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Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt’s Montana Drama

3 hours ago

Kristen Stewart has joined Michelle Williams and Laura Dern in Kelly Reichardt’s untitled drama, set in Montana.

Stewart will portray a lawyer from Boise, Idaho, who takes a teaching job several hours from her house. After taking the job, Stewart’s character develops a friendship with a local woman who’s auditing her class.

Stewart was seen most recently in Julianne Moore’s “Still Alice.” She recently became the first American actress to win a Cesar at France’s most prominent film awards show for her co-starring role in “Cloud of Sils Maria.”

Neil Kopp and Anish Savjani are producing the Reichardt project, a series of vignettes in a small town in Montana.

Reichardt most recently directed “Night Moves” with Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning.

Stewart is repped by Gersh.

The news about Stewart was first reported by Deadline.

 

 

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- Dave McNary

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FilmAid International Names Meryl Frank Exec Director

3 hours ago

FilmAid International announced today that Meryl Frank will be the humanitarian org’s new exec director.

The former mayor of Highland Park, N.J. joins FilmAid International from an ambassador position at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Frank is also currently president and CEO of international consulting firm Makeda Global Network, which focuses on women’s leadership. She has worked with a range of clients, from basket weavers in Kenya to Microsoft executives.

The non-profit org based in New York uses film and media to bring health and safety news to refugees and victims of crises. It has programs in Africa, Asia, Colombia and Jordan.

“Stories, written, filmed, and performed by refugees for refugees — it is a powerful approach and its impact on a community is huge,” Frank said of FilmAid’s work in a statement.

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- Lisa Schulz

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Melissa Rauch’s ‘The Bronze’ Set for July Release

4 hours ago

Relativity has set the bawdy comedy “The Bronze” for a July 10 limited release, followed by a wide release on July 31.

Relativity bought “The Bronze” for $3 million after its opening-night premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Big Bang Theory” star Melissa Rauch portrays a foul-mouthed former gymnastics bronze medalist who must fight for her local celebrity status when a new young athlete’s star rises.

The film marks Bryan Buckley’s directorial debut and was written by Winston Rauch and Melissa Rauch. Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Hailey Lu Richardson and Cecily Strong also star.

The film is produced by Stephanie Langhoff. Executive producers are Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Ryan Buckley, Michael C. Cuddy and Matt Lefebvre.

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- Dave McNary

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Andy Lau’s ‘Lost and Love’ Set for U.S. Release

5 hours ago

China Lion Film Distribution has acquired Andy Lau’s “Lost and Love” from Im Global and set a March 20 release for  North America — day and date with the release in mainland China.

“Lost and Love” will open in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Lansing, Mich.; Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

The film, written and directed by  novelist Peng Sanyuan, also stars Jing Boran, who co-starred in “Rise of the Legend” and “The Guillotines.” It’s based on a true story from the Hubei province of China about a father’s 2010 search for his long-lost son after a suspected child abduction.

The film is produced by Wang Zhonglei, Chan Pui-wah and Zhang Dajun, and by the Huayi Bros. Media Group, Beijing Yuanhesheng Entertainment, Chongqing Film Group, Xiamen Navigation Media and Good Friends Entertainment. East West Bank is sponsoring »


- Dave McNary

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Film Review: ‘Ana Maria in Novela Land’

5 hours ago

It’s not absolutely necessary to be familiar with the conventions and archetypes of soapy telenovelas to enjoy a few laughs with “Ana Maria in Novela Land,” a lightweight comedy about an obsessed viewer who magically switches places with the leading lady of her favorite TV show. But those who have at least a nodding acquaintance with the highly addictive serial dramas will smile even more often than the uninitiated as director and co-scripter Georgina Garcia Riedel (“How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer”) affectionately satirizes both the limited-run series and their most avid aficionados. This overlong but modestly amusing bilingual indie could attract a few fans of its own in limited theatrical release and ancillary platforms.

Edy Ganem, of Lifetime’s “Devious Maids,” is by turns perky, sultry and screechy in the dual role of Ariana, the sexy/sullen heroine of a popular telenovela titled “Pasion sin limites” (“Passion Without Limits”), and Ana Maria, »


- Joe Leydon

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James Franco in Talks for Comedy ‘Why Him?’ (Exclusive)

5 hours ago

James Franco is in early negotiations to star in Fox’s comedy “Why Him?”

A pair of Fox-based production companies — Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour — are producing.

John Hamburg is attached to direct from a script he co-wrote with Nicholas Stoller and Ian Helfer.

The story centers on a Midwestern father who takes his family to visit his daughter — who is attending Stanford — at Christmas and subsequently gets into a competition with his daughter’s boyfriend, a young Internet billionaire.

Franco most recently starred in Sony’s satire “The Interview” with Seth Rogen. He’s completed work on “Queen of the Desert,” which premiered at Berlin, “True Story” and “The Adderall Diaries,” and will star in Hulu’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “11/22/63.”

Hamburg directed and wrote “I Love You, Man” and “Along Came Polly.” Stoller directed “Neighbors.”

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- Dave McNary

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Robert Townsend Directing ‘Brewster’s Millions’ Reboot

6 hours ago

Robert Townsend has come on board to direct a new version of “Brewster’s Millions,” three decades after the Richard Pryor comedy was released.

The story is based on the 1902 novel by George Barr McCutcheon that was adapted into a play in 1906 and made into films 10 times — including a lost 1914 release directed by Cecil B. DeMille at the start of his career.

The Pryor version co-starred John Candy and was directed by Walter Hill. The Universal release was a solid performer with a $45 million domestic gross.

Producers of the new “Brewster’s Millions” are Joseph and Jack Nasser. The adaptation was written by Michael William Schmidt and follows Monty Brewster, who is set to inherit $1 billion – with one key caveat: He must spend $100 million in one week or end up with nothing more than the clothes on his back.

Apa will handle domestic sales of the film.

Townsend’s first feature was 1987’s “Hollywood Shuffle, »


- Dave McNary

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Leonardo DiCaprio and New Regency Reteam on ‘The Crowded Room’

6 hours ago

With their film “The Revenant” set to bow this Christmas, New Regency and Leonardo DiCaprio have moved fast to set up their next project together.

Sources tell Variety that Leonardo DiCaprio’s production banner Appian Way has come on as a producer of “The Crowded Room,” an adaptation of the Daniel Keyes nonfiction book that centered around Billy Milligan, the first person to successfully use multiple personality disorder as a legal defense.

Jason Smilovic and Todd Katzberg, who is also a writer on Todd Phillips’ next feature, “Arms and the Dudes,” have been set as scribes.

DiCaprio will produce alongside Jennifer Davisson and Alexandra Milchan.

The pic has been in development for quite some time at New Regency. Story follows Milligan, who was charged in the late ’70s with armed robbery and the rapes of three women on the Ohio State University campus. Milligan, who was diagnosed with multiple personality syndrome, »


- Justin Kroll

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’71’ Director Tapped to Helm Thriller for New Regency and Plan B

7 hours ago

New Regency has acquired an untitled thriller and set “71” helmer Yann Demange to direct the pic.

Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner will produce through their Plan B banner along with Angus Lamont and Molly Smith. Demange’s “71” scribe Gregory Burke penned the script.

Plot details are unknown.

Demange has been one of the more sought-after directors in Hollywood following the critical acclaim of “71,” which stars “Unbroken” star Jack O’Connell in the story of a British soldier who is left behind in Belfast after a riot.

New Regency has increasingly found ways to team with high-profile directors like Steve McQueen on “12 Years a Slave” and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, who is coming off of his Oscar win for “Birdman,” and is directing “The Revenant,” staring Leonardo DiCaprio, for the company, which will open the film next Christmas.

New Regency and Plan B see Demange as a director with strong storytelling skills. »


- Justin Kroll

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Elisabeth Rohm Joins Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Joy’

7 hours ago

Elisabeth Rohm has joined Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy.” She will play the sister of Lawrence’s Joy Mangano.

Edgar Ramirez and Robert De Niro are also starring in the David O’Russell film, in which Lawrence portrays a struggling Long Island single mother of three children who invents the Miracle Mop.

Rohm starred in Russell’s “American Hustle” as the wife of Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner.

John Davis and John Fox are producing “Joy” for Fox 2000 along with Ken Mok. Shooting has started in Boston, with Fox planning a Christmas release.

Rohm is repped by Artists Intl. Management, Untitled Entertainment and Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson.

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- Dave McNary

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Gary Cole Resurrects His ‘Office Space’ Boss in HipChat Campaign

7 hours ago

Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh, the epitome of the nightmarishly banal manager as seen in the 1999 cult comedy feature “Office Space,” has been resurrected by ad agency Brass Ideas in its campaign for HipChat, a Web-based team communications tool that seeks to revolutionize office work.

Cole, whose “Hmm, yeah, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday” resonates for anybody who’s ever worked in a dead-end job, has reprised his role as the suspender-wearing, coffee-cup toting bureaucrat obsessed with “Tps reports” in a series of spots as a way of illustrating outmoded ways of doing business vs. HipChat’s streamlined messaging service.

“Lumbergh is the ultimate symbol of being out of touch,” said San Francisco-based Brass Ideas founder Andrew Clarke in a statement. “We’re using the celebrity of his character not only as an attention-getter, but to make a strategic point. That point »


- Steve Chagollan

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Box Office: Will Smith’s ‘Focus’ Heading for $23 Million Opening Weekend, ‘Fifty Shades’ Slipping

7 hours ago

Will Smith’s “Focus” is ending the box office dominance of of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” with a moderate opening in the $21 million to $23 million range expected at 3,323 locations this weekend.

While hardly dazzling, “Focus” won’t be a disaster for Warner Bros., unlike Smith’s 2013 sci-fi pic “After Earth” was for Sony. “Focus” — a combination of romantic comedy and heist caper — carries a $50 million pricetag, or about a third that of “After Earth.”

Early estimates placed “Focus” in line with expectations of a respectable launch, reinforced with a $900,000 opening on Thursday night. Margot Robbie, who debuted in “Wolf of Wall Street,” co -stars as a young con artist.

After stunning audiences with a record-setting opening weekend and easily winning its second session, “Fifty Shades” is fading fast and heading for about $10 million this weekend at the U.S. box office.

“Fifty Shades” tumbled 74% last weekend to $22.3 million, so another steep decline is coming. »


- Dave McNary

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Ukrainian Director Remains Locked Up After Torture in Detention in Crimea (Guest Column)

8 hours ago

Mike Downey, deputy chairman of the European Film Academy, is seeking to spread the word about Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who has been imprisoned on charges of terrorism.

The Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov first came to the attention of the international film world in 2012 with “Gamer,” which screened to great acclaim at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Inspired by a computer and videogaming club for kids that Sentsov had founded, “Gamer” was shown in the Bright Future section of the festival for talented newcomers.

Today the “bright future” that Sentsov is looking at is 20 years in a Russian prison, accused of being a terrorist.

Sentsov was arrested in his home town of Simferopol, Crimea, in May 2014. Since then he has been tortured, locked up on false charges in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison and refused access to representatives of the Ukrainian government.

A campaign by the European Film Academy for Sentsov’s release, »


- Mike Downey

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Film Review: ‘Zurich’

8 hours ago

An arrestingly broken-backed story structure offers more surprises than the story itself in “Zurich,” Dutch helmer Sacha Polak’s grim but glisteningly crafted sophomore feature. Confirming the promise of her remarkable 2012 debut “Hemel” without quite advancing upon it, this bisected study of a young woman cast adrift — physically and psychologically — by personal tragedy unfurls its tale of woe in furtively non-linear fashion, but it shouldn’t take viewers long to surmise the root of her trauma. Still, Polak’s formal nerve and frankly feminine perspective just about retrieve this Berlinale Forum selection from the realm of artsy miserablism. Distributors may regard “Zurich” with a degree of Swiss neutrality; festival programmers, however, are likely to reach out.

Despite alluring outward trappings and strong reviews that pitched it as a feminist spin on Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” “Hemel” received less international exposure than it deserved. With a less immediate premise and a »


- Guy Lodge

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Cannes Film Fest Sued by French Director

9 hours ago

Paris — The Cannes Film Festival is being sued by Paul Verhoeven, a Paris-based filmmaker who happens to have the same name as the well-known Dutch director of “Total Recall” and “Basic Instinct.”

Verhoeven, a 73-year-old director with two feature film credits, is suing Cannes for “homophobia” because the festival did not select “Teenagers,” a gay drama dealing with terrorism, back in 2009.

The claim has been perceived by local journos as absurd since the Cannes festival has supported many movies dealing with gay issues, notably Abdellatif Kechiche’s romance “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” which won a Palme d’Or.

Verhoeven’s lawsuit is reportedly the first ever filed against the high-profile festival.

“Teenagers” earned poor reviews but managed to win one nod for best narrative feature at the California Film Awards.

 

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- Elsa Keslassy

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‘A Murder in the Park’ Documentary Bought by Sundance Selects

9 hours ago

Sundance Selects has acquired U.S. rights to Shawn Rech and Brandon Kimber’s “A Murder in the Park” for release later this year.

Producers are Andrew Hale and Rech. The film made its world premiere at the 2014 Doc NYC festival.

The story follows death row inmate Anthony Porter, whose life is saved through the efforts of a Northwestern University journalism class two days before his execution. The reinvestigation into the crime for which Porter was convicted — a 1982 double homicide in a Chicago park — led to the discovery of Alstory Simon, whose confession exonerated Porter.

However, the filmmakers contend that Porter is actually guilty. Simon spent 15 years in prison before being freed last October by the state, which found that coercive tactics that were used in obtaining the confession were “unacceptable by law enforcement standards.”

“Rech and Kimber have crafted an expertly made, utterly captivating examination of the ethics and inconsistencies of our justice system, »


- Dave McNary

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How Leonard Nimoy Tried to Escape the Grip of Mr. Spock

10 hours ago

Leonard Nimoy titled his 1977 autobiography “I Am Not Spock,” referencing the “Star Trek” role that, in its own way, became a pair of velvet handcuffs. Indeed, for actors, few parts better sum up the conundrum they can face – eager to find a steady role that propels them into the public consciousness, only to become at least partially shackled in terms of the doors that association closes.

Nimoy had bounced around in Westerns and smaller movie roles before landing the gig as Mr. Spock, the emotionless Vulcan. Even more than most of his “Star Trek” castmates, he seemed to chafe against some of the expectations the series engendered – amusingly spoofed in William Shatner’s mock “Get a life!” outburst at Trekkers on “Saturday Night Live” – before ostensibly resigning himself to them.

In that regard, there were always mixed feelings in seeing Nimoy drawn back into the franchise, although he wisely parlayed »


- Brian Lowry

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The NBA and Hollywood Unite for the Premiere of ‘Kobe Bryant’s Muse’

10 hours ago

The NBA and Hollywood came together on Thursday at the London West Hollywood hotel to celebrate the premiere of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” the upcoming Showtime documentary that tells the story of the basketball icon’s career to date.

Gotham Chopra, the film’s director and son of Deepak Chopra, said that one of the coolest experiences while working on the film was watching Kobe work out in an empty gym, or watching him play in an empty Staples Center (the current home of the Los Angeles Lakers) at 3 a.m.

“It’s like watching Picasso in an empty studio,” Chopra said.

At 6’6″, Kobe Bryant towered over most everyone on the red carpet, but showed great humility when talking about this new, more forthcoming phase of his life.

“I’m just constantly curious,” Bryant said. “If you have an idea, and if you’re obsessive about what you do, I want to know why. »


- Seth Kelley

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Film i Väst, Nordisk Film and Svt Join Forces to Make Bigger Swedish Movies

11 hours ago

Paris– Film i Väst, Nordisk Film and Swedish Television (Svt) are joining forces to co-finance and co-produce bigger-budgeted Swedish movies with international potential.

A rep from each company will meet once a month to review projects. Although the three shingles have not set a limit on the number of projects they will support, they will give out a maximum of 25 million Swedish Kronor ($3 million) from the three co-producers.

Selected projects, which don’t have to be entirely show in Swedish, will be sold by Scandi powerhouse TrustNordisk and distributed by Nordisk Films in the Nordic countries.

Tomas Eskilsson, CEO of Film i Väst, said the idea behind the initiative was to finance between 50% to 65% of film budgets in order to deliver movies in the $4 million-$5 million range, which is two times higher than the average budget of a Swedish pic.

“Our effort can be seen as a vitamin shot into »


- Elsa Keslassy

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Richard Lagravenese on His ‘Rude Awakening’ to Hollywood

11 hours ago

Richard Lagravenese was nominated for an Oscar at age 32 for his first solo screenplay, “The Fisher King.” But his movie career got off to a rocky start a few years earlier, as co-writer of the Cheech Marin-Eric Roberts comedy “Rude Awakening” for producer Aaron Russo. Lagravenese, who most recently directed the musical “The Last Five Years,” reflected on his humble beginnings.

How did you get involved with “Rude Awakening,” or as it was then known, “The Guatemalan Papers”?

I was writing plays and doing standup comedy. A friend of mine from college is married to Neil Levy, who started on “Saturday Night Live” in the early days and is a really great guy and funny writer. Neil had sold an idea called “Guatemalan Papers” — a “Dr. Strangelove”-like satire about these ’60s radicals hiding in Guatemala — to Aaron Russo. What we didn’t know is all Aaron heard »


- Geoff Berkshire

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