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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Fox Searchlight

'Lola Versus' team turns their romantic baggage into films

June 7, 2012 | 10:00 am

Lola versus

Couples that collaborate are nothing new in the movie business. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a relationship as tangled as that of Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, the twentysomethings behind the new offbeat romantic comedy “Lola Versus.”

For the film, which opens in Los Angeles on Friday, the duo wrote (both of them), directed (him), acted (her), executive-produced (both) — and, oh, yes, went through a yearlong, real-life breakup whose spirit they funneled into the movie.

Wein: “Our personal and professional lives have completely blended. I honestly don’t know if I’m at home right now or on set.” (He was on set, in New York.)

Lister-Jones: “Not everything from the script is from that year. Some is from single men and women I know.” Pause. “A lot is from that year.”

Unlike their 2010 feature debut “Breaking Upwards,” a low-budget DIY effort (think $15,000 and plenty of helpful friends) about a couple who decide to try an open relationship, “Lola” centers on a woman coping with the fallout of a breakup. It comes with a positively Spielbergian budget (for them) of about $5 million and veteran hands in producer Michael London (“Sideways”) and specialty-film giant Fox Searchlight, which financed and oversaw production and is distributing the movie.

The film stars Greta Gerwig (of “Greenberg” and seemingly every third indie romance) as the titular Lola, a woman dumped by her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman of TV’s “The Killing”) just before their nuptials — a destination wedding in Mexico. Rather than running permanently into the arms of her pining male best friend (Hamish Linklater of “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) or back into the conciliatory embrace of her ex, Lola tries to work out a single life with the help of her family and her bawdy gal pal Alice (Lister-Jones, also the wisecracking sidekick Lily from NBC’s “Whitney” and as outspoken in real life as one of her characters).

Though there is romance and comedy, “Lola” is as much about a quest for identity as it is a story of happily ever after.

Continue reading »

'Marigold Hotel' crosses $100 million at worldwide box office

May 31, 2012 | 11:47 am

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel crossed the 100 million mark at the box office
Moviegoers worldwide continue to check into "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," as the film surpassed $100 million at the global box office Wednesday.

The movie, centered on British retirees who go on a trip to India, had already racked up $70 million abroad before it debuted in the U.S. in early May. Since, the picture's international tally has risen to $81.4 million, while the film has sold nearly $20-million worth of tickets domestically.

Internationally, the movie has performed best in the United Kingdom, grossing over $30 million in the region where many of its stars — including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson — hail from.

In America, meanwhile, the movie has resonated with older moviegoers. On the film's opening weekend, distributor Fox Searchlight said that 90% of the audience was 35 and older, while 60% of the crowd was female.

The movie is now the seventh-highest-grossing title ever for Fox Searchlight, which financed the picture with Participant Media for $12 million.

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— Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Dev Patel stars in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Credit: Fox Searchlight.


Dev Patel brings dash of youth to 'Marigold Hotel' [exclusive clip]

May 2, 2012 | 11:36 am

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is already an international hit, thanks to a cast of senior British talent including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith. But those veterans are not the only draw -- there's 23-year-old Dev Patel, best known to Americans for his turn in "Slumdog Millionaire."

The film is based on Deborah Moggach’s book “These Foolish Things,” and it centers on seven middle-class Britons whose savings have melted down with the global economy. They’re lured to the subcontinent with the promise of retiring in affordable luxury, but instead they find a heady mix of heat, noise, smells and tastes -- in other words, India. They end up at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is run by Patel's character, Sonny, who may have oversold its charms just a tad.

Patel's character was expanded in the film version to broaden the appeal to younger viewers.

For Patel, working with such experienced actors was daunting, eye-opening and a great learning experience, he said.

“Coming into this, I was a bag of nerves,” Patel said on the set of the film in Jaipur, India, in late 2010. “Any of these guys are massive powerhouse actors, a massive presence in the industry. It’s sort of like sensory overload.”

But as filming took place on outdoor locations around Jaipur, most Indian passersby recognized him and not Dench, Nighy, Smith or his other film legend co-stars. That, he said, was a bit unfair. “It’s so undeserving.”

Check out an exclusive clip from the movie with Patel above.

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-- Mark Magnier in Jaipur, India

Photo: Dev Patel and Tena Desae in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."  Credit: Ishika Mohan / Fox Searchlight Pictures


Anthony Hopkins vanishes (mostly) into 'Hitchcock'

April 25, 2012 |  4:34 pm

Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock

Almost 32 years after his death, Alfred Hitchcock is still shocking audiences — but the petrified patrons are not in any movie theater. Instead, the invited guests (actually paid actors) were inside a Pasadena mansion during the second week of filming for “Hitchcock,” a fictionalized look at the English filmmaker during the preparation, filming and release of 1960’s “Psycho.”

Hitchcock — or a very approximate facsimile — was on a recent day throwing a bomb into an otherwise genteel tea party, handing out a batch of gruesome crime scene photographs to announce his intentions to tell a grisly tale of murder and mutilation.

The Fox Searchlight production, which could be ready by year's end, stars Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife and creative collaborator, Alma Reville. The cast includes Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. It is the first narrative feature directed by screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Sacha Gervasi (“Anvil! The Story of Anvil”).

Hopkins’ transformation, accomplished with the help of prosthetic makeup by Howard Berger and Peter Montagna and a fat suit from costume designer Julie Weiss that turns the slim Hopkins into a 300-pound giant, is not intended to hide the Oscar-winning actor completely.

“We don’t want Anthony Hopkins to disappear under the makeup,” Gervasi, who co-wrote Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal," said during a break in filming. “And we don’t want him to sound exactly like Hitchcock, either. That wasn’t the point.”

Instead, the goal was to give moviegoers a little bit of both the real and the illusion — a slice of Hitchcock here, a taste of Hopkins there, all the while probing the director’s complicated state of mind. During a break in filming, Hopkins said that he met Hitchcock late in the director's life at the restaurant Ma Maison. "He had no idea who I was," said Hopkins, whose acting career was just taking off at the time.

The "Hitchcock" plot follows the troubled financing of “Psycho," the director’s battles with Hollywood censors and Hitchcock’s desire to prove to his doubters, his wife and himself that he still had an edge. The screenplay, whose writers include Hitchcock biographer Stephen Rebello, includes references to Edward Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber who was partial inspiration for Buffalo Bill, the villain at the center of Hopkins’ “The Silence of the Lambs.”

In the scene at the Pasadena estate, Hitchcock disbursed photographs detailing some of Gein’s more abhorrent acts, hoping to start the “Psycho” drumbeat. It appeared to be working.

At one point, a gossip columnist in attendance asked of Hitchcock, “Am I the only one who finds this offensive?” Without missing a beat, Hitchcock replied, “I was hoping everyone would.”

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-- John Horn

Photo: Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock in "Hitchcock," now filming. Courtesy Fox Searchlight.


'The Descendants' has faster start than 'Juno,' 'Slumdog,' 'Black Swan'

December 2, 2011 |  4:43 pm

The Descendants

The box-office results are early, but so far "The Descendants" is off to a faster start than any of Fox Searchlight's three biggest hits, eclipsing the $10-million mark faster than "Black Swan," "Juno" and "Slumdog Millionaire." Attendance for Alexander Payne's film has been so strong across the country that the studio this weekend is adding nearly 600 locations to the film's release, about 50% more theaters than was initially planned.

The returns are being driven not just by big art-house markets such as Los Angeles and New York. Among the Top 10 locations for "The Descendants" last weekend, the list included cinemas in Palm Springs, Phoenix and Seattle. "It's really the word of mouth on the film" that's behind the grosses, said Steve Gilula, president of Fox Searchlight. "The vast, vast majority of people love the movie. And it's playing well in cities, suburbs and small cities. There's no geographic limitation."

"The Descendants" crossed the $10-million mark in its 12th day of limited release, quicker than "Black Swan" (its 16th day of release), "Juno" (22nd day of release) and "Slumdog Millionaire" (39 days). The studio said "The Descendants" crossed the $10-million mark even faster than "Precious," "No Country for Old Men" and "American Beauty."

Payne's movie has so far grossed about $13 million, leaving it far behind "Juno" ($143.5 million overall), "Slumdog Millionaire" ($141.3 million) and "Black Swan" ($107 million). If "The Descendants" continues to draw awards attention, including a possible best picture and best actor Oscar nomination for George Clooney, the drama about a disconnected dad could play into the spring.

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Photo: George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants." Credit: Merie Wallace


'The Descendants': Judy Greer, George Clooney on Alexander Payne

November 4, 2011 | 11:05 am

The Descendants
Alexander Payne asks for a lot from his actors, and what he needed from his "Descendants" cast was not insignificant. Matt King (George Clooney) must wrestle with parenthood, infidelity and a dying wife.

His children (his older daughter is played by Shailene Woodley)have to figure out how to reconnect with their absent father. And Julie Speer (Judy Greer) has to determine not only why King is paying her husband a surprise visit, but also what she needs to say to his comatose spouse.

In this video excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, the cast of "The Descendants" talk about how Payne works with actors, and how he makes them feel safe, even when working on emotionally dangerous scenes.

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--John Horn    

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight


'The Descendants': Alexander Payne, cast on filming in Hawaii

November 3, 2011 |  9:43 am

The Descendants

The biggest star of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" is clearly George Clooney. But there's another major player with a prominent role in the director's new film: the state of Hawaii.

Adapted from Kaui Hart Hemmings novel of the same name, "The Descendants" is primarily a movie about Matt King (Clooney), a disengaged father of two young girls. But King has another issue: He's the trustee for a huge tract of land that his relatives want him to sell, cashing out on their inheritance so a resort can be built on the pristine plot (above).

Payne said he traveled around Hawaii with Hemmings before filming commenced, determined to depict the 50th state not as it is typically shown in touristy tones but as the state really is. In this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, the filmmaker behind "Sideways" discusses how he wanted Hawaii to be seen.

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Photo: Shailene Woodley, left, George Clooney and Amara Miller in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight


'The Descendants': George Clooney on why he took the role of Matt

November 2, 2011 | 11:23 am

The Descendants

When George Clooney read the script for "The Descendants," he was struck by the kind of vulnerability exhibited by Matt King, the father of two girls who suddenly has to learn how to become a parent when his wife suffers a traumatic brain injury. "He loses to everybody," Clooney said of the part.

In this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, the Oscar-winning star of "Syriana" discusses why he was drawn to the movie, and the kind of challenges playing Matt presented.

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-- John Horn

Photo: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight

 


'The Descendants': Alexander Payne on adapting the book to film

November 1, 2011 | 10:17 am

Director Alexander Payne discusses adapting "The Descendants," starring George Clooney
Alexander Payne, who hasn't directed a movie since 2004's "Sideways," wasn't originally going to go behind the cameras on "The Descendants." Instead, his company was going to produce the film, with Stephen Frears and Jason Reitman interested in directing the adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings' book.

When Payne decided to direct, he first revised the screenplay, written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, to emphasize the part of the novel's older daughter.

In this video from the Envelope Screening Series, Payne discusses the adaptation.

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Photo: Shailene Woodley, left, George Clooney, Amara Miller and Nick Kraus in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight


'The Descendants': George Clooney on the first day of filming

October 31, 2011 |  5:08 pm

George ClooneyWhat scares George Clooney?

It's not necessarily the paparazzi stalking his every move, having a "Facts of Life" flashback or watching Mitt Romney steal his best "Ides of March" dialogue.

Rather, it's being the guy — the very first one — who makes a bad Alexander Payne movie.

In this excerpt from our Envelope Screening Series, the "Syriana" Oscar winner talks about why he was terrified showing up for the first day of Payne's movie about a father trying to reconnect with his young daughters.

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Telluride Film Festival: Movies get in touch with the land

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Telluride Film Festival: George Clooney's 'The Descendants' makes waves

— John Horn

Photo: George Clooney, left, and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight.


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