EXCLUSIVE: The Emmys aren’t even over yet, but the race to be the first movie awards DVD screener of 2013 to land in Oscar voters’ mailboxes is over. And the winner is…..Mud. The Roadside Attractions (with Lionsgate) late April release starring Matthew McConaughey has been sent to all Academy members with some reporting they received it yesterday. The Blu-Ray/DVD came out in early August and at that time Roadside sent it to some bloggers who confused the issue by saying it was then the first Oscar screener to be sent. Of course Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rules are very clear in this regard and commercial Blu Ray/DVDs cannot be sent to Academy members as part of a campaign. It must be special, generally very plain, packaging without review quotes etc. That is what Academy members are receiving this weekend.
The Jeff Nichols-directed movie is one of the top independent releases of 2013 earning over $21 million at the box office. In fact until Woody Allen’s Blue Jasminesurpassed it recently, it was the number one indie. Roadside picked up the film in August 2012 but held it for a Spring launch rather than rushing it out to compete in last year’s Oscar race. The distributor hopes Oscar voters will remember the film, which played in the 2012 Cannes Official Competition, and by getting the screener out first knows it is already on top of the pile of one for voters who have yet to see it. Being first is a mixed bag as far as ultimate results go. Last year The Weinstein Company sent its French import The Intouchables out as the first screener in Mid-October but it failed to land any nominations. In 2011 Summit won the screener race with an early September mailing of A Better Life and was rewarded for its efforts with a Best Actor nod for Demian Bichir, considered a long shot at the time (Roadside virtually tied for first out that year too with The Music Never Stopped, but it came up empty). Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has set Kirsten Dunst to play the female lead inMidnight Special. She will star opposite Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton in the Jeff Nichols-directed film. In the film, a father and his 8-year old go on the run when dad realizes the boy has some kind of special powers. Nichols, who last helmed Mud, wrote the script. She’s repped by UTA and Management 360. Dunst was most recently seen in Melancholia and Bachelorette, On The Road and Upside Down.
UPDATE: Took awhile, but I’ve gotten clarity on this Jeff NicholsWarner Bros project, and it was worth the wait. Michael Shannon, the Boardwalk Empire star who turned in a powerhouse performance in Nichols’ Take Shelter and appeared more recently in Mud, will star in Midnight Special, which Nichols wrote and will direct at Warners. Described to me as a contemporary science fiction chase film, the pic will be produced by Sarah Green and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, with Glen Basner and Christos V. Konstantakopoulos the exec producers. Shannon just played a hitman in The Iceman, and he plays General Zod in the Superman reboot Man Of Steel, so he is absolutely on the Warner Bros radar. Read More »
Writer-director Jeff Nichols’ third feature is screening at Sundance starting tomorrow. The tale which debuted last May at Cannes involves a pair of teenage boys who discover a boat wedged in a tree on an island in the Mississippi River. A drifter played by Matthew McConaughey intrudes and complications ensue. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play the teens and Reese Witherspoon co-stars as a soulful character named Juniper.
Jeff Nichols‘ Mud premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions later jointly acquired it for the U.S. with a release coming this spring. Before that, it will premiere Stateside as part of the Spotlight section of Sundance which kicks off today. In the film, two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and help him to evade the bounty hunters on his trail and reunite him with his true love. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland star.
EXCLUSIVE: Chernin Entertainment has acquired The Boy Who Played With Fusion, the true story of Taylor Wilson, a 14-year-old Arkansan who became the youngest ever to achieve nuclear fusion. They are negotiating with Take Shelter and Mud writer-director Jeff Nichols to develop the film as a helming vehicle. The film will be developed through Chernin’s deal with Fox. Published in the March 2012 issue of Popular Science magazine by Tom Clynes, the article details an exceptionally smart and curious kid and what happens when his ordinary parents who didn’t quite understand how he’d become so gifted, gave him the room and encouragement to nurture his great gifts and passion for nuclear science and experimentation. When his grandmother became ill, the youth became involved in an attempt to harness the short-lived isotopes that kill cancer cells and then deteriorate before they harm healthy cells — in hopes that the cancer-curing isotopes could be generated on site at hospitals and save lives. He later harnessed his discoveries as an alarm system to root out dirty bombs in shipping containers. Read More »
The 7th Zurich Film Festival announced its award winners tonight, with Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter taking best feature film. This year’s edition also was marked by an appearance from Roman Polanski, who received the fest’s lifetime achievement award Tuesday. A list of competition winners follows:
International Feature Film Competition Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols (U.S.)
Outstanding Performance By An Actor
Deon Lotz for Beauty
Outstanding Performance By An Actress
Corinne Masiero for Louise Wimmer
International Documentary Film Competition Buck by Cindy Meehl (U.S.)
EXCLUSIVE: Director Jeff Nichols has added his Take Shelter star Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Joe Don Baker and Paul Sparks to Mud, the drama that stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Tye Sheridan. Production began today in Arkansas.Scripted by Nichols and produced by Sarah Green, Everest Entertainment’s Lisa Maria Falcone and FilmNation’s Aaron Ryder, Mud is a coming-of-age drama centered on two 14-year-old boys who encounter a mysterious fugitive hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Intrigued by the man, the boys try to help him evade capture and reconnect with the love of his life. Nichols and Shannon are working together for the third time; besides Take Shelter, the Sundance and Cannes sensation that premieres September 30 through Sony Pictures Classics, they also worked together on Shotgun Stories. Shannon has also turned in stellar work on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire as the sexually repressed liquor-busting FBI agent, and he also stars in the Marc Forster-directed Machine Gun Preacher. Shannon is playing a villain in the Zack Snyder-directed Superman reboot Man of Steel. Paulson next stars in the Sundance film Martha Marcy May Marlene. Shepard just starred opposite Brad Pitt in Cogan’s Trade. FilmNation’s Glen Basner is exec producing, and selling Mud in international territories. CAA and FilmNation are handling U.S. sales for Mud. Everest Entertainment most recently produced 127 Hours and Win Win.
EXCLUSIVE: Candescent Films, a new venture formed to make films that advance a social agenda, is financing and co-producing a small slate of films that are passion projects of A-list talent. Spearheaded by Lilly Hartley, Candescent kicks off with Native, a drama being written by Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols, with Hartley producing with Sarah Green (The Tree of Life) and Automatik Entertainment’s Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Candescent is also the catalyst for two documentaries. Javier Bardem is the star and producer of Sons of the Clouds, an in-producton documentary that explores the political and human rights issues facing the people of the Sahara, with an emphasis on a former Spanish colony in Africa that is now occupied by Morocco and where there are more than 200,000 refugees living in camps in the desert. Bardem is producing with Hartley and Alvaro Longoria of Morena Films. Longoria directed it and is close to finished, with Candescent financing.
Candescent is also financing development of The Fifth Estate, a feature documentary to be written and directed by The September Issue‘s R.J. Cutler that examines the future of journalism in the digital age, and the role of the Internet in 21st century democracy. WME Global’s Liesl Copland packaged both of the documentaries. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In competitive bidding, FilmNation Entertainment has acquired In the Event of a Moon Disaster, a Mike Jones spec script that re-imagines the first moon mission. In this version, disaster strikes and the astronauts find themselves up against insurmountable odds. Jones, a former colleague of mine at Variety, turned his attention to screenwriting and has been working steadily. Most recently, he has been collaborating with Henry Selick on an untitled Pixar project, and Jones also scripted a reboot of Popeye for Sony Pictures. FilmNation’s Aaron Ryder will produce the space mission film, and Glen Basner will handle international sales. It will be the largest-budget film so far for FilmNation, which has aggressively put together its slate of projects.
FilmNation is in talks with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon to star in Mud, the next film by Jeff Nichols, with whom FilmNation worked on Take Shelter. It also is fully financing Paranormal Activity helmer Oren Peli’s next untitled project, and recently completed the Jennifer Lawrence-starrer House at the End of the Street and The Raven, which stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe; Relativity Media releases that James McTeigue-directed film early next year. FilmNation will be bringing to Toronto Take Shelter; Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In; the Hugh Laurie-starrer The Oranges; and Midnight’s Children, an adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel. Jones is repped by CAA and The Gotham Group.
BREAKING: Take Shelter helmer Jeff Nichols has set Mud as his next film, and is in talks with Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Tree of Life‘s Tye Sheridan to star. Everest Entertainment is fully financing and Lisa Maria Falcone is producing alongside Sarah Green and FilmNation Entertainment’s Aaron Ryder. Green was a producer of Nichols’ festival favorite Take Shelter, which was acquired sight unseen by Sony Pictures Classics at Sundance. FilmNation’s Glen Basner is exec producing and handling international sales. CAA and FilmNation will broker a domestic deal. FilmNation made the deal for Take Shelter, which won Critics Week at Cannes.
Mud is a redemptive tale of a charismatic fugitive and his unlikely friendship with a 14-year-old kid who is determined to help Mud escape from the law and some tough bounty hunters so he can reunite with his soul mate Juniper (Witherspoon). Nichols wrote the script.
“Jeff Nichols has written a beautiful story with rich characters learning valuable lessons through life-changing circumstances. With Jeff’s vision, this will be a work of art,” says Everest Entertainment founder Falcone. “It’s an incredible script which Jeff, along with Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Tye Sheridan, will bring to life. We’ve been privileged to work with incredible filmmakers like Danny Boyle, Tom McCarthy and Rodrigo Garcia and are thankful to add Jeff Nichols to that list.”
While the big Cannes Film Festival awards get handed out this weekend, Take Shelter, the Jeff Nichols-directed Michael Shannon-Jessica Chastain drama, took the Grand Prix Nespresso, the top prize at Cannes Critics Week. Sony Pictures Classics bought the film before it screened at Sundance, and based on the Cannes buzz, they were smart to pounce before everybody saw the finished product. The Belgian film The Giants won the Art Cinema Award and the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers’ SACA Prize, while the Austrian film Breathing was named top European film in Directors’ Fortnight.