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‘Rabbit Hole’s Nicole Kidman And David Lindsay-Abaire Re-Team On ‘Family Fang’

By | Tuesday May 8, 2012 @ 10:24am PDT
Mike Fleming

Nicole Kidman Family FangEXCLUSIVE: Nicole Kidman will reunite with her Rabbit Hole scribe David Lindsay-Abaire on The Family Fang, the adaptation of the Kevin Wilson bestseller that Kidman will star in and produce. Kidman won a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Rabbit Hole, which Lindsay-Abaire adapted from his Pulitzer-winning play about a husband and wife grieving the loss of their child.

David Lindsay-Abaire Family FangThe Family Fang is about a couple of performance artists who routinely sucked their kids into taking part in a variety of bizarre events. When the full-grown children return home in a state of crisis, they are unwittingly enlisted to help in the execution of a daring and mysterious final performance by their parents, who are hellbent on achieving the act of a lifetime. Their kids harbor more than a little resentment and blame the performance art for how badly their own lives have turned out.

Kidman and her Blossom Films partner Per Saari optioned the book last fall, along with Rabbit Hole co-producers Olympus Pictures’ Leslie Urdang and Dean Vanech (Beginners). Read More »

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Comedy Central Developing Jamie Denbo/Kerri Kenney-Silver Hybrid Comedy

By | Tuesday December 6, 2011 @ 12:38pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Comedy Central has picked up for development Rabbit Hole, a half-hour scripted/improv hybrid comedy created/executive produced by Upright Citizens Brigade veteran Jamie Denbo and Reno 911! alumna Kerri Kenney-Silver. Kenney-Silver is set to star in the mockumentary-style comedy, a behind-the-scenes look at the residents and customers at a low-rent legal brothel in Winnemucca, Nevada called Dame Delilah’s Rabbit Hole Ranch. Kenney-Silver will play Dame Delilah, the madam of the house. This is Denbo’s second sale this season; she also is writing comedy I Lick My Cheese for CBS, CBS Studios and Ash Atalla’s Roughcut. CAA-repped Denbo is probably best known as half of the Ronna and Beverly comedy team. This marks Gersh-repped Kenney-Silver’s return to Comedy Central where she played Deputy Trudy Wiegel on Reno 911!. She is with Principato-Young.

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Oscar Nominee Nicole Kidman Joins Presenter List

Mike Fleming

Beverly Hills, CA – Academy Award®-winning actress Nicole Kidman will be a presenter for the 83rd Academy Awards®, telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer announced today.

Kidman is nominated this year for her lead performance in “Rabbit Hole.” She took home the Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.” Kidman also received a nomination in 2001 for her lead performance in “Moulin Rouge.” Her other film credits include “The Golden Compass,” “Cold Mountain,” “Dogville,” “The Others,” “The Portrait of a Lady,” “To Die For” and “Dead Calm.”

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‘The Rite’ #1, ‘The Mechanic’ #4; Best Picture Nominees Begin Oscar Bumps

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: The big news this weekend wasn’t just seeing whether domestic grosses were depressed on the post-blizzard East Coast (they weren’t), but also which movies received Oscar bumps given that the Academy Award nominations were announced this past Tuesday (all of them still in theaters). Some like The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Blue Valentine (because of Michelle Williams’ Best Actress nom), and Rabbit Hole (due to Nicole Kidman’s), all expanded their runs. True Grit, Black Swan, The Fighter, are still in the thick of their releases and held very well, including Golden Globe Best Drama winner The Social Network in limited release for a return engagement to improve on its $96M domestic cume. (But King’s Speech attendance could soar if The Weinstein Co succeeds in creating a PG-13 version for exhibitors and educators who want the R-rated movie available to a bigger audience.)

As for this weekend’s newcomers, studios hoped that house-bound blizzard victims would dig out and go to the movies on this football-less Sunday. Warner Bros’ exorcism genre pic The Rite starring Anthony Hopkins and playing in 2,985 theaters came in #1 with approximately $15 million. CBS Films released hit man flick The Mechanic with 2,703 runs for #3 Friday. But the Jason Statham starrer fell to 4th Sunday with $11.5M. CBS Films paid $5M for the distribution rights and the pic supposedly will be in profit if its domestic run gets to the mid-$20sM. “It’s coming in where we expected,” one insider tells me. “I’d rather our … Read More »

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OSCAR: Awards Season Shifts Into Gear

Pete Hammond

If you had any doubt that Oscar season is upon us, the flurry of events and openings this week prove it. The AFI Film Fest  opened last night at Mann’s Chinese with Ed Zwick’s Love And Other Drugs and continues all week with a slew of major contenders getting their official (and unofficial) Los Angeles premieres, including Rabbit Hole, Blue Valentine, Black Swan, Barney’s Version, Casino Jack, Made In Dagenham, and Friday night’s red carpet gala for The Weinstein Company’s The King’s Speech. And across town Thursday night at the Hyatt in Century City, Harvey Weinstein and The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper were hearing lots of praise from the Brits gathered for their black tie Brittania Awards, an annual show put on by BAFTA-LA this year honoring Jeff Bridges, Christopher Nolan, Ridley and Tony Scott, Michael Sheen, and Betty White. Receiving the Charlie Chaplin Britannia for Excellence in Comedy, she teased that she’d never slept with Chaplin, then added, “Well, maybe just once.” 

Hooper had appeared at a BAFTA screening of his film the night before which reportedly played like gangbusters with the understandably partial crowd. Weinstein told me he is “fighting” mad about the MPAA decisions to give his Blue Valentine an NC 17 and King’s Speech a PG 13, the latter for one expletive-laden speech in which Colin Firth’s King George VI tries to lose his stutter through a vocal exercise requiring him to recite a series of bad words. As far as the MPAA is concerned, one “fuck” gets you a PG-13 but two “fucks” get you an R. Harvey pledged to take on the MPAA, at least with Valentine, but has no plans to make cuts in either film. Hooper told me he even refused to put bleeps in the airline version. Speech producer Gareth Unwin, also at the Britannias, told me the version of the scene in the finished film is positively tame compared to a couple of other takes where the King’s language really got down and dirty. If they had known the scene was going to get them an R anyway, Unwin said they might have really gone for the jugular. (Bonus extras on the DVD?) 

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Hot Trailer: ‘Rabbit Hole’

By | Friday October 22, 2010 @ 1:34pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Lionsgate has just released a new trailer for Rabbit Hole, the adaptation of the acclaimed play which the mini-major acquired after its showing at the Toronto International Film Festival. Lionsgate launched it right into the Oscar race, to take advantage of the strong performances by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, playing parents who grieve the loss of their child. The film opens December 17.

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TORONTO: Lionsgate Buying ‘Rabbit Hole’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate is wrapping up a deal to acquire North American distribution rights to Rabbit Hole, and the plan is to jump right into this year’s Oscar race by releasing  the picture  before year’s end. They will take advantage of a career performance by Nicole Kidman as a mother who loses her child. The John Cameron Mitchell-directed film stars Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a married couple trying to keep the relationship alive after a devastating loss. David Lindsay-Abaire adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Dianne Wiest’s performance has also been singled out.

It is the second big deal in two days for Lionsgate, which partnered with Roadside Attractions for the U.S. rights on the Robert Redford-directed The Conspirator. While the decision was made for that pic to sit out this crowding Oscar field, Lionsgate needed a horse to ride in the race and Rabbit Hole is it. The buzz on the film has been strong here, both among critics and audiences, despite its dark subject matter. Kidman is credited with her best performance since her Oscar-winning turn in The Hours. On Rabbit Hole, she found and bought the stage play and receives her first producing credit since she was the catalyst for getting the movie made. The deal was negotiated between CAA and Lionsgate’s Jason Constantine, Eda Kowan and Wendy Jaffe.

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Toronto Oscar Talk Follows Kidman And Redford Preems: Will They Open In Time?

Pete Hammond

It’s an unusual year with lots of first class lead performances from women, including Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Diane Lane, Tilda Swinton, Lesley Manville, Michelle Williams, Noomi Rapace, Sally Hawkins, Jennifer Lawrence, and Anne Hathaway. I think there is none better than Nicole Kidman making a major artistic comeback after a string of disappointments that include Australia, Nine, Margot At The Wedding, The Invasion, Fur, and Human Stain. She turns in a brilliant performance in Rabbit Hole, which had its gala world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Monday night. (I saw it at a private screening in L.A. a few weeks ago.) As a mother dealing with the sudden death of her 4-year-old son, Kidman gets it all heartbreakingly right. She is matched by costars Aaron Eckhart as her husband and Dianne Wiest as her mother. This is easily her best work since winning an Oscar for 2002’s The Hours, and probably her most assured screen work, even though I confess to being a major To Die For groupie.

One thing the actress has always done is take creative leaps with scripts that aren’t obviously commercial (Dogville, anyone?).  Based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play, the role Kidman plays won a Best Actress Tony for Cynthia Nixon. The film version, written by Lindsay-Abaire and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, is up for grabs at Toronto. Reps for the film tell me they not only … Read More »

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As Toronto Unveils Inventive Oscar Films, Why Can’t Hollywood Prize Originality Too?

Mike Fleming

More than Sundance, Cannes, or even Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival is where quality films come to strut, and where the groundswell of Oscar buzz really starts. For film purists, it is also the official end of summer and, hopefully, a parade of original films largely missing among this summer’s Hollywood films. While 75% of major studio releases this summer were remakes, sequels, or adaptations generated by arm-long lists of writers, Toronto will inject some excitement with a slate heavy on inventiveness. That’s why it likely will announce both Best Picture candidates and a slew of Best Actor and Best Actress contenders.

The films with the most heat are divided between those that are original and those based on existing material. They include Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours with James Franco, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech with Colin Firth, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan with Natalie Portman, Larysa Kondrack’s sex trafficking drama The Whistleblower with Rachel Weisz, John Cameron Mitchell’s The Rabbit Hole with Nicole Kidman, and Robert Redford’s Lincoln assassination tale The Conspirator, starring James McAvoy and Robin Wright and which has arguably the highest wanna-see of the films available for acquisition. There is also Ben Affleck’s much talked-about The Town, and the Clint Eastwood-directed Hereafter, which will be seen for the first time by most pundits. Also at Toronto are Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, which won a Best Actor prize for Javier Bardem at Cannes, and Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, whose  top-notch performances by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling unveiled at Sundance and then Cannes.

Done well, originality in festival films pays off. Whereas the branded films that Hollywood generated this summer were for the most part underperforming. Revenues were up slightly only because of higher 3D ticket prices, and attendance was down to the lowest level since 2007. But there was a 3-week period in July that saw Universal and Illumination release Despicable Me, Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures follow with Inception, and then Sony Pictures release Salt. It felt like somebody opened a window and let in fresh air. Audiences responded, and box office soared. It wasn’t a coincidence that all three movies saw the same writer who started the pic survive until the end. (Though I’ve heard that Salt scribe Kurt Wimmer had some uncredited help from Brian Helgeland).

I asked a group of well-established writers, executives and dealmakers to list the factors preventing originality in Hollywood films:

A)    An aversion to risk-taking which is a lingering byproduct of the recession and credit crunch. “Studio executives are always afraid of taking risks unless they can point to a big success,” said one writer’s agent. “If a Western did well, they’d want another Western, and they’d get a lot of bad Westerns.”

B)   An over-reliance on “branded” properties that became prevalent over the last several years. Rights holders got first dollar gross deals and say over creative issues and release deadlines, even though they don’t know the first thing about making a good movie.

C)  The rise of one-step screenwriter deals and sweepstakes pitching (where multiple writers compete for a job by pitching ideas for the same assignment). Several writers admitted to me that when their priority is advancing to the next draft, originality goes out the window. They try to please studio executives and producers who thrive in a comfort zone of sameness.

D)  The growing influence of marketing executives in the selection of films that get made. Those executives favor films they know how to sell, which means films they’ve sold before.

“I hope this summer’s movies like Despicable Me and Inception reinvigorate the industry’s belief in original ideas,” said Illumination founder Chris Meledandri, whose Despicable Me has surpassed Shrek Forever After, Kung-Fu Panda, Happy Feet, Ratatouille, Madagascar, and two Ice Age films on the domestic gross chart. “The whole industry needs to swing back from the reliance on pre-awareness. Audiences also thrive on the discovery of new characters, stories and worlds. From a business perspective, today’s fresh ideas have the potential to become tomorrow’s franchises.”

Skeptics argue that both Despicable Me and Inception were anomalies. The former got its $69 million budget because Meledandri wanted it to be Illumination’s first film, after Universal hired him away from a successful run at Fox Animation. Inception was more unlikely. Warner Bros execs, waiting for director Chris Nolan to do another Batman, were surprised when he instead dropped the Inception spec script in their laps. The studio let Nolan loose on an idea that rattled around his head for a decade before he put it on paper. Would anyone have approved $160 million for such an impossible-to-explain-in-a-sentence film if the director hadn’t been Nolan?

Still, motion picture lit agents are encouraged. They tell me the word “originality” is coming up often in meetings with studio execs. “Now, we’re on the originality train. It is at least encouraging to have conversations where they aren’t closing doors on anything but branded projects. They’re saying we need new IP.” So agents are pushing their clients to write — gasp! — spec scripts, rather than strictly compete for assignments. “The best thing about Inception was that Nolan didn’t follow The Dark Knight by taking a fat payday, he wrote a spec,” said one writer’s rep. “Writers haven’t been doing specs because there was no room in the marketplace for them. Our clients would say, ‘how are you going to sell my script if you tell me all they want to make is something with a Hasbro tie-in?’” Read More »

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