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Category: Osama Bin Laden

Cannes 2012: An Osama bin Laden battle brews by the beach

May 16, 2012 |  7:35 pm



CANNES, France--The news today that Harvey Weinstein was poised to buy an assassination-of-Osama-bin-Laden movie called “Code Name Geronimo” brought a jolt of politics to the just-opened Cannes Film Festival, where the deal was being negotiated.

It also sets up one of the most epic film-meets-politics moments in a long time--not to mention a potential catfight with Sony Pictures. That studio  of course has its own Bin Laden movie, titled “Zero Dark Thirty” and directed by “The Hurt Locker” helmer Kathryn Bigelow,” due before the end of the year.

Weinstein has basically closed the rights deal for the independently made "Geronimo," according to a person familiar with the negotiations, and is talking as though he's pretty much decided to release the movie in late September or October. That’s a crucial period because it of course comes before Americans head to the polls--and while voters and talking-heads will be debating just how much credit President Obama deserves for the killing. The election could affect the film, and the film could certainly affect the election.

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(Already "Dark" has been the subject of scrutiny from congressional Republicans over whether the script benefited from classified information. It remains to be seen whether another movie, this one right before the election--and from a noted Hollywood liberal,  no less--spurs its own backlash.)

 In releasing the movie during the pre-election period, Weinstein would take a page from his own playbook. He famously pulled a similar move in bringing out Michael Moore’s “Farenheit 9/11" the summer before the Bush-Kerry contest in 2004. It didn’t sway the results for the Democrats, though it certainly paid off for the Weinsteins at the box office.

 “Geronimo” is directed by John Stockwell, the actor turned-director of water-themed commercial pictures such as “Dark Tide” and “Blue Crush” as well as the Kirsten Dunst romance “Crazy/Beautiful.” It stars Cam Gigandet, baddie from the first “Twilight,” as a key member of the team that assassinated the Al Qaeda leader.

Stockwell’s new movie, shot this winter and spring, isn’t finished — a sales trailer and limited additional footage is what's being shown to Weinstein and international distributors — so anyone buying it must really want a Bin Laden movie.

After talking to those here on the Croisette with knowledge of the production, here’s what we do know about the film.

The movie centers on three groups: the CIA, the U.S. military leadership and the SEALs who went on the risky mission. It takes its best shot at theorizing what final piece of intelligence tipped the decision for Obama to send in the SEALs. (No one has proved what exactly prompted him to pull the trigger on the operation.) There’s no footage of  Obama, actual or actorly, in the current cut of the film, though that may change. It doesn't take a heavily partisan position, though it does shine a light on an event that the administration touts as a major success. It's basically an indie action movie, and it's more modest in budget and scope than "Zero Dark Thirty."

So what would an October date for "Geronimo" do to Sony? It would certainly put the screws to the studio, which pointedly decided not release “Zero Dark Thirty” before the election, presumably out of fear of politicizing the film. 

Sony is now set to release its film Dec. 19, and while a spokesman said it had no plans of moving off that date, even a “Geronimo"  success could poison the well for another Bin Laden movie two months later. This isn’t two wildly different takes on Snow White, after all; it’s a dramatization of the same event.

Private grumbling will no doubt come from both sides about which version stands a better chance at the box office.

Weinstein executives and the film's producers will point out that they will have first-mover advantage. Sony will say that with Bigelow and fellow Oscar winner/screenwriter Mark Boal, they have the stronger pedigree. (Their movie, incidentally, stars Joel Edgerton and Mark Strong.)
Harvey Weinstein must also contend with his own very crowded calendar. With new movies from Quentin Tarantino, David O. Russell, Andrew Dominik and others,Weinstein already has perhaps the most high-profile fall slate since breaking away from Disney seven years ago.

And if the chess match wasn’t complicated enough, “Geronimo" comes from financier-producer Voltage Pictures, which previously worked with Bigelow and Boal on "The Hurt Locker. (We're guessing that didn't all end well--especially after campaigning from the Voltage chief got him banned from the Oscars.)

And finally, there's this: One of the reasons Weinstein's fall slate is so crowded is that it's populated by a couple of movies from big-game financier Megan Ellison, with whom he's gone into business. And what other picture did Ellison produce for the fall? Sony's Bin Laden movie.

State Department politics don't get this complicated.


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How should Hollywood react to the killing of Osama bin Laden?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Osama bin Laden. Credit: Rahimullah Yousafzai / Associated Press

Congressman calls for probe of Bigelow's Bin Laden movie

August 10, 2011 |  4:33 pm

Director Kathryn Bigelow hasn't yet called "action" on her movie about the capture of Osama bin Laden, but the project is already stirring up controversy. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to the CIA and the Department of Defense on Tuesday asking for an investigation into whether the White House has granted Bigelow and Sony Pictures access to confidential information for the project.

"I’m very concerned that any sensitive information could be disclosed in a movie," King said in a phone interview. "The procedures and operations that we used in this raid are very likely what we'll use in other raids. There’s no way a director would know what could be tipping off the enemy."

King also seems to be concerned about the possible political ramifications of the film, which is scheduled to arrive in theaters in October 2012.

"The fact that the movie is going to be released three weeks before election day, the people at the CIA told me they had no idea that this was the plan," he added. "They were never told it was gonna come out so close to election day."

King said he had spoken to members of the CIA who confirmed that the agency is working with the filmmakers. "There’s a division in the agency," King said. "Some wanted to cooperate, some didn’t."

In a press briefing Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged the filmmakers have been in touch with the administration but called King's claims that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal had gotten access to confidential information "ridiculous."

"When people, including you, in this room, are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct," Carney said. "That is hardly a novel approach to the media. We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie."

Bigelow and  Boal, who both won Oscars for their 2009 Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker," also responded to King in a statement issued through Sony Pictures.

“Our upcoming film project about the decade-long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic and nonpartisan, and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”

Bigelow's movie, once known as "Kill Bin Laden," is currently untitled.


 Could 'Kill Bin Laden' affect the 2012 presidential election?

Bin Laden movie: Sony Pictures acquires film for winter 2012

Hollywood has new options with Osama bin Laden's death

 -- Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Kathryn Bigelow. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

How should Hollywood react to the killing of Osama bin Laden?

May 2, 2011 |  8:31 pm

The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a U.S. strike force makes for some captivating storytelling, and throughout Hollywood on Monday, discussions reverberated  about how to turn the news into a captivating movie.

As we report in a story in Tuesday's Times, the movie business is in a bind. Executives and filmmakers sense an opportunity -- the Bin Laden killing is one of the few post-9/11 military tales with a satisfying conclusion for American audiences. But it's also tough to make a story suspenseful when everyone on the planet knows how it ends.

Some saw a big commercial play in the Bin Laden strike, so long as any potential film avoids, well, darkness or nuance (darkness and nuance being that things that may have doomed the box-office fortunes of a host of Iraq and Afghanistan war movies). “You need a big star and a lot of action, something the audience can cheer for,” said one longtime studio marketing executive. Call it the U-S-A version of the film, and one that a Sylvester Stallone could adapt, with only some liberties, for the upcoming "Expendables" sequel.

Another action movie in the works that might be ripe for a Bin Laden plot element: Tony Scott's film based on TV's “24.” Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer of course is a shrewd and lethal government counter-terrorism agent whose storylines often parallel current events. Fans already seemed to be sending Scott a message on Sunday night: Shortly after President Obama announced Bin Laden had been killed, “Jack Bauer” was a trending topic on Twitter.

But others in Hollywood, including Bryan Singer, who directed “Valkyrie” — the 2008 Tom Cruise movie about an elite group conspiring to kill Hitler — said they saw in the Bin Laden saga a chance for something more detail- and character-driven.

"I could see a kind of ‘All the President’s Men,’ where we track moments of intelligence and how agents followed the trail,” he said. “Just because we know how the story ends doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting or exciting.”

Perhaps the most interesting case is a planned movie from Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow, the writer-director team behind "The Hurt Locker." Based on a book about the search for Bin Laden in Tora Bora after 9/11 (a manhunt with a rather different feel and finish), their untitled film will get, according to one person familiar with it, "new context" and a new ending in the wake of Sunday's news.

If their film was at a studio, Sunday's news may have well got the project hung up in committee, as executives debated how and whether to tackle the subject. But because it's being financed independently (by Larry Ellison's daughter Megan Ellison), it could still shoot as early as this summer. (There's plenty on the line, and not just culturally; according to one studio executive who heard the pitch, it's budgeted between $20-$25 million.)

From Israeli-raid  tale “Raid on Entebbe” to Somalian drama “Black Hawk Down” to  “Valkyrie,” Hollywood has a long history of movies about targeted military strikes on villains. Already a number of pundits -- CBS' Lara Logan, to name one -- are willing to make the connection between the Bin Laden death and the film world, comparing the strike to "Black Hawk Down" and others. We'll soon see if American audiences are willing to make the connection too.


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--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Osama bin Laden. Credit: Rahimullah Yousafzai / Associated Press



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