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OSCARS Q&A: Letty Aronson On Her Partnership With Big Brother Woody Allen & Their Collaboration On ‘Blue Jasmine’

By | Tuesday January 7, 2014 @ 7:34pm PST

For almost 20 years, Letty Aronson has been producing the films of her big brother, Woody Allen: She AwardsLineworries about the commercial concerns while Allen focuses on the creative. Their partnership is such a well-oiled machine that Aronson admits, “I’m so used to the way he works, it always bothers me when someone else doesn’t work that way.” Aronson got her start as a producer working with Jean Doumanian, then took over producing Allen’s films after his working relationship with Doumanian ended in a bitter legal battle. Since then, she’s kept up Allen’s pace of making a film a year, and earned her first Oscar nomination for 2011’s Midnight In Paris. Aronson’s most recent production is Blue Jasmine, which has been a hit at the box office and has given Cate Blanchett frontrunner status for a best actress Oscar.

Related: OSCARS: Ballots Are Out And The Race Is On, But Will Voters See The Movies In Time?

Film Independent's 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival Premiere Of Sony Pictures Classics' "To Rome With Love" - Red CarpetAwardsLine: Has it gotten any easier to finance the films you produce, especially considering the strength of Woody Allen as a brand?
Letty Aronson: Not really. (Laughs.) Except for independent financiers in this country, we get no money from any studio, not even a discussion. After all the hullabaloo of Midnight In Paris, I didn’t get one call from any studio. But I can understand that because they don’t work the way we work. In going out and looking for money, I tell people right up front: They can’t read the script; they don’t have input into the cast; they don’t see dailies; they don’t see a rough cut. They’re really investing in Woody and his reputation. They’re not going to make hundreds of millions of dollars, either. We’re low risk, low reward. The studios don’t work that way, but in Europe, there’s never been a studio system. It’s really always been independent financiers. So it’s easier to go there (with) all these different rules and get money. We don’t want to spend a lot on the films because we would like to pay our investors back. For some, we put together a three-picture deal. If we don’t know the people, I don’t love putting together a three-picture deal because who knows if we’ll like working with them after the first picture? But it’s not any easier. A film like Blue Jasmine, which got the most spectacular reviews, is up to almost $34 million in this country. Now another film without Woody’s name on it that got those kind of reviews would earn three times that much. Read More »

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Woody Allen’s ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ Headed To … Broadway

By | Thursday February 23, 2012 @ 12:56pm PST

Woody Allen is adapting the original screenplay he co-wrote with Douglas McGrath for the 1994 film Bullets Over Broadway as a musical and will take it to Broadway in 2013. The New York Times reports that Julian Schlossberg and Allen’s sister and Midnight In Paris producer Letty Aronson will produce the stage version, for which Allen is writing the book. It will feature existing music from the Prohibition-era 1920s in which the film is set. Dianne Weist won a Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work in the film, which centered on a young playwright (John Cusack) who is forced to cast the girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) of a mobster in order to mount the production. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including for Allen’s script. Schlossberg and Aronson also produced Allen’s Relatively Speaking, a group of one-act plays that played Broadway last year. Allen’s Midnight In Paris is up for four Oscars on Sunday.

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Oscars Q&A: Letty Aronson Has Big Brother Woody Allen’s Back On ‘Midnight In Paris’

By | Tuesday February 7, 2012 @ 9:04pm PST

When it comes to Academy recognition, Midnight In Paris writer-director Woody Allen’s view isn’t that far from the Groucho Marx philosophy held by his Annie Hall alter ego Alvy Singer: Allen would never want to belong to a club that would want someone like him as a member. After Annie Hall scored four Oscar wins, it seemed Allen was an Oscar club member for years to come, especially with 21 nominations under his belt. Not so according to his producer and younger sister Letty Aronson, who has shepherded his films since working on 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway. She also is behind Allen’s latest Oscar Best Picture nominee, which also earned him Director and Original Screenplay noms. Aronson assesses Midnight In Paris, her 18th collaboration with Allen, as well as her brother’s awards-season track record with AwardsLine’s Anthony D’Alessandro.

AWARDSLINE: Midnight In Paris is Woody Allen’s highest grossing film of all-time ($148.4 million worldwide). Why did this title resonate widely with audiences?
ARONSON: When I read the script, I said to Woody, “Who’s going to come see this?” No one has heard of Man Ray or Gertrude Stein. He is always determined to make the movie that he has a vision for and it’s my job to always ask “I wonder who will go see it?” It’s one thing to read the script and quite another to actually see the film. How do I account for its success? It’s been a crossover film in terms of younger folks, which I attribute to either the parents going and saying “you gotta see this” or taking their kids to it. This was also a breakout film partially because people have a love affair with Paris. Read More »

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HAMMOND: ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Artist’, ‘Paris’ Try To Buck Oscar’s Prejudice Against Comedy; HFPA Says ‘The Help’ Is Not Funny

Pete Hammond

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. Someone said that, right?

Judging by the paltry number of “pure” comedies that have won Best Picture Oscars in the past, apparently the Academy doesn’t think it’s hard at all. But could this actually be the year comedy will once again get its due in the Best Picture race? Will we ever see another genuine laugher taken seriously? “It’s crazy when you see what these great comedy people do,” says Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow. His film was a huge surprise summer hit and has one of the highest critics ratings on Rotten Tomatoes with 90% fresh reviews. That’s a lot better than many dramatic contenders that pundits take more seriously as true Oscar pictures. Broad, hit-’em-in-the-gut comedy is almost always dismissed.

Apatow told me he was really surprised when Bridesmaids started to become part of the awards conversation this year but now believes they have a shot, at least in some categories — although not daring to dream of Best Picture yet. “We’re very hopeful about Melissa McCarthy in supporting. (Co-writer and star) Kristen Wiig  should get recognition  too. It’s very hard to do what she does,” Apatow said, adding that he thought Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover (which Apatow did not produce) should have been recognized a couple of years ago for the “perfect supporting part” but was obviously overlooked.

Further proving disrespect for comedy in the Acad, Apatow himself was dissed even to become an Academy member until finally getting the invite in 2008. Considering the Academy’s usual reluctance to reward the genre, Wiig is shocked they are even in the hunt, but Bridesmaids is the only movie Universal is significantly campaigning this year. “It’s nuts,” she said. “Recently we were looking at our original draft and thinking the fact people are even talking about it in this way is very strange. But I think ultimately it’s about the story and characters. You have to care about them or you’re not going to care about the movie whether it is comedy or drama.”

Bridesmaids is also hoping for recognition as a Best Picture Comedy or Musical nominee in the Golden Globes, where it actually does have a realistic chance of making the cut (The Hangover actually won). Many have called for the Academy to institute separate categories to honor comedy, like the Globes have always done, but it has never flown.

It is not hard to see why.

Often there’s a very gray line between what constitutes a comedy in the first place.  The Hollywood Foreign Press lets studios determine which categories they want to be in but has final say. In other words, if a studio tries to squeeze J. Edgar into comedy because there is less competition, forget it. This year, there has been lots of discussion among distributors about what constitutes a comedy. Fox Searchlight initially debated whether to enter its George Clooney starrer The Descendants in the Comedy or Musical category because there are definite laughs, but the dramatic elements ruled the day and it is submitted as a drama. Same with Sony’s Moneyball, which had some TV ads with quotes calling it “hilarious.” In the end, it wasn’t that hilarious — it’s in drama.

On the other hand, DreamWorks officially submitted The Help in comedy or musical even though it has some very heavy dramatic moments. On Monday, an HFPA committee rejected it in comedy and determined it would compete as a drama, where it will go head-to-head with Disney/DreamWorks’ other big hopeful, War Horse (assuming both get nominated, as seems likely). It’s not surprising: At a recent event I attended, a lot of HFPA members were voicing concerns about having to judge The Help as a comedy. The film was indeed initially sold by Disney and DreamWorks with an emphasis on its lighter elements, and past Globe winners in the category such as Driving Miss Daisy were similar in tone. Still, that would have meant Viola Davis would compete in the Best Actress-Comedy or Musical category, and no matter how you slice it, her character — a civil rights-era maid — just wasn’t that funny. Other entries that remain in the category that border comedy and drama are Focus Features’ Beginners and Summit’s 50/50, both dealing with main characters with cancer; Paramount’s Young Adult; and The Weinstein Company’s My Week With Marilyn. But the placement seems logical, and their chances against stiff competition in the drama categories would be considerably lessened. Last year, Focus entered the dramedy The Kids Are All Right in the comedy categories and bagged Globes for both the picture and Annette Bening. Read More »

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Woody Allen Changes Title Of Rome-Set Movie To ‘Nero Fiddled’

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Woody Allen has changed the title of his new Rome-set film from the confusing The Bop Decameron to the much catchier Nero Fiddled. Allen got tired of all the blank stares he received when telling people the title of his film, and found something that better conveys the locale. He shot the film this summer and starred in it with Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page. The film is a Gravier Productions comedy produced by Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum. It’s the first Allen film funded by the Italian production/distribution company Medusa Film. Nero Fiddled will be released next year. Allen’s most recent film, Midnight In Paris, crossed $50 million to become his career highest-grosser in North America.

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