Saturday, 1 October 2011

Will it ask why? (Film News - 01/10/11)

So after weeks of summer draughts we now head into the autumnal abundance with so many news stories coming thick and fast this week I can barely contain them. I suppose it has always been this way, the gentle ebb and flow of production budgets means we get periods of backlog but rarely does it explode upwards in this way. Plus I've also found a couple of very interesting projects springing up on IMDb so it's all go today.


Giving the critical (and to a lesser degree) commercial success of Moneyball it's no surprise that picky film-maker Bennett Miller is using the attention to get his next project off the ground and it's looking likely to be this long gestating story about chemical heir and Paranoid schizophrenic John Du Pont who in 1996 murdered his friend and Olympic Wrestling Champion David Schultz in his Estate's wrestling facility.

The film will explore the background to the killing and the two stand off between Du Pont and the police in which he barricading himself into his vast Georgian home.

DuPont cut a compelling but rather pathetic figure in this portrait from the trial.

Oddly Steve Carell is being tentatively attached to the project, marking his attention to move into more serious acting roles. It's an odd choice both for director and star, but with Miller currently riding high there's no way the Studios will pass on this intriguing true-life tragedy. I suppose the main question though is how the slow pacing Miller will tackle the subject, should we expect long lingering shots of Du Pont as he considers his options both before and after the murder and how will the screenplay address the nature of mental illness, certainly a subject that mainstream Hollywood seems reluctant to explore in an adult way.

Read on for operatics, tablets, teenage girls, surprises in the post, kidnapped Premiers, running hitmen, and old friend in a mask and a return to the fifth dimension. As well as the usual casting news and a rundown of the latest movies going into pre-production. I warned you it was a busy week.


Maria Callas' tumultuous career and tabloid friendly life off stage seems to be made for cinema and it seems odd that it's taken 30 something years since her untimely death in 1977 for Hollywood to get on the case. Born in 1923 to Greek immigrants in New York she developed a love for music and following her parents divorce found solace in Opera, becoming the world's most famous diva in the 1950's virtually owning La Scala. Later her professional rivalries with Renata Tebaldi, romantic entanglements with Aristotle Onassis and fluctuating weight would end her career, spending her last few years as a recluse. Mirroring Edith Piaf this seems like another bipoic that could propel a star into public conciousness like few others. Oscar here we come.

If you're not already familiar with her spectacular voice have a listen to this recording of Bizet's Habanera at Covent Garden in 1962.

Gods and Kings

Are the rumours of Darren Aronofsky's Noah and Mel Gibson's Maccabee project pushing us back into a new age of Biblical epics? You'd better believe they are as Warner Bros. this week released information about their planned remake of The Ten Commandments, filmed twice by Cecil B DeMille, the film which will focus purely on the words in the Old Testament will follow Moses as he persuades Pharoah to "Let my People Go!" Expect plenty of plagues, some wandering in the desert and Moses dying just before the promised land. Does that count as a spoiler?


Based on the barest of rumours and the most unlikely set of logical steps the internet has been buzzing about Sofia Coppola's next directorial outing. The source appears to be 14 year old Aussie actress Olivia DeJonge who has told a little known Oz publication The West that's she was heading out to LA to read for Sofia. The Playlist then picked this up and clearly decided it was for the role of Nico in Francine Prose's teenage novel (pictured, left). Coppola has been linked to this before, however there's still a major gap there. One things for sure, if DeJonge is telling the truth then Sofia is in the early stages of making a new movie and whilst I had my issues with Somewhere I still celebrate her talent and look forward to her next project. Even if it is a meditative look at sexual awakening and sudden death as witnessed by a 13 year old girl.

Hate Mail

Chalk this one up as an intriguing prospect but until we know where the plot will go with the set up I'm not sure what to make of it. Effectively the New York set picture will chart the disintegration of previously sturdy looking relationships when one or both of the couple start to receive anonymous letters exposing the truth behind the personal dynamics. Sounds like a beginning rather than an end but I'll be fascinated to see where Half Nelson and It's a Kind of Funny Story collaborators Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck will go with the idea.

Hunter Killer

The submarine thriller hasn't been sunk by the evacuation of Director Philip Noyce as Antoine Fuqua has added it to his ever expanding list of possible projects. You'd better hope he gets on with it though as the December 2012 US release date has already been booked. All good news for my as yet unmade Submarine epic, I wait to see how this Russian President kidnap plot goes down.


It could be a cliched ridden disaster but this week writers Gavin O'Connor and Michael J. Wilson sold their above title script to Warner Bros. for an undisclosed six figure sum. Described by The Playlist as "a Brutal lighting fast thriller with a prominent love story" the plot sounds like a hitman inflected Bourne with anti-hero Townes Joyce escaping from a Texan jail then going on the run with a Mexican single mother across three continents before facing up to the international manhunt. Sounds like one hundred other movies but maybe there might be something in the romantic element that makes it stand out. Keep crossing those fingers folks. The title, by the way, is almost certainly stolen from Melville's hugely influential existential hitman pic Le Samurai, right, but I sincerely hope they change it as it seems almost sacrilegious.

Scream 5

Talk of Wes Craven returning once again to the post modern horror franchise won't go away, which is very odd considering Scream 4 bombed at the box office taking in just $38m domestically, and whilst it's oversees gross and DVD income will probably ensure it more than makes back the budget it can hardly be considered a success. That said it's significantly better than the $15m from his last non Scream movie so maybe it's a case of hedging bets.

Twilight Zone

Tracking must be going well for Dark Shadows and The Man from UNCLE as Warner Bros. (again, busy week for them) have optioned another long defunct TV staple. Rod Serling's excellent sci-fi with a message serial originally ran from 1959-64 and gave us a oddball selection of misfits and convoluted plots as well as it's infamous opening narration with it's dimension not of sight and sound but of mind! Leonardo DiCaprio is producing which pretty much guarantees a big budget and a top quality director becoming attached soon. Watch this space for more.

Trippy, eh?

Casting News

It's a reunion of last years Academy Awards supporting actress nominees this week with both Melissa Leo and Jacki Weaver in talks, the former we be caught up in the wreckage of Robert Zemeckis' near-miss plane crash Flight whilst Weaver will be Bradley Cooper's mother in The Silver Lining's Playbook.

The only picture I could find of the two ladies together was at the QVC Oscar Red Carpet Style Party. Don't they look lovely.

Production News

There's been the usual mix of blockbuster and artier fare moving into pre-production phase on IMDb this month, most of which I've already mentioned here on the blog. Films like the all singing Les Miserables, surfing biopic Mavericks, Will and Jaden Smith going into space in One Thousand A.E. and Michel Gondry's French surrealist project The Foam of the Days. But like most months there are a couple which have appeared seemingly out of nowhere, staggering into the sunlight with delicious topics or dripping with talent, and these two films, which I wish I had covered earlier, are no exception.

La Vida Precoz y Breve de Sabina Rivas

Or roughly translated as "The Brief and Premature Life of Sabine Rivas" this is a Mexican love story exposing the realities of modern teenage life at the edges of society. Sabina is the heroine desperate for a music career in America, Jovany her paramour caught up with gang culture and drug cartels. This exceptionally low budget indie - IMDb are suggesting it's under $10k - has even completed filming before I'd read anything so I am a touch intrigued. Oh, and the reason I spotted it is because former Hollywood director Luis Mandoki (Message in a Bottle) has returned to the directors chair for the first time in 8 years.

Night Train to Lisbon

Perhaps a more obvious pull is this European adaptation of Pascal Mercier's Philosophical thriller about a language professor travelling to meet survivors from Salazar's dictatorship. The draw here is the diverse international cast who have already signed on including Jeremy Irons in the lead role, Vanessa Redgrave, Melanie Laurent and Bruno Ganz; a quartet who virtually guarantee the intellectual integrity of the screenplay.

The woman in the red dress appears on all the book covers so I suspect's she important to the plot, she might also be Melanie Laurent.

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