Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd expected to work for six months on director Wong Kar Wai’s epic martial arts actioner The Grandmaster, but it ended up being a 3-year job. “Making The Grandmaster was a challenge,” he said. “It was a big journey, and I didn’t expect it to take so long.” Remarkably, this year’s Oscar nominations for Best Achievement in Cinematography and Costume Design were the first ever for the grandmaster himself, Wong, who has been directing films since 1988 and is internationally acclaimed. So when the director asked Le Sourd to come to China and work on his film, the New York-based DP said yes, but when he got to the set, he was faced with many challenges. “To come in as a foreigner to China when you don’t speak the language … I needed a translator on the set to try to understand what was going on,” he said. “The fact that you don’t have a script and you don’t know when you’re going to see the movie. that was an amazing challenge because you don’t know what you’re going to do the next day or the next week. Every day was a surprise.” It was no surprise that his work not only earned him his first Oscar nom but also a nominations from his …
What does Wong Kar Wai have to do to get an Oscar nomination? The veteran Hong Kong filmmaker was shut out of the Foreign Language Oscar category today after reaching the shortlist for the first time with The Grandmaster. His only other shot at an Oscar came in 2000 when his haunting period love story, In The Mood For Love, was the submission from his home country. It did not advance. To be fair, Grandmaster did pick up two nods today, one for Phillipe Le Sourd’s cinematography and one for William Chang Suk Ping’s costume design. But the Academy chose to forgo the Martin Scorsese-endorsed film in a race in which it was widely expected to figure.
Related: OSCARS: Who Got Snubbed By Academy?
Indeed, people I talked to today were very surprised. When I recently spoke with Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co has the movie in several countries, I wondered if The Grandmaster‘s box office could be an issue since it was the highest-grossing film of all the contenders, and since commercial movies aren’t normally the ones the Academy sidles up to in this category. It’s familiar territory for Weinstein who was on the shortlist with French juggernaut The Intouchables last year. That film did not make the jump to a nomination and Weinstein told me in December that it had been a victim of its own success. One watcher today suggested Grandmaster may have suffered a similar fate. There was also a spot of controversy over the Chinese version being cut down for the U.S. – although the U.S. version is the same as the one submitted by Hong Kong. Weinstein told me last month that the adjustments were made to avoid confusion over some cultural elements and that Wong did them himself, rather than Weinstein and exec producer Megan Ellison as had been suggested. “People think it was us,” Weinstein said, adding, “As presumptuous as I can be, I’m not presumptuous enough to tell Kar Wai” what to do.
EXCLUSIVE: It is hard to believe, at least from my point of view, that the great Wong Kar Wai, perhaps China’s greatest living filmmaker has never once been nominated for an Academy Award. In fact, incredibly, his latest film The Grandmaster is only the second time one of his films has even been submitted in Oscar’s foreign language film race (the first was in 2000 for the classic, In The Mood For Love but for some reason it didn’t make the final five). Hopefully the Academy will rectify the oversight as Grandmaster, the director’s first true venture into the world of cinematic martial arts, is one of the nine finalists in the Academy process that will lead to the choice of the five 2013 nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. In fact that process is underway this weekend as a panel of 20 high profile Academy members in Los Angeles and 10 more in New York are viewing all the movies and will make their selections. The final five will be announced with other Oscar nominees on Thursday. The film was nominated for an ASC Cinematography award earlier this week for its stunning visuals. I had the rare opportunity to interview the director for the Palm Springs International Film Festival‘s Talking Pictures series last weekend where he revealed he shot the movie on film. Remember that? But he knew the end was near and his …
Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione talks with host David Bloom about the imminent shakeout in the mammoth list of 76 films vying to join a nine-title shortlist for Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Feature category, a list that includes such highly regarded notables as The Hunt, The Grandmaster, The Past, and The Grand Beauty. They also take a tour around the week’s international box office returns, which were dominated by a halfling’s hot date with a fire-breathing dragon and livened by a suddenly voracious German market; discuss what impact big new tax breaks may have had in encouraging Jim Cameron to take his Na’vi to New Zealand for three Avatar sequels; and celebrate the recent rediscovery of two short films featuring Peter Sellers at a crucial transition early in his extraordinary career.
Foreign Language Oscar Preview: A Long List Of Strong Contenders For Such A Shortlist Of Possible Nominees
Last year, I offered up a preview of the 15 films that had the most buzz going into the unveiling of the Foreign Language Oscar shortlist. Somehow this year, with a record 76 entries (last year it was 71), I whittled down another 15 films that have a shot at the shortlist which is expected to be finalized later this week. This was not an easy task in one of the strongest fields for foreign film in recent years. While 2012′s eventual winner Amour seemed like a foregone conclusion, this year has any number of possible outcomes. Movies that started their careers in Berlin and Cannes are represented below, but so are others that didn’t make it to those high-profile events. I spoke with the directors of each film about their inspirations and expectations, and in some cases with the U.S. distributor about what gave them the confidence to acquire. Notably, Harvey Weinstein clarifies the controversy surrounding an edit of Wong Kar Wai’s Hong Kong entry The Grandmaster. There’s also a lot more here from folks like Paolo Sorrentino, Thomas Vinterberg and Sebastian Lelio, among many others. The rules for selecting the final winner have changed this year with the entire Academy voting body able to weigh in without proving they have seen the films in a movie theater. But the regs for establishing the shortlist remain the same: The Phase I committee determines six of the nine films on the shortlist. The other three titles will be determined by the select Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee. Those three extra titles might have international renown but been somehow overlooked by the larger committee (wink, wink City Of God, 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days and others). After that, an uber-committee of 30 higher profile members chooses the ultimate five nominees after viewing the finalists over the course of a long weekend. Below (in alphabetical order by title) are profiles of the 15 films that I believe have a shot at the first stage:
As one of the maestros of modern cinema, Wong Kar Wai’s return to the martial arts genre this year after two decades was — as you would expect from the director of Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love – a sight to behold. His first new film since his 2007 English-language debut My Blueberry Nights, The Grandmaster takes viewers to 1930s China and inside the life and legacy of Ip Man, the kung fu teacher who, among other things, was Bruce Lee’s trainer. Distributed stateside by The Weinstein Company with a supportive Martin Scorsese Presents in the title, Grandmaster, which is now also available on VOD and Digital HD downloads, has made nearly $6.6 million domestically since it came out in late August. With a worldwide total of $64 million so far, it has become the most successful picture of Wong’s 25-year directorial career. This year, working with leading man Tony Leung for a seventh time, the director is also aiming for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar with the epic as the official submission from Hong Kong. Amazingly, the director has never been nominated for an Oscar and this is only the second time one of Wong’s films has even been submitted for the Academy Awards; In The Mood For Love was HK’s entry in 2000 though it did not receive a nomination. Before the …
Global Showbiz Briefs: Angela Lansbury Coming To London Stage For First Time Since 1974; ‘The Grandmaster’ Leads Asia-Pacific Film Festival Awards; More
Angela Lansbury To Topline ‘Blithe Spirit’ On London Stage
Angela Lansbury is set to appear on the London stage for the first time in nearly four decades in a new production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. The 88-year-old Brit will play Madame Arcati, a role she played on Broadway in 2009, winning a Tony Award. The show will open March 18 for a limited 15-week run at the Gielgud Theatre. The former Murder, She Wrote star and MGM contract player, who won an Honorary Oscar this year, most recently trod the West End boards playing the lead role in Gypsy in 1974.
‘The Grandmaster’ Leads With Asia-Pacific Film Festival Awards Nominees
Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster leads the field with nine nominations at the 56th Asia-Pacific Film Festival awards. The film, which premiered at Cannes, is up for best picture against Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo, Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s Like Father, Like Son, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs and Georgia’s In Bloom. Missing among the best pic nominees is Snowpiercer, which has the second-most nominations with seven. The Lunchbox is third with six. The awards will be presented at during a ceremony December 15 in Macau. A full list of nominations is here.
Golden Horse Awards: Singapore Oscar Entry ‘Ilo Ilo,’ Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’ Win 2013 Honors
Singapore’s Best Foreign Oscar hopeful Ilo Ilo took home top honors at the 50th Golden Horse Awards, where the Cannes Camera d’Or winner also nabbed Best New Director (Anthony Chen), Best Supporting Actress (YEO Yann Yann), and Best Original Screenplay. The drama acquired by Film Movement is primed for an early 2014 theatrical release. Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster nabbed Best Actress (Zhang Ziyi), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup/Costumes, and Best Visual Effects. The martial arts biographical drama, released by TWC stateside, also won the Audience Award while Jackie Chan and his CZ12 team took home kudos for Best Action Choreography. Scroll down for full winners:
As the October 1st deadline approaches, Foreign Language Oscar submissions are coming fast and furious. The latest high-profile entries are Belgium’s The Broken Circle Breakdown, Hong Kong’s The Grandmaster and, especially notable for its unexpected appearance, India’s The Good Road. The latter was selected over the weekend and spurred consternation in India and elsewhere as many had expected Ritesh Batra’s Cannes Critics’ Week charmer The Lunchbox to be chosen. That film was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics in Cannes and had been perceived as the frontrunner for India’s Oscar entry; its biggest competitors appeared to be drama Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and comedy/drama English Vinglish. Instead, Gyan Correa’s Good Road, which weaves together three storylines on a highway in the rural land of Gujarat, was given the nod. Backed by the National Film Development Corporation of India, it won an Indian National Film Award as Best Gujarati movie a few months ago and is the first film from the region to ever be submitted to the Oscars. It does not have a U.S. distributor, leading some to wonder how effective a campaign it can run.
Specialty Box Office: ‘The Grandmaster’ Tops Newcomers; ‘Blue Jasmine’ Still Flowering In Big Expansion
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
The Grandmaster battled its way to the top of the Specialty Box Office in its first weekend, targeting the art house crowd though the film by celebrated Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai is headed for a wider release next week. The martial arts feature starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi grossed over $132K, averaging $18,894, making it the weekend’s top PSA title and out-performing the debut of the filmmaker’s previous release, My Blueberry Nights. That film grossed over $74K in 6 theaters in April 2008, averaging just $12,357. It went on to cume just $867K domestically. But Grandmaster fell short of 2046, Wong’s 2005 feature which opened in 4 theaters also in August of that year. That film, also starring Zhang, grossed just over $113K for a $28,268 average.
The Grandmaster itself evolved since screening for hometown audiences, shaving off 22 minutes by the time it hit screens this weekend and, according to TWC, a more linear telling of the story about Ip Man, the martial artist who trained Bruce Lee. TWC is confident the feature will cross over to a wider audience and is planning a significant expansion into Labor Day weekend.
“There is substantial action that will appeal to a wider audience,” said Weinstein president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis. “It [is in] upscale theaters the first weekend and then will broaden out to suburban theaters.” The Grandmaster will head to 500 to 600 theaters next weekend, making it one of the largest foreign-language releases of the year. The film has grossed $55 million overseas to date.
SXSW Film Festival narrative winner Short Term 12 starring Brie Larson and John Gallagher bowed in 4 runs over the weekend. The film by Destin Cretton charmed audiences at SXSW, winning the Audience Award in addition to the top Jury Prize. It also received an acting award for Larson at the recent Locarno Film Festival. And in theaters, it grossed over $60K for a PSA just over $15K. Not a smash, but the film carried some momentum from its festival word of mouth.
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Grandmaster’, ‘Drinking Buddies’, ‘Short Term 12′, ‘Thérèse’, ‘Scenic Route’, ‘Una Noche’, ‘Savannah’
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster arrives in North America re-worked to appeal to audiences here and faith that it will appeal to both art house and broader audiences alike. The lauded Hong Kong director has received critical and box office success with In The Mood For Love and perhaps to a lesser degree with My Blueberry Nights and 2046, and distributor TWC is looking to turn out ticket buyers who are loyal to the filmmaker or fans of martial arts. Former mumblecore filmmaker Joe Swanberg steps up his game with his comedy Drinking Buddies, parlaying into a production that did not follow DIY orthodoxy. The film has already been a big moneymaker on VOD, so theatrical will likely be icing on the cake. Short Term 12 has won awards from SXSW to Locarno. The film, which Cinedigm is opening in limited release will try and replicate that success theatrically. Cannes ’12 closer Thérèse hits theaters as well. Starring Audrey Tautou, the film is the final feature from the late Claude Miller. Vertical Entertainment is banking on its thriller Scenic Route starring Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler to bring out genre fans. The film has also tested positively with women. Una Noche takes on the phenomenon of Cuban immigration. The title played at a festival in Havana before finally being banned there. And Ketchup Entertainment is skirting the usual L.A./New York roll out for the Southeast where its latest, Savannah starring Jaimie Alexander and Jim Caviezel finds its base.
Director-writer: Wong Kar-wai
Writers: Zou Jingzhi, Xu Haofeng
Cast: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Jin, Song Hye-kyo, Le Cung, Leung Siu-Lung, Chang Chen
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai’s latest has undergone an evolution since opening in China earlier this year, coming in at 130 minutes. By the time it screened as the Berlinale opener, it came in at 122 minutes and it will land at 108 minutes when it hits screens this weekend. The feature centers on martial arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee. “We test screened it and there were some confusions in the storyline that make it hard to follow for some people, but there are no significant changes to the storyline,” said TWC president of Theatrical Distribution, Erik Lomis.
EXCLUSIVE: Martin Scorsese is lending his support to the upcoming Weinstein Company release of The Grandmaster, the film directed by Wong Kar Wai. Scorsese will lend his name in presentation of the kung fu film, and above the line it will read Martin Scorsese Presents The Grandmaster when TWC releases the film theatrically in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto on August 23 and nationwide on August 30. Wong has directed such films as Chungking Express, 2046 and My Blueberry Nights, and The Grandmaster stars Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, and Chang Chen and is executive produced by Annapurna Pictures’ Megan Ellison. The film opened the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. “Wong Kar Wai has turned martial arts into a modern dance,” Scorsese said.
If Metallica can rock Comic-Con, why not Wong Kar Wai? The Weinstein Co. is bringing the director to the annual San Diego pop culture confab for promo duties and to host the first US screening of the pic about martial arts legend Ip Man, which TWC snapped up hours before it opened the Berlin International Film Festival. Tony Leung stars in The Grandmaster as the man whose exploits include famously training a young Bruce Lee. Wong co-wrote the actioner, whose exec producers include Megan Ellison of Annapurra Pictures. Your fight coordinator is Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, Drunken Master), which means plenty of high-speed and slo-mo action. Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen and Zhao Benshaw co-star in the pic, which smashes its way into theaters August 23. TWC’s Comic-Con premiere is set for Saturday July 20th at midnight at the Reading Gaslamp 15. Here’s the new trailer:
The Weinstein Co. release acquired from Annapurna Pictures hits theaters August 23 with an abridged title (formerly The Grandmasters). Tony Leung stars in the Wong Kar-wai action drama as legendary martial artist Ip Man. Zhang Ziyi and Cung Le co-star. Here’s the first domestic teaser for the pic, replete with rainy action footage and a rather intrusive voice over:
Berlin: Despite High-Profile Sales ‘Blood Sisters’, ‘Invisible Woman’, ‘Grandmaster’, EFM Mid-Market Remains Soft
We’re four days into the EFM and so far action has been fairly slow. But just this afternoon, The Weinstein Co. picked up U.S. rights to IM Global’s Blood Sisters: Vampire Academy, one of the hotter projects coming into the market. It’s not a given that the deal will kickstart further movement, but other projects understood to be generating domestic interest include Nicole Kidman-starrer Grace Of Monaco, repped by CAA, and Diana, with Naomi Watts, which Embankment is handling.
Other domestic deals include Sony Pictures Classics‘ acquisition of The Invisible Woman, a film to star Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Fiennes’ English Patient partner Kristin Scott Thomas. Fiennes also directs. And, The Weinstein Co. announced a deal for Wong Kar Wai’s opening night (out of competition) film The Grandmaster at the start of the fest. It’s fair to say that Berlin is not traditionally about the kind of big business that’s seen in Sundance, Toronto or Cannes.
Berlin: So Much For Bad Blood Between Harvey And Megan Ellison; TWC Acquires Wong Kar Wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’
BREAKING: I’ve read about the supposed bad blood between Harvey Weinstein and Annapurna Pictures principal Megan Ellison over the subpar box office grosses of The Master. But any idea they’re not doing business together seems to be a bit crunched by a new deal they’ve just made. The Weinstein Company has acquired all rights in the U.S. and English-speaking Canadian territories from Annapurna on Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster, which premieres tonight as the opening film at the Berlin Film Festival. TWC also landed rights to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK from Wild Bunch.
The Grandmaster, written by Wong, Zou Jingzhi, and Xu Haofeng, was executive produced by Ellison (she has money in the movie), and produced by Jacky Pang and Wong. The film opened to critical praise last month in China and has just reached over $50 million at the box office there, making it the director’s highest-grossing film in his career.
I’m sure there is uneasiness between Ellison and Weinstein. In an interview I did with him at Sundance, Weinstein acknowledged their mutual disappointment over The Master and how it didn’t break out, with Ellison not coming near recouping the $35 million or so that she spent to make the film. In hindsight, Weinstein felt he could have helped by selling the more relate-able theme of the homebound warrior who’s lost and looking for something to believe in, rather than the origins of Scientology theme that stuck with the film and didn’t get a strong response.
It is an epic martial arts drama set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1930s China and inspired by the life and times of the legendary IP Man (Tony Leung), mentor to Bruce Lee. The story focuses on two kung fu masters, IP Man, and Gong Er, and as their worlds collide on the night of the Japanese invasion in 1936. The plot encompasses themes of war, family, revenge, desire, love, and memory. The all-star cast headed by Tony Leung Chiu Wa also includes Ziyi Zhang, Chang Chen, Xiao Shengyang and Song Hye Kyo as well as hundreds of Asia’s top martial artists.
The Grandmaster is an epic martial arts drama set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1930’s China and inspired by the life and times of the legendary IP Man (Tony LEUNG Chiu Wai), mentor to Bruce LEE. The plot encompasses themes of war, family, revenge, desire, love, and memory. The all-star cast headed by Tony LEUNG Chiu Wai (Days of Being Wild – Berlinale Forum 1991, Chungking Express, Happy Together, In The Mood for Love, 2046, all directed by WONG Kar Wai), also includes Ziyi ZHANG (Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon, D: Ang Lee), who was a guest at the 2009 Berlinale Competition with Forever Enthralled (D: CHEN Kaige), CHANG Chen (Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon; Eros, D: WONG Kar Wai), ZHAO Benshan (Happy Times, D: ZHANG Yimou), XIAO Shengyang (A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, D: ZHANG Yimou – Berlinale Competition 2010) and SONG Hye Kyo (A Reason to Live, D: LEE Jeong-hyang), as well as hundreds of Asia’s top martial artists.