EXCLUSIVE: Southpaw, the long-gestating Kurt Sutter-scripted drama about a fighter who tries to overcome adversity to recapture glory, is finally getting close to the start line. I’m hearing that The Weinstein Company and director Antoine Fuqua have made Rachel McAdams their choice to play the female lead alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, with Forest Whitaker in talks to play the boxing trainer who tries to guide his fighter back after his world is shattered by personal tragedy. It sends him on a downward spiral and puts his young daughter in a bad spot. I’m hearing TWC is courting 12 Years A Slave Oscar winner Lupita Nyong‘o to play the social worker watching out for the kid. Alan Riche and Peter Riche are producing with Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal. Fuqua has brought his Equalizer scribe Richard Wenk on for a rewrite.
Berlin: Competition’s ‘Two Men In Town’ Bows; Star Forest Whitaker Prodded On ‘The Butler’ Oscar Snub (Video)
Oscar-nominated Days Of Glory helmer Rachid Bouchareb’s Berlin Competition entry Two Men In Town is based on the 1973 Alain Delon/Jean Gabin film. The update, sold by Pathé, deals with questions of racial profiling, religion and immigration. It stars Forest Whitaker, Brenda Blethyn, Harvey Keitel, Luis Guzman and Dolores Heredia. Whitaker plays an ex-con just out of prison who, despite his new-found Islamic faith, struggles with violent impulses. Although much of today’s panel with some of the stars turned around the issues the film examines, Whitaker, who won the Best Actor Oscar for The Last King Of Scotland, was asked about the fact that Lee Daniels’ The Butler had been shut out at the Oscars. He responded, “You can never gauge things of that nature, all you can gauge is the experience you had. I had an amazing experience; it was life-altering for me and I felt very proud of what we accomplished.” To which Blethyn, a two-time Oscar-nominee, chimed in, “We don’t make films to win awards. We make them to entertain the paying public. If awards come along that’s great… Somehow, the perception is if it doesn’t win an award it’s a failure. It’s not true.” Here’s a clip from Two Men In Town:
EXCLUSIVE: Forest Whitaker is in negotiations to helm The Shack, the adaptation of the bestselling William Paul Young novel that Summit Entertainment acquired in April 2013. Whitaker would also play a supporting role in the movie, which is being written by John Fusco and produced by Gill Netter and Brad Cummings. The logline: In the aftermath of a devastating personal tragedy, Mackenzie Allen Philips receives a mysterious note in his mailbox inviting him to The Shack. The letter is signed Papa, his wife’s nickname for God. Mack responds and finds himself in the presence of God, and a life-transforming journey of truth, forgiveness, and ultimately acceptance. The book was a global hit after it was self-published in 2007. Lionsgate Motion Picture president Michael Paseornek is overseeing the pic with Matthew Janzen and Bree Bailey.
Whitaker, the Oscar winner who most recently starred in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and was a producer on Fruitvale Station, is in the process of lining up what to do next. He is also in discussions to join Liam Neeson in Taken 3, which Olivier Megaton will direct. His own directing credits include 2004′s First Daughter starring Katie Holmes, 1998′s romantic drama Hope Floats and 1995′s Waiting To Exhale adapted from Terry McMillan’s novel. Whitaker is repped by WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Olivier Megaton will be back in the director’s chair for Taken 3, the latest film in the action franchise hatched by Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp. Megaton directed the second film in the series that’s been distributed by 20th Century Fox. While it’s likely that Fox will be on Taken 3, I understand negotiations are still underway. This will be Megaton’s next project with a start date I hear could be as early as March. In a new piece of casting, Deadline understands that Forest Whitaker is in talks to join Liam Neeson and other returning actors including Maggie Grace. Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, the retired CIA agent who used his brutal skills to track down his daughter after she was kidnapped in the first film, and who was himself taken hostage in the sequel. Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr reported last summer that Neeson was closing a deal in the vicinity of $20M to reprise his role as Mills. Neeson was a reluctant participant in the first sequel, but got paid in the $15M neighborhood.
Lionsgate’s CodeBlack Films will release the psychological thriller on February 28 in the U.S. Repentance, from Forest Whitaker‘s Significant Productions and JuntoBox, stars Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as a single father coping with the recent mysterious death of his mother. Suspecting that a well-known psychiatrist (Anthony Mackie) might have been involved in her death, he kidnaps the man and his family — relentlessly torturing them in hopes of uncovering the truth. Mike Epps also stars. Philippe Caland directed from the screenplay he wrote with Shintaro Shimosawa. Caland also produced with Whitaker and his producing partner, Nina Yang Bongiovi. Repentance will make its market debut at the European Film Market in Berlin, with Film Bridge International handling international distribution.
(Los Angeles, CA – January 14, 2014) – The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) has announced that it will be honoring Forest Whitaker with the Joel Siegel Award, to be presented to him by his co-star in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” Oprah Winfrey. Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater will receive this year’s Critics’ Choice LOUIS XIII Genius Award at the 19th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. The rest of the night’s winners will be announced live at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards ceremony on Thursday, January 16, 2014 from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. Hosted by Aisha Tyler, the star-studded awards gala will be broadcast live on The CW Network at 8:00 PM ET/PT.
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.
Forest Whitaker is no stranger to exploring characters that are based on real people, having won an Oscar for his turn as Idi Amin in 2006’s The Last King Of Scotland. This season, he worked on two fact-based films: Fruitvale Station, on which he served as a producer, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in which he stars opposite Oprah Winfrey as longtime White House butler Cecil Gaines (loosely based on the real-life Eugene Allen). And, just to round out his onscreen roles, he plays a singing preacher in Kasi Lemmons’ musical-comedy Black Nativity, which opened November 27. The soft-spoken actor has some pointed observations about his process and how The Butler fits into the black-themed historical films crowding the Oscar field in 2013.
AwardsLine: Did you have to audition for the part of Cecil Gaines?
Forest Whitaker: I had to go and do a reading with Lee, and Oprah, who was already playing the role (of Gaines’ wife, Gloria). It was in the same hotel I auditioned for Idi Amin as well, the Sunset Marquis (in West Hollywood).
AwardsLine: What did you learn when you trained with butler Steven Ferry for the role?
Whitaker: We started first in Los Angeles, where he was teaching me about serving, setting the proper table, how you measure the chairs, how you measure the plates, where you put everything. Then he came to New Orleans and stayed in a house with me, and we continued to train. I think one of the big things was (Steven) teaching me about the philosophy of service. It’s a very spiritual concept.
2013 Gotham Awards: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ ‘Fruitvale Station,’ ‘Short Term 12,’ ‘Dallas Buyers Club’; Lee Daniels Talks Racism: “I Became Very Angry At White People”
The Coen brothers‘ Inside Llewyn Davis won Best Feature tonight at the fourth annual IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards but lost some of the spotlight to presenter Lee Daniels, who made some eyebrow-raising remarks. Kicking off awards season in NYC, the trophy show propelled the CBS period folk music drama and Fruitvale Station, Dallas Buyers Club, and docu The Act of Killing toward the Oscars. The raucous audience at Cipriani Wall Street chattered so loudly during Daniels’ tribute speech his The Butler star Forest Whitaker that he tried to shush them with a few f-bombs. “Forest would like to hear all you talking through my speech, so shut the f*ck up,” admonished Daniels. He wasn’t the only presenter to complain onstage about the Gothams crowd, as Julie Delpy threatened to set herself on fire to get their attention while presenting another tribute, to Before Midnight helmer Richard Linklater.
Big wins went to Fruitvale Station, which nabbed Best Breakthrough Director and Actor for Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, respectively. Dallas Buyers Club star and Oscar hopeful Matthew McConaughey won the Gothams’ inaugural Best Actor award and accepted via iPhone through co-star Jared Leto with his signature “All right, all right, all right.” Short Term 12‘s Brie Larson nabbed Best Actress honors, boosting the SXSW winner’s awards profile. Presenting Best Documentary, Morgan Spurlock took a shot at public television (“PBS: We pay more money than IFC”) before presenting the Gotham to Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar hopeful The Act of Killing.
Host Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, The League) struggled with the ambivalent room early on with a roast of the indie scene: “To the people from L.A. or abroad, I hope you’re enjoying your tiny hotel room you had to pay for out of pocket because Magnolia or IFC wouldn’t pony up.” Riffing on the night’s nominees, he quipped, “A common theme in this year’s movies are the horrors we inflict upon one another – slavery, war, folk music… .” Unfortunately for Kroll, he was upstaged by New York Mayor Bloomberg. “Independent filmmakers and New York have a lot in common… We both want Harvey Weinstein to be nice to us.” Boosting local filmmaking versus runaway production to neighboring Canada while presenting the tribute to his Media and Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Bloomberg joked, “For the record: the mayor of Toronto and the mayor of New York do not have a lot in common.”
AFM Briefs: Vision Films Nabs Veterans Docu ‘Comedy Warriors’ With Galifianakis, Saget, More; ‘For A Woman’ Goes To Film Movement; ‘Reclaim’, ‘Barely Lethal’ Secure Financing From 120DB Films, ‘Sharon 1.2.3.’ Adds Matt Bush
Vision Films has acquired U.S. and Canada rights to Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor, a docu following a group of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as they develop their own stand up comedy routines with the help of pros Zach Galifianakis, Bob Saget, B.J. Novak, and Lewis Black. John Wager directed the film and also produced with Rey Reo, with Steven Beer executive producing. Comedy Warriors is a project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. It is also supported by the Wounded Warrior Project, dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service men and women. Vision Films also has worldwide sales rights on the film.
Film Movement has taken U.S. and Canada rights to Diane Kurys’s For A Woman (Pour Une Femme), a semi-biographical film about a woman who, after her mother’s death, discovers an old photo that uncovers a family secret about her own identity and her mother’s great love. French thesps Benoit Magimel, Mélanie Thierry, Nicolas Duvauchelle, and Sylvie Testud star in the pic which opened in France. Film Movement will release the pic in Q2 2014 in theaters and on VOD and DVD. Film Movement’s Adley Gartenstein and Rebeca Conget negotiated the deal with EUROPACORP’s Cécile Fouché.
Santa Barbara, CA – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s eighth annual KIRK DOUGLAS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN FILM will be presented to Academy Award-winning actor FOREST WHITAKER. Guests will gather to celebrate his achievements at a black-tie Gala dinner at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara on Sunday, December 15, 2013. In the tradition of the award, top-name presenters will be revealed closer to the event.
Last month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences took great strides in order to bring more diversity to its membership. Now will that effort affect the actual Oscar race itself? Certainly this year distributors, particularly The Weinstein Company and Fox Searchlight, are going to be giving the Academy every opportunity to put some diversity into that race, especially in terms of a major African- American presence. Beginning with this Friday’s platformed Weinstein release of the widely acclaimed Sundance and Cannes award winner, Fruitvale Station there is a highly promising lineup of films that seriously depict the Black experience to be released in the second half of 2013. And I am not talking about Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.
This group of movies, which also includes the increasingly-controversial The Butler (8/16- Weinstein), 12 Years A Slave (10/18- Searchlight), Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom (11/29 – Weinstein), Black Nativity (11/27 – Searchlight), Blue Caprice starring Isaiah Washington (IFC – 9/13), the recently -released documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom (Radius-TWC) and (far less likely) even the long-delayed Winnie Mandela (Image Entertainment) starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard now being released in September, provide a bountiful opportunity to let the Academy show off its new spirit of diversity, not that they have been completely dormant in that area in recent years. Of course 2012′s Beasts Of The Southern Wild made the most recent Best Picture cut and won its 9 year old star Quvenzhane Wallis a Best Actress nomination. And Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar winning Original Screenplay for another 2012 Best Pic nominee, Django Unchained had a unique take on slavery. Two years ago the box office success of The Help propelled it towards a Best Picture nomination and acting nods for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, the latter winning for Best Supporting Actress. And just four years ago Precious won a couple of key Oscars for Supporting Actress Monique and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher as well as Best Picture and Directing (for Lee Daniels) nominations.
UPDATE: David Boies Charges Extortion As He Returns Fire In ‘The Butler’ Spat Between Warner Bros And The Weinstein Company
5TH EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Weinstein Company attorney David Boies has responded to the legal letter sent by Warner Bros legal affairs over their dispute regarding use of the title The Butler on the Lee Daniels-directed film. The letter is directed to John W. Spiegel, the Warner Bros-hired lawyer who fired off the last letter July 4. Here is the latest, as Boies makes the move to secure a restraining order as the legal maneuvering continues. He says that Warner Bros is holding hostage the civil rights film to “extort unrelated concessions from TWC.” This is getting nastier and nastier:
Dear Mr. Spiegel:
Although you do not directly respond to my inquiry, I assume that you are the counsel who should be notified in the event it is necessary to seek a TRO.
I will not try to respond to your version of the facts in part because it is so inaccurate and incomplete that such an exercise would be extensive, and in part because your letter appears to be a press release masquerading as a lawyer’s letter. However, I briefly note your lack of response to three critical points.
First, if an anticompetitive “permanent” allocation of titles (and words used in titles) among competitors is a product of a horizontal agreement, that is an antitrust violation, not a defense.
Second, the purported order that TWC not use titles that it has already cleared pursuant to the MPAA’s own rules and procedures demonstrates that it is Warner Bros. and the MPAA that are at odds with established custom, practice, and procedure.
Third, none of this controversy would have occurred if Warner Bros. had not repudiated its representations and agreements not to object to “The Butler” in a transparent attempt to hold a major civil rights film hostage to extort unrelated concessions from TWC.
4th EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: The July 4th holiday didn’t stop the battle between The Weinstein Company and Warner Brothers over the title to The Butler. Attorneys for Warner Brothers yesterday sent a letter to TWC counsel David Boies in response to director Lee Daniels’ personal appeal to WB to back down on its demand for a title change. In the letter, WB attorney John Spiegel stands firm, calling TWC’s “cries of unfairness and its threats to sue Warner ..unproductive and unwarranted”. Sources tell Deadline that Daniels received a personal response from CEO Kevin Tsujihara yesterday. Warner Bros had no comment on the matter. You can read the complete letter below:
July 4, 2013
David Boies, Esq.
Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP
333 Main Street
Armonk, NY 10504
Re:The Weinstein Company/The Butler
Dear Mr. Boies:
We represent Warner Bros. Pictures (WBP) and Warner Bros. Family Entertainment (collectively, “Warner”). I write in response to your July 3, 2013 letter on behalf of The Weinstein Company’s (TWC). TWC’s cries of unfairness and its threats to sue Warner are unproductive and unwarranted responses to a situation that TWC alone has created.
Upstart film studio JuntoBox Films has chosen the next project it will develop from its unique fan and filmmaker social community. George Richards’ The Driver will be the fifth feature developed by JuntoBox, co-chair Forest Whitaker announced today at Film Independent’s LA Film Festival. Pic follows a down on his luck boxer turned getaway driver left with a dead partner and a duffle bag of cash after a heist gone wrong. Alex Ardenti will direct. JuntoBox, founded in 2012 with a focus on microbudgeted feature films sourced from its community and offering mentorship and distribution services to its network of filmmakers, just wrapped Sacrifice starring Dermot Mulroney and Melora Walters. This summer the studio will choose a comedy project, followed by an action/sci-fi pic in September and a horror film in November.
EXCLUSIVE: Looking to stir up a bit of early Oscar buzz, The Weinstein Company has slotted the Lee Daniels-directed The Butler to an August 16 release date. It had been skedded for October 18. That slot has done well for films that include The Help, Julie and Julia and Eat Pray Love, and TWC will hope to follow suit. The film looks at the life of Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents from 1952 to 1986 and had a birds eye view of the Civil Rights movement. He was long retired when Barack Obama became the first African American president, but was invited back for the inauguration. The cast includes Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Robin Williams. Here’s the trailer:
The Cannes Film Festival will wrap with Jérôme Salle’s noir thriller Zulu on May 26. The Pathé, Lobster Tree and M6 Films co-production stars Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom. Shot on location in South Africa, it’s based on the award-winning novel by French author Caryl Férey. Whitaker and Bloom play Cape Town cops investigating the murder of two women. Salle, whose credits include The Burma Conspiracy and Anthony Zimmer, the original basis for The Tourist, co-wrote Zulu with Julien Rappeneau, scripter of last year’s French hit Cloclo. Zulu was produced by Richard Grandpierre and will be released in France by Pathé, which is also handling international sales. The score is by Oscar nominee Alexandre Desplat. Last year’s closing film was the late Claude Miller’s Thérèse Desqueyroux. The festival opens May 15 with Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.
EXCLUSIVE: Fresh from producing the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award winner Fruitvale, Forest Whitaker has taken over the nearly 20-year effort to bring the turbulent life of stand-up comedy legend Richard Pryor to the big screen. Whitaker is teaming with the late comedian’s widow, Jennifer Pryor, to produce the film through his Significant Productions shingle. Whitaker will develop a new script with input from Jennifer Pryor, and Significant Productions’ Nina Yang-Bongiovi, will also produce.
The Pryor biopic has been attempted numerous times, and the most recent version had Bill Condon poised to direct Marlon Wayans in the starring role for Sony Pictures, where Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison had set the project. Condon was certainly passionate about Pryor, but everything took a back seat when he signed on to helm the final two Twilight Saga installments. The project languished.
This was just the latest of many prior incarnations. The first was a Martin Scorsese-directed drama to star Damon Wayans, this well before Pryor died in 2005. Later, there was a Showtime pic that was to star Eddie Griffin and another attempt at a feature that was to star Mike Epps with Kasi Lemmons directing. Condon’s first flirtation had Eddie Murphy briefly interested, and then Chris Rock was briefly in the conversation. Pryor had an unbelievable life, from growing up in a brothel, rising to become comedy’s biggest stage …
On its fourth day, the Sundance Film Festival is wall to wall with some of Hollywood’s best known actors and actresses — and we don’t mean the ones who show up just to party hop. While the festival can be a great launching pad for emerging filmmakers, Park City has never been shy about letting the already well known show their wares there too. It was created by Robert Redford after all. This year sees a number of famous faces and names get behind the camera with new films. As buyers begin to dig in, expect to see these marquee names generating some serious interest as they play out of their regular position. And then there’s the plethora of Oscar winners and nominees, blockbuster and TV stars and indie superstars in front of the camera — check out our comprehensive list below.
James Franco – Executive Producer, kink; Co-director, Interior. Leather Bar. - Actor, director, conceptual artist, grad student and failed Oscar host, Franco wears many hats. This year, he’s adding producer and co-director for two separate films for Sundance. Franco produced kink, a documentary directed by Christina Voros about the Internet’s biggest producer of BDSM. Franco also co-directed Interior. Leather Bar with Travis Matthews. The film seeks to re-create the 40 minutes of Gay S&M footage rumored to be cut from 1980’s Cruising staring Al Pacino to avoid an X rating. Sure the sexual subject matter of both films is similar but Franco’s ambition is wide ranging. Franco also makes an appearance in front of the camera in Interior. Leather Bar and Lovelace.
Alicia Keys – Executive Producer, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete - The multi-platinum singer/songwriter is no stranger to cinema. More than a few films feature her tunes on their soundtracks and Keys was in front of the camera in 2006’s Smokin’ Aces. However, this Sundance is Keys’ debut as a producer. Directed George Tillman Jr. and starring Skylan Brooks, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson and Anthony Mackie, the coming of age film could be the start of a whole new career for Keys.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Director/Writer, Don Jon’s Addiction – He sings, he dances, he starred in The Dark Knight Rises and Looper last year, and now Gordon-Levitt slips into the director’s role on the comedy Don Jon’s Addiction. The actor’s directorial debut, which he also wrote the script for, stars Gordon-Levitt himself as a lady’s man who begins seeking a more fulfilling emotional life. Scarlett Jonansson, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson and Tony Danza co-star in the film.
Dave Grohl – Director/Producer, Sound City - No stranger to movie soundtracks, the Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer has now moved into the director’s chair with his debut documentary Sound City. Debuting early in the Festival, the film is about the famous Van Nuys studio where Nirvana, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, Guns and Roses and others have recorded. Even before the Festival began, Gravitas Ventures acquired worldwide VOD to Grohl’s movie.
Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke – Writers, Before Midnight - This one’s a bit of a cheat because the duo are actually on both sides of the camera at this year’s Sundance. Premiering tonight, the Richard Linklater directed Before Midnight sees Delpy and Hawke return to their roles as Jesse and Celine from 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset. The onscreen duo also retuned to their off screen roles as writers. Like Before Sunset, which was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay, Delpy and Hawke crafted Before Midnight’s script with Linklater. This year marks the second time the trio have premiered their tale of the perpetually unfulfilled lovers to Sundance –Before Sunrise debuted at the Festival in 1995.
The Last King of Scotland Oscar winner and Hunger Games star will round out Scott Cooper’s Out of The Furnace, Relativity announced today. Forest Whitaker, as previously reported by Deadline, and Woody Harrelson join Christian Bale, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana and Casey Affleck in the Rust Belt crime drama. Whitaker will play Sheriff Wesley Barnes of the mill town of Braddock, PA. Harrelson plays local crime boss Harlan DeGroat. Out of the Furnace is the first film by Scott Cooper since 2009’s Crazy Heart. As well as directing, Cooper wrote the script based on an earlier version by Brad Ingleseby entitled The Low Dwellers. The film, which actually started principle photography today in Pennsylvania, tracks Bale as an ex-con and Affleck as his brothers as they are thrust deep into the violent criminal underworld. Relativity will distribute Out of the Furnace in the U.S. LA-based production-financing-sales company Red Granite will handle international sales in Cannes net month. Producers are Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Killoran, Scott Free’s Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and Michael Costigan plus Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh.