EXCLUSIVE: This high profile indie written and directed by Harmony Korine now sounds even more like the ultimate dream project targeted to tween/teen gals and guys. Already cast are Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens and now Deadline has learned Pretty Little Liars co-star Ashley Benson just booked a role. But two weeks ago Emma Roberts fell out of the movie. So with a February 12 starting date in Florida, Spring Breakers is still looking for its fourth girl. Starring James Franco, the logline describes the pic as four gorgeous college-age girls rob a fast food restaurant in order to afford a spring break trip to Florida. When they’re arrested, they meet up with a drug and arms dealer (Franco) who entices them to kill his arch rival.
The Berlin Film Festival has completed the roster for its Panorama program, adding 11 features including Stephen Elliot’s Cherry with James Franco, Lili Taylor and Heather Graham. In total, there are 53 features in the sidebar. Of the 53, 34 productions from 37 countries are screening as world premieres. The festival has also announced that on February 17, director Ulrike Ottinger and Andy Warhol fixture Mario Montez will receive Special Teddy awards as part of the Queer Film Award ceremony. New additions to the Panorama section follow:
Bugis Street Redux
By Yonfan, Hong Kong
With Hiep Thi Le, Michael Lam, Greg-O, Ernest Seah
By Stephen Elliott, USA
With Ashley Hinshaw, James Franco, Heather Graham, Dev Patel, Lili Taylor
By Jhonny Hendrix Hinestroza, Columbia
With Karent Hinestroza, Esteban Copete, Fabio García, Daniela Mosquera, Jesús Benavides
By JAMES FRANCO
The new Planet of the Apes film, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, belongs to Andy Serkis. Narratively it was always his film: I play an emotionally stilted scientist who in the process of mistakenly unleashing a lethal virus on the human race, learns to care for others; Serkis gets to play Caesar, essentially Che Guevara in chimp form. There is no question that his character arc is much more dynamic and fascinating, it is the story line that takes the franchise’s central theme of culture/racial/species clash and turns it on it’s head by making the maligned apes the unequivocal heroes. We get to watch the fall of mankind and enjoy it because we root for the underdogs, the apes.
But this narrative structure is only half of the story; there is also an acting revolution that has taken place. Andy Serkis is the undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called “performance capture,” and it is time that Serkis gets credit for the innovative artist that he is.
When Serkis was hired to play the inimitable character, Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy it was initially only for his voice, the character was meant to be entirely animated. But Serkis got so physically involved in the production of the
Focus Features Unveils Digital Distribution Slate; James Franco-Directed ‘The Broken Tower’ Bows In January
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 19th, 2011 – Focus World, the unique digital distribution initiative owned and operated by Focus Features, has closed deals on its slate for the first quarter of 2012. The announcement was made today by Focus President Andrew Karpen. The deals were closed by Avy Eschenasy, Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning, Business Affairs and Acquisitions, with Manager, Digital Content Kent Sanderson.
The new Focus World selections include The Broken Tower, directed by Academy Award-nominated actor James Franco, which will be released digitally on January 10th; Gaukur Úlfarsson’s documentary feature Gnarr, which will be released February 7th; and Liza Johnson’s Return, which will be released February 28th.
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline told you a week ago that things were looking up for The Lone Ranger for the first time since we broke the shocking news on Aug. 12 that Disney had pulled the plug over budget. I’m hearing that the studio is likely to have everything resolved by next week, and can start rehiring crew so that the picture will be ready to begin production in January or February. How that late start impacts the Dec. 21, 2012 release date remains to be seen, but Johnny Depp will get to play Tonto (Disney wouldn’t make the movie without him), and Armie Hammer will be back in as the title character. Ruth Wilson, the scene-stealing killer from Idris Elba’s British cop series Luther, is also expected back as the female lead.
Disney has gotten to this point after a painful overhaul of the movie by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski to bring to $215 million a budget the studio feared could reach $250 or more. Verbinski’s struggle has been to reach that number while retaining enough of the spectacle that made them say yes in the first place. The cutting process has included the reworking of deals for Depp, Verbinski and Bruckheimer, and trimming the production budget and the long shoot. That would enable Depp, Gore and Bruckheimer to re-team after making the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films together. The Lone Ranger is one of several huge-budget films that Disney’s Rich Ross and Sean Bailey are managing. The others include John Carter, the Andrew Stanton-directed adaptation of John Carter of Mars with Friday Night Lights‘ Taylor Kitsch in the lead role, which has a budget around $250 million; and The Great and Powerful Oz, the Sam Raimi-directed James Franco-starrer, which is hovering around $200 million.
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: Johnny Depp is in Europe right now, but really wanted to make The Lone Ranger. According to one insider, “Let’s see how it all shakes out on Monday. There’s always a chance that it could go. You never know until you know.” The deeper story behind this production stoppage is about how movies are costing too much, studios are giving major pushback, and today’s backdrop of a crazy economy. Everyone involved is still intent on the project and still in discussions to see what can be done. But the studio’s concern is spending over $200M on a Western, even with Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp and a comedic slant. So clearly Disney took drastic action. Now the studio and filmmakers are trying to figure out the next step, either to shop it elsewhere or put it back together at a later date at a lower budget.
EXCLUSIVE: In a stunning development, Disney has shut down production on The Lone Ranger, the Gore Verbinski-directed period Western that was to star Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the title character. Jerry Bruckheimer is the producer and the script is by Justin Haythe. I’m told this all just happened, and Disney pulled the plug because of the budget. I’ve heard the filmmakers were trying to reduce the film’s cost from $250 million (some even say $275 million) down to $232 million. But it wasn’t the $200 million that Disney wanted to spend. And between Depp, Bruckheimer, and Verbinski, the gross outlay on the film is substantial.
When the plug was pulled, the film was still casting up, with Ruth Wilson, the serial killer from the BBC’s Luther series, set for the female lead. And The Lone Ranger was scheduled to be released Dec. 21, 2012, smack up against The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opens Dec. 14, and the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z, which was just slated for Dec. 21. This becomes the second major Western-themed project to bite the dust, after Universal halted a mammoth adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. And is it coincidence that The Lone Ranger halted right after another Western, Cowboys & Aliens, proved a pricey disappointment for DreamWorks and Universal?
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 7TH UPDATE: Another strong day for Twentieth Century Fox’s prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apeswhich scored a $19.4M Saturday (small -2% drop from Friday’s $19.7M), indicating word of mouth was good about these CGI animals and Andy Serkis. With an estimated $14.9M Sunday that makes for a 3-day weekend of $54M, lots more than the $35M which Hollywood expected. No doubt about it: origins story movies are working this summer if they’re done as well as this and X-Men: First Class which was another prequel on a Fox franchise. Nice win for former News Corp No. 2-turned-showbiz producer Peter Chernin and his film lieutenant Dylan Clark on Chernin Entertainment’s first film release. The pair said in a statement Sunday: “We’re thrilled to launch Chernin Entertainment with a film that so positively resonated with audiences. We’re proud of the artistic achievement as it is a testament to a smart script, great direction by Rupert Wyatt, stellar actor performances, the amazing visual effects created by the WETA team, and the passion and dedication of the entire crew and our partners at Twentieth Century Fox.” The other major studio new release, Universal’s The Change-Up, surprisingly ticked up (+4%) from Friday for $5.2M Saturday but that’s still a very disappointing $13.5M weekend. This truly isn’t Ryan Reynolds’ summer of stardom after the collapse of Green Lantern here and abroad. Stars are supposed to open movies to at least $20M. Overall moviegoing this weekend looks like $170M, which is up +30% from last year.
Here’s the Top 10:
1. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox) NEW [3,648 Theaters]
Friday $19.7M, Saturday $19.4M, Weekend $54M
It’s not just surprising but kinda shocking that Time magazine declared this “2011′s Best Film So Far” and that even fanboy websites declared that “whatever expectations you’re likely to have going in, there’s a good chance this movie will surpass them”. Directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes seemed too schlocky a project for Peter Chernin to waste his time producing. Or so Hollywood thought. Its CinemaScore was an ‘A-’ and exit polls showed males making up 54% of the audience which was 59% at or over age 25. Why all the fuss over the prequel to such a dated franchise? Because Fox PR claims this is the first live-action film in the history of movies to star, and be told from the point of view of, a sentient animal — a character with human-like qualities, who can strategize, organize and ultimately lead a revolution, and with whom audiences are supposed to experience a real emotional bond. (But my commenters counter: What about Babe etc?) Fox execs point out that the studio wasn’t going to do the guys in ape suits thing again. So the film was impossible to make until James Cameron’s Avatar and Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital progressed performance capture technology to the point of the most realistic CGI ever. Given that, the claimed $93M pricetag co-financed by Fox, Dune Entertainment, and Ingenious seems absurdly modest.
Every single monkey, baboon, and ape in the movie is a product of this performance capture techonology. That earned raves from PETA and for Wyatt a Proggy Award given to animal-friendly companies, people and products. (PETA also showed up at the Ape‘ premiere in LA with signs reading, “Real Apes Love CGI,” and “Thank you, Fox for not using real Apes.”) The buzz this weekend is that Andy Serkis does an award-worthy job as the main chimp Caesar who leads the rebellion. But I don’t know why the trailers I saw mistakenly focused on James Franco who isn’t why moviegoers flocked to opening weekend. Fox was hoping for North American box office in the low-ball $30sM, so $54M is fantastic. “Phenomenal opening validating a sensational marketing effort led by Oren Aviv and Tony Sella,” a Fox exec gushed to me. Then again, tracking has been good for males and fans of the original movies, although softer for females. The fact is that the studio had a lot of ground to make up with this movie because fanboys hated the Tim Burton version from a decade ago. But this origins story scored 82% positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.
Marketing with a company called Mekanism was primarily focused online with the intent to create a global viral phenomenon and spark millions of Internet conversations about the film. There was the strategic use of digital influencers, creative content, and social media platforms to create widespread engagement for over 14 million viral video views and hundreds of millions of earned media impressions. “We’ve created excitement, driven credible word of mouth, and ensured that butts will be in seats to watch Apes Rise on opening weekend,” A Fox exec told me before Friday. WETA Digital hosted a livestream event on Facebook from WETA’s headquarters in New Zealand and gave viewers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the work on the film. The livestream event was live on Facebook’s official fan page for Avatar as well. A free online digital comic book prequel to the movie debuted prior to release from comic series writer Daryl Gregory and artists Damian Couceiro and Tony Parker to set the stage for the movie. There was a new free 5-page digital comic book story weekly since mid-July until the final 10-page conclusion on August 3rd.
2. The Smurfs - 3D (Sony) Week 2 [3,395 Theaters]
Friday $6M, Saturday $8.2M, Weekend $21M (-41%), Cume $76.2M
It’s embarrassing for me just to be writing about The Smurfs. But after just 10 days of release, the film has generated $128.9M worldwide with an overseas cume to date of $52.7M. One of the big surprises of Summer 2011, last weekend’s exceptionally strong debut in North America was followed by enormous strength in several key countries including Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Belgium, France and Germany, among others. This worldwide number is especially impressive when you consider the film has only debuted in about 3 dozen territories. In North America this weekend, The Smurfs saw big mid-week sales that led box office from Monday through Thursday. Strong ticket sales continued into the weekend and went up +37% on Saturday.
3. Cowboys & Aliens (DreamWorks/Universal) Week 2 [3,754 Theaters]
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $6.4M, Weekend $15.7M (-57%), Cume $67.3M
Not an embarrassing drop, but it didn’t have far to fall either. The big question is whether Cowboys & Aliens can make up the deficit overseas where Daniel Craig is a bigger star but also Westerns don’t do well traditionally. For an astute dissection of what went wrong, read this pre-release post by Deadline’s Mike Fleming, Can ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ Lasso Youth?. He answers the questions about why this well-pedigreed pic, despite the godfathering presence of Steven Spielberg and Imagine’s Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and direction by Jon Favreau, went into the tank. He details the tortured development history involving more than a dozen writers over 14 years. He analyzes the problems of a confused mash-up of two genres that usually don’t cross paths. And he reveals that with a cash break participation pool in the 35% range and no 3D conversion to justify higher ticket prices this movie may have been doomed from the start.
4. The Change-Up (Universal) NEW [2,913 Theaters]
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $5M, Weekend $13.5M
Universal started out the summer very high on this raunchy R-rated comedy with a $52M budget (Relativity was a financing partner) especially because The Change-Up was from the director of Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover. Still it was surprising that David Dobkin would waste his time on such a tired body-switching premise, but this film won’t have the enormous playability or multiples of this summer’s other raunchy R-rated laughers. CinemaScore was a ‘B’ with an audience that was 59% Female vs. 41% male and 50% at or older than age 30 vs. 50% under
30. All along tracking had been strongest with females, with younger females demonstrating the strongest interest. “It’s disappointing. We’re kind of confounded by it,” a Uni exec told me Friday night. “This movie played like the best R-rated comedies we have.” But reviews hammered this pic and trailers looked lame. Marketing was sub-par as if red-band online trailers, one that opened the campaign and one that closed it, would put people in seats. Maybe audiences were tired after so many of Summer 2011′s R-rated comedies.
The TV campaign began early with a spot on the finale for The Family Guy in late May, followed by a run on the NBA Finals in early June and then cable, cable, and more cable channels as well as the TV talk shows. The supposedly “likeable” pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman was a key strategy in publicity, and they did many of their promotional appearances together. Universal fanned out with an extensive word-of-mouth campaign and 350 screenings across the country. But none of it worked.
5. Captain America - 3D (Marvel/Disney/Paramount) Week 3 [3,620 Theaters]
Friday $3.7M, Saturday $5.5M, Weekend $13M, Cume $143.1M
6. Harry Potter/Hallows Pt 2 – 3D (Warner Bros) Week 4 [3,175 Theaters]
Friday $3.3M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $12.1M, Cume $342.8M
7. Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,020 Theaters]
Friday $3.7M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $12.1M (-37%), Cume $42.1M
8. Friends With Benefits (Sony) Week 3 [2,398 Theaters]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.7M, Cume $48.5M
9. Horrible Bosses (New Line/Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,025 Theaters]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.6M, Cume $105.1M
10. Transformers 3 – 3D (Paramount) Week 6 [1,854 Theaters]
Friday $850K, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3M, Cume $344.1M
Cowboys & Aliens director Jon Favreau‘s promotional push for the sci-fi Western continues with a directing gig on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! Favreau, who spent the weekend at Comic-Con, will helm the Wednesday episode as part of a Cowboys & Aliens-themed week of JKL featuring interviews with stars Daniel Craig, …
Although the Cannes Film Festival just ended three weeks ago, there’s always another film fest around the corner trying to steal its thunder and become part of the cinematic conversation. On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Film Festival, now in its 17th year, opened with the world premiere of the Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Dazed and Confused) comedy Bernie, with stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey joining its writer-director in introducing the film at downtown L.A.’s LA Live Regal Cinemas, where the fest moved last year. Not that it’s easy navigating the Los Angeles freeways at rush hour to get downtown, an off-the-beaten track place to premiere your movie, but the unapologetic black comedy and true-life tale of a small-town undertaker who caters to the much-hated Texas town’s matron until he reaches for a gun was worth the herculean effort navigating the annoying traffic jams and $25 parking fee (I didn’t read the signs carefully) just to see this splendid trio of actors deliver terrific performances backed by a great supporting group of locals who won big laughs throughout.
Bernie is an acquistion title and likely will be snapped up immediately by some enterprising distributor even though it’s not an obvious commercial hit. It is Black’s best work in some time. It could develop a following on the indie circuit though, and it certainly had the crowd (which included well-wishers like Linklater friend Steven Soderbergh and wife Jules Asner) buzzing at the crowded after-party on the L.A. Live parking garage rooftop.
Film Independent (which runs the fest as well as the Spirit Awards) board members I spoke to at the premiere are hopeful Bernie could become the fest’s first big breakout acquisition title, and reps from many indie distribs were in attendance. In fact, the fest delayed announcement of its opening film until after the Cannes festival was over because producers did not want to be inundated with calls about acquiring the film during that market and wanted to wait until it could premiere cold in L.A., a big tribute to the growing clout of LAFF.
20th Century Fox’s resuscitation of the Planet of the Apes franchise has brought another trailer that better reveals the story behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The Rupert Wyatt-directed film stars James Franco and opens Aug. 5. There will be high expectations, considering that the 1968 Charlton Heston …