Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep filming together and singing. Who can resist? Not Disney any longer. It’s taken 16 months to get off the ground — ever since January 2012, when the studio sent out a press release announcing Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) would be directing Stephen Sondheim’s iconic 1987 Broadway musical Into The Woods as a feature film for Disney. A table read was held in NYC this past October featuring Donna Murphy, Megan Hilty, Christine Baranski, Allison Janney and quite a few other Broadway stars. Buzz of Streep’s interest first surfaced last summer and this past week Marshall confirmed in an interview to Playbill that she was “in” to the play the witch. Today Variety reported Depp’s interest. Now I’ve confirmed that Johnny and Meryl “almost have their deals wrapped up for the film,” according to sources. Marshall directed 2011’s Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 (which might have been more palatable as a musical because it stunk as the franchise’s fourquel) so he’s already Mouse friendly. The original musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by James Lapine is about a childless baker and his wife who attempt to lift a family curse by journeying into the woods to confront the witch that put the spell on them. Along the way, they encounter classic fairy tale characters. Depp previously starred in the DreamWorks film version of Sondheim’s dark musical Sweeney Todd which was also the last time he sang on camera. Streep in films had a nice turn warbling country Western in the final scenes of Postcards From The Edge until the longtime Abba fan became the singing and dancing queen of Mamma Mia!. For Into The Woods, Marshall frequent collaborators John DeLuca will produce while David Krane will arrange the music. Lapine penned the screenplay.
Even as Oscar nomination polls were closing Friday afternoon, the awards season action was already shifting to the Southern California desert as the 10-day Palm Springs International Film Festival kicked off, not only with its highly publicized Saturday night gala where enormous statuettes are handed out to Oscar hopefuls looking for a boost in the race, but also as a genuinely impressive public showcase for world cinema.
42 of the 71 official Oscar foreign entries are on display at the Fest (which runs through January 13) including 8 of the 9 finalists which made the shortlist. Many of those filmmakers nervously awaiting results, of which of the 9 become the 5 nominees, were at the fest all weekend, even as a select group of about 30 high-profile Academy members (including Meryl Streep, who told me last year she had a great time on this uber committee) in New York and Los Angeles were viewing the finalists and making their choices (to be announced with other Oscar nominees on Thursday morning).
Today Sony Pictures is doing the unthinkable. It is breaking, on a wide release of 2500+ screens, a dialogue-driven adult comedy/drama about the sex life (or lack of it) of a long-married couple both in their 60′s. And in the middle of August no less!
Sure it stars Meryl Streep, a bona fide box office draw even at her age, but it’s highly unusual and somewhat risky business to go this wide with a movie that is clearly aimed at the much older audience who is slow to show up no matter what the attraction. The studio is opening on a Wednesday in order to build some good word of mouth and reviews for its first weekend where it must face more typical summer flicks like Universal’s The Bourne Legacy and Warner Bros. The Campaign. Currently it stands at a decent 77% fresh for reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, a good sign for a movie that would seem like it would be more indie-oriented fodder than summertime major studio fare.
With the August release though Sony is also getting a jump on awards season as this cast includes such Oscar favorites as 17- time nominee and 3- time winner Streep (most recently in February for The Iron Lady) as well as Supporting Actor winner Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive), along with a deadpan Steve Carell as their couples therapist who counsels them at a week-long retreat on how to put the sexual spark back into their marriage. Of course Streep tends to get Oscar noms for just showing up on the set, while Jones was last nominated for Best Actor for 2007′s In The Valley Of Elah, a bit of a surprise then since his film was a boxoffice non-starter that had largely been written off at that point indicating the Academy likes him, they really like him. Both stars are getting strong reviews so far. Whether the strategy works at the boxoffice for this very Academy-friendly fare (official Los Angeles Academy member screening is Sunday night at the Goldwyn) remains to be seen but producers Todd Black and Guymon Casady told me they are just hoping the audience turns out, and happy they decided to go the studio route even though that wasn’t initially the plan.
In introducing Screenwriting award winner Nora Ephron at a Hollywood Film Awards ceremony a couple of years ago her good friend and admirer Steven Spielberg said, “Nora knows how so easily to make us laugh and to make us …
More than 10 years in the making, an international treaty aimed at protecting actors’ rights is due to be signed in Beijing in the coming week. Backed by UN agency WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the treaty …
The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival revealed its panel series as well as six new titles that will world premiere at the upcoming event. Narrative films Freaky Deaky and Future Weather as well as documentaries Portrait Of Wally and Once In A Lullaby: The PS22 Chorus Story will screen as part of the “Tribeca Talks: After the Movie” series, the documentary Wagner’s Dream will premiere as part of the festival’s new “Beyond the Screens: Globalize Your Thinking” series, and the narrative Knife Fight will have a screening with an extended Q&A.
UPDATE, TUESDAY 10:39 PM: All 15 Academy Awards auctioned tonight by Nate D. Sanders sold for $3,060,089 (which the auctioneer calls a record-breaking amount), a total about $1 million less than some estimates for the entire lot but impressive nonetheless. Getting top dollar was Herman Mankiewicz’s 1941 Screenplay Oscar for Citizen Kane going for $588,455 (about $300,000 less than what Orson Welles scripting statue went for in December), How Green Was My Valley’s Best Picture Oscar went for $274,520 while another Fox Best Picture, 1933′s Cavalcade garnered $332,165. The oldest of the Oscars in the lot for 1931′s Skippy fetched $301,973 while the two acting Oscars being auctioned also did well. Ronald Colman’s 1947 Best Actor statuette for A Double Life went for $206,250 and Charles Coburn’s supporting award for 1943′s The More The Merrier took in $170,459.
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY PM: Now that all of those Academy Award nominees who didn’t win on Sunday night have had a full day to lick their wounds, there is good news: If you hurry you can get in on today’s record sale (by Nate D. Sanders Monthly Auctions) and buy an Oscar statuette. See, things are already looking up. Of course, the Academy totally frowns on this Oscar fire sale but they can’t do anything about it since the awards on the block are all pre-1950 — the year the Academy changed the rules and forged agreements with winners that they (or their estates) must first offer to sell the Oscar back to Academy for $1 before putting it on the market.
In today’s lineup of gold men — which instantly doubles the number of Oscars ever auctioned on the free market — there are some pretty historically significant awards. They include a screenwriting Oscar won by Herman Mankiewicz for co-writing Citizen Kane (its only win in 1941; the matching Orson Welles Screenplay Oscar fetched $861,000 in December) and Best Picture Oscars for the 20th Century Fox films How Green Was My Valley (1941) and Cavalcade (1933), the latter the first Best Pic Oscar for the studio. There is also director Norman Taurog’s Oscar for 1931′s Skippy, which he won at age 32, making him still the youngest to win in the category. You might want to purchase the first-ever Special Effects Academy Award for 1938′s Spawn Of The North or a Black and White Cinematography award for the 1939 classic Wuthering Heights and a color one for 1948′s The Yearling. Art Directors might like Paul Groesse’s Color Art Direction award for 1949′s Little Women. This year’s losing composers might want to consider purchasing Hugo Friedhofer’s 1946 Scoring of a Dramatic Picture Oscar or even the Film Editing award for the same movie. Actors can choose between 1947′s A Double Life Best Actor Oscar for Ronald Colman or (probably less expensive) Charles Coburn’s 1943 Supporting Actor statuette for The More The Merrier, a title that describes the spirit of this whole lot of Oscars on the block. The auction ends at 5 PM (PT) today, but there is extended bidding beginning at 5:15.
OSCARS: Backstage At Academy Awards: ‘Artist’ Producer On Movie’s Color Version, ‘Artist’ Director On His Next Project & More
Brian Brooks, Diane Haithman and Anthony D’Alessandro are contributing to Deadline’s Oscar coverage
After his success with a silent film, how does French actor Jean Dujardin plan to transition back to talkies? “I’m not an American actor, I’m French,” the Best Actor winner said tonight backstage at the Academy Awards. “If I could make another silent movie in America, I would. But I’ll always be a French actor in America. Nonetheless, there are a few ideas I would like to develop.” Dujardin admitted that in the French portion of his acceptance speech he dropped the equivalent of the F-bomb.“I said thank you so much! It was amazing … uh, yeah, I guess I said that.” And as far as the whereabouts of his four-legged co-star Uggie, “He went to bed already,” Dujardin said.
“H-i-i-i-i-i,” drawled Meryl Streep when she finally showed up in the press room long after the show was over to talk about her Best Actress win for The Iron Lady. She was immediately asked to address her self-deprecating comments during her acceptance speech: “When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh no. Oh, come on. Why her? Again?” Streep acknowledged she thinks she may be “pushing the tolerance” of the Academy and the fans after 17 nominations and three wins. “I understand ‘Streep Fatigue,’ I really do,” she later said. “Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t override this tonight.” But getting another Oscar was thrilling, Streep said, adding that she might take a nip of whiskey like Thatcher to celebrate. “I thought I was so old and jaded, but they call your name and you just sort of go into a white light. I was like a kid again,” she said, joking that two of her fellow nominees “were not even conceived” when she won her first Oscar. She also said she was excited by the win of her Iron Lady makeup artists earlier in the evening “not for making a monster, but for making a human being.” Streep confirmed that she wore Ferragamo shoes, Margaret Thatcher’s favorite, to get into character. She did not meet Thatcher, noting, “the challenge was to imagine her present life.” Streep was asked how it felt to see herself for the first time in makeup as Thatcher. She said the change was so gradual there was no shock, but one thing was unnerving. “When we first had the old age makeup on, I saw my Dad. Maybe my Dad looked like Margaret Thatcher.”
By the time The Artist producer Thomas Langmann made his way backstage, there wasn’t much left to say about how très excited the cast, producers and creative team were about the film’s endless stream of awards culminating in a Best Picture Oscar. Langmann was asked about an earlier backstage comment by Artist costume designer Mark Bridges that the black-and-white film had been shot in color in case they were unable to sell it in black and white in some markets. Asked if he had any plans for that color footage, Langmann replied cheerfully, “No. Sorry, but no.” He spoke about producer Harvey Weinstein. “Harvey has been really good to us,” Langmann said. “I asked him to come a month before Cannes with a director and cast he’d barely heard of. But he came. I stayed in the screening room to see if everything was OK. He loved the movie and was laughing throughout. I saw in his eyes and attitude that he cared for the movie. He believed that we could possibly be here today. He’s the only distributor who could take this movie here today.” Weinstein was not The Artist‘s only good luck charm — Langmann acknowledged that he had a lucky coin in his pocket given to him by his daughter. As for the possible impact from the success of The Artist, the first silent movie to win a best picture Oscar since the first Academy Awards ceremony 83 years ago, “if The Artist can help another producer be audacious, this is a great thing,” Langmann said. “I’ve shown this movie to kids. Some had never seen a black-and-white movie and after five-10 minutes, they enjoyed it. Silence is a way of telling a story. It’s an experience and maybe it’s as great as a 3D experience.”
Hollywood has caught Q&A fever: I have now learned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences has plans to keep the Q&A spirit alive year-round and not just “in season”. Academy regulations loosening rules that previously forbid members from attending filmmaker Q&As were severely relaxed this year — particularly in the months leading up to nominations, when members could attend and even be served food and drink at receptions, a past no-no. Post-nomination Q&As are limited to screenings and nominees (or others connected to nominated movies) and members are allowed to appear at just two each, with no food or receptions. But the Q&A craze has spread, and I hear the Academy has decided to make them an option at their own weekend film programs starting in June at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre. The programs (usually two on Saturday and two Sunday) give studios and distributors the opportunity to have filmmakers and actors appear after their movies for Q&As with members. Previously only films were shown, but this could increase overall attendance, a goal of the Academy’s to encourage seeing films on the big screen.
Argentine moviegoers are seeing Margaret Thatcher from a different, perhaps more sympathetic perspective after “The Iron Lady” opened Thursday in Buenos Aires, according to Reuters. Thatcher was reviled among Argentines for her role in the 1982 war with Britain over the Falkland Islands. Argentine opposition lawmaker Gabriela Michetti said the film humanizes Thatcher. “You can see her youth, how much she fought against obstacles in a man’s world and as a grocer’s daughter … It’s the first time I see her this way.” Ernesto Alonso as a young conscript fought in Las Malvinas, as the Falklands are known in Spanish. “She was the harshest symbol of the policies of the empire,” Alonso said. “It’s important to see the war through a movie and see what kind of legacy this kind of character leaves behind.”