Not to be outdone by aggressive campaigning from its rivals, Focus Features this week moved boldly ahead with an Oscar campaign plan on two fronts for Friday’s release of Anna Karenina, which had its L.A. premiere last night, and its late-breaking December 28th entry, Promised Land, which is launching its awards bid with some private screenings for some very big heavy hitters.
Regarding the latter film, what do you do when you are the very last major movie of the year? Director Gus Van Sant only delivered the final cut of the film in the past two weeks, and knowing they are under the gun in getting this one seen in time for the earlier Academy voting (now taking place ten days earlier than usual with ballots in the mail December 17 and due back January 3rd), Focus is trying to get the word out within the industry. So before even showing it to most of the press they began an early “influencer” campaign that has featured private screenings and receptions at the plush theatre inside L.A.’s Soho House. Tuesday night Cameron Crowe held one with guests including Meryl Streep, Sam Mendes, Colin Firth, Kate Hudson, Ben Affleck (coming over after getting his GQ man of the year award) and other academy voters who were able to mingle with star and co-writer (with John Krasinski) Matt Damon. Earlier in November Aaron Sorkin hosted a similar screening that drew Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston and SAG President Ken Howard among others.
UPDATE: I’m told the film has a new title: Promised Land.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Focus Features and Participant Media won a bidding battle for the untitled film that Gus Van Sant will direct with Matt Damon and John Krasinski starring, from the script those actors co-wrote. Focus and Participant are tying down the details. You’ll recall that Damon planned to make his directing debut on the film, but when his schedule made that impossible, he and producer Chris Moore brought it to their Good Will Hunting director Van Sant, who signed on. The film, which got a first draft from Dave Eggers when its title was Gold Mist, is a Capraesque tale in which Damon and Krasinski play rival corporate executives. Damon plays a sales executive who arrives in a small town only to have his whole life called into question. Moore, Damon and Krasinski will produce and production begins in April.
Starring Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper (Dennis Hopper’s son), this Sony Pictures Classics coming-of-age film from Imagine Entertainment opened September 16 in Los Angeles and New York City and adds more cities October 14 and subsequent weekends. The overlayed date atop the beginning of the “Annabel’s drawings” clip refers …
In a strategy to build interest in the new Kelsey Grammer series Boss, Starz beginning today is making the premiere episode available for sampling to 76 million households across multiple platforms in the runup to the October 21 debut. Grammer plays Tom Kane, hardened Machiavellian mayor of Chicago who finds himself struggling with a potentially debilitating medical problem he desperately wants to keep secret. Connie Nielsen plays his wife and Martin Donovan plays his political advisor. Viewers can watch the full debut episode directed by Gus Van Sant on www.starz.com/boss and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/boss.starz and on-demand or online via multiple cable or telco and satellite outlets.
The 2011 Toronto Film Festival has selected David Hare’s spy drama Page Eight, starring Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, as its closing-night film and added a slew of Gala premieres and Special Presentations that boost the star wattage with the likes of Robert De Niro, Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, James Gandolfini and Gerard Butler. The additions to the previously announced film slate includes a Future Projects lineup that features James Franco and Gus Van Sant reminiscing about My Own Private Idaho, a documentary about Exit through the Gift Shop‘s Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta), and Peter Lynch’s Buffalo Days; and a Wavelengths program of international experimental films. Here is the release about the additional Galas and Special Presentations:
Toronto – The Toronto International Film Festival® announces the addition of 8 Galas and 17 Special Presentations to the high-calibre selection of crowd-pleasers premiering in September. Today’s announcement includes 14 World Premieres and reveals that Festival-goers will be treated to a programming lineup featuring world premieres from directors including Nick Murphy, Gary McKendry, Joel Schumacher, Gianni Amelio, Agnieszka Holland, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Pankaj Kapur, Anne Fontaine, Mathieu Kassovitz and Geoffrey Fletcher. The films unveiled today feature onscreen appearances by Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve, Shahid Kapur, Isabelle Huppert, Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel and James Gandolfini, among others.
This announcement brings the final number of Galas to 20, and the final number of Special Presentations to 67.
Closing Night Film
David Hare, United Kingdom International Premiere
Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving M15 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file, threatening the stability of the organization. Meanwhile, a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny’s striking next-door neighbour and political activist Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz) seems too good to be true. Set in London and Cambridge, Page Eight is a contemporary spy film which addresses intelligence issues and moral dilemmas peculiar to the new century. Also stars Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis.
UPDATE EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have reached a milestone unusual in Hollywood: partners for 25 years. When they first got together, Grazer was a TV producer. Howard, after growing up on the small screen in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, had only directed a couple of TV movies and the low budget Roger Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto. Grazer and Howard have been at it together ever since, building a company that over 25 years has been one of the most consistent generators of content. Their TV series output includes 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights; their movies have grossed $13.5 billion worldwide. That includes A Beautiful Mind, which won Howard the Academy Award for Best Director. Grazer and Howard shared Best Picture Oscars that night as well. Not everything they’ve done has succeeded, of course. They they took their company public and repurchased the shares; they helped launched and fold the online venture Pop.com; their most recent film together, the adult comedy The Dilemma, was a misfire that created controversy over the inclusion of the word “gay” in a trailer. They’ve had way more hits than misses.
In honor of Imagine’s Silver Anniversary, Deadline invited Howard and Grazer to look back over their quarter century together, and into a future that includes something never tried before by anyone in Hollywood. They’re adapting Stephen King’s 7-novel series The Dark Tower into a film trilogy, and a limited run TV series in between. It has pushed the envelope enough that their longtime home studio, Universal Pictures, postponed a planned late summer start until next year and asked the filmmakers to cut the budget. Some question the studio’s resolve on such a massive undertaking. The studio has to green light the film by next month or the rights revert to Imagine, Akiva Goldsman and King, who are determined to make it regardless.
DEADLINE: Not many marriages of any kind last 25 years in Hollywood. What is most important about the anniversary?
HOWARD: It’s such a challenging time to get movies made. And yet, look at all we have coming out. Tower Heist, the Gus Van Sant movie Restless, J Edgar with Clint Eastwood and Leo DiCaprio, Cowboys & Aliens, this big broad appeal four quadrant fantasy adventure story with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. With The Playboy Club getting on the air, and Parenthood getting picked up, I’m proud we’re doing what we’ve always done. A wide variety of projects that got made because we care and put in the energy to get them done in light of how difficult it is these days.
DEADLINE: Simple as that?
HOWARD: Because I’m in New York, we’re not forced to stare at each other’s faces 24/7. But I think that’s not really it. We love what we’re doing, we have fun doing it and our sensibilities are in sync. In a business that can create so many feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, I learned to trust in that. Brian is smart and cares about me doing well and feeling good about what I’m doing. It’s a partnership built on support. It has been that way since the beginning.
GRAZER: It works because we have similar tastes and not only gravitate toward the same material but also what lives inside the core of the movie it becomes. We’ve done, and Ron has directed, all kinds of genres. We have a common interest in the humanity aspect of a movie, regardless if it’s a comedy or a drama. We also share a similar work ethic.
DEADLINE: When you cover all genres, does Imagine have a wheelhouse? For a company looking to last, is it advisable to have one?
HOWARD: The process is what gets Brian and me excited, whatever the genre. Not specializing has given our company a sense of flexibility and adaptability to whatever the market or the zeitgeist is suggesting. We’ve always respected each other as creative people. If Brian loves something and I don’t quite get it, I’ll tell him that but I’ll never try to impede the progress. He’s the same with me. With Apollo 13, I wasn’t sure the genre would work, because space films hadn’t done that well. Brian was instantly so excited about it, and made me realize we were onto something. 8 Mile, I don’t know anything about rap. This was something he understood. I didn’t know how to make that movie, but I recognized a great idea. Whenever the two of us get excited, on films like Splash, Night Shift and Parenthood, those have resulted in the building blocks of the company. I’ve always liked TV but I phased it out for awhile and it was Brian’s perseverance that has made us strong in both TV and films. Independent companies are rarely strong in both.
GRAZER: What we’ve do is agree on the moral center of a project, but nobody’s better at finding the language of a particular movie than Ron. He’s got a grasp of understanding new vocabularies, whether it’s the The Da Vinci Code, fantasy like Cocoon or Splash, or Backdraft and The Grinch. He is great at inhabiting a world and completely understanding and expressing its language. In A Beautiful Mind, he entered that world and understood the medical science of mental illness. So there have been times where he led the charge, and I was drawn in by his excitement.
DEADLINE: What was the last hard conversation or professional disagreement you can remember?
HOWARD: I can’t think of one offhand, but even when we have disagreements, I can’t think of a case where one of us ever said, ‘Oh, please don’t do this.’ If there’s a lot of passion from one or the other, then the support of the company is going to be there.
After a fun opening night living vicariously through Woody Allen’s Paris, the Cannes official competition and sales market really got down to business Thursday. And how’s this for a good time? The fest started the competitive entries with a double bill of downer flicks directed by two very smart women. Unfortunately, only one of them worked.
First up was the dreadful Sleeping Beauty, an Australian drama revolving around a girl, played by Emily Browning, who subjects herself to such degrading inhuman sexual acts we can’t even go into it here. As she is induced into a coma-like state a number of eighty-something men have their way with her. Fun, huh? The really stunning thing is that rare Palme D’Or winning woman, Jane Campion (The Piano), is lending her name to this dreary exercise from first-timer Julia Leigh.
It could only go up from there and it did — waaaaay up — at the 8:30 AM Thursday morning press screening for Lynne Ramsey’s extraordinary We Need To Talk About Kevin, starring the ever-remarkable Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly as parents dealing with tragic circumstances caused by their out-of-control son. It is a most impressive acting and directorial feat that gives the festival its first genuine awards contender, and if it can secure domestic distribution (may distribs such as Sony Pictures Classics and Lionsgate were seen entering the early AM screening), the Oscar-winning Swinton could once again find herself in the Academy race next year and definitely for a prize here on May 22.
Deadline told you about the Kelsey Grammer Starz series Boss last fall, and now the network has confirmed everything, with Gus Van Sant set to make his TV directing debut. Not included in the release is that Troy Garity will join the series for a key story arc as …
NEW YORK (March 31, 2011) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they will release Gus Van Sant’s new film, RESTLESS, in North America, with Sony Pictures Releasing International distributing the film in the rest of the world. Jason Lew penned the film’s script that stars Henry Hopper, Mia
EXCLUSIVE: Former Nip/Tuck executive producers Richard Levine and Lyn Greene have joined Starz’s upcoming series Boss as executive producers/co-showrunners. Boss, which received an 8-episode straight-to-series order in November, is a political drama starring Kelsey Grammer as the Mayor of Chicago who is diagnosed with a degenerative mental condition that …
After a heated bidding war, Boss, a political drama project starring Kelsey Grammer and written by Apocalypto co-writer Farhad Safinia, has landed at Starz with an 8-episode straight-to-series order. In his first foray into television, Milk director Gus Van Sant is set to direct the pilot and executive produce the series, which will be produced by Lionsgate Television. This also marks the cable debut of one of broadcast TV’s most recognizable stars, Grammer, as well as his first foray into drama series. It is also his first project since recently signing with WME. Boss will star Grammer as the Mayor of Chicago who is diagnosed with a degenerative mental condition that only he and his doctor know about. It is described as a King Lear-inspired tale of power set in Chicago’s political machine. Grammer will executive produce along with his new Grammnet Prods. partner Brian Sher as well as Van Sant and Stella Stolper.
Safinia and Grammer were introduced a year ago by Stolper and Sher. The two bonded over their love of William Shakespeare and specifically, King Lear. Grammer has strong theater ties. He started off on stage and made his Broadway debut in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. (He also starred in the Broadway revival of Othello.) Grammer and Safinia decided to partner on developing a contemporary series project that draws on the classic play while Grammer was working on Broadway in La Cage Aux Folles, a musical that earned him a Tony nomination. Safinia wrote the script on spec, with input from Grammer and his company. WME, which repped all parties involved, then passed the script to Van Sant. Boss was taken out in the marketplace two weeks ago, garnering strong interest from several cable networks. Starz won the bidding with its aggressive offer for an 8-episode series order. Boss falls under the pay cable network’s business model of ordering projects straight-to-series. It is the second such order for Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht after the 10-episode pickup of Camelot earlier this year.