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12 items from 2003

Renfro tries on 'Jacket' with Maybury, WIP

29 December 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Brad Renfro has landed a supporting role opposite Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley in the Mandalay Pictures/Section Eight feature The Jacket, which is being distributed by Warner Independent Pictures. Directed by John Maybury, Jacket centers on a soldier convicted of murder who, during his treatment in a psychiatric hospital, begins to believe that he is traveling through time. Through his time travel, he searches for a woman he met as a child and is fated to love. The Jacket is written by Marc Rocco and Massy Tadjedin and is being produced by Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney and Peter Guber. Production is scheduled to begin next month in the United Kingdom. Renfro, whose credits include Ghost World and Bully, also has signed with ICM for representation. »

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Keira Knightley Voted the Year's Top Breakout Movie Star

8 December 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

British actress Keira Knightley has topped a magazine poll as this year's top breakout movie star. The 18-year-old beauty first came to the attention of international audiences in the sleeper hit Bend It Like Beckham and continued to wow her fans with roles in summer blockbuster Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl and Love Actually. She has now just finished playing warrior Guinevere in the upcoming movie King Arthur, which is expected to expand her fan base even more. Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who chose Knightley for both Pirates of the Caribbean and King Arthur, says, "She can act. With Keira, you don't see the wheels turning." Bruckheimer's sentiments have been echoed by Entertainment Weekly, which has named Knightley the top breakout star of 2003. Others named in the poll include Shia LaBeouf, Naomie Harris and Peter Dinklage. »

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Love Actually

30 November 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »


Friday, Nov. 7

Love Actually reminds you of an elaborate Christmas card that tumbles apart with pop-up figures, silly/charming greetings and perhaps even a jingle. It probably cost more than the gift it heralds, and you can't help but laugh at the audacity of such an aggressively cheerful card. Clearly, the gift giver wants to love and be loved, and only a Scrooge would deny him his reward. But you also wish he'd heard the phrase "less is more."

The gift giver is Richard Curtis, a writer (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) and, for the first time here, director of comedies that focus on the pursuit of love. Curtis' real gift is that of sharp, rapid-fire dialogue, easily recognizable characters, a benign view of humanity and a knack for making sentimentality feel righteous. This movie, for all its calculation and manipulation, comes from a true believer. He really does believe -- as Oscar Hammerstein II once insisted a composer such as himself must -- in "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens." Audiences should respond to the determinedly feel-good nature of Love Actually as a top-flight cast of (mostly) British actors sells its love message very well.

The movie is less a traditional story than an elaboration of a theme. This gets pronounced by a narrator at the opening as you watch friends and family tearfully greet at London's Heathrow Airport: "General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere."

The movie flips among myriad stories in the weeks before Christmas, none terribly original or compelling in itself, but in the aggregate they illustrate Curtis' theme. A new bachelor prime minister (Hugh Grant) walks into 10 Downing Street and is immediately smitten with a staff member (Martine McCutcheon). A recently widowed stepfather (Liam Neeson) struggles to forge a deeper relationship with his late wife's son (Thomas Sangster). An executive (Alan Rickman) encourages a female employee (Laura Linney) to act on her longtime crush on a fellow worker (Rodrigo Santoro), even as he debates the wisdom of falling into an affair with a most willing colleague (Heike Makatsch), thus betraying his wife of many years (Emma Thompson).

A bride (Keira Knightley) comes to realize that her husband's best mate (Andrew Lincoln) is madly in love with her. A cuckolded novelist (Colin Firth) flees to the south of France only to become infatuated with the Portuguese maid (Lucia Moniz) despite their inability to speak each other's language. An aging rock star (a hilarious Bill Nighy) launches a comeback with a Christmas song he knows is crap and freely says so on a truth-telling tour.

Squeezed between these subplots are eminently disposable ones such as two movie stand-ins who shyly fall in love while entirely naked or a food vendor who believes a trip to any bar in America will yield a bevy of beauties to fall for his English accent.

These plot threads (and they really are threads) contain little substance. Each is intriguing, but with the exception of the widower and stepson, none achieves any resonance. All are too fragmentary, though containing enough clever dialogue and sexy moments to distract from the sheer flimsiness.

The production is a winning one, with London turned into a winter wonderland with a side excursion to a rather summery-looking France. As always with a Curtis comedy, the stories pivot around major set pieces -- a wedding, funeral, a school Christmas pageant and an implausible news conference in which the British PM dresses down an arrogant American president Billy Bob Thornton). Curtis imbues his tales of broken hearts and ecstatic adoration with a festive passion and a cheerful optimism that sweeps the viewer up. It's only afterward that you wonder when the writer fell in love with the maid or why a prime minister would have no social life or how the wife forgave her wandering husband.


Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures and StudioCanal present a Working Title production

Credits: Screenwriter-director: Richard Curtis

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Duncan Kenworthy

Executive producer: Richard Curtis

Director of photography: Michael Coulter

Production designer: Jim Clay

Music: Craig Armstrong

Costume designer: Joanna Johnston

Editor: Nick Moore


Prime Minister: Hugh Grant

Karen: Emma Thompson

Harry: Alan Rickman

Billy Mack: Bill Nighy

Daniel: Liam Neeson

Jamie: Colin Firth

Juliet: Keira Knightley

Natalie: Martine McCutcheon

U.S. President: Billy Bob Thornton

Sarah: Laura Linney

Rufus: Rowan Atkinson

Mark: Andrew Lincoln

Judy: Joanna Page

Aurelia: Lucia Moniz

Running time -- 135 minutes

MPAA rating: R »

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McCutcheon Shines at 'Love Actually 'Premiere

18 November 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Love Actually actress Martine McCutcheon managed to outshine her A-List co-stars at the premiere of her new film on Sunday night. The 27-year-old former soap star wowed the crowd assembled at London's Leicester Square in a stunning Valentino dress, stealing the limelight from fellow stars Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant. And Martine is hopeful her first leading film role will make up for her years of struggling to be a star since she left Britain's Eastenders series five years ago. She said, "If I never do anything else in my life then this will have been enough. Since I was eight years old I wanted to be a star at a proper premiere. I remember when thing were not going so great and there is nothing more miserable. But when it's going well it is unbelievable." »

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Pirates of the Caribbean

16 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »


Wednesday, July 9

Since the previous Walt Disney Co. film based on one of its theme park attractions was the unbearable "The Country Bears", "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" is surprisingly not bad. For one thing, the filmmakers draw upon the entire legend and lore of pirate life -- of high-seas ambushes, mountains of gold, cruel captains, lusty rogues, feisty damsels, drunken sailors, barroom brawls, ancient curses and furious sword fights. So the film pays bemused tribute not only to one of Disneyland's most popular rides but those old swashbucklers who once graced movie screens.

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are mostly associated with animation, and this is one time when a cartoon approach in live action is exactly right: The movie's flamboyant personalities and tongue-in-cheek action push the envelope of high camp without ever succumbing to sheer silliness. This $100 million-plus production, stylishly directed by Gore Verbinski and lavishly produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, has the makings of one of summer's big hits.

The film includes a number of "scenes" from the Disneyland ride, such as the imprisoned pirates trying to coax a dog carrying a jailhouse key toward their cell to a raucous tavern featuring zaftig serving wenches. But the smartest borrowing -- and one of the best of the 600-odd visual effects shots -- is the living skeletons.

The curse of the title occurs when black-hearted Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) relieves fellow pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) not only of his command but his ship, the Black Pearl, and its treasure, leaving him to die on a tiny isle. Sparrow mysteriously survives and, as the movie opens, sails into Port Royal harbor in little more than a dinghy.

What Sparrow doesn't learn until later is that the Pearl's treasure carries a curse that dooms his former crew to sail the seas as the undead. Only moonlight reveals them as living skeletons.

The Pearl attacks Port Royal, just after Sparrow arrives, to retrieve a gold medallion. This is the last piece of the plundered treasure. If the treasure is completely restored along with the payment of a "blood debt," the curse will lift. The crew also kidnaps the medallion's owner, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), daughter of the governor (Jonathan Pryce). Two men pursue the Black Pearl, hoping to rescue this beauteous damsel: Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith and childhood friend secretly in love with her, and haughty Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), who fancies himself her fiance.

Despite his loathing of pirates, Will joins forces with Sparrow. The duo hijacks the fastest ship in the British fleet and sets sail for the Isla de Meurta, where the pirates hope to break their curse.

This sets up a series of set pieces of comic action and effects -- the attack on Port Royal, the escape of Sparrow and Will, sea battles between the Black Pearl and other vessels, no less than two climaxes in a torch-lit island cave and, most impressively, moonlit battles between British sailors and pirate skeletons.

Actors try out a range of salty brogues that pitches much of the dialogue in a sea of confusing accents. However, Depp takes the opposite approach with precise enunciation of every line in what is best described as an accentless accent. Depp plays his charming rascal in the lightheaded manner of a man who has either been in the sun too long or knows something no one else does. Perhaps it's a bit of both.

Rush zeroes in on the comedy in his wily villain. Knightley continues to display the athleticism exhibited in "Bent It Like Beckham" as a damsel who is able and willing to fight and escape with the best of men. In the closest thing to a straight man in the movie, Bloom attacks his role with the pent-up fury of a man who only hates pirates because pirate blood races in his veins.

The large cast, costumed and made up as filthy scalawags and sinister buccaneers, gives tremendous energy to every scene. There are many solid gags among this motley crew -- the pirate forever chasing his false eye, the parrot trained to speak for its mute master, the series of fetching wenches who deliver slaps to Sparrow for past wrongs.

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and production designer Brian Morris manage to convey the giddy feel of the original Disneyland ride -- that we are in a dark world, where we may safely gasp and giggle at its outlandish villainy and savage avarice. Klaus Bedelt's music is at times over the top, but he takes his cue from a production that banishes all subtlety.

Next up in Disney's self-looting is "The Haunted Mansion" in November. Let's just hope they never tackle "It's a Small World".


Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films


Director: Gore Verbinski

Screenwriters: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

Screen story by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert

Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer

Executive producers: Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Bruce Hendricks, Paul Deason

Director of photography: Dariusz Wolski

Production designer: Brian Morris

Music: Klaus Badelt

Costume designer: Penny Rose

Editors: Craig Wood, Stephen Rivkin, Arthur Schmidt


Jack Sparrow: Johnny Depp

Barbossa: Geoffrey Rush

Will Turner: Orlando Bloom

Elizabeth Swann: Keira Knightley

Norrington: Jack Davenport

Gov Swann: Jonathan Pryce

Pintel: Lee Arenberg

Ragetti: Mackenzie Crook

Running time -- 144 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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Broadbent may tiptoe into 'Tulip'

5 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Jim Broadbent is poised to join Jude Law and Keira Knightley in DreamWorks Pictures/Miramax Films' Tulip Fever for helmer John Madden. The studio confirmed that Broadbent is in talks to join the project, due to start lensing in April. Set in mid-1600s Amsterdam, Tulip centers on a young woman (Knightley) who weds a wealthy merchant (Broadbent) to escape poverty. However, she meets up with a penniless artist (Law) hired to paint her portrait, and the two fall in love. Their only hope of escape from her situation is to raise money from the all-important tulip market. Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay based on Deborah Moggach's novel, published in March 2000. Producer Alison Owen (Sylvia) is shepherding the project, with DreamWorks co-heads Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald taking executive producer credits. At the studio, it's being overseen by production executive Paul Lister. DreamWorks is taking the lead on production and will handle domestic rights, while Miramax, which worked with Madden on Shakespeare in Love, is handling international. Broadbent is repped by ICM. »

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Knightley Signs Up As New Asprey Girl

30 July 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Bend It Like Beckham beauty Keira Knightley has been signed up as the new face of British luxury goods makers Asprey. Since 1781, Asprey has been known for silver, leather, porcelain, crystal, rare books and gems, and how the company is expanding into fashion and other products. Knightley will appear in November magazines for the ad campaign, which will be shot by photographer Bruce Weber. Earlier this month, the 18- year-old actress wowed onlookers when she donned $800,000 worth of Asprey diamonds to the London premiere of her latest movie Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl. »

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Keira Knightley Wanted for 'Jurassic' Sequel

28 July 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Young British star Keira Knightley is poised to sign for a role that will see her soar into the Hollywood 'superleague'. The Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl actress is wanted by superstar director Steven Spielberg to take a leading role in the fourth Jurassic Park blockbuster. Keira, 18, gushes, "It was so amazing because I've been a big fan of the original film for years. Steven said he liked my work in Bend It Like Beckham and wanted to meet me. I think Sam Neill really pushed for me as well, because we had worked together before on Doctor Zhivago. There were actually two roles in Jurassic Park IV that Steven thought I might fit. First there was the granddaughter part. The other was substantially larger but I won't go into any details in case I make Steven angry." In-demand Keira has also signed up with Spielberg's Dreamworks production company for a role opposite Jude Law in book adaptation Tulip Fever. »

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Dis sets sail on 'Pirates' sequel

16 July 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Eager to unearth more buried treasure now that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl raised its flag high at the boxoffice this past weekend, the Walt Disney Co. is already talking of setting sail on a sequel to the theme park ride-inspired feature. In anticipation of the film's success, Disney had already made sequel arrangements with such key cast members as Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, as well as with the behind-the-scenes duo of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski. And the studio has also begun talks with Pirates scribes Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio about drafting a sequel, though no specific story line has yet been set. Since its opening a week ago today, Pirates has earned more than $78 million, including a $46.6 million opening-weekend take easily won last weekend's boxoffice battle. »

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Knightley Steals the Show

16 July 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Teenage beauty Keira Knightley stole the show at Monday night's premiere of Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl in London. The stunning 18-year-old wowed onlookers in Leicester Square with a new raven-hairdo, accompanied by a black Alexander McQueen corset and $800,000 worth of Asprey diamonds, as she posed with hunky co-star Orlando Bloom - who continued the theme by donning a black suit. Knightley said at the balmy evening, "This is my first big London premiere, and it's amazing. I can't believe the reception. I just want to have a good time tonight. I got all dressed up - I know people would be surprised but I wore a corset again after all the similar outfits I wore for this film. But I just couldn't resist." Supermodel Helena Christensen and pop trio Atomic Kitten also attended the bash. »

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Knightley crowned 'Arthur' queen

14 May 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Bend It Like Beckham star Keira Knightley has scored a starring role as Guinevere in the Walt Disney Co.'s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced King Arthur. Knightley will star opposite Clive Owen in the historical take on the medieval legend for director Antoine Fuqua. Described as a demystified take on the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the film promises a more realistic portrayal of Arthur than has ever been presented onscreen. It is scheduled to start production next month in Dublin, Ireland. The film will focus on the history and politics of the period during which Arthur ruled -- when the Roman Empire collapsed and skirmishes over power broke out in outlying countries -- as opposed to the mystical elements of the tale on which past Arthur films have focused. »

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11 February 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Berlin International Film Festival

BERLIN -- "Pure"'s lively and colorful cinematic style turns a "downer" story about grim lives and desperation into a powerful love story. Returning to the subject of troubled relationships between a mother and her children, which he explored in his 1998 film "Hideous Kinky", Scottish director Gillies MacKinnon zeroes in on a 10-year-old boy who goes to extreme lengths to rescue his mom from heroin addiction. Resourceful and determined, the lad's persistent wooing of his mom lifts the story out of the realm of social realism to give audiences a new perspective on addicts and addiction. This one has the look and feel of an art house hit.

Young Henry Eden carries the film as Paul, a cheerful lad who has learned how to prepare the "medicine" that gets his mother, Mel (Molly Parker), going each morning since the tragic death of his father. He and his younger brother, Lee (Vinni Hunter), live with their mom in East London's Upton Park, across the street from West Ham United's football stadium, the scene of happier times as a family. Only when a close friend of his mom's (Marsha Thomason) dies of an overdose does Paul realize the danger of his mom's medicine.

When he angrily confronts her with her addiction, she agrees to go cold turkey. But she can't get through the self-imposed imprisonment in her own bedroom. To Paul's horror, his dad's best friend, Lenny (David Wenham), a local pimp and drug dealer, misguidedly supplies Mel with drugs to keep her going.

Outside pressures build. The children's grandmother (Geraldine McEwan) wants custody of Paul and Lee. Social Services is only to happy to agree. And a police detective (Gary Lewis) wants Paul to help him nail Lenny. Paul's only escape comes in his budding friendship with a pregnant waitress, Louise (Keira Knightley), but she too is developing a drug problem. Wanting to understand how his mother feels, Paul coaxes Louise into letting him smoke heroin. Seeing her son stoned brings Mel to her senses.

The performances are superb, especially the key one between Parker and Eden as two people who desperately need each other. Pivotally, MacKinnon and writer Alison Hume concentrate on character, so the movie becomes one about people's lives rather than their addictions. They put us on an emotional roller coaster as Paul's every attempt at happiness is short-lived. All the tough love in the world won't do the trick unless his mom is willing to end the self-destructive behavior.

Cinematographer John de Borman's composition is arresting as the camera seeks out adventurous vantage points. Composer Nitin Sawhney, who also plays Lenny's henchman, lets Indian motifs filter through a lively Western score. But the film's greatest asset is the small, dark, pleading face of the single-minded Eden.


A Little Wing Films/Kudos production


Director: Gillies MacKinnon

Screenwriter: Alison Hume

Producer: Howard Burch

Executive producers: Robert Bevan, Keith Hayley, Charlie Savill, Amanda Coombes, Amit Barooah, Stephen Garrett, Jane Featherstone

Director of photography: John de Borman

Production designer: Jon Henson

Music: Nitin Sawhney

Costume designer: Kate Carin

Editor: Pia Di Ciaula


Mel: Molly Parker

Paul: Harry Eden

Lenny: David Wenham

Louise: Keira Knightley

Nanna: Geraldine McEwan

Vicki: Marsha Thomason

Lee: Vinni Hunter

Inspector French: Gary Lewis

Running time -- 96 minutes

No MPAA rating


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12 items from 2003

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