Oscar-nominated producer and LucasFilm co-chair Kathleen Kennedy became only the second woman in history of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation to receive its annual Pioneer Of The Year honor, awarded tonight …
Unquestionably one of the highlights of any awards season is the feel-good, everyone’s-still-a-winner Oscar Nominees Luncheon, which was held Monday at the Beverly Hilton. Academy Award nominees gather together and get to meet each other in a pressure-free zone — except for the huge press turnout to cover their arrivals (there are also press conference-style interviews and poolside one-on-one opportunities for TV cameras afterwards for some of the higher-profile nominees). Basically all they have to do is report to the risers set up in the Hilton’s International Ballroom as their name is called for the big group photo of the Oscar Class of 2012.
Related: 85th Academy Awards Nominees Photo
This year, rather than going alphabetically, the Academy summoned nominees by the table number they were sitting at. The table where I was lucky enough to be invited happened to be No. 1, smack dab in front of those risers, and so nominees Denzel Washington (Best Actor, Flight), producer Kathleen Kennedy (Lincoln), costume designer Colleen Atwood (Snow White And The Huntsman), and Makeup and Hairstyling contender Howard Berger (Hitchcock) were first to be called and had to stand the longest before the shot was taken. Actually, the roll call was bookended with longtime colleagues Kennedy — who was first up — and Lincoln director Steven Spielberg, who was dead-last (just after 9-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, who got a rip-roaring reception when her name was announced).
Overall, 16 of the acting nominees (excluding Emmanuelle Riva, Alan Arkin and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and four of the directors (Michael Haneke is directing an opera in Europe) were in attendance, along with approximately 140 others who showed up and really seemed to have a good time at the annual affair, where the nominees also get their official certificate and a sweatshirt. Another acting contender, Daniel Day-Lewis came down with the flu and was very disappointed he couldn’t make it I am told. Like Day-Lewis, I also heard Quentin Tarantino was really bummed he couldn’t attend due to a bout with the flu. Seems to be rampant these days.
Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.
Kathleen Kennedy has worked with Steven Spielberg for more than 30 years, producing box office successes and critical hits in equal measure. But she says that in all that time, one biographical topic came up consistently in their development discussions: “The subject of Lincoln was something that always fascinated both of us,” she says, noting that their current release took 13 years and multiple iterations to make it to theaters. “We were both really surprised that there hadn’t been more done in cinema (on Lincoln) over the years.” With a script from Tony Kushner, their complex—and occasionally humorous—portrayal of the 16th president’s efforts to pass the 13th amendment in the months before his assassination has already hit $100 million domestically and earned seven Golden Globe nominations. Kennedy recently spoke with AwardsLine about Lincoln’s languid path to production and her new role as president of LucasFilm.
AwardsLine: Every film has its own set of rules, but what consistently surprises you or keeps you interested when you’re starting a new project?
Kathleen Kennedy: My tastes tend to be eclectic, so if I’m working on something that’s a small budget where the challenge is in all the nuances of trying to literally get it made, that presents its own set of challenges; if I’m making a big effects-driven studio picture, then it’s really more of managing all the moving parts. For something like Lincoln, we knew that this was going to be a difficult movie to get made, even if Steven Spielberg was directing it. And as you can see on the screen, we had many different partners just in trying to get the movie financed.
BREAKING… Kathleen Kennedy has been named co-chair of Lucasfilm. Founder George Lucas will become co-chair of the company’s board and stay on as CEO. As part of the deal, seven-time Oscar nominee Kennedy will step down from her post as co-head of the Kennedy/Marshall Co production company, leaving it to Frank Marshall to run.
The move seems a bit bizarre. Kennedy/Marshall days ago made an overall TV deal at CBS, and Kennedy has produced big Steven Spielberg films while Marshall has The Bourne Legacy coming. Lucas, by comparison, seems to mostly continue to find ways to squeeze revenue out of his tired Star Wars films. He excutive produced the passion project Red Tails (Anthony Hemingway directed), which was not a box office hit and seems to be veering toward retirement or making personal films the way his pal Francis Ford Coppola does now. Lucas has all the money he needs, but it seems unclear exactly what Kennedy will be running. We were unable to get clarity on what will happen to Lucasfilm or Kennedy/Marshall, as we were told Kennedy would be unavailable to speak with Deadline. Kennedy/Marshall has a first-look deal with Spielberg at DreamWorks and sources have said they expect it to be business as usual under Marshall. But Kennedy used to be one of the smarter producers in town though her recent movies have underperformed at the box office to the detriment of her reputation: nevertheless, the loss may have an impact.
Kathleen Kennedy And Frank Marshall Sign Overall Deal With CBS TV Studios, Get Pilot Commitment From CBS
Top feature producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are making a foray into television with a two-year overall deal at CBS Television Studios, which also includes a pilot commitment from sister network CBS. This marks the first overall TV deal for the duo’s Kennedy/Marshall Company, whose only previous TV pact was a first-look agreement at CBS in the 1990s.
Kennedy/Marshall’s TV development will be led by CBS veteran Robert Zotnowski, former co-head of the network’s drama department who left in 2009 to head TV development for Sam Raimi’s Stars Road Entertainment. “Kathleen and Frank are truly gifted filmmakers with a resume that reads like a gold standard of box office success and award-winning and culturally relevant projects,” CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said. “We are excited to develop with them and reunite with Robert Zotnowski, one of our favorite CBS alumni.” Added CBS TV Studios president David Stapf, “Kathleen and Frank are the type of producers you dream about having on your roster. They have it all — commercial success, artistic acclaim and a passion for attracting and working with the best creative talent in the business.” CBS TV Studios’ collaboration with another feature producing duo, Cathy Conrad and James Mangold, resulted in a new series for fall, CBS’ Vegas starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis.
Steven Spielberg On War Horse’s Four-Legged Actors, 3D And Lessons Learned
After being ignored by critics groups and other awards in the runup to Oscar nominations, Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse finally burst out of the gate with six including for Best Picture. The others were for Art Direction, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. A Spielberg collaborator for more than 30 years, Kennedy started out as his secretary. She became a co-founder of Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment in 1981, garnering producer credit on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. She left Amblin in 1992 to form the Kennedy/Marshall Co. with husband Frank Marshall, whom she met while working on Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the creative partnership with Spielberg has continued. Collaborations over the decades have included Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. While Kennedy has countless credits independently of Spielberg (recently, 2007’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Persepolis) the two always seem to end up back together. Kennedy also produced Spielberg’s animated The Adventures of Tintin and the upcoming Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. Kennedy talked to AwardsLine contributor Diane Haithman about one of Hollywood’s most celebrated partnerships.
AWARDSLINE: What inspired the movie version of War Horse?
KENNEDY: I took our two teenage girls to see the play [in London], having no idea that it would be something I would be attracted to as a film. It was around the same time we were doing the score on Tintin. I was sitting on the scoring stage with Steven and told him I had seen this extraordinary play. I told him, I keep thinking about whether it’s a movie – it was extraordinary to watch the puppeteering, but I couldn’t help thinking how majestic real horses could be. Steven instantly said that sounds like a perfect movie story. He said “see where the movie rights are.” It turned out that Michael Morpurgo had been approached by a number of people but he hadn’t really entertained any movie offers. We were shooting within a year, which is fairly unusual.
AWARDSLINE: War Horse was a Christmas Day film, and Tintin came out a few days before. What is your strategy?
KENNEDY: We talked about this very, very carefully, in terms of how this was going to be difficult. We don’t have a lot of stars in either film. It was going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on Steven. But we also felt that, even if it were a completely different filmmaker, we would have probably made the same choice to release them during the Christmas holidays, because we felt they were the best films.
The horse is out of the bag. Steven Spielberg’s much-awaited epic War Horse began its industry screenings in earnest this afternoon, Thanksgiving Day, in both New York and Los Angeles by inviting members (via trade ads and website Monday) of most guilds , critics groups, and, of course, the Academy to special holiday weekend screenings that will continue through Sunday in both cities as well as San Francisco (Fri-Sun). In addition , as previously announced , there will be public sneaks in NYC and nine other cities on Sunday afteroon (10:30AM in LA at AMC Century City) followed by a Q&A with Spielberg in NY that will be satellited to the other cities as well as streamed live on MSN.com. It is an innovative “one-stop shopping” tactic on the part of Dreamworks (and Disney who distributes) since Spielberg is on the east coast currently shooting Lincoln and not available for the usual round of campaign activities. Its “World Premiere” will take place December 4th at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC.
The big launch is on now even though the film was completed for all intents and purposes in September. At the Labor Day weekend Telluride Film Festival producer Kathleen Kennedy told me they only had the D.I. to complete at that time, but even though it was ready the film, which opens on December 25, has skipped the festival circuit in favor of its own circuitous route to release. That included the unusual strategy of employing surprise “pop up” screenings Nov 1-10 in small towns like Bellvue Wa, Leawood and Olathe Ks, Cleveland Heights Oh, Beaverton Or, Bethesda MD and Plymouth Meeting, PA indicating a “heartland” strategy in order to get word of mouth moving . That same week Dreamworks started quietly showing the film to select media (including Deadline) on the big screen at the Disney lot’s main theatre. A strict embargo existed until today right after the first Thanksgiving screening when most media and industry types would have had at least the opportunity to begin seeing it. So expect a lot of industry and media twittering, facebooking and reviews to start almost immediately with still a solid month to go before its Christmas day wide opening.
What Spielberg has wrought is a stunning looking and highly emotional epic that is Hollywood moviemaking at its best, and seems likely to be the filmmaker’s most Academy- friendly work since his Oscar winners, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Is it old-fashioned? You bet , but in this fast-moving techno culture that may be a welcome thing. Spielberg is known to be a great admirer of David Lean and with its sweeping vistas, deliberate pacing and epic story of one horse’s remarkable journey through the front lines of World War I, the film could almost be a tribute to the great director of such classics as Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Just for the craft alone Oscar nominations would seem to be assured for Best Picture and Director, John Williams’ score, Rick Carter’s production design,Michael Kahn’s editing, the sound work and Janusz Kaminski’s striking cinematography. Although there hasn’t been much buzz about the cast which includes Jeremy Irvine, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Mullan, they don’t strike any false notes delivering fine performances, and Tom Hiddleston’s Captain Nichols could even merit some Best Supporting Actor talk though that category is almost impossibly tough this year. As for the horses there should be some kind of separate Academy Award. They are suprisingly expressive (one of them came from Seabiscuit). The film , in look and execution is easily the best of its genre since Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion in 1979, a movie that earned a handful of Oscar nods but shamefully didn’t even get a Cinematography nomination for Caleb Deschanel’s landmark cinematography.
War Horse is probably too emotional and traditional to earn much love on the hardcore unsentimental critics awards circuit, but I imagine it will fare very well at the CCMA’s, Golden Globes, and Oscars, even though some of the Academy’s more recent Best Picture choices, notably No Country For Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker among others indicate a different sensibility than the kind of once-traditional “bigger”, more craft-laden film the Academy once favored, and a category into which War Horse definitely falls. Although The King’s Speech triumph last year over the more trendy critics choice of The Social Network might indicate there is still room for less edgy, more “traditional” films in the heart of the Academy voter. We’ll have to wait to see, but the sheer scope of War Horse certainly gives it its own niche against smaller favored Best Pic hopefuls (seen so far) like The Descendants, The Artist, Midnight In Paris and Moneyball.
On the other hand voters might think Spielberg has had enough accolades (3 Oscars, a Thalberg award, AFI Life Achievement and Kennedy Center Honors), plus
EXCLUSIVE: Harlan Coben, one of the biggest-selling mystery writers in America, is finally in line to have one of his books made into a major Hollywood film. And all he had to do was make a detour through France.
Warner Bros and Universal Pictures have optioned rights to Coben’s thriller Tell No One. Ben Affleck is attached to direct, and the script will be written by Chris Terrio. Terrio scripted Argo, the film Affleck is preparing to direct next for Warner Bros. Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be the producers. The studios will co-develop the picture, with Warner Bros releasing domestically and Universal Pictures International launching it overseas. The deal involves Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, and that’s where the French connection comes in. The new project is basically a remake of the French film adaptation of Coben’s book, which was directed by Guillaume Canet.
Coben originally set up his book at Sony Pictures in 2002. The studio hired Star Trek scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, no less. Coben has a page-turning writing style, but his mysteries aren’t seamless screen transitions. It never quite came together and Sony let it go. Canet then got involved, figured out how to make the premise work, set it up at EuropaCorp and turned it into French film. The plot involves a pediatrician who is out one night frolicking by a lake with his wife when she suddenly vanishes and he is severely beaten when he tries to find her. When she turns up murdered, he is prime suspect. That’s until she’s declared a victim of a caught serial killer. Years later, bodies turn up in the same spot and the nightmare is repeated, the pediatrician again under suspicion. Right around that time, he’s given evidence that his wife wasn’t dead at all. Canet managed to make all of that work, anchored by the fact the protagonist never got over the death of his wife. Sarah Schechter and Greg Silverman are running the project for Warner Bros, and Adam Yoelin is steering it for Kennedy/Marshall.