The 3-time Tony winner and Academy Award nominee will be repped by Toni Howard and Adam Schweitzer. The latter, who was recently promoted to co-head ICM’s motion picture talent department, signed William Hurt earlier this week. Last year, the Frost/Nixon …
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has yet to officially decide. But, according to my sources, the studio is “heavily leaning” toward pushing Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps‘s Michael Douglas for Best Supporting Actor. That’s a very different Oscar race than Best Actor where Douglas won the Academy Award for playing the same Gordon Gekko in 1987’s Wall Street. But it makes sense. Even though he is first billed and is perceived as the star of Oliver Stone’s sequel, Douglas does not have nearly the amount of screen time as co-star Shia LaBeouf. Most importantly, I’m told Douglas himself feels that Gekko is really a supporting role this time around. Here’s another complication: Anchor Bay is campaigning Douglas in the Lead Actor race for the May released Solitary Man. So, by suggesting voters consider Douglas’ second Gekko go-round as supporting work, Fox would be making it easier for everyone involved.
The studio is waiting to see where the Hollywood Foreign Press Association puts him in Golden Globe competition, although the HFPA is giving a freer hand to distributors when it comes to placing contenders this year than they have in the past. But, unlike other awards groups, the Academy Of Motion Picture & Arts Sciences does not suggest categories on their official ballots but leaves that up to the individual voters in the acting branch. Through advertising, though, a studio will try to sway voters in one clear direction. But it doesn’t always work. Susan Sarandon famously voted for herself in supporting for Atlantic City (1981) but was surprised when she found herself nominated for lead actress. The debate about the push for lead vs. supporting is one that rages every year and Oscar history is littered with actors in lead roles who win for supporting (ie Timothy Hutton in 1980’s Ordinary People) or actors in supporting roles who win for lead (ie Patricia Neal in 1963’s Hud).
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will present James Franco with the Outstanding Performance of the Year Award for his performance in 127 Hours. The festival runs January 27-February 6. Carey Mulligan will receive the Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which runs January 6-17. She’s …
FX is adding to its collection of No.1 box-office hits with the acquisition of Sony’s The Social Network and 20th Century Fox’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. FX has been the most aggressive movie buyer all summer, picking up the rights to most tentpole movies. The list includes Grown Ups, Karate …
Before Allan Loeb, screenwriter Stephen Shiff was the first writer on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps which opened #1 this weekend. Now he’s left CAA for ICM. After writing for The New Yorker and reviewing films for NPR, Schiff started his screenwriting career by adapting Lolita and went on to …
Sorry for delays… circumstances out of my control.
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: Here are the Top 10 North American grosses for Friday, Saturday, weekend and cume:
1. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox) NEW [3,565 Runs]
Friday $7M, Saturday $7.6M, Weekend $19M
Is it possible to make a sequel 23 years later? Only if it’s an iconic original about a still relevant subject featuring a fascinating anti-hero made by a controversial director with a fine cast. The Hustler sequel Color Of Money had a 25 year span and did fine. And for weeks tracking had been strong for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I’ve been obsessed with this from development through casting into production because the 1987 movie was so seminal. After all, that den of thieves is as responsible for our current financial crisis as are the politicians. The question is whether filmgoers are ready to relive pain that hasn’t ended or rewind history skewed by the crazy Oliver Stone. That’s his best-ever opening not adjusted for inflation or theater counts or higher ticket prices, after his 2006 World Trade Center ($18.7M) and his 2004 Alexander ($13.6M).
Hollywood had expected more, and Fox hoped for $22M after lowering expectations for this PG-13 adult-themed economics lesson. (Many newspapers even assigned their business reporters to review it.) I hear the studio’s actual cost on the pic was $65M including a $5M tax rebate, reshoots, and additional editing post-Cannes Film Festival in May. But after a disastrous summer, Fox is relieved. After all, with Michael Douglas braving cancer, nobody was sure how much promo he could do. And with Oliver Stone putting his foot in his mouth (the part-Jewish filmmaker made several apologies after that July newspaper interview where he complained about Jewish influence in U.S. media and foreign policy and Holocaust remembrance), nobody was sure how much promo he should do.
I can’t help wondering how the movie would have differed with Javier Bardem, the first choice for the stock-shorting hedge fund villain played by Josh Brolin. The financial press says the character bears resemblance to JP Morgan head Jamie Dimon. Brolin’s firm is modeled on Goldman Sachs. Frank Langella’s persona according to the NYT is former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne but others say it’s the firm’s ex-chairman Alan “Ace” Greenberg. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko was partly Ivan Boesky and partly Michael Milken in the original, but now is a post-prison Nostradamus predicting doom and gloom. The real economist credited with forseeing the economic debacle is Nouriel Roubini who gets a cameo in the sequel. Charlie Sheen was supposed to be young insider trader Denise Levine. His successor Shia LaBeouf is playing Shia as always; when is this kid going to show range? Meanwhile, a long list of Wall Street types offered their help to make sure first Stephen Schiff’s and then 21 and Things We Lost In The Fire screenwriter Allan Loeb’s sequel was accurate, just as the previous generation had done for the great scripter Stanley Weiser and his film school pal Oliver both credited as writers of the original. I’m told theaters around the real Wall Street sold out Friday matinees. But Stone never got the satisfaction of seeing Wall Street 2 released “just when the market’s most volatile,” as he hoped it would be this week. That’s because Fox pushed off the April 23rd release date. Had that not happened, Douglas wouldn’t have been diagnosed yet, Stone wouldn’t have been mouthy about Jews yet, and the stock market wouldn’t have been ticking upward in turnaround yet. The later release does make the sequel more awards-friendly, especially for Michael Douglas in the Best Supporting category. I’m reminded that then Fox chief Barry Diller hated Wall Street and thought his big Oscar film that year was Broadcast News, which arrived with 7 nominations but left empty handed. Whereas Douglas won Best Actor.
2. Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls (Warner Bros) NEW [3,575 Runs]
Friday $4.5M, Saturday $6.9M, Weekend $16.3M
Warner Bros counter-programmed with 3D flying owl warriors and marketed it like a PG-13 Narnia flick. Wanna know why tracking has been lagging for this $100M budget-buster? The title Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was convoluted, author Kathryn Lasky’s book series isn’t widely known, the voice cast was predominantly Aussie, and Zach Snyder who directed the very violent Watchmen was making his family fare debut. (Yikes, cover those kids’ eyes!) The TV ads never even mention the connection to Animal Logic, the animation studio behind the hit Happy Feet. Sometimes I think studios try to repel audiences. Of its 3,575 theaters, 2,479 were 3D locations, of which 193 are IMAX.
Passing the giant Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps billboard at the Pico Blvd entrance to 20th Century Fox, I noticed the words “Academy Award” prominently mentioned no less than five times. Academy Award Winner Michael Douglas. Academy Award Nominee Josh Brolin. Academy Award Winner Susan Sarandon. Academy Award Nominee Frank Langella. Academy Award Nominee Carey Mulligan. Not so subtly, making an early bid like this to find any way to associate the Academy Awards and an opening movie this time of year can be a smart marketing strategy. It’s a way to establish a new film as a contender amid the endless glut of generally still-sight-unseen Oscar wannabes.
With that in mind, I continue my rundown of award hopefuls. I started last week with an assessment of Oscar chances for the films that had just appeared at any or all of the three Fall Film Festivals in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. I began that list with Friday’s New York Film Festival opener The Social Network. Now comes, in order of scheduled release date, the trickier proposition of forecasting the awards status of films that weren’t unveiled at a Fall Fest but will be opening before the end of the year:
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (Twentieth Century Fox – 9/24) On paper, with its timely theme, this is exactly the kind of popular drama with an Oscar-heavy cast and director that the 10 Best Picture nominations would tend to favor. Well-received in Cannes last May, it still hasn’t generated the kind of serious buzz which fall fest entries like Social Network, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan all managed. Oscar Chance: Bearish, since sequels rarely compete and Oliver Stone’s 1987 original received just a single nomination — and won Best Actor for Michael Douglas. His bigger-than-life Gekko remains its best chance to jump in the race, particularly with goodwill for the actor running high due to his cancer and memories of his acclaimed work in the indie Solitary Man still fresh from earlier this year. Never-nominated Eli Wallach, 95, might have had a shot for his small but indelible role. But he’s already getting an Honorary Oscar in November.
NOWHERE BOY (The Weinstein Co – 10/8) This story of the young John Lennon opened last Christmas in England and has already hit British Airways and Blu-ray but is craftily timed for U.S. release the day before what would have been the musician’s 70th birthday. Oscar Chance: Both female co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff were BAFTA nominees last season and might have a long shot in the Supporting Actress category if Weinstein does any sort of serious campaign for this.
SECRETARIAT (Walt Disney Pictures – 10/8) This emotion stirring crowd-pleasing story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner and the woman who wouldn’t give up on him could appeal to the same feel-good contingent that made The Blind Side such a player last year. Oscar Chance: Diane Lane and John Malkovich could figure in acting races. While sound, cinematography, music, and Best Picture nominations are not out of the question. If 2003’s Seabiscuit, which landed 7 nominations including the big one back when there were only five slots, could do it, then it should be a breeze for this horse. But Disney has to campaign just as aggressively as Universal did back then.
COMPANY MEN (The Weinstein Co – 10/22) There hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz on this John Wells written and directed title since it debuted to mixed reviews in Sundance. But this of-the-moment drama about the effect of corporate downsizing on three men has a strong cast that includes past Oscar winners Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper. Oscar Chance: A longshot that needs to step up its awards game or risk downsizing to also-ran status against stiff competition.
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS (Samuel Goldwyn – 10/29) Fine acting from James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, and Kristen Stewart highlight this drama about the effect that a young runaway has on a married couple. Oscar Chance: This quiet and effective drama was a Sundance success. But it’s likely to be more prominent at the Spirits than the Oscars.
FAIR GAME (Summit – 11/5) The hot button Valerie Plame/CIA leak story gets the cinematic treatment from director Doug Liman. It played well to critics in competition at Cannes in May but has been dormant on the Fall Festival circuit. Oscar Chance: It has two stars, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, who are usually Academy bait. But so far neither is generating much heat in the highly competitive lead actor and actress races. Perhaps that will change when the film gets its second shot at glory just after election day. Of course, Penn already has a couple of Oscars.
FOR COLORED GIRLS (Lionsgate – 11/5) Except for the trailer, no one’s really yet seen this Tyler Perry adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play with the longer title For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. But apparently Lionsgate has enuf confidence to push the release right up to the start date of the film industry’s official holiday movie season. Oscar Chance: Perry’s a cash cow for Lionsgate but he’s got no Oscar cred yet except for an AMPAS membership card. Last year, this distributor scored 6 nominations and 2 Oscars with Precious (which Perry supported by lending his name). But can lightning strike twice?
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (Warner Bros – 11/19) The mega-box office Harry Potter series begins its wrap party with the first of a 2-part finale. Oscar Chance: These films are usually good for one or two technical nods but haven’t broken through into the marquee categories. If Harry has any shot at pulling a Lord Of The Rings-style victory lap, it’s probably with the more emotionally potent Part 2 which gets a July release.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS (Lionsgate – 11/19) Oscar-winner Paul Haggis co-wrote and directed this thriller about the turmoil in a couple’s life after the wife is accused of murder. Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, and Elizabeth Banks star. Oscar Chance: Although Haggis and Lionsgate last struck Oscar gold together with Crash, this one is said to be a strictly commercial bet with no similar awards trajectory.
In these weeks leading up to Friday’s opening of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the showbiz media is treating Oliver Stone much like any other Hollywood director. There’s little lingering taint from that July newspaper interview where he complained about Jewish influence in U.S. media and foreign policy, and pinned remembrance of the Holocaust on the powerful Jewish lobby in America. Several apologies later, Stone (who is part-Jewish) is now back in the ADL’s and Hollywood’s good graces. And not only will Wall Street 2 do well at the box office this weekend ($20+M), but it also has Academy Award talk. Clearly, Hollywood forgives the man and doesn’t forget the moviemaker at Oscar time. Witness the recent embracement of Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Elia Kazan etc. Which brings me to Mel Gibson.
My Deadline awards columnist Pete Hammond has picked up on Oscar buzz for Mel’s performance in The Beaver, the Jodie Foster-directed feature which Summit Entertainment is still contemplating whether to release this year, next year, or ever. It’s a difficult dilemma for the studio given Gibson’s domestic disputes and the alleged racial slurs and sexist epithets and alleged physical and verbal abuse of his girlfriend that’s come out from behind closed doors. Plus, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences members are known to hold grudges for a myriad reasons even under normal circumstances. The voters are supposed to judge the merits of the performance and not the man behind it. But the Hollywood concensus now is that Mel’s a louse. But isn’t showbiz filled with louses who are also great moviemakers?
It’s long been my stated belief that, if a litmus test were given for behavior, nobody would ever work in showbiz again. Since past is prologue, even here where institutional memories are purposefully short, weeks before the 79th Academy Award nominations came out, moguls whispered to me that Apocalypto was the most artistically brilliant film ”and I’ll deny it if you try to quote me”. Expectedly, the pic was blanked in the prestige categories. I’d predicted all along that Oscar voters would judge Mel the anti-Semitic drunk and not the moviemaker.
What didn’t help was that distributor Disney conducted a turd of an Academy campaign. Specifically, it asked Oscar voters “to look at Mel the artist and not Mel the man” and claimed that Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic ranting was not as bad as Polanski having sex with an underage girl, or Allen having sex with his step-daughter or Elia Kazan’s naming names before the Hollywood Un-American Activities Committee. Nevertheless, Oscar campaigning that underscores the character flaws of other film directors ain’t kosher.
The bottom line is that Gibson’s Apocalypto grossed $120.6M worldwide (and cost 1/3 that). Mel may be meshugginah, but he’s still a moneymaker. As an actor, he’s been responsible for over $2 billion box office and, since 1984, he’s never had a bomb. He also, as my colleague Pete Hammond points out, has 2 Oscars at home for directing and producing 1995’s Braveheart, but has never been nominated for his acting.
So I don’t understand why Summit is so reluctant to release The Beaver with an awards campaign for it. What’s the worst that can happen?