Danny Glover, Barry Levinson, Pablo Schreiber, Ed Begley Jr., Bob Balaban and Kathleen Chalfant have boarded Stephen Frears’ HBO movie Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, which dramatizes the machinations of the Supreme Court as Ali pursued Conscientious Objector status. They join previously cast Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella and Benjamin Walker. Glover will play Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Justice to serve on the Supreme Court; Levinson will play Justice Potter Stewart, who was an unpredictable voter on the Court; Begley Jr. will play Justice Harry Blackmun, President Richard Nixon appointee to the Supreme Court; Balaban will play an Advocate for Vietnam Veterans who argues a case before the Court; Schreiber will play Covert Becker, a Supreme Court clerk who doesn’t hide his contempt for liberals; and Kathleen Chalfant will play Ethel Harlan, Justice Harlan’s wife. Written by Shawn Slovo, Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight is executive produced by Frank Doelger, Tracey Scoffield, and Jonathan Cameron.
The Sundance Film Festival is infamously where relatively unknown filmmakers travel to Park City and maybe leave the mountain resort on the road to glory. But this year may have more well-known names swaggering down Main Street with projects than in recent years. Here’s a snapshot of the film famous you’ll be hearing about at Sundance and why:
SPIKE LEE, director/producer, Red Hook Summer - Spike has a long history going in and out of the studio system and hitting the pavement at Sundance where he returns with his latest. The director often laments how difficult it is to get money for projects despite making $300 million on Inside Man. Fast forward several documentaries later, and Lee picks up the feature filmmaking mantle again about an Atlanta boy who is sent to spend the summer in a Brooklyn NY housing project with the grandfather he’s never met. With all titles screening in the festival’s Premieres section headed to Sundance without a distributor in place, Lee is once again counting on his indie roots for this pic.
JULIE DELPY, writer/director/star, 2 Days In New York - Delpy opened the Sundance Film Festival with Before Sunrise way back in 1995. Now she returns with 2 Days In New York – a follow up to 2007′s 2 Days In Paris. Delpy took her recent films including 2 Days In Paris to Berlin for their debuts, but is headed to Sundance with the latest. The film has sold some international territories already and the feature’s American setting is ripe for a Sundance splash, according to the film’s sales company Rezo. In no small part due to star Chris Rock who plays opposite Delpy. In the film, Delpy reprises her 2 Days In Paris character Marion who lives with her new lover Mingus (Rock) and their two kids from previous relationships. The couple get an unexpected visit from her father (played by Delpy’s real-life dad), her oversexed sister, and her outrageous boyfriend.
STEPHEN FREARS, director Lay The Favorite - You would think two Oscar nominations for Best Director not to mention multiple Awards for 2006′s The Queen (including a win for actress Helen Mirren) would mean a golden ticket for future projects and a studio backer. But such is not the case anymore and Frears will join fellow filmmakers vying for distribution at Sundance. Pic has a well-known cast including Rebecca Hall, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, and Joshua Jackson. This latest follows a beautiful but ditzy gal who moves to Las Vegas and meets a pro sports gambler who hones in on her natural skills for numbers to his advantage.
MICHAEL STIPE, executive producer, Me@ The Zoo - The former R.E.M. front man has his hand in film for decades now, most prominently beginning in the late 1990s as executive producer of Velvet Goldmine and producer of multiple Oscar-nominee Being John Malkovich. Ubiquitous at Sundance in the early part of the 2000s, his last big project there was 2004′s Saved via his Single Cell Pictures. His other production company C-Hundred Film Corp (with filmmaker Jim McKay) is taking Me @ The Zoo to Sundance this year where it is screening in competition. The film follows video blogger Chris Crocker whose YouTube plea “Leave Britney Alone!” has been viewed gazillion times.
The 2012 Sundance Film Festival has filled out the film schedule with a Premieres lineup of features and documentaries that add some star power to the festival. As Deadline reported last week, the festival added the Stephen Frears-directed Bruce Willis-starrer Lay The Favorite as well as a film by Julie Delpy, another that stars Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, and another with Bradley Cooper. Most of the films come without distribution, so they will add to what is being forecast as potentially heavy dealmaking. Here’s the list:
2 Days in New York / France (Director: Julie Delpy, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau) — Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix. Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon.
Arbitrage / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nicholas Jarecki) — A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help. Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker.
Bachelorette / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland) — Unresolved issues between four high school friends come roaring back to life when the least popular of them gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City and asks the others to be bridesmaids in her wedding. Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer.
California Solo / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marshall Lewy) — A former Britpop rocker has long settled for an unfettered life working on a farm outside of L.A. When he’s caught driving drunk and faces deportation, he must confront past and current demons in his life to stay in the country. Cast: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez, Danny Masterson.
Celeste and Jesse Forever / U.S.A. (Director: Lee Toland Krieger, Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack) — Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships. Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts.
For A Good Time, Call… / U.S.A. (Director: Jamie Travis, Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon & Lauren Anne Miller) — Lauren and Katie move in together after a loss of a relationship and a loss of a rent controlled home, respectively. When Lauren learns what Katie does for a living the two enter into a wildly unconventional business venture. Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk.
GOATS / U.S.A. (Director: Christopher Neil, Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier) — Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the disciplined and structured Gates Academy. There, he reconnects with his estranged father and for the first time questions the family dynamics. Cast: David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk, Ty Burrell.
LAY THE FAVORITE / U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Frears, Screenwriter: D.V. DeVincentis) — An adventurous young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage. Cast: Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall.
Liberal Arts / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor) — When 30-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them. Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser.
Price Check / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Walker) — Pete is having trouble resolving a happy marriage and family life with rising debt and a job he hates. When his new boss pulls him into the maelstrom that is her life, money and opportunities come his way, but at what price? Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Josh Pais, Cheyenne Jackson.
Red Hook Summer / U.S.A. (Director: Spike Lee, Screenwriters: James McBride, Spike Lee) — A young Atlanta boy spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he’s never seen before. Cast: Clarke Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, James Ransone, Thomas Jefferson Byrd.
Red Lights / U.S.A., Spain (Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortés) — Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones.
Robot and Frank / U.S.A. (Director: Jake Schreier, Screenwriter: Christopher Ford) — A curmudgeonly older dad’s grown kids install a robot as his caretaker. Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler.
SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM
Shadow Dancer / United Kingdom (Director: James Marsh, Screenwriter: Tom Bradby) — When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, with Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen.
The Words / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal) — Aspiring writer Rory Jansen finds another man’s haunting memories in a collection of lost stories and claims them as his own, propelling him to literary stardom. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde with Zoe Saldana. CLOSING NIGHT FILM
Emmett/Furla Films, a company that has been growing more ambitious in the film financing and production arena, has teamed with Stepan Martirosyan and Remington Chase’s Envision Entertainment to establish a new $250 million revolving equity and debt fund to finance a new slate of star-driven commercial films. The fund was announced as EFF principal Randall Emmett comes to Toronto to make deals on films that include the Allen Hughes-directed political corruption drama Broken City, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, and Frozen Ground, the fact-based thriller about a serial killer in Alaska that will star Nicolas Cage and John Cusack. Martirosyan and Chase are executive producers on the latter.
The fund carries no set restrictions on how and where capital is allocated, but it will continue EFF’s momentum. The company recently financed the Stephen Frears-directed Lay The Favorite — with a cast that includes Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Vince Vaughn and Catherine Zeta-Jones — with films in the works that include the David Ayer-directed crime drama End of Watch with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Kendrick; Fire with Josh Duhamel, Willis and Rosario Dawson; and Freelancers, a drama that stars Robert De Niro, Forest Whitaker and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. EFF’s Emmett continues to be Jackson’s partner in Cheetah Vision Films, which has a deal at Lionsgate. EFF will make nine films this year.
EXCLUSIVE: Russell Crowe is set to star alongside Mark Wahlberg in the Allen Hughes-directed independently financed noir drama Broken City. Production begins in November. Wahlberg plays an ex-cop-turned-private detective who is hired by the mayor (the role Crowe will play) to see if his wife is cheating on him. The private eye confirms those suspicions, and when the mayor’s wife’s cheating partner ends up dead, the private eye immerses himself in the mayor’s business and uncovers a real estate scandal that involves the pol dealing himself choice city-owned properties. The script by Brian Tucker made the 2008 Black List. The $60 million film will be financed by Emmett/Furla Films.
Wahlberg is producing through his Closest to the Hole banner; Stephen Levinson through Leverage; and Randall Emmett, George Furla and Hughes are also producing. Wahlberg and Levinson, partners on Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, just wrapped the drama Contraband. Crowe is costarring as Jor-El in the Superman reboot Man of Steel and just wrapped The Man With The Iron Fists.