Anna Lisa Raya is a Deadline contributor.
The second half of Deadline’s 3rd annual Contenders event at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills got off to an energized start after lunch on the outdoor terrace. Deadline Awards columnist Pete Hammond returned with Captain Phillips star Barkhad Abdi, who had one of the bigger moments of the day when he revealed he ad-libbed his momentous “I am the captain now” line in the Sony film, essentially stealing the scene from Tom Hanks. The film’s producers, Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, were spotted in the audience joining in the roaring applause.
Anyone who’s been waiting for David O. Russell’s follow-up to last year’s Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle (also for for Sony), will be happy to know the film was locked down today. This is per one of the film’s producers, Richard Suckle, who was on hand to discuss the genesis of the film which is loosely based on the ABSCAM scandals of the 1970s. One of his funnier reveals was that star Bradley Cooper — not wanting to perm his hair for the film — spent hours in hair and makeup every day getting it curled. Co-star Christian Bale, on the other hand, gained 40 lbs. for his role and shaved the crown of his head to perfect his character’s outlandish comb over.
Julie Delpy, co-writer and star of Sony Pictures Classics’ Before Midnight, had a lot to say about the intense writing and preparation that went into making the film appear as improvised and natural as it does. Acting the role was “extremely stressful,” she told Hammond. “There’s no plot. There’s nothing to hold onto but character and emotional arc.” Also for SPC is Tim’s Vermeer — a documentary about one man’s attempt to recreate a Johannes Vermeer painting — which was uncharacteristically directed by Teller (better known as the other half of Penn & Teller). He was thankful for his editor, Patrick Sheffield, who made sense of the over 2,400 hours of footage. Writer Kelly Marcel was on-hand to discuss Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, the only film ever allowed to feature Walt Disney as a character. She called the studio “unbelievably brave” in how hands-off they were with her and director John Lee Hancock.
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The audience was treated to some lighter, animated fare when Deadline Film Editor Michael Fleming Jr. spoke with Despicable Me 2 producer Chris Meledandri, who spoke about his small, Paris-based operation that created the successful franchise for Universal. “We start with the premise that we’re going to make the film on a certain scale,” Meledandri said of the film’s modest budget. “It frees us from every film we make having to be a blockbuster. We can take risks.” Switching gears a bit, Peter Berg, speaking about Lone Survivor, his film for Universal about a Navy SEAL operation gone wrong, had the rapt attention of the audience and moderator Fleming. “Regardless of any political opinion, it’s hard for me to understand anyone who does not support these men,” he said of his real-life characters. He singled out Ben Foster as “one of the best actors to this day, right up there with Daniel Day-Lewis.” Finally, Deadline Legal Editor Dominic Patten spoke with Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, the directors of DreamWorks Animations’ The Croods, as well as the film’s sound designer, Randy Thom. All three panelists spoke to the intricate technology that went into the film, where some scenes took three years to render. “From the back of a shot to the front is a combined hundreds of years of technology,” said Sanders. They also gave huge praise to composer Alan Silvestri, whose work, DeMicco said, “does some of the heaviest lifting in the story.”
Related: Contenders 2013: ‘Wolf Of Wall Street,’ ‘Nebraska,’ ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ ‘Fruitvale Station,’ ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler,’ ‘August: Osage County,’ ‘All Is Lost,’ ‘Place Beyond The Pines,’ ’12 Years A Slave,’ ‘Gravity’ & More Kick-Off Panels