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PRESENTS

DECEMBER 27, 2017 OSCAR PREVIEW

Michael S H AN NO N Judi D E NC H Aaron SORKIN Martin M c D O NAG H Sean BA K E R Denis VILLENEUVE

The

DREAMWEAVER Behind the scenes on Guillermo del Toro’s 20-year fight to deliver his paean to misunderstood monsters, The Shape of Water.

DEADLINE.COM/AWARDSLINE

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A

N ET F L IX

I D A D O C U M E NTA RY A W A R D S

WINNER

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O R I G I N A L

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UNFORGETTABLES YANCE FORD

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WBESTI DOCUMENTARY NNER FEATURE

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ᗂᗂᗂᗂᗂ “Strikingly original. A masterpiece for difficult times.”

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

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PRESENTS

GE N E RAL MANAGE R & C H IE F R EVE N U E OF F I CE R

Stacey Farish E D ITO R

Joe Utichi C R EAT IVE DI R ECTO R

Craig Edwards

AS S ISTAN T E DI TO R

Matt Grobar

D EAD L IN E CO- E DI TORS- I N - CHI E F

Nellie Andreeva Mike Fleming Jr.

AWAR D S E DI TO R & COLU M NI ST

Pete Hammond

D EAD L IN E CON T R I BU TO RS

Peter Bart Anita Busch Dawn Chmielewski Anthony D’Alessandro Greg Evans Lisa de Moraes Patrick Hipes Amanda N’Duka Dominic Patten Erik Pedersen Denise Petski Dino-Ray Ramos David Robb Nancy Tartaglione Peter White VID EO P RO DU CE RS

David Janove Andrew Merrill

S O C IAL ME DI A M AN AGE R

Scott Shilstone

C H AIR MAN & CEO

Jay Penske

VIC E C H AIRM AN

Gerry Byrne

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FIRST TAKE Michael Shannon gets mad Judi Dench feels regal Rian Johnson uses the Force What’s cookin’ in foreign and doc?

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COVER STORY Deadline follows Guillermo del Toro over a year as he fights to deliver his ode to monster love, The Shape of Water

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THE DIALOGUE: DIRECTORS Aaron Sorkin Martin McDonagh Sean Baker Denis Villeneuve

C H IE F O P E RAT I NG O F F I CE R

George Grobar

EX EC U T IVE VI CE P R ESI DE NT, BU S IN ES S A F FAI RS AN D GE N E RAL COU NSE L

Todd Greene

EX EC U T IVE VI CE P R ESI DE NT, BU S IN ES S DEVE LOP M E NT

Craig Perreault

S E N IO R VICE P R ESI DE N T, F I N ANCE

Ken DelAlcazar

VIC E P R ES IDE NT, CR EAT I VE

Nelson Anderson

VIC E P R ES IDE NT, F I LM

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FLASH MOB AwardsLine Screening Series: Logan; premieres for All the Money in the World, Downsizing, and Phantom Thread

Carra Fenton

VIC E P R ES IDE NT, T V

Laura Lubrano

S E N IO R ACCO U N T EX ECU T I VES, T E L EVIS IO N

Brianna Hamburger Tiffany Windju ACCO U N T M ANAGE R

London Sanders

AD SAL ES CO OR DI N ATO RS

​Kristina Mazzeo Malik Simmons

P RO D U CT ION M ANAGE R

Andrea Wynnyk

D IST R IB U T I O N DI R ECTOR

Michael Petre

ADVE RT IS ING I NQ U I R I ES

Stacey Farish

S FA R I S H @ PM C.CO M 31 0 - 4 8 4 - 2 553

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ON THE COVER Guillermo del Toro photographed for Deadline by Dan Doperalski ON THIS PAGE Denis Villeneuve photographed for Deadline by Chris Chapman

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A British Queen and two Jedi Knights p. 10 | Making Battle songs p. 12 | Doc & Foreign Shortlists p. 16

Water Torture As the villainous Strickland in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, Michael Shannon returns to the dark BY A M Y N I C H O L S O N

IF YOU’RE AN ADVENTURER like Michael Shannon’s Colonel Strickland in The Shape of Water, trek to the Panama Canal and swim eight miles west. You’ll land on Barro Colorado Island where almost a century ago, Shannon’s grandfather Raymond Corbett Shannon christened Shannon’s Cove. Raymond, a renowned entomologist, was there to study mosquitos, a passion that took him from Panama to Peru to Patagonia to Brazil. “This business of wading around for gambiae larvae gets into your blood,” wrote the elder Shannon to a fellow researcher. Alas, his words were too true. While studying the spread of malaria, he caught dengue fever and died. “One of the damned things bit him,” says Shannonthe-younger on a sunshiny BAC K D RO P : CA I T LYN D O HE RT Y/ P 1M .CA

afternoon in Los Angeles, far away from the swamps. He never got to meet him—his own dad had only been 9 years old when the Entomological Society of Washington called his grandfather, “a martyr to the hazards of medical entomology.”

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Chris Chapman

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just some horseshit somebody tells you to sell you a car.” His character’s pride hinges on objects, from his insistence that his Cadillac is teal, not green, to the cheap lime candies he gobbles to prove that he’s still a humble guy. “I ate a lot of those fucking things,” he says. Underneath it all, however, audiences sense Strickland’s need to prove a distinction humans are forever trying to draw: What separates man from animal? “Some people say that an octopus is smarter MAN CAVE Shannon as Strickland, interrogating Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) in The Shape of Water.

than us,” notes Shannon. “That can be very threatening.” How, then,

Yet, Raymond Corbett Shannon

black overcoat and hat, toting an

grow old together. But who wants

can Strickland feel superior to this

left an impression. “My dad was fond

electric cattle prod, he’s hiss-ably

that?”

strong, intelligent fish-man, unless,

of showing me a letter that his father

cruel. Jawline to haircut to tie clip,

had written that listed 100 things

every bit of Strickland is hard and

Strickland—to a point. “That’s why

be on their knees in front of me and

that he wanted my father, Donald, to

square. At work at the Occam Aero-

they pay me the big bucks,” he

I get to hit them with a stick.”

do or to be,” says Shannon. “It was

space Research Center, he’s dismis-

jokes. He saw through Strickland’s

Another Strickland line packs

like, ‘Well, ideally, you’d be a doctor

sive of his underlings, who include

flinty exterior and macho childish-

the film’s biggest emotional wal-

and a lawyer and a Nobel-winning

janitors Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and

ness to find the anxiety within.

lop. After 90 minutes loathing

scientist and a race car driver and an

Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and fel-

Strickland’s spent his whole life

this sexist, racist, creep who can’t

astronaut.’ It was insane. But I guess

low scientists Hoffstetler (Michael

playing a game he doesn’t under-

get through a single conversation

that’s in our DNA.”

Stuhlbarg) and Fleming (David

stand. He follows the rules, even

without an insult, the audience

Shannon empathizes with

says Shannon, “that person has to

Shannon’s dad became an

Hewlett). And at home, where he

the strange ones like his insistence

finally hears him get vulnerable. He’s

accounting professor. As an actor,

slips out of his stern suits for cozy

that real men only wash their hands

made the boss—the man who can

Shannon has already lived over 82

yellow polo shirts—“like Mr. Rog-

before they pee, which sounds

take away his new Cadillac and nice

fantasy careers. He’s played sheriffs

ers with the sweater”—his nuclear

like a thing an impressionable boy

house—furious, and after a lifetime

and chefs and photographers and

family revolves around him like

picked up on a playground and car-

of obeying alpha gobbledygook,

cowboys and mobsters and record

electrons.

ried around his whole life without

Strickland sighs, “When is a man

questioning the point.

done, sir, proving himself?”

producers and evil alien generals,

Colonel Strickland isn’t just the

and next year, the brilliant inventor

villain. He’s the patriarchy. If you

George Westinghouse. But in Guill-

want to Make America Great Again,

based on nothing,” says Shannon.

non. “That’s the magic of cinema.

ermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water,

you’re probably picturing his life.

“What is he trying to accomplish?”

Every once in a while you ask a very

set in 1962 Baltimore, he’s playing

“I don’t know what Make America

In his office, Strickland reads The

legitimate question.” He ponders it

someone with a job similar to his

Great Again means,” says Shannon.

Power of Positive Thinking. Yet when

some more. “I guess it depends on

grandfather’s: an explorer who flew

“But that’s the thing with Strick-

asked if Strickland says anything

what you want. I guess you’re done

to the Amazon river to drag back a

land—It’s all based on a notion.”

positive to anyone in the film, Shan-

proving yourself when you’re done

6’4” water-beast (Doug Jones). The

He shudders. “I don’t even like the

non spends 20 seconds muttering,

thinking that you have to prove

difference is, his Colonel Strickland

insinuation that a character I played

“I do… I do… I do…” while he struggles

yourself.”

isn’t trying to save lives. He’s just

would vote for Trump.”

to think of an example. “Don’t I tell

thinking about himself. “He wants to do a good job, he

Shannon calls Strickland, “the crystallization of the American

“There’s a certainty there that’s

Fleming he did a good job once?” Strickland’s dilemma is that he’s

“Fuck if I know,” answers Shan-

His grandfather was an “incredibly driven human being,” Shannon says. “And now people are labeling

wants to be promoted, he wants

psyche in the Cold War period,

too small-minded to see he’s just

me as a workaholic.” True. This year,

his bosses to like him, and he wants

fighting Communists, fighting the

another brute in a cage, but he’s

Shannon starred in four films, which

to have a nice house and a nice car

unknown, but ultimately, without

too smart—almost—to buy into

would be a lot for most actors. But

and a nice family,” says Shannon.

any idea why he’s doing any of that

what the culture is selling. Shannon

the year before, he starred in 10.

This vicious, neck-frilled, muscular

or what it’s going to accomplish.” He

allows us to see the suspicion in his

What drives him to act, to explore

fish-man with an 18-pack threatens

hates babysitting the beast. To an

face when he thinks that Hawkins’

other lives, to say yes to projects

to ruin all his plans. Describe the

ex-soldier like him, “it’s like sending

mute maid isn’t giving him enough

until he finally checks off a hundred

plot like that and Colonel Strickland

a brain surgeon to put a Band-Aid

respect. He’s hopeful, but wary even

fictional jobs, and will probably

would be the hero, the brave doctor

on.” But the film needs him. Without

in casual transactions, like when a

inspire him to say yes to a hundred

in 1954’s Creature from the Black

Strickland barking orders in the

Cadillac salesman assures him that

more after that? “Curiosity? Rest-

Lagoon rescuing his girlfriend from

halls, the romance between Elisa

he’s “the man of the future”—an

lessness?” he wagers. “I mean, that

some monster with gills.

and the creature wouldn’t have its

ironic joke given that in 2017, Strick-

is the point, right? If you’re alive,

panicked, emotional thrust. “I guess

land seems like a retrograde man of

you should do as much as possible

you could watch them get married,

the past. Shrugs Shannon, “That’s

before you’re not alive.” ★

Not to del Toro. From the minute Shannon stalks onscreen in a heavy

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CHARTED TERRITORY

Gold Derby’s Oscar Odds At press time, here is how Gold Derby’s experts ranked the Oscar chances in the race for Best Director. Get up-to-date rankings and make your own predictions at GoldDerby.com BEST DIRECTOR

ODDS

1

Christopher Nolan Dunkirk

23/10

2

Guillermo del Toro The Shape of Water

7/2

House of Woodcock

3

Steven Spielberg The Post

7/1

4

Greta Gerwig Lady Bird

15/2

BY MATT GROBAR

5

Luca Guadagnino Call Me by Your Name

9/1

6

Jordan Peele Get Out

20/1

7

Joe Wright Darkest Hour

33/1

8

Martin McDonagh Three Billboards Outside Ebbing...

33/1

9

Dee Rees Mudbound

40/1

10

Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman

100/1

11

Ridley Scott All the Money in the World

100/1

12

Doug Liman American Made

100/1

13

Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris Battle of the Sexes

100/1

14

Bill Condon Beauty and the Beast

100/1

15

Sofia Coppola The Beguiled

100/1

Phantom Thread is the job of a lifetime for costume designer Mark Bridges MARK BRIDGES HAS WORKED WITH PAUL

Anderson & Sheppard in “royal colors” of laven-

THOMAS ANDERSON since Hard Eight, so he

der, berry and plum—and pants shaped for the

knows the score; unique ideas, exacting detail,

period—Woodcock wore Bishop socks, and shoes

and flawless execution. But with Anderson’s

from George Cleverly, the consummate couturier.

latest, Phantom Thread, which is set in the high-

“It’s amazing, the hand-workmanship that went

fashion world of ’50s London, Bridges and his

into it,” Bridges says of Woodcock’s garb, “and I

costume department found their work front-

think that attention to detail is the kind of thing

and-center, with no margin for error.

that helps Daniel immensely.”

Costuming Daniel Day-Lewis’s Reynolds

Bridges sought out rare fabrics for the film,

Woodcock, a dressmaker loosely modelled on

even buying a 3-meter piece of 17th Century lace,

the iconic Cristóbal Balenciaga, Bridges faced his

which the designer repurposed for a particularly

greatest challenge. But he had help from Day-

important scene. The fabric was in very good

Lewis himself, who took an especial interest in

shape—“you can find Egyptian linen from the

the wardrobe his character would wear. “We did a

tombs that’s still intact,” Bridges explains of the

lot research, of: who was the designer in London

fabric’s strength, with verve—that is, until Bridges

at that time?” says Bridges, who lists off Hardy

took scissors to it.

Amies, John Cavanagh and Digby Morton. With bespoke suits from Savile Row’s

“Everyone’s holding their breath while we’re making the first cut on 17th Century lace.”

PAINTING THE TOWN PINK

Blade Runner makeup designer Donald Mowat on painting Ana de Armas WHILE RIDLEY SCOTT’S BLADE RUNNER is timeless for its sophisticated use of models to create a realistic near-future dystopia, advancements in visual effects allowed for some mesmerizing visuals when it came to a follow-up, Blade Runner 2049. Perhaps most notable is the realistic use of holograms,

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where the character design is balls-to-the-wall committed— heightened, elegant and surreal. Take Ana de Armas’ pink silhouette—with purple hair and purple contact lenses—towering over the film’s near-future dystopia, for which makeup designer Donald Mowat actually painted the actress pink. “I thought we’d have a very pale

girl painted pink, but when we got the beautiful Ana De Armas, who’s Cuban, suddenly pink was more difficult to convey,” says Mowat, who rifled through Los Angeles beauty supply stores in preparation. “That was handpainted. We didn’t airbrush it. I think sometimes in the world of hair and makeup, some of the old tricks still work.” –M.G.

PRETTY IN PINK Ana de Armas in Blade Runner 2049.

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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*DRAMA

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NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW VOGUE B OSTON S OCIETY OF F ILM C RITICS VANITY FAIR S LANT M AGAZINE I NDIEWIRE VULTURE

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P HILADELPHIA F ILM C RITICS C IRCLE T ORONTO F ILM C RITICS A SSOCIATION

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F O R

Y O U R

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I N

A L L

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I N C L U D I N G

E ST PICTUR E

JOANNE SELLAR PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON MEGAN ELLISON DANIEL LUPI E ST DI RECTOR

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E ST OR IGI NA L SCR EEN PLAY

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON

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THE LAST JEDI MASTERS Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman on the making of intergalactic magic BY A N T O N I A B LY T H HELMING THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE The

Last Jedi has to be among the scariest industry jobs out there. Yet writer/director Rian Johnson and his long-time producing partner Ram Bergman deftly handled the burden of a billion geeky fan dreams.  Johnson was helped enormously, he says, by a surprisingly relaxed Lucasfilm and Disney. “I wouldn’t believe me if I was outside the process and heard this, but there was no fight at all to be had,” he says. “It was crazy. From the very start, Kathy [Kennedy] at Lucasfilm, but also Bob Iger, Alan Horn, Alan Bergman, the folks at Disney that we dealt with, they not only allowed to make the movie I wanted to make, I was actively encouraged to find what was personal in it and to go after that.” Johnson found himself pushed to really explore. “They would

Heavy is the Head

say, ‘Oh that’s really weird; oh my god, you have

BY ANTONIA BLYTH

the bosses, they bought right into his idea for

Judi Dench on her second go-round as the beleaguered Queen Victoria

to try that.’ If anything, they were protecting me against self-editing or holding back out of fear.” Johnson’s Last Jedi proved such a hit with a new non-Skywalker Star Wars trilogy, which is in the nascent stages of planning. Bergman

VICTORIA & ABDUL ISN’T THE FIRST TIME Judi Dench has played Queen

Victoria. Two decades ago, the John Madden-directed Mrs Brown won Dench a Globe and a BAFTA, and kickstarted her career in cinema after years on stage and television. But, while she regards Victoria & Abdul as a “continuance” of the monarch’s story, Dench and director Stephen Frears bring a standalone flavor to this tale of the friendship between Victoria and Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young Indian clerk. The relationship was heavily frowned upon at the time, and had been largely lost to history when Shrabani Basu, who wrote the book on which the film is based, uncovered the detail. “I just thought it interesting,” Dench says, “this whole relationship with a Muslim boy. You just try and relate it, as much as you can, to the person, rather than perhaps the attitudes of the people around the person.”  Dench approached Victoria with the kind of openness she herself had shown Karim. When Eddie Izzard, who plays

10

the Prince of Wales, told her his mantra is, ‘Be curious, not suspicious,’ Dench actually had the phrase made into a pillow. “I thought, that is so wonderful,” she says. “That could be all of us, you know? Much better to say to somebody, ‘So, why do you wear that black? Why do you feel you have to cover yourself up? Explain to me.’ It’s so wonderful to be curious, not suspicious. We’ve all got it about the other way.” Dench finds depicting a lack of prejudice to be a powerful part of her art. “We’re going to try and do anything useful,” she says, “not just get up there and camp it about, and get paid for it. But, that’s our job in a way. To somehow bring a light on another aspect of something, so you might think of it in a different way.” For now, despite the “national treasure” status she has with Brits, Dench remains humble about her job prospects, thankfully making no mention of retirement. “I’m always so pleased to be asked,” she says. “I kind of, you know, have a go.”

had long envisaged such success for Johnson. “I always thought, ‘He can totally get there,’” he says. “I didn’t necessarily think about Star Wars, I just was thinking that he’s going to get to make his original stories that play on a big canvas.” Ultimately Johnson really brought the magic, especially when it came to one green, diminutive Jedi Master: Yoda. “They recreated the puppet from Empire and Frank Oz puppeteered it, which was fucking unreal,” Johnson says. “I have some great pictures of him down in the hole operating it next to Mark [Hamill], that I’ve been sitting on for years, not able to show anyone.” Read the full interview with Johnson and Berman at Deadline.com

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C R I T I C S ’

C H O I C E

A W A R D S

N O M I N E E

BEST PICTURE BEST ACTOR GARY OLDMAN

®

DRAMA

BEST ACTOR GARY OLDMAN

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS NOMINEE ®

BEST ACTOR GARY OLDMAN

© 1995 SAG-AFTRA

GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD NOMINEE

“DIRECTOR JOE WRIGHT BRINGS A CINEMATIC DYNAMISM TO EVERY SCENE. One Of The Best Pictures Of The Year.” PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE

“As A Portrait Of Leadership At Its Most Brilliant, Thoughtful And Morally Courageous, ‘Darkest Hour’ Is

THE MOVIE WE NEED RIGHT NOW.” ANN HORNADAY, THE WASHINGTON POST

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN ALL CATEGORIES INCLUDING

BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR JOE WRIGHT

BEST ACTOR GARY OLDMAN

IT TAKES THE POWER OF LEADERSHIP TO UNITE A NATION For more on this film, go to www.FocusFeaturesGuilds2017.com

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ORIGINAL SONG

On the Docket

The Best Documentary Feature race will be as competitive as ever in 2018. BY A N T O N I A B LY T H

music, so Jon and Val reached out, and it all came together from there. Sara Bareilles: My writing col-

about this event at all. I think it speaks to the fact that audiences will really respond to this

Sara Bareilles and Nicholas Britell discuss “If I Dare”, the original song they wrote for Battle of the Sexes

laborator on the musical I’ve been

movie, if they happen to be like me

working on happens to be next-door

and weren’t as aware of this, to see

BY M AT T G RO BA R

neighbors with Jon and Val, which

the seeds of Billie Jean take root, in

felt like a cosmic nod. It was a yes for

terms of her determination about

me immediately, even before I’d seen

making change in her industry, and

the film. I’m a big fan of Nick’s work,

her effortless and soulful pursuit

and Jon and Val have an amazing

of being an advocate for others. It

legacy already in what they do in

seems to be very much in her DNA—

film, and in music video—that’s how I

it’s about justice for all. That’s just

first got to know their work.

how she engages with the world. I

RECEIVING HIS FIRST OSCAR NOMINATION this year for Moonlight, composer Nicholas Britell fulfilled yet another dream recently, teaming up with Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. Like Britell, Bareilles has found herself creatively stimulated in recent years, touring with new music, writing music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Waitress, in which she also starred, and now writing music for film. What the pair responded to in Battle of the Sexes, for which they’ve written the original song “If I Dare”, was the personal story of tennis legend Billie Jean King, and the “empathy and compassion” with which she approached the world—traits which are necessary now more than ever.

Then, I saw the movie—it’s beautiful, and the performances are really honest. Getting to be a part

think that just came in her suitcase when she got here. Britell: When I saw the rough

of something that was speaking to

cut, what I was drawn to immedi-

Billie Jean King’s story and her legacy

ately was that personal story, and

was especially interesting to me,

I actually loved that Jon and Val

contextualized in the way the world

focused on that. For me, the movie

How did you come to work

was evolving from the movie itself.

feels, and wanting to really speak to

is so much about personal journeys,

together on Battle of the Sexes?

There was this idea of, what if we

women’s issues.

obviously in context of where they’re

Nicholas Britell: When I was scor-

took themes from the movie and

ing the film with [directors] Jona-

figured out a way to turn that into a

Was Billie Jean King’s story famil-

ized on that incredibly public stage.

than Dayton and Valerie Faris, we

song? From early on, we were like,

iar to either of you beforehand?

But learning about Billie Jean’s own

had this dream of having an original

“Would Sara Bareilles be inter-

Bareilles: I’m embarrassed to say,

personal fears and dreams; I didn’t

song for the movie that felt like it

ested?” I’m such a huge fan of Sara’s

but I didn’t even know anything

know a lot of that story.

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going, and everything getting real-

C HE LS EA L AU RE N / RE X /S H U T T E RSTOC K

Grand Slam

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®

GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD NOMINEE MUSICAL OR COMEDY

BEST ACTRESS JUDI DENCH ®

BEST ACTRESS JUDI DENCH

© 1995 SAG-AFTRA

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS NOMINEE

A ROYAL TRIUMPH INDEED “

.

JUDI DENCH GIVES A TOUCHING, MAJESTIC PERFORMANCE.” NEW YORK OBSERVER



J UDI DENCH GIVES A “

CAREER-HIGH TURN.” THE TIMES

F O R Y O U R C O N S I D E R AT I O N I N A L L C AT E G O R I E S

For more on this film, go to www.FocusFeaturesGuilds2017.com

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ORIGINAL SONG pervasive issue comes to light, it’s a painful transition, but the deeper truth is that there has been an injustice. We see this in so many different parts of life, whether it’s race or economic disparity or gender issues. But what I love about this story, and about Billie Jean King as a person, is that it’s about empathy and compassion, forgiveness and education. I’ve met her a few times now, and it was so special to get to spend a minute with her, and discover her curiosity about the world. When a problem like this comes to light, it’s our job to be mindful about examining why. This is not just about wagging fingers of blame— it’s about taking responsibility and educating and moving forward, knowing that we’re not trying to

YOUNG LOVE Andrea Riseborough and Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes.

build a society where all the men are With “If I Dare”, was it the melody

the match, the music gets more

speaking to the personal side of

in one corner and all the women are

or the lyrics that came first?

orchestral. Early on, many themes

Billie Jean; they didn’t want the song

[in another]. We’re trying to have a

Bareilles: This was interesting for

are stated in a more intimate, quiet,

to feel overly political. It was trying

deeper understanding of each other,

me because it was working with a

tender way. Then, the scope of

to thread the needle a little bit, not

and I think that’s something that she

template that already existed. Nick is

instrumentation grows and grows,

speaking too much to how vast her

does so beautifully in her life.

such a melodic writer, so there were

and finally with Billie Jean’s personal

story feels, but at the same time, not

lots of ideas to draw from. I didn’t

theme—that you hear first very qui-

ignoring that. There’s just no side-

politically, socially, globally, envi-

originally intend for the melody to

etly in the haircut sequence—that, at

stepping the fact that Billie Jean King

ronmentally. It’s time to make really

not be the hook of the song, but it

the moment of victory, is a 79-piece

is one of the great feminist leaders of

conscious decisions about how

symphony orchestra playing.

our time.

we’re going to engage with these

ended up sort of flipping on itself. One of the things that I shared with

Bareilles: I love what he does—it

The first lyric of the song, “If I dare

We’re at a really charged time,

issues.

him at the very beginning was that

does just resonate on a very emo-

to ask it, then I dare it to be true,”

when I watched the film, the feeling

tional plane. Speaking to the vocal

came directly from the script. It’s the

thought it was so interesting—she

that I got from the story was a sense

percussion, some of it admittedly is

scene between Billie Jean and Jack.

said, “Rage is really trendy right

of motivation, and a driving force

technical limitation in my little home

I’m paraphrasing, but she’s like, “It’s

now.” I think that anger is absolutely

forward. It was wanting to take what

studio. Sometimes, the voice is the

when we dare to ask for more. That’s

important and serves a function, but

was there, and just give it a little

fastest way for me to shorthand an

what pisses you off.” That really

what’s also important is a continued

more movement forward.

idea. Sometimes it lives on, and I also

struck me. Then, it was snowballing

conversation, and what happens

have a background in a capella. I love

on that theme of, “What would you

next. What do we do now?

Both the song and the score build

the sound of voices covering a wide

do if you dared to?”

progressively upward. The score

range of sonic experience.

Britell: I loved that, too, because

My friend said this to me and I

Britell: One of the fascinating things in the film is that it shows that

begins with more sparse arrange-

I liked that it felt intimate, and

it felt like there’s something about

Billie Jean was so aware of these

ments, whereas in the song, vocal

very human, and I thought that was

that title that resonates with the

institutional power dynamics, that

percussion lays the foundation.

something that was a theme of the

music, in a way. The rhythm is per-

are sometimes so woven into society

Britell: One of the fascinating things

movie for me. It was about human-

sistent—it’s intimate and beautiful,

that people don’t even realize they’re

about film scoring is that there’s

izing this iconic figure, so it made

but it has a drive. You feel an energy,

there. Inequality or injustice just

this mysterious element of discov-

sense to draw that forward. Also, it’s

and that lyric, “If I dare,” has its own

deeply makes no sense to her. She

ering where you’re going as you’re

done in a woman’s voice—it had that

internal power to it. It’s percussive,

doesn’t comprehend it, I think.

going there. A lot of it is very much

essence to it.

it’s fighting, it’s pushing. I love that.

moment, trusting those feelings. It’s

What inspired the song’s title

With all the revelations com-

story in the film. I think it has the

more about feeling than thinking.

and lyrical content?

ing out of Hollywood in the last

potential for making other people

Bareilles: I love how we ended up

month or two, it seems like there

go, “Oh yeah, this is insane, the fact

you see these structures that have

with the title “If I Dare” because that

is no more important time to see

that any of that does exist.” I think

unfolded, and I feel with the score,

spoke to the collaborative process.

this film.

unfortunately, as we’re seeing, this is

there actually is this arc—which

Originally, the song was called “I

Bareilles: Totally, just in terms

a continuing struggle. This is still an

makes sense, but we followed it very

Will Be Loved”. Jon and Val loved

of where we’re at in our state of

unfortunate truth, I think, in the way

emotionally. As you get towards

that the sentiment of the song was

consciousness, as people. When a

people live. ★

emotional response from moment to

Sometimes in looking back,

14

That’s what I think is so exciting and empowering about seeing this

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“C hristopher Plummer brings so much gravitas to the role that he could well go down in film history as the definitive Scrooge.” FORBES

“Dan Stevens inhabits the character of Charles Dickens beautifully.” THE WASHINGTON POST

FOR YOUR C O N S I D E R AT I O N

BEST PICTURE BEST ACTOR DAN STE VENS BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER

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DOCUMENTARY SHORTLIST

REEL PEOPLE Clockwise from above: City of Ghosts; Agnès Varda and JR in Faces Places; An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Fight for the Truth The contenders are many in one of the most competitive Doc Feature races in years BY M AT T H E W C A R E Y

Director Matthew Heineman fol-

inviting them to take pictures which

lowed up his Oscar-nominated Cartel

they printed in massive format,

Land with City of Ghosts, his paean

affixing them to buildings, trucks and

to citizen journalists in Raqqa, Syria

other grand surfaces.

who struggled to inform the world

The result is a poignant appre-

about ISIS atrocities in their city. A

ciation for the ordinary and for lives

number of them were hunted down

sometimes overlooked. “Each face

ONE OF THE MOST UNPREDICT-

charges stemming from the financial

and killed by ISIS agents as a result of

tells a story,” Varda says in the film.

ABLE RACES in years for the Oscar

crisis of 2008. The defendants were

their reporting.

“Faces are beautiful.”

for Documentary Feature has come

the Sung family, owners of Abacus,

“It’s an homage to a group of

down to 15 films, narrowed from a

a bank that catered to the Chinese-

people who have risked everything

Weiwei traveled to more than 20

record-breaking tally of 170 qualifiers.

American community in lower

to fight for the truth, to seek the

countries for Human Flow, his film

Manhattan.

truth,” Heineman says. “I think that’s

documenting the immense scale

an important idea in the world right

of the worldwide refugee crisis. He

now.”

spent time in 40 refugee camps,

Two films on Syria’s civil war made the cut—Matthew Heine-

Some observers of the case

Chinese artist and filmmaker Ai

man’s City of Ghosts, about the

accused the Manhattan District

ISIS takeover of Raqqa, and Feras

Attorney’s office of selective pros-

Ex Libris: The New York Public

meeting people who have fled war,

Fayyad’s Last Men in Aleppo, about

ecution, claiming it demonstrated

Library is the latest documentary

famine and political upheaval from

courageous civil defense workers

ethnic bias in going after the Sungs.

from 87-year-old Frederick Wiseman,

the Middle East to northern Africa.

in that city. And two octogenarian

James essentially agrees. “I don’t

who won an honorary Oscar last year

“Our reality is so surreal,” he

filmmakers, both of them winners of

think it was overt and explicit, [but]

for his extraordinary contributions

explains. “People have to relocate

honorary Oscars, made the shortlist:

I think there was racism involved,”

to nonfiction cinema. His Ex Libris

or escape—to give up everything

87-year-old Frederick Wiseman,

he says.

captures the vitality and importance

because they’re facing a life-or-

of an institution that has catered to

death choice. It’s the only possibility for them to save their children.”

who directed Ex Libris: The New

Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Coral

York Public Library, and 89-year-old

documents the impact of climate

millions of artists, intellectuals and

Agnès Varda, who shared directing

change on coral reefs around the

average New Yorkers young and old

duties on Faces Places with 34-year-

world, a companion to his 2012

over the years.

old artist JR.

environmentally-themed film Chas-

The Academy’s Documentary

As one New York Public Library

Filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk documented former Vice President Al Gore on his

ing Ice. The film shows how rising

official declares passionately in the

continued quest to combat global

Branch determined the shortlist of 15.

ocean temperatures have led to coral

film, “We do mind-building, soul-

warming for An Inconvenient

Doc branch members will also select

bleaching, harming a diverse ecosys-

affirming, life-saving work.”

Sequel: Truth to Power, the fol-

the final five nominees, which will be

tem that is home to an estimated 25

revealed when the Oscar nomina-

percent of all marine life.

tions are announced on January 23.

For their lyrical film Faces Places, directors Agnès Varda, 89, and the

low-up to the 2006 Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth.

Says one scientist in the film,

artist JR, 34, crisscrossed France in

“We live at a unique moment of time

a van equipped with a photo booth.

the groundbreaking Paris climate

director Steve James tells the story

where we can change history. It’s not

They encountered factory workers,

agreement in 2015, but the elec-

of the only bank to face criminal

too late for coral reefs.”

a postman and other regular people,

tion of President Donald Trump has

In Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,

16

Gore’s efforts helped produce

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DOCUMENTARY SHORTLIST Wiseman’s Ex Libris tops out at 197 minutes). Bar-Lev, an avowed Deadhead, sheds new light on the influences that shaped Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, and his artistic process that produced some of rock’s most intricate and revered music. “I see the film as an exploration of life and death,” Bar-Lev explains. “Jerry had an idea that living is a succession of individual moments. That’s the only thing that actually persists. Everything else evaporates.” In One of Us, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady take viewers inside New York’s Hasidic community, an insular world rarely explored threatened to reverse that progress.

in film. They focused on three ren-

“The next generation would be justi-

egades who dared to leave, including

fied in looking back at us and asking,

a young woman with seven children.

‘What were you thinking?’” Gore says

“It is nearly impossible to exit the

in the film. “‘Couldn’t you hear what

Hasidic community and start over in

the scientists were saying? Couldn’t

the secular world—and some would

you hear what Mother Nature was

say that’s by design,” Ewing says.

screaming at you?’”

“The community does not take kindly

Bryan Fogel’s documentary Icarus

to members leaving.”

played an important role exposing

You might say director Yance

Russia’s vast state-sponsored dop-

Ford followed a dictum from the

ing program, a scheme that recently

late Carrie Fisher for his film Strong

prompted the International Olym-

Island: “Take your broken heart,

pic Committee to ban the country

make it into art.”

from the 2018 Winter Games in

Ford explores the devastating

Pyeongchang, South Korea.

impact on his family that resulted

His main character is Dr. Grigory

from his brother’s death in 1992 in

Rodchenkov, the Russian chemist

a racially tinged incident. The white

who helped implement the doping

man who shot William Ford Jr. was

operation and then blew the whistle

never charged with a crime, despite

on it. “What the film shows beyond

evidence to suggest the killing was

a shadow of a doubt,” Fogel says, “is the extent to which Russia is willing

not justified. TRUE LIVES From top: LA 92; Icarus; Last Men in Aleppo.

to go to assert itself as a world power and to win at all costs.” In Jane, Oscar-nominated film-

“The film is really transparent,” the director says, “about how little

Directors Daniel Lindsay and TJ

Civil War as Russian jets and Syrian

the police knew and how little, I think, they bothered to investigate.”

Martin combed through more than

government forces bomb the city of

maker Brett Morgen delves into the

1,500 hours of archival footage for

Aleppo into near oblivion.

life and work of pioneering prima-

LA 92, their documentary on the civil

tologist and conservationist Jane

unrest that devastated Los Angeles

followed a group of civil defense

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME),

Goodall. He built the film largely

25 years ago.

workers known as the White Hel-

sometimes referred to as Chronic

mets in their desperate attempt

Fatigue Syndrome. The illness struck

from footage of Goodall conduct-

They eschewed interviews of peo-

Syrian director Feras Fayyad

In Unrest, director Jennifer Brea chronicles her own struggle with

ing research on chimpanzees in the

ple looking back from present-day;

to rescue victims from the rubble.

her at age 28 as she worked on a

wild in Tanzania, material that had

by design, LA 92 shows the events as

They put their own lives at risk trying

Ph.D. at Harvard.

sat dormant in National Geographic

they unfolded. “That was a big thing

to save injured children and adults.

Brea connected with others

archives for over 50 years.

for us, to remove the middle person

Asks Fayyad: “What motivates the

around the world dealing with ME.

and take the filter away and give the

White Helmets? This is my question

Like her, many of them experienced

story between a woman and her

Morgen sees the film as a “love

audience the benefit of the doubt

through the film.”

frustration with a medical commu-

vocation. Goodall kind of rejects the

of diving into it of their own accord,”

notion of being a feminist icon, which

Martin says. “Because you can’t really

Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary about

condition as a psychiatric problem.

is kind of refreshing—because she

argue with the raw footage.”

the Grateful Dead, clocks in at 238

“It’s an emotional film, in a way that’s

Last Men in Aleppo plunges

minutes, the longest of the films to

not depressing,” Brea says of Unrest.

viewers into the height of the Syrian

make the Oscar shortlist (Frederick

“It just breaks you open.” ★

is, and her story is so much about empowerment.”

18

Long Strange Trip, director

nity that frequently misdiagnoses the

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Italian Masterpieces CANAPÉ CHESTER. DESSINÉ PAR RENZO FRAU. SALA DEL CAMINO, PALAZZO GALLARATI SCOTTI, MILANO. poltronafrau.com Los Angeles, Beverly blvd Ph. 310.858.1433 - New York, Wooster Street Ph. 212.777.7592

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FOREIGN SHORTLIST less ‘legitimate’ than others is very contemporary, because we are going through the crisis of empathy. The limits of our empathy are being challenged. You can see this in immigration, in the global warming crisis. We’re disconnected from our planet. What are the limits of our loyalties to ourselves, our families, nation, race, gender? Either we learn to live together and embrace the complexity of life, or we will end up with fascism again and destroy ourselves.” The concept of destroying ourselves was on the mind of German filmmaker Fatih Akin who began the first draft of his shortlisted In the Fade all the way back in 1992. The movie stars Diane Kruger (a Best Actress winner in Cannes this year) as Katja, a woman whose life collapses after the death of her husband

INTO THE WOODS Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless.

and son in a bomb attack. The police

Foreign Bodies These are the shortlist of nine films competing for Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film nominations BY NA N C Y TA RTAG L I O N E

arrest two suspects—a young neosociety around us every day.” Russia’s last Oscar nomination

Nazi couple—but Katja wants justice. Akin, whose parents are Turkish,

was with Leviathan; 1994’s Burnt by

recalled neo-Nazi attacks in Germany

the Sun is the only film ever to win

when he was younger. The subject

from the country.

matter was personal for him. “It works

Disconnect is a theme that

on you and you have to sit down and

A Fantastic Woman filmmaker

write something that was in me for all

ON DECEMBER 14, the Academy

category, failed to advance on the

Sebastián Lelio can relate to. His film,

these years,” he says. Given the state

of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Academy’s list.

about a young transgender waitress

of the world, he says, “Nothing has

and singer who must confront the

changed since then. It seems that

unveiled its shortlist of nine films that

But the Globes and the Oscars

will vie for the five nomination slots in

do not always align—winners have

suspicion and contempt of society

many of us haven’t done the home-

the Best Foreign Language Film cat-

matched five times since 2010—and

and her deceased lover’s family, won

work or reflection since then.”

egory. As ever, there were surprises

Oscar candidates are decided by a

the Silver Bear Best Screenplay prize

Germany has advanced in this

and snubs in the mix, while contem-

vastly different group of voters to the

in Berlin in February. Chile has never

race many times over the years, last

porary themes of the unsteadiness of

Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

won an Oscar and scored its only

winning with 2006’s The Lives of Oth-

the world emerged as a through line.

nomination with 2012’s No, directed

ers. Last year, it seemed to have the

year to hail from a previous nominee

by A Fantastic Woman producer Pablo

FL Oscar sewn up with Maren Ade’s

titles that had not been seen as

is Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless,

Larraín.

nominee Toni Erdmann. But real-life

major frontrunners: Senegal’s Félicité

the Cannes Jury Prize winner. The

from director Alain Gomis (the first

film revolves around a couple going

Woman took on greater resonance

the outcome as Asghar Farhadi’s Ira-

film ever submitted from the coun-

through a vicious divorce. When their

as Lelio was making the movie. Both

nian drama The Salesman was swept

try) and South Africa’s The Wound by

12-year-old son disappears after

Time and National Geographic put

up in a wave of support after Donald

John Trengove.

witnessing one of their fights, the pair

transgender people on their cov-

Trump attempted to ban citizens of

must come together.

ers amid a pop culture crossover.

seven largely Muslim countries from

Demonstrating, however, that

entering the United States.

Among the surprises were two

The most glaring omission was Robin Campillo’s BPM, the lauded

The only shortlisted film this

While Zvyagintsev’s films have

The subject matter of A Fantastic

politics ended up playing a hand in

activist drama that took the Grand

been seen as criticizing the Rus-

advances are not as great, the Trump

Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in

sian government, the director was

administration recently delivered a

East this year both premiered at the

May and went on to be hailed by the

recently surprised that audiences

list of seven words or phrases that

Venice Film Festival, where each won

New York and Los Angeles critics

in the U.S. “saw in Loveless things

the Centers for Disease Control and

a key prize: Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot

groups.

that they recognize from their own

Prevention are prohibited from using

from Israel and Ziad Doueiri’s The

everyday life,” he says. “As a meta-

in official documents being prepared

Insult from Lebanon. Both films also

dictable to a degree, the omissions

phor for the dysfunctional society”

for next year’s budget. They include

faced their own controversy in the

are what really stand out each year.

that touches on “universal issues:

“transgender”.

region.

Last year, Paul Verhoeven’s French

selfishness, separation, inequality and

Lelio tells me of his film, “I felt

Foxtrot is about a couple who

thriller Elle, which bagged the Golden

the general state of lovelessness that

that in a certain way this idea of the

learn their soldier son has died in the

Globe in the Foreign Language

we all can relate to and that we see in

problem of people that are more or

line of duty, and it flashes back to the

While the shortlist is often pre-

20

Two dramas out of the Middle

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FOREIGN SHORTLIST reactions which ultimately went viral. This year, they’ll be taping again, alongside cast members Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary and Claes Bang. Östlund promises the result will be “the best sequel in YouTube history.” Oft-nominated Sweden was in the mix last year with Hannes Holm’s A Man Called Ove. The last film to win the gold was 1983’s Fanny and Alexander from maestro Ingmar Bergman. John Trengove’s debut feature, The Wound is the fourth film from South Africa to ever make the shortlist. The country has won the Oscar just once, with 2005’s Tsotsi. The Wound centers on Xolani, a lonely factory worker who joins the men of his community in the mountains of son’s experience of military service in

the Eastern Cape to initiate a group

the days leading up to his death. The

of teenage boys into the ways of

Venice Grand Jury Prize winner was

traditional Xhosa manhood. When a

criticized by Israel’s Culture Minister

defiant initiate from the city discov-

for its depiction of military service,

ers Xolani’s closeted love affair,  his

although the knock-on effect was

existence begins to unravel.

stirring debate and eliciting curiosity

The film’s depiction of the initia-

from the public.

tion process and its links to a gay love

Maoz says Foxtrot is about trying

story have stirred the ire of the Xhosa

“to understand why we behave the

Nation with the filmmakers facing

way we do” and adds that it’s “more

protests, and even death threats.

social than political.” Israel last scored a nomination with Joseph Cedar’s

“We made this film to make FOREIGN LANDS From top: Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult; Alain Gomis’ Félicité.

invisible realities visible. To reflect the

2011 drama Footnote. It has never

experiences of queer people, and in

won an Oscar in the category.

particular queer people of color,” says

The Insult is the only Lebanese

On Body and Soul filmmaker Ildikó

so many different people can work

Trengove. The Wound world pre-

film out of 14 entries to ever make

Enyedi first represented Hungary at

and there are so many approaches to

miered at the Sundance Film Festival

the shortlist. The story centers on

the Oscars with her debut film, 1989’s

cinema that are valid in parallel. It’s a

and has taken more than 15 interna-

an insult blown out of proportion

My Twentieth Century. Although it

very good feeling to be a Hungarian

tional awards.

that lands two men, one a Lebanese

had won her Cannes’ Camera d’Or

filmmaker today.”

Christian, the other a Palestinian refu-

prize, it failed to advance with the

gee, in court. It also, in a way, landed

Academy. During a difficult time for

Östlund and his art-world satire The

ever submitted by Senegal, scoring

Doueiri in court. When he returned

local cinema, there was a 25-year dry

Square need no introduction. After

a shortlist berth the first time out.

from seeing The Insult score a Best

spell between shortlist appointments

notoriously missing a nomination

That’s reminiscent of Abderrahmane

Actor prize in Venice, the filmmaker

(from 1988’s Hanussen to 2013’s The

with 2014’s Force Majeure, the Swed-

Sissako’s 2014 drama Timbuktu,

was detained, his passports con-

Notebook). In 2015, László Nemes’s

ish filmmaker has scored a cache of

which was also the first submission

fiscated and his presence required

Son of Saul won Hungary’s first Oscar

prizes for this year’s effort, beginning

for Mauritania, ultimately scoring

at a military tribunal. This actually

since 1981’s Mephisto by István

with the Palme d’Or in Cannes.

a nomination. Félicité debuted in

had to do with his previous film, The

Szabó.

Attack, which was partially shot in

The Berlin Golden Bear winner

By now, it feels as though Ruben

The disconnect theme we see in

Finally, Alain Gomis’ Félicité has the distinction of being the only film

Berlin this year where it scooped the

other candidates this year also reso-

Grand Jury Prize. It’s the story of a

Israel (Lebanese citizens are banned

centers on a man and woman who

nates in The Square. Östlund sought

proud and independent woman who

from visiting the country). As with the

discover they share the same dream

to highlight “the struggle to take

works as a singer in a bar in Kinshasa.

public criticism of Foxtrot, The Insult’s

every night and try to recreate it

responsibility and be good human

When her son is hospitalized after

international profile was raised by the

in broad daylight. Enyedi says it’s

beings.” He contends, “We are in a

a terrible accident, she desperately

incidents.

about “every passion and everything

time where we feel very confused.”

tries to raise the money needed for

Doueiri says he wasn’t looking to deliver a “social or political or religious

beneath the surface.” Enyedi has been out of the spot-

One thing there’s no confusion

his operation. Bar regular Tabu offers

over is what he’s doing on nomina-

his assistance and ultimately helps

message,” but the story sums up his

light for some time, but she says now,

tions day. When he missed the cut

Félicité’s son recover; the trio form-

feelings about growing up in Beirut

“It is a great feeling to return to such a

with Force Majeure, Östlund and his

ing an eccentric community thrown

and also living for 18 years in the U.S.

film community. I find it so happy that

producer released a video of their

together by fate. ★

22

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THE

RE X /S H U T T ERSTOC K

PODCAST

AND ON DEADLINE.COM

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IN THE DEEP

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Guillermo del Toro has been fishing for a love story like no other for decades. With The Shape of Water he has found his prize catch, after years of struggle to bring it home. From the filmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Toronto set, through its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and beyond, Joe Utichi joins him for the ride.

Photograph by Dan Doperalski

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G

UILLERMO DEL TORO IS TAKING A BREATH. It probably feels like his first in 12 months. It is a hot summer’s day on the Lido in Venice, and his latest film, The Shape of Water, is tonight’s film festival premiere. From the outside, this past year for the Mexican writer and director has looked pretty good. The animated kids series he produced, Trollhunters, has become an unbridled hit for Netflix; Season 2 is already on order. And few directors, even visionary ones like del Toro, get to claim sold-out exhibition runs at LACMA, yet del Toro’s “At Home With Monsters” has been doing gangbusters all year. A curated selection of all the trinkets and artwork del Toro has collected over a lifetime dedicated to the macabre, the exhibition is readying for a tour that will take it to Minneapolis, Toronto and Mexico City. Then he’ll bring it all home. “I want my shit back,” he joked on Twitter. Tonight, though, del Toro will face his greatest test. Not only is he

premiering his first feature film since 2015’s Crimson Peak, but the

movie he is about to show the Biennale has been gnawing away inside him for more than 20 years. Can a human being fall in love with a monster? It’s a question del Toro has been asking himself his whole life; the question that has driven him to become Propagandist-in-Chief for monster-kind ever since he was a kid. The Shape of Water is his emphatic answer in the affirmative, but he is nervous. Uncertain of how the public will

respond to his unconventional fetish. “I think the movie is very beautiful, and it connects emotionally with me,” del Toro reflects. “With a bit of luck, people will connect with it. But, demographically, it’s going to rub some people the wrong way. It’s an antidote to cynicism—a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve. To some people that will be moving. Others will find it coy.” A little under a year earlier, and del Toro is sitting by a bank of monitors tucked into the corner of a vast NASA-like control center set. The walls are decorated with a Pop Art tiled mosaic celebrating all things astronautic; giant rockets blasting into space—or perhaps missiles aimed at America’s enemies. The colors are subdued; sickly pastels on every surface. Queasy Green. Infirmary Blue. Malaise Marigold. At ’60s-era workstations, scientist-types in white shirts with pocket protectors and thick-rimmed glasses pace restlessly. In one corner, a small woman in a janitor’s smock minds her own business, slowly dancing with a mop. On the set of The Shape of Water, del Toro is in his element, presiding over the filming of a script that demanded and defines every ounce of himself. When a crewmember passes by in a Universal Monsters t-shirt, del Toro stops him to enthuse about it. After the exchange, I idly ask the director what it is with him and monsters. Del Toro says nothing; he simply whistles as he raises his index finger skyward, erect. What led del Toro here—to a ribald gesture on a Canadian soundstage—started life sometime in the 1990s. He was a young man then, not long into his 30s. His debut feature, Cronos, had premiered at Critics Week in Cannes, and he was

FISH TALES Clockwise from above: Elisa (Sally Hawkins) silently swears at Strickland (off camera) while Zelda (Octavia Spencer) looks on; Strickland (Michael Shannon) scours Elisa’s apartment; Strickland thinks deep; Zelda goes about her business; Zelda and Elisa watch as the creature is led in.

flirting with which direction to take next. He alighted on an idea to tell the tale of an amphibian being who falls in love with a human woman. He had always identified with monsters. As a kid, his love for the macabre was an escape that didn’t jive with the strict Catholic background he was brought up in at home in Guadalajara. His grandmother literally

“I do contemplate how many times you can give your blood to this particular brother, which is cinema. In my case, I have bled quite a lot.”

tried to exorcize the demons out of him; twice. “It definitely didn’t take,” he joked. He empathized with the lot of the unloved and the feared. Monsters were always misunderstood, which was just how he felt. This idea was his way of rewriting their history. “It was a Victorian creature expedition about explorers that go to the Amazon,” he says. “I wanted to do a movie about an amphibian creature who changes the life of whoever rescues it, in a magical way.” It was loosely inspired by a favorite fairy tale col-

lected by the Grimm brothers—about a flounder that grants wishes for a fisherman and his wife—with a touch of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Nobody was biting; the project never got off the ground. Instead his first foray into Hollywood filmmaking would be Mimic, about man-sized cockroach creatures who terrorize the New York Subway. It was more in keeping with the status quo: monsters bad, humans good. Del Toro had a miserable experience making the movie, which was produced by Dimension Films—Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The irony of recent news reports doesn’t escape him. “Two horrible things happened in the late ’90s,” he told an audience at the London Film Festival earlier this year. “My father was kidnapped and I worked with the Weinsteins… The kidnapping made more sense; I knew what they wanted.” Del Toro would right his ship, first by returning to the Spanish language with The Devil’s Backbone, and then to Hollywood once more, for Blade II and Hellboy. But it was Pan’s Labyrinth, in 2006, that elevated him to directing’s A-List. It became Mexico’s submission for that year’s Best Foreign Language prize at the Academy Awards, and went on to pick

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UNDER WATER Clockwise from left: Strickland toys with Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg); Giles (Richard Jenkins) gets a grilling from base security; Elisa embraces the creature (Doug Jones); Giles and Elisa ponder their next move.

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up that nomination, as well as five more—ulti-

million, it wasn’t a success because it needed to

woman who didn’t know she was a mermaid. She and del Toro

mately claiming three Oscars. Del Toro was

do $150 million.”

found the coincidence serendipitous. “It was so beautiful that we

personally nominated (but didn’t win) in the

It was while he was prepping Pacific Rim

were on the same wavelength,” del Toro says. “I asked her if I could

Original Screenplay category, and he soon joined

that a chance disclosure over breakfast flagged

use this idea that she had scars on her neck that turned out to be

his countrymen Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro

an opportunity to return to his amphibian love

gills. She allowed me to use another detail she had, which was that

González Iñárritu (they would be nicknamed

story. He was sitting with Daniel Kraus, the

the character used a lot of salt to make the water in her bathtub

“The Three Amigos”) on everybody’s “Must

author with whom he was co-writing Trollhunt-

habitable.”

Work With” list.

ers. Kraus told him that he, too, had an idea for

Somehow though, in the decade that

The film may be set in ’62, but del Toro’s design for it evokes an

a story about an aquatic creature. “He said,

earlier period of Hollywood dream-making. “It felt like a film made

followed, del Toro made just three features—

‘It’s about this secret government keeping an

in the late ’30s, early ’40s,” says Jenkins. “It’s the feel of one of the

Hellboy II, Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak. Each of

amphibian creature, and this janitor befriends

great masters; Frank Capra does a genre picture.”

them burned as brightly within him as anything

him,’” del Toro recalls. “I said, ‘Say no more. I’m

had, but so too did a scorched earth of projects

buying the idea from you; don’t write anything.’”

that never made it past the drawing board.

It was the breakthrough del Toro needed

But in a movie of that era, the hero would not be Elisa, nor the amphibian object of her desires. The hero, instead, would be security chief Strickland, a part written for Michael Shannon. After

“Guillermo del Toro’s unrealized projects” is one

to start writing. His thoughts came thick and

all, he’s the all-American alpha male who captures and subjugates

of Wikipedia’s sturdier entries. “I do contemplate

fast. He would set it in 1962, at the end of the

the creature, dragging it halfway across the planet to be poked and

how many times you can give your blood to this

idealized American dream. “Vietnam is in swing,

prodded and used; squeezed for whatever information it could be

particular brother, which is cinema,” del Toro

Kennedy’s about to be assassinated, and every-

carrying that might benefit his own interests. He’s the shoot-first-

says now. “In my case, I have bled quite a lot.”

one thought the future would be great. It’s the

and-ask-questions-later type, determined to flex his masculinity

moment where things start to change. I thought

and overstate his dominance for any who will pay attention. He

spent years working on a two-picture adapta-

Among the projects that hemorrhaged, he

it would be a great moment for something

deludes himself that he’s keeping us all safe from the threat of this

tion of The Hobbit, but endless delays caused by

primitive and spiritually powerful to exist.”

ungodly demon, as he grasps at the higher rungs on his own career

MGM’s precarious financial situation forced him

He wrote 30 pages. “And then I got stuck,” he

ladder.

to depart; Peter Jackson would wind up direct-

says. He showed his work to Vanessa Taylor, the

“I don’t like writing bad guys, and Strickland is not the bad

ing his own trilogy. His efforts on Mary Shelley’s

screenwriter behind Divergent and episodes of

guy,” del Toro insists. “In the purest terms, he’s the antagonist. The

Frankenstein—the countless hours he has spent

Game of Thrones and Alias. “She introduced the

antagonist can be a character that is as complex and compel-

turning it into a feature film that honored the

Russian restaurant idea and fleshed out the idea

ling as the hero.” And so he is, played with zeal by Shannon;

book—are so far for naught. “I always think the

of the spies. That’s when it became a movie.”

Strickland’s proselytizing covers up an unhappy home life with

best ones are the ones I never got to make,”

Over five years the script carefully came

his stuck-in-the-’50s nuclear family, and a sense that he belongs

he laughs. “Like Beauty and the Beast and The

together, and principal characters emerged.

to bigger and better things than are offered by the cards he has

Count of Monte Cristo.”

There was Elisa, the janitor who lost her voice as

currently been dealt.

Then there’s the long-fought battle of

a child and would lose her heart to the creature;

adapting one of his favorite H.P. Lovecraft

Elisa’s fellow janitor Zelda, a black woman deal-

He knows how to write outsiders, because it’s how he feels inside.

stories, At the Mountains of Madness. He came

ing with the prejudices of a city so far untouched

“My youngest daughter told me, ‘I can see you in the amphibian

close to mounting it with Universal before the

by the Civil Rights movement; and Elisa’s

man and I can see you in Elisa,’” he recalls. “I write them like that.

studio balked at the $150 million budget for a

neighbor, Giles, a gay advertising artist whose

Even the conversation Shannon has with the general is a con-

movie that del Toro wanted the latitude to make

hand-painted method is quickly becoming

versation I’ve had with producers or studio heads at one time or

R-rated—even with Tom Cruise signed up to star.

extinct, and yet he’s still too early to land in a

another.” In the scene, Strickland begs his superior for reassurance.

world that will accept his sexuality. Then there’s

“When is a man done, sir, proving himself?”

“I would say there’s a chance of a different

Each of the characters represents something within del Toro.

version of that movie existing,” is all he will

Michael Stuhlbarg’s Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, a

concede now. “But the industry is shifting and

Russian double agent unable to convince either

become del Toro’s hallmark. It references a playlist of musical

it’s very hard to predict where it’s going to go.

of his paymasters of the scientific beauty of the

numbers he painstakingly selected. When he needed a classic

There are massive tectonic plates moving, and

creature they are conspiring to kill and cut open.

movie about a woman in love with her god, to play in the movie

big consolidations are going to create a clash of

These characters are all societal outcasts;

As the script developed, it got very specific, in way that has

theater beneath Elisa’s apartment, he dipped into the expansive

the titans. Where we land in what stories we can

others. They are practically invisible; marginal-

archives of 20th Century Fox, whose Searchlight wing looked

tell, and what formats are left, I don’t know.”

ized by a world that doesn’t care to see them.

the likeliest to produce The Shape of Water, and he found a nice

It’s hard not to draw the parallels, which ran

obscure one called The Story of Ruth. “I saw a lot of bad movies

greater than most. Pacific Rim limped into

through del Toro’s mind as he wrote, with a

and a lot of good movies,” he says. “I wanted to choose carefully,

release just after Legendary, who had made the

modern-day political climate that is similarly

things that were not popular.”

movie, pacted with Universal after a long run

shunning those it chooses not to understand.

Del Toro has suffered those tectonic shifts

with Warner Bros. Warners released it without

“Elisa is born in a place that she doesn’t quite

This was as much about economizing as it was about design. The experiences on Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak had steeled him

any incentive to support its release, and it

belong in,” says del Toro. “She’s cleaning toilets

for a reality in which those tectonic shifts would ensure his budget

scraped its way to a $411 million worldwide gross

and picking up garbage. Nobody sees her. She

would not be bottomless. “It was clear to me that Shape needed

on a $190 million budget.

finds a place where she belongs and a person

to cost under $20 million.” Del Toro wanted to buy the freedom

that shows her who she is, and not by dictating.”

he needed to tell the story in his own way, without compromise

The ground was even less steady when del Toro was making Crimson Peak. Its even more

He wrote the parts with actors in mind—Sally

or outside interference. The song and movie choices fell to things

dispiriting box office led him to a realization

Hawkins for Elisa, Octavia Spencer for Zelda

Fox controlled the rights for because he knew he couldn’t afford to

about how the world had changed. “If I’d done

and Richard Jenkins for Giles. They were all

pay for them. And before Searchlight officially came on board, del

Crimson Peak for $25 million, the movie would

willing; excited, even. In fact, Hawkins was more

Toro had already pre-scouted Toronto, an adoptive home to him

have been a success because it made $75

prepared for his call than del Toro could know.

after production on Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak had been based

million,” he says. “But because I made it for $50

She had been writing her own story about a

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well as emotional. He sank hundreds of thousands of his own dollars into designing a creature that was almost completely concepualized before the greenlight ever arrived. All of this work was designed to make the project undeniable. To prove to himself, but more importantly to a studio partner, that he could turn the film around without needing additional funds. At Fox Searchlight, he found a home willing to give him the space required to deliver the picture in his head, but the final budget figure would not exceed $19.5 million. “Pan’s Labyrinth cost the same as The Shape of Water, and Shape is much, much bigger in scale than Pan’s,” del Toro sighs. But even with a tight budget, the director knew that getting the creature right would be his ultimate test. What mattered

“It is the desire of the storyteller to mold the world in some manner. And that appetite is conducive to a lot of disappointment in an industry that is a very, very uncertain marriage of business and artistry. It wears you down. You need to find your strength again in the stories.”

more than anything was ensuring the movie’s eventual audience would have as little trouble falling in love with a seven-foot-tall

first real look at the creature in the basement.

fish-man as del Toro had. “We went through great extremes,” he

Their gazes meet for a beat longer than seems

the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize; it’s

says. “We wanted to create the perfect swimmer body; almost

to make sense to either of them, and then,

the start of a journey that rolls on to Telluride,

like a Greek statue. When we designed the fin pattern, the layout

distracted by a noise, the creature flutters back

Toronto, and an early December release. “That

of the abdominal plate, the musculature on the chest and arms,

into the recesses of its tank. “By take seven it

screening in Venice was one of my favorite

all of it was done to make something beautiful. The lips were

was very hard to see,” del Toro tells me the next

nights in a 25-year career,” he’ll tell me later. “And

beautiful but not exaggerated. We tried to keep the eyes expres-

day. “My glasses had completely fogged up. I

I’ve felt the same way in screening after screen-

sive. There’s a harmonious balance to strike.”

get very emotional. It was the same with Pan’s

ing. It doesn’t go away. It never goes away.”

I’m present on set for one of the creature’s first scenes. All morning, crewmembers have been working on projection effects

Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone.” In the week I spend on set, I am witness

A week later, The Shape of Water receives

Having an audience connect with his work is the manna that fuels Guillermo del Toro.

to make it appear that a tall section of glass tubing in a dark, dank

to the ingenuity and frustration of keeping a

“That’s the satisfaction. The rest is posterity.”

sub-basement laboratory contains deep water. In a trailer nearby,

production this ambitious on track. The studio

And it has come from his own connection

Doug Jones—who has played nearly a dozen invented beings for

space del Toro is working on is also home to

to the work he chooses; there is nothing

del Toro over the years, starting with Mimic in 1997—is suiting up, a

his FX series The Strain (Shape is shooting in

impersonal about a single project del Toro

process that takes several hours.

its off-season). Producer J. Miles Dale—also an

has taken on. He may have learned, over the

EP on The Strain—tours me around the various

years, not to share too much too soon, as ideas

a man into this creature’s body. When he’d been designing Abe

sets, pointing out how del Toro’s movie has even

have developed and collapsed like precarious

Sapien—another aquatic denizen, and a principal character in the

reconfigured several of the stage builds from the

blancmange. But he’s certainly learned to fight

Hellboy movies, also played by Jones—he had consulted with his

show for its own purposes.

for what he believes in: that differences are

There was never a question in del Toro’s mind about putting

friend, director James Cameron, about using a puppet. Cameron

And yet, every blown take and unwanted

not to be feared, and that the truest monsters

had a rule: a puppet can fall in love with another puppet, but a

interruption engenders a spirit of disappoint-

aren’t necessarily mythical beasts. His movies

puppet can’t fall in love with a human. “It needed a human inside

ment in a crew fighting to make each shot

deify those who believe in goodness and love,

because of the nuance of the characters looking at one another,”

count. When a PA opens a door into the middle

because he does as well. There are no more

del Toro says. “It needed a lot of things that only Doug can deliver.”

of a scene between Michaels Shannon and

powerful forces to del Toro.

A call goes out on the set walkie-talkies. “Bring in Charlie.” This

Stuhlbarg, believing he heard “cut”, del Toro sinks

That does not mean he is naïve to the harsh-

is a del Toro wheeze; his creature is never given a name in the final

in his seat. The PA is forgiven, of course, but

ness of an industry that would deny such opti-

film—merely “the asset”—but Jones’s character is called “Charlie”

it’s another quarter hour lost to a production

mism—if not in the art it creates, then certainly

on the call-sheet by reference to the StarKist mascot Charlie the

skirting on the edge of the red.

in the business of its creation. “I don’t know any

Tuna. “We wanted to play the ad on TV,” he says, “but StarKist

“That was a difficult movie, man,” is the first

other place than Hollywood that generates as

didn’t want to have anything to do with a movie like this. The

thing del Toro says to me, a year later in Venice,

much friction and pain,” he says. “It is the desire

nickname stayed.”

as he thinks back on the production. “The days

of the storyteller to mold the world in some

There’s plenty of anticipation for Charlie’s first arrival. As

are running under you like a sandstorm. It’s a

manner. And that appetite is conducive to a lot

final checks happen, I find myself in front of the creature’s tank

high-pressure situation, because it’s a movie

of disappointment in an industry that is a very,

as Jones takes his position. We lock eyes and, perhaps for my

delivered under a very tight budget and a very

very uncertain marriage of business and artistry.

benefit, Jones transforms into del Toro’s creation. It’s an uncanny

tight schedule, with a margin for error that is

It wears you down, and the business part of it is

moment; the actor underneath seems to disappear as this

almost zero.”

almost infallibly crass, to say the least. You need

marine god takes his place. “The same thing happened with

When the lights go down in the Sala Grande

to find your strength again in the stories.”

Richard Jenkins,” del Toro says later. “He was on set with Doug in

later that same evening, del Toro is sat with his

full costume, and Doug was drinking coffee and eating a bagel. He

cast to watch the film play to an outside audi-

be further stories he’s burning to tell, being

was like, ‘Oh god, this is going to be a disaster.’ And then Doug gets

ence for the very first time. When they come

grateful for the ones he has already told is what

into the bathtub, I call action, and he immediately transformed

back up, two hours later, the room explodes

keeps the spark within him alive. “Honestly, if

into the creature.”

with shouts of “bravo”, and an ovation begins

you told me right now, ‘Guillermo, time for you

that will not cease until del Toro leaves the

to go buy a little cabin by the sea and fish,’ I

tried acting without all that make-up on? Here, have more food,

theater, 10 minutes later. As he first rises to take

would go; I have no problem. After The Shape of

Doug. Let’s see if you can still fit into the suit when you’re 10lbs

his applause, tears well in his eyes. He turns to

Water—after everything I’ve done—I’m satisfied.

heavier.’”

Hawkins, hugs her warmly, and then lifts her up

I’ve made 10 more movies than I ever thought I

into the air. He is elated.

would make.” ★

Still, laughs Jenkins, “It was funny to tease Doug. ‘Have you

Soon we’re ready to shoot; a scene in which Elisa gets her

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For del Toro, as much as there will always

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MONSTER MASTER Clockwise from right: Hellboy (Ron Perlman) crosses an abyss; Abe Sapien (Jones again), also from Hellboy, makes a point; Lucille Sharp (Jessica Chastain) sweeps upstairs in Crimson Peak; The Faun (Jones once more) directs Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) in Panâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Labyrinth; an enormous Jaegar from Pacific Rim.

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D THE DIALOGUE

OSCAR CO NT E NDE RS/ DIRECTO RS

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Aaron

no-brainers to green light. I don’t write a straight down the middle movie; there’s a slight knuckle

SORKIN

ball aspect, like the three-act structure in Steve Jobs or the voiceover dialogue in Molly’s Game. It isn’t an easy movie to label exactly: It’s not Wolf of Wall Street and it’s not Rounders. So while some studio heads get excited after they read a great script, they get nervous when their marketing departments say, “We don’t know how to sell this.”

The Social Network and West Wing writing supremo goes all-in on directorial debut Molly’s Game BY A N T H O N Y D ’A L E S SA N D RO

Studios are more comfortable with making $100 million movies than $30 million. That said, I’m incredibly lucky that every one of my movies has been made. Why direct now? You even stayed away from directing your own TV shows. Did Amy Pascal ever lobby you to direct at Sony? When I write a script, I always want the best director. As far as West Wing goes, I had Tommy

WITH THE PARAMETERS OF TV CONTINUING TO EXPLODE, most movie directors are finding their way to the small screen. But that format’s maestro, Aaron Sorkin, is finally making his mark as a director on the big screen with his feature adaptation of the book Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom. While some believe low-budget dramas are bound to be boxed out by event films on the big screen, Sorkin’s fingerprints are proof that there’s no greater place than the cinema when it comes to high stakes, stylized drama. “I’m in denial about the business changing. I only know how to write the way I write and I hope I don’t outlive my usefulness,” says Sorkin.

Schlamme and his crew of great directors. I was never thinking of directing episodes because that meant not writing an episode or two. You need to prep and do post. The only other time I thought about directing was The Social Network. Amy and Scott [Rudin] wanted me to direct. I was about to say OK when it was decided that David Fincher would take a look. I thought once he passes, I’ll direct. David didn’t pass, and good thing for me because he made the best possible version of The

You’ve written some iconic movies with

hour of our meeting. It wasn’t until we became

Social Network. My reason for saying yes to Molly’s

riveting protagonists: The Social Network,

comfortable with each other. She only spent a few

Game was because there’s a gravitational pull

Moneyball, Steve Jobs and now Molly’s Game.

pages on him in the book. He drove the kids hard

with the project toward the shiny decadence of

For you, what’s the through line between Mark

in regards to academic and athletic excellence.

its glamour and Hollywood names. I wanted to tell

Zuckerberg, Billy Beane, Steve Jobs and Molly

What became fascinating to me was how and why

a story against the backdrop of this, with a bigger,

Bloom?

she didn’t tell her full story about him in the book.

deeper emotional story at the forefront. The first

I had never thought about that. Zuckerberg was

What ended up in the movie were two stories

time I met Molly, I thought in this case, I might be

an anti-hero, so was Steve Jobs. Billy Beane was a

married: her story from the book as the world’s

the best director.

genuine movie hero and so is Molly Bloom. I knew

biggest poker game runner, and the present day

that from the moment I met her. An entertainment

story of Idris Elba’s lawyer-character trying to keep

Your films deal with power struggles.

lawyer I knew socially asked me to read the book

her out of jail. “I’m going to figure you out,” he says.

The industry has been rocked by sexual

and it was a fantastic ride. But when I went to

In their second scene together, he’s asking the

harassment allegations, purging itself of men

meet Molly, she wasn’t the person I was expecting.

same types of questions I was asking her through

who’ve been awful to a number of women.

The person I met was brilliant, strong as a tree, sly

that research period. I wanted that dramatic

As a tale of female empowerment, how does

sense of humor, and built of integrity. The book

journey I took where I started not expecting much

Molly’s Game add to the conversation?

was just the tip of the iceberg and she left the

from the meeting and wound up believing she’s a

Molly has to navigate a world filled with powerful

breadcrumbs of a great story. But there would be

real life movie heroine.

men, many who feel as though she’s not

hundreds of hours [of discussion] after that.

respecting their power enough, and they feel There always seems to be a lot of

the need to punish her in a big way. That feels

Gordon who heard I was interested in the book as

development drama when it comes to

relevant to today. I’d gladly trade a fortunate time

well. So we decided to work together to option it.

bringing your films to the screen. Steven

for the movie to be released in a world where

We set it up at Sony at the time when Amy Pascal

Soderbergh was attached to Moneyball and

these things haven’t happened. I doubt they will

was head. She bought the book and attached me

dropped out. Steve Jobs went through a

stop happening and the only incidents we get

to write. When Sony changed hands, Mark wanted

number of cast attachments and budget

to hear about are those in Hollywood, politics

to finance the movie himself.

changes with Sony attached before the film

and the media where we know the names of

moved to Universal. Why is this?

the perpetrators and the victims. When a senior

When did it become evident to you that

First of all, there aren’t a lot of movies written by

partner in an investment bank sexually harasses

Molly’s broken relationship with her father

anyone anymore that have a smooth, no-problem

a junior partner, or a manager of a restaurant

was the crux of a film about a glamorous

path to the big screen. Social Network had no

harasses a waitress, the media isn’t going to cover

poker room host?

problem getting to the screen, but you’re right

those victims. So, I think that Molly’s Game is going

That wouldn’t become evident in the first

about the others. The scripts I write aren’t

to resonate. ★

After I met her, I got a call from [producer] Mark

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Martin

Do you ever encounter problems getting things set up, though, in an industry predi-

M c D O N AG H

cated on precedent? This wasn’t too tough. But I think, with all the films I’ve made, if we hadn’t found that one company that said yes, there wouldn’t be a bunch of others. Part of it is me and Graham Broadbent, because we have strict guidelines when we start. I’m going to choose the actors and there isn’t

The Irish writer-director conjures up small-town America for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri BY J OE U T IC H I

going to be a single script note. That calls time on 90 percent of the studios from the start. Film4 has always been happy with that, because they are creative people first. It’s always about finding the balance of money on the other side of the Atlantic, and sometimes we try and set that up with smaller financiers. But it was great this time, because Fox Searchlight came in and were happy with those guidelines. They weren’t going to give a note and they weren’t going to impose casting thoughts. In Bruges was more of a war. It was easily

HETHER IT’S THE LOS ANGELES of Seven Psychopaths or the Bruges of In Bruges, British-Irish filmmaker Martin McDonagh has always had a fascination with place. That’s true of his work as a playwright, too, where his plays are so much about where they’re set that they frequently reference location in the title; The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Cripple of Inishmaan, A Behanding in Spokane. His TIFF Audience Award-winning latest, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand as the grieving mother whose frustrations with the police force in her small town, led by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, charge her into action.

W

financed, but things were a bit different in those pre-crash days. It was a war with Focus Features. So the challenges here were creative challenges rather than business challenges? Yeah, which is how it should always be, I think. But to get there you kind of have to stick to a budget that’s not like low-low, but it’s also not so high that the future of the company is riding on it. Ebbing, Missouri feels so specifically American. How much travel was required to get that

Frances McDormand’s Mildred, in this film,

Was it less plotted out than Seven Psycho-

right?

takes out billboards in her hometown to

paths or In Bruges?

When I was writing this I was traveling around

protest the cops’ inaction in the murder

No, I tend to jump in and see where things go. It

America. I got in during winter in Chicago, then got

of her daughter. Where did this crazy idea

was the same with the plays, but the plays prob-

a train to Colorado, and was traveling around there.

originate?

ably had more plot than the movies. In Bruges has

Then up to Montana. Then later, when I was think-

20 years ago I was on a bus going through the

a bit of plot. This probably has the least amount

ing about Missouri, I thought I’d better go there

southern states of America, and somewhere

of that kind of structure, because of the peculiar-

[laughs]. My usual trick with the Irish plays is to set

along the line I saw a couple of billboards in a

ity of the characters, but also the tragedy of the

things on islands I’ve never been to.

field that were very similar to the billboards that

backstory. It’s such that you don’t want to impose

we see in the start of our story. They were raging

something that’s too plot-heavy and strict about

Hasn’t that ever got you in trouble?

and painful and tragic, and calling out the cops. I

solutions. Or even theme, because I wanted to see

No, no—I’ve never told anyone that [laughs].

wanted to write a strong female part for a while,

where the characters took it.

because my plays used to have that quite a lot, but my first two films didn’t have that at all.

Even now, you couldn’t really say what the

With this, for me, it was about loving American literature. Flannery O’Connor and J.D. Salinger and

structure of the film was. Maybe it’s got a first act,

all the greats. Traveling and listening. As a poor-ish,

but then you go and make stuff up. I think there

working-class kid, even visiting America seemed

it was also kind of freeing to put those things

are still character arcs and changes that make it

like an impossible dream. Every time I ever went

together, to decide the person who put those

satisfying anyway, even though there isn’t a strict

anywhere in America, it always felt cinematic and

things up was a mother. And a raging one at that.

structure or an easy solution.

dreamlike, like a movie from the ’70s.

I thought that’d be a good thing to do, but

A smart one, and someone who wasn’t going to

That hasn’t really gone away. It’s not like you go I suppose you don’t subscribe to the Robert

to small towns and you’re sitting there with your

McKee school of storytelling, then?

screenplay, taking notes. It’s just this beautiful

have that be the starting point of a script, because

Bullshit. There’s no fun in that. It might be fine if

dream that you’re taking in. Not in a David Lynch

I didn’t plot anything out before starting. I just had

you… No, it’s not fine even if you’re starting out,

kind of way, but there’s something cinematic

that idea of this woman putting this thing up there

because it’s all about formulas and formulas are

about what they might see as a mundane, small

to chastise the cops. Everything that happens after

fucking boring. That’s why you end up with Marvel

town. I wanted to show it was beautiful. And while

that fact is a reaction to that, and then she reacts

and DC films every week, where you know exactly

it’s not as much of a character as Bruges is to In

to that reaction, and the film is kind of organic that

what’s going to happen. It’s just like, “What kind of

Bruges, having it be a character in the film. I like

way. There isn’t too much imposed from without.

computer effect is going to take us there this time?”

films where it feels like you’ve been to the place. ★

take any shit. As a filmmaker, it was really kind of energizing to

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Sean

me all these articles. I was taken aback. I didn’t know that this was happening.

BAKER

What did the articles depict? You can actually Google ‘Kissimmee Motel Disney’ and you’ll see plenty. The statistics about the growing problem happening along Route 192, where all of these motels that were once tourist-

targeted became the last refuge for people trying

The indie mastermind behind Tangerine returns with Cannes hit The Florida Project BY M I K E F L E M I N G J R .

to keep a roof over their heads. The juxtaposition of children living in these conditions outside of what we consider the happiest place on earth for children was intriguing, but the same thing is happening in Anaheim, Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, nationwide, because of the affordable housing crisis. I thought we would shine a light on this if we made an entertaining film. Tangerine taught me that if you win an audience over with comedy, then hopefully [you can] have a soulful message

EAN BAKER’S THE FLORIDA PROJECT, which focuses on the misadventures of latchkey kids housed in seedy motels outside the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, had breakout hit written all over it since the film first screened for buyers at Cannes, prompting a bidding battle won by A24. It is a continuation of the cult path forged by Baker, who focuses his tales on groups most people ignore, from immigrants to street hustlers and the transgender community, and casts mostly unknowns to play roles. From its low seven-figure budget to a shoot using film instead of an iPhone, The Florida Project allows Baker to take his formula to a larger audience.

S

at the same time. I grew up with The Little Rascals, and always try to work a link into every one of my movies. This film was my opportunity to do a full-out tribute to those Our Gang comedies. Instead of an exposé, you made a movie about these unsupervised kids who were small enough to be oblivious to their hardships. Did the carefree nature of your trio of kids reflect the attitude of kids you met doing research?

Sure, Willem Dafoe deserves all the Best

may not be able to repeat it. And I would have

We went to some of these motels. They would

Supporting Actor talk he’s getting for his role

been kicking myself forever. So it was talked about

be using the parking lots basically as their back

as the cranky motel handyman and de facto

and discussed. Samantha [Quan, acting coach]

yard. Whiffle ball, tag, kids being kids. You saw a

guardian of these latchkey kids. But the show-

was talking to the parents, talking with Brooklynn,

change when they actually started to get a little

stopper is Brooklynn Prince. Where did this kid

talking with me about how to get her there. We

bit older, 10-, 11-years-old where you can tell

come from?

all decided there’s no reason to manipulate her,

they’re a little more understanding of their situ-

A couple hundred kids auditioned in person, but

like asking her to think of the saddest day in your

ation. That was sad. We saw there was a change

when we had our second casting call and still

life. We knew she understood her character. She

in their moods, their everyday personas. A lot of

hadn’t found her, we started looking in Hollywood

came to set that day prepared. She said, “I think

the young girls or boys we met who were in their

and New York and Atlanta. I was very reluctant

I’m going to do it. I talked with my mom last night

preteens had a much different attitude than the

about that.

about this and I think I can do it.” We said, “Okay,

ones who were six or eight.

Then came that wonderful day we met Brook-

no pressure.” And then she did that; we didn’t even

lynn. She came with some experience from com-

know she was going to bring it to that level. We just

Willem Dafoe is the best-known actor in

mercials, and one little indie film. And yet it didn’t

thought it was going to be a few tears, maybe. She

the film. What made you feel he would be so

feel like she was walking in like a JonBenét Ramsey.

far exceeded what I expected. To me, she made

perfect to play that cranky, weary caretaker

She was being herself. It always seemed like she

the film with that scene. We did it in one take.

who refereed the troubled adult residents and protected their children when they were

was speaking from her own voice, and it wasn’t her parents’ voice cycling through her. That’s what

Families on the East Coast go to Disney and

preoccupied? And what made him say yes

gave us confidence that this was going to be a

Universal’s theme parks, and drive right by

to a summer in a seedy motel in sweltering

smooth ride with them. And it sure has been.

the people you focused on here. Same with

Orlando?

all your movies. What compelled you to shine

He seemed to be on board right away. He’d seen

The movie ends with a purely emotional

a light on the ordinary lives of people who are

Tangerine, read the script, and was more than

scene that seems so far beyond what a child

invisible to most?

halfway there by the time I met him for coffee.

Brooklynn’s age should be able to deliver. How

My co-screenwriter Chris Bergoch forwarded me

He has played a lot of bad guys recently, but I

do you guide a seven- or eight-year-old to do

news articles about the situation in Kissimmee. His

look back to Elias in Platoon, and his character

that?

mother relocated there and he loves those parks.

in Mississippi Burning. You actually mourn when

No, she was six-and-a-half. We didn’t want to

He got wind of this situation just being there. He

Elias dies; he’s the moral grounding on that film.

rehearse that because we knew if we got it, we

knows the topics I’m interested in and forwarded

His earlier work left no doubt he could do this. ★

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Denis

first movie Deckard falls in love with AI and it deals with the moral issues of that. In Ridley

VILLENEUVE

Scott’s latest cut, Deckard is discovering he’s like one of the replicants he’s been hunting. He might not be human. He could be artificial himself. In Blade Runner 2049, Deckard doesn’t know about his identity; he doesn’t know if he’s human or a replicant. This idea came from the original book. The policeman is doubting about his own identity,

The Arrival helmer delivers a dystopian future, as beautiful as you’ve never seen before in Blade Runner 2049

much like a doctor who comes in contact with diseases starts thinking he has all the same symptoms.

B Y A N T H O N Y D ’A L E S S A N D R O Was the script always meant to be enigmatic or was that something you found in the editing room? I don’t want to spoil the story about the girl, but it was always meant to be a prodigal son-like story in Ryan Gosling’s K searching for his identity and ultimately the hero, Deckard, at the end. K has no

C

ANADIAN DIRECTOR DENIS VILLENEUVE makes character-driven, darkly arresting, eclectic material that both perplexes and amazes simultaneously. And for quite some time, they were the type of arthouse pieces that typically begin their cinematic journeys at the Cannes Film Festival. But he was given the opportunity to lend his cinematic sensibilities to a larger sci-fi spectacle with Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 35-year-old classic Blade Runner. It’s an understatement to say critics embraced Blade Runner 2049, as they were in awe of how the movie visually outstripped its seminal original.

answers, but it’s a complex movie and there’s a lot to talk about it in it. Given how visually mesmerizing the film is, did you handle all of your VFX scenes first? No. Everything was mostly shot by a main unit. There was a lot that we shot on camera. The sets and the special effects departments were all scaled down. There weren’t a lot of VFX shots: There was the hologram, and the Vegas shots. But most of what we shot was in camera. We

How has Blade Runner’s message on a future

being told, like one of my older movies. At first, I

enhanced the shot with VFX later, of course. Also,

society changed in the time between films?

said, “Why me?” but then I understood why they

what was done with Sean Young’s character—

This sequel became relevant to me in its use of

chose me; they know my sensibility very well.

how they brought her back has rarely been done

technology, and our intimacy with it. We have

I read the screenplay several times, I loved it so

so seamlessly.

this intimate relationship with technology that

much, but I didn’t want to have this burden on my

is getting more powerful, and it’s getting close

shoulders. It was a very risky project. I was saying

Is there a world where a third film could be

to the world that’s described in the first Blade

to myself that I needed to find inside me all the

made at a lower cost, or does that depend

Runner. It’s still an existential movie, but the sequel

technical skills; everybody might hate me for doing

on the pic’s Oscar endgame?

raises questions about what it is to be human, the

this. But because of the power of the story, I felt

That’s a question that should be asked to the

relationship with our memory, the broken dream,

moved and decided to say yes.

producers at Alcon. I don’t like to put words

and the melancholic human story.

in others’ mouths. Alcon is very proud of the Which of your older titles did Blade Runner

movie and they’ve told me this 100 times. They

Ford’s input on that. It was a huge responsibility

2049 remind you of?

believe in this universe and they’re still inspired.

to take on a legacy universe like Blade Runner, to

Incendies. Both movies have in common an

I don’t know the outcome of that, but the

imagine how this world evolved over 30 years.

investigation. Someone is doing detective work.

dream isn’t dead.

Bringing Rick Deckard to life, I needed Harrison

It’s about someone looking for a specific thing How did your attachment to the project

about somebody else, and it slowly unveils things

What’s next for you? Legendary’s Dune or

begin? Did you pitch yourself for the movie?

about the protagonists who go through a strong

Sony’s Cleopatra?

I would have never been able to pitch myself for

existential crisis. Both movies are rebirths and have

I’m working on the screenplay right now with

this movie. It’s so bold, dangerously ambitious

similar obsessions.

Eric Roth for Dune. Cleopatra will require a long

and a frightening project. Alcon called me. They

process of preparation and research. It’s a long-

wanted to meet in a secret location, so we met at

There were several cuts of the first movie.

term project. Right now, I’m committed to Dune,

a café in the desert in New Mexico. [Alcon head]

Which was the jumping off point for you with

and I don’t want to rush it. I need to slow down. I

Andrew Kosove put the screenplay in front of

the sequel?

made five movies in six years. I just finished doing

me. I was really moved as it was a testament to

For me, Blade Runner 2049 is a standalone movie.

press for Blade Runner 2049 a few weeks ago and

how much trust they have in me. We had such a

It’s good to have seen the first movie, but if you

I’m home back in Montreal. I’m still digesting the

beautiful experience making Prisoners together.

didn’t, you could still enjoy this one. The way it

experience of Blade Runner 2049. It was the most

As I was reading the screenplay, it felt strangely

was written was very clever: it played with the

challenging artistic journey of my life. In making

familiar to me, in regards to the way the story was

ambiguity of the first movie. In the story of the

the film, I went to film school. ★

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Mangold, Jackman & Parker

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for your consideration in all categories

 “An immense piece of film-making ...your heart may be broken, but your soul will be satisfied... it is a work of genius.” — Kevin Maher, The Times

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