EXCLUSIVE: Giovanni Ribisi has landed a co-starring role in Warner Bros’ The Gangster Squad, the period crime drama Ruben Fleischer is directing that stars Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, and Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as members of the elite cop squad that are after him in 1949 Los Angeles. Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena also are aboard. Will Beall wrote the script. Langley Park Pictures and Lin Pictures are producing. Ribisi, repped by CAA and Management 360, will play Conway Keeler, a cop in the group who is a master of electronics and wires. He is currently shooting Universal’s Ted and next appears in FilmDistrict’s The Rum Diary opposite Johnny Depp.
Here’s how fast things move in Hollywood. At Cannes, I got my confirmations and revealed that Ryan Gosling would direct and star in MGM’s remake of The Idolmaker. Now, a couple weeks later, I get to report that he’s had to back out of the picture, at least for now. He just informed the studio he would be too busy. He’s in pre-production on A Place Beyond the Pines, which reteams him with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, and then Gosling moves immediately into the Ruben Fleischer-directed Gangster Squad, starring with Sean Penn and Josh Brolin in the period crime drama for Warner Bros. MGM is convinced that Idolmaker is a plum project and the studio and will continue developing the picture. If Gosling is available, they will revisit it down the line. It is fun to watch Gosling’s transformation from darling of the independent film set to arguably the most coveted young leading man for studio films. After turning down lead roles in recent years I’ve heard included Superman, Jack Ryan, Akira and The Lone Ranger, Gosling is suddenly giving the studios a chance. He impressed the Cannes set with the Nicolas Refn-directed Drive, and Warner Bros is offering him everything after testing Crazy, Stupid, Love, with the studio getting Gosling to reteam with Refn in a remake of Logan’s Run.
Sean Penn looked like he just rolled out of bed at the 11 AM press conference following the media screening of his second competition film of the week, This Must Be The Place, the first English-language film from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino ( Il Divo). He probably did, considering I spotted him having a great time in the wee hours at the Eden Roc afterparty following the big Cinema Against AIDS event at Hotel Du Cap Thursday night. These Cannes hours can be rough. He did well enough, though, trying to explain what drew him to Sorrentino’s entertaining if quirky but oddly touching story of a washed-up-at-age-50 rock star from the 1980s named Cheyenne who suffers from depression and malaise until he gets a chance at renewal upholding his late father’s honor. Early reviews I’ve read on the film range from “transformative” to “embarrassing” — in other words, mixed — with general consensus that David Byrne’s songs are keepers. Also, Penn’s go-for-broke performance, a risky and engaging and right-on-the-nose turn, is one for the ages even if you don’t personally think this movie must be the place to be.
The late Elizabeth Taylor was fondly remembered during a tribute Thursday night at the ultra-glamorous annual amFAR Cinema Against AIDS event (now in its 18th year) at Hotel Du Cap. The event co-chaired by Kenneth Cole and Harvey Weinstein broke all records, bringing in a haul of more than $10 million after an auction that also saw record prices. In clips from movies like Cleopatra and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, along with footage from her work for the organization in which she was the founding international chairman and host of the first event in 1993 Cole saluted Taylor as someone who “spoke up when others wouldn’t and said things when others can’t. I hope this will always be part of her legacy.” Weinstein added, “It was an honor to work beside her and it was an honor to watch her movies.”
Continuing the Taylor theme of the evening, two “Elizabeth” items went for big bucks in the annual auction that is always a part of this glitzy dinner, thrown near the end of each Cannes Film Festival since ’93. A limited-edition Herb Ritts photo of Taylor taken in Malibu in 1991 fetched a whopping $150,000, while an Andy Warhol dated lithograph of Liz circa 1964 fetched $400,000.
Among the stars taking part in the evening and auction were Janet Jackson, Brooke Shields, Freida Pinto, Kanye West, Rosario Dawson, Naomi Campbell, Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale, Patrick Dempsey, Milla Jovovich (who opened the proceedings with a sultry “I Wanna Be Loved By You”), Jane Fonda, Goldie Hawn and Sean Penn. Penn, bringing up the rear, got big laughs demanding women abstain from sex unless their men cough up $10,000 apiece in order to break the record amount for the fundraiser. Twenty-one of them did just that. Boy George performed a couple of songs, too. Among those in the crowd were three Cannes jury members including president Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman (who also participated in the auction) and Jude Law, along with Melancholia star Kirsten Dunst, who looked happy not to have Lars von Trier as her date.
In a important show of solidarity, the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has added to its program films directed by Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, the Iranian filmmakers who each drew six-year prison sentences (with a 20-year filmmaking banishment for Panahi) by a strict Tehran regime that charged them with “propaganda against the state.” Essentially, the men were vilified for publicly mourning protesters killed following the presidential election. Panahi, who won Camera d’Or honors at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival for his first film, The White Balloon, and the Golden Lion in 2000 for The Circle, was arrested again in February 2010, and sent to prison in Tehran on the dubious charge of collusion and propaganda. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola, Paul Haggis and Sean Penn, and numerous festivals and humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International, have decried the harsh sentences that have cast a chill on all Iranian filmmakers.
For its part, festival organizers reveal they just got the films that were made in “semi-clandestine” conditions.
EXCLUSIVE: At a time when organized crime films are back in vogue, Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh is wetting his beak. He’s acquired Ness/Capone, a Grant Pierce Myers script that made the 2010 Black Script and puts a new spin on the epic battle between Eliot Ness and Al Capone during the Prohibition Era 1920s. That battle was famously chronicled in the Brian DePalma-directed movie based on the TV series The Untouchables. Myers went back to the history books and came away with a much different version of Ness. While Kevin Costner played him as an incorruptible married choirboy who had to be taught to meet the mob on its own crooked terms, Ness/Capone’s Ness is a skirt-chasing 26-year old publicity hound who seemed to get an adrenaline charge out of courting danger, kicking in doors, smashing moonshine stores and rubbing it in the noses of Capone and other mobsters. He paraded confiscated bootleg trucks past Capone’s hotel, calling Capone in advance to suggest he look out the window. Deals are still being worked out, but the film will be produced by Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Jeremy Bell along with Hollywood Gang’s Gianni Nunnari and Virgin Produced’s Jason Felts and Rene Rigal.
This puts Relativity Media in another potential pic race (it has already gone to the mattresses against Universal over rival Snow White films). Warner Bros has its own Capone project, the Walon Green-scripted Cicero, an origin story. I’ve reported that the project has interest from David Yates when he resurfaces from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, his fourth and final Potter pic. Warner Bros also is going gangbusters on Gangster Squad, the Ruben Fleischer-directed pic that has Sean Penn negotiating to play L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen, and Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as the cops who try to bring him down.
EXCLUSIVE: Sean Penn is circling The Last Photograph, and I’m told he plans to join Christian Bale in the Kurt Johnstad-scripted drama that will be directed by Niels Arden Oplev, director of the Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The film is moving from Warner Bros, and is in negotiations to move to Dark Castle, whose Joel Silver and Andrew Rona would board the project as producers and put up the financing. Zack and Deborah Snyder are producing with Hollywood Gang’s Gianni Nunnari.
The film came from an idea by Snyder, who set it up at Warner Bros with his wife and Nunnari after they all worked together on 300. Set in Afghanistan, it is a timely drama that has elements of The Searchers and Taken. Bale plays a war correspondent who witnesses and is the only survivor of an attack on a group of Americans. Penn is circling the role of a retired ex-special ops soldier who comes to the scene determined to free a family member who has been kidnapped. The journalist agrees to help identify the kidnappers and travel the rough terrain to find them, in exchange for the story. The road brings them in confrontation with tribal regions of Afghanistan, and none of the diplomats will help.
As widely expected and to no one’s surprise, it has been confirmed that Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life will screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, most likely in an out-of-competition slot in the official selection. The bigger mystery now is whether distributor Fox Searchlight will have screenings stateside before shipping the period drama overseas, given that the film’s release date in France (May 18) comes during the festival (May 11-22). Will Searchlight want to give Cannes a true world premiere, or will it want to provide the media with the more standard lead times that screenings in the U.S. would provide? The latter was the path taken by last year’s Cannes opener, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.
UPDATE: Martin Scorsese Lends Name To Amnesty International Protest Of Prison Sentences For Iranian Filmmakers
UPDATE: Martin Scorsese, who spoke out in support of Jafar Panahi both when he was first arrested and right after he was convicted, has added his support to the petition being circulated by Amnesty International. His participation …
Parties, private screenings, Q&As and the first movie awards show of the season all in the span of 24 hours. It all proves we’re in full swing with just four months to go before the Oscars. The 14th Annual Hollywood Awards Gala drew an impressive star turnout Monday evening at the Beverly Hilton, the same room where the Golden Globes get handed out in about 2 months. I’ve often said that if the Globes are a good place to try out your Oscar speech then The Hollywood Awards are a good place to try out your Globes speech. And a long list of honorees did just that, including Robert Duvall (Actor), Annette Bening (Actress), Helena Bonham Carter (Supporting Actress), Sam Rockwell (Supporting Actor), Danny Boyle and Christian Colson (Producers – 127 Hours), Tom Hooper (Director — The King’s Speech), Aaron Sorkin (Screenwriter – The Social Network), Lee Unkrich (Animated Feature – Toy Story 3), plus plenty of below the line crafts winners, acting breakthrough awards, a career achievement honor to Sly Stallone and a humanitarian award for Sean Penn. These trophies are all negotiated with distributors and publicists who promise to buy a table and a program ad and deliver their honoree in person in return for a lot of free red carpet exposure and a shot at giving an acceptance speech in front of a smattering of industry types and several Academy voters. The event isn’t televised, but there was certainly enough star power to support a broadcast. No one really takes it seriously except as an early opportunity to trot out your contenders in hopes of moving then up a peg in the marathon race to Oscar. This is the place awards watchers get to hear speeches for the first time. There’s even a live band on stage playing corny awards show music. First time attendee Aaron Eckhart, who presented to Bonham Carter, told me he thought it was a lot of fun. It’s a warm-up, the equivalent of spring training.
Fox Searchlight has acquired the Terrence Malick-directed The Tree of Life from Bill Pohlad’s River Road Entertainment. Though the film might be an awards season magnet with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn starring, the distributor is flush with those kinds of films already, and will release in 2011. At the Toronto International Film Festival, Searchlight will fete 127 Hours, Black Swan, Conviction and Never Let Me Go.