Anita Busch, Jen Yamato, Diane Haithman and Cari Lynn contributed to this report
For Chuck Roven, one of the producers of American Hustle, it’s been a long journey to the Oscar red carpet as he receives his first Academy Award nomination. Roven, who started in the film industry in 1973 and in 1975 hung out his producing shingle, first produced Heart Like A Wheel in 1982 and never stopped making films. In recent years has gone on to produce several commercially successful films when Warner Bros put the seasoned producer on its most important franchises — such as Man Of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises. He remembers the beginnings of how Hustle came together. “The original script by Eric Singer was developed by Atlas at Sony and then David (O. Russell) had just finished shooting Silver Linings Playbook and was looking for his next movie, so we gave him the script and he turned it into a David O. Russell film,” Roven said. “We had a really short period of time between juggling pre-production while he was on the Oscar campaign for Silver Linings Playbook,” the film that had been nominated for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and all of the four acting categories. “We had an amazing group of people working incredibly hard on the movie. Amazing partners. The fact that the movie got this many nominations from its peer group, it’s so humbling and satisfying to think that your peers — that people you work with — in the secrecy of the film balloting are actually recognizing you and it’s especially humbling where there are so many fantastic works by so many this year.” Roven starts production Monday on Warcraft and also starts later this year on the untitled Zach Snyder project at Warner Bros. that is generally known as Superman v Batman (but that will not be the title).
Dallas Buyers Club
“We’re over the moon how could you not be — I think we’re just kind of going between laughing hysterically, crying, in shock — wow. This is a moment in time we’ll have for the rest of our lives”, said producer Robbie Brenner, also president of production at Relativity Media (“I also have a day job,” she said of that gig). “I think the six nominations really represent the teamwork,” producer Rachel Winter added. “The crew worked so hard; we had no money. Terry (husband Terence Winter) is so thrilled for Dallas Buyers Club. There kind of aren’t words — we were just saying how one day our kids might have this really fun fact: Well, one year, they both went to the Oscars.” Winter said she’s currently in postproduction on Stealing Cars, and is working on films being directed by William H Macy and Michael Morris.
“Steve Coogan read a story about the book and there was a photo with Michael Sixsmith (author of the book The Lost Child Of Philomena) and Philomena Lee smiling and this odd couple just piqued his interest and my interest in it,” producer Gabrielle Tana said. “It was such a strong story and we were just driven by the story. Once we had the screenplay in hand and Judi [Dench] came aboard, it was pretty easy to get going then.” With the help of the BBC and Pathe Communications, the picture was financed. Tana is said she is working again with Philomena writers Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan on something right now: an original coming-of-age story. “It’s been a real privilege to do this and we had an amazing team,” she said.
12 Years A Slave
Out of the mouths of babes. 12 Years A Slave producer Dede Gardner found out about the Oscar nomination for Best Picture from her young son. “I’ll confess that I woke up at 8 AM. My 9-year-old son came in and said, “You got 9 nominations and now we have to go school.” Said fellow producer Jeremy Kleiner: “I woke up after the broadcast but I spoke to my Mom in New York and she was psyched. My father who passed away was a big movie buff so it was cool.” Gardner and Kleiner have worked together for a decade producing movies together such as World War Z and Eat Pray Love. Asked if they knew there was something special about this film, Gardner said, “We believed it would be great, but you never know if it’s going to be received. We loved it and we just hoped other people would love it too.” Kleiner said, “The dailies were very powerful and effective, but we had 35-day schedule and everyone was working and when you’re inside of it, you’re just doing the work.” One of the interesting things about the screenplay is that it is very faithful to the book, written in 1853. In fact, it begins with the same vernacular of its author, Solomon Northrup, on whom the movie is based. “Steve [McQueen, the director] responded to the formality (of the language),” said Gardner. “It was a powerful contrast to the event that Solomon was living through. It lent an alien quality to the world we are experiencing. Steve found his story so undeniable and so the commitment was really to restoring the story with as much authenticity as you could.” The producers are in post production on two projects currently: The Normal Heart for HBO which will premiere in May and True Story for New Regency. They have yet to pick their next project.
The Wolf Of Wall Street
“I’m on cloud nine. I’m so thrilled for Marty and Leo and Terry and oh my god, Jonah. I’m so thrilled for the academy’s recognition of the film. (This morning) I just texted everybody – Marty, Leo, Jonah, Terry, our whole team, as many crew as I could get to, and my phone’s been going off the hook with family and friends. It’s been a celebratory few hours. We could not have done this without the amazing Red Granite, Joey McFarland and Riza Aziz. They stepped up and came in and said, ‘We are here, make the movie you want to make within reason,’ but they never balked at anything. They gave Marty and Leo the creative and financial freedom they needed to make this movie. We would not have a movie without them. For me, running the production on the ground was no small feat but I was a small part of that. I had the most incredible production team, we had a phenomenal creative team for Marty in place. Everybody from our grips to our teamster to our ADs, everybody just gave 200 percent and we just knocked it out for these guys and made sure every day Marty and Leo were armed with the means they needed to make this incredible film.” –Emma Tillinger Koskoff
“What’s great is it’s a reward for Alfonso [Cuaron], whose vision really this is, and the thousands of people who worked to make the film. It’s a great reward. The journey of the film in many ways mirrors the themes, which is adversity and rebirth. It was at Universal, it came to WB – it died and was reborn. Through every step of the way there was adversity. Looking back now it’s amazing it has done as well as it has at the box office. It may seem obvious now but it wasn’t at the time. Making a film with so many taboos – two people alone in space, where their voices are muddled, and the performances are given through visors in space suits where you can’t see their physical expression… and yet it connected. It’s been amazing. The fact that critics and audiences have embraced it so has been rewarding.” — producer David Heyman
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
“There are three people nominated this year, and go figure, I’m the baby of the group — there’s June Squibb, Judi Dench, and me,” Dern said. “It’s like the peers of ours, if you will, have all gotten together and said, ‘Hey, there are still roles! And they’re good roles, in very good movies!’ I think these nominations will pump hope into people who are older and still looking to make a living as an actor or actress. I am quite honored to be included, it’s really big stuff. And I’m saying this even though I started out with Roger Corman. I also hope this helps more people discover Nebraska. The hardest thing about this role was the detachment and being there, but not really being there all the time. It was there on the page, though — it was all there on the page. Now, June [Squibb] brought something to her role that wasn’t there on the page, I couldn’t have done what she did. Her rashness and her courage to just blow that sh*t out! Will Forte, he should have gotten a nomination, he’s the lynchpin to this movie. For 20 years he’s done the opposite, broad jokes, broad humor, so to him just there doing this was really something.” As for what’s next? “I’m not sure. The exciting thing is who will step forward and say, ‘Come on down!’ I’m always excited at how other people will see me and cast me. And what writers dare to dream that I might have a chance to play now. That’s the joy of Alexander Payne — he’s made six movies, and he’s had nominations in every movie. He gives people opportunities that no one’s used to seeing. He loves to surprise audiences. He gets it, he just flat out gets it.
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf Of Wall Street
“I’m very excited that the film got this much attention. It’s an honor to be recognized for a film like this. What Marty [Scorsese] does is he doesn’t judge his characters. He ultimately puts these people onscreen as authentically as he possibly can and lets the audience extract what they can from it…. The reaction we wanted was for there to be a dialogue about this attitude. This is a very destructive attitude, and what some people don’t get is that is ultimately not a cautionary tale but an indictment of this world…. It’s not often you get the opportunity to do movies that are that loose and take that many chances.” — DiCaprio
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
“I was making all the choices for the experience, because there’s something in the material I found original, because I felt I would be able to work with directors and a production that would allow the freedom to tell the story in an honest way and never try to placate or bring it back to the middle … there was always a wonderful risk in all of these choices and that turned me on. Now, kind of for the first time on this scale, here come these results! I win a Golden Globe other night, the movie is nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the Oscars, Jared [Leto]’s work is being recognized – these results are coming in! Usually you finish a movie, you move on, you go make something else, they call the you back to promote a film… well, this one sticking around! It’s relevant, it’s more than relevant – it’s vital right now.” – McConaughey
Amy Adams, American Hustle
“It’s so exciting to me that everybody was recognized – I know how much work went making this movie in all categories, so it’s nice to see not only cast but wardrobe, and I feel it’s a real acknowledgement for the crew who worked really hard. David [O. Russell] knew after The Fighter even if he wrote a walk-on that I would show up for him. I felt like he really gave me a great opportunity to break type in The Fighter and that wasn’t an opportunity I was getting at the time. To be honest, I was a little scared because the way he described her she was really such a complex character and I knew I had to surrender something of myself to accomplish her. She’s playing so many roles so you have to develop who she is and then on top of it play the role. It was one of those characters where I thought, ‘Gosh, if I don’t get this right the level of humiliation will be up there,’ [laughs], you know? I think that’s a normal fear going into anything, then you surrender to that fear. You have to. You want to grow. I’ve never wanted to be a type.” — Adams
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
“It’s not just the feeling of what’s happening now, it’s also what the last two years have been like with the amazing experience of Gravity. All we cared about was that Alfonso [Cuaron] got recognized because this is his story, his journey, his life story. I feel like I have an embarrassment of riches and now something horrible is going to happen. [Laughs] But I want to not blow through this. I want to savor every moment, I want to enjoy it. I want to hang out with my fellow ladies like I have been when we see each other on these crazy press tours. I just don’t want to miss a thing, like Aerosmith said. Yes the circumstances were bizarre and difficult. You’re acting by yourself and are forced to dig deep to find emotions hanging from things and being in pain and twisted… but you also got to have this amazing, never-done-before experience. We didn’t think we were making a blockbuster – we thought we were making an art house film that happens to be in space, it’s existential, and it has these beautiful life metaphors. I’m sure the studio can tell you didn’t think in a million years this film would make a dime. But Alfonso stayed with his vision, he knew what he was making.” – Bullock (more…)