EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of one of the more popular ditties in the Coen brothers‘ film. Inside Llewyn Davis Executive Music Producer T Bone Burnett chimes in about penning the lyrics and melody of “Please Mr. Kennedy” and sending it to the Coens …
Hot Clip: Recording Of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Song ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’, Featuring Commentary By T Bone Burnett (Exclusive)
This weekend the New York Film Festival got rolling and if you mistook it for the Scott Rudin Film Festival you wouldn’t be far from wrong. Rudin’s October 11th Sony Pictures release Captain Phillips world premiered to a standing ovation on Opening Night Friday. On Saturday the much-awaited New York premiere of his December 6th CBS Films pic Inside Llewyn Davis made its local debut with stars Oscar Isaac, John Goodman and writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen among those on hand. But if that wasn’t enough of a Rudin takeover of the Fest (which runs a longish 18 days) there is an unprecedented sold out concert going on tonight at the Town Hall engineered by Rudin, the Coens and T-Bone Burnett called Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis. The concert featuring numerous folk singers of the early 1960s period in which the New York-based film is set also scheduled appearances from some of the movie’s stars including Isaac and Goodman. It’s clear Rudin, using the festival that also launched his The Social Network two years ago, doesn’t have to leave his hometown to make a mark in Hollywood’s nascent awards season. Game on.
In the case of Inside Llewyn Davis, the strategy seems particularly smart. Unlike Phillips or other upcoming Oscar-hopefuls like NYFF World Premieres for 20th Century Fox‘s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty starring and directed by Ben Stiller and playing next weekend, and the October 13th closer, Spike Jonze‘s Her from Warner Bros, Davis has already been making the fest rounds since beginning in May at Cannes where it won the Grand Prize (second place), and then in a North American launch at Telluride on Labor Day weekend that included a tribute to the musical movie collaboration between the Coens and T- Bone Burnett.
After two years in a row of heavily influencing the Oscar race, the 66th Cannes Film Festival lineup may make it three this year. Certainly I see very long and winding Croisette lines to pick up press or market credentials at the Palais, which is adorned with posters of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in a provocative still shot from their fluffy France-set 1963 comedy A New Kind Of Love. One early clue came when the jury was announced, beginning with President Steven Spielberg and including such Oscar winners as Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz. And if it’s not enough to have those icons prominent at this year’s fest, add The Great Gatsby‘s Baz Lurhmann whose film is the opening night event with a gala after-party, and Martin Scorsese who will also be in town for a yacht party announcement of his longtime gestating directorial effort Silence on May 16th. Certainly many of the Cannes contenders both in and out of competition are from Academy Award winners and Cannes veterans back with intriguing films that make up a high profile and potent selection with advance buzz. Competing are the Coen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, Roman Polanski and Alexander Payne plus a slew of famous names in front of the cameras both on screen and on the Red Carpet this year.
As for the competition and key sidebars, one perennial Cannes question os whether it’s a good idea to ready or even rush a film designed for year-end release in order to play at the Festival in May. Particularly of that means risking negative reviews which can be a real buzz killer. Take, for instance, Payne’s last minute entry Nebraska from Paramount, which almost didn’t appear here. In the initial forecast Deadline posted on March 13, we thought Payne’s film fit in with the auteurist nature of the fest, it’s in black and white, and its filmmaker is quite a favorite in Cannes. (He has had only one film previously in competition – 2002′s About Schmidt – and won no prize, but he not only headed the jury for Un Certain Regard in 2005 but also was a member of the main competition jury last year.) Yet shortly after this prediction I was told Cannes wasn’t in the cards due to Payne’s fondness for long post-production time. He didn’t want to be rushed. Then the studio saw the film about a week before the Cannes deadline and execs urged Payne to put it into the festival. He took Nebraska to Paris to show to Cannes programming honcho Thierry Fremaux with just two days to go before the press conference announcing the 2013 lineup. Now it is one of the most anticipated screenings even though it ooccurs towards the end of the Festival on May 23. Paramount claims it recently had a successful research screening in Pasadena and has dated the film for November 22nd, right in the heart of Oscar season (Payne is a two-time Screenwriting Oscar winner for Sideways and The Descendants).
Conversely there was absolutely no doubt Joel and Ethan Coen would be bringing their latest, the 1960′s-set Greenwich Village folk music tale Inside Llewyn Davis screening on May 19. It is their 8th time around this particular block so they are virtually Cannes regulars. CBS Films won’t release the movie stateside until December 6, another prime Oscar date.
Roman Polanski’s Venus In Fur screening on May 25 on the last day of competition is the adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway play. It brings Polanski back to Cannes for the first time since winning his only Palme d’Or (for 2003′s The Pianist, which resulted in a Best Director Oscar). It stars his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Almarac and though audiences and critics weren’t too impressed with the last Polanski Broadway play adaptation God Of Carnage, this dramatic work could be more up his alley. There’s also strong interest in French director Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian screening May 18 largely due to lead actor Benecio Del Toro’s role as a Blackfoot Indian WWII vet. (But someone’s gotta change that lumbering title.) Cannes watchers also are buzzing about new works from three directors who are no strangers on the Croisette: Nicolas Winding Refn who won Best Director in Cannes for 2011′s Drive and has re-teamed with star Ryan Gosling as a drug smuggler in the May 22nd entry Only God Forgives. (I am told Kristin Scott Thomas steals this one as his mother). And though his films don’t make much noise in theatres, James Gray is a Cannes favorite and back with his fourth competition entry, The Immigrant (formerly called Lowlife) screening May 24th with a starry cast of Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner. Jim Jarmusch brings his new Vampire story Only Lovers Left Alive which stars the always intriguing Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska . It has the distinction of being the last film to make the list and the last competition film to be screened: in the 10 PM slot on May 25th.
As always with Cannes there is just too damn much to see with many sidebar competitions like Un Certain Regard, Director’s Fortnight, Critics Week, Cannes Classics and so on. Certainly the opener for Un Certain Regard, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and Ryan Coogler’s Sundance sensation Fruitvale Station (summer releases stateside) are both screening on the sidebar’s first day of May 16th and are instant must-sees in addition to James Franco’s directorial outing, As I Lay Dying, on May 20th.
At the last Academy Awards, Barbra Streisand ripped open the envelope and revealed that Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman ever to win Best Director. No such groundbreaking moment is expected this year, but the category could offer up several surprises. With a wide open Oscar race, there’s probably a split in the offing between Picture and Director, two categories which traditionally pair up three-quarters of the time. But not always. Voters in the earliest Oscars didn’t believe strongly in a correlation between the Best Picture of the year and the person directing from behind the camera. Since then, there have been scattered years where that aberration occurred (such as for Hamlet, All the King’s Men, An American in Paris, and The Greatest Show on Earth). For Driving Miss Daisy, its director Bruce Beresford wasn’t even nominated. Going by recent history, the split has happened fairly frequently, culminating when Ang Lee took Best Director for Brokeback Mountain but Crash proved an upset Best Picture winner. Will another director be left at Oscar’s altar this year? Will The King’s Speech or The Fighter triumph, while David Fincher for The Social Network or Christopher Nolan for Inception wears the directing crown? An early signal will be the Directors Guild of America choice on January 29th. That group has a strong track record predicting the Director Oscar. Only six times since the DGA awards began in 1948 has the Guild and Academy not aligned. Here’s the alphabetical lineup of likely contenders and their chances this year:
BEN AFFLECK, The Town (Warner Bros.) – This Best Original Screenplay co-winner earned impressive notices for his first directing gig, Gone Baby Gone, and this year’s box office success, The Town, which he also co-wrote and stars in. He has won strong industry respect for his work behind the camera, but is a long shot to make the magic five. However, it looks like he’s becoming the new Clint, and that could eventually lead to his second Oscar — as a director.
DARREN ARONOFSKY, Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) – His intense indie films pull no punches. Now his dark and twisted Black Swan has dazzled the autumn fest circuit and became Fox Searchlight’s biggest box-office opener ever. Although its critical reception has been strong, it may be too much for more conservative Academy members. Nevertheless, Aronofsky’s eye-popping work here could impress enough of his peer group to land a spot in the top five.
DANNY BOYLE, 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight) – The well liked Boyle comes off his 2008 Oscar triumph, Slumdog Millionaire, with this unexpected follow-up. Using dazzling directorial tricks, styling with visual invention, and guiding star James Franco, Boyle pulls off this virtual one-man show. But some voters may be too squeamish to pop the DVD in their players after reports of faintings at early screenings. Plus, he just won, so it may be someone else’s turn.
LISA CHOLODENKO, The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features) – Previous films High Art and Laurel Canyon didn’t prepare the Industry for her confident work as director and co-writer of this warm and perceptive comedy. Showing she could assure superlative performances from major stars should further impress colleagues. But the notoriously male dominated directors’ club may not be ready to make it two in a row for her. An Original Screenplay nod is her best shot.
DEREK CIANFRANCE, Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Company) – This very personal study of the disintegration of a marriage was 12 years in the making for Cianfrance. His first feature, he elicited no-holds-barred acting from leads Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Problem is, it may be too raw and intimate, which could overshadow the achievement. But here’s hoping it doesn’t take as long for this promising director’s second movie to reach the screen.
JOEL COEN & ETHAN COEN, True Grit (Paramount) – The Academy loves this prodigious writing/directing/producing team and have already honored them with four Oscars each, including one in this category. Can a remake of a John Wayne classic put them in contention again? The execution is flawless, and they have returned to Charles Portis’ original novel for inspiration while drawing first-rate performances. But Westerns don’t usually score for directors.
SOFIA COPPOLA, Somewhere (Focus Features) – Coppola lost Best Director for Lost In Translation in 2003 but won for her original screenplay. This latest film represents her second original screenplay and should be put in the writing category, but not necessarily in the directors’ circle again — although she did take the top prize at the Venice Film Festival (amid controversy because her pal Quentin Tarantino was head of the jury). No such problems now.
CLINT EASTWOOD, Hereafter (Warner Bros.) – A two time Best Director winner for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood can never be counted out. He didn’t make the cut for his last two attempts, Gran Torino and Invictus. His latest, Hereafter, drew mixed reviews and disappointing box office, so he’s a Director’s category dark horse at best this year. Though, never underestimate the respect from his peers for this 80-year-old icon.
DAVID FINCHER, The Social Network (Sony Pictures) – The director behind such dark but acclaimed films like Seven, Fight Club, Panic Room, and Zodiac finally found an Oscar nod with the challenging crowd-pleaser The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and now this successful Facebook-founding flick. Critics’ plaudits are piling up, and he’s back in the heat of the race, this time going for the win from Sweden where he’s rebooting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Considering they’ve rubbed out characters memorably by feeding them through a wood chipper (Fargo) or with a pneumatic cattle slaughtering gun (No Country For Old Men), setting Joel and Ethan Coen loose with a revenge story in the Old West seems a recipe for mayhem. In fact, True Grit turns out to be the most mainstream audience-friendly film they have made in years. Sticking close to the 42-year Charles Portis novel and not even watching the first movie that won John Wayne his Oscar in 1969, the Coens have made a PG-13 adventure film that gives the starring role to teenager Hailee Steinfeld, and surrounds her with such seasoned actors as Jeff Bridges as salty U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon as the blowhard Texas Ranger LaBeouf, and Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper as the ornery outlaws they are chasing. The film opens today, and could add intrigue to the Oscar race.
DEADLINE: How did you find your way to a 40 year old book you’d have been hard pressed to find in a bookstore?
ETHAN COEN: We both knew the book, and we’d both read it, amongst other Charles Portis novels. A few years ago I read it out loud to my son and that was the point we began talking about it, thinking this might be interesting to do.
JOEL COEN: Fully aware there of course there had been this previous movie. But we hadn’t seen that since it came out, and didn’t really remember it very well.
DEADLINE: The book focuses more squarely than the film did on young Mattie, the bright, headstrong teenager determined to see the man who shot her father swing from a rope. What potential did you see in that that overcame the inevitable comparison to a film considered somewhat iconic?
ETHAN COEN: That is what we liked about the book, that it was told in the first person narrative told by the 14-year old character, Mattie Ross. It’s just a very funny book. It has three really great, really vivid characters. Her, Rooster Cogburn and LaBeouf, the Texas Ranger. And it’s a simple pursuit revenge story. It all just seemed promising material for a movie. Which might sound funny because, as you say, there was this iconic movie. Which we were aware of but which we didn’t remember very well.
JOEL COEN: We didn’t revisit it, either.
ETHAN COEN: And in the course of remaking the movie, we didn’t watch the first one. We weren’t much worried about it, though. You say it’s iconic, and that’s very true. But on the other hand, I must say it’s probably iconic for people our age and older. And we’re not the moviegoing demographic anymore. I don’t think younger people have much of a connection to John Wayne, at all. So it didn’t feel like we were trespassing and we didn’t worry about it. We just had this enthusiasm for the novel.
DEADLINE: I should qualify iconic. It’s called that because John Wayne won an Oscar, but many feel that statue was a reward for a career and not that role.
JOEL COEN: That’s what I’ve read about it too, that it was a kind of valedictory thing.
ETHAN COEN: You’ve been around a long time, we love you, here’s an award.
DEADLINE: How did adapting a book like True Grit compare with adapting Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men?
ETHAN COEN: Not dissimilar, actually. In the Cormac book that we did, we had this similar issue.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit, the most prominent Oscar contender that didn’t get a festival launch, has one now. The film is scheduled for an international premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 10. The picture, which stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and newcomer Hailee …