CANNES: Jodie, Mel, Meryl, And Money

Cannes is cooking. Just about everyone agrees the movies are better, the fillm market is booming like it hasn’t boomed in years, and the big stars are showing up in greater numbers than in some time. Fest Director Thierry Fremaux has shrewdly programmed for maximum celebrity wattage while maintaining the reputation of Cannes as a place for serious film-going and cinematic discoveries. Tuesday night it was The Beaver’s turn and Mel Gibson’s shot at an acting comeback for the movie which received a prolonged and tumultuous ovation for Mel and co-star/director Jodie Foster that was the talk of the Croisette earlier tonight. Mel wasn’t even a certainty to show but he hit the red carpet and got big applause at the end credits. Summit’s Rob Friedman is here too and has to believe now that bringing the film to Cannes was indeed a good idea. One prominent producer in the audience tonight told me she thought Gibson was amazing in the film and that “if people didn’t hate him so much he’d be winning awards for this”. Her French friend said it isn’t like the French tabloids like him any better. At any rate, Gibson doesn’t have to stick around until Sunday to see if he wins Best Actor. The flick played out of competition and is ineligible. Something tells me he could have won. 

Critics responded well to it at an earlier press screening. Foster, sans Gibson, did the press conference and said she thought the trip to Cannes would be therapeutic for Mel, assuring the press that though he wouldn’t be doing interviews, he would be on the red carpet. And so he was. She also brushed off talk about weak box office saying as an indie movie it will eventually find its audience, that she doesn’t marry her self-worth to the amount of money her movies make, and added, “I am not my boxoffice”.

Jodie has spent quite a bit of time in France lately. She is one of the stars of Roman Polanski’s Carnage along with John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz. Of course it is based on the Tony winning play, God Of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. She adapted the screenplay along with Polanski who recently completed shooting the film in Paris. Sony Pictures Classics will release the film in the U.S. in time for awards season, most likely November (the film is targeted to premiere at the Venice Film Festival come September), and co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard will see a cut of the picture in June. Barker told me at one of SPC’s many premiere parties here (they have several films all over Cannes) that, from what he’s seen already, the film will be terrific. “Wait until you see Jodie and Kate in this film. I don’t think Jodie has ever done anything like it,” he said.

I think the title sounds like the title of an action movie, not a sophisticated Broadway comedy. Why did they change it, especially since the play is so well-known? Barker said Roman and Yasmina did it because the connotations of having “God” in the title could be confusing, especially in some countries. He added that the pair completely retooled the script and, though the set up is the same, much of the dialogue has been reinterpreted from the original French version (adapted for Broadway by Christopher Hampton). Barker says a  promo reel  being used here to sell new terrritories really proves Carnage is the perfect name for it.

Speaking of promo  reels, one movie was conspiciously absent from the clips of upcoming product Harvey Weinstein showed off to press and buyers at last Friday’s Weinstein Company bash at Hotel Martinez. Deadline had just broken the news earlier that day that the company acquired U.S. rights to The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Jim Broadbent as her ever faithful husband Denis. They made the deal based only on the script and the reel Pathe put together but the ink was still drying and they didn’t have any footage they could show the press. Fortunately Deadline rates and I was able to visit Pathe’s offices here and snag an exclusive look at the film. Based on the few minutes I saw Weinstein can count on a slam dunk nomination for Streep who just nails Thatcher in every way but brings real emotion, grit and humor to her making it much more than a mere impression. Is there anything she can’t do?  Broadbent looks like a scene stealer as well. There appear to be a surprising number of laughs and upbeat moments too, ala King’s Speech. If the movie is half as good as the sales reel this one’s gonna be a real contender come fall.

An Oscar nominee just over a year ago, director Lee Daniels (Precious) was in Cannes yesterday talking up his latest film, The Paperboy, a thriller that is sort of an arty cross between Basic Instinct  and Body Heat which he starts shooting in New Orleans in July with Matthew McConoughey, Zac Efron, Tobey Maguire (in a bad boy role) and Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara.  He also shares a screenplay credit with Pete Dexter, writer of the original novel and Pedro Almodovar who spent some years developing the movie as a vehicle for himself. Nu Image/Millennium’s Avi Lerner is bankrolling it and held a party at Baoli Beach Club for Daniels to meet many of the international buyers from Australia to Scandinavia who have already nabbed the film. No U.S. deal is in place yet but it shouldn’t be a problem with that cast. 

Daniels said the film came about only after he spent a year post-Precious trying to get his film , Selma off the ground only to see it collapse just as it was nearing production. Daniels told me with all the Oscar success of Precious, not to mention his own Directing and Best Picture nomination that he thought getting projects rolling would be a snap. Not so. He says it is as hard as ever but now is extremely happy things have fallen into place for this film which likely will be aimed for a summer 2012 release according to Lerner who told me this is his 39th consecutive Cannes festival and its been very successful for the company.  Lerner says Paperboy is not the normal fare he usually dabbles in but “one or two a year like this” is fine. Daniels says the movie is a wild ride, completely unexpected with roles that are unlike any these actors have played before. Lerner says he was disappointed with the domestic boxoffice for his recent Clive Owen film, Trust  which deals with the topic of an internet predator preying on a 14 year old teenage girl but that he made the film because of his own 11 year old daughter. With DVD and ancillary he says the company will come out fine on the David Schwimmer-directed film which Lerner released through his own company after failing to find any other takers that were acceptable.

Finally on the competition front after the disappointment of  Bertrand Bonello’s crashing bore  of a period brothel movie, House of Tolerance (which despite beaucoup nudity manages to make the prospect of watching paint drying a fairly attractive alternative), things definitely were looking up again with today’s charming , funny and sweet La Havre, a french-set film from Cannes favorite and Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki that received easily the most enthusiastic applause at any press screening I have attended this Cannes. The director received the Grand Prize in 2002 for The Man Without A Past but I think this is his best and puts him in contention for the suddenly crowded race for the Palme d’Or. There’s a wonderfully droll lead performance by Andre Wilms and, after Uggy in The Artist, another great role for a dog, Laika who gets special billing in the film’s press brochure. In fact this whole festival competition lineup seems to be big on kids and dogs.

  1. Makes me sick. Abuse women. Fire off hateful and anti-semitic ramblings but as long as you overcome obstacles (even if they were created by you) and make good art (which I’m sue this isn’t) then all will be forgiven. Not only forgiven but exceedingly lauded.

    1. I bet you don’t remember this statement Mel Gibson made after the 2006 Dui Arrest..If this isn’t enough of an apology,,,,,I don’t know what to tell you…..

      “There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark. I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge.

      “I am a public person, and when I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena. As a result, I must assume personal responsibility for my words and apologize directly to those who have been hurt and offended by those words.

      “The tenets of what I profess to believe necessitate that I exercise charity and tolerance as a way of life. Every human being is God’s child, and if I wish to honor my God I have to honor his children. But please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith.

      “I’m not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.

      “I have begun an ongoing program of recovery and what I am now realizing is that I cannot do it alone. I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery.

      “Again, I am reaching out to the Jewish community for its help. I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed.

      “This is not about a film. Nor is it about artistic license. This is about real life and recognizing the consequences hurtful words can have. It’s about existing in harmony in a world that seems to have gone mad.”[18]

    2. oh pu-lease. pathetic post. oh yeah Mel is really “basking” in the awards limelight these days”…

      ????

      oy vey…

      i am very curious if this poster is also against the rampant anti-semitism that exist throughout hollywood…especially by those who arent drunk when they rant….and support…terrorist groups againt Israel.

      ????

    3. Or how about people are lauding a FILM and PERFORMANCE and not those phone calls. Just because you’re too ignorant to process that, doesn’t mean everyone else should be.

    4. I am sooooo glad that people are being nice to Mel Gibson again. He did not deserve the treatment SOME PEOPLE exhibited. But that’s OK, Mel knows who his true friends are.

  2. So, The Beaver is officially a flop in the US? I think in order for a movie to be considered a flop you have to release it on more than 2 screens and give it some promotion. Mars Needs Moms is a flop. The Beaver is not.

    1. Exactly Deeds, how can a film be considered a flop when the majority of people who want to go and see it have not been given a chance to do so yet?

      As far as the people who have commented that they don’t want to see a Mel Gibson film anymore, fine, but why are they constantly commenting, why don’t they just go away? It seems to me they spend an awful lot of time and energy on the man.

  3. I’m a professional in this business and some will disagree, but Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski, I just can’t go there anymore. I can’t divorce their track records and artistic abilities from the wider context any longer.

    1. Agreed about Gibson and Polanski. It’s one thing to watch a train wreck but quite another to witness an implosion of humanity.

  4. The Beaver was given a terrible release by Summit, for even that company’s schlock plays on 800 -1000+ screens.

    Regardless of your opinions of the players involved, The Beaver is a film that can certainly stand on its own in the marketplace because it is simply a good film. Bottom line. It will continue to play and be well received.

    Had the PR and marketing department(s) blended creativity and intelligence into their strategy and used the film’s integrity as a marketing tool, the movie could have been doing $25M+ through out late April-May in a limited, then wider release.

    IMO, this common sense if you’ve ever had a creative conversation regarding the distribution of a movie or even if you have an idea of how this industry, and it is an industry, works.

    And since Ms. Foster and company are ardent professionals, they’ll move on with a smile instead of pointing the finger at Summit for causing the films “failure” in the US and fucking them in “The Beaver”.

    Time for studios to find there balls if they want to continue making money with veteran filmmakers.

  5. What happens beyond the view of the camera and is not captured on film has no bearing on the quality of the “art”.

    The circumstances surrounding Mel Gibson’s meltdown only taint his past and future performances if you want them to be tainted.

    Mel Gibson is this generation’s Jane Fonda… He is cool to hate and uncool to like. There is a segment of the population that will never get over whatever egregious thing he has done. In their eyes, there is nothing he can do to atone for his sins. He might as well have posed for a photo opportunity while seated on an anti-aircraft gun.

    Unfortunately, few people can experience a movie objectively.

    As for me… if it looks interesting, I will watch it. If it is entertaining, I will allow myself to enjoy it.

  6. ripsnorter uses the fact that he is a film professional to validate his distaste for polanski and gibson. sitting on some moral high horse he cowardly passes anonymous judgement on two great artists. if perfect morals and a blemish-free past are a prerquisites for the people who makes the movies he can see, the only film he can he can enjoy this year is probably SOUL SURFER. narrow-minded bigotry is fortunantely a rare sight in our business. good luck with THE BEAVER, mel and roman; can’t wait for the next one.

      1. I am indeed, Karen. And whilst I do acknowledge Gibson and Polanski’s track records and artistic abilities, as I stated already, their personal failings overshadow them for me. This is because there are equally as talented people out there, perhaps even more so, who are not anti-Semitic racists or who rape children and flee the country. You are clearly able to overlook this. I am sure you also believe John Wayne Gacy’s ability to paint clowns outweighs the fact he was a serial killer.

      2. I know Ripsnorter in real life and he’s a damn sight more professional than you could ever dream of.

    1. oh @neill carson, there were a lot of movies this year directed by someone who’s plead guilty to RAPING a 13 year old CHILD??? Musta missed that! Sorry but there’s gotta be a line SOMEWHERE… at least for me anyways.

  7. I think it’s funny the press is acting like the Beaver was a box office movie to begin with or that it made its gross in wide release. No one’s picking on other small films that did much worse and were released the same time. Just media sensationalism due to the Gibson factor.

    Anyway, enough about that. I’m excited about the Carnage news. Can’t wait to see Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster onscreen together with Christoph Waltz and John C Reilly no less. That should be amazing.

  8. Yeah, so Gibson hates abuse women, hates jews, gays, black people, latino people… and they feel sorry for him and give him standing ovation :)

    And how on earth they think that Beaver will do better in Europe is beyond me. It’s a silly and stupid depressed movie. It would bomb even if those tapes were never public. It will be unnoticed by public in Europe too. I mean even Water for Elephants failed on the overseas box-office. And Pattinson has huge fan base. But the movie was boring and no one came.

  9. And Charlie Chaplin liked popping tweener slit. And Bing Crosby whomped his kids on a regular basis. Spare us the selective moral outrage. Could not care any less whether the milk man enjoys banging granny in the fanny on a regular basis as long as he gets me my fat free skim on time.

  10. Lets not equate Gibson with Polanski. Mel Gibson said a lot of intolerant things, a lot of mean, offensive, bad things. And whether you accept his apology or not, at least an apology was offered. On the other hand, Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year old girl, fled the country, and spent much of the remainder of his life blaming the legal system and his accusers, rather then accepting blame himself. A bunch of things Gibson said, versus a very real thing Polanski did…not much of a comparison. Would you rather be verbally attacked, or drugged and sodomized?

    1. I disagree with you too. I say that the girl’s mother is the culpable party with respect to Polanski. Who in their right mind would actually believe a FILM director also directs COMMERCIALS? The mother brought her model daughter to Polanski to take pictures for her modeling portfolio. She was a stage mom and knew the deal. Further, after Polanski served time, the prosecutor renegged and demanded he be in jail for more time. I would have fled too if I could. Changing the sentence at whim IS NOT DUE PROCESS OF LAW.

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