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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Anna Paquin

Oscar voters: Meet the academy's youngest members

February 23, 2012 |  2:23 pm

Anna Paquin

For a preteen, membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences brings some particularly grown-up perks. The biggest thrill for Anna Paquin, who joined at age 11, wasn’t being able to vote on the best picture of the year — it was that her membership allowed her to see R-rated movies before she was 17.

“I remember thinking that was the pretty much the coolest thing that could happen to me,” recalled Paquin, now 29. “My parents were pretty finicky with ratings, and occasionally I’d get away with watching stuff that was a little older than they preferred. Plus, I was living in New Zealand, and once a year I’d get sent all of these movies that weren’t coming out for months where I lived.”

In 1994, Paquin took home the supporting actress Oscar for her role in “The Piano” as the daughter of a mute pianist. At 11, she became the second-youngest performer behind Tatum O’Neal to ever score one of the coveted awards. And months later, she became one of the youngest members of the academy.

Oscar voters studyA recent L.A. Times study of the academy found that the median age of voting members is 62, and few members are too young to legally buy a beer. Among the youngest are 17-year-old Saoirse Ronan, who scored a supporting actress nod for her turn in 2007’s “Atonement,” and Dakota Fanning, who turned 18 Thursday.

Twentysomethings include Keisha Castle-Hughes and Jennifer Lawrence, 21; Mia Wasikowska, 22; Michael Cera and Haley Joel Osment, 23; Ellen Page, 25; and Rooney Mara, 26. Mara, star of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” is up for the lead actress prize at the Academy Awards on Sunday. She will be one of the youngest nominees at the ceremony, along with 28-year-old Jonah Hill, who earned a nod for his supporting role in “Moneyball.”

Not surprisingly, most of the academy’s young’uns are in the actors branch, since it’s easier to get a job at 13 as a kid star than, say, a makeup artist. The sound and public relations branch each have at least one member in their 20s.

Many of those who gained admission into the academy while they were minors, such as Paquin, became eligible for membership thanks to a nomination, which not that long ago almost guaranteed admission even if the nominee didn’t have a substantial body of work. Others were proposed for membership by academy members, which was the case with Marlee Matlin.

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'Rango,' 'Margaret' head back into movie theaters Friday

January 26, 2012 |  5:14 pm


Two films that initially received very different theatrical runs are finding their way back to the big screen Friday: “Rango,” the Gore Verbinski-directed animated film that charts the adventures of a chameleon voiced by Johnny Depp who finds himself the sheriff of an Old West town, and “Margaret,” a drama starring Anna Paquin as a teenager who struggles with guilt over her role in a deadly traffic accident.

In the case of Paramount’s “Rango,” the re-release comes on the heels of the movie’s Oscar nomination for animated feature — the film, which originally opened in March of last year and grossed upward of $123 million at the domestic box office, is one of five titles that will compete for the top prize in the category at the 84th Academy Awards next month.

Verbinski, a director who typically works in live action, made a fan of Depp in his handling of the animated production that won over critics and moviegoers last year. “Gore amazed me right away with his technical ability,” Depp told The Envelope last fall. “He knows cinema backwards and forward and he’s completely unafraid. When I saw ‘Rango’ I was pretty stupefied — it was unlike anything I had ever seen before.”

As for “Margaret,” the Fox Searchlight film, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, has become the subject of an unlikely groundswell of interest since it opened for a very limited run last September. A number of film critics took to Twitter to campaign on the movie’s behalf, some hailing it as an overlooked masterpiece, others simply lobbying for it to play more broadly so more people would have the opportunity to see it.

“Margaret” was originally shot in 2005 but its release was delayed for years as the film ran into post-production problems and became the subject of several legal disputes.

In an interview with The Times earlier this month, Paquin — who heads up an ensemble cast that includes Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Jean Reno, Allison Janney, J. Smith-Cameron, Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin and Jeannie Berlin, among others — had nothing but praise for Lonergan, saying, “I could not possibly have loved that script or loved doing that movie any more.”

“What I love about that character is she's not really likable all the time,” Paquin continued. “She's going through such trauma and she is kind of buried under this whole pile of guilt and confusion as to why when she tried to make it right there is all this resistance. She's sort of kicking her way to the surface and taking on everyone who stands in her way. She's hitting the self-destruct button but doing it in a really outwardly aggressive way.”

“Rango” will play for one week at the ArcLight Hollywood; “Margaret” will have a one-week run at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles.


Anna Paquin on the unlikely resurrection of 'Margaret'

'Margaret' growing on critics, but will audiences find it?

-- Gina McIntyre, Geoff Boucher and Mark Olsen

Photo: "Rango." Credit: Paramount

Anna Paquin on the unlikely resurrection of 'Margaret'

January 13, 2012 | 11:14 am


When Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" was quietly released last September, it seemed the end of a very, very long journey for a film caught up for years in post-production problems and various legal disputes. Although very few people saw the movie during its brief theatrical run, a vocal group of critics began to lobby on its behalf -- the unusual groundswell of support prompted in part by the year-end awards season crush and in part by a desire to simply be able to see a movie that had not played in their towns.

"Margaret" has since been inching its way toward reassessment and in some sense resurrection, to the point where there is now an undercurrent of backlash from those who feel its movie-you-can't-see mystique is too much a part of its appeal.

In the film, Anna Paquin plays an Upper East Side teenager named Lisa Cohen -- in one of the movie's signature quirks, "Margaret" has no character named Margaret -- who feels in part responsible for a bus accident that claimed a woman's life. This leads to a portrait, at once nuanced and raw, of dealing with grief and moving forward with life. The film features a deep bench of supporting performances from Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Jean Reno, Allison Janney, J. Smith-Cameron, Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin and Jeannie Berlin.

"Margaret" is going to be playing for one week at the Cinefamily in Los Angeles starting Jan. 27, giving local audience another chance to see for themselves whether this most singular film lives up to its legend. Paquin, an Oscar winner and now the star of HBO's "True Blood," rather suddenly made herself available to a few press outlets just this week to talk about the film.

How weird is it to be talking about a film you shot in 2005?

I could not possibly have loved that script or loved doing that movie any more. It was one of the most incredible professional experiences I've ever had, and, you know, movies all have their own path to being seen by people and some of them are long journeys and some are really quick. And this one's just been a bit longer. I'm just pleased that people are watching it now.

When you were shooting the film did you have any idea it would become the problem child it turned into?

No, actually. The shoot was extraordinarily smooth. Everything kind of ran perfectly. It was a sort of long script, so obviously if you shoot all of a very long script there's just going to be a lot more material to play around with when you're trying to put the movie together. Which ultimately, as an actor, is not something that I really worry myself about. That's kind of, thankfully, somebody else's department. I'm just like sweet, I will shoot all one-hundred and sixty, seventy, whatever-it-was pages of incredibly well-written, beautiful scenes with incredible character work.

Did you ever reach a point where you thought the movie would just never come out?

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'Margaret' growing on critics, but will audiences find it?

October 10, 2011 |  1:43 pm

Margaret - Matt Damon, Anna Paquin

The film "Margaret" opened two weekends ago in Los Angeles and New York with little advertising or fanfare. Shot in 2005 and embroiled in a years-long post-production mess of conflicting cuts and legal imbroglios, the film became something of a mythic creature, with many wondering whether it would ever come out. So, its quiet release didn't seem that distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures was dumping the film so much as just trying to get it over with.

Written and directed by playwright Kenneth Lonergan as a follow-up to his acclaimed debut feature, "You Can Count on Me," "Margaret" was met with tepid reviews from the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter that mostly portrayed the film as a muddled victim of its backstage dramas. The film's fate seemed sealed. Except more people started seeing "Margaret." And they can't seem to stop talking about it.

In part because of its expansive ambitions, the film is a conversation piece as much as a self-contained work. Somehow at once novelistic and operatic, it is as much about the personal growth of one specific New York City teenager as it is an essay on the city's post-9/11 hangover of grief, uncertainty and self-examination.

Having witnessed (and in small part causing) a fatal bus accident, high school student Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin, looking softer and younger than she now does on TV's "True Blood") struggles with reconciling her feelings of responsibility with somehow making things right, whatever that may mean, and in turn moving forward. The film's supporting cast includes the impressive roster of Matt Damon, J. Smith-Cameron, Allison Janney, Keiran Culkin, Jean Reno, Jeannie Berlin, Mark Ruffalo, Rosemarie DeWitt and Matthew Broderick. Olivia Thirlby and Krysten Ritter, relative unknowns at the time, pass by in small roles. There is no character named Margaret.

Dealing with big themes and big emotions and with a running time of 2½ hours, there is something overwhelming about "Margaret," which has made it tantalizing fodder for movie folks on Twitter, where people often love to champion an underdog or proclaim their passion for films being overlooked and underseen. As "Margaret" expanded in its second weekend to cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, and more people have been catching up with and talking about the film even in N.Y. and L.A., writers such as Wesley Morris, Carrie Rickey, Ben Kenigsberg, Karina Longworth, Alison Willmore, Matt Singer, Mike D'Angelo, Vadim Rizov, Glenn Kenny and Richard Brody (as well as myself) have all taken to voicing support for the film either through reviews or on Twitter. There is no small undercurrent of simply trying to encourage awareness of the film, hoping audiences know it's out there before it's gone from theaters.

In a post at Yahoo's The Projector blog, Will Leitch did the math to surmise that the film was seen by only 624 people in its first weekend. The film expanded to 14 cities this past weekend, and its box office went up by 70%, for a per-screen average of around $900 and a new total nearing $25,000.

In Los Angeles, the film opened at the Landmark, one of the city's top-grossing theaters; for its second week, it moved over to the second-run Culver Plaza. (Even getting that second week at all could be considered a victory for the film.) Audiences that want the chance to join in the conversation and see for themselves what has critics a-Twitter had better try to find the time to meet "Margaret" before the last show on Thursday. 


After six years 'Margaret' finally arrives in theaters

The week in film: '50/50,' 'Margaret' and 'What's Your Number?' (video)

-- Mark Olsen


Photo of Matt Damon and Anna Paquin from "Margaret." Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The week in film: '50/50,' 'Margaret' and 'What's Your Number?' (video)

September 30, 2011 |  4:02 pm


The new cancer comedy "50/50" from Summit Entertainment has required the distributor to walk a fine line when it comes to communicating the fairly sober plot of the film -- which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the inspired-by-life story of screenwriter Will Reiser, who was diagnosed the disease at a young age -- with its uplifting spirit. Indie movie specialist Fox Searchlight has faced an arguably more fraught situation with the release of "Margaret," a film from the Oscar-nominated Kenneth Lonergan that's taken six years to debut. Fox enters the box-office fray this weekend with "What's Your Number?" a more conventional romantic comedy starring Anna Faris and "Captain America's" Chris Evans; will the success of the summer's breakout hit "Bridesmaids" bolster its commercial prospects?

Watch Los Angeles Times reporters Rebecca Keegan and Nicole Sperling discuss the latest happenings in Hollywood.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt: "50/50" is a great movie title

After six years "Margaret" finally arrives in theaters

The "Bridesmaids" ripple effect: female filmmakers are swearing by the film's success

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Writer Will Reiser and actor Seth Rogen on the set of "50/50" Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge / Summit Entertainment


Some 'Scream 4' newcomers felt daunted about stepping into the franchise

April 14, 2011 |  2:50 pm

After 11 long years, the "Scream" franchise will finally be back on the big screen this weekend. Because it's been so long since moviegoers have seen the iconic ghost-faced killer, director Wes Craven wanted  to reinvigorate "Scream 4," which opens Friday, with some fresh blood.

But some of the new players who ended up in the film admitted that acting alongside franchise veterans Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell was daunting.

"You do have to have a respect for the fact that it's something that's so established, that it's a family that's been created over the past 15 years," said Hayden Panetierre on the red carpet at the movie's Hollywood premiere Monday. "But [the old cast] were so nice and so welcoming and so cool about it that you didn't really feel that 'Oh my God, don't mess up, you gotta come in with your stuff together.'"

Anna Paquin, the actress now best known for her role on HBO's "True Blood," said she didn't have any trepidation about joining the ensemble. When asked if she was nervous about taking on a cameo role in the thriller, she responded directly: "I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but no. I mean, it's nice coming into a franchise that's already been around for a long time and is really loved and it just feels like an easy choice. ... It's like your work's already been done for you in a sense because they established everything years ago."

To watch video interviews with both actresses, as well as co-star Emma Roberts, click beyond the jump.

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