What’s old is entirely rejuvenated and new for Sony this awards season whether it’s Quentin Tarantino’s 1969 ode to Tinseltown Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Greta Gerwig’s groovy spin on Louisa May Alcott’s 1860s novel Little Women, and Marielle Heller’s look at Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Present at Contenders today for Hollywood was producer David Heyman and DP Robert Richardson. The second-highest grossing Tarantino pic of all-time ($357.8M worldwide B.O.) follows a waning movie star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is looking for a comeback with his washed-up stuntman best friend Cliff Booth by his side. Their story is set against the crossroads of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Charles Manson in a revisionist take on Hollywood history.
Bringing that yesteryear to the screen lied in Richardson’s talent to handle complex shots, as Tarantino “doesn’t like digital effects” said the DP. One hard maneuver that Richardson was surprised he pulled off was moving the camera from a crane shot of Rick in the swimming pool to a shot of Roman Polanski and Tate (Margot Robbie) in a car. “The driving shots in particular were the hallmark” of the movie said Heyman. Richardson agreed, particularly how he captured the back of Robbie’s flowing hair.
Lady Bird helmer Gerwig said she’s been a lifelong fan of the Alcott novel. However, “when I read the book as an adult, some things stood out to me that I missed the first time.”
“I wanted to look at them (the characters) as adults, and try to recapture the thing about their girlhood and the fearlessness that came with girlhood and what happens when you become a woman,” added the filmmaker.
“Also, the story is about art and money and how much those influence each other and the effect on each other, and the ability of making money, and how that changes your ability to make art,” explained Gerwig on why she tackled the novel for the big screen.
Also appearing onstage with her today was Saoirse Ronan (Jo March), Laura Dern (Marmee March) and costume designer Jacqueline Durran. The pic opens on Christmas Day.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t a biopic about Mr. Rogers, but we do step into his life via the eyes of an Esquire journalist played by The Americans Primetime Emmy winner Matthew Rhys. Inspired by real journo Tom Junod, Rhys plays Lloyd Vogel, an investigative journalist who is given a small profile assignment about Fred Rogers. However, after meeting the kid-friendly, off-beat kids show host, Lloyd suspects there’s more to Mr. Rogers, maybe even a dark side. But as he interviews him, the tables turn on Lloyd, and he winds up unexpectedly fixing parts of himself, and his fractured relationship with his father.
In morphing Hanks into Rogers, Heller directed the two-time Oscar winner to go to a “vulnerable” place. “He want to a place that was scary to go to,” said the director. Given Rogers’ knack for being contemplative, and a patient listener, Heller got Hanks to slow down in his speech.
The movie opens on Nov. 22. Out of its world premiere at TIFF, Beautiful Day is 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.