President Obama on Tuesday will host cast and crew members of Sony’s The Monuments Men for a screening at the White House. George Clooney, who co-wrote, directed and stars in the pic, will be attending the closed-press evening event, we’re …
Berlin: George Clooney & ‘Monuments Men’ Artfully Cut-Up For Press; WWII Dramedy Is An Escape From “Cynical Movies”
George Clooney and his merry band of Monuments Men arrived in Berlin this weekend. The film is playing in the Competition section tonight, although it is not actually vying for prizes (despite some tough reviews, it just opened Stateside with an expected haul of $20.6M). As with Berlin opening movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, Monuments Men was shot in Germany, taking advantage of local tax breaks, and that has not been lost on the festival. The U.S. ambassador today held a reception honoring both films with two rooms in the vast embassy decked out to look like sets from each (an idea he said came from his “ambassadorable” wife who used to be in the entertainment biz). Festival chief Dieter Kosslick, MPAA head Chris Dodd and former AMPAS president Hawk Koch all attended. At the Monuments Men press conference later in the afternoon, Clooney, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, Dimitri Leonidas, Justus von Dohnányi and writer/producer Grant Heslov serenaded photographers with Working In The Coal Mine… and formed a conga line.
When the group settled, most of the talk centered on why Clooney had chosen to make the film. He and Heslov had been “doing rather cynical movies for quite some time” and the film’s source novel – The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves And The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History – “reminded me of movies I grew up loving like Guns Of Navarone and Kelly’s Heroes,” Clooney said. Recent headlines about recovered artworks were simply a coincidence, but Clooney joked, “We had a three-year conversation with the guys here at Fox to get the news to hold the story. It was very expensive so we’d like to thank Jim Gianopulos.”
Nominees and celebs hit the 71st Golden Globe Awards, underway now at the Beverly Hilton. Hit the jump for full images from tonight’s fete and refresh for latest:
Harvey Weinstein, George Clooney And Tracy Letts On ‘August: Osage County’s Ending Change And Release Date Shift
EXCLUSIVE: After this week’s L.A. premiere of August: Osage County, Harvey Weinstein is prepared to make two proclamations as the film launches into a crowded Oscar season. “When it comes to Oscars, I’ll take bets on this movie, it’s going to be a surprise and a sleeper, but it’s gonna be there,” he said. His second proclamation: “I’m never again going to rush to play a movie festival anymore, until the movie is locked,” Weinstein said. “We rushed to get a version of August: Osage County because we wanted the heat of Toronto. It wasn’t finished and it has created a disconnect.”
Weinstein, George Clooney (a producer with Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov) and Tracy Letts (who adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play into the John Wells-directed film) called me to dispel a misperception they hope will not become a problem: that because of slight changes between the Toronto version and the final cut, this was a problem picture. In this case, the early version of the Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts-starrer had a slightly different ending than it does now. The finished film is a bit longer and more polished and contains over its closing credits ”Last Mile Home”, a moving acoustic song that Kings Of Leon wrote for the film. “Our worst review has been three stars, but forevermore in the age of the Internet you read that reaction was mixed in Toronto and it colors people,” Weinstein said. “There’s something in the air and the way to take it out of the air is for the three of us to combat it.” I won’t give away the ending here, but it involves how things are left between a dysfunctional family matriarch (Streep) and the daughter (Roberts) in danger of following in her bitter footsteps. Besides Toronto, there were test screenings and the usual back and forth that resulted in what the three said is the best version of the film, the one they showed this week.
When Sandra Bullock won the best actress Oscar for The Blind Side three years ago, her position as the number-one female movie star on the planet was secure. But after all the box office and awards success, Bullock was very careful about what projects she chose to do next. Eschewing the easy route of another romantic comedy after her supporting role in 2011’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Bullock took on the role of Dr. Ryan Stone, a novice astronaut stranded in space and struggling to survive in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. At its core, the film is not your average sci-fi blockbuster, but rather an intimate look at summoning the will to go on.
AwardsLine: They created something called the light box for this, a really isolating contraption. What was it like in there?
Sandra Bullock: It was literally a 9- by 9-foot box that was elevated on a platform. On one side, there were black curtains where all the technical geniuses were sitting, and there was a long track in the center. You know the (robot) arms that make the cars in Detroit? They were these massive things with the camera on them. There was a metal harness that I had to get up through that clamped around my waist. It was timed mechanically with the camera, so it would turn my body, and the camera was then spinning, and I had to figure out, “Am I upside down? Or am I right side up?”
The CEO of Third Point says that George Clooney was “a little hyperbolic” in August when the actor — in an interview with my colleague Mike Fleming Jr – defended Sony Entertainment execs from the hedge fund manager’s attacks.…
There’s no question about it. Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award For Excellence In Comedy winner Sacha Baron Cohen stole the BAFTA-LA ‘s annual Britannia Awards Saturday night with a comedy routine that had half the packed Beverly Hilton audience roaring and the other half shaking in their Jimmy Choos wondering if he had really just killed an elderly woman in a wheelchair – or was it one of his patented tasteless gags? You can see for yourself when the show airs Sunday night on BBC America but the reaction was so visceral in the room host Rob Brydon had to literally calm down the normally more sedate British crowd. Some clearly thought it was real.
At any rate, the bit made the awards gathering memorable for reasons organizers probably didn’t imagine. One BAFTA exec told me later that they were up until 3 AM just trying to clear all the legalities of Cohen’s acceptance bit which involved presenter Salma Hayek on stage with someone rolled out in a wheelchair she very believably identified as Grace Collington, an actress she said appeared with Charlie Chaplin in 1931′s City Lights at the age of five. “At 87, she’s the oldest surviving actor to have worked with Chaplin in a silent movie,” she told the audience as the woman sat there. When Cohen came up to accept his award from them, “Collington” warmly presented him with one of Chaplin’s famous canes. He then proceeded to push her off the stage and she landed face down, motionless and apparently dead on the ground. “Grace Collington is the oldest, sorry, was the oldest… I dedicate my award to her. It’s obviously a tragedy, but on the bright side what a great way to go. She’ll probably make the Oscars In Memoriam section… Anyway tonight is not about her, it’s about me,” he said as the limp body was carried out of the ballroom to rollicking laughter of the sort you rarely hear at these events.
Any doubt that awards season has not kicked into full gear even though it’s only early November were firmly erased Friday night as I kept running into the same Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Academy members as we dashed from an AFI Fest pre-party for The Weinstein Co.‘s August Osage County premiere in Hollywood, to a Lionsgate holiday (!) celebration at Spago, to Disney‘s Mary Poppins sing-a-long for Saving Mr. Banks at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And that doesn’t even count Sony‘s tribute to their American Hustle David O. Russell for the AFI Fest at the Egyptian. When the picture isn’t ready to show why not just throw a tribute with clips instead? (they sneaked the first six minutes). Deadline’s Jen Yamato was there and reports Jane Fonda and his Oscar winning Silver Linings Playbook star Jennifer Lawrence showed up for the pre-reception. Just down the street at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Gravity star Sandra Bullock was holding court doing a Q&A for SAG nominating committee members after a screening of the film (Warner Bros. had a separate Gravity press cocktail reception Wednesday night in West Hollywood which drew director Alfonso Cuaron and son, co-writer Jonas, along with producer David Heyman).
At Hollywood and Highland’s The Grill, August Osage County co-producer George Clooney was clearly the star attraction taking photo after photo with excited (mostly female) members of the HFPA who swarmed around him at the intimate, but crowded event before the North American premiere of the film at the Chinese. If anyone knows how to work a room like this, it is Clooney. When I managed to catch his eye he told me the film has been reworked a bit since I saw it at its Toronto Fest debut in September and that, after the balancing act of getting the adaptation of a 3 1/2 hour play down to a tight – and funny – two hours (it’s entered in the Golden Globes as a comedy), both Harvey Weinstein and director John Wells are happy with it, as Wells also confirmed. The director said he worked on honing the script for over two years with Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner Tracy Letts (also at the reception). As Clooney explained they had to take a rather insular play and open it up a bit which wasn’t easy, but the film I saw played like gangbusters in Toronto and was well-received at AFI, I am told by some who saw it last night for the first time. Co-stars Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Dermot Mulroney and Chris Cooper who has a couple of scenes that stop the show were also at the reception before hitting the red carpet (stars Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep were absent).
UPDATE, 10:36 AM: Sony and 20th Century Fox have found their February date: Monuments Men will be released February 7, 2014, we’ve learned. That date jibes what with George Clooney told us exclusively yesterday. It also means MGM and Sony’s RoboCop will move five days to open on Wednesday, February 12, ahead of the four-day President’s Day weekend that this year includes Valentine’s Day on that Friday. As part of the release plan rethink, Sony also is moving Sony and Annapurna Pictures’ American Hustle up a week — the film will now open wide December 18 after opening in limited release December 13.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, WEDNESDAY AM: Last night, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox moved the George Clooney-directed Monuments Men from December 18 to early next year. It took less than an hour for Internet wonks to look for signs of trouble, even though Clooney said he simply couldn’t complete the visual effects and music in time to make the date. Rather than watch a repeat of what his pal Brad Pitt went through when people were inscribing World War Z headstones before anybody saw that film, Clooney asked for the opportunity to explain on Deadline. Who says no to George Clooney?
He was troubled enough to call from the Abbey Road Studios in London after reading a ridiculous “exclusive” Sharon Waxman splash on TheWrap that claimed Clooney had confided that his struggles were over tone. “I was talking awhile ago about Gravity, she says, ‘How’s it going on Monuments Men‘ and I say, ‘It’s a tricky tone,’ and she writes this piece that the movie is in trouble over tone. She doesn’t call me, and it’s absolutely ridiculous and false.”
What it sounds like to me is the same situation that Martin Scorsese went through with Paramount when they could not get Shutter Island ready before year end and moved the film to a February 19, 2010, berth. It too moved out of the Oscar corridor, but like Monuments Men, it wasn’t viewed by the studio as an Oscar entry as much as for being a crowd-pleasing potential blockbuster. All alone in the marketplace, Shutter Island grossed $128 million domestic and $295 million worldwide.
“The straight-up facts are these,” Clooney told me. “We had a really good test last week, scoring in the mid 80s, in Arizona. And when we were on the plane coming back with Jeff Blake, Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, they said look, let’s be honest. There are lots better times to bring this movie out than December 18. How about November 22? Can you do it? Now, today is our first day at the scoring stages at Abbey Road. Then they call and ask, how about the 15th of November? We like to pull stuff off, and we said, let’s see what we can do. That was two days ago.”
Clooney then consulted the guys who are providing the effects, and got a dose of reality. “We had a meeting with all the effects guys for our CGI stuff, and, we’re just not going to get there in time,” he said. “Then we looked at the date we had, December 18. I don’t know how many movies are opening, but it’s got to be the toughest December in recent memory for box office. We said, where’s another good place to land? And we looked at February and the Shutter Island slot.”
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘The Monuments Men’
It seems highly unlikely that films once thought since Cannes to be potential Best Picture Oscar contenders — The Weinstein Co’s Grace Of Monaco and The Immigrant, both highly touted in May — would have made the Academy’s final list, even if it goes for the full 10 nominees this year. And no one is missing them now that they’ve moved on.
The real “SHOCKER” as some breathless headlines stated yesterday, was the decision by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who won the Best Picture Oscar just last year for Argo, to move their planned December release of the World War II thriller, Monuments Men to February. (That decision follows a similar path Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island took a few years ago, a move that resulted in the film becoming Scorsese’s most successful ever at the box office.) As Clooney told my colleague Mike Fleming Jr. earlier today, he wasn’t in this for the Oscars and December was a good luck date where his Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve films had played. I had always heard from the beginning that Clooney wasn’t ever really looking at Men as an Academy Award play but rather a commercial picture — his Guns Of Navarone as he reiterated in the Fleming interview. In fact a top Sony source told me in the summer that Clooney had told them he wasn’t looking to campaign it (but the exec insisted they would cross that bridge when they came to it). Of course sometimes you can have both box office success and Oscar recognition.
With Gravity looking like it is soaring at the box office today and the Harry Potter 8-pack of films successfully behind him, producer David Heyman is riding high. Of course, director Alfonso Cuaron and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are getting the lion’s share of attention for the space drama, but Heyman is happy to give credit where credit is due. He actually was the one who brought Cuaron aboard for Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. “We had a great experience on Harry Potter“, he said in a recent interview at Chateau Marmont. ” I asked him to do it which was a big thing.” This time around it was Cuaron who asked Heyman to get involved on Gravity and produce it with him.
“When he asked me to do it I jumped — there was not a moment of hesitation” Heyman said. “One, it’s a lovely compliment that he asked, and as a producer it’s what we dream about. I knew it was going to be challenging. He’s always pushing, never settling. We finished the film early this year and we hadn’t done the mix. He looked at the film and he said ‘Damn’. He had an idea which was to take the spacecraft and flip it because it was coming in top-up. You’re in outer space, there’s not up and down, so if you flip it’s fine but it took 10 weeks. One shot, two minutes. But he’s always pushing and never settling. So I knew it was going to be extraordinary, but to actually now be here and feel the response is pretty great,” he said.
That’s an understatement. The film was rapturously received at all three big fall festivals — Venice, Telluride and Toronto — a decision Heyman said was easy to make considering Cuaron is the director of such films as Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess and Children Of Men. “I think Alfonso is a filmmaker where festivals are responsive because there’s real art to his direction. It’s beautiful, fluid motion and I think there was faith in that and I think Warners, to give them credit, took a big leap in making this film. You know a female-driven action movie, not inexpensive, with one character alone for most of the time. But they believe in the filmmaker. Then they poured money into it . For a year and a half we had nothing . We were trying to figure out how to do it, and then when Alfonso decided he wanted to change the shot around, that’s probably 100K , they said ‘sure, go ahead and do it’. And then putting it on the festival circuit, they just believed in it,” he said.
Related: Venice: ‘Gravity’ Exerts Strong Pull
Gravity blasted into Venice this morning winning huzzahs from the press and upping buzz on the Lido ahead of tonight’s official opening. Helmer Alfonso Cuaron, stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, co-writer Jonas Cuaron and producer David Heyman took the dais for a press conference this afternoon to discuss the challenges of filming a movie set in a weightless environment. There was also talk about Syria, satellites — and even a Ben Affleck as Batman reference.
Alfonso Cuaron said the idea for Gravity was borne from a script his son Jonas had written about two characters stuck in a hostile environment and their journey though adversity. Cuaron said that at the time, adversity was “very present in our lives” so they used it as a point of departure. The satellite debris that destroys Bullock and Clooney’s space shuttle became “a metaphor for adversity.” Bullock’s character, Dr Ryan Stone, has also experienced a tragedy back on Earth that has turned her into “a machine that was a factory for her brain.” A thrust of the narrative is her evolving from someone with no reason to live, to someone who wants to live.
Much of the film is Bullock on her own and the actress said she spent most of her time in a 9’x9’ lightbox or “hanging from 20 foot ceilings.” She called the film, “Physically and mentally, the craziest, most bizarre, challenging thing” she’s ever done. “But you find what you’re made of because if you don’t do it, you’ve destroyed a beautiful story.” Setting the film in a zero-g environment created a big challenge – or as Cuaron termed it, a “mindf***” – because the actors had to learn a whole new set of physics. There were scientific advisers to help. “The actors had to get used to how things act and react in zero-g with no resistance.” The animators also had to learn new rules. “It was the worst case scenario of animation and the worst case scenario for live action film,” Cuaron said.
I’m starting a week off today, and woke up to the depressing news that the great Detroit author Elmore Leonard has died at 87. Like so many who push words around for a living, even if it is in a much inferior fashion, I was in awe of Leonard’s ability to write as only he could. He just made you want to try harder, no matter what kind of writing you did. You could go back to the likes of Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler, but I’m hard pressed to think of a crime fiction author who influenced so many. I swear that after a Leonard book came out, I could feel the influence even on daily journalists who read him. For instance, I read sports columnist Mike Lupica all the time and noticed after every Leonard book came out, Lupica would temporarily incorporate Leonard’s penchant for starting sentences in odd places, and clipping the quotes of his subjects to liven up the dialogue like Leonard did.
His influence on Hollywood is profound and I think he helped make dialogue in crime dramas better. Great dialogue screenwriters like Quentin Tarantino drew from his well, and not just when Quentin turned Leonard’s book Rum Punch into Jackie Brown. Hollywood used to screw up his novels all the time when studio guys, screenwriters and directors thought they knew better than the master. They borrowed his plots but made them super-serious, not understanding that it wasn’t the plots as much as the dialogue and interplay between those great characters that made his books memorable. It got so bad that Leonard stopped writing scripts because he tired of taking orders from inferiors, and preferred to focus on books, where final cut belonged to him.
But then things started to get better for Leonard after the release of Get Shorty, which celebrated the cool wit and humor that was present in all of Leonard’s work. Barry Sonnenfeld’s movie didn’t paint the bad guys with black hats, but let them reveal themselves slowly and playfully. That made it possible to sympathize not only with John Travolta’s loanshark-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer character, but also a stuntman hired as a thug (James Gandolfini), who, after being demoralized by a beating from Palmer, caught his breath and started excitedly describing to his film nut nemesis all the movies he did stunts in. I remember Scott Frank telling me that when he first tried to adapt that Leonard novel as a script, he went through the book and underlined what he felt was vital, in green hi-light marker. By the time he finished, Frank had underlined pretty much the entire book. But Frank and his cohorts managed to start a trend, where filmmakers began to realize that Leonard’s dialogue was pure gold and didn’t need a rewrite.
Frank and Jersey Films producers Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher nailed it yet again when they collaborated with Steven Soderbergh to make Out Of Sight. That film had trademark flawed heroes and tremendous badasses, and for my money the sexiest courtship scene (between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez) that I’d seen in a film since Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe formed their bond in Michael Mann’s The Last Of The Mohicans. And both those films had Dennis Farina. More recently, Graham Yost captured Leonard’s spirit in the FX series Justified, based on the gunslinging deputy U.S. marshal Raylan Givens whom Leonard hatched as a secondary character in the novels Pronto and Riding the Rap. The dialogue written for Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder, Nick Searcy’s Chief Deputy Marshal Art Mullen, and all the bad guys, so captured Leonard’s wit that he told me it had restored his faith in Hollywood, or at least made the earlier slights less bothersome.
I got the privilege of spending some time with Leonard twice. Once in person, as a kid reporter at New York Newsday, when I peppered him with endless questions and recall him telling that one reason his scenes lined up differently than other writers is that he would write the same scene numerous times, each from the vantage point of different characters. He’d then choose the vantage point the felt right, and use that one. Three years ago, I spent time on the phone with him at Deadline, when director Charlie Matthau hooked us up while they were working on an adaptation of Freaky Deaky. Here is a replay of that interview: