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 …
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.
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.
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.”
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 …
EXCLUSIVE: 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?
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.
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.
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:
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:
Even 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.
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?
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.
George Clooney Sets Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin For WWII Drama ‘Monuments Men’
EXCLUSIVE: What a killer cast George Clooney has put together for The Monuments Men, the period drama he will direct in a co-production between Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox. Clooney will star with Skyfall‘s Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, Argo‘s John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban.
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 Hitler destroys them.
Fox has boarded Monuments Men, the Sony film that will star George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in a drama about an attempt to protect artwork stolen by the Nazis in WWII. Fox will distribute overseas while Sony will release stateside.
UPDATE: President Obama Thanks Katzenbergs For “Tireless” Support; Weinstein, MacFarlane & Clooney Also At Donor Dinner After LA Concert
2ND UPDATE, 9:37 PM: President Obama tonight thanked Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg for “being tireless and stalwart and have never wavered through good times and bad since my first presidential race, back when a lot of people still couldn’t pronounce my name.” Obama’s remarks about the DreamWorks Animation CEO and his wife came during the $25,000-a-ticket dinner for 150 donors at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown LA. Harvey Weinstein, newly named Oscar host Seth MacFarlane and George Clooney, who gave some shout-outs from the audience, were also there, according to the White House pool report. Clooney also spoke today at the 30 Days Until Victory concert at the Nokia Theatre at LA Live. Read the edited and condensed pool report from the dinner plus excerpts of the president’s remarks from the White House Press Office here:
W.H. Pool Report - Shortly after 8pm pool went through the lobby to an elevator at the adjoining Ritz Carlton and to the 24th floor, arriving at the aptly named WP24. Attendees seated at about a dozen round tables, 10 people per table, were finishing plates of dim sum as pool arrived in the dimly-lit room, with views outside blocked by dark curtains. Bold faced names spotted by poolers: George Clooney, newly-minted Oscars host Seth, and Harvey Weinstein — all at the same table closest to where POTUS spoke. POTUS entered the room at 8:25pm, along with Mayor Julian Castro, who made a brief introduction.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Everybody, please have a seat. First of all, you just heard from the future of the Democratic Party — the great Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro. (Applause.) We’re so proud of him.
There are so many people I could thank tonight, so I’m just going to focus on three individuals. First of all, my unbelievable Southern California co-chairs — John Emerson and Ken Solomon. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) They have been tireless in their efforts. They have been unbelievable.
The other person that I want to acknowledge in particular — because I said this to them privately, I’ve got to say it publicly — Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg have been — (applause) — they have been tireless and stalwart and have never wavered through good times and bad since my first presidential race, back when a lot of people still couldn’t pronounce my name. (Laughter.) And I will always be grateful to them for just the incredible support that they’ve given. So thank you very much. (Applause.) Thanks, both of you.
Some of you are aware that — well, all of you are aware that Michelle and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. (Applause.) And the actual anniversary date was not that romantic. (Laughter.) There was some speculation as to whether this had an impact on my performance. (Laughter.) But I did make it up to her on Saturday. We went out to dinner, a date night. And it was a wonderful evening. It was a private room, because people kind of lean over and start listening if we’re in the booth next to them. (Laughter.) And Secret Service gets nervous. (Laughter.)
And we had this wonderful young waiter, and he brought us all our stuff, and he was patient with us as we were dawdling over the menu. And we were milking it for all it was worth because we don’t get out that often. But at the end of the dinner — it was very professional, very unobtrusive — but at the end of the dinner he just said, I wanted to just say how much I appreciate you because you saved my mother’s life — because my mother had a stroke, she wasn’t yet qualifying for Medicare, and because of the Affordable Care Act, we were able to get her coverage that allows her to take her medicines and is keeping her alive. And it reminded me of why we do this. I am a fairly competitive guy. Clooney has played basketball with me. (Laughter.) And I don’t like to lose — especially not to actors. (Laughter.)
MR. CLOONEY: We were on the same team. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: We were on the same team. I put him on the team — and we did win.
MR. CLOONEY: That’s right, we did.
THE PRESIDENT: And so sometimes during the course of campaigns, we get caught up in the sport of politics, and the ups and the downs, and doing the this and the that, and how much money did we raise and how many doors have we knocked on. And all that’s important, but it is in service of that waiter, Anthony’s mom….
W.H. Pool Report – After the remarks concluded pool immediately ushered out and to the vans. Motorcade was rolling out of downtown at 8:45pm.