Ian McKellen will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tribute at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival on October 11. This can also be viewed as a kickoff to Roadside Attractions/Miramax’s Oscar campaign for McKellen’s widely praised performance as an elderly Sherlock Holmes in their independent summer hit Mr. Holmes, from director Bill Condon, which has grossed an impressive near-$18 million domestically to date. McKellen will appear for the honor which includes an onstage conversation and clips from his long film career which began in 1969. A number of contenders will be travelling to Mill Valley as that fest has become a popular early stopover on the awards circuit.
It is always tough for movies released in July to stay front and center in the minds of Oscar voters who are deluged with the glut of fall and holiday season contenders that steal the attention, but I am told McKellen will be active on the circuit supporting the film since that is what it takes in the awards-season swirl. The 76-year-old has previously been nominated for Supporting Actor as Gandalf in 2003’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and as Best Actor in 1998’s Gods And Monsters, another small indie film directed by Condon. McKellen, who played Frankenstein director James Whale in that film, was in his 50s then playing a man in his 70s — now he is unforgettable in his 70s playing Holmes in his 90s. Can’t wait to see what Condon and McKellen come up with next. (Personally I think they also should campaign Laura Linney for Supporting Actress in Mr. Holmes. She was superb and they both received a rapturous standing ovation at a SAG Nominating Committee screening I moderated.)
McKellen is among a number of veteran stars threatening to give this year’s Oscar race a mature glow the AARP would love. Expect to see 82-year-old Michael Caine on the circuit along with his Youth co-stars Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda, as well as 45 Years’ Tom Courtenay as serious contenders. You can also count on leading veteran actresses like Maggie Smith (Lady In The Van); Charlotte Rampling (45 Years); Blythe Danner (I’ll See You In My Dreams); and Lily Tomlin for Grandma, the latter yesterday becoming the second awards screener to land in Oscar voters’ mailboxes. Danner’s I’ll See You In My Dreams was the first. The seniors are on it.
Roadside Attractions is also hoping to gain awards traction for their other early-summer release, Love & Mercy, especially for Paul Dano’s performance as the younger Brian Wilson which they are campaigning in the Best Supporting Actor category. John Cusack, who played the older version of Wilson in the film, will be campaigned in the lead actor category to avoid confusion. Over the weekend when he was attending several Emmy events, Dano (who also appears with Caine in Youth) told me he was recently with Wilson in Washington D.C. on behalf of mental health issues. In November I am told he is even going to be singing onstage with Wilson at one of the legend’s concerts.