LAWRENCE BENDER LOOKS BACK ON 20 YEARS WITH QT

27 Feb

quentin-and-lawrence

quentin-and-lawrence

There have been many famous acting teams (Laurel & Hardy, Lewis & Martin, Hepburn & Tracy), actor-director teams (De Niro & Scorsese, Keaton & Allen, Cruz & Almodovar), and even actor-cinematographer teams (Garbo & Daniels). But when it comes to director-producer pairings, few have lasted longer or have borne more fruit than that of Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender.

It’s not the likeliest of partnerships. The latter is a Jewish kid from the Bronx with a college degree in civil engineering who tried his hand at ballet before injuries led him into acting and then low-budget producing, while the former is a kid of Irish-Italian descent from Tennessee who dropped out of school during the 9th grade and worked at a video store for a few years. But after the two were introduced in 1989 at a barbeque at the home of director Scott Spiegel (for whom Bender had produced his first movie, “Intruder,” that same year), it quickly became clear to both that they were going to work together. As Bender told me during a phone interview last Thursday, “We got excited with each other. We were both struggling. We were both outsiders. We both were trying to fight our way into the system. And we just starting talking about, “Let’s make a movie together.”

Bender had remembered Tarantino’s name from a script that he’d previously read and found impressive, “True Romance,” and asked him what he was working on at the moment. Tarantino told him he had written another script, too, “Reservoir Dogs,” which, to his great frustration, had also failed to take off at that point. Fed up with waiting, Tarantino said he was ready to self-finance it as a super-low-budget, black-and-white, 16mm film, but Bender asked him to wait just a little longer so that he could read it over. It didnt take him long to get back to Tarantino: “I was just, like, ‘Man, this is too amazing… let’s raise some real money.’”

Tarantino acquiesced, and Bender went to work. “I went to every person I knew, and asked them to go to every person that they knew.” Bender recalls that some interesting offers came up around that time: “At one point, we had one guy who was gonna give us $500,000; at one point, we had someone who was gonna give us $1.5 million if Mr. Black was played by a girl — his girlfriend; and someone else said, ‘We’ll give you a million-five, but the end needs to be like ‘The Sting’ where everyone’s not really dead’ rather than have a movie where everyone dies at the end. But we held to our guns.”

“Eventually,” Bender says, “a friend of mine led me to Monte Hellman; Monte Hellman said, ‘Okay, great’; and he gave it to his friend Richard Gladstein, who was at Live Entertainment.” [Hellman and Gladstein helped finance the film and became executive producers.] Then, Bender adds, my acting teacher gave the script to Harvey Keitel, who liked what he read and signed on to play Mr. White, and whose commitment to participate led to additional financing and interested actors. “That’s how I did it,” Bender laughs.

Bender recalls that “Reservoir Dogs” (1994) was received as “a cool indie movie that people were watching, if not loving.” Two years later, though, “Pulp Fiction” (1994), his second collaboration with Tarantino, became a massive hit at the box-office that “sort of rewrote the way things are” and “became a reference-point in cinema history.” Since then, Bender has continued to produce every film that Tarantino has directed: “Four Rooms” (1995, a segment of which was directed by Tarantino), “Jackie Brown” (1997), “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” (2003), “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004), and, most recently, “Inglourious Basterds” (2009), which has earned eight Oscar nominations including best director and best screenwriter for Tarantino and best picture for Bender.

Bender, who has also produced movies apart from Tarantino like “Good Will Hunting” (1997) and “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006), explains that a producer’s job is different on every movie. “Many times,” he says, “what happens is the producer will option a piece of material, find a writer, meet with studio and financier, bring in a director, and work with the director to hire all the main people.” He adds that during production, “people regress sometimes, and it’s the producer’s job to make sure everyone gets along and everything gets resolved.” Then, a producer helps the director during post-production, works on marketing/distribution, and is essentially the last man off the film.

But, Bender emphasizes, it’s different when he works on a film by Tarantino, who he regards as a true auteur: “He comes up with an idea; he spends time writing it; and maybe, if I’m lucky, he’ll read me pages. When he gets excited about a scene, he’ll include me as one of the people that he reads these scenes to — you come over to his house, and you sit there, and he’ll just read stuff, and it’ll be very exciting. But the day he’s finished, he puts it in my lap; he says ‘What do you think?’; it’s never been anything less than ‘I love it’; and then we sit down together and map out a course of action.”

On a Tarantino film, at least, that’s when Bender’s work really starts — and he says he has never faced more challenging work than on Tarantino’s latest, “Inglourious Basterds.” On July 3, 2008, Tarantino notified Bender that the script was finished. As Bender recalls, “I went to my kitchen, sat in this really hard chair, and figured I was gonna read about 10 pages and then go over to the couch. I never got up off the chair. I read the whole thing. I went to pick up the phone, and then I said, ‘Hell, I gotta read this again.’ I read it again. And then I spoke to Quentin, and I said to him, ‘I thank you as a fan, I thank you as a producing partner, and I thank you as a member of the Jewish tribe for writing this script.’”

Tarantino then presented him Bender some startling news: he wanted to get the done in time for the Cannes Film Festival in May 2009 and asked Bender if he felt it would be possible to do so. Bender pulled out his Blackberry, looked at the calendar, counted the weeks, and then addressed Tarantino: “I said, ‘Look, we have to start shooting 14 weeks from today to give us 13 weeks to shoot and 12 weeks of post. And every one of those markers are almost impossible to pull off. But yeah, we can do it — if you want to do it, we can do it, but you have to really want it and I have to really want it.’ We both agreed we really wanted it.”

Within the next three days, Bender interviewed and hired a line producer, production designer, and three casting directors who had offices in both Los Angeles and Berlin. A day later, his production designer was on the ground in Berlin. And two weeks later, so, too, were Tarantino and Bender, who began meeting with local actors for the parts of German characters. Just twelve weeks after that, the film began shooting at the historic Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany. “It was one of the toughest things I ever pulled off,” Bender says. “And I was thrilled to do it.”

* * *

DID YOU KNOW?

There’s a perk to being Tarantino’s producer: cameo appearances in his films. Bender chuckles, “The most famous of my performances is ‘long-haired yuppie scum,’” a part that he was credited as playing not once but twice, in “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and “Four Rooms” (1995, a segment of which Tarantino directed). “On ‘Pulp Fiction’ he gave me a choice of being a ‘Hollywood type’ or a ‘long-haired yuppie scum,” so I took long-haired yuppie scum — the better of the two.”

RELATED READING:

Photo: Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender at a ceremony celebrating the creation of a “Quentin Tarantino Street” on the historic Studio Babelsberg’s backlot in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany. Credit: Soeren Stache (EPA).

FLASH: SCOTT FEINBERG’S FINAL 2009 OSCAR FORECAST!

23 Feb

hurtlocker

hurtlocker

BARRING ANY *MAJOR* DEVELOPMENTS BETWEEN NOW AND THE CLOSE OF VOTING A WEEK FROM TODAY, THESE WILL BE MY FINAL PROJECTIONS. I WILL CLEARLY NOTE ANY CHANGES HERE.

Projected win count: 5 – “The Hurt Locker”; 4 – “Avatar”; 2 – “Crazy Heart,” “Up”; 1 – “The Blind Side,” “The Cove,” Inglourious Basterds,” “The Last Truck: Closing of a G.M. Plant,” “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” “Miracle Fish,” “Precious,” “The Secret in Their Eyes,” “Star Trek,” “Up in the Air,” “The Young Victoria”

BEST PICTURE

“The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment)

BEST DIRECTOR

Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”)

BEST ACTOR

Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”)

BEST ACTRESS

Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mo’Nique (“Precious”)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner (“Up in the Air”)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”)

BEST ANIMATED FILM

“Up” (Disney)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM

“The Cove” (Roadside Attractions)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“The Secret in Their Eyes” (Argentina)

BEST ART DIRECTION

“Avatar” (Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

“The Hurt Locker” (Barry Ackroyd)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

“The Young Victoria” (Sandy Powell)

BEST FILM EDITING

“The Hurt Locker” (Bob Murawski, Chris Innis)

BEST MAKEUP

“Star Trek” (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

“Up” (Michael Giacchino)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“The Weary Kind” (“Crazy Heart”)

BEST SOUND EDITING

“Avatar” (Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle)

BEST SOUND MIXING

“Avatar” (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Avatar” (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones)

BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

A Matter of Loaf and Death (Nick Park)

BEST SHORT FILM (DOCUMENTARY)

The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert)

BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Miracle Fish (Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey)

Photo: Anthony Mackie in “The Hurt Locker.” Credit: Summit Entertainment.

LIKE IT OR NOT, IT WILL BE BULLOCK FOR BEST ACTRESS

23 Feb

THE BLIND SIDE

THE BLIND SIDE

Not even Warner Brothers, the studio that distributed “The Blind Side,” expected awards attention for “The Blind Side” or star Sandra Bullock until late in 2009. Now, both the film and the actress are Academy Award nominees, with Bullock widely regarded as the favorite to win the best actress Oscar since she’s already won the Golden Globe for best actress (drama) and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best actress.

As if the prospects didn’t already look bleak enough for Bullock’s competition — Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”), Gabby Sidibe (“Precious”), and above all Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”) — I’ve just dug up a few new statistics that seem to indicate that she holds an even greater advantages over her competition than we had previously realized.

  • 51 of the 82 best actress winners (there was 1 tie) in Oscar history won for a performance in a film that was nominated for best picture. This bodes well for Bullock, as well as for Mulligan and Sidibe, but not for Mirren and Streep.
  • Only 11 of the 82 best actress winners (there was 1 tie) in Oscar history were the sole nominee from their film. This bodes well for Bullock, as well as for Mirren, Mulligan, and Sidibe, but not for Streep.
  • Since the first SAG Awards in 1994, only 4 women have won the Golden Globe for best actress (either drama or comedy/musical) but not the SAG Award for best actress and still gone on to win the best actress Oscar. This bodes well for Bullock, but not for Streep.
  • Since the first SAG Awards in 1994, no woman has ever lost both the Golden Globe for best actress (either drama or comedy/musical) and the SAG Award for best actress and still gone on to win the best actress Oscar. This bodes well for Bullock, as well as for Streep, but not for Mirren, Mulligan, or Sidibe.

And that’s before you consider that Streep has already won two Oscars and garnered 16 Oscar nominations; Mirren won an Oscar only 3 years ago; and Mulligan and Sidibe are nominated for their first starring roles; whereas this is the first nomination of Bullock’s long career as a leading lady.

One can never say never when it comes to Streep, in particular, but it appears that even someone with as much stature as she is going to face an tremendous uphill climb in terms of beating Bullock.

Photo: Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side.” Credit: Warner Brothers.

3 BEST PIC NOMINEES WILL ASK “WHERE IS THE LOVE?”

23 Feb

serious

serious

Three best picture Oscar nominees — “An Education” (3 total nods), “District 9″ (4 total nods), and “A Serious Man” (2 total nods) — are poised to make history on March 7, but not in a way that the other seven best picture nominees will envy. Based on my analysis of the other categories, they will, in all likelihood, become only the 135th, 136th, and 137th best picture nominees in 82 years of Oscars to go home completely empty-handed.

When one considers that the best picture field was expanded to include more than five nominees this year (10, to be precise) for the only time since the period between 1931/1932 and 1943, it’s hardly surprising that this is the case. During that previous era, it was fairly common for more than one best picture nominee to lose all of its nominations, as you can see here:

  • Two lost all in 1928/1929, 1937
  • Three lost all in 1927/1928, 1930/1931
  • Four lost all in 1931/1932, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943
  • Six lost all in 1933, 1935, 1940, 1942
  • Seven lost all in 1934

The truth is that it’s actually been a fairly regular occurence even with just five nominees. Indeed, there have only been 18 ceremonies in which every best picture nominee did win an Oscar: 1945, 1948, 1949, 1953, 1955, 1963, 1967, 1969, 1975, 1979, 1986, 1988, 1995, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2007.

For a listing of every Oscar-less best picture nominee from the past 81 years, along with their total number of unsuccessful nominations, click below…

(more…)

REPORTS ON THE SHORTS: BEST SHORT (LIVE ACTION)

22 Feb

miracle-fish

miracle-fish

Want to know how to win your Oscar pool? You better correctly predict the winners of the three categories celebrating short films — live action, animated, and documentary shorts. It’s not easy, and most people just blindly guess the winners because they haven’t seen any of the nominees, but you don’t have to. Why? Because I’ve seen them all for you. Here is my first of three reports on the shorts (beware of spoilers)…

Best Short (Live Action)

Nominee #1: “The Door”
Somber piece about the after-effects of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster on a family that lived nearby. Begins with lengthy, wordless opening sequence in which a man appears to have broken into a house. Eventually becomes clear that he was breaking into his own house — in an area from which he and his neighbors had been banned after the incident — in order to steal a door frame on which to bury his young daughter, who died from exposure to radiation.

Nominee #2: “Instead of Abracadabra”
Charmingly funny story of a directionless, eccentric young man who lives with his parents while practicing his hobby of magic. Sight gags, love story, quest for stern father’s approval, and eventual redemption make it rather endearing. Seems like a tamer version of something Sacha Baron Cohen might make, and visually resembles “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Juno,” and “Lars and the Real Girl.”

Nominee #3: “Kavi”
Violent, deeply disturbing vignette about modern-day slavery in India. Centers around a young boy who looks like/experience similar things to young Jamal from “Slumdog Millionaire.” That film won best picture last year, and while many are reading that as a positive omen for this short I’m actually inclined to believe that people will find it too similar and opt for another option instead.

Nominee #4: “Miracle Fish”
Quiet, moving story about a young Australian boy from a poor family who is bullied at school. On his birthday, his mother gives him a simple present that his classmates mock but eventually helps to save his life when a crazed gunman confronts him in a classroom. It’s not entirely clear what the moral of the story is, but it is nonetheless visually beautiful, suspenseful, and stars a sympathetic kid, which may be enough to carry it the distance.

Nominee #5: “The New Tenants”
Woody Allen’s chatter and angst meets the Coen brothers’ twisted humor and violence in this ridiculous but endlessly amusing story. Essentially, a gay couple move into an apartment previously occupied by a man who was cheating on another’s man’s wife while also hiding a big bag of heroin under his sink, which the new tenants thought was flour and loaned to a neighbor. When someone comes looking for the flour, complications ensue. (Vincent D’Onofrio makes a cameo.)

PROJECTED WINNER: “MIRACLE FISH”
It’s incredibly hard to pick from this field of nominees, any one of which are plausible winners. My suspicion, though, is that voters will shy away from the two social-conscience options, “The Door” and Kavi,” partly because they’re very dark and partly because they don’t really offer any sense of hope or suggestion for how to improve the situations they address. (I’d also be surprised if “Kavi” isn’t hurt by the fact that it so closely follows/deals with such similar material to “Slumdog Millionaire.”) That leaves the two comedies, “Instead of Abracadabra” and “The New Tenants,” and the bleak drama “Miracle Fish.” I suspect that the first two will each have their fans, but that the third will prevail in the end because it features a cute kid, has a cool title, displays strong production values, ends powerfully, and generally feels more substantive. (Besides, we know that the people who vote in this category have a thing for difficult subject matter: they gave last year’s prize to a morose film about the Holocaust!)

Photo: Karl Beattie in “Miracle Fish.” Credit: Druid Films/Blue-Tongue Films/Qoob

VIDEO OF BAFTA WINNERS

22 Feb

IT’S OVER: “HURT LOCKER” WILL WIN BEST PICTURE

22 Feb

hurt2

hurt2

With just two weeks to go until the announcement of the 82nd Academy Awards, we can now say with more than a fair degree of certainty that we know which film will win the top Oscar. Sure, arguments can be made for other films (and both studios and pundits are making them) and upsets can happen (you don’t have to remind me). But the fact of the matter is that the raw data (precursor awards) and anecdotal evidence (conversations with actual voters) have rarely, if ever, given the same indication as clearly and consistently as they have this year: “The Hurt Locker” will win the 2009 best picture Oscar. Believe it — it’s true.

I had the same reservations as everyone else: it tackles the last subject that people want to go to the movies to see (the Iraq War); it did poorly at the box-office (only $12.7 million domestically); it has no household-names among its cast; etc.

But at some point you have to stop arguing with reality. To paraphrase Sally Field, people like it… they really like it! And they respect it, too. It has won with the BFCA, GIFA, IPA, NSFC, NYFCC, LAFCA, ACE, BAFTA, WGA, DGA, and PGA (over a movie that has earned 139 times as much money as it has, and under the same preferential balloting system that the Academy is now using); it garnered a co-leading nine AMPAS nods, including the vital ones for directing, acting (which “Avatar” doesn’t have), screenwriting (which “Avatar” doesn’t have), and editing (which “Brokeback Mountain” didn’t have); its director is going to win (even her rivals have acknowledged that at this point); and — as was the case in 2006 when “The Departed” won on Martin Scorsese‘s coattails — not enough voters feel they can justify splitting their picture/director votes to deny the film a win, as well. (“Did the best picture direct itself?”)

So, considering that, I think now is probably as appropriate a time as any to unload several fascinating tidbits about the film that I’ve gathered over the past nine months from conversations with the people most responsible for the film: writer/co-producer Mark Boal, director/co-producer Kathryn Bigelow, and actors Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty. I first chatted with Boal and Bigelow following a MoMA screening of their film on June 23; then moderated a lengthy Q&A with Renner and Mackie following a SAG screening of the film on November 21; then saw them four of them, along with Geraghty, after they won best picture at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on November 30; and then interviewed Boal and Bigelow this past Friday.

So, for your consideration, here are 20 things that you may not already know about “The Hurt Locker”…

1. The characters in the film are composites of several real people.

Boal spent two weeks time in Iraq embedded with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (E.O.D.) units like the one portrayed in the film. The characters in his script, however, derive their traits and experiences from numerous people he encountered or heard about, not any one specifically.

2. Casting decisions were made with the goal of defying audience expectations.

Boal and Bigelow realized from the start that their story wouldn’t work if they cast well-known actors as any of the three members of the central E.O.D. squad. Why? Because audiences know that — with the exception of Alfred Hitchcock and Janet Leigh in “Psycho” — directors don’t kill off their movie’s stars early in the picture. A big part of what makes “The Hurt Locker” work — and what it’s like to be in Iraq right now — is the sense of not knowing what to expect next, which wouldn’t have been possible without casting relative unknowns Renner, Mackie, and Brian Geraghty as the co-leads. (Incidentally, the cameo performances by actors who are well-known — namely Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes — add a lot to the movie because we don’t expect them to be killed but they are.)

3. A year elapsed between the casting of Renner and the beginning of filming.

Renner received the script while in London filming “28 Days Later.” He wrote down three pages of questions for Bigelow; then spoke with her by phone for a couple of hours; committed to play the part; and then waited a full year before filming commenced (during which time Bigelow consulted with him on a number of key decisions pertaining to the film, including the casting of other major parts).

4. Mackie was initially wanted for the part of Eldridge, not Sanborn.

As Mackie recalls, “When I went in to meet, I went in to meet for Eldridge. And I was like, ‘Well, you know, Eldridge is a great character, but Imma tell you why I should play Sanborn.’ And, you know, by the end of the meeting, I was like, ‘I’m gonna play Sanborn, or they think I’m just a straight egotistical bastard.’” In the end, Mackie got to play Sanborn, and Geraghty was cast as Eldridge.

5. Renner took a day of bomb suit training at Fort Irwin in California.

Renner assumed that wearing the suit, which weights around one hundred pounds, “was gonna be no big deal.” He says, “They kept telling me, ‘It’s gonna be heavy, it’s gonna be hot.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, whatever, get this thing on!’ You feel pampered—it takes a couple of guys to get this thing on. And once it was on I was doing jumping jacks—I was like, ‘This is no problem!’” After a brief pause he adds, “A half an hour into it, I wanted to kill myself… it’s intense. Literally, it’s 45 minutes in the suit doing all these little tasks that aren’t so much strenuous as they are mentally straining.”

6. Mackie conducted most of his research for the film online.

“I took a day trip to Fort Bragg, and once I got there I realized I had no reason to be there,” Mackie recalls. “So I went online and just talked to a bunch of people. You’ll be surprised what you can find when you get on these blogs, and Web sites, and message boards, and stuff. So, you know, after talking to people, and listening to their experiences, and watching videos, and stuff, I realized my most important preparation would be once I got in the room with Jeremy and Brian because the cohesiveness of the unit was what was gonna make the film.

7. Bigelow quickly won her actors’ respect.

Renner, who previously made films with female directors Asia Argento, Catherine Hardwicke, and Niki Caro, says of Bigelow, “She’s tougher than all of us. She’s a monster! She’s smart. She’s a warrior. She’s a painter. Painfully shy. Not the greatest communicator. I got along with her, but I was on this project for a year prior to shooting so I got to spend a lot of time with her. I know the other guys didn’t get to spend as much time with her. It’s hard to get something out of her. She’s really good at just observing. She told me, ‘I hired you because I knew you could do the job, so I won’t tell you how to do it.’ I was like, ‘Perfect. I won’t tell you how to do yours either.’” Mackie, who was directed by females in numerous plays, adds, “She never apologized for being a woman,” and says it would have created problems if she had. “If you come in like, ‘Oh, I’m a girl, don’t be mean to me, oh!’ then everybody’s gonna shit on you. I mean, I would, you know? If you’re a man and you come in like, ‘Oh, I’m a guy,’ I’m gonna shit on you. That’s just animal nature, you know? But she never did that. She came in and she was like, ‘We got a story to tell, we got a job to do, let’s get it!’ So we followed. There was the one day I wanted to kill her; there was the one day I wanted to kill the writer; but that’s moviemaking. When your passionate about something, it’s just like anything else. But to have one day out of three months? That’s a pretty good batting-average, you know? So I’ve never had an issue with her being a woman, or taking orders or direction from a woman.”

8. The film wasn’t shot in Iraq, but it couldn’t have been shot much closer.

Ever since the Iraq War began in 2003, only a few movies have been shot within the country’s borders, most of which have been documentaries. In fact, the entire region is so dangerous that it’s nearly impossible to get a cast and crew insured to film there. But Bigelow and Boal desperately wanted an authentic setting for their film, and wound up shooting “The Hurt Locker” only only three miles outside of the Iraqi border, in Jordan, over the course of three months.

9. The weather conditions were brutal.

While filming in Jordan in the middle of the summer, the cast and crew faced regular sandstorms, windstorms, and temperatures that averaged around 120 degrees Fahrenheit (which felt exponentially hotter for Renner inside his bomb suit). Several took weekend “escapes” to the Dead Sea (along a part of the west coast of Jordan), Aqaba (a resort city in the far south of Jordan), and Egypt (which is just across the Gulf of Aqaba), where temperatures got as high as 135 degrees Fahrenheit! Renner chuckles, “We were gonna shoot in Kuwait, where it’s 150, so I’m glad we didn’t go there.”

10. The actors roughed it.

There were no movie star trailers or overflowing craft-service tables for the stars of this film. Instead, the actors stayed in makeshift Bedouin tents with thick sheets wrapped around them to provide some shade. “Sometimes we had a toilet; otherwise we’d go in a hole,” says Renner. “Or just find a rock,” adds Mackie. Worse, says Mackie, “They brought in this little portable air conditioner, but to make it work you had to put ice in the air conditioner, and we’re in the desert so there’s no ice!” But, Renner acknowledges, “Even if we had trailers, we wouldn’t have been in ‘em ’cause we were constantly moving.” As for fine dining? Renner says the unspoken rule was, “If you want to get away from the flies, just go around the food.” Mackie chuckles, “It was bad.”

11. The locals weren’t always welcoming.

Renner and Mackie emphasize that the majority of locals that the cast and crew encountered were “lovely,” but acknowledge that some were anything but. “Some of the locations were just hardcore,” says Mackie, to which Renner adds that a few were just “really awful, terrible places.” One, in particular, brings back bad memories for both men: a refugee camp. “That was brutal,” says Renner. Rocks were thrown at them; two-by-fours with nails sticking out of them were dropped from rooftops as they passed below; and there was even gunfire in their direction (though the shooters were too far away to pose much of a threat). “It was rough,” seconds Mackie.

12. The production, which involved local Muslim actors and crew, overlapped with the holiest month of the Islamic year.

Mackie explains, “Well, we were in the Middle East during Ramadan, you know what I mean? That’s the hardest thing ever, you know? That’s like being a black dude at a Klan rally!” He elaborated, “It was so hard because you had to be respectful of the people around you because, you know, they were fasting during the day in 120-degree heat. We have on these huge suits, and we’re trying to stay focused, and have water and stuff… so that was a huge challenge.”

13. Renner’s first attempt at putting on the bomb suit on location was a disaster.

“[We put it] on backwards,” Renner confesses, as he and Mackie laugh at the memory. “It was bad,” adds Mackie, who explains, “We had to put it on [piece by piece], so we had to figure out how to get the helmet on, how to plug it in, how to get the fan on—it was something! But we finally got it right. It took, like, a half day, you know, figuring out how to put it on.”

14. Renner needed some technical advice while on location in the Middle East.

While wearing his bomb suit and preparing to shoot the scene in which he kicks open the trunk of a car, something caught Renner’s eye: what was supposed to be detonation cord was, he believed, actually electrical cord. He laughs now at how he decided to get an answer then: he rang up the guys at Fort Irwin. “I’m literally calling the guys in my bomb suit—like, I don’t know where they are, they could’ve been deployed at this point, you know—‘Hey! I got some det-cord here. It doesn’t look right. How do I render safe this I.E.D.?’”

15. The film was shot with “Ninja cameras.”

Bigelow hired Barry Ackroyd as her cinematographer because she admired his work on “United 93.” On this film, like that one, he frequently employed shaky hand-held cameras and zoomed in-and-out to make viewers feel like they, too, are in the heat of a confusing situation. The sets were massive and there were as many as four cameras rolling at a time (hidden behind props and even camels, leading the actors to call them “Ninja cameras”), providing the actors with an unusual sense of freedom. Renner says, “You never really saw Kathryn or her cameras for I think 80 percent of the movie.” Mackie adds, “We would do, like, 12 to 15 minute takes. And what was so crazy was the idea of not knowing where the cameras were. It put us in a position where we didn’t have to worry about hitting our light or facing out to the camera; it made it almost like a play, you know?”

16. The mercenary sequence was included, despite having little to do with the rest of the film, for a specific reason.

As Boal recently acknowledged, the only reason he and Bigelow included “the mercenary sequence in the middle of a bomb movie” was to provide Ralph Fiennes with a part that he would agree to play in the film. Fiennes, who had previously starred in Bigelow’s film “Strange Days” (1995), was initially presented with and turned down an offer to play a British Ambassador who harshly chides American troops in “The Hurt Locker,” telling Boal in no uncertain terms that he knew people who were in similar positions and would never do such a thing, and Bigelow that he had no desire to wear a suit on screen again. He was more amenable to making a brief appearance as a mercenary, though, and so the scene was added to the script.

17. Mackie grew to share something in common with his character.

Near the end of the film, in what Mackie calls “the most important scene in this film for me, Sanborn says he wants a son. Mackie, who had been single and childless prior to the film, was greatly impacted by his experience making it. “When I came back home I was emotionally, just, ‘Gah!’ And I just checked out. I moved back to New Orleans, bought a house, and started building a house. I was like, ‘Ah, psychotherapy!’ And, you know, it was one of those things where I realized my mortality. So, at that instant, I was like, ‘Find girl. Make baby. Put in house. Be happy.’ So I started dating my third-grade girlfriend; got engaged; and had a son.” Looking back, he says the film “made me realize how important right now is,” and that “the great thing about being an actor is that you get to live so many different lives, [which] helps you live your actual life.”

18. The film resembles World War II-era war films more than recent examples of the genre.

The majority of war films made over the past three decades — the era of the star-driven blockbuster — have focused on the individual military man, not the military unit. It hasn’t always been this way: many if not most war films made during/about World War II — movies like Howard Hawks’s “Air Force,” Henry King’s “Twelve O’Clock High,” and William Wellman’s “Battleground” — focused more on the military unit. “The Hurt Locker” returns to that sort of story partly because that’s how E.O.D. squads really operate and partly because it just makes for a better story, says Boal. Mackie adds, “Everything we did we did as a unit, on and off camera… we had this open-dialogue, we had this camaraderie, this relationship to where we really took care of each other.” As Renner puts it, “We leaned on each other a lot. And bottles of wine helped.” Mackie laughs, “For real!”

19. Bigelow could make history on Oscar night twice.

As has been widely reported, Bigelow has already become the first female to ever win the DGA Award and only the fourth female to ever be nominated for the best director Oscar, so much of the focus for Oscar night is on her quest to become the first female to ever win the best director Oscar. Bigelow followers should take note of something else, too: on February 2, she also became only the eighth female to ever direct or co-direct a film that was nominated for a best picture Oscar, and on March 7 she could become the first female director to have ever directed or co-directed a best picture Oscar winner. (Make those numbers ninth and second if you count Loveleen Tandan, who was credited as “co-director: India” on last year’s best picture winner “Slumdog Millionaire” but did not share in any of director Danny Boyle’s nominations or wins.)

20. Boal and Bigelow have already announced plans to team up again.

The writer and the director who brought you “The Hurt Locker” will soon be bringing you “Triple Frontier,” which Boal recently described as a “love story” set in “a lawless area” of South America “with crime, drugs, and kidnapping.” (And, since Kathryn Bigelow’s involved, expect lots of tension and violence!) Boal is penning the script; Bigelow will direct; and both will co-produce.

Photo: Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker.” Credit: Summit.

EXCLUSIVE: HARVEY DISHES ON LIFE, WORK, AND OSCARS!

20 Feb

harvey

harvey

I have a confession to make: I admire — and have always admired — Harvey Weinstein. Why? Well, partly because he’s a modern-day Horatio Alger story, having worked his way up from concert promoter to movie mogul; partly because he’s as responsible as anyone for ushering in the indie film movement that’s produced most of the finest films of the past two decades; and partly because he’s a member of a dying breed thats roots trace back to P.T. Barnum, Florenz Ziegfeld, and Cecil B. DeMille: he’s a true showman.

When I speak with Mr. Weinstein — or Harvey, as he insists I call him — by telephone on Friday, it’s 5pm on the east coast of the United States, where I’m based, and 10pm in the evening in London, where he’s spending a few days prior to Sunday evening’s BAFTA Awards. His big awards hopeful this year, “Inglourious Basterds,” was denied a best picture nod there, but several of the people associated with it — including writer/director Quentin Tarantino and supporting actor Christoph Waltz — were nominated, and the film is apparently gaining momentum in the Oscar race back stateside, so Harvey put on his best face face and turned out to support his troops.

Indeed, the first thing that he tells me is that he’s just walked in from a wonderful party at The Groucho Club that Tarantino threw for Waltz (who has won virtually every award for which he’s been eligible thus far and is Harvey’s surest-bet to deliver an Oscar in three weeks). Over the course of our 20-minute call, he repeatedly tries to steer the conversation back to “Basterds,” Waltz, and especially Tarantino, with whom he’s collaborated ever since the boy wonder’s first film “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) 18 years ago. But the reason that I requested this interview was to talk not about the puppeteer but rather about the puppeteer’s puppeteer.

Harvey is one of those people who everybody knows but nobody knows much about, apart from his occasional outbursts/blunders and his unparalleled track record at securing Oscar nominations and wins for his films and the people who made them. (Has anyone been thanked more from the Oscar podium?) Considering that Harvey and his associates might pull off their biggest Oscar surprise yet on March 7, I figured that now was as appropriate a time as any to ask him to share a little more about himself.

* * *

When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Two things: either play shortstop for the Yankees, which I was not equipped for, or make movies, which I seem better equipped for. Although some of my critics wish I’d played shortstop for the Yankees.

Did you go to the movies as a kid? Did you have any particular favorites or influences?
Yeah. I used to go to the Loew’s Valencia, and we would see “Hercules,” and then we’d see “Hercules: Unchained,” and then we’d see “Hercules: Unchained, Part 75.” That was, you know, the things in our neighborhood until one day I stumbled on an art house called The Mayfair Movie Theatre where Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” was playing, and that changed my life because I then went there every week. I mean, they changed the bill every week, and I would see Fellini, Bergman, Truffaut, Philippe de Broca, you know, whatever. I became an art house devotee, which I’ve tried to do in the movies that I distribute or produce and, you know, continue that tradition of The Mayfair Movie Theatre.

What was Harvey and Corky Productions?
It was a concert production company. Basically, when I went to school at the University of Buffalo, I had to earn my keep, so at 19 years old we formed a company to produce concerts because the University of Buffalo stopped producing concerts. So we raised money privately and produced concerts. And I thought that would be my ticket to meeting somebody who could help me get in the movie business.

And was it? Did that sort of lead to Miramax?
In many ways, you know what I mean? The company grew to be a very big company, so I ended up, you know, meeting loads of people. And I still impress some of the people who work for me when I say hi to Paul McCartney or Phil Collins. But all that knowledge helped me when I did The Concert for New York City [after 9/11] with Jim Dolan and John Sykes, you know? Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, The Who — you know, every one of those bands I had produced in concert at one time — Billy Joel, everybody. And then I was able to do Obama and Bruce Springsteen — I’d done them, too. So, I mean, I’ve known these guys from when I was a kid and they were kids, so we’ve all been there together. So it was supposed to be a vehicle, and it ended up being fairly successful.

Many siblings clash, but you and your brother really seem to work well together. How do you guys get along so well?
I think my dad — who’s, you know, the Max in Miramax — used to say, “You have to emulate the Kennedy brothers.” You know? He said, “John helps Bobby. Bobby helps John, helps Teddy. It’s got to be family first. You can have all your little persnickety differences on somebody else’s time, but not when you’re responsible for doing things.”

And at the company do you guys take on different responsibilities?
Yeah. Bob created Dimension and I run The Weinstein Company side, the TWC side. But we combine, you know, on most things. But Bob is really the creator of Dimension, the architect of it — you know, he did from “The Crow,” to “Scream,” to “Scary Movie” — together. We always worked together on all of the early movies — “Sex, Lies[, and Videotape],” and “[My] Left Foot,” and “Reservoir Dogs.” But then Bob, you know, just created this incredible division, which does a lot better financially than I do! It’s like Robin Hood: you rob the rich — Bob — and you give to the poor — which is the art house movies.

If there’s one thing that people know about you, it’s that you’re the master when it comes to Oscar campaigns. How do you explain your fascination with the Oscars? And also, for people who may not understand, why is it worth it to spend so much money and time competing for them?
Well, you know, there are certainly financial rewards if you win — you know, you get a whole new life. And even if you’re on video you sell a lot more video copies; if you’re still in theatrical internationally — which we are in a bunch of territories on “Inglourious Basterds” — it just has all sorts of good economic results. And the other thing is just sometimes, in the case of certain movies like this year with “Inglourious Basterds,” I just honestly think that– Quentin has made “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” “Jackie Brown,” and “Inglourious Basterds”; you know, he wrote “True Romance” and “Natural Born Killers”; but, you know, he’s never won the big prize. I just think he’s overdue, and I just really feel this is his best work, and I said it at the time and I say it now: I just think it’s, you know, just one of the greatest films and I’m just really proud of it for a myriad of reasons.

I hope I can quickly pose to you a few “superlative” questions to you about your past Oscar glory days. What was the most satisfying nomination for you?
Hmm. I think “Pelle the Conqueror” because it was the first.

What was the most satisfying win?
All the wins are satisfying. And all the nominations are satisfying. You know, I never look at it that way. Really, it’s an old cliche but it’s the truth: just to be nominated is good enough.

What was the most disappointing “snub,” if you will?
Hmm. One of them — not the most — my brother actually made a movie this year that I’m incredibly proud of, but it’s very tough-minded, called “The Road.” And I think in a better climate, a better economy, you know, where people didn’t get bad news all the time, I think a movie like that could have flourished. And it’s a shame that it didn’t because it takes on tough subjects and it’s incredibly faithful to Cormac McCarthy’s book. And Cormac, you know, coming out and publicizing it, when he never does anything like that? He really fell in love with the movie, and I think that’s a tribute to John Hillcoat; and Nick Wexler, the producer; and Bob, you know, to a large degree, for having the guts to stay so faithful to a tough-minded book. But I think the movie will live on like the book.

As far as the tactical side of the awards season — which everybody now knows about, it’s no longer sort of a deep dark secret — what’s the best awards season move that you’ve ever made?
Just showing the movie, you know, at the end of the day. And I also think sometimes having a second look. That’s what I think is important right now. People are in the process of voting, and all I really would love to do is just say, “Take a look at the artistry of ‘Inglourious Basterds’ one more time. Look at the rich canvas. And, you know, look at all of the other movies, too, because I think there are riches to be gleaned in second viewings.” And, you know, obviously I’m biased, but I just think ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is made by a movie lover; it celebrates movies; it says movies can change history; there’s something idealistic about it; something cinematic and historical about it; something that — you know, I don’t have to tell you — as a Jewish person that’s incredibly satisfying about it; and, you know, just something that’s provoked a worldwide reaction, it’s been great at the box-office, and is a master filmmaker at his best.

Do you know the overall number of Oscar nominations and wins that you’ve produced for your films over the years?
I don’t know, but I think it’s pretty good, you know? And I’m proud of it. But it’s not even about the numbers; it’s all about this year, this movie, and next year, and next year’s movies.

What’s it like being you in the middle of an Oscar race? Last year, you said, “When you’re Billy the Kid, and people all around you die of natural causes, everyone thinks you shot them.”
[laughs]

But it does tend to become a very competitive time, and people point fingers at you and others, and I just wonder what your feeling is about that…
I think the onus on us is to remain lily-white, you know? There were some early tough contests, you know, and I just think that we have to just tow the line better than anybody because sometimes people look at us that way. But it’s never the Academy voters; it’s only the press on a slow Tuesday, you know? But that’s all there really is.

Why do you think “Nine” didn’t click more with voters this year?
You know, Rob [Marshall, the director] and I sat down; we could have made any musical we wanted; we could have done a really entertaining musical-comedy; we had a variety of things to do; but we said after “Chicago” we wanted to challenge ourselves: could we do a serious musical? You know, if there is such a thing — and, Lord knows, I don’t know anymore if there is. And that was the challenge, you know? To take really difficult subject matter; an anti-hero, not a hero, you know; and see if we could do something. And, you know, you look back at the histories of movies that have dealt with tough subject matter, and the one that always comes up to me is “Sweet Smell of Success” — it didn’t succeed commercially, but I think it’s in everybody’s top twenty, you know? And there are so many other examples of that kind of movie, you know, that dealt with tough subjects, and then years later got their due critical acclaim. People look back and say, “Wow, I see what they were trying to do here.” I think that it was a movie that was maybe misunderstood.

You understand this stuff as well as anybody, so tell me: Can “Inglourious Basterds” beat “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar”? And, if so, how?
Well, I think it’s fairly simple. I mean, if you do the Oscar math, the movie is supported by the actors — it won the Screen Actors Guild against “The Hurt Locker” and a bunch of other good movies. And I think that, you know, everybody in the world is gonna pick Kathryn Bigelow for best director — Quentin’s already announced he is — so I think that she wins that. And I think that there’s room for this movie to win best picture — I think the actors will lead the charge. And I think that, you know, as people re-look at the movie– There were 450 members of the Academy on Tuesday who watched the movie again — you know, the movie’s out on video, but they went to the theater and saw it again. So I think that kind of buzz and the excitement it’s generating is making people take a second-look at all the movies. And, you know, that screenplay, and those actors, and that panorama of movies — you know, it’s just glorious, not to make a pun. I just think it’s one of those great upsets in the making. And it’s gonna happen.

Would that be your biggest success at the Oscars? Biggest surprise?
I don’t know. They said that about “Shakespeare in Love” — they said we’d never win. You think about it: they had Harrison Ford [who collaborated with "Saving Private Ryan" director Steven Spielberg on the "Indiana Jones" films] up there announcing the award. [laughs] I mean, was that a symbol it was supposed to go the other way? And he’s such a great guy but, you know, obviously, you know when you’re competing with “Saving Private Ryan” and you see Harrison Ford you go, “Whoops, okie dokie.” And then they call your name. I think, you know, just to see Quentin up there getting the best picture would just be– You know, it’s been 20 years that he’s been loyal to me. But, more importantly, he’s been loyal to filmmakers both young and old. He takes actors who are having a tough time and gives them jobs, and he takes actors that nobody’s ever heard of and gives them jobs. He’s an actor writing for actors; a writer who writes great parts for actors; and a director who loves actors and, you know, just loves old-fashioned moviemaking. There’s no CGI — very little effects — in the movie, you know, probably less than the two favorites. He’s just, you know, old-fashioned, and he represents the history of movies — I mean, he champions Roger Corman; he champions filmmakers all the time, you know, some of the veteran filmmakers and the veteran actors. He’s a great goodwill ambassador for the movie industry. And it’s his time.

* * *

HARVEY’S GREATEST HITS
Major Oscar Nominations & Wins During Harvey Weinstein’s Tenures at Miramax (1979-2005) and The Weinstein Company (2005-present)

  • Best picture: “My Left” Foot” (1989), “The Crying Game” (1992), “The Piano” (1993), “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “Il Postino” (1995), “The English Patient” (1996) WON, “Good Will Hunting” (1997), “Life Is Beautiful” (1998), “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) WON, “The Cider House Rules” (1999), “Chocolat” (2000), “In the Bedroom” (2001), “Chicago” (2002) WON, “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Hours” (2002), “The Aviator” (2004), “Finding Neverland” (2004), “The Reader” (2008), “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
  • Best director: Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot,” 1989), Stephen Frears (“The Grifters,” 1990), Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game,” 1992), Jane Campion (“The Piano,” 1993), Woody Allen (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994), Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Michael Radford (“Il Postino,” 1995), Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient,” 1996) WON, Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997), Roberto Benigni (“Life Is Beautiful,” 1998), John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998), Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules,” 1999), Stephen Daldry (“The Hours,” 2002), Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” 2002), Martin Scorsese (“Gangs of New York,” 2002), Martin Scorsese (“The Aviator,” 2004), Stephen Daldry (“The Reader,” 2008), Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds,” 2009)
  • Best actor: Max von Sydow (“Pelle the Conqueror,” 1987), Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot,” 1989) WON, Stephen Rea (“The Crying Game,” 1992), John Travolta (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Massimo Troisi (“Il Postino,” 1995), Ralph Fiennes (“The English Patient,” 1996), Billy Bob Thornton (“Sling Blade,” 1996), Matt Damon (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997), Roberto Benigni (“Life Is Beautiful” (1998) WON, Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom,” 2001), Michael Caine (“The Quiet American,” 2002), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York,” 2002), Jude Law (“Cold Mountain,” 2003), Johnny Depp (“Finding Neverland,” 2004), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Aviator,” 2004), Colin Firth (“A Single Man,” 2009)
  • Best actress: Anjelica Huston (“The Grifters,” 1990), Joanne Woodward (“Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” 1990), Mary McDonnell (“Passion Fish,” 1992), Holly Hunter (“The Piano,” 1993) WON, Miranda Richardson (“Tom & Viv,” 1994), Diane Keaton (“Marvin’s Room,” 1996), Kristin Scott Thomas (“The English Patient,” 1996), Helena Bonham Carter (“The Wings of the Dove,” 1997), Judi Dench (“Mrs. Brown,” 1997), Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998) WON, Meryl Streep (“Music of the Heart,” 1999), Juliette Binoche (“Chocolat,” 2000), Judi Dench (“Iris,” 2001), Sissy Spacek (“In the Bedroom,” 2001), Salma Hayek (“Frida,” 2002), Nicole Kidman (“The Hours,” 2002) WON, Renee Zellweger (“Chicago,” 2002), Judi Dench (“Mrs. Henderson Presents,” 2005), Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica,” 2005), Kate Winslet (“The Reader,” 2008) WON
  • Best supporting actor: Jaye Davidson (“The Crying Game,” 1992), Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Chazz Palminteri (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994), Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown,” 1997), Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997) WON, Geoffrey Rush (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998), Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules,” 1999), Jude Law (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” 1999), Jim Broadbent (“Iris,” 2001) WON, Ed Harris (“The Hours,” 2002), John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” 2002), Alan Alda (“The Aviator,” 2004), Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man,” 2005), Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds,” 2009)
  • Best supporting actress: Brenda Fricker (“My Left Foot,” 1989) WON, Annette Bening (“The Grifters,” 1990), Joan Plowright (“Enchanted April,” 1992), Anna Paquin (“The Piano,” 1993) WON, Jennifer Tilly (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994), Dianne Wiest (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994) WON, Rosemary Harris (“Tom & Viv,” 1994), Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite,” 1995) WON, Mare Winningham (“Georgia,” 1995), Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient,” 1996) WON, Minnie Driver (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997), Brenda Blethyn (“Little Voice,” 1998), Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998) WON, Judi Dench (“Chocolat,” 2000), Marisa Tomei (“In the Bedroom,” 2001), Kate Winslet (“Iris,” 2001), Queen Latifah (“Chicago,” 2002), Julianne Moore (“The Hours,” 2002), Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago,” 2002) WON, Renee Zellweger (“Cold Mountain,” 2003) WON, Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator,” 2004) WON, Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There,” 2007), Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” 2008) WON, Penelope Cruz (“Nine,” 2009)
  • Best foreign language film: “Pelle the Conqueror” (1987, Denmark) WON, “Cinema Paradiso” (1989, Italy) WON, “Journey of Hope” (1990, Switzerland) WON, “Ju Dou” (1990, China), “The Nasty Girl” (1990, Germany), “Mediterraneo” (1991, Italy) WON, “Close to Eden” (1992, Russia), “Farewell My Concubine” (1993, Hong Kong), “Fresa y Chocolate” (1994, Cuba), “The Star Maker” (1995, Italy), “Kolja” (1996, Czech Republic) WON, “Ridicule” (1996, France), “Beyond Silence” (1997, Germany), “Four Days in September” (1997, Brazil), “Children of Heaven” (1998, Iran), “The Grandfather” (1998, Spain), “Life Is Beautiful” (1998, Italy) WON, “Everybody’s Famous!” (2000, Belgium), “The Taste of Others” (2000, France), “Amelie” (2001, France), “Hero” (2002, China), “The Barbarian Invasions” (2003, Canada) WON, “Twin Sisters” (2003, Netherlands), “The Chorus” (2004, France), “Tsotsi” (2005, South Africa) WON, “Days of Glory” (2006, Algeria)

MY INTERVIEWS WITH 2009-2010 STANDOUTS

17 Feb

renner

renner

Just as I did for the 2007-2008 awards season and the 2008-2009 awards season, I am now sharing a list of/links to interviews that I conducted with awards hopefuls during the 2009-2010 awards season that is about to come to an end. Some feature just text; others text accompanied by audio and/or video (ranging in length from just a question or two to over an-hour-and-a-half of questions). Most were conducted within the past year; a few were conducted previous awards seasons. I hope you have enjoyed or will enjoy all of them.

Photo: “The Hurt Locker” star Jeremy Renner and Scott Feinberg following a SAG Q&A that I moderated with Renner and his co-star Anthony Mackie on 11/21/09. Credit: Aimee Morris.

UPDATED: OSCAR FORECAST!

16 Feb

<b>UPDATED: OSCAR FORECAST!</b>

Projected win count: 5 – “The Hurt Locker”; 4 – “Avatar”; 2 – “Crazy Heart,” “Inglourious Basterds; 1 – “The Blind Side,” “The Cove,” “Precious,” “Star Trek,” “Up, “Up in the Air,” “The White Ribbon,” “The Young Victoria”

BEST PICTURE

  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Summit, 6/26, trailer)
  • 2. “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company, 8/21, trailer)
  • 3. “Avatar” (20th Century Fox, 12/18, trailer)
  • 4. “Up in the Air” (Paramount, 12/4, trailer)
  • 5. “Precious” (Lions Gate, 11/6, trailer)
  • 6. “Up” (Disney, 5/29, trailer)
  • 7. “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics, 10/9, trailer)
  • 8. “The Blind Side” (Warner Brothers, 11/20, trailer)
  • 9. “A Serious Man” (Focus Features, 10/2, trailer)
  • 10. “District 9” (TriStar, 8/14, trailer)

BEST DIRECTOR

  • 1. Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”)
  • 2. James Cameron (“Avatar”)
  • 3. Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • 4. Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”)
  • 5. Lee Daniels (“Precious”)

BEST ACTOR

  • 1. Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”)
  • 2. Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”)
  • 3. George Clooney (“Up in the Air”)
  • 4. Colin Firth (“A Single Man”)
  • 5. Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”)

BEST ACTRESS

  • 1. Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”)
  • 2. Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”)
  • 3. Gabby Sidibe (“Precious”)
  • 4. Carey Mulligan (“An Education”)
  • 5. Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • 1. Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • 2. Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”)
  • 3. Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”)
  • 4. Matt Damon (“Invictus”)
  • 5. Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • 1. Mo’Nique (“Precious”)
  • 2. Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”)
  • 3. Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”)
  • 4. Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”)
  • 5. Penelope Cruz (“Nine”)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • 1. Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner (“Up in the Air”)
  • 2. Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”)
  • 3. Nick Hornby (“An Education”)
  • 4. Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell (“District 9”)
  • 5. Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche (“In the Loop”)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • 1. Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • 2. Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”)
  • 3. Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (“Up”)
  • 4. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (“A Serious Man”)
  • 5. Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”)

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • 1. “Up” (Disney)
  • 2. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Fox Searchlight)
  • 3. “Coraline” (Focus FeatureS)
  • 4. “The Princess and the Frog” (Disney)
  • 5. “The Secret of Kells” (GKIDS)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM

  • 1. “The Cove” (Roadside Attractions, 7/31, trailer)
  • 2. “Food, Inc.” (Magnolia, 6/12, trailer)
  • 3. “Burma VJ” (Oscilloscope, 5/20, trailer)
  • 4. “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (Kovno, 6/1, trailer)
  • 5. “Which Way Home (HBO, 1/31, trailer)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • 1. “The White Ribbon” (Germany)
  • 2. “A Prophet” (France)
  • 3. “The Secret in Their Eyes” (Argentina)
  • 4. “Ajami” (Israel)
  • 5. “The Milk of Sorrow” (Peru)

BEST ART DIRECTION

  • 1. “Avatar” (Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair)
  • 2. “Nine” (John Myhre, Gordon Sim)
  • 3. “Sherlock Holmes” (Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer)
  • 4. “The Young Victoria” (Patrice Vermette, Maggie Gray)
  • 5. “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” (Dave Warren, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Barry Ackroyd)
  • 2. “Avatar” (Mauro Fiore)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson)
  • 4. “The White Ribbon” (Christian Berger)
  • 5. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • 1. “The Young Victoria” (Sandy Powell)
  • 2. “Nine (Colleen Atwood)
  • 3. “Bright Star (Janet Patterson)
  • 4. “Coco Before Chanel (Catherine Leterrier)
  • 5. “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Monique Prudhomme)

BEST FILM EDITING

  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Bob Murawski, Chris Innis)
  • 2. “Avatar” (Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds (Sally Menke)
  • 4. “Precious” (Joe Klotz)
  • 5. “District 9 (Julian Clarke)

BEST MAKEUP

  • 1. “Star Trek” (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow)
  • 2. “The Young Victoria (Jon Henry Gordon, Jenny Shircore)
  • 3. “Il Divo” (Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • 1. “Avatar” (James Horner)
  • 2. “Up” (Michael Giacchino)
  • 3. “Sherlock Holmes” (Hans Zimmer)
  • 4. “The Hurt Locker” (Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders)
  • 5. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Alexandre Desplat)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • 1. “The Weary Kind” (“Crazy Heart”)
  • 2. “Take It All” (“Nine”)
  • 3. “Down in New Orleans” (“The Princess and the Frog”)
  • 4. “Almost There” (“The Princess and the Frog”)
  • 5. “Loin de Paname” (“Paris 36”)

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • 1. “Avatar” (Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle)
  • 2. “Star Trek” (Mark Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds” (Wylie Stateman)
  • 4. “The Hurt Locker” (Paul N.J. Ottosson)
  • 5. “Up” (Michael Silvers, Tom Myers)

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett)
  • 2. “Avatar” (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds” (Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Mark Ulano)
  • 4. “Star Trek” (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, Peter J. Devlin)
  • 5. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Geoffrey Patterson)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • 1. “Avatar” (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones)
  • 2. “Star Trek” (Robert Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton)
  • 3. “District 9” (Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken)

BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED) BASED ON LIMITED INFO/EXPECT REVISIONS

  • 1. A Matter of Loaf and Death (Nick Park)
  • 2. French Roast (Fabrice O. Joubert)
  • 3. Logorama (Nicolas Schmerkin)
  • 4. Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell)
  • 5. The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) (Javier Recio Gracia)

BEST SHORT FILM (DOCUMENTARY) BASED ON LIMITED INFO/EXPECT REVISIONS

  • 1. The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert)
  • 2. China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill)
  • 3. The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner (Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher)
  • 4. Music by Prudence (Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett)
  • 5. Rabbit à la Berlin (Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra)

BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) BASED ON LIMITED INFO/EXPECT REVISIONS

  • 1. Miracle Fish (Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey)
  • 2. The New Tenants (Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson)
  • 3. Kavi (Gregg Helvey)
  • 4. The Door (Juanita Wilson and James Flynn)
  • 5. Instead of Abracadabra (Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström)

Photo: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds.” Credit: The Weinstein Company.