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Q&A: Rian Johnson On ‘Looper’

By | Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 9:06pm PST

Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.

What started out as a three-page script almost a decade ago has turned out to be writer-director Rian Johnson’s most successful film to date, Looper. The time-travel tale stars frequent Johnson collaborator Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, both playing the same character from different points in their lives. “It was less (about) taking 10 years to get it done and more kind of writing it and thinking it up eight years later,” he explains. Johnson recently spoke with AwardsLine about why it’s fun to work with friends and how he’s come to believe that directing is as much about listening as anything else.

AWARDSLINE: When you expanded your initial three-page script into a feature, you wrote with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in mind for the main character. What makes collaborating with a lot of the same people on your films work well for you?

The main benefit of it is just that level of trust that’s automatically baked into working with someone who’s a friend of yours. What I hope that leads to is giving you the comfort level to take some risks or try some things you may be otherwise afraid to. Because you have leapfrogged putting a lot of energy into forming a new relationship, you can redirect that into just making the movie better. But our sets don’t feel like cocktail parties. Our sets tend to be really focused places.  Read More »

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Cutting Edge Group Adds Nora Mullally As Head Of Business And Legal Affairs

By | Wednesday October 31, 2012 @ 11:28am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: London and LA-based film music provider The Cutting Edge Group invests cash in film music budgets and provides or brokers services for scoring, clearances and music supervision. It then recoups from soundtrack and sheet-music sales along with licensing and royalties from ticket sales and TV deals. New director of business affairs and head of legal, Nora Mullally, joins after a 3-year stint consulting EMI Music. Her experience advising companies on commissioning, rights clearance and exploitation issues for film soundtracks includes working with the UK’s Celador Films on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. The ten-year-old CEG has been involved with such films as Looper, End Of Watch, Bullet To The Head, Drive, The King’s Speech, Atonement and Notting Hill.

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What A Weekend! Sony Has Best Ever #1 + #2 Films: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ Sets Records; Uni’s ‘Pitch Perfect’ Tops Screen Average; Walden’s ‘Won’t Back Down’ Flops

By | Sunday September 30, 2012 @ 7:27am PDT

SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: Hollywood finally can celebrate better box office which breaks a 5-week losing streak. Friday and Saturday overperformed for an ‘up’ weekend: $110M total moviegoing, which is +20% better than last year. And Sony Pictures has $66.2M – or 56% – of it. Saturday especially was an “absolutely huge moviegoing day, one we haven’t seen since July,” an executive told me. It was an especially big day for Amy Pascal and Jeff Blake with maybe the biggest ever #1 and #2 openings for a studio.

Columbia/Sony Animation’s Halloween funhouse Hotel Transylvania (3,349 theaters) got off to a monster start Friday and then soared +73% Saturday for $43M by end of Sunday. That weekend cume beat the record for the all-time September opening (shattering Sweet Home Alabama‘s decade-ago $35.6M though not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices or 3D’s premium). It’s also the highest grossing debut for Sony Pictures Animation. And it’s 2012′s biggest opening since The Dark Knight Rises. Pic also worked for audiences who gave it an ‘A-’ CinemaScore (‘A’ from females and kids under 18) to guarantee good word of mouth through the month. Sony is claiming Hotel Transylvania cost $85M but I know it cost $104M. Depending on its legs and international preformance, it should gross between $390M-$550M at the worldwide box office. Toon opened day and date in 4 territories including Mexico and Australia.

Bob Osher, president of Sony Pictures Digital Productions, and Michelle Raimo Kouyate, President of Production for Sony Pictures Animation, drove … Read More »

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UPDATE: ‘Looper’ Execs In China Blooper

By | Saturday September 29, 2012 @ 10:37pm PDT

UPDATE OCT. 3: I’m trying to get the full story. But I’ve learned that everyone associated with the futuristic actioner Looperin China — Sony and TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, Endgame Entertainment, and the Chinese co-producer DMG Entertainment — made a blooper. Their execs reported early but wrong box office grosses. The reason is innocent enough: calculating grosses from some theaters mixed up dollars with yuan, making the tally appear much bigger than it actually was. The result is that no records were set, as execuives claimed. It was not the first time an international film debut beat the U.S., as executives also claimed. And no one knows whether it opened #1 in China. Instead of $23M-$25M grosses for its first weekend in China, one source tells me the actual figure may be only $5M-$7M. (One China film blog thinks it’s more like $4M-$5M.) I’m still trying to obtain the correct final box office tally (delayed by the Chinese National Holiday). Meanwhile I’ll be correcting my previous reports – although I did note that Endgame’s James Stern was “cagey” confirming the records because “we don’t have the final box office tally” but congratulated his team nonetheless.

PREVIOUS: I’ve learned that the Sony/TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, and Endgame Entertainment futuristic actioner Looper which was a co-production with China’s DMG Entertainment is setting records in that country. The Rian Johnson film pulled off a huge upset in China by opening #1 its first … Read More »

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Toronto: ‘Looper’, ‘On The Road’, Marion Cotillard Kick Off Festival Packed With Oscar Hopefuls

Pete Hammond

The Toronto International Film Festival officially kicked off tonight with gala screenings of FilmDistrict’s time-tripping sci-fi action flick Looper starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt, plus two Cannes premieres making their official North American bows. On The Road, the 1950s beat movie about Jack Keroauc, drew stars Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and others, while French helmer Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone arrived with stars Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts in tow. Cotillard, as a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in a tragic accident, delivers another show-stopping performance that seems sure to earn her a shot at a second Best Actress Oscar. She looked great after travelling from her Telluride tribute last weekend to Toronto for the big opening tonight. I told her I felt like I have been stalking her, following her from Cannes to Telluride and now Toronto. “Yes, it’s has been quite a trip, hasn’t it?” she said as she entered Michael’s restaurant (also having a Grand Opening) for the pre-screening Moet and Chandon dinner.

Related: Toronto 2012: High Optimism As Business Reshaped By Filmmaker-Driven Fare And Shifting Formats Reinvigorates Indie Biz

Co-star Schoenaerts, who made a splash last year in Belgium’s surprise Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee Bullhead, has everything it takes to be a major star but told me he wants to take it slow. “When all this started happening I did have talks regarding the lead in … Read More »

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Toronto 2012: High Optimism As Business Reshaped By Filmmaker-Driven Fare And Shifting Formats Reinvigorates Indie Biz

By | Thursday September 6, 2012 @ 5:04pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Toronto International Film Festival 2012 PreviewAs the Canadians here like to say, it’s time to drop the puck on the Toronto Film Festival. Things get underway with this evening’s premiere of the Rian Johnson-directed Looper, but the dealmaking crowd is already into things. I’ve heard there is some action on Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (which played Telluride), and Eli Roth’s genre film Aftershock.

Beyond the finished films, there is also potential action on upcoming films that are being shown to buyers through promos. Those include the Ralph Fiennes-directed The Invisible Woman with Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Kristen Scott Thomas; Long Walk To Freedom, an Idris Elba-starrer about Nelson Mandela’s first term as president after the fall of apartheid in South Africa; the Susanne Bier-directed Serena with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper; and the Bong Joon-ho-directed Snow Piercer with Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton.

SEE PART II: Fest Films With Highest Wanna-see From Buyers: Mike Fleming On 2012 Toronto

Besides the deal volume, by the time most of the buyers and sellers leave here next week, not only should there be a wealth of sales, but also a much clearer picture of the Oscar race, which so far has no frontrunner at all.

A festival that always ranks high among distribution executives and agents — the city is so damn pleasant and is a great place to watch movies — this particular Toronto will be likely front-loaded with deals for theatrical-release films with casts that have buyers fairly salivating. And the burgeoning multiplatform business makes it a good bet that anything worth watching will get snapped up at some point or other. Also helping matters is that enough films that were set up in an independent construct succeeded well enough to have whetted appetites for more. Films brought up by buyers and sellers were the Wes Anderson-directed Moonrise Kingdom (which has grossed over $44 million) and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Magic Mike. While the latter seems an odd example considering it was released by Warner Bros, the film speaks to the promise of what can happen when things succeed. (See below how last year’s Toronto-sold films fared at the box office.)

Channing Tatum and Soderbergh decided to finance that $6.5 million film themselves. It was a smart gamble. Even though the story was somewhat dark, they knew they would fill the cast with hunks and that an audience would turn out for what could be marketed as an infomercial for 8 Minute Abs. Castmates like Matt Bomer and Matthew McConaughey signed on for little upfront money and they all became investors in the film. Word is those guys will wind up with $5 million paydays, and that Tatum and Soderbergh will make a fortune for their risk. They sold international for around $14.5 million, and then sold U.S. to Warner Bros for $7.5 million. The film has so far grossed north of $150 million worldwide. This should feather Soderbergh’s nest in retirement (believe it or not, there was a de facto retirement party for him earlier this week).

Related: Toronto Film Festival 2012: ‘Looper,’ ‘Argo,’ ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Highlight 60+ Films

Buyers and sellers I’ve spoken to are still debating how to walk away from Toronto with some films under their arms, but not overpaying. Every buyer I spoke with mentioned the razor-thin margins under which most of these films operate. They are also still very divided over the merits of the multiplatform release strategy that many of them are now operating. “So Bachelorette hit number one on iTunes,” said one distributor who sees VOD as an option only for films that don’t warrant the P&A spend. “Weinstein paid $2 million for that film, and if they made a few hundred thousand dollars, will enough theaters be willing to play the film to make it meaningful?”

Related: ‘Bachelorette’ Becomes An iTunes Hit Read More »

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eOne Says Talks With Alliance Are Ongoing As It Reports Strong First Quarter

By | Wednesday July 25, 2012 @ 5:02am PDT

In May, Entertainment One confirmed it was mulling the acquisition of fellow Canadian-based group, Alliance Films. At the time, it said a deal was not a certainty, but that it had held talks with Alliance shareholders. In its interim results today, eOne said the discussions are “ongoing”. In the meantime, eOne said it had increased first quarter film revenues by 16% and TV revenues by over 200%. In the quarter, the company, which operates in North America, the UK and Benelux, released 49 movies up from 36 in the same period in 2011. In May, it was particularly active at Cannes where it acquired 20 movies including the RED sequel, Hugh Jackman-starrer Prisoners, biopic Grace Of Monaco with Nicole Kidman and The Mortal Instruments in a multi-territory deal. EOne’s upcoming slate includes The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, feel-good comedy The Sapphires, police drama The Sweeney and Toronto Film Fest opener, Looper. On the TV side, eOne produces NBC’s The Firm, cop show Rookie Blue, hospital drama Saving Hope, DirecTV drama Rogue and popular toon Peppa Pig, among others. The company said its full-year results are anticipated to be in line with management’s expectations.

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Toronto Film Fest: What Looks Good For Oscar?

Pete Hammond

Okay let’s just cut to the chase.

What does today’s first announcement of galas and special presentations at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival mean for the Oscar race? Of course it is only still July but with this news out of Canada the lineup for awards season is starting to become a reality. Venice (which is opening with Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalistalso a Toronto Gala pick which bodes well), Toronto and Telluride have increasingly become key outposts for the official beginning of awards season and 2012 films the studios and indies are premiering at the trio of oh-so-important fests will be scrutinized for their pure-bred Oscar potential. Venice may be downsizing a bit this year according to early indications and Telluride, per tradition, keeps  its lineup fairly secret until August 30, the day before the Colorado Labor Day weekend fest begins but you can bet it will overlap heavily with the other two fests, particularly Toronto since Telluride doesn’t label any of its films as North American or World Premieres and can play many of the same films under the radar. Toronto gets the honor of official premieres and so it is Toronto that is giving us the most to work with — so far.

The September 6 Opening Night film is action thriller Looper which on the surface does not appear to be an awardsy-type film, just a solid genre piece. I don’t believe Film District plans any kind of major Oscar campaign here. Read More »

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Toronto Film Festival 2012: ‘Looper,’ ‘Argo,’ ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Highlight 60+ Films

By | Tuesday July 24, 2012 @ 7:48am PDT
Mike Fleming

Toronto Film Festival 2012The first leg of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival was announced this morning, and the slate of premieres and galas has a good mix of star power and potential acquisition titles. Looper was confirmed as the Gala Opening film, which is unusual in that festival organizers have traditionally chosen Canadian titles or documentaries. Here’s the full slate in the fest’s announcement:

Toronto – Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, made the first announcement of films to premiere at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival. Films announced include titles in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes. The announced films include 17 Galas and 45 Special Presentations, including 38 world premieres.

Toronto audiences will be the first to see the world premieres of films from directors Andrew Adamson, Ben Affleck, David Ayer, Maiken Baird, Noah Baumbach, J.A. Bayona, Stuart Blumberg, Josh Boone, Laurent Cantet, Sergio Castellitto, Stephen Chbosky, Lu Chuan, Derek Cianfrance, Nenad Cicin-Sain, Costa-Gavras, Ziad Doueiri, Liz Garbus, Dustin Hoffman, Rian Johnson, Neil Jordan, Baltasar Kormákur, Shola Lynch, Deepa Mehta, Roger Michell, Nishikawa Miwa, Ruba Nadda, Mike Newell, François Ozon, Sally Potter, Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman, Eran Riklis, David O. Russell, Gauri Shinde, Ben Timlett & Bill Jones & Jeff Simpson, Tom Tykwer & Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski, Margarethe von Trotta, Joss Whedon and Yaron Zilberman.

“We are thrilled to announce

Read More »

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Toronto: ‘Looper’ To Open Fest, Slate Coming This Morning

By | Tuesday July 24, 2012 @ 5:44am PDT
Mike Fleming

Looper Toronto Film FestivalLooks like the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival will get underway with Looper, the futuristic Rian Johnson-directed thriller that start Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. An official announcement is 90 minutes away, but I’m told this would be the rare scripted non-Canadian film to open the festival. Last year the fest opened with the U2 docu From The Sky Down. We’ll have the 2012 list as soon as we can. (UPDATE: Here it is.) Looper opens September 28 through TriStar for FilmDistrict and Endgame, and while that looked to be a crowded weekend with End Of Watch, that David Ayer film (also at Toronto) is shifting its release date to September 21.

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Comic-Con: Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Plus ‘Looper’, ‘Total Recall’ & ‘Resident Evil 5′

By | Friday July 13, 2012 @ 7:01pm PDT

Luke Y. Thompson is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of Comic-Con.

The most-anticipated moment of the Sony panel was easily the presentation of Neil Blomkamp‘s Elysium, and it did not disappoint, looking like a 2001/District 9 hybrid, or maybe even Wall-E with humans. It’s another stylish sci-fi class-struggle parable with Matt Damon as a shaven-headed working-class guy on an overpopulated earth (downtown LA is shown covered with tent encampments, even atop the skyscrapers). He was inadvertently exposed to toxic radiation and given a mechanical exoskeleton to help him capture a rich bureaucrat played by William Fichtner and infiltrate Elysium, an off-world space station created for the richest 1%, where disease Comic-Concan be eradicated and everything is perfect. Sharlto Copley’s also in there as a crazy bearded dude with a personal force-field. Robotic cops look not unlike the District 9 bugs. It feels like a potential smash. The footage shown had rough, unfinished effects but it didn’t matter. Panelists were Blomkamp, Jodie Foster, producer Simon Kinberg, Copley (hugely cheered by this crowd) and Damon. Copley revealed that his character is a villain, which wasn’t evident in the clips. He also begged fans to ask Blomkamp for a District 9 sequel, joking that he’s still looking for work.
Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘Looper’

By | Thursday June 28, 2012 @ 4:33pm PDT

Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in the sci-fi pic about a contract killer (Gordon-Levitt) who works for the mob of the future, killing victims 30 years in the past so there’s no trace of the crime. Then comes a target (Willis) that happens to be his future self. Rian Johnson wrote and directed. CAA sold rights to the film in 2011 at Cannes to FilmDistrict; Sony is releasing it through its TriStar label September 28. The interesting part is it replicates the distribution structure of District 9, which FilmDistrict boss Peter Schlessel acquired while he was at Sony and which became a hit. Looper has a similarly brainy construct and is also reminiscent of the first Terminator.

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‘Cloud Atlas’, ‘Dredd’, ‘Looper,’ ‘Magic Mike’ Screen Early For Distributors: Cannes

In the past few days, buyers at the Cannes Film Festival have had a first look at some high-profile pics they’ve already bought. Focus Features International screened Cloud Atlas on Tuesday for its distributors, and IM Global gave theirs a full showing of Dredd this afternoon. FilmNation also held screenings of three of its upcoming pics to get folks excited early.

Related: Hot Film Titles For U.S. Buyers: Cannes 2012

Cloud Atlas, directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant. It’s based on David Mitchell’s book that consists of six interconnected stories. Warner Bros will release domestically, but the studio did not finance the $100M film. Producer Grant Hill tells me when it became clear that Warner Bros couldn’t see how to make it within the studio system, the filmmakers chose a different route. That included a combination of equity from Asian sources and some rights deals. “We were lucky it went very well and got us the money we needed,” says Hill, adding, “When we had raised the amount we needed, we were feeling pretty good about it so we said why don’t we wait and hold back 3 or 4 territories.” The territories remaining are the UK, France, Japan and Spain. The screening could lead to deals closing soon. “There’s a lot of people talking to a lot of people… The nice part about having potential buyers in the screening is that they got to sit with people who had already bought the film and who were enthusiastic. But, you can’t control the situation, it could easily have gone the other way.” The financing structure “is a model I’d try again,” he says, “but it’s not a model that’s a fit for all situations.” Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis In ‘Looper’

By | Thursday April 12, 2012 @ 5:00pm PDT

In this futuristic thriller, when the mob wants to rub out an enemy, they dispatch their target back in time 30 or so years where a Looper — in this case Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) will take care of the job. Which presents a problem when Joe’s employers decide to close the loop and send future Joe (Bruce Willis) for assassination. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Looper also stars Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels. The film was one of the hottest titles at the last Cannes Film Festival, where FilmDistrict bought it before it was completed. It’s also a reteam between Gordon-Levitt and Johnson, who worked together on the indie Brick. Currently slated to open September 28.

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FilmDistrict Hires Jim Orr As President Of Distribution

By | Thursday April 12, 2012 @ 4:32pm PDT Orr has joined FilmDistrict as the new president of distribution, CEO Peter Schlessel announced this afternoon. Orr will oversee all aspects of FilmDistrict’s feature distribution and will report directly to Schlessel. This follows Sclessel’s recent hiring of Christine Birch as president of marketing, and positions key executives at FilmDistrict as the company prepares for the Cannes Film Festival and market next month. Orr will oversee distribution of FilmDistrict’s slate, including Lockout (via Open Road) which opens tomorrow, Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8), Looper, in conjunction with Endgame Entertainment and Sony Pictures (September 28), Red Dawn (also via Open Road, November 2) Playing the Field (December 25) and Parker (January 25, 2013). Also in the works is a “reimagining” of the horror cult classic Evil Dead, in conjunction with Ghost House Pictures and Sony Pictures, and a sequel to Insidious, distributed by FilmDistrict. Read More »

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