, we don’t think so. That’s why I brought up the horse race. This horse Zenyatta always started at the end of the pack and all of a sudden she comes on like a freight train. And the question for us is: what’s the right timing? Because if you peak too soon, you may blow all the money before people really focus on it. So it’s a big debate you could have but we sure are trying to do it right.

DEADLINE: Clint was not shy about telling people that you did not want to push his Million Dollar Baby because you didn’t see it as an Oscar film. You didn’t even want to greenlight it. Which goes back to the gripe that your studio wins Oscars in spite of itself. Read More »

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OSCAR Q&A: Peter Morgan Talks ‘Hereafter’

Pete Hammond

In a career now spanning over 20 years Peter Morgan has become one of the film industry’s most prolific writers, best known for crafting screenplays based on real life people and events. He won an Oscar nomination for adapting Frost/Nixon (2008) based on his own play. In 2006 his original screenplay for The Queen was also Oscar nominated, winning numerous other awards including a Golden Globe. The same year he won a BAFTA award for The Last King Of Scotland about the notorious dictator Idi Amin. (Both Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker won Oscars for their work in those two films.) His other credits include the sports biography The Damned United, and The Deal, and a lot of television work including his Emmy nominated effort this year on HBO’s The Special Relationship. He is both writer and executive producer of his latest film Hereafter with director Clint Eastwood. It opened well in limited release last weekend in LA and NY and goes wide Friday in 2,181 locations. A complete departure from his previous scripts, it’s a multi-character piece telling three distinct stories about people affected by death or near death in one way or another. It’s also the most personal of all Morgan’s work and he wrote it on spec not knowing if it would ever be made. How it wound up in the hands of some of the film industry’s most powerful figures is a story in itself, a turn of events even Morgan couldn’t quite believe as he explained to me when he was in LA for screenings and interviews recently:

Deadline’s Pete Hammond: What was your reaction when you saw the movie?

Peter Morgan: I spent most of the time when I watched for the first time loathing my work, wishing I had done more here or there. And then the second time, at the New York Film Festival, I really enjoyed it — not my work but the pace, of being allowed in. There’s extremely honest things about it. I can assure you this is the most honest piece of writing I have ever done. I wrote it in a hut on a mountain for nobody because I wanted to. I don’t know, it just came to me.

PH: What drew you to this material?

Morgan: The stuff that I have perhaps become known for that’s based on fact, and English statesmen shouting at each other all the time, doesn’t entirely represent who I am. Read More »

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‘Hereafter’ & ‘Life As We Know It’ Skedded

Warner Bros will be sneaking Life As We Know It on October 2nd in approximately 800 locations. The studio will platform Clint Eastwood’s latest Hereafter on October 15th in NYC and LA and Toronto and then go wide on October 22nd.

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Hot Trailer: Clint Eastwood’s ‘Hereafter’

By | Saturday September 11, 2010 @ 5:16am PDT
Mike Fleming

Warner Bros has released a new trailer for the Clint Eastwood-directed Matt Damon-starrer Hereafter, which comes to Toronto early next week.

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Clint Eastwood Sets ‘Hereafter’ For NY Fest

Mike Fleming

Clint Eastwood will unveil his Peter Morgan-scripted Matt Damon-starrer Hereafter as the closing night film of the New York Film Festival. The fest previously set the David Fincher-directed Facebook film The Social Network to open the festival and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest to be its centerpiece. All three figure to be players in the Oscar race this year.

Here is the rest of the NYFF program:

Mike Leigh, 2010, UK
Cristi Puiu, 2010, Romania
BLACK VENUS (Venus noire)
Abdellatif Kechiche, France
Olivier Assayas, 2010, France
CERTIFIED COPY (Copie conformé)
Abbas Kiarostami, 2010, France/Italy
Jean-Luc Godard, 2010, Switzerland
Charles Ferguson, 2010, USA
Michelangelo Frammartino, 2010, Italy
LENNON NYC, Michael Epstein, 2010, USA
Kelly Reichardt, 2010, USA
MY JOY (Schastye moe)
Sergei Loznitsa, 2010, Ukraine/Germany
MYSTERIES OF LISBON (Misterios de Lisboa)
Raul Ruiz, Portugal/France
OF GODS AND MEN (Des homes et des dieux)
Xavier Beauvois, 2010 France
OKI’S MOVIE (Ok hui ui yeonghwa)
Hong Sang-soo, 2010, South Korea
OLD CATS (Gatos viejos), Sebastian Silva, 2010, Chile
Lee Chang-dong 2010, South Korea
Pablo Larrain, 2010, Chile/Mexico/Germany
Mariana Chenillo, Fernando Embecke, Amat Escalante, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo Garcia, Diego Luna, Gerardo Naranjo, Rodrigo Plá, Carlos Reygadas,
Patricia Riggen, 2010, Mexico
THE ROBBER (Der Räuber)
Benjamin Heisenberg, Austria/Germany
Patrick Keiller, 2010, UK
Alexei Fedorchenko, Russia
THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA (O estranho caso de Angélica)
Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal
TUESDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS (Marti, dupa craciun)
Radu Muntean, Romania
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010, UK/Thailand
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Somos lo que hay)
Jorge Michel Grau, Mexico

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