The Weinstein Company drew a capacity house of distributors and press to the Hotel Majestic early Thursday evening for its annual preview of upcoming films for 2015 and beyond. As excited crowds lined up across the street for the Grand Palais premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road — which is getting a rapturous critical reception in Cannes — a mellower Harvey Weinstein was touting his slate. In many cases it was the first time extended footage from any of these films was shown, so all eyes were on the screen after Weinstein introduced the product reel.
Among news bits he revealed was that TWC’s July boxing picture Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Antoine Fuqua, indeed was accepted into the Cannes Official Selection this year but was then agreed to be held back after its star also was picked to serve on the jury. So instead Weinstein announced the film will be shown at private screenings for distributors in Cannes later in the fest. He also noted that TWC’s recent pickup Hands Of Stone, with Robert De Niro in the true story of the Roberto Duran-Sugar Ray Leonard fights, will not be competing with Southpaw as it will be held until April or May of 2016. Previously unseen footage of that film was shown, and it looks like another strong role for De Niro and a great one for Edgar Ramirez who plays Duran, as well as a surprising one for Usher as Leonard.
It is interesting to note the surge in boxing pictures as footage also was shown from the new Rocky –inspired Creed at last month’s CinemaCon. Sylvester Stallone plays the manager/mentor to Apollo Creed’s boxing grandson in that one, and his Grudge Match co-star, “Raging Bull” De Niro, plays a similar role to Duran in Hands Of Stone. As for Gyllenhaal, he was on hand to say a few words to the crowd about Southpaw, calling it “an amazing and tough journey” in which he put all his trust in Fuqua and got everything in return. Weinstein said he felt Gyllenhaal should have been nominated for an Oscar for last year’s Nightcrawler (he would be right on that, for sure), and that now they can extract sweet revenge with this. Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds to play that memorable role in Nightcrawler, but conversely he had to bulk up the opposite way for Southpaw. The footage shown was strong, and the one-sheet poster of Gyllenhaal really looks remarkable.
But it’s not all boxing flicks on Weinstein’s plate, one its outspoken leader actually says he really likes. “I want to say how excited I am with this year’s lineup,” he said. “It’s pretty good. I like it myself. Normally I am pretty critical.”
The highlight of the reel for many was seeing the sneak peek at Quentin Tarantino’s Western The Hateful Eight, planned for a December release. It was held to the end of the reel. “This is my eighth film with a filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino. We’ve been together 22 years. It’s the best marriage I’ve had. Don’t tell Georgina,” he quipped. “And when you see this footage, you will see why. I am just the recipient of many, many good things over the years. And when you see this footage, those of you who have the movie, I think you will share my belief.” Footage showing striking snowbound visuals and intense performances from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson in vivid closeup, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Channing Tatum and so on looked promising and pure Tarantino. Of course, one of the most famous Weinstein-Tarantino collaborations was Pulp Fiction, which took the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1994.
Other highlights in the reel included two films in competition here at Cannes this year: Carol with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, premiering on Sunday, and the Michael Fassbender-Marion Cottilard version of Macbeth, which will be the last of the 19 competition films to be shown, on Saturday May 23 (TWC told me the company has no say in that date placement as the foreign distributor is presenting it here). Weinstein said the Macbeth stars deliver two of the year’s extraordinary performances. Of course they have Shakespeare providing the words — with the help of three screenwriters — and director Justin Kurzel delivering the war-laden visuals.
As for Carol, Weinstein told me afterward that he has high hopes, having previously worked with director Todd Haynes on several critically acclaimed movies that weren’t box office hits. This time he thinks it will be different. “We have been trying to hit it out of the ballpark for a long time. I think this is the one,” he told distributors. We are going to see the film on Sunday for its world premiere, and Weinstein will be throwing a Cannes bash afterward. From this footage, though, it looks like Blanchett and Mara both could be in awards contention. Whether that means competing against each other in Best Actress remains to be seen. I asked Weinstein, and he said: “You guys can tell us that. It makes it a lot easier when we don’t have to decide.” I get annoyed when a lead role is squeezed into supporting just so the two stars don’t have to compete against each other. I promise I will let you know, Harvey. But can’t wait for this one. It is another 1950s-set story for Haynes, who directed Julianne Moore to an Oscar nomination in Far From Heaven, set in the same decade. In Carol, Blanchett plays a wealthy wife and mother caught up in an affair with Mara.
Other films highlighted include the Owen Wilson-Pierce Brosnan thriller No Escape as well as the inspiring drama Lion with Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Mara (again). It is based on the novel The Long Way Home, about a family member using Google maps to reunite with his long-lost brother. Director John Wells, who did August: Osage County for TWC, is back with Adam Jones, providing three-time Oscar nominee and current Tony nominee Bradley Cooper with what looks like another strong role, this time as a chef opposite another Cannes Jury member, Sienna Miller. She was present to speak briefly at this event and praised Cooper. There also was footage shown from the animated The Little Prince (another Cannes Official Selection this year), which Weinstein said it has in select European and Australian territories. Also on hand to be introduced by Weinstein after the reel was Swedish “it girl” Alicia Vikander, who seemingly is in just about every film in release this year — seven, to be exact, including Weinstein’s Tulip Fever opposite Christoph Waltz and Dean DeHaan and a cameo in Adam Jones. There’s also the current Ex-Machina and the upcoming Testament Of Youth, The Light Between Oceans, The Man From U.N.C.L.E and The Danish Girl opposite Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, who stars in a transgender role originally pegged for Nicole Kidman.
Speaking of Redmayne, there have been rumors that the Weinstein Company’s upcoming film about McDonald’s honcho Ray Kroc, The Founder, now in preproduction, would be rushed to completion in time to compete in the 2015 Oscar race, effectively again pitting Redmayne against Keaton, who lost for his portrayal of Birdman. Not true. The film is still casting, and TWC assured me it’s a 2016 title, not for this year. But as their leader said tonight, what they do have looks promising. But hey, it’s only May and it’s only Cannes. Let’s not talk Oscar yet. Well, maybe just a little.