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Tribeca Interview: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Talks Micmacs!

May 6th, 2010 | by admin | 10 Comments »

By Marlow Stern

Vibrant color palettes. Crane shots. Orphans. Peculiar countenances. Marked idiosyncrasies. Such is the modus operandi of the distinctive French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Jeunet began making short films while studying animation at Cinémation Studios. There, he befriended Marc Caro, a designer and comic book artist. The duo would collaborate on a series of five award-winning short films from 1978 to 1989, set mainly in surrealist dystopias. Their first feature film was 1991’s “Delicatessen” – a black comedy set in a famine-plagued post-apocalyptic dreamscape, in which an apartment building above a delicatessen is ruled by a butcher who kills people in order to feed his tenants. The film starred squish-faced, diminutive actor Dominique Pinon, who would eventually appear in all of Jeunet’s films. They next made “The City of Lost Children” – a dark fantasy about a mad scientist who kidnaps children in order to steal their dreams and stall his aging process. Hollywood soon called, and Jeunet decided to fly solo, helming the fourth movie in the “Alien” franchise, “Alien Resurrection.” Though visually sumptuous, the film was handcuffed by Joss Whedon’s weak script and flopped with U.S. critics and moviegoers alike.

Jeunet returned to France to seek inspiration. The result was 2001’s “Amélie,” a beautiful confection of a film set in the director’s own neighborhood of Montmartre, and starring Audrey Tautou as a woman who’s so wrapped up in doing good deeds for others, she cannot find love for herself. The picturesque film was a smash hit, and received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Foreign Film and Best Original Screenplay. It’s since become a cult hit, with the movie’s poster gracing college dorm rooms around the country. In 2004, Jeunet released “A Very Long Engagement.” Starring Tautou and adapted from the novel by Sébastien Japrisot, the film chronicled a woman’s search for her missing lover after World War I.

Jeunet’s latest film is MICMACS. The film concerns Bazil (Dany Boon), a man who was orphaned as a youngster when his father was killed by a mine. Years later, Bazil is hit by a stray bullet in a freak drive-by shooting incident. He traces the shell casing to an arms factory and, after banding together with a team of quirky, salvage artist misfits who live in a junkyard, they use their magical scrap heap creations to wage war on two power-hungry weapons manufacturers.

MMM sat down with Jean-Pierre Jeunet for an in-depth interview touching on his filmmaking style, disdain for French cinema, Hollywood, his cinematic inspirations and so much more.

MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: It’s been five years since your last film, “A Very Long Engagement.” Had you been planning “Micmacs” the entire time?

JEAN-PIERRE JEUNET: I worked two years on “The Life of Pi,” an adaptation of Yann Martel’s book, for Twentieth Century Fox. I wrote the story, made location scouting and made a storyboard. To imagine the storyboard, I built a model and, with my video camera, I took maybe 3,500 pictures. The film was ready. We drew everything and it was six months of work—for peanuts, because it was too expensive. After two years, I said, “OK, I quit because I need to make a film!” And then I wrote “Micmacs.”

MMM: You’ve assembled quite an acting troupe for “Micmacs.”

JEUNET: Each time, I try to find a family of interesting faces. I follow the tradition of films from the 40s – at this time, there were so many interesting faces in France. I often work with the same because there are not thousands and thousands in France. I’m looking for interesting faces and characters actors, and it’s not for everybody.

MMM: Also orphans.

JEUNET: It’s the subject of all my films and it’s not on purpose! Each time I write a new story I say, “Oh my god! This is the same story!” It’s pathetic, in fact. But I love a guy with a handicap – like Mathilde in “A Very Long Engagement” – with a weak character they must be much stronger to fight. It’s more emotional, and that’s it.

MMM: What was it like collaborating on this with your longtime screenwriting partner Guillaume Laurent?

JEUNET: I need to find the concept of the film. Once we have the concept, we open the box of details we collect and we choose the best details. When the box is packed with details, at this time, we start to write the story. He writes the dialogue scenes and I write the visual scenes.

MMM: How do you choose your acting troupe?

JEUNET: Each time, I do some tests with everybody – even Dominique Pinon, my favorite actor. For example, with Yolande [Moreau], it was only fifteen minutes, but she found the witch aspect [delivers witch cackle]. And I said, “Oh, it’s perfect!” I do that with every actor, one-by-one, and if I can, I rehearse. One day, we are all at the same stage at the same time. It’s like an orchestra. If you rehearse with the trumpet and after, with the violin, when you’re shooting with everybody, you can see it works.

MMM: Do you have a lifetime contract with Dominique Pinon?

JEUNET: He surprises me all the time so I don’t see any reason not to hire him. And he’s a neighbor. Just joking. He has a beautiful face. You have two definitions of beauty: Greek statues and African statues. Pinon is definitely an African statue. I don’t like Greek statues.

MMM: Was “Life of Pi” supposed to be in English? And do you have any desire to make another English language film?

JEUNET: Yeah, in English. It was pretty much a war movie. But why not? Paris is done. I’ve shot everything I loved in Paris. A city I would like to shoot in is San Francisco. My wife is from the Bay Area and I love the city.

MMM: Because of Hitchcock?

JEUNET: Yeah, maybe! It’s like a toy. You have the bridge, the beautiful tramway.

MMM: What about shooting a film in New York?

JEUNET: You’ve seen New York so many times. A friend of mine came to New York for the first time last year, and she wasn’t stunned like I was when I first visited in the seventies because she’s seen it in so many films!

MMM: So what inspired the scenario for “Micmacs?”

JEUNET: I hate this question! [Laughs] I will be short. Three feelings: the bond of silly people, the revenge story and the weapons deal; three different feelings.

MMM: Had you always wanted to make a sort of heist film?

JEUNET: A little bit, yeah. “Mission: Impossible” was a great inspiration. I was a big fan when I was a kid. Now, when you watch “Mission: Impossible,” it was so cheap! Everything was shot in L.A. Even Russia was shot in L.A.! I remember they had a big dinner scene with a Mafioso and there was this tiny piece of chicken on a plate!

MMM: Did you visit and interview any arms dealers?

JEUNET: We did. We visited a very interesting arms factory in Belgium. We met four or five interesting people. They have a passion for technology and only the technology. They could work for another industry. They completely forget the final destination of what they do. We were pretty honest with them. I didn’t say this was a film for weapons. Now, there is a new philosophy for weapons: it’s more expensive to hurt people than to kill people. It’s terrible. When you have a band of guys on the battlefield, if someone is dead, he’s dead. If someone is injured then they have to take care of him, so six people are busy. During “The City of Lost Children,” we were walking just beside the missile industries and we used to see nice people in the afternoon in the restaurants. It was interesting to think of the paradox of a nice guy who invented bad things.

MMM: You have a very distinctive look to all your films. I understand you experiment a lot with color grading, but how do you achieve this vibrant look?

JEUNET: Tools I have. Warm color, childish spirit, short lens, stupid jokes. [Laughs] It’s a kind of style. I love when you recognize the style of a director. Ang Lee, for example – he doesn’t have a real style and changes his style for each film and he’s a great director, but I prefer Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Emir Kusturica or, a long time ago, Stanley Kubrick or Fellini. You can recognize their style after ten seconds – if you like them, of course. If you don’t—I used to say, “If you like my film, welcome. I have a fish restaurant. If you don’t like fish, there are some beautiful places across the street with meat.”

MMM: I spoke with Louis Leterrier recently and he said that blockbusters are really attractive to him because when he was 10-15, there weren’t any films for him in France and he relied on American films. What films inspired you when you were a kid?

JEUNET: Strangely, when I was a kid, I watched “Tom & Jerry” and the Disney movies like any kid. My first revelation was “Once Upon a Time in the West,” and I was 17. The second one was “A Clockwork Orange,” when I was 18. I saw it 14 times in the theater. But after “Once Upon a Time…,” a couldn’t speak for three days. I was in shock. My parents were like, “What’s the problem? Are you sick?” And I said, “You can’t understand.” It was a revelation! You can give pleasure to the audience with close-ups of the eyes, crane shots, sound effects. It was amazing.

MMM: When did you start experimenting with filmmaking?

JEUNET: I started at eight. At this time, I didn’t see any movies but I made a small theatre with puppets. I destroyed the lamp of my parents for the lighting. And they had to pay! I was producer, too. And later, I had a View-Master, and I used to cut the frame to change the order and I recorded my friend with a small tape recorder. It was a kind of movie.

MMM: You’re rumored to have turned down big Hollywood productions like “Hellboy” and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” in the past. Was this because of your experience making “Alien: Resurrection?”

JEUNET: Not “Hellboy.” Just “Harry Potter.” No, I’m tired of hearing that! So many people would like to hear it was a nightmare. For example, the guy who made “Up in the Air” [Jason Reitman], he put a joke of the dwarf and he said, “It’s like in the French film” [“Amelie”]. Then, he said in an interview, “He was kind of a master, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, because it was a nightmare for him to make ‘Alien’ and he had the courage to leave.” No! It was not a nightmare! It was just difficult because you have to convince a lot of people to fight and to struggle. In France, I have complete freedom. It’s a big difference.

MMM: Would you ever do another studio film?

JEUNET: Why not? I read a lot of scripts from my American agent. “Life of Pi” was for 20th Century Fox. But, in reality, I would like to find a way to direct American actors but with a French production. Luc Besson does that.

MMM: Are there any American actors you’d love to direct?

JEUNET: I just spoke to Jodie Foster and she’d love to do a film in French. She speaks better French than me! And I’ve heard so many times Forest Whitaker would love to shoot with me. I say, “Why the frustration? Why not?” I love the English actress Emma Thompson. She’s great.

MMM: There isn’t a lot of dialogue from your central character in “Micmacs.” Were you looking to achieve a vaudeville effect?

JEUNET: No. We use very old, French expressions for the blank guy. If I shoot in French, it’s to play with my own language. And we know we’re going to lose in foreign countries because I’m lucky that my films are sold everywhere. But we know we’re going to lose something. If I want more, I’ll have to shoot in English.

MMM:
How did you cast Dany Boon as your lead?

JEUNET: It was the exact same story as how I cast “Amelie.” The guy I had cast [Jamel Debbouze, “Amelie”] had passed maybe ten weeks before the shooting, so I hired Dany. He’s the perfect actor for me – like Audrey Tautou – because he’s a technician. He’s a director, an author and very creative and imaginative. You never have any bad takes with him.

MMM: You’ve been rumored for the third “Tintin” film…

JEUNET: I was maybe the first one. After the Belgian guy who made “Toto the Hero” [Jaco Van Dormael], he was writing the script, and they didn’t like it. They reached me and I had an appointment at the Tintin building. They told me, “You will have someone over your shoulder checking you.” I went, “Oh my god!” And I made “A Very Long Engagement.” I am tired about sequels and remakes. Everyone speaks about that now. Maybe because I am getting older but I don’t like superhero action movies now. Remakes are not very satisfying to me.

MMM: Could you talk about the application of technology in your films? They all seem to incorporate this very future-primitive quality.

JEUNET: I don’t know. I love beautiful, old objects. Some people think, “Oh, he’s very conservative because he lives in the past.” It’s completely fake! We use new technology for visual effects, sound. I have the iPhone! [Laughs]

MMM: What about your musical influences?

JEUNET: Oh! Anything from Massive Attack to music for yoga. It’s very wide!

MMM: Any recent French films you’ve enjoyed?

JEUNET: Let’s see… I am not a big fan of French cinema. I have a passion for French cinema from the ‘40s, like Jacques Prévert. I collect some old scripts. I rebuilt the personal archive with the Cinémathèque française because they were in an old basement in Boston, believe it or not. My favorite film is “Le quai des brumes” (1938).

MMM: What do you think is the problem with French cinema nowadays?

JEUNET: The young director with talent, they want to make all war movies, shoot in Hollywood and make bloody, stupid films. The others are so intellectual and they want to make intellectual movies. More, it’s ugly in terms of picture, writing, acting then art.

MMM: What about recent films in general? Any you enjoyed?

JEUNET: Oh, yes! I love “Mary and Max” from Adam Elliot. Fucking masterpiece! I met him in Australia and would love to help him. He’s going to send me a puppet from his film!

MMM: So what are you working on now?

JEUNET: I read. I read one book per day because I would like to make an adaptation and I found the book in the end. But, the author, who lives in New York, wants to make the adaptation himself. He’s not a director. He’s a screenwriter. And I think it’s a shame and a bad idea. It’s “City of Thieves” by David Benioff. It’s a masterpiece. It’s tough because when you fall in love with a book, it’s like a love story where, in the morning, your partner says, “I got married. Bad luck!”

MMM: Any other filmmaking ideas?

JEUNET: I have a nice idea about robots. It will be both live-action and robots.
I have to work on it! I won’t tell you anything! It’s so difficult because we have fifteen films opening in France every week. I would’ve wanted to make “Micmacs” in 3D, but it was too early.

MMM: Are you and Audrey Tautou planning on working together soon?

JEUNET: Yes! We finished a trilogy because I made “Chanel No. 5.” It was a beautiful commercial. I had an appointment here in a beautiful office overlooking Central Park. In ten minutes, I sold them on the story. Then, I said, “OK, but we need a budget.” And they said, “Mmhmm.” They gave me complete freedom. I was the artistic director, author, producer. It was four months and we made a beautiful thing.

MMM: But now that the trilogy’s over, will you no longer be working together?

JEUNET: No! I need to find a story. I make a film every three or four years, so I need a story, and if there is a character for her – or Jodie Foster – I would be happy! I’m getting old though! I teach a master class in Provence and I realized that many of the kids weren’t born for “Delicatessen” and I think, “Oh my god!”

MICMACS opens on May 28th in select theaters.

Tribeca Review: Zonad

May 3rd, 2010 | by admin | No Comments »

By Marlow Stern

A crowd of Irish stargazers gathers one night in the tiny town of Ballymoran (rhymes with: “moron”). Suddenly, there’s a flash in the sky, followed by the town drunk hollering some nonsense about aliens, before being laughed off by the townspeople. Moments later, the Cassidy family – Dick (Geoff Minogue), Mary (Donna Dent), son Jimmy (Kevin Maher) and nubile daughter Jenny (Janice Byrne) – return home only to find a portly bloke in a skin-tight red vinyl suit and helmet unconscious on the floor and their home in shambles. The gullible clan – straight out of 1950s-era “Pleasantville” – believe the being to be none other than an extraterrestrial named ‘Zonad’ (Simon Delaney).

Co-directors (and brothers) John and Kieran Carney, working from their own screenplay, never make any secret of Zonad’s identity (he’s a fall-down drunk escapee from a rehab center costume party) or his intentions (to bed every schoolgirl – and cougar – nympho in town). Zonad gets so wrapped up in the welcome reception he gets from the simpleminded people of Ballymoran – free drinks at the local pub, sex with a different girl every night – that he forgets his fellow escapee/inmate (David Pearse), whom he left in the woods in a gorilla suit. But don’t fret; this lascivious charlatan will soon be fed his humble pie.

Before being seduced by Zonad, Jenny had pledged her “flower” to the ambiguously straight Guy (Rory Keenan) – and attractive, silver spoon-fed simpleton who, oblivious to Jenny’s sexual advances, shuns them in favor of rides on the “guycycle” and arched-eyebrow looks with his guyliner-sporting butler, Benson (David Murray). The duo soon band together with a few other locals to form an anti-Zonad posse. Their efforts prove extraneous when Zonad’s fellow escapee (Pearse) hobbles into the local vintage clothing store, eyes a blue latex jumpsuit and assumes the identity of Bonad, Zonad’s superior officer in the star fleet. The clueless Ballymoranians, of course, swallow the whole thing down like a tasty pint of Guinness (as is their wont). Bonad’s lays on his alien shtick even thicker than Zonad, and soon, Bonad supplants Zonad as the town demigod and is, well… living up to his name with all the local hussies, including Jenny. Everything comes to a head when the two frauds duke it out in a cocaine and booze-fueled boxing match, set to the opening theme of “Raging Bull.”

It’s hard to believe that this perverted, outlandish yarn comes (in part) from the same mind, John Carney’s, that birthed the naturalistic love story “Once.” Here, subtle grace has been replaced by flagrant fatuity, and, despite Delaney’s best efforts, a five-minute comedy sketch is stretched-out more than Zonad’s figure-hugging suit (the film was adapted from a 2003 short that was never released). The only likeness to that poignant Irish musical comes in the form of a pair of inspired musical numbers that bookend the film. And the only clue that all this ridiculousness take place in the present – and not in the 1950s, as ubiquitous naïveté suggests, is the mention of a stolen DVD player; a destination where, in all likelihood, you’ll one day get to see this film.

ZONAD still lacks a U.S. distributor.

Tribeca Review: Please Give

May 1st, 2010 | by admin | No Comments »

By Marlow Stern

Whereas writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s last film, 2006’s “Friends with Money,” centered around a maid struggling to come to terms with her wealthy friends, her latest foray into the recession-plagued female psyche concerns an introverted mammogram technician, a reseller of second hand goods and the pesky Manhattan real estate market.

Sure, Holofcener may have a preoccupation with the corrupting influence of money, but the opening mammogram montage of “Please Give” – showcasing breasts of every shape, sag and size – offers a penetrating intro into the film’s intriguing commentary on the objectification of women in Hollywood (an issue Holofcener willingly subverts) and the perils of aging.

The characters that inhabit the world of “Please Give” rely not on the kindness of others, but rather on the pain and personal anguish of the infirm. The woman administering the mammograms is Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), an anomic – albeit attractive – woman whose blind devotion to her senile 91-year-old grandmother, Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), cripples any semblance of a social life. Rebecca refers to breasts as, “tubes of potential damage,” for starters. Andra’s apartment is owned by her next-door neighbors, married couple Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt), who run a successful vintage furniture store. The dynamic duo specializes in purchasing the goods off the recently-deceased elderly at a bargain and reselling them for huge markups. They’re waiting for the old kook to croak so they can renovate/expand their already spacious Manhattan apartment – a predicament that makes their hallway run-ins with Rebecca a wee bit awkward.

Out of guilt, Kate invites Rebecca, her tanned sister Mary (Amanda Peet), a vain spa facialist who takes after her grandma, and the ornery Andra, over for supper with the family, which is rounded out by Kate and Alex’s 16-year-old daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele), who comes to the dinner table with her face obscured in underwear in an effort to hide a gigantic pimple. The dinner has unintended results for all parties involved and jump starts a story about human frustration, insecurity, and, in true Holofcener fashion, teeming with acerbic, witty dialogue.

“Please Give” marks Holofcener’s fourth collaboration with actress Catherine Keener, who usually serves as Holofcener’s mouthpiece in her films. In “Friends with Money,” Keener played a woman whose creative collaboration with her husband – the two are successful co-screenwriters – frustrates her. Here, she plays a woman struggling to come to grips with possessing monetary wealth, and the means by which she’s amassed it. Kate’s attempts to rid herself of the all-consuming guilt that her station provides – including a failed attempt at volunteer work, purchasing a grandma couch and doling out $20 bills to the homeless – results in some of the film’s most tragicomic scenarios.

Though Keener is the mouthpiece, it’s Rebecca Hall who is the film’s moral center and offers it’s finest performance. Rebecca’s character bears the least resemblance to a sitcom character type – unlike Platt’s midlife crisis-sufferer or Peet’s vainglorious, jealous wreck – instead offering a light journey from social awkwardness to awareness of life’s wonderful gifts.

The film, like all those in Holofcener’s canon, constructs a narrative around a series of playful vignettes exhibiting clashing personalities and worldviews. Though some may criticize this method for providing characters lacking the requisite depth, in places like Manhattan, sometimes that’s all you can afford.

PLEASE GIVE opens on April 30th in New York and Los Angeles.

Tribeca Interview: Rebecca Hall Talks Please Give!

May 1st, 2010 | by admin | 1 Comment »

By Marlow Stern

After making her feature film debut as the witty student activist – and object of James McAvoy’s affection – Rebecca Epstein, in the underrated coming-of-age comedy “Starter for Ten,” Rebecca Hall has achieved a strong acting reputation, attracting some of the film world’s finest directors.

The British actress’s follow-up was 2006’s “The Prestige,” where she played wife to Christian Bale’s tortured magician in the Christopher Nolan (“Dark Knight”) film. Then, in 2008, she got her break as one of the leads in Woody Allen’s ménage-a-quatre “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Hall, playing a facsimile of her “Starter” character – Vicky, a practical PHD student in Catalan studies engaged to an unromantic partner – is the film’s moral high ground, and, despite Penelope Cruz stealing most of the film’s accolades as a fiery artist, Hall earned a great deal of critical praise, resulting in a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy. She also appeared in Ron Howard’s award-winning ensemble drama “Frost/Nixon” that same year.

Hall is the daughter of renowned theatre director Peter Hall and opera singer Maria Ewing. Her professional stage debut came in 2002 when she starred as Vivie in her father’s production of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” at the Strand Theatre in London. Critics raved of her turn and she took home the Ian Charleson Award, given to the best British stage actress under 30. She’s continued to act in theatre, appearing as Rosalind in “As You Like It,” Hermione in “The Winter’s Tale,” and many more.

From acclaimed New York filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (“Lovely and Amazing”), who has a penchant for actress-showcasing ensemble seriocomedies, Please Give features sisters Rebecca (Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet), two opposites – similar to the Vicky/Cristina divide – who care for their elderly grandmother. Well, Rebecca, a mammogram technician, cares for her. The pair of sisters soon clash with a married couple (Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) who specialize in reselling the used goods of recently deceased geriatrics.

MMM sat down with the talented actress Rebecca Hall to chat about the similarities between Woody Allen and Nicole Holofcener, her proclivity towards American roles, mammograms and her favorite things about NYC.

MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: How were you approached to do this role and what was it about the script in general that made you want to do this film?

REBECCA HALL: Well, initially the fact that I was an admirer of Nicole’s [Holofcener] filmmaking and the fact that she writes incredibly subtle characters which gives you much more room for maneuvering and something to really flesh out and play with. I like playing ambiguity, I suppose. I like playing people who are complicated in ways that aren’t particularly obvious, a little bit opaque. I think that elusive quality in her writing appeals to me. She’s doesn’t write films about people who are particularly heroic. She doesn’t write films who are going to save the world from monsters or are particularly great or go through particularly dramatic events. That interests me because that’s life. So what you concentrate on as an actor are the details, the intricacies of day to day existence and then that relates to an audience on a grounded scale because it taps into a sort of common humanity.

MMM: How did you prepare for this role? Did you study mammograms?

HALL: Oh, I knew that was coming! [Laughs] You’re a courageous one. I did. I didn’t know an awful lot about mammograms. You don’t start having them until you’re a little bit older. I’d never had one and I didn’t know much about it. So I went to a mammogram unit. I went to the one that we filmed at and I sat with a nurse that works there for a day. I watched her perform the procedures and she taught me how to work the machinery. I learned about it. I think it’s sort of taboo especially in cinema to objectify any body part that’s usually eroticized and actually talk about it’s potential harm and it’s potential danger.

MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: Do you think that occupation affected her dating life?

HALL: No. I think that the character affected her dating life. I think her choice of occupation is telling of, as a character, she does things in her life that give her an excuse to avoid living. That’s her big problem. A lot of people tend to see the film and think that my character is the moral high ground, the moral center of the film, and I think that’s true to an extent, but I don’t think that makes her necessarily healthy. I think that every character in this film, all of them, is dysfunctional in the sense that they give for the wrong reasons or they take advantage when they think they’re giving. I think that Rebecca is another example of that. She just does it in an inverse way, as in she uses looking after everyone and taking responsibility for everyone else as a way to avoid taking responsibility for herself or living her life in any kind of round, happy, healthy way.

MMM: She’s about the only character that doesn’t have any guilt. Is that right?

HALL: I think she does have guilt. I’d say that. I’m not wanting to make sort of massive psychological generalizations when I’m not remotely a psychiatrist but I’d say that anyone that has that level of, I suppose, abstinence –

MMM: What about her mother who committed suicide, did she have guilt over that?

HALL: Yeah. I think she does. I don’t think she has guilt that she’s conscious of but I think she carries an enormous amount of guilt because I don’t really believe that anyone that insecure…and she’s a person who has no idea who she is and isn’t really willing to find out at the beginning of the film. She’d rather disappear from any situation and someone who is that unsure of themselves and that insecure, probably on some level they retreat out of guilt. She doesn’t let herself be happy because she feels horrific about all sorts of things but I don’t think she’s conscious of it. So it wasn’t something that I consciously thought of in the playing of it.

MMM: Did you actually get a chance to sit with Nicole and give your input on this character and how you wanted her to be in the film?

HALL: I think that’s a process that happens and I think there’s always input. A character doesn’t exist in an actor’s imagination, nor does it exist on the page. It exists when the two things come together.

MMM: But you draw from things, I’m sure, right?

HALL: Yeah, absolutely, but I don’t think that I went to Nicole and said, ‘This is how I see her.’ I don’t think that I’m really an actor that makes decisions separate to the text, if you see what I mean. I’ve never quite understood that idea of saying, ‘I don’t believe that my character would say this.’ If a character says it then it’s your responsibility to find a reason why and that’s where the character comes from, those problems. The more of those moments where you go ‘I don’t understand why this is happening’ is the more that you develop the character that’s separate from yourself. That’s sort of how you form their personality, if that makes any sense at all. I’m completely waffling.

MMM: How did you approach the loving granddaughter aspect of it? Was there something in your own family that you could pull from?

HALL: Not really. I couldn’t relate to that, no. I couldn’t relate to it at all. I have no surprising grandparents. They were alive for a little bit when I was younger but I didn’t really know them. My family life is incredibly diverse and broad and I suppose, under some sort of umbrella term, bohemian. I don’t have a normal upbringing at all. So this is kind of an anathema to me but on some level everyone understands about those kinds of family relationships in some instinctive place. I don’t know how, but they do.

MMM: The two sisters are opposites except there are things that bond them and so they’re also similar in certain ways.

HALL: I think that they’re both suffering from the same issues of growing up without strong parental figures and dealing with a lack of love and a lot of isolation. And it’s two perfect examples of how people react to that kind of situation. Either people introvert or they extrovert and you’ve got both examples in the same family.

MMM: So many people in America might be surprised that you’re English. Of the roles you’re being offered at this point, are they fifty/fifty British and American roles?

HALL: They’re one hundred percent. I’ve yet to play a Brit. No, I have.

MMM: I saw the “Red Riding” trilogy and that was excellent.

HALL: Which was also an accent as well. I was just playing a thick Yorkshire. That’s not my normal [accent].

MMM: “Starter for Ten?”

HALL: “Starter for Ten” was the one standing and “Prestige,” actually. I was English in “The Prestige” as well.

MMM: Why do you think you’re getting so many scripts for American roles?

HALL: It’s a combination of things. It’s a combination of where there’s stuff being made, first off, frankly. And also, American culture interests me. I’m not totally alien. I have a foot in both countries, so to speak. My mother is American. My mom is from Detroit originally and I grew up with a lot of American culture. I think that everyone in the world has. I think especially with stories from New York. There’s something about the iconography of New York, which has a global appeal. I always wanted to be in films about New York and was interested in films telling good stories and if they are American then that’s the way they are.

MMM: What’s your favorite part about New York?

HALL: My favorite part of New York is the walking. You can walk everywhere and everything is right there and you can get wheat-free pizza at three in morning.

MMM: Nicole bares many similarities with Woody Allen –

HALL: She’s small. She’s Jewish. She wears glasses.

MMM: Can you talk about how their directorial styles compare?

HALL: I don’t quite know why I have a sort of resistance to compare them. I think it’s probably out of respect for both of them separately and having actually genuinely had very different experiences. I think it’s impossible to come across a filmmaker today who makes films about New York that does not get compared to Woody Allen because New York culture is so pervasive and he put a stamp on it. I also don’t think that it’s possible to find a filmmaker that’s not been influenced by him. But as to whether they’re similar, I think she has her own voice. I do. I think she’s got her own way of doing things. The one way in which I would make comparisons is that they make films about life, about small aspects of life. They don’t tell great big stories. They talk about people and characters.

PLEASE GIVE
opens on April 30th in New York and Los Angeles.

Jeff Daniels & Emma Stone Talk Paper Man!

April 22nd, 2010 | by admin | 6 Comments »

By Marlow Stern

Actor. Musician. Playwright.

Since making his silver screen debut in 1981’s “Ragtime,” Jeff Daniels has been a consistent, reliable force in the entertainment world. His star was recognized in 1983’s “Terms of Endearment,” where he played neglectful husband/literature scholar Flap Horton. He went on to earn his first of three Golden Globe nominations in the dual role of archaeologist/actor in Woody Allen’s 1985 film, “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” Since then, he’s displayed great versatility, appearing as a member of the L.A. bomb squad in “Speed,” a bushy-haired imbecile in “Dumb and Dumber” and an idealistic ice cream shoppe man who brings a little color to the world of “Pleasantville.” Daniels also has a stalwart reputation on Broadway, recently receiving a Tony Award nomination for his performance in the hit play “God of Carnage,” which has been running for almost two years on Broadway.

And, after his Golden Globe nominated turn as haughty novelist Bernard Berkman in “The Squid and the Whale,” Daniels has been Hollywood’s go-to guy for novelists. He’s recently starred as a self-help author in 2009’s “The Answer Man” and now, as struggling novelist Richard Dunn in directing duo Kieran and Michele Mulroney’s PAPER MAN. In many ways, these characters of struggling, middle-aged novelists are grown-up versions of his Flap Horton.

In Paper Man, Daniels’ novelist crippled by writer’s block is aided by an imaginary superhero friend known as ‘Captain Excellent’ (Ryan Reynolds) and Long Island teenager Abby, played by Emma Stone.

While Daniels is the tried and true veteran, Stone’s star is fast on the rise. After making her feature film debut as the object of Jonah Hill’s affection in the 2007 comedy “Superbad,” she’s appeared in a string of high-profile comedies: as a badass bassist in “The Rocker,” a sorority swan in “The House Bunny” and a shotgun-wielding zombie killer in “Zombieland.”

MMM sat down with PAPER MAN co-stars Jeff Daniels and Emma Stone to chat about their immediate chemistry, their choice superpowers and who their own personal ‘Captain Excellent’ is.

MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: How did you two get involved in this?

JEFF DANIELS: Kieran and Michele Mulroney called me and said, “Look – Emma Stone. We want to have breakfast. We’ll go back to the office, read the script, maybe do some scenes.” I said, “Yeah, ok. Whatever.” We went and sat down at Café Luxembourg. I remember it like it was yesterday. And [Emma] had the table and she was so funny, and we were bouncing off each other and laughing. After about twenty minutes I looked over at Kieran and Michele and said, “Yeah, we’re fine. We’re ok. See you in Montauk.”

MMM: So there wasn’t much rehearsing?

EMMA STONE: I don’t know that it would make too much sense for us to rehearse since you see the entire span of these characters meeting and interacting. There’s no backstory and you’re seeing everything that happens between them. Plus, we got to shoot semi-chronologically. That first day shooting in Montauk was the first day the characters meet as well.

MMM: This film’s been on quite an interesting journey. Could you talk about how you found the project and any challenges you’ve had to overcome?

STONE: [Jeff] was attached when I got the script and I went through a pretty rigorous audition process. It wasn’t an offer or anything, although the movie I’d done before it was “The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” so I don’t know that Abby was… [Laughs]

DANIELS: You were brilliant in that. Absolutely brilliant. I look forward to seeing it. It wasn’t as bad as they say! I don’t see anything anymore, but I’m sure she was wonderful.

STONE: [Laughs] But clearly they weren’t like, “Abby’s jumping out at us!” So I had to audition. I think I went in three times, and for each time I was in there for about an hour. They changed it up on me a lot, but it was understandable. But also, I got a really good feel for Kieran and Michele as directors through that, so that was good too because it was scary for me.

DANIELS: I read it a year before it was shot. I think we were going to [shoot] and then they didn’t have the money, then I went off and did something else, then I went and did a musical in Chicago. Then, I went, “I could do it between November and December. I’d love to do it, but that’s when I could do it.” And they were great. By that point, I think Emma and Ryan [Reynolds] were on it. It was one of my favorite scripts I’d read in a long, long time and thankfully they wanted me and were willing to wait.

MMM: Did either of you ever have an imaginary friend?

STONE: No… I feel like acting is being your own imaginary friend. Maybe I always wanted one and so I became an actor or something. There’s a little Freud for ya!

MMM: What was it like jumping into the waters of Montauk in November and December?

DANIELS: She became my girl that day because it was a godawful, ugly, cold, grey Montauk day. There was nothing warm about anything she had to do. And Emma was going to do it, but there was a little kicking and screaming going on. I think I said something like, “Jennifer Lopez would do it!” But she went in there 10, 12 times.

STONE: It wasn’t that many! Like five, six…

DANIELS: I had to just go up to my knees. That was nothing. She had to go underwater.

MMM: You’ve played many writers before like in your last film, “The Answer Man.” Where do you get your inspiration for playing these writers?

DANIELS: I’m generally depressed overall as a person. [Laughs] I write plays so maybe they think of me that way. I go back to Jim Brooks and “Terms of Endearment,” and say, “You’re the only guy that convinced me that Flap had read all those books he was supposed to have read.” And the fact that I’ve written, maybe they think I can do that. It’s also: you play a writer in “The Squid and the Whale” and they go, “Oh, you can play a writer. You did it for them, do it for us!”

MMM: Have either of you ever been in a creative rut? And if so, how did you overcome it?

STONE: Wouldn’t it be annoying if the 21-year-old was like, “Yeah… I’ve been in some serious ruts, so…” But we were just talking about what it’s like doing this job in 2010. It’s not quite a rut but there’s a lot of treading carefully into… what it could possibly be.

DANIELS: And the younger generation with the Internet, cell phone videos, YouTube and the whole getting you to do something to follow film. I never had to deal with that. But it’s in rehearsal. You make mistakes in rehearsal. It’s really hard rehearsing a play or rehearsing on any movie. That’s where you get to make your mistakes and you make BIG ones. Then, you learn from them and when you’re finally ready to shoot, your mistakes are out of the way. If you are not afraid to make mistakes then there is no writer’s block or actor’s block. You can’t rewrite nothing but you can rewrite 90 pages of shit. But as long as you’ve got your shit on the page, now you can go to work. Richard, in this case, he can’t get past sentence one. He wants it to be perfect.

MMM: How do you feel this film has to do with men who have trouble coping with women who achieve more than they do?

DANIELS: Well, it certainly doesn’t help. Could you be a little less superior? But, certainly that’s an element of what Richard’s going through. And I’m sure it’s out there. I’m sure it’s a problem.

MMM: How close did you feel your character was to yourself?

STONE: She’s alive in me in every way. She’s a huge part of me. It’s the first time I’ve ever had that weird thing where you really mourn a character when you’re done. It was so hard to let her go.

DANIELS: You really went for it with this one. You left a lot of yourself there.

STONE: Well, it was the first time a role really had catharsis for me.

DANIELS: They were on her too on the set. They were on me, but with her they were, “One more. One more.” Then they’d go off and pull her into the corner and whisper in her ear, and she’d have to dredge up all this emotion. She had to do that quite a few times in this one and when you do that, you’re leaving somebody behind.

STONE: And I’m still learning so much. This is my fifth movie but it felt like this was the first one where I was learning how to become an actor. I still use that as a reference point – when I was trying to cry and trying to cry. I kept trying to cry and I was so frustrated with myself. Jeff told me, “The audience is going to feel it for you. You don’t have to show them what to feel.” I went, “Jesus! There it is! You just have to be.” But for some reason it gets convoluted.

DANIELS: And we tend to forget that there are going to be violins under the scene too. You learn that later. [Laughs] But there was no rehearsal and we bounced off each other. The thing that Emma has that a lot of actors her age or my age don’t, is she bounces off you. She reacts. She listens. That’s the whole key – Spencer Tracy said it. I could feel it at the breakfast. I’d say something to her and she’d bounce it right back and I felt, “We’re going to be ok.” There was no, “Look at me! Look at me!” sitting in front of the mirror type of acting. And that’s why she’s going to be around, this one. Trust me. I have to work around that more often than not. “I’m here! I’m here!”

MMM: Have either of you had your own personal Captain Excellent? Someone who’s really your rock?

STONE: Oh, my mom. Definitely. And it’s strange because that Captain Excellent thing and needing to shed that happens as you get older. You still need that support and guidance, but not in that same way. Not without asking or begging for it. It’s been interesting because that period has happened in the last couple of years. I’m 21, so the voice in your head starts to sound more like you and not so much like your mom.

MMM: You don’t need to worry about your mom, right Jeff?

DANIELS: “Do you need to use the language that you use?” No, she’s gotten past that. “God of Carnage,” she rolled right with it. With my wife it’s, “I don’t need anybody. I’m my own critic. I know when it’s good… just tell me when it was good? Just tell me if it was good?” “Yes. It was fun.” At the end of the day, I just need the one, “Yes. It was.” That’s all she needs to do. Don’t go into detail, cause I don’t need you to tell me. But was it good?

MMM: Are you working on anything in the theatre?

DANIELS: Well I’m in “God of Carnage” ‘til July, so that’s really my life right now. But I wrote a play that we’re gonna do at Purple Rose, my theatre company, in the fall. I wrote it in January. It’s called “Best of Friends.” Having been in “Carnage” for almost two years now, it takes that comedic structure of just two couples, but I kind of attacked friendship – two people on the verge of becoming really close friends and you almost date as couples when you get older. Someone does something to sabotage it and carnage rolls into chaos.

MMM: What about you Emma? Any theatre aspirations?

STONE: I’ve got nodules, so truly in a day-to-day, projection basis, I don’t know if I would have enough endurance to do theatre. When I saw Marcia Gay Harden [in “God of Carnage”], that screaming every day, my voice would be done for two weeks if I had to do that performance. But, I mean, I would love to. But there are go-to girls for theatre. I am learning that upon moving to New York and inquiring. There are go-to girls that will get the role for me any day of the week. Some people won’t even let me audition! I tried to audition and they said, “Just go on tape.”

MMM: What have you heard about a sequel to “Zombieland?”

STONE: As much as anybody else has. But it would be so much fun! But that’s all I know. It’s such a fun movie. It’s an escape. It’s just 81 minutes of just forgetting your day and enjoying yourself. That’s why I loved the “Ghostbusters” reference in it, because it’s kind of like, “This is so silly. Let’s watch this!”

MMM: If you could have anyone do a surprise cameo like Bill Murray did in the first one, whom would you have for the sequel?

STONE: Jeff Daniels.

DANIELS: I thought you might say that. [Laughs] Then who?

STONE: Miley Cyrus! I don’t know. Bill, that was pretty awesome when he did that. That was pretty cool. He had said yes the night before. He doesn’t really call anybody back, but he called us back.

MMM: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

DANIELS: The ability to make millions of dollars without having to work for it.

STONE: So, basically, your goal is to be Paris Hilton?

PAPER MAN opens in select theaters on April 23, 2010.

Bond 23 postponed, Joss Whedon takes on The Avengers and more!

April 22nd, 2010 | by admin | 3 Comments »

UPCOMING FILM PROJECTS!

007 producers, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions, today announced they have suspended development on the next JAMES BOND film previously scheduled for release 2011/2012. “Due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio, we have suspended development on ‘Bond 23′ indefinitely. We do not know when development will resume and do not have a date for the release of ‘Bond 23,’” stated Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli jointly…

Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman reports he talked to director Barry Sonnenfeld, who revealed that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are returning as agents J and K, respectively, in Sony’s MEN IN BLACK 3D. It was announced last October that “Tropic Thunder” writer Etan Cohen had been hired to write the script for the third installment…

Paramount Pictures has hired writer/director Greg Mottola (“Adventureland,” “Superbad”) to pen the screenplay for IMPORTANT ARTIFACTS. The film will be based on Leanne Shapton’s book “Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry.” Risky Business says it was revealed that Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman are attached to star in the romantic comedy…

Universal Pictures has acquired Seth MacFarlane’s TED, an R-rated comedy that will mark the feature directorial debut of the “Family Guy” creator, reports Deadline New York. Carrying a budget of $65 million, the project is described as a “’Hard R’ comedy about a man and his teddy bear” and will mix live action and CG, according to the site. MacFarlane will also co-star and provide the voice for the CG-generated title character. MacFarlane wrote the script with “Family Guy’s” Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild…

“Buffy” nerds rejoice! Deadline New York says that Marvel Studios is moving ahead with Joss Whedon as director of THE AVENGERS, scheduled for a May 4, 2012 release. The film would feature many of the lead actors involved in Marvel Studios adaptations right now, including Robert Downey Jr. (“Iron Man”), Chris Evans (“Captain America”), Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”), Samuel L. Jackson (“Nick Fury”) and more. Paramount Pictures will distribute the film. Whedon’s credits include “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “Angel,” “Serenity,” and more…

CASTING NEWS!

Entertainment Weekly reports that Rachel Weisz is attached to star in JACKIE, about the immediate days following President Kennedy’s assassination. Weisz’s fiance, director Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”) will direct and produce. The project had been rumored to be a TV film, but it is going to theaters instead. Noah Oppenheim wrote the script. The magazine says that Jackie “catalogs the four days between Kennedy’s assassination and his burial, showing the beloved Kennedy at both her most vulnerable and her most graceful”…

Production Weekly has revealed that “Tron Legacy” star Garrett Hedlund in talks to play Dean Moriarty in the Walter Salles adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD, which is scheduled film this summer….

Production Weekly is also reporting that Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen and Cliff Curtis are attached to star in Gérard Corbiau’s THE DREAMERS, from Orson Welles’ unfinished last project…

Apparently a glutton for punishment, Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man” films) is set to star in writer/director Lars von Trier’s sci-fi disaster film MELANCHOLIA, according to Deadline New York. “Melancholia” will shoot July through September in Southern Sweden. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, Alexander Skarsgård, Stellan Skarsgård and Udo Kier are also attached to roles…

According to Heat Vision, Sharlto Copley (“District 9”) is in talks to star in DreamWorks’ I AM NUMBER FOUR, based on the first of a six-book science fiction series by James Frey and Jobie Hughes. He would join Alex Pettyfer (Beastly) in the D.J. Caruso-directed film, adapted by Al Gough and Miles Millar. The franchise is about a group of nine earthbound alien teens who escaped their planet just before it was destroyed by a hostile species. While the high school-aged kids assimilate, the title character (Pettyfer) discovers that he is being hunted by the enemy that blew up his planet. Copley is playing a man who hailed from the alien world’s serving class but now is the title character’s adult guardian and mentor. Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg are producing…

Variety and Movieline have learned that Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone and Olivia Wilde have joined the cast of The Weinstein Company’s BUTTER, which starts filming later this month. To be directed by Jim Field Smith, the comedy follows a young orphan who, after being adopted by a Midwestern family, discovers she has an uncanny talent for butter-carving. She eventually finds herself up against the ambitious wife of the retired reigning champion in a town’s annual butter-sculpting contest. The film is produced by Jennifer Garner, who also stars as an ambitious Midwestern woman trying to win a local butter-carving contest. Jackman portrays an old flame of Garner’s character, while Silverstone will play the adoptive mother of a teen girl (Yara Shahidi) who becomes a major contender in the butter-carving competition. Ashley Greene plays the step-daughter of Garner’s character and Wilde is taking on the role of a tattooed stripper who is also the mistress to a term-limited butter-carving champion (“Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell)…

AVATAR NEWS!

With AVATAR hitting Blu-ray and DVD on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times talked to James Cameron about the highest-grossing movie of all time (it’s at $2.717 billion now). In the interview, Cameron revealed that the Avatar sequel will focus on the ocean of Pandora while they’ll explore more of the Alpha Centauri AB system in a third film. Here’s an excerpt:

“We created a broad canvas for the environment of film. That’s not just on Pandora, but throughout the Alpha Centauri AB system. And we expand out across that system and incorporate more into the story – not necessarily in the second film, but more toward a third film. I’ve already announced this, so I might as well say it: Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment – a different setting within Pandora. And I’m going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won’t be a rain forest. I’m not saying we won’t see what we’ve already seen; we’ll see more of that as well”…

AWARDS NEWS!

MTV has confirmed the rumors that AZIZ ANSARI will host the 19th MTV Movie Awards. According to MTV: “One of the fastest rising stars in comedy, Aziz Ansari is set to host the nineteenth annual MTV MOVIE AWARDS, premiering LIVE on MTV, Sunday June 6 from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California. This is Ansari’s first time hosting the awards show. As previously announced, Emmy Award® winning producer Mark Burnett returns for the fourth year as executive producer.” Ansari is best known for roles on TV shows “Human Giant” and “Parks and Recreation,” as well as bit parts in comedy films “Funny People” and “Observe and Report”…

…Until next week!

Cheech & Chong: Reunited!

April 19th, 2010 | by admin | 4 Comments »

By Marlow Stern

Bill Murray’s demented, gopher-chasing groundskeeper Carl Speckler. Sean Penn’s pizza-munching surfer dude Jeff Spicoli. “Dazed & Confused.” Jay & Silent Bob. Smoky. “Half Baked.” The Dude. The list of memorable silver screen stoners goes on and on. In recent years, as the secondhand smoke emanating from the combos of Harold & Kumar or Seth Rogen-plus-one impair audience’s collective consciousness, one thing has become clear: the stoner comedy duo is decidedly en vogue.

But it all started with Cheech & Chong.

Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong met and bonded over their shared love of cannabis in 1971, captivating audiences with stand-up routines rooted in the hazy hippie/free love/drug culture movements of the ‘70s. The duo billed as ‘Cheech & Chong’ released several successfully comedy albums before co-starring in their first feature film, 1978’s “Up in Smoke.” The film, about two random marijuana-loving musicians who go on a wild road trip together, went on to become a huge success based on word of mouth, grossing over $41 million. It’s since become a classic in the stoner film lexicon. The film was successful enough to warrant a sequel, “Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie,” in 1980, and “Nice Dreams” in 1981. The duo also appeared in smaller supporting roles in Graham Chapman’s “Yellowbeard” and Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” as versions of their Cheech & Chong stoner personas.

In 1985, the duo split. It wasn’t pretty. And what followed was a less-than-stellar friendship. Chong reportedly recalled going to Cheech’s birthday party in 1994 and seeing Cheech “on the couch with his arm around his wife like we had just met. It wasn’t comfortable.”

The duo had plans to reunite for another film when Chong’s California-based company, Chong’s Glass, was raided by federal officials on February 25, 2003, as part of a federal crackdown on drug paraphernalia known as “Operation Pipe Dreams.” Chong was made an example of and forced to plead guilty to charges of conspiring to distribute drug paraphernalia and sentenced to nine months in federal prison. The entire ordeal was documented in Josh Gilbert’s award-winning 2006 film, “A/k/a Tommy Chong.”

Then, on July 30, 2008, the team reunited to publicly announce their fall comedy tour, titled “Cheech and Chong Light Up America/Canada.” And on March 14, 2009, Cheech and Chong recorded two shows at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, TX for a DVD release of the their tour. That DVD, entitled CHEECH AND CHONG’S HEY, WATCH THIS, will be (fittingly) arriving on DVD shelves 4/20.

MMM chatted with the legendary stoner duo of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong about the reason behind their split, why they’ve decided to reunite, their future plans and if they’re still smokin’ after all these years.

MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: I’m curious why you two decided to reunite after all these years and go on tour?

CHEECH MARIN: God told us to.

TOMMY CHONG: The timing was just right, man. Everybody was reuniting, and the brand was slipping away on us.

MARIN: Our brand was slowly changing into Judd Apatow.

MMM: “Harold & Kumar” really borrowed a lot from you guys as well.

MARIN: Yeah. That’s the brand exactly.

CHONG: Sting & the Police got back together and they hate each other. They did it. We figured, “We don’t hate each other. We could do it!”

MMM: Why did you two decide to part ways in 1985?

CHONG: Our string had run out. We were so young when we started – at least Cheech was. He really had a whole career in front of him. Plus, when you do comedy, you get typecast as a comedian and Cheech had more to offer than that. Plus, our string of movies started going downhill instead of uphill.

MMM: Were you two hanging out in between or was it more of a creative breakup?

CHONG: We were busy. Cheech moved out to San Francisco and I was on the road with my wife. We had two separate lives.

MMM: How smoothly did you two get back in the swing of things with this comedy tour?

MARIN: It was like we’d never been away!

CHONG: Yeah, it was weird. Almost thirty years and next thing you know, we’re back on stage. There’s some kind of special vibe in the air. Even when we’re just together in the same room, there’s this energy. And when we get onstage, it’s unbelievable. You can feel the energy.

MMM: How was life on the road for you two?

CHONG: Fantastic. My wife opens the show, so we have to stay in the nicest places wherever we go.

MMM: So this is a long way from the road trip in “Up in Smoke.” You guys weren’t slumming it in a car or R/V.

CHONG: No, no, no. I wouldn’t mind, but Cheech and my wife would put a stop to that one.

MARIN: He wanted a bus and I said, “No way in hell!”

MMM: Any crazy stories from the road?

MARIN: Drunk white guys in suits trying to get onstage. That was crazy. And we were getting a lot of McCain supporters. That was weird!

CHONG: We had to sort of stay away from the political stuff because everyone was going out to see Cheech & Chong. We’re the great uniters! We really unite people.

MMM: Speaking of politics, what are your thoughts on Obama and the gradual move towards legalization?

MARIN: We love him.

CHONG: Obama’s a brother. I love the way he’s handling the Republicans. He handles the Republicans the same way we handle hecklers. He lets them go ‘til they run out of things to say, and with their intelligence it doesn’t take long.

MMM: What was the best/worst city to play on tour?

CHONG: San Francisco was tough. First of all, we played in this dancehall and people were behind us as well as in front of us, and they’re used to rock acts. The vibe was kind of like a gang vibe. Personally, San Antonio was probably the best.

MARIN: More Chicanos!

MMM: What’s the biggest difference between doing your act onstage versus onscreen?

MARIN: Well, we started out onstage. When we started promoting the tour, the DJs asked us, “What are you going to do onstage?” It’s funny because we were stage actors, and we wondered how we could be so big on record when [the audience] couldn’t see us!

MMM: What are your thoughts on legalization?

MARIN: I think [marijuana] should be legal.

CHONG: It’s always been legal in our world. It’s just had penalties.

MMM: What would be the benefits of legalization?

CHONG: The benefits, financially, it would empty the jails. I went to jail because it was illegal. They got me on a technicality. They threatened my son and my wife if I didn’t plead guilty to conspiring to ship a bong across the state line. It was totally bogus.

MMM: That still can’t sit well with you.

CHONG: Yeah. It really defined the Bush administration. That’s what they were interested in. We have Americans attacked by terrorists and they’re coming after me for a bong. It just showed the kind of commitment that Bush had with the War on Terror.

MARIN: But on the bright side, I felt MUCH more secure with Tommy in jail. [Laughs]

CHONG: You and Bill Maher!

MMM: Do you see any disadvantages when it comes to legalization?

CHONG: Just with dealers. They’re not going to be able to charge $3,000 a pound or whatever it is.

MARIN: I think if the government gets a hold of it they’ll put mind-controlling drugs in our pot!

CHONG: I can’t see any disadvantages. I’ve been to Amsterdam and Canada. There’s a pot café in Canada that’s been open for ten years now, and they have absolutely no problems. The only problem they have is that once in a while the police come and raid them. It’s very peaceful.

MMM: I’ve always been curious how close you two actually are to your Cheech & Chong personas?

CHONG: I’m pretty close because the government kind of made me look that way. Cheech played a Chicano in “Up in Smoke” but he’s a champion at Jeopardy.

MARIN: I’m really an Iranian. Don’t tell anybody!

CHONG: [Laughs] I’ve met Iranians that believe that!

MMM: Do you guys still smoke?

MARIN: Every once in a while.

CHONG: I call it “research!”

MMM: What is your preferred method?

MARIN: Suppositories.

CHONG: I’m “experimenting” with drugs.

MMM: Are we going to see any new Cheech & Chong movies? What’s in the pipeline?

CHONG: He said “pipeline!” [Laughs]

MARIN: We’ve got an animated movie coming out.

CHONG: We’re working on this movie and the working title is called, “Grumpy Old Stoners.” It’s “Up in Smoke” 30 years later.

MARIN: We’re going to change it to “Avatar 2” at some point.

MMM: I was always curious how you earned the nickname “Cheech?”

MARIN: When I was a little baby, I was laying in the crib and my Uncle was looking at the crib and pointed to me and said, “Hey, he looks like a little chicharrón!” A little dried up pigskin. Pork rind. So that was my name in the family. When Tommy and I got together, we were trying to look for names for our act and they asked, “Do you have a nickname?” And I said, “Cheech.” And they said, “Cheech & Chong!” [Gasp]

MMM: “Machete” also looks really damn cool. What can we expect?

MARIN: A lot of shit blown up and shooting and the good guys win and the Mexicans are the heroes! I like that scenario. I play a priest who’s Machete’s brother and he helps him in his mission. I told Robert Rodriguez, “You know, whenever you kill me in your movies, your movie’s over! So you better kill me later.” So, he killed me later!

MMM: What do you guys think about your legacy? This reunion really does bring you two full circle in a way.

CHONG: I’m very, very proud. It’s like royalty, you now. When I was in jail, I was known as “Chong” of “Cheech & Chong.”

MARIN: Wherever we go, even if I’m by myself or Tommy’s by himself they go, “Hey! It’s Cheech & Chong!” Like we’re the same person.

MMM: What do you have left to accomplish?

CHONG: To win the Nobel Peace Prize.

MARIN: And to be crowned emperors of the world!

MMM: Great, thanks guys!

MARIN: Thanks Marlow… Mario. “How many syllables, Mario?” [Laughs]

CHEECH AND CHONG’S HEY, WATCH THIS lands on DVD shelves on April 20th (4/20).

DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, the Baywatch movie, Paul Thomas Anderson’s next and more!

April 13th, 2010 | by admin | 5 Comments »

UPCOMING FILM PROJECTS!

Deadline New York is reporting that Leonardo DiCaprio is in early talks to join director Clint Eastwood and producer Brian Grazer in HOOVER, a biopic about FBI director J. Edgar Hoover for Warner Bros. The project, written by Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), hopes to start filming this fall…

Screenwriters Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka have been hired by Paramount to write the screenplay for BAYWATCH, which the studio is looking to release in summer 2011. Gatewood and Tanaka also wrote upcoming comedy THE SITTER, to be directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jonah Hill. Based on series that ran from 1989 to 1999 (and 1999 to 2001 as “Baywatch Hawaii”), the movie is expected to have female-driven action such as “Charlie’s Angels”…

Doug Liman (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) is in negotiations to direct Warner Bros.’ THE THREE MUSKETEERS, which is in a race with the Paul W.S. Anderson-directed THE THREE MUSKETEERS 3D in development at Summit Entertainment. The latter project is currently casting. Producer Lionel Wigram, the creative force behind Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, recently hired screenwriter Peter Straughan (“The Men Who Stare at Goats”) to update Alexandre Dumas’ classic for Warner Bros…

According to Variety, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “United 93”) is in talks to helm a remake of the 1966 sci-fi classic FANTASTIC VOYAGE for producer James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox. The plans would be for the British director to film the special FX-driven adventure movie about a group of scientists miniaturized and shot into another man’s bloodstream to save a life using the same 3D technology Cameron used for his Oscar-nominated Avatar, and if Greengrass signs on, it would be a major departure to his normal M.O. of trying to create gritty realism using handheld cameras…

The Playlist confirmed the rumors that David Fincher (“Fight Club”) will take the director’s chair for Sony’s English-language adaptation of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The film is based on Stieg Larsson’s best-selling series of novels known as “The Millennium Trilogy.” The first book describes the mystery surrounding the long-unsolved disappearance of an heiress. A journalist recently dinged by a libel case and a young female hacker try to resolve it, stirring up bundles of personal and industrial corruption along the way. Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) adapted the script. Scott Rudin is producing and the film is expected to start in September or October. Fincher reportedly is looking for an unknown to play the female lead…

CASTING NEWS!

Jeremy Renner has passed on the lead role in BATTLESHIP to (possibly) star in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s (“There Will Be Blood”) upcoming UNTITLED SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE alongside Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman…

Meanwhile, Taylor Kitsch (upcoming “John Carter of Mars,” TV’s “Friday Night Lights”) will star in Universal’s adaptation of the Hasbro game BATTLESHIP. Peter Berg is directing the action adventure, which will unfold as a massive Naval adventure across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force. Heat Vision says Kitsch is playing a Naval commander named Alex Hopper, described as “wildly spirited” and “a great seaman but a lousy politician”…

IRON MAN 2 helmer Jon Favreau has confirmed a Latino Review scoop that Harrison Ford is joining Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde in the director’s graphic novel adaptation COWBOYS & ALIENS. Favreau posted the following on his Twitter account:

Please stop asking if Harrison Ford is in Cowboys & Aliens. Okay? He is. Please don’t tell anybody.

Based on the Platinum Studios Comics graphic novel written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley, the sci-fi Western explores what would happen if the traditional Old West enemies — cowboys and Native Americans — found the prairie attacked by aliens in mid-1800s Arizona. The DreamWorks and Universal movie is targeting a July 29, 2011 release. Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof wrote the script…

Winona Ryder has joined director Ron Howard’s comedy CHEATERS, according to Deadline Hollywood. In the Universal release, written by Allan Loeb, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James play best friends and business partners. Vaughn’s character is tortured when he observes his pal’s wife (Winona Ryder) getting intimate with another man in a restaurant. A release date for the film has not yet been set…

SEQUELS, SEQUELS, SEQUELS…

New Line/Warner Bros. has set a summer start date for A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR CHRISTMAS, which may be released in 3D. The sequel will mark the return of Kal Penn to movies as he’s put his career on hold to take the position of associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg were previously announced as being the writers and directors of the third installment… AND the team of Hurwitz/Schlossberg will also be helming AMERICAN PIE 4, which plans to bring back the entire original cast (although no deals have been signed yet)…

TERRIBLE REMAKE NEWS!

New Line/Warner Bros. is remaking the 1980 comedy PRIVATE BENJAMIN with Anna Faris attached to star. The original starred Goldie Hawn as a spoiled woman who joins the Army after her husband dies during sex on their wedding night. The film received three Oscar nominations – for Hawn, supporting actress Eileen Brennan and original screenplay. The new take, to be written by Amy Talkington, will set the story in contemporary times with modern wars as the backdrop…

AT THE MULTIPLEX!

Though relatively banal fare like DATE NIGHT (perfect casting squandered by lame writing and poor pacing) and CLASH OF THE TITANS (a few fun actions scenes but mostly crap) continue to dominate the box office charts, don’t be dismayed! A savior is coming in the form of the Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”) film KICK-ASS (opening April 16th). The film, about a group of comic book geekts-cum-vigilantes, lives up to it’s title, and is one brutal, hilarious, fun ride. Also worth checking out in limited release is the Australian neo-noir THE SQUARE, directed by Noel Edgerton and starring his brother, Joel. It’s a heist thriller in the Coen’s mold that is gripping from beginning to end…

…Until next week!

Michel Gondry Documents The Thorn in the Heart!

April 3rd, 2010 | by admin | 3 Comments »

By Marlow Stern

An artist of protean talent, Michel Gondry began his career making music videos for his French rock band Oui Oui, where he was the drummer. The stylization of these videos caught the attention of Icelandic singer Björk, who asked him to direct the video for her first solo single “Human Behaviour.” The avant garde video, a surrealist take on the children’s tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” would garner six nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards and announce a new talent. The Gondry/Björk collaboration would last a total of seven music videos, with Gondry going on to direct videos for Daft Punk, The White Stripes, Radiohead, Beck and more.

Gondry has also created several award-winning television commercials. He invented the famous “bullet time” technique made famous by “The Matrix” in a 1998 commercial for Smirnoff vodka, and his Levi’s 501 Jeans “Drugstore” spot holds the Guinness World Record for “Most awards won by a TV commercial.”

Gondry, along with fellow music video helmers Spike Jonze and David Fincher, soon segued into film, making his feature directorial debut with 2001’s “Human Nature,” garnering mixed reviews. His second film, 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” would better utilize many of Gondry’s image manipulation techniques that garnered him acclaim in the music video world, and received critical praise, including an Academy Award win alongside Charlie Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth for the film’s screenplay. Gondry also directed two films in 2006: the musical documentary “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” which followed comedian Dave Chappelle’s attempt to host a free mega-concert in Brooklyn, and “The Science of Sleep,” starring Gael García Bernal as a young man whose imagination conflicts with reality. In 2008, he directed his first Hollywood film, “Be Kind Rewind,” about a pair of sad sack video store employees who are forced to make DIY home videos to salvage their business.

If you’re still not convinced of Gondry’s ability, feel free to check out this video of Msr. Gondry solving a Rubik’s Cube with his feet. Satisfied?

His latest film marks a return to the documentary milieu he explored “Block Party,” but this time it’s personal. In The Thorn in the Heart (L’épine dans le coeur), Michel Gondry chronicles the life of the Gondry family matriarch, his aunt Suzette Gondry, and her strained relationship with her son, Jean-Yves.

MMM sat down for a long conversation over lunch with Michel Gondry – with a special cameo appearance by his artist-son Paul – chatting about his most personal film to date, filmmaking techniques, his upcoming superhero film “The Green Hornet,” starring Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz, and much more.

MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: What made you think your aunt would make such a good documentary subject?

MICHEL GONDRY: It was my son, actually. He told me that when she visited here in 2004 while I was shooting “Eternal Sunshine,” she was taking care of my son and started to tell her stories, and he said, “Dad, you have to make a movie about Suzette.” So, I obeyed my son.

MMM: How did you gather so much archival material?

GONDRY: We are a very visual family. Those microfilms look like sperm invading an egg! [Laughs] My father introduced my cousin to Super 8 technology and he was into it. He had this digital editing system and he’d make them himself. So, we have tons of footage from the ‘70s in my family. We’re big in Super 8. And I was taking a lot of photos and printing them myself, but none you see in this documentary.

MMM: Why did you decide to shape the documentary the way you did?

GONDRY: Initially, I wanted to visit all the schools that Suzette had taught in because it’s driven by the department, so she would always be sent around the 8 schools in the place where she lived. Some had been destroyed and some had been taken over by habitation. I thought I would follow her teaching years chronologically, and it took me two years, but she didn’t want to talk about her problems with her son. She knew I was interested so we asked him to cook for the crew, and then we started to interview him as her pupil, then the mother/son relationship started. I remember my DP said, “Oh, you wanted some drama? There you are!” That became the axis of the documentary.

MMM: How does your filmmaking approach change when you’re doing a documentary as opposed to one of your feature films?

GONDRY: You don’t have a screenplay of course and I think it’s very important to go when you don’t know your answers. I think you have to be able to come back with the opposite answer from what you expect. To me, the interest is to be recording what you discover and why you’re finding it, which allows the audience to be part of it. So basically, I prepare for not being prepared. But then I have to be really courageous to ask the questions. When I watch “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” I have all these questions that I think I should have asked, and the next time I’ll be asking those questions.

MMM: Were there some answers that were too painful or embarrassing to be included in the film?

GONDRY: No… There was a story about some jewelry that my grandmother had given to her that apparently she didn’t share. I confronted her in an interview but it wasn’t interesting. During the process, there were a lot of dark stories like in any family. Doing the documentary, I clarified all that and I feel better with my relationship with my aunty. Some people don’t like her in the family because she’s quite hard sometimes, and I think she’s much softer now. I wanted to show that. That’s why I made her cry – not really purposely. I know that’s terrible, but I think she’s a kind person.

MMM: Has Suzette seen the documentary?

GONDRY: Of course. She was very sad in the beginning, especially when she saw the title, because she thought I was just focusing on the negative part. I had to write her a letter saying it was my way to show who she really was. We showed it to my village and it was very nice. People really appreciated that we talked about things honestly. In France, it’s a country where people are very harsh and enclosed and don’t communicate very much. My cousin, even though it was tough on him, he enjoyed it because of the attention. My son, on the other hand, doesn’t jump to see my work. He’s 19 right now and he wants to be his own person. [Laughs] He lives on his own in Brooklyn.

[Michel leaves the interview to go grab his son, Paul Gondry. Paul enters the room in a trilby hat, three-piece suit with vest and paint-stained leather shoes.]

MMM: Are you working on films as well?

PAUL GONDRY: Me? I’m working on a film. I don’t know if I’m going to work in films. I’m living in Brooklyn right now, taking care of [Michel’s] house.

GONDRY: He’s not taking care on his own. He’s taking care of my house with all his friends! [Laughs]

MMM: You were quite young on film and look much older now. Do you remember anything from the making of the film?

PAUL: I remember me, like, fucking around.

GONDRY: What!?!

PAUL: Goofing around.

GONDRY: Yes. I prefer that!

PAUL: I was satanic at the time, so I was having crazy rituals at the house like drinking blood, crazy stuff. The house was really gothic which was hilarious. Suzette was trying to take care of me in New York, and I have some really funny memories about that.

GONDRY: It was easy for me because I didn’t know the answers to religious questions so since he believed in Satan, I didn’t have to get involved with that! [Laughs]

[Paul leaves the interview.]

MMM: Is Suzette your aunt by marriage?

GONDRY: Yeah, by marriage. No blood.

MMM: It’s funny because you two look so much alike.

GONDRY: Yeah, I know! I look more like her than her son looks like her! It’s funny. Maybe she’s the mother… I spend more time with her than my mom now, and she probably enjoys my company more than her son. You don’t choose your parents and you don’t choose your children in a way.

MMM: Were there moments where you ever wanted to stop filming? Because at one point, she starts to cry and you even say, “Oh no, I’m being mean.”

GONDRY: That’s where my function of director takes over. I always keep in mind the ethic, which is, “At the end of the day, the individual is more important than the film.” But if the film is not good, then it’s not good for her. I’m willing to go into those places. When I travel in a small plane I get very scared but if I’m traveling with a camera, I don’t get scared. I remember when I was shooting a video for Bjork and I was hanging out of the side of a helicopter and I would be terrified as soon as the camera was running out of film. But while the camera was rolling, I wouldn’t feel a thing. The camera allows me to be different then how I would be without it. But I try to be decent and supporting.

MMM: What do you think audiences will take away from this study of Suzette’s life?

GONDRY: Some people may think, “Why would you do a documentary about anyone like that?” And I think it’s poor thinking. One guy who gave me a bad review said, “Eighty-five percent of people’s lives are boring and that’s why we invented entertainment.” That was very flattering for me to hear because I believe exactly the opposite. I think that in eighty-five percent of movies we see, we see people who are already in the spotlight. We never film people who aren’t in something publicly. I’m not the only one to do a documentary of people in their family, it’s been done, but I think filming people for who they are, regardless of their achievement, it’s interesting. What I hope is that people don’t feel so bad about their own family after seeing the film.

MMM: But did you learn anything new?

GONDRY: I clarified a lot of doubts I had on Suzette, and I understood what was going on. I understood why it was hard for her to stand her son, because he’s a pain the neck! As great as he is, you have to deal with him. He came to visit me for two weeks in Los Angeles and I was happy when he left. Some people, you like them but you’re happy when you say goodbye too because you can breathe. Some people are so needy that they won’t let you think! I was trying to shoot the film and he was asking me questions every ten seconds. I found this guy while I was shooting who was very talkative and spoke French, so I got them talking together, and the guy ended up visiting France and seeing [my cousin]. Suzette and I are getting along because I don’t mind her telling me a story and she doesn’t mind not talking for hours. When my father passed away, I was staying with her at this house and we took a three-hour walk and we didn’t say one word. It was very comforting.

MMM: One of the most interesting elements of Suzette’s life is her time spent teaching both male and female Algerian children at a time when they were outcasts of sorts in French society. What drove her to do that?

GONDRY: It’s very interesting. Her perspective on nature is very specific. She’s part of a very mature environment. In her village, women would not sit at the table at dinner. They would stand in the kitchen while men would be eating about 50, 100 years ago. That was in the blood, the culture. She really worked very hard for people yet she’s a suffragette in her own way. So, there is this tolerance to teach to people who are not necessarily welcome. And she treats me like a king when I visit her. Everybody has to work but me and sometimes I feel embarrassed, because whenever anyone argues with me, she always takes my side!

MMM: We’re used to “Michel Gondry: Innovative Filmmaker,” and there are a few scenes in this film that are Gondry-esque, but, for the most part, it’s pretty straightforward. So was it difficult to restrain yourself from a technological standpoint in this film?

GONDRY: With the invisible costumes in the school, I wanted the children to enjoy the special effects in the project. Before the documentary was finished, we did a DVD and sent it to the kids, so it was to participate in the magic. With the animation, Suzette wanted me to do some because we shot “The Science of Sleep” in her house, and she had a great time. So I did it a little bit for her.

MMM: What are you doing next?

GONDRY: I’m finishing editing “The Green Hornet,” and I am working on a project with my son – an animated feature film – based on my son’s story and my contribution. My son is an amazing artist and wants to be his own person so I don’t want to say it’s about me too much!

MMM: You’ve said “Back to the Future” is one of your favorite films. Will the tone of “Green Hornet” be close to that? A comedic tone?

GONDRY: A little bit, maybe. More action. A lot of fights. It’s comedic. It’s a cross between “Pineapple Express,” “Back to the Future” and me, but it’s a bit more violent.

MMM: Are you planning on directing any music videos in the near future?

GONDRY: I’m directing a video for Mia Doi Todd. She’s a  singer. We broke up recently after dating for a while, but she’s a great, talented artist.

THE THORN IN THE HEART opens in select theaters on April 2nd.

More Independence Day for Will Smith? Another Godzilla? And more…

March 31st, 2010 | by admin | 12 Comments »

UPCOMING FILM PROJECTS!

Legendary Pictures announced today they are ready to start developing a new movie based on the legendary Toho Studios monster GODZILLA, having acquired the rights to the character Toho created over fifty years ago in the 1954 film, which has since become a genre classic. Legendary is producing the movie through their deal with Warner Bros. with hopes to announce a director soon to helm the movie with the intention of having it ready for a 2012 release…

ShockTillYouDrop.com reports that “Cop “ director Kevin Smith is preparing to start filming RED STATE this July. Smith said via Twitter: “First draft was dated 9/5/07. Looks like we start shooting this July. Took nearly three years, but we’re finally gonna roll on ‘Red.’” It’s supposedly a gory, disturbing slasher film…

Noah Baumbach (“Greenberg”) will direct THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN from his own script for Imagine Entertainment, reports The Wrap. Ron Howard, who was previously attached to direct, will produce with partner Brian Grazer. Keira Knightley, Eric Bana and Richard Gere are attached to star. Filming on the dramedy would start this summer. The film is based on Claire Messud’s 2006 best-selling novel, which is described as follows: The Emperor’s Children is a dazzling, masterful novel about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way—and not—in New York City…

Lionsgate has confirmed that John Singleton (“2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Boyz n da hood”) has signed on to direct the thriller ABDUCTION. Taylor Lautner (“The Twilight Saga”) will star as a teen who has long felt disconnected from his parents. He discovers his own baby picture on a missing persons website, which unleashes a chain of violent events. Filming is scheduled to begin this July in Pittsburgh…

CASTING NEWS!

Tracy Morgan and Juliette Binoche are in final negotiations to join police thriller SON OF NO ONE, being directed by Dito Montiel (“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”). They join a cast that includes Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Ray Liotta and Katie Holmes. Morgan is replacing the previously-announced Terrence Howard. In the project, Tatum plays a young cop assigned to a precinct in the working class neighborhood where he grew up, with an old secret surfacing and threatening to destroy his life and family. Morgan will play Vinnie, a friend of Tatum’s, while Binoche plays a reporter. Shooting starts next week in New York…

Kate Hudson is in negotiations to join Ginnifer Goodwin, John Krasinski and Colin Egglesfield in SOMETHING BORROWED. Based on Emily Giffin’s 2005 debut novel, the film centers on a Manhattan attorney (Goodwin) who becomes involved with her best friend’s (Hudson) fiance following her 30th birthday. Luke Greenfield (“The Girl Next Door”) is set to direct and filming starts next month…

WE GOIN’ TO CANNES!

Director Ridley Scott’s take on ROBIN HOOD, starring Russell Crowe in his fourth film with the filmmaker, will open globally on May 14, but two days earlier, it will open the 63rd Festival de Cannes continuing a long-standing tradition of the prestigious festival opening with a big summer movie. It marks Scott’s return to the annual film festival and market for the first time since 1991 when “Thelma & Louise” was presented there out of competition, and it follows the likes of Pixar’s “Up” and Ron Howard’s “The Da Vinci Code” as the festival’s opening night film. Crowe and Scott first teamed for the 2000 epic “Gladiator,” for which Crowe won an Oscar. ROBIN HOOD also stars Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston and Max Von Sydow…

SEQUELS, SEQUELS, SEQUELS…

IESB is reporting a rumor that Will Smith has signed a deal with 20th Century Fox to make two INDEPENDENCE DAY sequels that would be shot back-to-back. According to the site’s source, if all goes according to plan, the sequel(s) could shoot as early as 2011. Roland Emmerich would again direct after his Shakespeare drama “Anonymous.” The films would start after Smith completes his next project, which could either be MEN IN BLACK 3 or THE CITY THAT SAILED

Heat Vision is reporting that “Ratatouille” helmer Brad Bird is a contender to direct MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE IV, to again star Tom Cruise and to be produced by J.J. Abrams and Cruise. Paramount Pictures is targeting a summer start for a May 27, 2011 release. Cruise and Abrams have been meeting with helmers including “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” director Edgar Wright. Bird’s credits also include “The Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles.” While he’s never directed a live-action movie before, he has long been developing 1906, set around the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. That project is set up at Warner Bros. and is reportedly stalled because of budgetary reasons…

Robert Downey Jr. was at ShoWest a couple of weeks ago promoting the fall release of the Todd Phillips comedy DUE DATE which teams him with comedian Zach Galifianakis. Downey spoke to The Associated Press and said, “Galifianakis said he expects to begin work this fall on the sequel to ‘The Hangover,’ while Downey said he aims to suit up for a third ‘Iron Man’ flick…

Dimension Films’ SCREAM 4 will go into production this spring with the original writer/director combo of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven. Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox Arquette will be reprising their roles from the original “Scream” installments. Joining the returning cast members will be a new group of young actors. The “Scream” franchise has grossed more than $500 million at the worldwide box office and ushered in a new wave of horror in the 1990s. “Scream 4” will be released on April 15, 2011…

STUDIO ACQUISITIONS NEWS!

I’m not sure how a company that’s $250 million in debt can keep acquiring films, but… The Weinstein Company announced that they have acquired US rights to THE COMPANY MEN, the first feature film by writer/director John Wells (TV’s “E.R.”). “The Company Men” is, according to the Weinstein Co.,  a powerful and heartwrenching portrayal of corporate downsizing with acclaimed performances by Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones. The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival to mixed audience and critical response, and the Weinstein Co. plans to release the film later this year…

TWILIGHT: NEW MOON SINKS ITS FANGS INTO DVD!

Despite the pitiable state of the DVD market, Summit Entertainment announced that the home entertainment release of the studio’s THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON sold just over 4 million DVD units in its first weekend of release. The tally surpasses the first weekend sales of Twilight in 2009 which sold 3.8 million DVD units, and went on to be the top selling DVD title of the year with 9.2 million units sold. The DVD launch of “New Moon” commenced this past Saturday morning with 7,000 retail locations nationwide taking part in events at midnight giving fans their first chance to obtain a DVD of the film…

AT THE MULTIPLEX!

The 3-D flick HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON opened to a disappointing $43.3 million at the box office, causing shares in producing studio Dreamworks to drop. Opening this weekend, you could check the 3D flick CLASH OF THE TITANS, which is a silly action-packed flick that’s most notable for the clash between “Schindler’s List” stars Liam Neeson (Zeus) and Ralph Fiennes (Hades). Also notable in limited release: there’s the hyper-indie relationship drama BREAKING UPWARDS, shot in and around NYC for just $15,000, and very affecting. Also, you can check out the Michel Gondry documentary A THORN IN THE HEART or the Carey Mulligan indie flick THE GREATEST. Her performance in that is even better than the one in “An Education”…

…Until next week!