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+ Cannes J U LY 6 , 2 0 2 1 | S P EC I A L I S S U E

MORDOR ON THE RIVIERA

How a splashy Cannes launch 20 years ago secured the fate of The Lord of the Rings

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LÉA SEYDOUX QUEEN OF CANNES With four films at this year’s festival, the French star’s reign continues

PLUS: THE VELVET UNDERGROUND This means Warhol BENEDETTA Sin of the times BERGMAN ISLAND What’s Mia Hansen-Løve got to do with it?


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ONES TO WATCH Five names to keep an eye on at Cannes

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MELISSA GEORGE Her French renaissance with In His Lifetime

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LEOS CARAX Sparks and recreation in rock opera Annette

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MIA HANSEN-LØVE Scenes from a marriage in Bergman Island

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TODD HAYNES Run, run, run—see The Velvet Underground

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LÉA SEYDOUX The Palme d’Or winner heralds the festival’s return with four films in Official Selection

Deadline profiles the people, companies and politics changing the face of film and television.

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LORD OF THE RINGS Behind the scenes on the most dangerous gamble in film history

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DIRECTED BY


A HERO WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY

ASGHAR FARHADI THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED


Melissa George p. 12

| Leos Carax p. 14 | Mia Hansen-Løve p. 16 | Todd Haynes p. 18

Cannes Ones To Watch

Deadline anoints the five names destined to rock this year’s Croisette Deadline’s annual group of Ones To Watch in Cannes is made up of actors and filmmakers who are all bringing something fresh to the festival—an especially important flavor after a disruptive 18 months of pandemic. The distinction isn’t always reserved for brand new faces; rather we’ve selected people who are branching out, or who find themselves in waters where they are liable to make waves. Cannes can be a place of reinvention, after all.

WITH TWO HIGH-PROFILE FILMS IN CANNES—STILLWATER AND OUR MEN—THE CALL MY AGENT! STAR CLEARLY DOESN’T NEED TO CALL HER AGENT… CAMILLE COTTIN IS HAVING QUITE A YEAR. As more and more folks locked at home tuned into Call My Agent! (Dix pour cent), the Netflix series in which she stars, her profile has risen internationally. The comedy/drama about the trials and tribulations of a Parisian talent agency had already helped her score jobs in Hollywood films pre-pandemic, and now she’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as she continues to build an enviable cross-border resume.

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JESS I CA FOR D E /FO CUS FE AT U RES

Camille Cottin


CANNES ONES TO WATCH fully embrace the situations which are sometimes dramatic, but it’s also the way they are treated that makes comedy.” Cottin got the acting bug at a very young age. “It was the pleasure of playing, of dressing up,” she says. “This sort of imaginary parallel that was very present in me—I had a fair amount of imaginary friends. The pleasure to be transported into a universe other than the real one was something that was always present for me.” Theater school was a great outlet, but studying English at university simultaneously was equally enjoyable. “I really liked university because there was an autonomy. I had been really unhappy at school because I don’t like to be constrained, I don’t like discipline, I don’t like people on my back. University was really a pleasant way of working; you didn’t have to go to class, you handed in your work and were present for exams—you were completely free to work how you wanted.” Studying a combination of American and English history and contemporary literature was a bonus. “I would recommend to anyone who wants to do artistic studies to do university at the same time.” She was able to exercise her acting muscles just after school, playing “in tiny rooms in Paris that could fit 30 people” and doing fringe theater at the well-regarded The Paris native, who spent ages

making penis-shaped balloon

“That’s what I’m looking for. For

12 to 17 living in London when her

animals at a children’s birthday

me, it’s about rhythm. I see comedy

family moved for her stepdad’s

party). Connasse spawned a feature

like accelerated drama. Chaplin is

teens was especially beneficial to

job, is appearing in two films

film in 2015, The Parisian Bitch,

dramatic, but it goes so fast that

her future career and the trajectory

in Cannes this year including

Princess of Hearts, also a hidden-

we laugh at it.”

that it’s currently taken. “I went

Directors’ Fortnight closing title Our

camera comedy, which saw her

Men (Mon légionnaire) by Rachel

travel to London in an attempt to

worlds, just as Cottin is doing

but there’s a whole environment

Lang, and Tom McCarthy’s out-of-

marry Prince Harry.

in her career. Her character, the

that helps and the English classes

Cottin got her initial start in

tightly-wound Andrea, she says,

are very high-level, so I got really

the theater, while also studying

“is not a funny person; it’s super

familiar with the language, the

serious subject matter (more on

English, and did everything from the

rare that she laughs. She’s always

accents.” She demurs, “It doesn’t

that later), which may seem out of

comedies of Feydeau to Bulgakov’s

concentrated, always stressed.

mean I speak English very, very

character for an actress who broke

The Master and Margarita. Though

She spends her life trying to solve

well—I’m often looking up words—

out locally in the Canal+ hidden-

she also played the antagonist in

problems. It’s really the situations

but I love it. There’s something

camera sketch series Connasse

Season 3 of BBC drama Killing Eve,

that are funny and she’s always

enjoyable in the learning.”

(literally translated: Bitch) in which

many of her French film roles have

getting tripped up. I try to keep

she inserted herself into daily life

been in comedies. Unsurprisingly,

a small distance where we know

movie was Robert Zemeckis’ 2016

situations and turned the tables

Cottin prefers not to be defined by

we are playing, that’s also part of

war drama Allied opposite Brad

on unsuspecting Parisians (one

genre. “I think comedy, like drama,

comedy, so it’s a miniscule bit of

Pitt and Marion Cotillard. She

notorious episode featured her

can elicit emotion,” she says.

complicity with the audience. We

auditioned for that and got the role;

Both of those films tackle

8

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Living in London during her

to the Lycée Français in London,

Cottin’s first big Hollywood

J ESS I CA FOR D E / FO CUS F EAT U RES

competition drama Stillwater.

Call My Agent! straddles both

Avignon Festival.


Security that’s transforming Hollywood? Amazing.

Deliver amazing See how


CANNES ONES TO WATCH

RUNNING DEEP Left to right: Tom McCarthy directs Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin in Stillwater; Cottin with Matt Damon and Lilou Siauvaud in a scene from the film.

she has recounted that Pitt didn’t

special about meeting someone

in France and has crafted a story

any way? Cottin laughs, “At the

remember having worked with her

who doesn’t know anything about

about the condition of life for

start we’re starstruck, and what’s

previously on a Wes Anderson-

you and who accepts you as you

soldiers and the difficulties they

funny is, once you’re in the work,

directed commercial for SoftBank.

are in the moment.”

face when returning home, notably

then you’re talent-struck. At a

PTSD. “They are too afraid to talk

certain point it’s like playing tennis

Agent! had hit big, but the series

with Matt Damon, who plays Bill

about it,” Cottin explains, “because

with a better partner, you become

has definitely helped her in picking

Baker, a father traveling from

it can have serious consequences

better. It’s very enjoyable because,

up other work in studio movies. The

Oklahoma to France to be with

on their careers. The film focuses

particularly with American actors,

show, which debuted on France 2 in

his estranged daughter, who is in

on the women who are very

there’s something that’s very full in

2015, “completely aided me,” Cottin

prison for a murder she claims she

controlled by the Légion and are

the way they get into their roles and

says of her career path.

didn’t commit. Cottin’s character,

confronted by an omnipresence of

explore situations.”

Virginie, is a theater actress raising

the army in their lives, and a very big

she says, was serendipity. “The

a daughter alone. “She is going to

absence of their men, even when

word on a potential fifth season

producer liked Call My Agent! and I

help this totally lost American try to

they come back.”

of Call My Agent!, but suspects

met with British agents who asked,

advance the investigation to try to

‘What British series do you like?’ I

prove his daughter’s innocence.”

Getting the role on Killing Eve,

Up next, Cottin will appear

Cottin says there’s no new

there could be a film. “I think if

in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci

they have the material, they’ll do

playing Paola Franchi, the girlfriend

it. They won’t commit if they don’t

cited Peaky Blinders and Killing Eve.”

Cottin received the script

A meeting was set with a producer

for Stillwater, which she shot in

of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver).

have something.” Meanwhile, the

on the latter, who told her they liked

Marseille from August through

She shot the MGM movie in Italy

UK version began shooting in

to write for specific actors. “They

October of 2019, while she was on

earlier this year and says of Scott,

May in London— “If they propose

called me back and had written me

location in Corsica for her other

“He has an incredible energy.

a cameo,” says Cottin. “I would

the role of Hélène.”

Cannes title, Our Men. In Rachel

He’s surprising, he shoots very

obviously do it with great pleasure.”

Lang’s film, Cottin and Louis Garrel

fast and knows exactly what he

material, Cottin auditioned for

co-star in supporting roles as a

wants, but at the same time he’s

“There are a lot of people that I

Stillwater after McCarthy consulted

married couple. Ina Marija Bartaité,

attentive to the smallest detail.

admire and a lot of meetings that

with a former French casting

a young Lithuanian actress and

He’s very open and he always

would make me very happy. Notably,

director who suggested her name.

the daughter of director Šarūnas

welcomes propositions with a

there is something very interesting

A producer on the film had also

Bartas, is the film’s lead, playing a

lot of enthusiasm. Even when we

happening with female personalities

seen Call My Agent! and spoken

young woman who falls in love with

did a reading together, he wanted

who are actors, producers, directors

to McCarthy about her, but the

a soldier but finds they’re unable to

to know what I thought of the

who are creating their own work.

director himself knew nothing

be married. It will be a bittersweet

character, how I wanted to play it,

There’s all this energy.” She cites

about the show. “He met me at the

premiere in Cannes, sighs Cottin,

and what I thought of the story.”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emerald

audition, so he took what I gave at

because Bartaité lost her life at

Of Driver, she notes he was “very

Fennell, Reese Witherspoon and

that instant without being polluted

age 25. “It’s very sad,” she says,

welcoming and there was a very

Frances McDormand. Would Cottin

by a label. When you meet people

“because she died this year after

strong artistic universe.”

attempt to go down the same path?

who don’t know anything about

being struck by a drunk driver while

Sticking with the serious

you, or admit not knowing anything, it’s very freeing. There’s something

10

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riding her bike.” Lang is a real-life army reservist

Being around all of these major

And looking further ahead?

“It’s all very inspiring, but I don’t know

Hollywood actors in her recent

if I would be capable. Who knows?

forays, has she been starstruck in

We’ll see.” —Nancy Tartaglione

J ESS I CA FOR D E / FO CUS F EAT U RES

Allied came at a time before Call My

In Stillwater she co-stars


production, distribution, streaming, HSGYQIRXEVMIWMRGPYWMSRWYWXEMREFMPMX] ERMQEXMSRMRRSZEXMSRƼPQTSPMXMGW ƼPQƼRERGIERHWSQYGLQSVI

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Check out our unmissable line-up of conferences offering insights on every aspect of the global film industry

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CANNES ONES TO WATCH

Kogonada THE MONONYMOUS DIRECTOR WHO’D

Julia Ducournau

PREFER TO BE ANONYMOUS PEERS INTO

WITH COMPETITION TITLE

IN AN IDEAL WORLD, Kogonada’s work would speak for

THE FUTURE—AND THE HUMAN SOUL— WITH HIS SCI-FI DRAMA AFTER YANG

TITANE, THE QUEEN OF QUEASY

itself. He came to prominence with a series of short but

BODY HORROR RETURNS TO

powerful video essays that focused on a single aspect

CLAIM HER CROWN

of a director’s work: faces in Hitchcock’s thrillers, mirrors in Bergman’s dramas, and the gentle quotidian pace

THE DAUGHTER of two doctors

highly resistant to heat and corro-

of Yasujirō Ozu’s family sagas. Ozu, in particular, is a big

who showed their little girl Psycho

sion, giving very hard alloys, often

influence on Kogonada, who adapted the name of Ozu’s

at the age of eight, filmmaker Julia

used in the form of prostheses due

screenwriter—Kôgo Noda—as an alias. “I’ve never identi-

Ducournau is unapologetically

to its biocompatibility.”

fied much with my American name,” he has said, “which

This hint of man-machine muta-

always feels a little strange to see or hear. My family uses a

After her last visit in 2016 with the

tion suggests the film is another

visceral cannibal horror Raw in

body horror, a genre pioneered by

Critics’ Week, which caused several

Canada’s David Cronenberg, whose

Columbus, in which an Asian-American man (John Cho) is

audience members to faint when

work Ducournau discovered—and

forced to reflect on his past in the Midwestern U.S. town

it screened in Toronto, festivalgo-

binged on—after watching Crash,

after his architect father falls ill. For his follow-up, After

ers were left reeling by the film’s

his 1996 Cannes succès de scandale

Yang, which premieres in Un Certain Regard, Kogonada

inspired infusion of blood and gore

(“It traumatized me in a good way,”

hasn’t travelled far, moving the action to an unspeci-

into the standard rites-of-passage

she enthused at the time).

fied nearby city in the near future. “I didn’t imagine that

story. Starring Garance Marillier—

However, the 37-year-old direc-

nickname that I’ve had since I was a kid.” Families played a big part in Kogonada’s 2017 debut,

my next film would be in the sci-fi genre,” he said. “That

who made her screen acting debut

tor doesn’t like to be pigeonholed.

wasn’t something that was on my mind. When I watch

in Ducournau’s creepy 2011 short

“I see my films as crossovers:

blockbuster sci-fi movies where the whole world is at

Junior—it tells the story of a young

comedy, drama, horror,” she has

stake, I’m often curious about the people in the back-

veterinary student who develops

said. She also bristles at the notion

ground who have to make a living—what are they doing

a craving for human flesh, which

of being seen as a woman working

within that landscape? What are their families like?”

leads to a great deal of self-reflec-

in a traditionally male stronghold.

tion and a doozy of a twist.

“I do believe that my movies talk

by Alexander Weinstein, the film stars Colin Farrell as Jake,

Cannes is already bracing for

Based on the 2016 short story Saying Goodbye to Yang

to anyone,” she has said. “I don’t

the father of an adopted Chinese girl who buys an android

Ducournau’s return—this time

want to genderize my audience or

(Yang) to teach his daughter about Asian culture. But

bumped up into Competition—with

my movie; this is just another way

when the android breaks, Jake finds himself considering

the mysterious Titane (French for

of putting people in boxes. I’m a

more than just the cost of repair. “A lot of times when a

Titanium), with Vincent Lindon and

woman, yes, I’m a strong woman,

story deals with this kind of subject matter, it’s about an

newcomer Agathe Rousselle. So far,

and my movie is feminist, but I’m

AI wanting to be human,” said Kogonada. “But in this case,

all Ducournau is revealing is that

sure that everyone can get it.”

it’s about a human trying to make sense of the loss and

the Titanium of the title is a “metal

—Damon Wise

value of a non-human being.” —Damon Wise

12

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A P P H OTO/ FRAN COI S M O R I/ RI C HA R D S HOT WE LL /I N V IS I O N

the product of her environment.


CANNES ONES TO WATCH

Anders Danielsen Lie THE DOCTOR-ACTOR STAR OF CANNES COMPETITION TITLES, THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD AND BERGMAN ISLAND SWAPS HIS SCRUBS FOR A TUX

NORWEGIAN ACTOR Anders

yet, so this creates some chal-

Danielsen Lie will be busy in

lenges for me every now and then,

Cannes with two films world

on both sides.” Lie also works abroad, and

a new phenomenon for onscreen

he’ll have French director Mia

talent to be supporting various

Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island in

movies, but Lie stands out as likely

Competition as well this year. He

the only professional actor who

won’t reveal much about his role,

will be heading to the Palais while

to spare spoilers, but says the

taking time off from his other

film’s location, the island of Fårö,

job as a full-time physician: the

was a meditative experience. “It

doctor has lately been working

was special and unique to shoot a

with the COVID-19 vaccination

film in all the places where Ingmar

program in Oslo, and has for years

Bergman shot, particularly when

Eran Kolirin

straddled both callings.

you know how blurry the lines

THE OSCAR-SNUBBED ISRAELI DIRECTOR GETS

like the main character in one

ANOTHER CHANCE WITH LET THERE BE MORNING,

of his Cannes movies, Joachim

terrorist Anders Behring Breivik

A BITTERSWEET COMEDY ABOUT A MAN UNDER SIEGE

Trier’s The Worst Person in the

in Paul Greengrass’s harrowing

In a case of art imitating life, Lie says he feels a little bit

were between his private life and his artistic life.” Lie, who in 2018 portrayed

World—the closing chapter of the

Netflix film 22 July, says he would

ERAN KOLIRIN IS BEST KNOWN TO WORLDWIDE AUDIENCES

director’s Oslo trilogy after Reprise

“love” to do more U.S. projects.

for his debut breakout, 2007’s The Band’s Visit. That film was Israel’s

(2006) and 2011’s Oslo, August 31

But the pandemic and his obliga-

submission to the Oscars and had a good shot at taking the Foreign

(Lie appeared in all three).

tions as a doctor have clearly

Language prize, but its use of English ultimately saw it disqualified.

In this latest, Lie co-stars with

complicated things of late.

Since then, Kolirin has made just three features, including this year’s

Renate Reinsve, who plays Julie,

Un Certain Regard premiere Let There Be Morning.

a woman on the cusp of 30. “She

working as a doctor and working

“It’s hard to plan a life because

Based on the 2005 book by Sayed Kashua, the story is timely. It

has reached a point in her life

as an actor are both such time-

centers on Sami, a Palestinian-born Israeli citizen who, while attending

where she has to make all the

consuming occupations. It was

his brother’s wedding across the border, is suddenly unable to return

important decisions,” says Lie.

never the plan, but it’s been very

to Jerusalem when the only road back has been blocked by Israeli sol-

“She is a talented, smart woman

meaningful at times too. Maybe I

diers, forcing the village into lockdown. Already facing a midlife crisis,

who was privileged enough to

have some different perspectives

Sami rediscovers his family and a sense of purpose. There are laughs

postpone all those choices.”

that not all actors have. I feel like

along the way, but the subject matter is heightened, given the recent

For Lie, the line between

I have a foot in the real world; I’ve

violence that has broken out in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

medicine and acting “is a choice

met many people in difficult situ-

“It was an awful year,” Kolirin recalls. “I finished the film and had

I should have made many years

ations and I feel that I’ve learned a

nowhere to screen it. I was constantly thinking, fuck, it’s like a tree

ago, but unfortunately I haven’t

lot about acting from practicing as

falling in the forest. Then there were these climactic events of the last

been able to make that choice

a doctor.” —Nancy Tartaglione

month, it was all happening again.” After the financing, Kolirin explains that a law was passed in Israel that a film made by the Israeli Film Fund has to be presented as an ‘Israeli film’. He scoffs, “Why does the state want you to declare what is obvious? As if I don’t know who I am and I have to erase the other guys’ identity… I don’t want this film to be used as whitewashing of anything that has been done, the things that are done are terrible.” Next up for him is a TV series planned as a German co-production to be placed at a streamer. Korilin is enthusiastic about the “quirky mystery” of a group of German tourists visiting the Dead Sea who find their bus suddenly swallowed up by a sinkhole. —Nancy Tartaglione

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ALL AT SEA Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie in Bergman Island.

M EGA /GOL/CAP I TA L P ICTU RES /A P P H OTO/ KI RST Y W I GG LESWORT H / IFC

premiering in Competition. It’s not


Follow Deadline Insider for an exclusive inside look at the most acclaimed films and shows this awards season. INSIDER.DEADLINE .COM


MATERNAL INSTINCT Melissa George as Anna in In His Lifetime.

HOW MELISSA GEORGE ROSE UP OUT OF LIFECHANGING PERSONAL TRAUMA TO EMBRACE HER NEW FRENCH HOME WITH IN HIS LIFETIME BY ANTONIA BLYTH One afternoon in the early aughts,

With her team lurking, he made

By 2016, she was apparently living the fairytale: settled in Paris with her

and whose family and friends were all distantly overseas. Of the court battle, George says

partner and two young sons. She’d

now, “You have more bullets, you have

dodged Weinstein. Her career was

more ammunition in your pocket if

thriving. What could go wrong?

you have the money, and women

Things could go very wrong

aren’t very well-received here [in

indeed. According to a statement

France]. We are known as the ones to

George made to police, during a

carry the child. But once it’s born, it’s

disagreement with her partner in

a gift to [the father]… You’re a carrier.

their home, he struck her repeat-

You’re third in the order of the ‘code

edly. An Uber took her to the police

civil’… It says man, child, woman. You

Melissa George found herself in a

no inappropriate moves, beyond his

station. When she began vomiting,

are not regarded at all, and you add

hotel room with Harvey Weinstein.

choice of attire. But then, a week

she was escorted by a detective to

on to that an actress, and you add on

The mogul, wearing a bathrobe,

before shooting on Derailed began,

the hospital at 3am. That Uber driver

to that a woman, and not French.”

wanted to discuss two roles in his

the lead role earmarked for George

would later testify to her distraught

upcoming films Derailed and Amityville

was mysteriously demoted to a

state, and that she appeared to be

adopted country, George wandered

Horror. An assistant waited in the

supporting one. She believes this is

in physical pain, while George has

Paris in a daze, feeling her experience

hallway, but then, fortunately, so did

absolutely because of that tightly-

photographic evidence of bruising

had been “a witch hunt” and that she

George’s ‘entourage’.

controlled Peninsula hotel meeting.

and swelling to her face. However,

was “made to feel stupid daily”.

“I actually was very well protected

But she prevailed, later booking

the French court found both she and

Effectively marooned in her

While her work is well-known in the

back then,” George tells me via Zoom,

Turistas, the lead in Music Within, and

her former partner guilty of assault,

U.S., the U.K. and her native Australia,

speaking from a park in Paris, with

a big role in 30 Days of Night. She also

and George was legally banned from

in France she says she was initially

one of her sons in her lap. “My agent

booked meaty TV parts on shows

taking her children out of the country

seen as an outsider. “You are a suc-

at the time said, ‘You’re not going to

like Grey’s Anatomy and In Treatment,

without her ex’s written permission—

cessful actress in your own country,

that meeting alone.’ And [Weinstein]

for which she was Golden Globe

a disaster for a woman who knew no

but you are forced now to give it all up.

realized that I came with bodyguards

nominated. Triangle and A Lonely

one in France other than her ex, who

And so, every day I just walked around

and back-up.”

Place to Die followed, and a lead in the

relied on being able to travel for work,

[feeling] stupid.”

16

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L AU RE N T C HA M P OUSS IN / LES FI L M S DU K I OSQU E

Renaissance Woman

critically-acclaimed series The Slap.


So beautifully directed.” The film tells the story of Benjamin (Benoît Magimel), son of Crystal (Denueve). “He’s dying in hospital and I’m his ex-wife,” George says. “And when he found out that I was pregnant, he abandoned us and never met his child ever. So, he’s lived this life of a lie and it’s about me letting go of my son to go and say goodbye to his father.” During her most desperate times these past years, George made a list of her dreams to keep her going. Deneuve was on that list, as was Sean Penn, as was working on a series like The Mosquito Coast. “That’s our version of praying, isn’t it? Manifesting?” she says. And just recently, George played her first fully-French role, in the Abel Danan-directed short Canines, starring Pauline Chalamet, which has just been green-lit as a feature. Being broken down and having to rebuild made her appreciate both herself and France, she says now. “I am more interesting, I am more calm, I’m more universal, I’m more cultured. I’m nicer, I don’t know. I just feel like when you get everything beaten out of you, you choose to put in the right Then, one day, George—who had

who would be played by Justin

Bercot, who was putting together her

ingredients and make yourself a better

left her native Australia at 21 to make

Theroux, her co-star from Mulholland

film In His Lifetime (De son vivant).

person. And it’s because of Paris.”

it as an actress in the U.S.—experi-

Drive some 20 years earlier. But still,

“I was a big fan of her as an actress,

enced something of an epiphany. “I

she did nothing. Then she got a new

just from Mon Roi and all those films,”

will absolutely be the cherry on top of

looked at the beauty of Paris. It was

agent, who immediately told her, “You

George says. Catherine Deneuve was

this renaissance. “Australian cinema is

about five o’clock in the morning. I

have 30 minutes to put yourself on

also already cast.

easy, right? Because I was born there

was just pretty much on the street. I

tape or else we are done.”

thought, OK, you’re built for this, you

“I sat on the floor and just burst

“I went in for an hour-and-a-half

Being invited into French cinema

and raised there. American cinema

meeting in French. [Bercot] stood

is easy because I was there 20 years,

are the only one that can make this

into tears,” George says. “I put up my

up at the end and just hugged me.

but French cinema, all of a sudden,

happen. You need to perfect your

camera and I did three scenes. One

She said, ‘Will you do my movie?’ I

after a traumatic experience, it’s now

French, starting now. You need to call

take each. I didn’t sleep that night.

knew it was with my idol Catherine

my home. So, to do French cinema...

your family and ask for help, starting

And 24 hours later, Rupert Wyatt, the

Deneuve. I mean from Belle de Jour, to

That’s success to me, because it’s the

now, because I had never done that

director, called my agent said, ‘She’s

everything she’s ever done… style-

place that made me fall in love with

in my whole life. I called my brother,

our Margot.’”

wise, acting-wise, she’s just historic.

myself, that made me understand

She epitomizes everything that I ever

who I am.”

called my mom, called my dad.” From

George went to her sons, who

that day on, George threw herself hard

were, by now, five and seven. I said,

into creating a home and learning the

“Mummy has to be a big girl now and

language fluently.

go back to work.” The boys under-

vital. “I knew I had one scene with

before because there was a spare

By 2018, she had managed a stint

wanted to be.” George’s role was small, but it felt

This will not be George’s first time at Cannes. “I’ve only been invited

stood. And the show’s producers

her, not a lot, but the way I see it, it’s

ticket of blah, blah, blah,” she says.

as Sean Penn’s wife in Hulu series The

allowed her to work two weeks on,

a step into the cinema in France,” she

“And of course, when I got on the red

First, shooting in one-week incre-

two weeks off, so she could see the

says. “Even though it’s been such a

carpet, everyone was like, ‘Oh my God,

ments, but mostly she was stymied.

kids in Paris. “I was professionally and

bad time for me here, it was a way to

what’s she doing here?’”

Her confidence eroded, terrified of

personally successful for the very first

show that I’m at the right place at the

leaving the children, when the script

time in my life,” she says. “I made both

right time, getting the right role at the

her own merit, representing a film

for Apple TV+ series The Mosquito

of them happen.”

right time. It’s a beginning.”

she describes thus: “It’s about the

Coast came her way, she sat on it for

Then, at last, the doors of French

At a recent private screening in

But this year, she will be there on

truth and speaking the truth, and

months, eyeing the role of Margot–

cinema cracked open. She got the

Paris, everyone was in tears, she says.

mending bad things in your life and

wife of the lead Allie Fox character,

chance to meet with Emmanuelle

“It’s really, really touching, really sad.

coming full circle.” ★

DEADLINE.COM

17


Festival de C ann es 2 02 1

Leos Carax

What is your strongest memory

Mais oui, start! The French director kicks off Cannes with his rock opera Annette

What makes the Cannes experience

with good times or bad times? special is the mix of good and bad—

BY DA M O N W I S E

of Cannes? Do you associate it

taste, faith, luck, etcetera. The only time I stayed during the screening of one my films here was

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for Holy Motors—because I owed so much to the actors and crew, and they wanted me there. A terrible experience. I had the feeling the film was seven hours long and that the sound was coming out from under a pillow. But then

K RI S D E WI T T E

Since 1984, Leos Carax has only made five features, and all but one of them have premiered in Cannes, usually to feverish anticipation. This year, festivalgoers will be looking to see how the 60-year-old French maverick—AKA Alex Christophe Dupont—will top his intoxicatingly strange 2012 competition entry Holy Motors, which featured talking limos, chimpanzees and Kylie Minogue. They’ll get their answer when Cannes raises the curtain on this year’s opener Annette, a thematically dark, visually kaleidoscopic rock opera he co-wrote with U.S. pop duo Sparks, which stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard.


it was beautiful. None of the actors

and would know how to film him.

had seen the film yet, and I could

It was harder to find the actress:

Truffaut, to underline how unoriginal the theme is: a famous Hollywood

see how proud they were, so I was

someone who could act, sing, be

scriptwriter wakes up in the middle

too. But the day before had been

the part, and whom I would want

of the night with a great idea for a

to film. Marion was not an obvious

film. Excited, he writes it down on

choice, but she turned out to be a

a piece of paper and falls back to

great one. She has the mystery and

sleep. He wakes up in the morn-

grace of a silent film actress.

ing with a sense of panic… he can’t

very bad, arriving at Cannes by car with my friend under pouring rain, a huge heavy truck smashed into us full speed, and I saw us dying— which also seemed to last forever. How would you describe your Competition film Annette? A musical fantasy with some comedy, love and sex, a monster, a child, and a few corpses. When did you first become aware of Sparks and what appealed to you about them? When I was 13 or 14. I had never heard of them but I saw the cover of their Propaganda album in a department store. Liked it; stole it. Propa-

Fortunately, you don’t need imagination to make films. All you need is to see things, to hear things; you need to be haunted.

remember what his great idea was. Music—and especially musi-

Then he remembers that he wrote

cians—are an important part of

it down. With relief, he picks up the

your filmmaking. Do you always

paper. It says: “Boy meets girl.”

know what you want?

In my three boy-meets-girl films,

Music is haunting, as cinema should

the lovers met in the course of the

be. I would’ve wanted a life in music.

film. But in Annette, we understand

The vertigo of music. That is my

they have just met, right before the

biggest regret: not to be a musi-

start of the film. I liked the idea a

cian, composer, singer. But music

lot, but it’s hard to do, to not show

rejected me when I was a kid; I

the encounter, and yet to make

wasn’t good.

it perceivable that they’ve just

Cinema is the closest I could get

met—to capture the shyness, the

to composing, creating rhythms and

awkwardness and apprehension of

melodies. To direct is to conduct.

new love.

ganda and Indiscreet are still two of

When I film a scene, I’m pretty sure

my favourite pop albums today. Not

my hands unconsciously move the

Annette promises “a tale of

many songs can offer such pure joy

way a conductor’s hands do.

songs and fury with no taboo”. Is

and be poignant too at times.

Cinema and music are the only

anything taboo in cinema?

places where I feel at home: I never

Taboo or not taboo? A very old

How did the script take shape—

doubt what I like or dislike, and I feel

story. Pornography isn’t taboo

was it a collaborative process?

I know if what we’re doing is right or

because of what it shows, but

Very. We joked about that, because

out of tune.

because of how it most often

Sparks had just released a song

chooses to show it. Same thing with

called “Collaborations Don’t Work”.

Were you always intending to

cinema in general. In some religions,

Most of the storyline was there

make a film in English?

it is taboo to represent the human

already when they proposed the

English was my native language,

face. I truly understand why. But

project to me. But a movie is not a

although I lost it quite a bit. And,

cinema is all about taboo. That’s

story, and it took time and work to

yes, I knew I wanted to make a film

what every frame flirts with, some-

make it into something I could film.

in English someday. I read a lot,

thing deeply impossible, unspeak-

mostly in English. And many of the

able, unthinkable.

What were you looking for when

singers I’ve listened to my whole

you cast the film, and what did

life are English or American. I like

Looking back across your work,

Adam Driver and Marion Cotil-

English—especially when spoken by

it’s easy to see certain rhymes,

lard deliver?

people like James Mason or Gene

repetitions and recurring

Casting seems to me like a totally

Tierney.

themes. Do you put them there,

unnatural and absurd practice.

But making an American film

or is it subconscious?

Cineastes should imagine their films

was never a strong desire. Annette

How does one imagine a film?

for the persons they want to film

did start as an American project. In

Cinema is something I’ve done so

most: usually, their lover, plus one.

Los Angeles, I kept getting emails

seldom, just a few films in 40 years,

There should only be one person

from the producers, with the word

I tend to completely forget how

imaginable for a part. But the fact

“hyper-excited” all over them; but

it’s done—and how I do it. But I do

that Annette did not originate from

nothing was really happening. So, I

know it always involves an obscure

me made everything different.

brought the project back to France.

mix of extreme precision and

Adam was there from the begin-

extreme chaos.

ning, and it took us seven years and

Annette is a story exploring love.

I have a limited imagination.

three different producers to get the

One could argue that love is the

So, some of these recurrences you

film going. I had only seen him in

theme of all your earlier movies.

mention might come from that.

the series Girls. I had immediately

Boy Meets Girl was the title of my

thought, Where does this creature

first film. It could also have been the

imagination to make films. All you

come from? From what parallel

one of my next two films. It comes

need is to see things, to hear things;

dimension? And yet I felt I knew him

from that anecdote Hitchcock told

you need to be haunted. ★

Fortunately, you don’t need

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Fest i va l de Ca n n es 2 02 1

Mia Hansen-Løve Returning to Cannes after more than a decade with a film paying tribute to one of cinema’s greats BY DA M O N W I S E

What’s Bergman Island about?

how it works for a couple who both

death, on the island, where the

immensely his work, and his films

It’s about a couple of filmmakers

write. That was the first impulse for

houses that had belonged to him

matter to me a lot, and they have

who travel to Fårö, the island where

this film, but what really gave it life

were being made available as places

been companions for me since I ever

Bergman lived in the 20 last years

was the idea that came later on: to

where you could go as an artist—

started making films. Some of his

of his life. They’re going to stay all

set the film on the island of Fårö.

whatever your field is—in order to

films I keep watching and watching

work. And, as I said, Fårö was already

again, and I never get tired of them.

summer while they each write their scripts. So, it’s about them, and it’s

Why was Fårö so important?

sort of a fantasy for me. And when

But it’s not only about the films, it’s

about the summer they’re going to

Fårö is kind of a mythic place for a

I heard of this place, I immediately

about his biography: his life and his

spend on this island.

lot of directors, and not only fans of

felt the desire not only to go there

way of working. It’s the whole thing

Bergman—few directors have a con-

and write there but mostly to set

that fascinates me about Bergman.

How did the idea come to you?

nection to a place that’s as strong as

the story I had in mind there.

I think the first thing, for me, was the

Bergman’s with Fårö. Fårö has been

desire to write a film about a couple

part of my imagination for a long,

Is Bergman much of an influence

I mean is, there are a lot of direc-

of filmmakers and then, through the

long time, but then, maybe 10 years

for you?

tors who I admire, and I never try to

portrait of them, to do a film about

ago, I heard about a foundation that

I wouldn’t say he’s an influence,

imitate them in any way or put refer-

creation and about inspiration, and

had been created after Bergman’s

but I’m a great admirer. I admire

ences of their films in my films. Even

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But it doesn’t mean that his films have an influence on my films. What

D E N NI S VAN T IN E /STAR M AX / IPX

Nearly three years after she began filming it, Mia HansenLøve’s seventh film, Bergman Island, finally arrives in Cannes to mark the Parisian director’s Competition debut. Filmed on location in Sweden, and starring Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth, it takes place on the island of Fårö, where the Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman lived and worked until his death in 2007. Surprisingly, it’s been a while since HansenLøve was on the Croisette, having appeared in Directors’ Fortnight with her first feature All is Forgiven (2007) and Un Certain Regard with 2009’s Father of My Children. “I feel very privileged to be back,” she says.


of vertigo, where the lines between

I just wanted to film her because I

reality and fiction—but also between

thought she was incredibly luminous

past and present, what is visible and

and had this rare, very rare, strong

what is invisible—have a tendency

presence, but also, I could see her as

to vanish. I realized, after writing a couple of films, that part of the pleasure that I have in making films—part of why it’s my vocation—has to do with this confusion. And I think what’s new about this film, compared to my previous films, is that in this case I try to deal with that directly, because it’s a film about directors. So, I really tried to confront that and find out how inspiration works for me, and why, and the meaning it has in my life. Why did you make it in English? I think the main reason—or I would say necessity—for me to do it in English has to do with the fact that the film is so personal. I mean, all my films are personal, but it’s the first film where I deal with a character who actually does the same thing in life as I do. And directing this film in English, with English-

in Bergman Island. I know it might

Directing this film in English, with Englishspeaking actors, was a way for me to turn myself into fiction, to not be locked into something that would seem like documentary.

a director. I could believe in that. And Tim Roth? Tim arrived later on. At first, I could only think of an American actor for that part. We shot over two years, so for the first year Tim wasn’t part of the cast. We didn’t know who was going to be in that part, which was a bit awkward, but also interesting. And while I was waiting to shoot the second part of the film, I thought of Tim. I had seen him in many films of course, but to me he will always be the actor in Alan Clarke’s film Made in Britain. I was interested in his fragility, which sounds surprising. But, to me, there is something about that in his presence. Although he plays a lot of tough guys in very masculine types of films, I could see something else in him that was a little bit opposite to that. Why did Bergman Island take two

speaking actors, was a way for me

years to film?

to turn myself into fiction, to not be

Well, we were supposed to shoot

locked into something that would

the whole film in 2018, with Greta

seem almost like documentary. I

Gerwig, and very shortly before we

wanted this film to be total fiction,

shot she had to drop out, because

so I couldn’t see myself making this

she was going to direct Little

film with a couple of French direc-

Women. It happened really quickly,

tors because it would have sounded

and we were already there with my

almost obscene, too close to me

team, so we decided to shoot a part

somehow. So, to me, English was the

of the film that we could film with-

door to fiction.

out her, in order not to lose the other

sound paradoxical, but even though

actors. But then I needed extra time

there is a lot about Bergman in my

How did you choose your cast?

to rethink the film without her, so

film—obviously—I don’t think my

Vicky Krieps I had seen in Phantom

that’s why we had to cut the shoot

film tries to be in any way a film that

Thread. That’s the only film where

into two parts. It actually turned

you could say is a heritor of Berg-

I had seen her, but she impressed

out to be a very happy experience,

man’s style or way of writing.

me so much. I thought she was

because I enjoyed being in Fårö so

really extraordinary in that film. But

much that I was quite happy to be

The set-up for the film suggests

it wasn’t only that—in order to play

able to go back there the next year.

a blurring of fact and fiction,

a director, you need to have certain

which seems to be a very com-

qualities that I don’t think all actors,

Your filmmaking has been

mon theme of your films…

even great actors, have. It’s quite

described as a cinema of free-

Yes. I think I have to confess that

special, I think. You need a certain

dom. Would you agree?

fascinates me: the way when you

authority, you need to be credible as

My filmmaking? Well, I don’t know

make a very personal film, at some

somebody who has a certain intel-

exactly what they meant, but I take

point you can experience some kind

lectual life, somehow. So, first of all,

that as a compliment. ★

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Fest i va l de Ca n n es 2 02 1

Todd Haynes The Oscar-winner dives into the world of music yet again with documentary The Velvet Underground BY DA M O N W I S E

Todd Haynes reinvented the music biopic not once but twice, first with the controversial glam-rock epic Velvet Goldmine (1998), a pastiche of the life and times of David Bowie, and then with 2007’s I’m Not There, a dazzlingly surreal look at the many faces of folk poet Bob Dylan, sanctioned by the man himself. His latest, bankrolled by Apple TV+, might seem tame by comparison; a documentary about The Velvet Underground, it traces how Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker—four disparate Manhattan musos shepherded by pop-art legend Andy Warhol—changed rock and roll forever.

What do The Velvet Underground

amazing, remarkable thing about

a very clear idea of where you

mean to you personally?

The Velvet Underground is that they

wanted to go?

It’s hard to overstate their influence

came into being at the time when

I did, to the degree that I knew I didn’t

Did you ever meet Lou Reed?

as a band. I discovered them at a

Andy Warhol was giving up visual arts

want a movie with a lot of later gen-

I wish I had. I would see him around

particular time in my life, probably the

for filmmaking. And that was just the

erations of artists or musicians telling

New York at events, like the Biennial

very beginning of my college years,

tip of the iceberg, because there were

us how great The Velvet Under-

at the Whitney, and I was always too

and [in them] I located the roots

so many other avant-garde filmmak-

ground were. I wanted to go back to

fucking terrified to ever thrust myself

of a lot of other music that I was

ers working and inspiring each other

that historical and cultural time and

upon him. And I was probably wise,

already getting deeply influenced and

and participating in each other’s

place, which by today’s standard,

from all the stories you hear from

inspired by—artists like David Bowie,

films. And what that meant to me,

feels even more completely alien to

people who did. But I have a feeling

Roxy Music and Brian Eno.

with regard to what a film about the

artistic practices today, even in the

he may have been aware of my work.

Velvets could be, was that I wanted

movies that are being made in mar-

He let us use “Satellite of Love”, for

famously said about The Velvet

to use the visual language of these

ginal places. There was just such an

instance, in Velvet Goldmine, when he

Underground, that hardly anybody

films, as a foreground/background

explosion of art and experimentation.

was still around.

bought a Velvet Underground record

template for talking about this music,

So, I immediately wondered how we

at the time, but everybody who did

and how the band came into being,

could make this the visual language

How does he feature in the film?

started a band.

because it was all around them. The

of the movie. And, by the same token,

He was a structuring absence for

visual language of film, of art, and of

I thought, OK, the rule will be, we only

the film, and we addressed that in a

You’ve made films about music

that time was something that you

interview people who were there. And

variety of ways, certainly by putting

before, but in a fictional way. Was

wouldn’t ever want to have to recre-

then it was really about accessing

people in who knew him well growing

that an option here?

ate. You wouldn’t ever want to have

archives, which is the process that

up and could talk about his evolution.

No. I think pretty early on it became

to turn it into a fiction.

took the longest. I now know how

John Cale is really our center-

documentaries can take so long to

piece interview through the film, and

be built, because you’re really writing

Maureen Tucker was an amazing

clear to me, when looking at this period in New York culture, that the

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How did you start? Did you have

LE V RAD I N / M EGA

I think it’s true what Brian Eno

them as you’re making them.


abilities would be, and in fact, initially, her limitations were worrying. But John Cale and Lou Reed really figured out what to do and how to use her, in a way that was so specific and so perfect, really. You can’t imagine anybody else singing the songs that she sang in the band. The Velvet Underground’s official albums are endlessly being repackaged. Is there any rare or unheard music? There is. Most of the material of live performances and demos have been released over the years, but there were rehearsal tapes we got from [Reed’s widow] Laurie Anderson that are remarkable. We use some of that in the film. There are live tapes of Lou Reed performing his lyrics at poetry readings in 1970 in New York that are so beautiful to hear. And then there were recordings of conversations that Danny Fields, a colleague of Lou Reed, gave us, where he was talking with him, somebody he really trusted, which was different to how he would behave with journalists. And we also found some videotape footage of the band in 1968, performing after John Cale had left the band. Stuff that has person to talk to as well, because,

of the story that he was their first

never, I don’t believe, ever been pub-

when things got volatile between the

“manager”. He was the reason why

licly seen before.

two men, she was just this recurrent

people went to see these shows,

peacemaker and someone who Lou

initially. No one knew who The Velvet

just adored and had put in a place of

Underground were, they went to see

safety and trust—something he didn’t

an Andy Warhol happening, so he was

often do with people. So, we were

the driving force. In fact, it’s a topic

able to really hear about him. Also, his

in the film, that they almost started

voice and his interviews are there. His

to feel they were a little experimental

presence is really felt in the film, and

exhibition of creatures who were

his voice, of course, is in the music.

being put on stage. Warhol famously wanted to put Nico in a plexiglass

How about the likes of Nico and

box, which she of course refused.

Andy Warhol—are you looking at

We tried to integrate everything, I guess, in a way that feels like it flows

I wanted to go back to that historical and cultural time and place, which feels completely alien to artistic practices today.

and moves emotionally through the course of the band, and the changes in the band. Because the music is so well known, possibly because there’s not that much of it, I wanted you to feel you were hearing it afresh, so you’d feel what it might’ve been like to hear it then and there. How does it feel to be bringing the

all the people in the band’s orbit?

And what about Nico?

Oh sure. Well, the story is about how

The band was really interested in Nico

this unlikely collection of people

around the time [New York socialite]

came together. That’s probably built

Edie Sedgwick was starting to fall out

into the stories of most bands, but in

with Warhol. And Nico, who Warhol

this case, there were just unique and

had met two years before, but was

strange circumstances. And once

spending more and more time in the

the Velvets really coalesced, Andy

Factory, was this astonishing-looking

erful way to experience it. There’ll be

Warhol’s Factory was a magnet for

woman and strange dark personality.

no better venue on the planet than

creative activity. It had to be a part

No one really knew what her musical

the Lumière theater in Cannes. ★

film to Cannes? Oh, it’s so exciting. Especially after all of us being so locked up and wondering if we’ll ever see a movie on a screen again... seeing it big and, of course, hearing the music at its best in a big theater, is an extremely pow-

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23


With no fewer than four films in this year’s Official Selection, LÉA SEYDOUX, the Palme d’Orwinning queen of Cannes, will make a barnstorming return to the festival that has become her second home. Joe Utichi meets the actress everybody wants to work with…

Photographs by

Bertie Watson

Location courtesy Hôtel Plaza Athénée, 25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris, Dorchester Collection

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Hair: Etienne Sekola Makeup: Sandrine Cano Bock Manicurist: Philippe Ovak Styling: Louis Vuitton


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PORTRAITS OF A LADY ON FIRE

Left: Léa Seydoux as Simone in Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch. Right, clockwise from top left: Seydoux in Bruno Dumont’s France; with Gijs Naber in Ildikó Enyedi’s The Story of My Wife; again in The French Dispatch with Denis Ménochet and Benicio del Toro; with Denis Podalydès in Arnaud Desplechin's Deception.

any of us have been itching to dip our toes into the water of real life ever since the vaccine rollout hinted at an end to the pandemic lockdown. For Léa Seydoux, the next 11 days will be a plunge: with four films in Cannes’ Official Selection, three of them in Competition, her festival itinerary will be relentless. Bouncing between premieres and press, she will be reunited with directors Wes Anderson and Arnaud Desplechin, with whom she’s worked before, for The French Dispatch and Deception, respectively. France marks her first collaboration with Bruno Dumont, while Ildikó Enyedi directs Seydoux in The Story of My Wife. “It’s crazy,” Seydoux says of the flurry of activity. And she's excited about what the work represents. “I’ve done one American film, a European film and two French films, and they are all so different. It’s exciting they’ve all been chosen by Cannes.” She credits the pandemic. She had shot three of the films before the world shut down in the Spring of 2020, and she was able to shoot the fourth—the Desplechin—in the Fall, squeezing it in between waves of the virus. But it is true, also, that Cannes is a second home to Seydoux. She has missed only one edition of the festival since 2013, the year she shared in the Palme d’Or win for Blue is the Warmest Color. And she remains one of only two actors— the other her co-star, Adèle Exarchopoulos—ever awarded the prize for their performance. “I have many strong memories in Cannes,” she says. “Of course, it feels like home a little bit.” It is certainly fitting that Seydoux will own the Croisette, more than two years on from the festival’s last real edition. She made her first visit in 2007, not long after her career began, and in the 14 years since, she has established herself as one of France’s most beloved exports. Blue is the Warmest Color was a defining film—on which, more later—but she had already been nominated for three César awards by then, and her career in Hollywood had taken root with films like Inglourious Basterds and Robin Hood—which both got Cannes premieres—as well as Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. A cynic might attribute her swift rise to nepotism—Seydoux’s

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LE PACT E / IN D I E SA LES /PYRA M ID E F I LM S /S EA RC HL IG H T P ICT U R ES


uncle is the chairman of Gaumont, and there are other industry connections in the family—but there were no easy rides as she set about becoming an actress, and her family didn’t create any opportunities for her. “I was not raised in that world at all,” she insists. “I come from this cultured family, but at the same time I was completely left alone as a kid. I was a misfit. I was very bad at school, and I’ve always felt a little bit like I was an orphan; that I didn’t fit into any box.” So, what changed? “I fell in love with an actor,” she says. “A very arrogant actor.” She would follow him around the streets of Paris, engineering excuses to run into him, but he showed little interest in her. “I thought, OK, I’m going to become more famous than he is. I want to prove to him I exist and that I can be a great actress.” She never got the boy, though she is more famous than him now. (“I won,” she laughs. “Except not really, because he never loved me.”) In any case, it was inconsequential, because what she found, as she took her first steps into acting, was purpose. “I was completely lost, and then when

"I WAS NOT RAISED IN THE FILM WORLD. I COME FROM A CULTURED FAMILY, BUT AT THE SAME TIME I WAS COMPLETELY LEFT ALONE AS A KID. I’VE ALWAYS FELT A LITTLE BIT LIKE I WAS AN ORPHAN; THAT I DIDN’T FIT INTO ANY BOX. WHEN I WAS AROUND 18 OR 19 AND I WAS MEETING SOME ACTORS, I STARTED TO THINK IT WOULD BE A GREAT JOB TO DO. IT FELT LIKE ACTING WAS MADE FOR ME." —Léa Seydoux

will; another great fit for an actress who had grown up immersed in both worlds. But Simone barely speaks. “I think I have like three phrases [in the entire film],” laughs Seydoux. She finds working with Anderson very special. “He’s such a unique director. You can recognize his films by their aesthetic form. It’s very galvanizing, working with him.” She likens the experience to working with Quentin Tarantino. “It’s really like a theater troupe they both assemble,” she says. “For them, cinema is like a stage play. With Wes, you don’t have any trailers or a green room. You share everything, with the other actors and the technicians. We all sleep in the same hotel, and every night we have dinners together. He knows the names of all the extras. There’s no hierarchy.” The Anderson experience will continue in Cannes, she says. “He wants us all to stay together at the same hotel outside Cannes. He really sees us as a family. And Quentin is the same.” She remembers her time on Inglourious Basterds fondly, even though her role was as brief as a blink. “Quentin was the first big director I had

I was around 18 or 19 and I was meeting some

worked for,” she says. At Cannes in 2019, when

actors, I started to think it would be a great job to

Tarantino was presenting Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood and Seydoux had Roubaix, une lumiere,

do. It felt like acting was made for me.”

they ran into each other. “He said, ‘I’m so proud

Suddenly, she was able to apply that sense of

of you, and proud of how you’ve grown as an

not belonging to create new characters. “I always felt transparent, like I could become whoever; I

as well. There are many layers there, you know. And

actress,’” she remembers. “I was so touched. Can

could be anyone. It’s a strange feeling, but I’m like a

it’s true, I think, for me as a person. I feel that way.”

you imagine how crazy it was for a young actress,

blank page, and people can project things onto me.” Her parents divorced when she was three, and

Anderson first encountered Seydoux in 2013, as the star of a series of Prada commercials he

22 or 23, to work with him?” It was a milestone in her early career and helped

Seydoux spent time in Africa with her mother, as

directed with Roman Coppola, and he later gave

define the path she had hoped to build. “I don’t

well as making an annual trip to summer camps in

her a small part in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He

want to be a French actress,” she says. “I want to

America because her father wanted her to learn

wasn’t present for the Prada shoot. “We shot in

be an actress. I want to travel abroad and not have

English. She felt lost again there, struggling to com-

Budapest,” he says. “I had scouted the locations,

any limits. Even with men and women; I don’t like

municate, but it taught her to be adaptable. “And

but I wasn’t there for the actual shooting; I was

the gender thing. Femininity and masculinity. I love

I think as an actress, that’s a force, because I can

watching over a live feed.”

actors who are at the same time masculine and

adapt to any genre. I can play bourgeois, or I can play a girl like in Sister or Roubaix, une lumiere.”

He recalls passing notes to Coppola, who would relate them to Seydoux. “It was a really unusual

feminine. I don’t like to be stuck in a particular way.” Her character in Blue is the Warmest Color,

thing, because I saw how quickly she was adapting

she says, allowed her the latitude to bring more

to her character in Wes Anderson’s The French

to the things I was saying, and just making them

masculinity into her performance. “It really was

Dispatch. Seydoux plays Simone, a buttoned-up

her own so easily and so quickly,” Anderson says.

more than a film for me,” she now recalls. “It was a

prison guard who becomes the muse to Benicio

“I was caught off-guard. The big thing was she

real-life experience, and it changed my life. When

del Toro’s incarcerated artist Moses Rosenthaler.

was just so good, right there live on the spot, with

we shot the film, I knew it was going to be special,

As stern as she is as a guard, Simone revels in the

me watching like an audience member from a

but I didn’t think it would be that special.”

freedom she feels when she poses nude for the

thousand miles away.”

In a funny sort of way, she says, she could relate

artist’s abstract paintings.

The part in Budapest Hotel was in the script

The release of Blue is the Warmest Color was eventually shrouded in controversy when Seydoux

before Anderson considered Seydoux for the

and Exarchopoulos spoke out about director

though the very nature of The French Dispatch,

role. With The French Dispatch, he says, “I wanted

Abdellatif Kechiche’s approach to shooting the

with its patchwork of stories featuring one of the

to do a bigger part with Léa. I wrote it with her

film’s sex scenes, which Seydoux said made her

most impressive ensemble casts ever gathered,

specifically in mind.” The film makes extensive

feel “like a prostitute”. The planned two-month

ensures that no part is. “But I feel like [Simone] is

use of what Anderson calls “non-accommodative

shoot ballooned to five months, sometimes involv-

a concentrate of everything. It’s funny; very funny.

bilingualism” in which its characters continually

ing 18-hour days, and demanded everything of its

It’s deep. She’s very cold, but she’s very emotional

switch between speaking French and English at

stars, who often found Kechiche’s lens trained on

“It’s not a big part,” she says, and she’s right,

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LOCATI O N COU RT ESY H ÔTE L P LAZA AT H É N ÉE , 2 5 AV E N UE M O N TAI G N E , 750 0 8 PA RI S , D O RCH EST E R CO L L ECT IO N HA I R: E T IE N N E S E KO LA ; M A K EU P : SA ND R IN E CA N O BOC K; M A N IC UR I ST: P H ILI P P E OVAK ; ST Y LI N G : LOU IS VU I T TO N

grandfather is the chairman of Pathé, her grand-


THE ONLY WAY IS UP

"I’M PROUD OF BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR. CINEMA IS A WAY TO LEARN THINGS AND GROW. WHILE IT WAS UNCOMFORTABLE TO HAVE EXPERIENCED THAT, I NOW FEEL I CAN DO ANYTHING. ACTING SHOULD NOT BE COMFORTABLE. YOU HAVE TO PUT YOUR FLESH AND BLOOD ON THE TABLE. " —Léa Seydoux

through that process,” she says. “Cinema is a way to learn things and grow, and while it was uncomfortable to have experienced that, I now feel I can do anything.” Besides, she says, “Acting should not be comfortable. You have to put your flesh and blood on the table.” In fact, Seydoux’s approach to the work has always been director-led, and Kechiche praised her for it in that same press conference. It is no coincidence that she has repeated collaborations with Anderson and Desplechin at this year’s festival, and she has made multiple movies with Benoît Jacquot, Rebecca Zlotowski and Bertrand Bonello. Actors frequently talk about how important that collaboration with a director is, but Seydoux lives and breathes it. “As an actress, when you work with a director, you have to understand your director in a very deep way,” she says. “You have to understand their culture and where they come from. Cinema is a form of language, and you must adapt to the director’s language, in a way. With Wes, even though

them even in private moments, when they hadn’t

he’s American, he loves French culture, and lives

been aware they were shooting. “It was very dif-

half in Paris and half in England. This I know, and

ficult to make,” she says now. “And it was difficult

when I’m on set with him, there’s something I’m

because Kechiche is crazy. He is crazy. He was

able to understand even beyond words.”

manipulating us, and that was extremely difficult on a psychological level.” She recalls Kechiche banning her from screen-

It is the same with Arnaud Desplechin, her director on Deception. “To work with him, it opens doors to new meaning,” she says. “You understand

ing the film ahead of its Cannes premiere—an

things in a larger way. His cinema comes from

act she calls “violent”—and the panic attack that

literature, so working with him is like reading a

ensued when she feared what the film might show.

book.” Deception is based on a Philip Roth novel.

It screened towards the end of the 2013 festival,

The Story of My Wife, too, is a literary adaptation,

and Seydoux pleaded with festival chief Thierry

from a work by Hungarian author Milán Füst. “With

Frémaux to let her preview the film, which he did.

Ildikó Enyedi, who directs The Story of My Wife,

In her mounting anxiety, she hated it. “I thought,

she’s Hungarian, and I feel I’ve been able to reach

oh god, this is crap. He had cut almost half of the

her, and her culture, through working with her.

film. We shot so many scenes that aren’t in the

The language you speak has nothing to do with it;

film. I thought it would be the end of everything for

cinema is really a language of art.”

me.” Instead, the film received rapturous plaudits

For Seydoux, a deep collaboration like this is not

from the moment of its first press screening, and

as simple as becoming a conduit for what a direc-

Seydoux, Exarchopoulos and Kechiche were “on

tor wants to say to the world. Her different col-

a cloud” all the way through to the prizegiving

laborators have allowed her to channel a range of

ceremony at festival’s end.

characters—to imprint upon her blank page—but

Seydoux had not been underhanded in sharing

she has found her own expression beyond the sim-

her discomfort with the shoot. She had made

ple act of choosing roles. “Isabelle Huppert used to

her first comments at the Cannes press confer-

say that when she was working with a director, she

ence for the film, with Kechiche present, and the

was making her own film inside the film, and I think

story only snowballed when the film went on to

it’s quite true,” she says. “As an actor, you have your

Telluride later in the year. Kechiche then went on

subjectivity. A director becomes an interlocutor

the attack, at one point apparently threatening to

with whom you can question the world. Because

sue Seydoux for slander, and it is fair to say the two

cinema is also about asking questions, and differ-

remain estranged.

ent directors have different perspectives.”

Still, Seydoux says she wouldn’t change a

She arrives to set without pretensions, ready to

thing about the experience of making the movie.

find her character in the collaboration. Mia Han-

“I’m proud of the film, and proud of having gone

sen-Løve is currently shooting her new film, Un

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Léa Seydoux's many roles... A: As Sabine Moreau in her first studio blockbuster Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011). B: With Owen Wilson in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011) . C: As Belle in Christophe Gans’ Beauty and the Beast (2014). D: Making her screen debut aged 20 as Aurore in Girlfriends(2006) . E: Playing Isabella of Angoulême, 13th Century Queen of England, in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (2010). F: Making history as Emma in Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme d’Or-winner Blue is the Warmest Color, with co-star Adèle Exarchopoulos. G: In her first Bond outing as Madeleine Swann in Spectre.


PARA M OU N T/ E VE R E TT/SON Y P I CT U RES /PAT H E FI L M S /U N I V ERSAL /S U N DAN CE S E LECTS /COLU M B IA P ICT U R ES

A

D

B

C

E G

F

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LÉA SEYDOUX HAS BEEN A CANNES

"BECAUSE [DANIEL CRAIG] COMES FROM THE THEATRE, I THINK HE WANTED TO MAKE JAMES BOND A MORE INTERESTING CHARACTER. HE’S MADE HIM VULNERABLE AND LET HIM SHOW HIS FLAWS. BY SEEING THE CHARACTER’S IMPERFECTIONS, THE AUDIENCE CAN RELATE TO HIM." —Léa Seydoux

understands Bond’s world, the dark forces that he is up against, and his psyche. We wanted to challenge Bond emotionally and Léa’s character does this in No Time to Die.” They also simply wanted the chance to work with her again. “Léa is very committed to

CHECK OUT

and makes you feel the connection with them because she makes them feel real.” Seydoux has spoken about how ‘Bond girls’ have become ‘Bond women’ during Daniel Craig’s run as Bond. What he has done with

LOOKS

into the modern era. “Because he comes from

THE YEARS.

the theater, I think he wanted to create a more interesting character,” she says. “He’s made him vulnerable and let him show his flaws. By seeing

Logan suggested that hearing about the deal beau matin, with Seydoux. “It’s early, because we

gave him “chills”. “Barbara and Michael are really

just started, but I’m impressed by her simplicity,”

the ones who decide everything,” she says. “And

the director says. “Simplicity is always what I’ve

I don’t think that will change. I’m not afraid of

been looking for ever since I started working with

what the future holds.” Broccoli and Wilson describe tracking

children, adults, or more famous actors. I’m

Seydoux’s career through The Beautiful Person,

always looking for simplicity in acting, and Léa

Farewell, My Queen and Blue is the Warmest Color

has that quality on a level that’s really impressive.

before casting her in Spectre. “What struck us is

And she carries an emotion that’s quite unique,

her authenticity—she is an extremely versatile

I find.”

actress—she plays each role with great truth, never a false moment in her work.” It is a sentiment Seydoux echoes. “The thing

at home on the set of a James Bond film as she

I’m always looking for when I’m acting is truth,”

is working in independent cinema. She played

she insists. “I’m obsessed about it. And it’s what

Dr. Madeleine Swann in Spectre and reprised

I mean when I say you must put your flesh and

the role in the much-delayed upcoming Bond

blood and everything into it. I love it when it’s

adventure No Time to Die. She is the first ‘Bond

true. And I hate when I feel it isn’t.” With our time together approaching an end,

roles in subsequent films—and jumped at the

Seydoux turns the tables on me. Who are my

chance to come back. She was surprised by how

favorite directors? I rattle off a list, leaving out

unique each film felt. “Sam Mendes, who did

far too many names, and then put the question

Spectre, and Cary Fukunaga, who did No Time

back to her. Perhaps coincidentally, she almost

to Die, are very different,” she says. “And when

exclusively lists departed directors she can never

you act, it is always informed by who you are as a

work with: Kubrick, Bergman, Bresson, Rohmer.

person. So, I was very different, because Spectre

Only one name she cites, Pedro Almodóvar,

was five years before.”

might yet cast her. She may have become an

“Léa’s portrayal of Dr. Madeleine Swann

actress to impress a crush, but what she found

explores the complexity of what it is like to be

in cinema has become the great passion of her

in a relationship with James Bond,” say Bond

life. “For me, cinema is something that helped

producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G.

me to live, as simple as that,” she says. “Really, I

Wilson. “Given the background of her character

think if I didn’t have cinema in my life, I would be

being the daughter of a Spectre assassin, she

desperate, very desperate.” ★

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CARPET

THROUGH

billion to buy MGM, and Bond screenwriter John

32

HER RED

the role, she says, has evolved the franchise

The franchise, she thinks, is also in safe

Girl’ to do so—Maud Adams played different

FIRST VISIT

always illuminates the characters she plays

hands, even after Amazon shelled out $8.45

Seydoux rejects any notion that the worth

SINCE HER

IN 2007.

relate to him.”

of cinema exists on a spectrum; she is as much

EVER

her profession and gives 100%,” they say. “She

the character’s imperfections, the audience can

actors, whether they would be unknown actors,

MAINSTAY


M EGA /Z I B I/ WE N N .CO M /N E WSCO M / TOD D WI L LI AM SON / I NV I S I O N /AP/DAVI D S I L PA /U P I /P H I L LOF T US /CAP I TAL P I CT U R E /E X P R ESS SY N DI CAT I ON

2009

2010

In a navy Chanel gown at the premiere of Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces.

2013

In ruffled tulle and corset at the premiere of Robin Hood.

2016

2011

With Owen Wilson and Woody Allen at the premiere of Midnight in Paris.

2018

With co-star Gaspard Ulliel for Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World.

2019

In Louis Vuitton for the premiere of Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central.

Facing the press corps in Vuitton for Arnaud Desplechin’s Roubaix, une Lumiere.

As a member of the Competition jury, on the Palais steps for Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War.

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33


In 2001, a lavish Cannes party and 26 minutes of footage changed the course of film history. As Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy approaches its 20 th anniversary, Mike Fleming Jr. gathers key players to take a look back at a breathtaking gamble

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N E W L I NE CI N EM A /E V E RE T T

An Enduring Fellowship


ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL Clockwise from left: the hobbits, played by Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin; Ian McKellen as Gandalf; Orlando Bloom as Legolas; director Peter Jackson; New Line’s Bob Shaye; Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn.

E

ver since Bob Shaye launched the com-

project, The Frighteners with Michael J. Fox, had

leaning into Cannes of 2001,” says Jackson’s long-

pany in 1967 to release arthouse, for-

been a commercial failure. On paper, none of it

time agent/manager Ken Kamins. “‘Let’s blow

eign language and cult films on college

looked like a recipe for success. Indeed, by 2001

people away.’ But of course, once you decide

campuses, New Line Cinema had been a

there was a decided perception that the failure

you’re going to spend $2 million dollars on a party

studio known for out-of-the-box choices neces-

of the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, could

and treat 26 minutes like a premiere, the stakes

sitated by being the last stop for good material.

sink Shaye’s studio, and some of the international

are total. Get it right and you are on your way to

From the audacious early John Waters films like

distributors whose presales allowed New Line to

something really important and powerful. Get it

Pink Flamingos to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on

make its films.

wrong, and you’ve made the biggest miniseries in

Elm Street, New Line found gems others missed,

The Cannes Film Festival would play a major

the history of TNT.”

even after Ted Turner bought the studio. New Line

role in turning around the skeptics and settling

had launched Jim Carrey with The Mask, leveled

the nerves of all involved. Cannes has always been

of the principals who took one of the most pres-

up Mike Myers with Austin Powers, and given a

an international launchpad for films, but Shaye

surized rides in all of Hollywood history, to recall

home to filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson

and Jackson came armed only with 26 minutes

the films and that memorable night in Cannes

with Boogie Nights and David Fincher with Se7en.

of footage of a film that would not be finished for

where everything clicked, presaging three straight

Shaye had shown his studio to be a place of cre-

months. Still, they treated it like a film premiere,

years of blockbusters, a near $3 billion global

ative risk taking.

with distributors and junket press brought to Châ-

gross, and a collective 30 Oscar nominations and

teau de Castellaras, a castle in nearby Mouans-

17 wins, including Best Picture for 2003’s Return

like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a matter of

Sartoux, that was transformed into Middle-earth

of the King. Says Shaye: “If you were there that

fact, no one else in Hollywood had; three films,

by the art departments and set designers of the

night in Cannes, it would be something you’d

each with budgets of $120 million, filmed back-

trilogy. It would be another $2 million gamble for

always remember.”

to-back over a protracted shoot in New Zealand.

Shaye and his team. But it would prove to be an

Presiding over the project was filmmaker Peter

important chapter on the route to release for

be defined by this: saying yes to Peter Jackson’s

Jackson, at that time best known for small-

what would become the most successful series

last-ditch attempt to turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord

budget flicks like Heavenly Creatures, Braindead

of independent movies ever made.

of the Rings trilogy into two films, after Disney’s

But New Line had never taken a financial risk

and Meet the Feebles, whose only studio-backed

“It was Bob who came up with the idea of

Twenty years on, Deadline has gathered some

No matter what else he does, Bob Shaye will

Michael Eisner turned down Miramax bosses

DEADLINE.COM

35


Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Other studios had also

accept the Weinsteins’ financial ultimatum, but

said no, and Shaye was Jackson’s last chance. The

Ordesky urged him to at least hear Jackson’s pre-

Weinsteins gave Jackson a daunting challenge: a

sentation. Things had changed in the period since

week to shop a project that would call for them to

De Luca and Ordesky first told Shaye about the

get 5 percent of first dollar gross. If Jackson found

potential opportunity. Time Warner had acquired

no takers, he would withdraw, and Miramax would

Ted Turner’s company and it was uncertain how

find another filmmaker willing to tell the sprawling

New Line fit in alongside Warner Bros. Shaye was

tale in a single film. Shaye watched a VHS presen-

also clashing with his wunderkind picture picker

tation and listened to how Jackson would execute

De Luca and wanted to bolster the slate.

no. It shouldn’t be two films, he said. It should

I were having a sort of interpersonal conflict, dis-

be a trilogy; a holiday blockbuster for three years

agreements about operating procedure,” Shaye

straight. It became one of the ballsiest executive

recalls. “My partner Michael Lynne kept saying,

decisions in Hollywood history.

‘We don’t have enough movies and where are the

“We had always been the outsider,” recalls

with our development and more inclined to be

thing, we were always the last guy in town that

open to possibilities because I knew that we really

anybody would think of to pitch a project. On The

weren’t in such great shape for the next year or

Lord of the Rings, we had Time Warner behind us at

two. I was not particularly interested in proving

that point, but nobody understood who we were,

myself to anybody but perhaps Ted [Turner]. With

including [CEO] Jerry Levin, and the entire Time

all of that concern in the back of my mind, I walked

Warner staff. We were just kind of left over from

into the conference room to see what Peter had

some crazy moment that Ted Turner had. They

put together.”

took place between Time Warner and Turner.” When Shaye read trade stories about Mira-

execute it. “Peter said, ‘We don’t have to go to fancy special effects houses to get this stuff. We’ve

a really good idea,” he says. “Then [production

got a little studio called Wingnut in New Zealand

president] Mike De Luca and Mark Ordesky [presi-

and an algorithm we developed so we can have

dent of NL’s prestige film label Fine Line] came into

big crowd scenes where all the different figures in

my office one day and said it looked like Weinstein

a crowd don’t do the same thing because you’re

was going to make this available to the community.

just repeating the same technique over and over

‘Are we interested?’ I said, ‘Yeah, in principle, it’s

and over. We’ve developed a way that every char-

going to be an incredible opportunity, but what’s

acter looks like they’re doing something different.

the situation?’ Mark said, ‘Well one of the few

It’s going to be a lot less expensive than going to

things that’s really going to turn you off is that the

get custom designs of every group of characters.’

Weinsteins personally are getting 5 percent of first

The other really innovative thing was he would

dollar gross as part of the deal.’ I said, ‘To hell with

use forced perspective to make the hobbits small,

that. That is definitely not happening. Not in a mil-

and humans like Gandalf regular sized in the same

lion years. I’m going to give Weinstein 5 percent of

frame. He’d do that with different focal lengths on

gross? Forget about it.’”

the camera, creating the illusion that one is larger,

seed had been planted. He was fond of Jackson, who’d written a treatment for one of the Night-

and one is smaller. Then I saw the reel and it really worked. It was excellent.” Shaye bought into Jackson’s vision in the room.

mare on Elm Street sequels and who was close to

Jackson’s budget was $60 million a film at that

Ordesky, sleeping on the exec’s couch when he

point, and New Line could cover that. In the time

came to L.A. from New Zealand in those early days.

they’d been with Ted Turner, they hadn’t been

Jackson was making the kind of movies that fit

questioned about their spending. “All of our films

New Line’s formula: tight-budget genre.

had been successful with one exception, Little

“I’d seen Meet the Feebles and Braindead; we

DEADLINE.COM

Shaye was extremely impressed, not just with Jackson’s vision, but with his meticulous plan to

max’s plans for the Tolkien books, “I thought it was

Shaye thought that was the end of it, but the

36

sequels?’ I was getting more and more frustrated

Shaye. “Until we got to the Ted Turner financing

wanted to sell us from the moment the merger

RINGED PLAYERS From top: Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee with Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins; Andy Serkis as Gollum; Christopher Lee as Saruman.

“What happened in the interim was Mike and

Nicky,” Shaye says. “They must have thought they

were part of that subset of movie making,” Shaye

were dealing with sorcerers or something, but

says. “We were not high society, we were street

nobody ever said, ‘You can’t do this.’” In his mind,

people, and then Peter made Heavenly Creatures,

Rings could be New Line’s very own version of the

which I thought was a really excellent movie. And

James Bond franchise, with a banner blockbuster

then The Frighteners, which I was less enthusias-

released each year.

tic about.” When Ordesky told Shaye that the Weinsteins

And the 5 percent first dollar gross to the Weinsteins? “Sure the 5 percent pissed me off tremen-

were officially seeking partners and Jackson was

dously, but I wasn’t going to cut off my nose to

in L.A. to pitch Rings, Shaye took the meeting as

spite my face,” Shaye says. “The fact that I didn’t

a courtesy. He was still adamant that he wouldn’t

get along with Harvey Weinstein, and that we were

N E W L I NE CI N EM A /E V E RE T T

his plan. And then he gave the filmmaker another


bitterly competitive with that company, I wasn’t going to say no. And, of course, I knew that we were the last stop on Peter’s trip. That also didn’t bother me; I’ve been insulted before.” He had made up his mind before Jackson’s presentation was even over. “And then Peter comes in with his production designer who has these 40x60 full color pictures of the landscape and the locations in New Zealand, a place I knew nothing about. I was floored.” There was still plenty of risk: Jackson was unproven as the director of an event-sized trilogy, and so was New Zealand as a reliable production hub. Shaye didn’t know how determined Jackson was to change all that. “You have to know this about Peter,” says Kamins. “There was a sense of civic and national pride that he was also wearing, because he really wanted this desperately for New Zealand. The first time I ever went to go visit Peter in New Zealand, he put on one of the James Bond films. I can’t remember which one, but there was a sequence where there is a glass map of the world. Peter hits pause and says, ‘What do you see?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure what I’m looking for.’ He goes over to where Australia is, and he points. He said, ‘Take a look. New Zealand is not on that map.’ Then he looked me dead in the eye, and he said, ‘But it will be.’” Still, the budget was a guess, and shooting multiple movies at once just wasn’t done. Studios would rather pay a premium to regroup a cast than be left holding the bag if the first one failed. Many fantasy films with franchise aspirations never got past the first film. “That was part of the final bedding process, when Peter just happened to slip that in,” Shaye recalls. “I said, ‘Let’s do them one at a time and see how it goes.’ He said, ‘No, no, we have to do them all at once. The actors are going to be older. It’s going to take a year to get the films done and one film released. Many of these locations will require us to build roads, to bring equipment in and we’ll have to completely cut up a significant part of the landscape. The New Zealand government won’t allow us to keep those roads and the disarray.’ So, the bottom line was, there was no way around it. All three had to be made at once.” New Line’s international chief, Rolf Mittweg, had been selling the project as a trilogy anyway, so they moved ahead, but the doubt still remained in Shaye’s mind. If the first film had been a failure, some international distribution partners would likely attempt to back out of an ongoing deal. “That was the risk but there’s always a risk, in every film,” Shaye declares. “There could be a snowstorm the day you open. The term ‘risk-free movie’ is an oxymoron. The point is, I thought that the risk was sufficiently covered by the prospects of success. It was a risk

LEGEND IN MOTION From top (left to right): Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn; Sean Astin as Samwise, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Dominic Monaghan as Merry and Billy Boyd as Pippin; Ian McKellen as Gandalf.

DEADLINE.COM

37


that I was willing to take, the kind of decision that

of box office, you have to be prepared to take

people who make production decisions have to

the risk. But three movies, when you are halfway

make all the time. You weigh the risk against the

through the first movie shoot, that’s complicated.

reward and if the balance is substantially enough

We teased them with some footage. Japan and

in your favor, you dive off the high board. That’s just

the Far East, we had a hard time with it because

the way the movie business is.”

they didn’t know the books, but we got a huge Mittweg doesn’t sugarcoat the result if Fellowship

enough to cover the costs of production for each

had flopped. “It would have been a suicide mis-

movie; that would have to double. It was then that

sion,” he says.

Shaye began to consider the long odds of the bet

it wasn’t until Shaye had committed that he had

around my head or he didn’t have a clue himself,

questions about the filmmaker. He travelled to

but when we sent our own production team down

New Zealand with some international buyers who

to Wellington to see what was going on, they came

were still on the fence, “I had a good faith feeling about Peter,” Shaye

for anything less than $120 million,” Shaye says. “I

says. “I don’t say that you trust filmmakers all the

went back to Rolf and I said, ‘We’re going to have

time. I didn’t really know his mindset, but I believed

to change the percentages and the prices that

in him, and that was, by the way, a big risk. You

we’re getting for international because Peter just

give a guy from New Zealand $120 million to make

got it wrong. You can’t make this film for $60 mil-

a movie and then you’ve got two more behind it.

lion. It couldn’t be done. Rolf said, ‘I definitely want

I had to think a lot about that. We decided to go

it and it will be fine.’ So, we went for it.”

to New Zealand, and Rolf wanted to take some of

The risk to the foreign distribution partners

our key buyers who were still hesitant about buy-

cannot be overstated. The deal was to buy all

ing into three pictures that were going to end up

three, or none. “The international presales were

being $300 million. Peter put together a half-hour

a big part of the financing, and what we did had

sample reel of dramatic scenes.”

never been done before,” says Cam Galano, who

As he waited for the film to be laced up in Jack-

was New Line EVP and European Supervisor and

son’s screening room, he looked at the posters on

made deals under Mittweg. “Think about it. You’re

the wall for Jackson’s films Braindead, Meet the

a distributor, and you’re being asked to pay a very

Feebles and Heavenly Creatures. “It suddenly struck

high price not for one, but three, knowing if the

me that this guy is making $50,000, $60,000

first didn’t work, you’re stuck, just the way New

and $75,000 movies, cheap exploitation films,

Line would be stuck financing the movies. They

and we’re giving him $300 million dollars,” Shaye

were very expensive at the time, and there were so

recalls. “This is really bloody crazy. I’ve almost

many unknowns.”

never felt so panicked as I did at that moment.

Then again, indie distributors rarely get to be

There are all these guys walking in to see this

in the middle of films with such potential, which

screening of some of the acting scenes to decide

at the time were the domain of the major studios.

whether they’re going to be making huge guaran-

“We were enthusiastic even though it seemed like

tees, risking their companies. I felt like I’d been sold

a massive risk at the time,” says Nigel Green, who

a bill of goods and it was too late to do anything.

with his late brother Trevor built Entertainment

When we went into the screening room, I really had

Film Distributors into the biggest indie distribution

my heart in my hands, so to speak.”

company in the U.K., helped by being New Line’s

His skepticism about Jackson’s ability to take

output partner in the region. “We had to commit to

the leap vanished in the 20 minutes it took to show

three movies at the same time, it was definitely the

the footage. “The reel Peter put together had Ian

biggest commitment to a project—one film or a

[McKellen] and Orlando [Bloom], and everybody,”

trilogy. We’d made large commitments to produc-

Shaye recalls. “It was so good that I felt we could

tions, but never that size on an acquisition for U.K.

get the special effects and everything straight-

rights. A lot of us were family run companies; my

ened out, bring our own people in it, do whatever

brother and me, and Metropolitan in France with

was required. It was an excellent cast. It was well

Sammy and Victor Hadida. Decisions were made

photographed. It was first class stuff, and so we

by people who love film. I don’t know that you

walked out of there with confidence. We actually

would run numbers analytically and feel [Rings]

closed almost all of our international deals off that

was a safe bet. This was a bet made on enthu-

trip to Wellington.”

siasm and not technical calculations, because

“I totally appreciate the position that New Line,

nobody had made a bet at that level on a trilogy,

Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne were in and I don’t

financed in the way Bob and Michael did this.”

look back on any of it and judge them remotely,”

Says Mittweg: “If you want to have high profile movies, the ones that can amass huge amounts

DEADLINE.COM

There was enough anxiety to go around. But

he made. “Peter was either trying to blow smoke

back and said the first film could not be made

38

number from the U.K., and they did very well.” Still,

Jackson says now. “There was a lot of pressure, and they were very upset with us as the budgets

N E W L I NE CI N EM A /E V E RE T T

The pressure, though, never stopped mounting. It soon became clear $60 million wouldn’t be


went up. The anger was understandable. They aren’t the bad guys in this story; we are really the bad guys for going over budget. Eventually, it stabilized when Barrie Osborne came in as producer a few months into us shooting, when the movie was re-budgeted and realistic. We all felt a bit under siege, but looking back on it, I get it, I understand it all now much clearer.” Being on the other side of the planet from Shaye’s nervousness probably helped, but Jackson recalls a moment where he was shooting the Helm’s Deep scenes from The Two Towers, way up in a rock quarry in Wellington, and he could see Osborne lugging a large box with a cell phone because service was so unreliable, walking because the path was impassible by car. “It was a period of time when New Line were at their most angry with us in terms of the budget,” Jackson remembers. “I am on the parapet, probably with Viggo [Mortensen], and I see Barrie. It took him about 30 minutes to huff and puff his way to get on the top, and so I kept on shooting. Barrie arrives and says, ‘I have the studio, I’ve got to connect you with Michael Lynne of New Line.’ I ask why. He says, ‘Oh, he’s going to threaten to sue you and sell the house from under you to cover the cost overruns.’ Barrie was just the messenger, but it was one of the only points where I really snapped. I said, ‘Just tell Michael Lynne that I’m shooting this fucking film and I’m doing the best job I can, and I’m not going to interrupt my day with a phone call like that.’ Barrie picked up the cellphone and made his way back down to the car and drove off.” While Shaye could be an ornery studio boss, Jackson saw a different side of him when he completed the first film. Jackson flew to Los Angeles with the footage that would eventually be shown in Cannes, and set up a screening for Shaye at Shaye’s house. “Before it started, Bob signaled to me with his finger, you know, ‘Come with me.’ I followed him, and we went into a bathroom, he shut the door. I’m there alone in a bathroom with Bob Shaye thinking, what the hell is this? He looked at me and he said, ‘Please, Peter, please, we have all these partners, they’re relying on the success of this film. If it doesn’t work, they’re going to go under, so I just want you to know how important it is for me that we don’t let our partners down.’ And he began to cry. I mean, Bob began to sob, and it was literally the most personal moment that I ever had with him. I just said to Bob, ‘Look, I’m doing my best, Bob. I hear you, I get it, and I understand, and I’m trying to make the best film I can.’ He really cared. He was crying not on behalf of New Line. He was crying on behalf of all the international partners that they brought on board to help finance the film, the Greens and the Hadidas, all the independent distributors that had bought into the project. He

FIGHT ON From top: Ian McKellen as Gandalf; Orlando Bloom’s Legolas rides into battle; Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn leads the troops.

DEADLINE.COM

39


MYTHICAL QUEST Left to right: Elijah Wood’s Frodo reaches for the fabled ring; Andy Serkis as Gollum with Sean Astin as Samwise.

was crying on their behalf, not on his own, or his

Jackson’s reel that he went for broke to turn

own company’s behalf.”

around the skeptical buzz on the film and build

boy oh boy, could you feel it. I don’t know if Bob

Says Kamins: “Those were high stakes, and

After shooting for a year and a half in isolation,

momentum for the late-year release. Shaye

remembers what I remember, which is me and

Jackson himself had become somewhat troubled

decided on a Cannes premiere-style launch,

Bob and Peter literally standing in the stairwell

with what was being written about his films, and

unveiling 26 minutes of scenes, followed by that

by the projection booth of the Olympia, wait-

the expectation of looming catastrophe. “People

party staged at the historic Château de Castel-

ing for the first screening to start. Both of them

knew that three films were being shot, and a lot of

laras, just outside town. Actual sets from the

looked sick to their stomachs. They were both

press I read—and some of this was New Zealand

movie were transported to turn the venue into

white as a sheet and couldn’t breathe. They liter-

press—would talk about how risky it was for New

Middle-earth, complete with cave trolls, Ring-

ally didn’t know what was going to happen, and

Line, that if the first film failed New Line would

wraiths and Frodo’s house in the Shire. It was $2

then the footage hit. We had a pretty good sense

probably cease to exist, because they’d be stuck

million well spent.

as people walked out, that they were buzzing,

with two other films that they can’t do anything

Jackson came to Cannes with cast and a reel

with,” Jackson says. “It is totally understandable

that began with him and Gandalf in the wizard’s

significant people who would normally occupy

press would speculate about the worst case

wagon to introduce footage which established the

the Croisette, both in the media and other major

scenario. These thoughts were going through our

Fellowship of men, hobbits, and an elf and dwarf

distributors who didn’t have the film. There was a

minds as well to some degree, but what bothered

to deliver the ring to Mordor. Then came the entire

buzz, and it was moving fast. You could feel that

me is some were written as a fait accompli. ‘Fan-

breathtaking sequence as the group enters the

something important was happening.”

tasy is always unsuccessful at the box office,’ and,

underground mines of Moria, battling Orcs, goblins

‘New Line is taking crazy risks with this unknown

and the fiery demon Balrog.

bad it might be.’”

“Everybody thinks the make-or-break moment

Says Galano: “If I had to choose a word to describe the buyers, it would be… euphoric.” “Sammy Hadida, who has passed away but

of a big movie is the opening weekend, but in some

who was head of French distributor Metropolitan,

Rather than rattling him, this criticism fueled

respects, I think that Cannes screening was our

saw me in the lobby and literally picked me up off

Jackson. “I’m the sort of guy that if I read people

opening weekend, certainly in terms of all these

the ground and kissed me on the mouth, he was

are speculating on how much I’m going to fail,

distributors being on board,” Jackson says. “The

so excited,” recalls Ordesky. “I thought his face

that makes me all the more determined not to

success of the movie in its initial release was going

would break from smiling so big.”

fail. I thought, I’m going to show you, I’m going to

to depend a lot on the amount of effort and hard

work like a crazy guy to make the best films I pos-

work that the different distributors put into the

with turning their nerves into excitement. “[There

sibly can. In a sense I’m grateful for those stories

film, because they were all in charge of promotion

was] a sense it would change not just our com-

because I do look back on that as being something

and marketing in their own territories. What that

pany, but everyone involved,” he recalls. “We sat

that really gave me the extra 10 percent to do the

Cannes screening did was it motivated and united

alongside the press, all of us experiencing it at the

best job I could.”

all of them in the sense they realized this could be

same moment. Then, the acute sense of being in

huge if they put in the extra effort.”

the world of the movie at that party with 1,000

Shaye became confident enough after seeing

40

DEADLINE.COM

Hadida’s brother Victor credits that screening

N E W L I NE CI N EM A /E V E RE T T

director,’ so, ‘Let’s talk about the failure and how

and a number of us were getting reports from


WICKED IMAGERY Left to right: Orcs in action; Oliphants charging towards the Rohirrim at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

people. They recreated the Shire. It was incredible

of excitement he hadn’t expected. “It showed so

are expecting something different than what

relief, mixed with excitement.”

many things,” he says. “The level of artistry that

we think we’ve created.’ After Cannes, they got

Weta Digital and Peter’s team were capable of

it right. The posters of just Elijah with his hands

says Cannes helped everyone focus on finishing.

Aside from turning around the buzz, Jackson

in bringing that cave troll to life in a way that felt

and a huge ring in it, on bus stops and everything

It was also a revelation for actors who’d spent

genius. To feel that palpable buzz of excitement

else. You didn’t know if this would translate to

one and a half years acting in green screen. “We

in the air was wonderful. It became real. And the

box office success, and I watched Bob Shaye and

had most of the principal cast there—the Hobbits,

party, with cave trolls and Ringwraiths on horse-

Michael Lynne sweating it.”

Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler—and

back? It was extraordinary, and I have not seen

it was the first time they’d seen finished work,”

anything like that since.”

Jackson says. “Imagine being Elijah Wood or Ian,

Shaye could feel the shift when, later, he

The rest, though, is history. While acrimony and lawsuits between New Line and Jackson would follow—Shaye exited the studio he

and you’d shot the mines of Moria scene in New

showed the footage to Time Warner’s Levin, who

founded not long after the Oscar haul and indie

Zealand probably a year and a half earlier with

asked him what territories were still available.

record gross of nearly $3 billion—Shaye looks

green screens, running around the studio shout-

“I told him Germany might be available and he

back on his big gamble with fondness.

ing at things. When Ian confronted the Balrog, he

said, ‘I’m going to take it directly to our inter-

was on a green screen stage looking at a tennis

national people and I hope we can buy it.’ I felt

I hasten to add I had nothing to do with—that

ball. And then you’re suddenly seeing the finished

vindicated in the sense that we were always the

came about after the fact and was just about

sequence scored with all the visual effects. It

little jerks nobody cared about, and all of sud-

the hubris that develops in organizations when

wasn’t just the distributors or the press, it was

den, they’re looking for our product. That was

they think they’re on top of their game—I’m very

the actors themselves getting a sneak preview

quite satisfying.”

proud of what happened,” Shaye reflects. “I’m

in May of what this finished movie in December

Sean Astin, who played Frodo’s Hobbit com-

“Except for the unfortunate imbroglios, which

extremely fortunate and proud that Peter did

might be like. I just remember them all being very,

panion Samwise Gamgee, feels that the reel and

such a great job. This really was lightning in a

very excited that all that work in New Zealand was

reaction elevated the scope of the marketing

bottle; I never experienced anything like it and of

going to pay off.”

campaign. “The Cannes Film Festival showed

course I look back on the whole thing—or most

what we knew, that the film was spectacular

of it—with great satisfaction and a modest but

together an unsolicited audition tape that got

and we had created something that would stand

intense smile on my face.”

him in the room with Jackson and Walsh and

the test of time,” he says. “It filtered up, down,

won him the Frodo role. He says Cannes made it

and all around. I remember the initial marketing

dios is taking spending $460 million for a Lord of

clear to the entire cast this might be something

campaign sort of missed the mark, treated it as

the Rings series that doesn’t have Peter Jackson,

special. They’d been cocooned in New Zealand

kind of a Dungeons & Dragons thematic approach

Shaye declines to answer directly. But it seems he

in a way that insulated them from the insecurity

and missed the classical feel. I remember all of

would not be one to bet against Tolkien’s Middle-

and budget concerns, but seeing Middle-earth

us, our hearts were sinking because we’re like,

earth. He says, “I wouldn’t try to second guess

realized onscreen for the first time brought a level

‘Oh, no, maybe the studio or the marketing folks

them at all. I just wish them well.” ★

Elijah Wood was a teenager when he put

Asked how he gauges the risk Amazon Stu-

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41


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AFTER A YEAR OF unprecedented disruption from outside forces, our 2021 class of DISRUPTORS are working to right the ship, and ensure a healthy future for film and television. But what's especially encouraging this year is how many of them are determined to create opportunities for others to come along, rewriting the industry to be a more inclusive place. This year's group, in alphabetical order...

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GREG BERLANTI BROKEN WINDOWS JON M. CHU CJ ENTERTAINMENT RYAN COOGLER LAVERNE COX DAZN AVA DUVERNAY EBONYLIFE MEDIA ANNEMARIE JACIR LEIGH JANIAK RYAN JOHNSON & RAM BERGMAN MICHAEL B. JORDAN LEONINE FRANCES MCDORMAND LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA RYAN MURPHY FEMI OGUNS BRUNA PAPANDREA SEAN PENN STAGECRAFT LARRY TANZ JEREMY THOMAS YASH RAJ YES STUDIOS


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D I S R U P T O R S

SEAN PENN The actor and director keeps it all

in the family with Flag Day

BY MIKE FLEMING JR.

T

he son of actor/director Leo Penn and actress Eileen Ryan, Sean Penn will be keeping up the family tradition this year at Cannes when he premieres Flag Day in Competition. Based on her 2004

memoir, the film follows Jennifer Vogel’s personal

story of idolizing her bank robber and conman father. Penn directs and plays the dad character, while—in a startling breakout turn—his daughter Dylan stars as Jennifer, and his son Hopper plays her brother. Flag Day comes after Penn dedicated the past year to the distribution of Covid-19 tests and vaccines through CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), a humanitarian project he founded in 2010 following the Haiti earthquake tragedy. This will be his 11th appearance in Cannes. DEADLINE.COM

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How long had you developed Flag Day, and

movie], between her and Katheryn Winnick when

doing a take and the director’s approaching them

how long did it take for you to feel that

they’re in the kitchen.

with notes. It’s, fuck you, I suck, and what was that

your daughter Dylan had the chops to play

note again? But at the end of that day, I’m seeing

Jennifer Vogel, and that she’d share scenes

There’s a physical confrontation between

her give that great performance, and I do think

with you?

them in that scene.

I was able to be helpful a lot of times, but also a

Originally the script was sent to me by Mark

I say this jokingly, but I felt it in a sense that

lot of times she had such an immediate instinct.

putting her through take after take of that scene,

She’s a very intuitive person, and therefore an

I should probably call Child Protective Services

intuitive actress.

whatever you’d like to do.” Once I read it, I thought

on myself. Look, the business can beat any of

it would be something I might act in. I brought it to

us up, it beats us all up at some time. It rises us

days, having collected the footage of the things

But it was thrilling, you know, the end of those

Alejandro [González Iñárritu] and he got involved

up, it beats us up, we rise ourselves up, we beat

she was putting out there. Really thrilling.

with it a little bit with Jez for a bit of time. And

ourselves up. The tough part to me of acting, is

then it sat there.

encouraging them in a profession where you are

This is your 11th film premiering at Cannes. You

Bill Horberg was the one who originally

a canary in a coal mine on emotional things, and

won the best actor prize, and you headed the

initiated it as a producer in the first place, and

over some years that can really take its own toll if

2008 jury. How important is it to be part of

when he and I talked about directors, we also

somebody isn’t finding a real way to contextualize

this festival, which signals the reopening of

talked about Dylan. At a certain point, I was seeing

it to themselves, and be able to not take your

the theatrical movie business that basically

her and knew that if I went and played this part,

work home too much and all that basic stuff. Like

got crushed by streaming and the pandemic?

whoever the actress was, I would spend the whole

any craftsperson, any professional that deals

I wouldn’t say that Cannes is the only film festival

time looking for my daughter’s face in her face. It

in the world of intense emotion needs to find a

that represents what I’m going to say, but none

just seemed that she would own this thing.

healthy place to put that. If I have a concern for

represent it better. Initially it was Gilles Jacob and

my kids, it’s in that area more than the business at

now Thierry Frémaux. They are cellular believers,

We were having some trouble identifying the right director for it, and other projects came up,

large. I’ll encourage them on any path they want

in love with cinema on a big screen, theatrical

and Dylan was a little reluctant because she didn’t

to take, and at the moment film is for both of my

cinema, versus streaming and what seems to

feel that she had enough experience. I didn’t want

kids a great interest, and not only as actors. I know

be threatened by that, especially movies that

to push her, and by that time I could not imagine

my daughter’s very interested in writing to direct

are thoughtful, in some way or character-driven.

doing it without her. I told Bill, “Hey, maybe you

herself, you know?

Cannes is just a big celebration of that. When

should move on, I don’t want to slow you down,

you go there with a film as an actor or director,

and I would like to see this movie get made.” And

As a filmmaker, how much of an advantage is

your schedule doesn’t allow you to participate in

then, it came back around. It’s like we say, every

it also being an actor?

the festival at large. The very best time I ever had at Cannes came when I was on the jury, having

movie’s got its journey. But in the summary of this

I always feel that when I’ve written a script, it’s the

one, it ended up where we all feel it was supposed

writer that I think can be an advantage in talking

the experience of this swarm of international

to be. I had never, ever thought to direct myself in

to actors, because as a writer you have done a

cinema, great cinema. The imagination that

any movie and I don’t know that I would think to

version of it in your imagination as you’re typing.

comes through the prism that isn’t just American,

do it again.

You’re hearing the music of it. So long as you’re

because we’re assuming it’s so monocultural

tailoring the way that you talk to somebody, I do

in our thinking, and to find out, my god, there

Why not?

think the advantage comes from having been

are really great filmmakers in the Philippines,

It’s as burdensome as I thought it might be. When

inside the piece, which is the writer part of it. That

you know? These things sound so exciting, and

I see other people doing it, I say to myself, I don’t

I’m an actor, I don’t think that gives me a great

having had that, and knowing that that’s what’s

know how the hell they do it. I’ve seen people take

advantage, because actors are all so different in

going on under the seat of whatever film you’re

on large-scale things, like Bradley Cooper and Ben

how they approach things. If I were directing me,

going to, and that you’re a part of that with those

Stiller, and my hat’s off to them. But what I did

yes, it’s an advantage, but in directing others I

other filmmakers, that’s really exciting. This year,

have here that was so unique, was my daughter.

think I go to the writing side. And with any script

there are some really visionary directors with

And, like you said, at a time of her having the

that I have not written, like Flag Day, I do a couple

films. It seems on the surface anyway, like Thierry

chops. This [movie is informed by] a life of her

of serious passes, adjustments on it, so that by

Frémaux put together something pretty thrilling.

coming home from school and telling me stories

the time I’m done I try to convince myself I wrote

I think, especially for the films that are lucky

and bringing forward the characters from school,

it, and with Jez Butterworth’s writing that’s how I

enough to show at the Palais there, that’s the way

not in mimicry but in that kind of connected

praise myself. But it’s really that I’ve found enough

you want a movie to be seen.

sense where you really felt who that person was,

of my music so that it becomes the same thing. You seem like a pretty tough guy, but can we

and I think that’s in essence the instincts of an actress. Long before she would have admitted any

What were the biggest challenges of

interest in acting, I just always thought she was an

asserting yourself as the director, as the

anticipate a little tearing up as you share the Flag Day red carpet at Cannes with your

actress. But it wasn’t until we got to set that there

co-star, and Dylan’s father on set?

daughter and son?

were some major WTF moments on the kind of

I’m going to tell you, there were challenges. She’s

There are no guarantees one way or the other. It’s

truth machine that she can be.

a strong, young woman and I’m her dad, and so,

a big deal for me, a big deal. It’s funny. We had a

yeah, there were challenges sometimes. But I was

rehearsal because I went once with them as my

You started acting earlier. She’s 30. As a

so overwhelmed by her. Of course, the amount of

guests, but this is different with both of them in

parent who has seen all sides of a business

pride I got to experience on a daily basis, whatever

the movie, and with her leading the thing, yeah,

that can chew up young people, how did you

day she may have had... Let me put it this way, I

it’s pretty exciting. I’m very excited for her. Where

feel about your kids acting?

was working with a director recently who said that

the future may not hold for any of us a lot of

Good question. Let me take you to a scene [in the

there are only three thoughts an actor has after

opportunities for a film like this to be presented

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A P P H OTO/C H RI S P I Z Z E LLO/R IC H A RD S H OT W EL L/ IN V I S I ON

Rylance on behalf of Jez Butterworth. Mark said, “This is something Jez wants you to act in or direct,


”THE VERY BEST TIME I EVER HAD AT CANNES CAME WHEN I WAS ON THE JURY, HAVING THIS EXPERIENCE OF THIS SWARM OF INTERNATIONAL CINEMA, GREAT CINEMA. THE IMAGINATION THAT COMES THROUGH THE PRISM THAT ISN'T JUST AMERICAN, BECAUSE WE'RE ASSUMING IT'S SO MONOCULTURAL IN OUR THINKING, AND TO FIND OUT, MY GOD, THERE ARE REALLY GREAT FILMMAKERS IN THE PHILIPPINES, YOU KNOW? THESE THINGS SOUND SO EXCITING.“ —SEAN PENN

DEADLINE.COM

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FAMILY TALENT Dylan Penn stars as Jennifer Vogel in Flag Day, an adaptation of Vogel's memoir.

as a movie in the theaters, just to know that she’ll

and it’s... if you wanted to shoot that movie today,

and looking at film. But you know, I regret my

have had this experience. Because people might

you’d be lucky to get to make those choices. It’s

own missing out on that. I remember touring

not like a movie, and all that stuff, but if you go in

an extraordinary movie and... I wish I could sit

universities with her thinking, wow. But you need

there believing in the thing, and you go in there on

down and talk through that movie with him, shot

to be ready and hungry to learn and I didn’t get

your own terms, then there’s a certain magic to

for shot. Never did do that, and I wish I had.

hungry to learn at that age. I got it a little later.

that, no matter what happens. You were among the young cast of Taps, along

Your dad flew missions in World War II,

Your dad was an actor and a filmmaker, your

with fast risers like Tim Hutton and Tom

and afterward got blacklisted as an actor

mom was an actress. What kind of influence

Cruise. Were you competitive?

for attending meetings in support of

were they on you?

Tom was so, what’s the word, sincere a guy, that I

unions and refusing to name names of

It’s hard to articulate. I grew up in a house where,

overlooked his talent. I will tell you that I loved him

others who attended, before the House

working in theatre, working in film, drama was held

and thought he had no chance in this business.

Un-American Activities Committee witch

in high esteem. It didn’t occur to me that I was

Because he was just so nice, and seemingly naive

hunt. I defy anyone who watches Citizen

going to want to get involved in it until I was in my

at the time. Of course, he’s become this force as

Penn to not be gobsmacked by the sustained

late teens, in the senior year of high school. I had

a professional. As good as he was in Taps, I totally

accomplishments in post-earthquake Haiti

thought I wanted to be a lawyer and I got involved

underestimated his talent, the things that came

by you and your relief organization. What is

in making Super 8 movies and got the bug. Once

later which are really extraordinary, and he’s really

it inside of you that makes you plunge into

I got into it, it was at that age where you’re not

a machine.

these seemingly impossible humanitarian

You mentioned your mom saying you’d better

check? How much of your dad is in you to

I never felt the direct connection until I was probably in my mid-20s. Although, when I started

go to university. How much harder were you

lead these efforts?

to work in theatre, my parents would come.

on your kids about finishing school than your

In one sense, I’d answer the question saying a

Ultimately it became quite encouraging, but my

parents were on you?

lot, a lot. I’m in a daily conversation with my

mother, the first thing that she saw me in, she

I think I was tougher on them, but they needed...

dad, because he was a hero to all of us. And I’m

said, “You have got to go to university, you got to

It was different, and their personalities are so

not talking about the war stuff, I mean, just as a

have something to fall back on. That was terrible!”

different, so the expectation was high. Hopper

man. He was such a good, kind, decent, talented,

But ultimately became quite encouraging.

was more like me as a student. You know, much

smart guy, and very generous with people and

And Dad was a filmmaker. It’s interesting. I

more interested in his childhood than his studies.

very supportive of people. And so, you know,

just ordered and got a DVD of the first feature

Dylan was much more tough on herself in terms

given that he was that, what he was doing in his

film that he made in 1965, a movie called A Man

of all that. She went to USC for a little while,

war fighting experience had a seven-mission life

Called Adam. I wanted to kick myself. I had seen

and then one night just called and said, “Dad,

expectancy and after that it was all volunteer.

it at some point where I wasn’t paying attention

this is not for me.” And I said OK, and then she

And he broke the record at 37 missions, was shot

to what directors were doing. And I look at it now

started getting involved in writing a lot of things

down twice getting the aircraft back over allied

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MGM

rescue missions, where most of us write a

associating it with your parents until later, so


lines before jumping out. And so having done that

things. I mean there are certainly a lot of times,

What is the lesson in not shutting off

with an incredible, real deep connection to, and

and it makes for good cinema, when your rage

dialogue with leaders in countries who are on

an appreciation of Americanism, of what that

is forward, or it’s like, “Get this!” and you’re

the outs with the U.S. government?

dream could be, patriotism… To come back and

screaming. I do think that it becomes increasingly

Well, this was a very particular thing, and that’s a

have the country you fought and risked your life

apparent naturally for all of us to be in pursuit of

longer conversation. But certainly, in general, I am

for, tell you, you can’t work anymore. I think he

a more compassionate demeanor in whatever

someone in favor of dialogue.

went through about five years where he wasn’t

you’re doing. And then that much moreso given

able to work under the blacklist. He never spoke

where our country is right now, that just fighting or

strapped away from traveling. Some people have

about that with bitterness. He always wrote it off

just demanding—just the pretention of your own

a lack of curiosity to travel, and biases. But I find

as growing pains of the country. That part of him I

self-righteousness being the valid one—it’s gotten

the people on the political right or people on the

did not inherit. I’d have been one pissed off MF’er,

to a point of diminishing returns.

political left and anywhere in between, any that

and it does piss me off to think about that stuff as

So, I’m going to call the way that a lot of things

Some people are socially, economically

have worked in Foreign Service really know the

it applies to my own father, as it applies to people

did happen out of certain aggressions of mine

world, and have looked at our country through

even today in so many ways, new and viral ways

over the years, that there are just diminishing

the eyes of other cultures. There’s a lot more

and so on. It’s hard to be a human today, which is

returns on that way of approaching it, and maybe

tolerance and a lot more belief in dialogue in

one of the things that’s great about filmmaking.

it’s just a younger man’s game in that way.

those people.

There was an example where that

conservative, and have led long lives in public

It’s the place where we can talk about it, literally, directly, or just by expressing something.

I have great friends who are extremely willingness to go outside the box paid off

service. We have so much in common with our

It sounds like your father stoically bore the

in a profound way. We saw you criticized

perception of conversations, including with these

burden of what happened to him. How did

on TV for your relationship with the late

bogeymen, be that Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez

observing the scars shape you?

Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, with

or Evo Morales. It’s not that it is an apologist

I don’t know that what I observed were scars,

whom the U.S. government always had

conversation, but it’s a much more nuanced

because the person who took care of business

a strained relationship. When you heard

conversation to have.

during that time was my mother. She could work.

that amputations of crushed limbs with

He got a job in a plastics factory for a time, but

rudimentary hardware tools were going on

The U.S. has turned a corner for the better

she was the reason they ended up coming out

without anesthesia after the earthquake

lately, but the pandemic continues to rage

to California, and because there was a lot of

in Haiti, you got morphine and other

in poorer countries. What’s next for CORE in

television work happening at the time, she was

anesthetics by simply asking Chavez. That

that regard?

able to support the family with Twilight Zone guest

was unbelievable.

So, we are in the favelas of Brazil now, doing

Well, I had... You know, it was a kind of a

vaccination clinics. We are in India. And we are

starring parts, or Bonanza or whatever. I’m a beneficiary of parents who loved each

safe thing, because about six days before

in a lot of the behind-the-scenes advocacy

other, and I think more than I saw the scars of

the earthquake, Madonna had sent me her

for distribution. We are very concerned to get

what had happened, for the most part before

documentary on Malawi, and I watched it here at

vaccines to Haiti, which is having a spike. It

I was born, I saw a relationship that had been

the house and that was my introduction to Paul

dodged the bullet for a while, in part because it

strengthened by it. I think more than anything, it’s

Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health, which

had a pre-Covid lack of tourism, and once Covid

not so much my dad’s activism that would have

works significantly in Haiti, but they work around

happened, you didn’t have a lot of influx of people

played a role in this, it’s that I had it so damn good

the world. Paul is an extraordinary Harvard

from the outside coming in. But now it’s becoming

that it’s just too obvious, and it just kills you when

doctor who built an incredible NGO in Haiti 30

a bigger issue, and so we’re trying very hard.

you see how difficult so many people have it.

years before I ever got there. He had an interview

And then it’s just the luxury of being able to say, in the case of the things I’ve gotten myself involved in, ‘Let’s start with, I can afford a plane

In all of these things, CORE can’t be… the

in that documentary, and I was so impressed

procurement of morphine at the earthquake is a

with him, I looked him up and saw who he was.

very unique situation. There was a kind of... I don’t

Haiti had been in my thoughts the week

want to say lawlessness. There was that also, but

ticket,’ stuff like that. And then, being a high-

that the earthquake happened, and when it

profile person, you’re a magnet to good and bad

happened and I thought, OK, do something there,

there was an understanding that a lot of things had to be waived and looked at very differently,

people, but you’re able to cast your team and

I’ll bet Paul Farmer’s there. I was able, through

and also, because the United States military had

things come your way much more easily, including

her a number for him, and sure enough he was

been given control of the ports by the Haitian

in a place like Haiti or whatever it is. So, it’s not all

there. I asked him what was needed and he told

government. So, international law, everything

stuff that I can answer because it truly is not all

me: 350,000 vials of morphine. It’s always been

applied very differently, at least I think so, unless

stuff that I own specifically. I lucked into a lot of it.

my joke, an actor in Hollywood knows where

somebody knocks on my door for doing these

to find narcotics, but most don’t know where

interviews. But CORE can’t bring this stuff into

I’ve had the pleasure personally of watching

to find bulk narcotics. Things are different in a

the country, not without a lot of officiation, and

you evolve as an artist, but I’ve also watched

country like Venezuela. No one in politics, from a

there’s a cold chain.

you go from the paparazzi-punching bad boy,

president down, is going to overrule their Minister

as you were once called, to this statesman

of Health and say, “Hey, this person who is not

then be part of working with the Haitian Ministry

who’s done so much humanitarian work.

credentialed to have or get near morphine, we’re

of Health in its implementation. Bringing together

What changed your approach?

going to give it to them.”

It’s a complicated question because as [Citizen

We didn’t bring it from the United States, it

What we do is advocate for its delivery, and

our clinicians to be able to give the injections. That’s what we’re up to and I think we will stay in

Penn director] Don Hardy exposed very well, I can

was brought in from Venezuela to the Venezuelan

that game in those territories and then expand

get really frustrated with the hat-in-the-hand

Embassy on a military transport. We picked it up,

as possible, until we are whatever small part of

part of this, and yet, these are like so many

and then started distributing it.

seeing this thing end, worldwide. ★ DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

YASH RAJ

In a country hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, Yash Raj, and the wider Indian film industry, has rallied support for its workers while it waits for studios and cinemas to reopen

S

ince the coronavirus epidemic

affected by the shutdowns is Yash Raj Films, the

covers the full spectrum of crew from construction

became a pandemic in the spring

Mumbai-based company that has been operating

workers to dancers, many of whom earn their

of 2020, few waves have been as

since 1970 and which works across fields including

money on a day-to-day basis. At the time of writing,

deadly as the one India experienced

production, distribution and talent management.

the company had made a request to the Chief

As Yash Raj’s Senior Vice President Akshaye

Minister of Maharashtra to allow it to purchase

in April and May this year. At the

time of writing, confirmed infections have been

Widhani explains, the company’s charitable ethos

those vaccines from the government so that it can

steadily dropping since reaching a peak of more

is inspired by its late founder Yash Chopra, who

speed up the vaccination drive and get the industry

than 400,000 per day in early May, and, while

worked in Hindi film for 60 years. “For his son, our

back on its feet as soon as possible; the company

nobody is expecting miracles at this stage, there’s

current chairman Aditya Chopra, there was no

says it will cover all costs related to the immuniza-

hope that an improving vaccination drive may mean

better way of honoring his father than giving back to

tion program. “This section of our industry has been

the worst is now behind them.

the same people who helped the company achieve

hit the hardest, and our hearts go out to them and

all that it has,” comments Widhani.

their families,” comments Widhani, who notes that

Naturally, film and TV production was put firmly on hold as the government locked down the

To do this, Yash Raj has instigated the Yash

many of those involved in the various initiatives have

country in a bid to stem infections, with shoots

Chopra Saathi Initiative (“saathi”, in Hindi, can mean

struggled to pay rent or afford healthcare while the

paused across the country. The industry instead

“comrade” or, more informally, “mate”), through

lockdown rolls on.

turned its energies to backing the recovery bid, and

which it is organizing vaccinations for film workers,

some of the stories that have emerged since have

teaming with the Youth Feed India movement to

July, but, at the time of writing, no firm date has

been inspiring: Army of the Dead star Huma Qureshi

provide ration kits to low-paid workers and margin-

been set and the situation remains fluid. Alongside

has mobilized her sizable following in both India and

alized communities, and giving direct financial aid to

production, the reopening of cinemas will also be

abroad to fundraise the construction of a pur-

those who have worked on its productions and are

key, with Yash Raj still primarily drawing its revenues

pose-built 100-bed facility to treat Covid patients,

currently laid off due to the hiatus.

from the big screen releases of its titles, many of

with backers including Zack Snyder; Priyanka

Since the initiative began, Widhani says the

There is hope that shooting could resume by

which have been shelved while venues remain

Chopra Jonas and husband Nick Jonas set up a

company has provided rations to “thousands” of

shuttered. “YRF makes films that are big-screen

fundraiser to buy much-needed oxygen supplies for

families of four, as well as giving 5000 rupees (close

experiences for audiences,” says Widhani, “and

Covid patients; the actress Bhumi Pednekar estab-

to $70) directly to more than a thousand people

holding such titles back—so that our audiences can

lished online social media initiative Covid Warrior to

affected by this period. That’s in addition to a

enjoy these films in cinemas post-pandemic—has

coordinate efforts to secure vital resources; while

similar initiative last year, when Yash Raj handed out

been challenging to say the least. The movie theatre

megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who had his own

5,000 rupees to more than 3,000 workers during

is a medium we strongly believe in as a company,

battle with Covid last summer, said in a recent blog

the initial Covid surge. “These are people who don’t

and hopefully our audiences will too once the

post that he had donated some 25 crore (north of

have the luxury of taking time off, or working from

pandemic is [under] control.”

$3 million) to relief efforts to date.

home,” explains the exec. “They work 12 hours a day,

Looking forward, the Yash Raj exec says he

every day, just to be able to provide their family with

remains optimistic for the future of the country’s

the basic necessities to survive.”

screen industries. “From what we know historically,

These are just a few examples of the positive headlines that have emerged in India during this tricky period. One company that has been

The vaccination initiative is aiming to provide

this industry will be one of the first to bounce back,

spearheading initiatives to provide tangible

inoculations for 30,000 registered members of the

because community experiences will come to the

benefit to both Covid patients and industry workers

Federation of Western India Cine Employees, which

centre-stage in a post-pandemic era.” ★

“WE’RE HELPING PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE THE LUXURY OF TAKING TIME OFF, OR WORKING FROM HOME. THEY WORK 12 HOURS A DAY, EVERY DAY.” — A K S H AY E W I D H A N I , YA S H R A J

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COU RT ESY YAS H RAJ/XAV I E R COL LI N /I M AG E P R ESS AG EN CY/ M EGA/ DAN N Y M O LOS H O K/ IN V IS I O N FO R T H E T E L E VIS I O N ACADE M Y/AP I M AG ES

BY TOM GRATER


GREG BERLANTI With 15 series on the air, Greg Berlanti uses his considerable influence to level up the representation of the LGBTQ community. That approach will take a groundbreaking turn with the upcoming Green Lantern, in which Alan Scott, the first character in the DC Universe to take that superhero’s title, is gay. Berlanti is also producing Michael Grandage’s My Policeman for Amazon, an LGBTQ-themed love triangle starring Harry Styles, Emma Corrin and David Dawson. Next, Berlanti has plans to go back behind the camera. Having directed 2018’s Love, Simon, a critical and commercial hit film that tells the story of a young gay man who is forced to hide his sexuality throughout high school, his follow-up project is a remake of The Little Shop of Horrors, with Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans. Further down the line is a biopic of Rock Hudson, the closeted matinée idol who died of an Aids-related illness in 1985. —Mike Fleming Jr. ★

AVA DUVERNAY Since making her feature debut

Google: in June, the tech giant and

in 2010 with I Will Follow, Emmy-

ARRAY announced a new $500k

and Oscar-nominated filmmaker

feature-film grant available to

Ava DuVernay has become one of

up-and-coming creatives from

the busiest directors in the biz. But

historically underrepresented

she’s just as big a player behind the

communities, with below-the-line

scenes, and this year DuVernay and

support from the ARRAY Crew

her long-standing ARRAY project

initiative that was launched earlier

were awarded top honors at the

this year. DuVernay’s commitment

Peabody Awards for “amplifying

to diversifying film and TV sets

film and TV projects by people

extends to overseeing shows where

of color and women filmmakers”.

inclusion is front and center; such

The honor comes in the wake of

projects include the Oprah Winfrey

a new venture DuVernay and the

Network drama Queen Sugar, which

ever-expanding ARRAY launched

she EPs, and The CW’s superhero

recently in partnership with

series Naomi. —Justin Kroll ★ DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

BROKEN WINDOWS Before the pandemic, streaming was going to be the death of cinema. But as the lockdown eases, could it see the theatrical experience reborn?

BY DADE HAYES

he said at an investor conference. “That was very

train is actually powered by a battery instead of a

the coronavirus pandemic has

important to Scorsese to get a theatrical release. I

coal boiler?

re-wired the film business, con-

think Netflix actually wanted a theatrical release as

During WME parent Endeavor Group Holdings’

sider Army of the Dead. Released

well, because it really helps to set up and ‘eventize’

June 3 call with Wall Street analysts, president Mark

in May, the Zack Snyder zombie

that movie.”

Shapiro said the agency has been “more flexible”

action spectacle cost about $90

What does an eventized movie look like in the

in its dealings with studios. “We’re having these

million to make. Initially set up at Warner Bros. more

new world, though? That is a very unsettled ques-

conversations upfront and they are paying for that

than a decade ago, it traveled a winding path to

tion. The North American box office has shown signs

flexibility. So that moves right to the benefit of all of

Netflix, which grabbed it in 2019 as it was dra-

of life, and a few analysts see it regaining its 2019

our clients.”

matically ramping up its film output. Unlike other

level of $11.4 billion by 2022 or 2023. But it’s hardly a

prominent titles that the streamer released before

given, and the playing field is less level than ever.

the pandemic, Army snagged a one-week exclusive

In addition to streamers’ increased leverage,

Kristen Konvitz, a senior agent at ICM, agrees that the old methods can no longer really apply. “Over the past year, a lot of things have evolved,”

run from Cinemark, the No. 3 U.S. exhibitor. It was

major studios’ decision to emulate them with direct-

she said. “In a world [during the pandemic] where

the widest theatrical opening of any streaming

to-streaming or day-and-date patterns could create

there’s no theatrical and there’s a little bit of veiled

movie to date, and it came just as turnstiles were

a self-perpetuating cycle. “If windows do shorten

mystery to it, we are looking for new ways to guaran-

starting to spin again. Spring releases had cracked

more permanently,” a senior Netflix exec told

tee participation.”

the $100 million mark, and while capacity con-

Deadline, “the one thing that means is that theaters

For decades, there have been Hatfield-and-

straints were still putting limits on the possibilities,

are going to need more films.” Zoradi and other top

McCoy tangles between film purveyors and theater

the movie business felt more like itself since the

exhibitors acknowledge as much and have been in

chains over windows, and parallel battles over gross

Covid nightmare began in early 2020.

talks to book more pure streaming fare. Scorsese’s

participation. Filmmakers and stars betting on

next outing, Killers of the Flower Moon, is aiming for

themselves by taking less up front, only to reap rich

opened to just $780,000 in about 600 theaters,

a bigger splash in megaplexes than The Irishman

benefits in success, are being tempted to get their

despite mixed-to-positive reviews and strong social-

when Apple rolls it out in 2022. “It’s set up to have a

fair market value. For every Joker—which brought

media buzz. The gross was about half what industry

theatrical release,” star Robert De Niro said. “We’re

windfalls of tens of millions to director Todd Phillips

pundits projected and was surely undercut by the

still working out the details.”

and star Joaquin Phoenix—there are other lost

Here’s the thing, though: Army of the Dead

audience knowing it could wait a week to stream it.

Given the firepower of major streaming players

opportunities that a streaming service would have

About 72 million subscribers would do just that over

like Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Netflix,

its first month, the company said, making it one of

there could be at least a movie a week capable

its most-watched films ever. Ticket sales amounted

of playing wide—at least, according to traditional

streaming services during the pandemic. While most

to coins between the sofa cushions for Netflix,

measures. But the leverage has practically reversed

other aspects of American society and business

which is far more focused on adding subscribers

from the 2019 dynamic. At that point, theaters were

entered hibernation for weeks or months, streaming

than negotiating theatrical splits or orchestrating

dug in and figured Netflix and others would need

boomed and kept on booming. Netflix added as

thousands of playdates.

access to their screens. Now, after theaters survived

many customers in the first half of 2020 as it did in

brushes with bankruptcy and the kind of existential

all of 2019. During the theater closures that shut-

Cinemark as CEO, said the deal was a notable

questions they have never faced before, there is a

tered venues in major cities for nearly a year, licens-

reversal of the impasse over The Irishman in 2019.

greater urgency to secure product.

ing to streaming ended up being a viable business

Mark Zoradi, the former Disney exec who runs

Because of theater owners’ reluctance to depart

All of the uncertainty has upended compensa-

locked in at market rate. One complicating factor is the role played by

alternative for suddenly revenue-deprived studios.

from the standard 90-day window, the Martin

tion for gross players and thrown a monkey wrench

Dozens of films large and small—from Coming 2

Scorsese-directed Netflix release did not secure

into the business model of films. How will the

America and The Trial of the Chicago 7 at Paramount

buy-in from any major exhibitors. “If that were today,

waterfall of revenue from ancillaries be calculated

to Greyhound at Sony and Finch at Universal—have

we would find a way to come to an agreement,”

and shared if the theatrical engine at the front of the

been offloaded to streaming over the past year.

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F

or a big movie that illustrates how


In most cases, the figures are vague—Borat Sub-

Evans’ former compound in Bel Air and even plan-

this is going to happen,” Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel

sequent Moviefilm, Amazon reported last fall, was

ning to rebuild the screening room lost in a fire, his

said on the investor call on the subject of windows.

enjoyed by “tens of millions” of Prime members in its

rhetoric, and the facts of the deal, leave an element

“We are negotiating on behalf of our clients and our

opening weekend.

of doubt.

own properties to make sure that we get the proper

Eric Wold, an analyst with investment firm B.

The companies have forecast $3 billion in

economics as we go forward, and that’s the way we

Riley, is bullish on the ability of both distributors

merger-related synergies, which is more than the

are going to operate until we find the proper flow,

and exhibitors to effectively cleanse themselves

amount of the AT&T-Time Warner deal that saw

which is going to take a little bit of time as Covid

of laggard deals thanks to Covid. Good riddance

about 2,000 people leave WarnerMedia, includ-

kind of moves on.”

to the old windows, he says, with their stale titles

ing a number of seasoned executives. Zaslav has

obligated to play to empty auditoriums for weeks.

long ridiculed the lofty spending in the scripted TV

streaming players to disrupt the movie business

A more variable windowing approach, he says, can

arena, preferring to stay in the realm of inexpensive

just like they did television. Amazon, even before its

“optimize the performance of certain films and the

unscripted fare like 90 Day Fiancée.

game-changing purchase of MGM, was aiming for

One thing that isn’t changing is the appetite for

“ONE OF THE IRONIES OF NETFLIX’S MASSIVE $450 MILLION OUTLAY FOR TWO SEQUELS TO LIONSGATE BREAKOUT KNIVES OUT IS THAT THEIR FINANCIAL MODEL DOES NOT RELY ON THEATRICAL PLAY.” entire theatrical exhibition ecosystem. Strong films

In settling with dozens of stakeholders affected

broader hits. Apple, in addition to Scorsese’s Flower

will play through traditional window lengths and

by “Project Popcorn” (as the day-and-date initiative

Moon, has landed Will Smith-Antoine Fuqua col-

poor performers will utilize the positive optionality

was dubbed internally), WarnerMedia forked over

laboration Emancipation and paid a record-setting

of these agreements to free up auditoriums and

hundreds of millions of dollars. Legal action was

$25 million for Sundance acquisition CODA. The

potentially drive greater revenues for all involved.”

averted, and the initial furor largely died down once

shelves are filling at streaming companies at the

films like Godzilla vs. Kong caught fire in theaters.

same moment when Disney is sending a number of

unknown among the traditional studios. Its infamous

Warner has a gaudy 35% market share, but funding

titles to Disney+, while Warner has said that half of

(or at least infamously communicated) decision to

every release as though it were a hit is extremely

its 2022 slate will go to HBO Max.

put all 2021 films out on HBO Max at the same time

capital-intensive. Netflix, with a content budget

they hit theaters continues to cast a shadow over

approaching $20 billion, is built for that kind of

plan to deliver at least one major movie a week to

its relations with talent. While many dealmakers

investment. Not so a traditional studio.

subscribers. “We’re going to have enormous movies

Warner Bros. remains perhaps the biggest

blame AT&T and its pick as CEO of WarnerMedia,

One of the great ironies of Netflix’s massive $450

Netflix kicked off 2021 with a trailer promoting its

over the course of this year,” the Netflix exec said,

Jason Kilar, the regime-to-be may not be a change

million outlay for two sequels to Lionsgate breakout

citing Red Notice with The Rock, Ryan Reynolds and

in the direction of artistic freedom and a belief in

Knives Out is that their financial model does not rely

Gal Gadot, and Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, which

theaters. Discovery is about to take the reins of a

on theatrical play. But the valuation of the sequel

stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and

merged entity with WarnerMedia if it gets regula-

deal would not have been possible without the

pretty much the rest of Hollywood. “Theaters are

tory approval next year, and longtime Discovery

theatrical run of the original film, demonstrating the

going to want them on their screens.”

CEO David Zaslav is a wild card. While he’s signaled

appeal of the film as a franchise starter.

a passion for the movie business, buying Robert

“There’s no clear answer right now with how

But if Netflix isn’t sweating the grosses? Well, what happens then? ★ DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

ANNEMARIE JACIR The award-winning filmmaker on representing Palestine’s overlooked film history and how she intends to pass her knowledge on to a new generation

BY DIANA LODDERHOSE

W

hen Annemarie Jacir pitched her thesis film at graduate school some 20 years ago, her advisor told her the best

place for her script was in the garbage. It was an ambitious project for the young Columbia University student: A Palestinian film crew navigating their way through Israeli checkpoints in occupied territory as they attempt to reach Jerusalem certainly didn’t fit the traditional mold of thesis short films. But the brilliance of Jacir and her work is that she is not a filmmaker who conforms. Steadfast in her ambition to bring this story to light, she put the project together through old-fashioned crowdfunding, sheer determination and grit. She shot the 17-minute short film, titled Like Twenty Impossibles, across a year and a half in occupied Palestine during the Second Intifada, one of the region’s most violent times in modern history, a brave feat for the then twentysomething writer, director and editor. “It was crazy,” recalls Jacir about the shoot. “It was such a violent time and I remember being caught in the middle of some really terrifying moments where I really feared for my life.” As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Like Twenty Impossibles premiered as an Official Selection at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, marking the first short film from the Arab world to enter the event. It went on to win numerous awards at international film festivals, propelling Jacir’s profound message. “It was such an honor and such an amazing moment after such a difficult time,” says Jacir. “It’s the thing that changed my career. I felt it was the beginning of finding a community that for me is everything today–a film community of people who love cinema. It felt like the beginning of a family. On a practical level, because of that film I was able to connect and meet people that became my partners to help me make my first feature, and some of them I still work with today.” Jacir’s journey to the director’s chair has been an interesting one. Born in Bethlehem and educated at an international school in Saudi Arabia, Jacir moved Interested in writing, she also spent a lot of time hanging out with a video editor friend in the editing room. “I wasn’t thinking that would ever go anywhere, but I started playing with images at that point and editing,” she says. She became involved in high school theater, working behind the scenes and directing plays. In college, she majored in politics and literature but kept thinking about film, unsure what part she was interested in the most. After graduating, Jacir took the plunge and moved to LA, taking various assistant roles before she scored a gig reading scripts in the literary department at a talent agency.

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J U LI E E DWA RDS /L FI /AVALO N /N E WSCOM /M EGA

to Texas for her junior and senior years of high school.


“[CANNES] WAS THE BEGINNING OF FINDING A COMMUNITY THAT FOR ME IS EVERYTHING TODAY—A FILM COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE THAT LOVE CINEMA. IT FELT LIKE THE BEGINNING OF A FAMILY.” “That was really where I learned the craft and the formatting of screenwriting,” she says. But LA didn’t feel like the right fit for Jacir. “I didn’t feel like I had a place there,” she recalls. “It wasn’t the kind of cinema that really interested me and there

And that’s important to me because I think history

was originally set up based on this principle of helping

is important. I owe a lot to those before me, a lot of

other filmmakers.

doors were opened to me because of those who came before me.” She adds, “As filmmakers, the kind of access

“We started off as a collective in which we were all doing everything,” she says of the company. “Whether it was shooting, directing or producing, we were all

was something about the whole place that didn’t feel

that we have, it’s something that’s a really long-term

helping each other make our films. Films are col-

so creative to me.”

process and that a lot of people are involved in. There

laborative, so when we first started out it made sense

As a young woman in Hollywood, she says

are a lot of people whose names I maybe don’t know

for all of these talents that pooled together to trade

she was told on numerous occasions to hide her

who slowly, slowly opened these doors for us. These

hats and help each other out.”

Palestinian roots. “I’ve never hidden the fact that

things just don’t happen out of nowhere. I’m aware of

I’m Palestinian,” Jacir says. “I have a lot of identities,

the generation before me, and the generation before

out her career, and a willingness to help future

female and Palestinian being two of them. But I was

that, and what they have done.”

generations of filmmakers stems from her teenage

told more than once in LA that if I wanted to break

Indeed, this is an important concept for Jacir as

This sense of camaraderie has prevailed through-

years when, fresh out of high school, she came back

into the industry, ‘Don’t say that you’re a Palestinian in

she pays homage to Palestinian generations in her

to Bethlehem to teach English; before pursuing her

this city, don’t talk about it.’”

films. Her second feature, When I Saw You, is a warm

graduate degree, she taught workshops.

Yearning for something more and unwilling to

and heartfelt film about a Palestinian refugee in

“I knew I had a privilege because I spoke English well

conform to Hollywood standards, she applied to

Jordan who became separated from his father in the

and I went to an international school, so I was able to

graduate school at Columbia University in New York

chaos of war in 1967. That film was also Palestine’s

study abroad,” she says. “So, I wanted to bring that

and after she was accepted, she drove across the

Oscar entry in 2012 and, notably, the film was entirely

back to Palestine for those who can’t travel and those

country, putting LA behind her.

Arab-financed, with all Palestinian producers.

who have not been able to have that opportunity.”

Since Like Twenty Impossibles first launched her

Her third feature, Wajib, a comedy-drama road

Jacir has always strived to create opportunities for

voice into the international festival circuit, Jacir has

movie through Nazareth that sees a father and his

those who have not been afforded them, either by

written, directed and produced more than 16 films.

estranged son come together to hand-deliver his

birth or by the system. When she shot Salt of this Sea

She has been a member of the Un Certain Regard

daughter’s wedding invitations to each guest, also

in Palestine, she insisted on hiring as much local crew

jury in Cannes as well as a member of the Competi-

touches on the complex historical tensions between

as possible.

tion jury in Berlin. She produces under the banner of

Palestinians and Israelis.

“I had a wonderful French cinematographer—Ben-

Jordan and Palestine-based Philistine Films, which

While she gravitates to stories set in this world,

oît Chamaillard—but other positions I really wanted

she co-founded with Ossama Bawardi in 1997. Her

Jacir says story is paramount, rather than this idea of

to hire as much as possible locally because people

first full-length feature, 2007’s acclaimed Salt of

being a representative for all Palestinian voices.

would shoot films in Palestine and the entire crew

This Sea, follows a working-class American woman,

“I don’t want to represent Palestine or Palestin-

would come from abroad. I mean, how are local

whose parents were Palestinian refugees, as she

ians, I want to tell stories that I feel are real stories

makes her first return to her family’s homeland. That

that are really interesting to me, that are complicated

film, which was the first feature film by a Palestin-

and aren’t just black and white,” she remarks. “I want

sity-based Dreams of a Nation Palestinian cinema

ian woman director, became her second work to

to ask and leave questions. But sometimes, when you

project, dedicated to the preservation and promotion

debut in Cannes, where it won the FIPRESCI Critics

are in a space where you are the only film screening

of Palestinian cinema. In 2003, she organized and

Award in 2008, and garnered 14 other international

from that particular region, people really want you

curated the largest traveling film festival in Palestine.

awards, including Best Film in Milan. It was Palestine’s

to be the spokesperson, or they want your film to

She’s taught courses at numerous schools, including

official submission to the Academy Awards for Best

represent something.

Columbia University and Bethlehem University, and

Foreign Language Film (the category now called Best International Film). Despite so many ‘firsts’ attached to her early

“It’s two-sided because the people who are not

infrastructures supposed to start then?” Jacir founded and curated the Columbia Univer-

she has been a mentor at the Doha Film Institute.

Palestinian want you to represent the country but

“When I first started in the business I had so

then the Palestinian community wants you to use

many questions and I didn’t know who to go to

work, Jacir is quick to eschew the notion that it

your film to tell the world about everything because

or how to start,” she recalls. “But there is so much

means much. She’s graciously conscious of the

for so long our story has been left out and we have

talent out there, and there are so many stories and

female filmmakers and Palestinian artists who came

been invisible.”

so many creative people, so when I started doing a

before her. “I think it’s important to know that there were and

She adds: “I want to make films that question

lot of workshops in Palestine, I just felt like I had to

and make us ask things that make us uncomfortable.

share whatever knowledge I had and spread it to the

there are a lot of female filmmakers that are from

We’re not victims, but we’re also not heroes. Nobody

younger generation.”

Palestine and the Arab world,” she says. “It’s true

is one thing.”

that many are working in the documentary space

Where Jacir does feel an enormous amount of

She adds: “It’s this younger generation that I really believe are going to raise the bar. They will make mov-

more but there is a history there and I always feel

responsibility is in uplifting, supporting and teaching

ies and they will keep doing things better and better

those kinds of statements sort of erase the history.

the next generation of filmmakers. Philistine Films

than the generation before them.” ★ DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

STAGECRAFT ILM’s new LED technology has revolutionized sci-fi and

is about to bring period drama into the 21st Century. But its time and energy-saving benefits will change everything

BY TOM GRATER

P

rior to the pandemic, virtual production—the use of digital tools to mimic and replace live-action production paradigms—was still a relatively under-the-radar emerging

technology most recognized for its use on Disney’s The Mandalorian. However, the ongoing

spate of lockdowns around the globe has thrust its potential firmly into the spotlight: suddenly, the prospect of being able to house ambitious shoots in a dynamic contained space, which can recreate multiple high-quality locations on a daily basis, has shifted from being an intriguing possibility to a reality that could prove crucial for the future of this business. Disney-owned VFX company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has established itself at the forefront of the virtual production movement, thanks to its work on the interstellar Disney+ DEADLINE.COM

57


”IT CAN WORK OUT CREATIVELY AND ECONOMICALLY FAVORABLE. WE FIND CREWS COMMONLY SHOOT 30-50 PERCENT MORE PAGES OR COVERAGE A DAY. IT OPENS UP THE POSSIBILITY FOR STAGECRAFT TO BE USED ON A WIDE VARIETY OF PRODUCTIONS. “

FUTURE THINKERS Top: The Mandalorian with Baby Yoda, AKA Grogu. Above, left to right: Rob Bredow and Chris Bannister of ILM.

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— R O B B R E D OW, I LM


series, but the company has been involved in

production needed a champion to push it into

been building out its virtual production team

the tech for more than 20 years. “It dates all the

the mainstream. In this instance, few could claim

in the U.S. and recently established its first

way back to A.I. with Steven Spielberg,” explains

that crown more justifiably than The Mandalorian

purpose-built Volume in Europe at Germany’s

Rob Bredow, SVP and Chief Creative Officer at

creator Jon Favreau. “In order for there to be a

Studio Babelsberg, the largest one on the

ILM. “Stagecraft is the umbrella term we use to

paradigm shift, you need a visionary leader,” says

continent to date. The first show to christen the

cover all of ILM’s end-to-end virtual production

Bredow of working with the filmmaker.

new facility will be 1899, the ambitious pan-

technology. That encompasses everything from virtual scouting and virtual cameras through

Favreau had previously employed virtual production techniques on projects including The

European period series from the creators of hit German original Dark.

to LED screens, which is one of the newest

Lion King and The Jungle Book, but it’s his use

applications and is really moving the tech

of the tech on the flagship Disney+ show that

Bannister believe virtual production technology

has raised their profile. For The Mandalorian,

will become widely adopted across the entire

forward right now.”

Looking to the future, both Bredow and

The Stagecraft team has continuously

the director worked with Stagecraft to create

industry. The pair note that on The Mandalorian

pushed the boundaries of virtual production,

a purpose-built virtual production set—known

it was often the more lo-fi scenes where the

and the tech has already evolved through

as a ‘Volume’—at Manhattan Beach Studios

benefits shone through. “Werner Herzog’s character’s office was shot in Stagecraft,” says

numerous incarnations. The key recent update,

in Los Angeles. Using the latest hardware, the

as Bredow notes, has been the introduction of

setup could render a host of complex and exotic

Bredow. “The production efficiencies it can mean

giant LED screens, which display high-quality

interstellar environments one after the other,

for a scene like that are notable: the set dressing

digital backdrops that encircle a production

eliminating the need for location shooting. “One

was only a few poles, some boxes, his desk, and

stage and move as the camera moves, creating

of the things that made virtual production a

accessories. The rest was loaded in digitally.

a real-time, dynamic landscape. Rendered

perfect fit for The Mandalorian is that they had

That was quicker to build, faster to shoot in, and better for the environment.”

via gaming software, these photo-real images

to create an entire series worth of Star Wars

effectively remove the need for green screen.

landscapes at the same cinematic quality that

This ground-breaking tech was first used by

the franchise has always embraced,” explains

industry tries to embrace going green, virtual

ILM primarily for lighting on 2016’s Rogue One:

Chris Bannister, ILM’s Executive Producer of

production could be a boost to those efforts.

A Star Wars Story, but it found its true use two

Virtual Production. “The technology actually

years later on Solo: A Star Wars Story, when the

allowed them to shoot on all of these planets,

after a big production,” says Bredow. “You save

company built a wraparound screen encircling

which would have been really challenging to

on all of that with virtual production—you can

its Millennium Falcon interior set. “We put the

accomplish at the necessary level of scope and

use these LED walls for years. It does draw some

actors in the cockpit, and they could watch the

quality otherwise.”

entire Kessel Run play out in front of them for 20

Bredow recalls “an eye-opening day” on

His final point is a salient one—as the entire

“There’s a lot of construction that can’t be reused

power, but they’re quite energy efficient. You can also re-use backgrounds. We have generic

minutes straight,” recalls Bredow. “Ron Howard

The Mandalorian shooting schedule, when

could call cues on the fly, and it made the

the Mandalorian’s ship the Razor Crest had

have commonly shot movies, such as Iceland.

performances different. It was eye-opening how

to travel to three different planets in a single

All you need to do is layer your own production

much it changed the filmmaking process and

day. “Because we were in Stagecraft,” he

design and set dressing.”

improved quality. That really inspired us to see

says, “we were able to bring the locations to

the opportunity there.”

us, rather than having to move the crew. They

that, while the majority of fully-fledged

pre-loaded everything into the Volume and the

virtual production shoots to date have been

art department dressed it three times in a day. It

blockbuster-level projects, their vision is for

As well as helping actors, who no longer need to imagine the backdrops they are performing

locations from all over the world where people

The Stagecraft team are keen to note

in front of, virtual production can also benefit

was very efficient. After everyone saw that day of

the tech to become viable for all levels of

the entire filmmaking ecosystem. A lot of work is

shooting, there was no question. We were never

filmmaking. “Our target pricing has been to

shifted into the pre-production process, meaning

going back—this had changed the way we make

achieve a Stagecraft day for less than the price

everyone is more prepared once on set. “It ends

these kinds of shows.”

of what it takes to move a production across the

up being incredibly creatively satisfying,” says Bredow, “because you get to see everything on

ILM now has three permanent virtual

same town,” Bredow explains. “It can work out

production stages, two in Los Angeles and one

creatively and economically favorable. We find

the day: your production designer gets to design

in London at Pinewood, and usually has one or

crews commonly shoot 30-50 percent more

not just the foreground but also the background;

two additional temporary facilities on the go. At

pages or coverage per day, depending on how they want to use that efficiency. It opens up the

your director of photography gets to light the

present, the Stagecraft team are overseeing a

digital aspects of the set and integrate them

pop-up Volume in Sydney, on which Thor: Love

possibility for Stagecraft to be used on a wide

into the practical aspects, and the VFX team

and Thunder is being shot (director Taika Waititi

variety of productions.”

get to integrate themselves with those other

previously worked with Stagecraft on his episode

departments. It’s a game-changer for those

of The Mandalorian). Coming up soon will be Ant-

pandemic and international shoots become

departments, though it affects everyone.”

Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, which director

less challenging, expect virtual production to

The tech also drastically reduces the post-

Even as the world emerges from the

Peyton Reed recently revealed is set to film in

continue to evolve and to see greater uptake

production process, as the majority of VFX is

Stagecraft’s Volume at Pinewood. “It’s been

across the business. ILM is investing heavily in

rendered in-camera while shooting. This allows

exciting seeing different filmmakers take these

the technology, which remains in a nascent form

key creatives—directors, producer, showrunners—

creative tools and push them forward in different

right now, and the ceiling of its application is far

to see everything come together in real-time

ways,” says Bredow.

from being reached.

on a monitor on set. If a particular effect isn’t

But it’s not just ILM who are in on the

“It has really been light years between where

marrying well with your backdrop, you can make

act. Numerous companies around the world

we started and how far we’ve pushed it,”

an adjustment there and then.

are setting up virtual production stages and

comments Bannister now. “I’m very excited to

employing the tech, not least Netflix, which has

see the possibilities.” ★

As with any emerging medium, virtual

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D I S R U P T O R S

LEIGH JANIAK How the director is redefining the phrase ‘Netflix and chill’ with a bloodsoaked horror trilogy based on R.L. Stine’s bestselling Fear Street novels

BY STEVIE WONG three times, and so we would have a new camera

chise is tough enough. But when

style, and a new production design, and the tone of

producer Peter Chernin reached

how I was working with the actors was changing,

out to indie director Leigh

because we were trying to reflect these different

Janiak with the idea of adapting

time periods.

author R.L. Stine’s popular Fear

But you know what? I was just looking straight in

Street books, the end result was not one, but three

front of me. I joked that I was only living in the pres-

consecutive movies. Set in the cursed town of

ent—there’s no past, there’s no future, it’s just what’s

Shadyside, Ohio, they feature a recurring core cast,

in front of me today—and I had an amazing team of

interconnected storylines and an ambitious timeline

people around to help me.

that starts in 1994, before jumping back to 1978 and

I share a lot of cast between the two films. I was

then 1666. Shot over 106 days, the R-rated trilogy is

How did you approach the three Fear Streets

familiar with some of the actors before because

being screened over three weekends on Netflix.

visually and tonally?

I had worked with them in other things. But there

I was a teenager in the ’90s, and Scream was one of

were surprises, too. There were amazing people that

It’s hard enough to make one horror film, but

the first horror movies that I really saw as a teenager

came up, like Benji Flores Jr., who plays Josh. I wasn’t

three, back-to-back? What were you thinking?

who could process things. It blew my mind. It felt

familiar with him, and he crushes. Like, he sells some

It was definitely crazy. Basically, Peter Chernin had

like a whole new type of movie, and I think it’s one

crazy shit. [You need] someone who can put their

this amazing idea that he wanted to do some kind

of the best movies ever made, period, genre aside.

whole worth into explaining the mythology. I mean,

of new type of theatrical release by making three

There was also that whole swath of ’90s slashers,

what a dream, finding him! All of them, though, were

Fear Street movies and releasing them all together.

like the I Know What You Did Last Summer films,

just incredible. When we moved into 1978, it was

I pitched this idea of having the movies connected,

where there was a bit of self-awareness and a lot

like, “Oh my God. I have to find another amazing

because if we’re trying to get people to watch these

of fun. Since the Fear Street books take place in the

cast. How is this going to work?” But we dug in, and

films really close together, how do we make them not

’90s, the presence of these movies was obviously

we found them.

feel like they’re just getting fucked around to bring

the biggest influence. In the three films there’s a discrepancy of social

them back? So, we ended up coming up with this

Then with 1978, I really tried to tilt more in the

idea that’s a hybrid of traditional television content

direction of the ’70s with camera movement, tone,

class: all of the victims seem to come from the

and movies by connecting the stories, yet hopefully

and the fact that you have the girl who’s the virginal,

poorer town of Shadyside, whereas wealthy

finishing each of the stories and making you feel it’s

goody two-shoes that’s kind of unlikable. I definitely

Sunnyvalers stay unharmed…

fully complete.

looked at Friday the 13th. You can’t make a horror

The characters that we created have been told by

movie in a summer camp without doing that.

society, or by their town, that they’re ‘other’ in some

How does one even begin to tackle three films

For the 1600s one, I looked at Terrence Malick’s

way. Sometimes it has to do with race. Sometimes

that visit three completely different time

The New World, because I love that movie. It’s

it has to do with sexuality. Sometimes it just has

periods in detail?

just this beautiful, wonderful, pure world, and you

to do with gender or socioeconomic status. That’s

Because I had been involved from the story incep-

just watch these colonists come and destroy it. It

baked into the bigger mythology of the world of

tion, writing the scripts and everything like that, I felt

becomes so disgusting, and so polluted, and it felt

Shadyside and Sunnyvale.

like it was very intimately in my veins. But then we

really perfect for what we were trying to accomplish

started shooting and I was like, “What are we doing

with the third movie.

here? We’re making three different movies, and

We’re telling the story of perpetual outsiders. All of them are being told that there’s no way out of this bad world that they live in. Without risking

we’re shooting them all at once.” I think a little bit

You have a very large cast for all these films, how

sounding too heady about it, our killers represent

of me thought I was being stupid, in that I was like,

long did it take to find them?

systemic inequality—generation after generation,

“Oh, people do this in TV all the time.” The differ-

The casting process happened over months, and

you can’t escape it, it’s just coming for you. That’s

ence was that we were reinventing the same world

we started casting 1994 and 1666 first, because

what these kids have been told their whole life. That

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K

ick-starting a new horror fran-


was interesting to me, and I think, because we have

does this work?” When Netflix entered the conversa-

is an abundance of “fucks” in the movie. I did a

the trilogy, we were able to break that open and let

tion, right away it was like, “This is what we’re going

‘fuck pass’ when I was going through my director’s

the characters try to fight back and win in a different

to do, and this is how we’re going to do it.” They were

guide—I had something like 15 “fucks” in a scene. I

way. I was also interested in finding characters that

so excited. I don’t know why, but it just clicked. So, for

remember I got a call from someone at the studio

normally would get killed off right away and letting

me, it was a dream. I feel very happy about the week

who was watching the dailies. They were like, “Um,

them live beyond that first 20 minutes, let alone

between each film, because I think that it still makes

so do you think that sometimes you could shoot an

movie to movie. That was very important to me.

it an event. Plus, you don’t have to wait too long,

alt version?”

because I hate waiting too. Originally, these films were going to come out

We were shooting 1978 last, and I remember we were all so tired at this point. I swear it felt like I was

monthly in the theaters. What does it mean to

How important was it for you to make these

only saying, “More blood.” Everything is covered in

you to have them out over three consecutive

films as bloody and as scary as they turned out

blood in that movie. I was just like, “I can’t.” It was

weekends instead?

to be?

reflecting this place where I was inside.

I love going to the movie theater, so it was person-

I had some personal rules: the films have to be

ally a little heartbreaking. Also, I’m coloring it for

edgy; they have to feel cool. They have to feel like

What did you do when you wrapped?

the movie theater, and I’m mixing it for the movie

movies that I would want to watch now, at my age,

When I first got home to L.A., I had a few days

theater. But truth be told, there was something very

but also if you’re 13, 14, and thinking, I shouldn’t be

before post started, and I was just in a fog, thinking

exciting about Netflix insofar as they have proven

watching this, but I’m going to.

like, “Wait—I don’t need to drink 10 cold brews a

that they’re the ones on the cutting edge and can figure out how we do this new thing.

There were various conversations earlier in the

day? What’s happening?” But after two years of

development stage where people said, “Well, does

working on Fear Street, I’m ready to get back to

it have to be this bloody?” And I was like, “Yeah, it

work. I’m actually going to shoot two episodes of

we would get to the point where we figured out how

does.” These are slasher movies. It’s not a haunted

HBO’s The Staircase, which Antonio Campos is

to properly release them theatrically. But I don’t

house movie. The characters need to speak how

doing. I’m excited to go back on set and just reset

know that we ever really got to that place of, “How

teenagers speak. Although, I will say that there

my brain.

At the time, we were all crossing our fingers that

“I HAD SOME PERSONAL RULES: THE FILMS HAVE TO BE EDGY; THEY HAVE TO FEEL COOL. THEY HAVE TO FEEL LIKE MOVIES THAT I WOULD WANT TO WATCH NOW, AT MY AGE, BUT ALSO IF YOU’RE 13, 14.” DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

CJ ENTERTAINMENT How the Korean company that produced Parasite is cutting a swathe of innovation and representation throughout the industry

fter years of growing one of the

movies that landed in the Top 10 that year. Among

is eyeing 8 million paid global subscribers by 2023. A

world’s strongest local entertain-

them, Parasite, which it produced.

further priority will be placed on K-pop to produce

ment industries with high-quality

CJ ENM, which is also behind Fox’s I Can See Your

more competition shows outside of Korea.

product, a sophisticated audience

Voice, is Korea’s foremost film and television studio,

The Vice Chairwoman of CJ, Miky Lee, is one of

and a box office that consistently

cable operator and music producer. Eyeing a bigger

the key drivers of the expansion and one of the most

ranks among the Top 5 international markets,

role on the world stage, it recently committed to

powerful female executives in the business. Lee is

South Korea seemed to suddenly burst into global

investing more than 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in

mainly responsible for the overall strategic direction

consciousness with Bong Joon-ho’s smash 2019

content creation over the next five years.

and management of CJ ENM, alongside her brother,

hit Parasite. This was the first-ever foreign language

In announcing the investment, CEO Kang Ho

Jay Lee, who is the chairman of CJ Corporation. She

film to win the Best Picture Oscar, as well as,

Sung said CJ will “compete with global platform and

founded ENM in 1994, after being one of the early

shockingly, the first time the country scored an

media powerhouses”.

investors in DreamWorks, and since then, the com-

International Feature nomination, much less a prize. Hollywood execs, box office watchers, and

Not that it wasn’t already a player outside of

pany has built such influential divisions as exhibition

Korea. In 2020, CJ made a strategic investment in

giant CJ CGV, which has cinemas in China, Indonesia,

festival curators have long had their eyes on Korea,

David Ellison’s Skydance Media, whose TV division is

Myanmar, Turkey, Vietnam and the U.S.; as well as

but even with such confirmed talent as Bong (who

adapting 2019 Korean fantasy drama Hotel del Luna

cable network CJ Media, and Mnet Media, which

made cult hit Snowpiercer in 2013 and Netflix’s Okja

as a series. This past May, it partnered with HBO Max

includes cable music television, music distribution

in 2017), Park Chan-wook, Lee Chang-dong and Kim

to develop a competition series in Latin America.

and live concerts. Lee also created KCon, a conven-

Ki-duk, mainstream worldwide awareness was not especially rampant. One company that has arguably tipped the scales

CJ also owns leading series producer Studio Dragon, and the plan going forward is to form more production studios specializing in variety shows, film

tion promoting Korean pop music, and produces the country’s largest K-pop awards show. Lee has previously been quoted as saying that

is CJ ENM. In 2019, a local film it released, Extreme

and animation, and to enter into further partnerships

facilitating the worldwide explosion of Korean pop

Job, grossed more than Avengers: Endgame in the

with content creators in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

culture is a role she was born to play. “I’m happy to

market. It also had three of the total four Korean

The company’s streaming platform affiliate, Tving,

be the bridge, just walk over me.”

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N EO N/ E V ER E T T/AP

A

BY NANCY TARTAGLIONE


FRANCES MCDORMAND She is a woman of few words, and clearly not an actor who feels the need for ego gratification through public attention. But when she speaks, people

McDormand then became a producer of Nomadland, signing on to star, which helped to empower writer/director Chloe Zhao, who became only the

listen. With two words —”inclusion rider”—during her 2018 Oscar acceptance

second woman ever to win Best Director. The film, which shone a light on a

speech for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDormand sent

disenfranchised group, also won Best Picture and brought McDormand her

Hollywood scrambling to their phones to google what it meant. They soon

third Oscar. McDormand will next star with Denzel Washington in Joel Coen’s

learned she was referring to the guarantee of a level of diversity in casting

The Tragedy of Macbeth, and will produce and star in Women Talking, directed

and production staff. Thus, her words paved the way for the town to lean in

and scripted by Sarah Polley. Based on the 2018 novel by Miriam Toews, and

on making much-needed change, and the notion of the inclusion rider caught

inspired by a recent events, it tells the story of a group of women in a Bolivian

on quickly.

Mennonite colony dealing with systemic sexual abuse. —Mike Fleming Jr. ★ DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

BRUNA PAPANDREA Break up the boys’ club, share the risk, trust your instincts: the producer behind TV’s biggest hits explains why her female-focused shows are defying expectations

BY DIANA LODDERHOSE

T

he global pandemic may have brought

thriller Gone Girl and Cheryl Strayed’s memoir

the world to a standstill, but it didn’t

Wild. When working with Reese Witherspoon at

stop hitmaker Bruna Papandrea from

their company Pacific Standard, they earmarked

plowing ahead with her bustling

Big Little Lies from Aussie writer Lianne Moriarty.

production slate. The Australian-

Running from 2017 to 2019, the show went on

born producer was set to begin shooting Toni

to become a huge hit for HBO, with a stellar

Colette starrer Pieces of Her in Vancouver, Nine

cast including Witherspoon, Kidman, Shailene

Perfect Strangers with Nicole Kidman in L.A. and

Woodley and Zoë Kravitz, spawning two series

Anatomy of a Scandal in London, when COVID-19

and winning eight Emmys.

descended upon the world last year. Undeterred, tenacious and a decisive

Since setting up Made Up Stories in 2017, Papandrea has continued to put women at the

problem-solver, Papandrea was able to pivot the

center of projects, proving to the industry bigwigs

productions of Pieces of Her and Nine Perfect

that her hits aren’t just anomalies: women are

Strangers, convincing cast and crew of both

bankable and audiences will come again and

projects to relocate to Australia’s relatively

again to watch them. Her company produced

Covid-free east coast (Anatomy of a Scandal later

last year’s captivating thriller The Undoing. The

finished in London) for the many months much

Kidman and Hugh Grant starrer became one of

of the world was in lockdown. For Papandrea,

the most watched TV series of 2020 and the first

whose company Made Up Stories has offices in

show in HBO’s history to grow weekly over the

L.A.—where she lives with her producer husband

course of six episodes. She also produced Eric

and eight-year-old twins—and Sydney, this quick

Bana vehicle The Dry, as well as Penguin Bloom

swivel to her homeland is a perfect example of

with Naomi Watts—both of which proved to be

how her ability to get things done has earned her

big hits at the Australian box office—and she has

a spot as one of the most dynamic producers in

more than a half-dozen projects in production at

the television and film business.

any given time.

Papandrea is perhaps best known for championing female-led stories, and she has

I sat down to talk with Papandrea via Zoom while she was quarantining in a Toronto hotel,

a remarkable instinct for optioning novels that

having flown there from Australia to work on

are going to click with international audiences

another high-profile project—Netflix thriller

on screen, such as Gillian Flynn’s best-selling

Luckiest Girl Alive, starring Mila Kunis. DEADLINE.COM

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You’re across so many successful projects

I hear you're quite a ferocious and fast reader.

that I’m here is because there’s a movie that I’ve

in both film and TV right now, but this is no

More so before I had two children. But yes, I am. I

been developing for seven years—probably the

overnight success story. How did you start in

certainly don’t read as much as I did in my twenties.

longest thing I’ve ever had— called Luckiest Girl Alive

the business?

But, again, if I love something, I can’t stop. I don’t

that is shooting out here. Then I have another show

I've always had jobs since I was around 13 years old

tend to read as much for pleasure anymore, but I

going in Atlanta that’s taken six years to get off the

and I exposed myself to a lot of things, from acting

do find that I get a lot of pleasure from reading the

ground—Long Slow Exhale— which is an incredible

to writing to law. My real entry into film was that

stuff we get sent.

show from showrunner Pam Veasey. Now, these

as an assistant at a commercials company run by

What about genre? You seem to have recently

or The Undoing had—a lot of things do happen

cinematographer Dion Beebe and his wife. I ended

gravitated to a lot of thrillers. What do you

really fast for us—but they’ve really restored my

I had a playwright friend who recommended me

two things did not have the train that Big Little Lies

up going there producing commercials. I was very

think is it about these types of stories that

belief that the landscape can shift. Sometimes

young, around 24 at the time, and it was what

draws you to them?

you need another piece, or an actor comes in—in

got me into the film business, because with that

I gravitate more towards things that I want to watch

this case it’s Mila Kunis, who has been an amazing

money I funded my own short film and then started

as I get older. I love a mystery. I grew up on Fatal

producing partner, and a real force of nature to help

making low-budget films.

Attraction, Malice, The Parallax View, lots of thrillers.

get Luckiest Girl Alive into production. So, I feel quite

I love that genre. Someone said to me recently,

emboldened right now because I have these two

“You’re such a crime buff,” but I don’t really listen

things that I’ve lived with for so long and it’s hard

point in your career?

to crime podcasts or anything like that. I have a

because you feel such a responsibility to the novels.

My big break absolutely was right after I made

bit of an aversion to very violent things. I try not to

There have been things I’ve given up on, but there

my first movie, Better Than Sex, in Australia for

do things where children are in too much jeopardy.

are some things I won’t give up.

$900,000, and I met Anthony Minghella at the

There are certain things that I don’t want to explore

Toronto Film Festival. That was really my big, life-

myself. But there are areas that I’ve targeted. I

What’s the landscape looking like out there for

changing career break, because then I went to work

love grounded sci-fi. I loved Arrival, for instance, I

female-driven content?

with him and Sydney Pollack [in London], which

thought it was just extraordinary, and I wished I had

There’s still an amazing double standard in the

was the best break anyone could hope for—they

made that movie. So, we’ve been searching and

business when it comes to women. I don’t know

were such good men, such good humans. I didn’t

searching, and finally we found this book To Sleep

how many times I’ve heard, “Well, we have one of those in development anyway.” I always say, “So?”

finish college, and I like to think of that as my film

in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini, which we’re

school, working for those two men. It was there

developing. It ticked all the boxes: young female

But it’s a good reminder, because that’s my job to

that I really honed my love of adaptation, because—

lead, big sci-fi world, but also incredibly moving.

find a way to produce it. We all need reminders, but

obviously—Anthony was such a great adapter of

it’s quite disheartening at times.

books. Everything really took off for me after those

Has making stories with strong female leads

five years.

always been intentional or is it just what you’re

Do you think the needle is moving?

drawn to?

Yeah, I think it is moving. It’s moving a lot more in

You’ve got such a good eye for adapting

When I started Pacific Standard with Reese, we

television than it is in film. Television has always

content. There's Big Little Lies, Gone Girl and

were very determined to put women in front of

been slightly more groundbreaking. Even going

Nine Perfect Strangers, to name only a few.

the camera. Then when I started Made Up Stories,

back to David E. Kelley’s show Ally McBeal. I think

What are you really looking for when you’re

I really thought about extending that mission. It

you can make and discover people in TV, you can

scouting material?

doesn't have to be a female lead, but I just want

reflect more of the world we live in on TV. But even

I always tell the women who work with me, “Listen

the females to have great roles. It can be a female

in TV it's getting harder, because there is this slight

to your instinct and respond the way you always

author or someone behind the camera. We’ve

corporatization going on, obviously, with all these

respond to something.” For me, it’s always

definitely focused on female novelists, writers

brands aligning. We’ve stayed agnostic in terms

character-driven, kind of genre-agnostic, but it has

and filmmakers being able to tell any story they

of being able to work with everyone, because you

to feel unique. When we can compare something

want. But as much as there’s been a groundswell

need to. We have a big and diverse appetite, and we

to something else, it's not as interesting to us. The

for female stories, it’s still hard. I don’t care what

want to be able to work with lots of different people.

worst question you get asked is, “What’s it like?”

anyone says, it’s still harder to sell a period piece

For me, the biggest success is when you can make

with a woman at the center than it is with a man

something that feels distinctive in terms of the

at the center. Apparently, men can still do anything

the business, but what about earlier on in your

world, the characters, and the filmmaking. I don’t

they want! I’m very lucky and I’m very optimistic,

career? Did you have any moments where you

You’ve spoken a bit about recent challenges in

use a book scout like most people. The writing

but I have sensed myself in the last year getting

felt things weren’t happening because you’re

either holds me or it doesn’t. Wild was such a great

more and more agitated when I see another World

a woman?

example of this, because Cheryl Strayed is such

War II movie with a man at the center, or something

I get asked that question a lot. No, because I think

an extraordinary writer. She just captivates you

like that.

with her words. Lots of people could have written

There is still this perception from studios and

that story, but it wouldn’t have been the story she

networks that female-driven projects are an

it’s the Australian in me. We have a woman who’s our producing partner in Australia called Jodi Matterson, who is unbelievable—she’s just good

told. For me, it’s all about that. I definitely have

anomaly. If you look at The Queen’s Gambit, it’s

at everything. When you come up through the

a strong instinct as to what to pay attention to.

an anomaly. If you take Wonder Woman, it’s an

Australian system, you have to understand how

Recently, we lost a book that I didn’t read myself,

anomaly. Every time it happens it's still as hard to

to finance and how to find material, and you have

and I was kicking myself because I was very busy

get the next thing up and going as it was before—

to understand how to make it, because there’s no system of development, there’s no big U.S.

and something in me said, “You should have read it.”

and I’m not sure when that will change. But the

And I didn’t listen to that instinct. But you win some

good thing about us is that we don’t give up. For

hierarchy. But I’m very scrappy. I still book my own

and you lose some.

instance, I’m here in Toronto, and part of the reason

travel, set up email accounts for the company, that

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What would you say has been a real turning


NOVEL IDEAS Clockwise, from above: Grace Van Patten with Nicole Kidman in Nine Perfect Stangers; Naomi Watts in Penguin Bloom; Hugh Grant and Kidman in The Undoing.

”I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS, IT'S STILL HARDER TO SELL A PERIOD PIECE WITH A WOMAN AT THE CENTER THAN IT IS WITH A MAN AT THE CENTER. APPARENTLY, MEN CAN STILL DO ANYTHING THEY WANT! I'M VERY LUCKY AND I'M VERY OPTIMISTIC, BUT I HAVE SENSED MYSELF IN THE LAST YEAR GETTING MORE AND MORE AGITATED WHEN I SEE ANOTHER WORLD WAR II MOVIE WITH A MAN AT THE CENTER.“ DEADLINE.COM

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for this pipeline. Once we were firmly established there, we started the conversation about shooting Pieces of Her in Australia, which Netflix helped us pivot to do. With Anatomy, we finished that show in London, although it broke my heart not to be on set and work with my lifelong producer friend Liza [Chasin]. I’m just happy that things kept moving really fast. You’ve worked with Nicole Kidman on Big Little Lies, The Undoing and Nine Perfect Strangers. Why do you two work so well together? You know how if you have one really good experience then you want to do it again? Well, that’s the first part. We had known each other for 20 years. We tried to work together, and came close a couple of times. I almost got involved in Rabbit Hole years ago. Then Big Little Lies came along, and when I found out the book was Australian, I thought, “Oh my God, this is it.” And then she read it, and loved it, and we had two seasons of that show. Then David [E. Kelley] wrote The Undoing for her, and they invited me onto it because we’re a bit MODERN GURU Nicole Kidman as the unhinged retreat leader Masha in Nine Perfect Strangers.

of a team. When Nine Perfect Strangers came along, we decided to align with Lianne [Moriarty] again.

Where I’m very passionate is trying to find women

There’s an ease to it all. But, yes, I think we’ve pretty

I come from a very working class, very poor family.

roles not just in directing, but other roles, like a

much worked consistently for five years together

I’ve always worked. I’m not afraid to take risks,

female transport captain, or a female gaffer. It’s not

at this point. We’re producing Roar for Apple TV+

because if it all went away, I’d be fine. I don’t tend

just about the directors.

to let financial decisions dictate my choices, and

together, and we have other things, so let’s see what happens.

I think that liberates you, in a way. I’ve never let

Let’s talk about the impact Covid has had on

I have the same thing with Naomi Watts, who

anyone else make my decisions for me.

your business in the last 18 months. You guys

has been my friend for even longer. We looked for

were about to shoot several projects in North

a long time for something to work together on.

America and the UK and then had to relocate

We came close so many times, and then, finally,

one was gifting me a movie, but when I was on

to Australia.

we made Penguin Bloom last year together. But I

movies that men got put on, they somehow felt I

We were actually three days from shooting Pieces

want to do more with her. It’s becomes that repeat

wasn’t experienced enough, or it was a favor. You

of Her in Vancouver. We were eight weeks from

business. You know, we feel like we haven’t been

still feel a lot of that kind of 'club at work' situation,

Anatomy of a Scandal in London, and about three

successful people if people don’t want to work with us again.

But one thing I did find early on in my career is there was still this idea of jobs for the boys. No

particularly in the film business. The business I really

from Nine Perfect Strangers—three different shows

want to be in is making really big movies. I’d make a

on the precipice. And pretty early on, in March or

Marvel movie in three seconds. That would excite

April [of last year], we all saw this wasn’t going to be

Penguin Bloom was a huge success in Australia

me as something I haven’t done.

great. I was talking to Nicole [Kidman] one day and

earlier this year. As well as The Dry, which

was like, “What are we going to do?” Then, because

you produced, starring Eric Bana. They both

You’re employing women, you’re working with

we both have such deep roots in Australia, it felt

topped the box office there.

women, you’re empowering female stories

like the perfect show to keep people safe, because

And The Dry is the most male movie I’ve ever made!

and creating jobs for all these women in the

it was essentially shot on one location. We sent a

I did laugh. But that goes to Jane Harper [author of The Dry], whose stories are mostly very male-driven.

industry and you’re also an ambassador for

location scout out to Australia to see what was

ReFrame. Why is it important to you to be

there. Then it became about convincing this entire

She writes incredibly, and that’s the big factor for us

involved in something like this?

cast to go to Australia for six months, because,

when we meet voices like that. The whole thing was

ReFrame is a think tank that was started by Women

once you’re there, you can’t just run off and do

an incredible experience.

in Film and Sundance Institute, where a bunch of

other things.

It's been incredible to watch people embrace

us identified core problems with women in the

People were either bringing their families

The Dry outside of Australia as well. The media

industry, such as female directors who couldn’t

with them, or leaving people behind. We had no

and the critics have embraced it. That movie

get their second feature off the ground. It’s those

resistance at all, because people just saw this

is particularly special to me, because Robert

female filmmakers who made one great movie, and

as a great blessing, to be able to work again. But

Connolly, who wrote and directed it, gave me a big

then were lost because they didn't get the studio

it was very stressful all the same. We were very

break when I was starting out. He was an amazing

movies. A group of us women are also mentoring

determined not to lay anyone off in our own

producer in Australia—he made one of my favorite

one of the schemes. It’s a great organization

company or reduce wages, so we were focusing

movies, The Boys—and he got offered Better Than Sex to produce, but he was too busy. So, he told me

that developed the ReFrame stamp, which

on how to keep the company afloat. Thank god for

demonstrates gender-balanced hiring, and people

our business—people that obviously kept watching

to go and make it, and that movie was my career-

feel this sense of pride if they can get that stamp.

content during lockdown, so there was a necessity

starter. It’s nice to come full circle, 20 years later.

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V IN C E VA LI T U T T I /H U LU/J OR DAN ST RAUSS /AP

kind of thing. I’m not afraid to not succeed, because


Is it important for you to keep making these Australian stories? Yes, for sure. Jennifer Kent’s movie, The Nightingale, was one of those. Even though it was very tough, she is obviously an extraordinary filmmaker, and that story is hugely important to Australian history. I definitely want to make them, but in a way that will capture international audiences. We’re doing one of Amazon’s first global originals for TV—The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. This book, written by

RIAN JOHNSON AND RAM BERGMAN

Holly Ringland, is one of the most beautiful pieces

How the creative team behind Knives Out proved

of literature I’ve ever seen come out of Australia. Sigourney Weaver is going to star in it and it’s just

to be the sharpest tools in the box

going to be amazing.

BY DAMON WISE

You’re working with all the major streamers— Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+, Hulu, Peacock. Would you ever consider signing an overall deal with one of them? Many of your contemporaries have done this. Never say never. I take every year at a time, but the way that I've always wanted to set up our business is with as much autonomy as possible. And, for us, the relationship with Endeavour Content has been really good, because they believe in us. Together, we have financial skin in the game, and we match them cent for cent. When it’s your responsibility and you think hard about decisions, you’re able to pursue your passion. So, that partnership has been good. Yes, we’ve been approached over the years, but it hasn’t felt right, because right now we’re working with all of these amazing companies. What I don’t want to ever happen is that the pressure to have a volume of content that trumps the quality. Who inspires you in this business?

Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman’s journey to the

last roles). The budget this time was $40 million

I saw the documentary on Jane Fonda recently and

Star Wars universe began at a film festival that

and returned a global gross north of $311 million,

she’s had, like, five lives. She was an activist before

now seems far, far away—Sundance 2005, where

but Johnson and Bergman’s T-Street Productions

anyone was an activist. She was producing, she was

Johnson made his feature debut in the US Dramatic

retained the rights, which were available on a picture-

acting, she did loads. I am really inspired by women

Competition with Brick. Starring Joseph Gordon-

by-picture basis. In March, it was announced that,

who use their voice for change.

Levitt and inspired by the ’30s/’40s hardboiled

after a fierce but low-key auction involving all the

crime novels of Dashiell Hammett and James M.

streaming majors, parts two and three of the Knives

Julianne Moore is one of those women, she stood so firmly against gun violence. Laura Dern has

Cain, the jive-talking noir thriller, set in a small-town

Out franchise had gone to Netflix for an eye-popping

been an activist her whole life. I love the women

high school, stood out a mile from its indie peers.

$450 million.

who have been self-starters, like Phoebe Waller-

Produced by Ram Bergman on a shoestring budget

Johnson and Bergman did not hang around; as

Bridge, because, where I come from, I didn’t have

of $450,000, Brick won Johnson the year’s Special

lockdown in Europe began to ease, the pair began

the easy path, and it’s hard to find those access

Jury Prize for Originality of Vision.

pre-production in Belgrade, Serbia, planning to shoot

points to the industry.

Originality would become a keyword for future

interiors locally and exteriors in Greece. The second

The women that rise to run those corporations,

Bergman-Johnson joints, from 2008’s stylish con

time around, big names have not been hard to net,

NBCUniversal’s Susan Rovner or Amazon’s Jennifer

caper The Brothers Bloom, to 2012’s time-twisting

with Dave Bautista, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson

Salke, they inspire me because it’s hard to get to

sci-fi Looper, and 2017’s critically acclaimed but

and Leslie Odom Jr. signing on. But the funny thing

those positions, because it has traditionally been

fanboy-frustrating Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But it

is, Johnson and Bergman managed to beat the

a very male-driven business. Sherry Lansing has

was 2019’s surprise smash Knives Out that took the

Hollywood system at its own game without even

always been what I see as one of the first women to

industry by surprise. Reprising Johnson’s interest in

meaning to try. Speaking just before the release

do it. Kathleen Kennedy, of course, is an inspiration.

mystery thrillers—owing a debt this time to Britain’s

of the original Knives Out, Johnson almost said as

My dearly lost friend Alli Shearmur was probably

Queen of Crime Agatha Christie—it starred Daniel

much: “I’ve never thought in terms of sequels to any

one of my greatest inspirations. She showed me

Craig as detective Benoit Blanc, investigating an

movies I’ve made,” he said, “but the idea of doing

that you can be a great human being, have a family,

all-star cast (Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael

another Benoit Blanc mystery, in a new location, with

do all of those things and run a studio. To this day, I

Shannon, Don Johnson et al) over the death of a

a new cast, treating it like Agatha Christie would treat

often think of what she would say to me. ★

famous author (Christopher Plummer in one of his

another book—that just seems like a blast.” ★ DEADLINE.COM

69


D I S R U P T O R S

LARRY TANZ How Netflix’s VP of Original Series for EMEA is radically expanding the streamer’s web of inclusivity

major driving force behind breaking language barri-

Eisner’s digital studio

ers with its strong European offerings and has had

Vuguru in 2014 to head

a string of hit titles crossover and connect with U.S.

up its content acquisition

audiences. French mystery thriller Lupin, starring

in Europe, the streamer’s regional presence was no

Omar Sy, became the first French series to make it

more than a little townhouse on a canal in Amster-

into Netflix’s top ten list in the U.S. and ranked num-

dam. Seven years and one pandemic later, the exec,

ber one in various territories, reaching a reported

who is now VP of Original Series for EMEA, is making

76 million viewers. Spanish drama La Casa de Papel,

shows in 20 different countries, with people on the

better known as Money Heist, was gobbled up by

ground in London, Madrid, Berlin, Rome and Paris to

international audiences during lockdown, reaching

name a few.

65 million viewers and spawning five series. German

“It’s just an entire transformation,” says Tanz,

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Indeed, it has. Netflix is now reputed for being a

Tanz from Michael

programs such as big-budget neo-noir Babylon

speaking via Zoom from a hotel in Paris. “Back then,

Berlin and sci-fi thriller Dark have captivated global

we weren’t even doing original content outside of

audiences, with the latter becoming the streamer’s

the U.S. and we were just starting our U.S. original

third most-watched international series in America.

content. It’s just been amazing journey.”

Meanwhile, French comedy Call My Agent! crossed

N E T FLI X

W

hen Netflix lured Larry

BY DIANA LODDERHOSE


“LOCAL AUTHENTICITY IS IMPORTANT TO US. IT SHOULDN’T FEEL LIKE SOMEONE FROM OUTSIDE CAME INTO YOUR CULTURE AND MADE A SHOW IN YOUR COUNTRY.” borders and has several remakes for the program in

and attracting new ones is largely dependent upon

forward to developing content in? “The one I’m

the offing.

aligning themselves with the best local production

very excited about right now is Russia,” he says,

teams in each territory.

pointing to ANNA K, a contemporary reimagining

“What we’re seeing as we become more local and closer to the local creative communities with

“The way that we can be most effective is by

of Leo Tolstoy’s iconic novel Anna Karenina. It’s

local executives, is that we just get better at making

being on the ground, commissioning and building

Netflix’s first-ever Russian original drama series and

shows that are more specific and more relevant,

relationships with producers,” says Tanz. “It’s

the streamer will partner with Moscow-based 1-2-3

and so we’ve seen all of these big successes like

interesting because in Europe, the Middle East and

Production for the project.

Lupin,” says Tanz. “So, it’s really about that evolution

Africa, it’s a different approach to making content

we’ve had of going from a little townhouse, making

than in the U.S. We really partner with producers

Tanz says, “There’s so much enthusiasm and energy

and commissioning shows out of LA, to specific

on a creative level and we’re not making all of these

around tapping into their great, great storytelling

country teams and offices commissioning local

shows ourselves. We are actually making them with

tradition. There’s so much we can do there and we

shows locally.”

great local producers. It’s a much different relation-

heard so many great pitches and met so many great writers and producers.”

Having recently returned from a trip to Russia,

The expansion has been striking to say the least,

ship from the traditional Hollywood studio model

and captive audiences during the pandemic tapped

where you sort of do everything yourself. Here, it’s

into the fact that Netflix’s library was much deeper

quite the opposite. We’re entirely working with local

ecosystem, which saw a huge increase in appetite

than a mere glance at the recommended titles list.

producers, so we rely on them for the execution

for content in the wake of the pandemic, but Tanz

Global viewing of non-English titles by Netflix mem-

but also for help in sourcing and developing great

says this infrastructure has been a real plus in terms

bers doubled in 2020 compared to the previous

creative ideas.”

of Netflix entering the space in that consumers in

year. Suddenly, it seemed there was a whole new slate for audiences to binge-watch. Tanz is proud that the international success of

Additionally, Tanz feels a responsibility to con-

Russia has an extremely dynamic local VOD

the territory understand the streaming business.

tribute to regional infrastructure when making local

“It’s really hard to explain streaming to new markets

content. He points to upcoming multilingual period

and help people figure out how to get it on their TV

these titles has been driven by the performance of

mystery-horror series 1899, which is made by Dark

and all of the groundwork that you might have to

local content in its own market. That, he says, has

creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar (the duo

lay in another market, say, like some of the markets

been a key objective for developing Netflix’s EMEA

inked a significant overall deal with Netflix in 2018

in the Middle East. But in Russia you don’t have to

content. “When we’re making or commissioning

that sees them exclusively create projects for the

do that and it’s a big advantage. We’re happy to

these shows, we’re really almost explicitly saying,

streamer for an initial five-year period). The show

compete head-to-head based on our content. I

don’t make us a Spanish show for the world, don’t

was filmed at Studio Babelsberg in Germany on

think our global catalogue is what differentiates us

make us a Turkish show for the world, and definitely

a brand new, state-of-the-art ‘virtual production’

there and the local content we’re just about to start

not for the U.S. Make it so that it’s going to be the

facility known as a ‘Volume’. The 4,500sqft stage

producing there.”

best show for the local market, like Germany or

is similar to the technology used on Disney’s The

France,” he says, emphasizing the importance of

Mandalorian and is surrounded by an LED backdrop

precipice of the streaming wars, Tanz is optimistic

authenticity of local stories in their marketplace.

that is rendered in a video game engine (Unreal

about the future and remains thoughtful about

“For example, we have a show called Snabba Cash

Engine) in real time, moving with the camera to

where the next wave of creative voices will come

from Sweden,” says Tanz. “It’s an awesome show

create a realistic background and sky that creates

from. “We feel good that we’re running in the right

and when we first looked at it, we thought, OK, how

the illusion of shooting outdoors and across

direction,” he says. “It’s not a ‘winner takes all’

can this show travel? But then we got into it, and

different locations. It’s ground-breaking tech that

game for us. When we look at the total share of all

we thought, let’s just make this show the best show

also reduces the post-production process. Netflix

of entertainment and TV viewing, we’re kind of a

ever in Sweden, and it’s been a huge success for us

backed the project along with various sources

small piece of it, so there’s a lot of room for multiple

there. But it also happened to get watched outside

including the Investment Bank of Brandenburg, and

players to grow.” He adds: “There’s a lot of demand

of Sweden as well. I’d say that that is one important

also committed to shoot multiple series on the

for great stories and what excites me about that is

North Star for us: local impact and local authentic-

stage. “It’s a good example of how we can enable

we have an opportunity in this region in particular

ity. It shouldn’t feel like someone from outside came

creators to do their best work and their most

to help build and develop the next generation of

into your culture and made a show in your country.”

ambitious work but also contribute to the local

storytellers. And we can do that from the ground up

ecosystem,” he says.

in a diverse and inclusive way. We don’t have that

This ethos is a major factor for how Tanz and his team have approached growth in the EMEA region.

And while Netflix has solid footprints in major

And while the content industry sits on the

issue Hollywood does about people getting seats at

He’s honest and humble enough to admit that

European markets such as Spain, France and

the table. We’re building tables with seats that we

Netflix can’t do it alone and pleasing its members

Germany, what market is Tanz most looking

get to help fill up.”

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D I S R U P T O R S partnership with Sony, inking a two-year first-look deal to develop scripted TV series. It has a slate of film and series projects in with Netflix. The first of

EBONY LIFE MEDIA

Tired of being ignored by the Western and European media, Mo Abudu came up with a comprehensive plan to put African news and culture on the world map

BY JAKE KANTER

miered last October, while the slate also includes an adaptation of Death and the King’s Horseman from Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka, who just so happened to be Abudu’s very first guest on Moments with Mo. EbonyLife is working with AMC Studios on Nigeria 2099, a futuristic story of a Lagos police officer who becomes embroiled in a global conspiracy after being assigned to protect a visiting American businessman. The company also boasts a co-production deal with Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios for at least two series and one film. On top of all this, EbonyLife is lighting up the Nigerian box office with the highest-grossing movies of all time locally, including The Wedding Party and its sequel—both of which are streaming on Netflix. “Every single thing we’ve done, we’ve had to fight like hell to get them done,” Abudu says, reflecting on the “three levels of discrimination”

o Abudu attempted to crack

back-and-forth between the two countries, which

she faces as a Black, African woman. She breaks

Hollywood for years, but her

share a time zone), but her career took off in the

down EbonyLife’s storytelling vision into four

steely belief that the world

latter and she rose to become the head of HR

genres: Afro-history, which is where the Sony

needed to hear African stories

at oil company ExxonMobil. Abudu grew tired of

Dahomey Warriors series hails from; Afro-futurism,

was met with resounding

corporate life and cut her teeth as an entrepreneur

illustrated by Nigeria 2099; Afro-impact, which

silence. Emails went unanswered, leads from a trip

by launching an HR consultancy service before

involves telling contemporary African stories like

to Los Angeles quickly went cold. Abudu, a megas-

making her move into entertainment.

Òlòturé; and, finally, Afro-politan, which gives voice

tar in Nigeria with her own chat show and TV

The dramatic career switch was no small

to the everyday lives of Africans and has delivered

network, grew frustrated. Then, one day, her Lagos

matter in a country where work in the energy

office got a call from a Sony Pictures Television

industry is considered a job for life. But then Abudu

sales executive wanting to sell Abudu’s network,

considers herself a disruptor by nature. “One thing

hunger for authentic local stories, her hard work

EbonyLife TV, an international television format. It

that disruptors have going for them is that they’re

paying off at exactly the right time. “If you want

proved to be her Sidney Lumet moment. “I said to

very passionate about the things that they do,”

me to watch your stuff,” she reasons, “then why

my head of programming, ‘Tell him we’re not effing

she says during a Zoom call from Nigeria. “And

don’t you respect me a little bit more, and take

interested in any bloody format! I’m sick and tired

they have the ability to persuade, positively, and

the time to watch stories about me and about my

of someone trying to ram all these stories down

convince people around them that they’re making

continent? That’s why I’m grateful to platforms like

our throats. You tell him, we’ve got stories we want

the right decision.”

Netflix because what they’ve done is diversify the

to sell to the world.’ I was really upset,” she recalls.

Using her connections from her time in

hits such as The Wedding Party. Given the global explosion in streaming, and the

viewing audience around the world. And people

Her anger proved to be a turning point.

recruitment, she set out to become a talk show

will tell you that some of the best stories now on

That Sony executive listened, put EbonyLife in

host, taking lessons in presenting in London and

Netflix are not even English-speaking.”

touch with colleagues in LA, and eventually, the

devouring tapes of Oprah Winfrey. By 2008, she

two companies forged a co-development and

had launched Moments with Mo, and 13 years

to LA’s go-to woman for African stories has

production alliance. At the tip of the spear of this

on, she can count the likes of Hillary Clinton and

earned her the moniker ‘The African Oprah’. It’s

agreement was a commitment to develop a major

Christine Lagarde among her guests. Syndicated

not a comparison that she welcomes entirely.

series about the Dahomey Warriors, an all-female

across Africa, the show spawned EbonyLife

“Anything that comes out of Africa, there will

military regiment from the Kingdom of Dahomey in

Studios and Abudu’s mission to bring stories from

always be a Western equivalent of it for people

Western Africa.

the continent to the world.

to understand,” she says. “I respect everything

Although born in London, Abudu’s roots are

That Sony deal has mushroomed into 20

Abudu’s trajectory in television from latecomer

that Oprah has done, but her journey is not my

in Ondo Town, Nigeria. Her childhood was split

projects being in active development with

journey.” As Abudu forges her path, Hollywood is

between the U.K. and Nigeria (even now, she is

American studios. EbonyLife has expanded its

finally listening. ★

“IF YOU WANT ME TO WATCH YOUR STUFF, THEN WHY DON’T YOU RESPECT ME MORE, AND TAKE THE TIME TO WATCH STORIES ABOUT ME AND MY CONTINENT?” —MO ABUDU, EBONYLIFE

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COU RT ESY EBON Y LI FE /A M AZO N /M A RVE L ST U D I OS

M

these, human trafficking feature Òlòturé, pre-


MICHAEL B JORDAN Michael B. Jordan grew up in front of the camera

about an athlete caught up in the corrupt Chicago

in the series The Wire and Friday Night Lights, then

justice system—and producing projects including

began his ascent as a movie star with the Ryan

The Liberators, about the all-Black 761st WWII

Coogler-directed Fruitvale Station. Next up, he will

regiment that led the charge to desegregate the

make his directing debut in Creed III. But behind

armed forces in America.

the scenes, he’s making things happen too, as

A film and television overall deal at Amazon,

his Outlier Society production company works to

where he starred in Without Remorse, gives Jordan

empower change.

the opportunity to use an unprecedented sales

One of the first to sign on to an inclusion rider to ensure diversity, Jordan produced and starred

platform to empower others. He has joined forces with former Nike marketing executive Chad Easter-

in Just Mercy, highlighting the work of renowned

ling to create the marketing firm Obsidianworks—a

civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson to defend the

venture that will bring together companies and

rights of wrongly-convicted prisoners. Jordan is

consumers in the pursuit of authentic representa-

also exec producing 61st Street for AMC—a drama

tion of people of color. —Mike Fleming Jr.

RYAN COOGLER After Black Panther’s $1.3 billion gross estab-

leader Fred Hampton. That film got six Oscar

lished him as a record setter, Ryan Coogler has

nominations, including Best Picture, with Daniel

become an empowering influence in making pro-

Kaluuya winning Best Supporting Actor, and H.E.R

jects happen that lean into diversity. He formed

winning Best Original Song for “Fight for You”.

Proximity with his wife Zinzi Coogler, Sev Ohanian,

Proximity’s next film is the LeBron James-star-

Ludwig Göransson, Archie Davis and Peter Nicks

rer Space Jam: A New Legacy, the sequel that

to create event-driven feature films, television,

releases on Warner Bros. and HBO Max on July

soundtracks and podcasts. Their chosen projects

16, while Coogler is directing the Black Panther

are looking to bring audiences closer together

follow-up, even as he continues a godfathering

through stories involving underrepresented

role in Creed III and Bitter Root. The latter film—an

subjects and voices.

adaptation of the Image Comics series about

Proximity came roaring out of the gate with

monster hunters in 1920s Harlem—will be

Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah, the

directed by Regina King for Legendary.

drama about the life and death of Black Panthers

—Mike Fleming Jr. ★ DEADLINE.COM

73


D I S R U P T O R S

FEMI OGUNS The U.K. agent on repping A-List Black talent, shaking up the established order, and buying a London theater

BY ANDREAS WISEMAN

E

iighteen years ago, Femi Oguns was handing out flyers around London offering youth the chance to learn at the UK’s first ever Black-centric drama school.

Today, Identity School of Acting and sister

agency Identity Agency Group are creative powerhouses. IAG reps dozens of established and emerging stars, including John Boyega, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Ella Balinska, Melanie Liburd, and Simona Brown. Most of the company’s leading

I think it’s fair to say that the pandemic has had an

to undo the amazing foundations set, we had to

lights trained at Identity School of Acting.

adverse effect on all sectors of the industry and

take classes online. It was extremely daunting,

Identity’s aim from the outset was to increase

beyond, but one thing that has been derived from

but I always say, struggle breathes creativity, and

diversity in an entrenched industry, and to shake up

this, in my experience, is the willingness to adapt

not only has it been a refreshing experience for

a homogenous and establishment system. Oguns

and, in turn, evolve. As a business, these challenging

the students and tutors alike, but it’s also created

wanted to foster an environment where actors

times have shown us how robust a model we have.

an avenue for actors who would never have

would be judged on their merit and ability rather

been able to afford to travel to London or Los Which parts of the business are growing most

Angeles. I’m proud to say we have students from

rapidly at the moment?

all over the world now, from the African continent

the drama school, that the Londoner launched

I can honestly say, hand on heart, every single part,

to China, all sharing and developing with one

an L.A. offshoot in 2018. And that’s not all. In this

whether it’s all down to social global consciousness

another. The only caveat is they all need to speak

chat with the actor-writer turned agent-producer-

that has overridden the financial. Diversity taken

fluent English and have that raw talent. The great

entrepreneur, Oguns reveals he has also recently

seriously has worked in our favor.

news is, the school in London has reopened, Los

Oguns has done just that. So successful was

acquired a London theater as a stage for the company’s talent. Despite his achievements, coming up against

Angeles will reopen in September, and the online Is the agency planning on pivoting to a man-

platform is now here to stay, opening up to a new

agement model?

global audience.

the odds, it could be said that IAG flies under the

We have to remember British agencies have always

radar, especially in Hollywood.

been managers from the inception (well, the good

When you first set out, one of your aims was

ones anyway). It’s only when we join our U.S. part-

to increase diversity in the industry and

ners that we modify our position ever so slightly.

to shake up the existing system. How has

Oguns discusses his journey, the ongoing challenges around representation, and what’s next.

that thinking shaped the curriculum at the A number of the actors on IAG’s roster have

You opened up a drama school in L.A. a few

schools, and how has the curriculum evolved

taken off in recent years. How has their success

years ago. How is that going, and how is the

alongside the industry’s evolution in terms

impacted the agency?

school doing in London? Do you have plans

of representation?

It can only be taken as that constant reminder that

to open any more?

It’s always been at the center since the very start

the sacrifice was well worth it. IAG continues to

It was very scary. After the roaring success of

18 years ago, and the by-product of how effective

cement itself as the leader in the representation of

the opening in Los Angeles, which was capped

it is can be seen in the streams of success com-

diverse and extraordinary talent.

off with a fully-packed audience of industry

ing out of the school. Our curriculum is unique,

professionals all in attendance to celebrate our

effective and progressive.

How is IAG coping during the pandemic? To

first-year anniversary at the Chinese Theatre, we

what extent has business and the bottom line

had to close a couple of months later due to the

IAG could be a prime target for American

been impacted?

pandemic. Thinking on our feet and not wanting

companies looking to expand their overseas

74

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DA N K E NN E DY/COU RT ESY I D EN T I T Y AG EN CY G ROU P

than the color of their skin.


When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold, so I’m not surprised the U.K. has finally put its wheels in motion. There is definitely a steady change happening, but still work to be done. To what extent do you think campains such as #TimesUp and #OscarsSoWhite/ #BAFTASoWhite have had a positive impact on the industry, and to what extent are you feeling enthused now about the work organizations such as BAFTA are doing in the arena of diversity? It has had a major impact. I call it throwing a cold bucket [of water] over the heads of the naysayers to give them a wake-up call. It’s amazing what an ice bucket can do on a hot summer’s day. Even they feel refreshed. We’ve discussed casual racism and stereotyping from certain casting directors in the past. To what extent is that still a problem? If it comes to my doorstep, which it has done in the past, I end up charging the producers twice the amount when they come back to their senses, for wasting my time and theirs. Are there enough gatekeepers from diverse backgrounds in the U.K.? If you have to ask me that question, there presents portfolios. Has there been interest and how

What are you working on at the moment and

long can you hold out?

how much will producing be a part of the mix

Yes, there has. And I don’t hold, I surf!

at IAG going forward?

As your actors become more successful in

I like to think of it as the final piece of the puzzle.

America, they may encounter frustration

Does IAG have private backing or investors?

We have the agency, the school, and now our very

from local actors about ‘Brits taking U.S.

Could it get more investment?

own theater opening this year—the production

roles’ or Brits taking roles about African-

Nope, all self-sufficient.

company was always next. It never made sense to

American experience. To what extent do you

train, then nurture and develop and then not create

understand that frustration?

To what extent have you thought about

content with the artists you’ve gone on a journey

A problem is a problem simply waiting for an

expanding the agency into countries beyond

with. Watch this space.

answer. That’s why I brought Identity School of

the U.S.? Which ones?

the answer!

Acting to the States. For me it was always only

So far, we’ve considered Australia, Canada, China

You’ve spoken before about very closely craft-

about one thing: actors having the correct access

and Africa.

ing John Boyega’s career and trajectory with

to incredible training.

him. To what extent are you still doing that Who are some of the up-and-comers on IAG’s

together and do you take a similar approach

How do you look back on your journey now?

roster who are most exciting right now? Who

with any of your other actors?

You were an actor and writer, but you also

should we be looking out for?

This is a formula not only isolated to one client

handed out flyers in the streets trying to

There are many, but I’ll name only one for now, to

but to all of them. That’s how we get the collective

get people interested in the idea of a drama

avoid a backlash when I go back in the office. So,

result and success.

school. And look what that has become. Does anything stand out that you wish you had

you should watch out for Simone Ashley, the new lead in Bridgerton. You’ve been branching out into producing.

What is your assessment of where the U.K.

done differently?

industry as a whole is today in terms of

You can’t second guess when God has always been

achieving better representation and diversity?

at work. ★

“I’M PROUD TO SAY WE HAVE STUDENTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD NOW, FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT TO CHINA, ALL SHARING AND DEVELOPING WITH ONE ANOTHER.” DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

DAZN

Fighting talk from Chairman Kevin Mayer and Co-CEO James Rushton on the sports streaming service that’s determined to punch above its weight

BY JAKE KANTER DAZN has grown in maturity since 2020, emerging

to stars including Juventus icon Cristiano Ronaldo.

tor, you need only look at two big plays it

from the sticky, sport-free months of the pan-

“It’s a watershed moment that, in 20 years’ time,

has made in recent months. In March, the

demic with a clearer vision and greater determi-

MBA textbooks will be talking about as being one of

global sports streaming platform unseated

nation to dominate. “We are a more mature, more

the key indicators of a paradigm shift in consumer

Comcast-owned Sky as the home of Serie

focused, more intelligent business than we were

habits,” Rushton says of the pact. There were reports that DAZN was interested

A soccer in Italy. A couple of months later, DAZN

a couple of years ago,” Rushton reflects. Elevated

repeated the trick, outpunching Sky again to land a

to acting CEO last year, he says the pandemic has

in making a bid for English Premier League rights

“game-changing” five-year pact with Eddie Hearn’s

given DAZN the opportunity to reset and focus

in the UK before organizers decided to roll over

boxing juggernaut Matchroom for “at least” 16

on its “key drivers”. Central to this was radically

existing deals with Sky, BT Sport, and Amazon

fights a year in the UK and Ireland.

expanding DAZN’s footprint from a handful of

in May. “Would domestic football enhance our

territories, including the U.S., to more than 200

U.K. offering? Of course, you would be naive to

playbook, given the pay-TV operator used major

markets last December after “a few false starts”

think otherwise,” says Rushton. “Does that mean

events like the Premier League as a battering ram

because of coronavirus.

we’d have partaken in a tender if one would have

They are deals ripped straight from the Sky

to establish itself as a market leader. Then owned

Piggybacking on its boxing rights, including

happened? No idea.” So, was DAZN frustrated that

by Rupert Murdoch, Sky was itself a disruptor.

Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev and, more

it didn’t even get a look in? “You have to play the

DAZN’s Serie A and Matchroom agreements also

recently, Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders,

cards that you are dealt,” says Mayer. “If you get

highlight shifting sands in an industry that is rapidly

DAZN has used the global rollout to hoover up user

emotional and frustrated, that’s when you make

lurching towards streaming. Backed by billionaire

data and build a greater understanding of audience

poor decisions. We’re going to take things one

Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, DAZN thinks it is

demand in different locations. Rushton says this

rights auction at a time.”

well placed to capitalize on this momentum and

has allowed the company to look at global rights

live up to its moniker of the Netflix of sports.

plays in other sports that match the universal

table, and Mayer admits it would be “nice to have”.

appeal of boxing. The data is also enabling DAZN

DAZN has been linked with a bid to acquire current

minding DAZN’s tactics is co-CEO James Rushton.

to place smarter local bets, such as the five-

rights holder BT Sport, which was put up for sale

His chairman is Kevin Mayer, a man who will need

year Matchroom deal in the UK, which gets the

in April. Rushton declines to comment on such

little introduction after launching Disney+ during

streamer access to fighters including Conor Benn

speculation but says it’s “flattering” that DAZN

a decorated career at Disney. Mayer also had a

and Katie Taylor.

is considered part of the conversation. Premier

To borrow a soccer analogy, the coach master-

brief spell as the boss of TikTok last year before

Rushton is coy about what rights the company

The Premier League is not completely off the

League rights are also due for renewal in the U.S.,

Donald Trump tried, but ultimately failed, to block

will be pursuing next, but Mayer is a bit more

where NBC is the current home of the competition.

the social media app in America. He joined DAZN

forthcoming, pointing to the likes of mixed martial

Mayer acknowledges that European soccer is

after a spell as an advisor to Access Industries,

arts, golf, and tennis as potential areas of interest.

popular in America, but Rushton says boxing is

during which time he became convinced that the

Both say there is no secret in soccer’s global

DAZN’s current priority in the country.

streamer was “onto something really substantial”.

appeal. DAZN reportedly paid €2.5 billion ($3

Both Rushton and Mayer acknowledge that

billion) for Serie A rights, meaning it will be home

The broader aim is to build a diversified portfolio of rights, meaning the streamer is protected even

“IT’S A WATERSHED MOMENT THAT, IN 20 YEARS’ TIME, MBA TEXTBOOKS WILL BE TALKING ABOUT AS BEING ONE OF THE KEY INDICATORS OF A PARADIGM SHIFT.” —J A M E S R U S H TO N , DA Z N

76

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DAZ N /N A NCY RI V ERA/ BAUE RG R IF F IN .CO M /M EGA /I N T V

I

f you want evidence that DAZN is a disrup-


RYAN MURPHY Sitting in a meeting one day, Ryan Murphy looked around and realized that he was the only gay show creator in a room full of straight men. If he didn’t use his influence to increase the representation of the LGBTQ community in front of and behind the camera, then who else would? That epiphany led to the creation of Pose, the groundbreaking Emmy-winning series about the Transgender community and ballroom culture in NYC in the 1980s. For HBO, he directed and produced the Emmy-winning adaptation of The Normal Heart, the Larry Kramer play about the AIDS crisis, and he won an Emmy for directing The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. He won the Tony for producing if it loses contracts or misses out during auc-

Boys in the Band on Broadway, populating the seminal

tions. Former ESPN+ leader Mayer explains:

play by Mart Crowley with an all-LGBTQ cast, and then,

“We need to put ourselves in a position that

of course, he produced the film version for Netflix.

would allow us to transcend any turbulence

Murphy also created the HALF Initiative to make

in the business model and technology. And

Hollywood more inclusive, creating equal opportunities

you do that by owning the best content. We

for women, members of the LGBTQ community, and

need to have the wherewithal to own the best

minorities behind the camera. All of his productions

rights in meaningful territories. By virtue of our

strive toward inclusivity.

business model and our spinning flywheel,

After signing a $400 million deal with Netflix in 2019,

it gives us momentum and provides us with

Murphy is in the rare position to be able to use his clout

some degree of protection from incursions

to level the playing field, and he’s already produced

from competitors.”

two award-winning LGBTQ documentaries for Netflix:

And it’s not just sports rights. DAZN plans to evolve its offering to include gambling (Rushton’s co-CEO is Shay Segev, the former boss of major U.K. betting firm Entain), merchandise, gifting, and original content. It’s already dabbling in the latter through brands including The Boxing Show and The Last Dance-style documentaries like Ronaldo: El Presidente, which follows the work of Ronaldo Nazário, the Brazilian former soccer star.

Secret Love and Circus of Books. —Mike Fleming Jr.

LAVERNE COX In the battle for diversity and equal rights over the last

DAZN is “very close” to turning a profit,

decade, there are few individuals who have been more of a

Rushton says. The streamer’s most recent

disruptor than Laverne Cox. She first burst onto the scene

accounts for 2019 show it made a loss

in 2013 portraying transgender inmate Sophia Burset in

of £1.6 billion ($2.2 billion) on revenues

the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black—the role not

of £440 million, though this was during a

only made her a star, it marked a new milestone when the

period of investment and growth. It does

49-year-old became the first transgender person to be

not disclose user numbers. DAZN is open-

nominated for an Emmy in a guest role. Cox would go on

minded about a future IPO, but Rushton

to earn three more nominations for the part, and she has

stresses that Access has backed the

continued breaking barriers in the industry: in 2017 she was

company and takes a “long-term view” of its

the first transgender person to play a transgender charac-

value, unlike private equity houses. DAZN’s

ter in a regular starring role in CBS’s Doubt. She refuses to

vision is simple, he says—become the larg-

stay quiet on trans representation, and last year exec-pro-

est and most important sports streaming

duced the GLAAD Award-winning Netflix doc Disclosure:

platform around the world. “We’re disrupt-

Trans Lives on Screen, which took an in-depth look at how

ing in spirit, but in terms of our proposition

Hollywood depicts transgender issues and individuals. This

[as a streaming service], the disruption

year, her movie career was further boosted by a supporting

has happened. Now it’s time to provide our

role in the Oscar-nominated dark comedy Promising Young

service to the best of our abilities.” ★

Woman. —Justin Kroll DEADLINE.COM

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After acquiring major titles and leaning into streaming’s “irreversible megatrend”, will the German power company roar into the lead?

BY ANDREAS WISEMAN 78

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COU RT ESY LEO N IN E

D I S R U P T O R S

LEONINE


N

ew York investment firm KKR began its remarkable German buying spree in 2019. When it was done, one of the world’s biggest film and TV markets looked dramatically different. The ambitious studio it created, Leonine, is an accumulation of companies, including film and TV powerhouse TMG, film distributor Universum, Dark producers Wiedemann & Berg—one of Germany’s leading TV production labels—and multiple factual indies.

Last year, the company got further investment from pan-European media entity Mediawan Alliance

(which is backed by KKR and French investment firm MACSF), then they moved into a new Munich HQ and launched a TV sales business with the 10-part international action series Professionals, starring Brendan Fraser. One of the most talked-about new companies in Europe, Leonine has a library of thousands, and impressive pulling power. The firm’s clout has already been brought to bear in film markets, where it’s acquired major titles, including Knives Out, John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum and Roland Emmerich’s upcoming Moonfall. Consolidation on higher ground makes sense in a market where the streamers are growing apace. Leonine’s CEO Fred Kogel (pictured)–formerly of ZDF, ProSieben and Constantin—discusses the firm’s rapid rise, and how COVID-19 has impacted business and growth plans.

“OUR KEY TARGET IS TO BECOME THE NUMBER ONE INDEPENDENT DISTRIBUTION & PRODUCTION COMPANY IN GERMANY.”

Let’s go back to the beginning. Why did it make

that there could be something we could do. Then

You had said you wanted to release 20 films a

sense to launch Leonine and what were the

I sat down for three, four months working on a

year theatricall, so lockdown must have hurt

main obstacles?

concept, which required a certain size and quality,

a little.

When we talk about beginnings, that would be

and adhering to certain characteristics of the

Yes, we had wanted to do 20 films. We will release

early 2018: two years before Covid, but a few years

German market.

10 films in the second half of this year. We think

into the massive digital disruption we’ve seen in

we will have a blockbuster year in 2022.

the entertainment industry. My idea was very clear.

The company’s M&A has been well-docu-

I knew there would be more and more streamers.

mented. But where is Leonine today? What are

There is expectation that private equity

That’s the irreversible megatrend, and how that

the main priorities for the company?

firms will sell on their investment at some

content is consumed. It was always important for

The first three years was about bringing the

point, often after a five to seven-year span of

me to build the company for the digital world.

companies together and doing a full integration.

growth. Is it possible that Leonine is almost

Now we are full-steam on growth again. This comes

50% through its life cycle of being a KKR-

for the streamers entering Germany, as well

in two forms. Firstly, through organic growth in

backed company?

as volume for the broadcasters who would be

production, in our fiction and non-fiction com-

It’s true that that is a common life span for

competing. In my previous 25-year career virtually

panies, and also growth in our distribution units,

private equity firms, but as a management team

everything had always ended at the German, Aus-

especially digital distribution. The second part is

we’ve never thought in terms of when KKR’s exit

trian, or Swiss borders, but for the first time, there

inorganic growth. We want to M&A again and we

will be. We’re very much focused on the next

was a chance that German content could travel

are preparing for that. We want to grow bigger.

stage of growth.

internationally, because we have the quality of

As you know, last year we came together with our

people and projects in Germany, and the streamers

sister company Mediawan to give us a broader

In terms of the company’s revenue, roughly

give us a global platform.

European perspective.

what percentage comes from TV and what

There was going to be a need for local content

Our key target is to become the number one

percentage comes from film?

To what extent did you feel trepidation about

independent production and distribution company

We differentiate in terms of production, distribu-

the undertaking, or that there would be a

in Germany. I don’t think we are far away from that.

tion and licensing. Our main revenues come from

target on your back?

But we are working very hard and very humble

production though. Distribution and licensing

In terms of the psychology of it, to be honest, it

every day in that target.

revenues are similar, but TV production accounts

was a relief. I had founded Kogel & Schmidt and

for the largest slice. Production in total is at least

Constantin Entertainment previously, but I’d never

What type of M&A might we see?

worked with a private equity investor before. That

It will be important to grow in fictional production

made it a pretty unemotional, clear path. It was a

via companies that make premium TV series. This

Which projects on the slate are you most

great experience.

is something we are looking for. We are looking not

excited about?

only in Germany but also at other European targets.

We have a big TV project called The Gryphon that

This will be our main focus.

we are doing for Amazon, and we have the Bayern

How did you first meet the KKR team? I first met the KKR guys in 2006 or 2007. They

80 percent.

Munich documentary series also for Amazon. In

asked me if I was interested in doing a different job,

To what extent has Covid knocked the com-

terms of theatrical movies, it’s Borderlands, the

but I had to pass because I was with Constantin

pany off its stride and dented the bottom line?

franchise that we bought from Lionsgate. That’s

at that time and was not ready to get out of my

In the end, thank God, not very much. Of course,

one of our major movies. Of course, there’s also

contract. We had meetings from the mid-2000s

Covid hit us in theatrical revenues, but we had a

Moonfall, which is due for release early next year.

onwards, but there was never the right project to

very good year last year in terms of production,

We also have some local German series, including

collaborate on.

and especially in nonfiction production. There was

Krass Klassenfahrt, which is based on a successful

a big need for content. Our home entertainment

German YouTube series, and features a cast of

private equity] Philipp Freise and I got together

At the end of 2017, [KKR co-head of European

and licensing divisions also did well. Our integrated

influencers. We’re also lining up some non-fiction

again. We discussed the landscape, and we agreed

model really helps.

projects for the streamers. ★ DEADLINE.COM

79


If there’s a kerfuffle on the Croisette,

the prolific U.K. producer is never far away…

BY ANDREAS WISEMAN 80

DEADLINE.COM

COU RT ESY RECOR D E D P I CT U RE CO M PAN Y

JEREMY THOMAS


D I S R U P T O R S

O

scar-winning producer Jeremy Thomas

few living producers are more synonymous with

knows a thing or two about making waves.

Cannes than Thomas, who this year is the subject

his daughter, Susan Delfont, who have both now passed away, sadly. I stayed at their apartment,

The man once described by director

of a new documentary about his decades-long

and I went to the premiere of The Go-Between. I

Bernardo Bertolucci as a “hustler in the fur of a

connection to the festival. The Storms of Jeremy

was very young because I was at school, working

teddy bear” has lived both at the heart of the U.K.

Thomas by Northern Irish filmmaker Mark Cousins

for Delfont.

film establishment and as a passionate advocate

will get its debut in Cannes Classics section. Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between, 1971… That’s

for counterculture, whether in the novels of authors William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles or the punk-

What sets Cannes apart for you?

a great place to start.

rock anarchy of the Sex Pistols.

There’s a particular ambiance. It has something

And I’m not so old. I mean, in my heart, I’m still a

special. It’s a unique combination of business

child… You know, it’s taken so long to do all this

Thomas has worked on has created as much of

But none of the 75+ features the 71-year-old

and curation. That sets it apart from most other

stuff, but it just went by in a flash, boom. But after

a stir as David Cronenberg’s adaptation of J.G.

festivals. It’s very good for a producer like me.

all these years I’ve still got the same philosophy

Ballard’s Crash, which debuted on the Croisette

about the films I make: be a disruptor.

25 years ago. The drama, about an underground

By my calculations, this edition of the festival

subculture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash

marks the 50th anniversary of your first ever

said, “Well, I mainly look for controversial subjects.”

victims who fetishize auto accidents, became a

trip to Cannes, and you’ve hardly missed any

I mean, that’s a hard drive for what I’m looking for.

lightning rod among critics and politicians.

over the years.

I’m looking for something that doesn’t need a huge

Is that right? I first went with Bernard Delfont and

P&A commitment. There can be a natural interest

After landing 18 films in Official Selection,

They said, “Do you like controversial subjects?” I

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in what I’m doing because the counterculture

the people behind me in a restaurant say, “These

a very strong take from one of the top few critics of

area is enough to try and bring the project into the

people should be strung up.”

the day.

What do you think Crash is about—what does

central London due to censorship.

mainstream. I’m drawn to counterculture: Ballard, Burroughs, Bowles. Most of the filmmakers I’ve

The movie is still not allowed to be shown in

worked with, they all sit in that sort of area. Yes, I

the movie mean to you? It’s interesting to try

love my cars and boxing, but outside of that, it’s a

and understand the frustration people had

lot of interests outside the mainstream. You caused a scandal at Cannes in 1996 with a counterculture film. David Cronenberg’s Crash

Crash won a special jury prize, even though

with it.

jury head Francis Ford Coppola wasn’t keen

Well, it could be interpreted as being as simple as,

and didn’t want to give it anything at all.

“Wear a safety belt.” But it’s really about the erotic opportunities of a car crash and wounds. It’s about

He didn’t want to give the film a prize. I’ve heard from friends of mine who were in the jury that

famously kicked up a storm. Did you have any

people on the fringes of society. I thought it was

Francis felt very strongly about it. But the jury is

idea while making it that it would provoke

absolutely brilliant, the film. When I first saw it, I

ultimately a vote. Jury heads can be very influential,

such outrage?

was so thrilled.

but it’s still ultimately one person, one vote.

No idea. No idea. Having done Naked Lunch with David and having seen Dead Ringers, I was very

What do you recall now about the film’s

Did all that noise bother you at the time?

broadminded. I never dreamed that it would create

Cannes screening?

No. When you make films like that, you think: it

this absolute maelstrom. None of us—David, [EP]

Some people left the auditorium. There was a lot

wasn’t made for you. Not everything can be made

Robert Lantos or myself—thought that it was going

of banging of seats, as usual. They had to get a

for everyone. I was at the center of the maelstrom.

to be like that… [Novelist J.G.] Ballard was with us on the podium at the press conference in Cannes. He was the only one waiting for it, and ecstatic by it

bigger room for the press conference because they

To be in that center, for someone like me, it doesn’t

couldn’t get all the press in. There were hundreds of

get better than that, because you know you’ve

journalists in there. It was like an assault.

made an impact.

My friend, the journalist Alexander Walker, was

It was like that on the film I made about the Sex

COUNTERCULTURE CLUB Left: Thomas with Bernardo Bertolucci. Right: Crash stars (l-r) James Spader, Holly Hunter, Deborah Kara Unger, Rosanna Arquette and Elias Koteas.

because it had worked. The film had worked, and

there waving his newspaper at David and he was in

Pistols [The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle] and even

it really got to people. He told David he thought

a fury pacing up and down the back of the theater.

as a teenager going down to Powis Square where

the film was better than his book. But then the film

There was reporting of it in the UK press for weeks.

they were shooting Performance with Mick Jagger,

was banned in London, and I was ostracized by the

It was something else.

James Fox and Anita Pallenberg, it was always about trying to reach the center of the maelstrom.

Chris Tookey of the Daily Mail and Walker from You really felt completely ostracized by the

That’s just one day in Cannes; your story goes all

the Evening Standard really went after the

over the world. You can’t buy that. That’s the whole

film community?

film didn't they?

point of being a disruptor. You disrupt.

Well, among the people who were deciding things,

I knew Alexander. I never met Chris Tookey, and

it was a hot potato. My career was impacted by

I don’t care for his criticism because he comes

And how did David respond to all this? Did he

it. You had politicians and cinema licensors on

from a different place, he uses different eyes to

take it in stride or was he upset by it?

national television talking about the outrage and

watch films with. Alexander was a brilliant critic,

No, he took it in his stride. He was on Newsnight

how everyone involved in it should be ashamed

and he wrote brilliant reviews, and his review for

with Jeremy Paxman, and they tried to animal him,

of themselves. The tabloids couldn’t get enough

Crash was very, very good, it was just that it was

but David just dealt with him like the super brain

of it, even telling people to not buy goods from

sensationalized, and we had really offended him.

that he is. He wiped the floor with Paxman.

Sony because they were distributing the film. One

“Beyond the bounds of depravity” was the headline.

day, I was in the Isle of Man with [director] Philip

It crossed a line for him. He really thought it was a

How did you feel about the film’s box office? It

Noyce looking for locations for a movie, and I heard

sick film by sick filmmakers for sick people. That’s

didn’t exactly rake it in.

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COU RT ESY RECOR D E D P I CT U RE CO M PAN Y

film community in Britain.


Good in the U.K. It made around £1.5 million. There

was torpedoed at Cannes.

was no need to take out advertising because it

our ancestors? Are we to take books off shelves, and ultimately burn them? That's not very

was on so many front pages. The movie had some

Johnny Depp’s movie The Brave, another one

champions at Sony in the U.K., unlike its experience

of your movies, also had a bumpy ride in 1997,

appealing either.

in the U.S., where Ted Turner had seen the film with

didn’t it?

What’s taking up your time now? Mark

Jane Fonda and they were very offended. It really

The Brave was a heartfelt and very fine job from

Cousins has made a film about you and your

got hammered.

Johnny, which we maybe shouldn't have taken to

connection to Cannes.

Cannes. Maybe it wasn’t ready. It’s very enticing

Well, I can’t say too much about that just now

By that stage, you were well steeled for

to go to Cannes, of course. The film had Marlon

but there’s plenty more to come on that soon...

Cannes’ unforgiving side. You were on the

Brando and Johnny and wonderful collaborators on

Bernard Rose has made a film called Traveling

Competition jury in 1987 when Maurice Pialat

set. I think it was a sensationalistic moment, it got

Light, which I’m helping on a little. It was shot in

won and was booed by the audience even

lost a bit, and I’m sad for Johnny. I hope he makes

lockdown and stars Danny Huston, Stephen Dorff

while accepting the Palme d’Or. Yves Montand

another film. After that sort of Cannes experience,

and Tony Todd.

was jury president that year.

it never really got a proper life afterwards, and it’s a

I was only 38. I had built up a good bond with the

little bit of a… I suppose, a hidden gem, in a way.

I’m sure you’ll want to work with Takashi Miike again after making multiple films with him,

festival already, especially after Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. They really were happy with that film. It

One last question on Cannes as a crucible, and

including Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, the

was quite a memory for me to be on that jury with

disruptors associated with the festival. What

first 3D film in Competition at Cannes.

Norman Mailer, Elem Klimov, Jerzy Skolimowski,

have you made of Lars von Trier over the years,

If I can. I love going to Tokyo, but I haven’t been able

Theo Angelopoulos, Nicola Piovani, Danièle

and do you think he should be welcomed back

to get there. And I love Italy, of course. All my old

Heymann… That was a jury. Fuck. Very strong

to the festival?

filmmakers that I can work with. But I can only do

people. Klimov was very heavy.

He has been a magnificent filmmaker. His films

so much.

”CRASH WAS A HOT POTATO. MY CAREER WAS IMPACTED BY IT. YOU HAD POLITICIANS AND CINEMA LICENSORS ON NATIONAL TELEVISION TALKING ABOUT THE OUTRAGE AND HOW EVERYONE INVOLVED IN IT SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES. I HEARD SOME PEOPLE BEHIND ME IN A RESTAURANT SAY, ‘THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE STRUNG UP.’” And Pialat defiantly got up and gave the

have broken ground and that’s not an easy thing to

Given your close connection to Ballard, I was

audience as good as he got.

do. Europa, Breaking the Waves, these were brilliant

quite surprised to not see your name listed

Yes. But I’m very happy with that choice. There was

films. His work has morphed into many different

when I reported on a new series adaptation

things over the years. I think there is a place for Von

of his novel Super-Cannes, with Brandon

no influence on us. It was an excellent film. More recently you encountered Croisette

Trier at Cannes, but he should understand that he

Cronenberg directing.

took the jokes too far.

Yes, years ago, I developed a script of that novel

drama with Terry Gilliam’s film The Man

with John Maybury aboard to direct. I don’t know

Who Killed Don Quixote, which you were

In that sense, has the #MeToo movement

how they're going to deal with the central theme

very involved in over the years. It was pretty

caused you to reappraise what’s acceptable?

of the book. There are some very controversial

dramatic. I was there at the impromptu press

It’s very hard. I don’t really want to discuss it a

moments, including underage sex, and I couldn’t

conference called by producer Paulo Branco

lot, but I’ve been through a lot with filmmakers

deal with that. But this will be an adaptation, of course, so it will have its own rhythm, I’m sure.

in which he laid out the legal issues facing the

over the decades. I have been on film sets since

film on the eve of its premiere.

the age of 10 and I’ve seen some very dominant

Ballard was my good friend, and I knew him

It was very sad for Terry. I didn’t produce the film.

people. I have worked with very extreme people.

well, for more than 20 years. I spoke at his funeral.

I owned some rights and tried to help him get it

I’ve seen directors get performances in incredible

I managed to make two films of his novels, but

made. In the end, the film was damaged, heavily

ways. Look at Hitchcock. But life has changed, the

he died just before we started the third, High Rise.

damaged by all that malevolence. The distribution

game has changed, relationships have changed.

There are a number of books of his I’d still love to

deals that were in place dissolved, and so the film

That said, how many crimes can we pull up from

make into films. But time is limited. ★ DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

experiencing a big Italian wave right now. It has YES MEN Left to right: A scene from Yes Studios' Fauda, with (l-r) Boaz Konforty, Doron Ben-David, Lior Raz, Idan Amedi, and Yaakov Zada Daniel.

YES STUDIOS Whether English remakes or Hebrew originals, Israeli drama

is going global. Yes Studios’ MD Danna Stern explains why the streamers and studios just can’t say no…

Facebook pages, and so on. What other factors beyond Netflix account for the boom in Israeli drama? We all produce under regulation in Israel. In the pay-TV space, Yes TV, our owner, and our pay-TV competitor HOT, have to spend 8 percent of our revenues on original Hebrew-language production. Free-to-air channels have to spend 15 percent. In the last few years, the state broadcaster KAN has started to do very well in scripted content. So, there’s a consistent flow of money into production. There’s also a generation now who grew up with these broadcasters showing Israeli, U.S. and British shows, so that generation thought, hey, we could do that. We have more film and TV schools per capita than any other nation—I think we’re into double figures. When I went to school there was only one. So, there has been a lot of change, and these conditions have given creatives an avenue. And it’s not just Netflix, Apple TV+ has had two significant Israeli series this year, including Tehran.

auda, Shtisel, Your Honor, On the

Looking back, Israel has been a growing force

Spectrum and Magpie—these are

in the drama world for more than a decade,

At the same time, are you seeing a growing

just a few of the hit series shopped

but there seems to be a real boom at the

demand for foreign language shows in Israel?

globally by producer-distributor Yes

moment. Is the world finally catching up, or

Don’t forget, all English-language shows are

Studios, Israel’s powerhouse drama

is this a particularly fertile period for Israeli

foreign language for us. But there’s a lot beyond

conduit. Launched only four years

drama?

that too. For a long time, it was very sequestered

ago, the international arm of local broadcaster

Looking back, Netflix going global back in 2016

to certain genres and certain types of channels.

Yes is on a roll. Not only does it cut remake rights

was a big technological shift—there are so many

Suddenly everybody is discovering French drama

around the world on its biggest properties, but

more opportunities for foreign language shows

and comedies, for example. In the past, you didn’t

it’s also seeing a growing appetite for the original

now. In Treatment [2005-8] was the first big Israeli

need to exert yourself and read subtitles for a

versions of its shows.

show to get multiple adaptations. Then there was

French crime show, because every country had

Prisoners of War [2010], which became Homeland

their own. I would say that our own series are often

but has taken off globally thanks to a Netflix deal.

Shtisel, for example, first aired locally in 2013,

in the U.S., and in 2016 Fauda really took off as

a hybrid of genres. They’re really just kind of their own world.

In June, the company launched period drama

an original-language show. Before Netflix, we

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem—its biggest

were really looking to the U.S. alone, but now the

investment to date, and one of Israel’s biggest ever

audience is global. Fauda’s biggest fanbase by far is

naturally drawn to storytelling. We’re sharers.

series. Set in the early-to-mid 20th Century, the

in India and Brazil.

We’re very open as a nation, very warm. We also

ambitious show charts the history of a family living

We follow the performances of all our shows

I think there’s something about Israelis—we’re

go through a lot. Just look at the last couple of

through such storied milestones as the end of the

internationally. Although Netflix tends to launch

months in Israel. What we’ve gone through and

Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate for Palestine,

them at the same time around the world, we can

what we’ve seen. It’s just... it’s mind-boggling.

and then Israel’s war of independence.

really see when local interest spikes, because we

There has been a war, rockets, sirens, the world

run our social media in English and we often get

turning against us, back to us, there was a tragic

discusses the boom in Israeli drama and what’s

Yes Studios’ managing director Danna Stern

a very strong reaction. So, for example, Shtisel,

stampede at an Orthodox festival that killed

next for the company..

which first launched years and years ago is

dozens of people. There has been a lot. That

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D DE EA AD DL L II N NE E .. C CO OM M / AWA R D S L I N E

N E T FLI X / EV E R ET T

F

BY ANDREAS WISEMAN

caught on in Italy like wildfire—interviews, articles,


”THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT ISRAELIS—WE'RE NATURALLY DRAWN TO STORYTELLING. WE'RE SHARERS. WE'RE VERY OPEN AS A NATION, VERY WARM. WE ALSO GO THROUGH A LOT. JUST LOOK AT THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS IN ISRAEL.“ —DANNA STERN , YES STUDIOS musters creativity, to an extent. There is drama all

Their money isn’t going into making Shtisel or The

an ultra-Orthodox community that doesn’t exist.

around us.

Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.

She created one, but it still observes the same

How are the changes in the market impacting

international players. KAN’s series Tehran, was

kind of fantastical. So it’s in that same world. She’s

what executives can achieve?

exactly that—it was Cineflix coming in during

done two features that have gone everywhere on

Money is coming in earlier for development and

production and offering an MG against distribution

the festival circuit.

Fortunately, we’re very interesting to

rights. If you take a look at any of her films, they’re

production. In the past, we had to take on all the

that helped make the show much bigger. Off the

risk ourselves on the broadcast side, but now

back of that, they did very well when it was sold to

Died, which is kind of a surprise. It’s a personal

international revenue really helps and it can be

Apple TV+.

story of a guy who discovers he has cancer and

relied on.

We have an amazing little show called Who

falls in love with a girl in the cancer ward. People Has Yes made any Arabic-language shows or

have been really responding well, internationally.

But at the same time, surely, there’s a

dramas from Palestinian creators?

We just completed a big documentary called

balancing act—you don’t want to water down

That’s a good question. Palestinian storytelling

Dirty Tricks. That came from an in-house idea. We

culturally specific material in a bid to reach

from Gaza or the West Bank would normally not

produced it from scratch, and it’s doing the festival

global audiences….

go through Israel in any shape or form. Lots of our

rounds as we speak. It premiered at Hot Docs.

That is absolutely true. How much explaining do

shows are dual-language, but usually from Israelis.

you do? The first season of Shtisel was in 2013, five

Of course, there is a large Arab Israeli community,

Are there any young talents emerging from

years before Netflix picked it up. We didn’t have to

and we have worked with creators from that

the acting world?

explain everything. We didn’t need to spoon-feed

background. Israel itself is a diverse country, of

Many. The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem has an

you the information. That puts pressure on the

course. We are a country of immigrants.

actress who is fabulous and plays the title role.

creative proposition. We’re on the cusp of that,

This is the first thing she’s ever done. Her name is

and I hope we know how to reign that in.

What’s the next big show on your slate? The

Swell. Like the wave. Swell Ariel Or. Pretty much

Beauty Queen of Jerusalem?

on the strength of the trailer alone, she already

And because there’s more money coming into

That’s the big one launching now.

Israel from outside, is there more pressure to

has U.S. representation. That’s quite phenomenal. It’s amazing how quickly young Israeli actors are

create for global?

How will the rest of the world see the show?

Right. So, two things are happening at the same

Talks are ongoing. We also have a show called

time. There’s less money in this [local] market,

Embezzlement, which we’ve finally finished filming.

getting repped now. There’s Reef Neeman from our shows Fauda and On the Spectrum. And the star of Fire Dance

which is 8 percent decreasing because of

That was a Covid casualty, because we had

is brand new. This is her first role. Her name is

decreasing subscription and advertising revenues.

about five days to shoot outside of the country

Mia Ivrin. Tehran star Niv Sultan is another young

But there are also great opportunities abroad.

and we just couldn’t get on a plane. So, that’s

actress who has signed with WME.

finally coming together, and it will be one of the How many subscribers do you have compared

next shows that we launch. Probably later on this

Will there be a fourth season of Shtisel?

to Netflix?

summer, I would say. It’s based on a true story of

I don’t want to break anyone’s hearts, but I think

They have more than a million subscribers,

a major financial embezzlement, a woman who

that story has been told. And don’t forget, this cast

according to our tracking. In a country of nine

essentially emptied out the coffers of her bank to

has been together for a really long time. Almost

million people, that’s a lot, considering up to five

help her brother, who was deep in gambling debt.

a decade. I think we got all the stories we could

people might watch each sub. We’re at around

I’ve seen rough cuts and it’s really good.

without becoming overly dramatic. I feel like we’ve

560,000 subscribers. At our height, we were probably 640,000. I think HOT has the most subs

We just announced a new show called Fire

taken it to the limit, but, you know, we did good.

Dance, which, if you liked Shtisel, I think you’ll like

among the multi-channels at around 700,000.

a lot. It’s [also] set in the world of older Orthodox

So, no fourth season?

Again, those are our estimates. The more players

Jews, but it’s not Shtisel, either in look or feel. It’s

No fourth season in this capacity, but there is

in the market, the greater squeeze it puts on

by Rama Burshtein, who is a very well-known

obviously still an appetite for that family. So, I think

everyone else’s subs numbers. There are two

filmmaker. She, herself, is an ultra-Orthodox

we’re figuring it out. I think there will be something.

newish OTT players in the market that aren’t

woman, and I believe the only ultra-Orthodox

It’s probably not a Shtisel four. We love the story.

subject to the same regulation and don’t have to

woman creating films for general audiences, and

We love the creators.

produce any local Hebrew content. That puts a

this is her first series. It’s a story of unrequited love

squeeze on the local production sector. Between

that can never be consummated due to religious

A spinoff season, perhaps?

them, they have at least as many subs as us.

rituals and beliefs. It’s kind of a fantastical look at

Your words, not mine. ★ DEADLINE.COM

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D I S R U P T O R S

JON M. CHU Gearing up to make Wicked, the In the Heights director looks back at the highs and lows of his breakthrough success

BY STEVIE WONG

T

he visceral reaction was almost instant. In 2008, Jon M. Chu was working on his big directorial feature debut Step Up 2: The Streets, when his choreographer Luis Salgado invited him to New York to watch a

Broadway musical he was in called In the Heights.

“I’d never heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda, but when I saw it, my jaw dropped on the floor,” Chu recalls, “This show spoke so deeply to me, a Chinese from the bay area, not Latino or from Washington Heights, and yet it felt so close to home, because I knew what it was like to be raised by not just your parents, but your aunties, uncles and neighbors.” A decade later, Chu had the opportunity to pitch Miranda the film adaptation, just as Chu found himself at a crossroads, deciding what kind of storyteller he really wanted to be. Having proven himself as a solid commercial director, the failure of Jem and the Holograms in 2015 made him reassess his choices. Then he made a little film called Crazy Rich Asians. The 2018 romantic comedy set in the ultra-wealthy echelons of Singaporean society not only broke box office records but created conversations about the lack of minority-lead storylines represented in Hollywood. The success had studios scrambling to green-light projects with minorities as central characters, and by then, Chu was already attached to In the Heights. Here, he discusses the pressures he felt as a young filmmaker, the strange evolution of In the Heights, and why, for him, it feels like “a personal sequel” to Crazy Rich Asians.

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AX E LL E /BAU E R- G R IF FI N /M EGA

stars out of its Asian cast, kicking off countless


It’s been a long road for In the Heights and

It does feel like all the lessons you learned

then I had to beg from myself, who am I? What

now you can finally let it out.

as a filmmaker throughout your career, from

are you going to say? And it went right back to

I’m so ready. We had a premiere in Washington

the choreography-heavy Step Up films, to

the place that I left off in film school. I thought,

Heights, and we were so appreciative of

big-budget crowd pleasers like Now You See

there’s something about music and movies and

everybody’s cheers and applause and

Me 2, to your emotional connection to Crazy

dance, and being able to communicate the things

laughter. We also had a lot of dancers from the

Rich Asians, has set you up for this moment

that words can’t. I grew up in the Silicon Valley

neighborhood itself. That was electric, we really

with In the Heights.

in a mixed media environment in the dawn of

made this for them.

I think, and I’m not quite sure I’m out of it yet,

technology, where I was inundated with a lot

how to process it all. But what I’ve observed is it

of information very quickly at a very young age,

happens very, very slowly, and one step at a time.

before a lot of kids probably were. And so now I

It’s been over a decade since you first saw In the Heights on Broadway, what made you

I look back at when I made my short film at USC

am in a leadership position and a power position

strongly connect with the show?

that Spielberg saw, that had this hubbub where

to be able to really use that, to process the world

In the show, Usnavi has a strong relationship with

I was on the cover of the trade mag. And they

in that way.

his abuela, and I had my own version with my

wrote articles about me reinventing the musical,

And that’s where I found this thing that I

booboo Claudia. She taught me how to make

because my short was a musical, and they were

wanted to do, which was to explore my cultural

wontons, and she would keep the books for the

like, “Oh, this guy’s going to come to the movie

identity crisis, while at the same time, making

restaurant [Chef Chu’s] every night. She’d have

musical and remix it and add on the new chapter,”

it fun and entertaining. Crazy Rich Asians came

a bag full of receipts and had her little abacus.

and none of that came true.

along, and In The Heights came along at the same

And even though the details are different in In the

I won the lottery, but once I had won, it was

Heights, I felt similar sounds and details. So when

like, “Well, how do I do this again? Oh, I don’t even

time to do those things.

the producers [Scott Sanders and Mara Jacobs]

know how to make a movie. I need to learn how

Before making In the Heights, you had a really

asked if I had a take on it, I immediately leapt at the

to make a movie first.” Then you start making

transformative experience with Crazy Rich

chance. There was something in the combination

movies. “Oh, what’s coverage? Oh, that’s what I

Asians, right?

of what Lin and [the book author] Quiara Alegría

have to do? Oh, that’s what a review is. Oh, this

Both Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights were

Hudes had written, plus what I knew about movies

is what the audience wants. I spent two, three

in the same space of ideas that I wanted to do,

and seeing the universality of this story, that I

movies, figuring that out, while also learning that I

the things that I’ve been holding back, been

thought would make a good combination. But then

had to work with a studio and get resources from

too fearful to just go do. And I knew I could

I had to sit down with Lin, and he was gaining his

them. And you learn, you make mistakes. So then

execute these things. But for Crazy Rich Asians, I

momentum with Hamilton, so I was still nervous to

in another two movies, I got to work with actors

understood pride intellectually, but until I made

be sitting down with him.

who bring together that whole thing. The whole

that movie, I really didn’t. I honestly didn’t think

We talked about dreaming as kids, with the

time, you just don’t know, you’re just trying to stay

people were going to go see it, I just thought I just

same visual touchstones of DuckTales, Animaniacs

afloat. By the end of it, when I was working with

needed to do it for myself.

and of course Disney animated musicals. But the

Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, and Michael Caine,

By the end of it, by watching people watch

main thing that we connected on is wanting to

I was like, I can hang with the best of the best right

it, I felt some of the things through them. I got

dream big dreams that we didn’t think nobody who

now, so what am I doing sequels for? What do I

to witness them looking up and feeling proud of

looked like us had, and that we had come out the

have to say now? All the logistics stuff over the

these people on the screen and saying, “Yeah,

other end, and what was our responsibility. And

years sort of went away, and it wasn’t conscious.

I can be cool, I can be handsome, I can be

that could this framework of Heights communicate

It was like, instead of me asking permission to

charming, I can be evil. I can be all those things.”

the enormity of dreams, and the importance of

make a movie from a studio now, I was like, “Oh,

And it filled me. I realized that movies are a very

home when you’re having those dreams. Also the

I’ve made you guys a lot of money. You owe me

powerful mechanism.

question of, if we can shoot in Washington Heights

a couple. So I think I’m going to do something.”

and bring those dreams to Washington Heights.

And I wasn’t begging for anything from them. So

Something that has been waning over the years has been the question of, are movies dead?

”I WAS LIKE, I CAN HANG WITH THE BEST OF THE BEST RIGHT NOW, SO WHAT AM I DOING SEQUELS FOR? WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY NOW? ALL THE LOGISTICS STUFF OVER THE YEARS WENT AWAY, AND IT WASN'T CONSCIOUS. INSTEAD OF ME ASKING PERMISSION TO MAKE A MOVIE FROM A STUDIO NOW, I WAS LIKE, 'OH, I'VE MADE YOU GUYS A LOT OF MONEY. YOU OWE ME A COUPLE. SO I THINK I'M GOING TO DO SOMETHING.' AND I WASN'T BEGGING FOR ANYTHING FROM THEM.“ DEADLINE.COM

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Do people just want to watch it on their phone,

our responsibility to inch forward, and actually

and rewrites for some of the songs?

or at their house while they cook? For me, seeing

make it better. So looking at In the Heights, it had

It was very collaborative. We would all get

the audience reactions was like, this medium is

all those things in it, an Americana flavor, but you

together with [music director] Alex Lacamoire

a necessity for our culture. We actually need to

could dust it off and you can show that even in

at Lin’s apartment, which is an incredible thing

have this stop-gap. We need to have the space

the cracks, there’s beauty because it survived.

to witness by the way, I wish I had my cell phone

to challenge ourselves. We have to have the

And Lin showed me that, in these communities

on but I was too scared to record it. And they’re

space to turn off the noise. We have to have the

where there is a family commitment to each other,

just on the piano trying things and singing. I’m

space to pay attention, to commit to something

this is where American stories start. For me it was

watching this in real time, and then Quiara’s

for an hour-and-a-half with strangers that we’re

in Northern California, at a Chinese restaurant

speaking up asking, “Jon, what do you think?” and

not algorithm-ed to be next to, and then have

where my American story started. And so I was

I’m like, “Oh, I’m a part of this. Oh yeah. OK. This

serendipitous interactions to walk out of a dark

just honored to be able to take that on and use

is great. Yeah. Let’s maybe add another verse to

theater after dreaming together. But we need to

the things that I learned over the last decade to

that thing?” They’re like, “No, that’s not great Jon.”

rewrite the story of who gets to be here. And so

help bring that to life.

In the Heights fit that bill, in a way, I saw it as a personal sequel to Crazy Rich Asians.

I’m like, “OK. I’ll just keep throwing out ideas, safe space, safe space.” [laughs] What I love about

What was it like for you to be collaborating

Lin and Quiara and the whole team is they love

with creators Lin and Quiara Alegría Hudes?

making things. They’re kids making things at a

I appreciate that you’re redefining what

You suggested some interesting changes

very high level, but they are just playing. It really

Hollywood films look like in the process.

from the original show.

was the most amazing experience of my life.

This was my next step to that idea, which was to

I can’t imagine being in their position. I mean, I

extend ourselves to go further into the Hollywood

think it’s a lot harder for them than for me. I’m

genres of what classic Hollywood is, which is

a little bit nervous, but also, it’s not my baby.

serendipitous way. Even though you had

a musical. Let’s go into what I was taught was

Heights came out of a necessity of expression for

delivered a cut of this film back in 2019,

American. The reason why I put the M in my

Lin. This came out of a decade of working with

everything was put on hold until this summer

name, Jon M. Chu, is because I saw Yankee Doodle

Quiara. But at first, Lin was a little bit distracted

because of the pandemic. But it feels like

Dandy as a kid, a musical that is about George

with Hamilton. So I had to work a lot with Quiara

releasing In the Heights now fits perfectly

M. Cohan, who wrote all these patriotic songs.

at first, and he trusts Quiara immensely. The good

with the emotional hopes and dreams we had

And I was very patriotic kid. So because George

thing is that Lin loves movies. He’s a cinephile. So

to put on hold.

M goes by George M, I was like, “I’m going to call

he understood that movies were a very different

When I joined, Lin and Quiara had already gone

Timing has been on your side in a

myself Jon M.” So it’s embedded in me, this idea

medium. So he was also less precious than

through a decade-long journey, and they said to

of the greatness of America, and that dreams can

probably someone else who didn’t know movies

me, “We created this story, but the story has its

come true. It’s just as you get older, you realize

or loved movies.

America is not what you were taught. It was an ideal that my parents bought into, but we all have

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spirit of its own. It has its own timing.” There’s a lot of weird things that happen around it. So they’re

How did it work when it came to the music

like, just hang on because in the end it always

WAR N ER BROS / E VE R ET T/LU I Z RA M P E LOT TO/E U ROPAN E WSWI R E/ P I CT U R E-AL LI AN C E / D PA /AP IM AG ES

MUSICAL MAN Left to right: Chu checks out a shot on set in Washington Heights; a dance scene from Chu's latest film, In the Heights.


knows where it’s place is, and will always come through. And so I took that as, “yeah, that’s funny.” When we were shooting it, we were like, “This is amazing. We’re shooting this in the streets of Washington Heights. We’re getting amazing stuff. Look at this cast, we’re getting at them at the right moment. This is happening exactly as the story has presented itself to be.” And then we were finishing up and we screened the movie and we’re getting amazing feedback. We finally did it. We made it. This movie is finally coming out. And then the pandemic hits and we’re like, “Oh yeah, it has its own life.” And we look at each other like, maybe the lesson was that it’s supposed to disappear. And we’re just supposed to know our focus should be on the art, the craft,

LINMANUEL MIRANDA Following a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his musical In the Heights, which brought

audiences into the life and neighborhood of a bodega owner in New York, and a Pulitzer

and say, “We make something and whatever

win for Hamilton, the musical that infused a dusty historical tale with hip-hop and a diverse

happens after it doesn’t matter.” That’s what I

cast, Lin-Manuel Miranda is creating opportunities for Latinx people as his influence grows.

thought maybe the lesson would be. And now

Miranda wrote the songs for Vivo, a Cuba-set musical, and is producing a new version of

the pandemic is starting to close, and theaters

The Little Mermaid, which cast Halle Bailey, a Black actress, in the star-making role of Ariel.

are starting to open, and people are needing joy

While Miranda was compelled to apologize for a lack of Afro Latinx representation in In the

and love and celebration, and knowing how to

Heights, his growing influence will allow him to continue to create more opportunities to honor

get back up again. And what is better than the

diversity as he straddles both stage and screen. —Mike Fleming Jr.

story of Washington Heights that tells you how to get up. I surrendered to the universe a long time ago on this movie, and a lot of things in life. So I’ll accept what it gives. And I’m just very happy that it gave the best gift it could give to the story, which is the world’s ear and eyes. What do you think this creative journey of yours is telling you to do next? You know, I’ve trusted the universe in guiding me to the stories that I want to tell by what’s happening at the moment. I do believe movies should meet the moment. It’s a running record of where we’re at emotionally. I’m working on Wicked right now, and I think it has some very resonant things of what it means to have a place of innocence like Oz. What happens when you realize it isn’t as innocent as you thought, and that a real change needs to happen instead. Real change isn’t easy, real change is messy, and means you need to feel anger, fear and sadness. You need to go all through those things before you can come out differently. And I think that musicals do it in the most entertaining way and fun way. I just feel privileged that I get to be the recipient of people speaking out and waking me up and saying, “Is anybody on the other side to help do these things?” And I’m like, “I’m either part of the problem or I’m listening.” I’m not perfect, and I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but I am reacting, and I’m doing the best I can to use the things that I know to express the frustrations that I’m learning and feel deeply about. So we’ll see. I’ve been around this business long enough to know it comes in waves, but I will accept what’s happening now and I’ll just continue to do the work. ★ DEADLINE.COM

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DUTCH COURAGE He shocked the Netherlands in the ’70s and ’80s and scandalized Hollywood in the ’90s. Now Paul Verhoeven is bringing his lesbian nun saga to Cannes. What could go wrong? BY MIKE FLEMING JR. because the man is the superior and she is the

In 2007 you wrote the book Jesus of Nazareth,

for filmmaking, director Paul Verhoeven

inferior.” That kind of thinking was dominant in that

which stripped the miracles from his story,

has been a maverick disruptor, mixing

century, and of course it was also being promoted

along with the idea that Christ expected to

sex and violent imagery in his provoca-

by the Roman Catholic Church.

realize his kingdom on earth before he was

tive early Dutch films (1973’s Turkish Delight, 1980’s

There are notes in the archives of Florence that

betrayed and crucified. You were going to

Spetters), then taking the formula to the U.S. with

describe the trial of the older nun, and there is really

make a movie out of that. What happened?

a run of shocking and subversive ’90s Hollywood

nothing else available in archives anywhere in the

Did your curiosity about religion and the Cath-

blockbusters that included RoboCop, Total Recall,

world. Judith C. Brown, who wrote the book, found

olic Church lend itself to Benedetta instead?

Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Starship Troopers. Now,

them by coincidence when she was in Florence

Well, first of all, I tried. I worked with Jean-Claude

he’s adding the historical repression of religion to

looking for other stuff for her courses. She’s a pro-

Carrière, a scriptwriter for Luis Buñuel. Amy Pascal,

the mix with Benedetta, a French-language film

fessor. I thought that recreating those times—where

who at that time was the head of Columbia, was

he’ll premiere in Competition at Cannes. Starring

lesbianism didn’t even exist as a word, and where a

interested, but our efforts, even to write a basic

Virginie Efira, it’s the true story of a Sister Benedetta

woman would be burned if she had a sexual relation

outline, failed. I think it was because Jean-Claude

Carlini, a 17th Century abbess whose claims of mys-

with another woman—would be interesting. That

Carrière was a Buddhist, and with me being… call

tical visions and miracles were investigated by the

was something that [Holy Roman Emperor] Charles

it agnostic or atheist, whatever, I’m not a Christian.

Catholic church in a trial that lasted from 1619-23

V said at the beginning of the 16th Century: if a

But we couldn’t find a common vision on how that

and resulted in her imprisonment.

woman is with a woman, they should be sentenced

movie should be done, so, ultimately, we gave up

to death by burning. I guess we’ve made some

and Jean-Claude Carrière, who had gotten $50,000

progress, I’d say.

from Sony for writing the outline, sent his fee back.

Benedetta is based on the 1986 book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance

So that was so interesting to me, that this hap-

That, I think, was class.

Italy. There’s a lot to unpack in that title. What

pened, and that the notes of the scribe also pointed

was it about this that sparked you?

out exactly what these two nuns were doing with

ferent from each other. In [Carrière’s] outline, Jesus

I would probably not be shocked by anything like

each other, in really intimate detail. It felt like it

was never even seen talking, he was just there, a

that, I just read it and thought it would be an inter-

should be made into a movie. For me everything

person that didn’t open his mouth. For me, what

esting movie, because so much has happened

came together: there’s the church politics, there’s

Jesus has to say in his parables was very important

between 1623 and now. At that time, the idea of

the religious layer, and then there’s the sexual layer

to the rest of civilization. But, out of friendship, we

a woman being attracted to another woman was

in the movie, which are all also in the book. All that

decided not to do it. Then, many attempts later, I

something people couldn’t understand would be

together was fascinating enough to try to make

really felt that I honestly didn’t know exactly how

possible. There was a lot of writing about it, say-

a movie about it. It was not that easy—it took us

to do it as a movie, and that that’s probably why I

ing, “A woman would always be attracted to a man,

some time.

wrote a book [instead].

90

DEADLINE.COM

I think that somebody said we were just too dif-

PAT H É

F

rom the moment he gave up academia


Benedetta was one of the films going to Cannes last year before it was canceled by the pandemic. Why wait a whole year to bring it out? First, I had a hip operation that went a bit wrong, and that caused a delay. The film was supposed to be in Cannes last year. But it was because of this hip operation that I couldn’t come over to France to finish the movie in time for the festival, and then, during the next [possible window], France was locked down. So, it was the hip operation and then the coronavirus lockdown [that caused the delay]. We are in a moment of heightened sensitivity in America with #MeToo and what some would

RELIGIOUS REBEL Virginie Efira as 17th century abbess Sister Benedetta Carlini in Benedetta.

call ‘cancel culture’. The Benedetta trailer indicates some very provocative, sensual stuff.

and said something like, “We can see your vagina.”

cared about the nudity. There were no discussions.

What do you imagine the appetite is for such

And then she said, “Of course—that’s why I’m doing

Yeah. We made the set closed a little bit, so that

films in this moment?

it!” I told that story to Sharon when we were having

no people could walk in. It was a smaller group of

Well, I can’t foresee that. Really, I have no idea. We’ll

dinner together during the shoot, and she thought it

people that I used. But for the rest, there was no

have to see how the film will be received in France,

would be great idea to do that. So, that’s my mem-

discussion, I swear to you.

or Holland, or in the United States, but there is a big

ory. She heard the story, and you know, in Joe Eszter-

difference. In France, the fact that we portray two

has’s script, there was already a mention [of that]

So, it’s not that big of a deal because you’re

nuns in sexual scenes will have an impact. People

in dialogue that he wrote between Michael Douglas

transparent about it?

will like it or not, but they will not make more out of

and Sharon. They’re in the car, after the interrogation.

Nobody is anxious. Nobody is suspicious. If that

it. Now, in the United States, when you have those

It’s raining, and Sharon says to Michael, “You know I

would be the case, you couldn’t do it. You have to

kinds of scenes, there would have to be what they

don’t like to wear any underwear, don’t you, Nick?”

be in a situation where the people involved—the

call an intimacy coordinator. Did you know that? In France, nobody would think about that. We didn’t have to write in the contracts, like

That line was in the script, and when you see the

two women, mostly —feel completely feel at ease

scene just before the interrogation, you see [she is

and accept the situation as written. Or you should

getting dressed]. Michael is looking at that, and she

have a discussion if they’re not comfortable.

has been happening more and more in the United

puts her dress on, and she has no underwear. So that

The situation in France and in Holland would not

States, how much nudity there would be with the

was already in the script, but, of course, the scene

require an intimacy coordinator. So, yeah, I think it

two actresses, Virginie Efira and Daphne Patakia. I

[where she would uncross her legs] was not in the

probably would be, at this moment, pretty difficult

mean, there was really no talking about the nudity. It

script—that came into the movie when I discussed

to make a movie like Elle or even Black Book, or a

was like, “Yeah, OK. Of course, we go to bed, we take

it with Sharon, when I told her the story. I know her

movie like Benedetta, in the United States.

the clothes off.” An intimacy coordinator would be

story is a bit different, but that’s my story. You transitioned to Hollywood and jumped

very strange there, and in Holland they would perhaps be even more liberal with these things. I don’t

Many actresses have reflected back on nude

right into these big, bold, sexy studio block-

think that anybody would be offended by nudity

scenes they’ve done, and some now say they

busters. What was the biggest culture shock?

there. So, what I want to try to express is that how

were left feeling exploited, or not protected, by

There was none. In fact, what I felt there I wouldn’t

the film will be received—in the United States, or in

their filmmaker. How do you make an actress

even call it a shock. It was more me looking back

France, or, say, western Europe—might be different.

feel like you are taking the ride together and a

to when I was very young and a fan of comic strips.

nude scene is not at her expense?

Some were American, like Superman. When I was

Sharon Stone recently published a memoir in

Well, first of all, most actresses almost have no prob-

young, I loved that stuff. One of my favorite Dutch

which she described being surprised when she

lem at all. That’s point one. The scene is written that

comic books was science fiction. So, I don’t think

was shown the famous interrogation scene

way. In Benedetta, it was written that they accept

there was a shock. It was more, “I’ve never done

from Basic Instinct…

the scene as it is, and if they had problems then that

this, so let’s do it.”

You know that’s nonsense, don’t you?

could be discussed. Of course, we might change it, whatever, but of course, you cannot do that without

When you made movies like RoboCop, Total

Well, she wrote that she slapped you and left…

it being satisfying to the two actresses. And it was

Recall and Starship Troopers, you introduced

She didn’t slap me at all.

that way. There was no discussion about, “Do you

ideas decrying fascism and corporate greed.

see my nipple?” or this or that. No. it was just, “OK,

Starship Troopers was about soldiers battling

we’re going to do the scene as written.”

giant deadly instinct, but you recreated imag-

What is your recollection? We are on good terms, Sharon and I, at the

So, on top of that, of course, to protect them

ery from Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda

moment, so I would put [that story] in the category

and have another voice, on Benedetta the D.P. of the

films. How many audiences picked up on that?

of “My memory is this, and your memory is that.”

movie was a woman [Jeanne Lapoirie]. If you talk

Not enough at the time, because me and the

My memory is that [that scene] is all based on

about the male gaze, well, the first person that saw

scriptwriter, Ed Neumeier—who wrote RoboCop

a woman that I met when I was a student in Leiden,

the film was a female looking through the camera.

with Michael Miner—were criticized as being neo-

at the university. She would do that: she would

A woman D.P., and if she would see a problem, she

fascist or neo-Nazi, one of the two. What I was

come up to us and she would open her legs. My

would tell me. But, of course, there was never one.

trying to express, I think in retrospect, I was not

friend and I saw her doing that, so went up to her

Nobody ever cared. It sounds strange, but nobody

unsuccessful at. But if you look at what’s happening

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91


SISTER OF MERCY Efira as Benedetta Carlini, an Italian nun whose relationship with another woman was documented during a trial by the Roman Catholic Church.

now, doesn’t it feel like democracy is in peril? The

Showgirls was not normal, but it was still more nor-

million. My producer, Jon Davison, who did Robo-

first line in the movie says it’s set after the failure

mal than all the other movies that I made here. It’s

Cop and Starship Troopers, said, “If you make one,

of democracy. That’s [actor] Michael Ironside talk-

more realistic than any of them. A lot of what hap-

it should be a thriller, and you should do it for $35

ing. After the failure, he starts to say what came

pened in the film really happens [in life], but the

million. $10 million is too difficult, but $35 million is

after that, and what came after that is, to a certain

sentiment was, people didn’t feel really desire to go

doable, and I advise you to do it that way.”

degree, a fascist universe. It’s based on Robert Hein-

there. If I’d have known what the reaction to Show-

lein’s book, which you can say is realistically neo-

girls would be, I wouldn’t probably have done it.

The pandemic saw the rise of streaming, to the detriment of the theatrical film experience.

fascist, and I felt that we should show the audience that these characters played by Casper Van Dien,

The movie made money on home video and

Does streaming appeal to you? And how does

Dina Meyer and Denise Richards are heroes—but, by

has been reappraised as camp spectacle. You

it impact the ability of a maverick filmmaker to

the way, they’re also fascists.

became the rare filmmaker to show up and

take risks?

At the time we wrote it and shot it, it’s not that I

accept the Razzie Awards won by the film. Why?

I’m not so interested in that streaming stuff. It might

was aware that there was a possibility that democ-

Well, that was when my Jesus thinking came through.

ultimately go in that direction, but I feel that’s a pity.

racy in the United States could be in danger, but it

When somebody hits you on the right cheek, you

I still hope that people will find their way back to

came much closer in the last couple of years, more

turn the left one. I thought that, really. I’m an admirer

cinemas again, once everything is more normalized.

than I thought possible. I love living in the United

of all these things that Jesus said, his parables and

I have the feeling that I would take risks anyhow.

States, but still recently I had the feeling that there

stuff, but it was really me thinking, He said that. OK,

Elle was a risky project. If you look at the narrative, a

was a possibility that one of the most wonderful

go. And the amazing thing is that it worked! I had to

woman gets raped and starts a sadomasochist rela-

democracies in the world could slide into something

go forward because we’d got seven Razzies, for worst

tionship with her rapist. Of course, you can see it as a

else. Now, if you look at television, everyone’s talking

acting, the worst song, the worst film, worst director…

revenge movie, because ultimately, the bad guy gets

about what’s happening to democracy.

Nobody else was there to get them. So, I had to walk

killed, but it was also pretty risky thematic material.

forward to get each Razzie. They had only one award, in 1980, there was such controversy that it

so I had to give it back for the next time.

Benedetta, for me, doesn’t feel that way, but I might be wrong. There is a coming together of

That I dared to be there, and was not making fun

sexuality—in this case, female and female—and the

hatched the National Anti-Spetters Commit-

of myself… I gave a speech that was kind of funny. At

church’s belief that it is wrong. So, the sexuality and

tee and hastened your move to Hollywood.

the end, there was ovation. People were so enthusi-

religion, you will see that in the movie. You will feel

After Showgirls (1995), you’ve said some doors

astic, not about the movie but about the fact that I

there is a strong layer of what I call “the sacred” in

closed for you because of the bad reviews and

was there. They felt that it was so unique, and were

the movie. I believe that feeling makes it possible to

controversy. Which of those two experiences

so thankful that somebody would do that.

do all the other stuff; the bad stuff, the dangerous

was worse for you?

stuff of criticizing religion or whatever you want to

Worse? That’s difficult. Spetters or Showgirls?

So, an OK night but not a great night?

call it. I feel, and I have felt in my life, that people can

Spetters had the advantage that, although the

Yeah. Sure. And Jesus was right.

be inspired by the sacred. I wanted that, and I believe

criticism was horrible—worse than Showgirls—the

that the characters in Benedetta, at that time, were

movie worked. People went to the movie. It was

After your Hollywood detour, your most recent

in a world where the sacred was dominant. So, in the

very successful in Holland. And that is what did not

films have a decidedly European feel—both Elle

movie, I felt it needed to be there. You can tell me

happen with Showgirls. Financially, it was not good.

(2016) and Benedetta were made in French.

later if I was right or wrong. The idea that the church

With Spetters, I was still protected. As we all know,

Would a jump back into a big-budget Hollywood

could decide that a woman should be killed because

directors are very dependent on the movie that

film appeal to you?

she was a lesbian—that’s quite horrible. Isn’t it? An

they made before. After Showgirls, I was a little bit

[Long pause]. Sure. Yeah. Sure. I am, in fact, also

inquisition. Remember, the Crusades were full of tor-

in Hollywood jail. I think they still trusted me after

working on that. It doesn’t have to be a $200 million

ture, and I think the church has done horrible things,

Showgirls, but only with science fiction. They didn’t

film, more in the direction of Basic Instinct, so it’s a

so you’ll see that, too. But there’s also a layer that

trust me with something that you would call normal.

budget that will not be much, perhaps under $60

says that there’s something sacred there. ★

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PAT H É

When you released the Dutch film Spetters


FILM

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