O S C A R S E AS O N 2 0 1 2 — 2 0 1 3
ON THEIR OSCAR HOPEFULS
STATE OF THE RACE PETE HAMMOND’S TAKE
MOGULS PANEL HIGHLIGHTS FROM DEADLINE ’S 2012
BEST PICTURE ISSUE
GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS 速
BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR ANG LEE
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE MYCHAEL DANNA
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CRITICS’ CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS NOMINATIONS INCLUDING
BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR ANG LEE
CELEBRATE THE YEAR’S MOST EXTRAORDINARY WORK OF ANIMATED ARTISTRY for your conSiderAtion
Directed by sam fell, chris butler
from the mAKerS of
For more on the incredible stop-motion magic and innovation of “ParaNorman” go to www.FocusGuilds2012.com 04
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ANNIE AWARD NOMINATIONS
Boston Online Film Critics Association
San Diego Film Critics Society
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association
Las Vegas Film Critics Society
CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS
“With tens of thousands of printed parts, millions of hours of work, and billions of pixels invested,
‘PARANORMAN’ REPRESENTS UNPARALLELED INNOVATION IN HANDMADE STORYTELLING—AND A NEW FUTURE FOR A 100-YEAR-OLD ART FORM.” – Caitlin Roper, WIRED MAGAZINE
The spirit of great stop-motion animators like George Pal and Ray Harryhausen lives on in ‘ParaNorman’.” – Stephanie Zacharek, NPR
OSCAR SEASON 2012—2013
E d i t or i a l Tea m
AWARDS | LINE EDITOR
AWARDS | LINE MANAGING EDITOR & CONTRIBUTOR
DEADLINE AWARDS COLUMNIST
Pete Hammond DEADLINE FILM EDITOR
Mike Fleming Jr. DEADLINE TV EDITOR
Nellie Andreeva DEADLINE EDITORS
T A B L E of
08) State of the Race
Now that many of the perceived Oscarprecursor nominations and awards have been announced, Deadline’s Pete Hammond reveals where the major contenders stand.
10) Intimate Crowd
A look at who turned up for the fourth-annual Governors Awards in the Ray Dolby Ballroom.
12) Jeff Skoll & Jim Berk The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Lincoln, Promised Land
14) Grant Heslov
16) Walter Parkes
17) Kathleen Kennedy Lincoln
18) Scott Rudin Moonrise Kingdom
20) Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS
The second-annual “Moguls Panel” featured seven studio heads talking about the business and their Oscar-season schedules.
27) Under the Surface
The key to the script for Promised Land was finding the right backdrop to use to tell a story about an abuse of power.
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BEST PICTURE ISSUE
28) Vocal Proponent
Hugh Jackman belts one out for the first time on the big screen in Les Misérables.
30) Night Moves
Fast and furious is the only way to characterize the shoot for Zero Dark Thirty.
34) Back to Middle Earth
Peter Jackson begins a second trilogy with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
38) Chain Gang
Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti-western homage, Django Unchained, picks up some of the same revisionist-revenge themes of Inglourious Basterds.
42) Shoot First
Six skilled cinematographers discuss how they achieved the right look for their current releases.
Patrick Hipes Denise Petski Kinsey Lowe AWARDS| LINE CONTRIBUTORS
Paul Brownfield Diane Haithman Monica Corcoran Harel Ari Karpel Cari Lynn Thomas J. McLean David Mermelstein Craig Modderno Ray Richmond Des i g n , P ro d u c t i on & Mar k e t i n g
AWARDS| LINE CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Erik Denno MARKETING CONSULTANT
Madelyn Hammond SR. DIRECTOR, ADVERTISING OPERATIONS
Cham Kim AWARDS| LINE CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
FOUNDER, CHAIRMAN & CEO
Jay Penske EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
Paul Woolnough SVP ENTERTAINMENT SALES
Nic Paul VP PARTNERSHIPS & PRODUCT
Craig Perreault VP FINANCE
44) Source Material
The classic Victor Hugo novel served as a rich resource for the Les Misérables production team.
46) Near Past
Achieving the right look of historical accuracy for Argo’s 1970s time period was a challenge.
GM ENTV/PMC STUDIOS
Michael Davis VP ENTERTAINMENT SALES
Shelby Haro SR. ENTERTAINMENT SALES DIRECTOR
Cathy Goepfert CONSUMER SALES DIRECTORS
Debbie Goldberg ACCOUNT DIRECTOR
47) The Soprano
Renée Fleming gives sparkling voice to Alexandre Desplat’s original song for Rise of the Guardians.
Tiffany Windju Lauren Stagg ADVERTISING INQUIRIES
Nic Paul firstname.lastname@example.org
IS THE PARENT COMPANY AND OWNER OF:
For your consideration in all categories including
BEST ACTOR BIL L MURRAY
Murray’s spectacular, Oscar -caliber performance is one of the year ’s delights.” ®
LOU LUMENICK, NEW YORK POST
“Bill Murray delivers
a career-best performance.” KAREN DURBIN, ELLE
“Bill Murray gives
a truly presidential performance.” GRAHAM FULLER, VANITY FAIR
Murray dazzles as former
president FDR. An Oscar -worthy performance.” ®
MARLOW STERN, THE DAILY BEAST
“One of the season’s don’t-miss events.
BILL MURRAY IS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Bill Murray is awesome.
He channels the enormous humanity and popularity of FDR with enchanting grace and infectious dazzle. A revelation in every frame.” REX REED, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER
For more on the artistry and acclaim on this ﬁlm go to www.FocusGuilds2012.com
Forecast By PETE HAMMOND
Academy Voters Feel the Crunch of an Earlier Schedule as Precursor Awards Roll Out
With freshly minted nominations from the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards, SAG, AFI, and a slew of critics groups chiming in every day, there are many voices trying to influence the race for Oscar’s best picture of 2012. But does it matter, or is all of this just a lot of white noise as far as Academy voters are concerned?
Life of Pi
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The effect all this has is an even bigger question this year than in the past because of the earlier timetable the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences introduced for voting coupled with the new online electronic voting options. With ballots going out Dec. 17 and due back Jan. 3 (essentially right in the heart of the holidays) and a big rush for members to see the major contenders, which are mostly November and December openings, the influence factor of other awards could be more significant than ever, if only to get voters to focus on key films these groups are singling out. My own survey of Academy members indicates that as late as the second week in December, many had not yet seen most of the films pundits are saying will be the major players in the best picture race. By forcing an earlier vote on their members, the Academy is putting enormous pressure on them to see these films and make a judgment of Oscarworthiness. My guess is this means this will be another year, like 2011, when nine or 10 pictures will be nominated (it can be anywhere from five to 10), as there seems to be a dedicated but smaller constituency so far for a number of movies, rather than an obvious frontrunner. Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Misérables, and Silver Linings Playbook are consensus titles that have popped up in significant ways on most of the important lists so far, including SAG. SAG is the first glimpse of the race from a guild and often mirrors Academy tastes—as do the PGA, DGA, and WGA along with below-the-line guilds— making it the most important barometer. But we have
to put an asterisk next to it this year because Pi is not actorcentric and most members of the SAG nominating committee likely did not see Quentin Tarantino’s bloody homage to spaghetti westerns, Django Unchained, simply because the Christmas Day release was not ready in time and DVD screeners could not be sent. It was AWOL at SAG, but its strong showing with AFI, the Golden Globes, and Critics Choice, despite limited screening opportunities, means it also belongs with those aforementioned six other films in an unprecedented 7-pack of genuine contenders, all of whom have shots at the prize depending on the way the wind blows in the next few weeks. With best picture nominations likely for those seven, and a longer period of six weeks instead of four between Oscar nominations on Jan. 10 and the show on Feb. 24 ,the postnom period is going to be more crucial than ever. It is where the race can really be won by the savviest of campaigns and, more importantly, momentum. In the Oscar race, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish, and each film has a chance to build—or in the case of October release Argo, rebuild—that frontrunning status. This is where smart campaign moves can make all the difference. With restrictive rules governing postnom parties, Q&As, etc., getting your film noticed is key. Lincoln’s Dec. 19 command screening for the entire U.S. Senate is the kind of thing that smells “important” and can have an effect in swaying Oscar votes, if not those in the Senate. “Who knew we would be the last thing they see before jumping off the fiscal cliff ?” Steven Spielberg told me at a Lincoln party last week. In addition to the key seven, don’t discount Michael Haneke’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Amour, which is also Austria’s official entry for foreign-language film. Although it’s not common, there are several examples of foreign films making the best picture cut including The Emigrants, Cries and Whispers, Life Is Beautiful, and Il Postino. Sony Pictures Classics is making a big play not only for foreign film but acting, directing, writing, and best picture recognition for this extraordinary movie. The problem is many voters don’t seem to be aware it is eligible in those other categories, even if it becomes a foreign-language nominee. This one could be a wild card in the picture race, and even for Haneke as director, even though that field is incredibly crowded. In fact, it’s the directors’ race that will be the one to watch for clues on which of these films has the mojo to go all the way. With only five possible nominations and so many truly viable contenders, someone is getting cut. But who among Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, and David O. Russell, not to mention Haneke, will be in or out, even as their picture gets nominated? On top of these films, there is still hope for the likes of The Master, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, a recent surge for May’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and even hope of a first-ever best picture nomination for James Bond with Skyfall.
GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS ®
BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR BEST SCREENPLAY BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR BEST ORIGINAL SCORE DRAMA
ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST FILMS
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD
CRITICS’ CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS NOMINATIONS INCLUDING
BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR
“THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR.★★★★
ARGO FEELS IMMEDIATE AND RELEVANT.
AWARDS NOMINATIONS ®
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE AND
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
WINNER BEST SCREENPLAY
LOS ANGELES FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
★★★★ THE CRAFT IN THIS FILM IS RARE.” ONE OF THE MOST TAUT AND WELL-CONSTRUCTED THRILLERS IN YEARS.
SEAMLESS “PITCH-PERFECT CHRISTY LEMIRE,
INGENIOUSLY WRITTEN AND EXECUTED.” A N N H O R N A D AY,
“NOTHING LESS THAN
BEN AFFLECK SHINES AS A FILMMAKER AND AN ACTOR.” CLAUDIA PUIG, F O R Y O U R C O N S I D E R A T I O N I N A L L C A T E G O R I E S I N C L U D I N G
BEST DIRECTOR BEST SCREENPLAY BEST PICTURE
SMART AND ACCOMPLISHED, ARGO HAS IT ALL.” JOE MORGENSTERN,
The Academy’s Fourth Annual Governors Awards Represents a Priority Stop For Awards Season Contenders
Inset from left: George Stevens Jr., D.A.Pennebaker, Hal Needham, and Jeffrey Katzenberg
Right: Katzenberg at the podium
By Pete Hammond
A version of this story originally ran on Deadline.com on Dec. 2, 2012 With the fourth annual Governors Awards taking place closer than ever to the official Academy voting period, the contenders were out in full force on a rainy Dec. 1 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood. And what better place to be seen than in a room full of Academy voters? “Now it begins. This is the first really big one of the season,” one studio marketing executive said about the very impressive turnout. Flight director Robert Zemeckis was sitting next to me at the event saluting Hal Needham, George Stevens Jr., D.A. Pennebaker, and Jean Hersholt Humanitarian winner Jeffrey Katzenberg, and he noted the heavy studio presence making a big difference in star turnout. Studios this year have more Oscar hopefuls than usual, and many potential nominees eager to talk were at those tables: Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal and costar Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty); director J.A. Bayona, stars Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland (The Impossible); Bradley Cooper, Jacki Weaver, director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook); director Nicholas Jarecki, star Richard Gere (Arbitrage); John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt (Promised Land); John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, director Ben Lewin (The Sessions); writer Tony Kushner, director Steven Spielberg (Lincoln); director Tom Hooper, producer Eric Fellner (Les Misérables); Omar Sy (The Intouchables); Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann (This Is 40); director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina); Kristen Stewart (On the Road); Amy Adams (The Master); Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas (The Dark Knight Rises); writer Chris Terrio (Argo); Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)— and this is just a partial list. Nevertheless, the real reason for this event was so the industry could honor its own with the highest awards it can bestow. Academy president Hawk Koch was the first speaker of the evening, which was flawlessly produced by Don Mischer, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Charlie Haykel, and Juliane Hare. “The definition of who deserves an honorary Oscar is simple,” Koch said. “Each one of these people we are honoring tonight has made a difference to every single person in the film community, here in Hollywood, and all over the world. They have redefined our art form.”
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After a one-hour dinner break that became the Super Bowl of table-hopping for awards consultants, Senator Al Franken came on to extoll the virtues of 87-year-old documentary filmmaking legend D.A. Pennebaker, whose career spans music docs for the likes of Bob Dylan and David Bowie to penetrating political docs like 1960’s Primary and The War Room. “His body of work has influenced us all, not just because he’s a great filmmaker but because his films feel so honest and true,” Franken said. Academy documentary governor Michael Moore echoed those sentiments before the night’s first honoree took to the stage, delivering a long but sincere speech. “New York is a long way from here, and people who make films in New York never even expect to go to Oscarland, much less get one,” Pennebaker said. Academy governor Annette Bening introduced honorary Oscar winner George Stevens Jr., saying there’s no single word that describes this man of many talents and strong Hollywood heritage who founded American Film Institute and later the Kennedy Center Honors. “He has elevated the act of honoring others and made it a sublime art. He is a true enthusiast for the art of film in all its forms, and we have all benefitted from his dogged determination to preserve, promote, and elevate filmmaking,” she said. Sidney Poitier then appeared to a standing ovation and spoke of his long friendship and association with Stevens Jr., who directed him in the TV movie Separate But Equal. Stevens gave a terrific thank you, telling of going to the Oscars several times, including once when his father won for directing A Place in the Sun in 1951. “On the way home, I sat next to him in the car with the Oscar between us on the seat. He said, ‘We will have a better idea what kind of film this is in the next 25 years.’ He was talking about the test of time… I thank Dad for that and opening the door for me to a creative life that has been so rich, and gifted me with so many wonderful friends in our profession,” he said as he clutched his brand-new Academy Award. Perhaps the liveliest presentation was to stuntmandirector Hal Needham, whom presenter Tarantino noted was only the second stuntperson to receive an Oscar. (The first went to legendary Yakima Canutt.) Producer Albert S. Ruddy followed Tarantino with an absolutely hilarious tale about the making of a Needham film called Megaforce, which caused major destruction on the Goldwyn lot where it was shooting. A very large missile built for the film inadvertently
misfired, tearing a giant hole into an adjacent stage that then burned down. That didn’t stop Needham, who continued making the film despite personal injury and calamity. “You’re looking at the luckiest man alive and lucky to be alive,” said Needham in an emotional acceptance in which he also remembered his late mother. “I want to thank the entire Hollywood community for allowing me to be a part of it.” Last up was Katzenberg whose presentation also was responsible for the biggest star power of the night (Spielberg, George Lucas, and Kirk Douglas were among those sitting at his table), with both Will Smith and Tom Hanks offering their humorous assessments of why Katzenberg is so successful as a philanthropist. But Hanks became serious when speaking about the humanity of Katzenberg, who followed him to the stage to accept the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, primarily for his two decades of work heading the Motion Picture and Television Fund through harmony and controversy. One of the MPTF home’s Calabasas residents, 102-yearold Ruthie Thompson, a 40-year veteran of Disney animation and 10-year resident, also paid tribute to Katzenberg. The DreamWorks Animation head, who was sitting with partner Steven Spielberg, said, “My story is of mentors—people who give of their time and talents, of their words and wisdom. People who encourage all of us to reach for more and in doing so inspire us to strive for excellence not only in ourselves but in each other.” He noted this was an appropriate moment for him since it was 75 years ago that Jean Hersholt himself became a founding member of the Motion Picture Relief Fund. “I am tempted to say it is the circle of life. But a circle implies something complete, and we at the fund have a greater horizon.” With that, the dinner was over. But there were plenty of reminders in the room that the Really Big Show was just gearing up: the 85th Oscars. Show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron along with host Seth MacFarlane were introduced during the evening by Koch, who told me afterward he was very pleased with the way things went at this Governors Awards gala. “For us, this is a way to honor the people we want to honor without time constraints.” It’s also a new and very important stop on the Oscar campaign express. But also a reminder that what really matters is taking notice of some very great careers in the movie business and giving a very deserving quartet their long overdue honors.
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From left: Jeff Skoll and Jim Berk (Getty Images)
Producing Films Centered on Global Human Issues, Participant Media Returns to the Awards Season Spotlight
By Mike Fleming Jr.
While it’s typical for film directors to build their careers on their mastery of particular genres and themes, few producers approach their work with a specific angle. But Participant Media’s founder and chairman Jeff Skoll and CEO Jim Berk are taking the road not taken by many studios when it comes to shepherding great cinema: Financing and developing socially conscious films geared toward adults, titles that are bolstered by their advocacy campaigns. Following Skoll’s success as eBay’s first president and full-time employee, Participant enabled his dream to create stories that would enlighten viewers to the globe’s most daunting issues. Berk, the former CEO and president of Hard Rock Café, continues to extend Participant’s financial arm and its brand with TakePart.com, a social-action website. Skoll has served as executive producer on 41 films that have collectively received a total of five Oscars and 22 noms, and this year Participant is back in the awards conversation with three contenders: Lincoln, Promised Land, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. AWARDSLINE: When Participant gets involved in a movie, what sort of input do you seek out? Do you consider yourselves to be creative producers? JEFF SKOLL: It depends on the film. In some cases, it’s our idea, it’s our development. In a film like Contagion or Waiting for Superman, they all started with an idea on the blackboard, and at that point you bring in the people. And then there’s some like Lincoln where you really defer to the creative. JIM BERK: And then there are others like Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or The Help. We were involved in the early days of investing, when the script was in early form, and so we were part of that process all the way through. Where we were able to really play an active role in Lincoln was in positioning the marketplace around ingenious folks that would be useful in putting this film into the zeitgeist. AWARDSLINE: Jeff, you made your fortune when eBay went public, and then you devoted yourself to using your money as a force for change and exposing global issues. What initially led you to see Hollywood as an effective outlet for something like this? SKOLL: Well, it started as a kid. I read a lot of books that made the future world seem like a scary place with terrible weapons, diseases, and wars. I wanted to be a writer to tell stories that would get people interested in the issues that affect us all, but I didn’t want to make a living as one, so I decided to get to a point where I could afford to write these stories, so I became an entrepreneur. And lo and behold with eBay, all of a sudden I had far more resources than I ever would have dreamed of, and a light bulb went off that I didn’t necessarily have to write the stories myself—I could find writers to do that, and I could get those stories in film and TV and other forms of media. That’s how Participant was born. And in 2003, I went around L.A. with the idea, trying to understand if anybody had done this before, and if so, how? Most people were pretty skeptical about an outsider coming in to tell stories and make movies in Hollywood. But I would ask everybody that I was talking to, whether it was a writer or a director or an agent or a banker in the film industry, what they were proud of over the course of their career, and invariably, it turned out to be a project about an issue that they cared about. Alan Horn, who was president of Warner Bros. at the time, understood the concept immediately. We made our first three movies with them: Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana, and North Country. Those films broke through with the idea of what we were trying to do and the fact that I wasn’t just trying to write checks but was trying to make a difference with the films.
AWARDSLINE: Let’s look at the Participant films that are in the Oscar conversation. What swayed you in each case to want to be involved? We’ll start with Promised Land. BERK: When Matt (Damon) and John (Krasinki’s) draft came into us midway through the process, the setting was about a few issues that were the primary focus of the company. We’ve done four films with Matt—he’s a partner that we really are attracted to. We looked for three things: Commercial reliability, social relevance, and quality. Given the cast and the distributor in place as part of the whole package—and the issues looked impactful to small towns—it became a perfect film for us to be involved in. The issue comes first. There has to be a tangible issue that affects millions today where the film can make a difference for those people. It’s not our role to tell people what to think, but it’s to put these issues into the zeitgeist and give them information to think about it. So when we look at material, the purpose is ultimately a role of peace and sustainability, but it has to be done around empowering people with information and ways to get involved. Whether they choose the left or the right or somewhere in between, we have to trust that they’re fully empowered, and they’ll make the right decisions. AWARDSLINE: From that same vantage point, what about Lincoln? You’re looking back at a period in history. How did this fit into your criteria to get involved in this? SKOLL: It’s really about a divided country and leadership to get through it: Civic engagements, dealing with complex issues, and getting to a point where you can actually move things forward. (When) I read the script, and the book beforehand, it made it seem, even a few years ago, (like) such a resonant issue in this country. BERK: When we had the opportunity to become involved with this, the election and these surrounding issues were really setting this particular story’s tone. It’s pretty unique when you think about how we’re having this conversation today with a lame-duck congress that’s struggling with a very large issue and the president needing to reach out across his own party in order to carve out a deal that would allow the country to move forward. Obviously, it’s not at the same impact in terms of the specific task at hand as maybe President Lincoln saw, but, nevertheless, it’s pretty weird how it’s actually duplicating something that exists today.
Smokeand Mirrors Mirrors from left: Ben Affleck and Grant Heslov
Grant Heslov Talks About Argo’s Path to the Big Screen
By Christy Grosz
Having a script that everyone loves doesn’t always ensure the quickest path to production. Just ask Argo producer Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Pictures. Five years ago, Heslov and producing partner George Clooney hired screenwriter Chris Terrio to turn Joshuah Bearman’s April 2007 Wired article, “The Great Escape,” into a script. The previously classified true story of the CIA’s collaboration with two Hollywood insiders in setting up a fake production company and turning six trapped diplomats into a fake film crew as a way to smuggle them out of Iran was a riveting read in first-draft script form. Nevertheless, scheduling proved an issue for years until the script made its way through Warner Bros. to Ben Affleck, who was eager to make Argo his next project. With the boxoffice hit and festival-circuit favorite firmly entrenched in the awards conversation, Heslov took time from the set of his next project, August: Osage County, to talk about arriving at the right budget number and why Smokehouse is always involved in the marketing of its films. AWARDSLINE: It took Argo about five years to make it to the screen. Was it just a matter of scheduling for you or were there other roadblocks that were holding things up? HESLOV: We found it about five years ago, and we developed it, and it was one of a few films that we had that we felt were ready to go. But George (Clooney) and I just hadn’t had time to get it made or figure out what we were going to do with it. When we were shooting The Ides of March, we heard that Ben (Affleck) was interested, so we got together with him, and that’s how that ball started rolling. AWARDSLINE: How concerned were you about dramatizing some of the real events in order to make them work for a film? HESLOV: You know, we weren’t. George and I have done a bunch of films that are based on the truth, and (for) this one, we felt like as long as we stayed within the spirit of the story, the things we did to add drama—and there aren’t that many, when you really look at it—we didn’t have any problem with that. AWARDSLINE: There’s always haggling with the studio and the director over what that budget number is going to be. Do you go in with a number that you know you can’t go under and have the film still work? How does that process work for you? HESLOV: We know how much we can make the movie for, have a gut feeling. (But) it’s not just how much do you think you can make the movie for but how much do you think the movie can make. There’s a lot that goes into it, and we’re not cavalier about it,
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we really think. For instance, a film like Good Night and Good Luck, you make that for $7 million because you know it’s a black-and-white film, and it’s not an easy sell. If you make it for $7 million, then everybody can have a chance to make a little bit of money, and you get to make the film you want to make. But on a film like Argo—it’s period, there’s a lot of locations, and there’s a big cast. You have a gut feeling about the number and you go, “Look, we know we can’t make it for anything less than this, and if we can make it for more than this, then that would be great.” Then getting to the haggling with the studio over what the number is, it’s never as much as you want, but they usually come up a little, and you go down a little, and find someplace in the middle. AWARDSLINE: How involved are you as a production company in marketing the films that Smokehouse produces? HESLOV: We’re incredibly involved. If you asked the studio, they’d probably say we’re too involved. But look, George has been involved in the release of tons and tons of movies. Even when he’s an actor in the film, he still has to sign off on everything. So he has years of experience, and I’ve learned from him that you just have to be on top of all the marketing stuff. We have very strong opinions about the way that the films that we work on are sold. The studios, as they should, want to extract every dollar out of that opening weekend. But at the same time, for us (a film) is what lives on with us forever, as a one-sheet on
our wall, as part of a legacy that we’re trying to put together. You want to have stuff that you feel good about in the way the film was marketed, and you also want to make sure that you’re selling the film that people are actually going to want to go see, because that can backfire on you. We’re very involved. AWARDSLINE: Did you think that Argo would be tough to market? HESLOV: Yes. It’s got an odd title, and it’s a very hard film to sell. On one hand, it’s a real nail-biter thriller and on the other hand, there’s a lot of comedic moments in it, but it’s not a comedy. If you sell it as a comedy, people are going to be disappointed. So it was tricky, but the studio did a great job. We’re really happy with what they did with it. AWARDSLINE: Is it tough to balance the rigors of promoting a film while you’re on location with a high-profile film like August: Osage County? HESLOV: It’s not really hard… We premiered at the London Film Festival, and we couldn’t be a part of that because we couldn’t leave. There were certain screenings that I wish George and I could have been at. You know, you make a movie and you’re proud of it, and you want to share those moments with your collaborators. But in terms of the actual work that has to be done, everything I do is practically on the phone anyway, so not so bad. (Laughs.)
“ SpIElbERG, KuShNER ANd dAy-lEwIS dARE GREATly IN GIvING
u S ThIS COMplEx, CONFlICTEd pORTRAIT OF A GREAT AMERICAN l EAdER. ThE RESulT... IS A GREAT AMERICAN MOvIE.” peter travers, rolling stone
F O R G E N E R AT I O N S T O C O M E
Attracting a Big Star Who’s Passionate About the Material Helped Flight Get Off the Ground, Says Producer Walter Parkes
By Christy Grosz
From left: Laurie MacDonald, director Robert Zemeckis, and Walter Parkes
When Walter Parkes and his wife and partner Laurie MacDonald read the first 40 pages of John Gatins’ script for Flight in 2006, the adult drama about a substanceabusing airline pilot piqued their interest. The dark, character-driven story hearkened back to the type of films the major studios used to make on a regular basis. Neither Parkes nor MacDonald envisioned a highwattage actor like Denzel Washington taking on the role—not only was Washington way out of the price range of a film that needed to be made on a modest budget, their main character worked in a field with few AfricanAmerican pilots. Nevertheless, once the script made its way to Washington’s agent, the late Ed Limato, the actor read it and was hooked, according to Parkes. “The excellence of a project is no longer enough to get it made: It’s a combination of the quality of the material, the quality of the people making it, and, honestly, the financial circumstance under which the movie is made,” says Parkes, who points out that Washington’s enthusiasm (and, well, severe price cut) helped push Flight to the finish line. Parkes recently spoke with AwardsLine about how it all came together. AWARDSLINE: Hindsight says that Flight was a great project to take on, but did doing a midrange-budget adult drama give you pause when it first came across your desk? PARKES: It’s been so long that the business was slightly different then. We first got involved with the project in 2006. John Gatins sent us 40 pages, the only 40 pages he’d written of the project, which only really took us to the crash and the immediate aftermath. While it wasn’t exactly clear where the movie was going, the quality of the writing and the strength of that premise were enticing enough that we felt that, if the script was completed correctly, it would attract terrific
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elements. And at the end of the day, that is necessary to get a movie like that made. We’re talking 2006, before the (financial crisis) and the way it affected Hollywood. You know, there were many independent labels then—Paramount Vantage would have been a good place for this—but over the course of the development, they pretty much stopped being in business, as did many of the specialty labels of other studios. All that meant was that it was less of a sure bet that the project would get made, regardless of the quality of the script. It really put it upon us to meet certain other criteria—mainly, get really amazing people to do it for very little money. (Laughs.) AWARDSLINE: So how did you get those amazing people to participate? PARKES: I wish we could take credit for a lot of it, and we really can’t. Sometimes your job is to keep a project afloat and in the consciousness of the studio, long enough for the right elements to become attached. We worked with John for the better part of 2006 and 2007, and there was a draft, a good draft. There had been conversations with different actors and certain actors chasing it, but there wasn’t the kind of explosive combination that would ignite it as a movie to be made. That really happened because Denzel Washington’s agent, (the late) Ed Limato, had read it and took it upon himself to call me and Laurie and say, “This would be extraordinary for Denzel.” We said, “Great, if he’d be interested…” And about six weeks later, I got another call from Ed saying Denzel read it and he loves it, and he’d love to sit down and talk. So Laurie and I flew to New York, and we had lunch with Denzel. We sat down and Denzel said, “Well, I’m in.” And I said, “Denzel, we don’t really have a director yet.” And he said, “We’ll get a great director.” And I said, “The studio hasn’t said that they’re making the movie,” and he said, “I understand.” And I said, “Denzel, it’s not that kind of movie where everybody’s going to get paid their full rate,” and he said, “It’s a great role, though; it’s a great movie. Let’s see if it can get done.” But still we went through probably a good year having different conversations with different directors. There was a moment there where John Gatins himself was being considered as the director, and Denzel was open to it, but I think for that role he felt that he needed a more experienced hand behind the camera. But it was all done in the very positive way of, “How can we make
this work?” I had never thought that Bob would do this small of a movie, (but) it suddenly began to make sense because he’s a pilot, and he was inspired by the screenplay. Once that happened, it felt like we were finally going to make the movie. Even so, there were still fairly stringent financial circumstances that had to be met in order for the movie to be officially greenlit. But, luckily, a director as masterful and experienced as Bob can make a movie like Flight for the price that we made it for. AWARDSLINE: Did you go in knowing that this needed to be in that $30 million dollar range long before anybody was attached? PARKES: It’s not our first time at the rodeo. It was not a conventionally commercial project, so the studio would only feel comfortable if we spent “x” on it. It’s not a bad way of approaching interesting and unique material, which was an approach we used at DreamWorks: Use your professional experience to make a best guess (about) a break-even scenario and see if the movie could be made properly under this financial circumstance. Then if you exceed (expectations), the movie is wildly profitable and successful for everybody involved. AWARDSLINE: The film also walks a careful line in tone with having a somewhat unlikable protagonist. Did you have a lot of discussions with John Gatins about maintaining that balance? PARKES: There’s an aspect of the character of Whip as portrayed by Denzel that was absolutely on the page: He was charming; he was high functioning; and he had, even on the page, the kind of competence and swagger that we look to in our heroes. So the fact that all of that in a person that was self-destructive, selfish, and teetering out of control just made it more interesting. We were even less concerned once Denzel was cast, because Denzel has pure charisma—no matter how dark he goes, as proven by Training Day, somehow the audience never loses connection with him. I also don’t think I have ever seen him portray fear like this, portray a man who is much smaller than his circumstances. There’s a scene where we’re inside the big meeting with Carr, the owner of the airline, and they’re all talking about, “Is he going to jail?” Through the glass, you can see Denzel, and his knees are together, and he’s in this suit, and his head is frozen down on a magazine that he’s turning the pages of. It’s what you do when just don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. That kind of vulnerability is just extraordinary.
Honestly Abe From left: Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy
Seeing Lincoln Make It to Theaters Was the Culmination of a 13-Year Journey For Kathleen Kennedy
Matt Damon (left) and John Krasinski
AWARDSLINE: Every film has its own set of rules, but what consistently surprises you or keeps you interested when you’re starting a new project? KATHLEEN KENNEDY: My tastes tend to be eclectic, so if I’m working on something that’s a small budget where the challenge is in all the nuances of trying to literally get it made, that presents its own set of challenges; if I’m making a big effects-driven studio picture, then it’s really more of managing all the moving parts. For something like Lincoln, we knew that this was going to be a difficult movie to get made, even if Steven Spielberg was directing it. And as you can see on the screen, we had many different partners just in trying to get the movie financed.
AWARDSLINE: Can you explain how that all came together? KENNEDY: In this day and age, you say that you’re doing a movie about Abraham Lincoln, and nobody necessarily sees the opportunity for making lots of money—it’s not like doing Jurassic Park. So that’s something we knew going in, and we began to explore the options of who might step in and share the risk of making the film. It ended up taking almost a year before we put together the necessary partners. Stacey Snider was very involved at DreamWorks in really pulling most of that together while we were making War Horse. And when we came back, we went immediately into prepping Lincoln. I had already had many conversations with everybody in Virginia about being able to use the government buildings in Richmond while they were out of session. That, I knew early on, was going to dictate our shooting schedule. That gave us a goal in terms of knowing when we had to have the financial partners in place. AWARDSLINE: Was there ever any other actor during this 13-year process of getting Lincoln made that you considered for the title role? KENNEDY: It’s been in the press that we had conversations with Liam Neeson—this is after Daniel (Day-Lewis) had turned the movie down the first time. And once Tony (Kushner) wrote the script, and Daniel had a chance to read that draft, that’s when he turned around and committed to the project. But the only serious conversation we had with any other actor was with Liam. AWARDSLINE: A lot has been written about Steven’s almost Method approach to working with the actors on set. Can you talk a little bit about that aspect? KENNEDY: What was really going on was that Steven recognized very early that this was going to be a movie where it was all about what was going on in front of the camera. It was a movie that was focused predominantly on performances. He didn’t want an environment where there was a lot of chit-chat and conversations going on about what was happening behind the camera or just the kind of socializing
that tends to go on when you’ve got a lot of down time. And this was a movie where there was virtually no downtime. There was always focused discussion on what was going on within the scene and within the performances, and conversations with the actors because we have in excess of 149 speaking parts (with) fairly complicated wardrobe and hair and makeup. Steven wanted to know as soon as the actors were ready and on the set, (so) he would be ready to start shooting and take full advantage of the time he had. What’s really interesting about any movie I’ve done with Steven (is) we usually adopt a kind of attitude depending on what the movie is. The closest experience I’ve had was working with Clint Eastwood. I’ve made a couple of movies with Clint, and he runs a set in a similar way. In large part, that comes from the fact that he is an actor, and it’s always the most important thing to Clint that when the actor arrives on the set, things are immediately quiet, and the focus turns to those performances. And that’s exactly what Steven did on this set. AWARDSLINE: You’re stepping into the role of president of LucasFilm at a time when it’s being acquired by Disney. How will that affect your producing duties? You have a lot of work on your plate. KENNEDY: (Laughs.) Yeah, it’s a lot on my plate, but it’s been fantastic. I consider it such an honor that George (Lucas) came to me after all these years and asked me if I would take over the company and ensure that his legacy continued. There’s going to be a lot that looks really fun and interesting, and it will still utilize many of the skills that I use as a producer. I don’t envision that a lot will change that dramatically. Many of the movies that I did with Steven over the years involved carrying through a lot of other areas of the business of making movies, and that’s something that I’ll probably end up doing more of. But I’m finding out what the job is right now. We haven’t finalized the sale—that won’t happen until January, and then I’ll get more into the day-to-day.
By Christy Grosz
Kathleen Kennedy has worked with Steven Spielberg for more than 30 years, producing boxoffice successes and critical hits in equal measure. But she says that in all that time, one biographical topic came up consistently in their development discussions: “The subject of Lincoln was something that always fascinated both of us,” she says, noting that their current release took 13 years and multiple iterations to make it to theaters. “We were both really surprised that there hadn’t been more done in cinema (on Lincoln) over the years.” With a script from Tony Kushner, their complex—and occasionally humorous—portrayal of the 16th president’s efforts to pass the 13th amendment in the months before his assassination has already hit $100 million domestically and earned seven Golden Globe nominations. Kennedy recently spoke with AwardsLine about Lincoln’s languid path to production and her new role as president of LucasFilm.
Class (Getty Images)
By Christy Grosz
Scott Rudin Collaborates for the Fifth Time With Wes Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom With a long list of collaborators that includes some of the most sought-after writers and producers in the business, Scott Rudin is no stranger to awards season. He’s earned best picture nominations for the last two years running, for The Social Network and True Grit in 2011 and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last year. He won his only Oscar in 2008 for No Country For Old Men—a year in which his other film, There Will Be Blood, earned a nom for picture—and this year he earned the career distinction of having received all four major entertainment statuettes when he added a Grammy for The Book of Mormon soundtrack. In 2012, Rudin also saw the release of his fifth feature film with director Wes Anderson, the boxoffice hit Moonrise Kingdom. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and has gone on to win a Gotham Award for best film and earn five Independent Spirit Award nominations. Their creatively and financially lucrative partnership continues for Anderson’s 2014 followup, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which reunites much of the same cast and crew from Moonrise, including star Bill Murray and financier Steven M. Rales of Indian Paintbrush. The very busy producer recently spoke with AwardsLine about the film’s success.
AWARDSLINE: You always have a fairly heavy workload for a producer. How do you maintain the quality and still give everything the attention it needs? SCOTT RUDIN: I have no idea other than there’s no alternative. Honestly. AWARDSLINE: Wes Anderson said in his AwardsLine interview that he really relies on you in terms of helping shape the material. What kind of feedback did you give him for Moonrise Kingdom? RUDIN: It’s always, is the story coming across the way he wants it to? Does it have the shape of a narrative in the beginning, the middle, and the end? And are the events landing in a sequence that continues to build on the one before it? AWARDSLINE: This story is more personal than some of his previous films—does that factor into the feedback you give him? RUDIN: That’s true, but I didn’t know that when we were working on it. That was never a factor. I would only ever respond to it as a story he wanted to tell. However much of it was personal or not was kind of beside the point of making it into a movie. AWARDSLINE: Does he usually pitch the story to you, and then you help shape it from there? Or does it depend on the film? RUDIN: We’ve been in the process for five or six movies, and it tends to be the same on every movie. Sometimes there’s more script when he shows it, and sometimes he does much less—and we work from a lot of conversations. AWARDSLINE: For this film, what was your role in terms of getting it to the right studio and making sure that the right budget was there? RUDIN: Steve Rales and Indian Paintbrush financed it, and they’ve done the last few movies, and we always hope to have them on everything. They’ve been fantastic; Steve’s been an incredible supporter of Wes’. Then we talked to a handful of people, and Focus liked it a lot and chased it very hard. AWARDSLINE: You’re also generally very involved in the marketing of the films that you produce. What were some of the challenges for this particular film?
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RUDIN: Realistically, it’s always hard when you make a movie that’s fundamentally about kids for adults. It’s hard to make them work, although this one has worked at a really extraordinary level. But that’s always difficult: How do you make people aware of who the adult cast is without making them feel that the adults are the center of it? Because the adults are really part of the ensemble, but the subject of the movie is the two kids. You don’t want to make it misleading, but at the same time you want to make it appealing. AWARDSLINE: And obviously it worked. Why do you think that the film did so well at the boxoffice? RUDIN: People really respond to what it’s about. It’s a very specific (story), but because it’s so sophisticated, it’s also quite universal. AWARDSLINE: And it’s been generating awards talk since Cannes. RUDIN: Well, his movies are executed at such a high level that it becomes an inevitable conversation. AWARDSLINE: This one in particular has been called more accessible—is that why Moonrise Kingdom is getting that kind of attention? RUDIN: I think so. And Wes now has made a lot of movies, and he’s a filmmaker with a very loyal fan base. AWARDSLINE: In terms of your career, you always emphasize that you’re attracted to story not genre, but it seems like you’re also attracted to filmmakers who have a very distinct voice, like Wes Anderson, like David Fincher, the Coen brothers, and Matt Stone and Trey Parker. How do you preserve those voices and serve the project? RUDIN: I don’t know. I think the job is trying to get the filmmakers to make the movie they want to make. AWARDSLINE: There’s been a lot of talk about the midrange budget, studio, adult drama—like Flight—connecting at the boxoffice. Has something shifted in the business that makes it more attractive for a studio to take a risk on a film like that? RUDIN: They’re hard to get done, but they actually can really work. Any movie in which the movie stars work for free, that’s always a big draw. (Laughs.)
G O L D E N G L O B E B E S T A C T O R O
R I C H A R D
G E R E
“RICHARD GERE SHOULD WIN A LONG-DELAYED BEST ACTOR NOMINATION
FOR HIS FOCUSED, INTENSE WORK IN ‘ARBITRAGE.’ THIS FINE ACTOR HAS PRODUCED HIGH-CALIBER PERFORMANCES FOR YEAR AFTER YEAR, AND THE ACADEMY DOESN’T GIVE HIM THE PRAISE HE DESERVES.”
- ROGER EBERT
“RICHARD GERE GIVES THE BEST PERFORMANCE OF HIS LIFE.” “RICHARD GERE IS RUTHLESSLY GOOD.”
RICHARD GERE BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
RICHARD GERE CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD HOLLYWOOD FILM AWARDS
RICHARD GERE CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD ZURICH FILM FESTIVAL
www.lionsgateawards.com © 2012 Roadside Attractions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
RICHARD GERE CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD HAMPTONS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
MOGULS PANEL Moderated by Deadline awards columnist Pete Hammond and Deadline film editor Mike Fleming Jr.
All the Major Studio Heads Gathered to Talk About Awards Season at Deadline’s Second Annual Event Deadline Hollywood’s second annual THE CONTENDERS event about the movie awards season was held Nov. 10 at L.A.’s Landmark Theatre for invited Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science and guild voters. The “Deadline Moguls Panel,” composed of all the major studio heads, discussed the challenges of this movie awards season. It was an insightful and fascinating discussion. The moderators were Deadline’s awards columnist Pete Hammond and film/NY editor Mike Fleming Jr.. The transcript follows:
By NIKKI FINKE
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DEADLINE’S PETE HAMMOND: We have an incredible panel once again this year: The heads of the studios, the distributors, that are very involved in this year’s Oscar race and turning out the movies that you see. So let me introduce them here. To my right is chairman and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film, Jim Gianopulos. To his right, the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures, Rob Moore. The president of the Warner Bros. Picture Group (and one of the trio forming Warner Bros office of the president), Jeff Robinov. Having a very good weekend with the new James Bond, the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Amy Pascal. The chairman of Universal Pictures, Adam Fogelson. The cochairman of the Lionsgate Motion Pictures Group, Rob Friedman. And partner & cochairman & CEO of DreamWorks Studios, Stacey Snider. And my Deadline colleague Mike Fleming Jr. I do want to say that Harvey Weinstein could not be here due to personal family matters at the last minute. So I’ll feel free to start with this question: How are you moguls going to make sure that Harvey doesn’t make it three in a row this year? Actually, before we start, Harvey did write a note, so let me read this: “I unfortunately couldn’t make it today to THE CONTENDERS event as I have a family emergency back in New York. Many people have asked, ‘What is the secret to an awards campaign?’ and the answer is always the same: Seeing the movies themselves. It is those behind, in front, and around the camera who are the most important part of this process, and it is my job to make sure that as many voters as possible see these films in a theater and, of course, if they can send in three or four ballots for my movies that doesn’t hurt. Congratulations to all of today’s contenders and my fellow panelists, including Amy, Stacey, Jim, Adam, Jeff, and the Robs. And once again I apologize for not being able to make it. There’s nothing I’d rather be discussing, but the only contenders I won’t take on when they put up a fight are my four daughters.”
The indies have won the best picture Oscar in the last few years. Not just the Weinstein Co., but Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker. Is that a fair thing? The Academy changed the rules on the playing field to make 10 movies. And I think it was inspired by the fact that The Dark Knight didn’t get a nomination, and many people felt it should. You know, Amy, let me ask you (since) you’re new to the panel this year: Do you think that’s fair? AMY PASCAL: I have to go first? HAMMOND: You’ve got a big James Bond movie out now. It’s gotten superlative reviews, the kind of reviews that any Oscar movie might get. Will the Academy take it seriously? Do they take big blockbusters seriously when it comes time for Oscars? AMY PASCAL: Well, I think the Academy should take big blockbusters seriously. I think the Academy should take any movie seriously. That is the best version of itself. I think a movie like Argo that is the best version of itself, Flight—those are the only two movies I’ve seen so far—they are the best version of (themselves). And those are genre films just like the James Bond movie. Just like Dark Knight. I think we all got in this business because of big American movies that we fell in love with, not because of small indie films. And I don’t think we should relegate the power that we have as filmmakers and Academy members to the French, or the English, or the indies. This is what we do. We should own it. DEADLINE’S MIKE Fleming Jr.: You mention Argo and you mention Flight. These were two studio films that were made at a price that are working at the boxoffice and creating Oscar buzz. Do you guys consider these to be anomalies? Or maybe is this telling you something about making challenging adult films and maybe this should be more of a studio priority? ROB MOORE: Well, I think the big change that’s seen is the flexibility between agents, studio, and talent. It used to be only indies got that price break if you’re doing material that’s really challenging. Now
FEATURING MOGULS: Stacey Snider Partner, Cochairman & CEO DreamWorks Studios Rob Friedman Cochairman Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Adam Fogelson Chairman Universal Pictures Amy Pascal Cochairman Sony Pictures Entertainment Jeff Robinov President Warner Bros. Pictures Group Rob Moore Vice Chairman Paramount Pictures Corporation Jim Gianopulos Chairman & CEO 20th Century Fox Film
From left: Mike Fleming Jr., Stacey Snider, Rob Friedman, Adam Fogelson, Amy Pascal, Jeff Robinov, Rob Moore, Jim Gianopulos, and Pete Hammond
everybody understands. It doesn’t matter if you’re Warner Bros. or Paramount or Sony. That if the material is complicated, risky material, then everyone has to pitch in, unfortunately. With us on Flight, Bob Zemeckis and Denzel were so inspired by the script they were willing to do it for a different price and hope that the execution of that script would be fantastic. But that is a dynamic that’s been changing. Where everybody, if they have a great piece of material, makes a different deal so that the economics make sense. STACEY SNIDER: I would add to that: While I’m thrilled about the deals, and I hope that they don’t change, what’s encouraging is that there’s boxoffice to follow. There really is an adult audience out there—an audience in general, one that’s interested in serious provocative movies. Fleming Jr.: Rob (Moore), what you just mentioned. I thought The Fighter was a watershed film because it was put together as a studio film. Then it was kicked to the curb because it was too expensive. And it came back as a movie that was half or a third of the price. And you still distributed the film. Is that going to happen more and more for the studios? ROB MOORE: Well, I think the opposite is happening now. Which is, people are willing to make that accommodation where it’s once a studio film. The budget, as you said, was two, two and a half times what it ended up being made for. Once it was independently financed, everyone was willing to change the model. Now I think people also accept that studios have the ability to really engage with that material and act like independents and not be overly bureaucratic and not dictate to filmmakers. But if Bob Zemeckis comes in and will make a movie at a price point, then you eventually give him the creative freedom to make the movie that he wants to make. And that’s a big change that’s happened over the last couple of years. HAMMOND: Jim, you have a movie that’s coming out this month, Life of Pi, which is not a sure thing obviously with what’s thought of as boxoffice blockbusters or safe bets. But it’s an extraordinary movie that has a chance to change the way we look at the movie business. It’s so sophisticated.
JIM GIANOPULOS: Well, some movies will themselves to be. This is a movie that’s gestated for 10 years. Several filmmakers tried it, but then Ang Lee came aboard. Then there comes a point where you say, “OK, there’s no way to make this movie. There’s no way to do a CG tiger that dominates most of the film, that doesn’t cost you enormous amounts of money.” And do you really want to walk away from that opportunity? So some movies just will themselves to be, and you’re part of the process that sometimes enables it. We say, “Let’s just go with it, and let’s see what happens.” Unfortunately, a movie that’s that execution-dependent, inarguably, takes balls to execute. But we’re proud to be part of it. But we couldn’t not make it. HAMMOND: Jeff, what about you? Your slate is a mix of things. Argo wasn’t an easy thing on paper. I don’t think you looked at this and said, “This movie is going to make $100 million.” Or maybe you did. You have all these different kinds of movies: You have The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises, and you have Argo. What do you look for when you’re putting out a slate? Do you know it’s going to be an Oscar movie or the best quality movie, no matter how it comes? JEFF ROBINOV: We do it like everybody else here: We respond to the script, the complete package. Getting back to your original question, in terms of where the Academy is at and how they’re looking at some of these movies, what I think is missing is great storytelling. It’s obviously great storytelling. But there’s a change in the way that movies are being made, and technology is a big part of it. To overlook a movie because of the technological aspect really doesn’t give them credit. You look at a movie like Inception with its layered storytelling, the performances, and having to also add in technical challenges. Or what happened with you guys (Fox) on Avatar isn’t really fair. It’s a new age of filmmaking, and new age of how movies are being made. And the Academy needs to broaden its view of films that they’re analyzing and the complications involved in the execution of that. AMY PASCAL: Can I just say—I would take what happened to him (Jim Gianopulos) on Avatar.
HAMMOND: Would you rather have a movie that won best picture and made $14 million to $15 million at the boxoffice? Or would you rather have an Avatar that’s the biggest movie of all time? What do you want on your résumé? JIM GIANOPULOS: You can’t have both? We’re happy with Avatar, surprised at the outcome of the movie. But what you want on your résumé is enabling great filmmakers and great films. So whether they win or by accident of fate or the nature in that year, there’ve been many years where great films or great filmmakers and talent didn’t get it that year because it was someone else’s turn. Or it just worked out that way. But that doesn’t diminish the quality of the work regardless what it did at the boxoffice. In fact, all this process—we’ll separate process and purpose— the process is arduous, complicated. It’s expensive, it’s long, it’s a pain in the ass. But the purpose is to celebrate great film, film art, and great filmmaking and to introduce people to those films who might not have otherwise gone to them. Beasts of the Southern Wild is (a) small, little film, which could easily get lost. But people started talking about it. Whatever happens at the awards, more people become aware of them or any of the great films represented up here. People do notice it, regardless of whether it wins. Fleming Jr.: I remember seeing The Dark Knight Rises on IMAX before it opened and saying to my son, “I’ve been doing this forever, (and) it’s so nice to see when a fully realized movie like this just knocks your socks off.” And, obviously, the tragedy happened in Aurora and (now) you don’t hear that much (Oscar) buzz about this movie. When people, I would think, would be looking at it like the last Lord of the Rings. What do you intend to do to make sure that movie gets its due? JEFF ROBINOV: We really believe in the movie, and obviously Chris (Nolan) as a filmmaker, and have a more aggressive plan to reintroduce the movie and go after it. It was incredibly well-reviewed. Obviously, it’s a movie that has a combination of great reviews and big boxoffice. And, again, I think it’s one of those things that falls victim to its genre and the technological aspects of the movie. So our job is to really get out Continued on next page...
we’re true believers. We really do think that movies can change the conversation. And so, when we’re presenting movies that rise to that, we’re expecting that everybody feels —STACEY SNIDER the same way that we do. From left: Stacey Snider; Rob Moore; Rob Friedman and Adam Fogelson; Amy Pascal
there—talk about the storytelling, the execution, the design, all the complications that made such a movie.
By Ari Karpel
HAMMOND: Let me ask about the major studios this year. I get the feeling that this year even more than in past years you’re very energized about the Oscar race. You think that this is going to be a good year? Each one of you has a main horse and maybe some others. Jim, you have Life of Pi for sure, and all the Fox Searchlight films, as well. Rob (Moore), you mentioned Flight, which I think is definitely up the Academy’s alley. I think we can see some stuff there. Jeff, you have a lot—obviously, Argo. Amy, you have Zero Dark Thirty and other films. And you, Adam, have Les Mis, which everyone is afraid to see because it might be really really good. And Rob (Friedman), you have an amazing film The Impossible, J.A. Bayona’s film. Stacey, you have Lincoln. I joked about in the beginning, about Harvey going for a threepeat, but are you guys going to put a big campaign behind all of these? And more than what you did in the past? JEFF ROBINOV: First, we plan to kidnap Harvey... This is an exciting time for all of us. It’s great to have movies that are being considered. And it’s great that they’re coming out of the studio system. ROB MOORE: I think the big change with studios, and certainly the folks I’ve been in business while at Paramount, the cultures have changed at the studios because of the changing economics. Filmmakers are getting more comfortable. You can have that same level of independence and support from a major studio. But with the support mechanism that the studio has to offer, that didn’t feel like this five years ago, in terms of the freedom people could give you. With these changing dynamics, folks are bringing in, and willing to do, more interesting material. I think that’s why you see an interesting array of movies from the majors this year is how things have changed. HAMMOND: Amy, you are shaking your head. AMY PASCAL: I’ll be honest with you. Wow, I was just going to say that it’s incredibly exciting for all of us, and exciting for all of you as Academy members, it is our responsibility to promote films that are historically and culturally relevant and to make sure what we’re telling people what will stand the test of time. And I think what’s great about all the movies, and I haven’t seen all of them but all of them sound pretty good, is that they’re all movies about something. Movies that are trying to say something. And movies trying to make us understand the world we live in. And I think what’s great about the Academy, and great about the opportunity that we have here, is that everyone has made these incredibly commercial movies that are the kind of movies that we got in the business to make. And I think that’s pretty unusual.
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ROB FRIEDMAN: We also have to look through a lot of films that could work on an annual basis. And many of them come to the surface as high-quality entertainment. So it gives us the benefit of having multiple films so we can push for this process at the end of the year. Perks of Being a Wallflower is another great film that we have. We’re excited about the lineup that we have. STACEY SNIDER: I think what we all want also is to have all our films just to be seen as much as possible. If we can ensure that our films can get seen on the big screen as much as possible, and enjoy the way they were intended to be enjoyed. Not that we won’t be sending out the screeners. We amongst ourselves know to campaign (that) it really comes down to making sure people see the movies the way they were intended to be seen. ADAM FOGELSON: I also think it’s great that the intersection of quality and commerce has never been greater than it is now. Not to say that there aren’t movies that critics don’t enjoy, or that full audiences will see. But, by and large, movies that are really popping are successfully satisfying both more now than ever. Someone who knows about virtually every movie we all make (is) the industry—talking about what scripts we’re looking at, what movies we’re greenlighting, whom we’re thinking of casting (or) people tell you whom we’re thinking of casting. The process is so transparent. And people can communicate with each other so quickly about the product they’re seeing. Even a commercial product in a movie like Bridesmaids last year (people haven’t seen This Is 40 yet)—any movie in any genre needs to be discussed, (so) it needs to be good. And it needs to be satisfying. And to be commercially successful. Then having it talked about in the awards conversation is great. But I think it’s in all our interests, and the interests of the business, to be making great films. HAMMOND: Then why are we waiting until the last three months to see these films? ADAM FOGELSON: That’s a fallacy. That’s a largely selfcreated fallacy. We all have films (seen). Hurt Locker was June, Erin Brockovich was March, Seabiscuit was summer, The Help was summer, Gladiator was May. HAMMOND: So there’s your answer: We’re seeing them all yearround. Well, maybe not this year. JEFF ROBINOV: It’s a well-guarded secret that our jobs are dependent on whether or not we actually make money for the studio. For us, it’s about balancing commerce and art. So as you look at these bigger films—someone just mentioned Gladiator in May or you go back to Ben-Hur—those are commercial, successful,
big studio films. We make both. We make Argo-size films, we make Flight-size films, and we make big, big movies. And there’s no reason that the big movies… AMY PASCAL: ...Can’t be good. JEFF ROBINOV: ...Yeah, can’t be quality. You always try to make a quality film. Obviously, as my dentist will tell you, we don’t always do it. But the goal is to make great movies. JIM GIANOPULOS: We think of awards celebrating, recognizing, and acknowledging great filmmakers. It also does provide those of us who have to make these decisions, when there are those tough decisions, (with) the hope of an award (that) is much more than anyone’s ego. But it is a hope that, while recognizing a film during awards season and post-awards season, it will take it commercially beyond what it might otherwise do. And that might give you that extra bit of courage to say, “OK, let’s do it.” And I think, for that purpose, it serves all of us. It serves our industry, especially the audience, to see movies get made that are, to some degree, a business potential. HAMMOND: I should add that, on this panel, we have two members of the Academy’s board of governors: That’s Jim (Gianopulos) and also Rob Friedman there. And they’ve made some significant changes this year to try to get people to see these (films) based on their awards success. One, is that there’s a longer period of time after the nominations come out on Jan. 10 all the way to Feb. 24—six weeks instead of four—which enables the audience out there as well as Academy members to catch up with these movies and to have a really interesting Academy Awards. JIM GIANOPULOS: That was the purpose of it. Part of the fact is that, with electronic voting, you gain seven days of snail mail that was an unnecessary part of the process. So, you know, people can get their nominations in early. We’ve heard the excuses—“I’m on vacation,” “I’m in Hawaii.” You know, when you look at the work we do, the job we have, and the jobs of most people on the planet, when it’s our job to see great movies, to take the time to at least nominate those that we think are worthy, that’s not such a bad job. It’s not that difficult. I think we owe it to ourselves, to the filmmakers and whatever organization we’re voting for, to make that time. And then, to really be able to evaluate, to consider, to have that period—like others have said up here—to see it on the big screen. You can’t see Life of Pi on an iPhone! You could, theoretically, but it’s stupid. STACEY SNIDER: The longer period of time is also great for the audience, so that it doesn’t feel like a party just for the industry. It’s great to enable the Academy member more time to see the film and to consider their votes. But it’s great to know that people around
the country and around the world (have) more time to see the films that might be in limited release and rolling out more slowly. So they can participate in the fun and suspense of the evening’s telecast. ROB FRIEDMAN: The Academy isn’t an anomaly. They don’t vote for specific movies in a group. They’re made up of individuals who are creators and vote for their categories. So whatever we can do to allow them to have the time to view the films in their natural state whenever possible, and to think about the process and to execute the process, is what we try to do. HAMMOND: Adam, I’m just wondering how Les Misérables moved from Dec. 14 to Dec. 25? That same day that the Academy announced that they were having a shorter period for the nominations. Voting starts Dec. 17 and goes to Jan. 3, so this opens nationally right in the middle of all this. Did that give you pause moving to that day? Or do you think it’s affected at all? ADAM FOGELSON: We don’t seem to be having trouble getting people to pay attention to it. And the reality is we’re going to screen this movie like nobody’s business the minute it’s ready and would have regardless. Its delivery date was not impacted. That was a commercial decision based on when we thought was a perfect moment to release the film. We’ll start screening the movie the day after Thanksgiving, and are going to screen it pretty much nonstop from there until time of release. So between the screening program, its commercial availability beginning Christmas Day, and for those who get the screeners, we think there’s abundant opportunity. I think for some of the smaller films, I think, the challenge will be for those films that may have been 10th, 12th, 20th—timing on the smaller films are more complicated. But for any of the films here, which are on everybody’s list, I don’t think it’s going to create a challenge. HAMMOND: It doesn’t matter to put the screeners out before the film has actually been released? Do you have a policy to send screeners out until that time? ROB FRIEDMAN: We sent our screeners out. In fact, most of you received them yesterday. We think it’s important, again, because of the crunch of time, to have it available. Obviously, we’re screening the movies multiple times in theaters across the country, around the world, to try and get people into theaters. No, we have screeners for movies that won’t be out until December. Fleming Jr.: I’ve got a two-parter for Jim G., who I promised some chin music here. Jim, you make this movie Life of Pi and, really, when you see it in 3D, it’s like Avatar in a lifeboat. You send out these screeners. Basically you know that there are
some voters who are evaluating it on an iPhone. 1) How much does that bother you? And 2) Should Oscar voters actually be required to see these on the big screen if they’re actually going to cast a vote? JIM GIANOPULOS: That would be ideal. But given the number of films, it’s logistically very difficult. That would be ideal. Yeah, it breaks my heart to put out a screener. But it’s part, as I was saying before, about process and purpose. And, sometimes, process has to yield to purpose. Life of Pi we debuted in New York at the end of September, and it has been screening everywhere since and has been very well received. But you at least want people to have some access to it. If they can’t get to a screening, or choose not to, it’s worth it to have that working knowledge. Then you hope that what they see, even if it’s on a screener— again, not preferred—that they’ll return and see the film in its proper place. Fleming Jr.: All of you make large-canvas movies that it’s hard to really get a sense of what you’re seeing. If I saw Lincoln on an iPad, it wouldn’t be the same (as) if I saw it on the big screen. It’s a privilege to vote for the Oscars. Shouldn’t voters be required to show up for the nominated films if they want to cast a ballot and decide the best picture of the year? ROB FRIEDMAN: First of all, you can’t require people to do that. Their membership doesn’t stipulate that. Second of all, people are working all around the world. You would be surprised how many Academy members do want to see it on the big screen. They do everything in their power to see it on the big screen. They’re screening constantly at Academy facilities around the world. So whenever the studios make the films available, they’re immediately available to Academy membership, and those screenings are usually full. By and large, they do try to see it on the big screen. JEFF ROBINOV: I think that Jim’s point—that obviously the best version is to see it on the big screen. Because that’s what we are making it for. It’s better to see the movie than to not see the movie at all. JIM GIANOPULOS: It’s also an egalitarian thing. The purpose of banning screeners a few years ago was a noble one. It was just that many people, filmmakers, and companies felt disadvantaged because they didn’t have the resources to screen on the same level as others, and therefore didn’t have the same access to voters. So that created other difficulties because it disenfranchises films that, what for the lack of multiple screenings on the day you’re opening, wouldn’t be seen. So there are issues to it. STACEY SNIDER: Hopefully Academy voters understand they get enough information about where they can
catch them. I know, for me last year, I wouldn’t even watch The Artist at home on a big screen because I knew if I watched a silent movie by myself, I wasn’t going to have the benefit. I was probably going to struggle. But, when you see it at the Second Street Theatre with a whole group of people, it comes to life. Pi will come to life in 3D. For Lincoln, we just watched a clip here that had two or three belly laughs. It’s hard to imagine a period procedural having so much entertainment value unless you’re enjoying it with a big audience. So hopefully we can convey that to Academy members, and they’ll not want to lose out on the experiences. HAMMOND: Should we use the Academy Awards for other purposes too? There’s such a platform there. There’s 24 categories—live-action short (and) a lot of categories that people aren’t invested in. Is there an idea that maybe you can have a section of the show devoted to some upcoming blockbuster movies that aren’t nominated or maybe coming out in the next year? You can use that platform for the industry and energize moviegoers? JIM GIANOPULOS: That will be this year’s five-hour version of the show. AMY PASCAL: I think that little guy that… No, I think that should be a sacred thing that we take really seriously. I don’t think it should be exploited for anything more than the greatest achievement for what our business does. And we should hold that dear. I don’t think we should sell anything with it. I think it should represent the best thing that all of us do. It should honor films like Batman and James Bond and all kinds of movies. I got that in there! Stacey did that and slipped Lincoln in! Fleming Jr.: How does Seth MacFarlane, who is now a movie star based on a film about a cussing R-rated bear, how does he fit into that pristine…? AMY PASCAL: Well, I came here to talk about Zero Dark Thirty. ROB MOORE: On that point, fact is you do have to have a balance in the show—that it needs to be entertaining, and it needs to honor the best movies. And that’s the balance you’re looking for. You’re not looking to go to the extremes of saying, “This is no longer about honoring the greatest filmmaking.” That’s the key to what the awards show is. And what we’re talking about is great filmmakers telling great stories. That’s what gets us all excited about the job we do. To then deliver that in an entertaining fun way— that’s the balance you’re hoping to find in the show that gets the most people to watch in honoring the greatest filmmakers. Continued on next page...
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GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD NOMINEE ®
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You always try to make a quality film. Obviously, as my dentist will tell you, we don’t always do it. But the goal is to make great movIES.
From left: Jim Gianopulos; Jeff Robinov
ADAM FOGELSON: I think that’s exactly what Seth did. That’s about as good filmmaking as you’re going to get. A cussing teddy bear doing that kind of business. JEFF ROBINOV: Do you think you could broaden the scope with the types of the films that are included in the Academy? Sure.
By Ari Karpel
Fleming Jr.: Well, let’s (just) say I live on the East Coast (and) I think I should get some kind of an award if I stay awake until the end of the Oscars. So, Jeff, given what you just said, what changes can be made? Maybe there can be best comedy? Best ensemble? Or, again, is that treading on hallowed ground? JEFF ROBINOV: No, those are two legitimate categories. If you can look at a film—we’ll plug ours, Argo. There’s 170-plus speaking parts, a number of different characters. It’s really an ensemble film. If you nominate the film, you feel like you should recognize that portion of it. HAMMOND: OK, look at everybody else on the panel and tell me which film one of you made that you would have liked to have made yourself ? JIM GIANOPULOS: Mine is easy: Skyfall. HAMMOND: When you’re making these films are there regrets like, “I could have had the best picture Oscar”? ROB MOORE: Hard to know what would have happened. But, ultimately you’ll always have movies you didn’t make. Is that the same movie you would have made? Ultimately, it’s an intimate process when you’re in these movies with a filmmaker. So a movie that Bob Zemeckis made working with Brad Grey and Adam Goodman at Paramount isn’t necessarily the same movie he would make for someone else. At some point you have to accept each of the movies that inspired you. It was a great script, a great team, and therefore you made the best movie from it. It’s hard to then decide what we would have done if we made Argo versus how great a movie Bob Zemeckis made working with us on Flight. That’s what you can focus on. AMY PASCAL: I’m going to speak for all of us who make mistakes for a living. It is what we do: We make lots of mistakes. Lots of things we don’t do, other people go on to do very well. But we have to make lots of decisions all the time. And I think the best thing to do is to focus on things that we did do, be they the right things or the wrong things. If we spend too much time doing what you asked us to do, we would be in bed with the covers over our head and never speak again.
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Fleming Jr.: Amy, a question for you on Zero Dark Thirty. How surprised were you to find that movie became sort of a political hot button over the idea that the filmmakers got cooperation from the Obama administration that delved into classified material. And do you think—let’s face it, this Oscar stuff gets into, you know, these campaigns are aggressive and rugged—do you fear that might be an issue? AMY PASCAL: I would never be surprised by anything the Republicans would do to win. Fleming Jr.: I’m sure there are Republican Academy voters. AMY PASCAL: You know, Mark (Boal) is an excellent journalist, and one of the things that Kathryn (Bigelow) and Mark do, and set out to do, is make living history. They don’t wait for people. They don’t wait for books or articles or anything else to tell us how to feel about an event. They don’t wait for time or interpretation. What they’re doing with this movie is delving into something that is happening, that is in our hearts right now today and making us a part of it. It’s not that much of a political film as it is an emotional film, and a film about the greatest manhunt in the world, and a film about the unsung heroes. I think it will surprise everybody when you see it, to see it’s about the decent people in this country who no one ever knows, who protect us every day, who give their lives for absolutely no money, no recognition, who are the true superheroes of our time. They never get anything. I think they make movies about something that no one is making movies about, and I am not one bit worried. Fleming Jr.: Stacey, you’ve been kind of quiet, so let me ask you this (because) Harvey’s not here to answer the question: Joaquin Phoenix was wonderful in The Master, but he certainly doesn’t help his chances by basically disparaging the awards season process, basically calling it “total utter bullshit.” If that was your movie, your actor, what would you say to him? Let’s face it, this isn’t just based on merit. You have to get out there. When Meryl Streep got out there, she won the Oscar. When she didn’t for Julie & Julia, she didn’t win the Oscar. What’s the sensitive care and feeding of these stars on the awards circuit? STACEY SNIDER: Oh, gosh, the care and feeding of movie stars in general—I don’t think we have enough time. I think everyone here on this panel, certainly I can speak for DreamWorks, we’re true believers. We really do think that movies can change the conversation. And so, when we’re presenting movies that rise to that, we’re expecting that everybody feels the
same way that we do. I can speak to the people who were involved on Lincoln. It was a sacred endeavor. It’s not pretentious to say it. You felt that everyone was bringing their very best game. So for us, it’s implicit and intuitive to find a way to present our movie, without being gross about it, without feeling that we’re pandering. So certainly, if someone was disparaging the Academy, it wouldn’t comport with who we are. But, by the same token, our goal is to present the movie and to be appropriate about it. ADAM FOGELSON: I would just say—and I don’t know if this is true for everybody else—but we’re rarely surprised by what happens. You generally know whom you’re getting in business with. Not to disparage Joaquin, and he’s brilliant, but most of the time, the people you decide to work with you have some understanding of how they’re likely to handle the process. Those are parts of the decisions you make. You know the people who enjoy getting out there and want to do it and whose schedules are being protected to make that possible. You know the people who don’t like to do it. So there may very well be surprises others have had here, but I find we had very few. Fleming Jr.: Would you make that a factor? Let’s say you have two great actors: would you give that role to that guy who could disparage the whole thing? JEFF ROBINOV: You’ve got to go for the best movie, the best performance. JIM GIANOPULOS: I think disparage and unavailability are two different things. Anthony Hopkins is Alfred Hitchcock in this movie and he’s making two films at the same time in London. And so (the actor says), “I commit myself to these filmmakers, and made that movie and (am) proud of that movie, but I can’t leave now.” That’s not missing the process. That’s respecting the work that they’re doing. ROB FRIEDMAN: It’s true, Anthony is working. One of those films is mine. I know we always experience the same thing. It’s a juggling match, not just for the actors, but the directors, writers and other creative talent involved. Not only in the process, but the process of recognition for these films. But, by and large, 99% of the time, they want to jump in. People need to work and, by and large, they’re all supportive of the process. HAMMOND: Well, I will leave you two to negotiate Anthony Hopkins’ free time.
Matt Damon (left) and John Krasinski
The Script For Promised Land Clicked Once Its Screenwriters Settled on the Right Backdrop
“It’s a minefield,” says Damon, mindful of the taint that can adhere to a movie thought of as “an issue movie.” “You can’t get too heavy-handed, and it can’t feel like it’s some polemic.” And yet that hardly compares to the ups and downs he and Krasinski faced in getting the movie off the ground. It all started with Krasinski, who wanted to write a screenplay about “some sort of abuse of power in… the green energy movement.” The actor, best known as Jim Halpert on The Office, had previously written and directed 2009’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and starred in Away We Go, written by Dave Eggers, who also consulted on the film. “I brought it to Dave because these are issues close to his heart, too,” Krasinski says. They hashed out characters and a story, set against the backdrop of the wind-farming industry. (Eggers has a “story by” credit.) Krasinski then took the idea to Damon, who had just finished working with Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt, on The Adjustment Bureau, and was looking for a movie that would be his directorial debut. They decided to write it together. Damon, who hadn’t written a script since he collaborated with Ben Affleck on Good Will Hunting (he is also credited with writing 2002’s Gerry, a movie Damon says is mostly improvised), says he can never find the time. “It takes a lot of time to write. I’m so busy, and I do need a partner to write,” Damon confesses.
They hired a news reporter to find a story they could fictionalize. The reporter produced “mountains of research,” says Damon, which they used as the basis for the script. When they were done writing, he and Krasinski traveled to upstate New York to scout locations. There they met people who thoroughly debunked the narrative. “It was one of those situations where the reporter came back with the story we wanted to hear,” says Damon, who thought they had reached an impasse. “But after a few horrible days, I read it again, and I called John and said, ‘I love these characters!’ ” So the cowriters transplanted the characters to a mountain in Alaska, and they set their story amidst salmon fisheries being poisoned by run-off from nearby copper mines. But that just didn’t work. “To John’s credit, he wouldn’t give up,” says Damon. “I was thinking, ‘This is dead, he just doesn’t know it.’ ” Krasinski saw a 60 Minutes segment called “The Shaleionaires” and was inspired to do a pass of the script on his own, this time about a community dealing with fracking. He brought the draft to Damon in Vancouver, where the actor was shooting Elysium, a visual-effects-heavy movie set to come out next summer. “I realized we had something much better than wind farming,” says Damon. “Because the stakes are so high. It’s not really a choice—between losing your family farm or not.” When Damon and his family moved to Malibu to shoot We’ve Got a Zoo, Krasinski went to their house every weekend where they would hammer away at the script, empowered by their new subject matter. At the end of 2011, Damon was doing press for Zoo and planning to direct Promised Land in the new year— until he had a change of heart. “I was done with all my work for the year and I looked at the reality: I just
could not do it,” says Damon, who couldn’t imagine spending so much time away from his family again, this time to direct, which would mean longer hours and weeks in prep and post. “It was like someone telling you Christmas is not happening this year,” recalls Krasinski. And then a Christmas miracle occurred. Damon was heading to Florida for a much-needed vacation with his family. “It was that moment on the plane when they’ve told you to turn off your phone, and you’re surreptitiously sending emails,” says Damon, who got one out, with the script attached, to Gus Van Sant, who had directed Damon’s first script, Good Will Hunting.
By Ari Karpel
Matt Damon and John Krasinski are well aware that Promised Land is facing what Damon deems “an uphill climb.” The film, about a community confronting the rock-and-hard-place decision of whether to frack or not to frack—that is, whether to allow a major corporation to come in and drill for natural gas in exchange for millions of dollars and, potentially, the townspeople’s physical health—faces a marketing challenge that teeters on the same fine line Damon and Krasinski walked while writing its screenplay.
I clearly know what I’m doing: I fired myself and replaced myself with Gus. By the time Damon landed, Van Sant had agreed to direct the film. “I like to joke that as a producer I clearly know what I’m doing: I fired myself and replaced myself with Gus,” Damon says. The movie went ahead, but not without some measure of caution. In speaking about Promised Land, everyone involved had long stuck to talking points that portrayed the movie as being about a community that comes together in a crisis. “Once it came out that it was anti-fracking,” Krasinski says, “it’s hard to shake that until people see it.”
& Song DAN
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NCE MAN Hugh Jackman Demonstrates His Singing Talent in Les Misérables
By Pete Hammond
Hugh Jackman has carved out an image as a major movie star who can easily switch gears from action to drama to comedy and all things in between. But until now the man who made Wolverine a household name has never done a movie musical. That’s a bit surprising since Jackman also happens to be a classically trained musical star outside of movies. He’s starred in stage classics like Oklahoma!, won a Tony on Broadway as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, an Emmy for hosting the Tonys, and worldwide recognition for his singing and dancing as host of the Oscars. He recently did a one-man musical show on Broadway, and that’s one of the reasons he says he is even in Les Misérables and making his long-overdue debut as star of a musical on the big screen. AWARDSLINE: Would you consider this to be one of the toughest screen roles you’ve done? JACKMAN: For sure. There is not an element that really wasn’t the toughest. One of the reasons I did the Broadway show was to make sure I was vocally fit to not only sing it, but sing it all day long, wake up the next day, and have another 12 hours of it. I put on 29 pounds from beginning to end. Tom (Hooper) told me, “I want people to worry, I want your friends to think you’re sick.” The physicality, the emotional (aspect) acting-wise, was tough. AWARDSLINE: You rarely see musicals of this size anymore. JACKMAN: That’s true. It’s a big risk. I’m not surprised it’s taken 27 years to get there. AWARDSLINE: Despite the fact that the actors in the film are very wellknown and talented, I understand everybody auditioned for it. JACKMAN: Everybody, and by the way, when I auditioned Tom wasn’t signed to the movie, but there looked like there was going to be a clash between The Wolverine and this. I rang up Tom and told him I really wanted to do this part. He said I’d be a perfect shot, but (that) he wasn’t even signed on to it but was thinking about it. I asked him if I could audition for him anyway, in case he would sign on to the film. I sang him three songs, and he just sat there for a few minutes and gave me feedback. I could see the director in him. Three hours passed, and I had to put my hand up and tell him, “Tom, I have to put my kids to sleep.” So I auditioned very early on, and everyone auditioned. 99% of what is shot is live, just the beginning with the water (was not) because you couldn’t put microphones in that much water. AWARDSLINE: I can’t remember another movie musical that did it on this scale—is it helpful to you as an actor to be able to do that? JACKMAN: Especially for Les Mis. It’s so emotional, and as an actor you have some freedom to go with how you are feeling at the time—to have that restrained by a performance you did three months ago would have been hell. I think it made a huge impact. If Simon Hayes doesn’t win an Oscar for the sound
design, I don’t know who will. What he pulled off is phenomenal. It feels like thought; it doesn’t feel like song. AWARDSLINE: There is one new song in the film that you sing called “Suddenly.” How did they decide to that? JACKMAN: That was Tom’s idea. Victor Hugo writes about two lightning bolts of realization: First is the virtue and the second is the lightning bolt of love. Tom was like, “This is one of the greatest moments I have ever seen on film, and we don’t have a song for it. This is ridiculous.” They (songwriters Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg) knew my abilities with my voice, and they wrote the song for me. It was a pinch-yourself moment. AWARDSLINE: Les Mis has been so phenomenally successful for the last three decades—what is it about this show and movie that connects with audiences? JACKMAN: It’s a really spiritual book, in a nonreligious way: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” We can live tough lives, but the human spirit is stronger, seemingly, than anything. There is redemption, hope, and love. This book brings this out. All different forms of heartbreak, but beyond all that there is hope, there is love. There is beauty and bliss. Even though the title doesn’t make it sound like a romantic comedy, in the end it is. There is something for everybody in it. AWARDSLINE: When you watch yourself for the first time, are you nervous going in? JACKMAN: I’m more nervous than I have ever been in my life. It’s tough to watch a movie (you’re in)—you put everything into it, you want everything to work, and you never know until you see it all together. In a musical, those feelings are tripled because you have a lot of elements that have to come together. Watching myself on screen for the first time is a little bit difficult, but watching myself sing on the screen is double the anxiety. In the end, I rationalize it because the nerves are the care and passion I had for the project. It becomes a bit like a baby. I would love to do more movie musicals. Maybe next time I’ll do a little more dancing.
Telling the Tale of the Governmentâ€™s Hunt For Osama Bin Laden Was Too Timely and Compelling to Avoid for the Filmmakers By Thomas J. McLean
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and furious is perhaps the best way to describe the making of Zero Dark Thirty, something Jessica Chastain found out the day after attending last year’s Oscar ceremony. “I flew 25 hours to Chandigarh, India. I got off the plane and I called in, just kind of joking, ‘I’m here guys, ready to go!’ ” Chastain recalls. “And they said, ‘OK, come on in!’ I didn’t go through hair and makeup—nothing. They put me in a robe, they sent me to a market, I had no idea what time of day it was, and they just started shooting. And it was like that from the get-go.” Rarely are movies put together as rapidly and with as much timeliness as Zero Dark Thirty, which recounts the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden and culminates in the May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed the 9/11 terrorist leader. Director Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to earn the best director Oscar for 2008’s Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker, says the story was too compelling to not do. “I suppose there were certainly a lot of options out there, which I was grateful for, but I really felt that this was the story to tell,” she says. “It’s a mystery, it’s a story that was out there, and I think has touched many, many, many lives the world over, and I felt it was a great opportunity to tackle this.”
Continued on next page...
I think we both felt a responsibility to tell it in a certain way, to tell it responsibly, and to be faithful to the research.
Edge of Night
Bigelow also relished the chance to continue working with Mark Boal, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Hurt Locker and tapped into his experience as a journalist to uncover and write the story behind the raid. “I appreciate the scope and the challenges that he writes into his screenplays,” Bigelow says. Boal and Bigelow originally planned to shoot a movie about bin Laden eluding capture in the mountains of Tora Bora in 2001, and were close to starting principal photography when the al Qaeda leader was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Starting from scratch, Boal dove into researching the events that lead to the raid. Working with the publicaffairs offices of various government agencies as well as tapping into contacts he had accumulated as a journalist covering America’s post-9/11 wars and the veterans who fight them, Boal assembled the script quickly from first-hand accounts. The energy Boal put into the script was perfect for Bigelow. “He was certainly reporting this story as it was unfolding, and there’s a kind of urgency and timeliness to that,” she says. “And at the same time, I think we both felt a responsibility to tell it in a certain way, to tell it responsibly, and to be faithful to the research.” Backing the production was producer Megan Ellison, who funded the movie through her Annapurna Pictures shingle. Bigelow says Ellison was tremendously supportive of the project and the filmmakers’ desire to get it right. “We were fortunate that she agreed to finance the movie and enable us to retain creative control,” she says. The script ended up with more than 120 speaking roles and 112 sets, with the lead role of Maya—a CIA analyst who unapologetically and obsessively tracks
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down bin Laden in order to kill him—requiring an actress who could portray steely resolve while navigating the labyrinthine world and linguistic gymnastics of real-life espionage. Chastain, a first-time Oscar nominee for The Help, was Bigelow’s first choice for the role. “I just felt that her intensity, her focus, her innate intelligence was something that would give the character an incredible amount of credibility,” she says. Among the keys for getting into Maya’s head was learning the reality of life as a CIA analyst—including the importance of status in that world, which is essential to Maya’s character arc. “Maya is at the very bottom end of it and as she actually starts to fight back against it, she claims her own status to get people to listen to her,” Chastain says. The intensity of shooting on a very tight schedule in such distant places as Jordan and India also informed Chastain’s take on Maya. “Being a woman in that part of the world, it changes your energy and your physicality,” says Chastain. “It desexualizes you because you don’t want to be seen as a woman.” Among the most challenging scenes were the realistic portrayals of torture, including a sequence in which Dan, a CIA interrogator played by Jason Clarke, waterboards a suspected al Qaeda informant. “As an actor, I was relieved that Mark and Kathryn were telling the whole story. These things happened,” says Clarke. “We shot it quite quickly. It was set up in an environment that was as realistic as possible. (With) the other actor, we established the bond we needed to trust each other.” The logistics were a big and satisfying challenge for Bigelow to tackle. “We were shooting on and
Above: Director Kathryn Bigelow (right)
prepping on two continents simultaneously, in India and in Jordan, and we had to choreograph the entire raid early in preproduction, which meant you had to have figured out that whole section of the movie, which is arguably the most difficult to shoot, when you’re probably eight weeks out,” she says. For the raid sequence that is the climax of the movie, the production re-created bin Laden’s Pakistan compound as completely as possible. The model had to not only look as accurate as possible, it had to accommodate the shoot—including having a strong enough foundation to withstand the rotor wash from the Black Hawk helicopters that were going to hover over it, says Bigelow. “That had to all be choreographed—all of our shots, everything about that structure, how we were going to shoot it—well before we started principal photography and well before we were to shoot the raid in the first place, which was not going to be shot until mid to late April,” says Bigelow. From the start, the subject matter drew unexpected political attention, with pundits and pols assigning partisan motives to the movie before it even had a script and inaccurately reporting that the production was given inappropriate access to classified material. Even with the film finished, the political reactions are unexpected. “People seem to be misreading the film as advocating torture, which is just preposterous,” Boal says. “If you actually look at the film, we show the torture not yielding information and not preventing an attack—that information is coughed up over a civilized lunch. I guess this is par for the course of making something that touches people’s political turf.”
GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD NOMINEE ®
BEST ACTOR Jack Black
“Jack Black gives one of the best performances of the year.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“Jack Black has given a performance worthy of a best actor Oscar nomination.” – Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
“As played by Jack Black, in an award-caliber performance,
Bernie is everything you’d want in a friend… the movie is a one-of-a-kind inspiration.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
CHOICE AWARD 3 CRITICS’ NOMINATIONS
Best Comedy • Best Actor – Jack Black Best Actress – Shirley MacLaine
ONE OF THE TOP TEN INDEPENDENT FILMS OF 2012 National Board of Review
INDEPENDENT SPIRIT 2 FILM AWARD NOMINATIONS Best Feature Jack Black - Best Lead Actor
On the Road Above: Andy Serkis in his motion-capture suit.
Below: Hugo Weaving, Peter Jackson, and Ian McKellen
A Decade Later, Peter Jackson and Crew Are Back In Theaters With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 34
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10 years after The Lord of the Rings trilogy wrapped its record-breaking run with a best picture Oscar and more than $3 billion in worldwide ticket sales, director Peter Jackson has done the last thing he expected: He got the band back together for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. “I came away from Lord of the Rings with 266 days of shooting three movies and thought I’d never do that again in my life,” says Jackson. “Then we sat down at the first production meeting on The Hobbit, and I flipped to the last page of the schedule, and it was 266 days! It was exactly the same length of time! And I just said, ‘I cannot believe I find myself back at this place again.’ ” The first in a new trilogy adapting the first book in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Middle Earth mythology, Jackson and his crew’s steady hand on The Hobbit offers reassuring creative continuity while pushing the technical envelope by adding stereoscopic 3D and, most controversially, shooting at 48 frames per second. But much like Bilbo Baggins’ own journey, the 10-year road to making The Hobbit followed—a wandering path on its way to the screen. Originally pitched to Miramax in 1995 as a standalone film that could lead into The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit rights were split between the Saul Zaentz Company and MGM, and a fix was not possible at the time, Jackson says.
Those issues remained even after the Rings trilogy was completed in 2003, though Warner Bros. tapped Jackson and cowriters and producers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens a few years later to develop the film anyway in the hopes that a deal would be reached. “We would have worked on it for probably two years without a green light, which was a bit soul-destroying really because if you’re committing to something you want to know it’s happening,” says Jackson. On the creative end, adapting The Hobbit proved a very different animal, says Boyens. Often thought of as a children’s book, The Hobbit also is very episodic, features a lot of characters, and has a tone that darkens considerably as it progresses.
By Thomas J. McLean Continued on next page...
On the Road Again
do we settle FOR the 1927 standards, or do we say, ‘How can we use this technology to enhance the cinemagoing experience?’ Above: Jackson with Cate Blanchett
Thinking a different sensibility would freshen up things, Jackson ceded the director’s chair to Guillermo del Toro. “We thought it would be interesting to have another director come onboard with a different sensibility, for the same reasons as they use different directors on Bond movies,” he says. But with MGM in bankruptcy and no rights deal in sight, del Toro exited in 2010, prompting Jackson to take back the reins. “We felt a responsibility as producers and also, having developed the project with Guillermo, we had come to realize that his could be a really cool movie,” Jackson says. Boyens says they started over on the script to tailor it both for Jackson and the cast, which includes returning members Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, and Hugo Weaving alongside newcomers like Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Of del Toro’s version, Boyens says the biggest change is the portrayal of Bilbo. “It shifted and changed into someone who, rather than being slightly younger and more innocent in the world, once had a sense of longing for adventure and has lost it and become fussy and fusty,” she says. That led Jackson to Freeman. “We needed a dramatic actor because it is ultimately a dramatic role, but Bilbo Baggins is a much funnier character than Frodo was,” says Jackson. “There’s very few dramatic actors who can do comedy very well, but Martin seemed to possess the perfect qualities.” Reuniting almost all of the crew from Rings gave Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh freedom to focus on the creative side, with first assistant director Carolynne Cunningham and unit production manager Zane Weiner stepping up to add producer duties and handle logistics.
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Below: Coproducer/cowriter Philippa Boyens
“Peter’s got so much to worry about with directing that he relies on other people to sort out some of the other problems for him,” says Cunningham. Drawing on material published in the appendix of The Return of the King, in addition to the dense text of The Hobbit itself, the project expanded from the original two-film adaptation to a trilogy. Boyens says this was entirely a creative decision and came from structuring the story to work onscreen. “It was really about what we would not be able to tell, what we’d have to leave out of the story,” she says. Shooting at a high frame rate is something Jackson says has intrigued him for a long time, and he liked the look of the footage he made at 60 frames per second for Universal Studios’ King Kong theme-park ride. Early reaction has been split, however, earning accolades for its remarkable clarity and criticisms for the video-like quality of motion. “It’s certainly different, and people are accustomed, obviously, to 24 frames being the look of film,” says Jackson. “But at the same time, do you also say that we achieved technical perfection in 1927? I mean, with all the technology that exists today, with all the ability we have to shoot 4K images and to project at high frame rates with these huge screens, the sound systems, do we settle for the 1927 standards, or do we say, ‘How can we use this technology to enhance the cinemagoing experience?’ ” The frame rate had little effect on the 2,176 visual effects shots, says visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri. “There’s more work to be done, but a lot of what we do is independent of the frame rate,” he says. The switch to 3D meant effects previously done with miniatures had to be done digitally, and advancements
Above: Serkis as second-unit director
in technology meant nothing could be reused from earlier films. The main beneficiary was Gollum, who was completely rebuilt using new techniques to create anatomically correct musculature and more detail without changing the character’s look. “The amount of detail in Gollum’s eye is more than what we had in his entire body on the first film,” says Letteri. Technology also made it easier for Andy Serkis to reprise the role. Where he had to perform scenes multiple times for the original both on set and in controlled motion-capture environments, new motion-capture techniques allowed him just to play the character on set with Freeman. “We played that scene out in its entirety every time we shot it, and it’s a 13-minute scene,” says Serkis. “It’s like a theater piece really, and we just explored it and mined it for everything that it was worth, and Peter shot it from lots of different angles.” While Gollum has only one scene in the trilogy, Serkis took on additional responsibility as second-unit director. “Pete wanted me to be there because I’ve been through the experience of working on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and understand the rhythm and pace and stamina involved in keeping performance up during those films,” he says. With all three films shot back to back, Jackson and crew are finishing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for next December, and the concluding The Hobbit: There and Back Again for July 2014. Jackson says he thinks making the trilogies in reverse order will make for a better, more cohesive six-film series in the end. “I think we got a much better unity shooting The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings, ironically.”
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Rewriting Histor Left: Quentin Tarantino on set.
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“I think she had to be in there for 20 minutes before I yelled action.” What Quentin Tarantino is specifically referring to is the time that Kerry Washington spent in the hotbox—a hole in the ground on a plantation where slaves were sent when they tried to escape. It’s where Washington’s character Broomhilda is trapped when her husband, Django (Jamie Foxx), arrives at Candyland—the vast Southern estate owned by her master Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Her voice parched from screaming and her body weakened, Broomhilda doesn’t know that Django has come to rescue her with the help of bounty hunter-cum-dentist Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). “Kerry is very game to make things as real as possible,” says Tarantino, who as Waltz points out, can often inspire actors with their characters’ back stories, “Leaving her in the box for 30 seconds and then yelling action wouldn’t work. Nor would sticking her in the box for hours. But 10 minutes in the box could feel like 30. The idea was for Kerry to become disoriented, lose track of time in there, and contemplate what eight hours in the box would feel like. She could yell or scream.” “But there was a safe word,” adds Washington, “so that the crew knew when I was panicking as a person, and not as an actor. This is how a lot of the film went—taking the reality as far as we could.”
Welcome to Tarantino’s Antebellum South. But instead of the Jewish soldiers bashing in Nazi skulls of Inglourious Basterds, it’s southern slave Django slaying a slew of white devils to get to his bride who has been sold down the river. We know that Tarantino is the master of cool. But after his boxoffice Oscar breakout Pulp Fiction ($214 million, seven Oscar noms, with an original screenplay win for Tarantino and Roger Avary), he hit a lull. Some of his cinematic homages were relegated to cult status: His double feature with Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse collapsed at $25 million stateside, and the blaxploitation film Jackie Brown made $40 million at the U.S. boxoffice. What happened? His style hadn’t changed. Tarantino was still the same ultraviolent, cinema vérité absurdist guy, however, he struck a nerve with audiences with his own branded subgenre: The historical wish-fulfillment tale in which the oppressed exact revenge on their oppressors. Basterds minted more than $320 million worldwide; earned eight Oscar noms, including director and picture; and turned unknown Austrian star Waltz into a supporting actor Oscar winner. When news broke in April 2011 that Tarantino was prepping a southern tale much in the same fashion as Basterds, every studio and marquee actor threw their hats in the ring. Continued on next page...
BY Anthony D’Alessandro
Django Unchained Is Quentin Tarantino’s Second Revisionist Revenge Story—This Time Taking Place in the Pre-Civil War South
Above from left: Stacey Sher, Pilar Savone, Tarantino, executive producer Bob Weinstein, and Reginald Hudlin. Right: Jamie Foxx (far right) on set with Hudlin.
I am only influenced by Corbucci’s oeuvre in terms of the bleak, pitiless, surrealistic west he got across. It wasn’t so much Django itself,
“Basterds was something audiences didn’t know that they wanted, and that can be a cool thing—to have something that wasn’t articulated to them before,” assesses Tarantino. “They knew what other World War II movies were like and didn’t want to see the same old tired film again. The same (resonance) could follow through with Django.” In the same way that Basterds was related to the 1978 Enzo G. Castellari film in title only, so is Django, in regards to the original Sergio Corbucci spaghetti western series (the original Django, actor Franco Nero, makes a cameo opposite Foxx in the film). “I am only influenced by Corbucci’s oeuvre in terms of the bleak, pitiless, surrealistic west he got across. It wasn’t so much Django itself,” says Tarantino, “As the genre moved on; the name Django became synonymous with all spaghetti westerns. There wasn’t even a character named Django in some of these movies.” Even though Tarantino turns archetypes on their heads, quite often laced with humor—i.e. Django as the bounty hunter wears a green coat à la Little Joe’s get-up on TV’s Bonanza while a bunch of KKK men clownishly complain that they can’t see through their hoods—the protagonist’s bedrock rests on the life of pre-Civil War African-Americans. Approaching the severity of the material proved to be a grueling dramatic process for the cast.
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“I don’t know how anyone lived like this in any real way. We barely made it through for nine months,” Washington explains about the emotional pain of shooting on the Evergreen Plantation outside of New Orleans. “It just added to the resonance of things that we were embodying and portraying these crimes against humanity; that this happened on this sacred ground. There was always this dance between reality and storytelling and the heartache of both.” To ease the atmosphere during the plantation scenes, Tarantino played gospel music between takes. Nonetheless, the haunting spirits lingered. While preparing for a day’s shoot, Washington remembers trying to take her mind off of one scene by taking in the beautiful trees around her on the plantation grounds. Upon noticing one tree without moss, Washington learned that it was the hanging tree for slaves. “There were nights when I would text Jamie Foxx at 4 a.m. and say, ‘If this goes on for any longer, I’m not going to make it,’ ” says Washington. “When you see Leonardo build this eloquent evil character as Calvin Candie, you want to hear those words,” says Foxx about his costar’s racist character, who doles out a monologue on the phrenology of slaves. “Hearing those words, and you hear them enough, it became second hand because that’s how they talked back then. Django is the truest depiction of slavery.”
Typically, an adult film with a true depiction of slavery, or World War II, might face an uphill battle getting to the big screen. However, Tarantino is in the fortunate position of being able to finish a script, give Harvey Weinstein a call, and the project is fasttracked from there. A meeting at the director’s house follows, where his friends and the production crew relish a grand reading of his latest work. Sure, having a studio cofinancier such as Columbia Pictures on Django enables Tarantino to get bigger budgets, but the director attributes any higher costs on his films “to moviemaking becoming more expensive. Kill Bill had a huge canvas, but I wanted for nothing.” Universal coproduced and cofinanced half of Basterds’ $70 million budget, in addition to handling foreign, where they catapulted the film’s overseas boxoffice to $200 million-plus. But despite the studio’s passionate presentation for Django, as reported by Deadline Hollywood, the Weinstein Co. and the producers opted to go with Sony. “Something spoke to everybody in the room when we met with Sony,” says producer Pilar Savone, who has worked with Tarantino in various capacities across five films since Jackie Brown. Despite Tarantino’s early talks with Will Smith for the role of Django, “partnering with Sony had nothing to do with the studio’s connection to Will Smith,” says Django’s second producer Stacey Sher who first produced with Tarantino on Pulp Fiction. What is apparent is that Sony has always been passionate about being in business with Tarantino. “I remember talking to Amy Pascal at Sony about Basterds. I told her, ‘I want this movie to be a hit. I don’t want you to do this movie because it’s cool to work with me or for just the cache,’ ” says the director. “And her response to me was, ‘We really want to work with you, and we think this will be your most commercial movie.’ And the same thing with Django, so we’ll see.”
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Roles To Kill For
– Greg Reitman, THE HUFFINGTON POST
When Smith didn’t commit to the material, Tarantino turned to six other candidates including Idris Elba, Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Tyrese Gibson before settling on Foxx, who won the director over with his Texan roots, cowboy image, and his tolerance of racial issues in the current day South (Foxx even used his own mare Cheetah as his horse Tony). Casting Django was the opposite experience Tarantino faced on Basterds: If he hadn’t found Christoph Waltz to play the multilingual Col. Hans Landa, the director would have been unable to make the movie. “Quentin was clear with every studio we met with that he wrote the role with no actor in mind. If they did the movie with him, he wasn’t going to cast one actor over another,” says producer Reginald Hudlin who Tarantino first discussed the Django concept with 15 years ago. “A studio had to be prepared to make the film with an unknown,” adds Sher. Despite the relentless amount of ink Django received in its casting of Kevin Costner, Anthony LaPaglia, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Sacha Baron Cohen, these actors’ inability to commit largely boiled down to scheduling conflicts as Django shot across several locales including New Orleans; Jackson, WY; Mammoth Mountain, CA; Big Sky Studios in Simi Valley, CA; and the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita, CA. Costner was originally slotted to play Ace Woody, a Mandingo trainer at Candyland, while Cohen was to play a poker player Scotty who loses his slave Broomhilda to Candie. Initially, Jonah Hill was unable to commit, however, his schedule opened up, and he makes a cameo as one of Big Daddy’s (Don Johnson) KKK men. “We had huge movie stars wanting to do day-player parts,” says Sher, “These actors are typically number one on the call sheet, so everyone schedules around them. But because of everyone else’s schedule and because of snow and weather, we couldn’t accommodate everyone.” While Django was overlooked by the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press embraced DiCaprio’s performance with a supporting actor nod along with Christoph Waltz as well as three other noms for best drama, director, and screenplay. And with voter audiences having as much fun at Django as they did with Basterds, all this steam begs the question, does Tarantino has a sequel in mind? “After shooting for nine months and editing for 12 weeks and going on this Mount Everest press tour, I can’t imagine going back,” exclaims Tarantino. “But there’s a story to be told there: Django and Broomhilda still have to get out of the south.”
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Lens By Thomas J. McLean
Cinematographers Who Worked on Some of the Season’s Top Contenders Discuss Their Techniques Don’t write that obituary for film just yet.The traditional moviemaking format remains a vital tool for the top cinematographers in the field, even as digital technology improves and offers exciting possibilities for the future. AwardsLine caught up with the men who shot some of the year’s top contenders to talk about how they shot their current films, working with the top directors in the field, and how to make it all come together in the end. Taking part in our mock roundtable are Mihai Malaimare Jr., who used largeformat 65mm film to shoot the majority of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master; Claudio Miranda, who shot the sole digital and 3D picture of this bunch, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi; Wally Pfister, who mixed IMAX and 35mm in wrapping up Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy on The Dark Knight Rises; Rodrigo Prieto, who stitched together multiple formats for Ben Affleck’s Argo; Ben Richardson, who relied on 16mm to capture the Beasts of the Southern Wild for Benh Zeitlin; and Robert Richardson, who reunited with filmophile Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained.
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AWARDSLINE: How did you go about choosing cameras and formats for your current projects? RODRIGO PRIETO: We wanted to differentiate the different segments of the film. We were going to intercut and wanted as soon as you saw an image, say, in Tehran that you would know that’s where you are just by the texture of the image, especially because we were shooting in very different locations. MIHAI MALAIMARE JR.: From the first meeting we had, we were discussing using a larger format for The Master. The reason is when you think about iconic images from that period, like from the ’30s and right after World War II, you are mainly thinking of largeformat still photography. We started with VistaVision, but because the difference wasn’t that big from 35mm to VistaVision, we switched to the next bigger format which was 65mm, and that was giving us kind of the feeling that we wanted. CLAUDIO MIRANDA: Ang (Lee) was really interested in 3D. He said, “I’ve been really interested in 3D for almost 10 years now. Even before Avatar, I really wanted to see how to bring a new language to cinema.” It had to be digital, because with 3D it had to be really precise. WALLY PFISTER: Chris (Nolan) sat back and said, “Here’s the deal: This film will stand on its own, but we are wrapping up a trilogy.” We had discussions early on about shooting in IMAX, and I said, “Dude, we should shoot the whole movie in IMAX.” But we pushed up against the limitations of IMAX, which is you can’t record synched sound with an IMAX camera—they’re just too noisy. BEN RICHARDSON: We instinctively knew that the only viable way for our budget and to get the kind of imagery we wanted was to go to 16mm. The great thing about a 16mm camera, obviously, is that as long as you have a couple batteries and a roll of film and a changing tent, you can keep shooting.
AWARDSLINE: Was it a challenge to make different formats work as a cohesive whole when cut together? PFISTER: We go through a bit of analysis for what makes sense for that story. The obvious reason for shooting IMAX is because you want to put something spectacular on the screen that’s going to have a visceral impact on the audience. In other circumstances, Chris wants the camera to have a more of a looser, documentary feel. So you use different tools and different formats and different methods to convey the story in different ways. PRIETO: Once we started testing all these different things, I projected them next to each other, and we saw that the looks were apparent and were visible, but we didn’t feel it was jarring, given that it was all the same aspect ratio. Also, the story has this drive to it that helps it all come together. AWARDSLINE: How important is having an established relationship with a director versus working with someone you’ve not worked with before? ROBERT RICHARDSON: I think having an established relationship with a director is unbeatable. The shorthand that comes from a relationship that is longstanding, especially when both sides of the party are respectful of each other, is a tremendous benefit. I’m not opposed to working with a new director, but you do have to approach it differently because you don’t know each other yet. You tend to be a little more cautious. MIRANDA: You definitely have to figure out where directors will let you go or not let you go, and it’s all about establishing that kind of communication. With Ang, we just talked back and forth about how we feel about lighting, and he let me go a lot. BEN RICHARDSON: Working with a director I maybe knew less well, we might have had to cover a lot of ground to find the common ground. But I think
Crafters From left: Robert Richardson; Rodrigo Prieto and Ben Affleck; Claudio Miranda (center) with Ang Lee; Ben Richardson; Wally Pfister
we had a fairly solid understanding of each other’s wishes off the bat, so our daily conversations in terms of shot lists and shot planning were very much in the realm of an established aesthetic that we both understood. AWARDSLINE: How did you approach environment and character on your film? Did you see them as separate elements or two parts of a whole? PRIETO: On Argo, the environment plays a very important role because every situation the characters are in is based on where they are. These environments really affect the characters’ behavior and their emotional states very much in this film. I really tried to support and enhance the sense of this environment and how it’s affecting them. BEN RICHARDSON: In terms of the environments, we didn’t so much storyboard as follow a shot list. We would go in with a sense of what we needed to achieve, but we would primarily allow the locations and the environments we found to dictate the way certain scenes could feel or could behave. AWARDSLINE: Give one example or scene that demonstrates how cinematography was used to tell the story. MIRANDA: I feel like the golden light is kind of a serene moment. He’s throwing this can in the air, and just the way it was captured—we shot it as a very wide shot— and he realizes that in the large ocean this is a really futile idea, and he gets really reflective. He has a little peek at the tiger, and they have a little eye connect. I feel like that was a pretty cinematic moment. PRIETO: The one that came to my mind is when the houseguests are at the bazaar. I think the cinematography there was using the light to express this feeling of vulnerability, of being scared, and they’re overexposed—the light was several stops overexposed.
Bottom right Inset: Mihai Malaimare Jr.
AWARDSLINE: With so many digital environments used in movies today, how do you collaborate with the digital artists who are doing everything from effects and environments to color grading? BEN RICHARDSON: If we had been able to, we might have gone as far as trying to find a way to do a photochemical finish. So it was very important to me that that sort of photochemical feel be preserved all the way through, and I worked very closely with our DI (digital intermediary) house to do a workflow that basically emulated the way you did a traditional answer print. In regards to the visual effects, I had been a key part from the beginning in terms of figuring out how we were going to do those scenes with the beasts. I was very much in touch with Benh (Zeitlin) and the visual effects supervisor as we worked on that stuff because to me that really was the fantasy high point of the film. PFISTER: As cinematographers, we light in a very— at least I do—visceral, gut kind of fashion, like I’m throwing paints on a canvas. The visual effects guys, they analyze lighting, and they try to re-create it, so it’s much more of a technical process for them, but they’re really starting to understand it now. Their work has gotten better and better, so for me it’s just looking at the end and commenting on whether it’s matching or not. MIRANDA: I stayed involved in the DI. Bill Westenhofer, who did the visual effects, was there. Even the editor was there, and he was very involved in the 3D because he had made a lot of choices in the Avid for 3D placement and staging and correcting. AWARDSLINE: What makes your job easier? What makes it harder? ROBERT RICHARDSON: The most difficult thing would be to have a script that hasn’t yet solidified. To work with something that is in fluctuation continually can be a horror show.
PFISTER: What makes my job easy is working hard. The hardest part of the job is really if people around you are not working as hard as they should be. AWARDSLINE: What is the most exciting development in the field? What has you most excited about the future of cinematography? ROBERT RICHARDSON: I’m excited by the movement toward digital cinematography. I think it’s opening up opportunities for a re-evaluation of lighting, and I don’t mean in the sense that it looks like a reality show, but you can work at lower levels. MALAIMARE JR.: I think this is a really interesting moment because you can still shoot on film for projects that you think will work on the format or you can shoot digital. What’s even more interesting is the fact that you can find really cheap digital cameras—that doesn’t necessarily help the cinematography, but it helps the audience because they are going through a self-training process. The audience is getting more aware of what capturing or creating an image can be and, of course, they have higher expectations because of that.
Above: Jean Valjeanâ€™s factory as seen in a still from Les MisĂŠrables (left), the original production sketch (center), and during shooting (right). 44
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Opposite inset: Shooting the shipyard.
By Cari Lynn
The Production Team of Les Misérables Frequently Consulted Victor Hugo’s Original Story to Get the Details Right It’s not likely that any of the 60 million theatergoers who saw the musical Les Misérables would have thought the stage production limiting, but they weren’t charged with taking the longest-running musical, set in 1800s France, and blowing it out to larger-than-life size. In what was described by Working Title producers as a “deceptively difficult” adaptation, director Tom Hooper assembled a team that included his longtime production designer Eve Stewart and veteran costume designer Paco Delgado to create a factually accurate world, sprinkled with the magic and fantasy of the beloved musical. But what no one on the team knew going in was that all singing (and the film is 99% singing) would be shot live. This posed interesting challenges for determining locations, given sound considerations and the desire to use very little CGI. “But,” says Stewart, who was nominated for an Oscar for Hooper’s The King’s Speech, as well as 1999’s Topsy-Turvy, “new ideas are usually the best ones,” so the constraints didn’t narrow her scope as she scouted locations for 20 weeks. She eventually settled on a pristine mountain range in the south of France; the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in England (where the HMS Victory is moored); an 18th-century rope factory in Kent (the timbers of which were so old that the crew was barred from lighting candles, so imitation flickering lights had to be used); the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich; the River Avon in Bath; as well as a set crafted at Pinewood Studios in London. In each location, Stewart’s crew had to eliminate squeaky floorboards and door hinges, and horses had to be fitted with rubberized hooves. The only location Stewart didn’t have to adapt was Boughton House in Northamptonshire, which dates back to the 17th century and is dubbed the “English Versailles,” where the wedding scene was filmed. As their inspiration, both Stewart and Delgado went “by the book”—as in, Victor Hugo’s 1862 tome, Les Misérables. “The novel is a recording of how people lived,” Delgado says, “what they ate, what kind of china they ate the food on, what kind of clothes they wore, what color the clothes were.” Both he and Stewart scoured flea markets and secondhand stores in France and Spain to purchase authentic clothing and furnishings. While both studied the artwork of the period—Stewart cites the French artist Gustave Doré, while Delgado drew from Delcroix, Goya, and Ingres—the goal was far from creating a rose-colored world. “Tom has an amazing level of detail, and he wanted to show the levels of poverty and degradation in Paris at that time,” Delgado explains. For the set, Stewart incorporated elements of a shipyard, bringing in nine tons of seaweed along with sacks of mackerel and hake that arrived straight from the wharf at 2 a.m. every day so that even the smell was authentic. “Everything with Tom is factual realism,” Stewart says, “and then, after that’s established, we can amplify and tweak upward.”
While the team tried to use as many authentic pieces and landmarks as possible, Stewart spent nearly a month re-creating the 40-foot-tall Elephant of the Bastille (Napoleon’s monument that no longer stands but was immortalized in Hugo’s book), carved from polystyrene. Because a portion of the team came from a theater background, the set was initially outlined by building theatrical models, which is not commonly done on film. “You never know where Tom is going to film,” Stewart says, “so the buildings had to be (functional) with 360-degree stairs so the cast could run around.” Stewart also took care to craft the buildings with crooked, warped lines, evoking the age and an element of destruction. Delgado—who had previously worked with Tom Hooper on a Captain Morgan TV ad, and was the costume designer for the Oscar-nominated Biutiful and Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education and The Skin I Live In—had to “mar” his designs, creating 1,500 new costumes (out of a total of more than 2,000), which he then set about destroying with mud, grease, and blowtorches. “Paris was so poverty-stricken at that time,” Delgado explains, “and there was an amazing secondhand market where clothes were sold and resold and resold again until they were rags. It shocked me to learn that most poor people didn’t have any shoes.” Delgado also wanted to tap into what he calls “the psychological atmosphere” of the time. “This is about the history of France, but also about the history of the Western world, and it was a big responsibility to create this world, but I also had to remember I was doing a musical with drama, and I needed to have color and fantasy.” One of the most poignant examples was the factory scene, where Delgado dressed Fantine (Anne Hathaway) in pink to contrast against all the other workers in drab blue. “In the book, Fantine is coquettish and beautiful and had some views of the pettyminded society, so I wanted this dress to belong to her lost past. It was all embroidered and had a level of craftsmanship that would make Fantine appear as an outsider among the rest of the women.” Hooper and Delgado discussed a leitmotif, so Delgado evoked the colors of the French flag throughout, using blue costumes in the early factory scene, then red for the revolution, and then moving to white for the wedding and nunnery scenes. Delgado also altered the clothes to reflect the characters’ states, airbrushing shadows onto Fantine’s dress to enhance her wasted frame as she grew close to death, and then moving to the opposite extreme of padding Jean Valjean’s (Hugh Jackman) suits as his wealth and standing grew. “This is our job,” says Delgado, “to try to interpret personalities and characters.”
Recent Memory By Diane Haithman
Re-Creating the Fashions and Fixtures of the ’70s Was a Careful Balancing Act on Argo Remember the 1971 movie Shaft? Ben Affleck doesn’t want you to—at least, not while you are watching his 2012 movie Argo, set in the turbulent 1979-80 era of the Iranian revolution and the Iran hostage crisis. In creating the look of Argo—the stranger-than-fiction true story of a covert mission to help six Americans flee Iran by posing as a Canadian movie crew— director/star Affleck was adamant that the design team create an authentic ’70s look without falling into disco-era extremes of fashion and style. “Costume designer Jacqueline West shared with me the goal of not having the ’70s thing upstage the movie,” Affleck explains. “I didn’t want to have just fur coats and bell bottoms—Shaft—to communicate the period. It’s a period that could very easily be exploited for comedy, so have you to be really ginger about what you do. There’s a laugh waiting behind every haircut.” The design team, which included production designer Sharon Seymour, costume designer West, set decorator Jan Pascale, makeup department head Kate Biscoe, and a host of others, was not only faced with re-creating various United States locations but also locations in Tehran, which, for the most part, were shot in Istanbul, Turkey. “Sharon, Kate, and I were all very intent on making it look like it was shot then, not like it was shot now as a period piece,” West says. Because the hostage crisis was so well documented, there was plenty of resource material to draw from, she adds. In one sense, the nature of the story made it easier to stay away from more comic aspects of ’70s fashion, such as extra-wide lapels and ties, wacky prints, neon colors, and platform shoes. Costume designer West points out that the main characters are Washington, D.C., government workers, more conservative and less interested in cutting-edge fashion than, say, denizens of Los Angeles or New York. And as in any fashion era, West says, what you see on the street is not always up to date. “We didn’t want it spot-on to be a certain year, there’s a 10-year range,” West explains. “Especially back then; clothes weren’t as disposable in the 1970s.” And individual style often
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reflects character, not just period: The wardrobe for John Goodman’s character, Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers, is deliberately frozen in the 1960s. West and her team did strive to reflect the less flashy aspects of period dress, including the color palette (in 1979, brown, burgundy, rust, and navy were the new black), as well as types of fabric, including lots of corduroy. Plus, she added, polyester was a bigger part of the picture then than now. And don’t forget plenty of hair, including mustaches and sideburns, for men: West jokes that there was no “manscaping” back then. Although glasses are usually considered props and handled by the prop department, Affleck was such a stickler for detail he asked the costume department to oversee their acquisition. West commissioned frame designer Allyn Scura of Sebastopol, with whom she had worked on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to create exact replicas of the oversized spectacles worn by some of the real six houseguests. At Los Angeles costume shops, West and her team were able to find many authentic period clothing items. For clothing that had to be made, they shopped for vintage fabrics because newer fabrics photograph differently. That was especially important because the movie uses real news footage from the period, so the audience’s eye is constantly comparing new filmmaking with period reality. A particularly painstaking example of fabric obsession: Creating the many chadors worn by the women of Iran. “The women of Iran had been wearing Western clothes, because the shah had been encouraging it, but they all had to go back under the black chador, which became known as the ‘flag of the revolution,’” West says. “But they were running out of black fabric in Tehran, so women were dyeing tablecloths, bedspreads, and over-dyeing printed fabrics with black. (In Istanbul), we found a man who had access to some vintage black fabric that had been exported from Iran to Turkey. He was able to give it to us.” The fact that Istanbul stood in for Tehran also proved a lucky break for the production designers. For example: A Los Angeles home in Hancock Park stood
in for the Canadian ambassador’s home, but some of its features, including fixtures, were too updated for 1979. But fixtures from the right period were still being used in Turkey, Seymour says. “We shipped light switches and outlets from Istanbul to L.A.” A number of Southern California locations were used: The embassy compound and interiors were shot at the Veteran’s Administration, and downtown’s Los Angeles Times offices stood in for CIA interiors. Ontario International Airport was transformed into Tehran Airport. The Warner Bros. lot in Burbank became the home of Studio Six Productions, the entity behind the phony movie—but the logo on the water tower was changed back to Burbank Studios, as it was then. The locations weren’t so hard to find, but to furnish them, the production designers tapped a resource they would not have had in 1979: eBay. Because this is Hollywood, it wasn’t too hard to find vintage movie-set equipment, but try finding enough matched typewriters for a CIA office, a real Star Wars figure for a little boy’s bedroom, or 30-year-old TV sets that could be rewired and used to play vintage news footage. “It’s quite a long time ago, but not long enough ago that everything’s antique—it’s thrift-shop stuff almost,” West says. Affleck says a major debate ensued over whether his character would have a telephone answering machine in his apartment.
Above: An L.A. home dressed as the Canadian Ambassador’s residence (before and after). Top: The Los Angeles Times offices become CIA interiors.
But why such attention to authenticity for an era many audience members have either forgotten or never knew? “I think all those details add up,” West says. “I think everything we do is part of the subtext of what the story is.”
GOING OUT ON A HIGH NOTE
From left: Alexandre Desplat and Renée Fleming
By David Mermelstein
The Best Way to Roll the Credits on a Feature Toon? Get a Soprano It’s not unusual to have big names in popular music sing endtitle songs for major movies. Opera singers, though, don’t generally roll that way. But nobody ever said they can’t. Which is why Alexandre Desplat, who composed the music for Rise of the Guardians, decided to approach soprano Renée Fleming about singing “Still Dream,” which uses the melody he wrote for the picture’s main theme and lyrics by the film’s screenwriter, David Lindsay-Abaire
Their collaboration went smoothly despite no prior history, though they didn’t actually meet until a specially arranged recording session in New York that followed the full score’s recording in London. “We went back and forth about key and range on the phone and email,” Fleming recalls. “He did several rewrites, but I wasn’t the only one making requests. This all came together in a very short period of time. I couldn’t be there in London, but he was with me in New York.”
“It covers two octaves,” Desplat says of the song. “The music is very orchestral; the melody, very lyrical. So it really made sense to ask Renée Fleming, who is the greatest soprano alive. And she said yes right away. It was a suggestion that could have been rejected, but it was right—though I can’t remember the last time a soprano sang an end-title song.”
Fleming got the lyrics only after Desplat had already sent the music. “I was under a mountain of deadlines when they called,” Lindsay-Abaire says. “But I couldn’t say no. Alexandre was very set that he wanted the song to revisit and rearticulate the score’s themes. He didn’t want to just tack something onto the end. And in that way, it felt very organic to the movie that was already there. We took the ‘believe theme’—where the little boy believes in Jack Frost for the first time—and it was like, ‘Oh, our work is halfway done.’ He wanted the song to have the same sweep and epic quality the film has. It’s not the standard ‘stick a pop song at the end of a movie.’ It embraces the wonder of childhood and boils it down.”
“It’s really an aria he composed,” Fleming says. “It’s got a huge range and is quite demanding melodically—very instrumental. So it was challenge for me, but it’s so beautiful. Alexandre has an extraordinary melodic gift. I’d never met him before this, but I was familiar with his work, because he’s done so many wonderful scores.”
He wanted the song to have the same sweep and epic quality the film has.
INDIVIDUAL NOMINEES: ALAN ARKIN Argo ALEC BALDWIN 30 Rock JAVIER BARDEM Skyfall TY BURRELL Modern Family STEVE BUSCEMI Boardwalk Empire JESSICA CHASTAIN Zero Dark Thirty LOUIS C.K. Louie BRADLEY COOPER Silver Linings Playbook KEVIN COSTNER Hatfields & McCoys MARION COTILLARD Rust and Bone BRYAN CRANSTON Breaking Bad CLAIRE DANES Homeland JEFF DANIELS The Newsroom DANIEL DAY-LEWIS Lincoln ROBERT DE NIRO Silver Linings Playbook MICHELLE DOCKERY Downton Abbey EDIE FALCO Nurse Jackie TINA FEY 30 Rock SALLY FIELD Lincoln JON HAMM Mad Men WOODY HARRELSON Game Change ED HARRIS Game Change ANNE HATHAWAY Les Misérables JOHN HAWKES The Sessions PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN The Master HELEN HUNT The Sessions HUGH JACKMAN Les Misérables TOMMY LEE JONES Lincoln NICOLE KIDMAN Hemingway & Gellhorn NICOLE KIDMAN The Paperboy JESSICA LANGE American Horror Story: Asylum JENNIFER LAWRENCE Silver Linings Playbook DAMIAN LEWIS Homeland JULIANNA MARGULIES The Good Wife HELEN MIRREN Hitchcock JULIANNE MOORE Game Change CLIVE OWEN Hemingway & Gellhorn JIM PARSONS The Big Bang Theory BILL PAXTON Hatfields & McCoys AMY POEHLER Parks and Recreation CHARLOTTE RAMPLING Restless MAGGIE SMITH The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel MAGGIE SMITH Downton Abbey ERIC STONESTREET Modern Family SOFIA VERGARA Modern Family DENZEL WASHINGTON Flight NAOMI WATTS The Impossible SIGOURNEY WEAVER Political Animals BETTY WHITE Hot in Cleveland ALFRE WOODARD Steel Magnolias CAST/ENSEMBLE NOMINEES: 30 ROCK ARGO THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL THE BIG BANG THEORY BOARDWALK EMPIRE BREAKING BAD DOWNTON ABBEY GLEE HOMELAND LES MISÉRABLES LINCOLN MAD MEN MODERN FAMILY NURSE JACKIE THE OFFICE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK STUNT ENSEMBLE NOMINEES: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN BOARDWALK EMPIRE THE BOURNE LEGACY BREAKING BAD THE DARK KNIGHT RISES GAME OF THRONES LES MISÉRABLES SKYFALL SONS OF ANARCHY THE WALKING DEAD
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