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10 items from 2007

Sundance Premieres section sees changes

30 November 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

At the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the gala Premieres, which used to take place in the chilly nighttime, will begin as early as 3 p.m. And there will be more Premieres than ever.

As the Sundance Institute announced the lineup of films screening out of competition at its 2008 edition, organizers said that the Premieres section has significantly expanded. This year, 24 films will play as galas, occupying the 3, 6 and 9:30 p.m. slots at the Eccles Theater in Park City, the festival's largest venue. By contrast, there were 17 Premieres at this year's Sundance.

Although he admitted he was tempted, festival director Geoffrey Gilmore said the size of Sundance has not expanded. The festival will again screen 121 feature films, which includes 81 world premieres. What organizers have done, director of programming John Cooper said, is to reposition films in the Spectrum category, which previously played in the 3 p.m. slot, into the Premiere section.

"These are films that deserve that (Premiere) position inside the Eccles," Cooper said.

The announcement rounds out the rest of the 2008 program, which includes Premieres, Spectrum, New Frontier and Park City at Midnight sections. The 2008 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 17-27 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

The Premieres section showcases highly anticipated films from the American indie world and from international filmmakers. Perhaps the two most highly anticipated films are music related.

Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington's 3-D film of U2's Vertigo world tour -- snippets of which were shown in May at the Festival de Cannes -- will be presented in its entirety. The only question is: What 3-D glasses will be used?

Gilmore said the festival must decide between two different kinds of glasses or goggles. "Either way, there will be a single projector putting a split film image on the screen that are read by the (3-D) goggles," he said.

This year's closing-night film will be the world premiere of Bernard Shakey's CSNY Deja Vu, which looks at the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reunion tour and the musicians' connection to its audience in political and musical terms. Young is credited as a co-writer on the project.

Pellington performs a twofer this year as his Henry Poole Is Here also is in the Premieres section. After discovering he has a mere six weeks to live, Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) retreats from his everyday life for the comfort of booze, junk food and solitude until a "miracle" and his oddball neighbors intervene.

Another person who will be doing Q&As more than once will be actress-director Amy Redford, daughter of Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford. As an actress, she stars in Sunshine Cleaning, an irreverent comedy that will play in Dramatic Competition. As a first-time director, she will present The Guitar, which like Henry Poole, centers on a person diagnosed with a terminal illness. Amos Poe's Guitar screenplay is about a woman (Saffron Burrows) without long to live who blows her savings to pursue her dreams.

Michel Gondry came to Sundance two years ago with his mind-blowing The Science of Sleep. He now returns with his Be Kind Rewind, in which Jack Black plays a man whose brain has become magnetized, leading to the unintentional destruction of all the movies in a friend's video store. In order to keep the store's one loyal customer, the pair re-create a long line of films including The Lion King, Rush Hour and Ghostbusters.

" 'Be Kind Rewind' will tax people's patience but has a wonderful payoff," Gilmore said.

As previously announced, the festival opens Jan. 17 in Park City with the world premiere of In Bruges, written and directed by first-time filmmaker and award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh. The film, which stars Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, revolves around two hitmen ordered to take a forced holiday in Bruges, Belgium.

Two films about filmmaking should amuse the in-crowd. In Barry Levinson's What Just Happened? Robert De Niro plays a desperate producer struggling with a desperate film shoot. In Steven Schachter's The Deal, William H. Macy co-writes and stars in a tale about another similarly desperate producer who cons a studio into financing a film that actually has no script.

The tongue-in-cheek latter film "brings back Meg Ryan to the kind of romantic roles she plays so well," Gilmore said.

Premieres also is the section containing several films seen at earlier festivals such as writer-director Tom McCarthy's The Visitor and Alan Ball's Nothing Is Private -- movies that deal with immigrants in America -- which debuted at Toronto, and Tom Kalin's Savage Grace, which rocked Cannes with its themes of dynastic decline, incest, madness and death.

Sundance 2008 will throw an even brighter spotlight on documentaries by creating a sidebar within the Spectrum category for seven docus.

"The professional career of documentarians has changed dramatically," Gilmore said. "Documentaries were once a small world. Now it's a much broader spectrum of professionals and of people who move back and forth between features and documentaries, making films on subjects they are passionate about."

The Spectrum section also is where returning Sundance alums are to be found. To wit, Made in America by Stacy Peralta, who enjoyed a hit at the 2001 festival with Dogtown and Z-Boys; Blind Date from Stanley Tucci, who has come to Sundance with such interesting films as Big Night (1996) and Joe Gould's Secret (2000); August from Austin Chick, who made 2002's "XX/XY"; Baghead by writer-directors Mark and Jay Duplass, who brought Scrapple in 2004; and Bottle Shock, a retelling of the famous 1976 blind wine tasting in Paris that rocketed California wines to fame and glory, from Randall Miller, whose Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School played in 2005.

Park City at Midnight usually is the repository of the strange and the bloody. This year, though, Gilmore insisted, "the genre films are very fresh with a strong quality of execution."

Quentin Tarantino, absent from Park City for a few years, returns to "present" Larry Bishop's modern-day take on 1960s biker flicks, Hell Ride. A German-Canadian Midnight entry, Otto (Up With Dead People), is described by Gilmore as "an incredibly odd but interesting mix of gay zombies and a European setting."

The British Donkey Punch, named after a risky sexual practice, is a thriller that takes place aboard a luxury yacht. And Michael Haneke will bring Funny Games, an almost shot-by-shot remake of his 1997 Austrian chiller, only this time in English and in a Long Island setting. »

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Studios seeing Sundance Film Festival spots

20 November 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The Sundance Film Festival won't announce its full program until next week and won't screen its first film for nearly two months. But barely halfway through November, the buzz is starting over an unusually large number of high-profile titles that could command an ever higher set of prices.

"There are a lot of English-language movies with stars that I'm expecting to end up at the festival," one veteran acquisitions executive said. "And that means we're going to see not just indie and specialty buyers coming out to bid but people at the studio level as well."

The prospect of a star-heavy festival is dovetailing with the bigger force dictating all things in Hollywood these days: the writers strike. If the stoppage continues and studios don't like the number or quality of their existing scripts, the finished-film market is a good place to turn.

And with stars filling every corner of that market, it might, in fact, be the first place they turn.

Such movies as the Bill Pullman-Patricia Clarkson drama Phoebe in Wonderland, Barry Levinson's Hollywood spoof and Robert De Niro starrer What Just Happened? and the Tom Hanks vehicle The Great Buck Howard are all potential Sundance movies on distributors' lips. (Execs caution, of course, that none of these movies is guaranteed entry to the festival, with Sundance known for its eclectic and sometimes surprising lineups.)

On Monday, Sundance announced its opening-night movie, Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, a star-laden picture in its own right, with Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes toplining the movie about hit men in Belgium; the film already has distribution from Focus Features. »

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Fox adds Campbell to roster

6 August 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Director Martin Campbell is returning to his TV roots with a three-for-one deal at Fox Broadcasting Co.

Under the pact, Campbell will develop three one-hour projects. One of them will go to pilot, which he will executive produce and direct.

Campbell had been on Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly's radar for 15 years.

As vp drama at NBC, Reilly oversaw the pilot of Homicide: Life on the Street, which was directed by the cop drama's executive producer, Barry Levinson. When the pilot was picked to series in 1992, Levinson invited then little-known Campbell to helm the important second episode.

"I remember at the time it stood out," Reilly said of the Campbell-directed episode, which marked the helmer's U.S. debut.

Campbell directed one more episode of Homicide's first season before transitioning to Hollywood features with 1994's No Escape, followed by GoldenEye and The Mask of Zorro.

Reilly said he'd been impressed by Campbell's big-screen work, especially by the director's success in reinventing the James Bond franchise with 2006's Casino Royale.

"He's a pro, a really nice man and expert in television," Reilly said. »

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Moore & Hanks To Play Lovers in New Western

4 May 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Julianne Moore and Tom Hanks are going back in time as the unlikely stars of a new Barry Levinson western. The pair will star in new movie Boone's Lick, which is adapted from a book written by Brokeback Mountain screenwriter Larry McMurtry. In the new period film, Moore will portray a pioneer woman who falls in love with her brother-in-law, played by Hanks, during a cross-country trip from Missouri to a fort in Wyoming to rejoin her husband, according to Shooting on Boone's Lick is scheduled to begin later this year. Levinson has replaced Lasse Halstrom as the director of the film. »

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'What' is up next for 2 actresses

20 March 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Catherine Keener and Robin Wright Penn have signed on to 2929 Entertainment's What Just Happened? for director Barry Levinson.

The Hollywood comedy, based on an original screenplay by Art Linson, centers on a desperate movie producer Robert De Niro) trying to survive the treachery of Hollywood and a broken second marriage.

Keener will play the head of the studio the producer is courting, while Wright Penn will portray the producer's ex-wife. Stanley Tucci, John Turturro and Kristen Stewart co-star. Bruce Willis and Sean Penn also will be featured in small roles, playing themselves.

Principal photography is set to begin this week in Los Angeles.

Keener recently completed filming on Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are. After What Just Happened, the actress will film Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York.

Wright Penn most recently was seen in Hounddog, which screened in January at the Sundance Film Festival. She recently completed work on the Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures co-production Beowulf for director Robert Zemeckis.

Keener is repped by the Gersh Agency. »

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'Lick' sticks for Levinson at Playtone

23 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Barry Levinson has signed on to direct Larry McMurtry's Western Boone's Lick for Playtone.

Tom Hanks and Julianne Moore are attached to star in the long-gestating project, which centers on a headstrong woman (Moore) who drags her family on a rickety wagon from Boone's Lick, Mo., to the Wyoming fort where her husband lives. Her brother-in-law (Hanks) escorts her on the dangerous journey and along the way falls in love with her.

Diana Ossana, who won an adapted screenplay Oscar with McMurtry last year for Brokeback Mountain, penned the Boone's Lick script with the author-screenwriter and frequent collaborator.

Hanks and Gary Goetzman are producing the film, which is aiming to start shooting in early fall.

Helmer Lasse Hallstrom originally was attached to bring the novel, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 2000, to the big screen.

Levinson, who most recently helmed Man of the Year for Universal Pictures, is in preproduction on 2929 Entertainment's What Just Happened, starring Robert De Niro. He is repped by ICM. »

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'Vacation' unwinding at EFM

12 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

With sales on Competition movies yet to heat up, Brazilian film The Year my Parents Went on Vacation directed by Cao Hamburger is one of the titles selling fast.

Paris-based Films Distribution has sold the 1970s political coming-of-age drama to the five-territory buyers' collective Indie Circle, which comprises Haut et Court in France, Italy's Lucky Red, Switzerland's Frenetic and Cineart for Belgium and the Netherlands. And Vertigo acquired the film for Spain. A U.S. deal is in discussions and likely to close in the next day or two, according to Films' sales co-chief Francois Yon.

2929 International signed one of the few major deals of the market so far, selling several major territories for Barry Levinson's What Just Happened?.

The comedy, which stars Robert De Niro, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis and John Turturro, was picked up by Telemunchen for Germany, Medusa in Italy, TF1 in France and Manga in Spain.

Germany's Beta Cinema printed out several territory sales on Competition title The Counterfeiters, with Benelux going to ABC/Cinemien, Europa Filmes taking Brazil and J-Bics acquiring rights for Thailand.

Outside of competition, one picture generating lots of market interest is romantic comedy Two Days in Paris from actress-turned-director Julie Delpy, which is screening in Panorama. »

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'What Happened?' toTucci, Turturro

9 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Stanley Tucci, John Turturro and Kristen Stewart will co-star in Barry Levinson's upcoming Hollywood comedy What Just Happened? starring Robert De Niro. Bruce Willis and Sean Penn also will be featured in small roles, playing themselves.

From 2929 Prods. and an original screenplay by Art Linson, Happened centers on a desperate movie producer trying to survive the treachery of Hollywood and a broken second marriage while struggling to maintain a shred of dignity.

2929 will fund the picture independently, with Tribeca Prods.' Jane Rosenthal and De Niro producing with veteran producer Linson. 2929's Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban and Marc Butan will executive produce along with Eric Kopeloff.

Principal photography is set to begin March 22 in Los Angeles.

Tucci will play a screenwriter, Turturro will portray a Hollywood agent, and Stewart will take on the role of the daughter to De Niro's character.

"I am so pleased to be working once again with Robert De Niro, who is one of the legendary actors of our time," said Wagner, CEO of 2929 Entertainment, who worked with De Niro on 2004's Godsend and is on the Tribeca Film Institute's board of directors. »

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Lee among helmer recruits

26 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NBC has tapped Spike Lee to direct its drama pilot M.O.N.Y. and Gary Winick to helm another one-hour pilot, the dramedy Lipstick Jungle.

Meanwhile, ABC has signed Peyton Reed to direct Cashmere Mafia, and Fox has recruited P.J. Hogan for Philadelphia General.

Other notable directors who have come aboard pilots include Emmy winner Todd Holland on the CBS comedy Fugly, Emmy winner Jon Cassar on the Fox drama NSA Innocent, Alex Graves on the NBC drama Journeyman and Ian Toynton on Fox's comedic drama Supreme Courtships.

M.O.N.Y., from NBC Universal TV Studio and writer-producers Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, centers on an unlikely everyman who becomes the mayor of New York. The project, set and to be filmed in New York, is considered a great fit for Lee, one of the quintessential New York directors. His attachment to the project stems from his development deal with NBC earlier this year. He is repped by WMA.

Winick, who has directed such movies as 13 Going on 30 and last year's Charlotte's Web, will tackle NBC Universal TV Studio's Lipstick, about a trio of power-hungry New York women. »

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More pilots fly at NBC, ABC, Fox

17 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NBC has handed out a cast-contingent pilot order to the drama M.O.N.Y, from Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson.

The network also has greenlighted Area 52, a comedy pilot to be directed by Dean Parisot.

Meanwhile, Fox picked up comedy pilot The Rules of Starting Over, executive produced by the Farrelly brothers, and ABC has welcomed American Family, a comedy pilot from Jay Scherick and Dave Ronn, and a one-hour comedy pilot from Rina Mimoun.

M.O.N.Y, from NBC Universal TV Studio, centers on a socially conscious New York public advocate who is thrust into the uncomfortable position of becoming interim mayor and struggles to balance his moral center with the hardball realities of New York politics.

Fontana and Levinson are the writers/executive producers.

Area 52, also from NBC Uni TV, is a workplace comedy set at a remote location in the Nevada desert, where the U.S. government houses an extraterrestrial.

Mike Armstrong (Snitch) penned the script and is executive producing with Parisot and David Latt.

Parisot, who most recently directed the feature Fun With Dick and Jane, also helmed the pilots for USA Network's hit dramedy Monk and for ABC's critically praised comedy The Job.

Starting Over, from 20th Century Fox TV, Conundrum Entertainment and Watson Pond Prods., revolves around a 35-year-old and his buddies -- all newly single after years of marriage -- who jump back into the dating scene and learn the painful rules of starting over. »

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