Amazon Studios blasted off Deadline’s Contenders London this year with four of its fourth quarter titles including the Kristen Stewart feature Seberg, Scott Z. Burns’ The Report, the Felicity Jones-Eddie Redmayne period reteam The Aeronauts and Alma Har’el’s Shia LaBeouf autobiographically inspired Honey Boy.
Seberg, directed by Benedict Andrews stars Stewart as Breathless actress Jean Seberg who was a target of the FBI due to her political and romantic affiliations with civil rights activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie). Jack O’Connell and Zazie Beetz also star.
Andrews always had that image of Seberg in his head from Breathless, “wiping her thumb across her lips,” but it wasn’t until he read Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse’s script that he learned about this “shadowed and buried period of her life.” The pic for the filmmaker “felt like a story that speaks urgently to us now, the idea of privacy and government overreach.” Andrews pointed to Jack O’Connell’s FBI agent who is undergoing a crisis of consciousness. “He’s involved in the dirty water that he can’t believe in anymore,” reminiscent for the director of the whistle blower in the Ukraine President/Donald Trump scandal which has the House of Representatives beginning an impeachment inquiry. “It’s like 1968 was speaking to 2019,” said Andrews.
Stewart gave praise to DP Rachel Morrison and costume designer Michael Wilkinson for getting her into character as the two sides of Seberg: the extroverted public face and private.
“Jean had such a strong image based on things she had going on, and to peel that back and see underneath the headlines and beat the shit out of that image… Rachel knew how to get under my skin and present her image,” said Stewart. Seberg opens on Dec. 13.
The Report, which made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival where Amazon snapped up global rights for an estimated $14M stars Adam Driver as real-life Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones who uncovered and exposed the CIA’s post Sept. 11 enhanced interrogation techniques in a 6,700 page report.
Burns was drawn to how psychology could be used as a weapon, learning about the report in a Vanity Fair article. For producer Jennifer Fox, mounting a movie that was a throwback to thrillers of the 1970s was a challenge.
“When you try to pitch a story like this with studios, they look at you with a blank face. We knew that we’d attract a level of talent that would make it possible for us to make the film; it’s execution dependent,” said Fox.
The Report bows theatrically on Nov. 15 followed by a release on streaming on Nov. 29. It’s the first title by Amazon that emulates Netflix’s truncated theatrical-streaming release model, effective under studio boss Jennifer Salke.
Also on stage at the Ham Yard Hotel today was The Aeronauts director Tom Harper, producer Todd Lieberman, DP George Steel and costume designer Alexandra Byrne. The movie follows 19th century pioneering meteorologist James Glaisher (Oscar winner Redmayne) and widow-and-air balloon pilot Amelia Wren (Jones) as they ascend the heights of the atmosphere in a near death journey to prove to the British scientific intelligentsia that weather can in fact be forecasted.
“I was inspired to make a film that felt like a classic action adventure film, but had an important message about expanding your knowledge. These pilots had a sense of improving life for everybody,” said Harper.
In regards to getting Theory of Everything‘s Redmayne and Jones back together on screen, the filmmakers kept coming back to how their chemistry would be prime for this film.
Said Lieberman, “We sent the script to them simultaneously, our hope was that they would call each other, and that’s exactly what happened. There was a text exchange.”
Aeronauts opens theatrically on Dec. 6 and will hit Amazon Prime on Dec. 20.
Honey Boy director-producer Har’el, writer/actor LaBeouf and the pic’s other two castmembers Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe were also on hand today to expound on the semi-autobiographical story about LaBeouf. Honey Boy explores a young actor’s turbulent childhood with his war vet, ex-rodeo clown abusive father (LeBeouf). Jupe and Hedges respectively play the fictional version of LaBeouf, ages 12 and 22.
LeBeouf came to write the screenplay after being in a court-ordered rehab facility.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of strength, my back was against the wall, I was told that I was nuclear,” said the Transformers star.
LaBeouf pondered joining the peace corps and quitting acting. “They told me you have PTSD and I started writing about the disco ball of my pain and reached back on all the dirty parts,” said the actor. He sent his material to Har’el, a documentary filmmaker whose work LaBeouf adored, having funded her second film. Har’el believed that the duo finally found a narrative project that the two could work on. When LaBeouf got out of rehab, he sought to write the ending to the film. So he journeyed to see his father in Costa Rica; the two hadn’t spoken in seven years. “The last time we spoke, it was violent,” said LaBeouf.
The entire production was a cathartic experience for LaBeouf who says that he’s now in “a good spot. Feeling good is ephemeral. I’m very present and here right now.”
Honey Boy hits cinemas on Nov. 8. Amazon scooped up Honey Boy at Sundance for $5M.