Q&A: Amy Adams On The Master

When it comes to straddling comedy and drama, few performers possess the range and commercial longevity. Count Amy Adams as one of those few. In the afterglow of her Oscar-nominated turn as the filter-less Southern-fried Ashley in 2005’s Junebug, Adams continues to rally Academy voters for her somber roles (her suspicious nun in 2008’s Doubt and her Gaelic gal in 2010’s The Fighter) as well as families for her Disney films (last winter’s The Muppets and 2007’s Enchanted). In her latest role as Peggy Dodd, the woman behind Philip Seymour Hoffman’s philosophical cult leader Lancaster Dodd in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Adams brings a fierce gravitas to every scene she’s in, even when she isn’t speaking. When deconstructing her process, Adams is literally speechless: “The mystery of working with Paul is part of the wonderful experience. You have to invest in the moment and invest in the experience. Of course, you can ask questions. But I always find that living the experience is the answer.”

AWARDSLINE: You can play comedy and serious drama equally. Was achieving this dynamic something you and your talent reps planned or was it serendipity?

AMY ADAMS: It wasn’t so much that we sat there and had a strategy meeting. I finished The Muppets and was looking for what I would be doing next, and The Master presented itself. I do like to challenge myself and have it feel like different experiences in developing characters. Then I went from The Master to Superman. So it’s something I’m looking for from project to project rather than an overall strategy.

AWARDSLINE: What did you do to prepare for the role? Peggy has this Amish appearance, not to mention being controlling.

ADAMS: Yes, she does have a puritanical, buttoned-up way about her. Paul saw her as omnipresent and wanted her around even if she wasn’t involved in the action of the scene. This helped me in forming the character.

AWARDSLINE: How does Paul work with his actors? Does he rehearse a lot?

ADAMS: Paul’s process is immersive and actually quite fluid. There’s no particular technique or category to throw it in. We didn’t do a lot of rehearsals, at least I didn’t. There are conversations. I would love to have anecdotes and easy answers, but it’s so immersive that you come out of it—you don’t feel the same, and you can’t figure out why. It’s a wonderful confusion, so it’s very hard to put your finger on the experience.

AWARDSLINE: As widely reported, the film is inspired by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Did you read up on Dianetics or did you just leave it to the script?

ADAMS: I left a lot to the script. I read Dianetics before and for some reason I remember it being a self-help book. I really let Paul guide me. I paid more attention to the era, to figure out women’s roles and their place in society. It’s changed so much over the past 100 years, so that’s always fascinating to me when I’m revisiting the past: To see where women were at that time. I read this book a while ago, The Feminist Mystique, and I remember the author talking about women’s roles during post-war (in which The Master is set). Peggy was clearly a bright and educated woman and her being behind a man was a much more powerful thing than for her being out on her own. So that’s what I went back to: The idea of there being limited options for an intelligent, ambitious woman.

AWARDSLINE: The fact that she can speak out at dinner and exclaim, “We can’t trust Freddie” proves Peggy isn’t a second-class citizen.

ADAMS: No, she’s not a second-class citizen. But at that point, I also try to stay very mannered because I’m in front of the children, and it’s important that I give Lancaster the respect. I’m not yelling at him nor am I manipulating him as I do at a different time in the film where I’m much more direct. Several times when we’re in private, there’s a different Peggy than the one in front of his children where she maintains a level of respect and hierarchy; an arena where she doesn’t want to offend him or push the wrong button.

AWARDSLINE: Let’s address the elephant in the room: That scene where you…[Ed. note: Peggy aggressively fondles Lancaster after a drunken soiree in an effort to discipline him.]

ADAMS: (Laughs.) Really take control of him!


AWARDSLINE: Yes, it’s a bold scene because you’re getting your man back in order.

ADAMS: That scene let me know a lot about who Peggy was, and mercifully, we only had to do it in two takes.

AWARDSLINE: And what was it that you learned about her?

ADAMS: There was a coolness to her that I found so interesting in the writing. I wish I had the script in front of me, so I could say it in Paul’s brilliant words about rinsing her hand off and reaching over to the towel, and that was the whole thing to me: She’s a girl, and she’s going to do what she needs to do to get the job done. That was the scene that made me go, “Oh, O.K. I get her.”

AWARDSLINE: What’s your interpretation of Lois Lane in the upcoming Man of Steel?

ADAMS: I grew up with Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, so I didn’t want to try and be that version. Zack (Snyder) said that he wanted to play for more realism. There’s definitely still banter (with Superman). She’s tough, modern, and more contemporary. There’s also a lot more action than I’ve seen in my career.

AWARDSLINE: You’re also prepping to play Janis Joplin?

ADAMS: It’s still in development; I’ve been talking to people about that over the last couple of years. It’s one of those that is scary to think about, but I often say, “If it isn’t scary, I shouldn’t be doing it,” so I’m typically scared before I start everything.

Composer Danny Elfman On Scoring Hitchcock

After composing five film scores straight, without a weekend off, it’s fair to say that Danny Elfman has had a very long year. Still, there was no limit to what he would do to work on a film about his idol, Alfred Hitchcock.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I have to do this,” Elfman recalls about committing to Fox Searchlight’s Hitchcock, which was scheduled for delivery right before his opus on Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful. “I wouldn’t have a film-music career if it wasn’t for Bernard Herrmann, who has inspired me since the age of 12.”

It would be an understatement to say that Elfman is a big fan of the Master of Suspense and his longtime music collaborator. Never mind the large photograph of Hitch that hangs in Elfman’s office (as observed by Hitchcock helmer Sacha Gervasi), Elfman is the only composer who has handled the sacred scrolls: Herrmann’s original manuscript for Psycho, which Elfman deftly adapted for Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake. For his current project, Elfman was so stoked to visit the Hitchcock set where they were shooting the Psycho editing-bay scene with Anthony Hopkins (as Hitch) and Helen Mirren (as his wife, Alma) that he asked if he could come back for a second day.

But idolization has no boundaries and, though the production was strapped for cash, Elfman wasn’t going to compromise the score to a movie about his favorite filmmaker.

“He literally bought sections of the orchestra out of his own pocket,” says a gobsmacked Gervasi. “We were recording with the top musicians in London, and we couldn’t afford to keep them through lunch. Danny asked the orchestrator, ‘How much do the violas cost? 3,000£? I’ll take them. How much for the French horns?’ And Danny held the musicians through lunch.”

An adult gesture for a composer not always recognized for his adult scores, despite having credits on a multitude of dramas like Dolores Claiborne, A Simple Plan,and last year’s Restless. We all know the gothic, orchestral stylings from Elfman’s Tim Burton fare (for instance, this year’s Dark Shadows and stopmotion Frankenweenie) to his summer tentpoles (Men in Black 3, the first of which earned him a comedy score Oscar nom), however, this is arguably the first awards season in a long time that Elfman has had an abundance of adult-themed scores, a trend that he says “isn’t intentional.” As the new kid on the block in the late ’80s, his splashy Dvorak-like score for Burton’s 1989 Batman was overlooked by the Academy, but it’s been his grownup themes for Good Will Hunting (1997), Big Fish (2003), and Milk (2008) that have garnered Oscar nominations.

In addition to Hitchcock—which Elfman committed to under the condition that he didn’t have to turn in a Herrmann-esque score, rather a romantic, classical sound—the former Oingo Boingo frontman churned out his seventh score for Van Sant, an eclectic guitar-stringed mood for the environmental political drama Promised Land. Then there’s David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook,which represents a departure for Elfman in terms of his process and contemporary sound. Employing drums, stringed-pads (that Elfman created), guitar as well as his own vocals, the score to Silver Linings Playbook is a synthesis of late-’60s harmonized sunshine pop coupled with a coffee-house acoustic vibe.

“What saved me was that these scores were different and there were no overlapping of styles. If I had two scores that were in a similar genre, I would have gone through a mental meltdown,” Elfman humbly admits. “I didn’t get log-jammed, but I had to be more focused than ever before.”

Also keeping Elfman at the top of his game is the company he keeps with offbeat directors who challenge him. At first, when Elfman heard Silver Linings Playbook was a romantic comedy, he resisted. “That is the genre that I feel no affinity toward at all, and it’s the only one I stay away from. I did a few early on in my career, and they were incredibly difficult.”

But after watching a cut of the film, Elfman was drawn to the actors’ chemistry. Upon agreeing to work with Russell, Elfman says, “He didn’t even know if he needed music in the movie. It was a total journey for him, and I learned with David, you just take that journey. I said to myself, ‘If at the end, I served no purpose but to show him that he doesn’t need a score, well, that’s fine.’ ”

That ride entailed Elfman actually stepping inside the recording booth. Typically, during a scoring session, the composer is on the other side of the glass.

“I was playing around with instruments and put my vocals onto one piece as a goof, and David was like, ‘Do more of that! Do more of that!’, like he was producing me. Before we knew it, that’s what we were doing,” Elfman says with a laugh. “It was really crazy and off the track of what I’m usually doing, which is writing very intense, big scores.”

Russell says of their first-time partnership, “He was working with a simple arsenal of instruments due to budget. The end result seamlessly blends with the source and the emotion of the characters. I think that was the challenge, to find the voice of his music that would do that.”

Elfman says Van Sant is another director who “pushes me in strange directions.” Originally on Milk, Elfman wrote 15-18 minutes of opera-like music, inspired by the fact that Harvey Milk was a fan of the genre. After playing it several times for Van Sant, “He said, ‘You know, it’s not working,’ so we went back to square one,” Elfman recounts.

And while Burton is one director with whom Elfman can easily employ his Herrmann-esque and monster-movie side, specifically the classic horror organ wafting in Frankenweenie, it comes as a surprise to learn that Elfman and Burton still don’t have a shorthand after working together for 27 years.

“Every film is like starting over. I’ve never written a cue for Tim yet where I’m like, ‘He’s going to love this!’ He’s extremely unpredictable, and I never know how he’s going to react. Sometimes he has to take a journey to find out where the musical heart of his film is,” explains Elfman.

Nevertheless, the pair has a director-composer partnership that’s second only to Steven Spielberg and John Williams, yet one that the Academy doesn’t often recognize.

“I have a simple philosophy about (Oscar politics): I don’t think about it at all. I’m a big supporter of what the Academy does for films, but when it comes to the awards part of it, I stay as far removed as possible. It’s like elections—you can go crazy trying to anticipate what’s going to happen, but how people vote is still a great mystery,” says Elfman.

As one of the few scoresmiths who can churn out a panoramic orchestral creation, Elfman will likely get his due from the Academy one day. Already his eighth reteaming with Sam Raimi, Oz: The Great and Powerful, sounds like the type of epic, á la Lawrence of Arabia,that voters crave.

“The movie has this big, blustery old-fashioned feel, and I wanted to give it a big, effective, narrative score,” Elfman says. “It’s huge—105 minutes of music.”

And no matter what road Elfman embarks on musically with a director, it always comes back to Herrmann. “If anything, I’ll evoke more Herrmann-esque sounds in Oz: The Great and Powerful than I did in Hitchcock,” says Elfman. “At times I can’t help it, I have to try not to be Herrmann-esque because his music is so much a part of my musical DNA. For that is from whence I sprung.”

Q&A: Tom Tykwer And The Wachowskis On Cloud Atlas

This story appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of AwardsLine.

If there’s one memorable takeaway this awards season, it’s the day when directors Andy and Lana Wachowski came to town. During the height of their success with The Matrix franchise, which propelled the entire scifi genre beyond its Star Wars standards, rumors abounded about the siblings’ private lives, in particular Lana’s. But the Chicago natives arrived in Hollywood last month, ready to hug us with their new $100-million-plus epic Cloud Atlas, tri-directed with their new BFF, German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). And the press hugged back: Lana boldly discussed her decision to become transgendered, while bloggers delighted in unpretentious conversations with the trio.

Halle Berry and Tom Hanks star as multiple characters in Cloud Atlas.

An adaptation of David Mitchell’s 2004 labyrinthine novel, Cloud Atlas follows the power of karma throughout various souls and eras, from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future. While the trio assembled an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant, the major studios and indie financiers balked at the risky project, which employed a plethora of production crews throughout Germany, San Francisco, Scotland, and Majorca. But the Wachowskis and Tykwer were vying for something more than just a tentpole. Cloud Atlas wasn’t about the boxoffice, evident in the film’s $20 million domestic tickets sales over two weeks, rather it was about defying conventions, particularly by having its cast simultaneously wear several wigs (Hugo Weaving portrays a beefy female nurse and a leprechaun-like devil in two tales) and play against racial type (James D’Arcy plays a Korean man). Much like their celluloid forefathers Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey), Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now), and Michael Cimino (Heaven’s Gate), who were labeled crazy at the time with their epics and are now lauded as geniuses, the trio was set on blowing up the big-screen canvas with Cloud Atlas. Time will be on Cloud Atlas’ side, and the film has potential crafts awards this season, too. But this is the first time—and probably last—that three directors have banded together to mount a breathless epic. After all, the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change cinema are the ones who do.

Doona Bae and Jim Sturgess in Cloud Atlas.

AWARDSLINE: After Natalie Portman referred the book to you during V for Vendetta, was there any kind of bidding war? Or were your agents like, “Oh, no don’t option that!”

ANDY WACHOWSKI: No. This was right before Speed Racer so we still had some pull with Warner Bros. Joel (Silver) swept in and bought the property for Warner Bros., and I think that somebody was trying to negotiate the price down at the time, and they came in and just paid full price, so there was no real bidding war. After we broke from Joel, it was more of our project, and he let us have it.

AWARDSLINE: How did David Mitchell’s novel affect you?

LANA WACHOWSKI: We were all enamored with the way that he managed to pay homage to these kinds of classical forms of literature, and yet he found a way to reinvent them with this post-modern, tricky gimmick of inserting the different genres and modes of literature into each other. And thus by doing that, he accomplished something new. He made something that was original in feeling while still infusing it with this love of a more traditional, classical approach to literature. So we were left with something that we tried to do in all of our work. We tried to remain connected to a traditional norm and remain connected to the things that inspired us when we were young and have an amateur’s love of these classical forms. Yet (we) don’t embrace them in a nostalgic re-creation, but inhabit them with a pure form of nostalgia. The book had done that, and we were excited instantly about a way we could potentially do that with cinema.

AWARDSLINE: You had no choice but to finance Cloud Atlas independently. Do you still believe in the studio system?

ANDY: It’s complicated. We couldn’t have made the first Matrix unless it had been under the umbrella of the studio system. And the studio system, it’s not like it’s this rigid structure that doesn’t change. The studio system’s philosophies change. The way they make films change. When we were first getting into the business, the studio system was all about (getting) stars. They didn’t even care what the movie was. You just had to say who was in it, which The Player illustrated so eloquently: “Bruce Willis! Julia Roberts!” Since then, the studio has turned more toward spectacle and CG, and that’s not to say that the independent world is much different. There were a lot of independent distributors that we took Cloud Atlas to that rejected it, for example Summit. And Summit was one of the companies that were originally in on Bound, and we had a really good relationship with them, but now they’re tending to follow the studio model, which is more about what the product is. They have the Twilight movies, and they were trying to get a disaster film, Pompeii, made. So, it’s not an easy question to answer because the system is always in flux.

LANA: We acknowledge that structures are channeled toward the commodification of our art form to the point that it is only product, and the only point of making cinema is to create product that can have some financial return. The moment that starts to happen, whoever is thinking about this only as a means of financial gain, that is where the pathology resides. Long before there were the studios, human beings were trying to tell stories and communicate to each other through words and pictures, (and) once the studio systems are long dead, independent financiers are long gone, human beings will still be communicating with each other in words and pictures. The intent to share a perspective, through words and pictures, or the chance to offer someone else the chance to leave their perspective behind and look at the world in fresh new eyes, that’s why we do what we do, and that’s what ultimately will live on. There were tons of movies that made a lot of money and were utterly and completely forgotten. Likewise, there were movies that didn’t make money that are still around and are still important and relevant.

ANDY: And the industry will reinvent itself when that happens.

AWARDSLINE: You mentioned the studios’ need to attach stars. David Chase in his latest film Not Fade Away, a completely different film on a smaller scale, wanted a fresh face main cast. But Cloud Atlas is the opposite. Was there basically the notion that you needed as many stars as you could get in order to get this film off the ground?

LANA: No, it was more about the approach to storytelling. We thought that if there were all fresh faces, that you would get lost and lose connectivity. Because the face, the fundamental upon which we built the plot, was the moral arc theme at the end of the book. Can we turn away from our predator hearts toward a more compassionate, kind direction? So we thought, OK, here’s this really dark character Dr. Henry Goose, and here’s this character Zachry (both of whom Tom Hanks plays), and could we see this sort of soul evolve over a period of time? And if you didn’t know the actor, then they were completely invisible. Audiences wouldn’t understand the connection. We really wanted the two central actors, Halle Berry and Tom Hanks, to help the audience feel secure. Our structure was so experimental that we knew we needed something that was an island of stability.

AWARDSLINE: Did you have to wait to secure all of your financing before you shot one frame?

ANDY: Yes.

TOM TYKWER: The first presentation at Cannes 2011 was completely disastrous. Luckily, there were some unexpected candidates, like Italy, that came in. But many of those financiers (that) we really needed to get didn’t come aboard, so our financing wasn’t complete.

ANDY: And we went to Cannes last May with the movie in hand to show to the foreign territories that we didn’t have, which included England and France among others, and they said no. So we—

LANA: —We couldn’t sell the movie.

ANDY: There was no offer.

AWARDSLINE: So Focus International is your sales agent. And Warner Bros. took North American rights for $25 million, but were they always in?

ANDY: They played footsyfor a little bit, until we basically got on our knees, begged them, and crapped our pants in front of them, you know, “Look into your heart!” [Editor’s note: John Turturro’s line from the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing]

AWARDSLINE: And by last fall you were shooting at least?

ANDY: Yes.

LANA: Yeah, like four days before we were supposed to start shooting and four days before the actors were supposed to get on a plane and fly over, a financier went bankrupt, and this big gap opened up. Then the bank called us, and said, “Look, we won’t post this loan unless you fill the gap.” We had lunch and we basically all decided to put our personal money, mortgage our house, fill that last bit of a gap.

ANDY: This was on top of us not taking our salary, so we were actually putting money into the movie without getting paid.

AWARDSLINE: So you’ve got your money, you’ve got Warner Bros.’ money, German money…

ANDY: Asian money, some Italian, some Russian, Korean, and also individual financiers.

AWARDSLINE: So what kept you going through this tumultuous preproduction?

ANDY: Everything. Our relationship, all those little components that would come in, the courage of the actors. We were buoyed by so many different things. One of us would always pick up the other two, sometimes it was the material itself—it was everything.

TYKWER: Sometimes, when we weren’t feeling OK, when we were beaten down so many times, we asked ourselves, Are we going to waste too much time of our life trying something that’s just impossible? Should we just take the latest job and take it easy? But, we all read the script and called each other, screaming with excitement, “We have to make this movie!” It was so obviously and so overwhelmingly Cloud Atlas.

LANA: It was this deep, profound love that we have for cinema and the experience that we had when we were little. We would go to watch large-scale movies that were about adult ideas, themes, ambiguities, and complexities. You already see a lot of this in everyday TV, and we’ve begun to move away from this experience in our culture where we make large-canvas adult movies. We loved them so much when we were younger, and we just wanted to make one last one. Maybe.

A Look Back At The Campaign Strategy Of Crying Game

This story appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of AwardsLine.

Excellent buzz is the most cherished asset during awards season, but in 1992, Miramax and producer Stephen Woolley asked audiences the impossible: Keep a secret.

Amazingly, they made good on their promise about “the twist” in The Crying Game, turning an undefinable genre title with a fresh-faced cast and then-unknown Irish director Neil Jordan into a crossover boxoffice hit (a $101K opening turned into $62.5 million domestic) and serious awards contender, further solidifying the Weinstein brothers’ rep as the quintessential shepherds of awards-worthy fare.

Concerned that critics would spoil The Crying Game’sturning point during its initial release in Great Britain by his company Palace Pictures, Woolley ripped a page out of his bible, King of the Bs, an anthology of interviews with Z-grade directors such as Roger Corman and John Waters. Woolley wrote a letter to the press, asking them to avoid spoiling the film’s twist in their writeups: That the singer-hairdresser, Dil (played sublimely by Jaye Davidson), with whom ex-IRA terrorist Fergus (Stephen Rea) falls in love, is really a man.

The film’s first U.S. review by Variety out of the Telluride Film Festival set the secrecy standard that all American outlets emulated after receiving letters at press screenings: “The plot contains two major—and several other minor—convulsive surprises that, if revealed, would considerably spoil a first-time viewing experience, making it nearly impossible to describe the film in advance in meaningful detail.”

“For people to avoid giving away the twist, the film had to deliver. Audiences talked about it at dinner parties and on the factory floor,” Woolley recalls.

As Miramax continued to hold the media spoilers at bay, “the film posed a real problem to advertise, up until the day of release,” Woolley says. Miramax settled on a one-sheet that would really throw off moviegoers: A mug of Miranda Richardson (who played Fergus’ comrade Jude) holding a gun and sporting a Louise Brooks hairstyle.

“Miramax played on the words Crying Game and positioned the film as a noirish thriller with the tagline ‘Play at Your Own Risk,’ indicating that there was a slight sexual connation, a dangerous area,” Woolley adds.

As Crying Game gained traction during awards season, Miramax made strides to keep the lid on Davidson’s identity. The National Board of Review respected this by intentionally giving Davidson the award for Most Auspicious Debut. One of the few interviews Davidson granted was to The New York Times’ Janet Maslin in December 1992, and the resulting profile continued to shroud the former fashion designer assistant’s sex, while detailing his overnight discovery at a film wrap party. A former marketing consultant, who worked on The Crying Game, remembers how “we held off from giving the Academy Jaye Davidson’s photo until the last minute.” However, Oscar voters were hardly in the dark as Miramax bought best supporting actor For Your Consideration ads in Variety throughout the season.

When Oscar nominations announced Davidson as a nominee in the category, it appeared the cat was finally out of the bag. A San Francisco Chronicle op-ed exclaimed, “The secret about Davidson is pretty much out—she was nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actor. How many more clues do people need? And yet everyone is still being coy. The new ads for The Crying Game mention that it was nominated for six Oscars but don’t mention Davidson by either name or category.”

The Associated Press also outed Davidson, much to the chagrin of Miramax cofounder Harvey Weinstein, who, as the article pointed out, “called the Associated Press urging the secret remain secret. ‘You’re not hurting me financially. You’re ruining the movie for audiences.’ ” Hardly so. The Crying Game’s U.S. boxoffice surged two-fold between Oscar noms and the night of the ceremony, from $15.8 million to $47.3 million.

Davidson would lose the Oscar to Gene Hackman for his turn as a crooked sheriff in Unforgiven, but that didn’t bother the Riverside, CA, native. He never plotted an acting career in the first place. A prolific role as the sun god Ra in MGM’s scifi film Stargate followed. At one point during Cannes 1998, it was announced Davidson was attached to a Steven Seagal action title Cousin Joey opposite Mickey Rourke (which was never made). Largely, Davidson remains MIA with IMDb reporting his last acting credit as a Nazi photographer in the 2009 short The Borghilde Project. Per Woolley, “I think he’s in Paris. The last I heard, he was really happy.”

Still, The Crying Game’s marketing machine continues to break the mold. Some studios have tried to copy it and failed. And arguably no other distributor, especially during awards season, has ever attempted a word-of-mouth campaign based on hush. Had the film unspooled in the current age of viral blogging, it’s plausible that any coverage on The Crying Game would be preceded with the warning “Spoilers Ahead.”

“The first bravest thing was making The Crying Game,” says Woolley.The second bravest thing was the domestic distributor that went out there and broke all the rules: Acquiring a tiny British-made film by an unknown filmmaker and pretending that it was a mainstream picture.”

Q&A: Jennifer Lawrence on Silver Linings Playbook

This story appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of AwardsLine

Actors go to exhaustive lengths to lose themselves onscreen, whether it’s by extensive research or thespian Method. Then there’s Jennifer Lawrence, who unabashedly admits her lack of formal drama training—an approach that’s paid off for her in spades given her portrayal of strong female protagonists. As the young unstable widow Tiffany who falls for Bradley Cooper’s bipolar ex-high school teacher Pat in David O. Russell’s romantic dramedy Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence is a firecracker, going toe-to-toe with the Method master himself, Robert De Niro (as Pat’s father) in a hysterical scene where she debunks him of all of his Philadelphia sports superstitions. Since the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Oscar pundits are projecting Lawrence to lock her second best actress nomination following her breakout in 2010’s Winter’s Bone. Mere cherries for Lawrence after her turn in March as the brave teen warrior Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, a part for which she was plucked from hundreds of girls. But Lawrence admits to brazenly pursuing roles, whether it’s tracking down her Winter’s Bone director in New York or Skyping Russell from her Louisville, KY, hometown. “There’s my desperation for certain scripts,” Lawrence says, “and desperation reads, and passion comes through.”

AWARDSLINE: You have this affinity for tough characters. Did you find any similarity between Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games and Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook?

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: It’s funny, I never thought that Tiffany and Katniss have anything in common, other than they have to do what they have to do and really don’t care what anybody thinks. However, the way they go about it is very different. Katniss would rather not talk if she doesn’t have to in every situation, and Tiffany has more words than there is time. I think great stories follow tough characters. They happen to be the scripts and stories that I fall in love with, but it’s all coincidental. Anytime my agent calls me and starts describing a character, if it’s anything about “strong,” “south,” or “woods,” I can’t do it. I do realize my characters have that in common, but I need to play someone weak and vulnerable (laughs)—go find some pathetic someone somewhere.

AWARDSLINE: Do you know anyone like Tiffany?

LAWRENCE: No, I never felt so much like a stranger to a character. I really didn’t have anyone to base her on or to rationalize what she was doing most of the time. And I loved that. She felt like this strange fascinating being, who even now is a mystery to me. I never felt like I locked her down. She was always growing and changing. And that’s happening as well with the Hunger Games movies and Katniss. One of the biggest things about Tiffany is her fearlessness, and yet she’s also very aware. Most people who are fearless aren’t aware of the worst-case scenario. They’re not aware of the consequences. But she’s both. She’s ferocious, fearless, and she’s aware of everything, and I thought that was fascinating. I wanted to go into the audition with David O. Russell that way.

AWARDSLINE: What discussions about bipolarity did you have with David and Bradley Cooper? I remember David talking about how he was personally connected to the material at the Hollywood Awards.

LAWRENCE: Bradley did a lot of research and really wanted to nail down exactly what his character was dealing with. I never felt (the need to do research). This is coming from a girl who never reads her lines until she shows up and does as little work as impossible because my number-one goal in life is having fun—I’m just kidding. I never felt like the medication or the diagnosis or the disease was in Tiffany’s world. Tiffany didn’t see a bipolar, manic-depressive in (Cooper’s character) Pat, she saw a desperate man who was misunderstood the same way she was, and they were perfect for each other. Bradley did more of the research, and I did more of the “OK, I’m shouting in the street, and I don’t know why” time to go with it.

AWARDSLINE: Does the fact that you’re now a huge boxoffice draw and an Oscar nominee inhibit you from the types of projects you’ll attach yourself to?

LAWRENCE: No, it doesn’t. In fact, it makes things a lot easier to get attached to. I’m still reading the same scripts—$1 indies—as I did before I was discovered in Winter’s Bone. The good thing is, when I fall in love with the script, I don’t have to wait for it to be made. I can find the right people and actually get it made. My biggest problem with Hollywood is that there are these incredible scripts that can’t find funding. And then when I’m driving through Westwood and see the posters of the movies that are in theaters, I’m like, “What’s going on? Why is it like that?”

AWARDSLINE: Harvey Weinstein has been a godfather to a number of actors and actresses. How was he during production?

LAWRENCE: I love Harvey so much. I don’t understand why everyone’s so scared of him. He’s like a big teddy bear. He’s a genius. I get it, if you’re trying to negotiate with him, he’s not like a big teddy bear. (But) I love how he makes movies. He has enough money that he can focus on making something good, and we don’t have enough people like him in this business. He’s the only person in this business who can be on the phone with a director like David O. Russell, and they can yell at each other and love each other and be completely honest. People who are upfront get a terrible reputation. They don’t sugarcoat it, they just tell you the way it is, and I think that’s wonderful and a great thing to be around. Yes, Harvey has given me career advice, and I rejected it and then regretted it.

Watch: Beasts of the Southern Wild filmmakers talk Quvenzhané Wallis

Quvenzhané Wallis

EXCLUSIVE: In this clip, which was first seen at The Hollywood Awards prior to Quvenzhané Wallis collecting her New Hollywood kudo, the creators of Beasts of the Southern Wild discuss how the six-year old actress’ precociousness took the film to another level in her role as Hushpuppy, the Louisiana swampland heroine who battles tides and mythical creatures. Should Wallis, now nine years old, earn a best actress Oscar nod, she will easily become the youngest nominee since Keisha Castle-Hughes, who at 13 years old was recognized for her leading work in 2003’s Whale Rider. And for all those Oscar stat keepers out there, Shirley Temple was never nominated in the actress category, rather she received the honorary Juvenile Award at six years old in 1935.

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Follow Anthony D’Alessandro on Twitter at @AnthnyBoxOffice

Wes Anderson: “My Style is Like My Handwriting”

Wes Anderson

You can spot his motifs from a mile away: the funky retro-1960s soundtrack laced with a harpsichord score, the deadpan characters, the hysterical absurdist zingers and those adorable dollhouse set pieces.

However, Moonrise Kingdom director  Wes Anderson isn’t trying to be cute or obvious when it comes to his unique style on screen.

“When I make a movie, the thing that makes movies like my other movies — all those different things, whatever they are, where someone says, ‘Oh I think I know who did this one’ — those elements are more like my handwriting to me,” explains Anderson, “I’m always directing a movie where I wrote the script with some collaborator and it feels natural for me to do it in my own handwriting.”

In many ways, Anderson’s offbeat cinematic comical rhythm is reminiscent of those 1950s works by absurdist playwrights Eugene Ionesco and Harold Pinter, plays which accentuate immature adults inability to communicate in a domestic setting.  Given Anderson’s penchant for dysfunctional family hijinks, particularly in Moonrise Kingdom which finds two star-crossed tweens fleeing their humdrum summery New England days for a life together in the wilderness.

“I certainly have often thought of Pinter, he’s a writer that has always inspired me. (Samuel) Beckett maybe in a more distant way, but I would say Beckett through Pinter is one. The spareness and abstractness of Pinter has always been a real inspiration for me,” points out Anderson.

“If I was doing an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett, I might be working in ways that are less recognizable as my style; I’m not positive about that, but it’s the sort of situation where I don’t force myself to make a movie that’s unlike my other ones. I want to force myself to make the movie as entertaining and as moving as possible,” adds the director.

After receiving rave reviews out of Cannes this year, Focus Features is hoping to keep the party going for Moonrise Kingdom throughout awards season, particularly with hopes of a helming nod for Anderson.  Adding fuel to Moonrise Kingdom‘s fire is the fact that the film was a cross-over hit at the summer box office, consistently cracking the domestic top 10 and becoming the director’s second highest-grossing film of all-time at $64.5 million worldwide behind Royal Tenenbaums‘ $71.4 million. While Anderson’s previous films haven’t taken the Academy by storm with multiple noms in a given season, he’s no stranger to the org having notched a 2001 original screenplay nom for Royal Tenenbaums (shared with Owen Wilson) and a 2010 animation nom for Fantastic Mr. Fox.

At the moment, Anderson is busying himself with pre-production on his Grand Budapest Hotel which is set to go into production in Europe right during the heart of Oscar post-nom season in January. While the plot is under wraps, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson are already attached.


Arbitrage’s Richard Gere Dedicates Hollywood Award to Limato

Richard Gere

One of the great aspects about the Hollywood Awards that goes largely unrecognized is that it’s arguably the only show that doesn’t put a time cap on acceptance speeches and hook its recipients off stage. As such, both presenters and winners are not only more heartfelt, but candid. And that’s a wonderful rarity during a season when show producers are anxiously tapping their watches anytime a trophy gets handed out.

When the final award of Monday’s ceremony was handed to Hollywood Career Achievement recipient Richard Gere, it became clear why sometimes it’s better to let an honoree speak without a time clock. Following a riveting clip package of Gere’s best moments, the 63-year-old actor delivered a moving six-minute acceptance speech, remembering his late agent, Ed Limato of WME, who passed away on July 3, 2010. Limato was a living legend who shepherded the careers of such acting icons as Denzel Washington, Steve Martin, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Mel Gibson.

“These awards go to everyone I ever worked with, but there’s one person who deserves this more than anyone else,” Gere exclaimed. “There was an award I was given at the Museum of the Moving Image six or seven years ago. I mentioned this person there, and I kicked myself that I never spoke more about him, and it’s my dear friend, agent Ed Limato.”

Gere first met Limato when he moved to New York City after working in repertory theater for several years. He was referred to a female agent in the city, however, she was moving out to London to rep the great Italian director Franco Zeffirelli. However, she had an assistant.

“My hair was down to here, and I was wearing a motorcycle jacket and had a huge chip on my shoulder,” Gere recounted. “And that’s when I walked into Ed Limato’s office, and he became my dear friend and agent for over 40 years from that moment. There was not a decision I made without talking to him as a friend, a really dear friend. There was no silliness involved. He would cry with me over my making a decision. Ed died two years ago, and he was a chain smoker: three packs a day, the coffee, the cigarettes, and the telephone. He came from Mount Vernon, New York. I never visited his hometown, but we converged upon it for his funeral. As we were driving around the funeral home, all the mailboxes said ‘Limato’ on them — he was a second generation, Neapolitan Italian and they had taken over this whole section of Mount Vernon.”

Gere continued: “The first four rows of the church were The Sopranos: Big black hair and sunglasses. Then there was an aisle and the next four rows were agents and lawyers in Prada. That was Ed’s life: This combination of Sopranos and Prada.”

Well, Limato must be beaming from above, as there is serious talk once again about Gere in the lead actor’s race this season for his portrayal of a troubled hedge fund manager in Roadside Attractions’ Arbitrage. During Gere’s 40-year career, he’s been overlooked by Oscar voters in terms of acting noms, however, in 2003 he came within breathing distance of a potential one after winning a best actor in a comedy/musical Golden Globe for his portrayal of the tap-dancing criminal lawyer Billy Flynn in Miramax’s Chicago.

“If I had a career of mostly good choices, some lousy choices along the way, but mostly really good films and things I’ m proud of, it’s because of this friendship and trust and this really wonderful man, Ed Limato,” Gere concluded in his speech.

Read Pete Hammond’s coverage of the Hollywood Awards over at Deadline here. Check out Gere’s interview with Charlie Rose about Arbitrage below:

Foxx Unchained: Tarantino Is Another Auteur Breaking the Actor’s Mold

Django Unchained

No matter how satirical a Quentin Tarantino film gets in its ultra-violence, there’s no question that the director expects his cast to approach the material with a grave tone.

As reported at Comic-Con over the summer, Jamie Foxx said that Tarantino told him to “get his slave on” in an effort to break his movie-star image during filming of the Weinstein Co.’s upcoming Christmas day release Django Unchained.

But that’s not the first time Foxx has been scolded by an auteur over his image — nor is it a finger-wagging that the Oscar-winning actor shrugs off.

In a conversation with Awards|Line, Foxx explains, “Oliver Stone once told me during Any Given Sunday, ‘You’re just not good at all.’ That was because I was coming from TV, and everyone says everything loud on TV while movies are more intimate.”

“Then Taylor Hackford told me on Ray, ‘If you ever F this movie up, I’m going to F you up. Now listen, let’s get it going,” quipped Foxx.

“Then I asked Michael Mann during Collateral, ‘How about I do my thang in the cab?’ To which he responded, ‘How about you don’t do your thang? Whenever have you seen a cab driver do his thang?’ ”

“But when Quentin pulled me in that room, it made me nervous, like when you get called to the principal’s office,” Foxx continued. “‘I’m worried that you can’t get into this character because you’re Jamie Foxx,’ Quentin said. That made me reboot my computer and was the biggest help to me. He said that if go out there and be the character, then the pendulum swing will be better. When Django evolves and becomes this guy, it will be like wow — I had this journey.”

Convincing Oscar voters of his sincerity as an actor has never been a problem for Foxx. In addition to winning a 2004 best actor Oscar for Ray, he was nominated that same year in the supporting category for his role as an innocent cab driver chauffeuring around a hitman (Tom Cruise) in Collateral.

“When we win Oscars, get TV shows and No. 1 songs — when we do these things outside of acting, it hurts us because then people identify with our brand. (As an actor), you want to work with tough directors.”