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10 items from 2006


Not ready to retire: MPTF meets its future

10 November 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Hal Riddle, a Kentucky boy made good in Hollywood film and TV, moved into the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home at age 75.

"I was a youngster then", the ham-boned character actor deadpanned. He turns 87 in December.

"The first day I moved in, I just knew I was home," Riddle added in a voice gone suddenly soft. "Where else can you retire and everybody else is of your ilk?"

Indeed, a stroll around the landscaped grounds of the Wasserman Campus, as the 44-acre MPTF home and hospital is known, makes it plain that this is a place full of industry folk.

Residents regale visitors with career anecdotes, and campus facilities are dotted with plaques acknowledging gifts from famous MPTF benefactors. Film star photos line corridor walls, interspersed in one space with snapshots of a campus acting troupe. A 250-seat cinema, programd weekly by a residents committee, shows a discernible skew toward serious movie fare, often of the art house variety.

But the 85-year-old Fund finds itself at a significant crossroads, fraught with challenges despite continuing signs of vitality, like the $19 million Saban Center for Health and Wellness set to open in late spring. Part of the challenge is generational.

"Hollywood used to be connected to the Fund, and we are trying to re-create that," said Frank Mancuso, former chairman of MGM and longtime head of Paramount Pictures who was tapped as chairman of the MPTF corporate board about four years ago. "We have to pass this off at some point to a younger group, who hopefully will be as engaged and want to do everything they can do to make this work and continue."

To that end, the MPTF on Saturday will stage its second annual black-tie gala, "A Fine Romance". The Hollywood-meets-Broadway fundraiser is aimed in part at getting showbiz's younger set in touch with the MPTF.

Mancuso threw the first edition of the glitzy, entertainment-laden bash last year in his football field of a Holmby Hills backyard. This year's setting will be Sunset + Gower Studios in Hollywood.

"The entire evening is devoted to celebrating the love affair between Broadway and the movies," said Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos, who is chairing "A Fine Romance" this year after co-chairing the first event. "The MPTF mission is taking care of our own, and I think it is particularly important in our industry. Fame, work and popularity can be fleeting, but many people give their talent and their life's work to entertaining others, and it's only fitting that we look after them in a time of need."

The Hollywood Reporter again will serve as a primary sponsor of the event, and Catherine Zeta-Jones again will reprise her role as performing host, joined this year by Harry Connick Jr. Other performers will include Christina Applegate, Shirley MacLaine, Bernadette Peters, Rita Wilson, Andrea McArdle, Kristen Bell and Jennifer Hudson. Dan Jinks ("American Beauty") and Laurence Mark ("Dreamgirls") are producing the event, with John Mauceri of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra again on board as musical director.

Created by Mary Pickford and colleagues in the 1920s, moved into its Woodland Hills headquarters in the '40s and expanded into new service areas in the '90s, the Fund faces an ambitious new mission in the new millennium.

MPTF execs hope to shift its focus to community- and home-based services even as the aging of the baby-boomer generation produces a swell of seniors in need of aging services. Such an adjustment should be cost-effective and popular, they believe, as seniors look to delay entering retirement communities ever longer.

In fact, even though the Fund is identified mostly with its residential retirement community, increasing numbers of clients put off moving onto the campus and instead seek other sorts of assistance, such as retrofitting of their personal residences with rampways, hallway and bathroom grab-bars, and closet adjustments. A trend toward home-based assisted care is expected to grow dramatically, so the MPTF also plans on subsidizing community-based counseling and health-care services for its clients.

Such a shift requires a ramping up of certain MPTF operations, but it also has eased a backlog of applicants for accommodations on the Wasserman campus.

"Five years ago, demand here exceeded capacity," MPTF CEO Dr. David Tillman said, noting a onetime waiting period of five years. "Now, there's a pretty good match."

There are 185 residents of the campus' Country House Cottages, Frances Goldwyn Lodge and Fran & Ray Stark Villa, and another 190 in a related nursing facility, with an average move-in age of 86 and an oldest resident who is 107. Anybody 70 or older with 20 years of employment in film, TV or other entertainment-related fields can apply for eligibility, and even parents of entertainment professionals are eligible for the nursing facility.

Costs, which are subsidized by the Fund, are billed to residents on a graduated scale tied to ability to pay.

Since the '90s, the MPTF also operates five health centers located throughout the Los Angeles area, supported by the health funds of several Hollywood guilds and unions. Other offerings include financial assistance for needy industry vets, counseling and other social and charitable services, and the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation child-care center in West Los Angeles.

With an annual budget of more than $100 million, the MPTF couldn't function without the regular flow of philanthropy.

"There is no other industry in the world that has accomplished what the movie and TV industry has accomplished, which is creating a health and social enterprise that is there for those who need it," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, who heads the MPTF Foundation board and chairs its Oscar-eve fundraiser, the Night Before. "I find our industry to be incredibly philanthropic and generous, lending their time and creativity and opening their pocketbooks so generously and so frequently. And for all those things that we do, I don't think anything is more important than first and foremost taking care of your own."

The DreamWorks Animation chief is working to raise the balance of funding for the new 30,000-square-foot Saban Center. The facility's mission is threefold: to add various health and wellness amenities, including a large pool and exercise room; to create a geriatric health evaluation and outreach headquarters offering counseling and other services; and to launch an aging-research unit and related experimental programs.

TV titan Haim Saban and his wife, Dr. Cheryl Saban, donated $10 million for construction of the center; Jodie Foster earmarked a $1 million gift for its aquatic facility; and $2 million in federal funds is tagged for various aging programs.

But Katzenberg said more involvement from younger Hollywood -- following the historic example of such tireless benefactors as Pickford, Lew and Edie Wasserman, Roddy McDowell and many others -- is necessary to the MPTF at an optimum operating level.

"The MPTF has had eight decades of this industry supporting it, which probably represents about four or five generations," he said. "So one of the challenges that we uniquely have is making sure, with each new generation that comes along, that we make it relevant for them."

The Fund's Next Generation Council -- chaired by Robert Osher, chief operating officer of Columbia Pictures Motion Picture Group -- regularly reaches out to Hollywood's younger set.

And staging A Fine Romance "opens us up to people we normally don't see," said Ken Scherer, CEO of the MPTF Foundation. Even event producers Jinks and Mark were relatively unfamiliar with the MPTF before their coming aboard, Scherer noted.

Of course, there's no shortage of celebs making the occasional stop to visit and entertain residents, a kindness that's always appreciated and which somehow seems to increase in frequency during Oscar season.

"This is a voting population, you know!" Mancuso noted with no little amusement.

Meanwhile, officials boasting of state-of-the-art senior care get no argument from Bill Martinez, former TV stage manager and five-year campus resident with his wife, Peggy.

"It's great, it's wonderful", the octogenarian observed with a small catch of emotion. " I worked 40 years in the business, and this was here waiting for us." »

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Swayze Defends Gibson

7 August 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Hollywood star Patrick Swayze is the latest celebrity to defend Mel Gibson, following his controversial drink driving arrest last month. The Lethal Weapon star issued a apology last week after it was revealed he had made anti-Semitic comments in a drunken tirade on a Malibu, California highway. While some Hollywood producers and agents have stepped forward to condemn Gibson's drunken slurs, the actor's pals - producer Dean Devlin and actress Jodie Foster have offered their support to the troubled star. Swayze says, "Mel is a wonderful human being. He is not anti-Semetic. People say stupid things when they happen to have a few (drinks), and especially if you don't drink any more, or have limited your drinking for a long time and all of a sudden you decide to have one too many with the boys - you are stupid." The Dirty Dancing star is confident the incident will not affect Gibson's career, adding, "When you are a pit bull, and you love what you do and you are going to continue to grow, that talent will find its way out. Talent deserves to be honored. Hands deserve to be slapped if you do something stupid as well, but don't take it too far." »

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Steenburgen, Andrews in 'Brave' world

2 June 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Naveen Andrews and Mary Steenburgen are showing their pluck by taking on The Brave One. Neil Jordan is directing the Jodie Foster revenge thriller, which Joel Silver is producing for Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Prods. Foster is set as the title character, a woman who recovers from a brutal attack and sets out on a dark psychological and physical journey for revenge and justice. Andrews will play Foster's fiance, while Steenburgen is her boss at the newspaper for which she writes. »

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Boffo: Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters

20 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

CANNES -- Good popcorn movies, commercial cinema, are hard to create. There’s no formula, no sure thing, and William Goldman’s dictum that "nobody knows anything" still proves the most golden of all the nonrules in Hollywood moviemaking.

An affectionate, comprehensive overview of Hollywood’s blockbusters and bombs, "Boffo!: Tinseltown’s Bombs and Blockbusters" encapsulates that mythical lightning in a bottle that miraculously strikes within the most unlikely projects and implodes other "sure things." Mixing a superb collection of clips from such blockbusters as The Godfather, Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy and Titanic as well as such mega-bombs as Howard the Duck and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Boffo illuminates that one contradictory reality of Hollywood moviemaking: The trouble with moviemaking is that it is a business, but the trouble with it as a business is that it is also an art.

Amplified by an array of eclectic insights from all the right suspects, "Boffo!" should delight serious cineastes as well as entertain popcorn-munching casual viewers. Best yet, you don’t have to understand Variety-ese or have read a boxoffice report to appreciate the anecdotal movie wisdom imparted here under the entertaining guidance of director Bill Couturie.

The smartly selected clips are marvelously orchestrated and intercut with a wide range of industry players, including executive types, actors, filmmakers and hyphenates, Tom Rothman, Sherry Lansing, Peter Guber, Charlize Theron, David Brown, Robert Evans, Pierce Brosnan, Morgan Freeman, Richard Dreyfuss, George Clooney, Brian Grazer and Jodie Foster among them.

Buttressed by an industry-savvy script from Peter Bart and Couturie, "Boffo!" is a wide-eyed squint at the thinking, dreaming and naysaying that make up the crazy alchemy of moviemaking.

While the film basically goes as far back as The Godfather, it raises vexing questions in this day in which everything seems to be created sequel: What stories to tell with the new technology? In its paradoxical wisdom, "Boffo!" shows the true magic of Jaws was in Steven Spielberg’s making do without a working shark — having the shark looming offscreen was the key to the film’s power. Now, the shark is the technology. And, the new hit-makers will, like Spielberg, have to learn to keep it in its place.

Boffo! Tinseltown’s Bombs and Blockbusters

HBO Documentary Films

A Film by Bill Couturie

Director: Bill Couturie; Screenwriters: Peter Bart, Bill Couturie; Suggested by the book "Boffo: How I Learned to Love the Blockbuster and Fear the Bomb" by: Peter Bart; Producers: Anne Sandkuhler, Bill Couturie; Executive producers: Peter Bart, Charlie Koones, Sheila Nevins; Supervising producer: John Hoffman; Co-producer: Timothy M. Gray; Associate producer: Alexis Ercoli; Director of photography: Stephen Lighthill; Composer: Todd Boekelheide.

Featuring: Peter Bogdanovich, Pierce Brosnan, David Brown, George Clooney, Danny DeVito, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Evans, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Brian Grazer, Peter Guber, Alan Horn, Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, Sherry Lansing, Penny Marshall, Sydney Pollack, Tom Rothman, John Singleton, Charlize Theron, Nia Vardalos, Richard Zanuck.

No MPAA rating, running time 80 minutes. »

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Foster Quotes Eminem in Graduation Speech

16 May 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster spoke at the University of Pennsylvania's commencement ceremony on Monday, ending her address with a surprise quote from rapper Eminem's hit Lose Yourself - the end chorus. The actress, who graduated from Ivy League rival Yale University in 1985, received an honorary doctor of arts degree. The Silence Of The Lambs star earned laughs from the graduates by taking pictures of them from the podium and recalled her own college days at Yale. The speech struck a serious note when Foster said the US and the world are worse off than they were four years ago and challenged graduates to become active in turning things around. Aimee Masters, who received a bachelor's degree in sociology and women's studies during the ceremony, said Foster was "really inspiring." She says, "Everyone around me was really happy with what she said." Masters added that the Eminem quote "was surprising, but I liked it." »

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'Inside Man' powers boxoffice with $29 million

27 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Throwing off a lingering winter chill, the first weekend of spring saw the North American boxoffice perk up. Universal Pictures' Inside Man took moviegoers hostage as it commanded the top spot with a bigger-than-expected $29 million bow. The total boxoffice for the 116 films tracked by the Hollywood Reporter was $109.3 million, up 10.4% from the comparable weekend in 2005 when Sony Pictures' comedy Guess Who, starring Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, took the top slot with $20.7 million, followed by that weekend's other new arrival, Warner Bros. Pictures' Miss Congeniality 2, starring Sandra Bullock, which scored $14 million. It was the first weekend in a while to see an uptick in comparison to last year. Though a taught, twisty thriller, the R-rated Inside Man left its distributor, Universal Pictures, laughing all the way to the bank. Director Spike Lee and star Denzel Washington -- whose previous collaborations include Mo' Better Blues and Malcolm X -- each scored a personal best as the movie attracted older moviegoers to the multiplex. The Imagination Entertainment production, which boasts supporting turns from Jodie Foster and Clive Owen, drew an audience with 68% over age 30. The majority reported Washington's star presence as the primary factor drawing them to the movie. »

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Boxofffice preview: Heist thriller has 'Inside' track

24 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The star-laden Inside Man, from Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment, looks to be the top film at the boxoffice this weekend. Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen headline the dramatic crime thriller, with directing chores shouldered by Spike Lee from a script by Russell Gewirtz. Imagine's Brian Grazer produced the New York-set movie. Inside is a heist film that takes place in and around a bank on Wall Street. The story revolves around a hostage situation that turns into a cat-and-mouse game between the head bank robber and a veteran police detective, with twists and turns throughout. The R-rated picture opens the widest among this weekend's three new wide releases, bowing in 2,817 venues, and has garnered mostly positive reviews. »

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Boxofffice preview: Heist thriller has 'Inside' track

23 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The star-laden Inside Man, from Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment, looks to be the top film at the boxoffice this weekend. Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen headline the dramatic crime thriller, with directing chores shouldered by Spike Lee from a script by Russell Gewirtz. Imagine's Brian Grazer produced the New York-set movie. Inside is a heist film that takes place in and around a bank on Wall Street. The story revolves around a hostage situation that turns into a cat-and-mouse game between the head bank robber and a veteran police detective, with twists and turns throughout. The R-rated picture opens the widest among this weekend's three new wide releases, bowing in 2,817 venues, and has garnered mostly positive reviews. »

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L.A.'s Irish community goes 'Wilde' for writers

4 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

A host of Irish and Irish-American industry toppers turned out in Los Angeles for the inaugural edition of the Oscar Wilde: Honoring Irish Writing in Film awards hosted by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance. Iish helmers Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan and composer David Holmes were honored at Thursday's event at the Ebell Theater complex. The gathering is designed to "honor the craft of writing and expand the existing ties between the entertainment industries in the U.S. and Ireland, particularly film production, gaming, music and animation," said Trina Vargo, president of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance in introducing the honorees. Actors Adrian Dunbar, Jodie Foster Anjelica Huston, Cillian Murphy, Fionnuala Flanagan, Daryl Hannah, Dennis Hopper, Rachel Griffiths and Martin McDonagh were among the guests. »

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Howard set for 'Brave'; Jordan near

31 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Terrence Howard and Neil Jordan are mustering the courage to take on The Brave One. Howard is set to star opposite Jodie Foster in the revenge thriller, while Jordan is in negotiations to direct the film. Joel Silver is producing for Warner Bros. Pictures. Foster is set as the title character, a woman who recovers from a brutal attack and sets out on a dark, psychological and physical journey for revenge and justice. Howard will play a cop who has a tough choice to make. Cynthia Mort did the most recent rewrite on the project, which initially was a spec written by father-and-son team Bruce and Roderick Taylor. Michael Seitzman (North Country) also did a rewrite. »

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10 items from 2006


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