With less than a month to go, the stage is set for one of the strangest Oscar showdowns in memory. Certainly the season started with some clear favorites emerging, like Argo at Telluride, Silver Linings Playbook at Toronto, then Lincoln just after the election, followed by Life Of Pi. I thought Paramount’s Flight also might emerge as a major best picture contender around this time, but when critics awards and early nominations for Globes and CCMAs started coming in, it was clear this was mainly just a play for Denzel Washington and John Gatins’ original screenplay. At Christmas time, we got Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, and the hotly anticipated Les Misérables to complete our seven-pack of best picture contenders. What many weren’t anticipating was that two small indie films that made a splash earlier in the year were also going to come in. Beasts Of The Southern Wild managed to hold on to all that momentum from its Sundance debut a year ago, and then READ MORE »
Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi has turned into a success story for 20th Century Fox which had the Yann Martel book in development for several years but could never crack the supposedly “unfilmable” property until Lee got involved five years ago and figured out a way to bring to the screen this epic story of a young man and a tiger trying to survive after a disastrous shipwreck. Earlier on Wednesday the film passed the half billion dollar mark worldwide for Fox and also just passed the $100 million milestone in America alone. Nevertheless this is a strong international smash and with 11 Academy Award nominations, a remarkable feat since none were for acting, it promises to keep growing the total and has emerged as a genuine threat at the Oscars. If anything Life of Pi stands as a testament to the art and science of motion pictures, a film the director says could not have been made even five years ago. Now it has thanks to the efforts of a group of dedicated craftsmen. Below Lee talks of the challenges as do the film’s Oscar nominees for Visual Effects, Cinematography and Music in a series of exclusive new featurettes premiering now on Deadline.
Let’s throw “conventional wisdom” out the window regarding this morning’s Oscar nominations. In a year when there are so many genuine contenders for the Oscars‘ Best Picture, the Academy has thrown a wrench into the proceedings, instantly cementing early frontrunner status for Lincoln and Life Of Pi along with the “little engine that could” Silver Linings Playbook while dampening prospects of winning the big prize for three other perceived major contenders Zero Dark Thirty (the controversial critical darling), Les Miserables and Argo. All three of those films’ directors were snubbed after winning DGA nominations earlier this week. Did these Best Picture nominees direct themselves?
The biggest shock waves at the Academy this morning were clearly over the omission of Ben Affleck‘s direction of Argo and Kathryn Bigelow‘s absence for Zero Dark Thirty. Both are still nominees as co-producers of their Best Picture-nominated films, but this has to sting. Instead, Silver Linings’ David O. Russell reversed his snub at DGA and BAFTA with a strong showing where it counts, and wildcard Michael Haneke of Amour (which did exceptionally well for a foreign-language film including a Best Picture and Foreign Language nod) got those spots along with the true shocker of the directing nominees, Beast Of The Southern Wild’s Benh Zeitlin. His tiny Sundance sensation and offbeat film defied expectations earning key Directing, Picture, Screenplay and Actress (for youngest nominee in the category ever, Quvenzhane Wallis). Some people were sure they were mistaken when they heard Zeitlin announced instead of Affleck after the first name Benh was called out. But the Oscars are always known for throwing surprises into the mix. Much like that Wizard of Oz, Oscar has spoken. As Academy COO Ric Robertson (who is also an Academy voter) told me, “I guess we really, really liked Beasts Of The Southern Wild’!” With Zeitlin’s directing nod, that’s an understatement. It is his first movie, by the way, so congratulations Benh, and sorry Ben.
Related: OSCARS: Who Got Snubbed By Academy?
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
MOTION PICTURE NOMINATIONS BY PICTURE – 85TH AWARDS
Lincoln - 12 nominations
DreamWorks Pictures/20th Century Fox Production (Walt Disney/20th Century Fox)
Daniel Day-Lewis – Performance by an actor in a leading role
Tommy Lee Jones – Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Sally Field – Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Life Of Pi - 11 nominations
Fox 2000 Pictures Production (20th Century Fox)
Original song – “Pi’s Lullaby”
Les Misérables - 8 nominations
Universal Pictures and Working Title Production (Universal)
Hugh Jackman – Performance by an actor in a leading role
Anne Hathaway – Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Makeup and hairstyling
Original song – “Suddenly”
Silver Linings Playbook - 8 nominations
Weinstein Company Production (The Weinstein Company)
Bradley Cooper – Performance by an actor in a leading role
Robert De Niro – Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Jennifer Lawrence – Performance by an actress in a leading role
Jacki Weaver – Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Argo – 7 nominations
Stage 16 Pictures Production (Warner Bros.)
Alan Arkin – Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Zero Dark Thirty - 5 nominations
Columbia Pictures Production (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Jessica Chastain – Performance by an actress in a leading role
Amour – 5 nominations
Les Films du Losange/X Filme Creative Pool/Wega Film Production (Sony Pictures Classics)
Emmanuelle Riva – Performance by an actress in a leading role
Best foreign language film (Austria)
Skyfall – 5 nominations
Eon Productions Ltd./Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures Production (Sony Pictures Releasing and MGM)
Original song – “Skyfall”
Django Unchained - 5 nominations
Weinstein Company and Columbia Pictures Production (The Weinstein Company)
Christoph Waltz – Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Anna Karenina – 4 nominations
Working Title Films Production (Focus Features)
Beasts of the Southern Wild - 4 nominations
Cinereach and Court 13 Production (Fox Searchlight)
Quvenzhané Wallis – Performance by an actress in a leading role
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - 3 nominations
New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Production (Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Makeup and hairstyling
The Master - 3 nominations
Ghoulardi Film Company/Annapurna Pictures Production (The Weinstein Company)
Joaquin Phoenix – Performance by an actor in a leading role
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Amy Adams – Performance by an actress in a supporting role
BAFTA Nominations Announced: ‘Lincoln’ Leads Followed By ‘Les Mis’ & ‘Life Of Pi’; Spielberg & Hooper Not Among Director Field
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln leads the pack of nominees (see full list below) for the 65th EE BAFTA Awards, which were announced this morning in London by Alice Eve and Jeremy Irvine. Lincoln scored 10 nominations, though it did not pick up a directing mention. Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi and Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables each got nine nods, but Hooper (nominated here for The King’s Speech in 2010) failed to make the directing category. Working Title’s Tim Bevan, who has both Les Mis and Anna Karenina vying for prizes this year, told me he was surprised that Spielberg and Hooper missed out on directing slots but called it an “interesting year because [nominations] seem to be spread all over the place.” The takeaway, he said, is that Spielberg and Hooper are “swimming in a pool of extreme talent this year. Which is great for the movie business.”
Meanwhile, Skyfall, now the highest-grossing film in UK history, was nominated eight times, yet was noted in the Best British Film category and not the overall Best Film group. The only picture to cross over those two fields was Les Mis. The trio of Life Of Pi, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty have both Best Film and Best Director slots. The two Best Director candidates whose films were not mentioned in the Best Film group are Michael Haneke for Amour (although it did also land Foreign Language, Original Screenplay and Leading Actress nods) and Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained, which also picked up nominations for Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor for Christoph Waltz and Editing.
Paul Brownfield is an AwardsLine contributor.
The tank could hold some 1.7 million gallons of water, and it made waves you could surf on, says Suraj Sharma, the 17-year-old star who spent long hours in this fabricated ocean. …
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
For Life Of Pi, his third collaboration with director Ang Lee, composer Mychael Danna incorporated the sounds of Asia—especially India—into a multicultural stew of a score. Along with a full studio orchestra, accordion, piano, celesta, and mandolin, Danna added Balinese gamelan, Persian ney, basuri (an Indian transverse flute), Indian percussion, and, of course, the sitar. Plus, the venerable Pandit Jasraj (still going strong at 82) contributed vocals.
“Pi is a 21st-century citizen; he belongs nowhere and everywhere,” says Danna of the lead character in the film, based on an acclaimed novel that blends adventure and spirituality. “It’s set in India but in a French colonial town. So we have accordions and mandolins playing Indian melodies and sitars playing French melodies. We also have an English boys’ choir singing Sanskrit and a Tibetan chorus singing in Latin. The goal was to carefully—and, hopefully, artfully—blend every culture that Pi comes across and then makes part of his own essence.”
Related: ‘Life Of Pi’ Sails Into Oscar Race
Best-Ever Thanksgiving 5-Day Box Office! Newcomers: ‘Rise Of The Guardians’ Weak, ‘Life Of Pi’ Overperforms, ‘Red Dawn’ Meh; Holdovers Stronger – ‘Breaking Dawn 2′ #1, ‘Skyfall’ #2, ‘Lincoln’ #3
SUNDAY 3:45 AM, 6TH UPDATE: (Saturday/Weekend/Holiday #s below)
What is there to say other than this 5-day Thanksgiving Holiday was a monster at the weekend box office. Best of all, audiences came out in droves for an overwhelming majority of original films as well as popular sequels. Hollywood today is giving thanks this is now the biggest-ever moviegoing T-Day holiday: $288M for the 5 days of domestic box office, smashing 2009′s record of $258.6M. It also beat the previous all-time 5-day moviegoing record set in 2009 of $270.5M. I don’t wanna hear these studios plead poverty to the Hollywood community for at least several months. (“We have no complaints,” agreed one studio bigwig.) In sharp contrast to Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day grosses, domestic box office went into overdrive on Friday by posting double- and triple-digit increases. Saturday stayed relatively flat, with only one film up in the Top 10.
Among holdovers, this will be another great #1 weekend for Summit Entertainment’s Twilight Saga finale Breaking Dawn Part 2. It’s worldwide estimate is now $577.7M after making another $161.4M around the globe this weekend. Domestic, its $43.07M represents the largest 2nd weekend gross for the Twilight Saga franchise. Internationally the film grossed $97.4M this weekend from 73 territories, bringing the film’s overseas cume to date to $350.8M. BD2 remained virtually #1 in all territories with the exception of Australia that debuted Skyfall and had the best-ever franchise opening in Germany ($15.2M) as well as strong debuts in Austria ($1.8M) and German Switzerland ($1.5M). With this weekend’s estimates, parent company’s Lionsgate International has crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office – the first time in the studio’s history. Its worldwide take for 2012 is now over the $2 billion mark, also a first. Actuals so far are domestic $1.18 billion, and international $1.005 billion.
#2 was Eon Productions/MGM/Sony Pictures’ James Bond #23 Skyfall which crossed $200M domestic over the weekend - the first 007 film ever to cross $200 million or more domestically. Skyfall‘s overall international cume is at least $568.4M and worldwide more than $790.1M. Australia and New Zealand came in as the biggest Bond openings ever and ranked among the top openings of the year, both #1 and both commanding 65% of the market this weekend. Australia bowed with $12.5 ($21k per screen). Despite the onslaught of the Twilight Saga finale, Skyfall‘s holdover stayed strong. On IMAX, pic made $7.5 mil domestic gross while its global cume to date on IMAX will be $49M.
#3 was Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln from DreamWorks/Fox/Disney. That biopic continues to find an audience – amazingly – in both red and blue states.
Unfortunately, among newcomers, #4 DreamWorks Animation’s Rise Of The Guardians 3D distributed by Paramount disappointed in its 3,653 locations (including 2,900 3D or IMAX presentations). Based on a series of best-selling books, toon fell -22% from Wednesday to Thursday, then came back very strong Friday – +149% - but dropped -3% Saturday. Overall, this Avengers-like team of fantasy characters from Santa Claus to the Easter Bunny to the Tooth Fairy and Despicable Me minion-like elves really underperformed and shockingly couldn’t even make it to $33M for the 5-day holiday. These days successful toons open to at least $40+M regular weekends and most Christmas-themed movies for kids are in demand this time of year, especially when there’s no pure family fare this holiday season. By contrast How To Train Your Dragon posted one of the slowest openings in DWA history and still eked out $43.7M for its 3-day non-holiday weekend. There’s still the chance Guardians might build momentum the same way Dragon did as its coveted ‘A’ CinemaScore helps word of mouth. It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong in this quirky pic directed by Peter Ramsey as his feature film debut, scripted by David Lindsay-Abaire, produced by Guillermo del Toro, and featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher. Except some felt the pic was unextraordinary, unfunny, and its message about fame powering the world off-putting to parents. Others suggest its unique animation style makes it a tougher sell. It certainly didn’t perform for lack of marketing, which was omnipresent as usual.
DWA/Paramount even boasted that Rise Of The Guardians “is, by far, our most impactful and widest DWA online media campaign to date reaching over 200 million uniques with highly visible social, video, and gaming stunts. YouTube played a vital role”. In addition to, we partnered with Machinima, the largest male 13-34 gaming/entertainment video destination on the web (139MM worldwide uniques), to present an extended first look at the film. The trailer launched in April on Titanic 3D but also with other toons like Madagascar 3, Ice Age 4, Hotel Transylvania, and Wreck it Ralph. There also were a variety of custom ROTG in-theatre spots running on over 11,000 movie screens in the domestic market – all films, all ratings. The adult campaign kicked off October 7th with a blitz on ABC’s Once Upon A Time. There was no election campaigning for 36 hours “to stay out of the noise” but the toon jumped on Halloween, Thanksgiving and early Christmas TV programming. There was exclusive 3D footage presented at CinemaCon in April and Cannes in May. Facebook and Twitter were used as usual to amplify engagement with content launches and to drive purchase intent on release day. There also was the highest ‘Kids & Family’ reach of any DWA film “with the highest level of engagements we’ve seen to date”, I’m told. My last word is that this is going to be a headscratcher for months to come if Guardians can’t get its act together.
Twentieth Century Fox reports that Life Of Pi opened with $47.7M worldwide gross from just 4 international day and date territories - Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, China - and the US/Canada market. Additionally, pic debuted on IMAX in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Total was $3M on 97 IMAX screens for a per screen average of $30+K. Domestic, the studio was thrilled its #5 fantasy adventure pic with Avatar-like 3D climbed a massive +24% from Wednesday to Thursday - up more than any other top film in the marketplace. Then it went up +97% Friday, prompting a studio exec to gush, “The good news keeps coming at you like a hungry Richard Parker!” It dropped -7% on Saturday. This PG pic received an ‘A-’ CinemaScore which is keeping it overperforming. Before it opened, the studio told me it would rejoice if director Ang Lee’s Oscar-buzzed pet project opened over $20M – and it accomplished that. But at a costly $120M because of all that CGI. Exit polling showed it playing to a broad cross-section of moviegoers: 54% male and 46% female, 23% under age 18 and 38% under 25. Subject matter was far and away the primary driver for interest. The first footage debuted at Cinemacon on April 26th after which Life Of Pi was the opening night film at the New York Film Festival. Now the studio has launched its Oscar campaign. I give Fox high marks for a compelling marketing campaign despite a hard-to-describe faith-based storyline. For weeks before the picture opened, Fox tried to tamp down box office expectations, telling me how Life Of Pi was “a truly unique film that studios get criticized for not taking risks to make anymore. And, like any unique original film, it takes time to seep into the broader cultural awareness. And we feel this is a steady, gradual release that will grow as acclaim comes in and word of mouth spreads. This was a bestselling book that no one thought could be made into a feature film. We took the creative risk and backed a top filmmaker’s vision to go on a journey previously thought unfilmable.” As for its faith-based campaign, Fox says it made the film for a worldwide spiritual audience. ”The thing that is different from traditional ‘faith’ campaigns is that we have reached out to all denominations of religious backgrounds - Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc - and these leaders and organizations have really taken to the film. They like the storyline that Pi as a teenager has a rabid curiosity about faith and the differences (and similarities) that impact him spiritually and allow him to survive by embracing it.” Of course, Fox is still all about the bucks and its marketing promotions included Life Of Pi ‘inspired by’ merchandise like Christmas ornaments and mango black teas.
Besides spiritualists, the overall marketing focused on book lovers and film lovers. Written by David Magee based upon Yann Martel’s novel which has sold more than 9 million copies, pic was produced by Gil Netter, David Womark, and Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who spent 4 years trying to get the project to the screen while the book was in development for 10 years. But it probably needed to wait because that’s some CGI Bengal tiger! (Out of more than 165 shots of Richard Parker, only 24 were of real tigers.) Unlike most Hollywood movies these days, Lee worked with only the one screenwriter, Magee, the entire time in development. He shot the films in 3 countries – India, Taiwan and Canada — with the multinational cast Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Rafe Spall, and Gérard Depardieu. Suraj became the focus of the media campaign because of his backstory: he beat out 3,000 kids for the part and only attended the Delhi auditions because his brother was trying for the role and promised him a Subway sandwich if he came along. Suraj did not know how to swim when cast and had to learn along with perform all his own stunts.
Finishing only #7, FilmDistrict’s Red Dawn (2,724 theaters) dropped -22% from Wednesday to Thursday but recovered +88% Friday then dropped -10% Saturday. Not helping was that this action remake received only a so-so ‘B’ CinemaScore. But, heck, it’s a minor miracle that this pic is finally releasing since it was trapped for so long in MGM’s bankruptcy. Chris Hemsworth was still an unknown when cast back in 2008 but pic now benefits from his career trajectory into a big action star. Also unknown castmembers better known now are Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki. Directed by Dan Bradley, produced by Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson, with credited screenwriters Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, the plot is more or less the same as the 1984 Red Dawn: America is invaded (this time, not by Russians but by Koreans – changed from Chinese) and a group of good-looking guerrilla fighters claw back control of their town. FilmDistrict merely obtained distribution rights in September 2011 to this remake which MGM financed and put into production in 2009 (back when then studio head Mary Parent was crossing her fingers and hoping for the best). Once completed, the film was then shelved due to MGM’s financial mess. Pre-release tracking indicated the film could post a 5-day holiday in the very high teens with a 3-day weekend in the low teens. Given that, FilmDistrict’s biggest obstacle was how to market the movie for next to nothing. The trailer launched in August, and Red Dawnwas closed Fantastic Fest in Austin in September to start fanboy hype, followed by a heavy word-of-mouth screening program on over 100 military bases and college campuses. With the media focused on core M12-34 and P12-34 audiences, the campaign was heavy on sports TV channels, Comedy Central, Spike, WWE/UFC, BET, and the like. Digital integrated promotion of the new film with recognition of the original through contests for hometown screenings via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. The film wound up playing best across the South, especially in Texas and surrounding states. It also played best in markets with larger military installations. Exit polling showed the audience was 62% male vs. 38% female, and 52% age 25 and older, and 20% under age 18 and older.
The Weinstein Co’s Oscar-buzzed Silver Linings Playbook is still on a slow rollout after Harvey changed the release strategy and didn’t go wide right away. Its gross went up +162% Friday and it eaned the distinction of being the only Top 10 movie to increase grosses (+3%) on Saturday. Still its per screen average needs to strengthen. Clearly the pic’s R rating puts off Jennifer Lawrence’s younger female fans who are still Twilight Saga-obsessed. And Bradley Cooper is by no means a box office sure thing. This adult comedy’s ability to earn big still has a big question mark.
Fox Searchlight’s much anticipated Oscar candidate Hitchcock starring Tony Hopkins and Hellen Mirren opened Friday in 17 theaters, earning $112K with a per screen average of $6,954. Again, I thought this PG13 AFI Fest opener would start stronger. It’s expected to platform this weekend to $312K. Shot entirely in LA this past May, this project from Tom Pollock and Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Picture Company came to Fox Searchlight with Sacha Gervasi already attached as the director. Pic’s classic Hollywood storytelling by screenwriter John J. McLaughlin and Stephen Rebello who wrote the book, as well as the performances, have merited an awards campaign, but it wasn’t helped by Hopkins’ recent attack on the whole campaigning process. With both Hopkins and Mirren working in London, now, the studio has been doing satellite Q&As for voters and media alike in advance of Hitchcock’s Academy premiere. Fox Searchlight will continue with a platform release over a four-week period, and then head into a limited national release into about 500 theaters for December 14th.
Also opening in limited release was Sony Pictures Classics’ Rust And Bone in 2 theaters. The R-rated drama made $9K and is expected to end the weekend with $24K. SPC was eager to work with French producer Pascal Chaucheteux again following Jacques Audiard‘s previous project, A Prophet. Here the company received an early draft of Rust And Bone with one of France’s biggest stars already committed – Marion Cotillard – further sparking interest. Audiard directed and also co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain and Craig Davidson. SPC picked up North American rights in addition to a few other territories. Consistent with the company’s release strategy, it has a platform rollout to put it into the zeitgeist. Pic opened Friday only in New York; Los Angeles follows on December 7th. The Friday before Christmas, it will open in 12 additional cities. At the end of January, it’ll go wider. SPC is hoping Rust And Bone receives awards consideration
And finally, Focus Features’ holdover Anna Karenina playing in 66 theaters grossed $307K Friday for what should be $807K for the 3-day weekend and $1M for the 5-day holiday. Cume for this R-rated adaptation directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightly should be $1.4M.
Here’s the Top 10 based on 3-day weekend estimates. Check back for refined numbers.
1. Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 2 [Runs 4,070] PG13
Wednesday $12.9M, Thursday $8.0M, Friday $17.4M, Saturday $16.8M (-9%)
3-day Weekend $43.0M (-69%), 5-day Holiday $64.0M, Cume $226.9M
2. Skyfall (Eon/MGM/Sony) Week 3 [Runs 3,526] PG13
Wednesday $7.4M, Thursday $7.7M, Friday $14.7M, Saturday $14.0M (-4%)
3-Day Weekend $36.0M, 5-Day Holiday $51.0M, Cume $221.7M
3. Lincoln (DreamWorks/Fox/Disney) Week 3 [Runs 2,018] PG13
Wednesday $4.2M, Thursday $4.8M, Friday $9.9M, Saturday $9.8M (-2%)
3-Day Weekend $25.0M, 5-Day Holiday $34.0M, Cume $62.1M
4. Rise Of The Guardians 3D (DreamWorks Anim/Par) NEW [Runs 3,653] PG
Wednesday $4.8M, Thursday $3.7M, Friday $9.2M, Saturday $9.1M (-3%)
3-day Weekend $24.0M, 5-Day Holiday $32.6M
5. Life Of Pi 3D (Fox) NEW [Runs 2,927] PG
Wednesday $3.6M, Thursday $4.4M, Friday $8.8M, Saturday $8.4M (-5%)
3-Day Weekend $22.0M, 5-Day Weekend $30.1M
6. Wreck-It Ralph 3D (Disney) Week 4 [Runs 3,259] PG
Wednesday $3.7M, Thursday $2.5M, Friday $6.7M, Saturday $6.5M (-3%)
3-Day Weekend $16.7M, 5-Day Holiday $23.0M, Cume $149.5M
7. Red Dawn (Film District) NEW [Runs 2,724] PG13
Wednesday $4.2M, Thursday $3.2M, Friday $6.0M, Saturday $5.4M (-10%)
3-Day Weekend $14.6M, 5-Day Holiday $22.0M
Finally opening wide today after a 10-year journey to the screen, director Ang Lee‘s epic and groundbreaking movie about the trecherous ocean voyage of two survivors of a shipwreck – a young man and an imposing Bengal Tiger – represents an enormous gamble for distributor 20th Century Fox. Even Lee who has won Oscars for equally groundbreaking fare such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain initally did not think this reported $120 million film based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel was viable. “I read it 10 years ago. I thought nobody in their right mind would put up more than $15 million for this. It’s too risky, too philosophical a book although it has great adventure in the middle part, the ocean part, but it’s a thinking book. So I didn’t think it was artistically filmable or technically so,” he told me when he came to town last week for a series of well-attended promotional screenings for the WGA, PGA, SAG, DGA and the Academy which drew a strong crowd Sunday night.
Lee wasn’t the only one who thought Life of Pi was unfilmable. Fox had been developing the picture with other filmmakers since aquiring the property in 2002 but until Lee got involved five years ago it was stalled. Even then it almost didn’t come together but the director prevailed in explaining his vision and the need to shoot it in 3D, his first time using that process. “I thought of 3D, that maybe with another dimension I could take a leap of faith. That was way before I knew what 3D was. It was a naive thought.
After nearly four years of work, Ang Lee tonight unveils his much-anticipated film version of Yann Martel’s Life Of Pi, a book that sold 7 million copies worldwide but was thought to be “unfilmable” until technology finally caught up with it the past five years. Having its world premiere as the opening movie of the New York Film Festival, 20th Century Fox is launching what looks like a box office hit and definite Oscar contender — and this despite the fact it features no name stars or obvious hooks. Chalk it up as another contender in the emerging season along with other fall-festival titles like Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, The Master, The Impossible and Anna Karenina among others. Certainly there is no other film like Pi out there this season which ought to give it some distinction in the race.
The studio has been touting the visually stunning film since debuting 15 minutes of footage at the Las Vegas CinemaCon exhibitors convention in April, when it became clear this November 21st release could become a major awards player. Right after that presentation one pundit told me, “Well this is one of the Best Picture nominees for sure”. Now the wraps are off the completed film, although there is still some minor mixing, color correction and polishing of some 100 effects shots to be done. The studio had a very small initial screening for literally a handful of journalists in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon at their Zanuck Theatre (where I caught it), and this morning for press covering NYFF in New York. Early reaction on Twitter has been strong.
New York, NY, August 13, 2012 – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today that Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI will make its World Premiere as the Opening Night Gala presentation for the upcoming 50th New York Film Festival (September 28 – October 14). The screening will mark the Academy Award-winning director’s return to NYFF, 12 years after CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON served as the Closing Night Gala presentation (2000). The selection of LIFE OF PI also allows Lee to join Robert Altman, Pedro Almodóvar and François Truffaut as the only directors to have had more than one film chosen to open NYFF. (THE ICE STORM was the Opening Night Gala selection in 1997.)
A respected presence at the New York Film Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in 2009 FSLC celebrated Lee’s career with a complete retrospective of the director’s work at the Walter Reade Theater. The LIFE OF PI screening will also mark the first time a film has been presented in 3D for NYFF’s Opening Night Gala.
20th Century Fox moved up the release date of its Ang Lee-directed drama Life Of Pi from Christmas week to November 21. That’s the date Warner Bros had staked out for its Alfonso Cuaron-directed sci-fi drama Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock, which recently was pushed to sometime in 2013. Now Lee’s 3D adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestselling novel will land there, and the studio hopes it will play into the holiday season. Pi centers on a 17-year-old zookeeper’s son and his arch rival, a bengal tiger, who are stranded together on the open seas after their ship is pummeled by a storm.
Tobey Maguire has been cast in Ang Lee’s novel adaptation Life of Pi, the Fox movie that is shooting in India ahead of a December 2012 bow. Yann Martel’s bestseller centers on an Indian boy who escapes a shipwreck but is stranded on a life raft with a zebra, an …
EXCLUSIVE: After ending a bunch of old producing pacts as the studio remade itself into a family-friendly franchise film factory, Disney’s production president Sean Bailey has made a 2-year first look deal with Gil Netter and his Netter Productions banner. Netter, who had a deal at 20th Century Fox, certainly fits that family mandate: his most recent producing credits include Marley & Me and The Blind Side, which got him nominated for Best Picture.