Palm Springs, CA (November 21, 2013) – The 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Steve McQueen with the Director of the Year Award for 12 Years a Slave at its annual Awards Gala. The Gala will also present awards to previously announced honorees Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern and Matthew McConaughey. Presented by Cartier and hosted by Mary Hart, the Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 4 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 3-13, 2014. READ MORE »
Telluride has been buzzing since last night’s first screening of Steve McQueen‘s excellent slavery drama, 12 Years A Slave. One site which shall remain nameless was so overcome that the writer already just about declared the Oscar race over and done. “Guess we don’t have to go to Toronto now,” said a publicist here with another contender. One blogger stopped me on the street today after I saw the film and asked, “So do you agree with us (bloggers) the actor race is done?” he said in referring to star Chewitel Ejiofor‘s towering and dignified performance as the slave Solomon Northup, who lived to tell his harrowing tale and write a book about it in 1853. As I said yesterday, hyperbole is a big part of any festival like this and intelligent moviegoers are so thirsty for Oscar-quality adult movie fare they might have a tendency to go overboard with praise. But it’s a disservice to a very fine but challenging film like 12 Years A Slave to build up such high expectations no movie could possibly live up to it.
As I exited the packed 650-seat Herzog Theatre, I ran into Fox Searchlight co-President Nancy Utley, who was there gauging reaction to her film, which they open in LA and NY on October 18 and then roll out slowly. She agreed it is a film that should be “discovered” but, obviously happy with the ecstatic reaction so far at its first two screenings, added that this film needs special handling. “It’s a movie that will depend on critical reaction and awards play to really tell people that despite tough subject matter it’s a film they must see,” she said.
Last month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences took great strides in order to bring more diversity to its membership. Now will that effort affect the actual Oscar race itself? Certainly this year distributors, particularly The Weinstein Company and Fox Searchlight, are going to be giving the Academy every opportunity to put some diversity into that race, especially in terms of a major African- American presence. Beginning with this Friday’s platformed Weinstein release of the widely acclaimed Sundance and Cannes award winner, Fruitvale Station there is a highly promising lineup of films that seriously depict the Black experience to be released in the second half of 2013. And I am not talking about Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.
This group of movies, which also includes the increasingly-controversial The Butler (8/16- Weinstein), 12 Years A Slave (10/18- Searchlight), Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom (11/29 – Weinstein), Black Nativity (11/27 – Searchlight), Blue Caprice starring Isaiah Washington (IFC – 9/13), the recently -released documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom (Radius-TWC) and (far less likely) even the long-delayed Winnie Mandela (Image Entertainment) starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard now being released in September, provide a bountiful opportunity to let the Academy show off its new spirit of diversity, not that they have been completely dormant in that area in recent years. Of course 2012′s Beasts Of The Southern Wild made the most recent Best Picture cut and won its 9 year old star Quvenzhane Wallis a Best Actress nomination. And Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar winning Original Screenplay for another 2012 Best Pic nominee, Django Unchained had a unique take on slavery. Two years ago the box office success of The Help propelled it towards a Best Picture nomination and acting nods for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, the latter winning for Best Supporting Actress. And just four years ago Precious won a couple of key Oscars for Supporting Actress Monique and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher as well as Best Picture and Directing (for Lee Daniels) nominations.
EXCLUSIVE: The release date chess game of the Oscar-bait autumn films continues. After some exuberant test screenings, Fox Searchlight is moving the Steve McQueen-directed Twelve Years A Slave to a limited platform release that will begin October 18. The original plan for the film backed by New Regency and River Road was to start the limited platform release in late December. They felt it could thrive in the fall, instead of waiting for winter. With a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Brad Pitt, the film is based on the true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom in the pre-Civil War America. Ejoifor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery. He faces cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner played by Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindness. In the 12th year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Pitt) forever alters his life.
The MPAA has given an NC-17 rating to the Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which is exactly what Deadline told you would happen back when we broke the story that Fox Searchlight had acquired it at the start of the 2011 …
UK-based Momentum Pictures has put up a trailer for Shame, the controversial, NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed drama that stars Michael Fassbender as a man caught in a spiral of promiscuity. Carey Mulligan plays his sister. Both are being mentioned for awards for a film that Fox Searchlight acquired for US distribution …
Toronto: Distribution Deal For Luc Besson’s ‘The Lady’ Puts Michelle Yeoh And David Thewlis In Oscar Race
EXCLUSIVE: The Oscar race just got a little more interesting. EuropaCorp has made a U.S. distribution deal with Cohen Media Group for the Luc Besson-directed The Lady, the story of Burmese pro-democracy activist and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Upstart Cohen Media Group plans to release the film for an Oscar-qualifying platform release late this year to capitalize on strong performances by Michelle Yeoh, who plays Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis, who plays her Oxford professor husband Michael Aris. The film will get a wider release in early 2012. Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest by the repressive Burmese military-controlled government. Leaders cruelly barred her husband and two sons from visiting her, thinking that it would drive her to leave. Because she knew that once gone she would never be permitted re-entry, Suu Kyi sacrificed everything to stay and become an iconic symbol of democracy and human rights. Her husband and sons bolstered her spirit and campaigned for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 1991. The distribution deals came quickly after the film premiered Monday evening at Roy Thomson Hall, where Besson, Yeoh and Thewlis received a rousing standing ovation. The deal was brokered by EuropaCorp Group CEO Christophe Lambert and Cohen Media Group CEO Charles S. Cohen.
The Lady becomes the second Toronto title to become an instant entry into upcoming awards season, after Fox Searchlight acquired the NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed Shame with plans to campaign for Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.
After establishing himself as France’s answer to Steven Spielberg directing hits like La Femme Nikita and The Professional and co-writing and producing action films like Taken, Besson has become very selective in the projects he directs. While he has always had a soft spot for strong female protagonists, it has always been in action settings. The Lady is a decided departure and certainly his most personal film to date. Besson made it to refocus the world’s attention on an activist whose continuing plight gets easily forgotten in a turbulent world, even though she won that Nobel Peace Prize and U2′s Bono and The Edge wrote the song Walk On about her sacrifice (which got U2′s album banned in Burma).
Just as it did last year, the 2011 Toronto Film Festival has gotten off to a slow start on the acquisitions front. I spoke with many buyers after last night’s onslaught of acquisition title premieres, and the common feeling was these distributors need to fill slots in their schedules and they want to fall in love, but haven’t quite gotten there yet with most of these films. They had some reservations on just about all of the films they saw. These films will clearly find distribution homes, but the reaction means that deals will drag out because those distributors aren’t going to be posting large minimum guarantees, the way they did in Cannes.
Even the big sale of the festival so far, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 sex drama Shame, wasn’t a huge commitment for all the press hoopla that followed Deadline’s reveal that the film had sold to Fox Searchlight. I am hearing the deal was a mid-six figure minimum guarantee around $400,000, and a P&A commitment around $1.5 million. That sounds about right, because the filmmakers were most concerned with entering this year’s Oscar race to capitalize on the performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and ensuring that not a frame of the picture was changed. But it doesn’t sound like a wide release picture.
As for the wide release titles, they are going to sell, but it will be a struggle for sellers to get the dollars they want. I saw one of those titles that sit atop buyer lists last night. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was scripted by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The film is sophisticated, funny, timely and utterly charming, and I would be surprised if it isn’t snapped up by Monday or sooner. That film got the best reaction from the buyers I spoke with. The pace of auctioning has been complicated by the volume of premieres last night, including Rampart, Take This Waltz, The Oranges, the hockey comedy Goon and the Morgan Spurlock-directed documentary Comic-Con: A Fan’s Hope. Buyers had to make choices, and some were seeing films like Salmon this morning. I expect a flurry of deals toward the end of the festival, which is how it played out last year.
Since there’s little going on so far, you have time to notice things. Here are a few things I’ve noticed:
EXCLUSIVE: In the first major deal of the Toronto Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has acquired Shame, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 drama that was the talk of Telluride. Bidding came down to Searchlight and The Weinstein Company. The film is said to showcase a tour de force performance by Michael Fassbender, who plays a New Yorker unable to manage his sex life when his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment, and his world spirals out of control. Searchlight had been the frontrunner in the bidding. The film is a provocative purchase for a number of reasons: It is unabashedly NC-17, features graphic sex scenes and nudity — one source said “think dungeon sex” — and McQueen has final cut and will not change a frame. It will be a controversial release for Searchlight, whose parent company has already weathered plenty of scandal lately. Also, the deal calls for a late-year release and Best Actor campaign for Fassbender; Searchlight will already be waging a campaign in the same category for George Clooney in the Alexander Payne-directed The Descendants. Hanway brokered the Shame deal.
FILM ROUNDUP: Steve McQueen & Chiwetel Ejiofor Join ‘Twelve Years A Slave’, Film Movement Buys ‘Corpo Celeste’, ‘Straight A’s Lands Leads
Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiofor are going to be seeing a lot of each other. McQueen has come aboard to direct Twelve Years a Slave, which will star Ejiofor in a true story about a New York man who was kidnapped in the mid-1800s and forced to become a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. Brad Pitt’s Plan B is producing. The news comes more than a year after Deadline told you that McQueen and Ejiofor are teaming on a Focus Features film based on the Broadway musical Fela!, about African musician-activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Ejiofor has learned to play piano and saxophone for that role. It’s unclear which of these movies will be made first. McQueen — who made waves with his debut film Hunger, about the Irish hunger strike that starred Michael Fassbender and earned the helmer the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2008 — will premiere his latest feature, Shame, this fall in Venice. …
Film Movement has acquired North American rights to the Cannes Film Festival drama Corpo Celeste, the Italian-language feature that played in the Directors Fortnight sidebar. Alice Rohrwacher’s debut feature follows a 13-year-old girl’s coming-of-age in the poor southern Italian province of Calabria. The company plans a first-quarter 2012 theatrical launch day and date with VOD, with a national rollout to follow.
After making a splash by funding the wildly profitable Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan, Timmy Thompson and Brian Oliver’s Cross Creek Pictures has become an increasing presence in the independent film producing and finance game. To help manage the growing project volume, they’ve hired Becky Sloviter to be senior vice president of development and production. She started work yesterday and had most recently been veep of development and production at MGM, where she worked on such titles as the Kevin James-starrer Zookeeper and the Drew Goddard-directed The Cabin in the Woods, as well as the musical Valley Girl which is on a fast track at MGM. Before that, Sloviter had been a production exec at Stuber/Parent Productions.