Netflix presented three original films at Deadline’s The Contenders Los Angeles today. Marriage Story, The Irishman and The Two Popes each tackle a different sort of true story, and use different techniques to accomplish them. Marriage Story is fictional, but reflects the realities of divorce many families experience.
“There’s always a scene or a few scenes in a movie you’re anticipating or overthinking because they’re physically exhausting, mentally or emotionally taxing,” star Adam Driver said. “In this movie, every scene felt like that. That’s a testament to good writing that in every scene the stakes were high.”
Laura Dern plays a divorce attorney in Marriage Story. She said the script challenged her perception of her own character.
“[I] realized with some contempt that oh my God, she’s right also,” Dern said. “I sort of have loved what I’ve learned to hate and that makes me really happy in a character because it’s very human.”
Writer/director Noah Baumbach said he interviewed couples, lawyers, judges and mediators for research. He calls Marriage Story a love story, even though it is about a couple (Driver and Scarlett Johansson) divorcing. He saw other genres in the film too.
“It does have a thriller aspect,” Baumbach said. “It does have courtroom procedural. There’s a love story, a musical, horror. As I worked on it, you just had to press down in certain directions and these things would reveal themselves.”
The Irishman is based on Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), mob hitman for Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) who had a relationship with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff said financing was the biggest challenge and considered herself “blessed to partner with Netflix.” Every studio passed on financing the film, despite the cast and director Martin Scorsese.
To portray Sheeran, Bufalino and Hoffa from the ‘50s to now, The Irishman employed de-aging visual effects. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto described the camera right capturing footage from three angles for visual effects.
“It was three cameras,” Prieto said. “It was big, held a bunch of cables but we made it so we could move it in any way. Most of the time we had two cameras going, which meant six cameras, sometimes three angles which is nine. I tried to make it as subtle as possible.”
Marvel films have employed de-aging successfully for flashbacks, but The Irishman showed it is possible to film an entire movie with the same actors spanning decades. Prieto expects the technology to become more common.
“Just like makeup has been a necessity to age characters or de-age them, audiences are more sophisticated,” Prieto said. “Now maybe you don’t believe so much when it’s makeup. This sort of technique, it’s the first film I think ever where you actually see characters age convincingly that amount of decades.”
The Two Popes stars Anthony Hopkins as Pope Francis and Jonathan Pryce as Benedict, then a cardinal but ultimately to take over as Pope when Francis retired.
“They don’t agree on anything and both are meant to be infallible,” screenwriter Anthony McCarten said. “I thought that’s an interesting situation. I thought it might even speak to the broader conversation happening in society between conservatives and progressives and the fact that the middle has collapsed. The center has not held. It is an attempt I think to find compromise between these two men with very different world visions that is at the heart of the film.”
Producer Jonathan Eirich noted that Hopkins and Pryce did resemble the living popes they played, but brought more than superficial resemblances to their roles.
“There was an interview [director[ Fernando [Meirelles] had seen with Jonathan Pryce where he was so disarmingly funny and warm,” Eirich said. “It reminded him of all the interviews he saw with Francis. You needed someone who had that harsh intelligence, that German-like intensity that Hopkins can give you but then there’s such an intelligence behind that. I think we also saw, again, there’s so much warmth in him.”
Marriage Story is in limited release Nov. 6 and on Netflix Dec. 6. The Irishman is in theaters now and on Netflix Nov. 27. The Two Popes is in theaters Nov. 27 and on Netflix Dec. 20.
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