Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants opened in New York and Los Angeles in five theatres (2 in NY and 3 in LA) last night. The buzz began with the sellouts of the special screenings and tribute to George Clooney in Telluride, and continued to the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the closing night at the New York Film Festival and the London Film Festival and the recent Gotham Award nominations. It goes into the awards seasons with tremendous momentum. The Alexander Payne-directed film starring George Clooney and supported by newcomers Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller will add 11 new markets playing in 29 theatres on Friday. For the Thanksgiving period it expands into nearly 450 theatres. Jim Taylor is Payne’s lesser-known writing partner and shares credit on such films as Election and About Schmidt, and an Oscar for 2005’s Sideways. For The Descendants, Payne wrote solo while Taylor stuck to producing alongside Jim Burke, his longtime partner in Ad Hominem Productions. On the eve of the film’s release, Awardsline contributor Ari Karpel spoke with Taylor and Burke about the film’s favorable festival start, editing at Clooney’s Lake Como villa, and why Taylor sat out the writing of this one:
AWARDSLINE: Fox Searchlight optioned the book The Descendants for your production company, Ad Hominem, about four years ago. Tell me about the process that followed.
JIM BURKE: I read a manuscript that was sent to us by a literary agent in London. I forwarded it to Searchlight. I think the agent who sent it to us, also mailed it to a number of production companies like ours since there was a lot of interest from the competition. Fox Searchlight acted quickly on our behalf to acquire the option on this book before we had fully decided who would even direct it. Jim and Alexander at the time were writing an original screenplay called Downsizing which was intended to be Alexander’s next film to direct. So we figured The Descendants would be our next picture to produce at Ad Hominem and we proceeded along those lines. We went out and looked for screenwriters to adapt the book and arrived at Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. (more…)