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9 items from 2004

Foreign fares well at Toronto fest

14 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

TORONTO -- Several film titles found new homes at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday. Focus Features, Universal's specialty arm, picked up My Summer of Love for the United States and other territories; Newmarket Films inked a pact to acquire Lukas Moodysson's A Hole in My Heart in North America; and Fine Line Features said it will roll out Lucrecia Martel's Spanish-language feature Holy Girl (La Nina Santa) through its partnership with HBO Films. The activity typifies the continuing prominence of foreign fare at TIFF. The sole domestic fictional feature to sell so far is the star-studded ensemble piece Crash, which Lions Gate picked up. In addition to U.S. rights, Focus also nabbed rights to Summer in Canada, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The feature was a hot commodity here, and sources said bidding went as high as $2.5 million. The film had piqued interest from a bevy of suitors, including Miramax Films, Roadside Attractions and Sony Pictures Classics, after it screened Saturday in the World Contemporary Cinema section. »

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13 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Screened at the Toronoto International Film Festival

A decade after Rodney King, people of different colors still can't just get along in the ethnically divided city of Los Angeles. That's the message according to director Paul Haggis' debut, Crash, premiered as a special presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival.

This ensemble drama, with stories and characters connected to one another through threads of racial misunderstanding and stupid stereotyping, is a heartfelt plea for tolerance and civil kindness featuring some great work by a huge cast including Don Cheadle, Thandie Newton, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe. Unfortunately, it also feels like another middle-class conscience exercise in multicultural promotion.

That's the bad news. The good news is this kind of white, liberal movie should generate a load of positive reviews and attract a more lucrative mass audience than, say, a racial/political Spike Lee movie. In a slow year, this might even win some Oscar attention.

As the film begins, there's a fender bender on a cordoned road on a hill. An Asian woman starts screaming at the Latin woman she collided with. Later on, a white couple is carjacked by two black kids, an Iranian shopkeeper receives racial slurs from a redneck when he tries to buy a gun to protect himself, and a black TV executive and his wife are roughed up and molested by white cops who've had a bad day.

Each incident triggers further anger and resentment, with victims then perpetrating their own ignorance and stereotype on the next racially different person they encounter. The politics of it all is further complicated as the carjacked white district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and a black detective (Cheadle) struggle between "sending the right message" and "doing the right thing" when a suspected dirty black cop is accidentally shot by a white off-duty policeman with prior similar incidents.

Although you can't argue with the film's earnest themes of collective redemption and forgiveness, it's not a new message.

Haggis is a transplanted Canadian who previously worked on such TV shows as "ER," L.A. Law and "thirtysomething." The idea for the movie also derived from a carjacking he experienced. Perhaps this is why he depicts each scene of racial antagonism with such a dramatic sense of urgent significance. Maybe he never experienced it before he moved south.

But the narrative does feel like territory already covered in TV dramas like NYPD Blue, Third Watch and those Haggis used to work on. The individual stories themselves are not without merit, and one wonders if each character segment would be more effective if it was expanded into its own full-length film.

Instead, focus on the beautiful sheen of the cinematography. Also enjoy the wonderful performances by a cast very committed to the cause. Cheadle is terrific, as usual, as a conflicted cop with a gang-troubled brother and drug-addicted mother. Bullock is shockingly good playing against type as an uptight upper-class housewife who thinks every Latino person is up to no good. Dillon nicely balances sympathy, villainy and arrogance as a cop stressed by his ill father. Also worthy of note is Terrence Howard as the successful black Hollywood exec whose identity as a man and as a black man is questioned after an encounter with LAPD.

On its own, Crash does succeed as a moving reflection of modern social alienation and paranoia. If only it came out 10 years ago, then it could have been called an original and brave work as well.


Bob Yari Productions and DEJ Productions presents

A BlackFriar's Bridge and Harris Company production

An ApolloProscreen production

A Bull's Eye Entertainment production


Director: Paul Haggis

Producers: Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco, Paul Haggis

Co-Producer: Betsy Danbury

Writer: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco

Director of photography: J. Michael Muro

Production designer: Laurence Bennett

Costume designer: Linda Bass

Editor: Hughes Winborne

Music: Mark Isham


Graham: Don Cheadle

Jean: Sandra Bullock

Officer Ryan: Matt Dillon

Rick: Brendan Fraser

Cameron: Terrence Howard

Christine: Thandie Newton

Anthony: Chris Ludacris Bridges

Peter: Lorenz Tate

Farhad: Shaun Toub

Shaniqua: Loretta Devine

Fred: Tony Danza

Flanagan: William Fichtner

Ria: Jennifer Esposito

MPAA rating: R

Running time -- 100 minutes »

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Dealmaking getting hot in Toronto

13 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

TORONTO -- A flurry of wheeling and dealing marked the opening weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival, with a slew of pacts closing and further features primed to sell in the coming days. Lions Gate Films won a bidding war for the star-studded ensemble drama Crash, while Sony Pictures Classics closed deals on two foreign titles -- Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron and Jan Hrebejk's Up and Down. Meantime, Palm Pictures targeted the Iraq-set Gunner Palace as the fest' first documentary buy. Other films generating heat North of the Border now include the feature docu Three of Hearts, Ra'up McGee's homage to '60s French film noir Automne and the U.K. import My Summer of Love. As expected, the hotly tipped Crash -- a Los Angeles-set ensemble drama featuring Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Jennifer Esposito and Larenz Tate -- prompted instantaneous offers from buyers after its Friday premiere in the Special Presentations section. »

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Toronto sighting Hollywood galaxy

24 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

TORONTO -- The Toronto International Film Festival today is set to unveil the entire film lineup for its 29th edition, which is shaping up as a battle of bigger movie directors and stars. Toronto is expected to unveil a lineup of around 325 films for its Sept. 9-18 run and said that already in-line to be at the festival are: Sandra Bullock and Matt Dillon to promote Paul Haggis' Crash; Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman getting behind the world premiere of David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees; and Charlize Theron in town to plug Head in the Clouds. Other stars confirmed for Toronto include Liam Neeson with Bill Condon's Kinsey and Nick Nolte and Maggie Cheung promoting Olivier Assayas' Festival de Cannes hit Clean. »

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Hollywood stars set to power Toronto fest

11 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

TORONTO -- Guaranteeing strong star wattage this year, the Toronto International Film Festival said Tuesday that the festival will feature world premieres for David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees, Bill Condon's Kinsey, Dan Harris' Imaginary Heroes and Vadim Jean's Jiminy Glick in Lalawood, which was chosen for the closing-night gala. The 29th Toronto International Film Festival is set to run Sept. 9-18. Other Hollywood draws this year include world premieres for Paul Haggis' Crash, John Duigan's Head in the Clouds, Frank Flowers' Haven, Alexander Payne's Sideways and James Toback's When Will I Be Loved, as well as a North American premiere for Niels Mueller's The Assassination of Richard Nixon, which bowed at the Festival de Cannes. »

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Fichtner in huddle for Par's 'Yard'

30 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

William Fichtner has joined the cast of The Longest Yard at Paramount Pictures. He joins Gary Oldman, Burt Reynolds, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler, who toplines the remake of the 1970s comedy. Sandler also is producing with Happy Madison partner Jack Giarraputo. MTV Films president Van Toffler and exec vp David Gale are executive producing along with Barry Bernardi, Michael Ewing and Albert Ruddy. Brian Witten is overseeing for the studio. Fichtner has been on a roll lately, notching a number of indie movies, including The Moguls (formerly known as Chum Scrubbers), Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Ultraviolet and Crash. The actor is repped by WMA. »

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Fraser, DMX, Bass in Firm's fold

10 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The Firm has signed Brendan Fraser, DMX and Oscar-winning scribe Ron Bass. Fraser, who continues to be repped by WMA and attorney Patti Felker, most recently finished filming the indie drama Crash opposite Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe for writer-director Paul Haggis. Fraser's other recent credits include Looney Tunes: Back in Action, The Quiet American and The Mummy Returns. »

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Faison, Devine figure in NL's 'Ransom' plot

10 February 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Donald Faison and Loretta Devine are set to star opposite Anthony Anderson in King's Ransom for New Line Cinema. The comedy is being directed by Jeff Byrd from a Wayne Conley script and is being produced by Darryl Taja under Catch 23's Alter Ego Pictures banner. The movie is about a rich, cocky and despised businessman (Anderson) who realizes that he might lose half his wealth to the obnoxious wife he's trying to divorce. He decides to arrange his own kidnapping in order to wipe himself out and claim poverty, but he discovers that several other parties have plans to kidnap and ransom him as well. Faison's character works for the businessman. Devine will play the role of the businessman's secretary. Matt Moore and Luke Ryan are overseeing the project for New Line. Faison appears weekly in the NBC hit Scrubs. His other credits include Clueless, Big Fat Liar and Remember the Titans. He is repped by UTA, 3 Arts and attorney Michael Fuller at Barnes, Morris, Klein, Mark, Yorn, Barnes and Levine. Devine is best known for her weekly work on Boston Public and will appear in the upcoming Crash. She is repped by Untitled Entertainment and Essential Entertainment. »

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Phillippe and Mirren circle 'Shadowboxer'

2 February 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Helen Mirren and Ryan Phillippe are teaming to star as a mother-stepson gangster team In Lee Daniels' indie film Shadowboxer. Shooting is scheduled to start April 1 in Philadelphia, with Daniels making his directorial debut from a script by Monster's Ball co-scribe Will Rokos. Mirren is in talks for the project, with Phillippe in negotiations for the lead male role, according to their reps. Shadowboxer centers on the unusual relationship between a mother (Mirren) and her stepson (Phillippe). The duo, who have a romantic relationship, work as contract killers. Wes Bentley is attached to play the lead villain on the hunt for the killer couple. For the pic, Daniels has recruited famed fashion designer Vivienne Westwood to make her feature film debut as the project's stylist. Mirren is repped by ICM. She stars in the December release Calendar Girls opposite Julie Walters for Touchstone Pictures and helmer Nigel Cole. She next stars in The Clearing for Fox Searchlight Pictures and Raising Helen for Buena Vista Pictures. Phillippe is in front of the cameras on the ensemble drama Crash for helmer Paul Haggis, Stratus Film Co. and Bull's Eye Entertainment. He is repped by UTA. »

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