Nineteen studios presenting 44 films. This year’s Contenders event was a huge success, outstripping last year’s 12 studios. Where to Invade Next director Michael Moore spoke about how he’s revolutionizing the exhibition business, the musicians from the Broad Green documentary Song of Lahore raised the roof with a toe-tapping performance and there were clips from awards contenders that haven’t seen the light of day including Joy, The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Concussion and The Big Short. Among some of those thesps stopping by were Carey Mulligan from Suffragette, Benicio Del Toro from Sicario, Adam McKay from Paramount’s The Big Short, Elizabeth Banks from Love & Mercy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt from The Walk. Below is how it all went down at Deadline’s 2015 Contenders event:
First up here is the Weinstein Co. panel with Carol, Macbeth, Hateful Eight…
Tim Roth on Quentin Tarantino’s decision to shoot in 70MM over digital: “Oh, we’re not on a hard drive, we’re in a movie.”
Kirby Dick on tacking the issue of campus rape in The Hunting Ground “We are catching the beginning of the raise of the student movement”
The screenwirter of Carol first wrote the script in 1997 – she says she thinks the fact that it’s so focused on women and that they’re both gay is what kept it from finding financing for so long. “Now, times have changed” she says.
Hateful 8 “it’s about three hours” long. HEY SPOILERS GUYS
Producer Stacey Sher gives a shout out to Erik Lomis, Weinstein Co. distribution chief re: Hateful Eight.
“He spent a year putting 100 70MM projectors in theaters. He stood behind this effort of showmanship. We love the dcp
version of the film but this effort to put these 100 projectors in theaters has been extraordinary.”
Not a lot of information about Hateful 8 revealed today, though it’s interesting to know that it’s taken TWC a year to put together 100 70mm projectors for the road show version. Which doesn’t feel like enough to me, if only because the 70mm version is a different cut from the multiplex version.
Now we’re on to Bleeker Street and the Trumbo presentation.
“The more I read about [Dalton Trumbo] the more I understood that he was very funny” says Jay Roach, who also compared Trumbo’s writing talent to “a superpower”.
“It’s a story about a writer dealing with his soul” Producer Michael London on Trumbo
Hey Ross, I thought the black-eyed Jennifer Jason Leigh was kickass in that Hateful Eight featurette. While she’s been extending herself on TV in ‘Revenge’ and ‘Weeds’, it’s great to see her back in form on the bigscreen. I’ll never forget Sally Kirkland praising Leigh at a UCLA class years ago as one of the few actresses who literally loses herself on screen.
A scene from Trumbo was just shown with David James Elliott as John Wayne and Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper with the Hollywood Ten during the HUAC hearings. Elliott looks nothing like John Wayne but was eerily accurate in his mannerisms and voice, perfectly capturing that kind of hulking masculinity and, let’s face it, basically fascist sympathies. Great scene.
‘Trumbo’ is one of those movies, like ‘Birdman’ which literally speaks to the factions of writers and actors in Hollywood. It’s a nice historical look at Hollywood’s ‘original sin’: The Blacklist. Bleecker Street has to keep this alive throughout the whole season.
I’m tempted to say something pat like “I can’t comprehend a time when we destroyed people’s careers because of their political beliefs.” But then, I was alive when Congress coined the term “Freedom Fries” and the Dixie Chicks freak out. Sigh.
Obviously the previous decade wasn’t remotely as terrifying to dissent, but it’s interesting how relevant the story of the blacklist remains even to this day, if only because of the whole “next as farce” thing. But the more important thing to discuss is that Trumbo looks like it’s going for some serious period accurate mustaches.
A24 is up next with Room
If you know nothing about ‘Room’ before you see it. If you haven’t read the novel or watched a trailer, it’s a whole other experience. I swear, you think a zombie apocalypse is going on while Brie Larson and child are in the room. It’s very suspenseful.
And on that note, ‘Room’ director Lenny Abrahamson says ‘We were slow in our reveal of (the) room.”
The set up of Room is reminiscent of childhood when everything seems so much bigger than what it really is. Director Lenny Abrahamson wanted the audiences to see the world through the mind of the child.
Jason Segal who plays David Foster Wallace in “The End of the Tour” first started reading the author’s
work when he was a comedy writer.
Jason on how he got into writing “No one is knocking on my door to play Captain America”
Segal relates a story from the night he met Jesse Eisenberg. someone had asked him how he started writing and he said that no one was asking him to play Captain America. He says he could hear Eisenberg mutter under his breath “no but you could probably play the captain of a weaker country.” Which is a good zing and I’m going to steal that joke shamelessly. Without attribution!
Focus features time. First up, Suffragette.
Jason on how he got into writing “No one is asking me to play Captain America”
Pete Hammond notes this is the first ever all female panel in Deadline Contenders history. Big cheers.
Sarah Gavron on why she made ‘Suffragette’: “I hadn’t been taught it (the women’s UK voting movement) in school.. There had never been a big screen version. It was overdue, timely and resonated with what was going around the world.”
There’s a crawl at the end of ‘Suffragette” which shows when women finally got their voting rights in various countries. Shockers: In Switzerland, women rec’d it in 1971. Still pending in Saudi Arabia.
Carey Mulligan re Suffragette movement: “There was just a paragraph in our history books.”
Mulligan’s mother found a Hannah Mitchell book, which Carey read and drew inspiration from for her character Maud Watts in ‘Suffragette’. Maud is fictional.
Hannah left home to become a seamstress like Maud in the movie. “But unlike Maud, she had a sense that things weren’t right,” said Muligan, “There was a phrase in the book that stuck with me. She saw a woman at a suffragette rally and commented, ‘she was who lit the flame that lit the past.'”
Was a long road to the making of The Danish Girl: Producer Gail Mutrux revealed they went through about 75 directors.
‘Suffragette’ was a chance for Sarah Gavron to reteam with her ‘Brick Lane’ writer Abi Morgan. What hasn’t Morgan written re: great British cinematic and TV fare from across the pond? Shame, The Iron Lady, BBC’s ‘The Hour’ “When she started researching, she felt so passionate about this, it was obvious she was the one to tell the story.” said Gavron.
“I’m really hopeful it is changing… there’s a momentum building” Sarah Gavron on female directors in Hollywood
More female directors in Hollywood? Despite the majority of men in the chair, Gavron says “There’s a momentum building for women. There’s an openness to the discussion.”
Focus Feature panel had Gavron, Mulligan, and Danish Girl writer Lucinda Coxon, and producers Anne Harrison and Gail Mutrux—it’s the first all female panel at The Contenders.
Director F. Gary Gray takes the stage with his blockbuster hit Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton “did makes sense on paper” says F. Gary Gray. He insisted on hiring unknowns because he felt the story was strong enough on its own.
Ice Cube couldn’t convince me to put my career on the line by putting his son in the movie” says Gray on casting O’Shea Jackson Jr. who had to audition for 2 years for the role
“It was strange to read something that had all the street stuff and gangster rap and then there is this kind of sweet coming-of-age story in there” Gray on Andrea Berloff angle for Compton
F. Gary Gray revealed that the making Straight Outta Compton was risky. Being was told he would be going backwards, after making flims that were deemed “mainstream”
I’m curious who said that to Gray. He should have really blown up years ago and he clearly needed a personal project to make it clear what he’s capable of.
Ross, I completely agree
And now it’s time for Broad Green, starting with 99 Homes. Onstage is director Ramin Bahrani.
“Real estate brokers how have seen the film say ‘this is my life onscreen'” – Bahrani.
And now, I Smile Back. Onstage is director Adam Salky.
“If you turn this into a screenplay and it doesn’t suck then i’ll do it” Adam Salky quotes star Sarah Silverman on doing I Smile Back
The Sachal Studios musicians featured in Song of Lahore are currently performing Take Five.
We’re in the middle of Fox Searchlight now, speaking to the Brooklyn team about the film.
Saoirse Ronan discusses how Brookyln is kind of her parents’ story – she was Born in the Bronx, her parents had moved there to find work and they were married in City Hall in NYC as her character is in the film.
Youth is under discussion now. “We think a conductor’s power is telling people when to play, but the conducter has greater power in telling people when to shut up.”
Some great photos coming up….Todd Haynes, director of Weinstein Co.’s Carol….
A scene from Youth was just shown. audience audibly “awwwww” ed after it ended.
The Hateful Eight producers Stacey Sher and Shannon McIntosh. …
huh, turns out a clip from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl can still make me get all misty eyed even after I’ve seen it because I haven’t managed to compress the lump of coal passing for my heart into diamond just yet.
Warner Bros is next which means Mad Max Fury Road which means please excuse me while I refrain from angrily asserting that it is the best film of 2015
Jason Segel from the “End of the Tour” panel…
Oh man, the stunts in Mad Max Fury Road #mindblown
“We didn’t want to glorify or trivialize these events,..wounds in Boston that have yet to heal” — director Scott Cooper on making Whitey Bulger biopic ‘Black Mass’
John Lesher, producer of Black Mass: “Whitey hasn’t seen the film yet to my knowledge…I’m confident he’ll eventually see the film.”
Cooper recalls that a reporter asked Whitey’s brother whether he saw ‘Black Mass’. He said he is, but hasn’t heard of Johnny Depp.
Interesting that Billy Bulger (Whitey’s brother) apparently claimed to not know who Johnny Depp is.
Black Mass shot at a lot of Boston locations that Bulger haunted in real life.
Cooper on choosing Johnny Depp to play Whitey Bulger in ‘Black Mass’: “I like to cast actors like you’ve never seen them. Johnny typically plays likeable roles, he has an extremely magnetic persona, but I have never the danger, like the kind Johnny portrays in this part. He is personally a very kind and soulful
man. But what you see on screen isn’t what he is. When Whitey kills the 18-year old prostitute who is the lover/step daughter of his associate Steve Flemmi, you see Johnny go places where he hasn’t gone, and it’s mesmerizing.”
When composer Tom Holkenberg first saw ‘Black Mass’ he came out shaking. He went home to write a small theme for the movie…it turned into a 45 minute piece. Cooper beamed, “I saw my film in that theme.”
Open Road films, Spotlight is happening. Onstage is Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, Steve Golin and Nicole Rocklin.
“I think that the journalists were heroic, what they did was important and changed this country… it was a necessary film” – Nicole Rocklin on the subjects of the film. (The Boston Globe team who investigated sexual abuse by Catholic priests).
“These reporters were involved every step of the way… i don’t think we could have gotten the script the way it is without their comnplete involvement.” McCarthy on the Spotlight team’s involvement in the film.
Singer mentions the collaboration got so specific that one of the journalists was able to correct his portrayal in the script – a scene had the journalist in question drinking scotch at a bar. “I don’t drink scotch, I drink wine,” Singer says he was told. So the script was amended to reflect that detail.
“screening the film for them was very nerve wracking… given that we’ve got some things that maybe they don’t want to have in there, it was very gratifying that they appreciated the film for what it was and what it says about journalism.” – Singer.
McCarthy says that the members of the Spotlight team depictied in the film, to a one, didn’t want the fact that they won the pulitzer for their reporting to be included in the end title cards. That they wanted to the work to speak for itself.
Josh Singer on how ‘Spotlight’ director Tom McCarthy turned
him toward writing an ensemble feature “He had me watch this 2012 French film ‘The Police’. I watched it and said, ‘Are we doing Altman?’ He told me ‘We’re not doing Altman, but we’re trying to get at what the team is.’”
In making ‘Spotlight’, McCarthy chose not to have ‘All The President’s Men’ in his head. “We tried not to reference that movie”
“Creating awareness of what would happen if [local investigative reporting] goes away” comments Josh Singer on the relevance of Spotlight.
“My only concern is talking about this as a problem of the past. It’s not of the past. We made this movie because it’s [about] something that the church is still grappling with.” – McCarthy talking about the abuse scandal and the plague of abusive priests that the film examines.
Boston Archdiocese Cardinal O’Malley said that ‘Spotlight’ illustrates how the Boston Globe’s reports prompted the church “to deal with what was shameful and hidden.” That’s like Richard Nixon giving a thumbs up to ‘All The President’s Men’.
We’ve been at lunch….sorry for the delay. Sony panels with ‘The Walk’, ‘Concussion’ coming right up.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Zemeckis, calling him a director “who on the one hand is always able to balance the visual spectacle and using the technology to push forward what you can do with movies and on the other hand balance characters that the audience cares about.”
Gordon-Levitt says about Philippe Petit, who pulled off the real life event on which the film is based, that the best way to describe why he did it is that he “fell in love” with the World Trade Center towers and imagined himself walking between them.
Petit was arrested after he completed the walk, but ultimately was given community service in which he performed high wire acts for kids around NYC. I am an incredible cynic, and thus I can’t help but think if he’d done this today, he’d be sent to jail for years
Now we’re discussing Concussion. Peter Landesman, and William Goldenberg are onstage.
Why did Philippe Petit cross the twin towers? Gordon-Levitt says the rope walker always dodges the questions. But the actor has an idea why he did: ““It’s sort of like love. When you love somebody,
you can’t explain why you love them. You can list qualities like they’re smart
or attractive. But it’s beyond words. Phillipe describes (his high wire work
over the towers) as a love affair.”
“We haven’t had any communications with the NFL. ” I doubt hey would want this to come out” remarks William Goldenberg
“We haven’t had any communications with the NFL. I doubt hey would want this to come out” remarks William Goldenberg on Concussion
“How to change the game, that’s not what this film is about. It’s about the search for the truth of what’s happening to these players.” So says Goldenberg.
“We haven’t had any communications with the NFL. I doubt hey would want this to come out” remarks William Goldenberg on Concussion.
Sam Elliot and his mustache are an American treasure.
Now for Sony Pictures Classics, beginning with Grandma. Paul Weitz and Sam Elliot are onstage.
also under discussion during this portion, Son of Saul. Matayas Erdeky, Lazlo Nemes and Geza Rohrig are onstage for that, along with James Vanderbilt for Truth.
Paul Weitz’s ‘Grandma’ has been a little indie wonder: It was made for $600K and to date has made $6.8M at the box office. Way to go Sony Classics.
For all these excellent awards contenders, I hope that voters can look beyond their returns at the B.O. and assess these films for the great works of art that they are. They’re all aimed at adults and this crowd finds their way to these films at their leisure.
“We had no expectation of anybody seeing the film due to its do-it-yourself nature,” director/writer Paul Weitz remarks on the success of Grandma
also under discussion during this portion, Son of Saul. Matayas Erdeky, Lazlo Nemes and Geza Rohrig are onstage for that, along with James Vanderbilt for Truth.
Grandma was made in just a short 19 days
Sam Elliot called his short appearance in Grandma “the greatest experience” of his career.
Sam Elliott worked on Grandma for 2 days.
Even though he and Lily Tomlin had only met once, “I stepped on stage and felt like I knew Lily… we just picked it up and it was kind of like the character relationship” Elliot says, in that they interact like people who’ve known each other for years. He then talks empathetically about their characters and their history, saying that his character never really recovered from the end of the relationship with her character.
Now on to Cannes Grand Prize winner Son of Saul.
Son of Saul was Laszlo Nemes’ first feature film
“The sense of a very organic quality… we wanted the film to have” Laszlo comments on the decision to shoot on film instead of digital.
James Vanderbilt wrote the part of Dan Rather for Robert Redford. “I like the idea of a legend playing a legend.”
That is some meta casting to be sure.
“Spotlight plus Trumbo equals Truth” offers James Vanderbilt, director of Truth. “Its the journalism and there’s the persecution aspect”
And now Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks time.
It was two years ago this month that the pitch for Bridge of Spies was made. A reminder of how efficiently Spielberg works.
I personally had a mixed reaction to Bridge of Spies, but, in addition to the usual brilliant cinematography one expects from Spielberg, the thing that I unambiguously liked was the attention to detail in depicting cold war paranoia. Marc Platt says that several moments in the film were derived from Spielberg’s own childhood experiences growing up in the cold war, including the bath tub water scene.
Kristie Krieger says what everyone is thinking, that Tom Hanks was born for his role in Bridge of Spies.
We’re now talking Inside Out. Please excuse me while I do something about this sudden allergy attack that is making my eyes water.
PIxar’s Jim Morris relates a pretty hilarious anecdote about how a nine year girl summed up the film better than the original pitch.
“We always think about animation as a production approach as opposed to a genre,” says Morris. “I think it would be hard to tell this story in live action as opposed to animation.”
First time ever that Pixar is releasing 2 movies in one year; Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur
I’m not going to lie, I almost teared up during The Good Dinosaur clip. Why are these kids movies so sad.
Now moving right along to The Good Dinosaur. The film is based on an alt-history premise imagining if the K-T extinction event hadn’t happened, and dinos and humans coexisted in prehistoric times. This only adds fuel to the bonkers fan theory that the Pixar films all take place in an apocalytpic alt universe.
“We tend to do that” jokes Jim Morris on the sadness of The Good Dinosaur
Up next it’s a packed Fox slate. 25 minutes to cram in Peanuts, The Martian, Joy, and The Revenant.
Four generations of Schulz family were involved in the making of the Peanuts Movie
It took the Peanuts Production two years to get the design of Charlie Brown right, so they say in the making-of vid shown here.
Clip of the Martian now playing. I wish I could think of something to say other than that it is The Best.
“I swear you can quit your job. Matt Damon said yes, you can quit!”. Drew Goddard on the author of The Martian, who he says kept his day job for a year after the book was developed for film.
“This isn’t a super hero movie, we asked Fox to give us a lot of money to make a movie about a guy farming in his own feces.” – Goddard again.
Clip from Joy just played. De Niro and Lawrence were central, but Virginia Madsen as J-Law’s shut-in mother stole the scene. Full on early 80s kitsch with large glasses and episodes of classic soaps.
The Revenant time now.
“Alejandro told me early on that this was a story of enlightenment through suffering” – The Revenant exec producer Jack Fisk when asked what the shoot was like.
We just watched a very long and extremely dope clip from The Big Short.
Very funny (from the clip). Looks like a must see
I still become almost incomprehensibly angry when I’m reminded of the madness of the 00s housing bubble (and in particular, the number of people who should have known better and ignored it). I’ve read the book on which the film is based and it’s looking like the film is going to distill it into what amounts to a con artist dramedy. I approve.
Interesting observation from director Adam McKay about the difference between comedy and drama. He discusses improv in the film, which he encouraged, and how one line said by Ryan Gosling that was improvised, provoking real laughter from other cast. He says you don’t want to show the laughter in a comedy.
It’s Lionsgate time y’all. Sicario and Shaun the Sheep.
It still kinda freaks me out that Benecio Del Toro was a Bond villain. Interestingly, he played the henchmen of a cartel leader SPEAKING OF now the panel discussion of Sicario begins.
Applause for cinematographer Roger Deakins*. “Maybe we said hello a couple of times, we didn’t really talk that much,” says Del Toro. “Everybody worked a little bit harder, everybody wanted to impress him, including myself,” he continued.
And now Shaun the Sheep.
We have Elizabeth Banks for Love & Mercy along with Melinda Wilson, Brian Wilson’s wife and who Banks portrays in the film
Interesting. Melinda Wilson didn’t know who Brian Wilson was upon first meeting him.
“John really got the essence of Brian and our relationship” says Melinda on John Cusack portray of the musical connoisseur Brian Wilson.
Coming up is Netflix with Beast Of No Nations’ Cary Joji Fukunaga and star Abraham Attah
“Until you complete it you’re unfulfilled” Cary comments on knowing that he has always wanted to make a film about a child solider.
Abraham Attah apparently thought the casting director who approached him to audition for Beast of No Nation was a soccer scout.
“Malaria is obviously a very serious subject… it’s no joke. But there’s different types and stages and I had stage 2 – it took me down a week, like a flu. It allowed me time to finish rewriting. So it turned into a good thing.” Cary Fukanaga on his having caught malaria while filming.
Attah says he intends to resume schooling once the rounds of promoting the film are over.
We’re about to end the day with a look at Where To Invade Next, Michael Moore’s latest. Michael will be on stage for the discussion.
One of the more sublime moments today at The Contenders was when the musicians from the Broad Green doc “Song of Lahore” played. The crowd here at the DGA jumped out of their seats and filmed them on their cell phones like it was a Paul Simon concert…photo coming…
It’s been six years since Michael Moore made his last movie “Capitalism: A Love Story”. Since then, he started a film festival in Traverse City Michigan, he has a movie theater that he’s turned around. At his theater he charges $8.50 for 3D nothing higher and his theater averages are through the roof. ‘Steve Jobs’ made $15K at his theater, which was higher than the national average. He’s trying to make waves in exhibition.
MIchael Moore is going into detail about how he runs his movie theater – he mentioned that Steve Jobs had a per screen average of 5K at his theater, much higher than national average (obviously).
No, it was $15K ;-)
“I have one fascistic rule in the theater: if you turn on your cell phone… if you start texting… if you’re caught on your cell phone in my theater you’re banned for life.” says Michael Moore, though he insists there’s a one warning policy. Alamo Drafthouse, your move.
“One charge cord for all devices” –Michael Moore’s presidential election promise.
“I’d get elected on just that!” said Moore.
“we got lucky the way American media has devolved to the point that there are no foreign bureaus anymore… there’s almost no international news on the nightly news… so we were able to skip around the world without American media seeing us,” says Moore about why he managed to make this film without it getting out prior to TIFF.
“My movies aren’t medicine, I make them as movies. For the politics to succeed you’ve got to make a good movies.”
And we come to the end of a very long day here at the Deadline Contenders event. Thanks for sticking around and reading along with us.