When it comes to campaigning for awards Harvey Weinstein has set the bar. Last year the company had two Best Picture nominees and this year they are throwing a wide variety of films at Oscar’s wall to see what sticks. For Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event The Weinstein Company produced an 18-minute reel covering a large range of hopefuls. Take a look.
She’s a triple threat. She writes. She directs. And of course she acts. But as she explained to a packed audience of AMPAS and Guild members on the Sony Pictures Classics panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event Julie Delpy has never quite done anything as stressful or intense as the trilogy of films that began with Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) and now has produced Before Midnight, one of the few critical favorites from the first six months of 2013. She wrote all three films with her director Richard Linklater and co-star Ethan Hawke and now is being widely buzzed for not only her performance which just won her a Lead Actress nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards but also for the script which is among top contenders for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Still she says none of it is easy and it’s all on the page as well as the screen.
For much of 2013 Derek Cianfrance‘s complex drama, The Place Beyond The Pines was the number one grossing independent film of the year. But at one time after it was bought by Focus Features at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival where it was the hot acquisition title, producers had hoped that it would be released in time to be part of last year’s awards season run. Focus decided to wait and opt for a Spring release which turned out to be a good decision for the box office. Now it’s in the mix this awards season. Sitting on the Focus panel, Cianfrance shared some of the secrets of the film, particularly co-star Ryan Gosling‘s real-life plans to rob a bank, for an audience of AMPAS and Guild members at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event earlier this month.
Writer/Director Ryan Coogler‘s Sundance Film Festival sensation Fruitvale Station is now, just ten months later, hitting the awards season with strong impact. He was nominated Tuesday for Best First Feature at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, but as he told an audience of AMPAS and Guild members at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event earlier this month, the motivation for making his debut feature came from a much deeper place than just creating a prize-winning movie. The trip from real-life events to bringing them to a worldwide audience had a profound impact on the young filmmaker.
With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it may also be time to reflect on what is easily one of the most harrowing movies of the year, Prisoners. The film, which starts out at a Thanksgiving day celebration that turns tragic when two young girls from different families are snatched in broad daylight, was a blacklisted script by Aaron Guzikowski that the writer says was meant more to focus on those who feel the loss rather than the actual act itself. Alcon produced the film which launched at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals and for which director Denis Villeneuve and stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Melissa Leo are getting plenty of Oscar buzz. There’s also buzz for the original screenplay by Guzikowski who explores what dark recesses of his mind led to the film’s birth during the Warner Bros panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event earlier this month.
Until now David O. Russell‘s American Hustle (12/13) has been largely unseen, and along with Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (12/25) is the last 2013 awards contender to be unveiled. (I’m told screenings start this weekend for Hustle and at the end of the month for Wolf.). So all we have are the trailers and the six-minute opening sequence Russell showed at his AFI tribute last week. But at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event, one of the film’s producers, Richard Suckle, offered the 411 on just how far the American Hustle actors would go for their art in this wild crime drama.
As one of television’s most prolific and successful writer/producers, John Wells has known great success with Emmy-winning series like E.R. and The West Wing and currently Showtime’s Shameless, but after getting his feet wet directing movies with The Company Men (2010) he’s really upped his game for his sophomore effort. August: Osage Countyopens Christmas Day and features a major cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor and many others. On the Weinstein Company panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event he talked about the intimidation factor of working on this level, especially with Streep.
Screenwriter Kelly Marcel came late into the process of writing her famously blacklisted script for Saving Mr. Banks(12/13). Original writer Sue Smith had crafted it more as a biopic of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers but Marcel focused instead on the three-week period in 1961 that Travers came to Disney studios and clashed with Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) himself as she collaborated on the nascent screenplay for the proposed film, a 20-year dream of Walt’s but also a complete pain-in-the-neck in dealing with the take-no-prisoners Travers played by Emma Thompson. Effortlessly weaving in flashbacks to Travers’ childhood and trying to warm her up were just part of the challenge as Marcel explained on the Disney panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event.
The unique cinematic worlds of Spike Jonze would provide any behind the scenes wizard a unique challenge as evidenced in such films as Adaptation, Being John Malkovich or Where The Wild Things Are, but his latest film Hercould be the most difficult to pull off. We have to believe that in the near-future Los Angeles Joaquin Phoenix’s love-struck character could actually fall head over heels in love with Samantha, his Operating System, a Siri-like voice played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson. For cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and costume designer Casey Storm the challenges were unique to say the least as they explained on the Warner Bros panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event.
Illumination’s Chris Meledandri shows up on the Universal panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event to talk about the formula for success that has made his Despicable Me 2not only the year’s top animated grosser not too far under a billion dollars worldwide at the box office but also the most successful film in the studio’s history. Universal is doing a big push to see that it also gets Oscar recognition, something that eluded the original film. Not only are they hoping for an Animated Feature mention but also Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” is in contention. As for future sequels Meledandri shares the current plan.
It doesn’t even open until December 6th but this has been a very big week already for the Coen Brothers’ new film Inside Llewyn Davis,which is set in New York’s folk-singing world of the early 1960s. The soundtrack album was released, and the film, which won the Grand Prize at Cannes in May, triumphantly closed the 2013 AFI Fest on Thursday night in Hollywood. It also made big waves at a special musical celebration Wednesday night at Santa Monica’s Buffalo Club hosted by the film’s musical guru T Bone Burnett for a crowd that drew the likes of many Academy (and HFPA) members including Barbra Streisand and Jim Brolin, Norman Lear, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen in addition to the movie’s co-star John Goodman, producer Scott Rudin and the Coens. Musicians including The Punch Brothers and Rhiannon Giddens performed during the terrific, nearly two-hour show. About to be newly minted Honorary Oscar winner Steve Martin even offered an instrumental on banjo and the film’s star Oscar Isaac sang a number of tunes too. Isaac, in addition to being an actor, is also an accomplished musician and he proved that as well earlier in the month when he took to the stage at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event and performed a signature number from the film titled “Green, Green Rocky Road”. Here it is:
After first appearing in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May where it won the Best Actor prize for Bruce Dern, Alexander Payne‘s Nebraskahas been turning up at various festivals including Telluride, New York and London and now finally opens in theaters Friday. Appearing on the Paramount Pictures panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event, screenwriter Bob Nelson talked about an even longer period of time just to get it made. For ten years Payne has had his script and now the time was finally right to get it done. Nelson took inspiration from his own mid-western family and says he’s a little worried about their reaction once they see the movie.
Until now Teller of Penn And Teller fame has best been known as the silent one of the comedy team. That’s an act. When it comes to his movie directorial debut , the documentary Tim’s Vermeer, he had a lot to say on the Sony Pictures Classics panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event. The film is about Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor who set out on an eight-year quest to find out how 17th Century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer could paint so photo-realistically. To do that he paints one himself, and Teller discusses how he paints that (motion) picture in his helming debut. Could it be magic?
Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer talked about the meaning and personal importance to him of working on the score for 12 Years A Slaveat Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS sold out event for AMPAS and key Guild members on November 2. It was clearly a labor of love and he told me the movie is ultimately about love. Here is part of that conversation and just a click below is an exclusive featurette on the creation of one of Zimmer’s most unique scores.
Dominic Patten interviews directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders and Sound Designer Randy Thom on the character voice work, sound mixing and music integration on Dreamworks Animation‘s hit ‘toon The Croodsas part of Deadline’s sold out THE CONTENDERS event last Saturday in Beverly Hills in front of 500 Academy and Guild members. The first release from DWA’s new distribution agreement with 20th Century Fox, Croods was a smash right out of the gate and now is getting a major push from DWA for Oscar consideration as they devoted their entire slot to the family comedy. Check it out.
At Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS sold-out daylong event last Saturday, producers Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter told the gathered AMPAS and Guild members the epic saga of getting Dallas Buyers Club — this “little-movie-that-could” — made. As Brenner says after actors like Brad Pitt came and went, it finally was Matthew McConaughey who proved the charm, even if he still had to force the issue after losing 47 pounds for the role. Dallas Buyers Club is getting especially strong Oscar buzz for its actors including McConaughey and co-star Jared Leto. Jennifer Garner has also gotten some of the best reviews of her career. After opening with limited runs last week, the film about Texan Ron Woodroof’s fierce battle against AIDS in the early years of the outbreak is expanding to more theaters today.
At Saturday’s Deadline THE CONTENDERS event Enough Saidwriter/director Nicole Holofcener told me during the Fox Searchlight presentation that she was purposely trying to make a movie that would have wider appeal than some of her previous indie-centric films. Looks like she succeeded as Searchlight reports this is her highest grossing film ever and will be crossing $15 million this week after hanging in for 7 weeks in the top 13. There’s deserved awards buzz for her original screenplay and stars Julia Louis- Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini who sadly didn’t live to see the finished film. Okay, enough said. Take a look.
Director Peter Berg tells Mike Fleming about his research and the reasons he decided to bring the real life 2005 story of Marcus Luttrell and his Seal Team 10 as they face a life or death decision in the face of a horrific war in Afghanistan. Berg appeared on behalf of the harrowing war film Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg as part of Universal’s presentation at Saturday’s Deadline THE CONTENDERS sold out event at the new Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. The film will open in late December in order to qualify for Oscar consideration before going wide on January 10th. But it is already getting noticed as a stealth late-inning awards contender and will have its World Premiere at AFI Fest next Tuesday.
Barkhad Abdi had never acted before being plucked out of obscurity in Minneapolis (by way of his native Somalia and Yemen) to audition for director Paul Greengrass as the key Somali Pirate who takes over the cargo ship captained by Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. Now he’s even being recognized when he walks down the street, he told me during our interview as part of Sony’s presentation at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event Saturday at the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. There’s Supporting Actor Oscar buzz now too and getting to tell his story in front of the 500 AMPAS and Guild members present won’t hurt. He charmed the crowd.