Warner Bros has set Magic Mike 2 for July 3, 2015. The sequel to the 2012 film directed by Steven Soderbergh that was informed by Channing Tatum‘s early days as a male stripper. This is the latest extension of …
I’m starting a week off today, and woke up to the depressing news that the great Detroit author Elmore Leonard has died at 87. Like so many who push words around for a living, even if it is in a much inferior fashion, I was in awe of Leonard’s ability to write as only he could. He just made you want to try harder, no matter what kind of writing you did. You could go back to the likes of Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler, but I’m hard pressed to think of a crime fiction author who influenced so many. I swear that after a Leonard book came out, I could feel the influence even on daily journalists who read him. For instance, I read sports columnist Mike Lupica all the time and noticed after every Leonard book came out, Lupica would temporarily incorporate Leonard’s penchant for starting sentences in odd places, and clipping the quotes of his subjects to liven up the dialogue like Leonard did.
His influence on Hollywood is profound and I think he helped make dialogue in crime dramas better. Great dialogue screenwriters like Quentin Tarantino drew from his well, and not just when Quentin turned Leonard’s book Rum Punch into Jackie Brown. Hollywood used to screw up his novels all the time when studio guys, screenwriters and directors thought they knew better than the master. They borrowed his plots but made them super-serious, not understanding that it wasn’t the plots as much as the dialogue and interplay between those great characters that made his books memorable. It got so bad that Leonard stopped writing scripts because he tired of taking orders from inferiors, and preferred to focus on books, where final cut belonged to him.
But then things started to get better for Leonard after the release of Get Shorty, which celebrated the cool wit and humor that was present in all of Leonard’s work. Barry Sonnenfeld’s movie didn’t paint the bad guys with black hats, but let them reveal themselves slowly and playfully. That made it possible to sympathize not only with John Travolta’s loanshark-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer character, but also a stuntman hired as a thug (James Gandolfini), who, after being demoralized by a beating from Palmer, caught his breath and started excitedly describing to his film nut nemesis all the movies he did stunts in. I remember Scott Frank telling me that when he first tried to adapt that Leonard novel as a script, he went through the book and underlined what he felt was vital, in green hi-light marker. By the time he finished, Frank had underlined pretty much the entire book. But Frank and his cohorts managed to start a trend, where filmmakers began to realize that Leonard’s dialogue was pure gold and didn’t need a rewrite.
Frank and Jersey Films producers Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher nailed it yet again when they collaborated with Steven Soderbergh to make Out Of Sight. That film had trademark flawed heroes and tremendous badasses, and for my money the sexiest courtship scene (between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez) that I’d seen in a film since Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe formed their bond in Michael Mann’s The Last Of The Mohicans. And both those films had Dennis Farina. More recently, Graham Yost captured Leonard’s spirit in the FX series Justified, based on the gunslinging deputy U.S. marshal Raylan Givens whom Leonard hatched as a secondary character in the novels Pronto and Riding the Rap. The dialogue written for Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder, Nick Searcy’s Chief Deputy Marshal Art Mullen, and all the bad guys, so captured Leonard’s wit that he told me it had restored his faith in Hollywood, or at least made the earlier slights less bothersome.
I got the privilege of spending some time with Leonard twice. Once in person, as a kid reporter at New York Newsday, when I peppered him with endless questions and recall him telling that one reason his scenes lined up differently than other writers is that he would write the same scene numerous times, each from the vantage point of different characters. He’d then choose the vantage point the felt right, and use that one. Three years ago, I spent time on the phone with him at Deadline, when director Charlie Matthau hooked us up while they were working on an adaptation of Freaky Deaky. Here is a replay of that interview:
EXCLUSIVE: The creative team is in place to turn the hit stripper film into Magic Mike, The Musical on Broadway. The producers have set Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey to write the songs, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to write the book, based on the Steven Soderbergh-directed film that was informed by Channing Tatum‘s early days as a male stripper. They’ve gotten top-shelf talent. Kitt and Yorkey are the creators of the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Next To Normal, and the upcoming If/Then, starring Idina Menzel. Aguirre-Sacasa recently co-wrote the book for Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark and helped turn things around when there was nothing but bad news on that musical and performers were dropping like flies from the complicated rigging. Aguirre-Sacasa also has written the book of the upcoming American Psycho Musical that Duncan Sheik that will premiere in London later this year. Magic Mike, The Musical is being produced by Soderbergh, Tatum, Reid Carolin, Gregory Jacobs, and Nick Wechsler. The show was put together by WME. The group is fast tracking the project to the stage while also prepping starting the ball rolling on a sequel to the 2012 Magic Mike film. Soderbergh and Yorkey are repped by Anonymous Content.
ANALYSIS FROM COMIC-CON: Last evening, I attended a Comic-Con preview screening for the USA series Psych and saw that rabid fans camped out 12 hours in a line around the block just to glimpse an episode that will soon screen on their TV sets. Today, I see an Emmy nomination count for cable TV series that dwarfs network television, certainly in all of the sexiest categories. And back here at Comic-Con, movie studios start today trying to hook the geek crowd on big-ticket films with a parade of stars and hype, but there will be lines just as long for panels for cable shows like The Walking Dead, Sons Of Anarchy (which I’ll moderate), Breaking Bad, Vikings and others. Cable is surely doing something right, in the middle of a creative period that will be remembered years from now as something approaching the way feature aficionados remember the 1970s.
This isn’t new to the likes of HBO, built on the network reject The Sopranos and other series. But how did it become so widespread that even Netflix is getting into the act? I’d argue cable is reaping the benefits of a creative drought at the play-it-safe major networks, but mostly from an increasingly polarized feature film business that has marginalized the value of sophisticated and edgy mid-budget projects. That has sent a whole middle class of writers and actors flocking to cable as an alternative to high concept global-minded tent poles or no-budget genre fare. I recall being skeptical when Tony Gilroy told me a year ago that mid-budget dramas like his gem Michael Clayton will become extinct. He wouldn’t mourn it, he said, because the writers, directors and actors who make them will tell their stories on cable and get the sense of authorship he did on his Oscar-nominated George Clooney film. Boy, was Gilroy on to something. Consumers clearly don’t want sameness. They crave different and edgy, and cable seems to answer that call regularly enough, most recently with Showtime’s recent ratings sensation Ray Donovan, anchored by its movie cast of Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight. Noah Emmerich, who after a long feature career now stars in the superb FX series The Americans, told me recently that he is still shocked that after customarily spending half a year immersing himself in characters for features that often disappear, he never got as much recognition for anything as for a two episode stint on The Walking Dead, where he had hours to prepare. The response from The Americans has been even more profound and he has grown comfortable to the quicker pace.
Steven Soderbergh’s look at the tempestuous secret love affair between Liberace and his onstage driver hit some high notes for HBO on Sunday. Helmed by the Oscar-winning director, Behind The Candelabra was watched by 2.4 million viewers on Sunday at 9 PM. That’s the most viewers an HBO original movie premiere has garnered since 2.6 million watched Something The Lord Made on May 30, 2004. Candelabra also did considerably better than HBO’s last biopic, on record producer Phil Spector. Starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, the film about Spector’s first trial for the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson pulled in 754,000 viewers in its 9 PM airing on March 24. Overall, Phil Spector had 1.039 million viewers over two plays on March 24. Across two plays Sunday, Candelabra had a total of 3.5 million viewers watching the 9 PM and 11 PM broadcasts.
UPDATE: Toronto Lands World Premiere Of Godfrey Reggio’s ‘Visitors’, With Cinedigm Aboard As Distributor
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 12:01 AM: : The Toronto Film Festival has set the Godfrey Reggio-directed Visitors to have its world premiere at the festival September 8, in a most splashy manner. The film has an original score by Philip Glass and it is being presented by Steven Soderbergh. While that filmmaker is stepping away from directing features, he’s not done backing them and has been a big supporter of Reggio’s work since Koyaanisqatsi 30 years ago. The Toronto premiere will be presented in 4K digital projection and live accompaniment by members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Michael Riesman. The premiere will be held that Sunday at 6 PM at the Visa Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre.
Said TIFF Director and CEO Piers Handling: “Reggio’s Visitors is a poignant, powerful film. Coupled with live performance by 65 Members of the TSO, this event is an opportunity for Toronto audiences to be moved and to experience film in a whole new way.”
Of his involvement, Soderbergh told me: “I was a producer on the last Qatsi film but had lost touch with Godfrey and out of the blue I emailed his producer, Lawrence Taub. He told me they were in the last stages of cutting his new movie. They brought me out to Red Hook in Brooklyn to show it to me. I loved it and said, ‘What can I do to help, what do you want?’ They asked if I would be presenter and help them navigate making a distribution deal and finding a foreign sales person and I said, ‘I’m in.’ ”
Steven Soderbergh tonight unveils what he says is his final feature film Behind The Candelabra. The film explores the secret father/son/lover relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his valet Scott Thorson. It’s playing in competition here at Cannes, even though HBO will premiere it in the U.S. on Sunday before it gets a traditional overseas theatrical release. If that seems complex, it fits Soderbergh, a true maverick who has always been up for putting himself on the line for disruptive, groundbreaking fare. That began with sex, lies, and videotape. The movie won the Audience Award at Sundance and the Palme d’Or at Cannes before grossing nearly $25 million in 1989 and earning him an original screenplay Oscar nom. It is viewed as the picture that turned indie film into a viable business. “He is the father of this movement,” said Harvey Weinstein, who distributed the film. “Before him, there was no independent movie that did more than $5 million. This was the one that went out, almost wide, in the summer — where they said these films could not play — and broke the art house ghetto.” An Oscar (for directing Traffic) later, and a career that spanned every genre and enterprising release strategy (he aroused the ire of theater owners by road testing the day-and-date release platform that is now a Sundance deal staple), the 50-year-old Soderbergh talks with Deadline about Behind The Candelabra, indie economics and more.
DEADLINE: All week, I’ve heard people here debate whether Michael Douglas and Matt Damon will lose possible Oscar nominations because the film plays first on HBO, before a more traditional international theatrical rollout. You intended it originally to be an indie feature. Explain the gyrations that ended up with this unusual release strategy.
SODERBERGH: We were trying to get the last $5 million to finish it off. The movie cost $22 million and change. We’d raised $18 million foreign and we just needed this piece. Superficially it would seem like a no-brainer, but when you look at the realities of the economics of putting a movie into wide release, you have to gross $65 million-$75 million just to get out. People just didn’t have that appetite for this kind of material.
DEADLINE: How different were things back when you conceived it as an indie and took several years to get to it and get a script by Richard LaGravanese?
SODERBERGH: There’s no question in my mind that if it had been five years earlier that we’d probably would have gotten it. But the pressure has gotten so extreme. I talk to people at the studios about it all the time. Somebody told me last week that they are doing a better job controlling movie costs but that marketing costs keep moving at a trajectory faster than everything else. Another terrifying thing is, you used to be able to bank on stars. If you had certain elements in a certain kind of movie, you could bank on doing X. Now you are guaranteed nothing.
Here is the full transcript of director Steven Soderbergh‘s keynote at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival delivered Saturday. At first he requested the festival ensure no still photographs, audio, or video of his talk at the Kabuki Theater. But instead it was tweeted, blogged, recorded, and put online. Soderbergh promised in advance to “drop some grenades” and he opined about studio executives, indie filmmaking, and cinema vs movies. He did not detail his own retirement:
A few months ago I was on this Jet Blue flight from New York to Burbank. And I like Jet Blue, not just because of the prices. They have this terminal at JFK that I think is really nice. I think it might be the nicest terminal in the country although if you want to see some good airports you’ve got to go to a major city in another part of the world like Europe or Asia. They’re amazing airports. They’re incredible and quiet. You’re not being assaulted by all this music. I don’t know when it was decided we all need a soundtrack everywhere we go. I was just in the bathroom upstairs and there was a soundtrack accompanying me at the urinal, I don’t understand. So I’m getting comfortable in my seat. I spent the extra $60 to get the extra leg room so I’m trying to get comfortable and we make altitude. And there’s a guy on the other side of the aisle in front of me and he pulls out his iPad to start watching stuff. I’m curious to see what he’s going to watch – he’s a white guy in his mid-30s. And I begin to realize what he’s done is he’s loaded in half a dozen action sort of extravaganzas and he’s watching each of the action sequences – he’s skipping over all the dialogue and the narrative. This guy’s flight is going to be five and a half hours of just mayhem porn.
I get this wave of – not panic, it’s not like my heart started fluttering – but I had this sense of, am I going insane? Or is the world going insane – or both? Now I start with the circular thinking again. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s generational and I’m getting old, I’m in the back nine professionally. And maybe my 22-year-old daughter doesn’t feel this way at all. I should ask her. But then I think, no: Something is going on – something that can be measured is happening, and there has to be. When people are more outraged by the ambiguous ending of The Sopranos than some young girl being stoned to death, then there’s something wrong. We have people walking around who think the government stages these terrorist attacks. And anybody with a brain bigger than a walnut knows that our government is not nearly competent enough to stage a terrorist attack and then keep it a secret because, as we know, in this day and age you cannot keep a secret.
So I think that life is sort of like a drumbeat. It has a rhythm and sometimes it’s fast and sometimes it’s slower, and maybe what’s happening is this drumbeat is just accelerating and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t hear between the beats anymore and it’s just a hum. Again, I thought maybe that’s my generation, every generation feels that way, maybe I should ask my daughter. But then I remember somebody did this experiment where if you’re in a car and you’re going more than 20 miles an hour it becomes impossible to distinguish individual features on a human being’s face. I thought that’s another good analogy for this sensation. It’s a very weird experiment for someone to come up with.
The first teaser for Steven Soderbergh‘s Behind The Candelabra: The Secret Life Of Liberace was a real tease, indeed — offering only a jazzy credits roll and a series of falling piano keys. This one, which dropped over the weekend, pulls back the curtain …
Steven Soderbergh‘s Side Effects opened last Friday in the States courtesy of Open Road and starts its international rollout with tonight’s Berlin competition screening. The director, Rooney Mara, Jude Law and scripter Scott Z. Burns are all in town for support. Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones also star in the film about a successful New York couple (Mara and Tatum) whose world unravels when she begins taking a new drug prescribed by her psychiatrist (Law). It’s a thriller in the Hitchcockian sense that employs plot-twists and surprises set against the background of intersecting themes of psychology, psychopharmacology and the law.
This is Soderbergh’s fifth appearance in Berlin, “More than any other festival I’ve ever been to,” he said at a press conference this afternoon. It will also be his last for a while. The director is famously headed for an early retirement – or as he called it today, “a break” – after this film. (Although he still has his Liberace biopic Behind The Candelabra to air on HBO.) Asked why he chose to go the potboiler route before bowing out he said, “I just liked the idea of making a thriller as I near the twilight of my career.” He added that he’d been inspired by making Ché back in 2008. “However long this break ends up being, I wanted the last few things I was doing to be fun to make and to watch. Coming out the other end of Ché really made me want to have more fun.”
A year into a 20-year filmmaking ban in his native Iran, Jafar Panahi still managed to direct the 2011 documentary This Is Not A Film (which was smuggled to the Cannes Film Festival on a flash drive). The director, who is under house arrest in Iran, has evidently been behind the camera again as his Closed Curtain has just been added to the lineup for the 63rd Berlin Film Festival. Berlin provided few details about the film other than it’s co-directed by Border Café helmer Kambozia Partovi – who co-wrote Panahi’s 2000 Venice winner The Circle – and that both directors play roles in the movie, along with other castmembers. Joining that world premiere in competition will be the next film from No Man’s Land director Danis Tanovic along with Steven Soderbergh‘s Side Effects with Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum and Fredrik Bond’s feature debut The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman starring Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger and Rupert Grint. Berlin runs from February 7-17 this year. Click over for the full list of new additions:
Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in Steven Soderbergh‘s Side Effects, which reteams the director with his Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns. The two co-wrote this thriller about a successful New York couple (Mara and Tatum) whose world unravels when she begins taking a …
Lionsgate, which is distributing the movie in the UK, has put up its version of a trailer for Magic Mike, which Warner Bros has in the U.S. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the picture starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey looks like it may deliver more than we expected. …