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OSCARS: Nominees Lunch Spreads Good Vibes As Balloting Is Set To Begin This Week

By | Tuesday February 5, 2013 @ 2:49am PST
Pete Hammond

Unquestionably one of the highlights of any awards season is the feel-good, everyone’s-still-a-winner Oscar Nominees Luncheon, which was held Monday at the Beverly Hilton. Academy Award nominees gather together and get to meet each other in a pressure-free zone — except for the huge press turnout to cover their arrivals (there are also press conference-style interviews and poolside one-on-one opportunities for TV cameras afterwards for some of the higher-profile nominees). Basically all they have to do is report to the risers set up in the Hilton’s International Ballroom as their name is called for the big group photo of the Oscar Class of 2012.

Related: 85th Academy Awards Nominees Photo

This year, rather than going alphabetically, the Academy summoned nominees by the table number they were sitting at. The table where I was lucky enough to be invited happened to be No. 1, smack dab in front of those risers, and so nominees Denzel Washington (Best Actor, Flight), producer Kathleen Kennedy (Lincoln), costume designer Colleen Atwood (Snow White And The Huntsman), and Makeup and Hairstyling contender Howard Berger (Hitchcock) were first to be called and had to stand the longest before the shot was taken. Actually, the roll call was bookended with longtime colleagues Kennedy — who was first up — and Lincoln director Steven Spielberg, who was dead-last (just after 9-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, who got a rip-roaring reception when her name was announced).

Overall, 16 of the acting nominees (excluding Emmanuelle Riva, Alan Arkin and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and four of the directors (Michael Haneke is directing an opera in Europe) were in attendance, along with approximately 140 others who showed up and really seemed to have a good time at the annual affair, where the nominees also get their official certificate and a sweatshirt. Another acting contender, Daniel Day-Lewis came down with the flu and was very disappointed he couldn’t make it I am told. Like Day-Lewis, I also heard Quentin Tarantino was really bummed he couldn’t attend due to a bout with the flu. Seems to be rampant these days. Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: ‘Flight’ Scribe John Gatins

By | Saturday December 22, 2012 @ 8:53am PST
Mike Fleming

FlightOne of the intriguing parts of the Oscar race for me is watching excellent movies, and then discovering how much adversity, disappointment and years go into them. Whether you’re even nominated, this part of awards season is a validation of the artists’ struggle, offering encouragement to others trying not to give up on their own passion projects. I’m not sure anyone in this race personifies that more than Flight scribe John Gatins. You can look at Flight and marvel at Denzel Washington’s performance or how much movie Robert Zemeckis put onscreen with only a $30 million budget. But the most compelling back story is Gatins, who wrote a script that fit no studio’s template of a make-able movie, particularly with Gatins’ insistence he direct it. Gatins became a successful writer after acting didn’t pan out. His only directing credit, Dreamer, was a family film about a broken race horse, the furthest thing from an R-rated drama about a coke-snorting drunk commercial airline pilot. It was inevitable that a decade of futility would leave Gatins feeling a bit like Ahab chasing the white whale. But here, Gatins bagged his white whale, even if the price was letting someone else be captain.

DEADLINE: Pulling a jet liner out of a dive by flying upside down seems crazy, but there is a knowing voice that informs the substance abuse struggles of Denzel Washington’s pilot. How long did you struggle with that?
GATINS: It was one of those things where you go to college, and get a mulligan for four years to go through stuff and sort things out. If after those four years the party doesn’t end, that’s when it becomes an issue. I was one of those guys who couldn’t leave the party. I moved to Los Angeles after I graduated from Vassar, and tried to sort it out for myself but just never really could. There were a few really dark years there, and some strained relationships with family and friends. I had lots of people worried about me, until I was able to…

DEADLINE: Pull out of the nosedive, so to speak.
GATINS: Yes.

DEADLINE: How did you come up with this movie?
GATINS: I was in Europe, working as a script doctor on Behind Enemy Lines. These naval pilots, very intense guys, told such great stories. Sobriety changed what had been a distaste for flying into a real fear, because I didn’t have a coping mechanism anymore when I was in the air. The Yankees and Mets were playing in the World Series, and I had to get back to see a game. I found myself in this plane sitting next to a pilot who just started telling me all these crazy stories and everything that was going wrong in his life. I’m pretty friendly, but sitting there on this plane, I didn’t want to know that the wife hates you and you’re going through an awful divorce and you’ve got a bad addiction, you’re an alcoholic. And then I had that “wait a second, what if?” moment. Let’s say you had this pilot with an addiction issue, and put him in a plane and there was one of those horrific perfect storm scenarios. Every pilot explained to me that in order for a plane to crash from pilot error, a really crazy series of things would have to happen because they have backup systems for every crisis. I thought, if I can put him in a situation like that, where he has to do some amazing feat of flying, and then later it’s revealed he was loaded, how would we feel about that guy and his heroic act? And what about his own self-appraisal when the media wants to hoist him up as a hero? I wanted to explore the life of this alcoholic faker, trying to convince himself he’s something that’s he’s not. Read More »

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OSCARS: How ‘Flight’ Got Off The Ground

By | Wednesday December 12, 2012 @ 8:00pm PST

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.

One thing’s for certain about Flight: The Robert Zemeckis-directed drama starring Denzel Washington as an alcoholic pilot will never be a popular in-flight film. “After this movie, people are going to be waiting out on the steps for the pilot with a Breathalyzer test,” Washington recently joked in an interview.

Flight screenwriter John Gatins also does not recommend his story for in-flight reading. “I’ve gotten emails from people saying:, ‘Man, I made the mistake of opening your screenplay on a plane’”, Gatins says with a laugh. His fictional concept is not too far from recent fact: In 2009, not one, but two pilots were arrested preflight at London’s Heathrow Airport after failing Breathalyzer tests. Both planes, one American Airlines and one United, were coincidentally headed for Chicago.

Related: OSCARS: Handicapping Lead Actor Race Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Denzel Washington

By | Wednesday November 21, 2012 @ 7:58pm PST

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.

With a lean budget of $30 million, Flight is an action film that could not afford a big movie star like Denzel Washington. Then again, this morally ambivalent character study of an alcoholic pilot flying under the influence couldn’t afford not to have a big movie star like Denzel Washington if it had a shot at getting made at all. Washington, 57, sat down with AwardsLine to talk about how and why he got involved, and how the numbers added up to make the role of troubled Captain Whip Whitaker a gamble worth taking.

AwardsLine: Industry observers have said this film wouldn’t have been made without you. It has so many of what Hollywood would call negatives — it’s both an action film and a character study, and that character is not a straight-up hero, he’s an alcoholic.
Denzel Washington: It was not a struggle to get it made, but the studio wanted to do it for a price, and we ended up with (about) $28 million, and (director) Robert Zemeckis made it look like $100 million, especially the plane sequence. So he and I threw our money back in the pot, took a tenth of our salaries. Read More »

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Budweiser Disappointed By Brand’s Portrayal In ‘Flight’: Reports

By | Tuesday November 6, 2012 @ 4:44am PST

Denzel Washington Flight BudweiserBudweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch has reportedly asked Paramount to obscure all images of its flagship beer in the Robert Zemeckis movie Flight. In the drama, Denzel Washington plays an airline pilot accused of drinking before captaining a plane. It includes scenes showing Washington consuming alcoholic beverages, including Budweiser and assorted vodka brands. The well-reviewed film opened #2 this weekend with $25M. Now, according to wire reports, Budweiser VP Robert McCarthy has penned a letter to Zemeckis’ Image Movers and to Paramount saying Anheuser-Busch had “no knowledge of the use or portrayal of Budweiser” before or during the film’s production and were not contacted by the studio. “We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving. It is disappointing that Image Movers, the production company, and Paramount chose to use one of our brands in this manner,” McCarthy said in the letter. “We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters.” Read More »

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Paramount Taking Box Office Success ‘Flight’ Directly To Academy Voters; Film Is Dedicated To Ed Limato

By | Sunday November 4, 2012 @ 11:54am PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: With an estimated $25 million boxoffice haul on only 1900 screens (see Nikki’s boxoffice report) in its opening weekend, Paramount’s gamble on the $30 million adult drama Flight looks like it is paying off. That’s certainly sweet news for star Denzel Washington and director Robert Zemeckis who didn’t take their usual hefty upfront fees in a bet on the quality of the movie alone. It also makes a nice memorium for Washington’s late agent Ed Limato to whom the film is dedicated in the end credits. Washington confirmed it was the final script (out of several that were offered at the time) that Limato hoped he would do. Shortly before he died Limato was again able to communicate that hope. The film’s dedication to Limato is a strong and poignant reminder of the bond between the star and his longtime agent.

Related: ‘Flight’ Crash Sequence Effects – Video

In addition to boxoffice success Paramount is now moving aggressively with a big Oscar campaign for the film. The film got an enthusiastic response at an overflow screening for SAG and Academy members Saturday afternoon at the Writers Guild Theatre. It also drew well over 500 to its official Academy screening across the street at the Goldwyn later Saturday night with “sustained” applause at the end, according to one observer. Both were followed by Q&As with Washington, Zemeckis, scene-stealing co-star John Goodman and screenwriter John Gatins. The group also hit the official BAFTA screening yesterday and Zemeckis and Gatins even appeared at a public showing at … Read More »

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‘Flight’ Crash Sequence Effects: Video

By | Saturday November 3, 2012 @ 5:48pm PDT

Visual effects supervisor Keith Baillie of Atomic Fiction explains how filmmakers created the Flight crash sequence. The Robert Zemeckis movie starring Denzel Washington as a troubled pilot opened Friday and is expected to bring in an estimated $23.6 million this weekend.

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Hot Clip: ‘Flight’

By | Friday October 19, 2012 @ 4:04pm PDT
Mike Fleming

The Robert Zemeckis-directed Flight with Denzel Washington made its premiere as the closing night film of the New York Film Festival last Sunday. Washington plays a commercial airline pilot with a drinking and substance abuse problem that comes to light after executing a landing that would have left Sully shaking his head. I was at the premiere, and it is a crazily upsetting sequence. Here is a clip showing the pilot’s attempt to pull the airliner out of a precipitous dive that is usually fatal. Between the plane crash Zemeckis films in his last live action film Cast Away and now this new entry, the director is doing for commercial airline travel what Marathon Man did for dentistry.

Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player

Related: Paramount Oscar Hopeful Takes ‘Flight’ With Bi-Coastal Launch — Minus Denzel Washington

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Paramount’s Oscar Hopeful Takes ‘Flight’ With Bi-Coastal Interactive Launch — Minus Denzel Washington

By | Monday October 15, 2012 @ 9:26pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Paramount, expanding ways to reach awards voters, got interactive Monday with a bi-coastal launch of its Oscar-bait drama Flight, including a special screening and Q&A in New York beamed to four Arclight theaters in the Los Angeles area and another in San Francisco for invited guild members and press. Taking place the day after the film’s world premiere as the closing-night attraction of the 50th New York Film Festival, director Robert Zemeckis, writer John Gatins and several cast members including John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo took part in the interactive post-screening Q&A that featured tweeted questions from the California venues and live queries from the NY crowd — many industry-voter types. Paramount clearly found a nice way to expand its Big Apple premiere, and it went off almost without a hitch. Almost.

The only downer for the studio was jettisoning the scheduled appearance of Flight star Denzel Washington, who was in attendance for the premiere Sunday night. He “was taken ill” according to the announcement at the outset of the Q&A, followed by audible groans from the audience. For the money being spent on this, as well as its awards launch, losing Denzel had to be a big disappointment for the studio. Still, the rest of this digital-age awards event went off without a hitch with premium network Epix teaming with Paramount to stage the interactive, multi-city event.

Other companies have begun doing this sort of thing including The Weinstein Company, which staged a couple of live interactive events like this last year with Meryl Streep among others. But the major studios, more bottom-line-oriented and not usually on the front lines of new Oscar campaign techniques, are suddenly jumping on board if recent activity is an indication. Last week, Disney/DreamWorks staged a “Conversation With Steven Spielberg And Daniel Day Lewis” following a nine-city screening of Lincoln at which audience members (mostly students) in those cities were able to text questions to the same AMC Lincoln (appropiate name) Plaza theatre that hosted today’s Flight screening. In the past, most awards-season guild screening Q&As (and they number in the hundreds) were simply for the audience that showed up and not usually even taped. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Flight’

Paramount‘s Flight stars Denzel Washington as a hero airline pilot with a secret and is Robert Zemeckis’ first live-action film in more than a decade. John Goodman, Melissa Leo and Don Cheadle co-star in the movie, written by John Gatins. The studio is positioning this one for an awards-season run: it closes the New York Film Festival on Sunday and opens wide November 2. Here’s the trailer:

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Universal Sets Scribe For Potential ‘Safe House’ Sequel

By | Wednesday September 5, 2012 @ 6:05pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal has hired scribe David Guggenheim to try drafting a sequel to Safe House, the hit drama that Daniel Espinosa directed with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. It’s far from a sure thing, as Washington isn’t really a sequels guy. But the film did well enough where you have to try. Guggenheim scripted the first installment. Scribe’s repped by Paradigm and Madhouse.

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Hammond On Tony Scott: An Appreciation

Pete Hammond

It is doubly sad and ironic that action movie maestro Tony Scott would apparently choose to end his life by jumping from a bridge. This is the kind of scene you would more likely see because he was calling the shots from behind the camera – not the stuff of his life. The industry is going to have a very hard time accepting his death now or that there won’t be any more Tony Scott movies in the future. Even though he was 68 years old (an advanced age in youth-obsessed Hollywood), his career as a director, producer, and partner with brother Ridley was still so vital on all fronts. His career in fact seemed to reflect the name of his terrific final feature, Unstoppable (2010). To me, it seemed he was getting better, more accomplished, more defined with each passing year. What a shame we won’t see where he might have gone with the long-awaited sequel to his first major hit Top Gun (1986) 25-plus years after the first one. He was even hoping to tackle a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s classic western The Wild Bunch. Not sure if that was a good idea – but if anyone could have pulled it off, Scott probably could have.

Related: Tony Scott Jumped To Death From Bridge In Suicide

It was exactly one year ago, almost to the day, that I spoke to Scott and his brother Ridley about their enormously successful TV/film production company Scot Free … Read More »

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NYFF Lands Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Flight’ As Closing Night Film

By | Thursday August 9, 2012 @ 12:13pm PDT
Mike Fleming

New York, NY, August 8, 2012 – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today that Robert Zemeckis’s FLIGHT will make its World Premiere as the Closing Night film for the upcoming 50th New York Film Festival (September 28 – October 14).

“We’re delighted to welcome Robert Zemeckis to the New York Film Festival for the first time. A director equally known for delighting audiences as well as for pushing the technological limits of filmmaking, Zemeckis has created with FLIGHT a remarkable film about one man’s journey to some of the darkest parts of his soul,” says Richard Peña, Selection Committee Chair & Program Director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center.

An action-packed mystery thriller, Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington stars in Robert Zemeckis’s FLIGHT as Whip Whitaker, a seasoned airline pilot, who miraculously crash lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving nearly every passenger on board. Although he is immediately acclaimed as a hero, the legal, moral and ethical aspects of Whip’s behavior before and after the accident are much more ambiguous than initially meet the public eye. FLIGHT is a compelling drama anchored by a great performance from one of our most distinguished actors. The stellar supporting cast includes John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood and Kelly Reilly. The Paramount Pictures release is due in theaters on November 2.

Rose Kuo, Executive Director,

Read More »

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Sony Pictures Sets April 8 Start For Denzel Washington To Play ‘The Equalizer’

By | Monday July 23, 2012 @ 6:24pm PDT
Mike Fleming

The hot project on the Sony Pictures lot right now is The Equalizer, after a script by Richard Wenk prompted the studio to expedite Denzel Washington’s deal and set an April 8 start date, likely in Boston. Washington was attached when this was mentioned as a development project last year as the studio extended by three years its first look deal with Escape Artists partners Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch. It has come a long way since then.

Washington’s deal is being closed right now and I’m told he’ll be getting his customary $20 million price, but that this is a smartly budget thriller that will come in around $50 million and is designed to launch the first franchise for the actor. Now, directors are lining up for the job. I’ve heard names on the studio’s list that include Pierre Morel, Nicolas Winding Refn, Gavin O’Connor and Gareth Evans. Insiders tell me that the studio is just now setting meetings and that there will be a bunch of them before a director is set.

The film is loosely based on the TV series that starred Edward Woodward as a mysterious former covert operations officer who helps people in trouble, and was created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. The film has that basic premise but takes off in its own way, tailored to Washington’s skills. He’ll play … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Robert Zemeckis-Directed ‘Flight’

By | Wednesday June 6, 2012 @ 6:12pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Here’s an early trailer for Flight, Robert Zemeckis’ return to live-action directing after his foray into performance capture animation. It is nice to see the helmer of movies like Forrest Gump, Cast Away and Back To The Future return to the screen, particularly with Denzel Washington as a troubled pilot who saves his passengers in a crisis, but has some baggage that endangers his career.

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Adam McKay Signing On To Direct ‘Uptown Saturday Night’ Remake; Will Smith, Denzel Washington Eyed To Star

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Adam McKay is in negotiations to develop to direct Uptown Saturday Night, the Warner Bros remake that the studio hopes will star Will Smith and Denzel Washington. Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment has been developing the project. Tim Dowling wrote the most recent draft.

The idea is for McKay to helm after he completes a sequel to Anchorman, the Will Ferrell-starrer Paramount has set for an early 2013 start and 2014 release. McKay and Ferrell wrote that script and Judd Apatow is producing. McKay most recently helmed The Other Guys, and before that Talladega Nights. He’s repped by WME.

The 1974 comedy starred Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier as pals who visit an illegal nightclub, and are forced to hand over their wallets to thieves. Turns out one of them contains a winning lottery ticket, emboldening the duo to bump up against the criminal element to get back the wallet. There are plenty of remakes that elicit groans. If this package comes together (Smith and Washington have long wanted to work together), with McKay’s comic sensibility, this redo could be exceptional. The original cast was lined with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor, and the remake could follow suit by star-casting the supporting roles.

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Paula Patton Loading Up For ’2 Guns’

By | Monday April 9, 2012 @ 12:07pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paula Patton is in talks to star with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns, a film that’s based on a Steven Grant graphic novel published by Boom! Studios. Baltasar Kormakur, who just directed Wahlberg in the remake of his film Contraband, is helming. The script was written by Blake Masters. Emmett/Furla Films is co-financing, and Universal will distribute domestically. Marc Platt is producing along with Boom!’s Andrew Cosby and Ross Richie, and Randall Emmett and George Furla.

Patton is coming off the female lead in Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol, the Brad Bird-directed hit. In 2 Guns, Patton will play Washington’s love interest, I’m told. She just completed Disconnect opposite Alexander Skarsgard and Jason Bateman. She’s repped by WME and managed by Flavor Unit.

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Emmett/Furla Pacts With Foresight For Sales On ’2 Guns’, ‘Rule #1′: Berlin

Yesterday, my colleague Mike Fleming and I reported on Universal’s action pic 2 Guns starring Mark Wahlberg and with Denzel Washington in discussions. Emmett/Furla Films has today confirmed it will co-finance the film adding it has entered into an agreement with Foresight Unlimited to handle foreign distribution rights. Wahlberg’s Contraband helmer Baltasar Kormakur is directing. Emmett/Furla has also pacted with Foresight to handle romcom Rule #1 starring Reese Witherspoon. Foresight Unlimited’s Mark Damon and Tamara Stuparich De La Barra will be offering the films to buyers at the EFM with Brian O’Shea of The Exchange assisting in the sales efforts.

Rule #1 will be directed by Frozen River helmer Courtney Hunt. Randall Emmett and George Furla are producing together with Brad Epstein of Panther films and Witherspoon through her Type A Films banner. Remington Chase and Stepan Martirosyan are executive producing. Story follows a woman trying to cope with OCD who takes in an unpredictable young woman with a newborn baby in an effort to face her anxieties and ultimately get her estranged husband back. Read More »

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Denzel Washington In Talks To Star In ’2 Guns’ With Mark Wahlberg For Universal

EXCLUSIVE: Denzel Washington, whose most recent action effort Safe House premieres in New York tonight, is in discussions to take on another action drama involving Universal Pictures. He’s in early talks to join Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns, a film that’s based on a Steven Grant graphic novel published by Boom! Studios. Baltasar Kormakur will direct the film. He’s coming off the Universal remake of his own film Contraband, which starred Wahlberg. The script was written by Blake Masters. The financing of the film is still coming together, though I’m told that Emmett/Furla Films the likely co-financier. Marc Platt is producing along with Boom!’s Andrew Cosby and Ross Richie. Randall Emmett and George Furla will likely join that roster.

My international colleague Nancy Tartaglione is covering Berlin this week and is already hearing that the film will be a hot sales title there. Universal will distribute and market in the U.S. Read More »

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