Listen to (and share) episode 6 of Deadline’s audio podcast Global Showbiz Watch With Nancy Tartaglione. Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about the Venice Film Festival, including unlikely Golden Lion winner Sacro Gra and another timely documentary, this one from Oscar winner Errol Morris about another former Defense Secretary, this time Donald Rumsfeld. They also discuss the grilling Parliament gave New York Times CEO Mark Thompson over fat severance packages for execs when he was head of the BBC, and the wide-ranging lineup announced for the London Film Festival later this fall.
UPDATE: Coming into Venice, jury president Bernardo Bertolucci said he was looking “to be surprised.” Just after the awards ceremony tonight, he confirmed that Sacro Gra, the winner of the Golden Lion, “is a surprising film.” Gianfranco Rossi’s documentary about life on the ring-road highway that circles Rome gave Venice its first Italian winner since 1998’s The Way We Laughed (that film’s director, Gianni Amelio, was also coincidentally in competition this year with L’Intrepido). It’s also the first time a documentary has ever won at the fest; this was the first year non-fiction films were included. Bertolucci commented on the other documentary in competition, Errol Morris’ portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, and said that some on the jury “thought about giving (Rumsfeld) the Best Actor prize.”
Yurusarezaru Mono, the Warner Bros Japan-produced remake of Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Best Picture Oscar-winner Unforgiven, had its official screening here in Venice on Friday night. The out-of-competition selection met with widely positive reactions, especially for the strong cast and lush cinematography by Norimichi Kasamatsu. When the Japanese project was originally proposed, Eastwood was consulted for his yea or nay. He gave his approval, and I’m told that he has seen and likes the finished product. The movie next heads to Toronto, and Warner opens it in Japan on September 13th. I understand it’s being trailered locally with Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, the box office hit that had a berth here in competition.
Directed by Lee Sang-il, Yurusarezaru Mono hews very closely to the original film’s arc. Here, a legendary former Samurai is coaxed out of retirement – and a vow of non-violence – by an old friend seeking a reward for avenging a knife attack on a prostitute (check out the trailer). The island of Hokkaido in 1880s Meiji era Japan steps in for Wyoming and Samurai replace gunslingers, although there are still plenty of guns to go around. Ken Watanabe stars in the Eastwood role, veteran actor Akira Emoto has the Morgan Freeman part, Kôichi Satô steps in for Gene Hackman and Yûya Yagira, who won Cannes’ top acting prize for 2004’s Nobody Knows, is the young upstart. Kill Bill‘s Jun Kunimura, who featured in Venice Horizons hit Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, also appears in the role that Richard Harris originated.
Ahead of the main prize ceremony tomorrow night, awards are starting to trickle out here at the Venice Film Festival. The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) has given its Best Film honor to Canadian multi-hyphenate Xavier Dolan’s well-received psychological thriller Tom At The Farm. The jury praised Dolan’s “energetic, tense and sensual filmmaking.” The story of a grief-stricken young man who encounters a web of deceit at a country funeral is in Competition. FIPRESCI also named The Reunion the best film across the Horizons and Critics’ Week sections. Anna Odell directed the movie which the jury said “blurs the boundaries between fiction and documentary and speaks about marginalization, bullying, and the complicated nature of group dynamics.” (Separately, FIPRESCI announced today that its annual Grand Prize will go to Cannes Palme d’Or winner Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2 – aka Blue Is The Warmest Color). Meanwhile, Stephen Frears’ crowd-pleasing competition film Philomena won the Venice Queer Lion for bringing “relevance to issues such as homosexuality, AIDS and homophobia.” And, Jean Denizot’s family drama La Belle Vie was awarded the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film in the Venice Days section.
Director Ti West is known primarily for his work as a horror helmer, but with Venice and Toronto title The Sacrament – as well as an upcoming project – he’s taking a turn in a different direction. West’s credits include 2009’s The House Of The Devil, 2011’s The Innkeepers and a segment of 2012’s V/H/S. Although it’s presented by Eli Roth, The Sacrament, which received positive notices here, is not really a straight horror movie. It’s a contemporary found-footage film that tweaks the genre and is “the most realism” West has done, he told me this week. But he’s looking to step even further afield with a script he’s currently writing: He wants to do a “traditional western.”
Listen to (and share) episode 5 of Deadline’s audio podcast Global Showbiz Watch With Nancy Tartaglione. Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about the Venice Film Festival, now at its mid-way point, with Stephen Frears‘ Philomena the early favorite for the fest’s top prize, the Golden Lion. Nancy also talks about Locke, the man-in-a-car movie featuring, only, Tom Hardy; the overwhelming response by Harry Potter fans to Daniel Radcliffe’s festival appearance for Kill Your Darlings; and the fabulous swan song of animation master Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises.
Errol Morris’ Donald Rumsfeld portrait, The Unknown Known, debuted in Telluride over the weekend and is running in competition here in Venice. Morris, the Oscar-winning director of The Fog Of War, which looked at former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, says he decided to concentrate on Rumsfeld after the publication of the latter’s 2011 autobiography Known And Unknown: A Memoir. It was then that Morris became aware of the Bush administration Defense Secretary’s “snowflake” memos — the thousands of missives that Rumsfeld wrote during his time at the Pentagon — which became a key element in the film (see video here). His curiosity piqued, Morris wrote Rumsfeld a letter and enclosed a copy of The Fog Of War. “His lawyer told me that I was delusional. ‘This man will never under any circumstances talk to you’.” But within a week, he had an invitation to Rumsfeld’s office in Washington, Morris told reporters today. Ultimately, he conducted 33 hours of interviews with Rumsfeld over 11 days in a studio outside Boston.
Despite both having held the same post, Rumsfeld, a key architect of the Iraq War, and the late McNamara, a key architect of the Vietnam War, are “very, very, very different.” The latter is “The Flying Dutchman”, Morris said, “traveling the world searching for redemption and never finding it.” Rumsfeld, on the other hand, is more like the “Cheshire Cat, who at the very end vanishes and is left with just a smile.”
At the midpoint of Venice last year, The Master had emerged as a clear favorite and indeed went on to scoop the directing trophy and a double best actor Volpi Cup. But, due to rules designed not to favor one film too heavily, the jury was unable to give it the Golden Lion in what became something of a scandal on the Lido. In a move that could help deter such furture controversies, the festival added a Grand Jury Prize this year. Still, the regs say that no film can win more than one award — save for exceptional cases whereby a film that’s won the directing Silver Lion, the Grand Jury Prize, the Special Jury Prize or the screenplay prize can also nab an acting nod. For that to happen, it has to be done in consultation with the festival president. But, if a movie takes the Golden Lion, that’s the only prize it can win.
This year, the press and the public have embraced Philomena. That film bowed on Saturday to rapturous applause and standing ovations. The Stephen Frears-directed pic has been praised for its deft handling of a sensitive subject. The movie, based on a true story, is about a woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption while slaving away in an Irish abbey for so-called fallen women. The abbey in the film certainly brings to mind the Magdalene laundries where some 30,000 women were incarcerated between 1765-1996. The asylums were the subject of Peter Mullan’s 2002 The Magdalene Sisters, which went on to win the Golden Lion here. And yet, if Philomena were to follow that path, its heavily praised star, Judi Dench, would be ineligible for the best actress Volpi Cup. There are still eight films to screen so nothing is a certainty, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on the prizes on Saturday to see how the jury juggles a strong field of films. The Weinstein Co. is giving Philomena a December 25 limited release before opening wide on January 10.
From the time Locke was first announced in Berlin, to its first public screenings here in Venice, much had been kept under wraps about the project. But all was revealed today, and judging by the sustained applause and hoots and hollers for star Tom Hardy, most folks felt it was worth the wait. You could say Locke is about a man in a car, driving from Birmingham to London, while dealing with a series of issues on speaker phone. It would be true, but not accurate. It’s much more than that: part thriller, part psychological study, part family drama – and all with only one actor seen on screen. The movie, however, is not in competition so is not up for the major prizes – which many are lamenting. It next heads to Toronto, where IM Global will be looking to close deals. Its specialty label, Anthem, fully financed the Shoebox Films production and Lionsgate has UK rights.
British director Steven Knight, whose last film, Hummingbird (Redemption in the U.S.), was his feature debut, wrote and directed Locke. His writing credits include Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things, for which he was Oscar nominated in 2004. He said today that prior to writing Locke, he’d been shooting another digital film with a car at night and it looked so good that he “wondered if there was a story you could weave of one man’s journey as he drove down a motorway. I was trying to bring a huge emotion down into a tiny space.” The movie, incidentally, is in real-time.
Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a construction foreman and concrete expert who leaves his job on the eve of a massive project. When the movie starts, it’s near dusk and he’s settling into a drive in a shiny BMW SUV. After calls to a colleague, his boss, a woman called Bethan, and his wife and sons, the audience starts to understand where he’s headed and why. All 85 minutes of the film are spent in the car with Locke as he makes and receives calls, juggling his own demons and his interactions with the other characters who are voiced by Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Tom Holland and Bill Milner.
Oscar-winning Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki once said he thought he’d stop making features after 1997′s Princess Mononoke. Instead, he went on to such films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. Today in Venice, Koju Hoshino, …
“Parkland is not out to pick a fight and start a dialogue about conspiracy,” director Peter Landesman said today of his film that follows the events in the hours and days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. “It is utterly focused on the raw emotion of the weekend,” he told reporters. Landesman wrote Parkland based on Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History: The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy. It’s also his helming debut.
The story of what happened in Dealy Plaza on November 22, 1963 has been told from many different angles, so Landesman said the idea was, “How have we not seen this story?” He was looking to explore the “disorientation, chaos and anarchy” and “what it was to survive that weekend” for people who were pulled into the extraordinary situation. “There’s not a scene in this movie that anybody’s ever seen before,” he said. “We wanted to take an audience and put them in the shoes of these people and have it wash over them like a wave.” There was applause at the press screening this morning. Reviews have so far been mixed.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination and Parkland was among the most anticipated films coming into the Venice competition. Having the world premiere in Venice and ahead of the film’s trip to Toronto was a good place to start because it gives Parkland “more opportunity to stand out,” Exclusive Media exec Alex Walton told me before the bow. Another person involved with the film also suggests that Europeans are likely to embrace it given a fascination, but perhaps less familiarity, with the Kennedys. The film has essentially sold out worldwide, including to Italy’s RAI, an early adopter which has been acquiring very few movies of late. Exclusive co-financed with The American Film Company and is releasing in the U.S. on October 4. Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are among the producers. The sizeable ensemble includes Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, James Badge Dale, Billy Bob Thornton, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Jacki Weaver and Tom Welling. Welling is here on the Lido.
The film’s title refers to the hospital where Kennedy – and later his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald – died, but the movie isn’t entirely about Parkland and the shell-shocked staff there who treated them both. Early on, it’s set in the blood-soaked operating room where doctors attempt to keep Kennedy alive while Secret Service agents and the First Lady look on. But also followed closely are the plights of Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti), Robert Oswald (Badge Dale) and James Hosty (Livingston).
One of the most anticipated films in the Venice competition, Stephen Frears’ Philomena blew a breath of fresh air onto the Lido this morning. Essentially a Judi Dench/Steve Coogan two-hander, it screened to laughs, tears and lots of applause – the latter both during and after the film. Following a series of intensely serious movies – some of which, like Gravity, have been very well-received – festgoers were still looking for a genuine crowd-pleaser. Although Philomena treats a very delicate subject matter, which resulted in the pulling out of a lot of hankies in the Sala Darsena, it’s also a very funny and heart-warming film. The Weinstein Co. won a bidding war for it in Cannes after Pathé screened a seven-minute reel for buyers.
Philomena was positioned to open here using a similar strategy to The Queen. Frears also directed that film which won Helen Mirren the Best Actress Volpi Cup, a screenwriting prize for Peter Morgan and the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI). It later garnered six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress which Mirren won. Philomena next heads to Toronto. An exec involved in the film recently told me they hoped to arrive at that festival “with a little bit of a reputation.” Given today’s reaction, that hope would appear fulfilled.
David Gordon Green‘s competition title Joe debuted for the press here in Venice this morning. A serious, sometimes violent story, it’s been well-received on the Lido with star Nicolas Cage getting some very strong notices. He plays the titular character, a good man working hard to stifle inner demons. A chance at redemption, and perhaps a new direction in life, comes in the form of Gary (Tye Sheridan), a 15-year-old whose drifter family has settled nearby. Gordon Green likens the film, based on the novel by Larry Brown, to a Western. (The Worldview Entertainment-backed pic is being handled by CAA for domestic and there were buyers — and applause — at the screenings this morning.)
Joe is the helmer’s 9th film and is “distinct” from the previous ones he’s made, “I think it stands out,” he said today. But he allows that the films in his body of work have “themes that thread them all together like a bizarre quilt.” He and Cage expressed their mutual appreciation during a press conference this afternoon. Gordon Green said that had he been physically able, he would have done backflips when he learned that Cage responded to the script. Cage said he hadn’t seen the finished movie yet, but that he would have done somersaults “naked” to work with Gordon Green. “He is willing to bear his soul. I knew he was a kindred spirit.”