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R.I.P. Bert Stern

By | Saturday June 29, 2013 @ 6:49pm PDT

Bert Stern Marilyn MonroePhotographer and filmmaker Bert Stern, best known for shooting a collection of 2,500 images of Marilyn Monroe six weeks before her death, died Wednesday in NYC according to reports. He was 83. The commercial photog got his start at Look magazine, where he first befriended Stanley Kubrick; he’d later go on to shoot publicity stills on Kubrick’s Lolita including the film’s iconic poster image featuring starlet Sue Lyon, a lollipop, and a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses. In 1959 Stern co-directed the music docu Jazz On A Summer’s Day, about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which was later inducted into the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1999. Stern’s Monroe snapshots, however, were his lasting legacy. First commissioned by Vogue magazine in 1962, the photo shoot dubbed The Last Sitting intimately captured Monroe in a room at the Hotel Bel-Air and was released in book form in 1982 and 2000. In 2010 Stern was the subject of the First Run-released documentary Bert Stern: Original Madman, directed by wife Shannah Laumeister.

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TELLURIDE: Film Distributors Go Shopping

Pete Hammond

Sundance, Cannes and Berlin are just some of the world’s top festivals where major movie sales are completed. But Telluride is mostly a launchpad for Fall awards contenders. Yet, unexpectedly, this 39th edition is drawing a large number of distributors interested in picking up some great deals. Among the titles for sale here are Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha starring a delightful Greta Gergwig; Canada’s and Sri Lanka’s Midnight’s Children; thriller The Iceman  starring Michael Shannon; director Sally Potter’s Ginger And Rosa; the documentary Love, Marilyn based on newly discovered diaries of Marilyn Monroe; and Saudi Arabia’s  Wadjda. Of course, 2009′s The Last Station  devised an unusual strategy by exclusively premiering in Telluride and also nabbing a Sony Pictures Classics deal plus two major acting Oscar nominations. And in 2010, Fox Searchlight execs saw a secret showing of The Tree Of Life here and quickly nailed rights for the film, which would eventually be nominated for Best Picture of 2011. Read More »

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Cannes Unveils Official Poster For 65th Anniversary Celebrating Marilyn Monroe

By | Tuesday February 28, 2012 @ 11:32am PST

The Cannes Film Festival has announced it will pay tribute to Marilyn Monroe, who has been selected as the “icon” of the festival for its 65th anniversary. The event’s offical poster shows the star blowing out a birthday cake — although this image appears to be from inside a limousine rather than having to do with her famous rendition of the Happy Birthday song she sang to President John F Kennedy in 1962. In a statement, the festival said: “Fifty years after her death, Marilyn is still a major figure in world cinema, an eternal icon, whose grace, mystery and power of seduction remain resolutely contemporary. Each of her screen appearances sparks the imagination. The festival poster captures Marilyn by surprise in an intimate moment where myth meets reality — a moving tribute to the anniversary of her passing, which coincides with the festival anniversary. She enchants us with this promising gesture: a seductively blown kiss. The festival is a temple of glamour and Marilyn is its perfect incarnation. Their coming together symbolises the ideal of simplicity and elegance.” The Cannes Film Festival runs May 16-27 this year.

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OSCARS: Epic Battle In Banner Year For Lead Actresses

Pete Hammond

OSCARS: Best Actor Race Pits Veterans Vs. “Sexiest Men Alive”

The Best Actress race is hot this year.

That isn’t always the case as the paucity of realistic contenders in this category often reflects the lack of good roles for women in Hollywood. But the gods were smiling in 2011, providing killer parts for a nice mix of veterans, past nominees and winners and young stars looking for their first major recognition from Oscar. But as usual, Meryl Streep leads the pack. Here’s the rundown.

FRONTRUNNERS
MERYL STREEP, THE IRON LADY
You know you are in a different league when people start saying it is high time you had another Oscar when you already have two at home. But Streep is indeed in another league and in fact only keeps breaking her own records. With 16 nominations — far more than any actor in film history — it has still been 29 years since she last won (for 1982′s Sophie’s Choice), and many feel that with her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher her time has come again. The New York Critics agreed, but she’s been in this position before and there’s stiff competition.

MICHELLE WILLIAMS, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
The stiffest competition for Streep  may well be coming from two-time nominee Williams whose multi-layered portrayal of screen icon Marilyn Monroe as she attemps to make … Read More »

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VIDEO: Chinese Superstar Pianist Lang Lang Plays At ‘My Week With Marilyn’ Premiere

By | Tuesday November 8, 2011 @ 3:44pm PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company pulled off a coup at their Sunday night AFI premiere of My Week With Marilyn with a pre-screening recital from Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang playing composer Alexander Desplat’s  “Marilyn’s Theme” before he was literally whisked away by police escort to his anticipated solo concert the same night at Disney Hall. Here’s a look at the performance at the Chinese Theatre.

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‘Grace Of Monaco’ Finds Funding; Who Will Play Actress-Turned-Princess Grace Kelly?

Mike Fleming

20th Century figures seem to be the rage, from Colin Firth’s King George VI in The King’s Speech to Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn to Meryl Streep’s upcoming turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. The next figure to watch out for: actress-turned-Monaco princess Grace Kelly. Shortly after his agents began circulating the Arash Amel script Grace of Monaco, producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam has agreed to fully fund a $15 million project that is now out to directors and will soon look for an actress to play Princess Grace. The film covers a half year period in 1962, when French leader Charles De Gaulle and Monaco’s Prince Rainier III were at odds over Monaco’s standing as a tax haven. France gave Monaco six months to reform its tax laws, and the situation escalated. By that time, Kelly (33 at the time) had given up her acting career to become a full time princess, and the film details her political manuevering behind the scenes to save Monaco. The CAA-repped Amel scripted the Aaron Eckhart-starrer The Expatriate. Who should play Princess Grace?

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‘My Week With Marilyn’ Moving To Thanksgiving Weekend

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Emboldened by the critical reaction that the Simon Curtis-directed My Week With Marilyn received in its New York Film Festival debut, The Weinstein Company has moved the film from November 4 to November 23, placing it smack into the Thanksgiving holiday fray. The film received strong reviews, particularly for Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, Kenneth Branagh’s turn as Sir Laurence Olivier, Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller, and Eddie Redmayne’s performance as the production assistant who gets Monroe to drop her suffocating star persona as he shows her a good time in Britain. TWC’s hope is that the film will be commercial enough to play through the year’s end and build momentum into Golden Globes and beyond. Just as Fox Searchlight is expected to have two contributions to the Best Actor category with Shame‘s Michael Fassbender and The Descendants’ George Clooney, Harvey Weinstein seems poised to have dual aspirants for Best Actress with Williams and Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, a film we’ve yet to see.

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More Festival Intrigue: ‘My Week With Marilyn’ Added To Hamptons Film Festival

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After a rousing response to the New York Film Festival premiere of My Week with Marilyn last Sunday, The Weinstein Company has added the film to this weekend’s Hamptons International Film Festival. My Week With Marilyn will screen Sunday, October 16 at Guild Hall and they are about to put tickets on sale. TWC already has The Artist on the festival roster. The NYFF screening started Oscar buzz, particularly for the performance by Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh’s performance as Sir Laurence Olivier. The film takes place in England during the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, which Monroe show while on honeymoon with playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). She gets a reprieve from her suffocating Hollywood persona when Miller takes a detour to Paris, and Monroe is shown the pleasures of British life by a young assistant (Eddie Redmayne).

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HAMMOND: Will Marilyn Monroe Finally Win An Oscar If Michelle Williams Does?

Pete Hammond

Is Marilyn Monroe finally headed toward that Oscar nomination which eluded her during the actress’ all-too-short film career? In an odd twist of fate, yes. With the world premiere Sunday night of The Weinstein Company’s My Week With Marilyn at the New York Film Festival, another presumed awards contender is out of the gate. And if I were Meryl, Glenn, Charlize, Viola, or any other lead actress Oscar hopeful, I would be nervous: Michelle Williams as Marilyn is that good. Sexy, vulnerable, fragile, alluring, seductive, delectable, complex, and all things in between, she nails it and certainly has claimed a spot among the top five if not frontrunner status for the Oscar itself. She also flawlessly sings a couple of Monroe standards as bookends for the film. Marilyn herself never managed to get any kind of Oscar recognition. Now, oddly, Monroe and her unique appeal could figure strongly in the 2011 Best Actress race as channeled through Michelle Williams.

I saw the film Sunday night at a small last-minute screening in Beverly Hills timed to coincide with its New York premiere. (Sony Classics did the same thing for Carnage when it opened NYFF over a week ago, just as Fox Searchlight did when The Tree Of Life premiered in Cannes.) It makes us die-hard West Coasters feel included in the hoopla, I guess. At the very least it’s smart Oscar strategy: an Academy acting branch member I talked to afterwards was totally under Williams’ spell.

The movie due for release November 4th is directed by British tv producer/director Simon Curtis. It is, along with Midnight In ParisThe Artist and The Descendants, one of the most purely entertaining films I’ve seen so far this year. I would imagine it will have great appeal for the same voters who supported Weinstein’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech last year. But realistically its best shot is in performance and some below-the-line categories like Costume Design and Art Direction. I have to confess that, after seeing some selected footage that was shown at the Weinstein party in Cannes last May, I had my doubts about Williams as Monroe. But those concerns were completely erased in the context of the entire film where she gets to show three distinctly different sides of the star without ever drifting into impersonation. Williams had doubts, too, when she was making the film last year in England. When I did a phone interview with her between takes  and talked about her nominated turn in Blue Valentine, I asked about playing Marilyn. But she fumbled through an answer and could not articulate what it meant then, much like the real Monroe when she was making the real film-within-the-film. Read More »

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R.I.P. Jane Russell

By | Monday February 28, 2011 @ 6:25pm PST

The statuesque actress/singer has died of respiratory failure. She was 89. Discovered by Howard Hughes for his 1940s film Outlaw, Russell graduated from WWII pinup to become an accomplished comedienne in films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the Howard Hawks film that paired her with upstart Marilyn Monroe.

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R.I.P. Tony Curtis

By | Thursday September 30, 2010 @ 3:21am PDT

UPDATE: The actor who grew up poor in the Bronx, arrived in Hollywood in 1948 as unknown Bernie Schwartz, and became a legendary film and television star, passed away from cardiac arrest Wednesday evening in his Las Vegas area home, according to the coronor’s statement. He was 85. Many will forever remember Tony Curtis for his comedic work in 1959′s Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, or his dramatic work in 1958′s The Defiant Ones, which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination opposite Sidney Poitier. But I will always admire his nuanced performance as press agent Sidney Falco in 1957′s Sweet Smell Of Success opposite Burt Lancaster. And his very moving portrayal of Iwo Jima’s Ira Hayes in 1961′s The Outsider. But he also shocked with his memorably menacing performance in the title role of 1968′s The Boston Strangler.

Curtis was that rare actor who could play with or against type, who could swing from light comedy to serious drama, and yet who remained a greatly undervalued thesp for most of his long career. Maybe if he hadn’t been so good-looking and become a teen idol in Hollywood’s Dream Factory days, he would have been taken more seriously as an actor sooner. (Who can ever forget Curtis hilariously playing a slave in 1960′s Spartacus with his heavy Bronx accent? When it was restored in the 1990s and audio had been lost, he redubbed the lines…) But Curtis also loved his stardom: he was married … Read More »

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