Check Out Our New Look

OSCAR: Danny Boyle Q&A On ’127 Hours’

Mike Fleming

While Slumdog Millionaire is remembered for its cache of Oscars and cast dancing through the end credits Bollywood-style, Danny Boyle’s real achievement was  drawing a global mainstream audience for a film that depicted such brutal moments as the mother of the young protagonists being beaten to death, and a child blinded to make him a more productive panhandler. That was a walk in the park compared to 127 Hours, Aron Ralston’s harrowing tale of survival after being pinned for five days under an 800-pound boulder. Given the opportunity to follow Slumdog by taking a multi-million dollar paycheck for James Bond or another big studio film, Boyle instead got paid $666,000 and gambled his Oscar currency on the bet he could get an audience to sit through a grueling survival story for a rich spiritual payoff. Here, Boyle provides the logic behind the most daring creative leap he has made in an exceptional career:

DEADLINE: Early in 127 Hours, Aron Ralston takes an exhilarating free-fall through a chasm and into a pool of blue water far below. Isn’t there a parallel to the creative leaps you take, the way you jump from one genre to another and take on improbable premises that could easily end up going splat?
BOYLE: There certainly is that possibility of going splat. One of the things I believe in is to be extreme. I don’t mean do things for shock value, but to tell a story as … Read More »

Comments (10)

How Will ’127 Hours’ Be Defined?

Mike Fleming

I’ve had boats since I was a teen, and it’s a frustrating relationship because they are expensive and you never use them enough. Nothing’s better than getting out in the ocean where the fish are biggest, and dropping your line  80 feet down to them, with the ocean swells creating a gentle rocking motion. And nothing’s more frustrating than when you bring a guest who is rendered green by those swells, usually just when the tide is perfect and the big fish start biting. You head in, a great day is redefined as something else, and you remember why you prefer to go alone.

This reminds me of all the reports I’ve been reading on Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, which has been in danger of being defined not by its cinematic achievement, but rather by the number of faint-hearted folks who, reports suggest, have been dropping like canaries in a coal mine. I saw the film at its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, and have rarely felt as moved by a movie, especially when Boyle and James Franco were joined onstage by hiker Aron Ralston. But the audience continues to be part of the storyline: at last Thursday’s Academy screening, the crowd reaction was huge, but press focus was on a single moviegoer who fainted (apparently not from the amputation scene, but a health issue). I’m told a Producers Guild screening … Read More »

Comments 30

UPDATE: #1 ‘Megamind’, #2 ‘Due Date’, #3 ‘For Colored Girls’ All Meet Expectations; Long Lines And Sell-Outs For ’127 Hours’

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM WRITETHRU: It’s the start of the Holiday Moviegoing Season, so celebrate! The box office sure is, because this wound up a record first weekend in November for North America with the $155+ million total of all the movies (not corrected for inflation or ticket prices) passing the Industry record of $153M set in 2003. But with all 3 big newcomers meeting their opening weekend expectations, where’s the fun for cynical me? Meanwhile, Sony Pictures had a great summer, Warner Bros led with a successful early fall, and now Paramount Pictures is showing strength: In the last 4 weeks, the studio has released 3 different films all at #1 and all opening over $40 million in 3 different genres. Here are what my sources say are Friday’s and Saturday’s Top Ten grosses with weekend and cume numbers:    

1. Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) NEW [3,944 Runs]
Friday $12.5M, Saturday $20.6M, Weekend $47.6M   

DreamWorks Animation toons, like Pixar’s, do reliably strong box office, even on Date Night, with a big Saturday kiddie matinee bounce. So there was considerable surprise among rival studios starting midday Friday when newcomer Megamind 3D‘s grosses looked underperforming despite its “A-” CinemaScore, usually successful formula of hip pop culture references, a typically aggressive marketing push, and a giant release into 3,944 theaters with 2,634 of them 3D-equipped. It was as if life were imitating art, since Megamind is the most brilliant supervillain the world has ever known — and the least successful. But the problem, it turned out, wasn’t the movie. Instead, I learned that AMC theaters was experiencing computing problems and had no grosses in the system, according to distributor Paramount. The studio knew the actual number would go higher: “There are no kids out of school. Looks like mid- to high-40′s, right where everyone expected,” a Paramount exec reassured me. And it has. It opened just ahead of the first 3-day weekend of the original Madagascar ($47.2M) which was only 2D and therefore had lower ticket prices, but also ahead of How to Train Your Dragon 3D which was regarded as weak because of its summer weekend gross of $43.7M. Megamind starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Brad Pitt turns the superhero genre on its head so, naturally, the promotional campaign kicked off with a giant superhero event at LA Live where the record was set for the most superheroes ever gathered in one location. There also was a big tie-in with the World Series that featured Ferrell disguised as a character that looked remarkably like Marlon Brando’s Jor-El from 1978′s Superman. There also was an outreach on MTV for under age 25 moviegoers with Megamind auto tunes.   

2. Due Date (Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros) NEW [3,355 Runs]
Friday $12.2M, Saturday $13M, Estimated Weekend $33.5M   

Warner Bros’ Due Date, an unofficial reboot of John Hughes’ Planes Trains & Automobiles, opened this weekend almost exactly on target with what Hollywood expected from its wide release into 3,355 theaters. Audiences gave it a “B-” CinemaScore. The comedy starring Robert Downer Jr and Zach Galifianakis, who reteamed with his The Hangover director Todd Phillips, had been tracking on the high side of what an “R”-rated buddy comedy will do, and indeed Due Date fared almost exactly the same as The Other Guys starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg did in this genre over the summer. As usual, Warner Bros’ marketing czarina Sue Kroll promo’ed the heck out of the pic, with three different trailers and TV ads. The teaser trailer was launched with Inception in July, and the studio had a main trailer playing from September through release. WB capitalized on early opportunities with TV season premieres in September, and longer format media stunts (Downey singing “Looks Like We Made It”) that included heavy network, cable, NFL, Baseball/World Series, etc. There also was a strong WOM program that included military bases, college campuses, traditional radio, and national talk shows. As a result, Due Date generated well-balanced male and female support, capturing strong date crowd business, with its primary audience 17 and older. It also was one of those few R-rated comedy marketing that didn’t try to insult or gross out women. “The campaign sought to always capture the humor, but also ensure the tone was warm, likeable, even sweet at times — but always with outrageous comedy,’ a WB exec tells me. In the online/social media world, the studio used its existing Facebook Hangover fan page (8 million followers) to push Due Date content “giving us a much wider reach than we otherwise would have had to a perfectly targeted audience for the material,” the exec noted.   

3. For Colored Girls (Lionsgate) NEW [2,127 Runs]
Friday $7.4M, Saturday $7.9M, Weekend $20.1M

Lionsgate’s For Colored Girls at first looked like the R-rated drama was wildly overperforming Friday for an estimated $28M from 2,127 theaters when the Tyler Perry-directed film was only expected to gross $20M, the equivalent of its budget. Then again, it receiced an “A” CinemaScore from audiences. ”It’s performing more on a par with Tyler’s other films,” an excited Lionsgate exec prematurely gushed to me that afternoon. But the weekend grosses were not the phenom first thought. Still, they met expectations and, ”between Tyler’s loyal female following and the cross cultural and multi generational appeal of the work, the opening weekend is feeling like we made this an event, going beyond the core African-American audience,” an insider tells me. With actresses including Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, and Kerry Washington, Perry gave each the poetic monologues dealing with love, abandonment, rape, Read More »

Comments 152

Dial 911 For ’127 Hours’ Screenings

No, it wasn’t a publicity stunt. I’m told that two people fainted during a screening hosted by Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours that took place Friday night at Pixar’s theater packed with about 300 people. Paramedics were called, the pair were declared fine, but it underscores once again the intensity of this real life tale starring James Franco as the hiker who gets trapped and cuts off his arm to free himself. The pic opens in theaters November 5th.

Comments (17)

Hot Trailer: ’127 Hours’

Mike Fleming

Fox Searchlight has issued a new full length trailer for Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, which stars James Franco as Aron Ralston, the hiker who amputated his own arm after it was pinned for days under a boulder in a deserted canyon in Utah. The film will be released November 5

Loading video...
Comments (16)

Danny Boyle Comes Back To Telluride Film Festival As Oscar Hopefuls Start Screening

Pete Hammond

TELLURIDE: Danny Boyle says there are still a couple of things to “figure out” before a final print can be struck. But the Oscar-winning director returned today to the Galaxy Theatre at the Telluride Film Festival with the “unofficial” world premiere of 127 Hours – his first film since Slumdog Millionaire took home 8 Oscars just 1 1/2 years ago. It’s a good luck spot for Boyle as he had just finished Slumdog three days before its Telluride premiere, which became the launching pad for what would become an awards season blowout for the popular movie.

It was déjà vu this afternoon for me and others who were there that Saturday two Tellurides ago in the exact same venue. Today, the house was packed for both the 127 Hours screening and the Q&A that followed featuring Boyle, his producer Christian Colson, star James Franco, and the real life inspiration for the film, Aron Ralston, whose memoir Between A Rock And A Hard Place was the basis for Boyle’s and Simon Beaufoy’s adaptation. It’s about the harrowing true story of a young canyoneer who gets trapped in a deep narrow cave for 127 hours before extracting himself from a crushing boulder by cutting off his right arm with a small knife. And it has been expertly brought to the screen by the director who finds a way to put “urgency” in every frame despite the fact that the entire film is basically one man vs. the elements. It’s a tour-de-force for Franco, virtually never off screen in the same way Spencer Tracy triumphed in the similarly spare The Old Man And The Sea (1958). Franco’s performance could put him in contention for a best actor Oscar nod just as Tracy’s did over 50 years ago. It should be noted that Franco’s “farewell to arm” scene is graphic and not for the squeamish.

Using fast cutting, flashbacks and two cinematographers, Boyle makes this thing cook even though he ironically admitted afterwards that he’s really an “urban” filmmaker, hates the countryside, and thinks most “wilderness films are boring”. That initially made the outdoorsman Ralston wonder why Boyle wanted to film the story in the first place. Seeing it nearly finished for the first time today, Ralston says he was in tears through the second half, right from the moment the “sunlight” poked through.

For distributor Fox Searchlight, which plans a November release, 127 Hours is just one of three awards season players they have brought to Telluride. Friday night, Never Let Me Go stars Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, director Mark Romanek, screenwriter Alex Garland and the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, all turned up to introduce the first-ever public unveiling of this highly unusual sci-fi film dealing with themes of love and death. It’s distinguished by superb work from its promising young cast, led by Mulligan and Garfield, who all drew special praise from its very pleased author Ishiguro who described the film version of his best seller as a tremendous showcase for new British acting talent who are “inventing a style all their own”. Romanek (One Hour Photo) told the nearly sold-out crowd he had two dreams: to make this book into a film, and to come to Telluride. On Sunday, Searchlight’s Black Swan (December 1) and troupe blow into town direct from their Venice triumph for the unofficial North American premiere, billed here as a “sneak preview”.

Earlier Saturday, at the Chuck Jones theatre, a packed house caught the first screening here of The Weinstein Company’s Best Picture contender and Thanksgiving release, The King’s Speech. Afterwards the crowd greeted director Tom Hooper and stars Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush with a standing ovation. This stylishly entertaining, brilliantly acted period piece about the stuttering problems of England’s King George VI (father of the current Queen Elizabeth) and his relationship with a speech therapist is, to put it simply, catnip for Academy voters. No doubt Harvey’s already got one of the ten Best Picture slots locked up for this. Firth will be the recipient of a special tribute to his career Sunday night. Read More »

Comments (9)

TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL KICKING OFF: First Stop Of Hollywood Awards Season

Pete Hammond

TELLURIDE: The Emmys may have just ended but that isn’t stopping the Hollywood film awards machine from kicking into gear already. First on Wednesday at the Venice Film Festival with a rapturous reception for opener Black Swan which received a resounding standing ovation for director Darren Aronofsky and stars Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel. And then tomorrow at the 37th annual Telluride Film Festival, which is the first U.S. stop on the long freight train to the Oscars.

The Telluride fest officially begins Friday morning and runs through Labor Day in this remote and rustic Colorado town. This must-stop for cineastes known for its friendly, relaxed vibe and its esoteric mix of indie, foreign, and classics has also in recent years become an early, important cog in the awards industry engine. It’s where such Best Picture winners and nominees like Slumdog Millionaire, Juno and Up In The Air have launched their campaigns even before they hit the much bigger and more publicized Toronto Film Festival (beginning September 9th this year). Telluride’s lineup is always kept a secret until the last minute and was finally revealed today. In addition to such little known entries as Oka! Amerikee, and Pygmies In Paris, there will be a slew of Oscar hopefuls rolling into town jazzing things up. The festival is able to get these films because they don’t advertise them in advance and is happy to let Toronto claim North American or even World Premieres even though technically it’s all happening here this weekend.

Fox Searchlight officially has Never Let Me Go with Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield on the schedule. But it will be “sneaking” the aforementioned Black Swan with Aronofsky and Portman making the trek from Venice pre-Toronto, and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours which will see the director coming back for a good-luck visit to the place that started his march to Oscar glory two years ago with Slumdog. Also here, The Weinstein Company’s period drama, The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush and directed by Tom Hooper (The Damned United), and the genuine “World Premiere” (it’s not even on the Toronto slate) of Peter Weir’s The Way Back, an epic adventure produced by National Geographic that even with this veteran director and a cast that includes Ed Harris and Colin Farrell is still angling for a good distribution deal. [Later Thursday, they announced that they secured a distributor, Newmarket, and plan to release in January.] Last year the Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer film, The Last Station came quietly into Telluride, landed a deal with Sony Pictures Classics and won a couple of major acting Oscar nominations just a few months later. Maybe Telluride will prove just as lucky for Weir, whose last movie was 2003’s Oscar-nominated Master And Commander. Weir is one of three veterans getting tributes here in addition to Firth and Italy’s legendary Claudia Cardinale.

Among Cannes premieres showing up in America for the first time here are  Mike Leigh’s Another Year, Stephen Frear’s British comedy Tamara Drewe, the acclaimed financial meltdown documentary Inside Job, and Sylvain Chomet’s animated gem, The Illusionist, all from Sony Pictures Classics which has a big presence as usual. That also includes Cannes Grand Prize winner Of Gods And Men, the stirring drama almost certain to be France’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar this year. Other Cannes titles making the journey are France’s Princess Of Montpensier, Korea’s Poetry, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s stirring Biutiful that won Best Actor for Javier Bardem in Cannes and has been picked up domestically by Roadside Attractions, and IFC’s Carlos, the 3-part biopic of terrorist Carlos The Jackal that premieres stateside in October. Cannes Fest director Thierry Fremaux is here, too, justifiably proud that so many of his cinematic discoveries were chosen.

Coming in together on the one and only festival charter today was a spirited group including Fremaux, Firth, Rush, Hooper, Weir, Harris, Mulligan (who was here last year with An Education), Inarritu, and many others including a gaggle of producers, directors, agents, studio execs, media types (yes, including me) and publicists. Former Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Sid Ganis was on board (the Academy is a loyal sponsor) as was last year’s guest “curator”  Alexander Payne (Sideways) who told me he was coming back this time as a fan just to “see movies”. I told Firth I had just gotten an early look at his (terrific) King’s Speech last night in a Beverly Hills screening room, and he said it must have been hot off the presses as Hooper just finished it two days ago. He hasn’t even seen the finished product yet. Waiting at the Montrose airport for his suitcase to be unloaded, Geoffrey Rush spotted Ed Harris and told him he had a script the actor should look at. Read More »

Comments (2)

Hot Trailer: Danny Boyle’s ’127 Hours’

Mike Fleming

Fox Searchlight has posted a trailer for the Danny Boyle-directed 127 Hours, the harrowing survival tale of mountain climber Aron Ralston, who was forced to cut off his arm with a dull knife after it had become pinned under a boulder.

Comments 23

’127 Hours’ To Close London Film Festival

Danny Boyle’s film starring James Franco will close the 54th BFI London Film Festival on October 28th. The thriller depicts the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s attempt to save himself after a falling boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. 127 HOURS is a Pathé, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Film4 presentation in association with Warner Bros Pictures of a Cloud Eight/Decibel Films /Darlow Smithson production. Sandra Hebron, the Festival’s Artistic Director comments: “It is unprecedented for us to choose a Closing Night film from the same director only two years later. But 127 HOURS was the obvious choice for us – with filmmaking as bold and adventurous as its subject matter, it confirms Danny Boyle as one of the World’s finest and most visionary directors.” Danny Boyle comments, “LFF played a vital role in the journey of Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 and it’s great to be bringing new work here and renewing a happy partnership. I can’t wait to unveil the new film and I hope it provides a worthy climax to what will hopefully be two weeks of great movies for our city.” The Festival runs from October 13-28.

Comments (1)