NEW DVDS

Here’s some great titles to add to your collection

Dunkirk-poster-2349857-600x875Visionary storyteller and storymaker Christopher Nolan has taken audiences from the streets of Gotham City, to the infinite world of dreams, to the farthest reaches of space. Now, for the first time, the innovative director/writer/producer has turned his camera to a real-life event, one that has resonated with him throughout his life: the miracle of Dunkirk. The film opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces.  Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea, they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.The story unfolds on land, sea and air.  RAF Spitfires engage the enemy in the skies above the Channel, trying to protect the defenseless men below.  Meanwhile, hundreds of small boats manned by both military and civilians are mounting a desperate rescue effort, risking their lives in a race against time to save even a fraction of their army. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

WIZARDRobert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer shine in The Wizard of Lies, a TV movie that reveals how Bernie Madoff, the con man behind the biggest financial fraud in US history, destroyed not only the lives of his victims but also his own family. Bernie Madoff is the Wall Street fraudster who master-minded the most heinous swindle of our generation, until it all unravelled during the market crash of 2008. This is the true story, behind the headlines, of Madoff’s deceptions, lies and betrayals. De Niro slips into the skin of the con man who raked in an estimated US$65 billion (Dh239 billion) from investors during his elaborate Ponzi scheme, a fraud he sustained for decades while keeping his wife, Ruth (Pfeiffer), and their sons, Mark and Andrew, in the dark about his crimes.The film is based upon The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, a 2011 book by The New York Times investigative reporter Diana B Henriques.“Bernie Madoff’s greed brought down and destroyed his entire family,” says executive producer and Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson, whose credits include Hollywood hits such as Diner (1982), Rain Man (1988) and Wag the Dog (1997).  Bonus Features: In depth interviews with Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeifer, plus director Barry Levinson and author Diana B Henriques./ Watch the trailer

Victoria posterVictoria & Abdul tells the extraordinary true story of the amazing and unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria  and a young clerk, Abdul Karim, who becomes her teacher, her spiritual advisor, and her devoted friend. The story of their friendship, deliberately hidden for a century, is now told for moviegoers, with Academy Award winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) reuniting with Academy Award-nominated director Stephen Frears (The Queen), and returns to the role of Queen Victoria. The screenplay is by Academy Award nominee Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant. Bonus Features: Insightful doccies on Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, as well as the look of Victoria and Abdul / Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

 

The SnowmanThe Snowman, the seventh book in Jo Nesbø’s best-selling Harry Hole series, has enthralled global audiences since it was first published in 2007 and now makes it debut on the Big Screen under direction of Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), from a screenplay adaptation by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Debt) and Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove, Drive) and Søren Sveistrup (Forbrydelsen, TV’s The Killing).The frigid landscape as his hunting ground, a sociopath who calls himself “The Snowman Killer” has targeted the one person for whom he wants to show off his methodical, unthinkable skills: the lead investigator of an elite crime squad.  With cunningly simplistic baits such as “Mr. Policeman, I gave you all the clues…” he begs to have a worthy opponent to play his sick game.For Detective Harry Hole ( Michael Fassbender), the murder of a young woman on the first snow of the winter feels like anything but a routine homicide case in his district.  From the start of the investigation, The Snowman has personally targeted him with taunts—ones that continue to accompany each new vicious murder.Fearing an elusive serial killer long-thought dead may be active again, the detective enlists brilliant recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebeccas Ferguson), to help him connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new ones.  Succeed, and they will lure out the psychopath that’s been watching them from the shadows for who knows how long.  Fail, and an unthinkable evil will strike once again during the very next snowfall. Bonus Features: A look at the cast and characters, Creating Jo Nesbø’s world, The Snowman Killer, Norwegian Landscape and Stunt files on The Sinking Lake/ Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

To Buy These DVDs, we recommend Loot.co.za

2.22In 2.22 New York City air traffic controller Dylan Branson (Michiel Huisman) is the embodiment of a guy at the top of his game, until one day at 2:22pm, a blinding flash of light paralyzes him for a few crucial seconds as two passenger planes barely avoid a mid-air collision. Suspended from his job, Dylan begins to notice the increasingly ominous repetition of sounds and events in his life that happen at exactly the same time every day. An underlying pattern builds, mysteriously drawing him into Grand Central Station every day 2:22pm. As he’s drawn into a complex relationship with a beautiful woman who works in an art gallery, Sarah (Teresa Palmer), disturbingly complicated by her ex-boyfriend Jonas (Sam Reid), Dylan must break the power of the past, and take control of time itself. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

Viceroy PosterAs a writer-director, Gurinder Chadha has repeatedly translated her personal experience as a Punjabi-British woman into uplifting, crowd-pleasing movies, from her ground-breaking 1993 debut Bhaji On The Beach to her box-office smash Bend It Like Beckham, and now brings us the epic historical drama Viceroy’s Housethe astonishing true story of the final months of British rule in India. New nations are rarely born in peace… India, 1947: Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) is dispatched, along with his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson), to New Delhi to oversee the country’s transition from British rule to independence. Taking his place in the resplendent mansion known as the Viceroy’s House, Mountbatten arrives hopeful for a peaceful transference of power. But ending centuries of colonial rule in a country divided by deep religious and cultural differences proves no easy undertaking, setting off a seismic struggle that threatens to tear India apart. With sumptuous period detail, director Gurinder Chadha brings to life a pivotal historical moment that re-shaped the world. Bonus Feature: A great behind the scenes doccie on how the film was made, featuring interviews with the director and cast / Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

KingsmenBased upon the acclaimed comic book and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men First Class), Kingsmen: The Golden Circle tells the story of a super-secret spy organization that recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. When Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is an unemployed school dropout living a dead-end existence in his mother’s flat. After he is arrested for joyriding, Eggsy uses the medal to secure his release from jail, and finds himself rescued by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), an impeccably suave spy who owes Eggsy’s father his life.  Dismayed to learn of the path Eggsy has taken, yet impressed by his better qualities, Harry offers Eggsy the opportunity to turn his life around by trying out for a position with Harry’s employers: Kingsman, a top-secret independent intelligence organization. The screenplay is by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn, based on the comic book “The Secret Service,” by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Bonus Features: A sensational look at Black Cab Chaos – anatomy of a killer and the Kingsman Archives / Watch the trailer

BEGUILEDThe Beguiled is an atmospheric thriller from acclaimed writer/director Sofia Coppola. The story unfolds during the Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school. Its sheltered young women take in an injured enemy soldier. As they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events. Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas P. Cullinan, it stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. Bonus Features:  Two behind the scenes doccies that explores A Shift In Perspective and A Southern Style / Watch the trailer

To Buy These DVDs, we recommend Loot.co.za

 

Glass CastleChronicling the adventures of an eccentric, resilient and tight-knit family, The Glass Castle is a remarkable story of unconditional love. Oscar winner Brie Larson brings Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir to life as a young woman who, influenced by the joyfully wild nature of her deeply dysfunctional father (Woody Harrelson), found the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-2880x1800-2017-hd-7554War For The Planet Of The Apes unleashes  rapidly evolving simians into a world boiling over with divisions and rage as the ape vs. human battle for control of the world careens towards the ultimate winner-takes-all decision. Breathless action, big ideas and potent storytelling combine as it pushes the series into new realms of legend-building as it explores the values that forge a civilization. In a flurry of mythic filmmaking, we witness the pivotal moment that determines the fate of human civilization forever –and are immersed in the ape leader Caesar’s emotional quest to lead his young society to a new home, even as a war between his belief in family and honor versus the lure of a vengeful reckoning churns within his soul. As peace between species has collapsed — and a renegade band of human soldiers led by an imperious Colonel makes a final, all-out attack — Caesar is hit with an unimaginable personal loss and a dark line inside his psyche is crossed.  Now, he is wrestling with merciless impulses and roiling doubts about his own ability to inspire the apes towards freedom. But if the apes are to survive the coming conflict, Caesar must lead.  In a time when empathy and compassion have nearly vanished both in the world and his heart, Caesar searches for the grit, sense of fellowship and striving vision to lead the apes towards a future of hope. The stunning bonus features include an audio commentary by writer-director Matt Reeves, a doccie on Caesar, and the Concept Art Gallery. Read more about the film / Trailer

To Buy These DVDs, we recommend Loot.co.za

 

BILLBOARDS MASTER

The story is a war between two people who are both to some degree in the right,and that’s where so much of the tension and drama arises.

A last stand erupts in Martin McDonagh’s trip into small town America in the mesmerising Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, as a mother is pushed to the edge by her daughter’s unsolved murder.

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award® winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, commissioning three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police.

When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

BILLBOARDS 6

It was a story that would lead to Oscar-winner Frances McDormand channeling a modern, female variant of the classic western hero in a showdown-style performance.

The film is the third from Martin McDonagh, the Irish playwright, screenwriter and director known for the hit thriller In Bruges, with its Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning Screenplay, and the crime comedy Seven Psychopaths.

It all begins with Mildred Hayes and the three billboards she rents on Drinkwater Road.

“I decided the buyer of the billboards was an aggrieved mother and from there things almost wrote themselves,” McDonagh recalls.  “Mildred was someone strong, determined and raging, yet also broken inside.  That was the germination of the story.”

It was a story that would lead to Oscar-winner Frances McDormand channeling a modern, female variant of the classic western hero in a showdown-style performance.

“I really latched onto John Wayne in a big way as my physical idea, because I really had no female physical icons to go off of for Mildred,” she explains.  “She is more in the tradition of the Spaghetti Western’s mystery man, who comes walking down the center of the street, guns drawn, and blows everybody away — although I think it’s important that the only weapons Mildred ever uses are her wits.”

“I could see it in her walk and her attitude,” says McDonagh.  “I think John Wayne did become a touchstone to a degree for Frances.  But I also see Brando and Montgomery Clift in there, too.”

Mildred marks the first time McDonagh has written a female lead for a film, but she is perhaps his most relentless character as well, an aggrieved mother without regret who comes to test the very fabric of her town.

BILLBOARDS 5

The Screenplay

“I mean, to me, it seems like the local police department is too busy goin’ ‘round torturing black folks to be bothered doing anything about solving actual crime, so I kinda thought these here billboards might, y’know, concentrate their minds some.”  Mildred Hayes

At the core of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is Mildred’s conflict with Ebbing’s Chief of Police.  “The story is a war between two people who are both to some degree in the right,” McDonagh notes, “and that’s where so much of the tension and drama arises.”

Those tensions become the exploration for what happens when rage can’t be calmed.  As the tension mounts, the film delves into themes of division, anger and moral reckoning.

Asks McDonagh: “Where do you go when you’re in a place of loss and anger that’s dead-ended?  What can you do, constructive or destructive, to shake things up and get something done? It’s an interesting idea to explore, that of what happens when there might not be any hope in a situation but you decide you’re going to keep making waves until hope arrives.  I think that’s why this feels different from most crime films; there’s the lingering question of ‘what if there is no solution to this crime?’”

Perhaps McDonagh’s greatest challenge was balancing the dark comedy of the story with Mildred’s emotion-driven quest.  He trusted that the humor would be there, black and biting, even as he allowed his characters to reel with anguish over loss, unfairness and the resistance to change.

“What’s happened to Mildred’s daughter is so sad and horrific, I felt the most important thing was to keep a rein on the comedy, even on the blackness, and make sure Mildred’s struggle against the hopelessness of the situation maintained itself all the way through, tone wise,” McDonagh says.

The film is, says McDonagh, the most tragic he has written so far yet it is also a search for hope.   “The starting place is quite sad, but there’s a lot of comedy in it and hopefully it’s quite moving in parts as well,” he reflects.  “I guess that’s the way I see life.  I see sadness in certain aspects, but my tendency is always to try to temper that with the bright side, with humor, however black it may be, and with the struggle against hopelessness.”

For producer Graham Broadbent, who partnered with McDonagh on In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, and produced the film with McDonagh and Pete Czernin, the result is a film that “walks a tightrope of comedy and sadness – and is narratively ingenious.”

Broadbent notes that McDonagh’s instincts kept him balanced.  “I think it comes from Martin’s days in theatre,” says the producer.  “On set it seems in his head he’s already jumped ahead to how people will respond.  With Martin, you know the words he’s written and the performances he’s going to get are all going to land with the audience.”

MILDRED

“Jeez, then I guess it’s just his word against mine, huh? Kinda like in all those rape cases you hear about, except in this instance, the chick ain’t losing.” Mildred Hayes

BILLBOARDS 1

“I wrote Mildred for Frances,” says McDonagh.  “There wasn’t any other actress I thought had all the elements that Mildred needed.  She had to be very in touch with a kind of working class sensibility as well as a rural sensibility.  She also had to be someone who wouldn’t sentimentalize the character.  All of Frances’s work is fundamentally truthful. I knew she could play the darkness of Mildred yet also have dexterity with the humor, while staying true to who Mildred is throughout.”

With the character, McDormand explored a tradition long reserved for men:  the lone hero who defiantly stands off against a town.

McDormand ran into McDonagh 15 years ago following a performance of his award-winning play “The Pillowman” and after briefly talking about his new film career, she suggested he write a film role for her.  “As soon as those words were out of my mouth, I wished I could take them back because you’re not supposed to do that.  But then 15 years later he sent me the script,” she says.  “I read the script, I loved the script, and I couldn’t believe my great good fortune to be asked to play Mildred.”

“Something I think Martin is really good at is an almost Greek idea of human existence — there are so many epic, significant ideas he allows himself to explore in this story,” says McDormand.  “Then, by making his protagonist female rather than male he takes it into the realm of grand tragedy.  He also plays with the modern revenge genre, but it’s not a film about female revenge.  By looking at how a female character seeks justice the story transcends gender to say something about the human condition.”

BILLBOARD

McDonagh’s amplified dialogue meshed with her own theatrical instincts.  McDormand calls McDonagh’s style “a form of magical realism, here mixed with a kind of Gothic Americana, based on the idea that people in small towns are not prosaic but poetic.”

“Martin and I never shied away from the truth with each other, I would say anything to his face,” she says.  “Part of making the film was the combative nature of our conversations.  We never went into a scene without me questioning some line or the motivations of the character.  We particularly argued a lot about when Mildred wears the bandanna, which to me is a sign of her taking action — I wanted to wear it a lot more than he wanted.”

In addition to seeing Greek tragedy and magical realism in McDonagh’s work, McDormand also saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as a subverted take on the Western.  She built Mildred upon the founding icons of the male-dominated genre, in part because she could find few examples of women in such roles.  “In retrospect, I also thought of Pam Greer in the 70s, but that’s not even right because Mildred doesn’t use her sexuality as Pam did,” she explains.

However, Mildred is not a gunslinger.  She’s a mother in search of justice for her daughter.  “As a mother, you live on the edge of disaster, you just do,” she describes. “I didn’t give birth to my son, I met him at 6 months old, but from the minute I held him and smelled him, I knew it was my job to keep him alive. And as a parent, you also come to see how the worry and the anxiety that goes along with protecting someone who you give yourself to in that way, that you surrender to, can become degenerative.”

McDormand made the force of Mildred’s grief central to her performance.  “Mildred is really not a hero,” McDormand points out.  “She’s a much more complicated person than that.  She’s been left by grief in a no man’s land, in a place of no return.  One of the things I latched onto as I was thinking about Mildred is that there is no word in most languages for the position she is in. If you lose a husband, you’re a widow; if you lose a parent, you’re an orphan.  But there is no word for a parent who has lost a child because it’s just not supposed to happen biologically.  It’s something beyond the capacity of language – and that’s where Mildred has been left, so she goes for broke.”

To McDormand, Mildred has no tears to cry at this juncture, which accounts for the depths of her mercilessness with anyone who stands in her way.  “I believe that’s why she does what she does:  because she can’t find her vulnerability, she can’t access those emotions.  It’s much easier for her to throw a Molotov cocktail than to cry,” she observes.  “An image I had of Mildred’s was the little Dutch boy with his finger in the hole in the dyke – if Mildred takes her finger away, and lets all the emotions out, she’d be completely immobilized.  So her finger is staying there.”

“With Mildred, I think you don’t always understand her behavior, but you never hate her, you don’t vilify her,” McDormand observes.

Though McDormand was constantly questioning the material, she and McDonagh agreed on how to walk the tightrope of the tone. “We were on the same page,” says McDonagh, “in terms of keeping an eye towards never letting the comedy of the piece override the emotional place Mildred is coming from.  We both felt Mildred should be free to rage, to be angry, to vent all she is feeling. Frances had a lot of different balls in the air, and she juggled all of them brilliantly.”

Early in her prep, McDormand hit on an idea that soon twined with her performance:  to have Mildred wear a singular outfit all through the film – a kind of unadorned, blue-collar regalia she dutifully puts on each day.  “Frances came up with Mildred wearing the same jumpsuit every day as a kind of ‘war uniform’ and I thought it was a great cinematic idea,” recalls McDonagh.

WILLOUGHBY

“I’m doing everything I can to track him down, Mrs. Hayes. I don’t think those billboards is very fair.” Police Chief Willoughby

BILLBOARDS 3

When the billboards go up outside Ebbing, Missouri, they appear to take direct aim at one man:  Police Chief Bill Willoughby, who has failed to solve the murder of Mildred’s daughter and left her with no solace.  But the more one gets to know Chief Willoughby, the more it becomes clear that the man Mildred is going to war with is already fighting a private battle.

Taking the role of the man who is both Mildred’s sworn enemy and her only hope is two-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson.

One of the things Harrelson first latched onto for Willoughby was his ability to take all kinds of pressure without relenting to any of it.  “He’s under a lot of heat from Mildred and he’s also not well, so he’s got a lot to bear,” Harrelson elaborates.  “But what I find interesting about him is that he’s really not an uptight guy.  He’s in the middle of all these cross-hairs but he just keeps going anyway.”

Once the billboards go up, Mildred and Willoughby are in an instant standoff but they are not without understanding for one another. “Woody and I didn’t talk much about the characters – we didn’t have to,” says McDormand.  “There’s something really similar about me and Woody.  In fact, I think he could have played Mildred and I could have played Willoughby.  And I think if there’s anything approaching traditional sexual tension in the film it’s between the two of them – but it’s so much more interesting than that. They could have been friends, they could have been partners and in better circumstances maybe they could have found the answer together.”

Harrelson also related to in Willoughby is his unwavering devotion to his family, come what may.  “I related strongly to his need to take care of his kids and wife.  And I like that Willoughby really doesn’t dwell on his health problems,” he says.  “He’s one of those guys who determines, ‘I’m not going to stop living my life.’ He just refuses to be hamstrung by it.”

As the trouble in Willoughby’s world mounts to a crisis, McDonagh gave Harrelson a lot of freedom to explore the emotional turns.  “Martin’s not a heavy handed director,” Harrelson describes.  “He’ll come in with light notes — but he sees very clearly and can do a incredible amount with just a small adjustment.  He also has a real sense of humor about things.  He’s able to poke fun at me if I’m doing something that’s too much in a way that makes me laugh, as opposed to putting me on my heels.”

The biggest draw of all, says Harrelson, is McDonagh’s way with characters who are more than they seem on the surface. “A great thing about Martin’s writing is that he takes you inside characters who seem to be one thing until you realize there is so much more to them, and then you really start to care about them and see something other than what you first thought. In the end, that’s how he creates something that truly stays with you,” Harrelson sums up.

DIXON

“You do not call an officer of the law a f***ing prick in his own station-house, Mrs. Hayes. Or anywhere, actually.” ~ Officer DixonBILLBOARDS 7

Willoughby’s right hand man, Dixon, is an officer whose potential is self-sabotaged by intolerance and a wildly erratic temper, usurping the chief’s authority and order.  In the role is Sam Rockwell, who has brought a long roster of unforgettable characters to life.

Like his cast mates, Rockwell was drawn to McDonagh’s writing.  Says Rockwell:  “Martin is especially great in this script in dealing with taboos, racial taboos and other taboos, which he brings to the surface in so many compelling ways.”

Rockwell observes that though McDonagh hails from Ireland, he has keen insight into small-town America, perhaps because hard-working towns anywhere have more in common than not.  “Martin understands small towns because in Ireland there are all the same kinds of tensions. Working class is working class wherever you go, and he writes so well about that.  I feel you could do this story with an Irish accent or a Brooklyn accent and it would work just as well as it does in Missouri.”

Perhaps the local accent is inconsequential, but Dixon is certainly a character unto himself.  “Dixon’s kind of a classic,” muses Rockwell.  “He’s like the bastard Edmund in King Lear in that he’s a real angry, angry guy — angry at the world and filled with this idea that he’s always been mistreated. He seems at first that he’s a kind of villain in Ebbing, and yet he’s more complicated than that.”

Ultimately, as Dixon’s curiously co-dependent home life is revealed, the source of his psychic angst comes clear.   “He still lives with his mom and he’s a bit stunted, unable to just break free and finally become an adult,” Rockwell explains.  “He has an extremely dysfunctional relationship with his mom, which makes for quite a bit of trauma and then he takes that out on other people.”

“I think we all can relate a bit to his anger and his sadness,” Rockwell goes on, “and also I think to his hero worship of Chief Willoughby.  I think a lot of us have felt that kind of reverence for someone and yearned for their approval.”

Rockwell and Harrelson seemed to find an instant frisson that deepened the tricky bond between Dixon and Willoughby.  “Woody’s got a real moral compass and he’s also very laid back, which makes you feel at ease.  With great actors like that, there’s often a sense of anarchy and mischief, and Woody brings all that to Willoughby,” says Rockwell.   “His approach is never predictable.”

McDonagh and Rockwell agreed that the glaring peril with Dixon would be letting him slip even for a second into caricature.  His humanity was the crux. “We both knew Dixon had to be played real, and not for the jokes,” says Rockwell.  “Really, playing it too much for the jokes or too much for the pathos were equal dangers.  I think in the end people will feel conflicting things about Dixon.  I want them to be annoyed, angered and amused by him yet feel for him all at the same time.”

NAME 2

Call Me By Your Name is the beautiful acknowledgment of how you change when you love someone positively.

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s emotionally driven Call Me By Your Name is a film intended to sweep over an audience like sunshine. It vividly evokes the feeling of an Italian summer, filled with bike rides, midnight swims, music and art, luscious meals under the sun, and the heady awakening of a 17-year old’s first passion.

Based on the acclaimed first novel by André Aciman,  the screenplay was crafted by James Ivory,  a celebrated American writer/director who made 24 feature films over his 44-year partnership with the late Ismail Merchant, through their famed Merchant Ivory Productions that gave us a trio of English films, A Room With A View, Howard’s End, and The Remains of the Day.

It’s the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17- year-old American-Italian, spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzi. One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charming American scholar working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

NAME 6

“I like to think that Call Me By Your Name closes a trilogy of films on desire, together with I am Love and A Bigger Splash,” says Guadagnino. “Where in the former ones desire was driving to possession, regret, contempt, need for a liberation, in Call Me By Your Name we wanted to explore an idyll of youth. Elio, Oliver and Marzia are entangled in the beautiful confusion of what once Truman Capote described when he said that “love, having no geography, knows no boundaries. The film is also my homage to the fathers of my life: my own father, and my cinematic ones: Renoir, Rivette, Rohmer, Bertolucci…”

“What links these three films is the revelation of desire,” he says. “Either a burst of desire for someone else or you discover you are the object of somebody else’s desire. In this movie, Elio realizes there is something to him he really doesn’t know how to handle but he wants to follow somehow.” While the pursuit of desire in the other movies precipitates unexpectedly dark events, its result in this film is more hopeful and profound.”

“I don’t want Call Me By Your Name to be perceived as a hyperintellectualized opus,” says Guadagnino, “but as a tender love story that affects an audience in an uplifting way. I want it to be like a box of chocolates.”

NAME DIRECTOR

Luca Guadagnino

Born in Palermo, Italy and raised in Ethiopia, where his father taught history and Italian, Guadagnino’s international outlook and insatiable appetite for creative expression were calibrated early. He graduated from Rome’s University La Sapienza with a degree in History and Critics of Cinema, and did his thesis on Jonathan Demme. He made his theater directing debut in 2006 with a production of Patrick Marber’s “Closer,” and his opera directing debut in 2011 with Verdi’s “Falstaff” at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona, Italy.

From Page To Screen

Novelist André Aciman, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt and is an American memoirist, essayist, novelist, and scholar of seventeenth-century literature, wrote in a whirlwind three months.

“I was writing faster than I have ever written in my life,” says Aciman. “It was as if I was in love. The writing took me places I would normally have never dared to go. There are things in the book that I say, ‘I can’t believe I wrote this!’ But I did. It just kind of dictated itself to me.”

 

NAME WRITER

André Aciman

When the book was published in early 2007, it was quickly heralded as a modern classic of the literature of first love, and praised for its stark eroticism (its New York Times review opened with “This novel is hot.”) and the deep emotional impact it had on its readers.

Two producers, Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman, read the novel independently, and in 2008 joined forces to produce it.

“I think the novel evokes the sensuality and sexuality and eroticism and anxiety of what a first love is like, in a way that very few other books have,” says Rosenman. While the book was embraced by the LGBT community and has become accepted as a landmark of gay literature, it has always transcended barriers. “It strikes a responsive chord in almost anyone who has read it about the idea of first love and the haunting of first love and the pain of first love, regardless of gender or sexuality,” says Spears.

As a longtime friend and admirer of writer/director/producer Luca Guadagnino, Spears reached out to him, but as he was busy with other projects, he could only commit to join them as producer, through his company, Frenesy Films. Years passed as Spears and Rosenman attempted to put the project together with various directors and casts.

In 2014, they brought in legendary writer/director James Ivory to pen a new screenplay and serve as additional producer. One change Ivory made to the novel was to refine the father’s profession.

“He was a classics scholar, but you can’t just put the camera on somebody thinking or writing,” says Ivory. “So I made him into an art historian/archeologist type.”

NAME IVORY

James Ivory

The novel is a memory-piece (Aciman is a noted Proustian scholar), told from the perspective of Elio, but the filmmakers set it in the here and now. “We wanted to reflect the essence of the book, but that didn’t mean doing it literally the same way,” says Guadagnino. “We had to take some routes that were different.” While Ivory’s original script had a modest amount of voice-over narration, none ended up making it into the final film.

As each summer approached, there were new incarnations of the film that came close to being made, but if an actor or director’s schedule shifted, the producers didn’t have the luxury of moving to the fall or winter. “There was just one time every year that it could be shot, and if you missed that window, you had to wait a year to get back on the runway and wait for takeoff,” says Spears. Finally, after nine years, Guadagnino carved out a few months before he began shooting Suspiria, so that he could direct the film himself in the summer of 2016.

NAME

Director Luca Guadagnino with actors Arnie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet

While the novel is set in Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, the Guadagnino moved the location away from the seaside to the town of Crema in Lombardy where he lives.

Knowing the landscape and the way of life as intimately as he did, he felt it illuminated the essence of the Perlman family, intellectuals who expose their son to the world of literature and music and art through summers in a peaceful idyllic setting. “The Perlmans are really immersed in country life, the very sensual feeling of being part of nature,” he says.

Shooting near his home added comfort and simplicity to the process of making the film, not just for himself—“I wanted to indulge in the luxury of sleeping in my own bed”—but for the entire production team.

As is typical in a Guadagnino film, the house became as important a character as all the other actors, brimming with the authentic sense of real life. “Every now and then something would appear from Luca’s own house,” says Spears. “A plate or a bowl, or something that he somehow knew gave the scene a little more verisimilitude and felt to him like: ‘This is the Perlman home.’” One alteration to the property for the film was Elio and Oliver’s little “swimming pool,” a recreation of a farm animal watering trough common to the area.

As the stage was being set in the Perlman house, the actors began arriving in Crema, where they got apartments, began preparing for their roles and getting to know each other.

Timothée Chalamet, who had the most to do, arrived five weeks early. “I jumped into Italian lessons for an hour and a half a day, piano lessons for an hour and a half a day, guitar lessons for an hour and a half a day and gym workouts three times a week,” says Chalamet.

While the actor had six years of piano experience and a year of guitar before making the film, he worked with Crema-based composer Roberto Solci to boost his performance to Elio’s virtuoso level of play. Although the New York-based actor spent his youthful summers at his grandmother’s house in Le Chambonsur-Lignon, France, and had a feeling for what European small town life was like, he knew that the 1980s Italian version would be different. He was able to make friends with a number of young people from Crema who didn’t know he was an actor, and looked to Guadagnino for guidance about the period.

While Chalamet is fluent in French and was able to understand Italian somewhat, he had no Italian language training before his arrival in Crema. “Along with the piano, speaking Italian was crucial for me because it was a native tongue for Elio and I wanted to get it down to what it would have been for him,” he says.

Hammer arrived shortly after, and Chalamet was one of the first people he met. “I heard somebody practicing piano, and they said, ‘Oh, that’s Timmy!’ and I said ‘I want to meet him!’”

The two actors became inseparable in the weeks leading up to shooting. “We rode bikes, we listened to music, we talked, we went to meals, we hung out in many of the same places you see us in the movie,” says Hammer. After shooting commenced, the two rehearsed their scenes every night before shooting. The intimacy and chemistry that became palpable on screen grew out of the closeness the two actors developed in real life.

NAME 4

A large percentage of the story focuses on the myriad steps forward and backward between Elio and Oliver before their relationship finally becomes physical.

Stressing anticipation through an unhurried buildup is common in Guadagnino’s films. “I like a slow burn,” he says. Says Chalamet: “It’s the universally relatable game of cat and mouse and push and pull that occurs between people that are attracted to one another but have suspicions and insecurities about whether the other holds the same level of attraction. They also have trepidations because they aren’t in a time period or a location that is accepting or encouraging of them having an intimate relationship.”

For producer Spears, Guadagnino’s measured pace is key to the way the film engages the senses. “There’s an American tendency, whether it’s in movies or TV, to race to the finish line. But Luca slows the pace down and makes you experience everything—the smell, the sound, the touch, the taste. When you connect with all of those things, you’re really going to feel it and you’re not going to forget it.”

A good example of Guadagnino’s approach is a scene where Elio and Oliver stop for a drink of water while they are out biking. As this serves no obvious narrative purpose, it is the kind of sequence a different filmmaker might have cut. “This was one of our favorite scenes,” says editor and longtime Guadagnino collaborator Walter Fasano. “First, because it evoked the typical lounging and easy and lazy feeling of old summers in the 80s. And second, that particular moment reminded us of moments in Bertolucci’s “1900,” which was shot in the same geographical area. Obviously when you deal with these kind of things, you must be very careful not to be self-indulgent, because you can be. At the same time, when you rush, you are losing something.”

“Call Me By Your Name is the beautiful acknowledgment of how you change when you love someone positively,” says Guadagnino.

While his films are praised for their eroticism, Guadagnino doesn’t depict sexuality gratuitously. “Sex on screen can be the most boring thing to watch,” he says. “In general, if the lovemaking is a way to investigate behavior and how this behavior reflects the characters, then I’m interested. But if it’s only about the illustration of an act I’m not interested.”

NAME 3

Says Chalamet: “When you first see Elio and Oliver kiss, and the first time they really make love, the shots play out for awhile. You see the awkwardness and the physical tension in a way where, if there were a million cuts, would be lost.” Says Hammer: “I think a lot of movie sex scenes are about: ‘What angles look best?’ But in this movie what you see are two people hungrily exploring each other’s bodies. And I think it feels organically like the first time you have a sexual experience with someone new: where there’s uncertainty, there’s that unknown, there’s all those things that you’re figuring out as you go.”

The famous peach scene from the book shows how eroticism is utilized in the film to illuminate the inner lives of the characters.

“What’s going on with Elio in that scene is a combination of that longing for Oliver and also the all too relatable phenomena of not knowing where to place your overabundant sexual energy when you’re 16, 17, 18,” says Chalamet.

“But when Oliver arrives, the weight of him leaving for what could be forever is hitting Elio for the first time, in addition to the shame and embarrassment of being caught in this almost feral act. I think the combination of those sensations proves to be tremendously overwhelming.” Elio’s conflicted emotions leads to conflict between the two of them when Oliver playfully tries to eat the peach.

“When Elio’s character becomes emotional, that’s the moment Oliver realizes a line has been crossed that he didn’t realize was there,” says Hammer. “Now, instead of being domineering, now is the time for him to slow down. This isn’t just about me, this has to be good for both of us, and it becomes a really sweet tender moment where they both end up on the same exact page.”

NAME 9

It’s notable that while Call Me By Your Name is a literary adaptation, so much of it plays out wordlessly.

There were scenes with lots of text that were removed when Guadagnino felt that they were unnecessary. “I think is one of the most beautiful things about storytelling in general,” says Stuhlbarg, “is that the words are part of what’s going on, but it’s not necessarily what’s going on underneath. I think this film celebrates the underneath. A lot can be gleaned from a look. It may tell us everything about the scene we need to know.”

Even when Elio declares his love to Oliver he uses language that is indirect. “I wanted Elio’s confession to remain ambiguous so that he would have a reprieve in case he got rejected,” says Aciman.“I identify with the difficulty that Elliot was feeling. How do you speak this way and still keep you dignity intact?”

Elio’s predicament was evoked earlier by the story Annella read earlier from Marguerite de Navarre’s 16th Century The Heptaméron telling of a lovestruck knight and his “Is it better to speak or die?” dilemma. Says Chalamet: “I think Elio is sick of calculating and would rather speak up but it’s about the most daunting thing you can do to expose yourself to someone. I think you can make an argument both for and against in life and in the movie.”

NAME 5

Says Hammer: “It’s not necessarily speak or die, it’s what happens for the rest of your life after that moment where you’re confronted with the option to speak or die. The death I think is largely metaphorical. If you don’t stand up and say this is what I feel, this is what I want, this is who I am, then maybe that part of you dies.”

One of the most luminous parts of the book and film is the tender conversation that Mr. Perlman has with Elio near the end of the film, where he offers his son unconditional love and support.

“Most gay people do not have that kind of father,” says producer Howard Rosenman. “The idea of this kind of man, loving and holding his child close to him and telling him to treasure the moment, is extraordinary. It’s almost like a fantasy, but it’s powerful and real because of the way Michael Stuhlbarg delivers it.”

NAME FATHER

Says Spears: “I saw a meme somewhere, ‘Be the person you needed when you were younger.’ Something about that has stuck with me and I feel like Luca and I, in so many ways from the very beginning, have made the movie we needed when we were younger that wasn’t there.”

In fact, the character of Mr. Perlman is based on Aciman’s own father. “My father was a very open-minded person who had no inhibitions when it came to sexuality,” says Aciman. He was a man you could always have a conversation with about anything you wanted to discuss about sex. So I wasn’t going to write the usual kind of speech, like ‘everybody goes through this’ or ‘you should see a shrink,’ or the contentious father routine, because that’s not the father I knew. My father would have said exactly what the father does in the book and the movie.”

Says Chalamet: “What was cathartic and enlightening for me in doing the scene with Michael was the sensation that pain isn’t a bad thing. In fact pain needs to be nurtured and taken care of and if you ignore pain or in the words of Mr. Perlman, ‘try to rip it out,’ you’re going to rip out everything good that came with it. Obviously, there’s going to be disappointment and hurt, but in order to achieve the good again and to reflect on the good that did happen in a positive light down the road, you need to be gentle with yourself. Don’t kill the pain and all the good that came with it.”

“If you’re lucky enough to feel something deeply, even if it hurts, don’t push it away,” says Stuhlbarg. “What a waste to feel something beautiful and then to try to pretend like it didn’t happen.”

 

RAAISEL

In this haunting story, the tragedy of autism and its devastating effect on a family, is being exposed.

The powerful South African film Raaiselkind explores the unrelenting burden of autism on an average, loving family and shows the disintegration of the family as a result. It drives home the inescapable truth that society can be cruelly indifferent to whatever it perceives to be aberrant.

In the film a 9-year old autistic boy is found dead. His mother, Ingrid (Diaan Lawrenson) who spent her life caring for him and loved him dearly, is being investigated for murder.

The film is based on the Annelie Botes novel, Raaiselkind, where the confrontation, dealing with autism within a family is brought to light. Directed  by André Velts, from a screenplay by by Lizé Vosloo & Pieter Esterhuizen. With Diaan Lawrenson, June van Merch, Deon Lotz,  Anrich Herbst, Ian Roelofs (Alexander).

A note from director André Velts

Raaiselkind is a sensational story that portrays the ruthless cross of autism. In this haunting story, the tragedy of autism and its devastating effect on a family, is being exposed. Searingly honest, it brings the inescapable truth that society can be cruelly indifferent to whatever it perceives to be aberrant.

The primary themes of “Riddle Child” are family, community rejection, friendship bonds and autism.  The film focuses on the intersection of all these themes through the birth of the boy Alex with Autism.  As they discover the reality of autism, so do we.  Through specific themes, we as viewers come to understand more fully the meaning of “family and Friends” and the ever-prevalent society disconnect.

I hope the film will create an emotional experience for viewers, and in some small way educate and help create a language that helps describe what it means to be “autistic”.

Actress Diaan Lawrence collaborated closely with me through an intensive shooting process to build the underlying sense of intimacy and familiarity that characterizes the struggle of a family facing autism.

The film ultimately asks the question: What would you do in this situation? Did she kill her own son? Was it an accident?

There is so much ignorance surrounding subjects such as autism and I believe this story will go some way towards creating awareness of the plight of adults and children afflicted in this way and the difficulties faced by their families.

By sharing stories, we start conversations, create awareness and this is a step towards changing attitudes towards people on the spectrum.

RAAISEL 2

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with screenwriter Pieter Esterhuizen

Tell me about Raaiselkind. What is it about?

Raaiselkind is the story of a family who’s son was diagnosed with Autism. It’s their journey, not so much a doccie about autism.

How did you get involved in writing the screenplay?

Annelie Botes trusted me enough to adapt her book into a screenplay, with a few proviso’s and final approval rights. She wanted to make sure that the film reflect the values in her book. It has to be clear that the ignorance and resentment towards the boy was that of the community and never from the mother.

Annelie writes extremely colorful dialogue. I had to make sure that I don’t add words that would not have fitted the personality or uniqueness of her characters.

Film language had to be cleared with her, for example: In her book the husband commits suicide, alone on a bridge away from everything and everyone. No one to witness his act of desperation. In the film he hangs himself in the front garden, from the very swing that has lovingly built that has brought so much joy to his children. This, whilst his family is at home, in plain view of everyone. Almost opposite actions, the one in the book and film, but – same result. Annelie approved this change.

How did you connect with the story on a personal level?

Annelie pretty much crossed that bridge for me. One of the many truths that she wrote was “we tend to share each others joys, not our sorrows”. If anything, Raaiselkind made me aware that I too am guilty of that.

Tell me about the process of adapting Annelie Botes’ story?

Adaptation is cut and paste. The skill and I suppose, the secret is what to cut and paste, so that we stay true to the story.

I read her book from end to end a couple of times, to try and determine the main and sub plots and to get a grip with the storyline.

Raaiselkind  has two timelines. One reality weekend, (Friday to Sunday) where the 9 year old child is found dead in the bath, the mother is arrested, and taken in for questioning. And another in past occurrences. From her pregnancy up and until the boys death. Random, Unrelated. The interrogation sequence had to be interwoven with the past occurrences, and this is where I had to decide what stays and what gets left out.

Relationships and events that received pages of dialogue and descriptive detail in the book fell by the wayside in the film. I often told Annelie that we have enough stuff for two or more full feature films, and sometimes reluctantly had to let characters and sub plots go.

I then start at the beginning of the book and capture significant dialogue in chronological order. The first draft screenplay was twice the length that we needed. It worked out to 178 pages on the “Final Draft” script format. (It roughly equates to a page a minute) DTI requires that a film be at least 90 minutes long. The cinema likes them between 90 and 100 minutes (They can then fit 5 screenings per day).

Then comes the sad part. If a scene or character does not advance the main story. Delete it. Also every other scene that bears relation to this. You end up deleting gems. Scenes that you will forever miss for not being part of the film. For example, In the book the mother “Ingrid” had a full time career and social life filled with friends and colleges. Colorful personalities. In the film they are only mentioned in passing, and not even by name.

I then swopped some scenes around, or break up long scenes and offset them with others. If your scene exceeds a page and a half, the audience will get bored with either the location or the action. You have to intercut with another occurrence. So instead of having two long-ish scenes one after the other. You have 8 or more short ones, interrupting each other.

Finally, and this is the most difficult. I try and replace dialogue with picture / action. I try and apply rule#1 of filmmaking, “Show it, don’t say it.”

 

The film explores the unrelenting burden of autism on an average, loving family and shows the disintegration of the family as a result. Your views on this?

The family did not break up from the inside. It’s the external factors that causes the chaos. Lack of understanding and support from the school, church, community, medical experts, friends and family. The one and only person that stood by the mothers side, from the day “Alexander” was born until the bitter end was her domestic, “Miriam”. She said to the investigating officer: “Nie ge-verdra nie, ge-liefd”, when asked about her relationship with the little boy. (“Not tolerated – loved”)

Was it a difficult process from page to screen?

It was difficult from novel to screenplay, because you have to reduce a 270+ page gem into an 90-100 page screenplay.

Tell me about working as a team writing the screenplay. How did your process work?

Annelie and myself worked much more like a team than me and Lize. Lize was appointed by Jan du Plessis (M Nett Licensee) to fine tune the screenplay to make it, in his view, less documentary and more story-like. (Forever grateful that she came on board.)

Did you collaborate with Annelie Botes?

Yes. It’s after all her original work. I had to know what Annelie wanted to keep in and what was important to her. It was imperative that she recognize her story in the screenplay. Adaptations can sometimes be so ego driven that it ends up being a far cry from the original work.

What do you think makes a great screenplay?

A great story, if it’s an adaptation. An even greater story if it’s an original. It has to touch the audience on an emotional level, therefore know from word one if you are writing for a movie or a film.  Sally Campher (Raaiselkind film producer) nails it: “Where-as a movie fulfills audience expectations, a film has to evoke a change in them”. Raaselkind is a film.

How do you see the future of the South African film industry?

Super bright for some, not so much for others. If you are flavour of the month (year) you will receive support from investors, distributors  government incentives. If not, you have to be creative and find ways and means to succeed “in spite off”.

What advise do you have for aspirant writers who want to get their screenplays on the big screen

Never ever ever stop writing. Writing is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration  Natural talent and opportunity means bugger all if you don’t develop your craft.

Screenplays has to conform to film rules. If you want to break them like Picasso did with his abstract art, make sure you are Picasso.

Never lose focus who you are writing for. Not the TV editors, script-buyers, crits, film fest judges. Not even for yourself. Write for your audience, your customer, the person who you hope will take the time, effort and money to go to the movies or subscribe to or stream the end result of your screenplay.

Any comments you would like to share?

My Rule no #1 of scriptwriting: “Have fun”, after all you’re just making it up.

PANTHER MASTER

The story of a young African king who takes on the mantle of a Super Hero and the centuries’ old legacy that comes with it.

Long known for its revolutionary creative vision, Marvel Comics has introduced its audiences to a diverse roster of Super Heroes since 1939, most notably with the groundbreaking Black Panther character that made its first appearance in “Fantastic Four Vol. 1” Issue 52, published in 1966, and introduced him to its massive fan base on the Big Screen in Captain America: Civil War, and now  explores his story in Black Panther.

Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) directs from a screenplay he wrote with Joe Robert Cole (The People v. O.J. Simpson:  American Crime Story), with Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War,  Get on Up) returning at Black Panther.

“The diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes back to the Marvel comics,” says Marvel Studios president and Black Panther producer Kevin Feige “I’ve always said we’re just trying to emulate what the comics have been doing so well for so many decades and one of those things is representing society as it exists.  When the Black Panther character debuted in the ‘60s it was a daring move for the Marvel bullpen of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to introduce this new character, an African character who is smarter than many of our other heroes and is stronger than most of our other heroes. To be able to put that on the big screen fifty years later is incredibly exciting for us.”

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

PANTHER

Director Ryan Coogler discusses a scene with Chadwick Boseman during the filming of Black Panther.

Writer-director Ryan Coogler is known for his intimate character-driven style, which catapulted him to the forefront of the indie film world in 2013 with his riveting award-winning drama “Fruitvale Station,” starring Michal B. Jordan. Coogler’s follow-up film “Creed,” again with Michael B. Jordan and also with Sylvester Stallone, cemented his reputation as a filmmaker who excelled with challenging, multi-layered material.

“Ryan Coogler is an unbelievable filmmaker,” comments producer Kevin Feige.  “He’s already made two films that, I believe, will stand the test of time. The fact that he was as excited and passionate about jumping into this storyline as we were was amazing for us.  His early thoughts and ideas really reinvigorated us with the possibilities for the film.”

For Coogler, talking with Kevin Feige was a meeting of minds that “definitely attracted” him to the prospect of taking on “Black Panther.” “Kevin is somebody who you could tell really loves what he does,” says Coogler. “Kevin has a really clear vision of what this universe means in pop culture and in the industry and what it could do. He’s a big-picture guy, but at the same time he can go from big picture to character and story and what’s important in a heartbeat.”

While Coogler’s filmmaking credentials impressed Feige and the Marvel Studios’ team, the self-avowed fan boy and longtime “Black Panther” fan also possessed a deep well of passion and drive to embark on the journey to bring the world of Wakanda to the big screen. That journey began with the screenplay, which he wrote with Joe Robert Cole.

As fantastical as the world of Wakanda is, the writing team made sure that the spiritual, the mystical and the technological influences in the country’s culture were still anchored in the real world with relatable characters to allow the audiences to take in a tangible, yet remarkable experience.

black-panther-inaugural-film-poster-1

The Cast

 

With a compelling storyline in place, the filmmakers looked towards filling the ranks of the cast to surround Chadwick Boseman’s title character. Coogler and Feige would eventually gather an enviable ensemble of pedigreed cast, culling from the ranks of film, theater and television artists from around the world.

Feige comments, “It’s great to be able to delve into the world of Wakanda, see Black Panther’s lineage and heritage and meet these amazing, rich characters that surround him. To bring them to life, we put together a phenomenal cast. They are among the best that we’ve ever assembled.”

Chadwick Boseman, returning to the role of T’Challa/Black Panther after his first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” offers what he finds compelling about his character. “T’Challa is smart. He’s a strategist and that has always been something that stood out to me, even in the comic books,” the actor says.  “He’s a world leader and with that comes the responsibility for an entire nation and considering its place in the world.  That’s something that other Super Heroes don’t commonly have but he must also uphold his legacy. It’s an interesting combination.”

Very little is known about Michael B. Jordan’s character, Erik Killmonger, when he’s introduced into the narrative but slowly fragments of his connection to Wakanda are revealed to T’Challa.   Killmonger is a mercenary who is just as lethal as Ulysses Klaue, so with the pair now united against T’Challa, the stakes have grown exponentially.

PANTHER 2

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, a dedicated War Dog, which is a Wakandan spy imbedded in countries outside of Wakanda to observe and report back to the royal family and tribal council.

Nakia is a force to be reckoned with—a highly disciplined and strong-willed woman who gives as good as she gets especially when it comes to T’Challa.  Her warrior skills match those of the Dora Milaje, the elite all-female security force, which makes her an exceptionally effective operative.

Best known for her immensely popular role of the katana-wielding Michonne in the hit AMC series The Walking Dead, actress Danai Gurira was a no-brainer when it came to filling the role of the fearless Okoye, T’Challa’s confidante and head of the Dora Milaje.

Martin Freeman reprises the character of Agent Everett Ross in a surprising turn as an ally, albeit a reluctant one, to T’Challa. Ross again becomes embroiled with T’Challa as they cross paths pursuing Ulysses Klaue, who has resurfaced.

British actor Daniel Kaluuya joins the cast as W’Kabi, Royal Counsel to T’Challa when he ascends to rule Wakanda.

 British actress Letitia Wright steps into the shoes of tech savvy Princess Shuri, T’Challa’s cheeky younger sister who designs all the vibranium-infused tech innovations that power Wakanda on multiple levels and enhance Black Panther’s arsenal.

Winston Duke portrays M’Baku, leader of the Jabari mountain tribe of Wakanda who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with T’Challa and the royal family.

 Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett plays the stalwart Queen Mother Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother. The recent widow is a pivotal character that provides an anchor to both T’Challa, who is struggling with his role as leader of Wakanda and protector of its traditions, and his sister, the headstrong, brilliant young Princess Shuri.

For Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, joining the “Black Panther” cast as Zuri was akin to a family reunion with Coogler and Jordan with whom he collaborated as a producer on “Fruitvale Station.” As the Shaman of Wakanda and longtime Royal advisor to King T’Chaka, Zuri has a long and complicated history with the royal family.

Andy Serkis revisits the role of the ruthless, unscrupulous South Africa arms dealer, Ulysses Klaue, who first appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This time around Klaue is after Wakanda’s vibranium and in the Black Panther’s crosshairs.

Rounding out the cast are German actress Florence Kasumba who plays Ayo, the Dora Milaje who first appeared in Captain America: Civil War; South African actor/playwright John Kani (Captain America: Civil War, Coriolanus) who returns to play T’Challa’s father King T’Chaka; and Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) appearing as N’Jobu, a Wakandan War Dog.

With its relatable characters and environments, along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s signature spectacular action, “Black Panther” is set to provide everything Marvel fans expect from a beloved Super Hero’s story brought to the big screen.

Summing up, director Ryan Coogler says, “Just the idea of bringing a story and characters like this to fruition, but at the same time dealing with some of the human issues that make Black Panther a regular guy, was so very exciting. What I mostly look forward to is sharing Black Panther’s story with the audience and seeing how it impacts them. And especially seeing how it impacts little kids, like I was when I first came to know the character in the comic books.”

 

TONYA

An absurd, tragic and hilarious look at the woman at the center of the biggest scandal in sports history.

Based on the unbelievable but true events, I, Tonya is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, illconceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

Steven Rogers wrote the script for ‘I, Tonya’ which made the 2016 Blacklist and won the 2016 Hit List. He is also a producer on the film. Previous credits include ‘Hope Floats’, ‘Stepmom’, ‘Kate and Leopold’, ‘P. S. I Love You’ and ‘Love the Coopers’ which he also executive produced.

Recognized for his sharp, offbeat comedy and ability to inspire honest performances, Australian Craig Gillespie is a critically acclaimed feature, TV, and commercial director. Walking a tightrope between the comedic and the mundane, Gillespie brings a unique tonality to his projects across all filmed media.

Gillespie made his foray into feature directing with the critically acclaimed Lars and the Real Girl, followed by Million Dollar Arm,  the remake of Fright Night, The Finest Hours, and  he served as producer and director of the Showtime series, The United States of Tara.

Q & A with producer and screenwriter Steven Rogers

TONYA 3

Tell us about the film I, TONYA and what it is about.

There was a great documentary on 30 for 30 that Nanette Burstein did about Tonya Harding that I watched with my niece who had never heard of Tonya Harding. There were these ideas in the documentary that were barely touched on that interested me about Tonya’s story. Mainly, it was this idea that media and people change the narrative to control the stories we read and hear about. So, I went onto the Tonya Harding website and found that her life rights were available. I thought to myself ‘wherever this takes me, I’m gonna go.’ I flew up to Portland and interviewed Tonya, and then I interviewed Jeff Gillooly. Their stories were so wildly contradictory… I knew that angle was my way in— I could present all the different sides of the story and let the audience decide.

What is the significance behind the title I, TONYA?

It was about three things— first, it was me having fun with the famous book I, Claudius by Robert Graves. Second, it was centered around the courtroom oath of “I, Tonya swear to tell the truth…” Then third, there was something about it that I liked because when you’re being interviewed, you put on your good face, and this is what a lot of the characters are doing by having their narrative told.

What were the challenges in making this film?

The script was based on the interviews with Tonya and Jeff. Their accounts of the events were so wildly different… I knew I had a movie. What’s interesting is that Jeff has never told anyone his point of view about what happened. He’s commented on stuff for Hard Copy or A Current Affair, but he’s never told anyone his side of it. I don’t know why he told me, but I’m glad he did. Outside of the interviews, we also did a ton of research and found verbatim dialogue from Shawn, the bodyguard, and Diane. It’s not easy to take someone’s life and reduce it to two hours, but we worked hard to find the right balance and marry the true story with the film.

How does Tonya feel about the film?

We really didn’t know what to expect when we screened the movie for Tonya. It must be such a strange feeling watching a version of your life portrayed up there on the big screen. But we were all so happy when she wholeheartedly embraced the film. She was actually moved to tears and it was fun for her to watch all her skating routines re-enacted with such close attention to detail. She especially loved the actors’ performances— she thought Margot really captured what it felt like at that time of her life. And she laughed at the jokes, too!

Q & A with director Craig Gillespie

 

TONYA 2

What initially attracted you to this film?

I was sent the script with the knowledge that Margot Robbie was attached. The combination of Tonya Harding and Margot Robbie was an immediately exciting idea to me. After reading Steven Rogers script, I was absolutely sold. The story was so masterfully told, with such a beautiful balance of emotion and humor, and a completely unconventional structure that was both intimidating and exhilarating. I couldn’t have been more excited. It was a very tricky tone, but I thought it was beautifully suited to Margot. The dance I had seen her do in previous work between humor, vulnerability and strength were all attributes that I thought embodied Tonya’s world perfectly.

Can you talk about the evolution of the film from when you came aboard through filming?

The script was in such good shape. A main priority for me was capturing the spirit of Tonya and honoring the script. There is a defiance and courage in Tonya. She has a spirit and an energy that I wanted to capture in the film. That meant a lot of moving camera, hard cuts, and music that helped create the chaos and euphoria of her life at that time.

What did you know about Tonya Harding before making the film- and after?

I was very familiar with the incident. I was working in advertising at the time, and had actually done a Campbell’s soup commercial with Nancy Kerrigan 3 months before the incident! Even so, I didn’t know all the details. I had assumed it was something to do with Tonya and Jeff Gillooly.

Discovering the world that Tonya came from and the focus and perseverance for her to make it to two Olympic Games amidst all the chaos of her life gave me a completely new perspective of her.

What do you want the world to know about Tonya after seeing this film?

She was always cast as the villain in the media, and her life is so much more complicated and tragic than that. Not to take anything away from Nancy Kerrigan, it’s awful what happened to her, but I felt there was a much more complex story of Tonya to be told. I wanted to humanize her, and possibly empathize with her.

Did you meet with Tonya and what was that like?

Margot and I had the opportunity to meet her. She was very trusting and candid. It was enormously helpful to see the person behind such a well-known name. To see how she has moved on and overcome such an infamous time.

Describe the casting process.

I was so fortunate to have Margot Robbie and Allison Janney already attached when I came on board. I couldn’t have imagined a better cast! Paul Walter Hauser came in and blew me away for the role of Shawn Eckhart. He was amazingly funny, but it always came from a sincere, genuine place. Exactly what I was hoping for. The role of Jeff Gillooly was the hardest role for me. The relationship between Tonya and Jeff is so volatile. I needed someone who could dance between the humor and violence, but still be sympathetic. We looked at a lot of actors, and it was so hard to nail the tone. Sebastian auditioned and it was pitch perfect. The chemistry between Margot and he was undeniable. They both did such a beautiful job of keeping the humanity in the performance while touching on humor when needed.

How did you handle the skating in the film- was it hard to find someone to do what Tonya was able to do?

Early on I meet with our Skating choreographer, Sarah Kawahara, to discuss what Margot would be able to do, and what we would need doubles to do. Margot trained for 4 months and did an amazing job, but obviously skating at an Olympic level would require doubles. Sarah immediately said we won’t find anyone to do the triple axel, there have only been 6 women to have done it in history. Currently there are two whom are both competing next year in the Olympics, and can’t risk injury. I was stunned at how difficult it was, that Tonya had achieved it 25 years ago and so few had been able to master it since. We ended up having to do it with visual effects!

 

 

MONEY MASTER

A race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money.

The journey from page to screen for All The Money In The World began when producer Quentin Curtis optioned John Pearson’s book on Getty, called Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J.Paul Getty that focused specifically on the infamous kidnapping.  He brought the project to screenwriter David Scarpa.

Scarpa, whose screenwriting career began with an original screenplay for DreamWorks that became The Last Castle, and Scott Derrickson’s The Day The Earth Stood Still, was intrigued by Getty’s notorious miserliness and what that represented emotionally.

“I of course knew about that kidnapping but really I had always wanted to do something about money and how it controls and shapes people’s lives,” says Scarpa.

MONEY 1

“When you think about it, so many of our decisions, from who we choose to stay married to and where we choose to live and what jobs we choose to take etc., are driven by that. And obviously people without money are affected in the sense of their choices and options are limited. But money even influences the wealthy emotionally, in that it gives them freedom and power but then what to do with that? When Quentin told me about the project, my first reaction was, ‘Oh the kid without the ear?’ and he said, ‘Well you know another interesting fact here is that Getty at the time was the richest man in the world and the ransom was well within his means, he had a billion dollars and the kidnappers asked for $17 million which was like a parking ticket to him and yet he refused to pay it.’ That got my attention. I said, ‘I’m in,,”

All The Money In The World follows the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to pay the ransom.

When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal.  With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money.

Ridley Scott directs from a script written by David Scarpa.

MONEY 3

“The obstacle wasn’t paying the ransom and rescuing his grandson – the obstacle was psychological, he just couldn’t bear to part with his money,” says Scarpa. “And so the story goes from being a standard issue thriller to something that examines the hold this money has over this man, how it affects his family and even the kidnappers. The most important thing, the life of a child, and he can’t bring himself to pay for it for all sorts of reasons. Even this wealthy man, the richest in the world, is held hostage by this money,” Scarpa notes.

Scarpa crafted the script, shaping the structure based on the kidnapping itself and combining two venerated genres in a new way.

“The kidnapping provided the spine of the script, although we do go back in time to the childhood of the boy and background into who Getty was. The biggest structural challenge was balancing the kidnapping drama with a classic biopic and we sort of smashed those genres together.  The idea was to move back and forth between this thriller and this Shakespearean family drama at the same time,” Scarpa notes.

Scarpa’s script landed on the 2015 Black List. Producers Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas of Imperative Entertainment read it, and immediately found the story captivating.

“It was huge in scope,” the Imperative partners remarked.  “A period piece spanning three continents, telling the unbelievable story of a personal tragedy that struck one of the world’s most wealthy and powerful families.  We knew immediately that this story, if done properly, would make a beautiful and compelling film.  From that moment, we made it our mission to bring this story to the big screen, and we knew there was only one director to do it.”

Ridley Scott wasn’t keen on a movie about the Getty crime … until he read the screenplay.

money 2

“The word Getty conjured up a specific memory for me, I of course knew who he was and was familiar with the incident and I wasn’t particularly interested.  But within a few lines and after meeting with Dan and Bradley, I knew I was in good hands. A great script like this is the jewel in the crown and it’s the hardest part.  When I read it, I thought ‘wow.’ The material and the script were great and I absolutely wanted to make this movie,” Scott recalls.

Scott notes the fascinating dichotomy of J. Paul Getty – his famous tight-fistedness made headlines of course, but so did his business acumen and ultimately his philanthropy.

“He had guts and brains. You don’t fly into the Middle East in 1948 and buy up oil and land rights unless you have courage and cleverness. He was a brilliant man, but all that fell away when he was asked how much he would pay for his grandson and he said ‘Nothing.’  Everyone was shocked to the core. But he was also sending a message to the kidnappers. People who kidnap people are essentially terrorists and today, governments won’t negotiate with them. So, in a way Getty was being modern in his approach. Did he really mean that?  I don’t think he could have – it was propaganda from him to the kidnappers. And people forget that he was a philanthropist on many levels. By the time he’d begun to think about his legacy, he was already in the process of building what’s now the Getty Villa in Santa Monica, this beautiful museum that’s free to the public,” Scott notes.

Paul Getty lived a remarkable and yes, cinematic life. A millionaire by the time he was 24, a famous party boy in his youth, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, reckless with his fortune, he eventually returned to the “family business.” He became a disciplined, ruthless capitalist but also a patron of art and architecture. Among other accomplishments, he was the mastermind behind the recreation of Hadrian’s Villa we know today as The Getty Villa in Malibu, California.  Getty was a man of many contradictions – unfathomably rich and relentlessly cheap, loving and cruel.

Ultimately, J. Paul Getty’s contradictory actions, morally ambiguous nature and his complicated family relationships fascinated Plummer, who was familiar with the infamous abduction and Getty’s surprising reaction, but less so about the man himself.

“The kidnapping is a big part of one’s knowledge of Getty but he was a very inward man, not particularly showy. Obviously he worshipped money – he liked lovely things because they never change or disappoint. There is a purity for him in beautiful objects that he didn’t find in people. I think he also had a less well-known humanity. Even his unsentimental attitude about the ransom – he excused it by rationalizing that he had so many grandchildren, to pay for one, then that leads to more kidnapped grandchildren. So there is some sort of cold logic to that and the script asks us to delve into that, especially as it relates to his complex relationship to his family,” Plummer observes.

Michelle Williams plays Gail, John Paul Getty III’s indefatigable mother who outwits and out-maneuvers both her miserly father-in-law and the kidnappers in a high stakes effort to rescue her son.

 

MONEY 6

Williams researched Gail as much as she could, via clips on YouTube, articles and books that mostly offered third-person accounts or mere snippets of Gail. Scott notes that there was very little research material about Gail available to Williams aside from pieces she found on the Internet. After her divorce, Gail resolutely removed herself from the fame and fortune of the Getty family and had successfully become a private citizen. It was only the infamous kidnapping that thrust her unwillingly back into the public domain.

 

Mark Wahlberg portrays Fletcher Chace, Getty’s pragmatic, enigmatic and often morally conflicted advisor and fixer. Like Williams, Scott and the material initially attracted Wahlberg to the project, in that order.

“I was always fascinated by the story itself but the real draw was Ridley Scott. I’ve always wanted to work with him; we’ve been friendly over probably the past 20 years.  I’ve always been a huge fan and I was in the middle of shooting another movie. I had five days in between two films. I checked with my wife just to let her know what a unique opportunity it was to play this particular part, and also to work with a guy that I admire so much. And when I read the part, I was even more eager because it’s not the kind of role I usually get to play. Ridley said, you know, no guns, no teddy bears, and I didn’t beat anybody up. It was nice to play a well-educated guy who does a lot of interesting things for Mr. Getty,” Wahlberg says.

 

Wahlberg didn’t turn up much about Chace in his research, befitting such man with such a secretive job.

“He was head of the crew team at Harvard, a former frogman, Navy SEAL, CIA agent, ran an oil business, and he was advising other oil companies when Mr. Getty realized how resourceful he would be and he ended up working for Getty Oil full time,” Wahlberg says.  “You put on the suspenders and the waistcoat and you’re pretty much there and the dialogue was so beautiful and well written,” he says.

Wahlberg in fact immersed himself into the script and his thoroughness served as his preparation, especially helpful in depicting a character whose loyalties and beliefs are challenged over the course of the kidnapping.

“I read the script out loud four times a day; I know it from beginning to end, back and forth so I don’t have to think about it during shooting. For me it was about exploring the nuances of the scenes especially when Fletcher Chace starts to shift.  The idea was to track that and to be as prepared as possible so that even when we shot out of order,” Wahlberg explains.

MONEY 5

Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher, plays the Getty’s unfortunate abducted grandson John Paul Getty III.

Plummer describes All The Money In The World as a “cautionary tale” with relevance today, despite the outrageous, almost unbelievable circumstances of John Paul Getty’s capture and the rarefied circles of the Getty family.

“Ridley and I talked about that a lot in the beginning, the question of what do you do when you seemingly have everything? My character goes from a modest upbringing into the powerful, affluent world of his grandfather and then into extreme deprivation and brutality at the hands of his kidnappers. At the end, he regains his freedom. When you have nothing, there is someplace to go, but when you have everything with no moral compass, then what?  He ended up having a very tragic life. I think those questions are applicable today especially for my generation.  We live in a society where the goal for a lot of people is to have as much as possible. I think one of the ideas of the film is that if you’re a sad person, whether you are wealthy or not, you will still be a sad person because happiness does not come from things outside yourself,” Plummer says.

It was Plummer’s “gangly charm” that interested Scott and his ability to play the quintessential “manchild,” whose youthful confidence and insouciance quickly turns to real terror and literal and figurative insecurity.

“He looks like an adult and someone who has experienced the world but he has a boyish charisma.  It’s why I wanted to open the film under the Via Veneto, like in ‘La Dolce Vita,’ one of my favorite films.  It was where the Euro trash and prostitutes and trust fund kids would hang out alongside film stars and paparazzi. To see a 17-year-old, out at night by himself there, looking at women, meeting these beautiful Italian street walkers who are a little bit older than him and he handles himself very well, he’s very assured. It’s a good intro to him, it tells you everything about him immediately. So, when he’s taken, thrown into a world that is inconceivably different, at the mercy of these brutal kidnappers, then suddenly the kid comes back. And Charlie played that beautifully,” Scott says.

Ultimately, Gail is the only character uncorrupted by the Getty fortune. Her only focus being the safe return of her son. The money was just the means by which to achieve that end.  Her motivation is the pure love a mother has for a child and her grit and selfless stubbornness becomes an example for everyone. But, as William’s points out, Gail must prove her determination over and over.

“It’s a suspenseful drama of course, but I also think it’s a feminist piece.  It explores what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world. She innately understood that in order to really be taken seriously, she had to gather all her faculties and powers to fight to keep control, so that she could have a seat at the table. There are so many scenes in which she is dismissed, marginalized, kept on the outside because she is a woman. I always love those kinds of characters, tough nuts who are real and complicated with spikey little bits. Gail cannot fall apart, she has to keep her eye on the prize, but the route to achieving that changes day by day, as the situation morphs, often based on events and people well beyond her control,” Williams explains.

TRAFFIC MASTER

The story for the comedy Just Getting Started came to writer/director Ron Shelton when he was trapped on the notoriously clogged Interstate 405.

To many people, a delay in traffic is enforced down-time, filled with music-listening, phone-calling or road-raging. To writer/director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham), one such delay a couple of years ago was put to very good use.

Fresh from a meeting with producer Bill Gerber—with whom the filmmaker had collaborated on the hit Tin Cup,  the story for the comedy Just Getting Started came to writer/director Ron Shelton when he was en route to his Santa Monica, CA office from Burbank, heading south on the notoriously clogged Interstate 405.

“The whole story came to me in a traffic jam on the 405. I was going about a mile an hour, when a three-act structure just appeared.”

“Bill and I have a friend, who is kind of a hustler. No one can quite figure out what he does, but he always drives a fancy car, has a pretty woman on his arm and a big fat roll of cash in his pocket. A rogue hustler who turns out to be a hero is a fascinating archetype, and the idea of a community of people over 50, more active than people in their 20s, appealed to me.”

In Just Getting Started, Duke Diver (Morgan Freeman) is the freewheeling manager of the luxury Palm Springs resort, the Villa Capri. Diver may have a mysterious past, but he’s a pro at making sure that life for the high spirited residents is one big, non-stop party. But the status quo is challenged when ex-military charmer Leo (Tommy Lee Jones) checks in, triggering a competition between Duke and Leo for the top spot of Alpha male, as well as for the affections of the newly-arrived Suzie (Rene Russo). When Duke’s past suddenly catches up with him, the rivals put aside their differences and the two men reluctantly team up to stop whoever is trying to kill Duke, and also save the Villa Capri.

STARTED

Writer-director Ron Shelton with actors Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman during the filming of Just Getting Started

“I always thought it would be a fun idea to stage a film set during Christmas in a very un-Christmas-like atmosphere,” continues Shelton, who grew up in balmy Santa Barbara, CA, fascinated by surfing and playing golf while surrounded by classic Dickens-inspired holiday iconography and decorations.

Ron Shelton began in the industry penning screenplays, including the political drama Under Fire. But in 1988, he made his feature film directing debut on his original screenplay Bull Durham, which resonated with his own experience as a ball player—the film was an instant hit, earning Shelton an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay

“One holiday, I was driving through Palm Springs, Dinah Shore Drive and Bob Hope Drive, and plastic icicles were bobbing in the wind. Dust storms were coming through, an inflatable snowman was blowing down the street and Dean Martin was being piped in, singing ‘Let It Snow.’ That always stuck in my mind as a delicious background for a story. So, after that slow crawl on the 405, I got back to the office, typed up and emailed a one-page treatment, and called Billy—he responded to it immediately.”

Producer Bill Gerber explains, “This film started because Ron Shelton and I were hanging out in my office, and we were telling stories about a fabled golf entrepreneur-slash-filmmaker friend of ours, and the incredible boondoggles that he had accomplished over the years. One thing led to another. We discussed films with that kind of character, and sports comedies, along with great pairings of actors—wouldn’t it be great to get this one and that one, or so and so, together? Ron said, well, let me think about it—maybe I’ll come up with something. And literally, he’s on his way home, in bumper-to-bumper traffic. He called me up and said, I think I got it.”

“Just Getting Started is a Ron Shelton comedy, well written and sophisticated, with snappy dialogue and memorable characters,” continues Gerber. “Duke is just larger-than-life, generous and enigmatic. For Duke, the taller the tale, the truer it is. He’s always looking out for everybody, and everyone seems to knows him, somehow.”

“We’re entering a time when people are discovering another chapter in their lives, second chances, later-life romances. There are a lot of entertaining stories that come out of having such an active life during retirement.”

Citing some of his favorite films, producer Steve Richards avows Shelton’s ability to weave a captivating tale. “Bull Durham and Tin Cup were so influential when I was growing up,” Richards recalls. “When Billy brought me Ron’s script, I was excited from the beginning. It really delivered on the energy level present in Ron’s comedies—and incorporated a different perspective. We’re entering a
time when people are discovering another chapter in their lives, second chances, later-life romances. There are a lot of entertaining stories that come out of having such an active life during retirement. And Christmas carolers bundled up in the 110-degree heat of Palm Springs, CA is not only ironic and wrong, it is a hilarious backdrop.”

As an estimated 65-million baby-boomers face retirement, Gerber is also certain they’re having a lot more fun, a lot longer into their lives. “When I was at Warner Bros., I worked on the Grumpy Old Men movies, and I always loved that idea that you’re never too old for any of it, you can still have a great time in your later years,” says Gerber, recalling a favorite bumper sticker that declares, “You’re never too old to have a happy childhood!”

Although the discussions that preceded his penning the screenplay for Started did involve prospective actor pairings, Shelton did not go into the project with the lead roles precast. He offers, “When I wrote the script, I didn’t have anybody in mind. When Morgan Freeman’s name came up, I initially thought of his work—God, the president, the speaker, a judge, definitely a voice of authority. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized what a great idea it was. He’s always got a twinkle in his eye. I bet he’d love to not play God and play a rogue—the key is, you have to love rogues, the ones that aren’t causing anybody harm. If the books don’t add up, so what? That archetype of an American hustler. And Morgan responded to it. He just took it. He loved playing it. After the first day of shooting, he told me, you know, this is more who I am— I’m not God, or the president or those other guys.”

STARTED 2

Morgan Freeman observes, “Duke is a bit of a shyster, and a lover—at least, in his own mind—but he really means well and is a good guy…for the most part. I get called on so much for gravitas that this was like unshackling. The big plus from Ron is that if you have a better idea for a line, he says, that’s what I was looking for. When you get into a rhythm as actors, there comes a time when it becomes free-flowing. You’re not married absolutely to the text, because you can see the possibilities in it, and Ron sees them too. It makes him a lot of fun as a director.”

When it came time for discussion on the casting of Duke’s challenger, Steve Richards remembers, “Oftentimes, you cast these movies by putting pictures up on a wall and looking at possible pairings. And when we put Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman up there, we all just started laughing. There was this general feeling of, oh, my gosh, that would be fantastic!”

Ron Shelton takes a bit of a philosophical turn when he says, “The chemistry in a movie comes from having people who don’t occupy the same place. If you have Morgan and get another Morgan, you’ve got nothing. You have to have somebody that is, in a way, anti-Morgan. Tommy Lee Jones. He doesn’t try to charm you. He’s tough, male, macho. He’s got a very wicked sense of humor, but it’s as dry as the west Texas dust. I know a lot of people have never seen it—but they will. We want to see these guys together, because they
occupy different emotional/psychic turf.”

When Leo appears, he is somewhat of an enigma to Duke and his posse, but Jones explains, “The story that emerges is that this fellow has had a long career in the military and done very well. He’s recently lost his wife, but he has made a lot of money in the business world, probably through his international connections.”

Past relationships also came into play when time to fill the role of the corporate number-cruncher and possible romantic interest, Suzie. Another Tin Cup collaborator sprang to mind. Ron Shelton recalls, “After I reached out to Rene Russo and told her I had something, we met, and she told me this story about her having road rage. Who would think that Rene has road rage? I have it,
too, because I pretty much live in my car. So, I thought, wow, what if the character of Suzie has a bit of road rage in her? Just a little streak, from some parts of her life that haven’t gone so great? I folded it into the character, and Rene read it and signed on.”

Russo notes, ““What I love about Ron’s characters,” she continues, “is that you’re never just a tight-ass. You’re never just one thing. Suzie’s all over the place, which is fun to play. No one writes it better than Ron. You get to access a lot of different colors, just about every color in your paint box. For instance, it’s so much fun to be angry in a comedy, because it’s a different color than if you’re angry in a dramatic scene. I just love the script—it’s rare that you get comedy like Ron’s.”

On Shelton’s flair for writing believable relationships, he confesses a fascination with human behavior.

STARTED 4

 

“It amuses me, stimulates me, challenges me.It was great to add Suzie’s rage to Rene’s wonderful combination of insecurities,
strength and power she brings to the dance. I love women. I don’t pretend to understand them and stopped trying long ago. But, you embrace what you don’t know, with deep affection and curiosity, and you try to sort it out in the writing. You could write relationships the rest of your life and never scratch the surface. I’m thrilled with the chemistry of the three of them. The key in any movie is
having characters that audiences want to watch get into and out of their dilemma—and I think we have done that,” he declares.

One of the great ironies of the story is that it takes place during the season of brotherly love, yet there is no love lost between Duke and Leo as they vie for bragging rights and Suzie. “We have two archetypes, the hustler and the exmilitary guy, and there is a pivotal moment when the hustler has a little problem and the only person that can really solve it is the ex-military guy…and that’s
when it all kicks into high gear,” explains Gerber.

“In the latter part of the movie, they have to work together, but since they barely know each other, it doesn’t always go well,” adds Richards. “It really shows off not only these actors, but also, what Ron does so well—two guys who can’t stand each other, stuck in a car, when their lives depend on working together to accomplish something.”

In closing, Ron Shelton says, “This may be an eye opener for people under a certain age. I hope they realize that their parents are hipper and crazier than they thought. But people my age, and the ages in this film, what were we doing in our 20s? Our 20s were in the ‘60s—the craziest time of all. Everybody was doing everything. The same people now playing shuffleboard were maybe at Fillmore East with Janis Joplin, doing stuff that you can’t tell your kids about. That’s us. We’re not the kind that are going to suddenly say, you know what, I really want to stop and just slow down. No, it’s more, we wanna party.”

FIFTY

The cinematic version of Fifty Shades has been adopted by the tens of millions of fans who have been there to experience Christian and Ana’s journey since the beginning.

Given the record-setting sales of E L James’ “Fifty Shades” novels, and the first two films’ impressive global box-office take, those at the center of the Fifty Shades’ pop-culture event are more than forthcoming about their longtime involvement, as well as how it feels to see the end of the seminal trilogy appear on screen.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Freed, the climactic chapter based on the worldwide bestselling “Fifty Shades” phenomenon.  Bringing to a shocking conclusion events set in motion in 2015 and 2017’s blockbuster films that grossed almost $950 million globally.

Fifty Shades Freed is directed by Fifty Shades Darker’s James Foley. The screenplay is by Niall Leonard, based on the novel by E L James.

Believing they have left behind shadowy figures from their past, newlyweds Christian and Ana fully embrace an inextricable connection and shared life of luxury.  But just as she steps into her role as Mrs. Grey and he relaxes into an unfamiliar stability, new threats could jeopardize their happy ending before it even begins

Producer Dana Brunetti begins: “As a producer of these films—bringing to life these books that fans are just ravenous for and seeing the phenomenal success of them—well, it’s been extraordinary.  It’s not something that a lot of people—whether a producer, a writer, a director, a cast or crew member—ever get to do in their entire careers.  To be able to do this with three different movies, it’s been extremely rewarding and satisfying.  I’m extremely grateful to be able to be accepted both in the ‘Fifty Shades’ family by Erika, but also by the fan base, because they are very critical—the last thing any of us wanted to do was mess up that thing that they love so much.”

Signs along the way let filmmakers know that they were far from messing up, beginning with the explosive box-office performance of the first film.  When the trailer for the second film, Fifty Shades Darker, debuted online in September 2016, in less than 24 hours, it racked up more than 114 million views, shattering the previously set record for highest-performing full-length trailer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with 112 million views.

EL JamesBook author and producer E L James was and is surprised by the depth of emotion the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey stirred up in fans.  At one point, she was even satisfied with the story concluding with just one book.  E L James explains: “The first two books were written as one, and I’d stopped at the wedding proposal and thought, ‘This is great.  I’ve left them in a good place.’  But I got readers urging me to write more.  I remember being on holiday and I was listening to Michael Bublé’s version of ‘You Will Never Find Another Love Like Mine,’ over and over again.  I thought, ‘Hang on a minute.  If I’m going to write more, what would it be?’

“I knew the only thing I could do was to have Ana pregnant and to see Christian’s reaction, which is not great,” E L James continues.  “I knew that’s where I wanted the story to go.  That’s why I started writing the third book—to see him absolutely terrified, furious, when she announces that she’s pregnant.  He goes completely ballistic, because he’s a scared child himself.”

Fifty-Shades-Freed-Movie-Kissing-hdw

As production decided to film both installments, Darker and Freed, simultaneously, all were in place to pick up the story of Ana and Christian moving through the world as a married couple.  Still, rather than just one cinematic tale split into halves, the team was committed to treating each project as a thematically and stylistically separate entity.  This choice was reinforced by the selection of James Foley as both chapters’ director.  The filmmaker came armed with experience of simultaneous productions on separate installments of the lauded cable series, House of Cards.

james-foley.w529.h529

James Foley

Foley offers that filming both chapters simultaneously offered its share of rewards.  “It wasn’t as if it was doubly challenging, because the movies are directly continuous with each other.  It’s always dire holding one big story in your head.  If you’re filming one movie at a time, you’re still doing it out of sequence, and have to hold the whole movie in your head.  This time, our movie was just longer, but the emotional throughline was directly connected.  It wasn’t like Freed starts 10 years later, where Christian and Ana are totally different people.  It starts a few months after Darker, so there is a real continuum that made it possible to do.”

Brunetti reflects, “Jamie Foley is such a great storyteller, and I feel Darker and Freed both stand on their own as individual movies.  If you haven’t seen Fifty Shades of Grey, or you don’t see Fifty Shades Freed, Fifty Shades Darker stands on its own as a movie; even though it’s part of a trilogy, it still works.  Same thing with Freed.  They all stand on their own as great stories and compelling movies.”

Regarding the title choice of this chapter, E L James explains, “In the third book, Christian finally learns to let go and accept what’s coming to him.  I think he’s freed.  And seeing the woman he loves with a child is the most healing thing that could ever happen to him.”

But the tone of Freed, overall, is far from merely a romance of the healing kind.  Screenwriter Niall Leonard, who returns to this chapter, notes: “Freed opens with a mysterious man visiting the offices of Grey Enterprises.  We realize quickly that he’s Jack Hyde and up to no good.  Rather than starting with this idyllic existence that Christian and Ana have, we’re starting with the threat of Jack.  It becomes clear that everything they do in this movie is constrained by the threat of his revenge.  From the get-go, our heroes are never safe, happy or utterly content.  Christian is aware of this and doesn’t tell Ana, thinking he’s protecting her.  But of course, as a husband and wife, you don’t always protect somebody by keeping secrets.  Eventually the truth comes out—it becomes another hurdle for them to face together, and another issue in their constant efforts at building trust between them.”

While it may sound fated that the couple will find that fairy-tale ending, Leonard is quick to disagree:  “I would think that Erika herself might resist this idea of destiny, because it suggests that no matter what you do, you’re going to end up at a happy place.  In fact, Ana and Christian have to make a big effort—they have to reach beyond themselves, to go way out of their comfort zones—to find each other and create this relationship that saves them.  ‘Destiny’ makes it sound too easy—it’s a deliberate journey, it’s a struggle and a time of great conflict.  Hopefully, we won’t have the sense that this was all easy, because it isn’t for the characters.

FIFTY 2

“For us, the marriage is the beginning of a new adventure, a new story, a new series of challenges,” the screenwriter continues.  “It’s not the be-all and end-all.  Erika was wise to make that her focal point of the start of the third book, because it’s a whole new journey for our characters.”

It was crucial for E L James to start Freed where Christian and Ana have to face up to the realities of what it is like to be married and how, when you marry someone so quickly, things don’t always go according to plan.  “That puts a bit of a question mark at the beginning,” reflects the author.  “That, and new threats come into Freed.  So, we’re finding our beloved couple getting to know each other and finding a way of living with each other.  As someone who’s been married for a very long time, you do sort of knock the corners off each other, as it were, in a relationship, and that’s what Christian and Ana are beginning to do.”

Niall Leonard

Niall Leonard

E L James’ professional and life partner, Leonard relished that mix of the personal and the circumstantial, but also found it perhaps the most challenging to pen.  He says: “Exploring their journey within that marriage was a big challenge and, hopefully, we did it right.  I was helped by the fact that Erika, being a very entertaining writer, put in some great stuff, like car chases and heists and helicopter crashes.  I took the liberty of moving some incidents about from book two to book three, in order to keep the story moving quickly.  Still, I think that the third was the one that presented the greater challenge.”

While one might conclude that having the series creator on set as producer would be constraining, director Foley offers that wasn’t the case.  “In her role as a producer, Erika would interject sometimes, but not very often.  When she would do it, she would do it in the most respectful way, just raising a question, instead of making it feel like she was trying to pressure you to do something.  Because she was just raising a question, I always was open to thinking about it.  Sometimes I would agree with her, and sometimes I wouldn’t, but it was very friendly.  We became good friends, which we still are.”

For her third time as Anastasia Steele, Dakota Johnson dove headfirst into Ana’s challenging world and emboldened sense of self.  She updates us with where the characters are: “In Freed, there’s more suspense, more of a thriller aspect, with additional characters and more action—all of that is intertwined with the love story.  A love story that has evolved and deepened.  Anastasia and Christian are married, and Anastasia has received a promotion, raising the intensity of both her private and professional life.”

She agrees with E L James and Leonard, though, when she states: “This is an epic love story but we do our best to keep it grounded and relatable.  It’s one of those inexplicable connections between two people that is completely undeniable.  Throughout these stories, you find the protagonists faced with situations that require one or both of them to bend their wills and adapt to their version of love.”

Jamie Dornan was likewise fascinated by the swirl of personal challenges and dark intrigue facing the couple in Freed.  He says: “Christian’s reaction to Ana being pregnant is not positive. It’s the exact way that you don’t want your partner to respond when you say you’re pregnant.  He feels like he is in no position to be a father.  Where they are in their life and the kind of relationship he wants to have with her, a baby’s just the last thing that he wants—it would not fit into his structure.  Emotionally he feels that having had such an awful early childhood, why—when his birth parents were so awful—why would he be any better?  That terrifies him.”

Terrifying on another level is the threat Christian begins to perceive behind the series of unfortunate events that have begun to take place.  Dornan explains: “Once he realizes that both the helicopter and the computer server were sabotaged, he knows that Jack Hyde was involved.  He knows him to be a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.  In that way, he is very similar to Christian.”

Alongside fellow filmmakers E L James and Brunetti, returning to cap the trilogy are producers Mike De Luca and Marcus Viscidi, who also served double duty as unit production manager on both Darker and Freed.

Viscidi was perhaps keenest of anyone to shoot both films together, knowing it was the most logical and creative decision.  “It wasn’t daunting for me; in fact, I encouraged the studio.  There was a lot of debate.  I encouraged them, as I wore one hat from the financial side, saying, ‘The advantages of shooting Darker and Freed combined is that we were able to build these incredible sets for both movies.  Why strike them, hold them for a year and then set them up again?’

“But I had other reasons that were more important than just strictly the financial ones,” the producer continues.  “For the actors and for James Foley, for them to be able to see Darker and Freed, to read both scripts and to understand where their characters are—starting in book two and finishing in book three—it helped them.  It made it a more fluid process, throughout the whole filming.  Even if you’re going occasionally from certain Darker sets one day and some Freed the next, it still helped tremendously.”

“It’s very bittersweet to watch the trilogy come full circle,” reflects De Luca.  “This passion project we all began several years ago has become so much more than any of us could have anticipated.  It’s not simply a labor of love to those of us who have been tasked with shepherding Erika’s brilliance to the big screen, the cinematic version of Fifty Shades has been adopted by the tens of millions of fans who have been there to experience Christian and Ana’s journey since the beginning.  With this chapter, it’s been hard for all of us to say goodbye…for now.”

STRONG MASTER

 “12 Strong” is not just a war movie; it’s a story about learning to respect the differences that separate us but also to embrace the qualities that unite us.

Every American adult knows exactly where they were and what they were doing on the terrible morning of September 11, 2001.But until recently, only a small handful knew about the extraordinary events that unfolded in the immediate aftermath.With the country still reeling, 12 brave members of the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces—known as the Green Berets—left their homes and loved ones to take on a perilous classified mission in the war-torn country of Afghanistan.

These “12 Strong” were chosen to strike the first blow in America’s response to the terrorist attacks. They were not ordered to go. They volunteered to go.

Now the true story of these dozen warriors is being brought to the big screen in the new action drama 12 Strong.

Oscar winner Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Parts 1 & 2) wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed book Horse Soldiers by author Doug Stanton. Award-winning director Nicolai Fuglsig directed the film, which is produced by legendary producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Black Hawk Down), together with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill under their Black Label Media banner (La La Land,” “Sicario).

12 Strong is set in the harrowing days following 9/11 when an elite U.S. Special Forces unit, led by their Captain, Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), is selected to be the first U.S. soldiers to provide an offensive response to the unprecedented attacks on U.S. soil.

Leaving their families behind, the team is dropped into the remote, rugged landscape of northern Afghanistan, where they must convince General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) to join forces with them to fight their common adversary: the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies.

In addition to overcoming mutual distrust and a vast cultural divide, the Americans— accustomed to state-of-the-art warfare—must adopt the unfamiliar tactics of the Afghan horse soldiers. Despite forming an uneasy bond and growing respect, the new allies face overwhelming odds: vastly outnumbered and outgunned by a ruthless enemy that does not take prisoners.

STRONG 1

Chris Hemsworth, who stars as Captain Mitch Nelson, the leader of the Special Forces team, notes, “These Green Berets weren’t there as occupiers; they were there to assist the Afghan people who had been fighting for their freedom. Without much prior intel, they had to come in and earn the trust of Dostum and his men or they could never have accomplished their mission. What I loved about this story was it was a chance to show Americans working side-byside with the Afghan people to fight a common enemy.”

This is a movie where you can rally around both the Americans and the Afghans because, together, they took an epic ride into the mouth of hell.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer offers, “While the American public was still in shock, these men ventured into the unknown, into a situation fraught with danger, to try and settle the score and bring us a victory. They had to leave their wives and kids at a moment’s notice, with both they and their families not knowing where they were going or if they’d ever make it back. The operation was classified for a number of years—most people have never even heard of the story—but these men are true heroes.”

“They were the tip of the spear, the first American soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan,” says director Nicolai Fuglsig. “When they arrived, they found themselves outnumbered 5,000 to 1 by the enemy and were constantly at risk of getting captured because of the huge bounty the Taliban had placed on their heads.”

Codenamed Task Force Dagger, the mission was as much diplomatic as it was military.

Fuglsig explains, “This small Special Forces team was to link up with a local warlord named General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a leader in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, in an effort to help him regain control of the region. It was the initial step in America’s fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda after 9/11.”

The Northern Alliance, a fragile coalition of Afghan military leaders, had itself become somewhat fractured in the years since its formation in 1996, but, regardless, there was one thing that united them: their mutual desire to rid their country of the ruthless Taliban.

Bruckheimer calls the mission “unprecedented” for another reason. Despite being among the best-trained soldiers in any branch of the military, the 12 Green Berets were unprepared for one unique challenge: in northern Afghanistan’s treacherously steep, mountainous terrain, the transportation modes of modern warfare had to give way to something more basic. “The only way through the mountain passes is on mules or horses, so they had to adapt,” the producer details. “Only one of them was an expert rider, so the rest had to learn on the run.”

For the first time in 60 years, “Americans were heading into battle on horseback,” Fuglsig observes. “But now they were riding into combat against missile launchers and T-72 tanks. The fact that every member of that Special Forces team made it home alive is nothing short of a miracle.”

The extraordinary story of the Green Berets known as ODA (Operational Detachment Alphas) 595 was first chronicled by author Doug Stanton in the 2009 bestseller Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. However, Bruckheimer recalls, “Even before the book was finished, it was brought to us in galley form. Doug Stanton is a fantastic writer; we loved it right away. I thought it was an amazing true story—intense and heroic, with stunning action. And, remarkably enough, there have been very few films made about the Army’s Special Forces. They are known as ‘the quiet professionals’ because their missions are covert and, for obvious reasons, they rarely publicize their exploits.”

DOUG

Doug Stanton

For Stanton, who also served as an executive producer on the film, the prospect of having Jerry Bruckheimer bring his book to life as a major motion picture version of his book seemed like the proverbial match made in heaven. “I’ve been a fan of Jerry’s for a long time,” he affirms. “When I saw ‘Black Hawk Down,’ from the first frame I said, ‘This is a filmmaker who knows how to tell these stories.’ They’re both stories about war, but ultimately, they are about people trying to make a difficult decision at the least opportune moment.”

After developing the project for several years, Bruckheimer Films teamed with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill at Black Label Media, and Alcon Entertainment’s Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson to bring “12 Strong” to fruition. “Black Label and Alcon were terrific partners for us in producing the movie,” says Chad Oman, President of Jerry Bruckheimer Films and an executive producer on the film. “They were as passionate about the project as we had been since we first read Doug Stanton’s captivating book, agreeing that this was an important, yet largely unknown, story that needed to be told on film. It was a really positive and rewarding collaboration from beginning to end.”

Producer Trent Luckinbill says they appreciated the opportunity to collaborate for the first time with Bruckheimer. “Jerry has had one of the most prolific careers in the industry, so he obviously brings a lot of experience. He’s very engaged, very hands on, and his energy is boundless. We were excited to learn from him.”

“As a company, we respond to incredible true stories, so when we read the script, we were blown away,” producer Molly Smith relates. “It told of what happened in the days after 9/11, which is something people around the world need to know. It’s a tale of courage and heroism of the highest degree.”

In addition to recounting the remarkable story of the first Special Forces team on the ground in Afghanistan, “12 Strong” also recognizes the courage of those left behind. As seen early in the film, their wives and children are also faced with the sacrifices that come with military service…even when you don’t wear a uniform. Smith confirms, “I think it’s very important in a war movie or a film about the military that you not only get to see what it’s like for these men to leave their wives and their children but also the effect it has on their families.”

For the men, there are conflicting emotions in saying goodbye to one family to fight alongside another—their brothers in arms. Fuglsig expands, “Most of these guys had been working closely together for years. When you’re responsible for each other’s lives, the bond that forms is much more that of a brotherhood than a team.”

Ted Tally and Peter Craig had the task of adapting Stanton’s comprehensive non-fiction account into a taut cinematic screenplay.

“When I first came upon the book I was mesmerized by it,” Tally relates. “I’m a history buff, and this was a slice of epic history that I didn’t know about, and I imagine most people don’t know about it either. I was struck by the courage and ingenuity of the American soldiers and of their Afghan allies. And what makes it even more fascinating is that it’s 21st-century warriors in a centuries-old environment and culture. Here were the most highly trained soldiers in the United States, and now they were being forced to completely improvise in ways no one had foreseen.

“One of the things that really moved me about this story was that these Green Berets were all grown men,” Tally continues. “They weren’t fresh-faced boys; they were mature men with wives and kids taking on this risk for their country and eager to do it. They knew what it could mean, they understood what they were sacrificing, but that’s their training. That’s their instinct.”

The script was one of the things that drew Nicolai Fuglsig to the project, which would mark the director’s feature film debut.

STRONG 4

Fuglsig recalls, “Jerry sent me the script and I loved the story so much that I immediately went and read the book.”

Bruckheimer says, “Nicolai is an extraordinary visual artist who has won awards for his commercial work. He also has a background as a documentarian and as a photojournalist who has shot all over the world and covered the war in Kosovo. He has a unique eye and we felt fortunate to work with him on his first movie.”

“As a photojournalist, I have seen war firsthand and definitely experienced some very intense moments,” Fuglsig notes. “In a way, all wars are somewhat similar when you consider the element of human tragedy, but I think this film is a very different type of war drama. The Americans come to help the Afghans fight their own battle against the Taliban, so these people from two very different cultures have to learn to work together for a shared cause.”

kultur_fuglsig_26-0_554471d_mani-e1441969662870-466x270

NICOLAI FUGLSIG is an award-winning film director and photojournalist who made his feature film directorial debut on “12 Strong.” Born in Elsinore, Denmark, Fuglsig graduated from the Danish School of Journalism and went on to become a staff photographer for the national newspaper Politiken in Copenhagen

The director’s vision for the project impressed all of the producers. “Nicolai went out and did an enormous amount of research on the Special Forces who were over there,” says Bruckheimer. “Somehow, he even got his hands on a government report on the operation. So he came in with photographs he’d gathered and offered a fresh point of view on how he would make the movie.”

Producer Thad Luckinbill, who also portrays one of the “12 Strong,” remarks, “The amount of work he had done, the thoughtfulness that had gone into the presentation, the integrity with which he wanted to present this story…it was just unmatched. Visually, he’s such a beautiful shooter, who understands the camera and the frame. But to hear his passion for the project and his understanding of the story, it was a no-brainer. He was the guy.”

While Tally and Craig’s writing adhered closely to the actual events as told in Stanton’s book, as with all screen adaptations, some dramatic license was taken. For example, all but a few names of the ODA-595 team had been changed by the author to protect the soldiers’ identities on what was still a classified mission at the time of writing, and those fictional names were retained in the film. “We were making a feature film and not a documentary,” says Bruckheimer, “but both Ted and Peter expertly found a way to tell the story in a manner that was true to the essence of the events and the characters.”

Nevertheless, from the beginning, verisimilitude became a watchword for the filmmakers, who all wanted to do justice to this true story. They brought in military consultants and also relied on the expertise of Doug Stanton, whom Bruckheimer calls “a great colleague for us throughout the process. One way he helped us was by hooking us up with the Special Forces— men who were actually involved in Task Force Dagger.”

Two of those men were Mark Nutsch, ODA-595 Special Forces Captain and detachment commander on the mission, and his assistant detachment commander and Chief Warrant Officer Bob Pennington. They are the real-life counterparts to the roles played by Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon, respectively.

Pennington states that being the tip of the spear after the 9/11 attacks “was our proudest accomplishment ever. To me, it was the pinnacle. We had the primo mission given to us. Now, let’s roll.”

“We’re humbled that a movie has been made about our team’s mission in that pivotal post-9/11 period,” Nutsch adds. “It also means a great deal to our families, who sacrifice so much, that what we accomplished is finally being brought more into public light. And I believe it will mean a lot to the Afghan people because it shows their service in that conflict.”

Acknowledging all his comrades in arms, Nutsch continues, “We are truly honored that ’12 Strong’ captures the spirit of the U.S. Army Special Forces. I think it’s important to show what the power and capabilities of the Green Berets are. They are people who are driven and expect a high standard of themselves and their teammates. We really pushed each other, and we were better for it.”

“This movie superbly portrays a Special Forces team in the battlefield as they should be portrayed,” says Pennington. It really shows some of what we went through, how we adapted to situations and overcame some serious challenges.”

Lieutenant General John Mulholland—then a colonel and the man who selected ODA595 to go into Afghanistan—reveals that one of the team’s primary hurdles was that they’d be heading into the mission essentially blind. He explains, “Before undertaking an Unconventional Warfare mission behind enemy lines to work with indigenous peoples, U.S. Army Special Forces dedicate an enormous amount of time and energy studying the culture, history, political complexities and idiosyncrasies of both the people and the event in order to build the rapport with our indigenous partners that is absolutely essential to achieve the objectives that both they and the United States share. In the wake of the terrible attacks of 9/11, and the need for essentially an immediate response, our teams were required to go in almost overnight and join up with people they’d never had the time to study, never worked with, and whose language they did not speak. In fact, the list of what we didn’t know massively outweighed what we did know. Yet, despite those handicaps, our men did an exceptional job on an extraordinarily dangerous mission to accomplish our goal of defeating and overthrowing the Taliban regime.”

20bm pg5 12 Strong

Michael Shannon, who plays Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer, attests that meeting some of their counterparts was a great benefit to the cast. “It meant a lot to us that they did come because if you’re going to tell a story like this, it’s really your responsibility to tell it accurately, so it helped to get their point of view.”

When they visited the set, Nutsch and Pennington had with them something that motivated every member of the cast and crew. Trevante Rhodes, who plays the unit’s Ben Milo, recalls, “They actually brought a piece of the Twin Towers, and that was the most powerful moment on set. We all passed it around and that’s when it really set in. We all remember what happened, but this was tangible, just a shock to your system. It brought all those emotions back, so that was very valuable.”

Trent Luckinbill says, “When the towers fell, each of the Green Beret teams were vying to get into the game. They wanted to be the first guys sent in, regardless of not even knowing exactly what they were getting into—not knowing who they were going to be fighting with or if they could trust them. I think it takes real heroes to step into a situation like that.”

“It was such an honor to meet some of the courageous men who took part in this mission,” adds Smith. “They knew it was their duty to be there. They trained for this and were ready and willing to go fight for their country. The incredible sense of pride they have in being part of the armed forces that guard America is inspiring.”

Fuglsig offers, “This is a movie where you can rally around both the Americans and the Afghans because, together, they took an epic ride into the mouth of hell. If the U.S. Special Forces team didn’t work together with General Dostum and his militia, they would have had no chance against the tens of thousands of Taliban fighters. At its core, “12 Strong” is not just a war movie; it’s a story about learning to respect the differences that separate us but also to embrace the qualities that unite us.”

DISASTER 1

A rollicking take on the American Dream, with two unlikely friends chasing after creative glory in ways that are both unexpected and winning.

With The Disaster Artist, director James Franco (As I Lay Dying, Child of God) transforms the tragicomic true-story of aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau—an artist whose passion was as sincere as his methods were questionable—into a celebration of friendship, artistic expression, and dreams pursued against insurmountable odds.

Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy’s cult-classic “disasterpiece” The Room (The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made), The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and welcome reminder that there is more than one way to become a legend—and no limit to what you can achieve when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.  The screenplay was written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber ((500) Days of Summer, The Fault in Our Stars) based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

In 2003, an independent filmmaker launched himself into the business out of nowhere with one of the worst movies ever made

The Room, a torrid romantic melodrama about a love triangle gone awry that was written, directed, and produced by Tommy Wiseau.

TOMMY

Whether by accident or design, Tommy Wiseau pursued his creative vision against all odds and made a movie for the ages, one whose raucous, go-for-broke spirit the The Disaster Artist lovingly recaptures down to its most meticulous, messy details. For all of its missteps, The Room has succeeded in bringing thousands of people together—its popularity simply refuses to wane.

This enigmatic figure with dyed-black hair, bearing an impenetrable foreign accent, became infamous in Hollywood after erecting a billboard on Highland Avenue promoting his bizarre $6 million vanity project. On the billboard was a close-up of Wiseau’s tough-guy demeanor, replete with a sunken eyelid and a misspelled tagline promising “Tennessee Williams-level drama.”

Premiering on two screens in Southern California and abruptly disappearing after grossing a paltry $1,800 in two weeks, The Room gained new life in the years to come through midnight screenings and word of mouth. Along the way, Wiseau came to embrace his role as the mysterious nobody who blundered his way into Hollywood infamy by pursuing his big dream no matter what the cost.

182629769

Flash forward to 2013, when Greg Sestero, one of The Room’s stars, published The Disaster Artist, the young actor’s account of moving to Los Angeles and making The Room after meeting Wiseau in a San Francisco acting class, bonding over their mutual love for James Dean. Prior to publication by Simon & Schuster, a galley of the book (co-written with Tom Bissell) fell into the hands of writer-director-producer James Franco, who was in Vancouver shooting The Interview with his former Freaks & Geeks co-star Seth Rogen. Franco had not yet seen The Room, but immediately warmed to Sestero’s amusing and frequently charming account of filmmaking by accident—and finding friendship in disaster.

“Tommy made his movie intending it to be a drama and then people laughed at it,” says Franco. “Greg’s book was about Hollywood, but it was also the story of these misfits involved in the production of The Room. I saw The Disaster Artist as an industry-insider story told through outsiders in the vein of Ed Wood, a movie I loved.”

Franco also was enticed by the idea of a bromance set behind the scenes of a haplessly amateur film production that, against all odds, went on to delight audiences around the world. He optioned the book, and in tribute to Wiseau, set out to direct, produce and star in the adaptation. Appearing as Wiseau—opposite his younger brother Dave playing Sestero—Franco provides a rollicking take on the American Dream, with two unlikely friends chasing after creative glory in ways that are both unexpected and winning.

GREG

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in The Room

Behind The Room

In its transformation from midnight movie to cultural phenomenon, The Room became an ironic success story unlike anything else in Hollywood history. The movie is a vast phenomenon, appealing to everyone from college kids and stand-up comedians to budding screenwriters. Audiences lined up at midnight screenings across the country with props—including plastic spoons and footballs—that they hurled across the theater while offering running commentary on the film’s bizarre dialogue, acting, and plot turns. Entertainment Weekly responded with an expansive feature in 2008 documenting the film’s crazy cult, which had grown from a mysterious billboard into a global sensation.

Back in 2003, screenwriter Scott Neustadter, a recent Los Angeles arrival hoping to forge a Hollywood career, saw Wiseau’s infamous billboard advertising The Room while driving around town, he was instantly transfixed. “It was just this guy’s face and he’s looking down and there’s a phone number,” says Neustadter. “I thought it could be a restaurant or a nightclub—it was impossible to know what it meant. I had no idea until I talked to some people that it was a movie that somebody was showing periodically. I later heard that it was just unwatchably bad—yet everybody was talking about it. How terrible could it be?”

Wiseau’s murky origins and background became the stuff of rumor and legend as his famous disaster grew in popularity. He claimed to be from New Orleans but more likely hailed from Eastern Europe—one producer compared his unclassifiable accent as a mixture of human and Ewok. He self-financed The Room’s $6 million budget from a personal fortune purportedly rooted in Bay Area retail and real estate ventures. Most peculiarly, Wiseau kept his famous billboard up for five years following The Room’s tepid initial release, paying $5,000 a month to keep the movie in the hearts and minds of Los Angeles motorists. After breaking every rule in the Hollywood playbook, Wiseau became an industry player.

Fifteen years after its botched premiere, The Room is still being discussed, embraced, laughed at, and loved—even among the Hollywood establishment, which rejected Wiseau for years.

“Financing your own movie is something you never do, and Tommy did that with The Room, which is beyond insane,” says The Disaster Artist producer Evan Goldberg of Point Grey Pictures, whose business partner is Seth Rogen. “He bought his own equipment and wrote the script himself, checking off every box for all the things you shouldn’t do in filmmaking if you’re making an original project from scratch. But it still worked!”

WRITERS

The Disaster Artist Writers Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Screenwriter Michael H. Weber—who adapted The Disaster Artist with his writing partner Scott Neustadter—sees in Wiseau’s farcical flop and mysterious origin a story of inspiration and hope from the mind of a dedicated striver.

“We don’t know all the details of Tommy’s background, but after some struggle he made a movie that a lot of people still watch and talk about all over the world,” says Weber. “So many people said no to him before that happened, but he persevered and made it anyway, which is so inspiring.”

Rogen, who is one of the film’s stars in addition to being a producer, was an early fan of The Room, and plays script supervisor Sandy Schklair, the lone voice of reason on a lunatic film set. Rogen likens Wiseau’s pet project to the ultimate act of outsider expression: “The Room is weird and crazy, and seems nonsensical and even like gibberish at times, with its lack of logic and motivation for what’s happening in the movie. But the more you find out about Tommy and Greg’s relationship and history, you come to embrace their story. Tommy completely failed in one sense, but he also accomplished something in the way he was able to express himself with The Room.” 

Sestero’s Story

Sestero wrote The Disaster Artist in the aftermath of The Room finding its surprising second life as a midnight cult sensation. The memoir traces the earliest days of his friendship with Wiseau, when they were both aspiring actors living in San Francisco. Sestero was 19 when he met Wiseau in acting class, they became scene partners after Wiseau delivered an especially unhinged take on Marlon Brando’s meltdown in A Streetcar Named Desire. “There was something about him that you couldn’t take your eyes off of—everything he did in class was technically wrong,” says Sestero. “The way he performed was a catastrophe, but there was something oddly artistic about it.”

Outside of class he saw a side of Wiseau that was jovial, motivational and fun— always encouraging fellow creative types to be their best, to go for it against all odds. “He wasn’t some drugged-out weirdo, he was actually poignant and inspirational and he made me feel something that I couldn’t get from my parents, who wanted me to give up my acting aspirations and settle down,” says Sestero. “From the moment I saw Tommy give his monologue in acting class, I knew he was someone I could relate to.”

One night, on a whim, they drove three hours to the site in Central California where James Dean died in a car accident. Both dreamed of acting careers, Tommy’s vision of the world—doing whatever you could for your art—inspired the teenage Sestero, who was still trying to find himself. Their friendship deepened when Wiseau offered the younger man a room to rent in his West Hollywood condo, after Sestero finally decided to move to Los Angeles and launch his acting career in the late 1990s. Later, Wiseau offered Sestero the lead role in his long-gestating project The Room.

“Greg might have been the first person in Tommy’s life who really saw beyond the bizarre exterior and treated him as a human being,” says Dave Franco. “He was a real friend to Tommy, who in turn valued his opinions and encouraged and supported him along the way. In the back of his mind, Greg probably knew Tommy was fabricating a lot of things about his past, but he didn’t really care, because Tommy was such a great friend to him.”

As brought to life in The Disaster Artist, the eight-month production of The Room was a disaster of epic proportions. The story of a San Francisco banker named Johnny (Wiseau) who becomes enmeshed in a love triangle between his wife Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and his best friend Mark (Sestero), the movie is awash with terrible dialogue, tone-deaf acting, and narrative cul-de-sacs. Wiseau, who routinely replaced actors on a whim, shocked his cast and crew by shooting simultaneously in both celluloid and digital formats, spending thousands to purchase camera equipment that most upstart directors typically rent. At one point, his production crew consisted of 400 people—an enormous number for a small, independently financed project.

Wiseau cast himself as the protagonist Johnny, employing the abrasive, flustered take on method acting that he cultivated in his San Francisco acting class with Sestero. He even plagiarized James Dean’s immortal “You’re tearing me apart!” line from Rebel Without a Cause for one of The Room’s most infamous, and widely ridiculed, scenes. Under his own direction, Wiseau’s performance is unlike anything else in motion pictures, something that transfixed James Franco when he finally saw the movie years after its release. “He’s struggling to be one thing while he’s grappling with all this other stuff that gets in the way of his success, and we see that in his performance,” says Franco. “He created this almost Dostoyevskian struggle in his role as Johnny. He was genuinely trying to express something in The Room—his feelings, his experience with life, his devastation over being rejected by the world.”

DISASTER 2

Dave and James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Entering The Room

Franco remembers spotting Wiseau’s billboard during the earliest days of his acting career in Los Angeles, but saw the advertisement as something akin to Hollywood icon Angelyne’s brazen style of self-promotion. It wasn’t until he read The Disaster Artist in 2014 that Franco sought out a screening of the notorious feature. Upon viewing the movie, he instantly became one of the initiated, seeing elements of Sunset Boulevard, Boogie Nights and The Talented Mr. Ripley in Tommy Wiseau’s improbable rise to fame. He also saw it as a surreal, modern take on the American Dream. “This guy comes here and wants to be a movie star, and against all odds he funds his vision, directs it, and people wind up loving it,” says Franco. “Not in the way he intended, of course, but Tommy doesn’t know that. I felt like there was another side of the story—Greg’s perspective—that would make the movie of The Disaster Artist even richer.”

At the time, Franco had reached a turning point in his prolific career, which took off around the turn of the century with Freaks & Geeks and his lead role as James Dean in Mark Rydell’s critically acclaimed television movie about the iconic actor. Moving easily from acting to writing, directing, and producing, Franco had become exhausted in his pursuit of the filmmaking craft, until he found renewed energy in the studio comedies The Pineapple Express and This Is the End, which audiences responded to in a big way.  He envisioned The Disaster Artist in the same mold as those hits—a broad, fun comedy designed to connect with a wide audience. “Greg’s book woke me up in a way that Tommy was awakened after The Room found its new life,” says Franco. “You have to accept the perception that people want to have of you but also be yourself. What’s so beautiful about reading The Disaster Artist is that it really captures Tommy’s desires, his dreams of wanting to break into Hollywood. Those are every creative person’s dreams—making something that’s going to reach a lot of people, and finding a community of people we can connect to through our work.”

Franco was in the middle of shooting The Interview in Vancouver when he found himself talking to both Wiseau and Sestero on the phone in the middle of the night, after he had optioned Sestero’s book. “I wasn’t sure how much of a control freak Tommy was going to be, or how much he had changed since The Room,” says Franco. “One of the first questions Tommy asked me was ‘Who will play me?’ When I said I didn’t know, he suggested Johnny Depp—one of the biggest stars in the world, naturally.”

It was Sestero who suggested that Franco consider playing Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. “I’d been following James since he did the James Dean movie,” says Sestero. “He did the best Dean that I had ever seen—and I always thought our story had a lot of Dean’s spirit in it, with the ‘You’re Tearin’ Me Apart!’ dialogue, which was always a big inspiration on our friendship.” Later, Sestero confided in Franco that Wiseau had told him that the only people he wanted to play him on the big screen were Depp or Franco himself.

As production on The Interview continued, Franco shared The Disaster Artist with his co-star Seth Rogen, believing that the project was the right fit for Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures, which had found success with the studio comedies 50/50, This Is the End and Neighbors. “Seth’s company was smart about how they made things, but they were still working within the studio system,” says Franco. “They could make these studio pictures and put their voice into it on every level. They were making exactly the movies they wanted to make.”

Franco was also looking to take a break from directing prestige independent films like As I Lay Dying, his adaptation of the William Faulkner classic, and Child of God, based on Cormac McCarthy’s early novel—critically admired works that weren’t bringing him a significant audience as a director. “I’m a lot closer to Tommy Wiseau in this story than I like to admit,” says Franco. “Child of God wasn’t exactly screaming box-office hit.” 

Writing the Script

With Point Grey, Good Universe and Ramona Films on board as producers, Franco sought out Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who launched their careers with the infectious romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer and went on to find mainstream and critical success with The Fault in Our Stars and The Spectacular Now. Franco saw the writing duo’s own friendship as a reflection of Sestero and Wiseau’s unique creative bond. “I thought they were their own version of Greg and Tommy in terms of their collaborative relationship,” says Franco. “Scott and Michael are great at relationship movies, but they hadn’t really done a bromance.”

The writers, who forged their career after meeting at the same job, saw The Disaster Artist as the story of a friendship between two people who share a similar dream. “It’s not a movie about movies as much as it is about dreamers and people who very much want to do something, but don’t have the access or ability,” says Neustadter. “We very much related to that story.” Adds Weber: “Greg and Tommy give each other what they need in order to move forward and achieve their dream. One has all the confidence in the world, but not necessarily the ability to execute it, and the other is more on the ball, but as removed as possible from the inner workings of creativity. He doesn’t have the confidence and belief in himself to pursue his dream until he meets this other person, who happens to be Tommy Wiseau.”

What the writers succeed in capturing in The Disaster Artist is the delirious rush and spirit of fun that often surfaces when two people find themselves on the same wavelength, whether as friends, lovers, or creative partners. Recreating the same joyful, rambunctious spirit of their breakthrough comedy (500) Days of Summer—in which staid office worker Joseph Gordon-Levitt glowingly comes to life after falling in love with co-worker Zooey Deschanel—Neustadter and Weber once again find movie magic in the power of relationships. “Chasing your dreams can be really lonely, and Greg and Tommy come to believe in each other when no one else does,” says Neustadter. “We’ve both been there. We both believed we could write and do this thing and people said ‘Oh, come on. When are you going to give up on that dream?’ We connected with these characters in a very strong way.” 

GODS COUNTRY1

“I was interested in telling a story about two men, about masculinity, I guess, or the way in which men communicate physically and emotionally..”

Francis Lee didn’t make the masterful God’s Own Country because he thought it would be a sure fire hit or stoke enough controversy to get him recognized as a director.

The first time filmmaker wrote and directed the soaring queer love story, which revolves around the budding romance between Yorkshire sheep farmer Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alex Secareanu), because the story was burning inside of him and he needed to get it onto the page and onto the screen, regardless of who saw it.

A dig into the nature of humanity from a director already fluent in the language of brutality and tenderness. A stunning love story that in its finest moments is pure poetry.. 

Terry White, Empire

Bringing “God’s Own Country” to the big-screen has been a 20-year long journey for Lee. Before taking the plunge and moving behind the camera Lee was an actor. However he insists he was never any good, as he was terrible at auditions, and was always just lucky enough to get work. Lee was never able to express himself as an actor, and after several years of boredom and frustration he suddenly thought, ‘I’m going to have to stop acting. And I’m going to have to do this because, ‘Either do it or shut up’.”

Francis Lee

A keen photographer and lifelong storyteller, writer-director Francis Lee is used to viewing the world through a lens. A largely self-taught filmmaker who resisted the ‘rules’ of writing – though found truth in the subtext of Chekov’s plays – he has come to the job of writer/director via a handful of shorts following a modest acting career.

He wrote a script on spec and showed it to a friend,  who he showed it to his agent. The agent loved it and encouraged Lee to to enter a funding scheme run by the British Film Institute and Creative England. While he was ultimately unsuccessful, he got down to the final three submissions and the BFI were so taken with God’s Own Country that they later offered to support the film anyway.

Lee’s original original urge to make “God’s Own Country” came from the Yorkshire “landscape,” especially because he had such a “love hate relationship” with his home.  “On the one hand I saw it as totally creative and expansive and it always felt like home. But on the other it felt problematic and difficult and brutal and cold and wet and inaccessible and wet. And then it was just trying to work that out and find some peace within that.” All of which he then mixed together with “falling in love and making yourself vulnerable for somebody else….”Those kind of things collided, and that’s what I wanted to explore.”

This approach clearly worked a treat, because audiences quickly connected with “God’s Own Country.” After premiering at Sundance, it screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, and has been the “biggest selling film of the year” in parts of Northern England. In Lee’s home town Halifax it not only outsold “Dunkirk” but has become “the biggest selling film they have ever had,” with viewers going to see it five or six times.

God’s Own Country, with its story of two young men who fall for each while working on a Yorkshire farm, merges rootsy British realism with the thrill of romance, even if it’s to be found on on a cold fell in lambing season. By turns tender and sexy, the film is also a significant addition to the queer cinematic canon, and a part of the lineage of queer cinematic greats.

Interview with Francis Lee

Tell us about the 5 years it took to make the film?

In all it took five years to make, but the bulk of that time was waiting around. The wheels of the film industry turn very slowly, but fortunately I am very patient. That’s probably no bad thing since when we finally got the go ahead in May 2016 we had just missed lambing season so we then had to wait another entire year.

I was determined that the action should be as authentic as possible and  cast newcomers Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu as the central characters and brought them to Yorkshire where they experienced farming life first hand. I knew that it was going to be a challenging shoot for the young actors and I wanted to give them all the support I could. Three months before filming began we started work on their characters and by the end they knew every breath they had taken from birth to the point we see them on film. “We also got them work placements on farms where they learnt everything from the lambing to the dry stone walling. They had to be so comfortable in that landscape that everything came as second nature and both of them developed really strong bonds with the farmers, so much so that Josh is still in touch with one of them.

How did you see Johnny’s sexuality in the film?

In terms of the character’s sexuality, I think he’s fine with who he has sex with. The difficulty comes in him moving forward and not just having sex but having an actual relationship and the journey he has to go on to achieve that because he is very closed emotionally for lots of reasons.

Why did you want to write a rural working class story?

That’s my experience. In terms of the cinematic landscape I’ve seen a lot of working class stories but they are usually urban and they are usually about benefits or problems with drugs or gangs. I’d never seen the world I knew depicted in the way in which I saw it. That’s where I come from, that’s where I live.

GODS COUNTRY 2

How did that feed into the visual mood?

It was important to depict the landscape in a way in which I’d not seen in a film before; that it was cold, wet, windy, that’s it’s hard work, that there’s mud. There’s only one landscape shot in the film and that’s because it’s the first time that Johnny sees the landscape. The rest of the time he doesn’t see it. That’s because of the way he has to live and work here and it becomes very oppressive.

The film has been compared to Brokeback Mountain. But isn’t there already references to Ang Lee’s film within yours?

Yeah, I love Brokeback Mountain I think it’s a wonderful film, I love the book. I’m not going to tell you where those references are but I was very aware that there would be comparisons and rather than shy away from that I wanted to celebrate that.

How did the character of Gheorghe come about?

When I gave up acting I got a job in a scrapyard and worked there to make money so I could make short films. One of the guys working there who is a friend of mine was from Romania. He’d come here to better and change his life. He spoke very eloquently about coming to this country, about the xenophobia he’d experienced. I was shocked and ashamed of our country and that kind of attitude towards people. I wanted to look at an outsider coming into this community, coming into it from a totally different perspective.

You filmed God’s Own Country before the EU referendum but the film carries a certain charge when viewed post Brexit. Did politics come into play at any point?

We didn’t re edit it or rethink the film after the referendum but it just made the story and the world and the characters more poignant. It just became apparent that what could potentially happen now is that two people could fall in love from two different countries in Europe and they can’t be together.

Tell us about the characters

I am very precise and the script was very detailed. Every look, every glance, every touch, every animal thing, those things can’t change, but then we have to discover how they got to this point, and that’s where Josh and Alec’s input came in. They were very creative about building these characters from the moment they were born until we first see them in the film.  Johnny and Gheorghe are men of little words, though the Romanian man is more emotionally open. It’s in this regard that God’s Own Country’s most beautiful moments land in the unspoken beats between them, especially a moment’s silence on a glowing hilltop.

GODS COUNTRY 3

One of the things that I was quite obsessed about, particularly now I’m living back in Yorkshire, is that idea of everything being part of the landscape, of nature, and of everything belonging in some way to each other,” Lee says. “The earth, the animals, the moon and the stars, everything kind of becomes that feeling of oneness my grandma used to talk about. And that was what I was trying to explore a little bit with the boys. I wanted them to feel so rooted here.

Their actions are a mirror not only of the landscape, but also their growing union. Gheorghe caring for an abandoned lamb echoes the crumbing of Johnny’s initial resistance.  I was trying to represent these people as very practical, but also as a filmmaker to be very visual and to constantly layer it with meaning or significance. Even if no one else knew, I knew.

 

Filming more or less in chronological order, O’Connor stayed up at the farm while Secareanu was lodging in a hotel down in the local village. I knew that if the first time really they met was onscreen, there would be that extra frisson, that extra anticipation or excitement or nervousness about how they were going to work together, and that did translate,.

I wanted to build an almost paternal bond of trust with each of them that has continued long after filming wrapped, and that relationship became a triangle when finally filming together.

 

BOX IDEAS

Is Your Idea A Brief Flirtation Or Life-Long Commitment?

By Daniel Dercksen

When you fall in love with an idea the inspiration could be a brief flirtation or or a lifelong commitment.

Writing a story begins with a certain degree of chaos. Ideas are half-baked.

The process of writing is a process of moving from chaos to order…How quickly you move will depend on your commitment to writing, how much you know about the process and the craft of writing, how disciplined you are, the difficulty of your idea, the amount of research you need to do, and how much you value your own creative process.

“Any seed that becomes a passion means a start, and if it stays a passion, a finish. The seed is what all the upcoming struggle resolves around,” says Linda Seger in her book ‘Making a Good Script Great’.

Art is choice. Choice making is at the heart of all creative expressions.

The storyteller’s choices are limitless. Writers have more ideas than they know what to do with.

Professional storytellers don’t wait for ideas to hit them. They seek inspiration, discover how to get into the mood and be receptive to ideas, then write them down and store it up.

Ideas Need To Be Stalked, Targeted, Captured, Categorised, And Married.

All you need is to be receptive. Fleshing ideas out is the real craft. Being sufficiently motivated is the greater challenge.

The hard part is developing ideas into stories, articles, or books – and writing those works to completion.

The form is immaterial; recognising the idea is what’s important.

All ideas have one thing in common: They grab your interest. If something grabs your interest, there’s a chance it may be of interest to others. An idea worthy of publication must have appeal for a large number of people.

An idea should deal with specific aspects of a subject.

Identify your audience; study your market, consider who will be interested in your topic, or who is involved in the topic.

Writing a story is a process, an organic, ever-changing, continuing stage of development.

When you sit down to write, you’re beginning a process that will end months, perhaps years later with pages filled with words, dialogue and description in what is called a screenplay/ stageplay or novel.

  • The idea is the most important.
  • Structure is second.
  • The screenplay/ play or novel itself are least important.
  • A story and screenplay, play or novel can be fixed. The idea can’t.

You have to come with an idea that is:

  • Is deeply personal
  • Will arouse specific emotions
  • You feel passionate about
  • Expresses a specific view of life
  • Embraces universal qualities
  • 600 – 800 million people worldwide will pay to see or read.

That is your calling as a writer.

Your life as a writer should ideally be informed and fuelled by inspiration, driven by passion, and not seen as a ‘job’, or something you are forced to do.

You are a writer because you want to be a writer and tell stories, and need to, not because you have to.

Box Your Ideas

The first thing you have to realise about writing your story is that all stories begin on a blank page.

Seek inspiration every day, all the time, and make it your mission to find something every day that inspires you.

Leave your comfort zone and explore the endless possibilities life, nature, people and its miraculous possibilities have to offer freely and with abundance.

It could be anything, and nothingness will evolve into something greater you could have ever imagined.

That single moment of inspiration can ignite a journey that will last a lifetime.

Make a point of finding something or someone that inspires you every day.

Now write a page on what inspired you today.

So, how does the Idea Box work?

If something inspires you, or a new idea hits you like a bolt of lightning in the middle of the night, write it down. Immediately.

If you write it in a notebook, a piece of paper, or on your laptop, chances are that it will remain buried.

Out of sight out of mind, and soon your drawer or computer hard-drive becomes a grave yard of worn-out and tired ideas that could have planted the seed for a bestseller, box office sensation or hit play.

Step 1: Create an Idea Shelf: Make this idea shelf visible so that you can easily see it, and face your ideas each day.

Step 2: Buy some Box Files: Fill the box with scribbled notes or printed out pages, and give the idea a name. If you find a CD, DVD, clippings from newspapers and magazines, or photographs, add it to the Idea Box. You can even open a box for Dialogue, Concepts, and Characters…You filling the box with valuable resources.

Step 3: Inspect Your Idea Box: Keep a regular watch over your idea boxes, just as you would keep an eye on social media notices, or a new email.  Keep adding info, keep adding new boxes, stock your idea shelf well.

It’s tangible. It’s real.

After a few weeks, or months, when you feel like taking a look at one of the boxes, suddenly remembering the inspiration behind the idea, and you find the box only has one piece of paper in it,  the truth will hit you like a brick wall:

That Idea was merely a brief flirtation, a passing fancy and one night stand.

If, on the other hand, the idea has grown into 3 or 4 boxes, you have begun an affair that will last a lifetime,  even long after the film has been made, book published, or play staged.

This is when your story starts calling you and, you better be ready!

That’s the magic of Boxing Your Ideas.

Boxing Your Idea forms part of The Write Journey Course

“Beginning writers tend to develop the easiest idea that comes to mind, rather than working hard to generate original ones,” says Karl Iglesias in his book The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters. “Many beginning writers don’t understand how important it is to be original. Reading hundreds of scripts and listening to thousands of pitches showed me how most of them were derivative of other movies, with familiar characters, uninteresting ideas, and clichéd plot twists.”

Copyright@ 2018 The Writing Studio / Daniel Dercksen

SCIFI

Back to Art Screenwriting and Filmmaking

In Sci-Fi the story is set in hypothetical futures that are typically technological imaginary worlds of tyranny and chaos: Blade Runner, Minority Report. The Science Fiction film is to society what the horror film is to the person – a tale of catastrophe, a story of our worst nightmares.The Protagonist is an innocent bystander who is victimised by a technological accident or an unnatural phenomenon or another world.The Antagonist may be a scientist or the product of science or nature – the scale of the antagonist is so great (giants ants as an example) that the central character is reminded not only of mortality, but also of humanity. The outcome is often more hopeful. The story line if often plot intensive and presents a specific threat to the natural order – the plot outlines the central character’s response to the threat.

In Fantasy the writer plays with time, space, and the physical, bending and mixing the laws of nature and the supernatural. Imaginary worlds and scenarios are constructed – often with the aid of special effects – to enable the improbable to become possible.Themes within these films include alien life forms, space and time travel, and futuristic technology.The extra realities of Fantasy attract the Action genres but also welcome others such as:The Love Story (Somewhere in Time), Political Drama/ Allegory (Animal Farm), Social Drama (IF…), The Maturation Plot (Alice in Wonderland)

Films Listed Alphabetically

ALIEN COVENANT With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , visionary director Ridley Scott edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

ARRIVAL When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team are brought together to investigate in Arrival, a provocative science fiction thriller from acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners).“I had no time to write a screenplay,” says Villeneuve, “and, to be honest, I didn’t know how to crack that short story because it’s very intellectual, in a strong and beautiful way, but from a dramatic point of view it’s a bit difficult to articulate because it’s about process.” Villeneuve left it with the producers, including executive producer and screenwriter Eric Heisserer, who had already been working on an adaptation of the short story from early on in the production process. The screenplay is based upon Ted Chiang’s ‘Story of Your Life.’

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR From Marvel Studios comes the highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, the third film in the Captain America franchise and the first film in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on the beloved Marvel comic book series, first published in 1941, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War is directed by Emmy Award-winning directors Anthony and Joe Russo from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

DOCTOR STRANGE The film is directed by Scott Derrickson, known for “Sinister” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” among others. He brings his eye for the supernatural and paranormal to immerse audiences in the worlds of magic and alternate dimensions that define the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest Super Hero. Derrickson co-wrote the screenplay with Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour, Prometheus) and Robert Cargill (Sinister, Sinister 2).

EQUALS  began its journey to the screen with a question that Drake Doremus posed to producer, Michael Pruss: “What will love look like in the future… do you think we could potentially evolve away from the thing that makes us most human?”While Pruss admitted to not knowing what the future held, he told Doremus he “knew a man who has lived in the future.” That man was Nathan Parker, who wrote the critically acclaimed film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones in 2009.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, whose seven beloved Harry Potter books were adapted into the top-grossing film franchise of all time.  Her script was inspired by the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written by her character Newt Scamander.

THE 5TH WAVE Four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated.  Directed by J Blakeson, with a screenplay by Susannah Grant and Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner, the film is based on the novel by Rick Yancey.

FLATLINERS The original Flatliners hit the big screen in 1990.  An extremely stylized and unsettling film, it immediately struck a nerve with audiences.  Now, more than 25 years later, Flatliners returns to the screen in a contemporary reimagining from a screenplay by Ben Ripley and a story by Peter Filardi, and directed by Niels Arden Oplev

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. Writer-director James Gunn continues the action-packed, irreverent, epic space adventures of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters as they patrol and protect the universe, doing mercenary work in the wake of the popularity and fame they garnered from saving Xandar.

THE HUNGER GAMES The blockbuster Hunger Games franchise has taken audiences by storm around the world, grossing more than $2.2 billion at the global box office.

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR The script, by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, based upon Evan Daugherty’s characters, does just that, telling of Eric’s doomed first—and only—true love, how they were brought together and how they were torn apart.  Nested in this universe, it also serves as an origin story for the Huntsman, who arrived in the first adventure not as a mystery, but fully formed.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE For director Roland Emmerich, Independence Day: Resurgence marks a return to the universe he and co-writer and producer Dean Devlin created two decades ago.  They captured cinematic lightning in a bottle—electrifying audiences around the around the world with drama, action, fun, unforgettable characters, and a presidential speech that’s still quoted today.Screenwriter Nicolas Wright notes that he and writing partner James A. Woods wanted to capture the first film’s “innocent and honest humor and tone as much as possible,” noting that since ID4’s release, many other big studio franchises “have jumped on that kind of humor.  They have a great rhythm—intense action punctuated with humor and then underlined with emotion.”

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER A gorgeously rendered, explosively physical and thoroughly original fantasy adventure, The Last Witch Hunter propels audiences into a complex mythological universe packed with shocking violence, unthinkable treachery and unforgettable characters. Set in a world never before seen by on screen, the story spans over 800 years of one man’s quest to keep at bay an army of vicious supernatural creatures determined to wipe out humanity. Diesel’s favorite character to play in the game was Melkor, a dark elf and witch hunter that was not part of the original game. “I found it in a third-party book called Acheron,” he explains.“The idea of doing an action-fantasy film was always appealing to me. I met with screenwriter Cory Goodman (Priest)  five years ago and we geeked out about Dungeons & Dragons and next thing you know I get this amazing script about a witch hunter.” Goodman –  who co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless –  brought the project to Summit Entertainment and producers Mark Canton and Bernie Goldmann, who recognized its potential as a spectacular action franchise and a vehicle for Diesel.

LIFE Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Written by) have been partners since 2001. They came up with an idea for a completely original alien creature in Life,  a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that could have caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE Published in October 2009, James Dashner’s novel The Maze Runner was the first in the best-selling post-apocalyptic YA book series, and became a New York Times Best Seller that captured the imaginations of readers around the world, who described it as a combination of Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and the legendary television series Lost, and broke box-office records when it exploded on the big screen. The books’ legions of fans embraced The Maze Runner, which grossed more than $340 million worldwide. Reflecting on the story’s appeal, Dashner notes that much of it stems from the “constant state of not being able to predict what’s going to happen next.  I wanted my readers, and now the moviegoing audience, to feel like Thomas when they enter the Glade.”

MAX STEEL is the highly anticipated live action origin story of Max Steel, based on the popular Mattel franchise property of the same name, was written by Marvel vet Christopher L. Yost (Thor: the Dark World, Thor 3) and was directed by award-winning director Stewart Hendler (Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, H+).This live action feature-length origin story combines identifiable characters, familiar terrestrial settings and innovative use of technology to create a realistic re-interpretation of the traditional superhero film.

PAN With author J.M. Barrie’s classic tale as the primary inspiration behind the story, director Joe Wright says he embraced the author’s “sense of strangeness. It’s a very odd book. It doesn’t underestimate children’s intelligence; there are no ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies,’ everyone is flawed, even Peter. I loved the duplicity of all the characters.”

PASSENGERS  This exciting action-thriller about two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early was a story that has attracted Hollywood for many years; writer Jon Spaihts’ script has landed on the “Black List” of the industry’s best unproduced screenplays.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters), the story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz (About A Boy, The Golden Compass) and Tony Gilroy  (The Bourne series and Michael Clayton).

STAR TREK BEYOND , the highly anticipated next installment in the globally popular Star Trek franchise, created by Gene Roddenberry and reintroduced by J.J. Abrams in 2009, returns with director Justin Lin (“The Fast and the Furious” franchise) at the helm of this epic voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise and her intrepid crew, from screenplay by newcomer Doug Jung (Dark Blue, Banshee) and returning cast member turned co-writer, Simon Pegg.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Lucasfilm and visionary director J.J. Abrams join forces to take you back again to a galaxy far, far away as Star Wars returns to the big screen with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are producing with Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD “The Suicide Squad is essentially a team—though a wholly reluctant one—of DC’s Super-Villains,” explains writer/director David Ayer.  “Because who better to defeat one Super-Villain than another or, in this case, a whole gang of Super-Villains?  It was pretty exciting for me because it let me explore a different version of the superhero movie; they’re the absolute flipside of heroes.”

THOR RAGNAROK In 1962, the now-legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced “The Mighty Thor” to readers of Marvel Comics, unleashing a new era of action-adventure with their conception of the hammer-wielding Norse god, who debuted in the sci-fi anthology “Journey Into Mystery,” #83 in August of that year.Despite the Nordic-sounding names, the story was rooted in familiar, universal conflicts that have driven human drama since the beginning of time. To this day, 55 years later, Marvel Comics continues publishing new adventures depicting the God of Thunder, the most recent being 2016’s “The Unworthy Thor” from writer Jason Aaron and artist Olivier Coipel. The newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Thor” franchise, Thor Ragnarok, continues the lineage of epic adventures chronicled in the franchise’s two prior big screen successes: 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” which, collectively, earned over $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office.

TOMORROWLAND Tomorrowland was created by Walt Disney as a section of Disneyland in 1955. It was a time when Americans imagined an optimistic future. Over the years since, the public’s view of the future grew dark. Comments the film’s director, Brad Bird, “Any time that there is an empty canvas, there are two ways to look at it; one is emptiness and the other one is wide open to possibility. And that’s how I like to look at the future—wide open to possibility.  It is a view that has fallen out of favor in terms of looking at the future.” This shift in thinking also intrigued writer/producer Damon Lindelof, so when he began to synthesize the story for “Tomorrowland, A World Beyond,” he looked for what Tomorrowland meant and how it could be represented in a storyline. “I really wanted to recapture that earlier optimism,” comments Lindelof.

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS The fifth installment in the hugely successful series, Underworld: Blood Wars celebrates a return to the brooding aesthetic introduced in the original 2002 hit Underworld, directed by Anna Foerster (Outlander, Criminal Minds) from a screenplay by Cory Goodman (The Last Witch Hunter, Priest), story by Kyle Ward and Goodman, based on characters created by Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman & Danny McBride.

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS Based on the groundbreaking comic book series that inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers comes the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a vision a lifetime in the making.

WARCRAFT Since its inception, more than 100 million players have experienced the dazzling and compelling mythology that is the global phenomenon known as World of Warcraft. Now, Warcraft, an epic adventure of world-colliding conflict based on Blizzard Entertainment’s global phenomenon hits the big screen under direction of Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and written by Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) and Jones.

WOUND

Boldly explores tradition and sexuality and is set amid the Xhosa rites of passage into manhood.

“The Wound was born out of a desire to push back against clichéd stereotypes of black masculinity perpetuated inside and outside of African cinema,” says writer-director John Trengrove, whose critically acclaimed drama explores tradition and sexuality and is set amid the Xhosa rites of passage into manhood.

Read more about The Wound

 “As a white man, representing marginalised black realities that are not my own, the situation is of course complicated. Even highly problematic.

It was important to me that the story mirrors this problem. The character of Kwanda is an outsider to the traditional world; he expresses many of my own ideas about human rights and individual freedom. He’s also the problem. His preconceptions create jeopardy and crisis for others who have much more to lose than him. This was my way of saying, ‘‘I don’t have the answers and my own values don’t necessarily apply here’’.

WOUND 4

A film such as this cannot hope to provide solutions for the crisis faced by millions of queer people on the African continent and around the world. What it can do, however, is present the crisis for what it is – a deep and ever widening chasm.

In writing ‘The Wound’, inspiration came, unexpectedly, from Robert Mugabe. Statements that he and other African leaders have made since the early 90s imply that homosexuality is a symptom of Western decadence that threatens ‘‘traditional’’ culture. And so, we thought ok, let’s use that idea. Let’s imagine ‘‘gayness’’ as a kind of virus that penetrates and threatens a patriarchal organism, and let’s see how that organism responds to being penetrated.”

 

Directed by John Trengove, from a screenplay by Trengrove,  Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu, The Wound, made its debut at 2017’s Sundance film festival, before opening the Berlin film festival’s Panorama section, and is a ripe-for-controversy exploration of sexuality — more specifically, same-sex desire — within the context of initiation schools.

Xolani, a lonely factory worker, joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best kept secret, Xolani’s entire existence begins to unravel.

WOUND 3

Since its world premiere at Sundance, Inxeba has collected more than 18 international awards and has found a home in over 30 territories worldwide.  Most recently, it was awarded Best Foreign Language Film of 2017 by the African American Film Critics Association.

The Wound made it to the Oscar® shortlist after it was submitted in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for an award in the category of Outstanding Film – Limited Release, by the GLAAD Media Awards, which recognizes fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and the issues that affect their lives. This is the first time that a foreign language film has received a nomination.

John Trengove is a Johannesburg based writer/director with an MFA in film from New York University. One of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans, his career spans theatre, television, documentary, commercials and short film. A Loerie and SAFTA recipient, John is best known for his acclaimed miniseries Hopeville, which received the Rose d’Or for best drama and was nominated for an International Emmy. His short film ‘The Goat’ premiered at the Berlinale and Toronto in 2014 and went on to play at more than 20 international festivals. John directs fringe theatre in his spare time (Including the cult hit ‘The Epicene Butcher’) and heads up the development wing of Urucu Media. His debut feature film, ‘The Wound’, had its world premiere in competition at The Sundance Film Festival and went on to open Panorama at the Berlinale. The film will continue to travel to festivals around the world in 2017.

John Trengrove talks about The Wound

What drew you to the subject matter?

I was interested in what happens when groups of men come together and organise themselves outside of society and the codes of their everyday lives. I wanted to show the intense emotional and physical exchanges that are possible in these spaces and how repressing strong feelings leads to a kind of toxicity and violence. As an outsider to this culture, it was important that I approach this story from the perspective of characters who are themselves outsiders, who struggle to conform to the status quo that they are a part of.

What was the process of writing ‘The Wound’?

We started with a lot of research. Spent time in the Eastern Cape which is where the ritual is mostly practiced. We listened to many testimonials and conversations with Xhosa men who had been through the ritual. Gay men, straight men, some urbanised and affluent, others from remote rural areas. These stories sparked our earliest ideas about the narrative. Researching the ritual brought up conflicting feelings in me. You hear stories about how it can be a breeding ground for homophobic and hyper-masculine behaviour. At the same time, I got to see first-hand the transformative effect it had on some men who went through it. In a world that is under-fathered, there is something profound about a ritual that shows a young boy his place in the world of men.

How do you navigate the politics of being a white filmmaker depicting marginal characters with realities different than your own?

As much as possible I tried to disrupt my own preconceptions. Like most middle-class audiences who watch the film, it would be easy for me to look at Xolani and say, here is a gay character who is repressed and deserves to be emancipated from his oppressive community and express himself as an individual. I resisted those kinds of resolutions for his character and tried instead to present his problem for what it is, which is big and difficult, without clear answers. The character of Kwanda comes closest to expressing those values, but he’s also the problem. His preconceptions create jeopardy and crisis for others who have much more to lose than him. This was my way of saying, ‘I don’t have the answers and my own values don’t necessarily apply here.’

Given the controversy of the ritual in South Africa, how do you think it will be received?

Ukwaluka is a taboo ritual and representing it in the way we have is contentious. We knew from the start that we’d spark strong reactions from traditionalists. But there was also a lot of encouragement from a younger Xhosa generation who seems eager to break the silence around the initiation which is seen to perpetuate some of the dangers associated with it. It’s a vast and very nuanced practice and there remains a lot to be said about the ritual that is not my place to talk about. Things that need to be said from within the culture. Hopefully ‘The Wound’ could spark some of that. Maybe a gay Xhosa kid will look at it one day and go, ‘actually, that wasn’t my experience at all’, and be inspired to write his own story.

How did you come to work with Thando Mgqolozana?

I approached Thando when I read his first novel ‘A Man Who Is Not a Man’, which deals with the initiation. Meeting him was a turning point because he clearly got what I was trying to do. I don’t think he was necessarily interested in working on a project about the initiation again, but he responded strongly to the idea of depicting alternative African masculinities. Thando wrote his own version of the treatment, filtering my ideas through his own experiences and opening up narrative possibilities within the frame of the ritual. We also collaborated on a short film, The Goat, based on a chapter from his novel.

thando-mgqolozana-e1515059008697

Thando Mgqolozana is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, a recipient of the Golden Key International Honour for Scholastic Achievement, and one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans of 2010. Mgqolozana is the author of ‘Hear Me Alone’ (2011), ‘A Man Who Is Not a Man’ (2009), a novel that enjoyed critical success and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and ‘Unimportance’ (2014).

Can you describe your process on set?

We had a few rules that were there to help us stay connected to the truth. All the roles including speaking extras had to be first language Xhosa men who had their own first-hand experience of the ritual. The only exception to this was Niza Jay Ncoyini who plays Kwanda, which made sense because his character challenges and defies the ritual. The larger community of Xhosa men and elders in the film are all non-actors. We asked them to perform the different aspects of the ritual as they would do it, and to react to the rehearsed scenarios in any way they felt was right. If they didn’t approve of a character’s behaviour, they would say so during takes. Sometimes we wouldn’t call cut and scenes would just carry on and we’d be rolling as these men were offering up the most incredible material, completely unscripted. Bongile Mantsai who played Vija is a very experienced theatre actor, was particularly good at encouraging this free flow interaction with the group. It was very exciting to watch and it really kept us on our toes. We shot the group scenes chronologically, in the order that they would happen in the ritual.

On working with Nakhane Touré

I met Nakhane about 2 years ago and I was instantly a fan. I secretly started writing the lead character for him after our first meeting. Even though he didn’t have any professional acting experience I had a feeling that he would be hypnotic on camera. Nakhane is a fearless and multifaceted artist in his own right and understands intrinsically that you have to put yourself outside your comfort zone to do interesting work. He does this instinctively without blocking or resisting and allows himself to be very vulnerable and honest in front of the camera. It’s very rare to work with an actor like that.

Nakhane Touré is a musician, author and actor. He was born in Alice, a small town in the Eastern Cape, and spent most of his formative years in Port Elizabeth. Drawing influence from traditional African music as well as modern alternative rock, Touré released his debut body of work called Brave Confusion in 2013 which won the Best Alternative Album award at the 20th SAMAS ceremony. Touré was chosen as Rolling Stones SA’s October cover artist in the same year. In September 2015, Touré published his first novel called Piggy Boy’s Blues. He stars as the lead actor in ‘The Wound’.

WOUND 4

Can you speak about your collaboration with Urucu Media?

Until recently there was a shortage of South African film producers willing to take risks on non-formulaic projects. When I joined forces with Elias Ribeiro at Urucu Media, the first thing we decided was that this is exactly the niche the company would occupy. We wanted to create a space for films like ‘The Wound’, to encourage original voices in local cinema that could hopefully also reach an international audience. People thought we were crazy when we started developing this film, but Elias’s incredible optimism and ability to embrace less conventional ways of financing, particularly international co-production, meant that it finally got made. Today we are seeing more daring films coming out of South Africa, and I like to think Urucu has been a significant part of that shift.

  • ‘The Wound’ is a co-production between South Africa, Germany, The Netherlands and France, and was shot on location in the northern region of South Africa. The film was developed with the assistance of The Hubert Bals Fund and ARTE International Prize. The production of the film was supported by The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), as well as The World Cinema Fund, and the film pre-sold to broadcasters ARTE France and ZDF in Germany.

DEN

A character-driven narrative that turns the traditional heist film on its head.

Den of Thieves is a gritty present-day crime saga with origins dating back to 2002.

Screenwriter (and first-time director), Christian Gudegast was reading “Where the Money Is,” a nonfiction book about how Los Angeles became the bank robbery capital of the world, when he saw a photo in the Los Angeles Times; the photo, taken at the Federal Reserve Bank, was of a massive tub of money.

The photo and the book sparked an idea, and Gudegast wrote the story that would eventually become the basis for the original screenplay,  based on a story by Gudegast and Paul Scheuring (Prison Break: The Final Break).

A gripping thriller that manages to take a familiar concept and make it feel both fresh and timely, Den of Thieves focuses on an elite crew of bank robbers, who plot to pull off the ultimate heist, and the hard scrabble gang unit of the L.A. Sheriff’s department working to bring them to justice.

DEN 2

Led by the icy, preternaturally calm Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber), the Outlaws are not run-of-the-mill bank robbers; they operate with military precision, meticulous planning, and employ subject matter expertise — all skills acquired from military special ops service and prison stints. Merriman’s fellow Outlaws include disciplined family man Enson Levoux (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), and Bosco Ostroman (Evan Jones), a battle-hardened veteran and gifted thief. They’re joined by their “driver” Donnie Wilson (O’shea Jackson Jr.), an ex-con bartender with a mysterious past, who may be out of his league.

However, in order to pull off the ultimate heist, they’ll have to outmaneuver the Regulators – the Major Crimes unit of the Los Angeles Sherrif’s Department – who operate in unconventional ways that often blur the thin blue line in order to bring down the most elusive and dangerous criminals. The Regulators are led by alpha dog “Big

Nick” O’Brien (Gerard Butler), a hard drinking career detective seemingly unencumbered by a moral compass. His choices and priorities destroy what remains of his family life. He’ll stop at nothing to put an end to Merriman’s crime spree, which has been taunting the authorities for years with increasingly ambitious unsolved robberies

After a simple operation to commandeer an armored truck turns into a brutal firefight — resulting in the deaths of armored guards and several police officers — the Outlaws find themselves the primary target of the Regulators. It soon becomes apparent that neither side plays by traditional rules.

Rattled by the robbery gone sideways, Merriman sets his sights on the ultimate heist; infiltrating the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve to and steal $30 million of unfit U.S. currency being taken out of circulation before it can be shredded and destroyed, thereby stealing money that nobody is looking for. Their extensively researched and detailed plan is set into motion and the Outlaws are forced to engage in an increasingly tense game of cat and mouse as the Regulators work to tie Merriman’s gang to a string of unsolved heists and anticipate their next move.

There are no heroes or villains in this intricate face off – just highly skilled, equally matched opposites. In a series of escalating confrontations, the city of Los Angeles becomes a giant chessboard, with each side strategically excising the other’s pawns, rooks, bishops, knights and queens, to reach a thrilling, and entirely unexpected checkmate.

Christian Gudegast

Writer/Director/Executive Producer Christian Gudegast is a native of California, born and raised in Los Angeles, where he fell in love with photography and film at an early age. As a young kid, Gudegast was so enthralled with movies that he would sneak into theaters in Westwood and watch everything from Fellini to Jaws, from Cheech and Chong to Stanley Kubrick.

Growing up in the entertainment industry, Gudegast loved going to work with his father, Eric Braeden, a German-American film and television actor, known for his work on “Hawaii 5-0,” “Gunsmoke,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Rat Patrol,” Colossus, and Titanic, to name a few.

After high school, Gudegast studied extensively under renowned acting coaches Roy London and Daryl Hickman, but soon realized that acting wasn’t for him. Later, while at UCLA’s Graduate School of Film and Television, Gudegast directed music videos for Los Angeles gangster rap artists such as “Kurupt.” Graduating at the top of his class Summa Cum Laude, Gudegast’s thesis film, God’s Lonely Man, won the prestigious “Best Film Award” that same year. Following graduation, he sold his first screenplay, Black Ocean, to Oliver Stone, which officially launched his screenwriting career.

Today Gudegast is known as one of the industry’s most sought after screenwriters, having written for every major film studio and television network in Hollywood, working on major releases such as Speed Racer, and the Dwayne Johnson starrer The Rundown, the Vin Diesel crime-drama A Man Apart, the ancient-Greek war epic Immortals, and the Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman action drama, London Has Fallen, which grossed $205 million worldwide.

In 2009, Gudegast wrote and produced the award-winning documentary, Sequestro, about the kidnapping epidemic in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

In between writing assignments, Gudegast is a passionate still photographer, focusing on urban landscapes. He is also a black belt in Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and trains under legendary instructors Rob Kaman, Rigan Machado and Rickson Gracie.

With Den Of Thieves, Gudegast was particularly drawn to the complex relationships between professional bank robbers and the detectives who hunt them. “I was fascinated by the specificity of their worlds,” says Gudegast, “and how these two crews operate. Understanding what they do, and why they do it, became the fuel for the movie.”

Gudegast has created a character-driven narrative that turns the traditional heist film on its head. His villains are clean-living athletes and military men who are driven by the challenge of a complex mission more than just the sheer criminality. Conversely, the cops have a penchant for booze, violence, and strip clubs — a far cry from traditional hero archetypes. Gudegast was able to draw on his real-life experiences with people on both sides of the fence to conceive the Outlaws, as well as the Regulators.

Despite many development and production challenges, producers Tucker Tooley and Mark Canton have been stalwart advocates for the film. They came on board in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

“I’ve known Christian for nearly 20 years and produced the first movie he wrote,” said Tooley. “We put it together in many different configurations over the years, and for whatever reason, it always sort of unraveled at the last minute, but we kept at it.”

Canton agreed: “You have to be relentless if you believe in the story, and it takes a village to get things done.”

Despite intense interest from other producers and directors, Gudegast, who had never directed before, held out to direct his script.

Tooley and Canton were wholly supportive of his decision.

Canton notes that despite Gudegast’s inexperience, he was up to the task of directing his first feature.

“It was uncanny how prepared he’d become over the course of time, from the look books, from the screen tests, from his entire process of meeting talent along the way,” explains Canton. “His entire process is like a mother of invention story. He was super prepared because he had already played the film over in his head a thousand times. He had storyboarded everything!”

Gerard Butler sat on the script for Don of Thieves for several months, despite being urged by his agent to read it. “I think I was burned out. My agent kept saying, ‘have you read it?’ but I just wasn’t in the mood. Then I read it one weekend and it got better and better. I called my agent and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me to read this, because it’s incredible!’”

DEN 3
Butler expressed an interest in portraying “Big Nick” O’Brien early on and stayed involved throughout the lengthy development process, eventually bringing his business and producing partner, Alan Siegel along, as well.

Butler and Gudegast met over numerous raucous dinners to mold “Big Nick”.

“The character’s a silverback gorilla who devours everything within reach,” laughed the director. “He’s a force. He walks in and he just takes over the environment. Nick is classic. He’s funny and he’s a badass. He’s in major crimes, so he’s got to be — he’s dealing with the worst of the worst every day, hunting them. We drilled that character all the way down and Gerry was unbelievable.”

Butler’s take on “Big Nick” is bombastic. “He lives in this world where you have to be willing to go to any length to get ahead and it’s incredibly dangerous,” said Butler. “At first you think he’s a punk, but as the character evolves, you understand he’s an obsessive and that the pressure is playing on him. He’s blown up his life for the job and is emotionally bleeding out because of it.”

“What I love about this movie is that it has a taste, an ingredient, of many of my favorite films, like Heist and Heat, with touches of a Dog Day Afternoon and The French Connection,” said Butler. “But it stands entirely on its own. It may be a complex heist film, but there’s a surprising amount of heart and emotion. It has the potential to become one of those unforgettable movies because of the characters we’ve created.”

While Gerard Butler had been involved for several years, the physically imposing Pablo Schreiber was on Gudegast’s radar from his work in 13 Hours and The Manchurian Candidate.

DEN 4

“I had done a movie called 13 Hours with Michael Bay, so I came in with a little bit of knowledge about the weapons. It was great to have a jump start on it; because I had some experience already, I naturally fell into a position of team leader, which was a natural fit for the role,” explains Schreiber. “We worked with a technical advisor who really got us trained up. We spent a lot of time on the range, learning the weapons together really prepared us for when we got to set.”

Butler’s O’Brien is tauntingly arrogant and brash, while Schreiber’s performance as Merriman is controlled, subdued even.

Schreiber was intrigued by Merriman’s lack of fear. “There’s a real nihilism to the character,” says the actor. “He’s not afraid of death and actually embraces the idea of it. If he’s going to go out, he wants to go out on his terms. There’s no way he’ll ever let Nick cuff him.”

As Merriman’s right-hand man, Enson Levoux, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson gives a quietly intense performance, portraying a man who has managed to create a life and a family for himself apart from his criminal life.

DEN 5

Jackson first read the script six years ago and reached out to Gudegast. “He had done a whole look book of the story and it was so well put together with all of the texture and colors that he wanted. His vision for the film has been really well thought out. I wanted to do it then and there,” exclaims Jackson. “I ran into Tucker Tooley at a Golden Globes party and I approached him right away. I put pressure on him you know, ‘cause I got that rapper thing so I can act like I don’t understand. Like ‘Yo I want to be in this movie’ for real.’ Like while he had the tuxedos on and with everything he was busy with, he must have thought, ‘what’s the matter with this kid? I like his music but…Okay I understand you want to be in a movie.’ And then he changed companies but Tucker knew it was such a good project that he brought it with him. And then it made a full circle. And when I got a chance to talk to him about the film I was like ‘you don’t remember?’ and he said ‘No I remember!’ Five years ago, and here I am.”

Director Christian Gudegast has tremendous faith in what moviegoers will experience when they see Den of Thieves. “I hope it becomes like a classic; one of those unforgettable movies, because of the characters we’ve created, because of that world that they go into, that it’s exciting, that it’s visceral, that it’s surprising that there’s a lot of funny stuff in this movie. And then it’s touching and there’s that element of believability in that life and that culture. You know, as a study of that kind of world there’s a lot that people will identify with and take a lot of that home. But after all that’s said and done, most important is that they just need to have a good time.”

 

DARKEST

“This story is anchored in the past yet it resonates all the way into the here and now. Too often today, our ‘leaders’ are followers. These decisions made in less than one month’s time had global ramifications.”

“Words can, and do, change the world. This is precisely what happened through Winston Churchill in 1940,” marvels BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter and producer Anthony McCarten. The linchpins of his original screenplay for Darkest Hour became three speeches that Churchill wrote and delivered between May and June 1940. “He was under intense political and personal pressure, yet he was spurred to such heights in so few days – over and over again.”

Academy Award nominee and BAFTA Award winner Gary Oldman stars for BAFTA Award-winning director Joe Wright in Darkest Hour, a thrilling account inspired by the true story of Winston Churchill’s first weeks in office during the early days of the Second World War. Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten’s original screenplay takes a revelatory look at the man behind the icon.

A witty and brilliant statesman, Churchill is a stalwart member of Parliament but at age 65 is an unlikely candidate for Prime Minister; however the situation in Europe is desperate.  With Allied nations continuing to fall against Nazi troops, and with the entire British army stranded in France, Churchill is named to the position with urgency on May 10th, 1940.

As the threat of invasion of the UK by Hitler’s forces looms and 300,000 British soldiers cornered in Dunkirk, Churchill finds his own party plotting against him and King George VI (Emmy Award winner Ben Mendelsohn) skeptical that his new Prime Minister can rise to the challenge.  He is confronted with the ultimate choice: negotiate a peace treaty with Nazi Germany and save the British people at a terrible cost or fight on against incredible odds. 

With the support of his wife of 31 years, Clemmie (Academy Award nominee Kristin Scott Thomas), Churchill looks to the British people to inspire him to stand firm and fight for his nation’s ideals, liberty, and freedom. Putting his power with words to the ultimate test, with the help of his tireless secretary (Lily James), Winston must write and deliver speeches that will rally a nation. As Winston withstands his own darkest hour, he attempts to change the course of world history forever.

McCarten found inspiration in Churchill’s speeches and oratory

eight_col_Anthony_McCarten_CC_BY_2_NZatFrankfurt_flickr_620

Born in New Zealand and now residing in England, Anthony McCarten is an award-winning playwright, novelist, and filmmaker.

McCarten has long held an interest in the legendary statesman’s life, and like many he has found inspiration in Churchill’s speeches and oratory. His most recent screenplay, the Academy Award-nominated one for The Theory of Everything, explored another great man, Stephen Hawking, whose words changed the world even after he could no longer speak. McCarten found himself gravitating towards the intense period “of May 10th through June 4th, during which Winston turned coal into diamonds.”

It’s a common saying that the first few days and weeks on the job are challenging. For this 65-year-old man, being named Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 10th, 1940 came at a time when the stakes could scarcely have been higher. Allied Forces was already at war with Adolf Hitler, and one democracy after another had fallen to his Nazi forces. Britain now stood on the edge of a precipice. The dilemma was, either steel the nerves and be drawn deep into the conflict; or retreat from the war altogether, with inconceivable consequences for British sovereignty.

McCarten clarifies, “The question was whether to fight on alone, perhaps to the destruction of the armed forces and even the nation, or to play it safe – as Viscount Halifax and [outgoing] Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed – and to that end explore signing a treaty with Hitler. Winston had to wade into this fray, and he found himself battling the establishment.

“This story is anchored in the past yet it resonates all the way into the here and now. Too often today, our ‘leaders’ are followers. These decisions made in less than one month’s time had global ramifications.”

Lives also hung in the balance during May and June 1940, as over 200,000 British soldiers – the UK’s entire Expeditionary Force – were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, awaiting rescue and evacuation.

McCarten’s research led him to the minutes of Churchill’s War Cabinet meetings.  He notes, “These revealed a period of uncertainty, something we don’t take into account considering his robust leadership. Winston knew he had made wrong calls in the past, certainly during World War I with the Battle of Gallipoli.

“Pedestals are for statues, not for people, and a close reading of the minutes reveals not only a leader in trouble, under attack from all sides and uncertain what direction to take, but also just how dangerously close a country came to entering into a ‘peace’ deal with an enemy who, if unchecked, would have reshaped the world forever.”

Ultimately, says McCarten, the Darkest Hour screenplay took shape “examining the working methods and leadership qualities and trains of thought. Winston strongly believed that words mattered, and he took pen in hand to help him – and his country – face down a terrifying threat.

“In the process came the self-willed making of an iconic man.”

Setting himself a concentrated work schedule to mirror the historical time frame, McCarten after eight days had 16 pages. He showed these to Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning producer Lisa Bruce, with whom he had made The Theory of Everything, as the project was being completed.

Bruce remarks, “I read it, and at once I realized Anthony was again designing an intimate look at the humanity of an icon. We have all learned about WWII and maybe think we remember more than we do, so Anthony put just enough contextual information into his script; even if you don’t know everything about this period you can clearly follow what’s going on in the world that Winston orbited.

“With Darkest Hour, although the wit and intelligence he’s known for are very much in evidence, you see him in such a different way. What Anthony was focusing on — an extreme moment in time – powerfully conveys Churchill’s vision and voice as a leader and his ability to assess what mattered. Churchill was able to tune out the noise and get people behind him, even opposing party members. He got everyone in line with the idea to stand and fight Hitler, understanding the threat and the bigger – much bigger – picture.”

She adds that, decades on, “Darkest Hour is timely because we feel a void of leadership now; we want someone to rise to the occasion as Winston did. The title came from his own assessment of this period as the biggest challenge he ever faced. His whole life – which was already impressive – had been leading up to this moment.”

As McCarten delivered more pages, Bruce moved to advance the project by bringing it to the attention of their fellow The Theory of Everything producers, Academy Award nominees and BAFTA Award winners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title Films.

Fellner sensed that the story of “a statesman finding grace under pressure” would appeal to one of Working Title’s key creative collaborators, BAFTA Award-winning director Joe Wright; the production company and the director had teamed so successfully on, among other projects, Atonement, with its unforgettable World War II scenes.

Wright remarks, “Our relationship has grown and developed. There’s always a wonderful can-do-attitude at Working Title: here’s the script, here’s the director, here’s the actors, let’s make a movie! And we do.”

Fellner’s instinct was correct, as Wright found himself “immediately wrapped up in what was a real page-turner, pure drama. I’ve always considered the Second World War to be the fulcrum of the 20th century. It changed everything.

DARKEST 2

“If the audience today can engage with an icon of that time as a human being, then his qualities of leadership will be that much more inspiring.”

After Wright committed to the project, he worked closely on the script’s progress. McCarten reports, “Joe became such a partner in the process; I spent many weeks with his putting my feet to the fire on every line of the script. I must have gone over to his house 20 times, and each time he would greet me with, ‘Good to see you! Okay, page one…’

“That thoroughness and testing of every moment truly tightened up the screenplay.”

Wright notes, “I envisioned this as a film for the world, not solely for a British audience.

Born to a family of puppeteers, Joe Wright and grew up in the theatre his parents founded, The Little Angel Theatre in Islington, London. Wright studied Fine Art, Film and Video at Central St Martin’s College of Art. After college he worked on music videos and short films until 1997 when he was commissioned to direct Nature Boy, a four-part mini-series for BBC2. Wright made his feature film directorial debut in 2005 with Pride & Prejudiceand also directed Atonement, The Soloist, Anna Karenina, Pan, and in 2016, Wright directed the acclaimed “Nosedive” episode of the television series Black Mirror.  Wright is a director of Shoebox Films, a London based film and television production company which, among other work, produced Steve Nights’ critically acclaimed and multi-award winning thriller Locke starring Tom Hardy.

“We’ve all seen movies about leaders. Thematically, Darkest Hour is very much about doubt, a crisis of confidence. What’s so engaging about it is you’re with a legend as he rises above the difficulties we have all faced.”

Bruce remarks, ““I learned a lot from Joe during the journey to get this movie made. Joe thinks in highly visual terms; he has the whole story in his head and knows where he wants to take the audience emotionally.”

Given the intimidation factor for actors of portraying an icon, the filmmakers had anticipated casting challenges.

McCarten reflects, “I was hoping that a revisionist take could be part of the portrayal. I wanted to see an actor completely recalibrate our sense of who Winston was, and I envisioned a Gary Oldman-caliber actor.”

Indeed, whenever the Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning actor’s name is mentioned, it follows that a generation of actors who have aspired to his career comes to mind.

But Fellner thought it best to go to the source – Gary Oldman himself – whom he began his film career with back in 1986 making Sid and Nancy, which also happened to be Gary’s first feature film.

DARKEST 3

Gary Oldman and director Joe Wright discuss a scene during the filming of Darkest Hour

Transformative

 Gary Oldman’s longtime producing partner, BAFTA Award winner Douglas Urbanski, comments, “Making a movie about Winston Churchill would defy logic – unless you were examining a specific incident or time frame, which Darkest Hour does.

“When Eric Fellner began to bring people together to discuss the project, we realized that this would be a journey worth taking – a movie that would entertain people but also make them stop and think about the resonance of history.”

“When I heard, ‘Gary Oldman portraying Winston Churchill,’ I thought, ‘What a performance that will be to witness,’” says Joe Wright. “He has been my favorite actor since I was a teen: Sid and Nancy, Prick Up Your Ears, The Firm…”

But would an actor who had already incarnated real-life figures ranging from Sid Vicious to Beethoven to Lee Harvey Oswald be willing to take on Winston Churchill?

Oldman reflects, “I had always been fascinated by Churchill as he was truly our greatest statesman. Yet he wasn’t someone that I was looking to play. In fact, the prospect of playing him had come my way years ago and I’d rejected the idea.

“It wasn’t the psychological or the intellectual challenge that was the hurdle, it was the physical component. I mean, you need only look at me and look at Churchill…”

Even so, he admits, “With who was joining up on Darkest Hour, my inclination became to say yes.

“What I liked about Anthony’s wonderful script is that it’s not a ‘biopic.’ It dramatizes a few crucial weeks in our history straight through, so there’s no jumping forward or back and no aging.”

Darkest Hour held an even more elemental appeal for Oldman, who admits, “I wanted to say those words; Churchill’s speeches – which he wrote himself — are some of the greatest in the English language. He was remarkable because he didn’t go in for purple prose, or overload with metaphor or imagery. He could make use of those when needed. But he understood the people he was speaking directly to, and made sure that what he said just went right to the heart of the nation.

“All the while, he was experiencing adversity. His own government didn’t want him. There was infighting in the War Cabinet, and Churchill feared for the lives of the thousands of men trapped at Dunkirk. To be under that kind of duress, under that kind of pressure, and to craft some of the greatest use of the English language…it was nothing short of miraculous.”

Darkest Hour would put one of Oldman’s tenets to the test. He notes, “It all starts with the voice. I had to convince myself that I could sound like Churchill. So I got one of his speeches and a phone recorder and started to experiment.

“Then I dug into written materials outside of the screenplay to learn about the man who took on a tyrant. I wanted to get at the psychological and the intellectual. I wanted to build him brick by brick.”

Urbanski notes, “The script only spans specific weeks, yet Gary still wanted to read all about him, sponge up everything he could about Churchill.”

Dr. Larry P. Arnn, a Churchill historian and biographer, recommended to Oldman what the actor took as “essential reading. Which was a help, because there have to be 1,000 books about him; you could spend years reading about the man!”

Urbanski comments, “Dr. Arnn and our historical advisor, Phil Reed, would review everything we submitted to them for accuracy. They would also visit the set whenever we asked.”

Oldman reports, “I kept at it vocally, and looked at a wealth of documentary footage that revealed a 65-year-old man with so much energy and drive.”

Churchill’s esteemed career and achievements, including his heroics during the Boer War, are well-documented. But Oldman still found himself in awe as he tallied the man’s accomplishments. He enumerates, “Over 50 years in government. 50 books written – he would later get the Nobel Prize for Literature. Decorated in four wars. 500 paintings, with 16 exhibitions at the Royal Academy.”

“Had it not been for him, what would our world be like? There’s no one to touch him. There’s still no one like him.”

DARKEST 4

Taking Ownership

Anthony McCarten acknowledges that “there are scenes in Darkest Hour where Winston Churchill looks distinctly un-Prime Ministerial.”

Joe Wright reports, “Daytime meals for Winston would often be accompanied by a glass of white wine and/or scotch, and because of the hours he kept it was not unusual for him to hold meetings from his bed, or even from his bath. He’d dictate memos for the day from bed and receive visitors and talk about matters of state wearing his dressing gown and nightshirt.

“Finally, no matter what was going on, he would nap every day at 4 in the afternoon – and he kept a very small single bed down in the War Rooms. He was a proper English eccentric.”

McCarten remarks, “To get at the man behind the icon, it was important to establish the character traits in Churchill. We’re dramatizing specific moments, but everything came from our research.

“Something that history books have not cited often, which is particularly revelatory, is that he was the architect of the Operation Dynamo boat rescue at Dunkirk, where civilian crafts and everyday people were called upon to help get their countrymen home.

“The rescue at Dunkirk was Winston Churchill’s idea, and it saved thousands of lives – British and French.”

Ultimately, the screenwriter wanted “to push the boundaries of our understanding of him. With regard to Churchill, I feel his three-dimensional nature had become buried under a veneer of history. The more famous a historical figure is, the greater the sense of public ownership in them.

“Winston’s weaknesses, foibles, and doubts have been airbrushed out of even the most thorough biographies; he’s now often portrayed as this completely resolute character. I think we do him more justice when we present him warts-and-all. In the last 10 years scholarship is starting to reveal other dimensions, so Darkest Hour is part of that new school of thinking.”

Phil Reed, OBE, Emeritus Director Churchill War Rooms was historical advisor on Darkest Hour. He comments, “Winston Churchill is often seen as the man who saved his country and the world. This film illuminates that period in his life when he absolutely nailed his colors to the mast and went down a very certain avenue.

“The transformation was from being surrounded by people who didn’t trust him or respect him to being the leader who had to place his imprint on the government, on his countrymen, on the world – and he made it.”

Proud Mary

A basic story is about what do humans do when we’re forced to make a change in life and to make the decision to better our lives?

In Proud Mary the life of a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston is completely turned around when she crosses paths with a young boy while doing a job.

Producer Paul Schiff “had been preparing Proud Mary for a number of years. The characters are rich and nuanced—this is not a cookie-cutter action movie,” he says.

“Proud Mary started out as an English crime drama set in London,” notes Schiff, “and I’m really happy with how it’s evolved and developed and am thrilled that we got Taraji as Mary. I have always been fascinated by movies like Gloria and The Professional that present how a hard-bitten woman’s new relationship with a young child changes her life. In Mary’s case, her new life with Danny triggers a war with another crime family and leads to her attempt to leave her own family—which seemed like a really fascinating situation.”

“Saving him is a great act of restitution–and through this act of selflessness she’s found a way to save her own self,” notes Producer Tai Duncan. “But after Mary takes Danny off the streets she finds herself in some serious trouble with two very dangerous crime families [her own (the Spencers) and their competition (the Kozlovs)]. And it’s not going to be easy for her!”

“When I first got the script, Mary drove a beat-up Jaguar. I remember getting the rewrite while I was doing Empire, and I was like, my Maserati?” laughs Taraji P. Henson, who plays Mary.

Babak Najafi (London Has Fallen) directs a screenplay by John Stuart Newman (tv’s Get Shorty) & Christian Swegal (Solar) and Steven Antin from a story by John Stewart Newman & Christian Swegal.

Acclaimed Iranian-Swedish film director, Babak Najafi won the award for Best First Feature with his film, Sebbe, at the 2010 60th Berlin International Film Festival. In 2012, he directed the sequel to massive local box office smash, Easy Money aka Snabba Cash, which was acquired by Weinstein Co for their Martin Scorsese presents label. In 2013 he directed Olympus Has Fallen, starring Morgan Freeman & Gerard Butler, which grossed $206M at the box office.

Screenwriter Christian Swegal is a Los Angeles based writer / director whose work reflects a diverse background of disciplines. After studying film at the University of Southern California, Swegal’s understanding of design and visual effects lead him to a series of directing accomplishments in music videos and live concerts, working with artists such as Katie Perry, Kanye West, Louis XIV, Gnarls Barkley, and Lupe Fiasco, among others. Since then, he has been creating new and unique visions for both commercials and films. In 2010, his science fiction short film “Stasis” went viral, and was featured in a variety of online magazines, including The Hollywood Reporter, Twitch Film, io9, and Short of the Week. Swegal worked with Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment to create the science fiction television series “Solar”, which is now in development at SyFy Channel.

Screenwriter John Stuart Newman was a staff writer on the first season of Get Shorty, the premium cable action-comedy series.  For creating the interactive streaming series Dirty Work in 2012, John won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Original Interactive Television. He cut his teeth as a dialogue writer for Days of Our Lives for four years, and was part of the writing team awarded a Daytime Emmy in 2012. In addition to his television and film writing credits, John is an accomplished songwriter.  He co-wrote the upcoming independent action thriller A Score to Settle.

Screenwriter Steven Antin is a director, writer and producer who has worked extensively in television, movies, music videos and advertising. He is the Executive Producer and Creative Director on Burlesque, The Live Theater Production, based on the movie Burlesque, which he wrote and directed. The live stage show is scheduled to open in 2019 in the West End/UK and on
Broadway. Following a successful acting career, Antin shifted his focus to screenwriting and producing. Inside Monkey Zetterland, which Antin wrote, co-produced and starred in, was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Antin also Created and Executive Produced The CW summer series Young Americans.  His directorial debut feature film, Burlesque, was nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards including best picture.  Steven has sold over a dozen television pilots and Created and Executive Produced two television series, Young Americans and also The Search For The Next Pussycat Doll. Steven currently is attached to Exec Produce and Direct two TV shows in development, both of which he wrote, The Body and Scarlett and the Apocalypse.

“The song ‘Proud Mary’ is about a paddle wheeler that keeps on rolling down the Mississippi,” observes Danny Glover, who plays mob boss Benny Spencer, “but it’s really about the strength of women. In the movie, Proud Mary, this very strong woman is an integral part of a family and the film is about the conditioning that goes on within the family and the roles that each of its members play in making the family function. Now this is a mob family, have no doubt about that; the family demands respect and the cohesiveness of the family is paramount to its success—you don’t leave the family, you don’t get out of the family. There’s a code of honor even if their greatest weapon is violence and death.”

“Mary is a complicated, hardened criminal,” adds producer Tai Duncan. “Smart and efficient, she’s found a way to survive in a very male world. Her ability comes from her intelligence, preparation and being able to adjust on the fly (in many ways she’s more dangerous than the men she works with). But I think she’s come to believe that there can be more to having a life away from the family—it’s not something that she has acted on yet—and it’s only through finding Danny and embracing unrecognized emotions that she comes to really believe that her time to leave is now.”

“Like Danny, Mary was forced by circumstances to take on this life,” adds producer Paul Schiff. “As a child she’d been picked up off the street and trained to kill. The only love that she has ever really known is from this dark, criminal family that cared for her in return for her services as an assassin—and as she gets older that perverse relationship continues.”

“This is a person absolutely numb to life, to love, who is finally awakened,” notes Taraji P. Henson. “We’re so quick as humans to write people off: ‘Oh, that person’s bad,’ after they did one thing—well, with Mary, you can’t say one thing,” she laughs. “But there was this part of life to which she was blind. It’s rough out here and sometimes we don’t make right choices because of our circumstances, the cards we were dealt. Here we have a human just trying to make the best of a bad situation and you’ve got to give her credit for that. You see a killer become a human. Blood starts to pump through her veins—that’s what you see in Mary. You’re watching that
transformation, which is what really what intrigued me, because it’s not, simply ‘Hey, I’m out here just killing people looking badass.’ I don’t ever want to glorify killing people. Babak, our director, was very clear about being careful with the images that we are portraying because whenever you play a character that picks up a gun, you’re playing God, right? And I take that very seriously. So we took great care in how we portrayed these characters.”

Known for portraying characters as diverse as the brilliant, stalwart Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures and the brilliantly tenacious Cookie Lyon on Empire, Taraji P. Henson describes how she “grabbed the chance to play Mary. I don’t want to repeat characters,” she says. “I played a sniper and cops and detectives, but I never played a hit woman—and that’s very different. Mary is a close-range, hired killer—she’s not ex-military or a street thug. In an elevator she might be all ‘Hi, how are you? Those are nice shoes. Have a great day,’ and five steps out the building it’s pop, pop,” she laughs. “It’s fun and it’s very different because people always see me as nurturing and natural. This woman knows nothing about mothering—and here she ends up with this kid.”

“Taraji is fantastic in the role,” lauds producer Paul Schiif. “She’s so feisty, funny and powerful and she’s just a really fine actress. Even though I’ve been working on this script and thinking about this character for a long time, during production I had the pleasure of being
surprised every day by her interpretation of Mary—fresh, entertaining and surprising and always with a real beat on her humanity. I hope her fans see a version of Taraji that they didn’t expect, especially if they come in thinking they knew everything they could know. Part of the balance of the movie comes from believing that this character really walks in the world—that it’s not complete fantasy, and Taraji plays Mary in a way that you believe that this isn’t an action figure kind of role, some paramilitary fantasy. She’s a real person picked up off the street and trained to kill, but she doesn’t have super powers. She’s not flying on a wire and doing things that defy
physics.”

 

 

MONSTER

A funny story about reluctant heroes, who, due to some obnoxious magic performed on them, experience hair-raising adventures on a journey around the world.

The seed for Monster Family was planted when Producer and director Holger Tappe (Animals United) approached Emmy Award winning author David Safier, who had made his name writing the scripts for the TV series Berlin, Berlin (becoming a bestselling novelist was only the second stage in his career).

Safier gave Tappe an advance copy of his novel Happy Family to read, and they both quickly realized that the story was an ideal blueprint for an animated movie.

However, Safier writes for a more adult audience (70% are female readers, aged between 14 and 50 years) and they agreed that the story needed to be re imagined so as to be suitable for children.

The novel has erotic scenes, which would have been inappropriate in the film, so they had to take great care not to change the underlying story so much that it would become unrecognisable to fans of the novel.

“Primarily, the film is meant to be fun – if an adult viewer realizes that this is about a dysfunctional family, who need to work through their issues, before reuniting in harmony, then this message is clearly part of the script. But not in a didactic way – on the face of it, it is a funny story about reluctant heroes, who, due to some obnoxious magic performed on them, experience hair-raising adventures on a journey around the world,” says Tappe.

For author David Safier: “This Film Is Like Winning The Lottery”

MONSTER 2

In the film Monster Family the Wishbones are far from being a happy family. Mum, Emma, owns a book store that’s deeply debt-ridden, Dad, Frank, is seriously over-worked and suffering under his tyrannical boss, daughter, Fay is a self-conscious teenager infatuated with her first high school crush, and genius son Max is being bullied at school. And it doesn’t end there – at a costume party an evil witch Baba Yaga turns them all into monsters! Emma becomes a vampire, Frank turns into Frankenstein’s monster, Fay into a mummy and Max into a werewolf. Together this monster family must chase the witch halfway around the globe to reverse the curse. During this haphazard adventure, the Wishbones get into trouble with some real-life monsters, not least the irresistibly, charming Count Dracula himself, who professes his undying love for Emma.
Well, the road to family happiness is littered with pitfalls and sharp turns, or rather, sharp teeth…

Safier on the Area Of Tension Between Novel And Screenplay

“I always wanted to write novels,” says David Safier, who was born in 1966 and is one of the most successful German-language authors of recent years.

Following his education as a journalist, he gathered editorial experience in radio and television. From 1996 onwards he mainly wrote screenplays for German television. Among many other projects, “Berlin, Berlin”, a popular sitcom he created and for which he was the head author, won the “Grimme” Prize in 2003, followed by the international “Emmy” for Best Comedy in 2004.

His novels, for example Bad Karma, Apocalypse Next Tuesday or Happy Family sold in the millions in Germany, and have also become bestsellers abroad.

“When, aged 17, I came across the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I knew, ten pages in, “That’s what I want to write one day”. I first became a journalist, later a screenwriter, and fortunately I had some success in these fields. After I won the “Emmy” with the TV series “Berlin, Berlin”, a publisher inquired whether I felt like writing a novel. My response: “Good of you to call – that’s what I’ve been wanting to do since I was 17.”

As a novelist – once my books were adapted for the screen – I returned to screenwriting. For example, following “Happy Family”, there will be a feature film version of “Berlin, Berlin”.

Safier on the requirements of a screenplay differ greatly from that of a novel.

  • Firstly, in a novel I can take more liberties, because the page of a book always costs the same. It’s different with a screenplay – a lot depends on whether I describe a scene, where two characters have a cup of coffee, or if I add that just then the world ends and dinosaurs wander into frame. That might add increase the cost of the film just a little…
  • Secondly, the freedom in writing novels also consists of the fact, that it’s not a collaborative effort – it’s just between the author and the reader. My imagination connects with that of the reader, and the finished product materializes in his or her head. A lot more people are involved in making a film – the actors, the director, and the financiers. The latter understandably have a say, when they invest millions in such a project. In the case of “Happy Family”, we had such wonderful teamwork, because we realized that we all shared the same vision. But such a way of working could in theory also be quite frustrating.
  • Thirdly, the risk in screenwriting stems from the fact that many projects end up gathering dust in a drawer, because the finance cannot be raised. That’s why I prefer to write novels, because they do happen and they do reach their audience! Looking back, I’ve spent about three years of my life writing for projects that never materialized. That’s why I am very cautious about potential screenplays.

MONSTER3

Safier on The Fantasical Elements Of Happy Family

I love fantastical stories, but my books always cover themes, that relate directly to my readers and viewers. Conceptually, I therefore usually start with the supernatural element, but then I work on the emotional truth.

With “Happy Family”, it was the other way round – I started off with the issues within the family. I myself am a father of two children – all the conflicts of stress in the family, puberty and so on, were familiar to me from personal experience. But of course I did not want to write a docudrama, so I was pondering what might happen to this family. Such ideas often gestate over months, and eventually I hit on the idea that the Wishbones might be transformed into something else. I had the inspiration that they might mutate into monsters. They are more suitable than super-heroes (which otherwise I really appreciate), because heroes usually succeed at once, but I first wanted to send the Wishbones off to an exciting adventure. Monsters make for a nice mixture – they, too, have super powers, but they are horror creatures, and naturally the Wishbones want to overcome this involuntary condition, and return to normality. But they can’t succeed without emotional advancement, which will stand them in good stead when dealing with their future lives.

As a child, I loved watching all the classic creature features — the “Frankenstein” movies, Bela Lugosi as “Dracula”, “The Mummy” with Boris Karloff. Later I encountered other permutations – I became very fond of Marvel Comic’s “Frankenstein” adaptation, or their “Tomb of Dracula” series, and that way I further internalized these mythical horrors. Only as an adult did I find out who had written the original novels – and they continue to excite me. This love of the original classics is a necessary condition for my novels – without them, I would turn into a cynic.

cats

Safier on Working With The Monster Family Team

When I first met producer and director Holger Tappe, we discussed what the novel “Happy Family” is about — what strains are there on families? How does one manage to lead a happy family life? Holger totally “got” all this. He focused on the same things I did – big adventure, fun, but also the emotional truth … the decisive factors: heart, adventure, truth and humour.

We were in total agreement. But I did not want to write the screenplay on my own, because I did not feel I had the necessary distance. I’ve known the author Catharina Junk for more than 20 years – I asked her to handle the screen adaptation, because I thought it was important to look at the existing story from a different angle. Of course in the novel I focus on certain things which are important to me. But that does not necessarily mean that they really are important. Others might be able to judge that more objectively. As the second author, Catharina delivers a measure of control. I went through the various elements of her screenplay, and one joke in particular made me laugh out loud. I immediately called her and congratulated her on the idea. Her response: “Yup. And it was straight from your novel.” Which just goes to show that I did not fully recall my own book, and might have placed a different significance on these scenes.

krebs-peruecke-catahrina-junk

Catharina Junk, born 1973 in Bremen, studied German Language and Literature, Psychology and Ethnology at Hamburg University (M.A.), worked for a numbers of years as editor for TV series at broadcaster NDR, and has been active since 2008 as an independent screenwriter for film and television. An early version of her first novel, “Auf Null”, received the “Hamburger Förderpreis”, an award for literature.

Then there came the practical experience with Holger Tappe’s team, which I thought was amazing, and a great gift – the company produces animation of the highest quality. For me as a German author, it is a great honour to be allowed to participate in such a project. That’s because from this production company flows a steady stream of ideas full of unbridled imagination, which on my own I could never come up with: Character design, look, movement. Despite my participation in the script team, I could only marvel and rejoice at all the surprising ideas for the implementation of the story, which the designers and animators contributed. It was like having won the lottery! How much nicer it is, when a wonderful film emerges from all this work, which totally captures the essence of my novel. Another important aspect is the human angle — I am experiencing Holger Tappe as a pleasant and fair partner in this cooperation. One more reason why he is one of the top producers in the industry.

The Process From Page To Screen

German satirist Oliver Kalkofe (and in the German version, the voice of Butler Renfield) states: “What’s so interesting about Monster Family is that on the one hand, the story is easy to identify with. Anyone who grew up in a family, or knows a family, or has one of his or her own, will readily understand what is going on here. A family, which should be happy, creates its own obstacles, and then also has to deal with some external calamities. It is therefore, at least temporarily, not so happy. It then needs to figure out what’s really important, and why, come to think of it, there really never was a reason to be unhappy. Then there is a second layer here, of playing with monsters, which we all recognise from hundreds of films, and which, even though they retain a spooky touch, we can laugh about – children do not need to be afraid of them. I certainly think it’s great, how I can make gentle fun of these creatures, which made me hide behind the sofa when I was a kid, and who at times also show their nice side in this.”

Happy-Family-Holger-Tappe-macht-Hollywood-in-Hannover_ArtikelQuer

Holger Tappe, born in 1969, started out by getting an education in photography at the “Berliner Fotofachschule”, before studying Design for New Media for a few semesters at the “Fachhochschule Hannover”. First, he worked as a photographer, as well as a cameraman for music videos. From 1995 onwards, he created commercials as director and cameraman, designed cyber games, large screen projection and trade fair presentations for public and corporate clients. In 1999 he founded Ambient Entertainment GmbH, together with Stefan Mischke. The company specialized in 3D animation, CGI production and digital post-production. In 2004 Tappe directed “Back To Gaya”, Germany’s first fully computer-animated feature film. He followed this up with “Impy’s Island (“Urmel aus dem Eis”) (2006) in co-production with Bavaria Entertainment and “Impy’s Wonderland” (“Urmel voll in Fahrt”) (2008) in co-production with Constantin Film. In 2010, he directed “Animals United” (“Konferenz der Tiere”) based on the novel by Erich Kästner – Europe’s first stereoscopic 3D CGI feature. In addition, he acted as Associate Producer on “Tarzan” (2013).

“So we intend to reach children as a target group with this film,” adds Tappe, “but we are also guided by American animation, which traditionally offers great entertainment not just for kids, but also for their parents, who will, for example, recognize, and have fun with visual puns on 100 years of horror film history. It was the same with my previous film, “Animals United”, where we introduced concepts of ecology and environmentalism, without ever distracting from the entertainment value. So, entertainment is paramount for us, but that doesn’t mean that the story of “Happy Family” cannot make you think. We live in a demanding world, in which one’s career, and looking out for oneself, dominates; and when we cannot realize our dreams, we project them onto our children. And if they don’t toe the line in this regard, once puberty happens, entirely foreseeable conflicts ensue, which necessarily leads to explosive fights, because they do not fit in with our expectations of an ideal world.”

About the novel, Tappe says: “David Safier’s book also concentrates on the humorous aspects of the story, and that’s why the film is particularly suitable for family entertainment. No doubt we will not change the world with our film. But if some members of the audience end up leaving the cinema thinking simply that next week-end might be a good time for doing something together, as a family, then that’s already quite something.”

About the evolution of the project, the director has this to say: “David Safier suggested a collaboration with the writer Catharina Junk. Because he saw himself as too close to the story, this teamwork proved to be the ideal approach. Catharina delivered two drafts, which David also contributed to; he also participated in our script meetings and was at all times open to our input of ideas. David invested much more effort and time, than one could normally expect from an author, to decisively drive the project forwards.”

Regarding the characters and plot, Tappe says: “All characters in the film already exist in the novel – except for Dracula’s funny bat companions, the Batties, which we invented for the film. As in the novel, we focus on the lead characters Emma and Dracula, but we left out certain aspects of Emma’s inner turmoil, to allow the other family members room to develop and “breathe”.

While the obvious chemistry between Dracula and Emma remains intact, the only remnant in the film of the erotic subplot is a fiery tango sequence. In any case, there comes a moment while conceptualizing the material, when we filmmakers have to stop relying on dialogue alone, and where instead we delve into action and slapstick inspired by the plot, when we give our animators, and their fertile imaginations, free rein. What they came up with was constantly discussed with David Safier at the project meetings – he remained an integral part of the film team up to the test screenings.

This collaboration worked so well, that Safier is already developing new ideas, and intends to continue working with Holger Tappe and his crew. The first result of these joint efforts can already be viewed at the “Europa Park”, an extremely popular theme park in Rust, in Southern Germany. Since 2016, one can experience a “4D” Short Film there, for which David Safier developed something like a prequel to “Happy Family”.
Because animated movies tend to be more costly than life-action ones, the team planned from the outset to create an English-language version of the film for international distribution. Accordingly it was decided early on to move the Berlin home (per the book) of the Wishbones to New York. Says Holger Tappe: ” It’s funny… we Germans might struggle to identify with a French or a British family, and vice versa. But nobody seems to mind identifying with an American one. So the European trip of the novel became the trans-Atlantic journey of a family of New Yorkers.”

After a test phase in German, the animation was completely switched over to English dialogue, for which renowned British actors like Emily Watson, Jason Isaacs and Nick Frost were hired, who were encouraged to interpret their roles freely in the sound booth – the animation was then fitted to their voices. That means that English became the original language of the film.

DEC

Action

babydriver-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqeo_i_u9APj8RuoebjoAHt0k9u7HhRJvuo-ZLenGRumAWith its mixture of mph and music, the newest explosion of genre-crossing excitement from writer-director Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is an action thriller unlike any other. Full of reversals, rewinds, fast forwards and heart-stopping skips, and inspired by the types of crime-and-chase movies that have thrilled moviegoers since Steve McQueen in a revved-up Mustang changed car pursuits forever, Baby Driver is a game-changing, lane-changing, hard-charging blast only Wright could have dreamed up. Baby (Ansel Elgort), an innocent-looking getaway driver who gets hardened criminals from point A to point B, with daredevil flair and a personal soundtrack running through his head. That’s because he’s got his escape route plotted to the beat of specific tunes that go from his well-curated iPod straight to his ears, and which translate into expertly timed hairpin turns, gear shifts and evasive maneuvers that leave his passengers on the ride of their lives. Baby works for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a kingpin on a lucky streak of brash daytime bank heists, thanks in part to his faith in Baby’s auto acumen. Doc’s go-to professionals include former Wall Street type turned outlaw Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s young, lawless and scandalous partner in crime Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and the impulsive, gun-slinging Bats (Jamie Foxx), whose suspicions about Baby – from his attitude to his aptitude – begin to create a dangerous rift in an until-then smooth-running operation. Read more about the film / Buy DVD

ATOMIC BLONDE Oscar winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in this sexy action-thriller that follows MI6’s most elite spy through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission.  Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James MacAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies. A blistering blend of sleek action, gritty sexuality and dazzling style, Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch (co-director, John Wick; director of upcoming Deadpool 2), who has imagined a world as brutal and deadly as it is real.  The film is based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City” written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart. Read more about film / Buy DVD

Logan LuckyIn the turbocharged heist comedy Logan Lucky from Academy Award®-winning director Steven Soderbergh, West Virginia family man Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) leads his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough) in an elaborate scheme to rob North Carolina’s Charlotte Motor Speedway.To help them break into the track’s underground cash-handling system, Jimmy recruits volatile demolition expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Further complicating the already risky plan, a scheduling mix-up forces the thieves to execute the job during the Coca-Cola 600, the track’s most popular NASCAR event of the year. As they attempt to pull off the ambitious robbery, the down-on-their-luck Logans face a final hurdle when a relentless FBI agent (Hilary Swank) begins investigating the case. Read more about the film / Buy the DVD

New South African Films

Krotoa poster”Identity, a sense of belonging and reconciliation are strong, universal themes in this powerful tale,” says producer-director Roberta Durant of Krotoa,  the poignant story of a feisty, bright, young eleven-year old girl, who is removed from her close-knit Khoi tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck  at her uncle’s trading partner. Krotoa is brought into the first Fort, established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. There she grows into a visionary young woman, who assimilates the Dutch language and culture so well that she rises to become an influential interpreter for van Riebeeck (Armand Aucamp ), who became the first Governor of the Cape Colony. Krotoa (Crystal Donna Roberts – ) ends up being rejected by her own Khoi people and destroyed by the Dutch, when she tries to find the middle way between the two cultures. Read more about the film / Buy the DVD

 

VaselinetjieAcclaimed journalist and writer, Anoeschka von Meck’s Vaselinetjie is a story about defining the meaning and origin of one’s identity and race within the turmoil of post Apartheid South Africa, and brought to life the Big Screen by director Corné Van Rooyen, (Hollywood in my Huis, Sy Klink Soos Lente ) who wrote the screenplay with René van Rooyen (Mooirivier).The story follows the growing-up years of Helena Bosman, a white girl living with her coloured grandparents. The coloured children at school brutally tease her, accusing her of being a fake and mock her because she looks different from them. When Vaselinetjie is 11 years old, and the bullying becomes increasingly aggressive, the welfare’s help is called in and she is sent to an orphanage outside of Johannesburg – a place where “Mandela’s reject children” must live and survive.It’s a strange, hard, dangerous world of drop-out children and bad-tempered matrons; a world where children smoke leftover cigarette butts, fight each other with their fists and constantly run away. It’s a world where no one cares about anyone else, where you learn not to give a damn and no one gives a damn about you. Vaselinetjie soon forgets the values her grandparents taught her so she, for the first time, can fit in with her peers. It’s only when a much older Vaselinetjie falls in love with Texan Kirby, a rebellious orphanage boy, that she addresses her biggest challenge and fear: the truth about where she comes from. Vaselinetjie is a film about the search for identity and the long road of growing up to discover who one really is. Read more about the film / Buy DVD

Van der Merwe 2In every country there is a person who is the butt of all jokes. In Ireland it is Paddy, in Israel it is Hymie, in South Africa, that person is Van der Merwe – this is his story. Set on the Van der Merwe farmstead, the story centres on Van’s daughter Marike who returns home from a gap year in England with her new fiancé George, a British boy who is studying to become a doctor. This creates all sorts of problems and challenges for Van as he tries to come to terms with the fact that his daughter is marrying an Englishman. Van’s father is strongly against this union of ‘Brit and Boer’ and implores Van to put an end to it. Van finds himself in a precarious situation with a difficult choice: risk the wrath of his father by condoning the wedding – or obey his father, whose approval he so desperately wants, and risk losing his daughter forever. When the family of the English fiancé arrives on the farm, the fireworks really begin as the clash of cultures results in a number of side-splitting ..It was written and directed by Bruce Lawley and stars Rob Van Vuuren.  Buy DVD

Animation

Son of BigfootIn the animated Son Of Bigfoot a teenage outsider Adam sets out on an epic and daring quest to uncover the mystery behind his long-lost dad, only to find out that he is none other than the legendary Bigfoot! He has been hiding deep in the forest for years to protect himself and his family from HairCo., a giant corporation eager to run scientific experiments with his special DNA. As father and son start making up for lost time after the boy’s initial disbelief, Adam soon discovers that he too is gifted with superpowers beyond his imagination. But little do they know, HairCo. is on their tail as Adam’s traces have led them to Bigfoot! Read more about the film / Buy on DVD

Comedy

Home AgainReese Witherspoon stars in Home Again. Recently separated from her husband, Alice Kinney decides to start over by moving back to Los Angeles with her two daughters. While celebrating her 40th birthday, Alice meets Harry, George and Teddy, three young filmmakers who need a place to live. Complications soon arise when she agrees to let the men stay in her guesthouse temporarily. As Alice develops a budding romance with Harry, her newfound happiness comes crashing down when her ex shows up with a suitcase in his hand. Read more about the film / Buy DVD

Horror

armed-response-master768In Armed Response a team of special forces soldiers approach the designer of a high-tech military compound to investigate the disappearance of another team guarding the facility. The compound, known professionally as a Temple, is an artificial intelligence powered facility designed for interrogating high level prisoners. Upon entering the Temple, the soldiers quickly find the earlier team horrifically slaughtered but no evidence as to who is responsible. Almost immediately, the crew begins to experience strange and horrific supernatural phenomena as they attempt to uncover who killed the previous team. Soon enough, they find a lone survivor, a dangerous terrorist who may hold the key to who killed the soldiers. But as the story goes on, we’ll learn that there’s more to it than we’ve been told and a dark secret the soldiers share may hold the key to surviving The Temple. Read more about the film / Buy DVD

A military experiment to harness unlimited energy goes horribly awry in Kill Switch, leaving a pilot with no choice but to fight through an imploding world to save his family and the planet itself. The pilot (Dan Stevens) travels to a parallel universe to repair an interdimensional imbalance created by an unstable new energy source.. However, he soon realizes that his mission is much more complex than he was led to believe. Read more about the film / Buy DVD

Abel Vang and Burlee Vang (The Vang Brothers) wrote, produced and directed Bedevilled, dealing with five friends who are terrorised by a supernatural entity after downloading a mysterious app,. Read more about the film / Buy DVD

 

 

MAZE 1

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a culmination of all three books and brings it all together. It’s an amazing adventure.

Published in October 2009, James Dashner’s novel The Maze Runner was the first in the best-selling post-apocalyptic YA book series, and became a New York Times Best Seller that captured the imaginations of readers around the world, who described it as a combination of Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and the legendary television series Lost, and broke box-office records when it exploded on the big screen. The books’ legions of fans embraced The Maze Runner, which grossed more than $340 million worldwide.

Reflecting on the story’s appeal, Dashner notes that much of it stems from the “constant state of not being able to predict what’s going to happen next.  I wanted my readers, and now the moviegoing audience, to feel like Thomas when they enter the Glade.”

In the original Maze Runner the involuntary inhabitants of the mysterious encampment knows as The Glade were surrounded by an ever-changing maze with 200 foot walls. They were a colony of young men with a singular goal; escape the glade by solving the maze. When Thomas showed up and, shortly after, the glade’s first girl inhabitant Teresa, everything began to change. The way out led them to the truth: they were members in an immense and cruel test.

MAZE 2

The second book, The Scorch Trials, was published in 2010 and  sold more than three million copies, and the film Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials answered many of the questions posed in the first film.

In Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials the “gladers”, as they were now known, discovered that once out of the maze they were not the only participants forced to endure tests.  There were in fact other mazes, other survivors and they were to learn of the organization that had selected them, WCKD.  Thomas, who had become the presumptive leader of the group, didn’t trust the message he was hearing that “WCKD is good.” Breaking free from the compound where they’d been housed after being “rescued” Thomas led the survivors of the original maze and others he had encountered in the new facility out into “the scorch”, a desert wasteland that appeared to be all that was left of the world.

Action reaches new heights in this mission-oriented third and final segment of The Maze Runner Series, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, where  the motives of WCKD become clearer: Dr. Ava Paige, WCKD’s executive director is close to what she believes is a cure for the disease known as The Flare, an infection that has decimated the world’s population.  But the cure comes by sacrificing the few young people left in the world who are apparently immune. In order to free those who have been rounded up as test subjects, including his friend Minho, Thomas must now band together with fellow survivors, old and new, and take the battle to what may be the last remaining city and the final stronghold of WCKD. He must break into the super-secure WKCD headquarters and try to bring down the organization from the inside.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure, picks up roughly six months after the Scorch Trials ended.  In the final battle of The Scorch the survivors of The Flare, a disease that has devastated the world’s population, have defined their purpose; to find a safe haven away from the influence of WCKD.

MAZE 3

James Dashner was born and raised in Georgia, but now lives in the Rocky Mountains with his family. He has four kids, which some might think is too many, but he thinks is just right. Once upon a time, James studied accounting and worked in the field of finance, but he has been writing full time for several years. (He doesn’t miss numbers. At all.)

From an early age, James wanted to be a writer. He read every book he could get his hands on, from Superfudge to The Chronicles of Narnia, to The Hardy Boys to Lord of the Rings. And telling stories just seemed like the right thing to do. His parents had an old typewriter and James wrote a few stories on that just for fun. All the many books he’s read and all the movies and TV shows he’s watched have served to inspire many of his stories. For example, The Maze Runner was heavily influenced by Ender’s Game and Lord of the Flies.

Whenever James has a tough time writing, he takes a break to watch a movie or read a book, and then the ideas flow so fast he can’t get them all down. He’ll be the first to admit he’s lucky to have the greatest job ever.

James is the author of The New York Times best-selling Maze Runner series, the Mortality Doctrine series, the Thirteenth Reality series, and Infinity Ring, Book 1: A Mutiny in Time and Book 7: The Iron Empire.

The Wes Ball-directed adaptation of Maze Runner: The Death Cure was crafted by screenwriter T.S. Nowlin, who also wrote the screenplays for The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. 

MAZE 4

Wes Ball grew up in Lake Como, Florida and attended Florida State University where he earned a BFA in Film.  It is here that Wes first gained attention for his student short A Work In Progress which was honored with a Student Academy Award.  It was at that time that Wes founded his own boutique VFX and Animation Studio Oddball Animation.

Soon after, Wes found himself working alongside Tom Hanks on the IMAX-3D documentary Magnificent Desolation, where Wes was the Previz Supervisor.  In addition to this critically-acclaimed project, Wes and his Oddball team designed title sequences, created CG-animation and produced VFX for such companies as Playtone, Walt Disney, and Universal among others.

In 2012 Wes created, produced and directed the original 3D short film Ruin. He released it online and within a short time it had gathered over 5,000,000 hits.  The film catapulted Wes into the conversations of new directors to watch.  Two months later, the feature version of Ruin sold to Fox Studios in a pre-emptive bid.  That same week, the studio began talks for him to direct his first feature film The Maze Runner.  Produced for $34 million, the film went on to make $350 million worldwide and launched a franchise.  The sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials premiered in September 2015 and became a worldwide hit.  Wes is currently in post-production on the climax to the series Maze Runner: The Death Cure, which is scheduled for release January 26, 2018.

Wes’ film production company Oddball Entertainment has a first look deal with Fox.  In addition to Ruin, Oddball’s current development slate includes the fantasy-adventure Mouseguard based on the award-winning comic book series written and illustrated by David Peterson, the action-adventure In Search of Humans, the epic fantasy Fall Of Gods based on the illustrated novel created by Rasmus Berggreen and Michael Vogt, and an untitled supernatural thriller to be directed by Jason Eisener.

T.S. Nowlin is a graduate of the Florida State University film program who currently resides in Los Angeles. His credits include The Maze Runner (2014), Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015), Phoenix Forgotten (2017), Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018) and Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018). He’s currently represented by Adam Marshall at Management 360 and Daniel Cohan at ICM Partners.

 

 

 

 

 

As the director of all three films Wes Ball describes the differences in the worlds where each story takes place:

“The first film, with the maze, was all cement and decay. The second story was the sand and rust of the scorch and this film, The Death Cure, is a world of glass and steel. They each have their own tone and color palate.” But it’s the world of steel and glass, a world that the gladers are not even certain exists that will become the target as they take the battle to WCKD.

The battle against WKCD actually started at the end of Scorch Trials. As Ball explains: “In the third book there’s this whole idea of a resistance, a group opposed to WCKD and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to bring that in early?’” Having the warring factions show up at the end of the second movie is a slight deviation from the book and Ball is grateful to have the latitude to make those kinds of creative adjustments. “There are things that aren’t exactly like the book but they’re inspired by the books and that’s why we’re fortunate that James (Dashner) was on board for all of this stuff and the choices we’re making. We wanted to do what we could with respect to the fans and what they want to see.”

James Dashner confirmed his approval, stating, “The fans of the books are very loyal to the stories and very protective of them but some things just work better in a cinematic universe. Wes Ball has been great in finding those things that I think the fans have embraced as well.”

To create this journey the production needed a location that would provide all of the diversity of the scorch, to the city, to the safe haven and everything in between.  To achieve this they traveled to Cape Town, South Africa. Named the World Design Capital in 2014 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, the southern cape provided the perfect backdrop for the “last city” with its tall buildings and modern architecture.

The location also afforded the production the chance to travel to the edge of the Kalahari Desert to shoot the film’s exciting opening train sequence.  The scene, shot over five days near the town of Upington makes for an exciting, hit-the-ground-running, opening sequence.

“I think it’s going to be one of the coolest sequences we’ve ever done,” says Dylan O’Brien. “It’s a great way to kick off the film and absolutely sets the tone. The whole movie’s really a rescue mission and it’s a special sequence in this exciting trilogy.”

O’Brien appreciated the scene because it allowed audiences to pick up seamlessly from the last film. “Scorch Trials started at the exact moment that the first film ended.  With this film, it been about six months and you can see that these guys have been busy.  They’ve taken that time to get organized, to come up with a plane and to go save Minho.”

Wes Ball describes that instant at the end of Scorch Trials, when the others turn to Thomas and asks if he has a plan, as a defining moment for the character: “You see the leader emerge,” he says simply.

When Death Cure opens, it is clear the team have had time to come up with their plan. They are a different group, organized and on the offensive.   It’s a plan so audacious it requires that they steal an entire moving train car in their attempt to save Minho.

“The train heist was good fun,” says Berry Pepper, who plays Vince, a leader of the Right Arm resistance.  “Definitely one of the highlights of filming. It’s amazing, it was so hot out in the Kalahari. I’d be doing an action sequence, leaping from the car, climbing the train, and I’d be soaked to the bone, and then I’d stand around for ten minutes and I’d be dry. The sun was just so baking hot. I’d never experienced that before, that kind of heat. But it was also equally stunning, just beautiful out there. I’d never been in a location like that before, it was a great leg of the shoot, for sure.”

Rosa Salazar, who plays Brenda described the location as a very good match for the New Mexico location where Scorch Trials ended.  “When you travel to Upington, you think this could be Albuquerque.  The terrain is extremely similar. This could be wherevers’ville, Montana… then a group of villagers come, and you realize very quickly, you’re in Africa! There’s a completely different thing that happens in your brain when you realize you’re in Africa. You aren’t in Albuquerque or wherevers’ville America. You’re in a place where people still band together and they rise up. Where people have an interest in what’s going on around them and they say it and they vocalize it and they fight. People here, they will fight, they will rise up. And I love that because that’s what this movie is about.”

Having rescued a train car full of young people, all immune to The Flare, headed for the test labs of WCKD, the ultimate goal is get everyone to the safe haven. Once again, it is a place that no one was sure really existed.  First introduced in The Scorch Trials when Brenda tells Thomas, “Jorge thinks you guys are a ticket to the safe haven,” it’s a moment screenwriter T. S. Nowlin describes as “the carrot at the end of the stick. The moment they hear there is a paradise.”

The one to shepherd the growing number of young people to this new place to live is Vince. “He’s just a survivor,” says Pepper about his character. “I think like everyone he’s been forced to buck up or die. WCKD has the antidote and they pretty much hold everyone’s lives in the palm of their hands. So, he’s trying to survive and take as many people with him as he can.”

For the spectacular beauty of the “safe haven” the filmmakers and cast members went to the South African coastal park Koel Bay and the Kogel Bay Beach Resort.  With sheer mountains jutting up around the scenic beaches, it provided production designer Daniel Dorrance with the perfect spot to create the camp which in many ways mimics the look of the original gladers camp. The difference being, instead of the steep walls of the maze being a prison, the mountains provide security.

Bringing an already spectacular location into the Maze Runner universe was a perfect fit for Dorrance’s talent.  As Wes Ball explains, “Dan is really good at taking a practical location and turning into something very cool, unique and special.”

“Once we found this beautiful beach,” notes Dorrance, “we knew we could erect tent-like structures on them and have kind of the beginning of their world, which has sort of gone full circle back to the maze, in that they lived off the land.”

Maze-Runner-3-Death-Cure-Movie-Writer

As the director of the entire series, Wes Ball is appreciative of the cast member’s dedication to each other, their devotion to the series and the camaraderie they’ve maintained. Reflecting back to the first film, Ball says, “When I first came on, I wanted to get all of them into a group together. I wanted them to spend like a whole week out in the glade, out on their own, just learning how to survive.  And we brought out this awesome guy that, you know, um, kind of trained them with, in survival, and they learned how to like get their fingernails dirty, all these city boys, you know, make them feel like they belonged in this place.”

He continues, “At the same time that connected these guys in a way that has just been really, really special, because like they’ll pick themselves up when they’re tired or something’s not working right.  It’s just a really awesome little family of these guys that have just become, I think, friends for life. It’s been a lot of fun kind of helping them, making it real for them, you know what I mean?  So I’m happy about that.”

As someone who wasn’t isn’t involved from the beginning, but has very much become a part of the group, Barry Pepper assures that they are all on the same mission, which is to live up to the fans’ expectations for the story, “They don’t need me to get them all pumped up. These fans are hardcore, man, they’re going to love The Death Cure. The locations are absolutely stunning and unique and you’re getting a little bit of a throwback to the maze, the ‘Grievers’ might make an appearance… you get sort of everything. It’s a culmination of all three books and The Death Cure really brings it all together. It’s going to be an amazing adventure.”

 

The Post

The story provides a riveting context for a timeless dilemma:  when must one speak out to expose a grave national danger even knowing the stakes are unfathomably high?

Throughout American history, there have been catalytic moments in which ordinary citizens must decide whether to put everything on the line–livelihoods, reputations, status, even freedom—to do what they believe to be right and necessary to protect the Constitution and defend American freedom.

With The Post, multiple-Academy-Award-winning director Steven Spielberg excavates one such moment.

The result is a high-wire drama based on the true events that unfolded when The Washington Post and The New York Times formed a pragmatic alliance in the wake of The Times’ incendiary exposure of the Top Secret study that would become known to the world as the Pentagon Papers.

Though scooped by The New York Times, The Washington Post takes up the story that has brought legal threats and the power of the White House down on The Times—as huge personal stakes collide with the needs of a shocked nation to know what its government is hiding. In the balance might hang the fate of millions, including thousands of U.S. soldiers fighting a war their government does not believe can be won.

In just a few days of crisis, pioneering but inexperienced Post publisher Katharine Graham will weigh her legacy against her conscience as she gains the confidence to lead; and editor Ben Bradlee must press his team to go beyond the ordinary, knowing they could be charged with treason for carrying out their jobs.

But as they do, the underdogs at The Post become unified in a battle far larger than themselves—a battle for their colleagues and the Constitution—one that underscores the necessity of a free press to hold a democracy’s leaders accountable, even as it challenges Graham and Bradlee to their most private inner cores.  POST

With The Post, Spielberg comes together with an extraordinary mix of actors at the top of their game.

At the center of the ensemble piece are the performances of Streep and Hanks as Graham and Bradlee—one a untested leader learning to stake her ground as a woman in a shifting world; the other a hard-nosed newsman evolving from chasing down stories to fighting for the very principles of truth—who discover they can push one another to their best.

Behind the scenes, Spielberg reunites with his close-knit band of award-winning collaborators including cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn, production designer Rick Carter and composer John Williams, with the legendary costume designer Ann Roth joining the circle.

It all adds up to a recreation of 1971 that seems to unfold with mounting suspense in real time.

Throughout his career, Spielberg has been drawn to visiting those moments on which historical transformations turn in films ranging from Empire of the Sun and Schindler’s List to Munich, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies.

The Post turns Spielberg’s lens for the very first time on 1970s America, the same era in which he first became one of America’s eminent filmmaking voices.

Its relentlessly brisk narrative is a story of personal connections and courage, but it also brings Spielberg into the world of newspaper reporting at a critical moment for the nation and the world, a realm on the cusp of change with the rising power of women and the coming of corporatization. Most of all, the story provides a riveting context for a timeless dilemma:  when must one speak out to expose a grave national danger even knowing the stakes are unfathomably high?

“Steven made this story into a thriller,” says producer Amy Pascal. “He has an innate ability to make historical moments dynamic and of the moment. You are on the edge of your seat watching this movie, but it also reminds us of the timeless duty to tell the truth.”

Adds producer Kristie Macosko Krieger: “This movie is about the power of the truth, but it’s also a personal story of a woman’s transformation from a housewife to head of a Fortune 500 company.  It’s a personal story inside a historical story of giant stakes and that’s what made it so compelling to all of us.

the-post-cast-slice-600x200

Chasing the Story:  The Screenplay

The story of the Pentagon Papers is many stories – the story of how four Presidential administrations lied to the nation about the circumstances of the war for more than 20 years, the story of why former U.S. Marine and military consultant Daniel Ellsberg blew the whistle, the story of how The New York Times handled a spectacular and incendiary scoop, the story of the decisive litigation, not to mention the story of the ongoing implications for the media, the First Amendment and democracy itself.

But Liz Hannah’s page-turning screenplay for The Post came at it from a fresh angle, honing in on the roiling human intrigue and magnetic personalities at the center of The Washington Post’s consequential decision to enjoin the battle to publish.

Liz Hannah

Hannah had long been fascinated by the life and times of legendary Washington Post publisher Katharine (Kay) Graham, who in the early 70s was striving against the grain, the first woman to head a major national news organization.  She was fascinated by how Graham evolved from the heir of a growing newspaper into a true leader among journalists.  A spark went off when Hannah came across the story of how Graham willfully chose to risk both her paper and career—at the most vulnerable moment for both—by continuing to publish the Pentagon Papers after a court ordered the New York Times to stop.  This was the story for which she’d been searching.  It was a profoundly formative moment in Graham’s life and in the nation’s life, and one as full of complex characters and twist-and-turns as a tale of espionage.

“I’d read Graham’s memoir Personal History and I wanted her voice to be heard. But I kept trying to figure out how because I didn’t want to write a biopic,” Hannah explains.  “It wasn’t until I read Ben Bradlee’s memoir and encountered this momentous decision to publish the Pentagon Papers that I understood how to proceed. I decided to tell the story of the two of them in the context of Graham coming-of-age as she set the future course of The Post.  There was so much drama and risk-taking that the narrative just flowed.”

The stakes Graham and Bradlee faced were colossal.  They included:  the reality that young men were still being drafted into service in Vietnam with increasingly high casualty numbers; the anxiety that the charges they could face included treason; the legacy and even future existence of The Washington Post; the concern they were putting their staff and families at immense risk; and the inner worry that they might be betraying friends.

It was the buildup to that risk-taking—and the bravery it inspired across The Post and American journalism—that became the linchpin of Hannah’s script.  In the writing, it became as much about how and why people choose to act as about the colorful life of an ambitious, scrappy 1970s newspaper.  Hannah also approached the structure as a high-stakes love story, a platonic union of a yin-and-yang publisher and editor who forged an unbreakable loyalty when the hazards for both were at their greatest.  “The publication of the Pentagon Papers is the moment Kay and Ben’s relationship is forged, when their trust and partnership becomes their strength,” Hannah says. “I see it as the love story of soulmates who shared a common quest.”

Soon the screenplay was garnering buzz. When Amy Pascal read it, she recalls: “I thought to myself, this story needs to be told.  Part of what I loved about Liz’s script is that it was about a wife and mother who didn’t think she’d ever have a real job, who was dismissed by nearly everyone in her life—and suddenly she has to make one of the most consequential decisions in history.  It forever changed her industry and her life, and she becomes the first woman to run a Fortune 500 company.  I really cared about that story.”

The story also drew the attention of Meryl Streep, who in 2017 has marked her 40th year on screen, even before Spielberg was on board.  “I was familiar with the stories about The Washington Post and Watergate from Alan Pakula’s All The President’s Men, where Kay Graham makes a brief but fleeting appearance.   But I really didn’t know much about her,” she recalls.  “But Liz’s script really seemed to capture the flavor of that time. I found it incredibly compelling. And a story that hasn’t been told.”

Spielberg also had a visceral reaction to the script.  Despite being in the midst of intensive preparation for the special effects-heavy Ready Player One, this deeply historic, and human, story called to him. “Liz’s writing, her premise, her critical study and especially her beautiful, personal portrait of Graham got me to say: ‘I might be crazy, but I think I’m going to make another movie right now,’” he recalls.  “It snuck up on me.”

Kristie Macosko Krieger, who has worked with Spielberg for two decades, remembers: “We just turned everything around in a day.  I called everybody and said, ‘let’s wrap it up in Italy, we’re going to make a movie in New York in 11 weeks.’”

It all came together at an unusually brisk pace, even for Spielberg whose work ethic is renowned. The two leads he wanted to cast as Graham and Bradlee—Streep and Hanks—each expressed immediate interest.  Almost miraculously, both had openings in their schedules. Here was an opportunity for three gifted artists in film today to work in partnership and all were determined to move ahead full speed.

Especially interesting to Spielberg was the risk-taking involved, which made the story equal parts thriller, drama and character study of a woman uncovering the ringing strength of her voice. “The Washington Post took a huge chance publishing after the judge told The New York Times to halt,” he says.  “The timing couldn’t have been worse. The Post was kind of bleeding out and they needed to go public to remain solvent.  And in the middle of it all was Graham, who had to make the biggest decision of the newspaper’s history.  I saw the story being as much about the birth of a leader as about the growth of a national newspaper.”

Spielberg then brought in Academy Award-winning screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight), known for his ability to write viscerally about the lives of reporters, to expand Hannah’s screenplay. Josh Singer

Recalls the director:  “I sent the material to Josh and he really responded to Liz’s script, and he went right to work. We had many conversations together and we read both Graham and Bradlee’s books and we got fired up about the possibilities of where this story could go.  Josh did such deep research in a short amount of time.  I’ve never seen anything like it and I think part of it is because he studied law, then started writing for The West Wing. He understands the importance of finding the truth, and finding the details of the truth, not just the broad strokes of an historical story. He was inexhaustible in talking with the people who were there.”

“It was great to be able to bring Josh and Liz together.  I don’t think I’ve seen two writers work with each other better than they did,” adds Pascal.

“Liz’s script was about two human beings on an intimate journey, an incredible script,” Singer says. “What we then wanted to do was add in more history and a strong sense of the timeline to show how remarkable these few days were and bring the audience deeper into that world.  We move beyond Kay and Ben to see what’s going on with the Nixon tapes and with The New York Times and it all helps create more context for Kay’s massive moment of decision-making.”

Singer kept Graham and Bradlee’s relationship at the center of the writing.  “Their evolution is the centerpiece of the story and the way Liz wrote it, it was honest and true,” he says.  “Their bond is like a young marriage in a way. Ben and Kay have been working together for five years but up to now they’ve never faced any serious hardship.  Now they’re facing their first big test and they push each other to the point that you think they’re going to break – and what’s beautiful to watch is that instead they come out stronger.”

Also important to Singer was drawing a direct line from The Washington Post’s decision to keep publishing the Pentagon Papers to the newspaper’s fearless reporting on Watergate (which became the subject of Pakula’s cinematic classic, All The President’s Men.) “This is the origin story of the Watergate investigation in a sense,” Singer notes.  “Without this team in place the Watergate reporting may not have happened. The Pentagon Papers basically changed the way the paper operated and led to that possibility.”

The script was a further opportunity for Singer to look at a different side of journalism—the courage not just to hunt for attention-grabbing stories but equally so to have the audacity to publish what powerful people might not want published, to hold authorities to account. The Post is decidedly not about breaking a news story; and it was essential to make clear that The New York Times got the scoop on the Pentagon Papers.

post 3

The New York Times led the way on this story,” states Pascal.  “In fact, our movie starts with Ben Bradlee going crazy because he hears yet again there’s a story The Times has that he doesn’t.  He’s a competitive journalist through and through and The Times getting this major story drives him bananas.  But what is interesting is that he goes from caring about not getting the story to caring more about how to bring people the full truth.  It becomes a different kind of cause for him, for Kay and for The Washington Post.”

For more perspective, Singer closely consulted a range of technical advisors with firsthand insight.  Chief among them were: Steve Coll, a 20-year Washington Post veteran as reporter and managing editor, currently a New Yorker staff writer and dean of the Columbia School of Journalism; Len Downie who was The Washington Post’s managing editor under Bradlee and succeeded him as executive editor in 1991; Andrew Rosenthal,  former editorial page editor of The New York Times and son of Abe Rosenthal; and R. B. Brenner, a former Washington Post editor, now the director of the Journalism School at the University of Texas at Austin. Members of the Graham and Bradlee families made further contributions.

This, notes Spielberg, was markedly different from his many films set in a faraway past. “With a lot of the historical films I’ve made, the people involved are no longer living. There’s nobody I could interview or have Tony Kushner interview for Lincoln,” he observes. “But for this film, we were able to learn from people who were part of that extraordinary time in 1971. We benefited from getting to know Don Graham, his son Will, Lally Weymouth, as well as Daniel Ellsberg and principals of that era who changed the course of history.  It was manna from heaven being able to sit in a room and talk to the people who were there.”

Coll, who knew Graham and Bradlee personally, especially enjoyed the focus on the duo at this crux juncture.  “The Washington Post greatly benefitted from having these two charismatic leaders,” he observes.  “By 1971, Graham had been growing. She had been in charge of the paper for several years and was still shedding her skin and remaking herself as a forceful leader. The events the film captures are a turning point in her life. They tested her values like nothing before because it required her to decide whether she was willing to put this business, her father’s business, at grave risk for editorial principle.”

Going to jail was a very real possibility for publisher and reporters alike, Coll emphasizes. Perhaps even worse for Graham was the prospect that her family’s paper could go under.  “There was a risk Graham could face contempt charges, even prison. And there was also the business risk because this was happening just as the paper was selling shares in an initial public offering,” Coll explains. “For those of us lucky to know Kay at this time, we saw her grow and grow into the great strength she showed at this trying moment.”

POST 2

As the script developed, Spielberg brought his own insights to bear, in his own distinctive way.

Explains Pascal: “I’ve spent most of my life developing scripts, talking about character and plot, but that’s not the way Steven does it. He does it from the inside. He wants to know things like:  How do the characters walk?  Where do they throw their coat when they walk in the room?  You can see in real-time the script becoming a movie in his mind.  Watching that has been one of the most thrilling things I’ve been a part of.”

Another joy for Spielberg was telling a story that is about a powerful woman while surrounding himself with powerful women in the production.  “There is an empowering side to this story as you watch this woman find her voice and also her sense of personal commitment,” he says. “I loved being surrounded on the set every single day by remarkable women:  our great producers Amy Pascal and Kristie Macosko Krieger, as well our great co-writer Liz Hannah and a whole talented company of actresses.  It was really exciting.”

Krieger notes that Graham remains a pathfinding figure for many women in 2017.  “In this day and age, it’s still challenging for women to rise up in a male-dominated culture,” she points out.  “We’re getting better every day, but there’s still room for growth. Graham opened things up as a pioneer so that we might all feel comfortable raising our voices and being strong women. So it felt right that we had so many amazing women working together to get this movie made.  At one point, we realized that there were more women than men on set, and that’s the first time that’s happened for me. It seemed to be Kay Graham’s spirit at work.”

 

 

INSIDIOUS MASTER

The creative minds behind the hit Insidious trilogy return for Insidious: The Last Key and takes us back to the beginnings of the Insidious franchise.

“This is an origin story,” says producer Jason Blum. “It shows how Elise came to be, and how she got her special powers. The first 20 minutes of Insidious: The Last Key take place in 1954, but the rest of the movie takes place right before Insidious starts. So, it’s actually Insidious: The Last Key, Insidious: Chapter 3, Insidious and then Insidious: Chapter 2.”

The film is written by co-creator Leigh Whannell (Saw), who wrote the trilogy and directed Chapter 3; produced by Insidious regulars Jason Blum (The Purge series, Get Out, Split), Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) and co-creator James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 7); and directed by series newcomer Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan).

In the supernatural thriller, which welcomes back franchise standout Lin Shaye as Dr. Elise Rainier, the brilliant parapsychologist faces her most fearsome and personal haunting yet: in her own family home.

Dr. Elise Rainier—a brilliant psychic, clairvoyant and demonologist—has spent her life guiding innocents back into the light…and thwarting creatures that have opened unholy doors into eternal darkness. As a child who could communicate with the dead, she accidentally unleashed something unspeakable into our world.

We first met Dr. Rainier in 2010’s Insidious, when, alongside sidekicks Tucker and Specs, she helps Josh and Renai Lambert draw their son Dalton from the deep recesses of The Further—a nightmarish mirror vision of our existence. There, dark spirits ooze from unspeakable corners and attempt to re-enter our realm by any means necessary. As Elise uses her gifts to free Dalton, the demon that possessed Josh when he was just a boy escapes from The Further and kills Elise. But is she really dead?

In Insidious: Chapter 2 the Lamberts are still reeling from the psychic abduction of their son and the loss of Elise. When they move back into Josh’s boyhood home, Josh again becomes possessed by the demon residing in the house and lying in wait. To save his father, Dalton reaches into The Further and finds Elise, who is still alive fighting an eternal battle to free trapped souls, rescue Josh and end the family curse.

Elise returns to the land of the living in Insidious: Chapter 3, which takes us back to a time before the Lamberts. Called out of retirement to help Quinn Brenner, a teen whose attempts to connect with her dead mother go horribly wrong, Elise is reminded of her sworn duty to use her paranormal gifts for the good of mankind.

Insidious: The Last Key takes us with Elise back to her girlhood home. But when the ghastliest haunted house Elise has ever entered proves to be the one where she was raised, Elise must face her greatest fears and destroy the immortal Key Face—the demon she set free so many years before. Vanquish him on his terrain, and she will free trapped souls for good. Fail, and the house she barely escaped as a child will claim her soul for eternity.

Insidious

The popularity of the franchise always made the possibility of a fourth Insidious film intriguing to Blum, but the decision was also up to creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell. “How it usually works,” Blum offers, “is that I call Leigh, and say, ‘We’d love to do another one.’ But I don’t force people, and I wouldn’t want to deal with anyone else unless they blessed it. Leigh had an idea about creating a film around Elise’s character for a long time, and we were all very committed to that.”

“We’ve made a lot of scary movies,” Blum continues, “and the hardest thing on a scary movie is for the actor who is communicating to the audience to be believable. No matter how you dress it up, in some way, they’re saying, ‘Ghosts are real. They exist. They’re scary.’ No matter how good the writing is—God bless Leigh Whannell—it’s hard to deliver those lines and believe them. And Lin is incredibly good at saying things that make no sense, and making them feel like they make complete sense.”

“We put a lot of work into the characters, making them worthy of the audience’s affection,” states Whannell. “Elise and Specs and Tucker are a family at this stage and you get to see their interplay and you get to really relate to them.”

Leigh Whannell grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where, at the age of four, he developed an obsession with telling stories. In 1995, at the age of 18, he was accepted into the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s prestigious Media Arts course, where he met fellow filmmaker James Wan.

After graduating from college, Whannell worked more closely with James Wan to fulfill his dream of making a film. Small acting roles cropped up from time to time, including one in The Matrix Reloaded (2003), which Whannell said was “the most fun I’ve ever had in my life”. In 2004, after nine months of writing, Saw was born. Whannell had written the screenplay for what he thought would be a self-financed, Blair Witch style feature, where he would star and Wan would direct. The script gained so much attention that soon enough, they were shopping it around Hollywood.

INSIDIOUS 4
Whannell is a member of the unofficial “Splat Pack,” a term coined by film historian Alan Jones in Total Film magazine for the modern wave of directors making brutally violent horror films. The other “Splat Pack” members are Alexandre Aja, Darren Lynn Bousman, Neil Marshall, Greg McLean, Eli Roth, James Wan and Rob Zombie.

A true multi-hyphenate, Whannell’s credits include: actor/writer for all 4 films in the Insidious franchise, as well as producing Insidious: The Last Key and directing Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015); actor/writer for Saw (2004), Saw II (2005) and Saw III (2006), and producing the 6 films from Saw II to Saw 3D: The Final Chapter; writer of Dead Silence (2007) and producer of Jigsaw (2010).

“Leigh and Lin have taken us on a journey with this brilliantly complex parapsychologist who has been running from demons of her own since she was a child,” reveals director Adam Robitel. “Instead of hiding from the world, she has taken this evil by the throat and said, ‘You will not hurt one more person.’ Where so many would think of themselves first, Elise has stood up for innocence and goodness. The fact that we get to follow her back to the place where it all started—and where she was launched into the world of the supernatural—was what drew me to the project in the first place.”

Blum and Robitel met during the filming of the Paranormal Activity series. “We’d worked on a couple of Paranormal Activity movies together, and I liked Adam, and thought he was very talented,” Blum recalls. When I saw The Taking of Deborah Logan, which I thought was creepy, good and interesting, we started talking about Insidious. And he said what a huge fan he was of the three movies.”

Whannell, who created Insidious alongside Wan, plays Specs in the series, as well as directed Insidious: Chapter 3. “Whenever we have an Insidious movie we go to James and Leigh and if they’re not available we go out wide,” says Blum.

“There’s a certain fun to the Insidious films—a wink at the audience. They’re really scary, and it’s hard to pull off both of those things,” the producer adds. “Leigh writes that so well.”

When Insidious: The Last Key opens, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) has invited her two partners in paranormal investigation, Specs and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to come live with her. Elise is at a good place in her life; things have settled down for her. Specs and Tucker are still running their business, Spectral Sightings, responding with Elise to calls from people experiencing poltergeists or ghosts or hauntings in their homes.

Going back to the house she grew up in meant going back to The Further, a place where pure evil lies in wait for the innocent. “The Further is a place that spirits are stuck in, it’s like purgatory,” says Whannell. “It’s the realm of the dead. All of the wounded souls, the people who killed or were killed themselves and all of the tortured souls that haven’t quite finished with their business on Earth reside in this realm.”
“It’s the opposite of light,” he continues. “It’s a black hole, a ‘black void,’ as we call it. It can recreate your past, and it doesn’t follow rules of time and space.”

“I believe we all have a Further. It’s the place in your mind you don’t want to go,” reveals Shaye. “A place filled with horrible memories that you may have or that you may have even invented. A place you walk through out of your conscious mind into your unconscious. It’s the place that you have to go to face your demons.”

What is known only to Elise is there is another reason she has come home to face her past. It was she who unlocked the original demon and set him free. “When we meet the modern-day Elise in this film, we know we’re meeting a fractured woman,” Whannell continues. “This film deals with a lot more than just a straightforward haunting.”

INSIDIOUS 3

Enter the master of all demons, who has been pulling the puppet strings of the others for so many millennia. “The villain in Insidious: The Last Key is Key Face,” explains Blum, “who has skeleton keys for fingers and uses those skeleton keys to kill people.”

“There’s a lot of symbolism with this particular demon,” says Whannell. “The town that Elise grew up in in New Mexico is called Five Keys. She also grew up on the grounds of a prison. Her father was the assistant warden. All these things that Elise has locked away, this demon has the power to lock and unlock. By confronting this demon, Elise confronts her own past and her own locked doors—the things she’s shut out of her life.”

“As the narrative architect of the series, Leigh has crafted such a phenomenal world for Insidious,” says Robitel. “He knows exactly where each character has gone and where he or she is headed. This is a massively complex puzzle piece that he makes feel seamless for the audience. Plus, he gets to play in the world he helped to create! As someone who has lived and breathed this world, how incredible is that?”

MEGAN MENU

Based on the true story of two war veterans,Megan Leavey celebrates the unbreakable connection between a brave Marine and her best friend.

Megan Leavey, the movie, began on the day that Megan Leavey, the person, walked into LD Entertainment production offices and told her remarkable story.

“We cried in our conference room,” recalls producer Jennifer Monroe. “It was incredible to see the war from a female Marine’s perspective.This took place during a time when women soldiers couldn’t be on the frontlines and here’s Megan, who’s able to go in front of the frontlines because she belongs to the K9 division.”

Twenty-year old Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), aimless and unhappy, leaves her home and mother Jackie (Edie Falco) in upstate New York in 2003 to join the Marines. After completing boot camp, Megan attends military police school at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. While cleaning up kennels for the K9 unit as punishment for a night of misbehavior, Megan becomes fascinated with the “working dogs” trained to sniff out explosives in war zones.

She joins the K9 division and is assigned to take on an unruly German shepherd named Rex. Mentored by the gruff Sergeant Gunny Martin (Common), Megan gradually gains Rex’s trust and forges a bond of uncommon depth. Megan and Rex are deployed to Iraq, where she learns the ropes from fellow dog handler Matt Morales (Ramón Rodríguez).

Putting her life at risk as one of the first women to operate in an active combat zone in Fallujah and Ramadi, Leavey completes more than 100 missions with Rex, who sniffs out a massive cache of weapons hidden in a terrorist’s home and detects numerous roadside bombs. During their second deployment in 2006, enemy forces outside Ramadi detonate a remote-controlled land mine that injures Megan and Rex in battle.

In the ensuing firefight, Rex helps protect the troops risking his life multiple times so Megan can be taken by helicopter for emergency medical treatment. Megan suffers ruptured eardrums and memory loss, but most of all, she’s devastated by the fact that Rex is no longer by her side.

She returns to civilian life with a Purple Heart and a new mission: to reunite with her canine partner, officially classified as “unadoptable” because of his combat-induced trauma. Encouraged by her father Bob (Bradley Whitford), Megan starts a campaign to raise awareness of her goal to adopt Rex, which gains the attention of Senator Chuck Schumer. Senator Schumer then assists Megan in the biggest fight of her life: to give Rex a loving home.

 

MEAN REAL

The real Megan Leavey and Rex

Leavey’s brave story proved irresistible to the producers.

They enlisted writer Pamela Gray (Conviction) to meet with Leavey and shape her life experience into a screenplay.

Additional rewrites from Annie Mumolo & Tim Lovestedt incorporated characters based on an amalgam of Leavey’s real-life comrades.

Pamela-Gray-copyPamela Gray made the Variety list of “Ten Screenwriters to Watch.” She has written such films as A Walk on the Moon, which received a Golden Satellite nomination for Best Original Screenplay; Music of the Heart, which earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination; and Conviction, which won a Women Film Critics Circle Award for Best Female Images in a Movie and netted Hilary Swank a SAG Award nomination. Gray has written pilots for ABC and CBS as well as screenplays for Warner Bros., Paramount, Disney, Universal, Miramax, New Line and HBO. She recently adapted Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel The Husband’s Secret for CBS Films and is currently developing a Broadway musical based on A Walk on the Moon.

Annie_MumoloAnnie Mumolo is the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of the blockbuster comedy Bridesmaids. Mumolo also wrote the screenplay for Joy, based on the life of Joy Mangano. She is currently writing, producing and set to co-star in an untitled comedy for TriStar, re-teaming with Kristen Wiig.
 

 

Tim LovestedtTim Lovestedt frequently collaborates with comedy queen Annie Mumolo. He developed the animated pilot “Space Cops” with Emmy-winning actor Eric Stonestreet, who is attached to produce and voice the role of “Gauge.” Lovestedt and Mumolo are currently co-writing “The Untitled Tupperware Drama Project” for HBO, which they will also executive produce. He is also working on rewrites on the feature Dog Days, for LD Entertainment.

 

Once the script was completed, LD Entertainment CEO Mickey Liddell knew exactly who should play the intrepid title character.

Emmy-nominated for her role as hard-charging reporter Zoe Barnes in “House of Cards,” Kate Mara had previously appeared in Liddell’s TV series “Jack & Bobby.” He remembered the petite actress as a formidable presence equal to the task of portraying the indomitable woman at the heart of this story.

“Kate has this tough exterior and Megan’s like that in real life,” producer Liddell says. “They’re both New Yorkers and when she shows you a personal moment on screen, it just tears your heart open. I sent the script to Kate and two days later we met for breakfast. She told me, ‘I have to do this role. Do not cast anyone else. This is my role. I am Megan Leavey.’”

Mara remembers her gut reaction to the screenplay. “I bawled my eyes out,” she says.

“The thing I love so much about Megan’s journey is that she starts off kind of lost, but when she becomes a Marine and meets this incredible animal she finds her purpose.”

Above all, Mara admired Megan Leavey’s intensity, determination and unwavering loyalty to her canine companion. “Megan and Rex loved their job and the Marines they protected,” she says. “And Megan loved Rex. Nothing was going to stop her from getting her dog back, and she did it with grace and a great attitude.”

An Animal-Loving Director Like many of the film’s cast members, Mara was profoundly moved by Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s SeaWorld exposé, Blackfish.

Gabriela CowperthwaiteThe filmmaker’s 2013 documentary galvanized public outrage over the theme park’s treatment of captive whales, prompting changes in SeaWorld’s policy.

A devoted dog-owner and animal advocate herself, Mara arranged a meeting with Cowperthwaite through the Humane Society.

“Gabriela and I talked about different ways we could continue the fight for animals,” Mara says. “I really wanted to work with her because she’s one of my heroes, so I suggested that Gabriela direct Megan Leavey.”

Producer Liddell followed up on Mara’s recommendation by meeting with Cowperthwaite.

“She came in and within five minutes I decided, ‘I’m hiring her,’” he recalls. “She knew the script inside and out, she was passionate, she had great empathy for animals and she was interested in the subject of females in the military. Obviously the fact that she was the animal advocate who made Blackfish also felt right, so I knew during that first meeting that Gabriela needed to be the director for Megan Leavey.”

Cowperthwaite had never directed a feature-length scripted drama, but she had an obvious gift for fact-based storytelling.

“I come from documentaries and Megan Leavey is based on a true story, so I felt, ‘I can do this,’” Cowperthwaite says. “A lot of war movies depict the experience of a male soldier. Very few follow a woman. It was fascinating for me to look at how a woman starts out in boot camp and ends up becoming a Corporal. What did that entail? I was also very curious about the K9 unit. What have these dogs been doing for us during war time? Rarely do movies follow a woman in combat or look at the canine sacrifice, so I saw Megan Leavey as a great opportunity to peel back the layers of that world.”

Cowperthwaite also responded to the way the script dramatized Megan Leavey’s personal evolution.

“When we first meet Megan in the film, she’s in a sort of downward spiral and she doesn’t feel supported by anyone in her life. The relationship thing is pretty challenging for her,” Cowperthwaite says. “It’s easier for her to connect with this dog who shares her similar tough exterior, but who’s probably longing for a connection as much as she is. Megan finds a kind of symbiosis there.”

The director wanted to underscore the physical and psychological sacrifices made by American soldiers. “One aspect of the film that was really important to me to get right is the fact that these men, women and animals experience very dark scenarios and a lot of them come back broken,” says Cowperthwaite.

“And I think as civilians we’re just not entirely equipped to understand what they’ve been through let alone help them.”

Megan has PTSD, which is worsened by the fact that she’s not with Rex.

“It’s inspiring to watch her charge back up, remembering what made her join the Marines in the first place.”

To deepen her understanding of the story, Cowperthwaite spent time with the real-life Leavey.

“Reading the script, I’d pictured Megan as this unapproachable warrior, so I was blown away when I met her by how sweet and chill she was,” the director says.

“She doesn’t telegraph what she’s gone through. She doesn’t see herself as some war hero. She bristles when anyone calls her that and immediately tips her hat to all service members. She never says ‘me’ she says ‘we’. She exudes humility.”

The producers were excited to be able to put a female director in charge of a movie about a strong woman.

“Gabriela was collaborative and brilliant and a great listener, which partly comes, I think, from the fact that she’s a mom and used to juggling a million things at once,” says producer Monroe. “There’s a huge skillset that comes out of that. She was an amazing director to work with.”

MEGAN LEAVEY

Although the canine love of Megan’s life has no dialogue, “Rex” speaks volumes with his tender glances and attentive body language. Portraying Rex in most scenes is Varco, a large German shepherd who had not previously been trained as a military working dog. “At first I was nervous,” says Mara. “I thought, ‘Shouldn’t we get a dog who was actually trained to sniff bombs and knows what he’s doing?’ But Varco looks very much like the real Rex, which was important. And he also had that thing we needed most for Rex: he was a ferocious dog who also has a heart of gold. Varco both terrified me and made me want to cuddle him.”

Although Megan Leavey frames its narrative around the actions taken by Marines in the heat of battle, Common notes that civilian moviegoers will easily relate to the film’s overriding themes.

“Showing people what it means to be a Marine, that’s part of the story, but Megan Leavey is not really a war movie,” Common says.

“It’s more about this woman who is trying to find herself through her bond with the dog that she went to war with. It’s about the idea that no matter what you go through to find yourself, it’s love that’s prevails. You can go to war. You can have a difficult childhood. You can make mistakes. But love is the greatest healer and there’s real strength in that.”

Falco would like to see the film inspire audience members to take action in their own lives. “I’d hope every person who sees Megan Leavey goes out to a shelter and adopts an animal,” says Falco.

“For me, the story’s about what it means to take care of another living thing. This happens to be about loving an animal. It’s an uncomplicated relationship and yet this kind of love can be very powerful.”

Megan Leavey is also a stark reminder that extreme violence exacts a cost on combatants of all species.

“Experiencing combat can be very traumatic for dogs just as it is for humans,” Mara says. “When they come back from war with PTSD, dogs need to be supported and treated and put in the right space, a caring space. They need to come back to some open arms and hugs, so I want this movie to spread the word about that. And I love how this movie will make you feel so good about this little five-foot-something woman and her dog who saved a lot of people’s lives and basically just conquered the world.”

For Leavey herself, the cinematic story of her life carries with it a simple truth: perseverance pays off. “The main thought in this movie is, don’t give up on something you love,” she says. “I loved Rex. I spent four years waiting to adopt him, but even when I got depressed, I never gave up. Once you give up, it’s not gonna happen, but if you keep at it, you can make things happen. That’s what I hope people take away from my story.”

SHAPE 1

In a secret government laboratory at the height of the Cold War, a visually dazzling, emotionally daring feat of the imagination erupts.

From the inspired mindscape of master storyteller and visionary Guillermo del Toro – who gave us Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos, and The Devil’s Backbone – comes another astounding and mind-blowing cinematic experience: The Shape Of Water.

Del Toro casts an other-worldly spell with The Shape Of Water, merging the pathos and thrills of the classic monster movie tradition with shadowy film noir, then stirring in the heat of a love story like no other to explore the fantasies we all flirt with, the mysteries we can’t control and the monstrosities we must confront.

This other-worldly fairy tale is set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962 where a lonely lab assistant (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation in the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, until the day her life changes forever when she discovers a secret classified experiment.

Del Toro opens his tale deep underwater. From there the entire film becomes an act of breathless submersion, plunging the audience into a 1960s world full of things we recognize – power, anger, intolerance; as well as loneliness, determination and sudden, electrifying connections – and one extraordinary creature we do not.  An inexplicable biological “asset” of the U.S. government, a mute cleaning woman, her loving best friends, Soviet spies and an audacious theft all flow into a singular romance that surges beyond all boundaries.

This mystery-shrouded amphibious being has not only been hauled up from the dark, watery depths, but seems to have the fundamental adaptive qualities of water – taking on the psychic contours of every human he encounters, reflecting back both aggression and fathomless love.

Within Del Toro’s storytelling, the themes of good and evil, innocence and menace, the historical and the eternal, beauty and monstrosity weave in and out of each other, revealing that no darkness can ever fully defeat the light.  Summarizes Del Toro:  “I like to make movies that are liberating, that say it’s okay to be whoever you are, and it seems that at this time, this is very pertinent.”  It was also paramount that there be an extraordinary collection of actors.

For Del Toro, the passion for simultaneously haunting and enchanting audiences goes back a long way. A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, he nourished himself as a boy on the infinite mysteries of ghost stories, monster movies and fables that ignited his own wildly inventive interior fantasy life.  When he started writing and directing films, all those influences twined into a viscerally expressive visual style all his own, one that seemed to tap directly into the human psyche.

Del Toro is best renowned for his three inspired Spanish-language films that reinvent and upend the very notion of genre:  the multiple Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos, and The Devil’s Backbone.  Each a vivid phantasmagoria navigating the moral and physical dangers of a world of corruption, authoritarianism and war.  His supernatural action epics are equally as inventive – Blade 2, the Hellboy series, and Pacific Rim, as well as his gothic romance Crimson Peak.

SHAPE 2

The Shape Of Water follows in that tradition, but this time in socially divided 1960s America on the brink of nuclear war and sweeping cultural changes.  Del Toro weaves in the dizzying landscape of falling in love, as a lonely woman with a traumatic past discovers a love so overpowering it defies suspicion, fear and biology.

Del Toro also assembled an extraordinary collection of actors for the film.  The talented ensemble includes Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer.

Exploring the idea of love and its barriers, internal and external, was paramount to Del Toro.  “I wanted to create a beautiful, elegant story about hope and redemption as an antidote to the cynicism of our times.  I wanted this story to take the form of a fairytale in that you have a humble human being who stumbles into something grander and more transcendental than anything else in her life.  And then I thought it would be a great idea to juxtapose that love against something as banal and evil as the hatred between nations, which is the Cold War, and the hatred between people due to race, color, ability and gender.”

The fact that the film’s two leads don’t speak, not conventionally anyway, only heightens the love story by stripping away the miscommunications that often stand between humans. “One thing about love is that it is so incredibly powerful, it doesn’t require words,” says Del Toro.

DEL TORO

The Seduction Of Monster Movies

Mixing many genres from lush musicals to suspenseful noir, The Shape Of Water particularly revisits and reinvigorates the enduring allure of the monster movie playing upon our most primal emotions of fear, abandonment and danger but also curiosity, awe and desire.

Like many, Del Toro grew up with the dark enchantment of the classic Universal Studios monsters:  the Wolf Man who turned feral against his will, the naïve Frankenstein chased by angry townsfolk, the seductive Dracula driven by his unholy appetites, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, an amphibious prehistoric creature who emerged from the sea longing for a companion.

There was something evocative and deeply, strangely relatable about these monsters.   They were persecuted by pitchfork-bearing crowds because they were different and forced to skulk alone on the edges of society in remote castles, woods or rivers. All were trapped in a transitional state – part human, part other – which anyone who has felt ostracized can identify with.  Perhaps most intriguingly, they were sensual beings, powerless to the unending needs of their bodies and minds.

Of all the iconic monsters, the most heartbreaking of all was the piscine amphibious humanoid from Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954).  Directed by Jack Arnold and starring Ben Chapman (on land) and Ricou Browning (underwater) as the inimitably tragic Gill-Man, the last of his prehistoric species.  At once dangerous and forlorn, reviled and yearning, the Creature touched audiences even as it scared them.

The Shape Of Water was conceived in 2011 when Del Toro and Daniel Kraus, the director’s writing partner on his children’s book series, Trollhunters, met for breakfast one morning.

Kraus mentioned an idea he had had as a teenager, about a cleaning woman working in a government facility and secretly befriending an amphibious man being held captive as a specimen and how she decides to liberate him. Del Toro loved the idea so much that he immediately said he wanted it to be his next movie – it seemed the perfect sort of fairy tale idea he had been searching for.  From that meeting, a deal was made for the pair to collaborate together on a novel and for del Toro to write and direct the film.

At that point, Del Toro was still completing work on his giant-robot/monster blockbuster Pacific Rim, but in rare quiet moments, also drawing from classic monster films such as The Creature From The Black Lagoon, he’d spend time writing the script for the more intimate film that would eventually be called The Shape Of Water.

In 2014, Del Toro self-financed a group of artists and sculptors using designs and clay models to pitch the story from beginning to end to Fox Searchlight. The studio came on board immediately without any hesitation.

The following spring, Guillermo and Fox Searchlight begin meeting with potential co-writers to work on the screenplay with him.  They ultimately hired Vanessa Taylor who worked closely with Guillermo on both plot structure and character (particularly the multi-layered lead character Eliza).

Del Toro wanted to upend the conceit of monstrosity with a love story that surrenders fully to making the creature the lead and the human forces aligned against him the true forces of sinister darkness.  “In a monster movie of the 50s, Strickland, the square-jawed, good-looking government agent, would be the hero, and the creature would be the villain. I wanted to reverse those things.”

Del Toro also decided to take his monster movie to a different level:  the sensual.  He wanted an earthiness to counterbalance the fairy tale and to bring it to the edge of a familiar adult reality.

For producer J. Miles Dale, who has collaborated with Del Toro for years, Del Toro is one of the few directors with the skill to create creatures that live and breathe with a fully expressed humanity we all recognize.  “Guillermo creates creatures uncorrupted by the ways of the human world.  We can look at them as a kind of mirror to what we might be ideally,” says Dale.  “This film is not like anything you’ve seen before, but it also feels like a Del Toro movie. It’s so clearly in his voice, but it’s also new and original.”

For the story’s time period, Del Toro purposely chose an American era in which epic fears held sway: 1962, as anxiety over nuclear war with the Soviet Union was peaking, and just before the idealistic, future-focused Camelot of President Kennedy gave way to disillusion, mounting paranoia and social upheaval.  “There’s a lot going on in that time period,” says Dale.  “There’s the Cold war, the Space Race and the Civil Rights movement.  And it’s all the backdrop for a love story you haven’t seen before.”

The period is one that is sometimes glorified notes Del Toro, without remembering its injustices and stultifying dread of human differences.  “To me, this is a time when America stopped – it’s a time of racism, of inequality, of people thinking about the brink of nuclear war.  In a few months, Kennedy will be assassinated.  So in a way, it’s a horrible time for love,” he comments, “yet love happens.”

The futuristic impulses of 60s America play off the primordial creature, recalling Rilke’s words “where something past comes again as if out of the future.”  Says Del Toro:  “What interested me is that 1962 is a time when everybody was focused on the future, while the creature is an ancient form of the deep past. People are obsessed with what’s new, with ad jingles, the moon, modern clothes, TV.  And in the meantime here’s this ancient force, a creature in love, who comes among them.”

la-1511827537-1209382gjx-snap-image

Casting the Net

 

Each of the roles in The Shape Of Water was written for a specific actor — the very same actors who Del Toro asked to appear in the film. “He was honing the script to their voices, rather than vice versa,” comments Dale,” which is an exciting thing to be able to do.”

Del Toro notes that each of the film’s characters, no matter their place in society, is grappling with love in different circumstances.  “There’s a pure love between Elisa and the creature, but government agent Strickland is also trying to love, though we experience that his love is brutal, and Elisa’s neighbor Giles is looking for a love frowned upon in that time, and Elisa’s best friend Zelda is in love with a man who does not deserve her love.  Even the General overseeing the laboratory has a kind of father/son love story with Strickland.”

As each was approached, all said yes. “This is a very special film,” says Sally Hawkins.

The journey of Elisa from loneliness and powerlessness to a heroine who takes huge risks forms the beating heart of The Shape Of Water, made all the more extraordinary because the role is almost without words.  Rendered mute by a childhood trauma, Elisa communicates in American Sign Language (ASL), but she is able to express herself effusively when she encounters the strange aquatic creature being warehoused in the government lab where she works as a cleaning lady.

“Taking part in it has meant so much to me.  It’s a story that will forever have a piece of my heart.”

Michael-Shannon-and-Sally-Hawkins-in-the-film-THE-SHAPE-OF-WATER.-Photo-by-Kerry-Hayes.-©-2017-Twentieth-Century-Fox-Film-Corporation-All-Rights-Reserved-1200x520

Says Michael Shannon who plays the man who hunted the amphibious creature deep across the Amazon with relentless determination is Richard Strickland,a steel-jawed, righteous, ambitious government agent who views his unusual quarry as nothing more than a ferocious beast to be manhandled into submission – and a ticket to his promotion.

“I was drawn to the picture because I felt it could have hopeful qualities that might inspire people to be gentler with one another — that’s sorely missing right now.  It’s really a story about how it is worth having love in your life at any cost.   Sometimes love requires you to face your fears, or to make sacrifices, but at the end of the day it’s worth it.”

Shape-of-Water-759x500

For Richard Jenkins, who plays Elisa’s neighbor and dearest friend in the world, Giles, an equally lonely, down-on-his-luck ad-man and avid movie musical lover, the film went beyond even what audiences have come to expect from Del Toro.  “Guillermo’s filmmaking is like no one else, but this film is also unlike any he’s done before,” he notes.

If I told you about her, the princess without voice, what would I say? Would I tell you about the time…? It happened a long time ago- in the last days of a fair Prince’s reign… Or would I tell you about the place?  A small city near the coast but far from everything else…Or perhaps I would just warn you about the truth of these facts and the tale of love and loss and the monster that tried to destroy it all…

SHAPE

Octavia Spencer, who plays a veteran cleaning lady at the lab who has come to not only comprehend Elisa but to gossip, share and unite with her, was all but waiting for Del Toro’s call.  “I had met him before I read the script and it felt like I’ve known him my entire life,” Spencer recalls.  “As a filmmaker, he’s just an alchemist. He turns human themes into something otherworldly.”

SHAPE 3

Concludes Doug Jones, who has worked with Del Toro six times, takes on a role that exists on the border between human, animal and myth. Jones, who utilized both a meticulously-designed prosthetic costume and an extraordinary knack for physical expressiveness to forge the creature.  Jones has a rare skill set, having worked repeatedly with Del Toro embodying his creations.  Jones was the unforgettable Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, Abe Sapien in the Hellboy series and an ancient vampire in “The Strain.”  But, like Hawkins, he never imagined he’d be the lead in a love story.

“In The Shape Of Water, Guillermo goes back to his artistic roots and lets all of his creative juices flow.”

BREATHE 1

A heart-warming and highly emotional celebration of bravery and human possibility, a love story about living every breath as though it’s your last.

Producer Jonathan Cavendish had always believed that his father’s life story would be powerful material for a compelling film. Robin Cavendish had been a trailblazer, a remarkable, larger- than-life figure. He was diagnosed with polio in his late 20s and remained paralysed from the neck down. Totally reliant on a respirator that ‘breathed’ for him, he faced a life confined to a hospital bed. Yet he refused to accept that fate: with the help of his wife Diana, and their inventive and supportive friends, he found a way to live his life in the world, outside of hospital.

Cavendish’ dream is now realised 15-years later with the radiant and life-affirming film Breathe, based on the true story of his own parents and scripted by twice Academy Award-nominated writer William Nicholson (Everest, Les Misérables and Gladiator), and marking the feature directorial debut of Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

Breathe is a tender love story about two strong, resourceful people whose existence is jolted by a devastating setback, but who together choose to fight back and live meaningful lives filled with love, laughter and joy.

In 1957 Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge, Silence) , a dashing, charismatic young Englishman, meets a beautiful woman named Diana Blacker (Claire Foy – Golden Globe Winner, The Crown, Wolf Hall)and swiftly decides to marry her. He takes his new wife out to Kenya, where he works as a tea broker. But within months he is struck down by polio, which leaves him completely paralysed from the neck down, and dependent on a respirator to ‘breathe’ for him.

Against all advice, Robin’s wife Diana  brings him home from hospital where her devotion and witty determination transcends his disability.

More than anything, Robin wants to live in the world rather than in a hospital bed, and Diana resolves to help him achieve his wish. Against all medical advice, Robin leaves hospital, and moves around in a remarkable wheelchair with a respirator attached, developed by his friend, Professor Teddy Hall.

With this act of defiance, Robin is already a pioneer, but he goes further, crusading for other severely disabled people to benefit from the kind of mobility he fought for himself. Confounding medical experts simply by surviving, he battles tirelessly for the rights of the disabled – with his beloved Diana always at his side.

Together they refuse to be imprisoned by his suffering; dazzling others with their humour, courage and lust for life.

BREATHE

Jonathan’s plan to make a film about his parents took concrete shape when he went to the theatre to see William Nicholson’s Shadowlands: “I thought not only was it a very good play, but it also had a voice and tone that I recognised, and one I knew would suit a film about my parents and their life. It summed up British understatement and emotional complexity.”

Jonathan already knew Nicholson well. He had produced Elizabeth: The Golden Age, for which Nicholson had written the screenplay: “So I took Bill out to lunch and asked if I could tell him a story. When I started talking about my father’s life, he had a forkful of food held up towards his mouth. When I’d finished, about 15 minutes later, it was still there!”

Nicholson remembers that day too: “Jonathan said: ‘I have a story to tell you. It’s about my father.’ And as soon as he’d finished, I said: ‘I’m in. It’s incredible.’

“For a long time now I’ve been in the position where I only write what I want. And that’s exactly what happened with this story. There was no money, no contract and no prospect of it ever being made. But I thought it was great and I wanted to do it.”

Nicholson insisted that he should not take a payment up front for writing the script: “It was Jonathan’s own money, and I didn’t want to work under those circumstances. It felt like a privilege to be asked. So what I said was: ‘I will share the risk with you. If the film happens, give me a share.’ And that’s exactly what happened.’”

BREATHE2
Bill started writing, and over the years they continued to hone script and story. Jonathan recalls: “Bill and I would work on a draft of the script, put it down and then pick it up again. He would ring me when he had a few weeks between films and books, and then we would have a short flurry of activity.”

In the meantime, Jonathan formed a company called The Imaginarium with actor Andy Serkis, best known for playing ‘Gollum’ in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and ‘Caesar’ in the Planet of the Apes films. The Imaginarium is a multi-platform production company, dedicated to “next generation story-telling”, linked to a performance capture studio. It was Jonathan and Andy’s ambition also to make films together, which Jonathan would produce and Andy would direct. Andy worked as second unit director on Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, and then directed Jungle Book: Origins (currently in post-production), produced by Jonathan Cavendish for The Imaginarium, to be released in 2018.

BREATHE4

Producer Jonathan Cavendish with his 83-old mother. Alongside actor/director Andy Serkis, Jonathan founded the Imaginarium Studios. The company has provided performance capture and character creation services for an array of international hits including STAR WARS, THE AVENGERS and GODZILLA.

By curious coincidence, when Andy and his wife (actress Lorraine Ashbourne) decided to buy a house in the English countryside near Oxford, it turned out that the property was a few hundred yards from Diana Cavendish’s home, where so much of the action of Breathe takes place. “As a result, Andy got to know my mother very well,” Jonathan says.

“I read the Breathe script.” says Andy, “And blubbed my eyes out. One day I said to Jonathan ‘I really want to direct this.’ The Imaginarium had only recently started – and I had only done second unit directing on The Hobbit – so Jonathan could have turned round and said – ‘well, I don’t know’ – But he didn’t. He said: ‘I think that’s a great idea.’”

Screenwriter William Nicholson

Nicholson

Willaim Nicholson was born in 1948, and grew up in Sussex and Gloucestershire. He was educated at Downside School and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and then joined BBC Televison, where he worked as a documentary film maker. There his ambition to write, directed first into novels, was channelled into television drama. His plays for telelvision include Shadowlands and Life Story, both of which won the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year; other award-winners were Sweet As You Are and The March. In 1988 he received the Royal Television Society’s Writer’s Awar

In screenwriting circles, veteran Bill Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Miserables) is known as a master of what he calls “the double ending” – one which has elements of both triumph and sadness. “I try to do it every time,” he jokes, “but then, so do most good stories. There are very few stories that head towards an unremittingly happy ending. And every ending has to be earned. So I’ve deliberately selected stories that have that wrench at the end, the up and the down. It feels as if that’s actually what life is like.”

His film credits include: Sarafina, Nell, First Knight, Grey Owl , Gladiator (as cowriter, for which he received a second Oscar nomination), Elizabeth: the Golden Age, Les Miserables, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Unbroken, and Everest. He has written and directed his own film, Firelight; and four further stage plays, Map of the Heart, Katherine Howard, The Retreat from Moscow (which ran for five months on Broadway and received three Tony Award nominations), and Crash.

He found himself genuinely intrigued by Robin Cavendish’s remarkable story, “but the thing I responded to most was that because of his condition he was faced with a choice the rest of us are not faced with – it was forced upon him, this choice. First he wanted to die. Then he learned he wasn’t immediately going to die. And then he made an active choice to live. I felt that for him that choice was renewed every day. So to tell the story of someone who at the beginning of every day might die that day, but chooses to live – it’s an extraordinarily strong affirmation of the power of being alive. That was the heart of it for me. So yes, I was touched and moved and impressed by Robin Cavendish – and I suppose, to be brutally honest, I thought: ‘I could make a damned good story out of this.’ My name would be on a good piece of work, which is what motivates us writers. It’s not so often these things come up.

Director Andy Serkis

breathe3

ANDY SERKIS is an award-winning actor who has earned acclaim from both critics and audiences for his work in a range of memorable roles. He gained legions of fans around the globe for his performance as Gollum in the Academy Award®-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson. Serkis won an Empire Award for his role, in addition to sharing in several Outstanding Ensemble Cast Awards, including a Screen Actors Guild Award®. Reuniting with Jackson, he played two roles in the director’s epic retelling of King Kong, taking performance capture to another level as the title character of Kong, and also appearing as Lumpy, the ship’s cook

 

It turned out that Andy Serkis had his own personal reasons for wanting to direct Breathe: “In my life, I’ve been very linked into the world of disabled people,” he observes. “My mum taught disabled kids when she was young. Jonathan had seen and loved the film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, in which I played the singer Ian Dury — who of course was a famous polio sufferer. Also my sister is an MS (multiple sclerosis) sufferer. She’s wheelchair-bound, and has been for 10 years now. My dad was a doctor, so I grew up around a lot of medical issues. Out of my Mum’s pupils, I knew a lot with polio, spina bifida, thalidomide, all those older diseases. I told Jonathan: ‘what’s extraordinary about the script, apart from it being the most amazing love story, is that it’s both true and humorous.’ And I also responded to the fact that Robin and Diana were pioneers.

I thought of it this way: it’s hard for my sister to get around in a wheelchair even now. But in 1960, to choose to take yourself out of hospital, where the risk of survival was practically zero, and to invent a life and to invent technology to allow yourself to survive – to choose to be two minutes away from death at all times: it’s like an epic climb.

I’m a mountaineer too, and I liken what Robin did to the idea of climbing Mount Everest in your back garden. And then those other people who came after him, who were out of hospitals but also on those machines – they came to be called ‘responauts.’ I just loved that idea — that Robin and Diana were constantly pioneering.”

Jonathan observes: “When Andy and I started The Imaginarium, I knew he would become a great director. I was totally convinced he had it in him. And when he asked if I’d consider him directing the movie, he agreed with me that it’s a story about the power of love in overcoming all the difficulties that Robin and Diana faced. But Andy also saw it as a story about people doing things no-one had ever done before, and doing them in their own way. Though I’d obviously lived through all of that, I hadn’t realised quite the trail-blazing nature of my parents’ lives.”

For his part, Bill Nicholson was delighted by the choice of Andy as director: “He’s a wonderful person, a proper grown-up. He has almost no ego. He’s been an actor so long, and watched the process so often. Maybe he’s seen people having tantrums, so there’s none of that. He’s pleasant, calm — humble even. And he was very nice to me about the script. In fact, he gets a lot more out of the script than I put in. Andy has two big strengths. One is his directing with actors. The acting in Breathe is mindblowing. It’s real film acting. He’s got wonderful work from his leads, Andrew and Claire. But then Andy gets good performances all the way through the cast, down to the smallest roles. He also thinks his way through the movement of each scene in terms of the camera. He often constructs a scene in terms of camera moves – his attention to where it begins and ends is very thorough.”

menu

Theatre buffs can indulge in live theatre on the big screen in the comfort of their nearest Nouvea cinema, with a sensational line up that includes Sondheim’s Follies, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Julius Caesar.

Follies (17 February)

Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical is staged for the first time at the National Theatre and broadcast live to cinemas. Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton star in this dazzling new production, directed by Dominic Cooke and featuring a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21.

FOLLIES

New York, 1971. There’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. Tomorrow the iconic building will be demolished. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves.

Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton play the magnificent Follies in this dazzling new production. Featuring a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, it’s directed by Dominic Cooke (The Comedy of Errors).

Winner of Academy, Tony, Grammy and Olivier awards, Sondheim’s previous work includes A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George.

New York, 1971. There’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. Tomorrow the iconic building will be demolished. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves.

Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton play the magnificent Follies in this dazzling new production. Featuring a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, it’s directed by Dominic Cooke (The Comedy of Errors). Winner of Academy, Tony, Grammy and Olivier awards, Sondheim’s previous work includes A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George.

Beautifully staged – The show captures the glamour of the golden age of music halls and revues, with gorgeous showgirl costumes bedazzled with Swarovski crystals.

Follies will be broadcast live at the following Ster-Kinekor sites on 17, 18, 21 & 22 February 2018. The running time is 180minutes.

  • Cinema Nouveau Rosebank (Johannesburg)
  • Cinema Nouveau Gateway (Durban)
  • Cinema Nouveau Brooklyn (Pretoria)
  • Cinema Nouveau V & A Waterfront (Cape Town)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (31 March)

Following his smash hit production of A Streetcar Named Desire, Benedict Andrews’ ‘thrilling revival’ (New York Times) stars Sienna Miller alongside Jack O’Connell and Colm Meaney in Tennessee Williams’ twentieth century masterpiece.

CAT

Tennessee Williams’ twentieth century masterpiece Cat on a Hot Tin Roof played a strictly limited season in London’s West End in 2017. Following his smash hit production of A Streetcar Named Desire, Benedict Andrews’ ‘thrilling revival’ (New York Times) stars Sienna Miller alongside, Jack O’Connell and Colm Meaney.

On a steamy night in Mississippi, a Southern family gather at their cotton plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. The scorching heat is almost as oppressive as the lies they tell. Brick and Maggie dance round the secrets and sexual tensions that threaten to destroy their marriage. With the future of the family at stake, which version of the truth is real – and which will win out?

Julius Caesar (21 April)

Ben Whishaw (The Danish Girl, Skyfall, Hamlet) and Michelle Fairley (Fortitude, Game of Thrones) play Brutus and Cassius, David Calder (The Lost City of Z, The Hatton Garden Job) plays Caesar and David Morrissey (The Missing, Hangmen, The Walking Dead) is Mark Antony. Broadcast live from the Bridge Theatre, London, Nicholas Hytner’s production will thrust the audience into the heart of the action.

Caesar returns in triumph to Rome and the people pour out of their homes to celebrate. Alarmed by the autocrat’s popularity, the educated élite conspire to bring him down. After his assassination, civil war erupts on the streets of the capital.

Nicholas Hytner’s production will thrust the audience into the street party that greets Caesar’s return, the congress that witnesses his murder, the rally that assembles for his funeral and the chaos that explodes in its wake.

CAESAR

The Commuter screenwriters Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi

“When I read the script I was really amazed at how the writers were able to keep you invested in the story.”

The screenplay for The Commuter was crafted by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle, and proved irresistible to both the director Jaume Collet-Serra and star Liam Neeson, not just for the bravura of the action and the thrill of the suspense but for the moral conundrum the protagonist is faced with and the consequences it has on him, the passen-gers on the train and his family at home.

Following the worldwide success of Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night, Neeson and Collet-Serra reunite for a fourth time with this explosive thriller about one man‘s frantic quest to prevent disaster on a packed commuter train.

For producer Andrew Rona, the genius of scriptwriters Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi, who make their debut with The Commuter, was in keeping the audience gripped.

“When I read the script I was really amazed at how the writers were able to keep you invested in the story,” he says. “We’ve seen movies like this before where guys are propositioned or get caught up in something. In movies like Speed, they have no choice but to stay and figure it out. But with The Commuter, I was amazed by the level of depth of character, the level of mystery, the level of suspense and the level of action.”

“The Commuter asks the audience, if someone asked you to do something that seems insignificant but you’re not sure of the outcome in exchange for a considerable financial reward, would you do it?” says Jaume Collet-Serra. “That‘s the philosophical choice that our central character – a man of 60 who’s just been fired, has no savings and is mortgaged to the hilt – is faced with. Is he thinking just about himself or is he going to take into consideration the possible moral consequences of what he’s asked to do? That’s the question we want the audience to ask themselves.”

For Neeson, it was also the story’s real-time narrative that gives it a thrilling momentum. “The story almost plays in real time,” says the actor. “The main character realises what he’s set in motion and sets out to identify the person that holds the key to the conspiracy. So the tension cranks up at every stop at a station as new passengers get on, and another clue is left for him. The danger gradually gets greater and greater and the film becomes this really fast-paced psychological thriller along the lines of a Hitchcock‘s Strangers on a Train or North by Northwest.”

Producer Alex Heineman agrees: “Andrew Rona, my partner in The Picture Company, and I both read the script and just fell in love with it. We loved the Hitchcockian scenario where an everyman gets caught up in extraordinary events. We made Non-Stop and Unknown with Liam Neeson and Jaume and we thought this could be another thriller in the same vein both in terms of narrative, character and style.”

The story centres on Michael MacCauley, a middle manager at a faceless insurance company, who lives with his wife and son in Westchester in New York State. Like so many hard-working family men, he is facing financial breaking point, trying to make ends meet on a pay-cheque that is stretched to the rafters. His son is about to go to college and his wife doesn’t know how the family is living beyond its means.

Then one day, his situation suddenly gets so much worse: he goes to work and gets fired. That, however, is not the only thing that‘s going to spoil his evening. On the commute home at the end of the day, the passenger sitting opposite him introduces herself as Joanna and puts a proposition before him: find a passenger on board the train who doesn’t belong, in return for a handsome reward. An easy deal, you’d think. But not if you’re an ex-cop who has a strong moral sense of right and wrong. Michael eventually agrees to find the “suspect” amongst the sea of passengers, using his wit and skill to uncover their identity, but soon comes to realise that he is at the centre of a deadly conspiracy that will end in the murder of everyone on the train and he is the only person who can stop it.

As he weighs up who among the regular commuters on the train he can trust, he is forced into a nail-biting chase to thwart the conspiracy, entrap the killers and bring the train and its passengers to safety.

COMMUTER 3

Following the worldwide success of Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night, Neeson and Collet-Serra reunite for a fourth time with this explosive thriller about one man‘s frantic quest to prevent disaster on a packed commuter train.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra and star Liam Neeson already had an enviable track record with Non-Stop amassing $222.8m worldwide in 2014 and Unknown’s $130.8m in 2011, so teaming up again for another thrill ride, this time on a train in New York, was a no-brainer.

When he read the script, Collet-Serra saw the parallels with Non-Stop. “It’s a spiritual sequel to Non-Stop,” says the director. “With a mystery evolving around your central character, it has more impact if your protagonist is a normal guy. That‘s very Hitchcockian – you think of North by Northwest, The Lady Vanishes or Rear Window – and like in Strangers on a Train we wanted a normal guy to be faced with a moral choice. How much is he willing to do for money without knowing the consequences of what he’s going to do? When extraordinary events happen to regular people, it’s important that the first choices that these characters make are choices that we as an audience agree with and that the action escalates plausibly from those choices”

The story also appealed because of its narrative perspective. “I like movies played from the main character’s point of view,” says Collet-Serra, “so we know exactly what he knows at the same time that he knows it. The audience is with him every step of the way so we learn that his family is in danger only when he does. We wanted to keep the camera on the train but imply that his family was in danger without showing it. That‘s another very Hitchcockian device and it really dictated the visual style because we had to have enough going on in the train to justify us staying there.”

Jaume Collet-Serra was keen for The Commuter to have a different narrative point of view to the previous films Neeson has starred in. “I wanted people to identify with the lead character in this movie a little bit more than in some of Liam’s other films,” he says. “Michael wakes up every day and goes out there to fight for his family, and no matter how hard the fight was it’s all worth it, because he’s protecting his family, and that’s what every person does daily. But one day he’s offered a proposal which puts him between a rock and a hard place – he’s offered money but it involves something that he suspects is wrong – and he has to figure that out. And he gets help from the other passengers. They’re not in control, they’re not driving the train, but they find strength in numbers”

It was the everyman quality of the lead character that appealed to Neeson who knew it would also appeal to the audience. “Michael has been taking the same train for 10 years, five days a week and then one day gets fired because he’s hit the age of 60,” says the actor. “He doesn’t know how to tell his wife, and he’s double-mortgaged on his house. After having a drink in the local bar with an ex-cop friend of his, he takes the commuter train back to face the music and tell his wife and his son, who’s about to go to college, that they have no money. On the train a mysterious person sits beside him and asks him ‘Would you do one tiny little thing for $100,000?’ He’s not sure, but tempts him by asking him to find a bag with $25,000 in a compartment on the train. He finds the money and sets in motion the drama.”

COMMUTER

Quite apart from the appeal of the script and playing such a multi-layered character, Neeson was thrilled to be working again with Collet-Serra. “I love working with Jaume”, says the actor. “I met him six, seven years ago when we did Unknown and he and I just clicked. We don’t analyze scripts too deeply; we just have a really good dance partnership and each time I work with him our little dance routine gets more and more intimate. He makes my job easier and he says I make his job easier, which is the ultimate compliment to me. Jaume’s a real filmmaker; he’s always thinking of the overall arc of the film and where the story’s going. He devours cinema, he just loves it and has a real intuitive feel for how a scene’s going and how it should be played. He reminds me very much of Steven Spielberg. I totally trust him, he’s very, very, very special.”

Collet-Serra’s talent as a director was plain for everyone to see. His assiduous preparation, imaginative approach to filming and skill at juggling the many different elements to create thrilling action scenes impressed everyone. Says producer Alex Heineman: “When we had our final production meeting, it felt like a film class that you’d go to at Columbia! Because Jaume is so meticulous in his planning, he was able to show the entire crew how every single shot of the movie was going to be manifested. It was really impressive. Every day when we came to set, he had an incredibly detailed plan of how he would accomplish every shot. Our cinematographer Paul Cameron was great and it was always a seamless process even though we faced very challenging shots every day. Jaume’s very confident in his vision; he’s not a director that shoots with more than two cameras. He’s really knows what shots he wants and knows how the movie’s going to cut together.”

The audience gets a taste of Collet-Serra’s imaginative approach as soon as the credits roll. Jaume Collet-Serra describes the creative conundrum he faced when confronted with translating the opening of the story into an engaging screen narrative: “The film is called The Commuter which suggests routine and monotony and in a way that routine is also our protagonist Michaels’ power, in the sense that for some 20 years he has been waking up every day at 6am, has waited on the same platform at the same time every morning, has taken the same train to work every day, and then 12 hours later at 6pm he has taken the same train back home. That is something so normal, so common, something everyone can recognise and relate to.

“One of the struggles that I, as a director, had was how do I show this routine,” continues Collet-Serra. “Obviously you can do a standard shot of him saying hello to some other commuters and the audience will get the impression they know each other but only doing that doesn’t show how monotonous the journey is. So I came up with the idea of opening the movie with a shot of each day of the week. So the first shot is Monday, the second Tuesday and so on and as the shots are cut together the only thing that changes is the background, the clothes change and the weather and his behavior during the shots is exactly the same because he’s been doing the same thing day after day. So the images blend together. It’s a very interesting way to open the movie because it immediately gives the audience the sense that they’ve been there with him for a year taking that train, day in day out. To me it was important to start the movie with a sequence that put us, the audience, right on that train with Michael”

Producer Andrew Rona was struck by the director‘s inspired decision: “Millions of people use travel by train to work every day in the New York area. The way Jaume showed the monotony of an everyday commute – the fact that every day you wake up, you get dressed, you go to work, you ride the train there, you ride the train back – and showed that over a year was inspired. It shows the passage of time – covering the whole year with the seasons changing outside the window and in the passengers’ clothing – and completely takes the audience into Michael’s world. As soon as the credits finish, the film switches to real-time. The whole film takes place in one train ride, 120 minutes!”

Collet-Serra now has three films with restricted locations under his belt – Non-Stop, The Shallows and now The Commuter. And all three have successfully taken their audiences on compelling and suspenseful journeys despite the limits of their locations.

Producer Alex Heineman points out the head-spinning energy Collet-Serra injects into his filmmaking despite their being set in one location: “Jaume doesn’t waste a second of film. His movies have a great pace and they’re just so suspenseful and tense, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. You see that in Non-Stop and in The Shallows and he’s brought it to The Commuter. Jaume is really a modern day Alfred Hitchcock: he takes these high concepts and builds them into exciting movies. He knows how to put his lead character in a situation which keep the audience guessing how they’re going to get out of it, whether it’s The Shallows with Blake Lively or Unknown and Non-Stop with Liam Neeson. Jaume’s terrific at crafting suspense with an everyday character at the centre.”

Andrew Rona takes up the subject of the similarities with Hitchcock: “Hitchcock often made one set movies or movies which rarely strayed from one set – one thinks of Rear Window or Rope or Dial M for Murder. The concept allows you to have a good time with the characters because you’re not constantly worrying about locations and things of that nature. Jaume approaches it from that Hitchcock thriller aspect. He’s a modern master of suspense and thrills.”

Unlike Non-Stop, which locked the audience with the characters inside the plane for those whole film, The Commuter takes the audience out of the main location of the train to the outside world into the main character’s family home and into the office and bars: part of Michael’s daily routine. Says Andrew Rona: “There’s bigger scope to this film; it’s not such a closed room so the action has a more realistic feel to it. But at the heart it’s still whodunit; there are a lot of suspects and you go through the story following Michael, trying to figure out who’s the bad guy and what they’re after. So not only is it action thriller, it has a real sense of mystery and you’re with Michael in real-time trying to figure out what’s going on, so it’ll keep you guessing right up until the end.”

The Commuter marks the third film Andrew Rona and Collet-Serra have worked together on so it comes as no surprise to realise that the producer has seen the director grow and mature as a filmmaker over the intervening eight years. “I first met Jaume on Orphan,” says producer Andrew Rona, “and I’m really impressed with how far he’s come as a filmmaker. He did a great job on Unknown and with Non-Stop, really elevating that material by taking a very simplistic idea and making it interesting and compelling. With The Commuter, he’s really come into his own. I can’t think of too many directors working right now that can take this kind of material and make it a modern-day thriller and action film and really get inside there and do something interesting and different with the material.

“The Commuter is an action thriller,” continues Rona. “Some of the films that we reference when we’re making the film are The Fugitive and Speed, obviously Non-Stop, all mixed with a bit of Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. It is pretty much a whodunit, a contained movie on a train. But has the huge scope and spectacle of an action movie. And because we all made Non-Stop, we all had extra pressure to ensure we didn’t repeat ourselves here. We really pushed ourselves to come up with new and fun ideas on how to give the audience a fun ride.”

COMMUTER 1

Rona was particularly impressed by Collet-Serra’s approach to filmmaking. “Jaume looks at a script very methodically,“ says the producer. “He really rips it apart and tries to figure it out from every angle. He gives every character a thorough back story; he knows their motivations. So when it comes to making the film, Jaume has done all the research, and he knows everything about the film and on the day we can just have fun with it. He uses the camera almost like a character. And he picks up every nuance, all the little things that you might not get in the script and he adds another layer to it. So it’s not just about the action or the characters, but it’s about the mood and the tone and the way he shoots it.”

One of the key elements to keeping the suspense cranked up to maximum levels was ensuring the protagonist was someone the audience can relate to and identify with. It is, after all, through the main character’s perspective that the narrative unfolds: the audience learns what’s happening at the same time as Michael does.

Movie-making is all about provoking emotional reactions in audiences and that’s exactly what Col-let-Serra hopes to achieve with The Commuter. “If my movies have something that unifies them it’s the fact that when I grab you you’re there with me and I don’t let you go until the end!” he says. “I hope this does the same thing. It’s similar to my other films but one of the reasons I wanted to do it was to prove to myself that I could basically riff on the same tune and make it completely different. It was a challenge to do a similar movie in a completely different way, get completely dif-ferent things out of it, completely different themes, but have a similar experience of not knowing what’s going to happen while getting real emotion from the characters.”

2018 FILMS MARCH TO APRIL MENU

12 Steps To Writing The Perfect Screenplay: The Write Journey is an interactive course for writers who would like to write a screenplay for feature film or television. Read more

Upcoming Film Releases In South Africa in 2018

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Times Media Films, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links

 / LATEST RELEASES /JANUARY 2018 RELEASES FEBRUARY 2018 RELEASES

Upcoming Film Releases: March – May 2018

Listed Alphabetically

15:17 TO PARIS From Clint Eastwood comes the real-life story of three men whose brave act turned them into heroes during a high-speed railway ride. In the early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris—an attempt prevented by three courageous young Americans traveling through Europe. The film follows the course of the friends’ lives, from the struggles of childhood through finding their footing in life, to the series of unlikely events leading up to the attack. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board. The heroic trio is comprised of Anthony Sadler, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, who play themselves in the film. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 9 March

A QUIET PLACE A supernatural horror film set on a farm where a family has been terrorized by a ghostly being for some time. Directed by John Krasinski from a screenplay by Krasinski, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods. Starring John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds. Read more / Trailer / Releases in South Africa on 6 April. 

 

 

A-Wrinkle-in-Time-posterA WRINKLE IN TIME Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin O’Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe. A science fantasy adventure directed by Ava DuVernay from a screenplay written by Jennifer Lee, and based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle. It stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña. Trailer / Read more / Release date in South Africa:  9 March

Alpha2ALPHA While on his first hunt with his tribe’s most elite group during the Ice Age, a young hunter is injured and left for dead. Awakening to find himself broken and alone – he must learn to survive and navigate the harsh and unforgiving wilderness. Reluctantly taming a lone wolf abandoned by its pack,he learns to rely on it, and they become unlikely allies, enduring countless dangers and overwhelming odds to find their way home before the deadly winter arrives.  This historical drama is directed by Albert Hughes and written by Dan Wiedenhaupt. The film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Leonor Varela and Jens Hultén. Trailer Read more /  Release date in South Africa: 9 March 

AsinamaliASINAMALI Written and directed by Mbongeni Ngema, the film version of the seminal musical.  The narrative follows a group of prisoners in the 80s as they think back on their pasts and the events leading to their arrest. The hardship of prison life is told through the experiences of the inmates, whose lives are made even more difficult by sadistic prison warder Sergeant Mgwaqaza (Boitumelo Chuck Shisana). At the same time, the prison authorities are under pressure to accommodate Comrade Washington (Mbongeni Ngema), an exiled MK soldier working for Amnesty International, who is running drama workshops with the inmates at the notorious Durban Central Prison. He is thwarted at every turn by Mgwaqaza. Comrade Washington has an additional agenda, to see the love of his life Soweto (Danica de la Rey), who is languishing in the Female Section of the prison, soon to be transferred to death row in Pretoria for her MK cross-border activities. Washington believes in the power of music and theatre to transform the lives of people: the political activists, the criminals and even the hardened servants of the apartheid regime. Through sheer determination he outsmarts the prison authorities, manipulating those around him into allowing him to create a play which depicts how they came to land in prison. It represents triumph over adversity, with the theatrical musical explosion becoming their ticket to freedom.  Trailer / Read more / Release date in South Africa: 2 March

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (Part I) Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the Avengers join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy and unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet — the evil Thanos. On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos plans to use the artifacts to inflict his twisted will on reality. The fate of the planet and existence itself has never been more uncertain as everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment. It is the sequel to 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and features an ensemble cast with many actors from previous MCU films.  Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 27 April

beirut_-_h_2017BEIRUT In 1980s Beirut, Mason Skiles is a former U.S. diplomat (Jon Hamm) who is called back into service to save a colleague from the group that is possibly responsible for his own family’s death. Meanwhile, a CIA field agent (Rosamund Pike)  who is working under cover at the American embassy is tasked with keeping Mason alive and ensuring that the mission is a success. A fictional political thriller  directed by Brad Anderson Trailer  / Read more / Released in SA on 18 May

 

BLOCKERS When three parents stumble upon their daughters’ pact to lose their virginity at prom, they launch a covert one-night operation to stop the teens from sealing the deal. Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This Is 40), Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors, Suicide Squad) and John Cena (Trainwreck, Sisters) star. It marks the directorial debut of Kay Cannon (writer of the Pitch Perfect series).Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 20 April

 

BRAVEN When Joe Braven (Jason Momoa), a humble logger residing along the U.S./Canada border is confronted by a group of deadly drug runners who have stashed heroin in his secluded cabin in the mountains, he must do everything in his power to protect his family. Little do the elite drug runners know the unassuming man they’ve encountered has an impressive bite colliding two dynamic forces – one fighting for the lives of his family, the other for the love of the kill.Directed by Lin Oeding and written by Mike Nilon and Thomas Pa’a Sibbett. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 6 April.

CATCHING FEELINGS  A dark South African romantic comedy which follows an urbane young academic (Kagiso Lediga) and his journalist wife (Pearl Thusi), as their lives get turned upside down when a celebrated and hedonistic older writer (Andrew Buckland) moves into their Johannesburg home with them. Despite their love for each other, their relationship has hit a rut. Lacking excitement, the couple have settled into a routine that neither agrees with. Max now spends his time at dinners and events, musing over his frustrations with his key conspirator and sounding board, Joel (Akin Omotoso), who himself has his hands full with an illicit affair. The film also features Zandi Tisani, Precious Makgaretsa and Kate Liquorish. “I wanted to make a fun film about Johannesburg. It is a place full of contradictions. It is Africa’s business capital and culturally diverse with a very messy recent history. I find it fascinating that the 30-something, black, middle class characters portrayed in this film never existed 20 years ago because it was essentially illegal to be black and middle class and I guess it would also be impossible to engage in angst ridden, existential navel gazing when you’re fleeing tear gas and rubber bullets from the Apartheid cops. Although it is rumored that the 30-something year olds of Apartheid times had a greater sense of purpose,” says Lediga, who wrote and directed the film.  Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 9 March

CLOVERFIELD MOVIE The story, set in the near future, centers on a team of astronauts on a space station making a terrifying discovery that challenges all they know about the fabric of reality, as they desperately fight for their survival. After a scientific experiment aboard the space station involving a particle accelerator has unexpected results, the astronauts find themselves isolated. Following their horrible discovery, the space station crew must fight for survival. Directed by Julius Onah, written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung, and produced by J. J. Abrams. Trailer / Released in South Africa on 4 May

COLOSSAL Gloria is an out-of-work party girl who leaves New York and moves back to her hometown after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend. When news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, South Korea, Gloria gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this far-off phenomenon. As events begin to spiral out of control, she must figure out why her seemingly insignificant existence is having such a colossal effect on the fate of the world. 2016 science fiction black comedy film directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, and Tim Blake Nelson. Trailer / Read more / Release date in South Africa: 13 April

deadpoolDEADPOOL 2 After surviving a near fatal knee boarding accident , a disfigured guidance counsellor (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfil his dream of becoming Poughkeepsie’s most celebrated French Bulldog breeder while also learning to cope with an open relationship. Searching to regain his passion for life, as well as a new stuffed unicorn, Wade must battle ninjas, tight assed metal men, and babysit a group stereotypical side characters as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and creative outlets for his very open-minded sex life. He manages to find a new lust for being a do-gooder, a sparkly Hello Kitty backpack, all while earning the coveted coffee mug title of World’s Best 4th Wall Breaking Superhero. Trailer / Read more / Released in SA on 18 May

death-wish-trailerDEATH WISH In director Eli Roth’s reimagining of the classic 1974 revenge thriller, Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a trauma surgeon who only sees the aftermath of Chicago violence when it is rushed into his ER – until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Paul, burning for revenge, hunts his family’s assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media’s attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel or a grim reaper. Fury and fate collide in the intense, action-thriller Death Wish. Paul Kersey becomes a divided person: A man who saves lives, and a man who takes them; a husband and father trying to take care of his family, and a shadowy figure fighting Chicago crime; a surgeon extracting bullets from suspects’ bodies, and a man seeking justice whom the public calls “The Grim Reaper” that detectives are quickly closing in on. Based on the 1972 novel written by Brian Garfield. Trailer / Read more / Released in south Africa on 9 March

downsizing-4DOWNSIZING This sci-fi adventure imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to 5 inches (13 cm) tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small, but with one catch: the procedure cannot be reversed. People soon realize how much further money goes in a miniaturized world, and with the promise of a better life, everyman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in Omaha in order to become small and move to a new downsized community—a choice that triggers life-changing adventures. To Paul’s horror and outrage, he finds out that Audrey backed out at the last second. After the couple understands that they do not have a future together, they divorce and Paul must now figure out how to start his life over in a completely different world. Directed by Alexander Payne and written by Payne and Jim Taylor. Trailer / Releases in SA on 9 March

earlyman1EARLY MAN Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, this animated comedy tells the story of a plucky cave man named Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City to save their home. British stop-motion animated adventure comedy directed by Nick Park, written by Mark Burton and John O’Farrell, and starring the voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, and Timothy Spall. Trailer / Read more/ Released in South Africa on 20 April

EVERYDAYEVERYDAY Based on David Levithan’s acclaimed New York Times bestseller, it tells the story of Rhiannon (Angourie Rice), a 16-year old girl who falls in love with a mysterious soul named “A” (Justice Smith)who inhabits a different body every day. Feeling an unmatched connection, Rhiannon and A work each day to find each other, not knowing what or who the next day will bring. The more the two fall in love, the more the realities of loving someone who is a different person every 24 hours takes a toll, leaving Rhiannon and “A” to face the hardest decision either has ever had to make. Directed by Michael Sucsy and adapted by Jesse Andrews. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 4 May

FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL Based on Peter Turner’s memoir, the film follows the playful but passionate relationship between Turner (Jamie Bell) and the eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) in 1978 Liverpool. What starts as a vibrant affair between a legendary femme fatale and her young lover quickly grows into a deeper relationship, with Turner being the person Gloria turns to for comfort. Their passion and lust for life is tested to the limits by events beyond their control. A biographical romantic drama directed by Paul McGuigan, based on the memoir of the same name by Peter Turner. Trailer / Read more / Released in south Africa on 23 March

FINAL PORTRAIT In 1964, while on a short trip to Paris, the American writer and art-lover James Lord (Armie Hammer) is asked by his friend, the world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), to sit for a portrait. The process, Giacometti assures Lord, will take only a few days. Flattered and intrigued, Lord agrees. So begins not only the story of an offbeat friendship, but, seen through the eyes of Lord, an insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and, at times, downright chaos of the artistic process. It is a portrait of a genius, and of a friendship between two men who are utterly different, yet increasingly bonded through a single, ever-evolving act of creativity. It is a film which shines a light on the artistic process itself, by turns exhilarating, exasperating and bewildering, questioning whether the gift of a great artist is a blessing or a curse. Trailer Read more /  Release date in South Africa: 9 March

Finding YOur FeetFINDING YOUR FEET On the eve of retirement a middle class, judgmental snob discovers her husband has been having an affair with her best friend and is forced into exile with her bohemian sister who lives on an impoverished inner-city council estate. Directed by Richard Loncraine, from an original screenplay by Nick Moorcroft and Meg Leonard, with Imelda Staunton, Joanna Lumley, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall. Trailer / Read more / Released in SA on 13 April.

 

FIVE FINGERS FOR MARSEILLES Directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond, ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ is a predominantly Sesotho, Western-inspired tale of an outlaw who returns home after years on the run, and finds a chance for redemption.  It tells the story of how, 20 years ago, the young ‘Five Fingers’ fought for the rural town of Marseilles, against brutal police oppression. Now, after fleeing in disgrace, Tau returns, seeking peace. Finding the town under new threat, he must reluctantly fight to free it. Will the Five Fingers stand again? Vuyo Dabula heads an all-star cast that includes Hamilton Dhlamini, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Aubrey Poolo, Lizwi Vilakazi, Warren Masemola, Dean Fourie, Anthony Oseyemi, Brendon Daniels and Jerry Mofokeng.  Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 6 April. 

GAME NIGHT Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, whose weekly couple’s game night gets kicked up a notch when Max’s charismatic brother, Brooks (Chandler), arranges a murder mystery party, complete with fake thugs and faux federal agents. So when Brooks gets kidnapped, it’s all part of the game…right?  But as the six uber-competitive gamers set out to solve the case and win, they begin to discover that neither this “game”—nor Brooks—are what they seem to be.  Over the course of one chaotic night, the friends find themselves increasingly in over their heads as each twist leads to another unexpected turn.  With no rules, no points, and no idea who all the players are, this could turn out to be the most fun they’ve ever had…or game over. John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein direct the film, marking their second film as co-directors, following Vacation. With Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons and Jeffrey Wright. Trailer / Read more / Release date in South Africa: 2 March

Gnome aloneGNOME ALONE A teenage girl moves into a new house in a new town and discovers her house is under attack by underground beasts. After making the discovery, she finds that she and the house gnomes are the only ones who can offer protection to the town. Computer-animated comedy film directed by Peter Lepeniotis and written by Michael Schwartz and Zina Zaflow from a story by Robert Moreland, and Jared Micah Herman & Kyle Newman. Trailer / Read more / Release date in South Africa: 2 March

 

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN A rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie) , and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family? It was directed by Simon Curtis and written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan.Trailer / Read more / Released in south Africa on 16 March

GRINGO An exhilarating mix of dark comedy, white-knuckle action and dramatic intrigue, Gringo joyrides into Mexico, where mild-mannered businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) finds himself at the mercy of his back-stabbing business colleagues back home, local drug lords and a morally conflicted black-ops mercenary. Crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal, Harold battles to survive his increasingly dangerous situation in ways that raise the question: Is he out of his depth – or two steps ahead? Directed by Nash Edgerton, who made his feature length directorial debut with the acclaimed Australian thriller The Square, Gringo also stars Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron, Yul Vazquez, Thandie Newton, and Sharlto Copley.  Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 23 March

HAMPSTEAD A charming and funny life-affirming tale about how love can be found in the most unexpected places and proves once and for all that age is no barrier to second chances. An American widow living in the London suburb of Hampstead and a man who lives on the Heath form an unlikely alliance against unscrupulous property developers in the neighborhood. Directed by Joel Hopkins and written by Robert Festinger, with  Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson, James Norton, Lesley Manville, Jason Watkins and Simon Callow. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 6 April.

HurricaneHURRICANE HEIST The rural town of New Hope, Ala., has a pair of super-sized problems heading its way: There’s a hurricane bearing down on the Gulf coastline, and there’s a team of 30 well-armed mercenaries intent on looting the local treasury facility.disaster-thriller directed by Rob Cohen. It stars Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Melissa Bolona and Ralph Ineson. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 30 March

 

 

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE Growing up in Texas, Bart Millard suffers physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father. His childhood and relationship with his dad inspires him to write the hit song “I Can Only Imagine” as singer of the Christian band Mercy Me. The film is based on the story behind the song “I Can Only Imagine,” the most-played contemporary Christian song of all time. It stars J. Michael Finley as Bart Millard, the MercyMe lead singer who wrote the song, as well as Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman. Jon and Andy Erwin are a directing team that focuses on creating faith-based and inspirational feature films. Trailer / Visit the website / Releases in SA on 11 May.

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM It’s been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles.When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who’s still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission. Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order not seen since prehistoric times. The film is a sequel to Jurassic World (2015) and is the fifth installment of the Jurassic Park film series, as well as the second installment of a planned Jurassic World trilogy.  Directed by J.A. Bayona, screenplay by Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly. Trailer / Visit the website / Releases in South Africa on 8 June. 

The-Leisure-Seeker-1024x530THE LEISURE SEEKER Directed by Paolo Virzì, winner of the 2017 David di Donatello Best Director Award, it stars Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren and two-time Golden Globe- winner Donald Sutherland as a runaway couple on an unforgettable journey in the faithful old RV they call the Leisure Seeker. The couple travels from Boston to The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West, recapturing their passion for life and their love for each other on a road trip that provides revelation and surprise right up to the very end. Back when John and Ella Spencer were young, the ’75 Winnebago Indian they christened “The Leisure Seeker” was a beloved family getaway. Now, the Leisure Seeker has become their actual getaway vehicle, an escape from their well- intentioned but overbearing middle-aged children. Faced with more caregiving than they care to accept, John and Ella resolve to enjoy the freedom of one last RV road trip on their own. Trailer / Released in South Africa on 30 March

MADAME Adding a little spice to a waning marriage, Anne and Bob, a wealthy and well-connected American couple, move into a manor house in romantic Paris. While preparing a particularly luxurious dinner for sophisticated international friends, our hostess discovers there are thirteen guests. Panic-stricken, Anne insists her loyal maid Maria disguise herself as a mysterious Spanish noble woman to even out the numbers. But a little too much wine, and some playful chat, lead Maria to accidentally endear herself to a dandy British art broker. Their budding romance will have Anne chasing her maid around Paris and finally plotting to destroy this most unexpected and joyous love affair. Written and directed by Amanda Sthers Trailer/ Read more / Released in SA on 27 April

Mark FeltMARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE A biographical spy thriller film directed and written by Peter Landesman, based on the 2006 autobiography of FBI agent Mark Felt, written with John O’Connor. The film depicts how Felt became an anonymous source (“Deep Throat”) for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and helped them in the investigation which led them to the Watergate scandal.[4] The film stars Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Tony Goldwyn, and Maika Monroe. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 20 April.

MARROWBONE A young man and his younger siblings who have concealed the death of their mother to remain together are plagued by a sinister presence in their home.Spanish drama horror film written and directed by Sergio G. Sánchez. It stars George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg, Kyle Soller, Nicola Harrison, and Tom Fisher. Trailer / Read more / Release date in South Africa: 2 March

 

Mary-Magdalene-Movie-Wallpapers-7MARY MAGDALENE is an authentic and humanistic portrait of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history. The biblical biopic tells the story of Mary (Rooney Mara), a young woman in search of a new way of living. Constricted by the hierarchies of the day, Mary defies her traditional family to join a new social movement led by the charismatic Jesus of Nazareth (Joaquin Phoenix). She soon finds a place for herself within the movement and at the heart of a journey that will lead to Jerusalem. Written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett and directed by Garth Davis. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 23 March

MEERKAT MAANTUIG After her father’s sudden death, Gideonette de la Rey, a fearful young hypochondriac with an overactive imagination, descends into darkness as she realises that she’s the only one left with a cursed family name. With the help of her new friend Bhubesi and his make-shift moonship, she’ll have to find the inner strength to face her fears in order to break the curse. Written and directed by Hanneke Schutte. In Afrikaans with English subtitles.  Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 16 March

 

Midnight sunMIDNIGHT SUN A romantic tearjerker about 17-year-old Katie Price (Bella Thorne), sheltered at home since childhood with a rare genetic condition, a life-threatening sensitivity to sunlight. Having only her father Jack (Rob Riggle) for company, Katie’s world opens up after dark when she ventures outside to play her guitar. One night, her dreams come true when she’s noticed and asked out by her longtime crush Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), whom she’s secretly watched from her bedroom window for years. As they embark on nightly summer excursions, Katie’s risk to sunlight grows and she’s presented with the gut-wrenching dilemma of whether she can live a normal life with her newfound soul mate. Directed by Scott Speer and written by Eric Kirsten, based on the 2006 Japanese film of same name. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 6 April

THE NEW MUTANTS Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves. Magik, Wolfsbane and other teenage mutants try to come to grips with their superpowers while staying at a secret facility. This superhero horror is based on the Marvel Comics team of the same name and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It is intended to be the eleventh installment in the X-Men series. The film is directed by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) from a screenplay by himself and Knate Lee. With Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Maisie Williams, Alice Braga.  Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa: TBC 

THE NUMBER The extraordinary tale of the nigh-impossible redemption of high-ranking Magadien, a Magistrate of the 28s, one of the notorious Numbers prison gangs. The film is set in an overcrowded South African prison, peopled by cruel warders and hardened tattooed men in regulation orange overalls. Between the cells, corridors, showers and exercise yard, we discover how the Numbers operate. Strict codes govern each gang and brutal discipline is administered swiftly and without sentiment.From the first, Magadien stands apart from the crowd, participating in 28s activities but questioning his choices. This will put him at risk, for the Numbers demand total fealty, inside and out of jail. When Warden Jacobs is appointed, he still believes in the goodness of men. He focuses his efforts on Magadien to bring about fundamental change in a flawed and self-perpetuating system of violence and abuse. Directed by Khalo Matabane, screenplay by Paul Ian Johnson. With Mothusi Magano, Kevin Smith, LemoTsipa, Warren Masemola, Deon Lotz, Crystal Donner, Sibusiso Msimang, Presley Chweneyagae, Charlton George, Roberto Meyer, Shuraigh Meyer, Vo Gumede, Clint Brink, Johaah Munnik, Sdumo Mtshali, Ayanda Nyandeni, Mlungisi Msibi, Andile Khumalo, Zahir Bassa, Lwazi Mabizela, Nzuzo Khumalo and Gcina Mhlope. Releases in South Africa on 20 April. 

OCEANS 8 Criminal mastermind Debbie Ocean and seven other female thieves try to pull off the heist of the century at New York’s annual Met Gala. Their target — a necklace that’s worth more than $150 million. Heist comedy directed by Gary Ross and written by Ross and Olivia Milch, from a story by Ross. It is an all-female spin-off of the Ocean’s Eleven series. Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister of Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney in the previous three “Ocean’s” films). Watch Trailer / Read more / Releases in SA on 8 June

PACIFIC RIM UPRISING The globe-spanning conflict between otherworldly monsters of mass destruction and the human-piloted super-machines built to vanquish them was only a prelude to the all-out assault on humanity.  John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) stars as the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous “Kaiju.” Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father’s legacy by his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi)—who is leading a brave new generation of pilots that have grown up in the shadow of war. As they seek justice for the fallen, their only hope is to unite together in a global uprising against the forces of extinction. Jake is joined by gifted rival pilot Lambert (“The Fate of the Furious'” Scott Eastwood) and 15-year-old Jaeger hacker Amara (newcomer Cailee Spaeny), as the heroes of the PPDC become the only family he has left. Rising up to become the most powerful defense force to ever walk the earth, they will set course for a spectacular all-new adventure on a towering scale. This science fiction monster film is directed by Steven S. DeKnight and written by DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin from a story by DeKnight and Nowlin. It is the sequel to the 2013 film Pacific Rim. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 23 March

PapillonPAPILLON Based on the international best-selling autobiography, it follows the epic story of Henri “Papillon” Charrière (Charlie Hunnam), a safecracker from the Parisian underworld who is framed for murder and condemned to life in the notorious penal colony on Devil’s Island. Determined to regain his freedom, Papillon forms an unlikely alliance with quirky convicted counterfeiter Louis Dega (Rami Malek), who in exchange for protection, agrees to finance Papillon’s escape, ultimately resulting in a bond of lasting friendship. Directed by Michael Noer. It is a remake of the 1973 film of the same name starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. The original film was written by Dalton Trumbo based on the best-selling autobiography by the French convict Henri Charrière. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 4 May

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST A faith film that doesn’t shy away from presenting the reality of fear, danger and persecution faced by the early believers in the time of Nero . . . and their amazing acts of faith, love and service. It follows the epic story of the man who went from persecutor of the church to a follower of Christ. The story follows Paul (James Faulkner), who suffers alone in a Roman prison, awaiting his execution under Emperor Nero. Mauritius (Olivier Martinez), the ambitious prison prefect, can hardly see what threat this broken man poses. Once he was Saul of Tarsus, the high-ranking and brutal killer of Christians. Now his faith rattles Rome. At great risk, Luke the Physician (Jim Caviezel) visits the aged Paul to comfort and tend to him—and to question, to transcribe and to smuggle out Paul’s letters to the growing community of believers. Amid Nero’s inhuman persecution, these men and women will spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and change the world. Written and directed by Andrew Hyatt. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 6 April.

PETER RABBIT Peter Rabbit, the mischievous and adventurous hero who has captivated generations of readers, now takes on the starring role of his own irreverent, contemporary comedy with attitude. In the film, Peter’s feud with Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) escalates to greater heights than ever before as they rival for the affections of the warm-hearted animal lover who lives next door (Rose Byrne). James Corden voices the character of Peter with playful spirit and wild charm, with Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley performing the voice roles of the triplets, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. Live-action/CGI animated adventure comedy directed by Will Gluck from a screenplay by Gluck and Rob Lieber, based on the stories of the character of the same name created by Beatrix Potter. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 30 March

phantom-threadPHANT0M THREAD Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love. With his latest film, Paul Thomas Anderson paints an illuminating portrait both of an artist on a creative journey, and the women who keep his world running. “Phantom Thread” is Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth movie, and his second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis. Trailer / Read more / Released in SA on 2 March

PLEASE STAND BY  A young autistic woman runs away from her caregiver in an attempt to submit her manuscript to a “Star Trek” writing competition. Wendy sees things differently: she’s fiercely independent, with a brilliant mind and a mischievous sense of hilarity. Wendy also has autism. To her, people are an indecipherable code and the world’s a confusing place. Inspired by her no-nonsense caregiver, Wendy comes of age and escapes from her care home on the road trip of a lifetime to deliver her 500-page script to a writing competition. Ben Lewin’s Please Stand By presents Wendy’s adventure as a journey of self-realization during which she proves to herself and others that she’s capable of navigating the vagaries of the modern world. The film’s screenplay was crafted by Michael Golamco. Trailer / Read more / Releases in SA on 25 May

PolaroidPOLAROID High school loner Bird Fitcher finds a vintage Polaroid camera that holds dark and mysterious secrets. She soon realizes that those who get their picture taken by it meet a tragic and untimely death. Horror directed by Lars Klevberg, based on his 2014 short film of the same name. Starring Kathryn Prescott, Mitch Pileggi, Grace Zabriskie, Tyler Young. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 4 May

 

 

rampage-movieRAMPAGE Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a man who keeps people at a distance, shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent, silverback gorilla who has been in his care since birth.  But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry mutates this gentle ape into a raging creature of enormous size.  To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are other similarly altered animals.  As these newly created alpha predators tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with a discredited genetic engineer to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.   This science fiction monster film is directed by Brad Peyton. It is loosely based on the video game series of the same name by Midway Games. Trailer / Read more / Release date TBC (Scheduled for 11 May) 

ready-player-oneREADY PLAYER ONE From filmmaker Steven Spielberg comes the science fiction action adventure  based on Ernest Cline’s bestseller of the same name, which has become a worldwide phenomenon. The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger. Spielberg directed the film from a screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline.  Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 30 March

RED SPARROW Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is many things. A devoted daughter determined to protect her mother at all costs. A prima ballerina whose ferocity has pushed her body and mind to the absolute limit. A master of seductive and manipulative combat. When she suffers a career-ending injury, Dominika and her mother are facing a bleak and uncertain future. That is why she finds herself manipulated into becoming the newest recruit for Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people like her to use their bodies and minds as weapons. After enduring the perverse and sadistic training process, she emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow the program has ever produced. Dominika must now reconcile the person she was with the power she now commands, with her own life and everyone she cares about at risk, including an American CIA agent who tries to convince her he is the only person she can trust. Directed by Francis Lawrence, based on the book of the same name, written by Jason Matthews. Trailer / Read more / Release date in South Africa: 2 March

Roman J IsraelROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ  This legal drama written and directed by Dan Gilroy is set in the underbelly of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington stars as a driven, idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when his mentor, a civil rights icon, dies. When he is recruited to join a firm led by one of the legendary man’s former students – the ambitious lawyer George Pierce (Colin Farrell) – and begins a friendship with a young champion of equal rights (Carmen Ejogo), a turbulent series of events ensue that will put the activism that has defined Roman’s career to the test. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 13 April

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE The true story of one of the most daring hostage rescues in history, told from the varying perspectives of the hostage takers.  This gripping thriller is inspired by the events of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight en route from Tel Aviv to Paris, the film depicts the most daring rescue mission ever attempted. Directed by José Padilha and written by Gregory Burke, with Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 6 April. 

 

SHERLOCK GNOMES After a string of garden gnome disappearances in London, Gnomeo & Juliet look to legendary detective Sherlock Gnomes to solve the case of their missing friends and family. 3D computer-animated fantasy romantic comedy mystery that is directed by John Stevenson. A sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo & Juliet, it features the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mary J. Blige, and Johnny Depp.Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 11 May.

 

Show-Dogs-movie-2SHOW DOGS Max, a macho, solitary Rottweiler police dog is ordered to go undercover as a primped show dog in a prestigious Dog Show, along with his human partner, to avert a disaster from happening. Directed by Raja Gosnell from an original screenplay by Max Botkin. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 27 April

 

 

HS-353488_RSOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Through a series of daring escapades, young Han Solo meets his future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian.  It is the second film in the franchise’s non-trilogy films following 2016’s Rogue One. Like that filmSolo is a prequel to the original trilogy, taking place sometime between A New Hope and the prequels. It stars Alden Ehrenreich, the 28-year-old actor best known for the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!. Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) who wrote Solo with his son Jon (The First Time).  Directed by Ron Howard. Trailer/ Read More / Releases in SA on 25 May

strangers-2-trailer-810x610THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT A road trip to visit relatives takes a dangerous turn when a family arrives at a secluded mobile home park that’s mysteriously deserted — until three masked psychopaths show up. A horror directed by Johannes Roberts and starring Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman. It is also written by Bryan Bertino and Ben Katai, and it serves as the sequel to the 2008 film The Strangers. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 20 April

 

SUSTERS  Die verhaal gaan oor drie aangenome susters wat van mekaar vervreemd geraak het en hoe hulle op ‘n ontdekkingsreis gaan met die afsterwe van hul moeder. Dis ‘n reis gevul met tere herinneringe, interessante karakters, ongelooflike mooi plekke en dit wat die skoner geslag baie goed mee is – hoe om sakke vol pret te hê. Die rolverdeling sluit in Leah, die veelbekroonde sangeres met albumverkope wat goue status breik het en bekend is vir haar rolle in “As Jy Sing” en “Sterlopers.” Nog ‘n suster word gespeel deur Quanita Adams, self geen vreemdeling vir die kollig nie met heelwat televisie- en filmrolle agter haar naam. En die derde suster is niemand anders nie as Diaan Lawrenson, bekend vir haar rol as Paula in 7de Laan. En dis maar net die hoofrolle – kykers kan hulle gereed maak vir heelwat verrassings met bekendes wat kleiner rolle gaan vertolk. In die regisseurstoel is Corné van Rooyen, bekend vir sy werk op “Hollywood in my huis” en “Vaselinetjie.” Die draaiboek is geskryf deur Corine du Toit en Sandra Vaughn, wat saam ‘n magdom film- en TV-reeksdraaiboeke agter hul naam het, insluitend “Semi-Soet”. Lokprent / Lees Meer / Uitgereik in Suid-Afrika op 30 Maart

THE TITAN Hotshot Air Force pilot, Rick Janssen (Sam Worthington), is chosen for a military experiment that will create a human being capable of surviving the harsh environments of Saturn’s moon, TITAN. The experiment is successful, turning Rick into a super-human, but it also creates deadly side-effects which threatens the life of Rick, his wife and family, and possibly humanity itself. Trailer / Read more / Released in SA on 4 May

 

TOMB RAIDER Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen.  Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent.  Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone.  Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death. Leaving everything she knows behind, Lara goes in search of her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan.  But her mission will not be an easy one; just reaching the island will be extremely treacherous.  Suddenly, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lara, who—against the odds and armed with only her sharp mind, blind faith and inherently stubborn spirit—must learn to push herself beyond her limits as she journeys into the unknown.  If she survives this perilous adventure, it could be the making of her, earning her the name tomb raider. Directed by Roar Uthaug and written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons. It is based on the 2013 video game of the same name by Crystal Dynamics, and will be a reboot of the Tomb Raider series. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 16 March

TULLY  Marlo, a mother of three, is gifted a night nanny by her brother. Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully. Both bitingly funny and observant-and a quietly radical statement on motherhood, sure to make mothers everywhere feel less alone. Directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. The film stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston. Watch Trailer / Read more / Releases in SA on 11 May

TYLER PERRY’S ACRIMONY A faithful wife (Taraji P. Henson) tired of standing by her devious husband is enraged when it becomes clear she has been betrayed. Psychological thriller produced, written and directed by Tyler Perry. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 30 March

 

 

VICTOR Great movie of inspiration and hope to all who are lost in the world of addiction. In the early 1960s, Victor Torres and his family moved to Brooklyn from Puerto Rico in search of a new life. The American dream quickly fades as they face a life of want in their adopted home. As a new recruit in a street gang, Victor embarks on a lucrative new drug trafficking business in an attempt to help his struggling family. Victor is quickly enslaved by drug use, and his parents, Manuel and Lila, desperately search to find a way to help their son. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 13 April

THE WAR WITH GRANDPA Upset that he has to share the room he loves with his grandfather, Peter decides to declare war in an attempt to get it back. …. And though he loves his grandpa he wants his room back – so he has no choice but to declare war. ..directed by Tim Hill, based on the novel of same name by Robert Kimmel Smith. Trailer / Read more / Release in South Africa on 16 March

 

 

WINCHESTER After the sudden death of her family, firearms heiress Sarah Winchester becomes convinced that she’s haunted by the souls of those killed by guns. Winchester then decides to build an enormous mansion that’s designed to keep the evil spirits at bay. When skeptical psychiatrist Eric Price visits the estate to evaluate her state of mind, he soon discovers that her obsession may not be so far-fetched after all. Supernatural horror directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, starring Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester, and Jason Clarke. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 30 March

WONDERLUS This is the first full length feature for director Johan Cronje. A wedding ends in shambles and the next morning a group of friends and enemies have to piece together what happened the previous night. It stars Mila Guy, Edwin van der Walt, Beer Adriaanse, Simone Nortmann. Trailer / Read more / Released in South Africa on 27 April 

ZULU WEDDINGZULU WEDDING A romantic comedy from producer/director Lineo Sekeleoane. Unashamedly romantic, glamorous and hilarious all at the same time, the film pays loving tribute to the richness of African culture. It acknowledges the sometimes-schizophrenic reality of many urban South Africans who live sophisticated modern lives which are nonetheless shaped by their family cultures, traditions and expectations. Feisty choreographer, Lou “Lungile” (Nondumiso Tembe), will do anything to avoid falling in love. Even more to avoid going home to South Africa, where she’s traditionally engaged to a king. However, when she meets her soulmate Tex (Darrin Dewitt Henson) she is forced to confront the tradition she’s been running away from since the death of her parents, when she turned 18, and the ancestral debt they left her. She hatches a plan to confront the king and convince him to forget about her, but when she prevails upon handsome royal advisor Zulu (Pallance Dladla), to help her get into the royal compound, he proves to be a dangerously seductive charmer, one who seems to represent all the best aspects of her background. Trailer / Released in SA on 20 April 

 

 

Mike White

I wanted to write a movie about men and their discontents, to do the midlife male crisis movie honestly — with some satirical teeth — but also compassion.

During a career that now spans almost 20 years, writer, director, producer and actor Mike White, who is also known for twice competing in the Emmy-winning reality competition “The Amazing Race” with his father, Mel, has carved out a unique niche as a filmmaker with a surprising and very personal point of view.

In a raft of successful feature screenplays including School of Rock, Nacho Libre, The Good Girl and the recent, timely satire, Beatriz at Dinner, as well as his work as a director on Year of the Dog and the acclaimed HBO series “Enlightened,” White creates stories filled with seemingly ordinary people whose lives take unexpected turns.

His latest film, Brad’s Status, is an intelligent and poignant exploration of the human condition. It will intrigue, amuse and unnerve its audience with a sympathetic, warts-and-all portrait of a man who thinks he wants it all — if he can ever figure out what it is.

I wanted to write something to tell my father I love him and think he is a success, even though he feels like he never lived up to his expectations for himself. I also saw with him that the relationship one has with the world (status) can be as important (or more) as the relationship one has to family, partners, friends. I see that in myself in that — like Brad — I’m always having this running commentary in my head, comparing myself to others and the success I perceive they have — and I’m always either building myself up or tearing myself down.

I thought movies rarely tackle this aspect of our lives in a relatable way. How our thoughts about ourselves cannibalize most of our time. And how much we feel is on the line all the time.

I also wanted to write about comparative anxiety in the culture at large. How we aren’t only keeping up with the Joneses, but are keeping up with the Kardashians; through TV and social media we are seeing the lifestyles of millionaires and billionaires and how it creates this sense of lack and envy. Everyone seems to be winning the lottery around us. And how in our consumer capitalist culture this desire to live these extreme lifestyles can be both personally painful and globally destructive.

Lastly, after writing Year of the Dog, Enlightened and Beatriz at Dinner with female protagonists I wanted to write a movie about men and their discontents, to do the midlife male crisis movie honestly — with some satirical teeth — but also compassion.

BRAD2

In Brad’s Status a trip to Boston with his college-bound son triggers a crisis of confidence for Brad Sloan (terrific performance from Ben Stiller) as he reassesses his own life choices in a bittersweet comedy.

Brad has a satisfying career and a comfortable life in suburban Sacramento where he lives with his sweet-natured wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer), and their musical prodigy son, Troy (Austin Abrams), but it’s not quite what he imagined during his college glory days. Showing Troy around Boston, where Brad went to university, he can’t help comparing his life with those of his four best college friends: a Hollywood bigshot (White), a hedge-fund founder (Luke Wilson), a tech entrepreneur (Jemaine Clement), and a political pundit and bestselling author (Michael Sheen). As he imagines their wealthy, glamorous lives, he wonders if cozy
middle-class domesticity is the best he will ever achieve. But when circumstances force him to reconnect with his former friends, Brad begins to question whether he has really failed or if, in some essential ways, their lives are more flawed than they appear.

Brad’s Status begins in upper-middle-class Sacramento, as Brad Sloan prepares to take his only child on a tour of East Coast colleges, prompting him to wonder if his life has somehow fallen short of its potential. Modern parent-child relationships and today’s overly examined lives are thrust under White’s microscope as Brad’s anxieties converge in a perfect storm of self-doubt.

Producer David Bernad, who helped White found Rip Cord Productions and served as producer on “Enlightened,” describes the filmmaker as “one of the most original minds in Hollywood. He has a real humanity and kindness that you don’t see in a lot of filmmakers. There’s a real joy to the process of filmmaking with Mike.”

The development process for Brad’s Status was the typical one for a Mike White film, says Bernad: “Mike writes a script and that ends up being the script that gets shot. He sent it to me in November 2015. I remember reading it on a plane and waiting for the plane to land so I could call and talk to him about it. We were in prep by August and started shooting in September.”

White says he was interested in exploring the surge in what he calls “status anxiety.” “We are not just keeping up with the Joneses today, but literally keeping up with the Kardashians,” he explains. “There are people very publicly living these unprecedented billionaire lifestyles. Even if we have a lot, it’s easy to feel like it’s not enough. We all curate our lives for others through social media, which adds to this sense that other people have more. Throughout the course of history, people thought it was only a certain elite that lived
those kinds of lives. Now there’s a belief that we should be able to have all of that ourselves. There’s an unsustainable feeling that everyone’s winning the lottery — except you.”

Despite his own success, White admits to having those kinds of doubts swimming about in his own head. “People around you seem to be living bigger lives,” he says. “For Brad, that means he’s sitting in economy on a plane, knowing that his friends are flying private. For me, sometimes it seems like everyone else is having fun and I’m here rewriting a script for the 500th time in my cave. Or I’m not working at all. Whatever your situation is, the world more than ever can create a sense of comparative anxiety.”

White also admits that his own self-worth often hinges on how he’s seen through others’ eyes.

“When I do a film and it gets a good review, I think, yeah! I did it! Then I get a bad review and I’m a complete failure. I presume that if I’m doing it, other people must be doing it too. So I wanted to write something about how our ambition and comparative anxiety fuels insecurity — at least for me. Where do you stand to the world? Have you made an impact? Seeing other people’s success starts Brad tearing himself down or building himself up in reaction. That was the initial inkling of it.”

As Brad starts measuring his accomplishments against those of his four best college friends, it seems clear to him that they are doing far better than he is. Sure he has a patient and devoted wife, a gifted son, a lovely home and a job at a small not-for-profit he started. But how can that compare to shaping public opinion, handling billions of dollars in investments, living in a magazine-worthy Malibu mansion or sharing a Hawaiian beach house with a pair of bikini-clad young beauties?

“The movie asks the eternal question, is the grass always greener?” says Bernad. “Are these other people actually living a better life or could his life, which maybe isn’t what he had dreamt about when he was 21, actually be better than what he envisioned?”

White remembers seeing his father, a minister, struggling to evaluate his own accomplishments when he retired. “I could tell my father was questioning whether he felt like he was a success,” he recalls. “I see him as a success and part of my wanting to make this movie was to say that to him. But I also realized that no matter where you are in your career, there are times when you feel like other people have made more of an impact or that you could have done more.”

Those feelings of uncertainty are heightened for Brad as he watches his only son on the brink of independence, with limitless potential before him. “At the age a child prepares to go to college they are ready to break free of family bonds,” notes White. “On the other hand, parents may be hanging on a bit too tight. It’s a poignant moment for both, I think.”

White remembers being at his most prickly — and awkward — on his own college tour with his father. “I think it’s the first time where you have a real referendum on where you stand in the world. I had a good relationship with my parents, but during school visits I felt like if they said or did the wrong thing, anyone there who witnessed it would still remember it and if I went there I’d somehow have to live it down for years.”

BRAD

White’s shrewd instinct for casting familiar actors in unexpected roles gives the film’s accomplished cast the opportunity to confound audience expectations. “Casting for this movie was a delicate process,” he says. “It’s a thoughtful, deliberative movie with comedic moments. We wanted to find actors who have a sense of humor, but weren’t the obvious choices. We felt that if we orientated it too much toward comedy by casting people who brought certain kinds of expectations to it, we wouldn’t be able to make the movie we
envisioned.”

Ben Stiller and White have known each other for many years. In fact, Stiller appeared in a cameo role in the 2002 comedy Orange County, which White wrote and produced. “I’ve always been a fan of Ben’s,” says the filmmaker. “I’ve really wanted to work with him for a long time, but it never worked out until now. Ben is a kind of comedic Everyman. He’s a strong, precise comedic actor who personifies a kind of urban ambition that I felt like we could tap into with Brad.”

At first glance, Brad’s neurotic doggedness may feel like a familiar tool from Stiller’s repertoire, but any assumptions are shattered as the story unfolds. “The movie quickly launches in an odd and unexpected direction,” says White. “The audience’s expectations will be that it’s a certain kind of movie, but then it pivots in a way that I think will be fun and subversive.”

Stiller connected with the idea of a man just trying to live his life as best he can in a world where good is never good enough. “The tone of the movie is genuine and funny and smart,” says the star. “It’s also emotional without trying too hard to be emotional. We live in a world where we are all very aware of what everyone else has and does. We just want to figure out how to be happy, but we’re inundated with ideas of what happiness and success are. On the internet, on television, in advertising and throughout the general
culture, we’re constantly bombarded with other people’s idealized lives and comparing ourselves. You may be doing ok but, wow, look at that guy over there!”

The actor’s reaction was exactly what White was hoping for. “I so got excited when he was into it. Ben brought the character to a deeper level than another actor might have. He never went right to the obvious comedy on the page. He didn’t lean on familiar things and it was exciting to watch how intense he was about making sure he wasn’t doing something that felt familiar.”

Stiller, who has a 12-year-old son himself, was moved by the film’s honest portrayal of a father-son relationship. It is an intimate slice of their life during a period when they are getting to know one another in a new light. “It’s not a road trip and no hijinks ensue,” says the actor. “It’s a journey that a father and son take together. We get a window into Brad’s connection with his son and his own insecurities. I think we’ve seen moments like this from the son’s perspective in other films, but this is the reverse. Troy is the one with a clear sense of self. He has not been affected by the world yet. Brad has dealt with failure, success, rejection. Those things are all ahead of Troy. Brad is not an archetypal father. Mike takes that on and looks at it in a sensitive way without judging.”

As Brad’s son, Troy, Austin Adams provides the perfect foil for Stiller’s amped up angst, as a boy who stays deliberately cool when his dad is running red hot. Abrams, who turns 21 in September, has been acting professionally for just five years and has already racked up an impressive resume that includes a pivotal role on “The Walking Dead” and the lead in the feature Paper Towns.

For any young actor, the opportunity to work so closely with White and Stiller would be a career changing experience. Abrams says he felt doubly lucky because the part and the story were so rich. “I thought it was one of the best scripts I had ever read,” he says. “I kept reading it over and over again and I never got tired of it. There were new things to discover on every page. The maturity that Troy has seemed very fresh and that was really interesting for me.

Being part of Amazon Studios sweeping slate of original films was crucial to making the film that White envisioned, both he and Bernad agree. The company was, both men say, the ideal partner for an unusual and ambitious movie. “Amazon’s been amazing,” says Bernad. “As a producer, I salivate over the opportunity to have a partner that is so involved. It’s really rare to work with a studio that gives you total and complete freedom. They have complete trust in the filmmakers and in the process.”

White adds that as a filmmaker his dream is to sit across from the people who are willing to take a chance and say make the best version of the thing that you envision. “Sometimes people are afraid that things will be too edgy or too unusual, but they never tried to water it down or neuter it. For that I’m very grateful.”

MOLLY2

An underdog story of a woman becoming successful in an industry that is filled with men.

Molly’s Game, based on the true story of a young, charismatic Olympic-hopeful skier and ‘Poker Princess’ who was arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons, marks the directorial debut of renowned playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Although Bloom’s 2014 memoir ends with her FBI arrest, the story of how Molly’s Game got to the big screen begins before Bloom even realized her reign was ending. When Bloom was still running a game at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, she met Executive Producer Leopoldo Gout at a party.

molly-bloom-300

Molly Bloom

Gout was working on his first novel, and Bloom’s story piqued his interest.“ She was an extraordinarily smart woman in a man’s world, and that’s what really hooked me,” Gout says.

Gout introduced her to his publisher, and Bloom got a book deal, but her arrest put the deal on hold.

When the trial was over, Gout and Bloom shopped the book around Hollywood and though there was a lot of interest, nothing seemed right until Producer Mark Gordon got a call from Ken Hertz, Molly’s lawyer, and Pete Micelli, her agent at CAA. “I heard that Aaron was reading the book as well, so I reached out to Aaron and proposed working on the project together,” Gordon says.

Initially, however, Sorkin had reservations about turning Bloom’s book into a film, mostly because of the players who had come to her table. She keeps most of the names confidential to protect their private lives, yet Sorkin still worried about the implications. “I know some of the people you’ve written about. I’ve worked with some. Others, I’d like to work with,” Sorkin says. “A couple of them are friends of mine. And there’s no way I’m going to write a movie that gossips about them or about anybody.”

Today Sorkin is glad Bloom wasn’t taken aback by his attitude in that first meeting and that she continued to explain more of her story. “Fifteen minutes later, I desperately wanted to write this movie because I discovered that she paid a high price for taking the same position that was costing me nothing.”

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a young, charismatic Olympic-hopeful skier who was forced to abandon athletics after a devastating injury. With law school on hold, Molly takes a summer job that introduces her to a new endeavor requiring similar discipline and drive: running the world’s most exclusive high-stakes underground poker game. The deep pockets of Hollywood royalty, sports stars and business titans give her a decade of glitzy, glamourous success, but Molly attracts the wrong kind of attention when she inadvertently engages members of the Russian mob at her table. Her streak comes to a grinding halt when she’s arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Facing criminal charges, her only ally is her reluctant defense lawyer (Idris Elba), who discovers that there’s much more to Molly Bloom than the salacious tabloid stories reveal.

mollys-game

Getting The Story Right

Sorkin’s certainty about the material helped speed up the writing process. “Usually when I sign on to do a movie, it’s a bit of a blind date. There will be something that interests me, but I have no idea what I’m going to do, so there are months of climbing the walls until I crack it. With Molly’s Game, in the five minutes it took me to drive home, I had the whole movie.”

Sorkin found the story he wanted to tell within the details Bloom neglected to include in her book, a process of discovery reflected in Idris Elba’s character, criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey: “You finished the book before you got to the good part.”

Charlie reads the book and notices some glaring omissions, such as poker games lasting for days without any mention of drug use, and no discussion of the Russian mobsters whose involvement led to Bloom’s arrest. Bloom also rarely talks about her family, particularly her complicated relationship with her father, who was instrumental in pushing her and her two brothers in athletics and academics.

Sorkin’s understanding of Molly unfolds in much the same way as Charlie’s. She’s been dubbed the Poker Princess by the tabloids, and Charlie thinks she’s been actively seeking the publicity for her own gain. “I saw an opportunity to create a character who was asking a lot of the same questions of her that that I was asking,” Sorkin explains. “For example, why was she arrested in the middle of the night by FBI agents wielding automatic weapons as if she were a dangerous person?” Although Charlie is a fictional version of her lawyer, Sorkin notes that “Molly did have a criminal defense lawyer, and when she talks about him, it’s with great respect, reverence and affection. Molly even said he was really the first man she’d met who was honorable.”

Although poker drives the plot, the resonance of the story comes from Bloom’s strength, inner character and ability to beat whatever system she challenges by remaining true to herself. “I saw this as an emotional story and the kind of story I like to tell, with a quixotic sense of right and wrong.” Her personal journey, her crucial relationship with her lawyer, and her refusal to give up her former clients are the heart of the story.

“She was holding the winning lottery ticket,” Sorkin says. “She could have been rich and famous simply by telling the truth, but she wouldn’t do it. I really admire that, and the movie admires that.”

Pascal says Sorkin’s ability to bring depth to characters elevates Molly’s Game.

“Aaron loves heroes and he finds the beauty in people not everyone sees at first glance,” says Pascal. “It’s a character study,
and no one does it better than Aaron.”

Bloom’s fantastic sense of humor and sky-high IQ also impressed Sorkin, but mostly, he says, “I found Molly Bloom to be a truly unique movie heroine.” He laughs at the thought that he wanted his daughter to meet “someone who has pled guilty to a federal crime.”

But as Sorkin listened to Bloom, he thought she represented an extraordinary role model for young women.

Over the next two years, Sorkin heard more of the stories that Bloom had excluded from the book, and then he spent roughly a year writing the screenplay. He wove in the narrative background, broke away from a linear chronological structure, and refocused Molly’s story in his script. The movie includes material from the book, which is incorporated as a character of sorts, but stands as its own story.

And while Molly’s Game is biographical, Sorkin was careful to fictionalize the secondary characters.

“It’s always been important to me that nobody be inclined to play a detective game with the movie and try to figure out which character is supposed to be which real-life personality. So everyone is a compilation.”

aaron-sorkin-molly-s-game-is-not-a-poker-movie

Academy-Award® winning writer and renowned playwright Aaron Sorkin graduated from Syracuse University with a B.F.A. in Theatre. He made his Broadway playwriting debut at the age of 28 with the military courtroom drama A Few Good Men, for which he received the John Gassner Award as “Outstanding New American Playwright.” The following year saw the debut of his off-Broadway play Making Movies, and in 2007 he returned to Broadway with The Farnsworth Invention, directed by Des McAnuff.

In 1993, Mr. Sorkin’s film adaptation of A Few Good Men was nominated for four Academy Awards. He followed this success with the screenplays for Malice, The American President, and Charlie Wilson’s War.

In 2011, Mr. Sorkin won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for The Social Network. In addition, he also won the Writers Guild Award and the USC Scripter Award.

In 2012, Mr. Sorkin adapted Moneyball along with Steve Zaillian and story by Stan Chervin, and wrote the feature film Steve Jobs, based on the Walter Isaacson biography of the late Apple co-founder.

For television, Mr. Sorkin created and produced the NBC series “The West Wing,” which earned nine Emmy® nominations in its first season and the series went on to win a total of 26 Emmy® Awards, including the prize for “Outstanding Drama Series” four consecutive times.  He also produced and wrote the television series “Sports Night” for ABC, which won the Humanitas Prize, the Television Critics Association Award, and garnered eight Emmy® nominations.

Additionally, Mr. Sorkin created the series “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” In 2012, Sorkin made his return to television with the HBO drama “The Newsroom,” bringing in an average of 7 million viewers per episode.

In addition to Molly’s Game, Sorkin is currently in various stages of production on two exciting and notable projects, To Kill a Mockingbird for Broadway and the NBC live presentation of “A Few Good Men.”

In February 2016, it was announced that he will be writing a stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s iconic American novel To Kill a Mockingbird, set to show during the 2017-2018 season, with Scott Rudin producing. The production will be staged by Tony-nominated director Bartlett Sher.

Aaron-Sorkin

Sorkin’s Directorial Debut

As a playwright and screenwriter, Sorkin has always enjoyed being close to what he writes throughout the process, including as showrunner on “The West Wing,” So, “When I sat down to write Molly’s Game,  directing it was the last thing on my mind,” Sorkin
reflects, adding, “It is the most visual thing that I’ve written, and that’s not my comfort zone.” But he says he started leaning toward taking on the challenge of directing because he “was having a lot of difficulty describing what was in my head to the studio, to the
producers, to friends, even to Bloom. I was starting every conversation by saying ‘This isn’t the movie you think it’s going to be.’ But then I couldn’t describe what it was going to be, even though I was seeing it so clearly in my head.”

The producers knew immediately that Sorkin was the perfect person to direct Molly’s Game. Gordon recalls, “He was so engaged with the project, like in everything he does, and it really felt like he was ready to direct.”

Adds producer Matt Jackson, “It was so personal to Aaron. The idea that it’s a story about a woman competing in an all-male world was something that spoke to him.”

As much as Sorkin as a director and writer wanted to focus on the underlying emotion in Bloom’s story, he knew that above all else, the poker scenes had to feel as real as possible. “I did a lot of research on poker to make sure that the details are right,” he says.

“We have terrific professional players as consultants at every step. Our dealers are professional dealers. Even the extras playing in the games are professional poker players. You do not have to be a poker fan to enjoy the movie, but poker fans will appreciate its authenticity.” Through tactile poker scenes, we see Molly as a character learning—but not playing—the game and honing her ability to manage people.

In addition to surrounding himself with talent behind the camera, Sorkin was able to attract an all-star cast that includes Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffey, and Kevin Costner as Molly’s father.

MOLLY3

Says Chastain, “It’s wonderful working with a director who’s both a writer and director because it really is their vision of the story. Aaron’s been friends with Molly for a long time, he knows her very well and he’s very protective of her story. And I’m not sure that he actually would have ever felt comfortable handing the screenplay over to another director. I can’t imagine anyone else directing the story.”

Chastain says seeing Aaron Sorkin’s name on the screenplay was a big draw for her. “He’s one of our greatest writers, if not the greatest writer in the American film industry,” she says, adding, “I loved Molly’s humor, I loved her intelligence, I loved the underdog story—a woman becoming successful in an industry that is filled with men. And I liked the real Molly Bloom.”

Says Elba of working with Sorkin, “I’ve always been a huge fan of Aaron’s writing, both his TV work on shows like The West Wing and then of course the incredible films he’s written from A Few Good Men to The Social Network to Moneyball, Jobs—he is truly one of the most prolific and distinguished, if not the most distinguished, writer of our time. So I really leapt at the chance to work with him, and then to have this be his directorial debut and be a part of that process was a remarkable opportunity. It was such a fascinating experience to work with Aaron—he has such a distinct voice and evolved point of view, and really gives you the space as an actor to find your voice in inhabiting the characters that he writes.”

Because he was a first-time feature film director, Sorkin knew that putting together the right crew would be key to his success. “Movies are made by a couple of hundred people,” he says, “and if you’re a first time director, nothing is more important than those people being the best couple of hundred people that you can get your hands on.”

Sorkin credits his collaborators on Molly’s Game as “nothing less than co-authors of the film.”

As a writer, Sorkin admits his work “has been wall-to-wall language,” so he relished the opportunity to explore the visual challenge of Molly’s Game. “What do you look at when Molly in voice over is telling us exactly what she’s thinking and feeling? What do you point the camera at when she’s already describing what we’re looking at?”

The one with the answers to those questions was cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Fences, Girl on the Train). When Sorkin met with her, Christensen had read the script and talked insightfully about how things should work. “It was like she was reading my mind, but putting it into literal film terms that could be articulated to a camera operator,” Sorkin explains. “I loved everything she was saying, and I don’t see how I could have made the movie without Charlotte. We made it together.”

Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Christensen understood Sorkin’s vision for the film from the beginning. “Poker is the setting, but we want a portrait of Molly Bloom,” Christensen says. “It’s about her capacity and her intellect and her ambition. It’s a big job to make a character real and alive, and I feel that passion in Jessica’s work.”

 

 

TOP FILMS

Films are there for escapism and entertainment, but need to offer more than provide big screen spectacle!

TOP FILMS OF 2015 / TOP FILMS OF 2016 / UPCOMING FILMS IN 2018

Films released in South Africa in 2017 that had a lasting impact were stories that challenged conventions and dared to be different, turned genre inside out and allowed us to experience humanity from the point of view of its vibrant characters that shared their diverse cultural experiences and made us look at the world differently.

2017 was a good year for cinephiles, and offered 45 diverse films that had an impact and made a difference.

These films definitely provoked the imagination and showed how extraordinary things happen out out ordinary experiences.

Here’s Daniel Dercksen‘s Top Films of 2017, listed alphabetically (click on title to read more about the film)

2.222.22 US based Australian director and producer Paul Currie’s first encounter with the bewitching riddle of 2:22 came in the form of a bold, visionary script written by Todd Stein. A New York City air traffic controller Dylan Branson (Michiel Huisman) is the embodiment of a guy at the top of his game, until one day at 2:22pm, a blinding flash of light paralyzes him for a few crucial seconds as two passenger planes barely avoid a mid-air collision. Suspended from his job, Dylan begins to notice the increasingly ominous repetition of sounds and events in his life that happen at exactly the same time every day.

GHOST WEBA GHOST STORY This mind blowing Independent film from Pete’s Dragon filmmaker David Lowery explored the realm of a passionate young couple, unexpectedly separated by a shocking loss, discovering an eternal connection and a love that is infinite. The film concerns the passage of time via a couple and their house when tragedy strikes and the man appears in his old home as a ghost in a thick bed sheet with vacant eyes. He observes his wife’s depression from his demise, various new occupants, and glimpses both the future and the past of his surroundings.

A-MONSTER-CALLS-01A MONSTER CALLS Directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage), A Monster Calls is a visually spectacular and stunningly emotional drama based on the award-winning novel. The screenplay adaptation is by the book’s author, Patrick Ness, who wrote the novel from an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd. 12-year-old Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is about to escape into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales. He unexpectedly summons a most unlikely ally, who bursts forth with terrifying grandeur from an ancient towering yew tree and the powerful earth below it: a 40-foot-high colossus of a creature.

Alien Covenant 3ALIEN: COVENANT In space, no one can hear you scream. After nearly four decades, those words remain synonymous with the sheer, relentless intensity of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of futuristic horror, Alien.Now, the father of the iconic franchise returns once more to the world he created to explore its darkest corners with Alien: Covenant, a pulse-pounding new adventure, set ten years after the events depicted in Scott’s 2012 hit Prometheus, relentlessly returning to the roots of the director’s groundbreaking saga with a uniquely terrifying tale filled with white-knuckle adventure and monstrous new creatures.With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , the visionary director edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

alliedALLIED From Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis, the innovative director behind Forrest Gump, Cast Away and Flight, comes at once a mesmerizing espionage thriller, sweeping war drama and passionate romance between two assassins who may be fated soulmates or deadly enemies – or both. In a sumptuous, visually evocative production that roams from Casablanca to London’s Blitz days to German-occupied France, Zemeckis creates the kind of grand tale that flourished in Golden Hollywood – full of mystery, thrills and romantic heat – yet told with all the richly immersive power of 21st Century cinema.

american_pastoralAMERICAN PASTORAL Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut and stars in the outstanding adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Roth’s novel, following an all American family across several decades, as their idyllic existence is shattered by social and political turmoil that will change the fabric of American culture forever.

 

 

babydriver-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqeo_i_u9APj8RuoebjoAHt0k9u7HhRJvuo-ZLenGRumABABY DRIVER With its mixture of mph and music, the newest explosion of genre-crossing excitement from writer-director Edgar Wright, delivers an emotionally charged action thriller unlike any other. Full of reversals, rewinds, fast forwards and heart-stopping skips, and inspired by the types of crime-and-chase movies that have thrilled moviegoers since Steve McQueen in a revved-up Mustang changed car pursuits forever, Baby Driver is a game-changing, lane-changing, hard-charging blast only Wright could have dreamed up.

 

beauty-and-the-beast-3BEAUTY AND THE BEAST The live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.

 

 

BILLYBILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK Ang Lee redefines what is possible in filmmaking and storytelling with the goal of further engaging the audience in an advanced cinematic experience. Based on the acclaimed bestselling novel by Ben Fountain, is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through flashbacks, culminating at the spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals what really happened to the squad – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s perceptions.

Blade RunnerBLADE RUNNER 2049 Three decades after Ridley Scott’s cult sensation Blade Runner changed the face of cinema, the much-anticipated follow-up challenges our notions of who we are…and where we are headed.

 

 

 

Brimstone-2016-trailerBRIMSTONE A triumphant epic of survival set in the searing wilds of the Badlands, the menacing inferno of the old American West. A tale of powerful womanhood and resistance against the unforgiving. cruelty of a hell on earth. Our heroine is Liz, carved from the beautiful wilderness, full of heart and grit, hunted by a vengeful Preacher – a diabolical zealot and her twisted nemesis. But Liz is a genuine survivor; she’s no victim – a woman of fearsome strength who responds with astonishing bravery to claim the better life she and her daughter deserve. Fear not. Retribution is coming.

REBELLIE 2DIE REBELLIE VAN LAFRAS VERWEY Iconic dramatist Chris Barnard’s classic radio drama and stage production, Die Rebellie Van Lafras Verwey, is brought to life on the big screen by his wife, acclaimed actress and director, Katinka Heyns, as producer, with direction by their son Simon Barnard, an up-and-coming film maker who makes his debut as director of a full-length feature film with this compelling story. This tragicomedy is based on a 1971 drama – a combined effort written and adapted into a contemporary script by the late writer and his son, Simon Barnard. It tells the story of Lafras Verwey (Tobie Cronje) an outcast who could never accept the realities of life. Although he is a government official, he hears the sound of otherworldly music playing in his ears and dreams of a wonderful future.

dont-breatheDON’T BREATHE During a time where housebreaking has become an everyday occurrence, this superb twisted psychological thriller is guaranteed to curb crime and stop criminals dead in their tracks. In this shocking and enthralling thriller, writer-director Fede Alvarez goes for the jugular with an unapologetically brutal and twisted horror-thriller that pits a trio of thieves against an unexpectedly dangerous adversary.

 

 

DunkirkDUNKIRK Visionary storyteller and storymaker Christopher Nolan has taken audiences from the streets of Gotham City, to the infinite world of dreams, to the farthest reaches of space. Now, for the first time, the innovative director/writer/producer has turned his camera to a real-life event, one that has resonated with him throughout his life: the miracle of Dunkirk.

 

 

GIFTEDGIFTED During the past 25 years screenwriter Tom Flynn has been selling spec scripts to studios in Hollywood, only seeing Watch It made (which he also directed). Now, with the success of Gifted, a story inspired by his one-eyed cat Fred, and his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met,’ Flynn is back to writing full time… this time getting his movies made. In Gifted, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida.  But Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven-year-old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan)—a wealthy Bostonian whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Mary and Frank.

GREATEST SHOWMAN 2THE GREATEST SHOWMAN An absolutely sensational musical, filled with drama, spectacle and some great original songs by Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land) . If you love musicals and loved films like Moulin Rouge, you should definitely not miss it under any circumstances. It’s really Fantastic! Australian filmmaker Michael Gracey makes his feature film directorial debut and has an incredible flair and visual interpretation of the genre.Inspired by the legend and ambitions of America’s original pop-culture impresario, P.T. Barnum, comes The Greatest Showman, an inspirational rags-to-riches tale of a brash dreamer who rose from nothing to prove that anything you can envision is possible and that everyone, no matter how invisible, has a stupendous story worthy of a world-class spectacle.

hacksaw-4HACKSAW RIDGE Desmond Doss was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, where he saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun as he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong. As an army medic, he single-handedly evacuated the wounded from behind enemy lines, braved fire while tending to soldiers and was wounded by a grenade and hit by snipers. Doss was the first conscientious objector awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

hidden-figuresHIDDEN FIGURES Everyone knows about the Apollo missions.  We can all immediately list the bold male astronauts who took those first giant steps for humankind in space:  John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong.  Yet, remarkably, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson’s are names not taught in school or even known to most people — even though their daring, smarts and powerful roles as NASA’s ingenious “human computers” were indispensable to advances that allowed for human space flight. Director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) brings the women’s rise to the top ranks of aerospace in the thrilling early days of NASA to life via a fast-moving, humor-filled, inspiring entertainment that illuminates both the gutsy quest for Earth’s first, seemingly impossible orbital flight and also the powerful things that can result when women unite. For all its joys and triumphs, Hidden Figures is also a film that takes place at the crossroads of the most defining struggles in American history:  the evolving fight for Civil Rights; the battle to win the high-stakes Cold War without risking nuclear war and be the first superpower to establish a human presence outside planet Earth; and the ongoing drive to show how the mind-boggling technological breakthroughs that create the world’s future have nothing to do with gender or background.

indubiousbattle_04IN DUBIOUS BATTLE A drama based on the first major work of Pulitzer Prizewinning author, John Steinbeck, adapted by Matt Rager and directed by James Franco. In the California apple country nine hundred migratory workers rise up against the landowners after getting paid a faction of the wages they were promised. The group takes on a life of its own—stronger than its individual members and more frightening. Led by the doomed Jim Nolan, the strike is founded on his tragic idealism—on the “courage never to submit or yield.”

 

jackie-1JACKIE Jackie Kennedy led a multi-faceted life of power and influence, but when it came to writing about her, screenwriter and journalist Noah Oppenheim came to feel there was one story that spoke to her psyche in the most compelling way – the very brief but remarkably consequential days that the First Lady spent nearly alone in the White House following her husband’s death.

 

 

Johnny 1JOHNNY IS NIE DOOD NIE Writer-director Christiaan Olwagen delivers a refreshing South African film that is as radical as the Voëlvry music movement that rebelled against the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government and changed the hearts of a generation of South Africans who wanted to break free from oppressive separatism.

 

 

KERSFEESVADERLIEWE KERSFEESVADER Wishes rekindle shattered dreams in Etienne Fourie’s soulful and heartfelt Liewe Kersfeesvader, an emotionally filled journey into the lives of ordinary people and a down-to-earth Father Christmas. Scripted by Fourie, it’s a story we all can relate to, and one that will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to make sense of the world they live in, or the family that rule their life. A young beauty queen is flung into swift adulthood when her father assumes a new identity: Father Christmas. Juggling an unhinged father, an impressionable kid brother and a growing romance, Nonnie must redefine her own meaning of family.

LIFELIFE Following the cult-hits Zombieland and Deadpool, screenwriting-partners Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick turn science-fiction into science-fact in this terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that could have caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

 

 

lionLION The incredible true story of Indian-born Australian Saroo Brierley and his unwavering determination to find his lost family and finally return to his first home is now realised in all its splendour on the big screen in Lion.

 

 

loganLOGAN From visionary writer-director James Mangold comes the defining chapter in the cinematic saga of one of the greatest comic book heroes ever created. Hugh Jackman is superb in his iconic role as The Wolverine for one, final time in a raw, powerfully dramatic standalone story of sacrifice and redemption.

 

 

manchester-by-the-sea-2MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  “You never know why you write about the things you end up writing about,” says writer-director Kenneth Lonergan  “I suspect that the impetus to create anything is too specifically rooted in the artists’ personal psychology to be of much interest to anybody else, but you hope the results will be. My favorite part of filmmaking is the process whereby a story initially developed in the privacy of your own imagination becomes the emotional property of other people.”  This heartbreaking story tells of the Chandler family, a working class family from Massachusetts. After Lee’s (Casey Affleck) older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) suddenly passes away, he is made the legal guardian of his nephew (Lucas Hedges). Lee is forced to deal with a tragic past that separated him from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the community where he was born and raised.

MaudiePanel (1)MAUDIE Based on a true story, the outstanding independent film Maudie charts the unlikely romance between Maud Lewis, a folk artist who blossoms in later life, and the curmudgeonly recluse, Everett. It is a truly exceptional and rewarding film about the ultimate power of love, loving who you are, loving those who do not understand the meaning of true love, and being  loved for what you give to others unconditionally. It is said that ‘’ýou can never be alone if you love the person you are alone with,’’ and if this true, Maudie shows how Maud was happy being alone, despite her illness and was content with herself and where she managed to make a home for herself; she was equally pleased when she found love in the most unexpected circumstances and she embraced it with all the love in her heart.

miss-sloaneMISS SLOANE Jonathan Perera’s screenplay took filmmaker John Madden by surprise with its richly detailed portrait of an industry that remains shrouded in mystery. “While having a sense of the job description, I didn’t know exactly what a lobbyist did, which I imagine is true of a lot of people,” says Madden, acclaimed director of such diverse films as Mrs. Brown, The Debt and Academy Award winner Shakespeare in Love.

 

 

MoonlightMOONLIGHT  A commanding gay, Black coming-of-age drama that speaks to everyone.  from writer-director Barry Jenkins that takes you on an emotional journey into the heart and soul of humanity and will live in your heart forever. It won 3 Oscars in 2017 for Best Film, the screenplay adaptation by Jenkins and Taryn Alvin McCraney, based on McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,  and supporting actor for Mahershala Ali. An unforgettable and not-to-be missed drama at the intersection of race, sexuality, masculinity, identity, family, and love, it features a trio of gifted actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) inhabiting a single character during three phases of his life, it tells the story of one young man’s coming of age in a tough Miami neighborhood. As Chiron grows from an uncertain and tentative boy into a bullied teenager grappling with his sexuality and finally into a grown man, Jenkins skillfully shows through three distinct chapters a life in full, revealing how the powerful moments in each of our lives coalesce to shape our identities and define our fates.

MOTHER MASTER 2MOTHER! The mind-bending relationship thriller Mother! began when Writer / Director Darren Aronofsky spent five fevered days at his keyboard alone in an empty house.  He knows he might be pressed about the result – Why such a dark vision? His answer? Look around: In 5 days, he was holding a rough draft of mother! in his hands. “Within a year we were rolling cameras.” Two years after that long weekend, Aronofsky’s film was headed for its world premiere at the 74th Venice International Film Festival

 

RACHEL 2MY COUSIN RACHEL Steeped in a wonderfully powerful atmosphere of desire and suspicion, this luscious adaptation of  Daphne du Maurier’s novel tells the story of a rather naive young bachelor struggling to determine if his deceased guardian’s charming widow is either the woman of his dreams… or a cold-blooded killer and inheritance-chasing gold-digger. Key to South African-born director Roger Michell’s adaptation is his decision to fully embrace the novel’s thrilling ambiguity, the spell of which du Maurier never breaks.  The story is the search for the truth, a search that delightfully torments the reader, torments Philip … and still continues to haunt the film’s final moments.

NocturnalNOCTURNAL ANIMALS Boldly exploring the psychological and emotional sea changes of men and women living – or trying to live –their own truths, this captivating thriller is the second film from extraordinary visionary, writer/director Tom Ford, following the acclaimed and award-winning A Single Man (2009). “Nocturnal Animals is a cautionary tale about coming to terms with the choices that we make as we move through life and of the consequences that our decisions may have. In an increasingly disposable culture where everything including our relationships can be so easily tossed away, this is a story of loyalty, dedication and of love. It is a story of the isolation that we all feel, and of the importance of valuing the personal connections in life that sustain us.”

NUL IS NIE NIKS NIE Daniah de Villiers, Pieter Louw en Jaden van der MerweNUL IS NIE NIKS NIE Director Morné du Toit’s poignant South African film is an inspiring, heart-warming story about life, death and the continued hope that can be found somewhere between the two. The film tells the story of three friends (Hoender, Drikus and Chris) who set out to make Drikus’ last wish come true – to make a zombie movie. During their filmmaking process Hoender starts to deal with the loss of his father, he makes new friends, works on his self-confidence and realises that he has a lot to offer. Drikus’ love of life and determination brings the surrounding lifeless community together and gives them a new lease on life.

passengersPASSENGERS An exciting action-thriller about two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early.“It’s about characters who face extreme situations and have to make extreme choices, and I always find that fascinating – what would you have done?” says Morten Tyldum, who directs the film, his first following his Oscar nominated triumph with the hit The Imitation Game. Against the story of high stakes action, the filmmakers set a sensitive story of two passengers who find each other in this moment of peril.

patriots-dayPATRIOT’S DAY From acclaimed director Peter Berg (“Deepwater Horizon,” “Lone Survivor”) and Academy Award® nominee Mark Wahlberg (“The Departed,” “Lone Survivor”), CBS Films and Lionsgate present “Patriots Day.” Based on true events, “Patriots Day” is a powerful story of a community’s extraordinary courage in the face of adversity. An account of the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing, the tensionpacked dramatic thriller chronicles in detail one of the most sophisticated and well-coordinated manhunts in law enforcement history. The events may have unfolded in Boston, but the bombing and the city’s determined response impacted the world.

REBEL MASTERREBEL IN THE RYE The world of legendary writer J. D. Salinger is brought vividly to life in this revealing look at the experiences that shaped one of the most renowned, controversial, and enigmatic authors of our time. It took us into the world of being a writer in the tradition of other great films that explored the psyche of writers, like Genius (2016) from Academy Award-nominated screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo, Skyfall) and acclaimed, Tony Award-winning director Michael Grandage (former artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse), a stirring drama about the complex friendship and transformative professional relationship between the world-renowned book editor Maxwell Perkins (who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway) and the larger-than-life literary giant Thomas Wolfe, and The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge,  Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol, showing how Charles Dickens mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

RULES DONT APPLY 2RULES DON’T APPLY Set in 1950s Hollywood, Rules Don’t Apply is an unconventional comedy that offers a window into the often surreal realm of Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code. It was written, directed, and produced by Warren Beatty, who also stars as Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

SilenceSILENCE  This astounding masterpiece celebrates the 26-year-journey from page to screen for writer-director Martin Scorsese.  This adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s historical novel tells the story of two 17th century Portuguese missionaries who undertake a perilous journey to Japan to search for their missing mentor, Father Christavao Ferreira, and to spread the gospel of Christianity, and is based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 award-winning novel, examining the spiritual and religious question of God’s silence in the face of human suffering.

 

SingSING! A fantastic story about a singing competition set in a world populated entirely by animals. Illumination has captivated audiences all over the world with the beloved hits Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, now the second-highest-grossing animated movie in history. Following the release of this summer’s comedy blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets, Illumination brings Sing to the big screen.With its highly relatable characters, heart and humor, the first collaboration between writer/director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Illumination founder and Ceo Chris Meledandri marks the sixth fully animated feature from the studio.

SpidermanSPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING For producer and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, bringing the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in an original way that film audiences have never seen before was a top priority.  “Over the past 15 years, we have built the Marvel Cinematic Universe with so many characters and movies, and now we have the opportunity to introduce Peter Parker and the Spider-Man franchise into that universe for the first time,” says Feige.  “It’s exciting because that’s how he truly was in the comics, from the very beginning – he didn’t enter the comics as the only hero; he entered a world in which Tony Stark, Captain America and the Avengers all were there. And now, for the first time, we get that in an entire film, which makes it fresh and new.”

swiss4SWISS ARMY MAN The brilliantly bizarre new movie from first-time feature directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert will break your heart and most definitely change your perceptions in the human condition.If there’s one reason to see this unique film, it’s for the outstanding performances by Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano; there are moments of sheer brilliance and has an emotional truth that will resonate well with anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, or found love in unexpected ways.This is black humour at its darkest and most profound.  It a delightfully daring film that dares to break conventions and takes storytelling to its utmost extreme!

their-finest-hourTHEIR FINEST HOUR Though long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009, Lissa Evans’ novel Their Finest Hour and a Half went under the radar somewhat, it inspired powerhouse producers Amanda Posey and Stephen Woolley to bring it to the Big Screen seven years later.  In the midst of the devastating Second World War, with increasing numbers of men drafted to fight for their lives on the frontline, bombs continued to drop relentlessly on London. Those left behind, made up predominantly of women, children and the elderly, were in need of something uplifting they could relate to. As a result movies became a crucial outlet to help raise the spirits of the nation during this bleak time. Going to the pictures gave an opportunity to reach out to the community and to provide hope and optimism, but audiences demanded realism.It is through the power of film that a yioung woman’s eyes are opened to who she truly is and the possibility of starting a new life.

This beautful fantasticTHIS BEAUTIFUL FANTASTIC The emotional truth British writer-director Sam Aboud forms with his utterly charming contemporary fairy tale tells the alluring story of the unlikely bond between a reclusive, agoraphobic young woman and a cantankerous old widower. It’s a sentimental and life-affirming film about hopeful dreams, lost love and newfound friendships, showing how rewarding it is escape from the prisons of privacy we create for ourselves, and welcome other people into our lives to awaken our humanity. At the heart of this story lies Bella’s neglected garden, and when she is forced to bring the garden back to life or face eviction, a magical friendship blossoms as Alfie teaches Bella about life and love through the metaphor of gardening and Bella reminds Alfie of what it feels like to be alive.

TULIP 5TULIP FEVER Fifteen years after Producer Alison Owen bought the rights to Deborah Moggach’s novel and sending the option to A-list producers, her tenacity and vision paid off and the film went into production in May 2014 under direction of Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), from a screenplay by Sir Tom Stoppard (Anna Karrenina, Shakespeare in Love, Empire Of The Sun), and the thrilling romance can now be experienced on the Big Screen. In 17th Century Amsterdam, an orphaned girl (Alicia Vikander) is forcibly married to a rich and powerful merchant (Christoph Waltz) – an unhappy “arrangement” that saves her from poverty. After her husband commissions a portrait, she begins a passionate affair with the painter (Dane DeHaan), a struggling young artist. Seeking to escape the merchant’s ever-reaching grasp, the lovers risk everything and enter the frenzied tulip bulb market, with the hope that the right bulb will make a fortune and buy their freedom.

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-2880x1800-2017-hd-7554WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES The Art of filmmaking and the craft of storytelling are showcased in this consummate masterwork, unleashing  rapidly evolving simians into a world boiling over with divisions and rage as the ape vs. human battle for control of the world careens towards the ultimate winner-takes-all decision.It is directed and written by Matt Reeves, whose Dawn of the Planet of the Apes grossed $700m at the worldwide box office – he gained feature film prominence when he helmed the much lauded science fiction-horror hit Cloverfield (2008), and wrote and directed Let Me In (2010), a remake of the Swedish horror film acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. – from a screenplay he co-wrote with Mark Bomback, who wrote screenplays for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Insurgent, The Wolverine, Total Recall, Unstoppable, Live Free or Die Hard, Deception, Race to Witch Mountain and Godsend. Read review

the-zookeepers-wifeTHE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) brough us this exceptional film from a screenplay by Angela Workman, adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name which was based on Antonina’s diaries.The time is 1939. The place is Poland, homeland of Antonina (portrayed by Ms. Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh, of The Broken Circle Breakdown). Devoted to each other, the couple thrive as personal and professional partners; the Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. With reserves of energy, Antonina rises every day to tend to both her family and their menagerie, as the gates to the majestic zoo open in welcome……until the entrance is slammed shut and the zoo is crippled in an attack as the entire country is invaded by the Germans. Stunned, the couple is forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Golden Globe Award nominee Daniel Brühl of Captain America: Civil War). Heck envisions a new, selective breeding program for the zoo.

TOP FILMS OF 2015 TOP FILMS OF 2016 / UPCOMING FILMS IN 2018

 

THANK YOU

“They carried me across their war, reliving every lacerating memory that still echoed inside them.  In doing so they empowered me to paint a personal picture of their sacrifice, in hopes that it may lead to a deeper understanding of the unthinkable sacrifice that all our veterans have made in the service of this country.” Writer-director Jason Hall.

Based in part on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel’s book of the same name, Thank You for Your Service follows a group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq who struggle to integrate back into family and civilian life, while living with the memory of a war that threatens to destroy them long after they’ve left the battlefield.

“The story was about stepping into the boots of a returning warrior.  Being able to explore that from within the home was fascinating to me,” says Jason Hall—Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of American Sniper— who makes his directorial debut with Thank You for Your Service and also serves as its screenwriter, and spent two years adapting the multi-storied work into a screenplay.

“We’ve been accepting these soldiers home since as long as we’ve been an empire, but we have so far to go in understanding what they’ve been through—and learning how to embrace and create space for the changes that have occurred within them.  That’s the challenge for any family welcoming a soldier home.”

For Sergeant Adam Schumann (Miles Teller, Whiplash)—and many soldiers like him—the process of leaving combat back in Iraq was as seemingly simple as getting on that plane.  But standing on the tarmac again in the arms of loved ones would turn out to be merely a first step in the long and exacting journey of actually returning home.

 

David Finkel

David Finkel

It was during journalist David Finkel’s eight-month tenure embedded with the soldiers of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion that he met the man who would largely serve as the bridge between his account of “over there” (detailed in “The Good Soldiers”) and “coming home” (“Thank You for Your Service”).  Ten years later, the memory is still vivid.

The author recounts, “One day, during a quiet period, I was asking around: ‘Who’s a great soldier?  Who do I need to meet?’  Somebody said, ‘You’ve got to meet this guy Schumann; he’s our best.’  A couple of weeks went by before I had the chance to introduce myself—and this great soldier was a rather thin, gaunt, haunted-looking man, sitting alone on his bed.  It turned out that the great Schumann—after two-and-a-half tours in Iraq, after 1,000 days in combat—had reached his breaking point.  He simply couldn’t be in the war anymore, and he was leaving that day…and that’s when I got to know Adam.”

When it came time for Finkel’s second book, “It was a very easy call to build the book around Adam and his attempts to recover.  The truth of war turns out to be that you’re in it for the guy next to you.  The truth of the after-war is that you’re pretty much on your own.  Recovering is a lonesome business, whether you’re truly alone or you’re with a family.  It’s a long, hard, unspooling road and with the example of Adam Schumann, you can see how long the road is and what it’s like to travel it.”

Finkel is quick to point out that the journey undertaken by Schumann and others like him is not trod by every returning soldier—but, since 9/11, about two-and-one-half million Americans have entered military service and of the two million who have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both, “roughly 500,000 have returned with some level of psychological wound.  They now get to spend years, if not the rest of their lives, trying to outrun and recover from the invisible wounds of war.  That’s a lot of people—it shouldn’t be ignored, and neither should these people be pitied.  Attention should be paid and effort spent to understand.”

For Finkel, who continued to follow Schumann and others engaged in the after-war, it became about the resilience of these men and women, struggling to endure.  He notes, “The closer you look at the lives of the soldiers in this battalion who fought at that time, resilience comes with complications.  Life is a day-to-day act of willing yourself into the next phase of what comes once you’ve come home from war.”

Finkel’s second book was enthusiastically received by critics (with NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Economist and others naming it a Best Book of the Year) and readers, among them, filmmaker Jason Hall.  While in early collaboration on the feature American Sniper, Steven Spielberg had handed a copy to Hall, who says, “I found it so interesting because it’s about everyday heroes.  It’s about our grunts—the blue-collar warriors who are coming home and assuming the role of husbands and fathers and brothers.  It’s challenging to step off an airplane and immediately step into that role, with a lack of understanding from the general public—and even their families—on what they’ve been asked to do over there.  We thank them for their service but we don’t really know what we’re thanking them for.

David Finkel  is a journalist and author who writes about war and conflict.  Among his honors are a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2006 and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2012. An editor and writer for The Washington Post, he has reported from Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe and across the United States, and has covered wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.  He is a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities, was a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2008, and was a senior writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security in 2011.

 

THANK YOU 2

Hall spent two years adapting the multi-storied work into a screenplay.

Finkel remarks, “It was strange at first, because the work I’ve done is reporting.  It’s journalism—I wrote a book about what happened, but that book doesn’t necessarily lend itself to becoming a movie.  Watching Jason take the work I did and refashion it into this film has been fascinating.  It is true to the intent of my work, and he did a great job.”

Hall approached the script with his own set of objectives:  “David wrote what seemed like a poetic work of journalism—he followed these guys around for 18 months, lived with them in their homes and recorded their most private moments.  My goal was to accomplish the same thing cinematically—to cut as close to the bone as we could and take a peek inside these lives.  I wanted to give the audience a raw look at a world they haven’t seen before.  Cinema has the ability to create understanding and bridge empathetic gaps in a way that no other medium can.”

As he traversed the largely psychological terrain of these men’s stories and translated that onto the screen, Hall was also confronted with a distinct set of challenges: “The after-war is the war these soldiers bring home in their heads and their hearts.  They walk away from the battlefield and leave it behind—but it doesn’t always leave them.  These memories, images and instances of trauma have been recorded and built up over the course of a war, and they echo around inside of them like sharp objects.  The challenge was to dramatize that and to create this war back home that’s going on inside while they struggle to find their way back to themselves.”

Producer Jon Kilik, who has collaborated with filmmaker Spike Lee from his days on Do the Right Thing to 2015’s Chi-Raq—as well as shepherded The Hunger Games franchise since its inception—has long been fascinated by stories of untold (and unassuming) heroes.

THANK

The producer was likewise moved by Finkel’s book, which he read shortly after its publication, even looking into acquiring the rights (nabbed by DreamWorks).  The same time that Hall was busy promoting American Sniper, Kilik was likewise involved on his latest, the moving sports drama Foxcatcher (which went on to net five Oscar® nominations).  Although the two were in each other’s orbit, they wouldn’t connect right away.  “And I’d heard a lot about him—that he and Spielberg were developing Thank You for Your Service—but we weren’t able to meet,” says Kilik.

Nearly a year later, in summer 2015, Kilik received a call from Hall, upon recommendation from Hall’s agent.  The now screenwriter and first-time director was searching for a producing partner.  Kilik remembers, “At the time, I had no intention of taking on anything new…but what sometimes happens is that a story comes along that is so strong and special.  Getting to know Jason, and where his research had taken him, excited me, as did his passion as a first-time director.  The story has everything—heroism on and off the battlefield, commitment, real people, coming home…”

The producer continues, “I try to make a career of telling stories about people that need a voice, a light shone on them..  As a filmmaker, it’s the only way I know how to improve or bring attention to a situation.  By calling this the after-war, it’s a bit of a call to arms for us to understand the gravity of this, how important it is—for us to be there, a part of their return.  They are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and that deserves us holding up our part of the bargain.”

Filmmakers were in agreement on the transition from book to screen being governed by the production’s unofficial watch word—authenticity.  Kilik says, “In taking this book to screen, there were the usual practices of restructuring, compression of time and sometimes, of characters.  We took great care, because these are people’s lives, and there was tragedy that came along with it—we had to treat everything with the utmost respect, always.  In the end, we are telling a story of incredible strength and courage.”

JASON HALL

Jason Hall during the filming of Thank Your For Your service

Director’s Note

Jason Hall is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker whose films seamlessly blend incisive social commentary with emphatically human stories, turning real people and challenging issues into gripping, entertaining cinema.

Hall is the product of a military family: His grandfather was a WWII vet, his uncle was a Marine in Vietnam and his half-brother was disabled in the Army during Desert Storm.  Having witnessed the effects of war on those who fight, he was inspired by the remarkable story of Chris Kyle.  After meeting Kyle and hearing his story firsthand, Hall was honored to be entrusted with authentically rendering his journey on screen. American Sniper, written and executive produced by Hall and directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in 2014 by Warner Bros. and earned six Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Hall.

Hall currently has several diverse projects in development, including Rasputin for Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way.

Born in Lake Arrowhead, California, Hall attended Phillips Exeter Academy and USC.  He began his career working as an actor before transitioning to filmmaking.  Additional screenplay credits include his debut feature Spread, which was produced by and starred Ashton Kutcher; and the thriller Paranoia, which starred Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman.

JASONWith the Army as his answer to a slew of college rejection letters, my older brother shipped off to the Middle East in 1991.  Our family huddled around the TV watching dust-clouded news feeds of U.S. forces as they drove Saddam out of Kuwait.  After a speedy victory, my brother came home with his arms and legs and sense of humor intact.  He told us war was boring and hotter than hell, but another story seemed to vibrate behind his pale eyes.  Ground combat lasted a mere 100 hours, but it had altered him.  Like my uncle who fought in Vietnam, and my grandfather who flew in WWII, my brother would never talk about it.  It became the unspoken space between us.

In 2013, I was introduced to “Thank You for Your Service” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel.  The book seemed to explore all that my brother had left unsaid.  It follows the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, home from Iraq, back to Topeka, Kansas—into what the author calls the “after-war.”  Exploring the trauma haunting our soldiers, the veteran suicide crisis and the bureaucratic nightmare otherwise known as the VA, the book was a sprawling, winding masterpiece.  Still, it needed a narrative structure, a heartbeat and a hero if it were ever to become a film.

We found our hero in Adam Schumann.  Like my brother, he came home changed.  The war still echoed through his existence, fracturing his identity and uprooting his future.  But in his struggle I found a tale of survival and hope.  That was the story I hoped to tell anyway.  At that time, I had just finished writing American Sniper and had watched Chris Kyle emerge from his own battles with PTSD only to be tragically murdered.  Adam’s story struck me as a way to continue the conversation, to transition from Achilles to Odysseus, and see a warrior home.

The men of the 2-16 didn’t come back to book deals or popular acclaim—they were normal grunts hoping to return to normal lives.  But for many of them that dream was gone.  Finkel earned their trust by following them into battle; I endeavored to do the same.  They carried me across their war, reliving every lacerating memory that still echoed inside them.  In doing so they empowered me to paint a personal picture of their sacrifice, in hopes that it may lead to a deeper understanding of the unthinkable sacrifice that all our veterans have made in the service of this country.

—Jason Hall

 

Jumanji

A comedy with plenty of kickass action

chris-vanallsburg

Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book Jumanji tells the bewitching tale of a magical board game that implements real animals and other jungle elements as the game is played. 15 years after the book was published Robin Williams starred in the film adaptation and claimed “jumanji” is a Zulu word meaning “many effects”.

In 2005, a similar film marketed as a spiritual sequel to Jumanji, titled Zathura: A Space Adventure, was released and was also adapted from a Van Allsburg book which was more directly connected to the Jumanji book.

Now, in a stand-alone sequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the tables are turned  as four unlikely friends are sucked into the world of Jumanji.  When they discover an old video game console with a game they’ve never heard of, they decide to play and are immediately thrust into the game’s jungle setting, in the bodies of their avatars, played by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan.  What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji – Jumanji plays you.  They’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, or they’ll be stuck in Jumanji forever…

It is directed by Jake Kasdan from a screenplay by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner.  The screen story is by Chris McKenna, based on the book Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

“The spirit of Jumanji flows through this continuation of the story,” says Dwayne Johnson. For the actor/executive producer and so many of his generation, the original Jumanji film captured a spirit of imagination that became the spine of the new film.  “We wanted to bring that spirit of wonderment, of overcoming fears and discovering who you are – it’s all woven through Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.  Every once in a while, a movie comes down the road that you just know in your gut, has a special quality to it.”

For Johnson, one of the keys to achieving that was to approach the new film as a continuation – another Jumanji adventure in the same universe as the first film.  “We all have tremendous love and reverence for the original movie – I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Williams and his performance and that movie meant a lot to me and my family at that time,” he says.  “So, while the jungle came into our world in the original Jumanji, we go into Jumanji in this film.”

Producer Matt Tolmach is also a longtime fan of the original film and of Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s fantasy book that inspired the franchise.  Upon looking at the 1995 feature with fresh eyes, he says, “I immediately felt there were more Jumanji stories to be told.  My first thought was, ‘What’s the next chapter in that story? What’s the next Jumanji adventure?’ It was a natural step to continue what began over 20 years ago.”

Tolmach and writer Chris McKenna saw a new direction for Jumanji: they would turn the concept on its head.  Rather than bringing the jungle into our world, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle would bring the players into the jungle – and not just that.  “The game evolves, from a board game to a video game – the game will do what it has to do to be played,” Tolmach explains.  “And video games are a perfect fit for the world of Jumanji: you get to leave your world behind as you become someone else – an adventurer, a doctor, a hero.  This would be a great way to explore classic timeless themes – being yourself and embracing who you are while also challenging yourself to do things you never thought were possible.  They have to go and be somebody that seems completely different from who they think they are – except maybe they’re not so different after all.  It’s not a coincidence that you became this character who is seemingly so different than you are – you just need to go on this journey to figure out what you are capable of.  You always had it inside you.”

In the film, four teenagers – Spencer, Bethany, Fridge and Martha – who seemingly could not be more different are mysteriously pulled into the world of Jumanji.  Very quickly, they realize that they will need to figure out how to work together in order to survive.  In their new personas, they are each uniquely qualified to do specific tasks – but all of them (well, most of them) are also uniquely hindered by weaknesses that will slow their progress.

jake-kasdan-1-sized

Jake Kasdan

“Our lead characters are actually teenagers who are played by adult actors,” says Jake Kasdan.  Tolmach had previously worked with Kasdan on several films and thought he’d be the perfect choice to direct.  “This is a time of self-discovery for them, but it plays out in this fantastical context.  So, as they are figuring out who they are in real life, they suddenly find themselves occupying other people’s bodies in this game – people who, on the surface, are nothing like them. I thought that was a really funny idea, but also really interesting. What would you discover about yourself, if you could spend a day in somebody else’s body?”

An archeologist and international explorer, Dr. Smolder Bravestone is the consummate action hero: fearless, faster than a speeding bullet, able to climb anything, exceptional skill with weapons – and he does it all with his trademark “smoldering intensity.”  His weaknesses? None.  Who does that sound like?  None other than Dwayne Johnson, who plays the role.

But inside Dr. Bravestone is Spencer, a neurotic gamer with a fragile constitution, portrayed by Alex Wolff.  Allergic and very nervous, Spencer is everything Dr. Bravestone is not… or so it seems.

Johnson relished the chance to play against type, a character completely unlike his persona as The Rock or any of the many action hero roles he has brought to life.  “Spencer is the most wonderful, insecure, lovable, allergic to everything, fun character I’ve ever played,” says Johnson.  “I’ve never had the opportunity to play a teenage boy.  He’s not a big physical guy, he’s just little Spencer who morphs into me.   I’m channeling this scared, little 16-year-old boy and it was a challenge.”

A challenge, because the whole movie hinges on audiences believing that Johnson is actually an anxious teenager.  But Johnson says that even though today he is a confident, grown man, that wasn’t always the case.  “Even when I was 16, I looked 46. I was six-foot-four and 245 pounds, and had a thick mustache – but whatever I looked like on the outside, on the inside I was still a teenager, trying to figure out who I was.  So, I held onto that spirit of being a teenager – I wanted to make sure that everyone watching this movie was thinking ‘That’s Spencer’ and not ‘That’s the Rock.’”

When Bethany (Madison Iseman), the school’s self-obsessed queen bee, is drawn into the game, she chooses to play a “curvy genius,” Dr. Shelly Oberon, who will help navigate Jumanji as an expert in cartography, archeology and paleontology.  Just one thing: Shelly is a nickname for Sheldon.  The image-conscious Bethany is suddenly, in her words, “an overweight middle-aged man” – that is, Jack Black.  (And Bethany is not surprised when Shelly’s weakness turns out to be endurance.)

For Black, the appeal of the role was twofold.  First, he would enjoy channeling his inner teenage girl – and to do it right, he made sure that he and the young woman with whom he shared the role were on the same page.  “In my mind, I know how to be a hot babe.  It’s in my toolbox,” says the comedian.  “But the teenage girl I know is circa 1980s, so before we started filming I asked Madison Iseman a ton of questions. I had to do my research.  ‘What are you listening to now? What’s your favorite music and what TV shows are you watching?’  I watched and listened and got into that headspace.  Madison was very helpful.”

Literally the big man on campus is the confident jock Fridge, played by Ser’darius Blain.  When he’s drawn into Jumanji, his status only grows – sort of.  He’s now Franklin “Moose” Finbar – an expert in zoology and a weapons valet… but a vertically challenged one – the size of Kevin Hart. And as if that’s not bad enough, his weaknesses add to his humiliation: strength, speed… and cake.

The outspoken but socially awkward Martha, portrayed by Morgan Turner knows that high school years can be bumpy – and life will get better in college and beyond – but that doesn’t make her daily existence any easier to bear. Until now, she’s coped by blending into the background… but as the powerhouse Ruby Roundhouse, the martial arts master and killer of men, Martha finds herself as a skilled badass who commands everyone’s attention.  It’s unfamiliar territory, to say the least, but she has no choice but to step up and fight for survival.

The Scottish actress Karen Gillan, known for her roles in the BBC series “Doctor Who” and her role of Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, embodies Martha’s warrior persona.   Jumanji becomes her proving ground to discover what she is really made of.

Jumanji 2

Alex, portrayed by Nick Jonas, is another player in the game who will either help them in their quest – or be a sign of the danger that awaits them.

“Alex’s avatar is a pilot – Jefferson ‘Seaplane’ McDonough,” says Jonas.  “He’s been in the game for a while and has had a bit of a tough time getting through it. As the movie goes on, we find out that the story’s a bit more complicated…”

The movie is a comedy with plenty of kickass action.

“I love movies like this – I’ve always wanted to make a big adventure movie,” says Kasdan.  “So, it’s a coming-of-age comedy that we shot on location in Hawaii with big action sequences and a lot of visual effects.”

“We wanted to build a classic action adventure movie with really high stakes,” says Tolmach.  “The stakes are very real; you can die in Jumanji.  We knew there would be tons of comedy in the movie, but we wanted it layered within action that was visceral and exciting.”

JANUARY

Write Journey12 Steps To Writing The Perfect Screenplay: The Write Journey is an interactive course for writers who would like to write a screenplay for feature film or television. Read more

 

 

Upcoming Film Releases In South Africa: January 2018

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Times Media Films, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links

 / LATEST RELEASES / TOP FILMS OF 2017 / FEBRUARY 2018 RELEASES /

MARCH – MAY 2018

Showing from 26 January, 2018

PROUD MARYPROUD MARY Mary is a professional assassin who’s working for an organized crime family in Boston. Her life gets completely turned around when she crosses paths with a boy during a hit gone wrong. This action-thriller was directed by Babak Najafi, from a screenplay written by John S. Newman and Christian Swegal. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, Neal McDonough, Xander Berkeley, and Margaret Avery. Trailer

 

MAZE RUNNERMAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE Thomas leads some escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions that the Gladers have been asking since they arrived in the maze. This dystopian science-fiction action thriller was directed by Wes Ball, based on The Death Cure, the final book in The Maze Runner trilogy, written by James Dashner, with a screenplay by T.S. Nowlin. It is the sequel to the 2015 film Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and the third and final installment in the Maze Runner film series. With Walton Goggins, Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O’Brien. Feature: Action reaches new heights in the third and final segment of The Maze Runner Series, Maze Runner: The Death Cure /  Trailer

MONSTER FAMILYMONSTER FAMILY (also known as HAPPY FAMILY) The Wishbone family are far from happy. In an attempt to reconnect as a family, Mum and Emma plan a fun night out. However, her plan backfires when an evil witch curses them, and they’re all turned into Monsters.Feature: Monster Family- For Author David Safier The Film Adaptation Is Like Winning The Lottery /  Trailer

 

 

POSTTHE POST Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership of Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of The Washington Post, and its driven editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers—and their very freedom—to bring long-buried truths to light. The script was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. Feature:  A Film About The Power Of The Truth Trailer

Now showing

InsidiousINSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY Parapsychologist Elise Rainier and her team travel to Five Keys, N.M., to investigate a man’s claim of a haunting. Terror soon strikes when Rainier realizes that the house he lives in was her family’s old home. This supernatural horror was directed by Adam Robitel and written by Leigh Whannell. It is the fourth installment in the Insidious franchise, and the second chronologically following 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3. The film stars Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Josh Stewart, and Caitlin Gerard. Trailer

 

BREATHEBREATHE After contracting polio at the age of 28, Robin Cavendish is confined to a bed and given only months to live. With help from his wife Diana and her twin brothers, and the groundbreaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall, Cavendish emerges from the hospital ward and devotes the rest of his life to helping fellow patients and the disabled. This biographical drama was directed by Andy Serkis, from a screenplay by William Nicholson. It stars Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander, Ed Speleers and Dean-Charles Chapman. Trailer

 

MEGAN LEAVEYMEGAN LEAVEY The true life story of Megan Leavey, a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with a military combat dog saved many lives during her deployment in Iraq. Assigned to clean up the K-9 unit after a disciplinary hearing, Leavey starts to identify with Rex, a particularly aggressive dog that she trains. Over the course of their service, Megan and Rex complete more than 100 missions until an improvised explosive device injures both, putting their fates in jeopardy. This biographical drama was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt, and stars Kate Mara as the titular character, with Edie Falco, Common, Ramón Rodríguez and Tom Felton in supporting roles. Trailer

SHAPE OF WATERTHE SHAPE OF WATER Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist. This fantasy drama was directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. The film stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Trailer

NUT JOB 2NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE Surly the squirrel and his animal friends find out that the corrupt mayor of Oakton plans to bulldoze their beloved Liberty Park to make way for an amusement park. Hoping to save the place they call home, Surly, Andie, Buddy and the rest of the gang join forces with Mr. Feng, a seemingly cute and innocent mouse who happens to be a fierce master of kung fu. Trailer

 

 

FATHER FIGURES FATHER FIGURES Owen Wilson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Zoolander 2) and Ed Helms (The Hangover films, We’re the Millers) star in this comedy,  marking the directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Lawrence Sher (The Hangover films). Wilson and Helms are Kyle and Peter Reynolds, brothers whose eccentric mother raised them to believe their father had died when they were young. When they discover this to be a lie, they set out together to find their real father, and end up learning more about their mother than they probably ever wanted to know. The film also stars J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), comedian Katt Williams, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-actor Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames (the Mission Impossible films), Harry Shearer (The Simpsons), and Oscar nominee June Squibb (Nebraska), with Oscar winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), and Oscar nominee Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs, Guardians of the Galaxy) as the twins’ mother. Sher directed from a screenplay by Justin Malen (Office Christmas Party).  Trailer

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICETHANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE Sgt. Adam Schumann tries to readjust to civilian life after returning home from the war in Iraq. Fellow soldier Tausolo Aeiti must deal with the aftermath of a bombing that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Will Waller searches for normalcy after surviving several explosions, while Michael Emory must deal with the effects of a sniper’s bullet to the head. With memories of the battlefield still lingering, the soldiers soon begin their long journey to physical and emotional rehabilitation. This biographical war drama film written and directed by Jason Hall, in his directorial debut, based on the 2013 non-fiction book of the same name by David Finkel. Finkel, a Washington Post reporter, wrote about veterans of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment returning to the vicinity of Fort Riley, Kansas, following a 15-month deployment in Iraq in 2007. The film is about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depicting U.S. soldiers who try to adjust to civilian life, and stars Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale, Amy Schumer and Scott Haze. Trailer

BRADBRAD’S STATUS Brad Sloan has a satisfying career and a comfortable life in suburban California, but it’s not quite what he imagined during his glory days in college. Sloan keeps comparing his life with those of his four college friends, wondering what it would be like to have their well-paying and glamorous jobs. When circumstances force Brad to reconnect with his buddies, he soon begins to question whether he has failed, or is in some ways the most successful of them all. This comedy-drama was written and directed by Mike White, and stars Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Michael Sheen, Jenna Fischer, and Luke Wilson. Trailer

MOLLYMOLLY’S GAME The true story of Molly Bloom, a beautiful, young, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknown to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led people to believe. This crime drama was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin in his directorial debut, based upon the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. It stars Jessica Chastain as Bloom, along with Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d’Arcy James, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Claire Rankin, Joe Keery, and Jeremy Strong. Trailer

COMMUTERTHE COMMUTER Insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train. This action thriller was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra from a screenplay by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle. The film stars Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern, and Sam Neill. Trailer

BEATRIZ 1

 It begins as a comedy of manners and turns quickly into a battle of ideas with a great deal at stake.

Exploring the widening gulf between the world’s haves and havenots with fierce insight and unexpected humor, from economic inequality and conservation to the necessity of simple human kindness.  At an elegant dinner party in a swanky hilltop home, conversation between a soft-spoken holistic healer and a hard-nosed businessman explodes into a bitter clash of cultures.

Beatriz at Dinner , the latest provocative film from director by Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Chuck & Buck) from a script by Mike White (The Good Girl, Enlightened).

Beatriz (Salma Hayek), a self-effacing and spiritual immigrant from Mexico, has spent her adult life caring for the sick while neglecting herself. When her car breaks down and she is stranded at a client’s luxurious Newport Beach home overnight, her well-meaning employer Kathy (Connie Britton) insists she join them for a dinner party that evening. At an intimate and sumptuous celebration of her husband’s latest business venture, Beatriz is introduced to Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a ruthless billionaire real-estate developer. She listens uncomfortably while Doug brags about his aggressive business tactics, but when he boasts about shooting a rhino in Africa, she can no longer hold her tongue. As opposing worldviews collide over a dinner table, Beatriz’s pent up outrage spills out in a way that surprises even herself.

Beatriz at Dinner continues the longtime collaboration between director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White that began when they met through what White calls “the codependent alumni network” of Wesleyan University.

From their first feature together, 2000’s surprisingly tender stalker comedy Chuck & Buck, to the indie favorite The Good Girl and acclaimed HBO series “Enlightened,” White and Arteta have explored the lives of vulnerable misfits with sympathy and respect.

MIKE 2Mike White is an award-winning screenwriter, director, actor and producer.His writing credits range from the dark indie comedies Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl and Year of the Dog to mainstream comedy hits School of Rock, Orange County and Nacho Libre. His TV credits include the short-lived but critically praised “Freaks and Geeks” and “Pasadena.”

White created and co-starred with Laura Dern in the critically acclaimed HBO series “Enlightened,” writing every episode for the Golden Globe-winning show. He has just completed principal photography on his original script Brad’s Status, starring Ben Stiller and Michael Sheen. Along with appearing in many of his films, White is known for twice competing in the Emmy-winning reality series “The Amazing Race” with his father, Mel.

Miguel ArtetaMiguel Artera is a Puerto Rican filmmaker currently living in Los Angeles. He won an Independent Spirit Award for his first feature, Chuck & Buck (2000), written by Mike White. It premiered and found distribution at the Sundance Film Festival, as did Star Maps (1997) and The Good Girl (2002).

He then helmed Youth in Revolt (2009), with Michael Cera; Cedar Rapids (2011), with Ed Helms and John C. Reilly; and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, with Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner. Arteta’s TV work includes “Freaks and Geeks,” “The Office,” “Six Feet Under,” “Enlightened,” “New Girl,” “Nurse Jackie,” “The Big C,” “American Horror Story” and “Getting On.” The director studied film with Jeanine Basinger at the Wesleyan Film Program.

He has taught at the Sundance Institute’s Directors Labs and at the Middle Eastern Film Lab in Jordan.

White’s most vividly drawn characters have always been outsiders by nature.

In Beatriz at Dinner he has created two vastly different outliers — altruistic healer Beatriz and self-satisfied real-estate developer Doug Strutt — who represent opposite ends of the American spectrum.

“They stand for ‘winners’ vs. ‘losers’ if you will,” says White. “The rich vs. the poor, hunters vs. healers, male vs. female. I put two people with opposite beliefs in conflict in a very relatable and everyday type of situation — a dinner party. It begins as a comedy of manners and turns quickly into a battle of ideas with a great deal at stake.”

 

The project began when White, an outspoken supporter of animal rights and a committed vegan, was outraged by the 2015 killing of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe.

What, he wondered, would he do if he were ever to meet that man? He began to build a script around that idea. Before he had a single scene on paper, White knew that his friend and colleague Arteta would be an ideal director for the project.

“I’m very particular about the people who interpret my writing,” he says. “Miguel is so respectful of the contribution of the writer. He has a humanistic impulse and comes at things from a heartfelt and hopeful place. My work can be read as satirical and acidic. His empathy enriches stories that in the hands of someone else could fall into a darker hole. I am always confident he’ll get great performances and be protective of the script.”

When White brought the idea to Arteta, he also suggested an actress they both had been wanting to work with to play Beatriz: Salma Hayek. “Envisioning her in this role was very clever on Mike’s part,” says Arteta, who counts the actress as a good friend. “She’s a real animal lover and a very political person. She is also extremely empathic, like the character. It’s a different kind of role for her and she loved the idea from the beginning.”

Hayek and White sat down together for an initial meeting that convinced the actress that this was a role she was born to play.

“People have said this character is so different from the way they see me, but it’s really the closest one to myself that I’ve ever played,” she explains. “The script was so original in a simple relatable way. Everybody’s been to a dinner that goes crazy at some point in their lives.”

After spending time with White and Arteta to discuss the film, the actress says she would have done whatever it took to work with them. During his initial meetings with Hayek, White didn’t share much about the film’s story and that was fine with her. “I was already a huge fan,” she says. “We had such a great time talking that it didn’t matter. He did spend some time picking my brain about the character. He asked a lot of questions and watched my body language for clues as to who Beatriz should be.”

In the end, the script White came up with explored far more issues than hunting. One of the ideas Hayek shared with him is the profound sense of displacement felt by many immigrants.

“Beatriz grew up in poverty but she still dreams of the mangroves of her childhood,” he says. “They don’t exist anymore but she can go back to them in her mind as a symbol of a young, innocent time when the world had not yet been plundered.”

“Salma, in many ways, inspired the voice of Beatriz,” he says. “She is a deeply engaged and intelligent artist. And I wanted to write a fun character for her to play. The cliché is that Salma is ‘fiery,’ so I liked the idea of her playing someone who is very compassionate but also subdued, a deeply intelligent and spiritual person who becomes more and more outraged by what she’s hearing.”

Hayek’s enthusiasm for the role inspired her to become even more involved in getting the film made, bringing in producer and financier Aaron L. Gilbert of Bron Studios, with whom she had worked on the comedy Drunk Parents.

BEATRIZ

Both the script and the director’s vision for it impressed Gilbert so much that he signed on immediately.

“Miguel spoke so eloquently about his vision for the film,” he says. “And I knew it would be an incredible role for Salma. The combination of the two was a one-two punch for us.

“Mike White had crafted a screenplay with wonderful humor and subtlety,” he continues. “He has a way with dialogue that I rarely see and a gift for authenticity in crazy situations. That makes the collision between Beatriz and this billionaire who pillages the world for his own benefit smart and exciting. This is a smaller film but it’s huge in terms of themes and ideas.”

Producer Pamela Koffler of acclaimed indie production company Killer Films was attracted to the way White’s script fused believable characters, compelling ideas and complex themes with great storytelling.

“Mike understands that there are people in the world who are attuned to suffering,” she says. “They are put on earth to heal. That is the essence of Beatriz, but he created a character so fully realized that you never feel she is a symbol for something rather than a human being.

“No matter what he’s writing about, Mike’s work is emotionally and narratively accessible,” Koffler adds. “His characters are able to say and do things that are offbeat, unpredictable and unorthodox without seeming arch or unreal. He and Miguel have found a creative synergy that is unique. Their work together is tonally specific and idiosyncratic in such an interesting way that we couldn’t say no.”

Arteta believes he and White have complementary approaches to storytelling that add up to more than the sum of their parts. “We are definitely an interesting duo,” the director acknowledges.

“Mike is my favorite writer,” says Arteta, “He has a piercing eye into human nature. I try my best to respect his words and it’s always a pleasure to see how actors bring them to life.”

The collision course between the two opposing viewpoints will leave audiences having to choose sides for themselves, Arteta hopes.

“I love that about Mike’s work. He is not really guiding what your response should be, but raising questions in a smart way. It would be very easy to dismiss Doug as crass and materialistic. But we all love our possessions, we all love a good life. There are two sides to human nature.”

The Cast

Transformed physically from a glamorous global screen icon to a dowdy massage therapist, Hayek delivers a tour-de-force performance, finding the strength and the vulnerability in a woman who feels the weight of the world’s problems on her shoulders.

Hayek and her character share several key qualities, according to the director: “They both rescue all kinds of animals,” he says. “They both rely heavily on intuition, which played a big part in Salma’s performance. I love when a performer can make the audience lean toward them. I think she did that beautifully.”

As a holistic healer at a cancer center, Beatriz regularly treats terminally ill patients. Burnt out by a lifetime of caring for others, Beatriz’s quiet dignity hides the fact that she has become overwhelmed by the emotional toll her work takes on her.

“If you are trying to heal and make this world better, imagine how beaten down you could become,” says Arteta. “Beatriz is unable to glide along the surface of life. The other characters are a menu of the ways in which we deny the awfulness of the world and ourselves. She will have nothing to do with denial, which makes her more vulnerable than most other people.”

In portraying the character, Hayek says she focused on Beatriz’s capacity for love and empathy. “There’s something incredibly pure about her,” says the actress. “Everything is meaningful. It’s not that she doesn’t have a sense of humor — she’s not dense — but she is profound. While I feel like I have a lot of things in common with this character, in truth I think I was playing Mike.”

Hayek says Arteta explained his vision for her character more eloquently than any director she has worked with ever has. “He told me that Beatriz’s inner life had to be so complex that it would be mysterious to everyone around her. Even though we know the general things that she’s thinking, it’s not exactly clear what’s going on in her head at any time. She feels deeply, but it could never show on my face. He was very strict about that. Sometimes, even though I wasn’t moving a muscle, he would know exactly what I was thinking and we would have to start again.” To find the stillness the part required, Hayek made daily meditation a part of her preparation. “The good news was I didn’t have to do makeup, so I could use that time,” she notes. “I needed to get to a quiet space in my head for my body to move a certain way. Miguel encouraged me to do it. We even chose the music together for the meditation.”

Most importantly, says Arteta, Hayek trusted the material and gave herself over to the character. “Her intelligence and empathy shine through at all times,” he observes. “I’m so grateful to her for having the courage to share things that she cares deeply about through this character. Salma got so much across with the simplest and most beautifully nuanced looks.”

The film presents strong arguments on both sides of the debate between the values of Doug Strutt and Beatriz, says Hayek, who believes that allowing viewers to make up their own minds is crucial to the film’s success.

“Audiences won’t feel like they are being manipulated or preached to. I do hope it sparks conversation about connection and communication. America is filled with deep-seated and diverse views of life right now. What’s important is that we are able to communicate and learn from each other. Both of these people are very clear in their point of view. Even if you believe that Doug is a bad guy, there will be other people who think he’s in the right.”

BEATRIZ 2

Kathy and Grant’s party is a celebration of a huge new business deal masterminded by Doug, a notoriously successful and cold-blooded developer of high-end resorts and shopping centers.

Veteran actor John Lithgow plays Doug with an unassailable confidence that makes him almost irresistible.

“What I appreciate about Doug is that he is a kind of philosopher king,” says White. “He lives by his own beliefs, as Beatriz does. The others at the party are not fully conscious of why they want what they want and do what they do. He and Beatriz could not be more different in their jobs and their values and their approaches to life, but they are similar in the strength of their convictions. That’s why they make such powerful adversaries. Their conversation begins like a dance and quickly builds to a cage fight.”

Lithgow brings a presence to the character that is as effortlessly seductive as his words are repellant. “It was amazing to watch him become Doug during rehearsal,” says Arteta. “He makes it easy to understand views that I normally can’t stomach. Every time I watch the film I find myself wondering if maybe he has a point.” White too admits he has moments when he almost buys into some of Doug’s declarations. “Miguel was smart to cast an actor so intelligent and dignified rather than a monstrous cretin,” says the screenwriter. “John brings a distinguished elegance and appeal that softens Doug. He gets the crassness, but fills it out with some dimensions that are not on the page.”

Knowing that Arteta and White were involved and that Hayek would be playing Beatriz made accepting the role an easy decision for the actor. “The character I play is wonderfully written and although the story was not nearly as timely when we started this project as it seems now, it dramatizes the gulf between rich and poor in an ingenious way,” he says.

Arteta’s encouragement to make Doug charming and affable was the right choice, Lithgow believes. “It was too obvious for him to be unlikable. Miguel talked a lot to me about how much Doug loves his life. He is very comfortable with who he is, so he is not threatened or defensive with Beatriz. Doug is very appealing — if you’re not completely on the other side of the fence. His attitude is, sure, you can have your opinions — but I’m successful and happy and you’re not.”

One piece of dialogue in particular has stuck with the actor. “The most alarming lines in the movie are when he says something to Beatriz like, ‘Why do you have to be unhappy? The world is dying. We won’t be around much longer. There’s nothing we can do.’ It’s all the more terrifying because he delivers it with amiability and a generous spirit. Why not just relax and enjoy yourself? It’s typical of Mike’s subversive and almost perverse honesty.”

 

 

GREATEST SHOWMAN 1

A pioneer of today’s visionaries and entrepreneurs who’ve revolutionized social life, the Steve Jobs or Jay-Z of his day.

Inspired by the legend and ambitions of America’s original pop-culture impresario, P.T. Barnum, comes The Greatest Showman, an inspirational rags-to-riches tale of a brash dreamer who rose from nothing to prove that anything you can envision is possible and that everyone, no matter how invisible, has a stupendous story worthy of a world-class spectacle.

Australian filmmaker Michael Gracey makes his feature film directorial debut with The Greatest Showman, a story that, in the larger-than-life spirit of Barnum, bursts into a boldly imagined fictional realm, one full of infectious pop tunes, glam dances and a celebration of the transformative power of showmanship, love and self-belief.

Michael Gracey directs from a screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon  and a story by Jenny Bicks, and braids together original songs by Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land) with a multi-talented cast headed by Hugh Jackman to immerse audiences in the very origins of mass entertainment and mega-celebrities in the 70s … the 1870s that is. The result is a chance to enter the newly electrified world of America’s post-Civil War Gilded Age — through the viscerally contemporary lens of the pop culture just igniting then.

GREATEST 3

P.T. Barnum may have lived over a century ago, but for Gracey, he was a progenitor of our times.  He sees Barnum as a pioneer of today’s visionaries and entrepreneurs who’ve revolutionized social life, the Steve Jobs or Jay-Z of his day. The film is a musical reverie, an ode to dreams, not a biopic.  But at its center is Barnum’s conviction that the drudgery of everyday life is something you can bust through into a realm of wonder, curiosity and the joys of being proudly different.

Most of all Gracey hoped to key into the feeling of that moment of personal inspiration or acceptance when life seems grander than you ever expected. Says Gracey:  “When audiences came to experience a P.T. Barnum spectacle, they were completely transported out of the ordinary, and we try to do the same in this film in a contemporary way.”

GREATEST SHOWMAN 2

Adds Jackman, who devoted himself for years to bring the film to the screen:  “It’s not exaggerating to say that Barnum ushered in modern-day America – and especially the idea that your talent, your imagination and your ability to work hard should be the only things that determine your success. He knew how to make something out of nothing, how to turn lemons into lemonade. I’ve always loved that quality. He followed his own path, and turned any setback he had into a positive.  So many things I aspire to in my life are embodied in this one character.”

The Greatest Showman also touches on another idea of these times:  that of chosen families built around allowing people to express who they are without reservation. “A big idea in the film is that your real wealth is the people that you surround yourself with and the people who love you,” says Gracey.

“Barnum pulled people together who the world might otherwise have ignored.  And by bringing each of these people into the light he created a family who were always going to be there for each other. In the course of the film, Barnum almost loses both his real family and his circus family – but then you watch him discover that the most important thing he can do is bring them both back together again.”

“P.T. Barnum is what we would describe now as a disruptor.  He thought life should be all about fun, imagination and hard work,” says Hugh Jackman of the man whose outsized persona he takes on in The Greatest Showman. “Back in 1850, America wasn’t as we know it today.  You were limited by the family you were born into and your class. At the time, the idea of entertainment just for fun was considered almost borderline evil.  But this only fueled Barnum’s fire to break away from this kind of mundane, hamster wheel existence.  He set out to live the life of his dreams.  And that is what he did.”

BARNUM

 

Born in Bethel, Connecticut in 1810, the real P.T. Barnum was as complex as his times, full of contradictory impulses, both humane and opportunistic.  He had a natural flair for publicity and promotion and was already selling lottery tickets by age 12.  Later, he won the hand of his far wealthier wife with his unalloyed aptitude for razzle-dazzle.  After trying his hand at a variety of jobs, Barnum wound up in what he called “the show business,” where his imagination would have no limits.  He soon revealed himself to be a genius at an enterprise that would come to define America: generating excitement and drumming up hoopla, catering with savvy to the public’s love of the spectacular, the wild and the outrageous.

Moving to New York, he became one of the burgeoning city’s most celebrated figures.  There, he opened what would become a destination all the rage:  Barnum’s American Museum on Broadway, stuffed with dioramas, scientific instruments, strange artifacts, a menagerie of exotic animals, a marine aquarium, theatrical performances and a slew of living “attractions” with fairytale stories attached — including the diminutive General Tom Thumb, the Siamese twins Chang and Eng, giants, bearded ladies, and many more.  The museum soon led to global tours featuring the most beloved performers. Barnum then created a public frenzy for the never-before-heard Swedish Opera singer Jenny Lind – with a mounting buzz and hysteria rivaling that surrounding rock stars a century later. When Barnum’s museum burned to the ground, he came up with yet another fresh concept:  the tent show known as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” an idea which would long outlive him and inspire America’s rise as the entertainment capital of the world.

While The Greatest Showman is not intended to be biographical and doesn’t adhere to Barnum’s factual chronology, Gracey emphasizes that it highlights several overarching realities about Barnum.  “The important things that we know are true and wanted to reflect is that P.T. Barnum did come from nothing. He was there at the birth of advertising. And he was very successful and he did then chase after high society, because he felt that for all of his success, he was never one of them. He did bring out Jenny Lind from Sweden.  His museum did burn to the ground and he went bankrupt not once but twice.  So while we have creatively adjusted the story, many of the tentpole moments from his life are reflected.“

A Dream Comes To Life

When you think of Phineas Taylor Barnum today, what probably come instantly to mind is the three-ring extravaganza that long bore his name.  But there is far more to his collosal legend than the circuses that have since evolved into a new era (an era that no longer parades endangered animals and human curiosities but is more about virtuoso athletic and creative performances). Barnum’s is the classic tale of a scrappy American trailblazer, one who pulled himself way up out of poverty to become not only a master of the brand new arts of image and promotion but also one of America’s first self-made millionaires and the godfather of mass entertainments designed to set free the imagination.

He may have been born into anonymity, but the whole world would come to know his name.  When P.T. Barnum passed away in 1891, the Washington Post described him as “the most widely known American that ever lived.”

Later, Barnum would be erroneously credited with the infamous quotation “a sucker is born every minute,” which he never said.  But he did say:  “Whatever you do, do it with all your might.” This was the real appeal of Barnum in his day – he captured the resilient, risk-taking spirit of changing times. He also presaged more spectacular times to come as movies, stage shows and digital technology would continue his explorations of making the implausible and mythical feel real and achievable.   It’s no wonder his story and persona have inspired numerous films – with Barnum being played by Wallace Beery in 1934’s The Mighty Barnum, Burl Ives in 1967’s Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Burt Lancaster in 1986’s Barnum.

Yet, it has been decades since P.T. Barnum’s increasingly visible impact on the modern world has received a fresh look.  That thought struck producer Laurence Mark and co-screenwriter Bill Condon in 2009 when they were working together on the Academy Awards broadcast featuring Hugh Jackman as host.  Jackman’s irrepressible love of all that goes into forging a dazzling show reminded them of Barnum.

Watching Jackman at work, Mark recalls:  “I thought, wow, this guy’s the greatest showman on earth – and that’s when I went to P.T. Barnum in my head. Hugh is just about the only person in the world who could be both Wolverine and P.T. Barnum, actually. There’s just something in Hugh’s DNA that allows him to walk on a stage and take charge of it so easily, naturally and charismatically.  I suggested to him them that we should make a musical about Barnum and it turned out, he was completely open to it.”

It was a fateful proposition.  But it would take another seven years and more than a few twists and turns to turn what was then an ultra-high-risk idea – especially given that musicals capable of appealing to 21st Century audiences were then considered an extreme rarity — into the reality of a full-scale production replete with songs, choreography and an all-star cast.  The process began with a sweeping screenplay by Jenny Bick, which excavated the period of Barnum’s rise to fame, from his childhood of meager means in Connecticut, to the romancing of his much wealthier wife Charity, to the founding of Barnum’s American Museum to his championing of one of the world’s first superstars:  the “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind.

Jenny BicksJenny Bicks (Screenplay/Story) started her career in advertising in New York City and went on to write radio comedy before she began writing for film and television. Her series credits include “Seinfeld, Dawson’s Creek and HBO’s Sex and The City. She wrote on Sex and The City for all six seasons, rising to the rank of executive producer. Her work on the series earned her several awards, including an Emmy Award, multiple Golden Globes and Producers Guild Awards and three WGA nominations. After Sex and The City, Bicks created, executive produced and show-ran comedy Leap of Faith, starring Sarah Paulson, for NBC and dramedy Men In Trees, starring Ann Heche, on ABC. She Executive Produced and Show-ran Showtime’s critically acclaimed The Big C, starring Laura Linney, for all four seasons. Her work on that show earned her a Golden Globe nomination and a Golden Globe and Emmy win for Linney. Bicks currently Executive Produces and show-runs Divorce for HBO. In the feature world, her body of credits include What a Girl Wants, and Rio 2. 

Bick’s screenplay was an inspiring kick-off.  Still, in keeping with Barnum’s adoration of the daring and outsized in all things, the filmmakers decided to go in search of even more music and more spectacle.  That’s when Jackman suggested that Mark see if his friend Bill Condon – renown for his magical screen adaptations of Chicago and Dreamgirls – could add his own immense writing gifts in the creation of a  musical for these times.

Bill+Condon+Fifth+Estate+Portraits+Toronto+Iljy_00XXBylBill Condon (Screenplay) is a celebrated film director and Oscar-winning screenwriter.  Earlier this year his live action version of Beauty and the Beast thrilled audiences around the world grossing an astounding 1.2 billion dollars.  Other recent projects include the drama Mr. Holmes, and, on stage, the celebrated revival of the musical Side Show, which premiered at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center before coming to Broadway.

Condon’s film adaptation of the Broadway smash Dreamgirls won two Academy Awards and three Golden Globes including Best Picture – Musical or Comedy.  Condon directed from his own screenplay.  Condon also wrote and directed Kinsey, for which he won the 2005 Best Director Award from the British Directors Guild. He also wrote and directed Gods and Monsters, which earned Condon an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Condon wrote the screenplay for the big-screen version of the musical Chicago, for which he received a second Oscar nomination. Condon also directed the two-part finale of the blockbuster Twilight film series Breaking Dawn, as well as The Fifth Estate.  Born in New York City, Condon attended Columbia University, where he graduated with a degree in Philosophy. An analytical piece he wrote for Millimeter magazine brought him to the attention of producer Michael Laughlin. Condon subsequently co-wrote the feature film Strange Behavior with Laughlin, who also directed the film. The movie became a cult hit, leading to the unofficial sequel, Strange Invaders. Condon made his directorial debut with Sister, Sister..

In the meantime, Jackman had met Michael Gracey, who was rapidly rising as a commercial and music video director with an unusually creative, genre-defying edge.  Jackman was determined to work with him on a feature, and he was sure the concept of The Greatest Showman was a match made in heaven for Gracey.  That became even more clear once Gracey began pitching the ambitious film across Hollywood with a fervor that kept even jaded executives rapt.

Says Jackman:  “Michael is cutting edge with music and storytelling.  He was kind of a big deal already, and even though he hadn’t yet made a film, everybody knew about him. It’s also true that when Michael pitched the story of The Greatest Showman, he was better than I’ve ever been playing P.T. Barnum.  Michael’s vision is incredible, but also, his determination is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  There was no option for him other than this movie getting made.”

Michael Gracey

Acclaimed Australian commercial, music video and VFX director Michael Gracey (Director) makes his feature film debut with The Greatest Showman. As the son of a photographer, Gracey developed his love for shooting and filmmaking at an early age. The visual wunderkind was then plucked from school to become the youngest animator at the award-winning animation, visual effects, and design house, Animal Logic.

Gracey’s pitch encompassed 45 minutes of spirited storytelling, intricate concept art and songs.  It’s part of what won him the deep trust of the producers, including Laurence Mark as well as Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping of Chernin Entertainment.  “Michael had done so much impressive homework.  He already had sketches and visuals and he spoke about the movie in the most passionate way,” recalls Mark.

It all hit home in part because Gracey truly and personally relates to Barnum’s belief in attempting to squeeze as much excitement out of life as possible. “I always say that to me one of the saddest moments in any child’s life is when they learn the word ‘impossible,’” the director reflects.  “Barnum’s story is about not limiting your imagination, about using what’s in your head to create new worlds – and that’s also what directors do.  You come up with something and then you spend years and years of trying to realize it, in a process that is full of heartache but also allows you to truly bring dreams to life.”

Gracey was also driven by a fully fleshed-out vision for the film’s aesthetic.  He had in mind a Steampunk-like mash-up of the past and the future that placed Barnum’s story outside of period, in a kind of universal world where pop culture, romance and human connections always hold sway.  He wanted some grit, but he also felt the entire film should be sprinkled over with a touch of storybook magic – to hark back to the shadows of the imagination that first inspired humans to suspend their disbelief.

Also vital to Gracey’s approach were the Oddities, the circus performers who due to a variety of uncommon physical conditions allowed Barnum to invite audiences to encounter living myths.  Though such displays would no longer be acceptable in today’s society, Gracey explores another side of what Barnum’s performers experienced – the opportunity to escape hidden, marginal lives; the chance to inspire admiration and feel pride; and most of all the ability to provoke questions into just how narrowly we define “normal.”  “The Oddities are people who are invisible to society so they’ve been kept behind closed doors,” explains Gracey.  “And what our P.T. Barnum does is give these invisible people a spotlight and a chance to feel love for the first time. He tells wondrous stories in which they are not damaged but special. I think audiences will love the Oddities because at the end of the day, everyone’s an Oddity.”

showman-660x330

He emphasizes:  “There’s a line where Barnum says, ‘No one ever  made a difference by being like everyone else.’  That to me is the heart of the film.”

The Oddities definitely caught the attention of Zac Efron.  He says:  “I love that Barnum is full of love and dreams for his family but then he asks:  how can I spread that love further? He does it by taking people who are not accepted by society because of the way they look or how they were born and allowing them to be celebrated and engaged with.  He gives them a chance to show that no matter where you come from or who you are, none of us is really that different — we’re all just striving people.  Barnum allows all the performers in his show to be proud of themselves.”

With Condon having added fertile new layers to the script, there was just one vital component missing:  the ineffable, transporting stuff of the actual songs. For Gracey, everything hinged on getting that right.  “The reason I love musicals is that when words no longer suffice, that’s when you sing. At your lowest points, when you’ve lost absolutely everything, you sing.  And at your highest points of inexpressable joy, you break into song again.  We knew we needed songs that could hit those emotional high and low points within this very special world,” Gracey explains.

Gracey intuited that the songs could counterpoint the period setting – rather than going back in time, he wanted songs that would make the characters and dilemmas urgently of-the-moment.  After commissioning samples from dozens of songwriters, the team fell in love with the work of two then-fledgling newcomers:  Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.  This was well before their play “Dear Evan Hanson” and years in advance of their Oscar®-winning work on La La Land.  But what Pasek and Paul offered up was a collection of emotional, high-energy pop tunes that could be on the radio in 2017. “Benj and Justin showed a rare ability to combine rock, pop and the contemporary Broadway sound,” says Mark.

Adds Gracey:  “What Benj and Justin created for this film is to me the best work they’ve ever done – and they’ve done some incredible work. They mix the contemporay with the classical seamlessly.  They really giave the heart and soul of the film, those emotional highs and lows.  They captured the spirit of it so perfectly.  The songs they wrote are always taking you somewhere – each is a narrative in its own right.”

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Songwriters) are the Academy Award-winning songwriting team behind the hit Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” which is currently playing at the Music Box Theatre. Most recently, they penned lyrics for the musical film La La Land and composed the original song “Get Back Up Again” for DreamWorks’ animated feature Trolls. Upcoming film projects include the live-action movie musicals Snow White (Disney) and the animated feature Medusa (Sony Pictures Animation). The duo’s previous musicals include A Christmas Story: The Musical, Dogfight, James and The Giant Peach and Edges.

The music also was a magnetic lure for the accomplished cast.  Says recording artist and actor Zendaya, who plays trapeze artist Anne Wheeler:  “Benj and Justin are young and they’re fresh and what’s so cool about the songs is that even though our story is set in the 1800’s, their work feels completely contemporary, which I think makes it tangible for people now. It adds an element of magic,too.  You’re in a period piece, yet there’s also pop songs and hip-hop dancing, which I think is really dope.  It fuses Barnum’s time period with our own. I feel that every single line of the music reflects the soul of the film.”

Gracey was grateful for all who committed themselves – from the cast to the songwriters to the musicians to the incessantly creative crew who never stopped cultivating the vital details — to realizing his dream, which was built on the foundation of Barnum’s dreams. “The idea of doing an original musical is pretty much pure insanity,” laughs Gracey. “But the one thing that I will always remember and hold dear is all the people who signed up for this impossible dream – who believed in it and brought it to life.”

 

BLU RAY

Alien Covenant – An Ultimate Experience

In space, no one can hear you scream. After nearly four decades, those words remain synonymous with the sheer, relentless intensity of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of futuristic horror, Alien. Now, the father of the iconic franchise returns once more to the world he created to explore its darkest corners with Alien: Covenant, a pulse-pounding new adventure, set ten years after the events depicted in Scott’s 2012 hit Prometheus, relentlessly returning to the roots of the director’s groundbreaking saga with a uniquely terrifying tale filled with white-knuckle adventure and monstrous new creatures. With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , the visionary director edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film. Read more

All is quiet aboard the spaceship Covenant. The crew and the rest of the 2,000 souls aboard the pioneering vessel are deep in hyper-sleep, leaving the synthetic Walter to walk the corridors alone. The ship is en route to the remote planet Origae-6, where, on the far side of the galaxy, the settlers hope to establish a new outpost for humanity. The tranquility is shattered when a nearby stellar ignition shreds Covenant’s energy-collection sails, resulting in dozens of casualties and throwing the mission off course. Soon, the surviving crew members discover what appears to be an uncharted paradise, an undisturbed Eden of cloud-capped mountains and immense, soaring trees far closer than Origae-6 and potentially just as viable as a home. What they’ve found, however, is actually a dark and deadly world full of unexpected twists and turns. Facing a terrible threat beyond their imagination, the embattled explorers must attempt a harrowing escape.

Bonus Features

  • 12 Deleted and extended scenes (17:37 total – Prologue: Extended, Walter in Greenhouse, Oram and Daniels: Extended, Walter Visits Daniels, Daniels Bedroom Flashback, Jacob’s Funeral: Extended, Ledward’s Fall, Crossing the Plaza: Extended, Daniels Thanks Walter, Rosenthal Prayer, Walter Reports Back, Stairs to Eggroom: Extended)
  • 3 USCSS Covenant promos- “Meet Walter”, “Phobos’, and “The Last Supper”
  • David’s Illustrations Galleries- a collection and more in depth look at the sketches and artwork Michael Fassbender‘s character android David creates during his time alone on the planet.
  • Production Gallery, including some of Ridley’s famous hand drawn story boards which he does for pretty much all his projects.  “Ridley doodles”. Conceptual Art, Creatures, and Logos and Patches
  • 2 Theatrical Trailers
  • Master Class: Ridley Scott- which goes into the detail with which he approached this film.  It contains interviews with Ridley and the crew, as well as behind the scenes production footage with Ridley directing the “back burster” scene. It actually contains 4 parts (which clock in at 55:30) and talk about story, characters, setting, and creatures.  This was actually my favorite part of the film and blu ray.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Writer-director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the action-packed, irreverent, epic space adventures of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters as they patrol and protect the universe, doing mercenary work in the wake of the popularity and fame they garnered from saving Xandar. Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, the story follows the team as they fight to keep their newfound family together while traversing the outer reaches of the cosmos to unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand. Read more

Bonus Features

  • Audio commentaries in movies are for the hardcore fans. While they’re fun to turn on, the average fan prefers other features. In the Blu-Ray copy of GotG Vol. 2, film director James Gunn guides fans through an inside look at the making of the movie.
  • Visionary Intro: How did director James Gunn decide the storylines for each of the Guardians? The bonus feature Visionary Intro spills it all.
  • Not everything makes it to the final copy of the film, and if we’re lucky, we get to see just what didn’t make the cut. GotG Vol. 2 features four deleted scenes — 2 extended scenes and two deleted scenes.
  • The making of featurette is broken down into four parts:
    • In the director’s chair with James Gunn
    • Reunion tour: The music of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 
    • Living planets and talking trees: The visual effects of Vol. 2
    • Showtime: The cast of Vol. 2

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2 Disc)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is  the first in a new series of Star Wars standalone films set in the universe fans know and love, an all-new epic adventure where a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. Read more

Rogue One tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes, who in a time of conflict band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Bonus Features: 

  • A Rogue Idea – Hear how ILM’s John Knoll came up with the movie’s concept – and why it’s the right film to launch the Star Wars stand-alone films.
  • Jyn: The Rebel – Get to know Rogue One’s defiant, resourceful survivor, and hear what it was like for Felicity Jones to bring her to life onscreen.
  • Cassian: The Spy – Diego Luna shares insights into his complex, driven character, who becomes a hero through selflessness, perseverance and passion.
  • K-2SO: The Droid – Explore the development of this reprogrammed Imperial droid, from initial pitch and character design through Alan Tudyk’s performance.
  • Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills – Go deeper into the relationship between these two very different characters, with Chinese superstars Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.
  • Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary – Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflect on Saw Gerrera, the broken Rebel leader, and Bodhi Rook, the Imperial pilot who defects.
  • The Empire – Meet a dangerous new Imperial adversary…and cross paths once more with the most iconic villain of all time.
  • Visions of Hope: The Look of “Rogue One” – The filmmakers describe the challenges and thrills of developing a bold new look for the movie that can fit within the world of the original trilogy.
  • The Princess & The Governor – See what it took to bring the vibrant young princess of “Star Wars: A New Hope” – as well as one of her most memorable foes­ – back to the screen.
  • Epilogue: The Story Continues – Filmmakers and cast celebrate Rogue One’s premiere and look forward into the future, to the Star Wars stories yet to be told.

STAR WARS WEBSITE

The Last Jedi: A Gorgeous, Surprising and Conflicted Entry, Which Elevates the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy.

Review by Tim Leibbrandt (15/12/17)

 Two years ago, J.J. Abrams’s The Force Awakens set up the long-awaited new Star Wars trilogy in an uneven and divisive way. On the one hand, it introduced a wealth of intriguing new characters with mysterious backstories and reunited viewers with a number of truly beloved characters from the original trilogy. On the other, the plot opted for an unimaginative rehashing of the events of A New Hope rather than forging a unique path. Starkiller Base remains the dullest idea in the entire franchise by a significant margin.

Nonetheless, the film left a number of lingering questions that served to invest fans in this new set of films. Who are Rey’s parents (and why is she so damn good at everything)? Why is her path seemingly tied to Kylo Ren? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Why is Luke Skywalker in hiding and what happened at his ill-fated Jedi training academy?

 

The good news is that new entry The Last Jedi (written and directed by Rian Johnson of Looper fame) is far more than just Empire Strikes Back Lite. In tackling these lingering questions head-on, the film goes in a number of surprising and unexpected directions and certainly has its own distinct personality. It’s undoubtedly the most visually stunning Star Wars film, gorgeous to look at, carefully composed and never overcrowded (a problem which plagued the prequel trilogy).

 

Familial legacies have been a recurring theme throughout the entire series and Last Jedi’s inheritances from Force Awakens are both a blessing and a curse. The Rey/Kylo Ren arc is a fantastic addition to the series’ lore and The Last Jedi is at its strongest when developing this relationship. It’s very much the centerpiece of the new trilogy, striving for a more nuanced look at the ideas of the light and dark side of the Force. Throughout The Last Jedi Luke Skywalker in particular offers some striking insights into this discussion. 

 

While remaining the high point of the story, the Rey/Kylo Ren/Luke plot also feels removed from the First Order/Resistance stuff; which continues to be undercooked. The other characters (such as Poe Dameron and Finn) are constantly forced to engage in increasingly convoluted and tenuous hijinks for the sake of maintaining a greater conflict B-story and the threadbare nature of the Resistance/First Order fight becomes glaringly apparent.

 

What’s ultimately frustrating about this aspect of the new trilogy is the lack of a clear purpose. We know that the First Order want to topple the New Republic that was established after the Empire’s defeat in Return of the Jedi, but there’s never a clear indication of who they actually are and what the scale of their operation is. The same is true of the Resistance. Are they just two minor factions playing dress-up and reenacting the past or is there something greater at stake here? Barring the planets that were destroyed by Starkiller Base in Force Awakens, the rest of the galaxy seems willfully unconcerned with their squabble.  Both factions keep trying to establish their cred as bona fide Empire and Rebellion and come off wanting.

 

In amongst all of this factional stuff, one area where The Last Jedi utterly excels is in solidifying Luke and Leia’s continued presence as series elite. Jonson is clearly smart enough to know that it’s not enough just to drop in iconic characters, they need to stamp their mark on the ongoing narrative and both characters deliver. Gone is the self-consciousness that hung over the returning characters in Force Awakens, both solidify themselves as crucial parts of the ongoing story. It’s clear in a sense that this new trilogy was partially envisioned as being Leia’s story and it will be interesting to see how this is shifted by the tragic and unexpected death of Carrie Fisher last year. As it stands, her performance here is one hell of a swansong, adding unintended pathos to many of her lines.

 

Picking up from the literal cliff-hanger of the previous film, Mark Hamill’s return to the series is a triumph from the get go. It was never going to be an easy task to justify why Luke abandoned his loved ones and allies, and went into hiding and The Last Jedi absolutely makes his questionable turncoating work. As the devastating catastrophe at his Jedi academy (which saw Ben Solo turning into Kylo Ren) is revealed, we are consistently reminded of why Luke Skywalker is the most fallible and human character in the franchise. Missed you young Skywalker we certainly have.

 

Aimed at being much bouncier and less bleak than last year’s standalone Rogue One (a film I still adore), The Last Jedi often becomes curiously meta; looking at the expectations that fans bring to a new Star Wars film and directly confounding them. There is a desire to assert that the universe is bigger than Skywalkers and Solos although it is ultimately unwilling to commit to taking this anywhere just yet.

 

The Last Jedi is a gorgeous and exhilarating ride that doesn’t feel like any Star Wars you’ve seen before. It’s full of gaping plotholes and half-baked ideas, but the core is resolutely compelling and the presentation, fresh and exciting. It contains a number of iconic moments, which are destined to standout as highlights of the franchise.

sequels

Sequels & Prequels

Click on Film Title For Feature Article

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE Telling the story of three people trapped in an underground bunker, this daring and no-nonsense psychological thriller will rip your nerves to pieces and truly blow your mind. It is not a literal Cloverfield 2, but there is some connection. It is the second film in the Cloverfield franchise and was developed from an “ultra low budget” spec script penned by John Campbell and Matt Stuecken, titled The Cellar, but under production by Bad Robot Productions, it was turned into a spiritual successor of the 2008 film Cloverfield, written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stucken and Damien Chazelle.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS Disney’s enchanting Alice Through the Looking Glass is an all-new spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories in which Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter. Directed by James Bobin, who brings his own unique vision to the visually-stunning world Tim Burton created on screen with Alice in Wonderland, the film is written by Linda Woolverton based on characters created by Lewis Carroll. The producers are Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd, p.g.a. and Jennifer Todd, p.g.a. and Tim Burton. John G. Scotti serves as executive producer.

ALIEN COVENANT With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , visionary director Ridley Scott edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD TRIP Becker credits producers Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman, who created the characters and are custodians of the Chipmunks legacy, with helping him and screenwriters Randi Mayem Singer and Adam Sztykiel find a new path for Alvin & Co.  “Ross and Janice gave me a thorough history lesson and personality profiles on the Chipmunks,” the director recalls.  “But they also encouraged me to take the characters in a slightly different space and give the film a different tone from the others.

ANNABELLE:  CREATION After a chilling cameo in The Conjuring, followed by a starring role in her own film, it became clear to filmmakers that moviegoers were ready to uncover the origins of the doll that has both terrified and captivated them.  So, on the heels of his successful feature directing debut, last summer’s hit Lights Out, director David F. Sandberg was tapped to helm Annabelle: Creation, the next chapter in James Wan’s Conjuring universe produced by Peter Safran and Wan, from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 Three decades after Ridley Scott’s cult sensation Blade Runner changed the face of cinema, the much-anticipated follow-up Blade Runner 2049 challenges our notions of who we are…and where we are headed.With Ridley Scott as Executive Producer on Blade Runner 2049, this new incarnation based on characters from the Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is scripted by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, with visionary director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) at the helm).

BLAIR WITCH It’s been 20 years since James’s sister and her two friends vanished into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland while researching the legend of the Blair Witch, leaving a trail of theories and suspicions in their wake.Blair Witch is directed by director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest, V/H/S, V/H/S/2), who has assembled an accomplished behind-the-scenes team that includes screenwriter and longtime collaborator Simon Barrett (You’re Next, The Guest, V/H/S, V/H/S/2).

BRIDGET JONES’S BABY The much-anticipated third installment of the Bridget Jones franchise is here!  In Bridget Jones’s Baby, based on creator Helen Fielding’s heroine, the world’s favourite singleton is unexpectedly expecting.Whilst Fielding was very involved with the development, owing to her increasing commitments, she agreed to have another writer join the project.  “Originally this was developed with Helen, and then writer Dan Mazer,” explains Producer  Debra Hayward, who also has been with the series since well before the first film began production. “With Helen’s approval, we brought Emma Thompson on board.”

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR From Marvel Studios comes the highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, the third film in the Captain America franchise and the first film in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on the beloved Marvel comic book series, first published in 1941, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War is directed by Emmy Award-winning directors Anthony and Joe Russo from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

CARS 3 Lightning McQueen raced into moviegoers’ hearts more than 10 years ago and remains an iconic character today in Cars 3 that pays homage to NASCAR with four characters based on real-life stock car racing legends.Directed by Fee (storyboard artist Cars, Cars 2), from a story by Fee, Ben Queen (TV’s Powerless), Eyal Podell (actor Code Black) & Jonathon E. Stewart (Doing Time short), the screenplay was penned by Kiel Murray (Cars), Bob Peterson (Up, Finding Nemo”) and Mike Rich (“Secretariat, The Rookie).

THE CONJURING 2 The supernatural thriller The Conjuring 2, with James Wan once again at the helm following the record-breaking success of The Conjuring, seeking to terrify moviegoers once again with his depiction of another highly publicized case involving the real-life horrors experienced by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren with The Conjuring 2, from a screenplay by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes (The Conjuring) & James Wan and David Leslie Johnson (Wrath of the Titans) , story by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes & James Wan.

CREED  reunites award-winning filmmaker Ryan Coogler with his “Fruitvale Station” star Michael B. Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed, and explores a new chapter in the “Rocky” story, starring Academy Award nominee Sylvester Stallone in his iconic role.Ryan Coogler directed from a screenplay he wrote with Aaron Covington, based on a story by Coogler.

DADDY’S HOME It’s Step-Dad vs. Dad – and Will Ferrell vs. Mark Wahlberg – in the family comedy Daddy’s Home, about a mild-mannered radio executive who must take on the ultimate “dad-versary” when his wife’s motorcycle-riding, freewheeling, secret operative ex breezes back into town.The film is directed by Sean Anders from a story by Brian Burns and a screenplay by Brian Burns and Sean Anders & John Morris.

DESPICABLE ME 3 Founded with the mission to produce both original stories and adaptations of beloved classics, Illumination is known for developing dimensional and distinctive characters who embody both the sweet and the subversive.  Their often mischievous antics are balanced by good intentions and innocence, making them lovable and relatable.  As such, the Despicable Me franchise has become the defining DNA of the company. Daurio, alongside writing partner Paul, has collaborated with Meledandri since their days at 20th Century Fox on Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!.

FAST AND FURIOUS 8 FF8 is directed by F. Gary Gray, the filmmaker behind such blockbusters as Straight Outta Compton—the No. 1 musical biopic in the history of cinema—The Italian Job, Be Cool and Friday, from a screenplay by series architect and fellow producer Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious series, Wanted), based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious).

FINDING DORY Director Andrew Stanton is always on the lookout for a new story. His imagination has taken him under the sea and beyond the stars, but this time, a character from his past unexpectedly swam straight into his subconscious. “The mystery of memory is so important to the story,” says screenwriter Victoria Strouse. “Memory is a huge part of family—all of those seemingly meaningless or mundane interactions we all experience as children stay with us and shape our personalities. Dory possesses those memories—on some deep level—and accessing them is part of her ultimate journey of realizing that she’s not broken after all.”

FIFTY SHADES DARKER The dramatic thriller is directed by James Foley (FearHouse of Cards) and once again produced by Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips, The Social Network), Dana Brunetti (Captain Phillips, The Social Network) and Marcus Viscidi (We’re the MillersHow to Be Single), alongside E L James, the creator of the blockbuster series.  The screenplay is by E L James’ husband, Niall Leonard, based on the novel by James.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. Writer-director James Gunn continues the action-packed, irreverent, epic space adventures of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters as they patrol and protect the universe, doing mercenary work in the wake of the popularity and fame they garnered from saving Xandar.

THE HUNGER GAMES The blockbuster Hunger Games franchise has taken audiences by storm around the world, grossing more than $2.2 billion at the global box office.

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR The script, by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, based upon Evan Daugherty’s characters, does just that, telling of Eric’s doomed first—and only—true love, how they were brought together and how they were torn apart.  Nested in this universe, it also serves as an origin story for the Huntsman, who arrived in the first adventure not as a mystery, but fully formed.

ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE Audiences everywhere love the Ice Age films, which is the second biggest animated motion picture franchise in the world.  Each new story increases the stakes, scale, adventure, humor and heart—making Ice Age: Collision Course the biggest and most ambitious film of the series. It was directed by Mike Thurmeier and co-directed by Galen Tan Chu,[6] and written by Michael Wilson, Michael Berg and Yoni Brenner.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE For director Roland Emmerich, Independence Day: Resurgence marks a return to the universe he and co-writer and producer Dean Devlin created two decades ago.  They captured cinematic lightning in a bottle—electrifying audiences around the around the world with drama, action, fun, unforgettable characters, and a presidential speech that’s still quoted today.Screenwriter Nicolas Wright notes that he and writing partner James A. Woods wanted to capture the first film’s “innocent and honest humor and tone as much as possible,” noting that since ID4’s release, many other big studio franchises “have jumped on that kind of humor.  They have a great rhythm—intense action punctuated with humor and then underlined with emotion.”

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK Since 1997, readers have been riveted by the exploits of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in the pages of author Lee Child’s “Killing Floor” and continued on in a series now spanning twenty novels.Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) returns to the big screen with his particular brand of justice in the highly anticipated, action-packed sequel Jack Reacher:  Never Go Back. Based upon Lee Child’s 18th novel in the best-selling Jack Reacher series, that has seen 100 million books sold worldwide, the film was directed by Edward Zwick from a screenplay by Richard Wenk and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz.

JASON BOURNE Producer Gregory Goodman says that what Greengrass and his longtime collaborator, Christopher Rouse, created in their screenplay was not only timely, it was propulsive: “I believe that waiting was a very good thing, because it gives the movie a chance to speak to much more serious issues and to be honest.  A lot of the paranoia and concerns that were brought up in the previous films seems almost naïve compared to what we’re dealing with in a post-Snowden, WikiLeaks world—along with a sense that there actually is a secret government running separately from us.  What I find compelling is that even the so-called bad guys have a valid argument.  It’s clear to me as a citizen, separate from this film, that we as a society have difficult choices we need to make about balancing our need for security and safety with our need for transparency and privacy.  This film touches on that, but in the context of an adrenaline-filled action picture.”

JIGSAW The Saw franchise has been a shiver-inducing, thought-provoking global powerhouse and redefined fright night at the movies with a unique blend of fear, mystery, deviousness and gore. Now the screws have been further tightened with Jigsaw, the newest entry in a series that The Guinness Book of World Records named as the most successful long-running horror franchise of all time. Thirteen years after Saw made its auspicious debut at the Sundance Film Festival in the “Park City at Midnight” program, combining a moral weight with clever plotting, all-encompassing dread, and nerve-jangling tension that pivots into full-on panic, Jigsaw ups the stakes with an all-new puzzle built around a terrifying question: who’s behind a string of new Jigsaw-like killings if John Kramer has been dead for over a decade?

KONG: SKULL ISLAND First unleashed more than eight decades ago, King Kong has thundered off the big screen and into our world with a force that echoes through our collective consciousness still.  Now the time has come to restore the crown of the greatest movie monster myth of all in Kong: Skull Island, re imagining the origins of one the most powerful monster myths of all. Jordan Vogt-Roberts directed the film from a screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, story by John Gatins.

LOGAN From visionary writer-director James Mangold comes the defining chapter in the cinematic saga of one of the greatest comic book heroes ever created. Logan sees Hugh Jackman reprise his iconic role as The Wolverine for one, final time in a raw, powerfully dramatic standalone story of sacrifice and redemption.

LONDON HAS FALLEN By reuniting the principal cast and key members of the creative team for London Has Fallen, a new adventure that relocates the action from the U.S. to abroad – where the character of heroic Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (again played by actor and producer Gerard Butler) no longer has the advantage of knowing the territory. The screenwriting team of Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt, who had written the original screenplay for Olympus Has Fallen, conceived a new story and first worked on the script, with writers Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John then working on the script.

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 The master magicians known as the Four Horsemen return for their most daring and astounding caper ever in Now You See Me 2, elevating the limits of stage illusion to new heights in hopes of clearing their names and exposing the ruthlessness of a dangerous tech magnate.The film is directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets, G. I. Joe: Retaliation) from a screenplay by Ed Solomon (Now You See Me, Men in Black), story by Ed Solomon & Peter Chiarelli (The Proposal, Eagle Eye), and based on characters created by Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt.

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL Inviting audiences again into the lore of the spirit board, Ouija: Origin of Evil tells a terrifying new tale as the follow-up to 2014’s sleeper hit Oculus.Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) directs from a screenplay he wrote with his Oculus and Before I Wake collaborator, Jeff Howard.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: SALAZAR’S REVENGE When Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney got set to jump into making Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, the fifth chapter in the $3.7 billion Pirates of the Caribbean franchise,  they began a search for a new story that would take the series a few steps forward, while at the same time harken back to the elements of fantasy, action, comedy, and elements of the supernatural that had made the first film such a sensation.

PITCH PERFECT 3 The astonishing blockbuster success of the first two films in the Pitch Perfect series naturally prompted discussions about getting a third installment underway.  Now graduated from college and out in the real world where it takes more than a cappella to get by, the Bellas return in Pitch Perfect 3, the next chapter in the beloved series that has taken in more than $400 million at the global box office. The film is directed by Trish Sie (Step Up All In) from a screenplay by Kay Cannon and Mike White—with a story by Cannon, Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin.

SPECTRE When approaching the 24th James Bond movie, Spectre, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment, the filmmakers were keen to ensure that the film followed on closely from its predecessor, the $1.1 billion global smash Skyfall. Spectre was directed by Sam Mendes, produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and the screenplay was written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth (Story by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade)

STAR TREK BEYOND , the highly anticipated next installment in the globally popular Star Trek franchise, created by Gene Roddenberry and reintroduced by J.J. Abrams in 2009, returns with director Justin Lin (“The Fast and the Furious” franchise) at the helm of this epic voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise and her intrepid crew, from screenplay by newcomer Doug Jung (Dark Blue, Banshee) and returning cast member turned co-writer, Simon Pegg.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Lucasfilm and visionary director J.J. Abrams join forces to take you back again to a galaxy far, far away as Star Wars returns to the big screen with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are producing with Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI The Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past. It is the second installment in the Star Wars sequel trilogy following Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and resumes immediately after the events of The Force Awakens.Star Wars: The Last Jedi is written and directed by Rian Johnson and stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael are back in to battle bigger, badder villains. The film is directed by Dave Green (Earth to Echo), with a screenplay by Josh Appelbaum & André Nemec (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).

THOR RAGNAROK In 1962, the now-legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced “The Mighty Thor” to readers of Marvel Comics, unleashing a new era of action-adventure with their conception of the hammer-wielding Norse god, who debuted in the sci-fi anthology “Journey Into Mystery,” #83 in August of that year.Despite the Nordic-sounding names, the story was rooted in familiar, universal conflicts that have driven human drama since the beginning of time. To this day, 55 years later, Marvel Comics continues publishing new adventures depicting the God of Thunder, the most recent being 2016’s “The Unworthy Thor” from writer Jason Aaron and artist Olivier Coipel. The newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Thor” franchise, Thor Ragnarok, continues the lineage of epic adventures chronicled in the franchise’s two prior big screen successes: 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” which, collectively, earned over $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office.

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS The fifth installment in the hugely successful series, Underworld: Blood Wars celebrates a return to the brooding aesthetic introduced in the original 2002 hit Underworld, directed by Anna Foerster (Outlander, Criminal Minds) from a screenplay by Cory Goodman (The Last Witch Hunter, Priest), story by Kyle Ward and Goodman, based on characters created by Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman & Danny McBride.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES The Art of filmmaking and the craft of storytelling are showcased in War For The Planet Of The Apes, unleashing  rapidly evolving simians into a world boiling over with divisions and rage as the ape vs. human battle for control of the world careens towards the ultimate winner-takes-all decision.It is directed and written by Matt Reeves, whose Dawn of the Planet of the Apes grossed $700m at the worldwide box office – he gained feature film prominence when he helmed the much lauded science fiction-horror hit Cloverfield (2008), and wrote and directed Let Me In (2010), a remake of the Swedish horror film acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.

X-MEN APOCALYPSE Following his acclaimed work on X-Men: Days Of Future Past, director Bryan Singer takes the franchise to new heights with X-Men: Apocalypse, in which the X-Men battle the original and most powerful mutant — Apocalypse. “We had a real challenge to come up with a story that could surpass Days Of Future Past in terms of scale and stakes,” notes writer-producer Simon Kinberg, who served in those capacities on that film.

PITC

“With this series, we feel like we tapped into something—this flood of female empowerment, not just in Hollywood and in our industry, and in movies, but in the world.”

The astonishing blockbuster success of the first two films in the Pitch Perfect series naturally prompted discussions about getting a third installment underway.  Now graduated from college and out in the real world where it takes more than a cappella to get by, the Bellas return in Pitch Perfect 3, the next chapter in the beloved series that has taken in more than $400 million at the global box office.

The film is directed by Trish Sie (Step Up All In) from a screenplay by Kay Cannon and Mike White—with a story by Cannon, Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin.

After the highs of winning the World Championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren’t job prospects for making music with your mouth.  But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time.

Franchise producers Paul Brooks of Gold Circle and Max Handelman and Elizabeth Banks of Brownstone Productions were certain there was another story, but they were just as sure that they would be patient and get it just right

“We worked hard to put together an organic story on the second film, and we wanted to take our time and figure out what felt like an authentic next step for the Bellas.

kay-cannon-pitch-perfect-3-premiere-in-los-angeles-3

Kay Cannon (Screenplay by/Story by) is a screenwriter, producer and comedienne.  She recently made her motion picture directing debut with the upcoming comedy Blockers, starring Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz.  Cannon received rave reviews for her debut screenplay Pitch Perfect, and she wrote and co-produced the hit follow-up Pitch Perfect 2. Cannon recently served as the executive producer, creator and showrunner of the Netflix series Girlboss, based on Sophia Amoruso’s best-selling autobiography, which starred Britt Robertson.  Cannon worked her way up from staff writer to supervising producer on 30 Rock.  She’s a three-time Primetime Emmy-nominated writer, twice for Outstanding Comedy Series and once for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.  She has also won three Writers Guild of America Awards as well as a Peabody, all for her work on 30 Rock. Cannon also served as a co-executive producer on New Girl, a consulting producer on Cristela and co-produced the hit feature Baby Mama.

Mike White (Screenplay by) is an award-winning writer, director, actor and producer.  His writing credits range from the indie black comedies Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Year of the Dog and the recently released Beatriz at Dinner, to the mainstream comedy hits School of Rock, Orange County and Nacho Libre.  His television credits include the short-lived but beloved Freaks and Geeks and Pasadena. Along with appearing in many of his films, White is known for twice competing in the Primetime Emmy Award-winning The Amazing Race with his father, Mel.

 

 

 

Mickey RapkinMickey Rapkin (Based on the Book by) is a screenwriter and journalist whose first book, “Pitch Perfect,” about the competitive world of collegiate a cappella groups, was published by Gotham Books in 2008 and inspired the film franchise of the same name, which starred Oscar® nominee Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson.  Rapkin’s second book, “Theater Geek,” was published by Free Press in 2010 and is in development with Universal Pictures. In 2013, Rapkin partnered with Zooey Deschanel’s production company, Miss Hawkins, and 20th Century Fox to sell a sitcom pilot to Fox called Freelancers.  Rapkin’s debut children’s book, “It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine,” will be published in 2018 by Imprint, a division of Macmillan.  Rapkin’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Bloomberg Businessweek and The Wall Street Journal.

That took a long time, but we got it here,” explains Brooks.  “The Bellas are all out of college, trying to figure out what they want to do long term, and like a lot of folks in their mid-twenties…it’s crisis time.”

For Banks, this chapter represented a full-circle moment.  She and her fellow producers had developed the series from its inception, and Banks stepped behind the camera to direct the juggernaut Pitch Perfect 2.  As well, she has performed as the a cappella-obsessed Gail, who alongside commentator John, cannot leave the Bellas alone.  It was important for the filmmaker to have the series evolve in a new direction.  “This movie not only has more singing and more dancing than the previous two features, but it is a full-fledged action-adventure,” states Banks.  “We were excited about the idea of literally making the Bellas action heroes, especially Fat Amy.”

“Pitch Perfect 3 introduces the Bellas to the big bad world around them,” adds Handelman.  “We raised the bar and wanted fans to get what they love: the singing, dancing and laughter, but also to see the women involved in new, fun and exciting situations.  This is a much more action-driven movie; the cold open announces right away that things are very different.  The characters are older, and they’re all on different journeys.  You will not be disappointed.”

At the helm of Pitch Perfect 3 is director Trish Sie, known for her critically acclaimed choreography in the Grammy Award-nominated OK Go music videos and the explosive Step Up All In.  Beyond excited to join the team, Sie reveals: “I’ve been a big fan of Pitch Perfect movies ever since I saw the first one in theaters.  It was one of those movies that filled me with a certain amount of existential rage, because I wished I had been a part of that film…and figured I never would get that chance.”

Trish-Sie-1With a background in music, dance and choreography, Trish Sie (Directed by) brings a fresh, inventive, energetic approach to filmmaking.  Her passion for playfulness and innovation characterizes her acclaimed signature style.  Known for not taking anything too seriously, she brings humor and a whimsical approach to storytelling, characters, movement, timing, music and space. After a decade as a professional dancer, championship ballroom competitor and choreographer, Sie dove into filmmaking in 2006, when she created, directed and produced her first official music video, “Here It Goes Again,” with her brother’s band, OK Go.

Success as a music video director led to commercial work for Sie.  She’s shot ads for brands such as Levi’s, Häagen-Dazs, Sony, Old Navy, Dole, Carl’s Jr., Hunt’s, Big Lots! and more. Her work has been honored and awarded by Smithsonian magazine, Creativity magazine, the Cannes advertising festival and Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors’ Showcase, among others. She also writes and creates her own short films and concept videos.

Her first feature film, Step Up All In, was filmed in native 3D and hit theaters around the globe in 2014, grossing more than $90 million worldwide.  According to the Los Angeles Times, “Sie packs in her exuberantly choreographed and staged dance scenes as tightly as beads on a necklace,” and The New York Times says her film “exudes the infectiousness of an old-fashioned movie musical.”

As a fellow University of Pennsylvania alum, Sie hit it off with Banks and Handelman off upon first meeting.  “When I heard that Pitch Perfect 3 was searching for a director, it was one of those too-good-to-be-true moments,” she shares.  “I didn’t know them during college, but Liz, Max and I went to school at the same time.  I was hoping that we’d have something in common, and we did.  It felt like a good fit.”

“Trish’s background started with OK Go, who has had some of the more spectacular music videos of the last several years,” commends Banks.  “She comes from a choreography background and brings that energy you need to find in a Pitch Perfect movie.  She equally gets our ridiculous sense of humor.  So after meeting a number of times, it felt like Trish was the perfect choice.  Away we went.”

PITCH PERFECT

It was just as important that Sie connect with the core cast.  Academy Award®– and Tony Award-nominated performer Anna Kendrick has been the heart of the Pitch Perfect series since the beginning, and fans have followed Beca’s journey from awkward freshman to performer on the cusp of a brilliant musical career.  Kendrick reveals that she was thrilled to have Sie as a partner on this chapter in the series: “We’re obsessed with Trish; she’s an amazing collaborator who listens and wants to hear our opinions.  “She’s also musical and comes from a choreography background.  You just trust that she would shoot it right.”

The actress also appreciated the teamwork that went into bringing life to the story first crafted by Kay Cannon, who wrote the first two films and who shares screenplay credit with Mike White on Pitch Perfect 3.  “The humor has always been what made our movies stand out, and we’ve all worked together to bring out the best version of this script,” says Kendrick.

Fat Amy herself, Rebel Wilson, who has seen the character that she created take on an iconic life of her own, appreciates what all that her director gave to the set.  “Trish brought such a great, fun vibe on- and off-set.  I just love her energy.  She’s so girl power, positive and motivating, and we’ve just had the best time working with her.”

One of the proudest moments of her astonishing career, Banks gives all her love to this chapter.  “We’re thrilled to have a female director and an all-female cast, and to be promoting interesting and fun stories for women,” she provides.  “There aren’t enough movies that do that.  We love the message to young girls about the teamwork involved, about friendship, and what they can aspire to in their own lives.  Trish brought an infectious energy to every meeting, as well as a passion and a resume that was right.  We felt like we found a great person to be in charge of our film, and she just happens to be a woman.  That is icing on the cake.”

Handelman reflects on why this series speaks to so many: “Pitch Perfect works in many ways, but it works best when it’s the perfect intersection of absurdity meets awesomeness.  What is always funny in this world is how self-serious all these people are.  But audiences realize they’re incredibly talented, and that they believe in themselves.  These characters come together to create a sound that is impressive, and very satisfying, even if how they get there is often ridiculous, and absurd.”

Pitch-Perfect-3-clip-700x300

Sie appreciates that these characters have found a way to walk the line between absurd, larger-than-life eccentric kookiness and a fundamental grounded realness.  “It’s easy to be wacky and over-the-top, and to stick to things that feel familiar.  What’s hard to do is to balance those two.  Pitch Perfect has that ring of truth that you can apply it to your own life.  These women go through what we all do—whether it’s being a misfit, being in a group of friends figuring out your way after college.”

“Audiences will love the action because I worked hard to get it awesome,” deadpans Wilson.  “So I hope they love it and I hope it’s surprising because it is a slightly different tone in this movie because we didn’t want to just do the same thing.  We wanted to go the next level for the fans.  I hope they like finding more out about Fat Amy.  I also just love the songs in this movie.  We’re constantly singing them…even when we’re not supposed to.”

This chapter wrapped, we conclude with a reflection from the producer who helped start it all.  “With this series, we feel like we tapped into something—this flood of female empowerment, not just in Hollywood and in our industry, and in movies, but in the world,” says Banks.  If that power comes with entertainment for the audience, so much more the better.  She ends: “Plus, singing and dancing and making people laugh is never a bad combination.”

WONDER WHEEL MASTER

“The view is beautiful from the Wonder Wheel, but you’re going no place. It has an element of romance to it, an element of beauty to it, but ultimately, an element of futility.”

Like so many of Woody Allen’s films, Wonder Wheel is a story that involves love and betrayal, telling the story of four characters whose lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the picturesque Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s.

Allen has always had a special fondness for Coney Island, and memorably set the childhood home of Annie Hall’s Alvy Singer under the clattering Cyclone roller coaster. Allen has many happy memories of going there often as a child. “Its heyday was long before I was born, but when I went it was still pretty exciting,” he says. “It always impressed me. There were so many colorful people there, and so many conflicting and complex activities going on, and it was such a vital atmosphere. I thought it would be a very provocative atmosphere to set a dramatic story in.”

Ginny (Kate Winslet), is a melancholy, emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house; Humpty (Jim Belushi) is Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband; Mickey (Justin Timberlake) is a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright; and Carolina (Juno Temple) is Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment.

WONDER WHEEL 2

82-year-old Woody Allen is an American filmmaker, writer, actor, comedian, and musician whose career spans more than six decades.

“Whether you’re reading Greek drama, Stendhal, Tolstoy, or Dickens, the love relationships are ever-present, because they cause so many people so much anguish, so much conflict. They lead to so many complex, deep, intense, confusing and dramatic feelings and situations. In particular, I have always been attracted to problems that women have. Over the centuries, the guys tend to be less readily demonstrative about their suffering. The male code is to not show suffering. Like when a batter gets hit by a pitcher, the idea is not to show any pain. Whereas women have always been more open about their emotions. I’ve done mostly comedies, but whenever I’ve turned to a dramatic story, it almost always—not always, but almost—has been about women in critical situations.”

Allen consciously writes his larger-than-life female roles, like Ginny in Wonder Wheel, with the idea of providing challenges that only the most gifted actresses can rise to.

“I try and cast actresses who have enormous range and enormous depth and intensity and I want to try and provide them with opportunities to exercise their great gifts,” he says. “When I’m writing a story, I have a tendency not to write very subtle scenes where emotion is conveyed with the raising of an eyebrow, but to give them much more flamboyant drama that gives an actress a chance to really be emotional.”

WONDER WHEEL 7

Without question, Ginny in Wonder Wheel is the latest in a long line of complex, richly observed and troubled Woody Allen heroines. “I knew I needed a tremendous actress to play her,” says Allen. “There are only a limited number of actresses in the English language that are that deep and that great. Kate Winslet is one of them, and when we started casting, her name came up quickly.”

While Winslet recognized immediately that the role was an extraordinary opportunity, she worried she might not be up to it. “I was terrified because I didn’t know where I would begin,” she says, “and if I failed I would never forgive myself. It was the responsibility of playing someone who was that complex, not wanting her to fall into a cliché in any capacity, always wanting to stay the right side of the line, keep her real, not have her become a caricature in any way at all, and absolutely to keep her grounded in her awful reality.

Woody wanted to hire me and I had to step up to the plate and be the goods that he’d hired, and be the best possible version of those goods that I could find within myself.”

When we first meet Ginny, she is working in a Coney Island clam house, trapped in a loveless marriage, and carrying the remnants of a painful past.

WONDER WHEEL

Woody Allen discusses a scene with Kate Winslet and Justin Timderlake during the filming of Wonder Wheel

“Ginny had a tough early life,” says Allen. “She scuffled her way up, had illusions about being an actress, and ended up marrying a gentlemen she really loved who loved her, and they had a child. But Ginny couldn’t resist the temptation to have an affair with an actor who was in a show with her, and it caused a complete breakup of her marriage. She realized only when it was too late, the consequences of her infidelity and her actions. Then, she started falling apart, was drinking, and her work suffered.”

Says Winslet: “I think that Ginny believed that she was a good actress and could have had a career were it not for the fact that she ruined her marriage, but I think deep down the reality was that she was never any good. That moment of discovering that actually she was a dreadful actress luckily never came around. In some ways that makes it more tragic.” At this low point in her life, Ginny met Humpty (Jim Belushi), who was suffering himself, because his wife had died and his daughter Carolina had run off and married a local hoodlum. Even though Ginny and Humpty are able to help each other get back on their feet, eventually Ginny realizes that, by marrying Humpty, she has settled into a life that will never satisfy her.

“Now that she’s over the crisis, she starts to understand that she doesn’t really love this man,” says Allen. “He was a rock when she needed it and she helped him get off alcohol, but that’s not what love is—love is what she had with her first husband. And she yearns for something more exciting than the practical aid that she and Humpty have supplied each other. She feels she’s going under and her life is ebbing away.”

Says Winslet: “I think she’s a bit of a lost soul. It’s as though she spent a large part of her life walking on a tightrope, and she’s just fallen one too many times. Now she’s slithering along the tightrope, neither standing nor really falling anymore.”

Jim Belushi portrays Ginny’s aptly named husband Humpty, as like Ginny, he has had difficulty pulling himself together after a fall. “Humpty is very weak to women, and he can’t be alone,” says Belushi. “He lost both of the women in his life at the same time. He was devastated, and it sent him into a drunken spiral. When Ginny turned up, she reached in and pulled him out of that abyss. And now even though he yells and carries on, it’s Ginny who has the control, because he knows he can’t lose her. If he loses Ginny, he’ll die.”

WONDER WHEEL 3

Jim Belushi

Winslet believes that Ginny also cannot live without Humpty. “She can’t be on her own because she is too vulnerable,” says Winslet. “But what I love about Ginny is that her moments of fragility are extremely raw and very alive. She doesn’t just become this weak, limp little character in a chair. She’s fragile but she’ll always bump through all the bumps in the road—whether she has to skip over them, leap over them, or roll over them, she’ll always keep going.” Ginny is not able to help Richie (Jack Gore), her son from her first marriage, who has begun to act out by setting fires all around Coney Island.

“It’s very sad because on some level Ginny does feel like she’s ruined Richie’s life, and she does feel like it’s all her fault that he’s a moody miserable kid who sets fires. I feel she wants to do more for him, but doesn’t quite know how. She’s so consumed with the guilt that she’s screwed up his life by cheating on his father, that it seems to disable her from being able to parent him.”

The couple’s routine is broken by the unexpected arrival of Humpty’s daughter Carolina (Juno Temple), who Humpty hasn’t seen or spoken to in five years.

WONDER WHEEL 4

“Carolina was a girl who was, by the local standards, very beautiful,” says Allen. “At some point, a local hoodlum made a play for her and took her to places where the local boys couldn’t take her, and bought her furs and jewels. She was seduced by the glamour and they end up getting married. For a while they have a nice time together, but eventually things started to get more contentious in the marriage, and they broke up. Soon after, the FBI got to her and threatened her, so she told them some things about her ex-husband’s business. At this point, she becomes a target for her ex-husband and his hit men, as she knows too much and they want to get rid of her.”

Says Temple: “I think Carolina was a young, hungry creature who got swept up in a universe that felt fast, wonderful and exciting and made her feel glamorous—almost like a magpie to something that twinkles. There’s a fragility to her that I find magical, but also a naivety, which was dangerous, as she wasn’t wise enough to see the darkness her husband brought into her life along with the glamour.”

Fearing for her life, and with no other place to go, Carolina reaches out to Humpty, reasoning that, as her ex-husband knows how bitter her relationship is with her father, his home is the last place he would search for her. “I’m not sure it’s the safest plan, but I don’t think she had any other option,” says Temple. “But maybe it was also the subconscious, or even conscious, feeling that her father would protect her, as she was the apple of his eye when she was young. I think she goes into it with a childlike feeling that he will hopefully take her back, but she has no idea what she’s going to walk in on, and doesn’t necessarily think about the consequences that her arrival might bring to him. I think, in her innocence, her eyes tend to look on the bright side of life, and look forward and not backward.”

While Humpty is initially unwilling to forgive Carolina, he quickly softens. “With Carolina, Humpty has a much richer, deeper love than he’s experiencing with Ginny,” says Belushi. “As soon as she arrives, it is like—boom!—he is filled with hope, love and purpose again. He has a second chance in life. From then on, it becomes all about saving extra money so that Carolina can go to night school and have a better life.”

Ginny does not appreciate Humpty’s reactivated passion. “I think she gets annoyed with Humpty because she’s seeing a side of him that she’s never seen before,” says Winslet. “If Humpty can be that adoring of his daughter, why has he never been that adoring of Ginny? He’s never doted on her and adored her the way that he does with Carolina. Humpty doesn’t need much to keep him happy. When Carolina comes along, suddenly his very small world is complete, but Ginny wants so much more.”

Ginny’s deliverance comes in the form of Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young former sailor working the summer as a lifeguard on Coney Island Beach, preparing to get his Masters in drama in the fall at New York University.

Wonder Wheel 5

“Mickey’s great wish is to be a playwright,” says Timberlake. “He looks up to all the classic pieces of art that have come through that world in the theatre. Because of his aspirations, he really likes to observe, and clock the humanity of what’s going on around him. I think that somewhere in his mind, he believes the people he’s observing are going to become the characters of the great play he’ll write one day.”

Mickey is also the narrator of Wonder Wheel. “I think as the movie progresses, I think you start to question how reliable a narrator Mickey is,” says Timberlake. “Because he clearly sees all these people that he is intertwined with in a very specific way. That is the just the way he sees them. Like the old saying that there’s three sides to every story: the two sides, and then there’s the truth, which is probably somewhere in between.”

One person Mickey pays special attention to is Ginny, as he spies her walking forlornly on the beach. He tunes into her dramatic melancholy immediately and finds it oddly appealing.

“Mickey is a hopeless romantic, and as an aspiring playwright, he finds flaws beautiful,” says Timberlake. “That night he tells Ginny that there’s something tragic about her, and I think he means that as a sort of compliment, like, ‘yeah, and that makes you incredibly sexy to me.’ But I think he falls more in love with the tragedy of Ginny than with Ginny herself. He likes that she’s in emotional peril.”

Says Allen: “Mickey’s in love with the mystique of writing, of living in the village, of having an affair with or maybe even marrying an older woman. All these romantic notions of a struggling writer are appealing to him, as he tends to romanticize everything. I wouldn’t call that a tragic flaw; it may even be an endearing flaw. The saddest part of his life is that he’s probably not going to be the author that he wants to be. My guess is that Mickey will make a couple of attempts at writing and maybe there’ll be some mediocre things he turns out, but he’s not destined to be Euripides or Eugene O’Neill.”

Up until she meets Mickey, Ginny had managed a life without hope, with a little help from headache pills and an occasional nip from a whiskey bottle hidden under the sink, but encountering him upends everything. “Once she has Mickey in her life, the great dormant volcano that is Ginny is cracked open again,” says Winslet.

“Mickey represents a world that she had dreamed of in her wildest dreams. He’s a real thing, she didn’t invent him: they are making love; he is whispering sweet nothings to her; they are meeting under the boardwalk in the rain; and he is reciting great prose to her. She actually begins to believe that maybe she can have another life, one that Mickey seems to promise her. I think she does have moments of very real hope.”

Everything changes after Ginny unwittingly introduces Mickey to Carolina and he instantly taken by her.

“Mickey believes in love at first sight, and he falls really hard for Carolina,” says Timberlake. “In the short time they spend together, as she peels layers back for him, the more he hears about her life, the more he becomes fascinated with the chances that she took at such a young age because she felt like she was in love with somebody. I think that’s where he goes, ‘Oh wait. We’re more alike than I knew.’”

“There’s a passion inside Mickey and I think Carolina has got that too,” says Temple. “He’s an artist and he represents a new kind of glamour for her, which is coming from books and plays and conversations about far-off places. Her receiving a book from him tickles something in her that is a new excitement, and she likes being wooed by him. I think he’s a very good wooer—he did it with Ginny and now he’s doing it with Carolina.”

Ginny’s awareness of Mickey’s growing infatuation with Carolina provokes an intense reaction within her. “She hasn’t experienced great jealousy before and I think it takes her by surprise,” says Winslet. “I think she’s really consumed by both the feeling of jealousy itself as well as the awareness that it’s setting her off kilter. Then the jealousy does set in big time, and it makes her crazy. There are no other words for it—it makes her crazy.”

Winslet found portraying the swings of Ginny’s mercurial personality to be all-consuming. “She demanded so much of me that in a very strange way I played second fiddle and Ginny really took over,” says Winslet.

“There are things that are so violently shaky inside of her that the way she thought and functioned was exhausting. It was almost like I was trapped in fight or flight mode. It was like 24 hour theatre. I really did feel like I had a battery in me somewhere and I had to keep permanently on charge. But still, there’s nothing about the experience of making this film— including the fear and the stress of it all—that I didn’t like. I loved that feeling of being utterly wrung out, challenged, and bled dry. It was the single most exhilarating filming experience I’ve ever had.”

Whatever Winslet put herself through to play the role, Allen found her to be a picture of control on the set. “If there was a beat in a scene or an emotion in a scene that I needed, or if I would give her a correction, she instantly gave back exactly what I was looking for in a very deep way,” says Allen. “It was amazing. I said to her it was like having a nuclear weapon at your disposal. 12 She could do anything and she did it quickly and superbly. All you had to do is be clear to her what you wanted and you got it. Most of the time, I never even had to be clear to her—she read the script and she got it. If she had a question or two, she’d ask me. I was not going to interfere with what makes Kate Winslet great, unless I had to.”

Says Winslet: “If a scene was not going well Woody would go, ‘Stop, we’ve got to fix this’ and then he would say, ‘Now how do I direct you out of this hole I’ve written you into?’ We would laugh and then we would figure it out.”

Allen sees Justin Timberlake as being in the mode of the old fashioned Hollywood movie star, in the best sense. “If these were the 1930s or 40s or 50s, he would have been right there with the Gables and the Bogarts,” says Allen. “That would have been his milieu. He lights up the screen whenever you put the camera on him. Justin has it all. He’s a first-rate actor and he’s completely believable as a lifeguard and a heartthrob to the women on the beach.”

Timberlake also expresses pleasure with working with Allen. “Woody has his own process,” says Timberlake. “It’s fast and there’s not a lot of coverage. He does very long takes and you get about two to five shots at every scene. At first it was really intimidating, but, after awhile, I found it really freeing and fun, because I didn’t have to worry about matching what I did before. And this caused me to keep discovering things. I felt like I was acting in a play with a group of really gifted and talented actors beside me.”

WONDER WHEEL 6

Allen first noticed Jim Belushi in Ed Zwick’s 1986 film About Last Night… “At the time I said, ‘Who is that guy?’” says Allen. “‘He’s an extremely good actor, as strong as can be on the screen and he’s touching. I said, ‘Maybe someday I’ll give him a call.’ Now we cut to thirty years later and I’m thinking, ‘Who would be perfect for Humpty?’ and asked him to come in. I could tell after five minutes with him, that he would make a wonderful Humpty. I think he will surprise a lot of people with this. I think they’re going to be surprised at what a tremendous actor he is, so full of emotion, full of reality and full of feeling.”

Says Belushi: “Woody gives you a lot of room. I worked for three months before shooting, memorizing every comma in the script, but when I got to set he said, ‘These are writer’s words. You do what you want to make the words your own. In the end, I only changed a few things here and there, but he was lovely to work with, and very funny to be around.”

Allen looked at numerous actresses for the role of Carolina but couldn’t find somebody who had what he was looking for until casting director Patricia DiCerto brought in a tape of British actress Juno Temple. “Juno came through brilliantly for me,” says Allen. “She is a very touching and real actress, and she had all the elements to play the character. First, she was pretty and sexy enough to be the apple of the eye in a real life situation, yet she wasn’t this Hollywood glamorous beauty like Marilyn Monroe who you’d never believe would have any problems in Coney Island or any place else. And second, she didn’t come off as too refined. I’m sure Juno can play “Masterpiece Theater” type roles, but here she was able to play a kind of lower class, Coney Island denizen.”

Like her colleagues, Temple recognized Allen’s unique directorial approach. “Woody does not give a huge amount of feedback, but when he does it’s very profound and on-point,” she says. “The long, fluid scenes we did were choreographed like dances with dialogue, and he was very specific about where he wants people to land because of how it fills the frame. Sometimes he would just want you to move a foot to the left for a certain piece of lighting.” Temple says there was great comradery on set among the actors. “Everybody was in the same boat of wanting to do the best with this incredible material and also to really support everyone else. We ran lines together in between takes and sometimes in the evenings, and guided each other through it. When you trust your co-stars, you are able to give it all you’ve got, and I really felt that all of us did that.”

While the film is called Wonder Wheel because of the Coney Island amusement park ride always visible from the family home, the title also has a metaphoric resonance.

“The same behaviors keep going around and around for these characters,” says Belushi. “As much as Humpty wants to change, as much as Ginny wants to change, they keep going through their same patterns. It’s a vicious cycle of their lives and their co-dependencies, and they can’t break out.”

Says Allen: “It’s probably true that you can extrapolate some kind of symbol for life from any amusement park ride. Either you’re on the Wonder Wheel going inexorably round and round as life turns meaninglessly, or you’re riding a carousel trying to catch that brass ring that you’ll never really get, or you’re on the rollercoaster. You get the idea. The view is beautiful from the Wonder Wheel, but you’re going no place. It has an element of romance to it, an element of beauty to it, but ultimately, an element of futility.”

ART OF ANIMATION

The law of universal metamorphism rules in Animation films. Anything can become something else.

Animation is the process of making the illusion of motion and the illusion of change by means of the rapid succession of sequential images that minimally differ from each other. The illusion—as in motion pictures in general—is thought to rely on the phi phenomenon and beta movement, but the exact causes are still unclear. It can be recorded with either analogue media, a flip book, motion picture film, video tape, digital media, including formats with animated GIF, Flash animation, and digital video.

Animation methods include traditional animation, and methods that use stop motion animation of two and three-dimensional objects, paper cutouts, puppets, and clay figures. Images display in a rapid succession, usually 24, 25, 30, or 60 frames per second. Computer animation processes generating animated images with the general term computer-generated imagery (CGI). 3D animation uses computer graphics, while 2D animation is used for stylistic, low bandwidth and faster real-time renderings.

Early examples of attempts to capture the phenomenon of motion into a still drawing can be found in paleolithic cave paintings, where animals are often depicted with multiple legs in superimposed positions, clearly attempting to convey the perception of motion.[3]

A 5,200-year old pottery bowl discovered in Shahr-e Sukhteh, Iran has five sequential images painted around it that seem to show phases of a Persian Desert Ibex leaping up to nip at a tree.

Anime is a form of animation originating from Japan. Anime gained popularity in East and Southeast Asia, before becoming popular throughout the world. This sub-genre can consist of both hand drawn or computer generated animation. These films are usually based on a successful television series or video games. Many fans consider Anime an art form, as it emphasizes stylized visual cues. The influence of Japanese painting and calligraphy can often be throughout these films. Examples: Ponyo, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky.

Adult Animation is a sub-genre that uses animation to appeal to an older audience. The storyline of the film may be more sophisticated than a traditional animated film. It may be considered an Adult Animated film because of the portrayal of adult topics- such as drugs, sex, and violence. Adult Animation is usually considered cutting edge and risqué. Many of the more famous Adult Animated films are part animated and part live-action. Examples: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.

Animated films foe children caters to a young and specific age demographic. This sub-genre usually explores a fantastical world with vivid animation. The tone of these films is light and fun, and musical numbers are often incorporated into the plot. The story usually centers on a protagonist who must battle in a “good-over-evil” scenario. Examples: Aladdin, Fern Gully, Beauty and the Beast.

Animated Musical incorporates large musical numbers into the narrative. These films usually appeal to children and families. This sub-genre has been dominated by Disney productions, especially with the surge of Animated Disney Musicals in the 1950s and 1990s. Like children’s animation, these stories usually show the battle of good defeating evil with likable protagonists of moral fibre. Examples: Snow White, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast.

The Animated Family sub-genre that has a large target audience. Many classic Animated Family films incorporate musical numbers to engage younger audiences, but more contemporary Animated Family films have developed a dual sided form of humor – appealing to children and adults. Examples: Toy Story, Despicable Me, Cars.

The Art Of Animated film

Listed Alphabetically

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD TRIP Becker credits producers Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman, who created the characters and are custodians of the Chipmunks legacy, with helping him and screenwriters Randi Mayem Singer and Adam Sztykiel find a new path for Alvin & Co.  “Ross and Janice gave me a thorough history lesson and personality profiles on the Chipmunks,” the director recalls.  “But they also encouraged me to take the characters in a slightly different space and give the film a different tone from the others.

ANOMALISA A beautifully tender and absurdly humorous dreamscape, from the brilliant minds of Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) and Duke Johnson, a specialist in stop-motion animation  (“Community” episode, Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas),the stop-motion animation wonder Anomalisa is a  darkly comedic and surreal stop-motion journey of a man’s long night of the soul.

CARS 3 Lightning McQueen raced into moviegoers’ hearts more than 10 years ago and remains an iconic character today in Cars 3 that pays homage to NASCAR with four characters based on real-life stock car racing legends. Directed by Fee (storyboard artist Cars, Cars 2), from a story by Fee, Ben Queen (TV’s Powerless), Eyal Podell (actor Code Black) & Jonathon E. Stewart (Doing Time short), the screenplay was penned by Kiel Murray (Cars), Bob Peterson (Up, Finding Nemo”) and Mike Rich (“Secretariat, The Rookie).

COCO Pixar Animation Studios’ 19th feature film Coco showcases the importance of family, honoring your ancestors and following your dreams. Directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist Monsters University) from a script by Molina and Matthew Aldrich (Spinning Man),  Coco features an original score from Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Rogue One), a song by Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Frozen), and additional songs co-written by Germaine Franco (Dope, Shovel Buddies) and Molina.

DESPICABLE ME 3 Founded with the mission to produce both original stories and adaptations of beloved classics, Illumination is known for developing dimensional and distinctive characters who embody both the sweet and the subversive.  Their often mischievous antics are balanced by good intentions and innocence, making them lovable and relatable.  As such, the Despicable Me franchise has become the defining DNA of the company. Daurio, alongside writing partner Paul, has collaborated with Meledandri since their days at 20th Century Fox on Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!.

THE EMOJI MOVIE A journey into smartphones, where Emojis live and allow people to communicate with people who are separated from us by language, borders, oceans…Story by Tony Leondis & Eric Siegel. Screenplay by Tony Leondis & Eric Siegel and Mike White.

FERDINAND The tale of Ferdinand, a giant bull who prefers flowers to fighting, has captured the hearts of millions since it was first told in the 1936 book “The Story of Ferdinand” by author Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson. A warm and charming take on how appearances can be deceptive (or, why you should never judge a bull by its cover…) the book’s message of love and acceptance has resonated for decades. Now, a new generation of moviegoers can enjoy a delightful CG-animated family film inspired by the classic story with 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios’ Ferdinand.

FINDING DORY Director Andrew Stanton is always on the lookout for a new story. His imagination has taken him under the sea and beyond the stars, but this time, a character from his past unexpectedly swam straight into his subconscious. “The mystery of memory is so important to the story,” says screenwriter Victoria Strouse. “Memory is a huge part of family—all of those seemingly meaningless or mundane interactions we all experience as children stay with us and shape our personalities. Dory possesses those memories—on some deep level—and accessing them is part of her ultimate journey of realizing that she’s not broken after all.”

THE GOOD DINOSAUR Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs with The Good Dinosaur where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend named Spot. The Good Dinosaur is executive produced by Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Andrew Stanton. With original concept and development by Bob Peterson, the film features a story by Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann and Peterson, and a screenplay by LeFauve. Music is by Academy Award-winning film composer Mychael Danna (Life of Pi) and Emmy-nominated composer Jeff Danna (Tyrant).

ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE Audiences everywhere love the Ice Age films, which is the second biggest animated motion picture franchise in the world.  Each new story increases the stakes, scale, adventure, humor and heart—making Ice Age: Collision Course the biggest and most ambitious film of the series. It was directed by Mike Thurmeier and co-directed by Galen Tan Chu,[6] and written by Michael Wilson, Michael Berg and Yoni Brenner.

INSIDE OUT Loaded with Pixar’s signature charm, “Inside Out” features a mind full of memorable characters, poignant moments and humor. “Our goal, right off the top, was to make it fun,” says producer Jonas Rivera. “My kids have seen it and all they talk about is Anger. They think he’s really funny. And the journey that Joy and Sadness take is one big, cool adventure. Director Pete Docter co-wrote the screenplay with Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley from an original story by Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS From animation studio LAIKA, makers of the Academy Award-nominated Coraline, comes Kubo and the Two Strings, an epic original action-adventure and a cinematic experience that sweeps audiences into a world of wonders. Marc Haimes developed the story with Shannon Tindle, and then wrote the screenplay with Chris Butler, who previously wrote and directed ParaNorman for LAIKA.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE The writers on “The LEGO Batman Movie” have roots in a range of comedic and/or animated projects.  Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was made into a successful feature; writing partners Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have been recognized for their work on “Community” and “American Dad”; Jared Stern counts “Toy Story 3” and “Wreck-It Ralph” among his feature animation credits; and John Whittington is a staff writer on the upcoming series “Green Eggs and Ham,” based on the classic Dr. Seuss children’s book.

THE LITTLE PRINCE A beautifully crafted animated film The Little Prince, inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved 1942 masterpiece, the screenplay was written by Irena Brignull (The Boxtrolls) and Bob Persichetti based on a story conceived by Mark Osborne.

MOANA Moana, a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people, was directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess & the Frog), from a screenplay by Jared Bush, who was responsible for helping to develop and shape character personalities and overall story for Moana.

THE PROPHET Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet’s journey to the big screen began more than a decade ago when executive producer Steve Hanson embarked on an eight-year quest to license the rights to the Lebanese author’s timeless bestseller.The beloved book, which has been translated into 40 languages, has sold over 100 million copies and has never been out of print since it was first published in 1923.

THE SAUSAGE PARTY Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been the masterminds behind some of the world’s most outrageous, inventive, and hilarious comedies – from Superbad to Pineapple Express to This Is the End to The Interview.  Now, they go into the world of animation for Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures’ Sausage Party, the world’s first R-rated CG animated comedy, about a group of supermarket products on a quest to discover the truth about their existence and what really happens when they become chosen to leave the grocery store.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS For their fifth fully animated feature-film collaboration, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures present The Secret Life of Pets, a comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day. Illumination Entertainment founder and Ceo Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy—who together have produced the beloved films of the Despicable Me franchise, as well as the blockbusters Minions and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax—produce the comedy that is directed by Chris Renaud, co-directed by Yarrow Cheney and written by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch.

SING Illumination has captivated audiences all over the world with the beloved hits Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, now the second-highest-grossing animated movie in history. Following the release of this summer’s comedy blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets, Illumination brings Sing to the big screen. With its highly relatable characters, heart and humor, the first collaboration between writer/director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Illumination founder and Ceo Chris Meledandri marks the sixth fully animated feature from the studio.

THE SNOW QUEEN A fairy tale like “The Snow Queen” is a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters (such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, witches, giants, and talking animals) and enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events.“When I started writing the script for “The Snow Queen” I never imagined that I would direct the film,” says writer director Maxim Sveshnikov, who began his career in animation features as a writer on Alyosha Popovich & Tugarin Zmey (CTB Film Company, Melnitsa Animation Studio) and later he established himself as a successful filmmaker, writing numerous scripts for feature and animated films

THE STAR How do you tell one of the most famous stories ever recorded and bring it to the screen in a fresh, new way?  This was the challenge facing the filmmakers behind The Star, Affirm Films and Sony Pictures Animation’s family film about the events leading up to the very first Christmas.“It’s the Nativity story from the point of view of the animals, and in this film, we follow Bo, who is the donkey that carries Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem,” explains director Timothy Reckart. The story is by Simon Moore and Carlos Kotkin; and the screenplay is by Carlos Kotkin

STORKS The action-packed, animated adventure takes audiences on a road trip like no other, as a super-focused stork with big ambitions, and a sunny 18-year-old orphaned girl with some wild ideas, rush to make one very special delivery.The film was directed by Stoller (Neighbors, Forgetting Sarah Marshall; writer on The Muppets) and Oscar nominee Doug Sweetland (the animated short Presto; supervising animator on Cars), from a screenplay written by Stoller.

TROLLS From the creators of Shrek comes DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls, a smart, funny and irreverent comedy about the search for happiness, and just how far some will go to get it. Happiness was foremost in the minds of Trolls director Mike Mitchell and co-director Walt Dohrn, even during the earliest stages of story discussions with screenwriters/co-producers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and producer Gina Shay. The two filmmakers had worked together on DreamWorks Animation’s blockbuster Shrek franchise, and their familiarity with the beloved ogres of that world led them to their distant cousins, the Trolls.

ZOOTROPOLIS In its 92-year history, Walt Disney Animation Studios has created a long and storied legacy of talking-animal films—from Mickey Mouse’s debut short Steamboat Willie to Bambi, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Robin Hood and The Lion King, and returns to the wild with the feature film Zootropolis, which marks Disney Animation Studios’ 55th animated feature. Byron Howard (Director/Story by) directed Tangled. Rich Moore (Director/Story by) directed Wreck-It Ralph, numerous episodes of The Simpsons and was a sequence director on “The Simpsons Movie.Jared Bush (Co-Director/Story by/Screenplay by) is responsible for helping to develop and shape character personalities and overall story, as well as helping to define the world of “Zootropolis.” Phil Johnston (Story by/Screenplay by) is a feature film and television writer whose first Disney movie was Wreck-It Ralph and he also wrote Cedar Rapids and Grimsby

List Of Animated Films   Back to The Art Of Screenwriting and Filmmaking

Ferdinand

Just like the classic animated movies, Ferdinand taps into the collective unconscious and expresses our fears, anxieties and our dreams. It makes you feel very deeply

Leaf_700068647_beschnitten

Munro Leaf

The tale of Ferdinand, a giant bull who prefers flowers to fighting, has captured the hearts of millions since it was first told in the 1936 book “The Story of Ferdinand” by author Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson. A warm and charming take on how appearances can be deceptive (or, why you should never judge a bull by its cover…) the book’s message of love and acceptance has resonated for decades. Now, a new generation of moviegoers can enjoy a delightful CG-animated family film inspired by the classic story with 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios’ Ferdinand.

This classic has been in publication for over seventy-five years, been translated into more than sixteen languages, and is included on Time’s 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.

ferdinandthebullThe book’s message of amity and acceptance is as relevant today as it was when it first came out, and serves as the perfect opportunity for parents to share this moral with even the youngest of children.

During its first run, the book sold 14,000 copies at $1 each. The following year, the sales increased to 68,000 and by 1938, the book was selling at 3,000 per week.

In 1938, it outsold Gone with the Wind to become the number one bestseller in the U.S.

The book has been translated into more than 60 languages and has never been out of print.  A first-edition copy of The Story of Ferdinand sold for $16,500 in 2014.

Leaf wrote the story on a whim in an afternoon in 1935 to provide his friend, illustrator Robert Lawson a place to showcase his talents.

The story was adapted by Walt Disney as a short animated film titled Ferdinand the Bull in 1938. Directed by Dick Rickard, Ferdinand the Bull won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Subject Cartoon.

The story centers on the adventures of a peace-loving bull (voiced by John Cena), who is adopted by a loving farmer and daughter. However, his idyllic life changes after he’s mistaken for a vicious beast and is taken away to the last place on earth he wants to be, a bull training camp. But Ferdinand is determined to get back home. Along the way, the kind-hearted bull makes many friends and changes the lives of those he meets. But there still one great obstacle he’ll have to overcome… in the film’s thrilling climactic scene, Ferdinand has to face the matador El Primero in a packed arena, but he valiantly stays true to his peaceful nature, and inspires all those around him.

carlos

Carlos Saldanha

The plan to bring Ferdinand’s tale to the big screen began more than six years ago when director Carlos Saldanha, creator and director of the Rio series and director of many of the Ice Age movies, was still working on Rio 2.  “I was very excited when I found out that Fox and Blue Sky were thinking of developing a movie based on the book,” recalls Saldanha. “I had read the book and fallen in love with the story and its wonderful message of acceptance and diversity. I thought that this was the right moment to take this lovely little book and develop it into a family movie for today’s audiences.”

For long-time Blue Sky Studios producer Lori Forte, the film offered a chance to reunite with Saldanha, who had worked with her on the first three Ice Age movies. “Carlos had wanted to work on a movie which had a bull as its main character,” recalls Forte. “I knew that he was passionate about this project, and his strong feelings for the story and its message also inspired me and everyone else around him.”

Another major figure in realizing the movie was producer John Davis, whose many family-friendly projects include the Dr. Dolittle and Garfield movies and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Davis had been after the rights to “The Story of Ferdinand” for more than ten years, and when they finally became available, he jumped at the chance to acquire them and take the project to 20th Century Fox.

“Ferdinand was one of the classic books my wife and I had read our children at bedtime when they were younger,” Davis recalls. “We saw firsthand how the gentle message of this book and other similar classics informed their sense of self and morality and taught them about kindness towards others. In the past, I had made many movies based on similar properties that both my children and I felt very passionate about. The family that owned the rights to the book wanted the spirit of the book preserved, and I knew the team at Fox and Blue Sky would do justice to this wonderful story.”

Producer Bruce Anderson, who also worked with Saldanha on the two Rio movies, says Ferdinand provided him a chance to revisit one of the favorite books of his childhood. “My mom was an elementary school librarian, and this was one of our favorite go-to books,” he notes. “It has always struck a chord with me because it champions non-conformity. It shows you that the world is made of all kinds of different people, and it is that diversity that makes us better. When you are a kid and you’re not as competitive as your classmates, the message of this book can really help you find your way.”

FERDINAND 3

From Page to the Big Screen

The screenplay was crafted by Robert L. Baird and Tim Federle and Brad Copeland.

Robert L. Baird

Robert L. Baird

Robert L. Baird has made his mark as a screenwriter on some of the most popular animated hits of the past fifteen years. He was a contributing writer on Pixar Animation Studios’ Monsters, Inc. and Golden Globe-winning Cars. He was the co-screenwriter of 2013’s Monsters University. For Walt Disney Animation Studios, Baird’s credits include 2005’s Chicken Little, 2007’s Meet the Robinsons and the 2012 animated short Tangled Ever After. In 2015 he co-wrote the screenplay for Big Hero 6” which earned an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Most recently, Baird co-wrote the screenplay for “Ferdinand, from 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios, which will be released in December 2017. Just last month, Baird has been brought on as Co-President of Fox Animation, along side Andrea Miloro.

Tim Federle

Tim Federle is “a prolific scribe whose breezy wit isn’t bound to a single genre” (Huffington Post). Tim’s award-winning novels include the New York Times notable books “The Great American Whatever” and “Better Nate Than Ever” — which Lin-Manuel Miranda called “a wonderful evocation of what it’s like to be a theater kid” (New York Times). Tim’s cocktail recipe books, including the worldwide bestseller “Tequila Mockingbird”, have sold over half a million copies. Recently, Tim co-wrote the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “Tuck Everlasting”, and he is developing projects for Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios and Netflix. Tim sits on the boards of Rosie’s Theater Kids and the National Coalition Against Censorship. A native of San Francisco who grew up in Pittsburgh, he now divides his time between New York and the internet

brad-copleland

Brad Copeland

Brad Copeland has written extensively for television and movies, including the acclaimed series Arrested Development, for which he earned three Emmy nominations, My Name Is Earl and Eastbound & Down. Copeland’s first motion picture screenplay, the biker comedy Wild Hogs, became one of the highest-grossing films of 2007. In addition, he wrote Yogi Bear and wrote and directed the 2013 cult favorite Coffee Town. Currently, Copeland is involved in the big-screen adaptation of Knight Rider and is an Executive Producer of the hit CBS series Life in Pieces,” now in its third season.  Copeland was born and raised in Orlando, Fla., and currently lives in Sherman Oaks, Calif., with his wife and two sons.

The screen story is by Ron Burch & David Kidd & Don Rhymer

Ron Burch and David Kidd

Ron Burch and David Kidd

Ron Burch and David Kidd are currently the Executive Producers, Head Writers and Showrunners of DreamWorks Animation’s Netflix Original series Dinotrux.

Burch & Kidd got their start on the CBS sitcom, The Closer, for which they were nominated for a Primetime Emmy for the song You Don’t Know Jack, performed in the show by Michael Feinstein and Bernadette Peters.  In 2000 their movie Head Over Heels was released. In 2005 their remake of Yours, Mine & Ours for Paramount and MGM was released. Burch and Kidd have developed and acted as script doctors for a number of family movies for most of the Hollywood studios including Beverly Hills Chihuahua for Disney; they also served as Story Consultants for Inspector Gadget (Disney) and Elmo in Grouchland (Columbia TriStar). They have developed television pilots for MTV, ABC Family, Warner Brothers, FX, Fox, and TBS.

Rhymer

Don Rhymer’

Don Rhymer’s previous work includes writing the story for Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, and the screenplay for Big Momma’s House 2.  His other feature comedy credits include Rio, Rio 2, Surf’s Up, Carpool, Big Momma’s House (co-written with Darryl Quarles), The Santa Clause 2, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, and the big-screen adaptation of The Honeymooners. Rhymer also enjoyed a successful TV career, and wrote and produced such sitcoms as The Hogan Family, Coach, Bagdad Café, Evening Shade, Hearts Afire, Caroline in the City, Chicago Sons, and Fired Up.  In addition, he wrote the telefilms Banner Times, Past the Bleachers, and Under Wraps.  Rhymer passed away in November 2012 during the production of Rio 2.

One of the major challenges in turning the brief book into a full-length feature was expanding its storyline and introducing new characters to accompany the central character on his journey.

“The story has a very strong beginning and ending, so we took those very powerful components and created this middle part that helped us really get attached to Ferdinand,” notes Anderson. “We were able to spend more time with him and experience his world as he grows up in a more contemporary, relatable way. We also had the freedom to introduce all these other colorful and memorable characters that weren’t in the book. However, they all also had to fit this world and echo the message and sensibilities of the piece.”

Saldanha and Forte both point out that the deeply layered messages of the property allowed them to expand the storyline in a logical fashion. “The more research we did, the more it became obvious to us that people can interpret the story in so many different ways,” notes Saldanha. “Our story has a deeper meaning in the difficult world we all live in today.”

As Forte explains, when you open up a small story, a lot of attention has to be paid to make sure the expanded journey of the hero and all the newly introduced sidekicks and other characters are just as satisfying and loveable as the main one.

“Everyone worked hard to make sure the movie as a whole would be as universal and timeless as the original story that inspired the project,” she notes. “I was very familiar with the book. It has such a simple and powerful message that is attractive for kids and adults. Of course, that message is just as resonant today as it was when the book was first published in the ’30s.”

“Carlos is an amazing storyteller and a very sensitive human being,” adds Davis. “There is so much heart in this movie. Kids can relate to the whole notion of having to leave home and going to a less protective and more competitive adult world. Ferdinand has a set of values and he adheres to them, although the world doesn’t understand him. Just like the classic animated movies, Ferdinand taps into the collective unconscious and expresses our fears, anxieties and our dreams. It makes you feel very deeply.”

FERDINAND 4

The Trip to Spain

 As both the book and the movie are set in colorful and historic places in Spain, Saldanha and a few of his colleagues visited the country to seek visual inspiration and authentic backdrops for their project. “We were inspired by the beauty of the landscapes and unique architecture of Spain,” says the director. “The color palette of the movie has a lot of earth tones to it, and is very different from the tropical colors that we used in the Rio movies. We took in the magnificent architecture of some of the cities and traveled south to the lovely region of Andalusia.”

The mountain-top city of Ronda in Spain’s Malaga province inspired the location for the farm where Ferdinand finds happiness with the young girl Nina and her father. “We wanted the art to reflect the beauty of this world,” explains Saldanha. “We wanted the locations to express the possibilities of an animated movie, but also be truthful to the art, history and culture of Spain.”

The team retraced Ferdinand’s journey to Madrid, Seville and farmlands in the South of the country. “The old and the new co-exist beautifully here,” notes Saldanha. “There are old windmills and modern highways and these ancient white cities that offer a beautiful contrast to the modern elements of Spain. We visited the haciendas where they raise the cattle and took in every little detail, the vegetation, the colors, the small villages and the people. We also saw the windmills of La Mancha and the famous Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid. All these locations help us create an authentic world for our characters.”

Foreigner

“This film is about settling your demons,.. It’s about justice. It’s about paying a price for what you do..”

Based on acclaimed crime writer Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel, “The Chinaman,” The Foreigner gets a present-day update by screenwriter David Marconi (Enemy of the State, Live Free or Die Hard), and is directed by a master of the smart action genre, Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and Goldeneye.)

In this gripping and relevant action thriller, justice, retribution and redemption are at the heart of a provocative story of two men whose hidden pasts explode in the present.

The film tells the story of humble London restaurant owner Quan (Jackie Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love — his teenage daughter — is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism.
As he searches for the people responsible, he seeks the assistance of Irish Deputy Minister, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), an ill-fitting government official whose own troubled history comes to bear down on him.
As Quan enters into a game of political cat-and-mouse with Hennessy, both men must confront their pasts as they try to identify the elusive killers.

“This film is about settling your demons,” says producer Scott Lumpkin. “It’s about justice. It’s about paying a price for what you do. Quan is wrestling with tragedies in his past. He’s wrestling with his history and he’s had enough. He’s ready. It’s time to pay back those that have done wrong for everyone. And that’s really what this film is about.”

The film marks a blazing return to the screen by Jackie Chan (the Rush Hour trilogy, Skiptrace) and Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, The November Man), two actors in roles that take full advantage of and build upon their legendary star status.

The story of The Foreigner – its themes and its specific story – is a sometimes disquieting reflection of the fragile world we inhabit. The characters are intriguing examples of the complexities of living in a global society where belief can become action without emphatic consideration of consequence.

From Page To Screen: The Foreigner’s Journey

Stephen Leather

Stephen Leather

While acclaimed crime writer Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel, “The Chinaman” was set in the early 90s during “The Troubles” — the period when the IRA were bombing the UK and Northern Ireland — the film’s producers felt that the main themes could be equally powerful in a current setting.

Producer Wayne Marc Godfrey recruited Marconi to adapt Leather’s novel, given Marconi’s track record of success in action thrillers. Producer Arthur Sarkissian subsequently gave the script to Martin Campbell as a potential directing assignment.

Together they worked with Marconi revising the script.

STXfilms, a division of Robert Simonds’ STX Entertainment, later optioned the script from Godfrey and Sarkissian, with Chan attached to play Quan. STXfilms’ then head of production Cathy Schulman oversaw a new draft of the screenplay, focusing on designing it as a “two hander”.

Both Quan and Deputy Minister Hennessy were battling similar demons based on their shadowy backgrounds. Schulman suggested that Hennessy’s role be fine-tuned to attract Schulman and Campbell’s mutual friend and collaborator Pierce Brosnan.

“While we were working on it, we knew that Jackie Chan would be playing Quan and we had Pierce Brosnan in our sights too,” says screenwriter David Marconi. “So, when I was doing the script, it was with these actors in mind. “

David MarconiRecently, two other films Marconi wrote have been made into films; The Foreigner, directed by Martin Campbell, based on the book The Chinaman by Stephen Leather, and Darkside of the Moon, based on the novel by Martin Suter, which Marconi originally penned and developed for Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall).

A native of Highland Park, Ill., Marconi was passionate about film making from an early age. After winning several high-school filmmaking competitions, Marconi was awarded an Alumni Merit Scholarship to attend the University of Southern California’s Film School. Upon graduation, his first job was as Francis Ford Coppola’s assistant on The Outsiders. Following that, Coppola promoted Marconi to Production Supervisor 2nd Unit on Rumble Fish.

After a year-long series of production jobs ranging from Art Department to Prop Master, Marconi landed his first feature writing assignment off an original pitch entitled; Mud Sweat and Gears. (Warner Bros.) Bob Schaffel producing, Thomas Carter to direct. Marconi followed that by writing two more back-to-back action pictures for Warner Bros; The Blonde Hurricane, a romantic comedy set in Paris during the 30’s, and One Hot Afternoon, an present day version of a classic Western. Though the writing assignments were lucrative, the directing was tugging at him. In 1993, Marconi wrote and directed his first feature, The Harvest.

The success of The Harvest brought Marconi to the attention of several directors and producers, one of whom was Michael Mann who commissioned Marconi to write Red Badge,  Simpson Bruckheimer commissioned Marconi to write his original screenplay Enemy of the State, and Oliver Stone hired Marconi to pen the first draft of MI2.

As a writer, Marconi has also co-authored with Flint Dille three serialized novels: Agent 13, The Midnight Avenger, Agent 13 and the Serpentine Assassins and Agent 13 and the Acolytes of Darkness, all from Random House Publishing.The books are currently under option and being developed at Universal Pictures with Charlize Theron to produce and star.

It was a lengthy process, which included contributions from director Martin Campbell, once he came on board the film. “We worked on the script together for about four or five months,” recalls Marconi. “We had a great working rapport which is essential, and Martin’s ideas were spot on. Martin elevated the script to another level, his notes and suggestions were very clear. He was as concerned about character as am I.”

“This is a story of revenge where the main character is a man who’s had a tragic past. Two of his daughters were killed in terrible circumstances several years ago, and his wife dies soon after they have established a new life of safety in the UK, and now 15 years later, his only daughter is killed, so he has nothing left to live for,” explains Marconi. “His journey of revenge ultimately becomes one of redemption. It took me about 2 1/2 years of writing and rewriting. I had to break the book down. Stephen wrote a very good book that I was able to do an adaptation from.”

One of the biggest challenges was updating it from the 90s to present day.

“It was very important to take the issues of today and put them into this novel that was set in the past. We had to reinvent and update certain things so the technologies and the threats were more contemporary,” says Marconi. “I didn’t want to make the IRA the bad guys, because they’ve made peace. But there are upstarts in the organization who haven’t signed up to peace that are out there still trying to do things. I had to find the different shades of the villains and try and present all sides so the bad guys weren’t all one color and the good guys weren’t all one color. It’s about various shades of greys because the world that we live in is a very grey world. You have to get inside the heads of all the characters, including the villains, so you can understand why people do what they do.”

The Author Stamps The Foreigner’s Passport for Journey to The Silver Screen

“I wanted to do a story about a man who was underestimated by people,” says novelist Stephen Leather. “A man who nobody took seriously, who isn’t considered a threat.” All too often, screen adaptations of novels bear little resemblance to the source material, leaving authors disgruntled. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. Although the film has shifted the story to the present day from its early 90s setting, the original themes and foundation remain. “It’s my book and it’s the filmmakers’ movie,” says Leather. “David is a brilliant writer and he’s done such a great job of writing the script. He’s changed a lot of elements. We had to update the technology. And it’s very true to the story and to the characters I wrote. So, I’m very pleased that David’s given it an extra edge. Martin’s action scenes improve it. And he’s put more intensity in it. I think it’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And to be on set surrounded by 100 people filming a story that I wrote in my little room 25 years ago is thrilling.”

Martin Campbell

Martin Campbell

Chan embraced the opportunity to break out of his typical action-hero persona and tackle a serious dramatic role.

foreigner

“He immersed himself into the character of Quan. It’s a character we haven’t seen him play before. We all expect Jackie to come in and start ‘kung fu-ing’ everybody, but Jackie’s approached the character from a cerebral perspective,” explains Lumpkin. “The character is all about thinking through his actions, he meticulously plans how he’s going to approach his antagonists, he plans how he’s going to get revenge for his daughter, he meticulously looks for justice. And you can see that in his mind as the character develops.”

“He is obviously completely and emotionally wrecked by the death of his daughter. And he very quietly goes to the police to ask who did this. He is a quiet man with a simple life; he makes a living from his Chinese restaurant. He is dignified,” says Campbell, discussing Quan’s journey for justice, “He even, at one point, in his naivety offers the police chief all his life savings in order to at least get a clue- a name- about who could have done this atrocity.”

“Quan has a history. He was a Nùng fighter in Vietnam, so he worked with the US soldiers, in training, in guerrilla warfare, so he’s got a real history of how to be a bad-ass,” adds Lumpkin. “He knows how to defend himself; he knows how to protect himself; and he knows how to find the answers. And that’s really his mission: to find answers and to seek justice.”

After being dismissed by Hennessy when he asks him who killed his daughter, Quan realizes he must draw on the skills and training from his secret past to convince Hennessy to take him seriously. “Quan does little things – he puts small bombs in his office and in his car which are not meant to hurt or maim – but Hennessy knows if Quan wants to, he can kill his whole family,” says Chan. “Quan just wants Hennessy to give him the name of the bombers. He’s stubborn and he wants revenge.” As Quan’s frustration increases, so do the demonstrations of his capabilities. As Campbell puts it, “Quan has nothing to lose. And he doesn’t think for a minute he is going to live through this,” states Campbell. “And he doesn’t care. It’s just morally what he has to do.”

Brosnan

Playing Liam Hennessy, the former IRA-commander-turned–British-government-official is Pierce Brosnan. For Lumpkin, Brosnan is a man who “oozes class. He was James Bond, he was Remington Steele, and he’s everything that we have always wanted to be when we watch a movie. Pierce brings a sense of balance, coolness and class to the character of Hennessy. You look at Hennessy at first and you think ‘what a classy cool guy.’ But he’s got a dark past. And there’s really no one else who could play that role like Pierce.” Says Brosnan of his character, “He’s someone who was born of war, really, he grew up in The Troubles in Ireland. He’s very bright, very articulate, and someone who is trying to hold onto his own position in government and within his own people in the north of Ireland.”

Reuniting Martin Campbell with his former Bond was an easy sell. “Well first of all, Pierce is Irish, which helps. I think this one of the best things he’s ever done,” says Campbell. “He threw himself into that role. I remember him saying to me [he] was a little worried about the IRA, being Irish and doing a story like this. However, he went into it with his eyes open. And for once, I got some rehearsal time with him before we started, so that helped. I think the character he finally came up with is absolutely fascinating.”

“Hennessy is as we would expect a politician to be, withholding answers and information,” says Lumpkin. “He sees Quan as simply a foreigner and doesn’t pay him any attention — until Quan shows what he’s capable of. Hennessy realizes this is serious, but he has a lot of other things going on. He’s got to build up his power base, which is beginning to dwindle. He’s got to handle [former IRA colleague] McGrath and his rogue forces. Pierce does a fantastic job of playing Hennessy. He’s got a really solid sense of style in what he brings to the role. Hennessy is completely believable – he’s got a great charm at the beginning, but slowly he reveals how much of a bad-ass he is.”

Amidst all this action and intrigue, when asked what the audience hopes to feel when they leave the theatre, Martin Campbell sums up, “I just want them to enjoy it. I want them to be thoroughly entertained and emotionally moved as well. For me, that’s really the criteria.”

MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS 2

This will introduce a whole generation of people to the real Dickens.

The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge,  Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol, showing how Charles Dickens mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

Based on Les Standiford’s 2008 book, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, the movie brings the imagination of one of the world’s best-loved authors to vivid reality as
he creates the masterpiece that has shaped modern-day Christmas celebrations for more than 150 years, directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) from a screenplay by Susan Coyne (Mozart in the Jungle, Slings and Arrows).

After a string of successful novels, world-renowned writer Dickens (Dan Stevens) has had three flops in a row.

With the needs of his burgeoning family and his own extravagance rapidly emptying his pockets, Dickens grows desperate for another bestseller. Tormented by writer’s block and at odds with his publishers, he grasps at an idea for a surefire hit, a Christmas story he hopes will capture the imagination of his fans and solve his financial problems.

But with only six weeks to write and publish the book before the holiday, and without the support of his publishers – who question why anyone would ever read a book about Christmas – he will have to work feverishly to meet his deadline.

Dickens locks himself away to write, but his chaotic household, which now includes his profligate father (Jonathan Pryce), is a constant distraction. Working late into the night, the writer channels his own memories to conjure up the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, and place them on a collision course with the misanthropic miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer).

DICKENS

Charles Dickens’ slender volume, A Christmas Carol, has fascinated and delighted readers, artists, playwrights and filmmakers for almost two centuries with its themes of family, benevolence, goodwill and festivity. In fact, it set a new standard for the holiday, inspiring the spirit of the traditional Victorian Christmas and beginning a host of customs that are still popular today. But while most readers are familiar with the beloved tale, few know the story behind it.

Les Standiford, author of the book that inspired the film and a prolific fiction and nonfiction writer in his own right, learned A Christmas Carol was almost never published. “I had no idea that he had to pay for the publication himself,” he says. “Even though no publisher was interested in it, the book was responsible for changing the trajectory of Dickens’ career. I set about to find a book that explained it all, but to my great surprise, there was no such book.”

So Standiford decided to write one himself. A fascinating peek into the creative process of one of the world’s greatest storytellers, it was quickly optioned by producer Robert Mickelson and executive producers Paula Mazur and Mitchell Kaplan. All Dickens buffs, like many involved in the making of The Man Who Invented Christmas , they discovered Standiford’s meticulously researched account of this period in the author’s life about eight years ago. “Paula and Mitch gave me the book,” recalls Mickelson. “It was a story we weren’t aware of at the time and exploring Dickens’ creative process as well as his life fascinated me.”

Les StandifordStandiford is an accomplished author whose work includes New York Times bestsellers Last Train to Paradise, Meet You in Hell, Bringing Adam Home and The Man Who Invented Christmas.  The author’s upcoming book, Palm Beach, will be published by Grove Atlantic next fall. Standiford is a graduate of the University of Utah, where he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in literature and creative writing. He also attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and Columbia School of Law. Additionally, he is a former screenwriting fellow and graduate of the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

Kaplan says, “as a bookseller for 35 years and a good friend of Les’, I knew that his delightful retelling of how Dickens brought his classic to print resonated deeply with readers, and if we put the right pieces together we would create something very special for moviegoers, as well.”

For Mazur, the book offered a new perspective on A Christmas Carol. “In 1843, at age 31, Dickens was a literary rock star, which makes the story feel very contemporary,” she says. “He was wildly successful and was plagued by all the issues that are attendant to that.” Published in 1843, A Christmas Carol was a last-ditch effort by Dickens to raise money to support the affluent lifestyle he and his family had grown used to. But the lavishly illustrated volume turned out to be more than just an instant moneymaker. It also renewed interest in, and enthusiasm for, a holiday that had fallen into disfavor.

There have been other Dickens biopics over the years, but The Man Who Invented Christmas