24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Lee Daniels

No 'Butler' for Matthew McConaughey; 'Dallas Buyer's Club' advances

June 7, 2012 |  4:00 am

Matthew mcconaughey
After years percolating, the film “Dallas Buyer’s Club” -- about a redneck Texan who contracted HIV in the 1980s and began importing experimental foreign remedies in the early days of the AIDS epidemic -- is moving ahead this fall, actor Matthew McConaughey says.

After traveling to the Cannes Film Festival last month to promote two films in which he appears -- Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” and Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” -- McConaughey is now in the midst of publicity for the Steven Soderbergh male stripper movie “Magic Mike,” opening June 29.

“Dallas Buyers” has been gestating for years -- Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling were said to be involved at various points, along with directors Mark Forster and Gosling's "Lars and the Real Girl" helmer, Craig Gillespie. Producers came and went. But McConaughey, who’s been involved for a while -- rights to the project with him attached were on sale at Cannes in 2011 -- says he’s currently working on the script with Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee (“C.R.A.Z.Y.”) and trying to drop pounds to take on the role of Ron Woodroof, an electrical contractor who developed a reputation as the nerviest cowboy in the AIDS underground.

A 1992 Dallas Morning News story followed Woodroof as he smuggled 500,000 pills across the border from Mexico into Laredo in the trunk of a rented Lincoln Continental -- one of hundreds of such trips he made. His actions put him on a collision course with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which was bent on keeping the drugs out of the country. McConaughey described Woodroof as "a homophobe redneck cowboy" who ends up "with a transsexual assistant" in his pill business.

“It was very tough to get the money for that one, being the subject material and it’s a period piece,” McConaughey said. “We’ve been really, really close for a long time. We’ve been going back to getting a number that Jean-Marc felt like he could make it for and still give us the right creative license to tell it the way we need to. Sometimes they just happen. There’s momentum right now. Some things I’ve got going on are helping whoever’s financing, going, ‘Oh that’s a better idea now’ … We’re out-enduring some people because we’re staying on it.” He did not give specifics on the budget.

With McConaughey focused on “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” he says he won’t be re-teaming with Daniels for his next film, “The Butler,” about White House butler Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents over three decades. McConaughey was to play the role of John F. Kennedy, which would have required him to trade his Texas drawl for Kennedy’s Boston accent.

“ 'The Butler,' it’s not going to happen for me,” he said. “It was going to take some good hard work on my part for sure -- and it was more than an accent. I’ve done accents before. And you can see you can tell when it’s just coming out from the neck up. When you see it done well, they walk different, they sit different -- it’s coming out of their feet. There was a lot of work that I was looking forward to putting in on that. But for certain true reasons, it’s not going to happen.”

McConaughey said his decision to not do “The Butler” was not related to the mixed reception Daniels' “The Paperboy” received at Cannes. “No, not at all, I had a wonderful time working with Lee,” McConaughey said. “Lee’s become a good friend of mine.”

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-- Julie Makinen

Matthew McConaughey accepts an award Spike TV's "Guys Choice Awards" at Sony Pictures Studios on Saturday. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images 


Cannes 2012: Festival turns 65 with a lineup heavy on U.S. titles

May 16, 2012 |  5:00 am

Cannes Film Festival

If all film festivals are balancing acts, it stands to reason that the annual extravaganza at Cannes, likely the world's most celebrated cinematic event, has more to balance than most. Especially this year.

Opening Wednesday night with Wes Anderson's oddly endearing “Moonrise Kingdom,” Cannes is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year and marking that milestone by embracing all kinds of opposites: old and young, dramatic and documentary, commercial and politically committed, avant-garde and classic, even American and not.

The U.S. presence seems especially strong, starting with the official poster, an Otto Bettmann photo of a luminous Marilyn Monroe blowing out a birthday cake candle. An 80- by 40-foot version looms impossibly large on an outside wall of the Palais des Festivals, while the building's inside walls feature photos of other Hollywood luminaries, including Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, Clark Gable and Judy Garland, even Marlene Dietrich and Ernst Lubitsch, having a go at birthday cakes of their own.

Cheat Sheet: Cannes Film Festival 2012

On one level, American films are thick in the main competition, with a roster that includes new movies by Lee Daniels, who is following his Oscar-winning drama “Precious” with “The Paperboy,” and Jeff Nichols, whose “Mud” comes after the acclaimed apocalyptic meditation “Take Shelter.”

But some of the most eagerly anticipated American films — Walter Salles' take on Jack Kerouac's legendary “On the Road,” Andrew Dominik's Brad Pitt-starring “Killing Them Softly” (based on George V. Higgins' “Cogan's Trade”) and John Hillcoat's Prohibition era “Lawless” — were all directed by filmmakers who hail from other countries.

Speaking of elsewhere, new films are also on offer from such stalwarts as France's Jacques Audiard (“Rust & Bone”), Italy's Matteo Garrone (“Reality,” following up on “Gomorrah”), Britain's Ken Loach (“The Angels' Share”) and Austria's Michael Haneke (the Isabelle Huppert-starring “Amour”).

The honor of being the oldest director in the competition goes to 89-year-old Alain Resnais, here with the puckishly titled “You Haven't Seen Anything Yet.” Considerably younger, with films in the Un Certain Regard section, are debuting Americans Adam Leon, whose “Gimme the Loot” took the grand jury prize at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and Benh Zeitlin, whose “Beasts of the Southern Wild” did the same at Sundance in January.

Straddling the young-old divide in a personal way are Canadian director David Cronenberg, in competition with the Robert Pattinson-starring “Cosmopolis” from the Don DeLillo novel, and his son Brandon, in Un Certain Regard with the thriller “Antiviral.”

Though the world's artier directors are always to be found at the festival, Cannes is also determined to embroil itself in the commercial side of things, which it does by scheduling the animated adventure “Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted” in an out-of-competition slot.

Then there are the numerous billboards for features that dot the city's streets and the fronts of hotels. Most noticeable this year is the way names that were considered edgy once upon a time have now become commercial enough to merit major-league spending.

Billboards could be seen not only for Quentin Tarantino's “Django Unchained” but also for Harmony Korine's “Spring Breakers.” And who should look right at home in the prime real estate of the entrance to the Carlton Hotel but Sacha Baron Cohen in full Admiral General Aladeen regalia for his satirical comedy “The Dictator.” Thus pass the bad boys of the world.

Perhaps even more startling, however, is the recent announcement from Canada's Alliance Films that it would charge Canadian journalists for interview access to the stars of some of the company's films.

If this is starting to sound all too frivolous, Cannes has political antidotes all ready to go. There will be a special screening of “The Oath of Tobruk,” Bernard-Henri Levy's doc about the fall of Moammar Kadafi, with “four key figures of the Libyan revolution” in attendance.

Closer to home is “The Central Park Five,” a quietly devastating documentary co-directed by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband, David McMahon, that examines how and why five innocent teenagers ended up being convicted of and imprisoned for the savage rape of a jogger in New York's Central Park in a case that became an international media sensation.

If you view film as a refuge from the cares of the real world, Cannes is ready for you as well. The ever-expanding Cannes Classics section features an impressive variety of restorations, including Alfred Hitchcock's silent “The Ring,” a 4-hour, 13-minute reconstruction of Sergio Leone's “Once Upon a Time in America” and Andrei Konchalovsky's aptly named “Runaway Train.”

Also, there are master class lectures by director Philip Kaufman (here with HBO's “Hemingway & Gellhorn” starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen) and 97-year-old Norman Lloyd, who has seen a lot (he co-founded the Mercury Theater with Welles) and remembers it all.

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— Kenneth Turan

Photo: A giant canvas of the official poster of the 65th Cannes Film Festival featuring Marilyn Monroe. Credit: Stephane Reix / EPA.


Envelope Directors Roundtable: Lee Daniels on casting 'Precious'

February 11, 2010 |  8:00 am

Casting is always a crucial component of any movie, but when you're looking for an obese girl to play the role of a victim of horrific abuse, where do you even start? "Precious" director Lee Daniels talks about his process.

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Envelope Directors Roundtable: Tailoring roles to specific actors

February 10, 2010 |  8:00 am

Casting can sometimes influence directors who write their own scripts. For Jason Reitman, he lets the movie take shape as he writes but soon recognizes when an actor is right for the part, which then in turn influences the character's development. For Quentin Tarantino, at least with "Inglourious Basterds," he "didn't have a clue who I was going to cast."

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Envelope Directors Roundtable: The importance of the audition

February 9, 2010 |  8:00 am

So how important is the auditioning process in the making of a film? It depends on whom you ask. James Cameron certainly has a different approach than Lee Daniels, for instance.

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Video: Who will win the Oscar for best director? And who was overlooked?

February 2, 2010 | 10:54 am

The five Oscar nominees for best director — Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker," James Cameron for "Avatar," Lee Daniels for "Precious," Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air" and Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds" — are some very familiar faces indeed. Not only have they been regulars on the award circuit this year, but they also all came to The Times last month to participate in The Envelope Directors Roundtable series.

Still, it's hard not to feel that other directors were overlooked. To find out the name of at least one worthy candidate who was not on the list — and learn who is the odds-on favorite to win — watch the above video of Times film critic Kenneth Turan and writer John Horn.

After all, while the nominees could watch from the comfort of home, Turan and Horn had to be at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills well before the crack of dawn Tuesday.

And keep coming back to 24 Frames for more videos today.

— Scott Sandell

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Envelope Directors Roundtable: The challenges of marketing a film

January 22, 2010 |  7:02 am

Marketing campaigns may not be the first thing one thinks of when imagining the creative lives of some of the country's most well-known auteurs. But directors behind this season's biggest movies wrestle to a surprising degree with the issues of selling a movie -- whether it's Quentin Tarantino finding parts of the process "inspirational" or directors like Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman or James Cameron understanding that these Faustian bargains can help expose their film to a wider audience. Hear how these directors feel about one of moviedom's trickiest balances.

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Envelope Directors Roundtable: Sequels and board games vs. original work

January 21, 2010 |  7:00 am

Hollywood may be bombarded by sequels, franchises and toy adaptations -- yet many of the year's most acclaimed films derive from little else besides their makers' imaginations. Five of the directors who've succeeded in creating something wholly original this season contemplate why Hollywood continues to be enamored by decades-old properties, with James Cameron taking the sternest tone. "You can make money on a movie that's not based on something else," he said. The drive for profits "is not an excuse for people to constantly be whining about how the business is failing and we have to do all this commercial stuff in order to pay the payments on our corporate jets."

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Envelope Directors Roundtable: 'The scene I had to cut'

January 20, 2010 |  7:00 am

Film fans like to watch movies and opine on what should or shouldn't have made the final cut. But sometimes a movie's harshest critic is the person who made it. In this clip from our Envelope Directors Roundtable, filmmakers reveal the scenes they loved but had to let go. Whether it's a startling group-therapy moment in "Precious" or a Hans Landa bon mot in "Inglourious Basterds," these scenes are often strikingly good -- and yet they'll never see the light of day.

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Envelope Roundtable: 'The moment I became a director'

January 19, 2010 |  7:00 am

Nearly every director who's ever worked anywhere near Hollywood makes compromises. But many directors also have a defining moment when they drew the line and clung tightly to their principles. For Quentin Tarantino it was declining to cut a potentially graphic scene over Harvey Weinstein's protestations. For Jason Reitman it was insisting on shooting in multiple locations when a studio was asking he shoot only in one. Hear what they and others on our roundtable did to elevate themselves from hired hands to artists.  

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