EXCLUSIVE: Voltage Films has set Jane Fonda and Bruce Greenwood to join Fathers And Daughters, the Gabriele Muccino-directed film that stars Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Diane Kruger, Quvenzhané Wallis and Octavia Spencer. Production just got underway in Pittsburgh. The film is a love story between a troubled father and his daughter who lives in New York 25 years after him, Crowe plays a famous novelist suffering from depression as he tries to raise his 5-year-old daughter. Seyfried plays the girl as an adult, who has struggles of her own, shrapnel from that childhood. Fonda will play the novelist’s longtime friend and literary agent while Greenwood will play the writer’s brother-in-law, who with his wife (Kruger) wages a legal battle to forcibly adopt the young daughter (Kylie Rogers).
Academy members will get the chance this weekend to see Noah and The Grand Budapest Hotel when their official Academy screening program finally resumes after a break for Oscar. But while the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters is undergoing major renovations, the screenings have moved to Hollywood at the Acad’s much smaller Linwood Dunn Theater at its Pickford Center For Motion Picture Study on Vine Street. That’s a loss of about 700 seats, so it could get dicey, especially since no extra screenings are added and RSVPs aren’t taken. For a lot of films the Academy screens, 300 seats is just fine, but these fall squarely in the hotter want-to-see category, and it’s still first-come-first-served, just as it is at the Wilshire Boulevard location. Could get nasty for members wanting a free screening. Better get there early, folks.
Of course this is not exactly crunch time for serious 2014 Oscar contenders, so distributors need not worry too much about disgruntled voters getting turned away from their hot-button potential nominees. But recently I got an email from a veteran Oscar campaign consultant who asked the simple question, “Is NOAH a contender?” And it got me wondering if not only director Darren Aronofsky’s towering epic, which screens Sunday at 3 PM, but also Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, which runs Saturday at 7:30 PM both might actually have a decent shot at racking up numerous nominations, including Best Picture, despite their first quarter release dates (Noah opened March 28 and Budapest has been playing since March 7th). Both are doing extremely well at the box office and riding high with critics too (Noah is 77% fresh and Budapest is 91% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and have the kind of first-rate production values to which Oscar voters usually pay serious attention.
The trades got into it this week with Variety floating the boat that Noah star Russell Crowe‘s attempt to meet Pope Francis was spurned by the Vatican, while THR refuted that was ever real because of the feeling Crowe’s stardom would attract too much attention. So what’s the truth? Deadline has learned that Noah star Crowe, director Darren Aronofsky and Paramount executive Rob Moore did in fact get to meet Pope Francis today, after the Vatican extended an olive branch and hosted the trio in the official VIP section of this morning’s Udienza.
I think the studio was a little coy earlier in the week. This was something that Aronofsky wanted to do after he’d just made this Biblical epic. He was going to be near Rome promoting it, and has been moved by the Pope’s message of tolerance, feeding the poor and preserving the planet. But they didn’t want it to seem they were after some cheesy photo op to promote a Biblical movie. I’d heard those same rumors and called Monday, but I guess I’m glad I waited to see what would actually happen. Aronofsky was certainly moved by the experience.
EXCLUSIVE: Jai Courtney is in high demand with Oscar-winning actors-turned-directors; he has signed to co-star in the films directed by Angelina Jolie and Russell Crowe. He’ll start with Unbroken, the film Jolie is directing for Universal based on the unbreakable spirit of Louis Zamperini, the former Olympic track prodigy who endured unimaginable hardship as a WWII POW at the hands of Japanese prison guards. Courtney will play Hugh ‘Cup’ Cuppernell, a WWII veteran pilot who gets caught in tenacious midair gunfight alongside Zamperini, who’s played by Jack O’Connell.
Courtney will then move to The Water Diviner, Crowe’s feature directorial debut about an Australian man who travels to Turkey to attempt to locate the bodies of his three sons, who were killed there during WWI. Courtney portrays Lt-Col Cecil Hilton, the smart, efficient soldier tasked with organizing the effort to identify the tens of thousands of soldiers killed at Gallipoli. He reluctantly allows Connors to stay and look for his sons’ bodies. Crowe and Olga Kurylenko are also starring.
BREAKING: Voltage Films has set Russell Crowe to star in the Gabriele Muccino-directed Fathers And Daughters, which instantly establishes this film as a hot sales title for AFM. The film is a love story between a father and daughter who live in Manhattan 25 years apart. The story moves back and forth between the 1980s where a famous novelist and widower struggles with mental illness as he tries to raise his 5-year old daughter; then it shows that daughter as a 30-year old woman in contemporary Gotham who battles her own demons that stem from that turbulent childhood. The script was written by Brad Desch (Shotgun Lovesongs).
Fathers And Daughters will be produced by Voltage Productions’ Craig J. Flores and Nicolas Chartier, and Busted Shark Productions’ Sherryl Clark. Exec producing are Crowe and his Fear Of God Films partner Keith Rodger. Romilda De Luca is also exec producer. Voltage Pictures will handle foreign sales, which get underway at AFM. They are circling a major actress to play the daughter. The film preps in December.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Aussie Box Office, Russell Crowe, Palace Cinemas, British Film Institute & More
Aussie 2012 B.O. Up But Below 2010 Record
Australian cinemas raked in $A1.125 billion ($1.188 billion) in 2012, up 2.8% on the previous year but a fraction below the industry 2010 record of $1.128 billion, the year of Avatar, according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia. The Aussie films’ B.O. share was 4.3%, slightly above the 10-year average of 3.8%. The MPDAA’s stats do not quantify ticket sales but Deadline estimates the admissions total was 85.8 million in 2012, based on an average ticket price of $13.10, compared with 85 million in 2011 and 92 million in 2010. The transition from 35mm film projection to digital continued apace an estimated 72% of the country’s 1,995 screens are now digital, including all major circuits; of those, 57% are 3D capable. The year’s top-grosser was The Avengers with $53.2 million; the best result for an Aussie film was The Sapphires with $14.4 million.- Don Groves
Allen Hughes spent the past two decades as one-half of The Hughes Brothers. He makes his solo feature directing debut with Broken City, a political corruption drama that stars Mark Wahlberg as an ex-cop who does a favor for the mayor (Russell Crowe) by following the pol’s philandering wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The results are murder and conspiracy, with Fox releasing the Emmett/Furla Films-financed drama January 18.
Allen and Albert Hughes burst on the feature scene with 1993’s Menace II Society, a wildly profitable slice of violent inner-city life. Together they’ve co-directed the Vietnam-era crime drama Dead Presidents, the Jack the Ripper thriller From Hell, the documentary American Pimp, and most recently the post-apocalyptic thriller The Book Of Eli. They also direct commercials and videos under their Underworld banner. I’ve known the siblings for about as long as they’ve been making features, and always found them to be strong individuals. I never quite understood the alchemy that goes into a two-man directing team, or what happens when one splits up. Who better than Allen Hughes to explain?
DEADLINE: After directing movies all these years as a team, what was the biggest challenge in not being able to rely on Albert?
ALLEN HUGHES: The biggest challenge had nothing to do with the movie-making process at all. When we took meetings, there were two of us. This is a crazy town and there are very cunning people. As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one. There was a certain amount of respect they paid us because there were two of us. And there was a shorthand we had in breaking things down to the last compound, and factoring in every angle. It made quite an impression to have two guys doing that. That’s what was missing this time around, but I felt comfortable with the moviemaking process. It’s naturally a one-man or -woman gig.
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Warner Bros is getting a new script from Akiva Goldsman for the first installment of Stephen King’s mammoth Western The Dark Tower, and that within two weeks, the studio will be making a decision on whether to green light the first leg of one of the most daring and ambitious projects to come along since The Lord Of The Rings. And here is a new wrinkle to add to the mix. Javier Bardem is no longer in the mix as gunslinger Roland Deschain. I’m told that director Ron Howard and producers Brian Grazer and Goldsman have been talking with their A Beautiful Mind star Russell Crowe about playing Deschain. While there is no deal with Crowe, that is the star that Warner Bros will be evaluating as the studio decides on whether to take a leap on an eight-volume book that has a huge following, with Howard, King and their partners planning a multi-platform presentation that could be unforgettable. The story will be told through three films and two limited run TV series.
The Dark Tower is about the last living member of a knightly order of gunslingers, with Deschain becoming humanity’s last hope to save civilization as he hits the road to find the Dark Tower. Along the way, he encounters characters, good and bad, in a world that has an Old West feel. When I last wrote about this, Universal had dropped out and Warner Bros had sparked to the idea of taking on this franchise, possibly with HBO handling the TV component that would bridge the the first and second feature films, with another limited run TV series to follow. Given HBO’s adventurous forays into fantasy with Game of Thrones, it seems like the ideal venue.