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Oscars Q&A: Steven Spielberg On ‘War Horse’s Four-Legged Actors, 3D And Lessons Learned

By | Wednesday February 1, 2012 @ 8:18am PST
Mike Fleming

Steven Spielberg has been a prominent player in the feature film scene for close to 40 years, and scored the first of his 12 Oscar nominations (with two wins) 33 years ago. Yet in many ways the filmmaker maintains a perpetual boyish image in the public imagination. Maybe it’s his affinity for stories featuring children — like his Oscar contender War Horse – or his unquenchable excitement about movie-making. Whatever the reason, the director-writer-producer-mogul always seems to be in the center of the current conversations about film — he and producer/filmmaker Peter Jackson unleashed the 3D motion capture animated family film The Adventures Of Tintin just days before War Horse was released, made while both iconic directors were busy making huge live-action films of their own. While Spielberg surprisingly did not get nominated for Best Director on War Horse, he’s up for Best Picture as that film’s producer. That is one of two Best Picture nominations for DreamWorks, the other being The Help. Those two films are up for 10 Oscars between them. And Spielberg shows no signs of slowing down. He’s prepping a big science fiction film in Robopocalypse, and he is close to committing to Gods And Kings, a Warner Bros film (DreamWorks would become partner on the film) that would be the most epic Old Testament film about Moses since The Ten Commandments. On a break from shooting his upcoming biopic on Abraham Lincoln, Spielberg took time to reflect on his lessons learned, the advice he’s ignored and the medium he loves.

AWARDSLINE: After Jaws went 100 days over schedule, George Lucas was quoted as saying, ‘Stay away from working on the water and working with kids, old people and live animals.’ Was shooting War Horse with real horses deja vu all over again for you?
SPIELBERG: No, because the horses work. I mean seriously, they work. The nice thing about a living creature is that they do have a mind of their own. And that could be either a worst enemy or it could be your greatest ally as in this case, when all of us started trusting each other, meaning the actors and the horse. The horse actually made material contributions to the experience and added things that we never trained the horse to contribute and that was what was so amazing for me. I don’t want to compare that to Jaws because Jaws was just an aquatic nightmare for me; I mean, all of those stories were true. In this case the horses were in a sense one of the greatest surprises I ever had in making movies.

AWARDSLINE: What kinds of material contributions did the horses make?
SPIELBERG: They brought to many of the scenes a horse sense. If the scene was tense and electrifying, they were on edge and they were reactive and you could see their eyes flaring, you could see their nostrils opening and taking in more air, they were very responsive to the situations that we placed them in. … In many many cases the horse just loved [acting with] Geordie (Toby Kebbell), loved Albert (Jeremy Irvine), and he was much more reactive and responsive and in affectionate way to Albert than anyone else who came near him and you can’t ask for that, you can’t train for that.

AWARDSLINE: What was the appeal of building a movie around World War I for you? Obviously you’ve shot your share of war films.
SPIELBERG: World War I was a part in parcel of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book he wrote in 1982 and it was certainly a very important part of the stage play, [but] what attracted me to the project was really this very soulful narrative about a family of farmers whose very existence depends on the land. And the father buys the wrong horse, yet the horse is able to overcome its own breeding to be able to help the farm through, and the heart the horse displays in that gets transferred over to France in no man’s land. This is really about connections, the connections of courage and hope but mainly about the connections between people and animals and how much this horse brings into everybody’s life. It’s only about 12 minutes of combat in the actual movie.

AWARDSLINE: Saving Private Ryan was a violent, jarring, concussive war film. Here, because you’re making a family film, what did you do differently to make it accessible to families?
SPIELBERG: What I certainly was not going for was human dismemberment and the actual effects of shelling and combat, I’ve done that, and didn’t need to do it again. What I really wanted to do was find a way to allow the audience to fill in the blanks that I wasn’t literally putting in their faces. So, for instance, when the cavalry charges you don’t see a single British cavalryman being shot off the horse nor do you see a single horse being shot back into the ground. You simply see horses with riders and then you see the same horses without riders, and I thought that was sufficient to convey the impression that the technology then suddenly rendered horses useless in war time. Read More »

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‘Adventures Of Tintin’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Lead VES Award Nominations

Los Angeles, January 9, 2012 – The Visual Effects Society (VES) today announced the nominees for its 10th Annual VES Awards ceremony recognizing outstanding visual effects artistry in 23 categories of film, animation, television, commercials, special venues and video games. Nominees were chosen Saturday, January 7 by distinguished panels of VES members who viewed submissions at the FotoKem screening facilities in Burbank and New York, FotoKem’s Spy in San Francisco, and other facilities in London, Sydney, Vancouver and Wellington, NZ. As previously announced, Stan Lee will be honored with the VES 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award and Douglas Trumbull with the Georges Méliès Award. The 10th Annual VES Awards will take place on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and will air exclusively on ReelzChannel. The nominees for the 10th Annual VES Awards are as follows:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Captain America: The First Avenger
Charlie Noble
Mark Soper
Christopher Townsend
Edson Williams
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Tim Burke
Emma Norton
John Richardson
David Vickery
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Gary Brozenich
David Conley
Charlie Gibson
Ben Snow
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Dan Lemmon
Joe Letteri
Cyndi Ochs
Kurt Williams
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Scott Benza
Wayne Billheimer
Matthew Butler
Scott Farrar

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Familiar Field Battles For Best Animated Feature Annie Awards

Mike Fleming

The nominations are out for the 39th annual Annie Awards, which will be awarded February 4 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Here are the contenders for Best Animated Feature: A Cat In Paris, Arrugas (Wrinkles), Arthur Christmas, Cars 2, Chico & Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss In Boots, Rango, Rio, and The Adventures Of Tintin. The Annies are put on by the international animated-film society ASIFA-Hollywood and span 28 categories (for the complete list of nominees, click here). “We are really excited about the expanded list of nominations this year,” said Frank Gladstone, president, ASIFA-Hollywood. “All of the major animation studios are represented, as are some of the independent productions from Europe and South America. This certainly is a testament to the wide reach and appeal of animation and the people who create it.” The group also will bestow the Winsor McCay Award to Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring and Robert Searle for career contributions; the June Foray Award to Art Leonardi for significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation; and a Special Achievement Award to tech company Depth Analysis.

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‘Tintin’ Passes $200M International; Will U.S. Audiences Board The Bandwagon?

Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures Of Tintin has been winging through the world on its way to U.S. theaters since late October and has just flown to a $207 million international cume. Sony Pictures Releasing International and Paramount Pictures International are sharing most distrib duties abroad ahead of Paramount’s North American release on December 21, four days before Spielberg’s other Oscar hopeful, War Horse, goes out on Christmas Day.

Tintin began its run in Belgium, the native land of the comic’s creator Hergé, where it’s now taken $8.7 million. In neighboring France, the film jolted the box office in October with the best opening of any film this year, selling over 3 million tickets to leap ahead of the Harry Potter finale. Its cume there is $51.8 million. Sony has the pic in both territories. The UK and Ireland have also been big contributors to the effort for Paramount where the film now boasts a $24.3 million cume after falling just 24% in its 5th frame. Paramount also has China, where Tintin opened last weekend and just added $3 million for a $14.5 million total. Overall, the tally currently stands at $161.5 million for Sony and $45.5 million for Par releases across more than 50 territories. Read More »

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HAMMOND: ‘War Horse’ Campaign Begins; Can Steven Spielberg Win Another Oscar?

Pete Hammond

The horse is out of the bag. Steven Spielberg’s much-awaited epic War Horse began its industry screenings in earnest this afternoon, Thanksgiving Day, in both New York and Los Angeles by inviting members (via trade ads and website Monday) of most guilds , critics groups,  and, of course, the Academy to special holiday weekend screenings that will continue through Sunday in both cities as well as San Francisco (Fri-Sun).  In addition , as previously announced , there will be public sneaks in NYC and nine other cities on Sunday afteroon (10:30AM in LA at AMC Century City) followed by a Q&A with Spielberg in NY that will be satellited to the other cities as well as streamed live on MSN.com. It is an innovative “one-stop shopping” tactic on the part of Dreamworks (and Disney who distributes)  since Spielberg is on the east coast currently shooting Lincoln and not available for the usual round of campaign activities. Its “World Premiere” will take place December 4th at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC.

The big launch is on now even though the film was completed for all intents and purposes in September. At the Labor Day weekend Telluride Film Festival producer Kathleen Kennedy told me they only had the D.I. to complete at that time, but even though it was ready the film, which opens on December 25, has skipped the festival circuit in favor of its own circuitous route to release. That included the unusual strategy of employing surprise “pop up” screenings Nov 1-10 in small towns like Bellvue  Wa, Leawood and  Olathe Ks, Cleveland Heights Oh, Beaverton Or, Bethesda MD and Plymouth Meeting, PA indicating a “heartland” strategy in order to get word of mouth moving .   That same week Dreamworks started quietly showing the film to select media (including Deadline)  on the big screen at the Disney lot’s main theatre. A strict embargo existed until today right after the first Thanksgiving screening when most media and industry types would have had at least the opportunity to begin seeing it. So expect a lot of industry and media twittering, facebooking and reviews to start almost immediately with still a solid month to go before its Christmas day wide opening.

What Spielberg has wrought is a stunning looking and highly emotional epic that is Hollywood moviemaking at its best, and seems likely to be the filmmaker’s most Academy- friendly work since his Oscar winners, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Is it old-fashioned?  You bet , but in this fast-moving techno culture that may be a welcome thing.  Spielberg is known to be a great admirer of David Lean  and with its sweeping vistas, deliberate pacing and epic story of one horse’s remarkable journey through the front lines of World War I, the film could almost be a tribute to the great director of such classics as Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Just for the craft alone Oscar nominations would seem to be assured for Best Picture and Director,  John Williams’ score, Rick Carter’s production design,Michael Kahn’s editing, the sound work and  Janusz Kaminski’s  striking cinematography. Although there hasn’t been much buzz about the cast which includes Jeremy Irvine, David Thewlis,  Emily Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Mullan, they  don’t strike any false notes delivering fine performances, and Tom Hiddleston’s  Captain Nichols  could even merit some Best Supporting Actor talk  though that category is almost impossibly tough this year. As for the horses there should be some kind of separate Academy Award. They are suprisingly expressive (one of them came from Seabiscuit). The film , in look and execution is easily the best of its genre since Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion in 1979, a movie that earned a handful of Oscar nods but shamefully didn’t even get a Cinematography nomination for Caleb Deschanel’s landmark cinematography.

War Horse is probably too emotional and traditional  to earn much love on the hardcore unsentimental critics awards circuit, but I imagine it will fare very well  at the CCMA’s, Golden Globes, and Oscars, even though some of the Academy’s more recent Best Picture choices, notably No Country For Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker among others indicate a different sensibility than the kind of once-traditional “bigger”, more craft-laden  film the Academy once favored, and a category into which War Horse definitely falls.  Although The King’s Speech triumph last year over the more trendy critics choice of The Social Network might indicate there is still room for less edgy, more “traditional” films in the heart of the Academy voter. We’ll have to wait to see, but the sheer scope of War Horse certainly gives it its own niche against smaller favored Best Pic hopefuls (seen so far) like The Descendants, The Artist, Midnight In Paris and Moneyball.

On the other hand voters might think Spielberg has had enough accolades (3 Oscars, a Thalberg award, AFI Life Achievement and Kennedy Center Honors), plus Read More »

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Hot TV Trailer: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin’

By | Thursday November 10, 2011 @ 9:53pm PST

Here’s the latest TV spot for The Adventures of Tintin.

video platform video management video solutions video player

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Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Adventures Of Tintin’ To Close AFI Fest

Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’ To World Premiere As AFI Fest Opener

LOS ANGELES, CA, October 31, 2011 – The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today that Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures’ THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, directed by AFI Life Achievement Award recipient and Academy Award®-winning director Steven Spielberg, will have its North American Premiere as the Closing Night Gala of AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. The film is based on the internationally beloved and irrepressible characters created by Hergé and stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. It is produced by Academy Award® winners Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy. From an original screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, the story follows the unquenchably curious young reporter Tintin and his fiercely loyal dog Snowy as they discover a ship carrying an explosive secret that may hold the key to vast fortune…and an ancient curse. Academy Award®-winning composer John Williams scored the film, with 2011 marking a collaboration between Spielberg and Williams that has enriched 25 of their films together.

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New York Film Festival Unveils Surprise Oscar Contender Monday

Mike Fleming

So far, there is no consensus Oscar frontrunner like there was at this time last year, and many of the biggest Oscar hopefuls haven’t yet been seen. We’ll have a good sense of one of them early next week. The New York Film Festival plans to show a work in progress film by a “legendary” filmmaker this Monday. It has to be one of several Oscar-bait films that weren’t completed in time to be shown at the festivals. So it’s either Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse or The Adventures of Tintin, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, or David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The festival will begin selling tickets by Friday, so we’ll know soon. I’m told this is the first time that the festival has done this kind of thing, and that the unfinished film will be screened Columbus Day at 7 PM at Avery Fisher Hall.

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Holiday Movie Release Date Moves: A Recap

It’s been a busy week for Hollywood studios settling on release dates. Here’s what’s happened:

Unauthorized, Sundance Now, Oct. 7**
Puss In Boots, DreamWorks Animation, Oct. 28 (Nov. 4)
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
, Paramount, Dec. 16 sneak previews (Dec. 21*)
The Adventures of Tintin, Paramount, Dec. 21 (Dec. 23)
War Horse, DreamWorks/Touchstone/Disney, Dec. 25 (Dec. 28)
The Lucky One, Warner Bros, April 20, 2012 (Aug. 12, 2012)
Argo, Warner Bros, Sept. 14, 2012 (–)
Gangster Squad, Warner Bros, Oct. 19, 2012 (–)

*wide-release date
**Internet-only

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OSCARS: Animation Feature Race Heats Up – But Will Spielberg’s ‘Tintin’ Make The Cut?

Pete Hammond

There is always controversy about what is true animation, particularly with the motion capture process which uses real performances by actors and then essentially animates the scenes. I’m told that key members in the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’s animation branch conferred Tuesday night for a meeting which lasted 4 hours. Among the topics said to come up was the issue of motion capture (aka performance capture), and an insider with knowledge of the situation told Deadline that they “apparently” have decided to send a letter to the filmmakers of Mars Needs Moms, Happy Feet 2 and Tintin asking them what their “intent” was in the use of the Mo Cap process before deciding whether those films qualify. In its formal rules, the Academy states that “motion capture by itself is not an animation technique” and that the films must be done in frame-by-frame animation.

This year, 3 potential nominees use the Mo Cap process: director Simon Wells’ box office bomb Mars Needs Moms (from its co-producer Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers), George Miller’s sequel to his Oscar-winning Happy Feet, and most notably Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited entry into the animation world The Adventures of Tintin (which he also produced with Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy). Based on the Academy’s past actions, it is likely that all 3 would qualify, and it would seem unlikely that the Academy would take on Oscar winners Zemeckis, Miller and Spielberg on … Read More »

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‘MI4′ & ‘Tintin’ Tweak Xmas Week Dates

Spielberg Moves ‘War Horse’ Release Amid DreamWorks Money Woes

Paramount said today that it is shifting the release dates for two of its prime holiday movies. Now, the Steven Spielberg-directed The Adventures of Tintin and the Tom Cruise-starrer Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol will both open in wide release (including IMAX) on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Mission: Impossible always had that date, but today it was revealed that the actioner will begin previews in select theaters and IMAX on Friday, Dec. 16. Meanwhile, the studio had slated Tintin for a Dec. 23 bow but has moved the motion-capture pic up a bit into the midweek spot.

The week leading up to Christmas has always been a plum one for the studios, but the year it is particularly crazy. In addition to Mission: Impossible, Sony has slotted its big David Fincher action drama The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for Wednesday. Meanwhile, Fox’s Cameron Crowe pic We Bought a Zoo bows wide Friday along with the platform debut of the Angelina Jolie-directed In the Land of Blood and Honey. On Christmas Day is Spielberg’s just-shifted War Horse, from DreamWorks/Touchstone/Disney; Summit’s sci-fi thriller The Darkest Hour; and Warner Bros’ limited release of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

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Jeff Sagansky’s Winchester Capital Closes 3-Movie Financing Deal

EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: The deal is for these three movies: The Smurfs (Sony Pictures, which opens Friday), Men In Black 3 (Sony Pictures), and The Adventures Of Tintin (Paramount Pictures). I’ve learned that Jeff Sagansky of Winchester Capital closed financing for $150 million today. [Mea Culpa: I initially thought this was a deal with Harry Sloan and Jeff Sagansky because the pair recently announced Global Eagle Acquisition Corp. But this is unrelated.] Sagansky, the former CBS and Sony Pictures and Paxson and RHI exec, has come back to the movie biz in a big way with Winchester Capital Management co-founder Jean-Luc De Fanti. Movies that Sagansky and De Fanti co-financed through Winchester include The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Winchester also financed the third season of TNT TV drama Leverage and arranged a multi-picture financing deal for Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp.

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Spielberg Coming To First Comic-Con

By | Wednesday July 13, 2011 @ 7:27pm PDT

Deadline Comic-Con film correspondent Luke Y Thompson reports:

What do you do when you have a big-ticket movie planned as the first of a trilogy that uses a technology most fans are still skeptical about? Bring the big gun to Comic-Con. And so I’ve confirmed that Steven Spielberg is coming on the morning of July 22nd. Bear in mind that Spielberg didn’t even show for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in person, but by video. That was a sure thing. The Adventures Of Tintin isn’t, at least as a movie. But as a panel? It’s become the must-see. Spielberg will be presented with the Inkpot award, which Comic-Con apparently gives out every year (though I can’t recall seeing it done at a panel before). It worked for James Cameron and Avatar, when people still thought 3D and 9-foot blue people were bad bets. Now comes Tintin, a beloved international property less-known in the U.S. adapted to the big screen using the kind of motion-capture technology that Robert Zemeckis loves but audiences aren’t on board with yet. Spielberg’s decision to use motion capture was based in part on the notion that famous actors in wigs and make-up would look too much like, well, stars in wigs and make-up. So he wanted characters that looked more like the actual cartoons. But so far, the Belgian comics are charming in 2D, and look weird as blobby 3D CG characters. Read More »

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Paramount And IMAX Make Release Pact For ‘Super 8′, ‘Tintin,’ Mission: Impossible’ And ‘Transformers’ Sequels

Mike Fleming

Los Angeles – January 12, 2011 – IMAX Corporation (NASDAQ:IMAX; TSX:IMX) today announced an agreement with Paramount Pictures to release four of the studio’s tentpole releases in 2011 – Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Each film will open day-and-date in IMAX® theatres worldwide. Sony Pictures Entertainment is co-production partner on The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and Sony Pictures Releasing International (SPRI) will handle distribution and marketing in most key territories overseas.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, both originally shot in 3D, will be digitally re-mastered into IMAX’s format for presentation in IMAX® 3D.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol continues the legacy of The Dark Knight and its revolutionary integration of IMAX original footage as this fourth chapter in the Mission: Impossible franchise will feature scenes shot with IMAX cameras. These specific sequences, exclusively in IMAX, will expand on the screen and further immerse the audience in the explosive action and vast scope of the film.

“Consumer demand for The IMAX Experience® has never been higher,” said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman of Paramount Pictures. “Coupled with the rising popularity of the IMAX brand, the growing number of IMAX screens and the increased interest from our top filmmakers to have their movies offered in this format, IMAX is and continues to be a key part of our release strategy.”

“Paramount Pictures consistently delivers top-quality,

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