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5 items from 2003

Actor Alan Bates Dies at 69

28 December 2003 | IMDb News

Actor Alan Bates, who came to fame as one of British cinema's "angry young men" of the 60s and whose heralded stage and screen career was marked by a love of acting as opposed to fame, died Saturday night in London after a long battle with cancer; he was 69. Educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Bates indeed helped launch the genre of angry young men plays by starring in John Osbourne's Look Back in Anger in 1956, which started him on a stage career that was marked by innumerable roles created by classic playwrights. His first major film role in 1960 was opposite none other than Laurence Olivier in Osbourne's The Entertainer, in which Bates and a young Albert Finney played the sons of Olivier's shabby vaudevillian. Roles in Whistle Down the Wind, A Kind of Loving and The Running Man followed, but it was Bates' two successive performances in Zorba the Greek and Georgy Girl that helped make him a film star; the former film, in which he played a repressed Englishman opposite Anthony Quinn's life-affirming Zorba, received a Best Picture nomination. Bates himself received a Best Actor nomination for John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968), and a year later earned more fame and a bit of notoriety for Ken Russell's erotic adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love, in which he wrestled naked with Oliver Reed. Notable film roles also included Far From the Madding Crowd, An Unmarried Woman, The Rose and his turn as Claudius in Mel Gibson's Hamlet. Bates also won a Tony award in 2002 for Turgenev's Fortune's Fool and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1995 and knighted last year. Most recently, Bates was seen onscreen in the thriller The Sum of All Fears, Robert Altman's Oscar-winning Gosford Park and this year's drama The Statement. Bates, whose son Tristan died in 1990 and wife Victoria Ford died in 1992, is survived by two brothers, son Benedick, and a granddaughter. --Prepared by IMDb staff »

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Big Fish

12 December 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »


Wednesday, Dec. 10

"Big Fish" is a misfire. The film that wants to be lighter than air instead crashes to earth with the swiftness of a concrete parachute. Director Tim Burton, whose early career displayed a dazzling gift for the surreal, is in a slump. Yet whatever one thought of his two most recent pictures, "Planet of the Apes" or "Sleepy Hollow", nothing will prepare his admirers for this belabored oddity that is one long-winded tall tale illustrated with hammy, artificial sets and gee-whiz acting.

It's hard to think what audience "Big Fish" might attract once the opening weekend is over. The circus performers and fantasy elements may delight youngsters, but older moviegoers will be put off by the clumsiness in the film's style and tone.

The source material, Daniel Wallace's novel "Big Fish, A Story of Mythic Proportions," concerns a charismatic Southern gentleman who, in his stories of the past, has transformed his life into an almost Homeric odyssey through a fablelike world. While there is a kernel of truth in every tale, these adventure stories become the means by which this slippery and now aging man can hold intimacy at bay: All his life, Edward Bloom (played with fine bluster by Albert Finney) has used whimsy and jocular charm to keep people at a distance.

Burton and screenwriter John August try to visualize this literary conceit by intertwining Edward's tall tales about his adventures as a young man (played by Ewan McGregor) with the efforts of Bloom's journalist son Will (Billy Crudup) to establish the facts of his dad's life. Having wearied of the outlandish stories and tired of operating in the shadows of his gregarious father, Will has married a French woman (Marion Cotillard) and fled to Paris, where he works for the AP. Summoned home to reconcile with his now dying father by his loving and tolerant mother, Sandra (Jessica Lange), Will means to separate myth from reality once and for all.

For a while, the absurdist imagery in Edward's tales tickle the fancy: A storm maroons a car in a tree. A pale nude figure of a woman drifts in the moonlight above a river. A large fish swallows Edward's gold wedding band. Edward stumbles across an isolated town no one ever leaves.

The characters also intrigue initially: There is a giant named Karl (Matthew McGrory) who proves to be shy and gentle, a circus ringmaster (Danny DeVito) who turns into a werewolf, conjoined Korean lounge singers who join Edward in his travels and a witch Helena Bonham Carter) who has a glass eye that foretells how Edward will die.

But these stories never get beyond their surreal imagery. They stand in isolation from the storyteller and his family as denials of reality spurred by no particular condition or circumstances.

What is even more curious in the movie version, when Will does investigate these stories -- he merely narrates his dad's stories in the novel -- Burton and August seem reluctant to let go of these folk tales. The isolated town really does exist, only it has fallen on hard times. Many characters are real, only exaggerated.

By insisting on the literal reality of Edward's inventions -- as opposed to the gross exaggerations of an overactive imagination -- the movie undermines its own theme of a teller of tale tales who relates truth through fiction.

As the fatally ill storyteller, Finney gets to chew the scenery but pins down few character specifics. As warm and accepting wives, Lange and Cotillard smile prettily but do little else. Crudup is burdened with a cantankerous character forever fussing and fuming about his father's failures as a father. As the young man seen in mythic flashbacks, McGregor gets to stare in wide-eyed wonder at the fabulous adventures, but his is mostly a reactive role.

Production design and costumes lack the ingenuity of Burton's previous forays into colorful imaginary worlds. Sets in particular look a little too much like movie sets.


Columbia Pictures

A Jinks/Cohen Co./Zanuck Co. production


Director: Tim Burton

Screenwriter: John August

Based on a novel by: Daniel Wallace

Producers: Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks, Richard D. Zanuck

Executive producer: Arne Schmidt

Director of photography: Philippe Rousselot

Production designer: Dennis Gassner

Music: Danny Elfman

Costume designer: Colleen Atwood

Editors: Chris Lebenzon


Young Edward Bloom: Ewan McGregor

Old Edward Bloom: Albert Finney

William Bloom: Billy Crudup

Sandy Bloom: Jessica Lange

Young Sandy: Alison Lohman

Jenny/Witch: Helena Bonham Carter

Norther Winslow: Steve Buscemi

Amos Calloway: Danny DeVito

Dr. Bennett: Robert Guillaume

Josephine: Marion Cotillard

Karl the Giant: Matthew McGrory

Running time -- 120 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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Col taps Giannetti exec vp production

25 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Columbia Pictures production exec Andrea Giannetti, who most recently spearheaded development of such projects as Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, has been promoted to executive vp production at the studio. Giannetti, who reports to co-presidents of production Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, is currently working on Tim Burton's fantastical adventure Big Fish starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Jessica Lange. She also is overseeing development on the action thriller RPM; the comedy Scared Guys; Hot Wheels, a feature film based on the Mattel pop culture phenomenon to be directed by McG; The Dinner Party, with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher attached to star; and a feature film version of the TV series I Dream of Jeannie. »

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Burton's 'Fish' out of Nov. waters

28 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Sony Pictures has landed a new release date for Tim Burton's upcoming Big Fish, which stars Billy Crudup as a man coming to terms with his dying father (Albert Finney). The film had originally been set for a wide release Nov. 26 to take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday, but Sony now plans a platform release for the film beginning Dec. 18. Fish will open on a Thursday in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto and then gradually expand to other key cities through the holidays. It will eventually go into wide release in 2,500 theaters Jan. 23. »

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Finney storms BAFTA TV awards

14 April 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

LONDON -- Veteran British star of stage and screen Albert Finney took top honors at the BAFTA television awards, winning the best actor award for his portrayal of Prime Minister Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm. The BAFTA television ceremony, the highlight of the British television calendar, took place Sunday night at the Palladium theater in the heart of London's West End. In the HBO/Scott Free/BBC Films production, Finney portrayed Churchill during his pre-war wilderness years against the backdrop of a Europe descending into chaos. In the best actress category, Julie Walters beat off competition from Finney's Gathering Storm co-star Vanessa Redgrave, winning the plaudit for her role as a woman whose son has been killed in the Tiger Aspect/BBC2 drama Murder. »

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