Rufus Norris’ feature helming debut, Broken, opened Cannes‘ Critics’ Week in 2012 and later nabbed the Best Picture Prize at the British Independent Film Awards. But Norris won’t have much time for movies in the near future. London’s National Theatre today named him successor to Nicholas Hytner as artistic director, a post that’s considered the biggest in British theater – and one that’s had its share of influence on Hollywood. Norris will officially take over in April 2015, after Hytner steps down in March. Hytner, whose film credits include The Madness Of King George, The Crucible and The History Boys, has presided over some of the most prosperous of the National’s years in London since he took over from Trevor Nunn in 2003. At the National, he’s directed or overseen hits that moved to Broadway and/or the movies including The History Boys, War Horse and One Man Two Guv’nors (with One Chance star James Corden). He also pioneered the NT Live initiative which broadcasts stage performances like Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller and Helen Mirren-starrer The Audience, to cinema screens around the country and abroad. Norris has been working with Hytner for the past two years as associate director and recently staged The Amen Corner. Among his numerous earlier credits are a 2006 revival of Cabaret which won two Olivier Awards, and a 2008 adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses which received five Tony nominations on Broadway. Other names mentioned as possible successors to Hytner had included Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Daldry and Boyle.
Diane Haithman is a contributor to AwardsLine
Alongside collaborators Robert Stromberg and Kim Sinclair, Rick Carter won a best art direction Oscar for his work on Jim Cameron’s fantastical Avatar. He calls serving as production designer on Steven Spielberg’s War Horse the polar opposite of that project — or, for that matter, the type of design work called for by a movie such as Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, which inhabits a world for the most part built on soundstages or created with CGI. In War Horse, Carter says, the job was not to create a new reality, but rather to take a living landscape and make it as much a character in the film as any human being. Or horse.
DreamWorks’ War Horse, Paramount’s Hugo, The Adventures Of Tintin and Super 8, and Disney’s The Muppets were among the winnners at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ Golden Reel Awards, which honor the year’s best work in the areas of sound editing for dialogue & ADR, effects & foley and music for film and TV. The group held its awards ceremony last night at the Westin Bonaventure, where producer Gale Anne Hurd was honored with the 2012 MPSE Filmmaker Award and sound editor George Watters II was tapped a MPSE Career Achievement Recipient. War Horse won Best Sound Effects and Foley In a Feature Film, while Hugo took best music; both are nominated for Sound Editing at the Oscars. On the TV side, Showtime’s Homeland, AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Game Of Thrones were among the winners. Here’s the complete list:
Steven Spielberg On War Horse’s Four-Legged Actors, 3D And Lessons Learned
After being ignored by critics groups and other awards in the runup to Oscar nominations, Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse finally burst out of the gate with six including for Best Picture. The others were for Art Direction, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. A Spielberg collaborator for more than 30 years, Kennedy started out as his secretary. She became a co-founder of Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment in 1981, garnering producer credit on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. She left Amblin in 1992 to form the Kennedy/Marshall Co. with husband Frank Marshall, whom she met while working on Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the creative partnership with Spielberg has continued. Collaborations over the decades have included Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. While Kennedy has countless credits independently of Spielberg (recently, 2007’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Persepolis) the two always seem to end up back together. Kennedy also produced Spielberg’s animated The Adventures of Tintin and the upcoming Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. Kennedy talked to AwardsLine contributor Diane Haithman about one of Hollywood’s most celebrated partnerships.
AWARDSLINE: What inspired the movie version of War Horse?
KENNEDY: I took our two teenage girls to see the play [in London], having no idea that it would be something I would be attracted to as a film. It was around the same time we were doing the score on Tintin. I was sitting on the scoring stage with Steven and told him I had seen this extraordinary play. I told him, I keep thinking about whether it’s a movie – it was extraordinary to watch the puppeteering, but I couldn’t help thinking how majestic real horses could be. Steven instantly said that sounds like a perfect movie story. He said “see where the movie rights are.” It turned out that Michael Morpurgo had been approached by a number of people but he hadn’t really entertained any movie offers. We were shooting within a year, which is fairly unusual.
AWARDSLINE: War Horse was a Christmas Day film, and Tintin came out a few days before. What is your strategy?
KENNEDY: We talked about this very, very carefully, in terms of how this was going to be difficult. We don’t have a lot of stars in either film. It was going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on Steven. But we also felt that, even if it were a completely different filmmaker, we would have probably made the same choice to release them during the Christmas holidays, because we felt they were the best films.
Steven Spielberg has been a prominent player in the feature film scene for close to 40 years, and scored the first of his 12 Oscar nominations (with two wins) 33 years ago. Yet in many ways the filmmaker maintains a perpetual boyish image in the public imagination. Maybe it’s his affinity for stories featuring children — like his Oscar contender War Horse – or his unquenchable excitement about movie-making. Whatever the reason, the director-writer-producer-mogul always seems to be in the center of the current conversations about film — he and producer/filmmaker Peter Jackson unleashed the 3D motion capture animated family film The Adventures Of Tintin just days before War Horse was released, made while both iconic directors were busy making huge live-action films of their own. While Spielberg surprisingly did not get nominated for Best Director on War Horse, he’s up for Best Picture as that film’s producer. That is one of two Best Picture nominations for DreamWorks, the other being The Help. Those two films are up for 10 Oscars between them. And Spielberg shows no signs of slowing down. He’s prepping a big science fiction film in Robopocalypse, and he is close to committing to Gods And Kings, a Warner Bros film (DreamWorks would become partner on the film) that would be the most epic Old Testament film about Moses since The Ten Commandments. On a break from shooting his upcoming biopic on Abraham Lincoln, Spielberg took time to reflect on his lessons learned, the advice he’s ignored and the medium he loves.
AWARDSLINE: After Jaws went 100 days over schedule, George Lucas was quoted as saying, ‘Stay away from working on the water and working with kids, old people and live animals.’ Was shooting War Horse with real horses deja vu all over again for you?
SPIELBERG: No, because the horses work. I mean seriously, they work. The nice thing about a living creature is that they do have a mind of their own. And that could be either a worst enemy or it could be your greatest ally as in this case, when all of us started trusting each other, meaning the actors and the horse. The horse actually made material contributions to the experience and added things that we never trained the horse to contribute and that was what was so amazing for me. I don’t want to compare that to Jaws because Jaws was just an aquatic nightmare for me; I mean, all of those stories were true. In this case the horses were in a sense one of the greatest surprises I ever had in making movies.
AWARDSLINE: What kinds of material contributions did the horses make?
SPIELBERG: They brought to many of the scenes a horse sense. If the scene was tense and electrifying, they were on edge and they were reactive and you could see their eyes flaring, you could see their nostrils opening and taking in more air, they were very responsive to the situations that we placed them in. … In many many cases the horse just loved [acting with] Geordie (Toby Kebbell), loved Albert (Jeremy Irvine), and he was much more reactive and responsive and in affectionate way to Albert than anyone else who came near him and you can’t ask for that, you can’t train for that.
AWARDSLINE: What was the appeal of building a movie around World War I for you? Obviously you’ve shot your share of war films.
SPIELBERG: World War I was a part in parcel of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book he wrote in 1982 and it was certainly a very important part of the stage play, [but] what attracted me to the project was really this very soulful narrative about a family of farmers whose very existence depends on the land. And the father buys the wrong horse, yet the horse is able to overcome its own breeding to be able to help the farm through, and the heart the horse displays in that gets transferred over to France in no man’s land. This is really about connections, the connections of courage and hope but mainly about the connections between people and animals and how much this horse brings into everybody’s life. It’s only about 12 minutes of combat in the actual movie.
AWARDSLINE: Saving Private Ryan was a violent, jarring, concussive war film. Here, because you’re making a family film, what did you do differently to make it accessible to families?
SPIELBERG: What I certainly was not going for was human dismemberment and the actual effects of shelling and combat, I’ve done that, and didn’t need to do it again. What I really wanted to do was find a way to allow the audience to fill in the blanks that I wasn’t literally putting in their faces. So, for instance, when the cavalry charges you don’t see a single British cavalryman being shot off the horse nor do you see a single horse being shot back into the ground. You simply see horses with riders and then you see the same horses without riders, and I thought that was sufficient to convey the impression that the technology then suddenly rendered horses useless in war time.
Christmas Cheer! Better Numbers For New Movies; ‘Mission: Impossible’ Still #1; Spielberg’s ‘War Horse’ Exceeds Predictions
TUESDAY AM: 8TH UPDATE: Full weekend wrapup coming… Refresh for latest…
Christmas Day box office numbers for North America are up +60% compared to New Years Eve for the new holiday releases and as much as +86% for the weekend frontrunner Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and +104% for Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows in second place. As for the No. 1 movie, director Brad Bird’s Tom Cruise-Jeremy Renner starrer is definitely going to outgross the M:I franchise’s last actioner which did $135M domestic and $270M overseas. My sources say M:I4 is heading to $175M domestic and $400M overseas — with a budget estimated at $145M. Also, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-buzzed War Horse for DreamWorks/Disney opened in 2,376 theaters today and is overperforming with nearly $7.5M jumping into 3rd place. And that’s despite its 2-hour, 26-minute running time which means fewer screenings. Also opening today is New Regency/Summit Entertainment’s sci-fi thriller The Darkest Hour which debuted today in 2,324 theaters with $2.5M. Fox’s Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked falls to 6th place, while the studio’s We Bought A Zoo moves up a notch to 5th, and Paramount’s The Adventures Of Tintin drops to 7th. More later.
As predicted, Christmas Eve grosses were very soft. (And many international theaters particularly in Europe close early on Christmas Eve and on Christmas.) Paramount’s Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is still having the holiday season’s strongest start for #1. Either Tom Cruise’s career is back from the brink or else moviegoers are in the mood for a full-frills actionfest with heartstopping stunts — or both. The fourquel is showing that this franchise has freshened successfully. Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows is holding in 2nd place, but it was supposed to win the weekend. Guy Ritchie’s thriller just wasn’t thrilling enough for audiences. And its disappointing start shows how fickle fans can be when it comes to movie stars like Robert Downey Jr. Another big surprise is the underperformance of Twentieth Century Fox’s family fare threequel Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked which may show more life over the next week. Sony Pictures’ The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the only major studio wide release that’s R-rated this holiday period. So its lackluster grosses are such a surprise (especially because adults are flocking to specialty box office hits like Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants and The Weinstein Co’s The Artist). Maybe fans of the Steig Larsson novel were satisfied by last year’s Swedish film and weren’t feeling David Fincher’s Hollywood version. But business could pick up next week. Paramount/Sony’s The Adventure Of Tintin is already a hit overseas. But these domestic grosses underwhelm for a Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson collaboration. Then again, Americans don’t have a clue who the Belgian boy hero is. Twentieth Century Fox suffered yet another disappointing debut when its holiday heartwarmer We Bought A Zoo opened really weak despite stars Matt Damon-Scarlett Johansson and director Cameron Crowe and heavy TV advertising and two rounds of national sneaks to build word of mouth. You’d think all those animals would have put more people in seats, like the studio’s previous hit Marley & Me, especially with an ‘A’ CinemaScore. Speaking of animals, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-buzzed War Horse from DreamWorks/Disney opens Sunday in 2,376 theaters and is projected to make $4.5M on Sunday and $8M Monday. Its 2-hour, 26-minute running time means fewer screenings. Question is whether this is family or adult fare.
But just when the Grinch stole Hollywood’s moviegoers comes the stat that overall box office this 3-day weekend is -22% compared to last year. But the 4-day wholiday looks to be up 3% vs last year which also included Christmas Eve. Monday is a U.S. national holiday so look for better box office. That’s when we’ll see clarity on whether the entire holiday period will bring out moviegoers for what is now the very important New Year’s weekend which may lead to much better multiples and totals than usual. Latest Top 10 (order determined by weekend gross):
1. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount) Week 2 [3,448 Runs]
Debuted Friday December 16 in limited release; Expanded Tuesday night December 20; Officially went wide Wednesday December 21
Tuesday $1.7M, Wednesday $8.9M (including $2M midnights), Thursday $6.2M, Friday $9.7M, Saturday $6.1M
3-Day Weekend $26.5M, 4-day Holiday $40.2M
Domestic Cume $72.6M, International Cume $130M (from 50 markets)
2. Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,703 Runs]
Opened wide Friday December 16
Wednesday $4.2M, Thursday $4.8M, Friday $6.7M, Saturday $5M
3-Day Weekend $17.8M (-55%), 4-Day Holiday $25M
Domestic Cume $83.8M, International Cume $46.1M (from 25 markets)
3. Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Fox) Week 2 [3,726 Runs]
Opened wide Friday December 16
Wednesday $3.5M, Thursday $3.9M, Friday $5.4M, Saturday $2.8M
3-Day Weekend $13.3M (-43%), 4-Day Holiday $21.1M
Domestic Cume $58.1M, International Cume $42.1M (from 52 markets)
4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sony) NEW [2,914 Runs]
Debuted Tuesday night December 20; Opened Wednesday December 21
Tuesday $1.6M, Wednesday $5M, Thursday $3.1M, Friday $4.6M, Saturday $2.5M
3-Day Weekend $13M, 4-Day Holiday $20M
Domestic Cume $28.5M, International Cume $950K
5. The Adventures Of Tintin 3D (Paramount) NEW [3,087 Runs]
Opened Wednesday December 21
Wednesday $2.3M, Thursday $2.4M, Friday $3.5M, Saturday $2.4M
3-Day Weekend $9.1M, 4-Day Holiday $14.3M
Domestic Cume $22.3M, International Cume (Sony) $240M
6. We Bought A Zoo (Fox) NEW [3,117 Runs]
Friday $3M, Saturday $1.9M
3-Day Weekend $7.8M, 4-Day Holiday $11.7M
International Cume $1.1M (from 6 markets)
The Oscar race for best director is chock-full of major names and past winners who are back with some of their most acclaimed and anticipated films in years. Consider this: Woody Allen, a past winner in the category for Annie Hall (1977), is back this year with Midnight In Paris, not only his most acclaimed film in years but his most successful at the box office ($131 million worldwide). Martin Scorsese, a winner in 2006 for The Departed, has in Hugo a film that many are calling a masterpiece and one that is perhaps his most personal. Steven Spielberg, a two-time winner in the category for 1993’s Schindler’s List and 1998’s Saving Private Ryan, is having a banner year not only with a possible nomination for best animated feature for his first-ever ’toon The Adventures of Tintin, but he is also expected to be a major player as director of the film adaptation of this year’s big Tony-winning play War Horse. Roman Polanski, 2002 winner for The Pianist, also has a pony in the race with Carnage, the film version of the Broadway smash and Tony winner God Of Carnage. Two-time winner Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby) is competing with J. Edgar, his biopic of controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Past nominees Alexander Payne, Terrence Malick, Stephen Daldry, Bennett Miller, David Fincher, Jason Reitman and George Clooney are also in the hunt in what promises to be one of the most competitive races in years. But could the big prize actually go to a first-time nominee who made a black-and-white silent film?
Here’s the rundown on who are the hot helmers in the race for Oscar this year:
STEVEN SPIELBERG, WAR HORSE
Hollywood’s most famous and powerful director is going for his seventh nomination in the category and first since Munich in 2005 . Previously nominated for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and a winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, this is his best chance to make it a three-peat with his screen adaptation of the beloved book and play War Horse. The epic look at the adventures of a brave horse in World War I has all the elements of a winner: strong emotion, big action scenes and a major pedigree. With his well-reviewed first animated foray Tintin also being released at the same time, Spielberg is a force to be reckoned with this year.
Disney has its work cut out for it turning Steven Spielberg’s old style WWI film War Horse into a holiday family hit, but they’ve done an interesting thing here using the high caliber cast of actors to inject a little salesmanship into the film. War Horse, based on the Michael …
The horse is out of the bag. Steven Spielberg’s much-awaited epic War Horse began its industry screenings in earnest this afternoon, Thanksgiving Day, in both New York and Los Angeles by inviting members (via trade ads and website Monday) of most guilds , critics groups, and, of course, the Academy to special holiday weekend screenings that will continue through Sunday in both cities as well as San Francisco (Fri-Sun). In addition , as previously announced , there will be public sneaks in NYC and nine other cities on Sunday afteroon (10:30AM in LA at AMC Century City) followed by a Q&A with Spielberg in NY that will be satellited to the other cities as well as streamed live on MSN.com. It is an innovative “one-stop shopping” tactic on the part of Dreamworks (and Disney who distributes) since Spielberg is on the east coast currently shooting Lincoln and not available for the usual round of campaign activities. Its “World Premiere” will take place December 4th at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC.
The big launch is on now even though the film was completed for all intents and purposes in September. At the Labor Day weekend Telluride Film Festival producer Kathleen Kennedy told me they only had the D.I. to complete at that time, but even though it was ready the film, which opens on December 25, has skipped the festival circuit in favor of its own circuitous route to release. That included the unusual strategy of employing surprise “pop up” screenings Nov 1-10 in small towns like Bellvue Wa, Leawood and Olathe Ks, Cleveland Heights Oh, Beaverton Or, Bethesda MD and Plymouth Meeting, PA indicating a “heartland” strategy in order to get word of mouth moving . That same week Dreamworks started quietly showing the film to select media (including Deadline) on the big screen at the Disney lot’s main theatre. A strict embargo existed until today right after the first Thanksgiving screening when most media and industry types would have had at least the opportunity to begin seeing it. So expect a lot of industry and media twittering, facebooking and reviews to start almost immediately with still a solid month to go before its Christmas day wide opening.
What Spielberg has wrought is a stunning looking and highly emotional epic that is Hollywood moviemaking at its best, and seems likely to be the filmmaker’s most Academy- friendly work since his Oscar winners, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Is it old-fashioned? You bet , but in this fast-moving techno culture that may be a welcome thing. Spielberg is known to be a great admirer of David Lean and with its sweeping vistas, deliberate pacing and epic story of one horse’s remarkable journey through the front lines of World War I, the film could almost be a tribute to the great director of such classics as Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Just for the craft alone Oscar nominations would seem to be assured for Best Picture and Director, John Williams’ score, Rick Carter’s production design,Michael Kahn’s editing, the sound work and Janusz Kaminski’s striking cinematography. Although there hasn’t been much buzz about the cast which includes Jeremy Irvine, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Mullan, they don’t strike any false notes delivering fine performances, and Tom Hiddleston’s Captain Nichols could even merit some Best Supporting Actor talk though that category is almost impossibly tough this year. As for the horses there should be some kind of separate Academy Award. They are suprisingly expressive (one of them came from Seabiscuit). The film , in look and execution is easily the best of its genre since Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion in 1979, a movie that earned a handful of Oscar nods but shamefully didn’t even get a Cinematography nomination for Caleb Deschanel’s landmark cinematography.
War Horse is probably too emotional and traditional to earn much love on the hardcore unsentimental critics awards circuit, but I imagine it will fare very well at the CCMA’s, Golden Globes, and Oscars, even though some of the Academy’s more recent Best Picture choices, notably No Country For Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker among others indicate a different sensibility than the kind of once-traditional “bigger”, more craft-laden film the Academy once favored, and a category into which War Horse definitely falls. Although The King’s Speech triumph last year over the more trendy critics choice of The Social Network might indicate there is still room for less edgy, more “traditional” films in the heart of the Academy voter. We’ll have to wait to see, but the sheer scope of War Horse certainly gives it its own niche against smaller favored Best Pic hopefuls (seen so far) like The Descendants, The Artist, Midnight In Paris and Moneyball.
On the other hand voters might think Spielberg has had enough accolades (3 Oscars, a Thalberg award, AFI Life Achievement and Kennedy Center Honors), plus
DreamWorks and Disney just moved Steven Spielberg’s War Horse off its December 28 release date and onto Christmas Day. Here’s the latest trailer:
It’s been a busy week for Hollywood studios settling on release dates. Here’s what’s happened:
Unauthorized, Sundance Now, Oct. 7**
Puss In Boots, DreamWorks Animation, Oct. 28 (Nov. 4)
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, Paramount, Dec. 16 sneak previews (Dec. 21*)
The Adventures of Tintin, Paramount, Dec. 21 (Dec. 23)
War Horse, DreamWorks/Touchstone/Disney, Dec. 25 …
Paramount said today that it is shifting the release dates for two of its prime holiday movies. Now, the Steven Spielberg-directed The Adventures of Tintin and the Tom Cruise-starrer Mission: Impossible – …
UPDATE: DreamWorks and Disney have just moved Steven Spielberg’s War Horse off December 28th and onto December 25th. It comes just as Paramount rescheduled the Spielberg-directed Adventures Of Tintin, moving the pic using 3D motion capture technology up to December 21st from December 23rd. Both pictures are already considered tough sells in the North American market.
As for the WWI-era War Horse, the first glimpse looked like a travelogue yet it’s actually Empire Of The Sun meets My Friend Flicka. Word is it’s going to need all of the Disney marketing machine’s help to get it seen although Spielberg and Snider have major awards hopes for it and The Help. That’s going to require a lot of Disney campaigning coin but Mouse House insiders are already complaining about all the demands which DreamWorks 2.0 is making on Disney. (No surprise here: the original DreamWorks did the same when based at Paramount and Universal.) For the rewards to be worth the headaches, the rebooted DreamWorks has to do better box office and help its troubled bottom line. (Athough Spielberg’s deals always benefit Spielberg most of all.) To mitigate all the bad news, the studio is suddenly attempting a PR offensive. Today, the Producers Guild announced that Spielberg will receive the 2012 David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures. And DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider has emerged from petulant silence to suddenly giving on-the-record interviews. She just admitted DreamWorks won’t be buying new scripts and instead will work with those already in hand. She denied the company will be laying off staff or reducing expenses because of its disastrous box office performance.