After a screening of August: Osage County this week at the TV Academy’s theater in North Hollywood, I sat down with three of the stars from the film’s cast –Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale and Abigail Breslin – to talk about making the film based on Tracy Letts‘ Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play of a deeply dysfunctional Midwestern family coming together, physically if not emotionally, after a tragedy. The three actresses talked about living and cooking together for two months in a group of condos behind a Toyota dealership in the Oklahoma town where the film was shot; what screenwriter-playwright Letts and director John Wells took out and put into the two-hour movie compared with the original three-hour play; the “real” secret behind the makeup that transformed Streep and the emotional challenges of playing a cancer-stricken, pill-popping matriarch who’s mad at just about everybody, including herself. The original conversation was videotaped by The Weinstein Company, the film’s distributor, and by the KCET Cinema Series, which I host. The movie opens in select cities December 27 and goes wide nationally January 10.
Related: Weinstein, Clooney And Letts On ‘August: Osage County’s Ending Change And Release Date Shift
EXCLUSIVE: After this week’s L.A. premiere of August: Osage County, Harvey Weinstein is prepared to make two proclamations as the film launches into a crowded Oscar season. “When it comes to Oscars, I’ll take bets on this movie, it’s going to be a surprise and a sleeper, but it’s gonna be there,” he said. His second proclamation: “I’m never again going to rush to play a movie festival anymore, until the movie is locked,” Weinstein said. “We rushed to get a version of August: Osage County because we wanted the heat of Toronto. It wasn’t finished and it has created a disconnect.”
Weinstein, George Clooney (a producer with Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov) and Tracy Letts (who adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play into the John Wells-directed film) called me to dispel a misperception they hope will not become a problem: that because of slight changes between the Toronto version and the final cut, this was a problem picture. In this case, the early version of the Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts-starrer had a slightly different ending than it does now. The finished film is a bit longer and more polished and contains over its closing credits ”Last Mile Home”, a moving acoustic song that Kings Of Leon wrote for the film. “Our worst review has been three stars, but forevermore in the age of the Internet you read that reaction was mixed in Toronto and it colors people,” Weinstein said. “There’s something in the air and the way to take it out of the air is for the three of us to combat it.” I won’t give away the ending here, but it involves how things are left between a dysfunctional family matriarch (Streep) and the daughter (Roberts) in danger of following in her bitter footsteps. Besides Toronto, there were test screenings and the usual back and forth that resulted in what the three said is the best version of the film, the one they showed this week.
Related: Toronto: Huge Reaction For Oscar-Bait ‘August: Osage County’ – But Will It Divide Audiences? Read More »
William Friedkin has arrived in Venice to receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. He’s also here for the world premiere of Warner Bros’ newly restored version of his 1977 film Sorcerer. It’s the one he’d like to be remembered for. It “came the closest to my vision of it; the result is the way I first saw it in my mind’s eye,” he said as part of a wide-ranging and animated chat with journalists ahead of his award ceremony today.
Friedkin was last on the Lido with 2011’s gritty Killer Joe. That movie was penned by Tracy Letts with whom the director also collaborated on 2006′s Bug. He said this afternoon that he hopes to make another movie with Letts and that the two have discussed “doing a contemporary Western.” When, he’s not sure, though. Opera afficianado Friedkin is currently planning a new take on Rigoletto with Placido Domingo and noted that Letts is busy penning a new version of The Grapes Of Wrath for DreamWorks. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Tracy Letts is getting a quick promotion on Homeland. The Tony- and Pulitzer-winning actor-playwright, who was tapped for a recurring role on the upcoming third season of the Showtime drama a week ago, has now been upped to a series regular. He will play the role of Sen. Andrew Lockhart, the powerful, authoritative, and commanding Committee Chairman asking tough questions as the government’s investigation begins in the wake of the horrific terror attack that decimated the U.S. intelligence apparatus, and prompted a global manhunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist — Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). Letts is the first new series regular to join the cast of Homeland for Season 3. The Emmy-winning series also recently promoted recurring players F. Murray Abraham and Sarita Choudhury to regular. Read More »
‘Killer Joe’ Gets NC-17; Planning To Appeal Rating
LOS ANGELES — The Classification and Rating Appeals Board today upheld the NC-17 rating given to the movie Killer Joe. The Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) had assigned the movie the NC-17 rating for “graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.” In the appeal brought by LD Entertainment, the Appeals Board heard statements on behalf of Killer Joe from David Dinerstein, President of LD Entertainment, and Tracy Letts, Pulitzer Prizewinner, Playwright and Screenwriter. The Classification and Rating Administration was represented by Chairman Joan Graves.
EXCLUSIVE: Another movie has gotten an NC-17. Killer Joe, the Billy Friedkin-directed adaptation of the Tracy Letts play just got an NC-17 rating. That is one of the first releases by LD Entertainment, the new distribution company started by Mickey Liddell and run by David Dinerstein. They will appeal the rating and it’s unusual; Letts is the Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning playwright of August: Osage County.This one is a garish, sexy black comedy that stars Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gerson and Thomas Haden Church and it’s slated for a summer release.
The pic premiered at Venice and it has been called Tennessee Williams meets Quentin Tarantino. It played Toronto, where it was acquired by LD, and will makes its US premiere at SXSW. It’s racy and violent, but LD thinks it’s an R film. “We will use our best efforts to overturn this decision,” Dinerstein said. “We stand by our filmmakers and remain faithful to their visions.” Stay tuned.