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Venice: Sandra Bullock Calls ‘Gravity’ The “Most Challenging” Thing She’s Ever Done

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.

Related: Venice Film Festival: ‘Gravity’ Exerts Strong Pull At First Screening

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.

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Venice: ‘Gravity’ Exerts Strong Pull At First Screening

As workmen put the finishing touches on the red carpet here in Venice this morning, a throng of press gathered for the first screening of Alfonso Cuaron‘s Gravity. The film began about 30 minutes after its scheduled start, and as the audience grew impatient for the lights to go down, there were mumblings of “Houston, abbiamo un problema.” But once things got moving, the room sat silent, completely engrossed. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in the 3D space odyssey that drew loud applause after a tight 90 minutes. It now has folks tossing around words like “astonishing” and “brilliant.” The tense sci-fi actioner sees Bullock and Clooney stranded adrift after debris hits their space shuttle. (Bullock also has a lot of alone screen time.) Cuaron, who makes use of his taste for long tracking shots, is being largely praised here in Venice with some now even wondering why the film wasn’t in competition. Cuaron has won prizes in Venice before, for 2001′s Y Tu Mama Tambien and for 2006′s Children Of Men. Gravity, co-written by Cuaron and son Jonas, officially opens the festival tonight with director and stars in tow. Warner Bros opens it in the U.S. on October 4; it’s also playing at Toronto.

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A Replay Of A Few Minutes With The Late, Great Elmore Leonard: On Movies, iPads, And ‘Freaky Deaky’

By | Tuesday August 20, 2013 @ 9:13am PDT
Mike Fleming

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: Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘The Monuments Men’

By | Thursday August 8, 2013 @ 10:21am PDT

George Clooney directs and heads a killer cast in period dramatic thriller The Monuments Men. Based on the true story of one of the greatest treasure hunts in history, The Monuments Men focuses on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. Not easy with the art trapped behind enemy lines and the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell. But the Monuments Men — seven museum directors, curators and art historians — risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements. Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett also star. Clooney and Grant Heslov penned the screenplay based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. Sony releases the pic on December 18. Check out the trailer:

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Isn’t It Time To Take ‘Waterworld’ Off The All-Time Flop List?

By | Wednesday August 7, 2013 @ 4:29pm PDT
Mike Fleming

In an interview with Deadline last Friday, George Clooney expressed ire for Third Point hedge fund chief Daniel Loeb‘s criticism of Sony Pictures management, claiming Loeb didn’t know the first thing about the movie business. I didn’t have room for it in the article–George covered a lot of ground–but Clooney even criticized Loeb’s choice of historic flops to liken to two Sony summer misfires, After Earth and White House Down. Clooney said that he felt both After Earth (a $130 million budget film that has grossed $242 million worldwide) and White House Down (a $150 million budget film that grossed $117 million worldwide) would not end up as precedent-setting losers when all the money is counted down the line. But he also said that Loeb calling Waterworld, and maybe even Ishtar, all-time flops showed a naivete about the way studios cover their risk. In fairness to Loeb, both Waterworld and Ishtar have been easy targets because their production cost overruns made each big news in its day.

Ishtar cost $55 million and grossed $14 million domestic, and, well it’s tough to put a happy face on that film in any discussion. Clooney and others would argue that Waterworld is a much different story. Now, I can’t count to 20 without taking off my shoes, but an industry numbers cruncher shared with Deadline a cost/profit analysis on Waterworld, even adjusting the numbers for inflation and again to reflect ways that the tent pole business has grown more favorable to studios than back when Waterworld was released in 1995. The numbers make an argument consistent with Clooney’s point. Read More »

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Judy Greer Eyed For Disney’s ‘Tomorrowland’

By | Wednesday August 7, 2013 @ 1:05pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned an already busy Judy Greer is in talks to reunite with George Clooney in Tomorrowland. With Hugh Laurie and Britt Robertson also starring in the film, Brad Bird is directing from a screenplay by Damon Lindelof.  Like the sci-fi Disney pic itself, Greer’s potential role is a tightly guarded secret. What we do know is that this would be Greer’s third film with Clooney after 2011′s The Descendants and 1999′s Three Kings. While Tomorrowland negotiations are going on, Greer has a pretty full dance card of releases and roles as it is. The actress appears in Arrested Development and will be in the Carrie reboot coming out this fall. She is currently working on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, and is starring in Andrew Gurland’s untitled FX comedy pilot opposite Nat Faxon. If that wasn’t enough, the actress is also the voice of Cheryl on the animated spy series Archer on FX. Greer is repped by CAA, Principato-Young Entertainment, and attorney Fred Toczek.

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Daniel Loeb In Retreat: Backs Off Sony For Now With Praise For CEO Kazuo Hirai And George Clooney; But Can He Be Trusted?

Nikki Finke who is on vacation will have a fuller Loeb vs Sony report soon.

Apparently, The Most Hated Man In Hollywood just wasn’t comfortable being labeled “The Most Dangerous Man To Our Industry” by George Clooney for all the world to read (via Mike Fleming’s exclusive Deadline interview and carried by Yahoo this past weekend). So now Third Point hedge fund CEO Daniel Loeb claims today he’s backing off Sony. But only after the putz created chaos and confusion inside a stable and successful studio, destabilized Michael Lynton’s and Amy Pascal’s and Jeff Blake’s management because two summer films After Earth and White House Down bombed at the domestic box office in what is a cyclical business, and imperiled many current jobs and future projects there. It’s disgusting. Not only does he seek to profit from the misfortunes of countries (Greece) and corporations (Sony after Howard Stringer crashed and burned the once great electronics giant), but in this case bullies a major entertainment company to the brink. Now Loeb will simply retreat to his East Coast dream homes and not give Hollywood another thought until the next time he feels the urge to kvetch. Kudos to Clooney for having the balls to hold up Loeb to public scorn. And congrats to Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai for not panicking or pressuring top executives to leave just to appease Loeb. Nice work, too, by producer Lynda Obst who gave a very forceful and cogent defense of SPE on CNBC yesterday. As for Ashton Kutcher and his worthless opinion, let’s see how his career careens when his Jobs indie flops and CBS/Warner Bros no longer pays him to make Two And A Half Men even more unwatchable.

Related: Sony Rejects Daniel Loeb’s Entertainment Spinoff Proposal

Loeb today did an about-face and claimed to Variety he was backing off Lynton, Pascal, et al: “We support Hirai, and to the extent that he supports his management team and they can meet the board’s initiatives around transparency and profit margin improvement, I see no reason [the current executives] cannot do that. It is a decision for Mr. Hirai to make.” This is after Hirai sent a letter to Third Point (which owns 7% of Sony) and rejected Loeb’s unsolicited proposal to spinoff Sony’s entertainment unit. Suddenly Loeb was calling Hirai’s letter “thoughtfully written and detailed in its discussion of profitability and transparency. There was a lot there for shareholders to hang their hats on.” Loeb also admitted “it is probably unfair to focus on one or two bad movies, just in the way that Third Point from time to time can have one or two bad months or a bad year. … We’re really not focused on individual movies or their slate. I know I mentioned that in the last letter, but at this point it is more productive to support management and the goals advanced by Mr. Hirai in his letter.”

Loeb clearly never counted on being outed by Clooney for “knowing nothing about our business” and dissed so publicly and forcefully and publicly by the filmmaker. Loeb replied: “Notwithstanding the fact that the media likes to create a stir, I admire Mr. Clooney’s passion for Sony and his loyalty to Sony and his friends there.” But Loeb nervily suggested he and Clooney share a “common goal: a more disciplined company with better allocation of capital means less money spent on bureaucracy and more investment in motion pictures. We are all for intelligent investment in creative content. I believe our interests are aligned in a way he probably doesn’t realize.” Read More »

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Ashton Kutcher: George Clooney And Dan Loeb Are Naive About Hollywood: Video

By | Tuesday August 6, 2013 @ 3:46pm PDT

The actor spoke to CNBC as part of the run-up to the opening of Jobs, where he plays late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Ashton Kutcher discussed his philosophy as an investor, with $100M in tech start-ups. But the interesting part comes about 4:20 in, where he says that neither hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, who has vigorously criticized Sony Entertainment, nor actor George Clooney, who called Loeb a “carpetbagger,” understand how the business works. “Some of these companies are extremely bloated and spend money on relationships,” Kutcher says.

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George Clooney To Hedge Fund Honcho Daniel Loeb: Stop Spreading Fear At Sony

By | Friday August 2, 2013 @ 9:16am PDT
Mike Fleming

George Clooney Sony Daniel LoebEXCLUSIVE: George Clooney, who yesterday sent his Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov to Hollywood to show Sony and Fox a first cut of their Oscar-season period film The Monuments Men, has spent most of his career navigating the challenge of making provocative movies at studios obsessed with tentpoles. While he’s won Oscars — the latest the Best Picture prize he shared with Heslov and producer-director Ben Affleck for Argo — Clooney is also the guy who kept a photo of himself as Batman prominently displayed on his office wall, as a cautionary reminder of what can happen when you make movies solely for commercial reasons.

Working on post-production for his latest directing effort in Italy to ready for Sony’s December 18 release, Clooney spoke to me about his new movie and how it’s getting harder to make films like Monuments, Argo and the Smokehouse-produced August: Osage County. The discussion turned toward recent critical comments made by Third Point LLC hedge fund head Daniel Loeb and the pressure he is placing on Sony Pictures chiefs Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, centered around the under-performing back to back summer films After Earth and White House Down. Loeb, whose fund controls 7% of Sony stock, is pressing for Sony to spin off its entertainment assets and likened those misfires to historic flops Waterworld and Ishtar. Though Clooney and Heslov base their Smokehouse Pictures banner at Sony, and Loeb’s influence is growing there, Clooney has never been shy about standing up to what he feels is wrong. So, buckle up.

Said Clooney: “I’ve been reading a lot about Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund guy who describes himself as an activist but who knows nothing about our business, and he is looking to take scalps at Sony because two movies in a row underperformed? When does the clock stop and start for him at Sony? Why didn’t he include Skyfall, the 007 movie that grossed a billion dollars, or Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained? And what about the rest of a year that includes Elysium, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and The Monuments Men? You can’t cherry pick a small time period and point to two films that didn’t do great. It makes me crazy. Fortunately, this business is run by people who understand that the movie business ebbs and flows and the good news is they are ignoring his calls to spin off the entertainment assets. How any hedge fund guy can call for responsibility is beyond me, because if you look at those guys, there is no conscience at work. It is a business that is only about creating wealth, where when they fail, they get bailed out and where nobody gets fired. A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments, and he is dangerous to our industry.”

Why is he dangerous? Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Gravity’

By | Tuesday July 23, 2013 @ 9:52pm PDT

WB wowed the Comic-Con crowd last weekend with footage from Alfonso Cuaron‘s space thriller Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. This newly released “Detached” promo’s depiction of panic and dread that mounts over the course of 2 minutes serves as well as any traditional trailer to tease the October 4 pic which will also screen at Toronto:

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TIFF: What Toronto Film Fest Lineup Signals For Oscar Race – Analysis

Pete Hammond

I was interviewing Bradley Cooper yesterday and we talked about the emerging 2013 awards season. “I guess we’ll know by Toronto what it’s going to look like this year,” he said remembering he was in back to back World Premieres there last year with Silver Linings Playbook and The Place Beyond The Pines (which Focus bought at TIFF).

That’s certainly true to some degree but in terms of Oscar tea leaves, today’s announcement of the first leg of this year’s all-important Toronto International Film Festival lineup was both significant and a bit of a head scratcher that will have awards watchers looking even more intently to Telluride, Venice and the New York Film Festival to get a more complete picture of just what this season is shaping up to be.

Related: Toronto Fest Unveils Gala Premieres For Oscar Bait Films

Though there were many expected contenders among the 17 galas and 56 special presentations listed , there were curious omissions of movies that might have seemed like no-brainers to go to Toronto. Where for instance were the expected North American debuts of Cannes favorites like The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Robert Redford‘s tour-de-force work in J.C. Chandor’s stunning All Is Lost or Alexander Payne‘s very well-received Nebraska? Are these movies holding out for a prestigious NY slot instead?  I would be willing to bet (call it a hunch) that all three turn up in Telluride over the Labor Day weekend just before TIFF begins.  Payne loves Telluride and goes even when he doesn’t have a film to show. Redford and the Coens would seem naturals for long overdue Telluride Film Fest tributes. Neither has ever been (of course Redford has his own little ski town festival to keep him occupied). This is the perfect opportunity for that and because Telluride doesn’t announce its schedule in advance  and doesn’t label anything as a “premiere” other fests don’t mind movies that they are debuting sneaking in there first. Read More »

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BAFTA LA To Honor George Clooney With Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award

By | Tuesday July 9, 2013 @ 9:39am PDT

George Clooney won a BAFTA award earlier this year in London for producing Ben Affleck’s Argo. On November 9, he’ll pick up his second BAFTA-sanctioned prize, this time from the org’s Los Angeles branch during its annual awards in Beverly Hills. The Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film goes to a “unique individual, upon whose work is stamped the indelible mark of authorship and commitment, and who has lifted the craft to new heights.” BBC America will air the event on November 10. Here’s the full press release: Read More »

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‘Gravity’ To Open Venice Film Festival In World Premiere

Alfonso Cuarón‘s 3D deep space thriller Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, will open the 70th Venice Film Festival in an out of competition berth. The Warner Bros film will debut on the Lido on August 28. Bullock plays a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission alongside a veteran astronaut played by Clooney. Disaster strikes during a seemingly routine spacewalk, leaving the two completely alone — tethered to one another and spiraling into the blackness. This is the first high-profile world premiere that Venice has announced thus far. Last year it was notably the launch pad for such pics as Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Harmony Korine’s Springbreakers.

Cuarón’s first film in Venice was 2001′s Y Tu Mamá También which won the Golden Osella for Best Screenplay as well as the Marcello Mastroianni Award for stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna. In 2006, the director’s Children Of Men won the Best Cinematography Golden Osella for Emmanuel Lubezki, who is also the DP on Gravity. Venice runs this year from August 28-September 7. Click over for the Gravity trailer: Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Sandra Bullock & George Clooney’s ‘Gravity’

By | Thursday May 9, 2013 @ 5:25pm PDT

Warner Bros gave exhibitors a sneak peek at Gravity at CinemaCon but this is the first trailer for the space pic starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in the two-hander about astronauts stranded in space after their space shuttle gets demolished during a spacewalk. The Alfonso Cuaron-directed movie will be released wide October 4 in 3D and IMAX after the studio pushed it back from its original November 2012 spot.

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OSCARS: Analysis By Pete Hammond

By | Monday February 25, 2013 @ 3:04am PST
Pete Hammond

Oscars 2013 AnalysisEven as tonight’s Governor’s Ball was winding down, Ben Affleck was still off in a corner of the room celebrating his Argo‘s most unlikely Best Picture victory in becoming only the second film in 80 years to win the top prize without even a nomination for its director. Affleck’s roller coaster ride has been remarkable this season and as he told me earlier this weekend, and tonight after the Best Pic triumph, it has been filled with hills and valleys, but it all came together at the Dolby Theatre when First Lady Michelle Obama (from the White House) opened the envelope and announced his film as the winner.

Related: Nikki Finke’s Oscar Live-Snark

When he was left off the list of Directing nominees on January 10th he said he was really depressed, but that same night he won the Critics Choice Movie Award as Director and Best Picture, then the Golden Globe three days later, then the PGA, SAG, DGA, WGA and BAFTA honors to name a few. Suddenly Argo was the one to beat and it never wavered. Affleck’s emotional acceptance was heartfelt and perfectly described the personal journey of this actor turned first-rate director. And his acknowledgement of Steven Spielberg from the stage was a nice touch. He won, with Matt Damon, for Best Original Screenplay in 1997 for Good Will Hunting, but this was different as Affleck told me and he was going to savor this moment as long as he could before moving on into the night. It was the same for Argo’s winning screenwriter Chris Terrio who also was hanging late at the Govs Ball even though he had to catch a flight back to his New York home where he is currently writing a new script based on the Greengrass story. As he was just exiting the Ball at the Hollywood and Highland Grand Ballroom, he told me someone gave him advice that he should just try to enjoy this moment first. He seemed to have a hard time soaking it in, but he was going to give it at least this one night before getting back to work.

Argo, after vitually a clean sweep of awards season since the directing snub (which in retrospect could not have hurt), won a respectable three Oscars (also for Editing and Adapted Screenplay), tying Les Misérables for that number of Oscars. But the big winner of the night (if you can call it that) was 20th’s risky box office success Life Of Pi which nabbed four statuettes including a biggie, Best Director for Ang Lee. Had Affleck been nominated, he likely would have won since Best Picture and Director usually go hand in hand, but for whatever reason in a year with an embarrassment of riches it somehow seems totally appropiate that there was a split and Lee was given this award. If anything, Life Of Pi was a directorial achievement like no other and this Oscar was acknowledgement of that. In fact, right after Affleck was snubbed, I predicted Lee would take it, and in the last couple of weeks it was apparent a tide was building for him among Academy voters. It became one of the easiest calls of the night despite the fact that many pundits were calling it for Lincoln‘s Steven Spielberg. At the Govs Ball, Lee, who has won two previous Oscars (for Best Foreign Language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Director for Brokeback Mountain), told me this one means as much or probably more because of the extreme challenges Pi provided. He was clearly thrilled with it and I told him he becomes the first director since George Stevens in the 50s with A Place In The Sun (1951) and Giant (1956) to win two Best Director Oscars for two films that did not win Best Picture, a rare occurence. Read More »

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OSCARS: Is George Clooney Now King Of The Academy Awards?

By | Thursday February 21, 2013 @ 1:41pm PST
Pete Hammond

When George Clooney received his eighth Oscar nomination as a producer of Argo – he shared producing credits on the Best Picture nominee with Ben Affleck and Grant Heslov — he marched into the Academy Award record books in a very unique way. It was the sixth different category in which he was nominated, an unprecedented feat for the 24 categories currently handed out each year. It’s also a nearly-unprecedented feat in all 85 years of the Oscars  — but that’s with an asterisk and we’ll get to that.

Clooney knocked off three of those categories in 2005, the first year he was nominated for anything, with Directing and Original Screenplay (with Heslov) nominations for Good Night And Good Luck and winning Best Supporting Actor for Syriana. Then there were those Best Actor nominations he seems to get every other year: Michael Clayton (2007), Up In The Air (2009) and The Descendants (2011). That’s four different categories, to which he added a fifth in 2011, when he also was nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay race for The Ides Of March (with Heslov and Beau Willimon). This feat with five ties him with Warren Beatty, Stanley Kubrick, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen and Kenneth Branagh — however, only Clooney’s and Beatty’s noms all came in Oscar’s marquee top eight races (Picture, Writing, Acting, Directing). For the record, in addition to their writing, producing, directing and/or acting nods, Kubrick won in Special Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Branagh was nominated for a Live Action Short, Swan Song (1992); and the Coens have shared Film Editing nominations twice under their pseudonym Roderick Jaynes.

With Best Picture frontrunner Argo, the versatile Clooney has now passed them all in this particular — and particularly impressive — Oscar statistic. Although some could say acting, directing, writing and picture are just four categories, I would argue they are very specific disciplines which is why the Academy separates out lead and supporting acting as well as Adapted and Original Screenplays. I would also point out Beatty’s feat of earning Picture, Actor, Directing and Screenplay nominations in the same year — not once but twice (Heaven Can Wait, Reds) — is a Herculean feat in itself. He won the Directing Oscar for Reds as well as the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award and has 14 nominations in all, but none of them were in the Supporting Actor category and that’s where Clooney topped him. In fact, Beatty has yet to play a supporting role in any film.

So in terms of sheer numbers of categories nominated, is George Clooney now the King of the Oscars? Read More »

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Big BAFTA Best Film Win Sends ‘Argo’ Into Oscars With Huge Momentum

Pete Hammond

Actual betting on the Oscars is outlawed in the U.S.. But it is permissible in England – and afterBAFTA today’s British Academy Awards show which just wrapped in London, people would be wise to put some pounds on Argo‘s Best Picture Oscar chances. In what is becoming a familiar sight every weekend, Ben Affleck once again was in the winner’s circle at BAFTA, and along with Best Film he also took Best Director, a prize for which he is famously not nominated at the Oscars even though his movie has 7 nominations – just as it did at BAFTA. So add another strong precursor award to the Argo stockpile that now includes PGA, DGA, SAG, Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards. Last night, it also added an honor for Chris Terrio’s adaptation at the USC Scripter Awards. (Terrio wasn’t there to accept; instead he was in London for the BAFTAs where he lost to David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook – the only award that film picked up.)

Related: BAFTA Winners: ‘Argo’, Ben Affleck, Daniel Day-Lewis, Emmanuelle Riva

So how reliable is BAFTA as an Oscar predictor? Pretty good in recent years, although spotty sometimes in acting categories. But the two organizations  have several hundred of the same members, and last year BAFTA and Oscar matched … Read More »

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PGA Win: Is ‘Argo’ Now Oscar Frontrunner?

Pete Hammond

It’s starting to get serious. This wild ride of an awards season may not be predictable, according to conventional wisdom. But in the end the winner of the Producer Guild’s Best Picture award Saturday night was completely predictable in my opinion. After all, Warner Bros’ Argo features a key role for a Hollywood movie producer who rises to the occasion and helps make a difference in the world, winning the hearts and minds of a group of producers. Imagine that. This is the first guild to weigh in so we have a tentative frontrunner in Argo now for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture. Had producer/director/star Ben Affleck not been snubbed for a Best Director Oscar, the word “tentative” wouldn’t even be used. When I talked to Affleck  in the Beverly Hilton ballroom moments after his picture won, he still seemed to be reeling from the roller coaster ride he’s been on, but clearly happy. (Co-producer Grant Heslov suggested they should call their fellow producer George Clooney in Berlin and tell him the good news.) “When I didn’t get the Best Director nomination after everybody told me I would, I was depressed. But then that same day I won at Critics Choice which was really torturous because everyone kept asking me all night how I felt,” Affleck told me. “Then we win at the Globes.” Argo was also named the year’s Best Picture at the Critics … Read More »

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Matt Damon In Talks To Join Monumental Cast Of George Clooney’s Next Film

By | Tuesday December 4, 2012 @ 1:30pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Matt Damon is negotiating to join The Monuments Men, the period drama that George Clooney will direct in January in Europe as a co-production between Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox. Damon joins what continues to be shaping up as an amazing cast. Besides Damon and Clooney, the film will star Skyfall‘s Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, Argo‘s John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban. Clooney and Damon did the Ocean’s Eleven movies together and Syriana.

The drama, which was scripted by Clooney and partner Grant Heslov, confronts the final chapter of Germany’s rule, which came down to the absolute destruction of everything that makes a culture keep its standing, including the lives that are lost and the sacrifices that are made. All of this is in danger of being lost forever as Hitler and the Nazis try to cover the tracks of a murderous regime. A crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renown works of art that were stolen by Nazis before they are destroyed. Read More »

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