Here is an unexpected vote of support for Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty, a film that probably lost an Oscar nomination for director Kathryn Bigelow because of the cage rattling by three U.S. Senators over what they said was a false impression that the torture depicted in the film led somehow to 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. Here is a release issued by 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims, which was forwarded to me by Sony Pictures. As a New Yorker, I can see their point. While I was having my house built in a new community a dozen years ago, we met a firefighter who right up the block was building his dream house. Construction got delayed and by the time these houses were done, he had perished on 9/11. His family has long since moved away, but each time I drive past that house, I think of him. I also thought of him while I watched Zero Dark Thirty, and while I found the depiction of torture to be upsetting–it seemed to me that Bigelow and Mark Boal presented it in a way that leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether or not it was worthwhile or reprehensible–but the most surprising thing about the way that movie has played is how the heroism of the CIA operatives and the Navy SEALs has gotten little to no recognition …
EXCLUSIVE: In what is shaping up as the first major deal made on the ground at the Cannes Film Festival, The Weinstein Company is in hot and heavy negotiations for U.S. rights to Code Name Geronimo, the John Stockwell-directed drama about the manhunt for 9/11 terror attack mastermind Osama bin Laden. The deal is in the $2 million range, and is being negotiated on the basis of a trailer for a film that is in post-production.
That footage was unveiled today by Voltage Pictures’ Nicolas Chartier and WME Global’s Graham Taylor (who just landed in Cannes), and Weinstein moved quickly to hammer out a deal with attorney Craig Emanuel.
What is most intriguing about this is that TWC can put the film into theaters in early fall, a move that would put it before the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Zero Dark Thirty. That film, which has an ensemble cast including Joel Edgerton and Jessica Chastain, won’t be released until December 19 after Sony Pictures decided not to put it in theaters during the presidential elections. Already it is clear that President Obama’s green light of the SEAL Team 6 mission will be a major issue in the upcoming presidential campaign, and Republicans have already railed against the notion that writer Mark Boal got inside information from the administration for his script.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Hunt For Bin Laden Pic Hit With Protests In India, Gets Working Title ‘Zero Dark Thirty’: Reports
Members of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad group stormed the set of Kathryn Bigelow’s hunt for Osama bin Laden film in the Indian city of Chandigarh today, protesting the portrayal of Muslim culture in India, according to reports. Bigelow’s crew had been shooting there for four days although the director is understood not to have been on set during the unrest. Bin Laden was killed by a Navy SEAL team in Abbottabad, Pakistan last year, but unable to shoot there, the Sony Pictures and Annapurna Pictures film is instead using Chandigarh as a stand-in for Lahore — and the Hindu radicals are against the filmmakers portraying their sworn enemy Pakistan on Indian soil. (Since 1947, Muslim Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India have fought 3 wars and remain wary of one another.) Vijay Bhardwaj, a leader of the VHP, told Reuters, “We will not let them put Pakistani flags here and we will not let them shoot for the film.” A member of the crew told AFP that talks had been held with the Hindu protestors to try to defuse the situation. “Nothing has been shut down. We are still filming and will continue to do so,” the person said.
EXCLUSIVE: Jason Clarke is the first actor set for the Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden for Sony Pictures and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. An elite group of actors is being courted for the ensemble. I’m told that Clarke–who stars in the Ellison-produced The Wettest County in the World and is playing the gas station owner George Wilson in the Baz Luhrmann-directed The Great Gatsby–will play a terrorist hunter in service of the U.S. efforts to hunt Bin Laden. Also being discussed for roles are Tom Hardy (who also stars in Wettest County), Jennifer Ehle (Contagion), Guy Pearce (who starred in Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker), Idris Elba, Rooney Mara (upcoming Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Nina Arianda (Midnight In Paris). The plan is to start production early next year, so availability could be an issue for some of the actors. Mark Boal wrote the script and is producing with Ellison and Greg Shapiro.
No decision has been made yet. But studio sources say it “looks likely” that Sony Pictures, which had scheduled its hunt-for-bin Laden film for release October 12th, is moving it to later in 2012 or into 2013. That puts it after the 2012 election and ensures that the film won’t become a so-called “October surprise” and boost President Obama’s re-election chances by reminding voters that his administration caught and killed the al-Qaeda leader. Doubtful this will quiet all the partisan political talk in Washington and Hollywood about the Mark Boal-Kathryn Bigelow film.
Christopher McQuarrie will write, produce and direct Rubicon, a new property that is intended to be turned into a movie, graphic novel and videogame. McQuarrie is directing Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in One Shot, but the project was announced at NY Comic-Con by coproducers Mark Long and Dan Capel. They describe the project as The Seven Samurai, set in Afghanistan with Navy SEALs as the heroes, and the Taliban the villains. Since Navy SEAL Team Six killed Osama Bin Laden, the SEALs have become the centerpiece of numerous feature films.
“The three of us wanted to do a SEAL project, Dan was a founding member of SEAL Team Six and Chris’s brother commanded a team, but we wanted a new way in to the world of Tier One operators,” said Long, who added that the intention was to “explore the true nature of war, for both its heroes and its victims.” Said McQuarrie: “I’ve always been fascinated with Navy SEALs in general and their role in Afghanistan in particular. With Rubicon, Mark Long and Dan Capel have created the perfect environment for an intense action franchise.” The plan is to create the multiplatform properties simultaneously, with separate but complementary storylines. They’ll tease the graphic novel on Panelfly this month, and include the first chapter of Berserker, an autobiography that Capel has written.
BREAKING: New York-based congressman Peter King has called for an investigation into the Obama Administration’s cooperation with the untitled movie that The Hurt Locker’s Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are making about Navy SEAL Team 6′s hunt and eventual kill of 9/11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. The request came after a New York Times column by Maureen Dowd reporting that the film — which was acquired at auction by Sony Pictures before a script was completed — received cooperation and help in describing a mission that was classified. The filmmakers have just released the following statement:
“Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.” Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.
Sony Pictures has dated the untitled movie from The Hurt Locker team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal on the Navy SEAL Team 6 and its methodical hunt to kill Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. The picture will open Oct. 12, and the studio is using a strategy similar to the one employed on The Social Network, which also launched early in October.
When bin Laden was killed, Boal and Bigelow were well along on a project called Killing Bin Laden, about the so-far unsuccessful attempt to kill the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks. It immediately became the hottest project in town, and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Films banner agreed to fund the film. Buyers materialized during the Cannes Film Festival even as Boal was rewriting the script to reflect a most satisfying third act. Deadline broke news around that time that Sony signed on as distributor. They’ve kept details close to the vest even as thesps like Warrior’s Joel Edgerton were rumored to be taking part.
The Walt Disney Co. has reversed course and withdrawn its applications to trademark SEAL Team 6, the name of the elite Navy unit that killed Osama bin Laden. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Navy filed its own applications for rights to “SEAL Team” and “Navy SEALs” about a week after Disney, with a Navy spokesman saying, “We are fully committed to protecting our trademark rights.” A Disney spokesman said the company was withdrawing “out of deference to the Navy.” Disney planned to use the trademark to sell merchandise and, according to a WSJ source, develop a show based on the Navy unit for ABC.
Bin Laden’s death has sparked action on several projects related to the former Al-Qaeda leader. Deadline has already reported that Sony Pictures is close to a deal to distribute a project from The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal about the raid that killed bin Laden, and also that Universal is prepping a Navy SEAL movie from Peter Berg, an adaptation of Marcus Luttrell’s Afghanistan War memoir Lone Survivor.
EXCLUSIVE: Fresh from steering Battleship, Peter Berg and Universal Pictures are moving right into a January start date on Lone Survivor, an adaptation of the book by Marcus Luttrell. The film tells the harrowing story of how he and his Navy SEAL team members fought to stay alive after being ambushed in Afghanistan in 2005 by Taliban forces during a covert mission in the Hindu Kush mountain region, where the team went to kill a terrorist leader. Berg has asked his Battleship star Taylor Kitsch to play one of four SEAL team members who fight for their lives. After meeting actors for the past two weeks, Berg will set the rest of the quartet soon.
While movies involving sand and the Middle East have been assiduously avoided by Hollywood after several movies didn’t find audiences, the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs has set in motion several films about these operatives and their dangerous missions. Disney trademarked the term SEAL Team Six, and one of the most talked about titles at Cannes has been the drama that The Hurt Locker team of director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal will shoot in the fall about that SEAL Team’s long tactical campaign that culminated with the death of bin Laden. There was rumor that Universal might be one of the suitors, but the studio clearly has its own Navy SEAL movie.
Tina Fey returned as host of Saturday Night Live tonight and brought back her trademark impersonation of Sarah Palin in a Republican 2012 Undeclared Candidates Debate skit. (Fox News, where Palin works as a contributor, carried the first GOP presidential candidates debate this past week.) “It’s just so great to be back on Fox News, a network that both pays me and shows me the questions ahead of time,” Fey’s Palin said. “I just hope tonight that the lamestream media won’t twist my words by repeating them verbatim.” And another zinger: “I want to acknowledge that this week we finally vanquished one of the world’s great villains – and I for one am thrilled to say good riddance to Katie Couric.” Is it just me, or does Fey, former SNL head writer, always elevate the writing on the show when she hosts? Also returning for the skit was alum Darrell Hammond, dusting off his spot-on Donald Trump impersonation:
As for Osama bin Laden, he was everywhere, including an ”Under the Sea” tableau interrupted when bin Laden’s body is dropped into the sea. Fred Armisen read a last will as bin Laden. But Seth Meyers got off the most memorable line of the night during Weekend Update: ”Barack Obama will go down in history as the first black person ever to have to prove that he killed someone”:
Meanwhile, the mash-up of Andy Samberg’s rap group with Michael Bolton in Pirates of the Caribbean and other movies rocked:
Several eagle-eyed viewers today alerted us to a muted line on last night’s episode of the midseason ABC comedy Happy Endings. Just like Monday’s Chuck, which included a reference to the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden a day after his surprising killing, Happy Endings too had a bin Laden-related joke that was rendered outdated by his death. The joke was left in, but producers tried to mitigate the timing problem by muting the audio on the punchline. In the scene, Dave (Zachary Knighton) and his ex Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) talk about trying to trap a mouse on the loose. “It’s been like, four days, I can’t believe you haven’t caught this mouse yet,” Alex said. Replied Dave, “I know, he’s like my bin Laden. Jessica bin Laden, this super hot Arab girl I went to college with,” followed by a pause. What was the original line that was supposed to go there? “The one that got away.”
I know it’s fashionable in some political circles to slam Hollywood at every opportunity. But al-Qaida expert Lawrence Wright says America owes a debt of gratitude to screenwriters who helped the CIA imagine Osama Bin Laden scenarios after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That’s right — screenwriters. Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross interviewed Wright because of his 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11, his one-man play turned 2010 HBO film My Trip To Al-Qaida. But Wright also wrote the 1998 movie The Siege, directed by Ed Zwick, about a secret U.S. abduction of a suspected terrorist and how it leads to a wave of terrorist attacks in New York. Though a box office failure, Wright has claimed it was “the most-rented movie in America after 9/11.” It also drew the attention of the CIA, relevant this week because of the pundit debate over whether the U.S. should have taken Bin Laden dead or alive:
GROSS: How did the reality of [Bin Laden's] demise compare with some of the scenarios you’d imagined?
WRIGHT: Actually, Terry, I think it was in 2006, the CIA came to me to write a scenario, in their words, about what would we do if we got Bin Laden because this has been a subject of concern within the intelligence community. What if we did get him? How would we treat him? Where would we take him? Would it be better to take him alive or dead? And because I had written this movie,
After a 10-year hunt, who thought we would catch Osama bin Laden anytime soon? The producers of NBC’s Chuck certainly didn’t as they had a case of very unfortunate timing with a scene in tonight’s episode. Airing less than 24 hours after the news of bin Laden’s killing, the episode featured former Marine John Casey (Adam Baldwin) heading for a shooting range with his “favorite target” in hand, a picture of bin Laden with big targets on his forehead and chest (the latter is hard to see from my screen grab.) By eerie coincidence, bin Laden was reportedly killed with two shots: one to the head and one to the chest. Unless this wasn’t a coincidence but the human Intersect at work …
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow in recent weeks has been preparing and starting to cast an indie movie with the working title Kill Bin Laden, while another movie project about the hunt for the Al Queda terrorist leader at a major Hollywood studio stalled back in 2006. Given tonight’s startling news, it’s clear that these may be the timeliest film projects in recent Hollywood history. And judging from tonight’s showbiz phone calls coming into Deadline about Osama bin Laden’s death, I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie studios are anxious to bring these projects to the big screen as soon as possible, updated with the details behind tonight’s successful military mission. Have you seen those spontaneous cheering crowds that formed tonight outside Washington DC’s White House and in NYC’s Times Square as well as around major American cities and small towns? If a patriotic film about this story can tap into these feelings of first helpless horror and then widespread frustration and then successful closure, it could be a real winner at the box office.
Bigelow and Mark Boal, her collaborator on The Hurt Locker, have been mobilizing their film to go into production as their follow-up to that Best Picture Academy Award winner. Their movie as planned was based on an earlier unsuccessful mission to try to kill the Al Qaeda leader responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attack on America as he hid in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But now they’ve certainly got a celebratory ending to that dramatic story with tonight’s announcement that the U.S. conducted a military operation that killed Bin Laden. Mind you, reps for Bigelow have told me previously that this movie isn’t specifically about the Al Qaeda leader. A lot of details about this film are stilll sketchy and secret, but I’ve heard that Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle chief Larry Ellison, is ready to fund it. I heard as recently as Friday that Bigelow and Boal were courting Joel Edgerton for the lead actor. Edgerton had been on the short list for two Universal Pictures movie projects in the works, The Bourne Legacy and Snow White And The Huntsman.
Meanwhile, back in 2006, Paramount Pictures optioned Jawbreaker, a book by U.S. intelligence operative Gary Berntsen about the December 2001 American-led military mission to hunt and kill Bin Laden right during the opening stages of the 9/11-prompted invasion of Afghanistan that the author as the CIA pointman had helped coordinate with Special Operations Forces. The heavily vetted book detailed how close those forces came to finding and executing Bin Laden in the rugged mountains of Tora Bora until they were pulled back after a decision was made to let Pakistan tribal leaders lead the search — a decision experts felt helped Bin Laden get away. The studio hired The Path To 9/11 scribe Cyrus Nowrasteh
This just isn’t Donald Trump’s weekend. First on Saturday he was skewered by President Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner because of Trump’s relentless attacks relating to Obama’s birth certificate. Then tonight, the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by an Obama-ordered U.S. Navy Seals mission broke in the middle of Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice boardroom scene on the East Coast. The broadcast networks all interrupted their regular programming around 10:45 PM ET. Quipped one Twitter user: “Donald Trump demands Osama Bin Laden’s death certificate.” The broadcast networks also pre-empted their programming to carry President Obama’s address to the nation about Bin Laden’s death at around 8:30 PM PT (11:30 PM ET). By 9 PM PT, the regular lineups had returned except on ABC, which stuck with news coverage over Desperate Housewives. A new episode of the dramedy started at 10 PM. As for the actual news of Bin Laden’s killing, like so many other big stories these days, it was not broken by a news organization but by Twitter. Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was the first to tweet it some 20 minutes before the networks announced it.