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Actor to play Nero in J.J. Abrams film
By TATIANA SIEGEL
Eric Bana has signed on to play "Star Trek" villain Nero in Paramount Pictures' bigscreen adaptation of the sci-fi series.
Plot details and even character descriptions of the J.J. Abrams-helmed project are being kept under wraps.
Anton Yelchin, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Leonard Nimoy have already boarded the USS Enterprise. Casting is under way in New York and London, and Abrams had been expected to pursue bigger-name actors for the roles of the villain and the Federation captain, the latter of which remains unfilled.
Par still needs to cast several other major parts before the November start date, including a young James T. Kirk and Scotty.
Abrams is producing the film through his Paramount-based Bad Robot shingle alongside Stratton Leopold. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci wrote the screenplay and will exec produce along with Bryan Burk and Damon Lindelof.
"Star Trek" will bow on Christmas Day 2008.
Bana, who is filming "The Time Traveler's Wife" for New Line, next appears in Sony's "The Other Boleyn Girl" alongside Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.
Studio acquires rights to 'Man'
Universal Pictures has acquired screen rights to "I Am a Man,'' a book Hampton Sides is writing about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis and the manhunt for killer James Earl Ray.
Deal for book rights and scripting fees reached seven figures.
"Black Hawk Down'' author Mark Bowden will write the script, and Stuber/Parent's Scott Stuber and Mary Parent will produce with Marc Platt. All three producers are U-based. Sides set the book up at Doubleday, based on an 11-page proposal that lays out a blueprint for what the author calls ``a compressed historical thriller.'' Sides grew up in Memphis, and the local culture will figure prominently.
King came to Memphis to lead a protest of garbage workers and made the garbage strike part of his Poor People's Campaign. After calling off a first march because of violence, he returned, despite a premonition he would be killed in Memphis. He was shot on a hotel balcony by Ray, who was caught two months later, just before fleeing to Rhodesia.
Sides had been bumping into the King story for years. His father's law firm repped King during the garbage strike, a friend's father was the neurosurgeon who unsuccessfully operated on King's brain, and Ray's lawyer was best friends with the author's father.
Sides is the bestselling author of "Ghost Soldiers'' and "Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West,'' the latter of which is being developed by DreamWorks.
Bowden's Pablo Escobar manhunt tale, "Killing Pablo,'' is being turned into a movie by Joe Carnahan with Javier Bardem. Scott Rudin is developing Bowden's Iran hostage crisis book "Guests of the Ayatollah,'' and Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer set Bowden to adapt "Jihadists in Paradise,'' his Atlantic Monthly feature about the manhunt for Islamic terrorists in the Philippines. He also just inked to pen DreamWorks' untitled actioner about a moon expedition to star Jake Gyllenhaal and be directed by Doug Liman.
Universal is pushing the button on "Land of the Lost" for a March start.
Decision to greenlight the Will Ferrell project surprised observers, who are aware that U had a rough ride with its $160 million comedy "Evan Almighty." Studio sources suggest the budget of "Land of the Lost," described as an event comedy, was recalibrated from $125 million to $100 million in order to earn its start date.
Brad Silberling will helm the bigscreen adaptation of Sid & Marty Krofft's children's skein of the same name. Jimmy Miller is producing along with the Kroffts; Julie Wixson-Darmody and Daniel Lupi exec produce.
Decision to move ahead effectively removes Ferrell from availability for other pre-strike projects on the cusp, such as "Himelfarb" for Warner Bros. The comedian has been attached to "Land of the Lost" for several years. Miller reps Ferrell and the Kroffts, who have long tried to get a bigscreen adaptation of their show made.
Adaptation by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas revolves around a disgraced paleontologist, his assistant and a macho tour guide who find themselves in a strange world inhabited by dinosaurs, monkey people and reptilian Sleestaks.
Donna Langley spearheaded the effort to obtain rights from the Kroffts, who also produced and created smallscreen skeins such as "H.R. Pufnstuf," "Lidsville" and "Donny and Marie."
U.S. Release Date: September 26, 2008
Cast: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson, Ian McShane
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writers: Paul W.S. Anderson
Producers: Jeremy Bolt, Paul W.S. Anderson, Paula Wagner
Executive Producer: Roger Corman
Jason Statham leads the cast of an action-thriller set in the post-industrial wasteland of tomorrow, with the world’s most brutal sporting event as its backdrop. A penitentiary full of felons has inspired the jailers to create a grisly pastime ripe for lucrative kickbacks. Now, adrenalized inmates, a global audience hungry for televised violence and a spectacular arena come together to form the Death Race.
Three-time speedway champion Jensen Ames (Statham) is an expert at survival in the harsh landscape that has become our country. Just as he thinks he has turned his life around, the ex-con is framed for a gruesome murder he didn’t commit. Forced to don the mask of the mythical driver Frankenstein—a crowd favorite who seems impossible to kill—Ames is given an easy choice by Terminal Island’s warden (Joan Allen): suit up or rot away in a cell.
His face hidden by a metallic mask, one convict will be put through an insane three-day challenge. Ames must survive a gauntlet of the most vicious criminals in the country’s toughest prison to claim the prize of freedom. Driving a monster car outfitted with machine guns, flamethrowers and grenade launchers, one desperate man will destroy anything in his path to win the most twisted spectator sport on Earth.
U.S Release Date: August 1, 2008
Genre: Supernatural Adventure
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Wong, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Screenplay by: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Producers: Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel, Stephen Sommers, James Jacks
Executive Producer: Chris Brigham
The blockbuster global Mummy franchise takes a spellbinding turn as the action shifts to Asia for the next chapter in the adventure series, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Brendan Fraser returns as explorer Rick O’Connell to combat the resurrected Han Emperor (Jet Li) in an epic that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the frigid Himalayas. Rick is joined in this all-new adventure by son Alex (newcomer Luke Ford), wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah). And this time, the O’Connells must stop a mummy awoken from a 2,000-year-old curse who threatens to plunge the world into his merciless, unending service.
Doomed by a double-crossing sorceress (Michelle Yeoh) to spend eternity in suspended animation, China’s ruthless Dragon Emperor and his 10,000 warriors have laid forgotten for eons, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army. But when dashing adventurer Alex O’Connell is tricked into awakening the ruler from eternal slumber, the reckless young archaeologist must seek the help of the only people who know more than he does about taking down the undead: his parents.
As the monarch roars back to life, our heroes find his quest for world domination has only intensified over the millennia. Striding the Far East with unimaginable supernatural powers, the Emperor Mummy will rouse his legion as an unstoppable, otherworldly force...unless the O’Connells can stop him first. Now, in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the trademark thrills and visually spectacular action of the Mummy series will be redefined for a new generation.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is helmed by director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, xXx) and written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (Spider-Man 2, television’s Smallville). Reprising their roles as producers in the series are Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel, Stephen Sommers and James Jacks.
Oct 12, 2007
Awards: 1995 BAFTA Film Award for best film "Four Weddings and a Funeral"; 1985 Festival de Cannes Award of the Youth Foreign Film for "Dance With a Stranger."
Current credit: Director of New Line's adaptation of the classic Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel "Love in the Time of Cholera," which traces the epic love story between a hopeless romantic and the woman who spurns his advances for nearly 50 years.
Memberships: Directors Guild of America. Academy member since 1987
THR: Was it intimidating to make the first adaptation of such a revered novel as "Love in the Time of Cholera"?
Mike Newell: Immensely intimidating, but I suppose that the most intimidating thing of all was that you were dealing with a sacred text, (which it) was for me when I first read it. When I heard that it was around, I immediately jumped in and set my cap at it. The thing I most loved about the book was how humane it was, how it's about real life.
THR: Were you surprised that the producers settled on an English director when the novel is such a hallmark of Latino literature?
Newell: I had thought they would not (choose) a gringo, actually. Anyway, they did. You can never really tell why you get films. In the end, if you get any old malarkey from anyone, the answer, (spoken) very crisply, is: "That's absolutely fine. I'll lay off Marquez if you lay off Shakespeare."
THR: Did Marquez have a great deal of input before production began?
Newell: Marquez sent me a set of (script) notes, which were very tough. Not that he disliked it, but he knew what he had written. One thing he said was, "Where is my stitchwork?" What he meant by that -- he tells you the story and then he folds it back, and he tells it again with stuff added and subtracted. Then he tells you again so the thing is constantly re-examined. It's like making puff pastry. You roll it out and fold it and roll it out and fold it. It comes in these infinitely thin layers. I couldn't find a cinematic equivalent for that. Everyone says, "Oh, Marquez, that's magical realism," but you can't just go to the magical realism shop.
THR: Has he seen the finished film?
Newell: About six weeks ago he saw the movie. We were all tremendously nervous, but he liked it. So there's a huge relief there because in his judgment you haven't betrayed the material. He offered to write the subtitles for the Spanish (edition), which was fabulous. It was an impulsive offer, so I don't actually know (if he'll do them).
THR: Changing gears a bit: You became a feature filmmaker after years in television. What's the appeal of the small screen over working in cinema?
Newell: Speed. There's terrific juice that has come from the speed of television. TV's such a buzz, always was. I was on the newsroom on my very first job, about six weeks in, when the news of the (President John F.) Kennedy assassination came in, and we were the first company in (England) to get it while we were on the air. Of course it's a terrible thing to say, but you didn't realize in the next 36 hours what had happened. It didn't hit you emotionally because you were so excited. The station didn't go off the air for 24 solid hours, and that meant that everybody had to work.
THR: What are your thoughts on the state of television currently?
Newell: American television is in a really good phase at the moment -- it does wonderful dramatic things. My children are locked to (NBC's) "Heroes," and (ABC's) "Lost" is just great. Television mustn't take itself that seriously -- "The West Wing" can't take itself that seriously, and at the same time, it's a fantastic conduit for all sorts of powerful things that the people who make that show believe in. You can do lots of really excellent things on TV, and at the same time, if you don't do them with flair and get on with it, nothing will save you. The lesson of TV is to commit and get on with it.
THR: Despite your decades in the business, you've yet to be honored by either the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards. Does that rankle?
Newell: No, honestly. No award I ever got did I ever expect. If what you do is to go out there and think, "This is the one," then it won't be. Hitchcock never earned an Oscar; he was given a "cheer up, old chap -- we'll give you one for free" award. There are lots of directors who should have those things who never have, and vice versa. The reason you get a release like (the Nov. 16 premiere of "Cholera") is that it's a selling tool, but that's more to do with the studio selling the film as a certain kind of experience than it is to do with trying to win an Oscar. What I would prefer is if nobody took it seriously and piled in and had a good time. That would be a much better way of satisfying an audience.
THR: There is a great mixed message in awards season releases, as if the studios are saying, "This is a great enduring film that deserves awards, but we have to release it at the end of the year so you don't forget it."
Newell: (Laughs) Can you see how instantly that would drive you completely nuts? The worst thing would be if you would start to believe it might happen, at which time -- sayonara.
By Borys Kit Oct 16, 2007
Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore and John Malkovich have joined Angelina Jolie in "Changeling," a true life drama that Clint Eastwood is directing for Universal and Imagine. The story follows a woman (Jolie) whose son goes missing in 1920s Los Angeles. The police return the wrong child and the woman is thrown into an insane asylum for disagreeing with the LAPD. When it seems that her real son has been murdered by a child serial killer and the child returned admits to fraud, she takes her case to the city council and takes down the mayor, the police chief and several corrupt officers, concurrently sparking changes in the insanity legislation. Donovan will play a police captain, Feore the chief of police and Malkovich a reverend. Also joining the cast are Jason Butler Harner ("John Adams"), who portrays a mechanic accused of murdering the woman's son, as well as Amy Ryan and Michael Kelly. Donovan is the star of USA Networks' "Burn Notice," the Matt Nix-created show that became a hit this summer. He is repped by Paradigm.
Feore, repped by Endeavor, will be seen as a series regular on the upcoming season of Fox's "24," in which he plays first husband opposite Tony winner Cherry Jones as the president. Malkovich will next be seen starring in Robert Zemeckis' "Beowulf" and stars in "The Great Buck Howard." He is repped by Endeavor and Finch & Partners.
"Lord of the Rings" veteran Karl Urban is strapping on a stethoscope to play Leonard "Bones" McCoy, the Starship's Enterprise's medical officer, in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" feature.
Chris Pine, meanwhile, closed his deal to star as the young Captain Kirk. He had been in talks to play Kirk as well as a role opposite George Clooney in Joe Carnahan's "White Jazz." The two movies overlapped, and Pine was forced to choose between them, opting to make the "Trek." Abrams has been furiously casting "Trek," with John Cho (Sulu), Simon Pegg (Scotty) and Eric Bana (the villainous Nero) joining the film last week.
Also on board are Zoe Saldana as the young Uhura, Anton Yelchin as the young Chekov and Zachary Quinto as the young Spock. Leonard Nimoy, who originated the role of Spock, also will be part of the film.
The Paramount Pictures project is expected to shoot from November to March.
Plot details are begin kept under wraps, but it is understood that the movie chronicles the early days of the Enterprise crew.
The character of McCoy, originated by DeForest Kelley, didn't trust advanced technology and frequently sparred with Spock in debates of logic vs. emotion. Bones also was responsible for several of "Trek's" catchphases, including "He's dead, Jim" and "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a . . .," ending in a profession in which he had no training.
Urban, from New Zealand, played Eomer in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. His feature credits include "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Pathfinder."
Jake Gyllenhaal will team with helmer Doug Liman for DreamWorks' "Untitled Moon Project."
Actioner revolves around a private expedition to the moon and the race for lunar colonization.
Screenplay was originally penned by Liman and John Hamburg. Author-screenwriter Mark Bowden ("Black Hawk Down") did a complete reconception of the story and will pen the screenplay.
The project marks the return of Alli Shearmur, former Paramount co-president of production, who ankled the studio earlier this year. She will produce alongside Simon Kinberg and Liman. Liman and one-time Universal exec Shearmur developed a strong relationship back when Liman directed "The Bourne Identity" for the studio. Shearmur also worked with Gyllenhaal when she oversaw production on "Zodiac."
DreamWorks has targeted the project for the fast track.
Gyllenhaal will next shoot the Jim Sheridan-helmed "Brothers" opposite Tobey Maguire. Liman, whose helming credits include "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "Swingers," directed the upcoming futuristic "Jumper," which 20th Century Fox will release early next year.
Lisa Kudrow has joined Emma Roberts and Don Cheadle in DreamWorks' live-action canine caper "Hotel for Dogs." Johnny Simmons also is joining the film, which is being directed by Thor Freudenthal. "Dogs," based on Lois Duncan's 1971 children's book, revolves around two orphaned teenagers who secretly house nine stray canines in an abandoned hotel. Kudrow will play a foster parent to two siblings, one of which is Roberts' character. Simmons will play the love interest of Roberts' character.
Lauren Shuler Donner, Jack Leslie and Jon Gordon are producing the film, which is set to begin shooting early next month. Jeff Lowell penned the screenplay. Kudrow's upcoming feature projects include the comedy drama "P.S., I Love You" and "Kabluey." She also will star in and produce the black comedy "Intense Girl Scouts" for Sony.Simmons, who recently joined Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson in Frank Miller's "The Spirit" for Lionsgate, next appears in Columbia's horror feature "Boogieman 2." He also appeared in Universal's "Evan Almighty." Kudrow is repped by Endeavor and attorney Mark Gochman. Simmons is repped by Endeavor, Untitled Entertainment and attorney Frank Stewart.
A man arrested in connection with the theft of computers and photos from the upcoming "Indiana Jones" movie has been charged with receiving stolen property.
Roderick Eric Davis, 37, of Cerritos pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in Beverly Hills Superior Court on Thursday and was ordered held on $100,000 bail, a court clerk said.
Davis, who had prior convictions for burglary, grand theft and receiving stolen property, faces at least four years in prison if convicted in the latest case, prosecutors said.
A call to a public defender who represented Davis in court wasn't immediately returned.
Davis was arrested Tuesday by Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators probing the theft of materials taken from a film production office on the Universal Studios lot last week.
The stolen items were "motion picture production budget and proofs" related to the fourth installment of the popular adventure series, prosecutors said.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett and Shia LaBeouf, is set for release next year.
When detectives learned that some of the photos were being offered for sale to several entertainment gossip Web sites, they posed as potential buyers and set up a meeting at a hotel. When Davis arrived, the undercover detectives began negotiating for the photos before arresting him on suspicion of receiving stolen property, Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
The investigation was ongoing and authorities were searching for more suspects, he said.
Universal has bumped "Leatherheads" into next year to give injured director-star George Clooney time to incorporate additional footage and honor previous commitments.
The period football pic was skedded for Dec. 7, but will now bow on April 4. Clooney is also producer of the romantic drama, which co-stars Renee Zellweger.
The busy multihyphenate is tubthumping "Michael Clayton" for Warners and filming the Coen brothers' comedy "Burn After Reading," which also stars Brad Pitt.
Clooney broke his rib on Sept. 21 in a New Jersey motorcycle accident in which galpal Sarah Larson was also injured.
"Leatherheads" is Clooney's third directing vehicle after "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."
Universal is extending the football season to April. George Clooney's crush of other commitments has resulted in the studio's pushing the wide release of his 1920s pigskin pic "Leatherheads" to April 4, officials said Thursday.
Directed, co-written and toplined by Clooney, the romantic comedy involves the owner of a professional team who falls for the fiancee of one of his players. "Leatherheads" had been set for wide release Dec. 7."Due to (Clooney's) publicity schedule on Warner Bros.' 'Michael Clayton,' his concurrent shooting schedule on Focus Features' 'Burn After Reading' and his recent motorcycle injury, we have moved the release date of 'Leatherheads,' " a Uni spokeswoman said. "This will allow Clooney the time he needs to finish the film and for us to get maximum trailer play during the holiday period."Clayton" debuts Friday with exclusive engagements and likely Clooney promo stints, but the actor is hardly alone in his busy schedule of commitments. Top talent has been booked solid of late, thanks to studios' accelerating film production due to the threat of spring labor strife.Meanwhile, "Leatherheads" lands on its new date with the aplomb of an offensive lineman hitting a mud puddle.
It becomes the seventh pic set for wide release that weekend, though clearly one or more will be moved before then.Squarely in the "not moving" category is Fox's Jodie Foster-Dakota Fanning fantasy "Nim's Island." Just last week, the studio nudged "Island" forward from April 25 to position the high-profile pic to play through a relatively light mid-April schedule. New Line said its hanging tough for now with its comedy sequel "Harold & Kumar II," though release schedules always are fluid and lots can still happen."At this point in time, there's no reason to move the picture," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said. Tuckerman said he sees little overlap between likely audiences for his comedy and the Clooney romancer.
Other wide openers set for April 4 include MGM's "Henry Poole Is Here," with Luke Wilson and Adriana Baraza; Paramount's lit-adaptation thriller "The Ruins"; the Djimon Hounsou starrer "Get Some," from Summit Entertainment; and Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones docu "Shine a Light" from Paramount Vantage. Even Uni has another pic set for wide release that weekend: the youthful romantic comedy "Wild Child," from Working Title. Uni spokeswoman Stacy Ivers said execs haven't decided whether to move the Emma Roberts starrer "Child" to another date."It's too soon for us to say," Ivers said. "Watch this space."
Universal has booked bigscreen rights to the children's tome "The Night Tourist" in a high six-figure deal.
Chris Meledandri's new animation and family banner will develop the adaptation for the studio.
Katherine Marsh's young adult tome, published by Hyperion Children's last month, revolves around a ninth-grade classics prodigy who discovers Gotham's underworld with the help of a girl he meets at Grand Central Station. He discovers many secrets about his pal while searching for a glimpse of his late mother in this secret world.
Meledandri, Courtney Pledger and John Cohen are producing. No writer has been attached yet.
Meledandri exited Fox earlier this year to set up U's toon unit, which is in the process of gearing up. It is expected to produce two to three animated and live-action pics a year. U is providing initial financing and will distribute the pics worldwide under an exclusive five-year agreement.
Eddie Murphy and helmer Brian Robbins are in final negotiations to reteam for the DreamWorks comedy "A Thousand Words."
Pair recently collaborated on the laffers "Norbit" for DreamWorks and the upcoming "Starship Dave" for 20th Century Fox.
Story centers on a glib man who finds out that he has only 1,000 words left to speak before he dies. Steve Koren ("Click") penned the screenplay.
Alain Chabat, Stephanie Danan, Nicolas Cage and Norm Golightly are producing.
Robbins and Sharla Sumpter, Bridgett are expected to come on to produce via Robbins' DreamWorks-based Varsity Pictures shingle. DreamWorks is eyeing a pre-strike start date.
Murphy is currently shooting the comedy "Nowhereland" for Paramount Pictures. He has several projects in development at various studios, including a bigscreen adaptation of "Fantasy Island" at Columbia Pictures.
Multihyphenate Robbins also directed "The Shaggy Dog," "The Perfect Score" and "Varsity Blues."
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are in negotiations to reunite for the fourth installment of the "Fast and the Furious" action franchise.
The story line of Universal's as-yet-untitled installment is being kept under wraps, but fast cars are involved. A spring start is anticipated with shooting in Los Angeles, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
The first "Furious," released in 2001, was a surprise hit, grossing more than $144 million and making stars our of Diesel and Walker. Only Walker returned for the 2003 sequel, "2 Fast 2 Furious," and he sat out the third installment, 2005's "Tokyo Drift."
That movie had relative newcomer Lucas Black in the driver's seat but did feature Diesel in a cameo at the end of the movie. His appearance was so well received that it was even mentioned in ads.
Justin Lin and Chris Morgan, who were behind "Tokyo Drift," are returning to directing and writing duties, respectively.
Diesel most recently appeared in Sidney Lumet's "Find Me Guilty" and next stars in Fox's "Babylon A.D." Walker recently wrapped production on the indie drama "The Heaven Project."
2 veteran drivers on 'Fast' track
Rev those engines!
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are in negotiations to reunite for the fourth installment of Universal's "Fast and the Furious" franchise. Justin Lin and Chris Morgan, who were behind "Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," are returning to directing and writing duties, respectively.Neal Moritz will produce the as-yet-untitled installment along with Diesel, who will produce through his One Race Films banner. The story line is being kept under wraps, but fast cars are involved. A spring start is anticipated with shooting in Los Angeles, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The first "Furious," released in 2001, was a surprise hit, grossing more than $144 million and creating a franchise for the studio while making stars our of Diesel and Walker. Only Walker returned for the sequel, "2 Fast 2 Furious," and sat out the third installment, 2005's "Tokyo Drift." That movie had relative newcomer Lucas Black in the driver's seat but did feature Diesel in a cameo at the end of the movie. His appearance was so well received that it was even mentioned in ads.
Jeff Kirschenbaum is overseeing for the studio.
Diesel most recently appeared in Sidney Lumet's "Find Me Guilty" and next stars in Fox's "Babylon A.D." He is repped by CAA, the Firm and Nelson Felker.
Walker, repped by CAA and Luber Roklin Entertainment, recently wrapped production on the indie drama "The Heaven Project."
Universal has snapped up "Girly Style," a pitch from "Juno" scribe Diablo Cody -- possibly the only writer in town to have started out as a stripper. Mason Novick is on board to produce "Girly," described as a female-driven comedy set at a college. Cody pitched to Uni president of production Donna Langley and vp production Lawrence Grey, who bought it into the room. Grey will oversee for the studio. Novick discovered Cody's quirky writing style on a blog, and upon learning she also had written a novel, helped her secure a literary agent. Cody's comedic memoir, "Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper," was published by Gotham in December. Cody sold "Juno," her first screenplay, to Mandate Pictures in 2005. That film, directed by Jason Reitman, was the runner-up for the Audience Award at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and is generating awards buzz in advance of its Dec. 14 release. Cody is repped by Gersh and the law firm of Colden McKuin & Frankel.
Universal nabs Getty kidnap filmPeter Berg to develop film based on 'Heirs'
Universal Pictures and Peter Berg will develop a drama about the 1973 kidnapping of oil heir Jean Paul Getty III. Studio has acquired screen rights to the John Pearson book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty.
Berg's Film 44 will produce with Chris Clark.
Robin Shushan has been set to write the script. She is adapting The Contortionists Handbook for GreeneStreet.
The grandson of the oil billionaire, Getty was snatched at age 16, with a $17 million ransom demanded. When the family didn't reply fast enough to the ransom note, Gettys captors forwarded an envelope that contained his ear, with a promise that more pieces would follow. Ultimately, the ransom was paid, Getty was found in southern Italy, and the kidnappers got away with the fortune.
Berg, who is coming off The Kingdom, recently pacted to make a movie about the 2006 Kentucky Derby-winning racehorse Barbaro and its attempt to heal after shattering a leg in the Preakness, based on a Buzz Bissinger-penned article in Vanity Fair.
Berg is shooting Hancock, with Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman.
By Carly Mayberry
Oct 2, 2007British scribe Steven Moffat is writing DreamWorks' "Tintin," the movie trilogy collaboration from Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg that adapts the European comic strip created by Herge. Moffat is best known for penning the new "Doctor Who" series and the BBC's "Jekyll." In the comics, Tintin is a young Belgian reporter and world traveler who is aided in his adventures by his faithful dog Snowy. He later was joined by such colorful characters as Captain Haddock, Professor Cuthbert Calculus and bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson. The books, hugely popular in Europe, have been translated into 50 languages with more than 200 million sold. Kathleen Kennedy is serving as producer on the three feature films, which will be made using performance-capture technology and produced in digital 3-D. Jackson and Spielberg are each directing an installment, with the helmer of the third movie to be determined. Moffat's other credits include penning the British version of the television series "Coupling." He is repped by UTA and London's Berlin Associates.
There Will Be Blood:
Bottom Line: Daniel Day-Lewis stuns in Paul Thomas Anderson's saga of a soul-dead oil man.
By John DeFore
Oct 1, 2007
Daniel Day-Lewis plays a prospector who seemingly exists to do nothing but find and sell oil.
AUSTIN -- Both an epic and a miniature, Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" uses the fewest possible brush strokes, spread across a vast canvas, to paint a portrait of greed at the beginning of the American century. Built around another powerhouse performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, it's a certain awards contender and will be a strong draw for serious moviegoers.
Partially shot in Marfa, Texas, and stretching across three decades -- just enough time for an infant to rise up and defy his father -- it begs comparison to another Marfa production, "Giant." "Blood" has none of that film's melodramatic sprawl, though. Instead, it pares allegory-friendly material down to the elementals. It shows not the birth of the American oil business but the origin of a certain kind of oil man -- self-made, hands-on, destined for great wealth but doomed to not enjoy it -- then pits this capitalistic force of nature against its Bible-thumping mirror image, hinting at the culture-shaping sibling rivalry between the influence of God and of Mammon in America.
Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a prospector introduced in a wordless sequence showing his progression from heavy-bearded miner to civilized man with prospects: In the entire first reel, the only dialogue we hear is a muttered "there she is" as Plainview finds his buried treasure. The soundtrack is dominated by wilding clouds of strings that bestow on petroleum the mysterious power of Stanley Kubrick's famous obelisk.
That music, by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, is captivating and sometimes intense, greatly contributing to the sense that tectonic forces lie beneath the drama.
The film then makes up for lost time as Plainview addresses a gathering of country landowners in hopes of talking his way onto their property. In Day-Lewis' hands, the spiel becomes a John Huston-ish seduction, a velvet rumble about how qualified he is to suck oil from their dirt and transmute it to wealth for them and their children. When his listeners hesitate before taking the bait, Plainview refuses them a second chance, moving briskly to the next-best prospect. Eventually, he lands a territory with vast, empire-building potential, and the film settles down there, watching him struggle to exploit the discovery.
The film isn't as bloody as its title suggests, but from the start it makes the most of what violence it contains. The dangers of digging for oil are starkly depicted, and at one point -- during a hair-raising sequence in which a just-struck gusher catches fire -- Plainview's young adopted son takes a fall that costs him his hearing.
That loss and a more mysterious family matter are all we see of Plainview's personal life; he seemingly exists to do nothing but find and sell oil. An obstacle arrives in the person of Paul Dano's Eli Sunday, a self-styled man of God hoping to funnel as much as possible of his congregation's impending wealth into glorifying the Almighty. Barely old enough to shave, Sunday spellbinds listeners with frenzied exorcisms and threatens to steer his flock away from the man who needs their land.
Director Anderson's critics might not know what to do with this picture, which has none of the attention-grabbing flourishes of earlier films -- no hailstorms of frogs or deus ex machina pianos here. The closest it gets to self-conscious showiness is its closing scene, a confrontation as memorably strange as the fireworks-popping, "Jessie's Girl"-belting drug deal in "Boogie Nights." Its setting is as visually spare (a highlight of Jack Fisk's brilliant production design) as the other was decadent and cluttered, and eventually the scene makes good on the title's promise -- but only after offering a virtuoso humiliation to mirror one Plainview suffers earlier in the story.
Even here, though, what could be mere showboating serves as the last step on the path "Blood" started out on: drawing us slowly and with steadily increasing horror into the bitter worldview of a man whose name suggests he sees the world for what it is.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Ghoulardi Film Co./Paramount Vantage/Miramax Films/Scott Rudin Prods.
Director-screenwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson
Based on the novel by: Upton Sinclair
Producers: Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi, Joanne Sellar
Executive producers: Scott Rudin, Eric Schlosser
Director of photography: Robert Elswit
Production designer: Jack Fisk
Music: Jonny Greenwood
Costume designer: Mark Bridges
Editors: Tatiana S. Riegel, Dylan Tichenor
Daniel Plainview: Daniel Day-Lewis
Eli Sunday: Paul Dano
H.W.: Dillion Freasier
Fletcher Hamilton: Ciaran Hinds
Running time -- 158 minutes
MPAA rating: R
Reynolds tapped to script Uni film
"Nightmare Academy" by Dean Lorey
David Reynolds has been tapped to write "Nightmare Academy," Universal's adaptation of the kid-lit series by Dean Lorey. Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay are producing. The trilogy, the first book of which was published in August by HarperCollins, is set in an academy that trains young adults who are responsible for policing nightmares. Last year, Universal bought the rights to the trilogy for high-six figures. Reynolds made a name for himself in the animation field, with credits including "A Bug's Life" and "Chicken Little." He shared an Oscar nomination with Andrew Stanton and Bob Peterson for writing "Finding Nemo" and worked on "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" for Fox. Reynolds is repped by Generate and Ziffen Brittenham.
Universal Pictures has acquired Marcy Kaplan's comic pitch "Replacing the Nanny," with Kaplan to pen the script.
Stuber/Parent's Mary Parent and Scott Stuber will produce.
Kaplan tapped into post-wedding personal experience for "Replacing the Nanny." The comedy focuses on the traumatic experience that a new mother faces when she finds the perfect nanny but is then faced with having to replace her.
"I can only write what I know, and I think that the bizarre relationship that we develop with nannies is something that is relatable to a lot of mothers," said Kaplan, who has twin daughters.
Though Kaplan has worked mostly as an actress, she gained momentum as a writer through "The Pre-Nup," a short film that she wrote and starred in about a woman whose dream wedding to a Hollywood mogul is imperiled after his lawyer presents her with a 102-page prenuptial agreement. The plot was informed by her marriage to manager Eric Gold. The short has won several fest awards, and Kaplan plans to turn it into a low-budget feature. Gold exec produced it with his wife.
Kaplan is writing the comedy for a specific actress she wouldn't name. Kaplan hopes to star in the feature version of "The Pre-Nup" but isn't tied to act in "Replacing the Nanny."
Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren and Robin Wright Penn are in negotiations to join Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Jason Bateman in "State of Play," Working Title and Universal's adaptation of the BBC miniseries. Kevin Macdonald is directing. The story follows a congressman (Norton) and his former campaign manager-turned journalist (Pitt) who find themselves on opposite sides after the politician's research assistant and mistress turns up dead. McAdams will play the youngest reporter at Washington Globe, who gets caught up in a murder conspiracy. Mirren is the newspaper's tough editor, and Wright Penn is the congressman's ex-wife. Matthew Michael Carnahan and Tony Gilroy worked on the script. Working Title's Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan are producing along with Andrew Hauptman. Paul Abbott is exec producing.
McAdams is shooting "The Time Traveler's Wife" for New Line, in which she stars opposite Eric Bana. She recently wrapped Neil Burger's "The Return" opposite Tim Robbins and Michael Pena. She is repped by UTA, Magnolia Entertainment and attorney Howard Fishman.
Mirren, repped by CAA, next appears in "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," followed by "Inkheart."
CAA-repped Wright Penn next appears in Robert Zemeckis' "Beowulf."
Aaron Eckhart costars in Universal film
Universal Pictures has set Jennifer Aniston to star with Aaron Eckhart in "Traveling," a drama that marks the directing debut of Brandon Camp.
Camp wrote the script with longtime writing partner Mike Thompson.
Aniston will play a floral designer who works in a Seattle hotel where a charismatic self-help guru is conducting a weekend seminar on coping with grief. As they get to know each other, she factors heavily into the guru's realization that he practices none of the principles he teaches.
Stuber/Parent's Scott Stuber and Mary Parent will produce with Thompson. Shooting begins early next year.
Aniston is shooting a small role in New Line's ensembler "She's Just Not That Into You" and moves right into the Stephen Belber-directed "Management" with Steve Zahn. She is also booked to star in the David Frankel-directed Fox 2000 pic "Marley & Me" with Owen Wilson, but that picture has been postponed until at least spring.
Peter Berg-directed Universal drama "The Kingdom," produced by Stuber and Parent, opens this weekend.
Jason Bateman has been set to join Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in "State of Play," the Kevin Macdonald-directed adaptation of the British miniseries for Universal Pictures and Working Title.
Drama revolves around a newspaper's investigation of the murder of a girlfriend of a fast-rising congressman, played by Norton. Pitt plays the former campaign manager of the pol who spearheads the paper's investigation, and Bateman will play one of the key reporters chasing the story.
Andrew Hauptman produces with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Paul Abbott, who created the mini, exec produces.
Bateman will next be seen in the ensemble of the Peter Berg-directed Universal drama "The Kingdom," and then in Zack Helm-directed "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" and the Jason Reitman-directed "Juno." U also is developing "Remarkable Fellows," a pitch by Bateman to be written and directed by Joe Carnahan.
Bateman's also in production on the Berg-directed "Hancock" with Will Smith and Charlize Theron.
The bus had become something of a shrine for Christopher McCandless, the subject of Penn's latest movie, "Into the Wild," a young man who died of starvation there in 1992 after four months of trying to live off the land.
McCandless had taken shelter in the bus, which still held pots, pans and other artifacts he left behind after all those years. His boots had remained on director Penn's previous trips to scout locations and film the movie, which opens Friday, starring Emile Hirsch as McCandless.
But two months ago, Penn went camping at the bus site with Jon Krakauer, whose best-seller was the basis for the film.
"Somebody took off their own boots and replaced them with Chris' boots," Penn said in an interview last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Into the Wild" played. "The boots that were left behind were better than Chris," making clear to Penn that the perpetrator wasn't simply looking to upgrade his footwear.
"I can't help but think it was related to some of the imminent discussion about the movie coming, and somebody hungering to have an eBay item," Penn said.
McCandless' story made national headlines, prompting both sympathy for his experiment in self-denial and criticism that he brought his fate on himself for trekking ill-equipped and ill-prepared into a harsh land.
His death followed a two-year trek around North America in which McCandless sought to divest himself of the trappings of the material world and live life at its simplest.
She is repped by Gersh and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
Even if Spielberg and Geffen exit their deal at Par, as they have threatened to do, the "Transformers" property stays at the Melrose lot, as do all other DreamWorks projects.
Set 10 years after the events in The Phantom Menace. After an assassination attempt on the life of Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his Padawan learner Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are sent to investigate. After tracking down the assassin, she is killed before any information can be driven out of her.
The two Jedi are then sent on two different missions, Anakin is sent to Naboo with Padme and Obi-Wan is sent to the planet of Kamino where he will investigate the assassination attempts. Little does he know, he is investigating some of the biggest events of the Star Wars saga, as he finds out that there is a connection between the assassination attempts and a separtists movement led by a former Jedi (Christopher Lee) against the Republic. The Galactic Republic finds itself at the brink of a civil war.
A Jedi shall not know anger. Nor hatred. Nor love.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Silas Carson, Kenny Baker, Christopher Lee, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: George Lucas
Screenplay by: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales
Release Date: May 16th, 2002.
Duration: 2 hrs. 22 min.
MPAA Rating: PG (for sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence)
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Star Wars Cutouts
When the evil Trade Federation plots to take over the peaceful planet of Naboo, Jedi warrior Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi embark on an amazing adventure to save the planet. With them on their journey is the young queen Amidala, Gungan outcast JarJar Binks, and the powerful Captain Panaka, who will all travel to the faraway planets of Tatooine and Coruscant in a futile attempt to save their world from Darth Sidious, leader of the Trade Federation, and Darth Maul, the strongest Dark Lord of the Sith to ever wield a lightsaber.
The first of three prequels to George Lucas’s celebrated STAR WARS films, EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE is set some 30 years before STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE in the era of the Republic. Naboo, a peaceful planet governed by the young, but wise Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), is being threatened by the corrupt Trade Federation, puppets of an evil Sith lord and his terrifying apprentice, Darth Maul (Ray Park). The seemingly benevolent Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is chief adviser to the queen, though there are suspicions surrounding him. Jedi knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, performing an amazing vocal interpretation of Alec Guinness, the older Obi-Wan) are called on to intervene in the trade disputes.
Along the way, they acquire an apprentice of their own in the form of young prodigal Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), or as STAR WARS fans know him, the future Darth Vader. They also encounter Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), a goofy, lizardlike creature who has been banished from his underwater world for his clumsiness. When the Trade Federation launches an attack on Naboo, the queen and her allies must battle hordes of robot troopers while Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan face off against the sinister Darth Maul.
One of the most anticipated films of all time, THE PHANTOM MENACE sets the stage for the tumultuous events to come. Lucas fills the screen with detailed sci-fi creatures and locations, revealing the most creative and exquisite sets, costumes, character designs to hit the screen since the original trilogy.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August
Directed and Screenplay by: George Lucas
Release Date: May 19th, 1999.
Duration: 2 hrs. 11 min.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fiaction violence.
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Directed and Written by: Greg Coolidge
Starring: Jessica Simpson, Dane Cook, Dax Shepard, Efren Ramirez, Andy Dick
Distributed by: Lions Gate Films
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual humor and language.
Release Date: September 29, 2006
For customers of Super Club, the largest high-volume, bulk-discount retailer in the country, membership has its privileges. For workers at the cavernous store, the most coveted honor is the "Employee of the Month" award, and having one's photo immortalized on the wall of fame in the staff lounge. Enter Zack Bradley (Dane Cook) and Vince Downey (Dax Shepard), two ultra competitive Super Club workers whose ten years of employment have resulted in drastically different career paths.
While Vince – with the aid of his trusty sidekick Jorge (Efren Ramirez) -- has advanced to become head cashier and winner of 17 consecutive "E of M" awards, Zack is the ultimate slacker whose scruffy appearance and laid back attitude has made him popular with his colleagues, but kept him stuck in the lowly ranks of the store's box boys.
The duo's longtime rivalry comes to a bitter head when Amy (Jessica Simpson) – a beautiful new cashier with a reputation of only dating "Employee of the Month" winners – transfers to the store, immediately becoming the object of both Zack and Vince's affection and often comical gamesmanship.
While Vince instantly impresses Amy with his crowd pleasing, flamboyant style behind his checkstand register, Zack's feeble attempts to charm his beautiful new co-worker quickly backfire against him. With the race to win Amy's affections slipping away, Zack determines his only chance rests in winning the store's next "Employee of the Month" award. A battle to the end, "Employee of the Month" shows that the only failure in life is when one fails to try.
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Starring: Milla Jovovich, Mike Epps, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Chris Egan, Sienna Guillory, Jason O'Mara, Ashanti, Iain Glen
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Screenplay by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Release Date: September 21st, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence throughout and some nudity.
Studio: Screen Gems (Sony)
It’s the end of the world….
The experimental T-Virus, concocted by the Umbrella Corporation, has been unleashed on the world, transforming the population into a scourge of shambling zombies with a taste for flesh.
With no safety in the cities, Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps), along with new survivors Claire (Ali Larter), K-Mart (Spencer Locke) and Nurse Betty (Ashanti), have gathered a group of survivors and taken to the road … traversing the empty desert highways in an armored convoy. What they seek is more of their kind - the living … the uninfected. What they find is the other constant presence in the desert: the Undead - and they’ll need dozens of guns, thousands of bullets and a pair of flamethrowers to protect themselves.
Hidden beneath an abandoned Nevada radio tower are the sleek offices and research facilities of the Umbrella Corporation. With access to Umbrella’s constant realtime satellite surveillance, Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) can keep constant tabs on the convoy … but he’s searching for the one person who not only is the key to a cure, but everything Umbrella’s experiments have been leading up to … Alice.
Best Picture: CIMARRON
Best Actor: Lionel Barrymore, in A FREE SOUL
Best Actress: Marie Dressier, in MIN AND BILL
Best Director: Norman Taurog, for SKIPPY
Best Picture: GRAND HOTEL
Best Actor: Wallace Beery, in THE CHAMP
Fredric March, in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (tie)
Best Actress: Helen Hayes, in THE SIN OF MADELON CLAUDET
Best Director: Frank Borzage, for BAD GIRL
Best Picture: CAVALCADE
Best Actor: Charles Laughton, in THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII
Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn, in MORNING GLORY
Best Director: Frank Lloyd, for CAVALCADE
Best Picture: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT
Best Actor: Clark Gable, in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT
Best Actress: Claudette Colbert, in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT
Best Director: Frank Capra, for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT
Best Picture: MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY
Best Actor: Victor McLaglen, in THE INFORMER
Best Actress: Bette Davis, in DANGEROUS
Best Director: John Ford, for THE INFORMER
Best Picture: THE GREAT ZIEGFELD
Best Actor: Paul Muni, in THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR
Best Actress: Luise Rainer, in THE GREAT ZIEGFELD
Best Director Frank Capra, for MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN
Best Picture: THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA
Best Actor: Spencer Tracy, in CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Best Actress: Luise Rainer, in THE GOOD EARTH
Best Director:Leo McCarey, for THE AWFUL TRUTH
Best Picture: YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU
Best Actor: Spencer Tracy, in BOYS TOWN
Best Actress: Bette Davis, in JEZEBEL
Best Director: Frank Capra, for YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU
Best Picture: GONE WITH THE WIND
Best Actor: Robert Donat, in GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS
Best Actress: Vivien Leigh, in GONE WITH THE WIND
Best Director: Victor Fleming, for GONE WITH THE WIND
Best Picture: REBECCA
Best Actor: James Stewart, in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
Best Actress: Ginger Rogers, in KITTY FOYLE
Best Director: John Ford, for THE GRAPES OF WRATH
Best Picture: HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY
Best Actor: Gary Cooper, in SERGEANT YORK
Best Actress: Joan Fontaine, in SUSPICION
Best Director: John Ford, for HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY
Best Picture: WINGS
Best Actor: Emil Jannings, in THE LAST COMMAND and THE WAY OF ALL FLESH
Best Actress: Janet Gaynor, in SEVENTH HEAVEN, STREET ANGEL, and placeCitySUNRISE
Best Director: Frank Borzage, for SEVENTH HEAVEN
Best Picture: BROADWAY MELODY
Best Actor: Warner Baxter, in OLD ARIZONA
Best Actress: Mary Pickford, in COQUETTE
Best Director: Frank Lloyd, for THE DIVINE LADY
Best Picture: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Best Actor: George Arliss, in DISRAELI
Best Actress: Norma Shearer, in THE DIVORCEE
Best Director: Lewis Milestone, for ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
The Times quoted a spokesman for Steven Spielberg as saying that the director was concerned that the thieves might try to sell the material. He warned the media that it was considered stolen property.
Meanwhile, the studio declined to provide terms of its settlement with Tyler Nelson, who appears briefly in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and who, breaking a non-disclosure agreement, discussed his experience on the set of the movie with his hometown newspaper in Oklahoma -- a story that was picked up by other newspapers, including the New York Post.
A spokesman for director Steven Spielberg confirmed the theft but could not comment on when or where the alleged crime occurred because "a law enforcement investigation is ongoing."
The security breach comes on the heels of last week's confidentiality breach when "Indy" extra Tyler Nelson revealed plot details during an interview with his hometown newspaper, Oklahoma's Edmond Sun. That story was removed from the Sun's website.
In 1953, members of the British television industry founded the Guild of Television Producers and Directors, and, in 1958, the two groups combined to become the Society of Film and Television Arts, which later changed its name to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. The published objectives of the Academy are "to promote, maintain, improve, and advance original and creative work among persons engaged in film and television production; to create and maintain a high standard of qualification and performance in such persons; and to encourage and promote experiment and research in the arts, sciences, and techniques of film and television production." The most highly visible of the Academy's activities are its awards ceremonies, which have been televized since 1969. The British Academy Award is based on a design by Mitzi Cunliffe. It has also published a quarterly journal from 1948-1974, initially titled British Film Academy Quarterly and later renamed Journal of the Society of Film and Television Arts.
The critics in opposition refused to accept this road as the right one, and awakened memories of the boldness of the pioneers ( Méliès, Zecca, Jean Durand, etc.), a boldness that was often naïve and sometimes involuntary, but full of courage all the same. They drew attention to the good film-making that still went on in France (some adventure serials, notably by Feuillade) and emphasized that it was now due chiefly to a few Hollywood directors, Ince, Griffith, Mack Sennett, Chaplin, Stroheim and others, that the cinema could still hold out some promise and was still capable of discovering such authentic film personalities as Charles Ray and William Hart. The critics also gave a warm welcome to the young German and Swedish, and later on to the Soviet schools as they appeared.
The avant-garde among critics denied then the intrinsic merit of what was done usually, giving importance to what was seldom or no longer done, and thus they affirmed all that might be accomplished if those who had chosen the cinema as their career would but consent to learn its language, acknowledge its magic, and offer this means of expression to those who had faith in it.
The men who had had sufficient courage or naïlveté were already half-forgotten. No more than a few score of people remembered that Méliès, Edwin Porter, Griffith, had invented, one after another, fading, dissolving, masking, superimpositions, slow motion, quick motion, parallel action, close-ups and trackingshots. From about 1905 the French cinema had made up its mind to be no more than a second-rate poor man's theatre, photographed and bereft of speech. What was the use of anything better when it brought in money as it was? There had been Forfaiture in 1916, it is true, shown in France in 1917. Cecil B. de Mille's film had made a sensation. It was only later ( Intolerance came to Paris about 1921 and The Birth of a Nation about 1923) that the influence of Ince and Griffith's previous work could be recognized in it. There were Sennett and Chaplin too, and all these encouraging signs raised the hopes of the more stubborn. But the cinema's economic sinews, which had always and everywhere conditioned both its progress and its periods of stagnation, still seemed inflexible in France.
It was only towards the end of the war that French production allowed a breath of fresh air to penetrate, most probably for financial and economic reasons. The French film industry, a power on the world market, and until the war of 1914 enthroned as queen on American territory, had been obliged, because of its enforced idleness, to abdicate. It had to do something to try and reconquer lost ground, and this time decided to open the door to a few newcomers, or rather (for we must not exaggerate) cautiously to set it ajar, and shut it again as quickly as possible.
But let us proceed in an orderly manner: before assuming a positive guise, avant-garde, that was to play the same part in the film world as an opposition in the world of politics, took on, like any opposition, a negative or rather a negating attitude, a negation that first arose from criticism.
Before the World War I it cannot be said that any real criticism of the cinema had existed in France. When Guillaume Apollinaire in his review, Les Soirées de Paris ( 1913), took the trouble to treat some forgotten Western seriously, and to discover in it a new form of poetic feeling, he was merely considered eccentric. There were only the publicity agents, of whom many, disguised as critics, remained firmly entrenched in the Press until the following World War II. One of these gentlemen, who wrote for a most important Parisian daily, perpetrated a long article on the film adapted from Somerset Maugham, a work written by that well-known and gifted English author, Mr. Human Bondage.
'Experimental cinema', used more especially in England, is certainly the most comprehensive term. All that is out of the every-day rut of film production at any given time can be considered as experimental. The preoccupation with the future, with research, implied by this expression make it tempting to use. And yet it seems to give rise to serious objections. As.soon as a scientific experiment succeeds, by the mere fact of attaining its end it ceases to be an experiment and becomes merely another scientific acquisition, a scientific fact. In the field that concerns us, a field of art, any attempt crowned with success not only at once goes beyond experiment to become an artistic acquisition, but more, it often happens that the success if complete, perfect, impossible to outstrip or even to equal, absolutely forbids anyone, even its author, to repeat it. Imitated or copied it becomes odiously trite. Chaplin A Woman of Paris gave birth to the 'Lubitsch style', and no one would dream of complaining of that. Neither would it be denied that the man rash enough to repeat the Dance of the Rolls in The Goldrush, even by replacing the forks by toothpicks and the rolls by sponge-fingers, would be rated a fool.
Apart from this, it seems that the words 'experimental cinema' lead to unfortunate confusion with what must properly be qualified as experimental and can be called nothing else. I mean the many laboratory experiments made by the Russians, above all in cutting and editing. There was Pudovkin's experiment, alternating a railway accident, a scene of domestic affection, and so on, with the same close-up of a face: an experiment by which he proved that cutting can modify an actor's expression, for the same impassive face successively appeared to be horrified or affectionate, according to the preceding or ensuing shot. Here, properly speaking, is experimental cinema: as soon as this discovery had been put into practice it could no longer count as an experiment.
In fact, if we admit the validity of this term in the cinema, all great original works of art and literature, which have always been at variance with their epoch's prevailing aesthetic, would equally have to be qualified as experimental. Nothing in any case can induce me to place under so restrictive a heading the two films that I consider of first importance in this field: Entr'acte by René Clair and Un Chien Andalou by Buñuel, both successes, absolute, isolated and conclusive.
The French term 'avant-garde' which has crept into the English vocabulary is certainly no better, for with its slightly ridiculous suggestion of military heroics it can hardly be uttered without putting one's tongue in one's cheek. It can be said that every artistic activity has its spearhead, when new means of expression are being created for original thought or feeling, but their creator does not plume himself upon what to him is the natural end of his activity. People who make a parade of avant-garde had better beware, for we have the right to expect them never to repeat themselves, never to imitate anybody, and that what they have to say shall be an absolute revelation every time. Precious few 'cinéastes d'avant-garde', as they used to be called with the utmost seriousness, have lived up to their pretensions.
The terms 'pure', 'absolute', 'integral' cinema, that almost caught on in 1925, had the merit of attempting to be less vague, more limited and less ambitious, but they were none the less unsuitable, and certainly not attractive to the ear.
The three words have usually been given the same meaning, and they cannot better be defined than by quoting Henri Chomette , the author of Jeux des Reflets et de la Vitesse and Cinq Minutes de Cinéma Pur. He thought it necessary to justify these two very beautiful films, which incidentally needed no justification, in these lines:
'The cinema is not limited to the representative mode. It can create, and has already created a sort of rhythm (I have not mentioned it in connection with present-day films, as its value is greatly attenuated by the meaning of the image seen). Thanks to this rhythm the cinema can draw fresh strength from itself which, forgoing the logic of facts and the reality of objects, may beget a series of unknown visions, inconceivable outside the union of lens and film. Intrinsic cinema, or if you prefer, pure cinemabecause it is separated from every other element, whether dramatic or documentary--is what certain works lead us to anticipate . . .'
Nothing, at one time, irritated me more than avant-garde films. Most of the younger and more enterprising minds in the French cinema were in revolt against what had so quickly become a fashion, a box of tricks, a set of easily copied mannerisms. Satiety spoiled our pleasure when, as we might have foreseen, innumerable followers vulgarized the discoveries given us by the all too few inventors. The taunts of men like René Clair, Luis Buñuel or Robert Desnos were not of course flung at what was new and original, but at the catchpenny use that debased it. Tmorrow's vanguard was pitted against the rearguard of yesterday.
No film is good for the sole reason that it introduces something new, and if genius is usually accompanied by daring, daring alone is no guarantee of genius.
One of the discoveries, or rediscoveries, of the post-war generation had been the absurd. The wonder of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the fantastic of the Romantics, assumed in the first quarter of " 20th century the colours of the absurd. People who were easily pleased, particularly with the ideas of others, indulged in absurdity that was completely gratuitous, refusing to recognize that even the absurd has its own ineluctable logic whose laws may not be ignored or broken with impunity. Those of the rising generation who had felt the influence of Lafcadio's 'gratuitous act', who had absorbed Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Valéry, Gide, Jarry, Apollinaire, Picasso and Dada, now discovered surrealism and psychoanalysis. They learned with Freud to distinguish the determining factors in the absurd, and above all a relativity of the absurd, without which the very word is meaningless. This discovery of the absurd was significant only if it was extended by other discoveries, its glorification had no value but to denounce a lap already run by human reason, beyond which the absurd would be able to take its place in a broader rationality. In this adventure the duller wits floundered about in the most exasperating fashion, nowhere more than in the cinema, where so few brilliant men would risk themselves.
The lapse of time allows us to discriminate better today, yesterday's passions having cooled to make room for others. Now we are able to see that even bad avant-garde films did not entirely deserve the oblivion that has swallowed them up. They must be mentioned if only because they shared in the tendencies of the good ones, because in their failure they show us what they might have been and reveal the quality of the best.
Before the end of the year natives of Chicago, San Francisco, Atlantic City, Washington and Baltimore were introduced to the new wonder and soon Kinetoscope Parlors were flourishing all over the United States. This same year Alexander Black, who later became a wellknown writer, discovered the photoplay. A series of photographic slides taken from life were projected a on a screen by a magic lantern machine. They illustrated a story Black would read from the stage. He showed four slides a minute for his presentation and each picture was a step forward in action. For his first picture play he wrote 14,000 words and took as his subject the adventures of a girl reporter, "Miss Jerry." Blanche Bayliss, a well-known artist's model, played the title role and William Courtenay, who later became a celebrated stage star, was the hero. The first recorded film, in 1893, was made of a sneeze performed by Fred Ott, an assistant in the Edison West Orange Laboratory. The list of films made during those early years included Mme. Bertholdi, a contortionist; Annie Oakley; Colonel William Cody, the original Buffalo Bill; Eugene Sandow, the strong man; the Butterfly Dance by Annabelle, who later as Annabelle Whitford became one of Ziegfield's first glorified beauties; and a film labeled simply "Dance" made with Miss Ruth Dennis, a voung lady from Brooklyn who became a famous dancer as Ruth St. Dennis. In 1984 James J. Corbett and Peter Courtenay made the first fight film before the Edison camera at West Orange for the peepshow machines. That same year Woodville Latham devised a projector which he called the Pantoptikon. It was far from perfect, the pictures flickered, jumped and glimmered but it projected moving pictures on the newborn screen. On May 20, 1895, the first public showing took place on the roof of the Madison Square Garden. About the same time that Latham launched his imperfect projector, Louis and Auguste Lumiere of France patented their first projection machine. Others engaged in nearly parallel efforts which were to affect the course of the screen were Thomas Armat of Washington, D. C., and Robert W. Paul of London. On April 20, 1896, Koster and Bial's Music Hall began presenting Edison's Vitascope pictures as one of the "acts" of their variety bill.
The same year one of the most famous of the early films was made showing the kissing scene between May Irwin and John C. Rice from their stage success "The Widow Jones." On March 17, 1897, the Corbett-Fitzsimmns fight at Carson City was filmed for Edison by a camera made especially for the event by Enoch J. Rector Eleven thousnd fet of film were used, at that time the world's record for photographing a single event. Edison was now due for competition. William Kennedy and Laurie Dickson, who had formerly been associates of Edison, formed the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company on October 12, 1896, for the purpose of making motion pictures. The next year, Sigmund Lubin in Philadelphia made his first film "Horse Eating Hay" and J. Stuart Blackton, Albert E. Smith and William T. Rock joined forces to form the Vitagraph Company of America. France was entering the competition too with such pioneers as George Méliés, Charles Pathé and Leon Gaumont. On April 16, 1902, the first motion picture threatre, the Electric, opened its doors in Los Angeles. That same year Méliés, who had formerly been a magician, made the first narrative film, the now famous "Trip To The Moon." In 1903 Edison followed with his equally fmous first American narrative film, "The Great Train Robbery." It was 800 feet long and directed by Edwin S. Porter. Joseph Jefferson filmed scenes from his famus stage success "Rip Van Winkle" for Biograph and in 1904 Vitagraph persuaded Kyrle Bellew, noted actor, to film a tabloid version of "A Gentleman of France" which he had performed on the stage.
Ethel Grandin was born on March 3, 1894, in New York City. She has never shied away from admitting her age. Today, it's something of which she is proud, and as far back as a 1914 interview with Photoplay she commented, "I'm glad I'm just the age I am, and I don't ever intend to make believe I'm younger than I am." With her family's theatrical background--her uncle, Elma Grandin, was a famous leading man on Broadway, and her grandmother was an actress and dancer--it was no wonder that Ethel should have embarked on a stage career at the age of six, appearing with Joseph Jefferson in Rip Van Winkle. (Perhaps it is not amazing that people such as Lillian Gish, Blanche Sweet and Ethel Grandin are as energetic as they are today when one considers that almost their whole lives they have known nothing but work. It might be enjoyable work, but work nonetheless it was and is.)
For three years, Ethel played in Chauncey Olcott's company, along with Mary Pickford's sister, Lottie. During the 1909-1910 season, Ethel toured with Olcott in Ragged Robin. Mary Pickford had been in Chauncey Olcott's company as a veteran five-year-old actress, and when Ethel joined the company it was Mary's mother, Charlotte, who took particular care of her.
Mary Pickford entered films in 1909, and Ethel Grandin followed her a little under eighteen months later. Not surprisingly, Ethel's first choice for her screen debut was the American Biograph Company, where Mary had made her debut. Upon arriving at 11 East 14th Street with her mother, Ethel was met by D. W. Griffith, who promptly pulled up her dress and inspected her legs. When the young Miss Grandin became outraged, the director explained that he wanted to make sure she was not bow-legged, as were so many girls in the Biograph stock company. However, Ethel was so upset by Griffith's behavior that she refused to return to the studios, as requested, the next day.
It cannot have been coincidence that Ethel and her mother next approached Carl Laemmle's IMP Company, where Mary Pickford was currently working. She was seen by Thomas Ince, recently returned from directing Mary Pickford in Cuba, and was immediately signed to a contract. Ethel spent many months at IMP's 56th Street studio, working under the direction of Ince and Herbert Brenon, and once playing Mary Pickford's sister in The Toss of the Coin, released on August 31, 1911.
In the summer of 1911, Thomas Ince signed a contract with the New York Motion Picture Company to direct its production in California. It was the beginning of Ince's rise to fame, and to accompany him on that fateful trip to California he chose Ethel Grandin as his leading lady and Ray Smallwood to be his cameraman. Ethel and Ray Smallwood were to marry in 1912. In California, Ince hired Anna Little, J. Barney Sherry and George Gebhardt to swell his acting ranks. He also hired the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Circus, with which he planned to produce "real" Westerns. The first such Western was the two-reel War on the Plains, released on February 23, 1912, and Ethel Grandin was its star.
The Moving Picture World of January 27, 1912 devoted a full page to commentary on War on the Plains, and noted, "It is a thrilling drama, portrayed amid natural surroundings by a capable company, and the photographic clearness is remarkable. Some of the scenes are sublime in their grandeur; others are impressive in the number of people employed; others are startling in realism and prolific in incident. While there is plenty of action, the dramatic element has been well sustained. Bravery and cowardice are sharply contrasted. Love and jealousy play a part, but the impression that it all leaves is that here we have looked upon a presentation of Western life that is real and that is true to the life, and that we would like to see it again and again so as to absorb more of the details."
Recalling "The Early Days at Kay Bee" in the March 1919 issue of Photoplay, Ince wrote, "One of the most exciting incidents of our early picture making was a grass fire that nearly wiped out everything we had. The fire was caused by a smoke pot igniting the grass and everyone, actresses as well, turned to with water buckets, blankets and other apparatus to fight the flames. I can visualize Ethel Grandin made up as a bride attired in the once fashionable crinoline, dashing madly about with her bridal veil wrapped about her neck, taking frequent swipes at the fire with a wet blanket."
One early Ethel Grandin production which has survived is Blazing the Trail, released on April 15, 1912. Playing opposite Ethel as Molly was Francis Ford, as Jack, and also in the cast were J. Barney Sherry and Anna Little. In two reels Blazing the Trail recounts an Indian attack on a lone covered wagon, Ethel's being taken captive by the Indians, and her rescue by Ford. There is a sophisticated use of camera angles--at one point a herd of horses gallops between the camera and the dramatic action--and the story, unlike later Westerns, ends on a note of sadness, as Molly and Jack visit the graves of those slain by the Indians. The director, of course, was not credited, but Ethel believes it was Ince, although she does point out that the action sequences in many early Ince productions would often be directed by others, in particular E. H. Allen. It is not surprising that productions such as Blazing the Trail should have evoked a three-page article, "The Bison-101 Headliners," by Louis Reeves Harrison in The Moving Picture World of April 12, 1912.
Of the making of these early productions, Ethel Grandin recalls, "They'd build a set, and Tommy Ince would get the locations, and you'd come in and do this and do that. You'd rehearse one or two times. We never read a script. He would tell us before each scene usually, and maybe once in a while we'd know the idea of a story."
Carl Laemmle was impressed by the work of both Ethel and Ray Smallwood, and in 1913 he asked them to return to his company. His offer came at a propitious time; Ethel's mother was seriously ill in New York, and Ethel was expecting her first child. She recalls that Laemmle paid her during the three months prior to the birth of her son, and also for the first six weeks after the baby was born, a sure indication that Carl Laemmle was not only a kindly producer, but also that he didn't want to risk the loss of a star of the magnitude of Ethel Grandin.
There can be no question as to Ethel Grandin's popularity, or of her attractiveness. In a 1914 Photoplay article, Mabel Condon wrote, "She's as radiant a girl as you could hope to see. She has a wonderful skin, the kind that is described in excitable novels as 'ivory white with a touch of sea-shell pink.' And her eyes, also, are wonderful. They're a warm, bright brown that seems to radiate light, and the eyelashes are long and black. Then there's her hair, which adds even more to her beauty. It is dark brown and curls naturally, and Ethel just pins up the curls and her coiffure is perfect."
Back at Carl Laemmle's IMP Company, Ethel was starred chiefly in one- and two-reel comedies, a far cry from the Western dramas of Thomas Ince. Week after week, her films were released, including The Gold Mesh Bag, released on September 8, 1913; Love versus Love, on December 1, 1913; Love's Victory, on February 20, 1914; The Opal Ring, on March 5, 1914; Forgetting, on March 30, 1914; Where There's a Will There's a Way, on April 9, 1914; Beneath the Mask, on May 18, 1914; Papa's Darling, on June 22, 1914; and The Adventures of a Girl Reporter, on June 29, 1914.
She portrayed the title role in IMP's two-reel version of Jane Eyre, released on February 9, 1914, with Irving Cummings as Edward Rochester. As The Universal Weekly of February 7, 1914 commented, "Who is there more capable of interpreting the sympathetic, unfortunate little miss than the petite fascinating IMP star?"
Possibly Ethel Grandin's most famous role for Carl Laemmle, although at the time he knew nothing about it, was as Lorna Barton in George Loane Tucker's 1913 production of Traffic in Souls. The making of Traffic in Souls has been discussed many times--and there is little point repeating here how the film was produced secretly without Laemmle's permission.
Ethel recalls, "I was on salary, of course, but they hadn't worked out my schedule. I was waiting for my pictures to be written. George Loane Tucker saw me in the studio and said, 'Ethel, would you like to do a few scenes with us?' He said he had to finish very quickly. I didn't even read the story. I had no idea what it was about. I worked one day, skipped a couple of days, did another scene, and so forth. I thought I was doing a favor! It was very cheaply made, with canvas sets, so that when you closed a door, it would shake the set. I think it was the Daly Theatre in New York where they had a preview of it. They had a full house, and I was there with my husband. I was so excited. I hadn't been to one of these showings ever before, because I was just a little girl really. Everyone that knew me came up and congratulated me, and I thought, 'Why?' I didn't know I was in an exceptional film. I didn't realize it was so big."
In April of 1914, it was announced that "the Imp of the IMP Company," as Ethel Grandin was affectionately known, would appear in future exclusively under the direction of her husband, Ray Smallwood. ( Smallwood, of course, had been one of her directors in the past.) It is not surprising that the idea gradually formed in the heads of star and director, husband and wife, that they might form their own company. Thus. the Smallwood Film Corporation came into being, with a rented studio at Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue in New York. Ethel remembers, "It was the top of a building, and it had been a Turkish bath. It had a really large stage, with dressing rooms downstairs, and a glass roof which let in a certain amount of light. We thought it was very nice." On December 21, 1914, United Film Service released the first independent Grandin film, a three-reeler titled The Adopted Daughter, in which Ethel played a dual role. It was followed, a weekly intervals, by Cupid Kicks a Goal, The Burglar and the Mouse and His Doll Wife.
Ethel Grandin's independent venture was short-lived. The reasons why are clouded in obscurity, but I suspect Ethel was happier taking care of her home and infant son than starring in films. Also, the age of the feature-length production had arrived, indeed had been with us for some time, yet the Smallwood Film Corporation was still producing shorts.
In 1915, the screen might have said farewell to Ethel Grandin forever. Thankfully, as far as her fans were concerned, it did not, for she made two highly successful returns.
The summer of 1916 saw Ethel at the Erbograph studios on New York's 135th Street, co-starring with Maurice Costello in the serial, The Crimson Stain Mystery. Miss Grandin enjoyed working on the serial with director T. Hayes Hunter; it was her first and only work in this field, and she enjoyed the shooting, much of which took place out-of-doors among the traffic and crowds of New York City, and she delighted in the daring escapades involving automobiles and fight scenes.
The Crimson Stain Mystery involved a scientist whose experiments for good are turned to evil by one Pierre Le Rue, whose favorite occupation was apparently strangulation. It was released in sixteen two-reel weekly episodes, beginning on August 21, 1916, by the Consolidated Film Corporation. The episodes had such delightful titles as "The Brand osf Satan" (the first episode), "The Infernal Feud," "The Tortured Soul." and "The Restless Spirit," and each episode was published in the New York Evening World. As The Moving Picture World ( September 2, 1916) noted, The Crimson Stain Mystery is made of the material that ensures the success of the serial film production, the chief essentials of which are the marvellous impossibilities that thrill the nerves and fire the imagination."
After The Crimson Stain Mystery it was back to a life of domesticity for Ethel Grandin. In 1919 it was announced that she was to return to Universal in a film to be titled Beyond Price, but nothing appears to have come of it. However, in 1921, she did return to the screen in two comedy features for S-L Productions: Garments of Truth, released on October 5, 1921, and The Hunch, released on November 28, 1921. In each film, Gareth Hughes was the leading man and George Baker was the director. One further feature followed in 1922, A Tailor-Made Man, a Charles Ray vehicle, directed by Joseph De Grasse, and released on October 15, 1922.
While still a major leading lady, Ethel Grandin decided to retire to a life as a mother and wife, a life which quite possibly brought her more personal happiness than she ever found in making films. But in her case domesticity's gain was quite definitely the screen's loss. What Thomas Ince had written in 1919 seems very pertinent: "Had she remained in the business I believe that Ethel today would be among the highest paid stars."
Even away from the screen, Ethel Grandin was not forgotten. Many would echo the words of Daniel Blum on the dedication page of his 1958 edition of Screen World: "To Ethel Grandin, one of my favorite silent screen stars, with affection and admiration."