Dallas Buyers Club, one of the most anticipated films of the year and certainly this Toronto International Film Festival, made its debut Saturday night to a standing ovation. Star Matthew McConaughey lost tons of weight in order to convincingly play Ron Woodroof, an early victim of AIDS who extended his life by illegally pioneering into the world of drugs designed to stem the disease. With much advance Oscar buzz for the Focus Features release, Dallas Buyers Club recently moved into early November from its original December release date. There was heavy anticipation not only for Saturday night’s 10 PM screening but also earlier when I caught it at a morning press showing. Bottom line: It does not disappoint and contains the expected Oscar-caliber performance certain to finally gain a Best Actor nod for McConaughey – and also a surprising turn from Jared Leto, just superb as a transsexual AIDS patient who befriends Ron. It would seem an absolute no-brainer that both will be sitting front and center come March 2nd at the Dolby Theatre when Oscar winners are announced. If there are two better performances by anyone this year I have not seen them.
At the Ciba restaurant late night party following the screening, Focus Features President James Schamus was beaming. Not just from the reaction to Dallas, but also because he pulled off a coup at dawn (he told me) sealing the deal for the hilarious and well-received Jason Bateman directorial debut Bad Words. It went for $7 million – a steal considering the potential of this R-rated comedy I predicted would sell in a minute. Universal‘s Ron Meyer, Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley were also celebrating that coup and the success of their specialty division’s Dallas triumph. But this night belonged to the cast and crew, especially McConaughey whom Schamus told me at May’s Cannes Festival was delivering ”the performance of a lifetime”. This was a project, according to producers Rachel Winter and Robbie Brenner, that took nearly 20 years to bring to the screen. A good chunk of that was made of the blood, sweat, tears and never-say-die tenacity of Brenner who said she just kept pushing that Dallas rock up the hill no matter what the odds.
BREAKING: Disney is in talks with Jennifer Garner to star with Steve Carell in the Miguel Arteta-directed live-action adaptation of the Judith Viorst children’s book Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. …
Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Maron have already enlisted Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey for show duties, and now have added another nod to that generation with seven-time nominee and two-time winner Jane Fonda. Here’s the release that just went out:
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Academy Award® winner Jane Fonda will join Jennifer Garner, Kristen Stewart and Kerry Washington to present on the Oscar telecast, show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced today.
Fonda earned seven nominations and won Academy Awards for her roles in “Klute” and “Coming Home.” Garner was seen in this year’s “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” and will be seen next in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Stewart is best known for her role as Bella Swan in the “Twilight” saga and also starred in 2012′s “On the Road” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Washington starred in the Best Picture Nominee “Django Unchained” and was seen in “A Thousand Words.” Washington is also the star of ABC’s hit drama “Scandal.”
EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Garner is in talks to star in the long-gestating drama Dallas Buyers Club alongside Matthew McConaughey. The plot centers on a man who was given six months to live after contracting AIDS in 1986; he lived another six years by illegally smuggling medicine into the U.S., making sure a lot of other sufferers got them too. The spirit of the drama paints a picture at the time of powerful and unyielding bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration. We’re hearing that the production is also close to casting the key role of a cross-dresser, but nothing’s been sealed. Worldwide rights are available with Voltage Pictures’ Nicolas Chartier setting up sales at AFM.
Related: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Takes Shape
EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Garner‘s Vandalia Films has signed a first-look deal with Universal Television. The first project to come out of the pact is an untitled comedy from writer Ellen Rapoport, which has sold to NBC.
Rapoport will write the semi-autobiographical comedy, which was put together by Television 360 (Game Of Thrones), the TV division of Management 360. It tells the story of Allie, a nerdy, twentysomething overachiever who is befriended and taken in by two promiscuous party girls. They give her the adolescence she never had, while she teaches them how to grow up. Rapoport will executive produce with Television 360′s Daniel Rappaport and Meghan Lyvers and Vandalia’s Garner and Juliana Janes.
I ran into Jennifer Garner Saturday afternoon at the candy counter of Telluride’s tiny Nugget Theatre and told her I was looking forward to seeing the new film she produced and stars in, Butter, which was having an official sneak preview at the festival later that night. “Thanks, but I hate it when people tell me that. It makes me too nervous,” she said. She shouldn’t have worried. The edgy smart comedy played liked gangbusters at its first packed screening at the Galaxy Theatre. There were big laughs for the small-town butter-carving satire, which might get a year-end release from The Weinstein Company to qualify for awards, especially for the Golden Globes and its comedy category. Garner nails the Michele Bachmann-like character in a way that’s smooth-as-buttah. The film itself is reminiscent of Michael Ritchie’s Smile and Alexander Payne’s Election, with both comparisons meant to be a compliment. In fact, shortly afterward, Payne told me he is anxious to see the film himself. Before it rolled, director Jim Field Smith told the crowd what pressure he was under to finish the film in time for next week’s Toronto Film Festival — and then was told it would be needed even earlier for Telluride. “Come on, you can do it,” Harvey Weinstein told him. Then there were the unexpected earthquakes, hurricanes, and a scary landing at the Tellruride airport that all contributed to his feeling he wasn’t going to make the deadline, but he did. “This is the first audience anywhere to see the film, so we could just die,” Garner added before forgetting to introduce co-star Ty Burrell (Modern Family).
Disney’s comedic drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green, directed by Peter Hedges, doesn’t have a release date yet. But Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton star in the story about a happy couple who can’t wait to start a family and who find a young boy on their doorstep on …
Ealing Studios and The King’s Speech financier Prescience has merged their respective sales arms. The companies previously worked together on both St. Trinian’s films, Dorian Gray and Easy Virtue. They say combining gives them “a unique advantage,” because of the money that Prescience brings to the table. They also said no jobs will be lost in the consolidation. “The beauty of this merger is that we now have access to Prescience’s money,” says Will Machin, Ealing’s head of distribution. Machin will run Ealing Metro. “There are very few companies in the indie marketplace that can offer what we can now.” Prescience has raised around $250 million to date through its Aegis Film Fund and Metropolis Media EIS tax fund. Ealing Metro will offer equity, gap financing and in some cases will put up minimum guarantee advances against international sales, the money that gets films rolling. The plan is to handle 10-15 films a year, with Machin working alongside with Natalie Brenner and James Scott.
Ealing Metro’s current slate includes upcoming productions Better Living Through Chemistry, which stars Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Garner and shoots in July; the Iain Softley-directed psychological thriller Trap For Cinderella, which stars Tuppence Middleton and Alexandra Roach; and the Nina Simone biopic Nina, which stars Mary J Blige and David Oyelowo, and starts production May 23.