EXCLUSIVE: CAA has just signed actress Rosemarie DeWitt. DeWitt, who just played Matt Damon’s love interest in the Gus Van Sant-directed Promised Land, had her breakout role as the bride in Rachel Getting Married. She also starred in Your Sister’s …
Matt Damon was in town today in support of Promised Land, which has its international premiere here in competition. He was flanked by director Gus Van Sant and co-star and co-writer John Krasinski at a press conference where he spoke candidly about the film, noting his disappointment that it didn’t perform better in the U.S. When asked about the petroleum industry’s pre-emptively negative reaction to the film that deals with the controversial issue of fracking, Damon said, “People were expecting a certain kind of movie to attack and then waited to see how well it did. When the movie didn’t perform particularly well, they kind of just let it go.” Then he laughed and added, “The biggest attack we got was from critics.” The movie debuted in late December and took about $8M domestically. Damon said he hopes the film will still hit a mark with audiences (it rolls out overseas from next week). “It didn’t get the reception I would have hoped for, but it exists and it will exist… I’ve had movies bomb worse than this one and then make their money back later.” Even though he’s had “a lot of movies not well received by critics or audiences” he added, “this one, I really love it. It’s in my heart and I don’t understand what I’m hearing back.”
The actor is looking forward to returning to Berlin next month to start work on the George Clooney-directed The Monuments Men – (“Everyone else is so excited because George Clooney will be with me”) – but he said he wished the city had “the international airport it deserves.” A bugaboo for visitors from the U.S. is that the airport here doesn’t have direct connections to many non-European cities and Damon had to transfer through Frankfurt to arrive on Thursday. “As someone who loves coming here and loves working here, I would love to fly direct.”
Ari Karpel is an AwardsLine contributor.
Matt Damon and John Krasinski are well aware that Promised Land is facing what Damon deems “an uphill climb.” The film, about a community confronting the rock-and-hard-place decision of whether to frack or not to frack—that is, whether to allow a major corporation to come in and drill for natural gas in exchange for millions of dollars and, potentially, the townspeople’s physical health—faces a marketing challenge that teeters on the same fine line Damon and Krasinski walked while writing its screenplay.
And yet that hardly compares to the ups and downs he and Krasinski faced in getting the movie off the ground.
It all started with Krasinski, who wanted to write a screenplay about “some sort of abuse of power in…the green energy movement.” The actor, best known as Jim Halpert on The Office, had previously written and directed 2009’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and starred in Away We Go, written by Dave Eggers, who also consulted on the film. “I brought it to Dave because these are issues close to his heart, too,” Krasinski says. They hashed out characters and a story, set against the backdrop of the wind-farming industry. (Eggers has a “story by” credit.)
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
The first weekend of 2013 has barely any new specialty releases. One exception is Magnolia Pictures’ action-thriller A Dark Truth, directed by Damian Lee and starring Andy Garcia, Kim Coates and Deborah Kara Unger, will have a limited opening in Miami. Post-holiday attention on limited releases will focus on holdovers and expansions, including Lionsgate-Summit’s The Impossible, Focus Features’ Promised Land and Hyde Park On Hudson, and The Weinstein Company’s Silver Linings Playbook, and others.
The Naomi Watts-Ewan McGregor starrer The Impossible had a relatively meager start, averaging $8,250 in 15 locations two weekends ago, but it managed a rare feat last weekend increasing its average to $12,300 in the same 15 theaters. The film about a family caught in the South Asian tsumami has grossed an additional $145,721 in the same cinemas Monday through Wednesday ahead of its hefty expansion into 572 locations beginning Friday.
Specialty B.O.: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, ‘Amour’ Stellar In 2nd Weekend; ‘West Of Memphis’ OK In Debut, ‘Promised Land’ Soft
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
Sony/Columbia Pictures’ limited-run engagement of Zero Dark Thirty showed impressive stamina, and the studio’s specialty market distributor Sony Pictures Classics also had great news for Amour but not so great news for newcommer West Of Memphis in three-day estimates for the pre-New Year’s weekend, while Focus Features debut Promised Land bowed modestly. Columbia Pictures’ Zero Dark Thirty averaged a muscular $65K per location in its sophomore weekend in 5 theaters compared with $82K per cinema last weekend. Sony Classics’ Palme d’Or winner and Oscar short-listed foreign-language hopeful Amour held steady in three theaters in its second weekend, averaging a very strong $20K vs. its $23,554 average debut. Specialty market newcomers Promised Land, starring Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand headed into 25 theaters, averaging $7,606, while Sony Classics’ doc West Of Memphis managed a slender $2,771 per run in 5 cinemas. SPC’s other non-fiction offering Searching For Sugar Man, now in its 23rd weekend of release, passed the $3 million milestone this weekend. An additional newcomer, Adopt Films’ Tabu, took in $5,300 in one theater.
Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant collaborate on their third project together, Promised Land, headlining the holiday weekend’s specialty releases and the final round of newcomers for 2012. Van Sant came in as director after Damon tapped him to spearhead the film, which is set in small town Pennsylvania. Also headed to theaters is Sony Pictures Classics‘ West Of Memphis, the latest film centered on the so-called Memphis Three who many believe were wrongly convicted of a grisly murder in a notorious miscarriage of justice. The military takes the spotlight in Allegiance with Aidan Quinn and Bow Wow, which opens via XLrator Media and Adopt Films opens its foreign-language Berlin ’12 pick-up Tabu.
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers: John Krasinski, Matt Damon, Dave Eggers (story)
Cast: Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, Hal Holbrook, Rosemarie DeWitt
Distributor: Focus Features
Focus Features came on board with Promised Land after the script was completed in partnership with Participant Media. The story moved from an Alaska mining operation backdrop to a small town in Pennsylvania, which must choose whether to allow an energy company to extract natural gas through the controversial method popularly known as “fracking.” Matt Damon originally was set to direct the film but his schedule made it impossible. He reached out to Gus Van Sant with whom he worked with on Good Will Hunting and Gerry to take on the project.
Berlin Film Festival Unveils First Competition Titles; DreamWorks Animation’s ‘The Croods’ Gets Out-Of-Competition World Premiere
The Berlin Film Festival has named the first titles slotted to compete at the 63rd running of the event in February. They include the world premiere of the latest film in Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise series and the international premiere of Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land with, and written by, Matt Damon and John Krasinski. DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods will also get a world premiere, out of competition. This year’s fest runs February 7-17. The full list is below and includes the first Berlinale Special selection:
By Sebastián Lelio
With Paulina García, Sergio Hernández
Nugu-ui Ttal-do Anin (Nobody’s Daughter Haewon)
Republic of Korea
By Hong Sangsoo
With Eunchae Jung, Sunkyun Lee
Paradies: Hoffnung (Paradise: Hope)
By Ulrich Seidl
With Melanie Lenz, Vivian Bartsch, Joseph Lorenz, Michael Thomas
Fleming Q&A’s Matt Damon/John Krasinski: ‘Promised Land’; A Bat Stamp On ‘Bourne 4’; Ending ‘The Office’; Cheating On Affleck
EXCLUSIVE: Even before Focus Features made Promised Land a late Oscar entry, the film’s writer-stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski came under fire from the energy industry. Their film deals with “fracking,” which mixes chemicals, sand, water and drilling to loosen underground shale deposits to harvest natural energy. Damon and Fran McDormand play gas company reps using the lure of potential riches to convince struggling farmers to allow fracking on their lands, despite the risks for their crops and livestock. Krasinski plays a grassroots activist fighting the reps as the town prepares to vote. Promised Land reunites Damon with Gus Van Sant, who directed Good Will Hunting, which brought Oscars and fame to Boston neophyte scribes Damon and Ben Affleck. Damon and Krasinski are fun guys, the type who’d be a blast to invite over to watch football…as long as you aren’t a fan of the New York Giants and the two Super Bowls they won over the New England Patriots.
DEADLINE: Matt, you’ve said recently that the Bourne Legacy spinoff didn’t make it any easier for Jason Bourne to return. What has to happen for us to see your signature character back onscreen?
DAMON: Just a couple things, really. Paul Greengrass has to want to do it, and secondly and equally important, it comes down to Paul and I knowing what the hell we want to do. We just don’t have a story, and we haven’t had one. I quietly went to Jonah Nolan, because he and his brother Chris did such a brilliant job on Batman and that whole mythology. I just said, can you put your brain on this? I can’t figure it out. And he took a run at it and he couldn’t crack it either. Paul and I have been talking about it for years. And we can’t quite see what the movie would be. If we could get line of sight on that…
DEADLINE: We are force-fed so many unnecessary sequels, and here is a smart thriller that we actually want to see more of…
DAMON: Neither of us is against it. I would love to do another one. I love that character. To me, the reason to make that movie is because people want to see it. Paul and I have said that to each other. We don’t take for granted the fact that we’ve built an audience for Bourne, that’s a real privilege. But our part of that bargain is that the movie is good and belongs with the other three. Until we can deliver that, we just can’t make it.
DEADLINE: I watched last week as Brad Pitt’s bankability got questioned after Killing Them Softly tanked. How much do stars like you and Brad worry about taking on projects like that or Promised Land? You see them as specialty pictures made at a price, but if they fail, they go down in the loss column.
DAMON: Some actors don’t make these movies for exactly that reason. I couldn’t bear to have a career like that. These are exactly the kind of movies I like to go see. That might put me in the minority of the movie-going public, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make them. In writing Promised Land, John and I talked a lot about films like Local Hero and The Verdict, a movie I absolutely love. I don’t know what that movie would do today, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to be in The Verdict.
DEADLINE: How helpful then are hits like Bourne?
DAMON: It’s always nice when one hits. It buys you relevance in the industry for a couple years and gives you cover to do these other things. But I would never just protect my beach head. That would be a career built out of fear and I won’t live that way. I want to challenge myself in different genres, playing different characters, and I don’t want to get pigeonholed and forced to do the same things. If Promised Land does not do a lot of business, it’s not going to end my career. But I am mindful like we all are that you don’t get to keep doing this if your movies don’t perform at the box office.
DEADLINE: John, how hard is it for you to end your long run on The Office?
KRASINSKI: It’s as hard as it gets, to be honest. This is so much more for me than just ending a television series. I was a waiter when I got the job. No one would know my name if it wasn’t for this job and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten the career opportunities. To be part of something special enough to have a final season rather than just getting canned is an honor. The show is everything to me. By the end of whatever career I have, there’s a part of me that will always be defined by this show and I’m supremely honored that is the case. I got this job when I was 23 and now I’m 33 and that’s a pretty important decade to spend on one project with one group of people. This is the most important thing I’ve ever done, the proudest thing I have. I will never forget a minute of it nor would I take back a second of it.
Not to be outdone by aggressive campaigning from its rivals, Focus Features this week moved boldly ahead with an Oscar campaign plan on two fronts for Friday’s release of Anna Karenina, which had its L.A. premiere last night, and its late-breaking December 28th entry, Promised Land, which is launching its awards bid with some private screenings for some very big heavy hitters.
Regarding the latter film, what do you do when you are the very last major movie of the year? Director Gus Van Sant only delivered the final cut of the film in the past two weeks, and knowing they are under the gun in getting this one seen in time for the earlier Academy voting (now taking place ten days earlier than usual with ballots in the mail December 17 and due back January 3rd), Focus is trying to get the word out within the industry. So before even showing it to most of the press they began an early “influencer” campaign that has featured private screenings and receptions at the plush theatre inside L.A.’s Soho House. Tuesday night Cameron Crowe held one with guests including Meryl Streep, Sam Mendes, Colin Firth, Kate Hudson, Ben Affleck (coming over after getting his GQ man of the year award) and other academy voters who were able to mingle with star and co-writer (with John Krasinski) Matt Damon. Earlier in November Aaron Sorkin hosted a similar screening that drew Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston and SAG President Ken Howard among others.
Lucas Black has joined the cast of the Gus Van Sant-directed Promised Land for Focus Features. He’ll also play a role in the Brian …
EXCLUSIVE: Rosemarie DeWitt will play the female lead in Promised Land, the Focus Features/Participant Media film that Gus Van Sant will direct with Matt Damon and John Krasinski starring. Damon and Krasinski wrote the script. The film, which got …