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5 items from 2004


Pangs have eye on indie 'Scarecrow'

14 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Hong Kong horror maestros Oxide and Danny Pang are set to make their English-language debut directing Scarecrow for Blue Star Pictures and Ghost House Pictures, a joint venture of Senator International, Sam Raimi and his producing partner Rob Tapert. Written by Stuart Beattie (Collateral) from an original script by Todd Farmer, Scarecrow is a horror tale that follows the lives of a family moving into a run-down sunflower farm. As the farm begins to revive after years of disrepair, the family begins to notice uncomfortable and alarming changes in their father's behavior. Principal photography is slated for the spring. "I'm thrilled that the Pang brothers have agreed to direct 'Scarecrow, ' " Raimi said. "I've been a big fan ever since The Eye. Danny and Oxide have an exciting and unique vision and are at the forefront of the neo-horror movement in Asian filmmaking." »

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Collateral

3 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Michael Mann's "Collateral" rides its urban surfaces hard, pressing the accelerator steadily to the floor, building tension and upping the ante at every turn. The movie never really gets below that surface. It sticks to the mean streets of Los Angeles without much introspection or analysis. But those surfaces are slick and beguiling. Where director Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader once made a movie about a taxi driver that portrayed what they saw as America's descent into social madness and random violence, this taxi tale from Mann and writer Stuart Beattie is a high-concept thriller with no other agenda. Nevertheless, it is quite a ride.

Starring Tom Cruise as a ruthless, methodical hit man and Jamie Foxx as the unfortunate cabbie forced to drive him around Los Angeles for a night's worth of whackings, "Collateral" is fueled with pure adrenaline. The plot is an audience grabber, and Cruise's name means a big opening weekend. Audiences may skew male, but females will certainly be drawn to this taut, well-told tale.

The film cuts to the chase quickly enough -- in fact, the movie never really cuts away from the chase -- but it does open with separate quiet interludes. Cruise's contract killer, Vincent, gets his instructions at LAX and, more interestingly, Foxx's Max, a cab driver for 12 years who still thinks of the job as "temporary," picks up his first ride of the night. Federal prosecuting attorney Annie Farrell Jada Pinkett Smith) has little interest in Max until a debate about the best route to downtown leads to a friendly wager. Which brings about a connection between the high-powered professional and blue-collar guy that prompts Annie to give her card to Max without quite knowing why.

His next ride is Vincent.

Nattily dressed in an impeccably tailored gray suit with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair and a four-day beard, Cruise is Mr. Cool. Oozing confidence and a bright determination to finish off five human beings in a night, Vincent not only won't take no for an answer, he doesn't even know what "no" means. This is a silky smooth performance from Cruise without much nuance or emotional dimension yet crackling with intensity.

Foxx, meanwhile, runs a gamut of emotions brilliantly. Beginning his shift with bored indifference, he experiences blood-chilling fear, fumbling attempts to escape his predicament, a burning desire to outsmart this wise guy and finally a need to dig deep inside himself to assume roles he never imagined himself playing in life.

Initially, Vincent pays Max $600 to hire him to run errands. When the first errand makes the nature of Vincent's business clear to Max -- indeed the victim's body winds up in his trunk -- he becomes Vincent's captive.

Narcotics detective Fanning (an almost unrecognizable Mark Ruffalo) happens onto the first crime scene and immediately senses something is up. This puts blood hounds on Vincent's trail long before either he or Max is aware of it.

The film then divides into parallel stories -- the intimate interaction in the cab between two desperate men, the psychological gamesmanship of probing for the other's weak spot, and the cops and, later, the FBI sorting out the implication of the bodies piling up at the morgue and racing to prevent the last two hits.

All of which allows Mann to return to the feverish L.A. streets he prowled in "Heat". Utilizing two cinematographers, Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron, and shooting 80% of the film digitally, Mann turns these nearly empty streets into a hell in half-tones. They glow dreamlike in the red, yellow and green of half-shadows and phosphorescent and neon lights. Roaming the streets are scenesters, clubbing at night spots run by gangsters, and sullen predators including three coyotes who cross in front of Max's taxi. Mann's cityscape exists in a spiritual void, where anything can happen and few truly care.

Beattie could have supplied sharper dialogue for Vincent and Max. Their bickering over the morality of Vincent's job and the insignificance of Max's merely kills time. Not that Beattie needed to turn the hostage crisis into existential drama, but he could have explored the characters in greater depth than trifling insults and moral indignation.

The third act moves the plot beyond the boundaries of credibility. People generally don't walk away from gunshot wounds and car crashes quite so easily. Attorneys do not work in their offices at 3 a.m., nor, for that matter, does the subway operate then.

Technical credits couldn't be better as the cinematography, James Newton Howard's music and Jim Miller and Paul Rubell's editing coalesce to produce a captivating portrait of the underbelly of a blissfully unaware society. Incidentally, Javier Bardem has an effective cameo appearance as a drug baron.

COLLATERAL

DreamWorks Pictures

DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures present a Parkes/MacDonald and Edge City production

Credits:

Director: Michael Mann

Screenwriter: Stuart Beattie

Producers: Michael Mann, Julie Richardson

Executive producers: Frank Darabont, Rob Fried, Chuck Russell, Peter Guiliano

Directors of photography: Don Beebe, Paul Cameron

Production designer: David Wasco

Music: James Newton Howard

Co-producer: Michael Waxman

Costume designer: Jeffrey Kurland

Editors: Jim Miller, Paul Rubell

Cast:

Vincent: Tom Cruise

Max: Jamie Foxx

Annie: Jada Pinkett Smith

Fanning: Mark Ruffalo

Richard Weldner: Peter Berg

Pedrosa: Bruce McGill

Ida: Irma P. Hall

Daniel: Barry Shabaka Henley

MPAA rating: R

Running time -- 120 minutes »

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Miramax puts Aniston on track for 'Derailed' pic

23 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Jennifer Aniston is about to get Derailed. The actress will star opposite Clive Owen in the Miramax Films feature based on James Siegel's best-selling novel. Lorenzo di Bonaventura produces. The film will mark Academy Award winning director Mikael Hafstrom's English-language directorial debut. Based on a script by Collateral scribe Stuart Beattie, Derailed revolves around a married advertising executive whose life takes an unpredictable turn when he misses his train to work. Production is scheduled to begin in the fall in London and Chicago. Executive vp production Jon Gordon and senior vp creative affairs Jennifer Wachtell will oversee the production on behalf of Miramax. The deal was negotiated for Miramax by executive vp business affairs Steve Hutensky and senior vp business and legal affairs Barry Littman. CAA negotiated on behalf of Aniston. »

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Miramax puts Aniston on track for 'Derailed' pic

23 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Jennifer Aniston is about to get "Derailed". The actress will star opposite Clive Owen in the Miramax Films feature based on James Siegel's best-selling novel. Lorenzo di Bonaventura produces. The film will mark Academy Award winner Mikael Hafstrom's English-language directorial debut. Based on a script by "Collateral" scribe Stuart Beattie, "Derailed" revolves around a married advertising executive whose life takes an unpredictable turn when he misses his train to work. Production is scheduled to begin in the fall in London and Chicago. Executive vp production Jon Gordon and senior vp creative affairs Jennifer Wachtell will oversee the production on behalf of Miramax. The deal was negotiated for Miramax by executive vp business affairs Steve Hutensky and senior vp business and legal affairs Barry Littman. CAA negotiated on behalf of Aniston. »

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'Derailed' film gets on track with Hafstrom

6 February 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- Swedish helmer Mikael Hafstrom, whose feature Evil is nominated for an Oscar in the foreign-language film category, has been tapped to direct Miramax Films' thriller Derailed, which Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing. Derailed, which follows a middle-class professional whose life goes incredibly and criminally awry, is being adapted by Stuart Beattie from the novel by James Siegel. Evil, Hafstrom's boarding-school drama, is not only nominated for an Oscar but also has been hotly tipped to sell at the Berlin International Film Festival this month. »

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5 items from 2004


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