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June 28, 2020

‘Blade Runner’ Anniversary: The Weekend When ‘E.T.’ and ‘Star Trek II’ Crushed Ridley Scott

In the early 1980s, Cinefantastique was an extraordinarily detailed and authoritative sci-fi film magazine. Founded as a mimeographed fanzine a year before the 1968 release of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it became a serious, almost scholarly glossy. And in 1982, Cinefantastique opened the year with a double issue that featured “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

Looking back, Cinefantastique was right to recognize “Blade Runner;” its impact is still felt nearly 40 years later. However, in 1982 the $65 million production grossed just $41 million worldwide (in adjusted dollars, about $95 million) as one sci-fi title among many. June 11 saw the release of Steven Spielberg’s instant classic “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial;” June 4 was “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Those far less complex, more audience-friendly titles had already grossed over $125 million (this and all grosses here adjusted to 2020 values).

June 25 also saw the debut of “The Thing,” John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 classic, as well as 20th Century Fox’s “Megaforce.” The supernatural “Poltergeist” was riding high in its fourth week, and soon to come was Disney’s much-anticipated and very expensive “Tron.”

However, at around $65 million “Blade Runner” was the most expensive of these (“E.T.” only cost $26 million!). It starred Harrison Ford, who after the “Star Wars” films and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” was the ideal actor to attach to this. And while this was only Scott’s third feature, his “Alien” showed that complicated, highly visual, stylized, R-rated sci-fi films could work along with the Spielberg/Lucas kind.

Also key was Alan Ladd, Jr., now an independent producer after leaving head of production post at 20th Century-Fox where he oversaw “Star Wars” and “Alien.” He formed his own company, which initially partnered with Warner Bros. That combined pedigree led to the choice of the late-June date, considered as prime as any.

“Blade Runner” underrated its competition, but there were other issues. Early screenings reflected a confused audience, which led to months of unsatisfactory tinkering — and later, reviews that were mixed or worse.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”

Still, the film opened to #2, behind only the soaring “E.T.” in its third week — the biggest one of its run. Spielberg’s film — the biggest domestic grosser over the decades since “Star Wars” — performed beyond all expectations. Ahead of its release, there was suspicion is might be minor Spielberg, too kid-friendly and certainly no risk to “Blade Runner.”

The second “Star Trek” film also held well, grossing nearly as much as the initial 1979 film. Also in play was “The Thing” as a tougher, R-rated entry (which ultimately lost money, as well as the Spielberg-produced “Poltergeist.”

Time has been kind to “Blade Runner,” which regularly places at or near the top of best sci-fi films ever, nearly always ahead of “E.T.,” but it lost money on its initial release. History repeated itself in 2018 with long-awaited sequel “Blade Runner 2049,” which cost over $150 million but grossed $260 million worldwide. Similar to the original, it had major core fan interest (although much better initial reviews, and far less competition). In both cases, the high budget took films with decent initial response into financial failure.

Totally lost in the shuffle was “Megaforce,” a megabomb that somehow was thought to be a smart change of pace for “Smokey and the Bandit” director Hal Needham. Produced by Al Ruddy (“The Godfather”) this sci-fi adjacent action film featured advanced weaponry and other gadgetry; some noted its fighter jet battles seemed inspired by “Star Wars.” Among its problems was fending off Clint Eastwood’s similarly military-themed “Firefox,” which quietly became a big success.

Seven of the top 10 for this week were featured to varying degree in Cinemafantastique and other sci-fi related media. That so many were positioned at such a prime time shows how hot the genre had become.


Blade Runner

“Blade Runner”

June 25-27, 1982 (grosses in BOLD are adjusted to 2020 equivalent)

1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$13.4 million/$30.1 million (+6%) in 1,215 theaters (+99); PTA: $11,015/$25,334; Final total: $435.1 million/$1.329 billion

2. Blade Runner (Warner Bros.)

$6.2 million/$14.3 million in 1,295 theaters; PTA: $4,749/$10,923; Final total: $32.7 million/$75.2 million

3. Firefox (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$5.1 million/$11.6 million (-37%) in 891 theaters (+10); PTA: $5,753/$13,231; Final total: $45.8 million/$105.3 million

4. Rocky III (MGM/UA) Week 5; Last weekend #3

$5.1 million/$11.5 million (-19%) in 1,232 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,134/$9,508; Final total: $124.1 million/$285.4 million

5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Paramount) Week 4; Last weekend #4

$4.5 million/$10.4 million (-27%) in 1,225 theaters (-223); PTA: $3,538/$8,137; Final total: $78.9 million/$181.5 million

6. Annie (Columbia) Week 6; Last weekend #5

$4.5 million/$10.3 million (-15%) in 1,102 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,120/$9,476; Final total: $57.1 million/$131.3 million

7. Poltergeist (MGM/UA) Week 4; Last weekend #6

$4.1 million/$9.4 million (-13%) in 911 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,504/$10,359; Final total: $76.6 million/$176.1 million

8. The Thing (Universal) NEW

$3.1 million/$7.1 million in 840 theaters; PTA: $3,700/$8,510; Final total: $19.6 million/$45.1 million

9. Megaforce (20th Century Fox) NEW

$2.4 million/$5.5 million in 1,193 theaters; PTA: $1,970/$4,531; Final total: $5.7 million/$13.1 million

10. Bambi (Buena Vista) REISSUE

$2.1 million/$4.8 million in 508 theaters; PTA: $4,127/$9,492; Final total: $23.0 million/$52.9 million (reissue only)



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Source: IndieWire film

June 28, 2020

‘Soul’ Trailer: Pixar Sneaks ‘Parting Ways’ Song from Studio’s First Black-Led Feature


The pandemic may have pushed back the theatrical release of Pixar’s “Soul” (from Juneteenth to November 20), but that didn’t stop Disney from dropping a new teaser trailer on Saturday, touting the original song, “Parting Ways” (written, produced, and performed by fusion specialist Cody ChesnuTT).

Pete Docter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, follows up his Oscar-winning “Inside Out” with the Cannes-selected “Soul,” which explores the answers to some of life’s most important questions of identity. The musical fantasy introduces Pixar’s first Black protagonist, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a New York middle-school band teacher who gets the ultimate gig playing piano at the top jazz club, only to fall into a manhole and journey to The Great Before, a fantastical place where new souls are formed before birth. There he encounters precocious soul, 22 (Tina Fey), who rejects the appeal of the human experience. But they team up so Gardner can return to Earth and complete his journey.

As Gardner emphasizes in the one-minute teaser, “Spend your precious hours doing what will bring out the real you — the brilliant, passionate you.” The predominantly Black cast also includes the voice work of Phylicia Rashad, Angela Bassett, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, and Daveed Diggs. Musician Jon Batiste composed the jazz score for the New York portion, while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the ethereal score for The Great Before.

Soul Disney/Pixar



On Saturday, Essence Festival of Culture hosted a virtual “Soul” panel, which included Docter, co-director/screenwriter Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami,” “Star Trek: Discovery”), producer Dana Murray (“Lou” short), Batiste, and consultant Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole.  It started with a simple idea, according to Docter. After coming off the high of “Inside Out” in 2015, he experienced a void: “I felt like I worked my whole life to make animated films, yet I found myself wondering, ‘Is this really what I’m born to do?’” he said. “I thought about my son. I took pictures the moment he arrived; I swear, we could already see him in there. And I was thinking, ‘How did that happen?’

“Well, because each of us is born with a soul…the soul is the center of who we are…it’s our makeup of what passions and inspirations we have. We wanted our main character in the film to have those passions born into him as well. It’s something we could all relate to and root for. A jazz musician was the perfect representation of what we were trying to say in the film.”

But, as with the Oscar-winning “Coco,” Pixar wanted to ensure cultural authenticity, so the studio hired Powers to collaborate on the script with Docter, Fey, and Mike Jones (the studio’s senior story and creative artist, and former IndieWire executive editor). His contribution was so integral to shaping Gardner’s character (they are both in their mid-40s and hail from New York City), that he was promoted to co-director: “But I had to transcend his experience,” Powers said, “and so they invited a lot of other Black voices into the fold.”

Soul Disney/Pixar



Pixar not only formed the “internal culture test” comprised of Black employees, but also recruited a range of outside consultants, including Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young (“The Arrival”), and celebrated jazz musicians Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington.  In addition, Batiste, Thompson, Diggs, and anthropologist Betsch Cole served on the consulting team.

“This group watched our story reels, gave us story notes, looked at the character designs and sets as they were built,” added Powers. “They even helped with animation reviews. These folks came in to go with us on the journey.”

For Batiste, who musically provided a “cosmic optimism,” his “goal was to make it authentic, as though it were a real jazz band, while also being accessible to all ages,” he said. “I wanted to make some themes that tie into the ethereal nature of the other world while still being in the Earth realm and vice versa. Trent and Atticus and I would sometimes blend the two worlds musically.”

Source: IndieWire film

June 27, 2020

Stuart Cornfeld RIP: Everyone Loved Ben Stiller’s Producing Partner

Longtime producer Stuart Cornfeld, 67, died June 26 of cancer, but left a mark on Hollywood with collaborations with iconic directors and a run of hit movies dating back to 1980.

As a film student at the AFI Conservatory in the 1970s he worked with Anne Bancroft, who went on to introduce him to Mel Brooks. Cornfeld was an assistant on Brooks’ 1977 comedy “High Anxiety,” and the two men teamed as executive producers on David Lynch’s 1980 “The Elephant Man.”

Cornfeld went on to produce David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” which put the Canadian body-horror master on the map. Cornfeld also produced Steven Soderbergh’s “Kafka,” the young filmmaker’s first movie after the 1989 indie sensation “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic,” and the Vince Gilligan-scripted “Wilder Napalm.”

But Cornfeld’s closest collaboration was with filmmaker and actor Ben Stiller, with whom he launched Red Hour Productions and turned out a string of hit comedies including “Zoolander,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Dodgeball,” “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny,” “Blades of Glory,” and “Tropic Thunder.” In the 2010s, Cornfeld turned to indies and television, including Richard Ayoade’s cult hit “Submarine” and the reality-TV-skewering web series “Burning Love.”

“I love Stuart Cornfeld,” David Lynch told IndieWire. “Stuart was the one who introduced me to ‘The Elephant Man,’ which led to Mel Brooks giving me the chance to direct this film. Stuart, bless his heart, always believed in me and supported me. He was a true friend. He liked to take me to lunch — he took me to lunch many times. I turned Stuart on to Transcendental Meditation and he loved this meditation — through the years he always thanked me for telling him about it. Stuart was great to talk with — easy, fun, great insights, many laughs. I picture Stuart most likely laughing at the whole thing right now.”

“Better Call Saul” executive producer Mark Johnson, who first worked with Cornfeld on “High Anxiety,” told IndieWire that It’s hard to imagine a world without Cornfeld.

“All of us knew that he had a terminal illness, but you’re never prepared,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be without Stuart in the world. It’s almost impossible to describe. He was a force of humor, of passion. He was on the forefront of independent filmmaking, [but also] just plain good filmmaking. In an effort to hang out with the cool people, he overlooked the fact that he was the coolest one in the room.”

Johnson also revealed that Spanish painter Joan Bofill is at work on a documentary about Cornfeld, which the producer said is “remarkable because of who Stuart was.”

“Many things in this business — and in this life — will disappoint you. Stuart never did,” filmmaker Howard Franklin said.

“When I was a young struggling screenwriter, he literally gave me the shirt off his back,” “The English Teacher” screenwriter Dan Chariton told IndieWire. “And then half a dozen more, on the condition that I keep them dry cleaned in case I ever wanted to return them.”

“Stuart passed gently without added drama or chaos,” Johanna Went, performance artist and Cornfeld’s ex-wife, said. “I believe he experienced a good death if there can be such a thing. He was aware that his cancer was a runaway train. He did say, in that joking way he had, ‘This is the only trip I can take right now.’ He was at peace with dying and had clarity and presence.

Anne Thompson contributed reporting.

Source: IndieWire film

June 27, 2020

The Time Philip Seymour Hoffman Stood Up for Patrick Fugit While Making ‘Almost Famous’

Cameron Crowe’s rock-and-roll odyssey “Almost Famous” about his golden days as a Rolling Stone journalist has only gotten better with time. The film turns 20 this September, and its wild shoot continues to yield fascinating stories from the crew and cast. That includes one of the movie’s breakout stars, Patrick Fugit, who plays Crowe’s surrogate character William and was only 16 at the time of filming.

In a recent Vulture interview with Fugit about the making of “Almost Famous,” one memory that stands out is his on-set dynamic with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays legendary music writer Lester Bangs. Lester becomes William’s mentor and editor, and that mentorship onscreen also carried over behind the scenes on the movie.

“Philip was only there for a few days. He was another well-known theater actor with a lot of training, and he was less accepting of me than Billy [Crudup] was,” Fugit said. “They both would give me shit. They’d ask me, like, ‘How old are you again?’ And I’d be like, ’16,’ and they’d be like, ‘Fuck you, man. You’re from Salt Lake City? Okay, great. What have you done there to earn this part?’ But Philip was also kind of like, ‘Kid, you have a big part here. You need to show up to work. Make sure you do a good job while you’re here. Don’t just throw this away. There’s actors out there who scrape, and beg, and starve for this kind of a role.’”

Fugit also recalled a diner scene where a light on set was too bright, and getting in the way of his performance. “Philip stops the take, and he’s like, ‘Hold on. Hey, Patrick, you can’t even look at me. You can’t even act right now. I feel like the light is too bright.’” Hoffman convinced cinematographer John Toll to lower the lighting, but for Fugit, the moment brought an important lesson for the rising young actor. “I realized Philip was standing up for me, but also pointing out to me that we may be pretty close to court jesters and dancing monkeys, but if something’s impeding you, you have to say something,” he said.

Fugit’s recollection of his short time with Hoffman is the latest heartfelt tribute to pour out for the late actor this year, as Jesse Plemons recently remembered Hoffman’s generosity and genius on the set of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” and Ethan Hawke also said that Hoffman gave him some of the best acting advice he’s ever received while working on Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead.”


Source: IndieWire film

June 27, 2020

Carter Burwell Remembers the ‘No Country for Old Men’ Score That Never Was

Oscar-nominated composer Carter Burwell has been at the Coen Brothers’ side since their explosive 1984 debut “Blood Simple,” and that will include writer/director Joel Coen’s solo effort, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. In a recent conversation with IndieWire, Burwell, who’s currently in the Emmys race for the soundtracks to “The Morning Show” and “Space Force,” talked about what he’s seen so far of “Macbeth” and reflected on scoring another Coen classic, 2007’s “No Country for Old Men.”

“Joel shot at least half of it and he has sent me some footage in the last week,” Burwell said of the Shakespeare adaptation from A24, which began filming in Los Angeles in early February; production was halted in late March. “I’ve read the script, and it’s not like they changed the story from what’s in the play. But it’s different. Joel has adapted the play for film and just like the adaptations Joel and Ethan have done with books like ‘No Country for Old Men,’ it’s interesting how it really does change. It’s the same story in the same language, but it’s a beautiful adaptation that really turns it into a film with a certain amount of visual power. It’s always moving forward. You’re in constant motion toward some conclusion, which is hard to pull off on stage.”

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is being shot entirely on sound stages to give the film a look untethered from reality. “It doesn’t look like Scotland,” Burwell said. “It’s more like a psychological reality. That said, it doesn’t seem stage-like either. Joel has compared it to German Expressionist film. You’re in a psychological world, and it’s pretty clear right from the beginning the way he’s shot it.”

While Burwell has scored nearly every Coen Brothers’ film, from “Fargo” and “Barton Fink” to “The Big Lebowski” and “A Serious Man,” one film where the composer’s presence is most invisible is also one of their finest, “No Country for Old Men.” To the untrained ear, the film famously contains almost no music outside of the opening titles and end credits, instead relying on nimble sound design and dreadful silence to ratchet up unbearable tension. However, Burwell said that wasn’t always the plan.

“Ethan was dubious that there wasn’t any score that would work for the movie. He felt that the silence was an important part of the tension, and that movie, without tension, doesn’t work. Joel felt that, be that as it may, there were still parts of the movie that needed the sort of oomph that music can bring that just needed to be dramatically amplified, that they needed more than just the sound of wind and gunfire,” Burwell said.

He added that while there was a degree of behind-the-scenes disagreement on the soundtrack, they exhausted the possibilities and realized “we can’t have any musical instruments. It’s weird to say, but it told you you were in a Hollywood movie. Of course, you know you’re watching a movie, but there’s something about hearing a recognizable instrument that just defeated the raw illusion of reality,” he said.

Burwell added that “the piece of music that plays on the end credits I originally wrote for a place in the film, where you first see blood on the ground at the beginning. There is actually music in the film, but it’s always snuck in behind wind or car sounds.”

Source: IndieWire film

June 24, 2020

It’s the Little Stories

Source: Visual Storytelling

June 21, 2020

Palm Springs 2020 Virtual ShortFest Winners Gain Oscar Eligibility

The 2020 Palm Springs International ShortFest has announced its festival juried award winners from the 332 shorts films featured throughout this year’s virtual edition, running June 16-22. Awards and cash prizes worth $25,000 were handed out, and a number of the winners are now eligible for the 2021 Academy Awards short film categories. See the full list of winners below.

At a time when all festivals have been forced to go virtual, there’s no telling how much buzz these events can generate, but the Oscar eligibility provides a nice boost for rising filmmakers coming out of ShortFest. It’s a long road ahead for festival films since the Oscars have now been pushed back to April 25 next year, with other awards ceremonies, including the Film Independent Spirit Awards (now April 24), falling in line. Expect a packed fall season as the backlog of titles from postponed dates, canceled festivals, and shuttered productions get unleashed.

Palm Springs International ShortFest 2020 held a number of panels and virtual mixers, well-attended by filmmakers from all over the world and providing a unique opportunity to network with international industry folks that might not otherwise be possible in person. Below is the full list of this year’s winners:

Oscar-Qualifying Awards

Greater Palm Springs CVB Best of the Festival Award: “Matriochkas” (Belgium/France), Directed by Bérangère Mc Neese

Special Mention (for Creative Vision): “Stay Awake, Be Ready” (Vietnam/South Korea/USA), Directed by Pham Thien An

Special Mention (for Direction): “Mizaru” (India/USA), Directed by Sudarshan Suresh

Best Animated Short: “The Fabric of You” (UK), Directed by Josephine Lohoar Self

Special Mention: “SH_T Happens” (Czech Republic/Slovakia/France), Directed by Mihalyi and David Stumpf

Best Documentary Short: “The Heart Still Hums” (USA), Directed by Savanah Leaf and Taylor Russell

Special Mentions: “Dead Woman’s Pass” (Peru/Qatar), Directed by Lali Houghton; “Huntsville Station” (USA), Directed by Jamie Meltzer and Chris Filippone

Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes: “Birth Right” (Israel), Directed by Inbar Horesh

Special Mention: “Henet Ward” (Egypt), Directed by Morad Mostafa

Best Live-Action Short 15 Minutes and Under: “Dummy” (Lithuania), Directed by Laurynas Bareisa

Special Mention: “The Midsummer’s Voice” (China/USA), Directed by Yudi Zhang

Student Short Awards

Best Student Animated Short: “Daughter” (Czech Republic), Directed by Daria Kashcheeva

Special Mention: “SH_T Happens” (Czech Republic/Slovakia/France), Directed by Michaela Mihalyi and David Stumpf

Best Student Documentary Short: “For Your Sake” (Germany), Directed by Ronja Hemm

Special Mention: “All Cats Are Grey in the Dark” (Switzerland), Directed by Lasse Linder

Best Student International Short: “Still Working” (Switzerland), Directed by Julietta Korbel

Special Mention: “22:47 Linie 34” (Switzerland), Directed by Michael Karrer

Best Student U.S. Short: “Heading South” (China/USA), Directed by Yuan Yuan

Special Mention: “Tape” (USA/Canada/Finland), Directed by Jojo Erholtz

Special Jury Awards

Best International Short: “The Tongues” (Norway), Directed by Marja Bål Nango and Ingir Bål

Special Mention: “Funfair” (Iran/Canada), Directed by Kaveh Mazaheri

Best U.S. Short: “My Hero” (USA), Directed by Logan Jackson

Special Mention (for Stylistic Vision and Emerging Talent): “Pharmacopeia” (USA), Directed by Tania Taiwo

GoE Bridging the Borders Award: “The Present” (Palestine), Directed by Farah Nabulsi

Special Mention: “Container” (Greece/USA), Directed by Daphne Maziariaki

Local Jury Award: “Welcome Strangers” (USA), Directed by Dia Sokol Savage

Special Mention: “Sundays at the Triple Nickel” (USA), Directed by Jess Colquhoun

Vimeo Staff Pick Award: “Give Up the Ghost” (Jordan/Germany/Sweden), Directed by Zain Duraie

Young Cineastes Award: “Colette” (USA/France/Germany), Directed by Anthony Giacchino

Special Mention: “Gold Plated” (Belgium), Directed by Chloé Léonil

Best Comedy Short: “Viktor on the Moon” (Denmark), Directed by Christian Arhoff

Special Mention (for Direction): “Blocks” (USA), Directed by Bridget Moloney

Best LGBTQ+ Short: “Kama’aina” (USA), Directed by Kimi Howl Lee

Special Mention: “La Gloria” (USA), Directed by Mary Evangelista

Best Midnight Short: “The Sleepwalkers” (India), Directed by Radhika Apte

Special Mention (for Best Climax): “The Nights Alone” (France), Directed by Olivier Strauss

Anne Thompson contributed reporting.

Source: IndieWire film

June 21, 2020

Oscar Isaac Says He’ll Only Return to ‘Star Wars’ ‘If I Need Another House or Something’

After years entrenched in big-budget spectacle, from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker” to “Dune” and lending his voice to the animated series “Star Wars Resistance,” Oscar Isaac is finally getting back to his art film roots. He’ll soon to be seen in Paul Schrader’s upcoming “The Card Counter,” as a gambler and former soldier who sets out to help a young man seeking revenge on a mutual enemy from their past. Teasing the upcoming film, which was shut down by the pandemic in mid-March with only five days left of filming, Oscar Isaac and Paul Schrader appeared on a Deadline panel where of course the subject of “Star Wars” popped up, especially regarding Oscar Isaac’s possible return to the franchise.

The answer is likely no, which makes sense given that his character arc as Poe Dameron wrapped up with the sunset of the Skywalker saga in the last film, directed by J.J. Abrams and released in December 2019. “I enjoyed the challenge of those films and working with a very large group of incredible artists and actors, prop makers, set designers, and all that was really fun,” Isaac said. But there’s a caveat.

“It’s not really what I set out to do. What I set out to do was to make handmade movies, and to work with people that inspire me,” said Isaac, who’s worked with directors including Alex Garland, J.C. Chandor, Julian Schnabel, and the Coen Brothers. “Paul [Schrader]’s movies, the things that he’s made, it’s in my DNA. I’m not alone, obviously. [For] every actor of a certain generation, those are the films that made them who they are, so that’s certainly my case. It feels like for me a personal turning point and that, as far as I’m concerned, it has nothing to do with the finished product. It’s the process of doing this.”

Does Isaac’s renewed creative spirit working on indies and art films like “The Card Counter” mean he won’t ever return to the “Star Wars” franchise? “Probably, but who knows. If I need another house or something.”

Isaac was also recently cast in James Gray’s upcoming film “Armageddon Time.”

Watch the full panel over at Deadline here.

Source: IndieWire film

June 21, 2020

Steve McQueen Blasts ‘Blatant Racism’ in U.K. Film and TV Industry: ‘I’m Fed Up’

British film director Steve McQueen shared an op-ed in The Observer decrying what he sees as “blatant racism” within the film and TV industries of the United Kingdom. His films, from Best Picture Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave” to “Shame” and “Widows,” have explored race and privilege. While those three films McQueen made in the States, returning to the United Kingdom to work on his upcoming anthology series “Small Axe” proved an eye-opening experience.

“Last year, I visited a TV-film set in London. It felt like I had walked out of one environment, the London I was surrounded by, into another, a place that was alien to me. I could not believe the whiteness of the set. I made three films in the States and it seems like nothing has really changed in the interim in Britain. The U.K. is so far behind in terms of representation, it’s shameful,” McQueen wrote.

“Small Axe” consists of six films that McQueen said tackle the Black experience between the 1960s and the 1980s. (Two of those films were featured in the Cannes Film Festival selection.) But McQueen, in the op-ed, said the diversity in front of the camera wasn’t reflected behind it.

“We tried very hard on ‘Small Axe’: we created our own training scheme with one trainee per department. But, in terms of heads of departments, it was just myself and a couple of other people who were black British,” he wrote. “The stark reality is that there is no infrastructure to support and hire BAME crew. And there is no infrastructure because there hasn’t been enough will or urgency to put it in place. We really need to do much, much better.”

McQueen has been vocal about the need for diversity overseas before; back in January, he slammed the BAFTAs for their lack of recognition for minority talent.

In The Observer op-ed, McQueen continued, “The fundamental issue is that we need to fast track training and access for young talented kids, not just young talented white kids. We did our best on ‘Small Axe,’ but it was not good enough. The culture of the industry has to change. It’s just not healthy. It’s wrong. And yet, many people in the industry go along with it as if it is normal. It’s not normal. It is anything but normal. It’s blindingly, obviously wrong. It’s blatant racism. Fact. I grew up with it. I know it. And not nearly enough is being done about it.”

McQueen also echoed a sentiment shared by many who are calling out the lack of diversity in Hollywood right now. “It’s not just about black people working on black films, it’s about black people working in film and television, period,” he wrote.

Read the full op-ed over at The Observer.

Source: IndieWire film

June 20, 2020

Lee Daniels Reveals He Wanted to Direct ‘Brokeback Mountain’ Before Ang Lee

The musical chairs of hot directors once attached to direct the classic pastoral gay romance “Brokeback Mountain,” which ultimately went to Ang Lee, is the stuff of legend. Gus Van Sant was once set to helm the adaptation of Annie Proulx’s story, with Matt Damon and Joaquin Phoenix eyed to star in the roles that went to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Joel Schumacher was at another point linked to direct the 2005 Academy Award-winning film, and co-screenwriter Larry McMurtry even offered the project to Pedro Almodóvar, who said he was tempted to make a more “animalistic” version of the love story.

But as revealed in a new interview with Insider, Oscar-nominated “Precious,” “The Butler,” and “The Paperboy” director Lee Daniels said he was also in talks to direct the film, but getting it off the ground proved to be complicated.

“I was going to be directing ‘Brokeback Mountain,’” the “Empire” creator said. “A long, long time ago. It was going to be my second movie after ‘Monster’s Ball.’” (Daniels produced 2001’s “Monster’s Ball,” which made Halle Barry the first Black woman to win the Best Actress Academy Award.) “Brokeback Mountain” therefore would’ve been Daniels’ first directing credit, but he went on to debut behind the camera with “Shadowboxer” in 2005.

“It was a very expensive piece to keep and I simply couldn’t get the movie made,” Daniels said of his take on “Brokeback Mountain.” “Nobody wanted to see the movie, nobody wanted to make the movie.”

Daniels also said it took him 15 years to finally see Lee’s now-iconic version. “I couldn’t watch the film when it came out. I saw the movie in my head, the script was powerful. I saw the entire film in my head because it was so powerful. So when Ang came out with it, I didn’t want to see it. Because I just didn’t think that he would do it justice. When [Jack and Ennis] first had sex in the tent, I saw that scene how I would direct it, so I just couldn’t imagine any other filmmaker doing it justice. Especially a straight filmmaker taking it on.”

Daniels, however, eventually made peace with his split from the project, and revealed he’s a fan of the movie, which won Lee the Best Director Oscar. “I saw it, like, 15 years later and Ang Lee did a really great job,” Daniels said. “As a matter of fact, he did it in a way that was palatable for many heterosexuals around the world. I would have probably been more in your face with it, and he did it in a different perspective, so kudos to him. And I told him that.”

Daniels is currently in post-production on “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” starring Andra Day as the fallen jazz singer. The film is now up for sale in the ongoing virtual Cannes market.

Source: IndieWire film