Brian Brooks is Managing Editor of MovieLine.
Oscar hopeful Hyde Park On Hudson with Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt is this weekend’s highest profile debut in the specialty market. There’s also In Our Nature with Jena Malone and John Slattery, and Robert Carlyle headlines California Solo in a role written with him in mind. The late Ernest Borgnine stars in The Man Who Shook The Hand Of Vicente Fernandez in a role that turns the idea of celebrity upside-down. Plus Elizabeth McGovern stars in Cheerful Weather For The Wedding that her Downton Abbey fans will likely appreciate. On the non-fiction front, a re-mastered 3D version of The Art Of Flight hits AMC Theatres for one night only in select markets followed by a campaign for screenings via Tugg.com, the online marketing platform that allows moviegoers to push collectively for a theatrical booking in their area.
Hyde Park On Hudson
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Richard Nelson
Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Samuel West, Elizabeth Wilson
Distributor: Focus Features
Focus Features and Film 4 waited a year to see if Bill Murray would take the role of America’s longest serving president, Franklin D. Roosevelt in a story written by Richard Nelson that observes the little known story about the relationship the four-term President had with a distant cousin, Daisy (Laura Linney) who lived near his mother’s Hudson Valley, NY retreat. The story revolves around that relationship coinciding with a historical visit by the British monarchs George VI and Queen Elizabeth before the dawn of World War II. “It’s the fourth movie we’ve worked on with Bill,” said Focus Features CEO James Schamus. “Taking on a role like this – there’s no safety net. You either have to do it or not. It took him about a year to come on board, but once he commits, it’s 100 percent and he’s all in.” The film was shot in the UK with Roger Michell at the helm and with British co-financing. Schamus noted the terrain looks similar to the Hudson Valley and the relatively plentiful estates outside London made finding the right setting easier than it might have been in New York. “We couldn’t get approval at the actual Roosevelt mansion,” Schamus said of the movie, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival after a Telluride screening over Labor Day weekend.
Focus will follow a “classic aggressive platform release,” Schamus said. It will bow on two screens apiece in New York and Los Angeles, with 15 markets expanding the title to 28 theaters the following weekend. A third wave will take Hyde Park On Hudson to additional locations and markets on the 21st and it will continue to roll out into the New Year. “There are a number of gigantic offerings between Les Misérables, Jack Reacher and others,” he said. But they have “well chosen venues and we have a strong appreciation for Bill’s remarkable performance. It’s a sweet spot for us.”
In Our Nature
Director-writer: Brian Savelson
Cast: Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery, Gabrielle Union
Producer Anish Savjani became interested in writer-director Brian Savelson’s In Our Nature because of his theater background. It’s the story of an estranged father and son who inadvertently wind up sharing a vacation home with their respective girlfriends. “He had theatrical elements that kept it engaging all the time,” said Savjani. “The cast is ingrained in the story itself. We labored over who is right for the parts because having four people in a house may not be interesting unless it’s the right [combination].” Savelson sent Jena Malone the script and she called back the next day, according to Savjani, who said her interest sparked additional ambitious casting. They hoped to get Mad Men‘s John Slattery after reading an article somewhere in which the actor noted the show was on hiatus said, “hire me.” The filmmaking team reached out and he came on board. Financing proved a bit trickier. The production’s original commitment fell apart a month before the shoot. “We piece-mealed financing and did [crowd-sourcing], but we had to cut the budget,” said Savjani. “But you do what you have to do. We had so many wheels in motion that we just had to go for it and the cast were still completely game.” The shot over 19 days in Woodstock, NY where rain proved a challenge to maintain consistency between moments of wet weather and no rain.
In Our Nature debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in March followed by the Sarasota and Woodstock festivals. Film rep Kevin Iwashina took the title to Cinedigm which came on board around the time of its SXSW launch. The distributor will open the film in New York followed by Austin the following week with further expansion dependent on the movie’s initial performance.
Director-writer: Marshall Lewy
Cast: Robert Carlyle, Danny Masterson, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Writer-director Marshall Lewy had been working on a “bigger budget” film project that fell through during the financial crisis. “Out of the ashes of that project came California Solo“, Lewy said. “Local sources and locations where I live in Los Feliz [in Los Angeles] inspired me,” he said. The story concerns a former British rocker who gets caught driving drunk and faces deportation after living in LA for many years. ” As the project went along, I had Robert Carlyle in mind,” said Lewy. I had this idea of writing a role for a phenomenal British character actor. I hung the project around him not knowing if he’d come on board.” Luckily, Lewy had an in with Carlyle’s manager who took to the script as did Carlyle. Mynette Loui came on board as producer and they shot in the summer of 2011, followed by a Sundance premiere in January and followed screenings at Deauville, Edinburgh and Woodstock festivals, picking up Best Narrative Feature at Woodstock.
“The film has a music angle because he plays a pop musician,” noted Lewy. “And Robert has a small but powerful fan base… so getting to see him gives audiences a chance to see his full range.” Strand Releasing, which picked up California Solo out of Sundance, will open the title in New York and Los Angeles followed by an expansion into Orange County and a Bay Area opening in coming weeks. “I’m hopeful that this weekend’s number in LA will be strong with the local angle and talent,” added Strand co-president Marcus Hu.
The Man Who Shook The Hand Of Vicente Fernandez
Director-writer: Elia Petridis
Cast: Ernest Borgnine, Barry Corbin, Carla Ortiz, Arturo del Puerto, Tony Plana
Distributor: Indican Pictures
The feature started as a spec script that producer Darren Brandl received from writer-director Elia Petridis a couple of years ago, although at first he didn’t take to the story. The plot revolves around a bitter elderly gentleman who is depressed that he never received the fame in life he felt he desired. After a stroke, he ends up in a nursing home where he manages to alienate the workers. Things change, however, when the staff learns he once met famous Mexican singer Vicente Fernandez. They begin to treat him like a celebrity. “We went out to cast the project and our casting director got us to Ernest Borgnine who responded to the material,” said Brandl. “We developed it for six months.” The project also found financing through a source in the Middle East in the fall of 2010. The Man Who Shook The Hand shot in LA over 20 days. Traction Media came on board for sales and Indican picked up the title last Summer.
Brandi said they had “a wonderful crew so we’re able to pick up below-the-line teams and shot on 35mm film and got a Panavision grant. Everything went smooth, all things considered”. Indican will bow the film in Los Angeles this weekend and will expand based on performance.
Cheerful Weather For The Wedding
Director-co writer: Donald Rice
Co-writer: Mary Henely-Magill
Cast: Felicity Jones, Luke Treadway, Elizabeth McGovern, Mackenzie Crook
Distributor: IFC Films
This one debuted at Tribeca Film Festival, and IFC Films picked up the title with an eye on fans of Elizabeth McGovern and her role in the popular British TV series Downton Abbey. “We thought it was a well-realized film that would appeal to a similar audience”, said IFC Films exec Ryan Werner. “We have been doing publicity with Elizabeth McGovern who has also agreed to appear on TV to promote the film.” Skewed to a “female audience that likes romances and weddings,” Cheerful Weather For The Wedding revolves around a young bride at her family’s country manor who’s anxious about her wedding day and wonders whether she’s marrying the wrong man.
IFC Films has released the title via VOD and it will have a limited release in New York and Los Angeles this weekend.
The Art Of Flight 3D
Director: Curt Morgan
Subjects: Jake Blauvelt, John Jackson, Jeremy Jones
Distributors: Red Bull Media, AMC Entertainment
Red Bull Media and AMC Entertainment partnered for the release of the 3D version of The Art Of Flight 3D. Snowboarders Travis Rice, John Jackson, Mark Landvik, Olympic medalist Scotty Lago, Nicolas Muller and others provide a virtual ride-along for their two-year adventure to “redefine what’s possible on a snowboard,” according to Red Bull. The film was shot in Chile’s Patagonia region, Alaska’s Tordrillo Range, Wyoming’s Snake River, Aspen, CO, the Andes and British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains. Red Bull partnered with Venture 3D to convert The Art of Flight from 2D to 3D, working over six months.
The movie will be released exclusively in AMC Theatres for one night only Friday, in markets including New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Spokane, Denver, Salt Lake City, Charlotte and Minneapolis. It will also be available for fans to push for screenings through online marketing tool Tugg.com throughout December and into the New Year.