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3 items from 2004

Finding Neverland

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

VENICE -- Johnny Depp adds to his growing rep as a wonderful screen actor with a guileless performance as playwright James Barrie, the man who created Peter Pan.

The film has one or two creaky moments when the depiction of what influenced the writer is a bit too literal. Nevertheless, "Finding Neverland" is a rewarding piece of filmmaking that has all the makings of a classic weepie with boxoffice returns to match.

In 1903, Barrie is an established playwright, willingly backed by producer Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman, having great fun) but losing his shirt over his latest play. "I feel I can do better", he admits. Barrie is Scottish, but there's nothing dour about him. Quite the opposite as he neglects his lovely wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell, making much of a difficult role), to take his Newfoundland dog Porthos to the park, where he plays with a ball attached to a fishing pole.

In the park one day, Barrie encounters a family of four boys and their widowed mother, Sylvia (played with unaffected charm by Kate Winslet). Immediately connecting with their games of fantasy, Barrie puts on a show for them by pretending that Porthos is a bear. "That's absurd. It's just a dog!" one boy says.

" 'Just!' " Barrie cries. "That is a terrible, candle-snuffing word." He proceeds to dance with his bear, and the scene turns into a circus ring with animals and clowns and mimes. The writer's childlike imagination connects with the fatherless boys. Soon he is spending most of his time with the family, playing their games and observing them, taking notes.

Conflict arises not only from Barrie's wife, who feels increasingly alienated and takes a lover, but also from Sylvia's stuck-up mother, a quite fearsome but still beautiful Julie Christie. People are talking, not only about Barrie spending too much time with a comely widow but also being a man in the company of four little boys.

But Barrie is as innocent as Peter Pan, although there's a story from his past that affects him profoundly. Much difficulty lies ahead as Sylvia develops what sounds like considerably more than a bad cough. As Barrie absorbs all the things that will allow him to create a piece of theatrical magic, David Magee's script touches on tiny moments that would become iconic in Barrie's masterwork, such as a tinkerbell and a ticking alarm clock. It has a sweetness that never cloys.

"Young boys should never go to bed," Barrie says. "They wake up a day older, and before you know it, they're grown."

"Peter Pan" was the first great children's entertainment. Director Marc Forster depicts its creation with tremendous affection and eye for detail. His work with the boys, especially Freddie Highmore as Peter, is remarkable as they give Depp a run for his money onscreen. The American actor, with a superbly relaxed Scottish accent, is equal to it, however.


Miramax Films

A Film Colony production


Director: Marc Forster

Writer: David Magee

Based on the play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan" by: Allan Knee

Producers: Richard N. Gladstein, Nellie Bellflower

Executive producers: Gary Binkow, Neal Israel

Director of photography: Roberto Schaefer

Production designer: Gemma Jackson

Costume designer: Alexandra Byrne

Music: Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

Editor: Matt Chesse


James Barrie: Johnny Depp

Sylvia Davies: Kate Winslet

Mrs. Emma Du Maurier: Julie Christie

Mary Barrie: Radha Mitchell

Charles Frohman: Dustin Hoffman

Peter: Freddie Highmore

Jack: Joe Prospero

George: Nick Roud

Michael: Luke Spill

Peter Pan: Kelly MacDonald

Mr. Jaspers: Mackenzie Crook

Mrs. Snow: Eileen Essell

Stage manager: Paul Whitehouse

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Ian Hart

Running time -- 101 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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Kid castings end 'Chocolate' rush

17 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Warner Bros. Pictures' Tim Burton-helmed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has cast its remaining juvenile actors. Annasophia Robb, Jordan Fry, Julia Winter and Philip Wiegratz round out the kid roles. British actor Freddie Highmore had previously been cast in the title role of Charlie. Johnny Depp portrays Willy Wonka, and David Kelly stars as Grandpa Joe. Based on the classic book by Roald Dahl, the story revolves around candy maker Wonka's worldwide contest to tour his legendary factory, and the five kids who win by finding golden tickets. »

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Grandpa Kelly will tour 'Chocolate'

7 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

David Kelly has nabbed the role of Grandpa Joe in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Warner Bros. Pictures. The project is based on the celebrated Roald Dahl book, in which a young boy named Charlie and his grandfather tour a candy factory owned by the eccentric Willy Wonka. The book was made into a film in 1971, with the screenplay by Dahl, but titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. According to Warners, Burton's take, with a screenplay by John August, will skew more closely toward the book than the 1971 version. Kelly, who starred in Waking Ned Devine, joins Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Freddie Highmore as Charlie. Kevin McCormick is overseeing for the studio. Producing are Brad Grey and Richard D. Zanuck, while Liccy Dahl, Michael Siegal and McCormick are executive producers. Kelly's other recent credits include Laws of Attraction and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. »

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3 items from 2004

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