Q&A: Looper director Rian Johnson

What started out as a three-page script almost a decade ago has turned out to be writer-director Rian Johnson’s most successful film to date, Looper. The time-travel tale stars frequent Johnson collaborator Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, both playing the same character from different points in their lives. “It was less (about) taking 10 years to get it done and more kind of writing it and thinking it up eight years later,“ he explains. Johnson recently spoke with AwardsLine about why it’s fun to work with friends and how he’s learned that directing is more about listening than anything else.

AWARDSLINE: When you expanded your initial three-page script into a feature, you wrote with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in mind for the main character. What makes collaborating with a lot of the same people on your films work well for you?

RIAN JOHNSON: The main benefit of it is just that level of trust that’s automatically baked into working with someone who’s a friend of yours. What I hope that leads to is giving you the comfort level to take some risks or try some things you may be otherwise afraid to. Because you have leapfrogged putting a lot of energy into forming a new relationship, you can redirect that into just making the movie better. But our sets don’t feel like cocktail parties; our sets tend to be really focused places.

AWARDSLINE: When did Bruce Willis get involved in the film?

JOHNSON: I’d thought of the part for Joe, but when we started casting, Bruce was the first person we went after. I really didn’t think we would get him, just because some of the darker elements in the script. I mean, in the movie, he does some very un-Bruce Willis-like things. (But) he responded almost immediately to it and then set up a lunch. I was terrified and shaking like a leaf, but I went to lunch with him, totally expecting him to say, “Well, I’m interested, but we’re going to have to change this and this”—and there was absolutely none of that. He was just really into it and ready to get to work. It was kind of disconcerting, actually.

AWARDSLINE: There’s actually a scene in Looper when Willis’ character is shooting up an office that made me think, “This is the Die Hard scene they just worked in. This is what everyone wants to see.”

JOHNSON: (Laughs). It’s funny, that scene was there before we even knew who we were casting, but Bruce coming into that role adds an extra dimension to it where it feels like it was written for him. Besides the fact that Bruce is just a great actor, I thought it would be very interesting—particularly with this part and with this script—how his action-movie persona and how audiences’ expectations of that would interact with his character’s arc.

AWARDSLINE: As a writer and director, do you generally go into production with a locked script? Or are you fine-tuning while you’re shooting?

JOHNSON: With something like this, there’s not a ton of improvising that you can do, just because it’s an interlocked puzzle to some extent. But at the same time, by the time I get on set, I feel like I’ve had a version of the movie in my head for a couple of years, and it’s not that interesting for me, so I’m looking to find people who are going to surprise me. I’ve come from the mode of storyboarding everything out, having everything very planned, that low-budget kind of filmmaking. But one of the things I’m trying to do to grow as a filmmaker (is) get better at being open to the moment on set. So there were a lot of scenes in Looper where if a moment didn’t feel quite right, we would be sending the crew away and taking half an hour to talk it through with the actors. So much of directing is not directing but just listening and being present in the moment and just keeping your eyes open.

AWARDSLINE: Did you consciously decide not to get too caught up in the details of time travel when you were writing?

JOHNSON: Time travel from a writing perspective is such a beast, and I knew that. Even if you take the approach that we took with Looper, and you don’t have a “chalkboard” scene—you don’t have a scene where they explain it all out—that doesn’t mean that you can’t have your system for how all this works. I did spend nearly a year working out my set of rules. Then that just serves as an invisible foundation. The tricky thing is once you spend all that time creating all those rules, the temptation is to explain them. The temptation is to lay it out and show the audience how clever you’ve been. There may be a segment of the audience that may miss it not being there, but at the end of the day, it’s not what the story’s about.

AWARDSLINE: Were there any scenes during production that were particularly difficult to shoot?

JOHNSON: The scene that surprised me in terms of its difficulty, or just how intensive it was, was the diner scene. We had two days to shoot the conversation between (Willis and Gordon-Levitt’s characters). Just a couple of cameras, and two guys sitting in a booth talking. But in its own way, (it was) a lot more intense than any of the action stuff.  It was of surprising to me that that was the scene that was the most draining to shoot—and the most exhilarating. Seeing those two actors play off of each other for two days was fun. We actually, in those two days, burned more film than we did for the entirety of Brick.

AWARDSLINE: What’s changed for you since Looper’s release? Are you getting more or better offers to direct and write?

JOHNSON: It’s really cool to be having conversations with people at studios, but for me not a lot has changed—I’m doing the same thing I was doing after the last movie. I’m sitting down to write the next one. Not that there’s not great material out there, but, for me, I’m really just focused on telling my own stories right now, figuring out how to do that. So, yeah, it’s the same thing. I’ve got my head down again in notebooks, hanging around the house and trying to figure it out.

AWARDSLINE: (Laughs). Procrastinating…

JOHNSON: Procrastinating the hell out of it. And I’ll panic in a few months. My house is never cleaner than when I’m writing.

Q&A: Dwight Henry From Beasts of the Southern Wild

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.

A 20-minute phone interview with Dwight Henry—better known to his New Orleans neighbors as “Mr. Henry”—seems wrong, somehow. A conversation with Henry should be long and slow and surrounded by the luscious comfort-food smells at his restaurant, The Buttermilk Drop Bakery Café. You need a strong cup of coffee and maybe a couple of the house specialty doughnut nuggets. What’s your hurry, Hollywood?

Mr. Henry, 45, is telling the story of how a baker with no acting experience landed a leading role in a surprise-hit independent movie called Beasts of the Southern Wild, the story of little girl Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father Wink (Henry), struggling to preserve their life and their bayou land in a Katrina-strength hurricane. That little film is certainly gaining the attention of some Oscar voters, and this Southern gentleman is going to let the tale unfold at his own pace, in his own way.

Dwight Henry waves to the crowds at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

AWARDSLINE: So you had no acting experience before this?

DWIGHT HENRY: None before. It’s just some sort of natural ability. The guys from Core 13 [Ed. note: the New Orleans-based production company behind the movie], they seen some sort of natural, magical, mystical abilities in me.

AWARDSLINE: How did they discover you?

HENRY: I own a bakery. When I first actually met them, I owned a bakery called Henry’s Bakery, right across from the actual studio where they used to do the auditions at. And a lot of the guys in the company used to come over to the bakery and get breakfast and buy doughnuts. And then one day, (producer) Michael Gottwald came in there and said, “Mr. Henry, can I put these flyers in your bakery?” And I said: “Yeah, that’s cool.” And the flyers read: “If anybody wants to audition for this upcoming feature film, just pull a number and give us a call.”

I used to stare at the flyer every day, being in the bakery, and I’d watch people pull a number, and jokingly I said, “One day, Mike, I’m going to come over there and audition for you. “ But time went by; I never had time.

Then me and Michael Gottwald, we were sitting in the bakery, and I said, “Michael, I’ve got some time, I’m going to come over.” He said, “All right!” So I went over there; he had a script for me. We sat down, and he interviewed me on camera. I talked about my whole life—how I stayed back after Katrina, and talked about family. I didn’t expect to get the part; I was just going over there, being friendly like I am. So they called me back about two weeks later: “Mr. Henry, Mr. (Benh) Zeitlin, our director, he loved what he seen in the reading, and he wants you to do another read.” I said, “Hey, Michael, that’s a callback—when you get a callback in this industry, it’s serious!”

AWARDSLINE: What happened then?

HENRY: I went in and did another read, (then) I went back to the bakery like nothing happened again. So it was about a month and half, two months—I had moved my business from across the street where the studio was to across town, to a bigger location. The neighbors told me (that) they were asking, “Where’s Mr. Henry?” They wanted to give me the part, but nobody couldn’t find me.

Two days after I opened up my new location, Michael Gottwald walks in through the door and says, “Mr. Henry, we’ve been looking at you for a month now to give you the part.” I was overwhelmed, ecstatic, glad, grateful—but I couldn’t take it, because I had just opened up my business two days ago. I had to turn them down for the part because I had worked so hard to build this business to pass down to my kids, and I just couldn’t see myself sacrificing my children, who I love more than anything in the world, for a possible movie career for myself.

To make a long story short, I turned them down three times, but they believed in me, and eventually I was able to work things out.

AWARDSLINE: It must have been a surprise to get anything, much less a lead role.

HENRY: Never in a million years that I thought that I would get the lead part in a feature film. But Mr. Zeitlin thought I was so perfect for the part. If you brought in someone from Hollywood or New York, (the actor would have) heard about what a storm is, but never been in a storm, never been in a flood, never experienced 130-mile-per-hour winds coming at you, with your roof flying off. It makes us tougher. Some people on the outside, they don’t understand why when a storm’s coming, we’ll throw a party in the middle of a storm. We’ve got a Category 5 storm coming, and people throwing a party.

AWARDSLINE: Your co-star, Quvenzhané Wallis, who was only 6 at the time, also had no acting experience. What was it like working with her?

HENRY: It was great, we developed a bond, and I have a daughter her age. We’ve endured a press tour; we’ve been all over the country together. We do interviews together, she actually called me Daddy, and I really look at her like she’s my daughter now. [Ed. note: Henry’s real family includes a 10-year-old daughter; three sons aged 3, 5, and 17, and wife Carmell Anderson Henry, a lab technician].

AWARDSLINE: Do you plan to continue acting?

HENRY: Yes, I’m back at the bakery, but I do plan to continue acting, yes. I did Beasts, and after that I did Twelve Years a Slave (directed by) Steve McQueen. That’s it for right now. I’ve been going to places that I never dreamed I’d be going. But the one thing about New Orleans, compared to every major city in the world, the one thing I appreciate when I come home is the food.

AWARDSLINE: What does your success mean to you?

HENRY: Hollywood is the glamour life, everything is peachy, but if you go on the other side of that water from Hollywood, across the ocean, they have people who don’t even know what running water is. We take a bottle of water, take one sip of it, and just throw it away. I’ve always hoped if I ever hit the lottery and win $100 million dollars, I am going to be a philanthropist and give it all away. I would get more joy from that.

Watch: Exclusive Clip From Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson doc, Bad 25

Two years after Michael Jackson’s death, the King of Pop is still getting lauded via film and TV. The latest look into the artist’s legacy is from director Spike Lee, whose Bad 25 is eligible in the documentary feature category for the 2013 Oscar race. Lee, a two-time Academy Award nominee for 1989’s Do The Right Thing and 1997’s Four Little Girls doc, includes well-known voices like Mariah Carey and Justin Beiber discussing their views on Jackson’s seminal Bad album. The documentary branch of the Academy will vote on the short list of eligible documentary features on Nov. 26.

Behind The Scenes On Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of AwardsLine.

It’s not that independent filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, 30, and his team at Court 13 Productions had nothing to lose when they set out to produce Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zeitlin’s first feature film. But with a miniscule budget somewhere between $1.5 million and $1.8 million, they could afford to take a few more risks than a Hollywood producer hoping to turn a profit on a $200 million action film.

On the risky side: Casting two Louisiana locals with zero acting experience in the lead roles—one a 6-year-old—and dressing up a crew of little pot-bellied pigs to represent a herd of giant prehistoric Aurochs. These boar-like beasts bedevil the imagination of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), an independent little girl in white rubber boots who defies nature to try to save her ailing father (portrayed by Dwight Henry, a baker and restaurateur in real life) and her bayou home during a raging Katrina-like storm. (“They are about the cutest thing in the world when you see them live,” Zeitlin says of the little porkers).

And as Oscar season approaches, the odds makers are already betting that the modestly-budgeted film—which has earned just over $11 million since its theatrical release in June—could gain voters’ attention. However, the decision to cast nonunion actors has proved problematic for one stop on the awards trail: It has been ruled ineligible for the Screen Actors Guild Awards because is does not adhere to the terms of SAG-AFTRA’s Low Budget Feature Agreement, which requires the use of professional actors. Nevertheless, the buzz still seems to be with Beasts.

Inspired by Zeitlin’s short Glory of the Sea and based on Lucy Alibar’s play Juicy and Delicious, the film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize. At Sundance, Fox Searchlight Pictures snapped up the film for distribution. One of the film’s executive producers, Michael Raisler, would not name names when asked who competed for the distribution rights (Harvey Weinstein, anyone?). But he confirmed that “pretty much everybody at some point” tried to make a deal at Sundance to distribute Beasts.

Beasts also made a well-received international debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it took the Camera d’Or award, and has won stellar reviews nationwide. All this is heady stuff for Zeitlin, who has a hard time thinking about his career from a commercial perspective. “Making films has always been like a burst of energy. It’s never been something that is kind of calculated,” he says. “I never sat down to think, ‘Well, (here’s what I should do) to make it in the directing game.’ It’s just a story that takes hold of you at a certain time, and you follow that impulse.”

In this case, the impulse came from his longtime friend Alibar, whose Juicy and Delicious tells the story of a 10-year-old Southern boy with a dying father, who believes his father’s death will coincide with the end of the world. The boy in the play is also pursued by the Aurochs. Alibar, who attended playwright’s camp with Zeitlin at age 13, based the play on her own experience during her own father’s illness, but chose a boy character in order to be able to distance herself from the story while writing it.

Alibar, who cowrote the script with Zeitlin (her first screenwriting effort), was a struggling young adult, not a kid, when her father developed heart problems, but her reaction was not unlike that of an angry child. “I was in New York, working two bartending jobs and a waitressing job,” says Florida-panhandle native Alibar, adding that her father has since recovered. “I’m from the Southern Baptist tradition, and you’re not supposed to feel anger when you lose somebody. When somebody dies, you are supposed to rejoice that they are going to God. I wasn’t feeling any of that. I was feeling these really angry, ugly feelings. So I wrote Hushpuppy as a boy so I could really write about what I was feeling without it being so confessional.”

During the audition process, Zeitlin and Alibar were looking to cast a girl, but remained open to the possibility that the right Hushpuppy might be of any race, either sex, and older or younger than the Hushpuppy of the play. “I guess it’s like having a baby, you don’t get to choose,” Alibar jokes. But it was Wallis, age 5 at the time of the audition, who won their hearts, despite their reservations about relying on someone so young to carry the movie.

Alibar’s story was thrown into the blender with Zeitlin’s concept for Glory of the Sea, shot in Louisiana from 2006-08. A trailer for the short film describes it as “eleven strangers who set sail to find their loved ones at the bottom of the sea” in an atmosphere very much like the Bathtub, the name for the fictional bayou area depicted in Beasts. “The idea was to make a film in which holdouts and survivors were the heroes,” Zeitlin says. “To make a film that celebrates the kind of resilient characters that were refusing to be pushed off their land.” Along with writing and directing, Zeitlin also cowrote the music with Dan Romer.

Producing the short film led Zeitlin to move to New Orleans permanently and make the city the home of Court 13. “It was never my intention that I was going to stay, but at that moment in 2008 that it was dawning on me that I was going to stay, the early idea for Beasts began to coalesce,” Zeitlin explains. Like Alibar, an unfortunate life experience further refined his focus.
“In the year that this was getting written, I had been in a car accident, and I had gone back to New York to recover (wondering whether) I was going to walk again and stuff,” he says. “And I remember I was home when (hurricanes) Gustav and Ike hit.

“I was watching the coverage and seeing this whole way in which people were being portrayed for staying, for riding out those storms,” Zeitlin continues. “This came out of wanting to tell a story from the perspective of the people that were staying, rather than how they were perceived. It wasn’t about Katrina as much as it was about the area, imagining what it’s going to be like to live under this constant threat of storms every couple of years.”

Zeitlin recovered from the accident and set about working to create Beasts. Gathering the financing required going to a lot of different sources, resulting in an extremely long list of producers. The film is a Cinereach and Court 13 Production in association with Journey Pictures. Cinereach, a young nonprofit foundation that provides filmmaking grants as well as producing and financing films, provided the bulk of the funding, supported by grants from Sundance and the San Francisco Film Institute, as well as various in-kind donations.

Zeitlin hopes Academy recognition for Beasts of the Southern Wild will lead to more films with low budgets and high aspirations. “There’s really no place for this type of film in the world right now,” he says. “Hopefully, it will have a ripple effect where it will allow regional films to get made, and also give us the leverage we need to continue doing this kind of work.”

Concludes Zeitlin, “If you make a film for $150 million, it can’t fail, so it has to be safe. E.T. was made for $10 million. When you look back at even Hollywood movies that were really risky, the films that are true classics and stand the test of time, almost all of them are made for a fraction of these behemoth blockbusters, and they are more daring in their storytelling.”

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.

[flv width=”640″ height=”384″ image=”http://www.vimg.net/streaming/deadline/BOTSW_QuvenzhaneHollywoodAwardReel.jpg”%5Drtmp://streaming.deadline.com/ondemand/video/BOTSW_QuvenzhaneHollywoodAwardReel.flv%5B/flv%5D

Follow Anthony D’Alessandro on Twitter at @AnthnyBoxOffice

Behind The Scenes On The Impossible

When the production team behind Summit’s The Impossible met with 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami survivor Maria Belon at a quiet coffee shop in Barcelona in the spring of 2008, they weren’t certain that she would agree to have her family’s harrowing story told in a feature film. Producer Belen Atienza knew they were in for an emotional afternoon—she was the one who first heard Belon’s story on the radio, a drama so profound that it left Atienza in tears after it concluded. But Atienza, director Juan Antonio Bayona, screenwriter Sergio Sanchez—who have a shorthand from working together on Bayona’s Spanish-language horror hit The Orphanage—gained Belon’s trust in a simple way: They listened.

“We were all really nervous,” Atienza recalls about the initial meeting. “She talked for three and a half hours. It was exhausting for her and for us. We didn’t open our mouths—we were just listening—and she was extremely thorough.”

The resulting film, an almost unbelievable tale of one family’s struggle to reunite amidst a country’s horror and loss, stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, whose performances started some Oscar buzz after the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September. The Impossible also has the benefit of being cofinanced and distributed by a studio familiar with nurturing films through awards season, Summit, which was behind the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker in 2008. The Impossible doesn’t open in the United States until Dec. 21, but it has already earned the distinction of having the biggest opening weekend in Spain’s boxoffice history, with $13.3 million on 638 screens.

Though bringing Belon’s story to the screen wasn’t without its challenges—from uncooperative weather to complex visual effects—Sanchez says Belon made her intentions clear during the first meeting, and it became a constant refrain during production.

“Maria kept saying, ‘This is not our story. This is the story of lots of people,’” Sanchez recounts.

The first step in giving the story more universal appeal and demonstrating how the tsunami’s destruction of 300,000 lives touched multiple countries was to dramatize the family itself. Belon is Spanish, but Watts and McGregor play their roles as British. Sanchez says the decision was clear after he finished the first 40-page treatment for the film, most of which ended up having English dialogue. Atienza adds that, more importantly, it made sense from a
business perspective.

“We needed to finance the budget, which was 30 million Euros, and the Spanish-speaking market is not so big,” she says. “There is no question that an English-speaking film has a potential for a much wider worldwide audience.”

Yet as big a concession to the truth as that might seem, it’s one of the few instances that the script veers from the details that Belon provided during months of meetings and email exchanges with the production team. However, 30 drafts later, Sanchez says some aspects of the story didn’t make the final script both to compress time and to keep the script grounded.

“Sometimes we were just bringing the story down a few notches,” Sanchez explains, “because there were some moments in the real story that were so incredible that it’s, like, ‘Nobody will believe this. We have to make this simpler because otherwise it’s going to look like a movie.’ ”

Watts, who was the first actor to sign on to the film, admits that hearing the concept for the script didn’t initially pique her interest. But that all changed when she started reading.

“Right from the first page I felt like, this feels real, this feels authentic,” Watts explains. “Yes, the tsunami is the important backdrop of the film, but at the core of it was this beautiful family story with a whole lot of heart that I found incredibly moving.”

For McGregor, it was a chance to play a role he’s had in real life for more than a decade. “One of the main draws for me was that it was the first time in my career that I explored parenthood. I mean, I must’ve had some kids in films before, but not many, and I’ve certainly never made a film that’s really about that relationship,” McGregor says.

Re-creating such devastation on a grand scale meant that Bayona had to ensure that every scene in the film was fully realized before shooting commenced, so that he could focus on the performances. Ultimately, he storyboarded the whole film.

“Everything had to be very controlled. Everything had to be written on paper,” Bayona explains, adding, “so all the time I was trying to put life back into the process.”

Bayona allowed for about three weeks of rehearsals: Watts and her young costar Tom Holland worked together, while McGregor and the two actors playing his sons, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast, forged their own relationships for the screen. (Incidentally, Watts and McGregor’s characters are separated for much of the film, so they didn’t spend any time rehearsing together.)

Bayona was intently focused on maintaining the realism required to engage the audience, which is why many of the extras are locals who lived through the tsunami and there’s no digital water at all in the film.

“We did it almost the old-fashioned way,” the director says. “We barely used green screen, and sets were huge. We were trying to be faithful to the real story.”

Watts and Holland shot their wave scenes in the second-largest tank in the world in Spain, strapped into containers Bayona refers to as “teacups” to keep them protected as a series of pumps churned the water. It took about a month to complete the tank shots.

“We did have a lot more dialogue on the page than we actually ended up saying,” Watts says. “We quickly worked out that you cannot speak in those situations because you’d just be swallowing a bucket full of water. It felt very safe, but it was difficult.”

The final onscreen tsunami sequence was a series of tank shots and miniatures, which when combined with a bass-heavy soundtrack is one of the most frightening scenes in the film. It also happened to be a real nail-biter for Atienza.

“We had to destroy the miniature because the big wave goes against the hotel. The miniature was really expensive, so we had one shot for that. That was the most tense moment,” Atienza recalls.

The tension continued when the production moved from Spain to Thailand, where the monsoon season was supposed to have just ended. Nevertheless, it rained from mid-October through Christmas, forcing some rewriting and shooting some of the more emotional scenes earlier than anticipated.

“For the first time in a century, the monsoon lasted until Christmas,” Atienza says. “So our nightmare was that we were running out of interior effects to shoot. We had to change the schedule around all the time—the art department went totally crazy.”

Despite the forces conspiring against completion of the film, Bayona says he believes he did justice to the story that Belon first told in that café in Barcelona. There was no official screening for the family because Belon was onhand for much of the shoot. But the family of five was at the film’s Toronto premiere, where the audience gave them a standing ovation.

“It already felt like a film when Maria was telling the story on the radio,” Atienza recalls.

Behind The Scenes on Moonrise Kingdom

Cari Lynn is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of AwardsLine.

A tale of first love had been knocking around in Wes Anderson’s brain for nearly a decade. But before it became the quirky, cherubic Moonrise Kingdom—which earned Oscar talk after being granted the coveted opening-night slot at the Cannes Film Festival and has gone on to become a crossover boxoffice hit—Anderson struggled with getting the story down on paper. For the better part of a year, all he had was a hodgepodge of ideas: a 12-year-old boy and girl in 1965, a New England island, the feel of François Truffaut’s 1976 film Small Change, and a record playing Leonard Bernstein’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”—but no script.

“When we would chat, I would ask Wes how that island film was coming,” says Roman Coppola, who cowrote The Darjeeling Limited with Anderson and Jason Schwartzman. “A chunk of time would pass, and we’d meet up again, and again I’d ask. It was clear the world, the feeling, the vibe of it was there, but the details were vague. Often when you’re working on a creative thing you have a sense that it exists, but you’re trying to find its form.”

So Coppola stepped in, holing himself up in a hotel room in Italy to tease out the script with Anderson. They each harkened back to memories of puppy love: for Anderson it was vivid recollections of being 11 and wanting something bigger to happen in his young life; for Coppola it was Annie Winkelstein who passed him a note that said, “I think you’re cute, call me.” After a month of talking it through, scene by scene, Anderson says the movie “revealed itself”—a tale of a disgruntled boy scout and a brooding schoolgirl who spark a pen-pal romance and run away together.

Quick to support the completed script were what’s become known as Anderson’s usual suspects. Early aboard was billionaire Steven Rales of Indian Paintbrush, who produced the Oscar-nominated Fantastic Mr. Fox and Darjeeling Limited; and the ubiquitous Scott Rudin, who’s produced every Wes Anderson film since 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums—both of whom Anderson calls his “key advisers” for their input into everything from the script to casting and, pertinently with Rudin, the marketing of the film. Also on board was Anderson’s right-hand man and producer on the ground, Jeremy Dawson, who produced Anderson’s prior two films and was visual effects supervisor on The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

Via Indian Paintbrush, Focus Features signed on to distribute before filming even began. Despite what seems like a relatively breezy path enjoyed only by elite filmmakers of both critical and boxoffice successes, Dawson still describes the process as “a weird miracle.”

The cast fell into place with Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, and, from Anderson’s posse, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. But, says Anderson, “the biggest thing with this movie, once there was a script was, who are these actors for these two kids? Because if we can’t find them, we don’t have a movie. So we set aside a lot of time to search.”

Dispatching casting directors worldwide, Anderson reviewed potentials on Quicktime, watching what he calls dozens of “postage-stamp auditions” every day. He landed on two first-timers: from New Jersey, Jared Gilman as Sam, and from the Boston area, Kara Hayward as Suzy. “For Jared, what immediately made me laugh was the way he looked and his voice,” Anderson describes. “His audition was good, but the interview between him and our casting director was charming and winning, and I liked him immediately. With Kara, on the other hand, it was as simple as having seen 900 different girls read the same scene, a scene I began long before and soon despised. (Kara) seemed to make up the words spontaneously, right there on the spot. No one else had read like this for me, and I thought she had to be it.”

The next challenge was determining where to shoot, which meant finding a suitable island. “We called it Google scouting,” says production designer Adam Stockhausen, describing how the team searched the Internet, emailing each other photos of islands around the world. When a bright-red lighthouse in Rhode Island encapsulated Anderson’s vision of the fictitious island of New Penzance, the location was set.

While Anderson’s films have their broody and fantastical hallmarks, so does his filmmaking style, and immersion is his goal. Cast and crew descended onto Rhode Island for the entire shoot, and local and/or authentic relics were sourced almost exclusively—from antique landscape paintings to osprey nests to a ping-pong table that was spotted in the historic Clingstone mansion that sits atop the rocks of Narragansett Bay.

No detail was too small, down to the decoration on Sam’s Khaki Scout tent. “We knew we wanted symbols on Sam’s tent, and we wanted it to have a handmade feeling that was very personal, very unique,” says Stockhausen about what he calls his favorite element in the movie. “We stumbled on a notebook of 19th-century
ink drawings, that, I think, were Cherokee, of beautiful figurines of animals, and we re-created them.”

Another Anderson filmmaking trait is to shun the ordinary and create a unique environment. For the Rhode Island production office, they set up in a decommissioned 1960s elementary school that not only had the necessary space but fit with the vibe of the film and served as rehearsal space for Jared, Kara, and the Khaki Scouts.

“It’s where kids that age would have been,” Dawson says. “We don’t like to have, oh, this is a place where people come to make movies. No, this is a place where you get your head into this movie. We try and reinvent a lot of the rules of filmmaking, and sometimes that’s to add more efficiency or to save movie, but sometimes it’s just literally to do things differently so that it’s memorable for everyone who works on it. Also, Wes feels it filters into the film—maybe it’s not fully tangible, but the actors, for instance, they’re in a different mindset if you create a nice, communal atmosphere. It’s more like a theater troupe.”

To this point, actors didn’t have trailers, everyone ate meals together—and effort was made to always have great food—and many of the cast and crew lived together in a large rented house that also contained the editing room. To prep the young leads, Anderson had Hayward and Gilman get into character by writing to each other as Sam and Suzy—not by email, but on stationery, with ink, the way starry-eyed kids would have in 1965.

Once filming was complete, editing was moved to New York: a rented apartment that had been the home of Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg.

Also, in a nontraditional move, the team embarked on numerous featurettes, including a short with Jason Schwartzman and a partially-animated story hour with Bob Balaban.

“Focus was great in helping us with all these extra materials we wanted to do and saying, ‘Let’s do them!’ ” Dawson explains. “Wes works harder than anybody I know. Because a film is so intense and focused, we, and especially Wes, always want them to be an adventure to make as well as to watch. For artists in general, it’s nice to work with a director who cares about everything, every piece. That helps us get good people into our world.”

Hitchcock Experiences A Revival On The Big and Small Screens

Craig Modderno is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of AwardsLine.

Director Alfred Hitchcock is experiencing something of a revival—32 years after the master of suspense left this mortal coil. Fox Searchlight’s Hitchcock, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, will open the AFI Fest in early November; Universal just released an elaborate box set, Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection, which showcases 13 of his films on Blu-ray; and HBO recently aired The Girl, starring Toby Jones and Sienna Miller, which examines the tempestuous relationship between Hitch and Tippi Hedren.

Hedren, a former model who made her feature-film debut in 1963’s The Birds, was an object of obsession for the director, something she’s only recently begun discussing in detail. Hedren served as an adviser on the HBO movie and recently attended a screening of a redigitalized version of The Birds at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

“When we made The Birds, it was a different time in film history. If there was any tension from the set or people were having affairs, the press agents covered it up,” Hedren explains. “But when Hitch attacked me the first time in the limo right before we arrived on the set, the crew knew what had happened. Then the torture began. He started using real instead of mechanical birds to attack me, and several scenes were in the final cut. It was scary, brutal, and, at times, unsafe.”

Nevertheless, Hedren still has admiration for the man who kept her under his thumb.

“He wouldn’t let me work for any other director while he had me under my 7-year contract,” she says. “(French director) François Truffaut wanted me for the female lead in Fahrenheit 451, and I never found that out until I read it somewhere. Hitchcock was just a lousy, disagreeable man. But if he was here right, now we’d find one thing to agree on: the studio should have rereleased or made The Birds in 3D. It’s the perfect film for that process.”

Bond Songs Don’t Often Get Oscar Love

Craig Modderno is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of AwardsLine.

After 50 years on screen, British agent James Bond is once again trying to use a woman to get what he wants from a stranger: Grammy Award-winning Adele sings and cowrote the title song for the latest big-screen Bond adventure, Skyfall. And judging from the international response to the track, this time around Bond might stand a chance in getting some long-deserved Oscar attention for the tune.

But Bond songs—let alone the franchise itself—don’t often earn Academy Award nominations. At an October Academy event, The Music of Bond: The First 50 Years, author and event host Jon Burlingame explained why Bond theme songs have only earned three Oscar nominations over a half-century.

“The problem in composing a song for a Bond film is often the producers require the title of the song to be the title of the film,” Burlingame explains. “But how do you come up with a song entitled ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’?”

It’s certainly not related to a lack of vocal talent. The various Bond songs have been performed by artists as diverse as Madonna, Louis Armstrong, Carly Simon, and the only repeat artist, Shirley Bassey.

But with some of the best reviews of a Bond film in years, perhaps Skyfall will be the film to break the Oscar nomination curse.

Britannia Awards Honor American And British Talent

Craig Modderno is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of AwardsLine.

In what looks to be the start of another lively awards season, the first volley has been fired by the Brits. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, will honor both American and British talent at its annual Britannia Awards ceremony, taking place Nov. 7 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The relatively loose, humorous affair, which will air for the first time in primetime on BBC America Nov. 11, is part of BAFTA LA’s efforts to continue to forge strong ties between the Hollywood community and its counterparts in Great Britain. Though the Britannias aren’t always about the pursuit of Oscar, the awards show often represents one of the initial high-profile stops on the November-February circuit. In fact, a couple of this year’s honorees, most notably Django Unchained director and John Schlesinger honoree Quentin Tarantino and Lincoln star and Stanley Kubrick honoree Daniel Day-Lewis, will factor heavily into the season’s conversation, giving the Britannias a bigger slice of the spotlight.

Though the event isn’t as no-holds-barred as some of Hollywood’s better-known nontelevised ceremonies, Donald Haber, executive director and chief operating office of BAFTA LA, says it occupies a special place on the calendar for the filmmaking community.

“Kate Winslet, who previously received the Britannia Award, said it best,” Haber explains. “She said, ‘It’s more enjoyable to go to an awards ceremony when you know you’ve already won!’ ”

Other Britannia-bestowed individuals include Skyfall star Daniel Craig, who is British Artist of the Year; South Park and Book of Mormon creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who will receive the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy; and videogame designer Will Wright, who will receive the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment.

“While Mr. Wright may not be a household name, we feel his contribution to videogames, which more studios are regarding as a necessary offshoot of their high-profile films, is worth honoring,” Haber offers. “Wright’s award shows that BAFTA is ahead of the curve in recognizing this emerging art form.”

AwardsLine spoke to several industry professionals who have worked with this year’s honorees. Here’s what they had to say:

On Daniel Craig, British Artist of the Year

“When Daniel got Bond he went immediately into a strict workout schedule. He focused like an athlete on getting his body in shape. I would have dinner with him during the making of Casino Royale, and he turned down wine and dessert in order to finish—after a day of shooting—another complete workout. Very quickly, I realized Daniel was a character actor evolving into a leading man.

“We tested Daniel doing the first scene with the girl in From Russia With Love. Now, we all know Sean Connery was the template for Bond and, in my opinion, that was his best performance. Though it’s hard to compare Bonds, we’ve used that scene in auditions before because it has the qualities of Bond that we’ve always wanted. (But) Daniel actually had to be talked into playing Bond. A major part of him didn’t want to enter a pub knowing that when he exited he would face an endless, aggressive pack of photographers. Daniel insists that all future films we do will be cast with credible actors and credible premises. So you’ll see no more Tanya Roberts or Denise Richards or starlets like that from past Bond pictures. We’re in the era of serious Bond stories now.”

—Michael G. Wilson, producer

“When I directed Daniel in Road to Perdition and later in Skyfall, there were a few noticeable differences. He has a much greater inner confidence now. He has a strong center, is a better actor, and knows how to adjust his inner intensity and anger in a way that works best for him now. Daniel also has a wacky sense of humor that he allows himself to reveal more of now. In Road to Perdition, much like the Bond films, Daniel’s got an incredible controlled spring of intensity, verging on psychotic emotions. He told me about directing a Bond film that nothing could prepare me for it. Daniel trusted me to bring my vision as much as possible to the table. There’s nothing better than having an actor who wanted to be pushed, who wanted me not to be standoffish but critical when necessary. At first, when he was chosen, I didn’t believe Daniel was the perfect Bond choice, but in Casino Royale they made him play a real person and not a cartoon character, and audiences and critics responded to it in an overwhelmingly positive manner.”

—Sam Mendes, director

On Quentin Tarantino, John Schlesinger Award for Excellence in Directing

“There was no difference between the Quentin I worked with on Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained. It’s like watching someone you believe in fulfill their promise through the past 20 years. What people don’t recognize is how romantic Quentin’s films are. The British realized that early. The British actually embraced and discovered Quentin before American audiences did.

“When you’re working with Quentin, everyone brings their A-game to the set. Everyone realizes it’s not just a job, but we’re all having an adventure telling a story. I often feel like a bush-leaguer around him because of his vast film knowledge. When we made Django Unchained, we had a lot of fun watching westerns, some of which I hadn’t seen, like Rio Bravo and Don Siegel’s Flaming Star, which starred a very believable Elvis Presley.”

 —Stacey Sher, producer

On Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy

“It was so bizarre how we met. They came to my show Avenue Q because they were working with puppets on a film. They were heroes of mine so I thanked them in the program’s credits, which freaked them out because they had never met me. We went out after the play and discovered we all wanted to do a play about Mormons—who knew! I had my fiancée join us later, and almost immediately Matt offered us his Hawaii home for our honeymoon. Jeff Marx, my cocomposer on Avenue Q, asked me what they were like. I told him, ‘They’re just like us only richer, funnier, and better-looking!’

“For me what made the play work was Matt and Trey’s way of building a song in a well-crafted manner, where the laughs built in the same way as the music. The show hasn’t opened in England, so I have no idea why they’re getting this award from the Brits. I’m sure their first comment upon being told of the honor was to ask if there was a free meal attached. There’s a song called ‘I Believe,’ which the show’s producers wanted us to write and we didn’t want to. I then showed the boys the film clip ‘I Have Confidence in Me’ from The Sound of Music. We believed there’s no such thing as a bad idea when we were doing the project so Matt and Trey started composing their own words to the tune and changed some things musically. The Rodgers and Hammerstein estate loved our song and gave their blessings to it for the play.”

—Robert Lopez, composer-lyricist

On Daniel Day-Lewis, Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film

“I first saw Daniel in the Stephen Frears’ film My Beautiful Laundrette. The first time he came onscreen, he was amazing and charismatic. He seemed fearless. In that movie, he plays a gay character, so he wasn’t stuck-up about his image.

“He isn’t an actor of multiple takes; he has it instantly. (Since The Boxer), I haven’t found anything that was good for him to do, not that he refused anything, but obviously I would love to find something for him.

“(During In the Name of the Father), when his father was dying, we did an improvised scene where we passed time and he wrapped the tape around his head—that was powerful. Also, the scene where he signs his life away, he had stayed out a few days without sleeping (the night before), and that was very emotional.”

—Jim Sheridan, director

Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.

Awards Season At A Studio-By-Studio Glance

With the awards season is dissected and examined these days, it might appear as though creating a successful campaign is simply a matter of shrewd marketing and a key release date. But even the most cynical strategist will admit that luck is still as much a part of earning an Oscar nomination as anything else. When asked about the plan for a particular film in the awards race, a veteran campaigner said simply, “Light candles, pray.”

Whether they’re already on pundits’ lists or just looking for a little good juju, here’s a look at the films that are in the conversation, not including animation, documentaries, or foreign-language (with a few notable exceptions):

The Majors:


Last year, Disney’s partnership with DreamWorks yielded two best picture nominees, War Horse and The Help, the latter of which also earned supporting actor Octavia Spencer her first statuette. This year, Steven Spielberg’s followup to War Horse, Lincoln, is considered an all-category heavyweight, from director to Tony Kushner’s adapted screenplay to costumes to production design. And Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as the 16th president of the United States already has prognosticators declaring best actor in advance of its Nov. 9 theatrical release. Disney also has this summer’s hit from Marvel, The Avengers, which earned $1.5 billion at the worldwide boxoffice and is likely to factor into the below-the-line race.


It’s going to be hard to top last year’s success with Martin Scorsese’s 3-D love letter to film, Hugo, which ultimately earned five Oscars. But having a Denzel Washington-Robert Zemeckis project nestled in prime awards territory certainly won’t hurt. Flight, which marks Zemeckis’ first live-action effort in more than a decade, stars Oscar winner Washington as a commercial pilot with a substance-abuse problem. The film could be considered a dark horse for best picture, and is getting buzz for screenplay and supporting actor John Goodman. Paramount Vantage also has David Chase’s first post-Sopranos film, Not Fade Away, which follows a group of friends who start a band and features a supporting role from Tony himself, James Gandolfini.

Sony Pictures

Sony’s big awards-season hopeful is a film with an enviable pedigree: Zero Dark Thirty, which details the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden, is the followup effort of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, both of whom won Oscars for their work on The Hurt Locker in 2010. The film is likely to factor into all major categories including lead actress Jessica Chastain, supporting players Jason Clarke and Jennifer Ehle, as well as below-the-line slots. Among Sony’s other films are the new Bond film Skyfall, which has a cast including Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, and Javier Bardem—none of whom are strangers to Oscar—plus an original song from Adele; Rian Johnson’s Looper, which has drummed up small but ardent Internet support; and the August release, Hope Springs, which features Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.

Twentieth Century Fox

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which drew early raves when it opened the New York Film Festival, is a visually stunning story about a young man (Suraj Sharma) who’s adrift on the ocean, sharing his vessel with a tiger. Having an unknown in the lead will make it tough to break into the acting category, but it has all the other indicators of a serious all-category contender. Two other potential candidates from Fox’s slate are Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which could get recognized below the line, and Won’t Back Down, which stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis.


All eyes will be on Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables when it starts screening in November, ahead of its Christmas release. Not only are voters eager to see the big-screen adaptation of the musical—which stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman and has a supporting performance from Anne Hathaway—but its unveiling will bring further clarity to the race. It’s likely to factor into all categories (except original score, of course), including for the song “Suddenly,” which was written specifically for Jackman. The studio also has hopes for Judd Apatow’s followup to Knocked Up, This Is 40, which will qualify as an adapted screenplay because it picks up some of the same characters; Snow White and the Huntsman for below the line and original song; and Oscar host Seth MacFarlane’s summer hit Ted, in the visual-effects category; and Oliver Stone’s Savages.

Warner Bros.

Even with Gangster Squad and The Great Gatsby moving off of Warner’s 2012 slate this summer, the studio boasts a formidable group of films. Leading the pack is Ben Affleck’s Argo, which has been garnering plenty of Oscar talk since its debut at the Toronto Film Festival. Based on a true story, the film will factor into all the major categories, as well as editing, production design, costumes, and music. Not only will The Dark Knight Rises get an all-category push to mark the end of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but Oscar winner Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit will be in all of those same categories and hail the start of a new three-film franchise. Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski’s time-bending Cloud Atlas is also being considered an all-category film, with an emphasis on the Wachowski Starship’s adapted screenplay and the crafts categories. Plus, it helps to have a cast of previous Oscar winners: Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in lead, Jim Broadbent in supporting. Trouble With the Curve will get support for Clint Eastwood’s lead role and Amy Adams’ supporting. And finally, for the ladies, Matthew McConaughey will get a boost for his supporting role in Magic Mike.

The Indies:


Shortly before this year’s Toronto Film Fest got underway, former Oscilloscope Laboratories cofounder and president David Fenkel announced his new distribution company, A24. Barely off the ground, the fledgling company is pushing to get into the awards game with Ginger & Rosa, starring Elle Fanning as a teenager in 1960s London dealing with family issues amidst the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s one of the few films this season directed by a woman, Sally Potter.

Focus Features

Focus’ 2011 awards push earned Gary Oldman his first best actor Oscar nomination for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, plus two others for adapted screenplay and score. And this year, Focus has four films that are a part of the conversation, including Wes Anderson’s Gotham Award-nominated Moonrise Kingdom, which premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is a likely original screenplay contender. In addition, Joe Wright’s lush, highly stylized adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic, Anna Karenina, which is an all-category contender, hits theaters Nov. 16. Keira Knightley is getting attention for her role as the doomed Anna, and the film’s costumes and production design have craftspeople swooning. Focus earned some festival-circuit attention for also Hyde Park on Hudson, which features Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt who strikes up an affair with his distant cousin Margaret, played by Laura Linney; as well as Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land, a relatively late addition to the Oscar schedule that stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, both of whom also cowrote the original screenplay.

Fox Searchlight

With two best picture nominees last year—The Descendants and The Tree of Life—Fox Searchlight is firmly entrenched in the awards game. The specialty division made two key purchases at January’s Sundance Film Festival, both of which have prognosticators buzzing about Searchlight’s prospects for this year. First, Beasts of the Southern Wild, the feature-film debut of director Benh Zeitlin and starring two first-time actors, has earned just over $11 million at the boxoffice since June. Second, The Sessions, is a bittersweet story that stars John Hawkes as a paralyzed man who consults a sex therapist, played by Helen Hunt, which had a solid limited opening in late October. Searchlight’s big hit of the year, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has grossed $134.4 million worldwide since its May release and features a top-notch cast including Judi Dench and Bill Nighy. And when the November release Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi, was announced last month as the opening-night film of the AFI Fest, it was instantly clear that the Helen Mirren-Anthony Hopkins picture would be a big part of awards chatter heading into a crucial balloting period.

Indomina Films

This relatively new indie distributor bought LUV, a drama about a boy and his troubled uncle starring Common and Michael Rainey Jr., at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.


Earning just over $400 million, The Hunger Games took the summer’s boxoffice by storm. Lionsgate is hoping the Academy will recognize the Jennifer Lawrence-starrer for its crafts achievements.


Screeners went out early for Millennium Entertainment’s dark comedy Bernie, which premiered at last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. The film, which stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey, is gaining momentum after earning Gotham Award nominations for feature and ensemble. Millennium also has Lee Daniels’ Florida noir The Paperboy, which drew decidedly mixed reviews at Cannes but stars Oscar winner Nicole Kidman.

Magnolia Pictures

The ripped-from-the headlines story in Compliance stars Ann Dowd as a fast-food-store manager who’s manipulated by a caller pretending to be a police officer. Magnolia also has Sarah Polley’s latest directorial effort, Take This Waltz, as well as Denmark’s official foreign-language entry, A Royal Affair, which has an attention-grabbing performance from Mads Mikkelsen.

Open Road

Liam Neeson’s emotional performance in the survival drama The Grey received a lot of attention when the film was released in January, but the actor race is particularly crowded this year, perhaps making it tough for him to break through. Open Road also has the well-received cop drama End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which could get attention for screenplay, crafts, and acting, particularly Michael Pena’s supporting performance.


There will be a very targeted effort from Relativity this year for the costumes of Mirror Mirror and Keith Urban’s original song, “For You,” from Act of Valor.

Sony Pictures Classics

It’s rare for a foreign-language film to break into major categories, but Sony Pictures Classics has two that are a topic of conversation. Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning Amour is appealing to older audiences through its emotional lead performers, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, both of whom could earn acting noms. Rust and Bone, a Palme d’Or nominee, stars Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard as a whale trainer who loses her legs, for which the visual effects alone are worth Academy attention. On the English-language side is To Rome With Love, Woody Allen’s followup to last year’s Oscar-winning original screenplay, Midnight in Paris; Celeste & Jesse Forever, starring Rashida Jones—who also cowrote the original screenplay—and Andy Samberg; and Smashed, featuring a performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead that’s getting some attention.

Roadside Attractions

Richard Gere has been well-reviewed in Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, giving many awards watchers reason to start talking about the actor getting a career-first Oscar nomination. The indie label has hopes in all categories, particularly for Jarecki’s original screenplay. Stand Up Guys, which stars Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, is getting an actor push, as well as one for the Jon Bon Jovi original song, “Not Running Anymore.”


Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible, which stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, tells the real-life story of a family separated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It’s an all-category contender, particularly for screenplay and its detailed re-creation of the devastating wave. Summit also has The Perks of Being a Wallflower, adapted from Stephen Chbosky’s novel and starring Emma Watson.

Sundance Selects/IFC Films

The long-in-the-making adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s seminal On the Road had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, more than 50 years after its publication. The film, starring Garrett Hedlund and Kristin Stewart, could be a dark horse for adapted screenplay and below-the-line categories.

The Weinstein Co.

Master campaigner Harvey Weinstein is following his best picture win for The Artist with an awards-season slate that includes some of the most renowned directors working today. Although the Gotham Award-nominated September release The Master has divided audiences, there’s no argument that the all-category Paul Thomas Anderson film is visually stunning and has great performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, which stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, was a crowd-pleaser at the Toronto Film Festival and recently earned an ensemble Gotham Award nom. Quentin Tarantino’s December release Django Unchained, still yet to be screened, is a third all-category film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. In addition, multiple Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with Quartet, about a group of aging musicians in a retirement home that stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, and Billy Connolly; and Brad Pitt has a lead role and James Gandolfini supporting in Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly. The company also has France’s official foreign-language submission The Intouchables, which is being pushed for best picture.