EXCLUSIVE: Anupam Kher is the Indian movie star who played Bradley Cooper’s therapist in Silver Linings Playbook (“Desean Jackson is the man!” was his killer line). Kher has used his experiences from that Oscar-nominated film to form the basis for I Went Shopping For Robert De Niro, a short film he has quietly directed about his quest to find the right gift to present to Kher’s idol after filming was completed on the Best Picture nominee.
Now, Kher has acted in over 450 movies of various languages in a long career that encompasses Bollywood, American and British productions. But he is absolutely starstruck when it comes to De Niro. He is so reverential that it almost made me feel bad that when I moderated a panel at the last Tribeca Film Festival with Judd Apatow and De Niro, Apatow pushed me to ask the iconic actor when he lost his virginity, this after I forced Apatow to recount his clumsy deflowering to stop him babbling on about The 40-Year Old Virgin. I don’t think De Niro answered — he’s too shy, classy and modest to say something like “I was 8 and both women walked away satisfied” (he is Bobby De, don’t forget), but I think had Kher been up there with us, he might have decked me and Judd. Clearly to Kher, De Niro is the Desean Jackson of actors.
“Mr. De Niro has been my icon and is a legend in global cinema and it was truly one of the greatest honors for me to share screen space with him in this film,” Kher gushed. “As a reflection and dedication to Mr. De Niro, I produced and directed this short film, which I dedicated to him.”
The effort turned into 29-minute film that Kher shot in Mumbai over four months. Kher describes it as “a journey of two girls who are at the crossroads in their lives, and are tasked by with one of life’s greatest challenges, to select a gift for Mr. Robert De Niro. This incredible endeavor impacts them beyond their expectations.” Rimal Arora and Yamini Kshirsagar play the leading roles in the film, and the latter wrote the script after they were tasked by Kher to buy a gift he actually gave to De Niro (I won’t say what it is because it will spoil the ending). But suffice to say their gifting plans go awry. De Niro doesn’t act in the short, but he is pictured with his gift at the film’s end, and he gave his permission for his name to be used in the short’s title. Read More »
Unquestionably one of the highlights of any awards season is the feel-good, everyone’s-still-a-winner Oscar Nominees Luncheon, which was held Monday at the Beverly Hilton. Academy Award nominees gather together and get to meet each other in a pressure-free zone — except for the huge press turnout to cover their arrivals (there are also press conference-style interviews and poolside one-on-one opportunities for TV cameras afterwards for some of the higher-profile nominees). Basically all they have to do is report to the risers set up in the Hilton’s International Ballroom as their name is called for the big group photo of the Oscar Class of 2012.
Related: 85th Academy Awards Nominees Photo
This year, rather than going alphabetically, the Academy summoned nominees by the table number they were sitting at. The table where I was lucky enough to be invited happened to be No. 1, smack dab in front of those risers, and so nominees Denzel Washington (Best Actor, Flight), producer Kathleen Kennedy (Lincoln), costume designer Colleen Atwood (Snow White And The Huntsman), and Makeup and Hairstyling contender Howard Berger (Hitchcock) were first to be called and had to stand the longest before the shot was taken. Actually, the roll call was bookended with longtime colleagues Kennedy — who was first up — and Lincoln director Steven Spielberg, who was dead-last (just after 9-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, who got a rip-roaring reception when her name was announced).
Overall, 16 of the acting nominees (excluding Emmanuelle Riva, Alan Arkin and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and four of the directors (Michael Haneke is directing an opera in Europe) were in attendance, along with approximately 140 others who showed up and really seemed to have a good time at the annual affair, where the nominees also get their official certificate and a sweatshirt. Another acting contender, Daniel Day-Lewis came down with the flu and was very disappointed he couldn’t make it I am told. Like Day-Lewis, I also heard Quentin Tarantino was really bummed he couldn’t attend due to a bout with the flu. Seems to be rampant these days. Read More »
It intrigues me that Christopher Walken’s latest film — which just signed for North American release by Steelyard Pictures — is titled The Power Of Few. I’ve never heard of this distributor, and maybe the film is a cinematic treat, but I’m reasonably certain this movie will come and go with little fanfare. The title is memorable because it summarizes perfectly how I wish iconic actors like Walken would run their careers. I was thinking about this over the weekend, when I again watched Django Unchained and observed how the whole movie changed from the moment that Samuel L. Jackson first came into view as the awful plantation slave patriarch Stephen. I find it one of the most memorable performances I’ve seen in the last five years, a villain to rival any Spaghetti Western antagonist ever, and am amazed how Jackson disappeared into a fully fleshed character as completely as Daniel Day-Lewis did with Lincoln and Joaquin Phoenix did in The Master, and Denzel Washington did in Flight. All three of those guys got nominated for Oscars, and Sam did not, even though it’s his best performance since Pulp Fiction. It’s easy to say it came down to Christoph Waltz’s Best Supporting Actor nomination (Leo DiCaprio was also snubbed), but I think a factor is that Jackson works so often that Oscar voters discount his great performances because it’s just one of the seven films he did in that calender year. Contrast that to Day-Lewis. When he works, you know it’s a special event, there is high anticipation and he either wins or gets nominated almost each and every time out.
To me, Walken is in the same class as Jackson, and so is Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins, and so would Sean Connery and Gene Hackman if anybody could coax those guys out of retirement. Kevin Costner is knocking on the door as well.
De Niro got an Oscar nom for Silver Linings Playbook, and it seemed to work in reverse; it seemed to help that this was the first movie in a long time where the material wasn’t beneath his vast talent, and that he proved he still had it.
As for Walken, I was at the Toronto Film Festival premiere of the Martin McDonagh-directed Seven Psychopaths last fall, and observed something rare. Gifted with dialogue from In Bruges‘ McDonagh, Walken had people cheering to just about every line he delivered, in his singular style. I wish guys like him would save themselves for just the really good stuff (like De Niro and Pacino in Heat and De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook), instead of leaving a trail of cinematic turds along the way. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Living up to its “Brace Yourself” slogan, Showtime has put in development another provocative project, neo-Nazi drama The 4th Reich. The project, executive produced by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, is described as American History X meets The Town. It is a high-octane crime thriller delving into race, religion, and politics through the lens of a dogmatic faction of the neo-Nazi movement in South Boston. When a former leader is sprung from jail by agreeing to become a confidential informant to the FBI, he assimilates back to his old life and finds his estranged 15-year-old son has been co-opted by his former best friend and now current leader of the Brotherhood. The trajectory of the series will track the central character caught between two worlds as he starts to gain perspective and change.
4th Reich, written on spec by Sonya Winton and Jonathan Kidd, has been a passion project for Rosenthal as it dovetailes with Tribeca’s work with Against Violent Extremism, a “social network” for former violent extremists and their victims. Backed by the Google Ideas think tank, AVE’s goal is to counter violent extremists. In that context, people close to the project stress that The 4th Reich is not just another violent show but hits on the human stories of former extremists and people affected by extremism to help influence “at risk” young people. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: For my part, Martin Scorsese can’t make enough movies. But he’s trying. Scorsese, who is completing The Wolf Of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio, just held a reading of Steve Zaillian’s script at the Tribeca Film Center for The Irishman, the mob drama based on the Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses. The film is about mob hit man Frank Sheeran. Robert De Niro, who’ll play the lead character, was there, as was Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, also expected to take part. Project is set up at Paramount, but several financiers were there looking to invest.
I’m told by Scorsese’s camp that this is something Scorsese likes to do to make sure the picture is making proper progress. But they assure me he’s not making The Irishman next. Scorsese’s holding fast to his dream of making Silence the next film he directs. Scorsese, who almost had the Shusaku Endo book project together several times, is auditioning actors and is looking to start production on the film in mid-2014. Given De Niro’s resurgence in Silver Linings Playbook, how can we wait that long to see the actor get back in business with Scorsese?
EXCLUSIVE: Silver Linings Playbook continues on its awards roll this season with a Best Picture nomination from the Producers Guild to add to its many other laurels to date including 4 SAG award nominations, 4 Golden Globe nods, 5 Independent Spirit mentions and 10 Critics Choice Movie Award noms in addition to its spot on the AFI Ten Best list of 2012. The David O. Russell film is expected to be a major contender as well when Oscar nominations are announced on January 10th. Here’s an exclusive look at a new featurette on the making of the film.
PGA Awards Film: Best Picture List Offers No Surprises
Robert De Niro’s ‘Silver Lining’
Fleming Q&A’s David O. Russell On ‘Silver Linings Playbook’
Between 1974 when he won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as the young Don Corleone in The Godfather Part II and 1991 when he was contending for Best Actor in Cape Fear, Robert De Niro was nominated six times and won two Oscars (1980′s Raging Bull was the other one) in a span of 17 years. But remarkably it has now been 21 years since that last Academy Award shout-out in ’91, a long Oscar dry spell for the man many consider our greatest living film actor. With the release in November of David O. Russell’s critically acclaimed Silver Linings Playbook, De Niro is genuinely contending for his first Oscar nomination in over two decades as the obsessive compulsive, sports-betting Philadelphia Eagles fan, and father Pat Sr.
Related: OSCARS Q&A: David O. Russell
Already nominated for Critics Choice Movie Awards and SAG Best Supporting Actor honors, De Niro is favored to repeat the feat on January 10th when Oscar nominations are announced, and although he is pleased about the buzz for his performance, he isn’t getting his hopes up as he told me when we spoke over the weekend in a rare interview. “Of course I am happy about it all and the reception, but I don’t want to expect much because I don’t want to be disappointed. I have had a lot of experience over the years and then you expect and you think and it never happens. So all I try to do is be even-keeled about stuff,” he says. Read More »
Joaquin Phoenix and Anthony Hopkins may not approve, but Oscar season campaigning on the party circuit has been at fever pitch.
“We’ve never seen anything like this. We’re exhausted. We are out every night it seems and the invitations keep coming,” one Oscar-winning Academy member told me recently. He was referring to the glut of invites to parties, lunches, screenings with Q&As and everything else for which Oscar season campaigning has come to be known. He pointedly added that none of it has ever influenced his vote but he is not turning down the elaborate food spreads and the chance to mingle with contenders. “Just don’t tell anyone who invites me to these things, but it doesn’t really have much impact on the way I fill out my ballot,” he added with a smile.
That won’t stop Oscar strategists from trying and the campaign activity this season seems like it pushed into high gear much earlier than normal and hasn’t let up, even as the Christmas break quickly approaches and the town starts to shut down. Don’t tell that to the relentless Weinstein Company who will still have some of their contenders out on the stump even over this holiday weekend. Quentin Tarantino who, despite seeing his Los Angeles premiere for Django Unchained cancelled Tuesday night out of sensitivity to the Newtown tragedy, was out doing a Q&A and reception for a packed screening at the Academy last night and will be doing the same thing for BAFTA-LA Friday night. Read More »
Robert De Niro on Saturday night became the latest recipient of the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence In Film at a Black Tie gala at Bacara Resort. The award is presented annually by the legendary actor to benefit the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Past recipients include Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, Ed Harris, Kirk’s son Michael Douglas and of course, Kirk himself in the inaugural year.
De Niro is being heavily Oscar-buzzed for his supporting performance in Silver Linings Playbook and director David O. Russell and co-star Bradley Cooper both made the trip north to help honor De Niro along with Douglas of course. SBIFF President Douglas Stone and Executive Director Roger Durling praised the evening’s honoree as well as the legendary star the award is named for. In fact Durling led the crowd (which included several well-known Academy voters from the area including Carol Burnett sitting at SBIFF Chairman Jeffrey Barbakow’s table) in singing a rousing Happy Birthday to Douglas on the eve of his 96th birthday. He called both stars “heroes” and noted Douglas broke the Hollywood Blacklist in 1960 by hiring Dalton Trumbo to adapt Spartacus, and De Niro helped heal New York by bringing business back to NYC in creating the Tribeca Film Festival in the aftermath of 9/11.
Some very well-chosen clips highlighted De Niro’s long career including The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Mean Streets, The Deer Hunter, Cape Fear and many others plus the current Silver … Read More »
The whole gang is in Sin City. The first photo from CBS Films and Good Universe‘s Last Vegas shows Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline in some fine threads for a good time in the town. The comedy about four friends who throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for the last of the gang to remain single (played by Douglas) packs a lot of seasoned star power is scheduled to be released on December 20, 2013. Mary Steenburgen is in Last Vegas too, as is Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco and Roger Bart. Jon Turteltaub directs from an original screenplay by Dan Fogelman. Last Vegas is shooting in Sin City and then moving on to Atlanta.
Despite competition from big baseball and football games and the final Presidential debate, the 16th annual Hollywood Film Awards gala last night featured a nice starry turnout — especially considering all those stars were able to go onstage and accept an award for themselves. That always helps, doesn’t it?
As the ballroom announcer intoned, this event marks “the beginning of Hollywood’s awards season”. Well, actually it marks the beginning of the awards-season chicken dinner circuit for the Beverly Hilton. But give ‘em an award this early in the game and they will come. It’s a way for awards strategists to get their hoped-for Oscar contenders in the winner’s circle right off the bat. These are negotiated honors, and Hollywood Awards co-founder (with wife Janice Pennington) and executive director Carlos de Abreu is the guy who decides who gets the “gold” (although he has a board that supposedly has input).
De Abreu, not unlike some other awards organizations, insists that in order to receive a Hollywood Film Award, recipients must be there in person to accept. He won’t even allow live satellite acceptances, the thinking being that it would open a can of worms, and strategists would try to find a way to get the award without delivering talent directly to the ceremony. It’s a formula that delivers an impressive turnout and it gets participation due to the early date, with many of the winners hailing from movies that haven’t been released. No one takes it seriously, but it serves its purpose as far as the studios are concerned. As Seth Rogen said in his hilarious intro for Comedy Award winner Judd Apatow: “Perhaps the most annoying thing is none of these movies have come out yet. I haven’t even heard of some of these movies. (Screenwriter winner) Quentin (Tarantino) is still shooting! Who voted for these things?” Read More »
As the Toronto International Film Festival maintains its intense pace, the race for Oscar is clearly heating up. And after last night’s rousing world premiere for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, you can chalk up yet another major Best Picture contender. The tweets about its inevitable awards potential began almost immediately. The response to this strikingly original and human film was ecstatic, not only during the screening and standing ovation but from everyone I cornered at the Soho House after-party - including several awards pundits who are supposed to be jaded about such things.
Harvey’s Silver Linings almost certainly puts stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro in contention for acting nominations. Lawrence and Cooper play two very broken people trying to put their lives back together by helping each other. It reminded me of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment (1960), deftly navigating the tricky terrain of a film that can change tone from comedy to drama on a dime without ever seeming forced. Both simply inhabit these characters and make a great screen team. And just like Lemmon and MacLaine did after The Apartment when they reteamed on Irma La Douce, Cooper told me they have already completed a second film together, Serena.
Lawrence leaps to the front of the pack with a revelatory performance that seemed to knock most observers out. Cooper also was terrific in a challenging role in The Place Beyond The Pines (acquired today by Focus Features). He had nothing but praise for his co-star who at just 22 years old takes on a part that would challenge much older stars. Writer-director David O. Russell told me at the after-party she was actually a last-minute casting. “We were seeing just about every major actress for the role but thought she was just too young. Then when she ‘Skyped’ in her audition from her home, there was no question. Lawrence was nominated for Best Actress for Winter’s Bone (2009) and should start preparing now to go through it all over again. So should Russell who was in the Oscar race with The Fighter two years ago for the first time and should be right back in there this year. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Prods. continues a strong selling season with deals at Showtime for The Good Shepherd and at CBS for a family medical drama from TV writer/playwright Diana Son (Law & Order: Criminal Intent). Both projects are produced by CBS TV Studios where Tribeca is under an overall deal. Rosenthal and De Niro executive produce, with Tribeca’s Berry Welsh serving as producer.
Showtime is developing The Good Shepherd, a period drama based on the characters from the 2006 Cold War feature spy thriller directed by De Niro and co-produced by Tribeca. The film’s writer, Oscar winner Eric Roth, will write/exec produce the series adaptation, with De Niro set to direct, the first time the Oscar winner has been attached to direct a Tribeca TV project. The series will follow the family of a CIA operative.
Producers originally planned to do a Good Shepherd feature sequel but opted to pursue pay cable for an opportunity to delve deeper into the characters in a serialized format. The 2006 movie starred Matt Damon as a senior CIA officer, with Angelina Jolie, William Hurt and Alec Baldwin, De Niro co-starring.
This would mark the first series created by CAA-repped Roth in two decades, since the 1992 Fox musical drama The Heights, which he co-created. He spent the last two decades mostly in features, earning four Academy Award writing nominations and winning for Forrest Gump. He is currently an executive producer on Netflix’s House Of Cards and served as co-executive producer on HBO’s Luck. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Game Change writer Danny Strong, The Fighter director David O. Russell and Oscar winner Robert De Niro have teamed for a legal drama series inspired by a famous New York father/daughter lawyer duo, which has sold to CBS. The project hails from De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Prods. and CBS TV Studios. Strong is writing, Russell is set to direct, with the two executive producing alongside De Niro, Rosenthal and Diane Nabatoff. The drama is inspired by the father-and-daughter defense attorneys Murray and Stacey Richman. It will center on a fictionalized version of the Richmans’ Bronx firm, where clients as notorious on the street as they are on Page Six.
In the almost 50 years of practicing law, Murray Richman, nickname “Don’t Worry Murray,” has worked for clients ranging from hip-hop stars like Jay-Z to the upper echelon of the Genovese and Lucchese crime families to former NY Governor Eliott Spitzer’s escort procurer. In addition to his cases, Murray is famous for his courtroom quips, like “I love a murder trial — one less witness to worry about” and “I’ll be brief… I’m already short.” (He is 5’6″). Below is documentarymaker Errol Morris’ video … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Morgan Freeman is in negotiations to join the cast of Last Vegas. The film, which already has Michael Douglas and Robert De Niro on board, is about four friends of retirement age who reunite in Sin City for one last blowout at the bachelor party of the only one of the pals who has stayed single. Jon Turtletaub will direct. Laurence Mark and Amy Baer are producing with CBS Films and Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane’s newly announced Good Universe. Kahane and Nicole Brown will executive produce. Matt Leonetti is co-producing. Morgan Freeman is repped by CAA.
CBS Films has formalized its deal for Robert De Niro to join Michael Douglas in Last Vegas, the Jon Turtletaub-directed comedy about four old friends who decide to throw a Las Vegas bachelor party for the only one among them who hasn’t married. Douglas plays the lifelong bachelor finally taking the plunge and De Niro plays his party-averse friend who reluctantly flies to Vegas to see his pals. Dan Fogelman wrote the script.
CBS Films is making the film with Good Universe, the new company that is launching its offshore sales operation at Cannes, headed by former Lionsgate executive Joe Drake. Laurence Mark and Amy Baer are producing and Good Universe’s Nathan Kahane and Nicole Brown are executive producers.
Drake and Kahane kick off their Cannes operations with Last Vegas and Oldboy, the Spike Lee-directed remake of the Chan-wook Park film. Josh Brolin stars.
Hot on the heels of the recently-wrapped Sundance London Film and Music Festival comes another US film festival transplanted to Europe. IMG Artists and Tribeca Enterprises today unveiled Tribeca Firenze, a collaboration that will bring film premieres – and Tony Bennett – to the Tuscan Sun Festival in Florence, Italy next month. Below is a press release detailing the event:
New York, NY and Florence, Italy (7 May 2012) – IMG Artists (IMGA), the global leader in the performing arts and lifestyle events management, and Tribeca Enterprises (TE), the parent company of the Tribeca Film Festival founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in lower Manhattan in 2002, announced today Tribeca Firenze, which will bring world-class film premieres to the widely-anticipated Tuscan Sun Festival in Florence, Italy 11-18 June, founded by IMGA’s Barrett Wissman in 2003. Legendary performer and 17-time Grammy winner Tony Bennett is the first major celebrity to confirm participation in Tribeca Firenze.
Read More »