Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.
Bart: Has there ever been a moment when there were more mixed messages out there about political correctness? Films like Tammy or 22 Jump Street all but burst with in-correctitude, yet the moment a celebrity or politician utters anything remotely off-color, the cadre of ‘crisis managers’ materializes with their ritual apologies. I don’t need Pharrell Williams’ ‘regrets.’ Permanently pre-pubescent Justin Bieber spends more time apologizing than performing. There’s even a new book out titled Sorry About That, recounting history’s most infamous apologies. My favorite is South Carolina congressman Mark Sanford’s eloquent statement when his adultery became public — “an affair that which has caused the stir that it has.”
Fleming: I found myself on the business end of a Deadline comment cadre when I suggested restraint on the summary firing of radio host Anthony Cumia for his nasty, sexist and borderline racist Twitter comments. I believe in second chances. To me, Cumia’s angry outburst was worth a suspension at most. Like Gary Oldman and Jonah Hill, each of whom fell on their swords a few weeks ago, Cumia did not commit a crime. Despite that, the PC knee-jerk instinct is to … Read More »
In the latest effort mining its deep library catalog for feature film franchises, MGM said today that it is developing a new Pink Panther movie, a live-action/animated hybrid that will take its cues from the tone set by the original Friz Freleng and David De Patie cartoons in addition to that of Blake Edwards’ films. That means that the focus will be on the Pink Panther character itself more than Inspector Clouseau, who took over the spotlight for Edwards’ movies thanks to Peter Sellers’ creation of one of the most iconic comedy characters of all time. There have been 11 Pink Panther feature films (and countless cartoons and shorts) spanning five decades — like another MGM property James Bond one of the movie business’ longest-running feature franchises.
Walter Mirisch, exec producer of the original movies and TV series, has come aboard to produce the new pic along with Edwards’ widow Julie Andrews. The Simpsons Movie and Monsters Inc director David Silverman will direct. MGM’s SVP Production Cassidy Lange will oversee the film for the studio. Read More »
After earlier premieres at the London Film Festival in October and the AFI Film Fest at the Chinese Theatre in November where the original Mary Poppins premiered in 1964, Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney Studio’s big awards contender, finally had its official Los Angeles premiere on a cool December Monday night. It took place on the very Disney studio lot where much of the movie about the making of the 1964 classic was filmed (as well as Poppins itself). And just to add a touch of nostalgia and class itself the stars of Mary Poppins Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke joined the cast of Banks including Tom Hanks who plays Walt Disney and Emma Thompson who plays the cantankerous author of Poppins P.L. Travers. At a photo opp before the film the Banks cast members along with Andrews and Van Dyke and studio execs Bob Iger and Alan Horn all joined in a spontaneous rendition of the catchy tune from Poppins, “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” (watch here). Those singing along included the indefatiguable two-time Oscar winning co-writer of that song and the entire score, Richard M. Sherman.
At the post party in a completely made-over studio commissary Horn told me how pleased they were that Saving Mr. Banks had made the AFI Top Ten Movies Of The Year list released earlier Monday. When I asked how he felt about singing with all those iconic stars he said he can’t sing and in fact was banned from trying to carry a tune in church and everywhere else. Iger also marveled at the idea he was actually singing along with everyone and modestly just said ” let’s not count the eggs before they are hatched” when I suggested that the movie was a cinch to become the Disney studio’s first home grown live action Best Picture nominee since the original Mary Poppins 49 years ago, the one and only other time the studio had such a distinction.
The 85-year-old Sherman, who has been on cloud nine since this whole ride began, said it was completely “surreal” to be back on the Disney lot with Andrews and Van Dyke celebrating this whole experience. Only in Hollywood. There’s something about the movie that really has created a team spirit. At a Saturday night cast Q&A with Hanks, Thompson, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman and Bradley Whitford I moderated after a SAG screening of the film, Hanks also led everyone in a rendition of “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. Guess it is just a movie that makes people want to sing. Hanks and Thompson had also been doing Q&As earlier that day at BAFTA and for the Academy where I am told 700 members showed up for a 3 PM Saturday matinee. Certainly Disney, which has been having a great holiday season already with Thor and Frozen, is hoping they will be singing about Banks which opens nationwide on December 20th. I am told it is tracking well. Banks opens Friday with a special engagement at the Walt Disney Studio Theatre that includes a special studio tour of spots of where the films were made. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The Walt Disney Company is near a deal to acquire Saving Mr. Banks, the Kelly Marcel-scripted saga of how Walt Disney persuaded Australian author P.L. Travers to sell him the rights to make a film out of Mary Poppins. That courtship took 14 years. Disney seems a natural place for the script, considering the studio owns many rights from making the 1964 classic film that starred Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and David Tomlinson, the latter of whom played Mr. Banks in the film. Also, what studio is better equipped to make its founder, Walt Disney, a major character in a feature film?
The heart of this script comes from how close Travers felt to her story of a nanny with magical powers. Mary Poppins was highly personal, and reflected hardships in her own life and her relationship with her father, who died when she was 7. Disney finally persuaded her to let him make the film, but she was prickly all the way to the end. While Mary Poppins was lauded immediately, she hated the animated sequences in the film so much that she refused to sell any of her other works to Disney. The script made the 2011 Black List, and is set up with producer Alison Owen at Ruby Films. Disney has been working on this for awhile, and the expectation is that it will be star cast. There have been rumors of the script being considered … Read More »
It had just been September 30th when multitalent Blake Edwards asked for a moment of silence in the cavernous Samuel Goldwyn Theatre to remember Tony Curtis who had just died less than 24 hours earlier. The actor and filmmaker had worked together on several films including Mister Cory (1957) and The Perfect Furlough (1959) along with huge box office hits Operation Petticoat (1959) and The Great Race (1965). And now Edwards himself has passed away this morning. He was 88. The writer and director and producer best known for the Pink Panther comedy franchise with Peter Sellers had been the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ latest tributee, there to participate in an on-stage conversation about his career for the Academy’s annual Jack Oakie Celebration of Comedy in Film. It was an enthusiastic sold-out house that included many collaborators and stars of Edwards’ movies including his wife Julie Andrews and daughter Jennifer Edwards. The entertaining evening featured a liberal dose of clips of The Pink Panther (1964), 10 (1979), Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961), The Party (1968), and Victor Victoria, the 1982 farce that ironically brought Edwards his one and only Oscar nomination – for his screenplay adaptation. Of course, the Academy gave him an honorary statuette in 2003 (which he accepted in his signature slapstick style: by rolling across the stage in a wheelchair). Host Walter Mirisch (whose company produced Panther and Party) then led the director through a series of observations and anecdotes about his long career. The highlights included a tale about the Paramount … Read More »
Twentieth Century Fox is packing quite a marketing whallop behind the 45th anniversary of The Sound Of Music. (Gee, what’s left to do for the 50th milestone?) First, the studio is returning the musical to theaters for the first time since 1973 and holding a two-night ’sing-along’ event on October 19th and 26th in 498 locations. The five-time Academy Award winner including Best Picture will be broadcast for its run in high definition and is presented by NCM Fathom, Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, in association with Sony Music/Legacy, Trapp Family Lodge, South Pacific Tour, and Austrian Tourism. There’ll also be an exclusive “I’ll Sing Once More: The Sound of Music Today” featurette to accompany the movie.
Then Oprah is reassembling the entire cast for one of her shows. On October 29th, stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, along with fellow cast members Charmian Carr (“Liesl”), Nicholas Hammond (“Friedrich”), Heather Menzies-Urich (“Louisa”), Duane Chase (“Kurt”), Angela Cartwright (“Brigitta”), Debbie Turner (“Marta”) and Kym Karath (“Gretl”) will reunite for a behind-the-scenes look.
Then The Sound Of Music 45th Anniversary Edition will be available in 3-Disc Blu-ray and DVD Combo Packs on November 2nd. There’ll also be an individually numbered Limited Collector’s Set packaged in a keepsake box and featuring a 100-page “My Favorite Things” scrapbook, a 45th Anniversary Soundtrack, a reproduction of the original 1965 souvenir program, an exclusive hand-painted “My Favorite Things” music box and more.