Would you pay €1.5 million ($1.94 million) to spend a weekend at Oscar parties? Or €1.8 million to fly to the moon on Virgin Galactic with Leonardo DiCaprio? Someone did — and more. That happened at amFAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS Cannes Film Festival gala’s very special 20th anniversary Thursday night. Co-hosts Weinstein and Kenneth Cole announced to a roomful of very high rollers that the event, held of the Hotel Du Cap, raised €25 million ($32.3 million), smashing last year’s record total of over €10 million. The ultra-high style party is a two decades long staple of the Cannes festival, and Weinstein told me if it just made a dollar more than the previous year they’d be happy. But these multimillionaires and billionaires obviously came to play this year and really stepped up at the auction that featured numerous stars including jury members Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz, along with Jessica Chastain, Jeremy Renner, Rosario Dawson, Heidi Klum, Goldie Hawn, Janet Jackson, Adrien Brody and major fundraiser/auctioneer Sharon Stone.
Hammond On Cannes: Elizabeth Taylor’s Memory Lives On At Festival As ‘Cleopatra’ Premieres And AIDS Event Hits 20th Anniversary
There are lots of stars in Cannes this year but I don’t think any of them are shining brighter at the festival than one who is no longer with us. Elizabeth Taylor may have died over two years ago at the age of 79 but she lives on, not only on the big and small screens where her many films still play, but also for all the amazing charitable work she did in her lifetime, particularly her fight against AIDS. Tomorrow night amFAR will certainly be remembering her at the 20th anniversary of Cinema Against AIDS, the signature event set during the Cannes Festival she helped start. And Tuesday night 20th Century Fox World Premiered its meticulous 2K digital restoration (it took nine months to complete) of the 1963 film, Cleopatra, infamous for the torrid off-screen love affair between its stars Taylor and Richard Burton.
On the occasion of its 50th anniversary the studio pulled out all the stops with a black tie premiere of the four-hour movie (that ironically almost bankrupted the studio), followed by a lavish party sponsored by Bulgari, the jeweler who supplied Taylor with so many of the baubles she was famous for collecting. In fact, as you entered the party on the J.W. Marriott rooftop it was hard to avoid them displayed in special glass cabinets. Included was the platinum and emerald necklace her co-star Burton gave her for their engagement in 1962. Host (and Bulgari spokesperson) Jessica Chastain actually wore it to introduce the film before taking it off and giving it back to Bulgari. She is the only person to have worn it other than Liz on her wedding day (or one of her wedding days). Also Fox brought in several original Cleopatra costumes. Fox Chairman Jim Gianopulos was there to help intro the film and told me later that the financial toll the film took on the studio has been overblown. “It turned a profit after three years,” he says although the movie’s cost was astronomical and ran off the rails. I asked Fox President of Post-Production Ted Gagliano about the story that director Joseph Mankiewicz actually had a six-hour cut and that two never-before seen hours of the film are somewhere in the Fox vaults. He says he has heard this as well but thinks it’s another in the long line of Cleopatra myths since they searched high and low and found nothing. One of the guests at the premiere, director and film nerd Alexander Payne told me after seeing the film again he wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn there was an even longer cut. “But who really needs to see a six-hour version?” he asked. Both Payne and his guest Laura Dern (whose father Bruce Dern stars in Payne’s Cannes entry, Nebraska, which premieres here Thursday) said they loved seeing the film in all its restored glory.
An esteemed party, led by Costa Gavras, Michel Hazanavicius and The Weinstein Company co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, crashed a parlay at the Palais on “Strengthening The Cultural Exception In Tomorrow’s Europe”, where MPAA head Chris Dodd was among the policy-maker panelists today. Weinstein spoke on an issue that currently has European filmmakers fighting to preserve the autonomy of their individual film industries. The U.S. and the European Union will enter trade talks later this year which could result in the removal of trade barriers between the world’s two biggest economies. But included in the draft negotiation mandate for the talks are the audiovisual and film industries. Filmmakers want the arts excluded. Hazanavicius said, “Our fear is if they kill our regulatory system, it will crush us.”
Weinstein recalled that when preserving the cultural imperative wasn’t as important in Italy, filmmakers there began turning out clones of American movies, which they felt they needed to do to compete. “We never bought any of those films,” Weinstein said. Costa Gavras and Hazanavicius also showed their support and then the whole crashing party was gone.
Earlier, as they made their way to the Palais, the filmmakers explained the stakes to Deadline. Costa Gavras said, “The big risk is having the same movies in all of these places. That is our concern.” Culture and the production of culture shouldn’t be treated “like any industry, like cars. This is different.” Each state should “have the possibility to decide how to deal with its cinema and its art.”
Filmmakers believe the European Commission’s inclusion of the audiovisual and film industries in the proposed trade talks flies in the face of the Cultural Exception. That concept has its roots in 1993 when Hollywood tried to make the arts a part of the GATT negotiations. Europe, led by France, balked at what they saw as a threat to their subsidy systems, putting them in danger of total Hollywood hegemony. Europe prevailed. But tensions are running high once again. The past month has seen a petition circulated entitled “The Cultural Exception Is Non-Negotiable!” which now has 5,000 signatories including Costa Gavras and Hazanavicius, and a lot of non-European directors, too (Walter Salles, Jane Campion, David Lynch…).
The sun finally came back to a windy and rainy Cannes but the weather clearly couldn’t slow the nonstop parties, premieres, deals and hype for which this festival is famous. And despite the rain on Saturday the turnout for Lionsgate’s big Catching Fire bash was wall-to-wall at Baoli Beach, with everyone including star Jennifer Lawrence crowded into the large tent. One exec there actually was happy with the monsoon-like conditions. “The rain probably kept 30% of our RSVPs away which is probably good because i don’t know how we could have squeezed them in,” he said.
With everyone drying out Sunday there seemed to be even more party-hopping than usual. At the crowded Participant Films party at the Carlton, Focus Features CEO James Schamus was accepting congratulations on his re-upping at the company. I have rarely heard him wax more eloquently about a film than Focus’ recent pickup of The Dallas Buyers Club, the movie where Matthew McConaughey lost about 50 pounds to play an early AIDS victim. It’s not dated yet according to Schamus but is planned for fall sometime. “It’s just a bloodbath trying to pick the right date in that period but this movie is extraordinary. I just so admire what Matthew has been doing with his career in the last couple of years between Magic Mike, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Mud and now this. You know me, I don’t rave like this a lot, but he really knocks this one out of the park. It is the performance of a lifetime,” he says of the actor in a film that is sure to be a main focus of Focus’ awards-season plans.
Following a relatively new tradition they started a few years ago, The Weinstein Company on Friday night brought together a group of buyers, partners and press to preview its 2013 slate and meet filmmakers and stars. Although Harvey Weinstein never once mentioned the word “Oscar”, you can tell that’s definitely what he is thinking with a diverse mix of prestige projects that should give the awards-happy company lots of campaign fodder for 2013. He said after a rocky start the company has had a very good last four years and for 2012 made more than they ever did at Miramax. He also made a plea to the international audience gathered for the presentation at the Majestic Hotel for the continued independence of European filmmaking, especially in light of problems with the European Cultural Initiative. “We can’t let Europe be the same like the United States. What’s great about European movies is they are different and as long as they reflect their culture there will always be special movies like Amour, which we didn’t release last year, and so many movies like that. So keep your eye on the newspaper when this stuff comes up for votes or things we can do to influence it, I think it’s very important,” he said.
After the 40-minute reel led by the August 16th release The Butler and ending with the long-gestating Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Weinstein told me, “It’s a very eclectic, hard-hitting lineup that I am really proud of. What am I going to say? I feel very confident about this year”. Though he may not have been directly making an Oscar-season pitch (thankfully that’s still many months off even for Harvey — well, maybe not), he did make an overt plea for his official competition entries Only God Forgives and The Immigrant when introducing Cannes jury member Nicole Kidman, star of the December 27th release Grace Of Monaco. “We have a member of the jury with us tonight and she has to go for a jury meeting to hopefully decide which movie of mine wins the Palme d’Or. I have certainly given Steven (jury president Spielberg) enough money over the years,” he said to big laughs.
UPDATE: 3:24 PM: Just over two weeks after breaking bread at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Barack Obama and Harvey Weinstein were back together today. This time it was at the producer and his wife Georgina Chapman’s Manhattan home for a fundraiser. Unlike the big bucks, Weinstein raised directly for Obama during last year’s election, Monday afternoon’s event (read the edited Pool report below) was for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee 2014 midterm war chests. The President began his remarks thanking “Harvey and Georgina” for “their friendship and support, and for the amazing movies that they’ve made.” Throwing red meat to his Blue State crowd, Obama in his remarks also blamed the GOP for being too “concerned what Rush Limbaugh might say about them” to break the gridlock in Washington. The President will also be attending two other midterm fundraisers Monday while in NYC before returning to the White House tonight.
TOLDJA! Weinstein Company Confirms Worldwide Rights Deal For Shane Salerno Docu ‘Salinger;’ Sets September 6 Release
BREAKING: The Weinstein Company finally confirmed what Deadline told you exclusively on February 27: that the studio acquired theatrical rights to Salinger, the Shane Salerno-directed feature documentary on JD Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher In The Rye. TWC has set a September 6 theatrical release for the film. As Deadline reported, the deal is seven figures, around $2 million, and covers world rights except for the previous deal that licensed U.S. television rights to PBS’ American Masters. This was one of the most unusual deals in awhile, and came after Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser and the acquisition team were shown the film on the morning of the Academy Awards.
TWC was the only distributor that saw the finished film, and closed the deal right after. Salerno and his lawyer Robert Offer made three big deals for the movie, showing it only to parties that made deals, which allowed the filmmaker to avoid any leakage of revelations in the film that might have resulted with a screening for multiple buyers. It was first shown to American Masters, which quickly closed a 7-figure licensing deal to make it the 200th installment of that prestigious series early next year. It was then shown to Jon Karp and his editors from Simon & Schuster, and right after they saw it, they closed a 7-figure publishing deal for a biography that Salerno wrote with David Shields. So the movie has played three times, and resulted in deals north of $5 million, making it one of the richest pacts ever for a feature documentary. It took Salerno eight years and $2 million of his own money to make the movie and the book happen. Here is the official release from TWC:
EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company has acquired theatrical rights to Salinger, the Shane Salerno-directed feature documentary on the reclusive author of The Catcher In The Rye. The deal is seven figures, around $2 million, and covers world rights except for the previous deal that licensed U.S. television rights to PBS’ American Masters. The plan is to release later this year for Oscar season, and the deal came after Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser and the acquisition team were shown the film Sunday morning, the day of the Academy Awards. TWC was the only distributor that saw the finished film, and closed the deal right after. While everyone was partying over the Oscar weekend, TWC acquired Grace of Monaco with Nicole Kidman and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom with Idris Elba. All three of these films will be in the Oscar season discussion, as will Fruitvale, the film that came out of Sundance with strong buzz, and which TWC also acquired. After two years of winning Best Picture, Harvey Weinstein watched Argo best his two candidates, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. Looks like he really, really wants to be in the winner’s circle again.
That validates an unusual sales strategy that Salerno employed on the film with his lawyer Robert Offer. It was first shown to American Masters, which quickly closed a 7-figure licensing deal. The plan is to make it the 200th installment of that prestigious series, early next year. It was then shown to Jon Karp and his editors from Simon & Schuster, and right after they saw it, they closed a 7-figure publishing deal for a biography that Salerno wrote with David Shields.
Now, the documentary distribution rights are being sold to the only distributor that saw the film. I’m told that the entire deal for theatrical, publishing and U.S. TV rights will be north of $5 million, one of the richest pacts ever for a feature documentary.
For Salerno, this completes an eight year odyssey, and he has been made whole after investing $2 million of his own money into the documentary and the book. It also closes the circle for me; shortly after I arrived from Variety to Deadline Hollywood, Salinger passed away. This was not long after I’d seen an early cut of Salerno’s film. I thought it was absolutely fascinating. I haven’t seen it since, and the discretion shown in the dealmaking process indicates there are secrets that were held back. But here is what I said about it back then:
UPDATED: The Golden Globes got Bill Clinton but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got First Lady Michelle Obama tonight at the Oscars – in part thanks to Harvey Weinstein. Before the ceremony, the White House was very “hush-hush” about the surprise appearance, according to pool reports Sunday. At tonight’s Oscars, Obama appeared via satellite to help Jack Nicholson introduce the Best Picture category and announce Argo as the winner. Afterward, the Obama staff put out a statement on how it came together: “The Academy Awards approached the First Lady about being a part of the ceremony. As a movie lover, she was honored to present the award and celebrate the artists who inspire us all — especially our young people — with their passion, skill and imagination.”
The idea of getting the First Lady on the show first came from Lily Weinstein, who mentioned it to her big Obama contributor dad Harvey, who suggested it to the Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Academy president Hawk Koch. The group flew to DC a week and a half ago to put the logistics together with the White House. The Oscar producers told Deadline’s Pete Hammond earlier this week that they “were being like the CIA” about a couple of surprises on the show, keeping things top secret. In towns like Hollywood and DC where people love to talk, they pulled it off. There was no indication on the show’s rundown and most of the people on the Oscars had no idea who the secret guest would be. “I knew we could do it and we did it,” Koch told Deadline tonight about keeping Obama’s name under wraps.
The First Lady was actually handed the envelope with the winner’s name in it by the head of PricewaterhouseCoopers at the White House, where she and President Obama hosted a dinner for the nation’s Governors tonight. Nicholson had a back-up envelope just in case. Check out the First Lady’s Oscar segment here:
Related: Nikki Finke’s Oscar Live Snark
OSCARS: As Final Deadline Approaches Academy Urges Members To Vote; Studios Launch Last-Minute Ad Blitz
Okay Academy members, this is your last chance to vote.
And by all indications from my own admittedly unscientific survey over the weekend there are many who are choosing to wait, despite the Academy’s emails encouraging them to vote early in this final round. Part of the reason seems to be a desire to catch up on the Documentary Feature, Live Action and Animation Shorts which have been sent to the entire Academy membership for the first time, instead of requiring voters to attend special screenings. One voter told me he received his late and was trying to watch them all before submitting his ballot.
With today being a holiday, those voters who opted for paper ballots and still haven’t mailed them are out of luck if they hope to do that and still have it reach the downtown Los Angeles offices of the Academy’s accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or the Academy lobby at its Beverly Hills headquarters in time before Tuesday’s 5 PM deadline. If you are a paper voter, not electronic, the best you can do at this point is have the ballot delivered in person to one of those locations before 5 PM tomorrow. And every year there are usually many that do just that. It has even numbered up into the hundreds in past years. But with the new, sometimes awkward, transition to online voting this year, that number will probably be significantly decreased.
Berlin: So Much For Bad Blood Between Harvey And Megan Ellison; TWC Acquires Wong Kar Wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’
BREAKING: I’ve read about the supposed bad blood between Harvey Weinstein and Annapurna Pictures principal Megan Ellison over the subpar box office grosses of The Master. But any idea they’re not doing business together seems to be a bit crunched by a new deal they’ve just made. The Weinstein Company has acquired all rights in the U.S. and English-speaking Canadian territories from Annapurna on Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster, which premieres tonight as the opening film at the Berlin Film Festival. TWC also landed rights to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK from Wild Bunch.
The Grandmaster, written by Wong, Zou Jingzhi, and Xu Haofeng, was executive produced by Ellison (she has money in the movie), and produced by Jacky Pang and Wong. The film opened to critical praise last month in China and has just reached over $50 million at the box office there, making it the director’s highest-grossing film in his career.
I’m sure there is uneasiness between Ellison and Weinstein. In an interview I did with him at Sundance, Weinstein acknowledged their mutual disappointment over The Master and how it didn’t break out, with Ellison not coming near recouping the $35 million or so that she spent to make the film. In hindsight, Weinstein felt he could have helped by selling the more relate-able theme of the homebound warrior who’s lost and looking for something to believe in, rather than the origins of Scientology theme that stuck with the film and didn’t get a strong response.
It is an epic martial arts drama set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1930s China and inspired by the life and times of the legendary IP Man (Tony Leung), mentor to Bruce Lee. The story focuses on two kung fu masters, IP Man, and Gong Er, and as their worlds collide on the night of the Japanese invasion in 1936. The plot encompasses themes of war, family, revenge, desire, love, and memory. The all-star cast headed by Tony Leung Chiu Wa also includes Ziyi Zhang, Chang Chen, Xiao Shengyang and Song Hye Kyo as well as hundreds of Asia’s top martial artists.
The NFL Network scheduled an interview last Friday with Silver Linings Playbook stars Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker, as The Weinstein Company pic centers on a Philadelphia Eagles-loving family with football as a central theme. But the league-owned network pulled the segment at the last minute, saying …
Now that the election is behind us, we’re posting a handful of Obama endorsements from the Hollywood set. Enjoy.
Harvey Weinstein and Bradley Cooper’s Hindsight:
A scene in an upcoming TV movie that depicted Mitt Romney appearing to oppose the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was cut from the film, according to a report in the New York Times. “We wouldn’t air this if it …