24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sheldon Turner

Eric Bana and 'Up in the Air' co-creator will collaborate

March 28, 2011 |  4:23 pm

Those enamored of 2009 Oscar nominee "Up in the Air" have been waiting with some anticipation to see what co-writer Sheldon Turner will do next.

Turner's dramatic thriller "By Virtue Fall" has, after all, been in various stages of development for a while now. The Golden Globe winner has been set not only to write but also direct "Virtue," which looks at two ATF agents who find themselves on opposite sides of the friendship divide after one sells out the other.

Eric Bana and Colin Farrell were both reported last year to be interested in the independently financed picture, and "Hurt Locker" producer Nicolas Chartier had been on board to produce. Farrell wound up opting out, and Chartier says he's no longer involved with the project. But Bana is now very much on board, telling 24 Frames he hopes to make it his next movie after he finishes shooting "Blackbird," the thriller he's currently making with Olivia Wilde. (Of his character, Bana says drolly, "He's not a great guy.")

[Update, 5:49 p.m. The project has now been set up with Bill Block's international sales company and financier QED and is  set to star James Spader, Ryan Phillippe and Carla Gugino, according to a person who was briefed on the project but who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. Jennifer Klein, who is producing the movie, declined to comment.]

Turner has been a prolific writer who has penned screenplays for directors as diverse as Michael Mann and Thomas Bezucha, though his best-known produced credit is of course for Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air." (Turner also wrote the Adam Sandler remake of "The Longest Yard.")

"Virtue" occupies more genre territory than "Up in the Air." But given how Turner melded the serious and the entertaining on "Air" (he came up with, among other flourishes, Clooney's memorable line about anyone who's ever built an empire), it's one to keep an eye on.


Screenwriting credits, floating up in the air

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Up in the Air." Credit: Paramount Pictures

Screenwriting credits, floating up in the air

January 15, 2010 |  5:54 pm

Reit In Michael Tolkin’s script for the 1992 Hollywood satire “The Player,” studio executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) strangles a screenwriter he believes is trying to blackmail him.

It hasn’t gotten that gruesome in Hollywood. But for some involved in the script business these days, the movie’s arc may feel a little too familiar.

Screenwriters on some of the season’s biggest movies have seen acknowledgment for their work, if not choked off, then certainly minimized -- a group that includes, as fate would have it, Tolkin himself. So when the Golden Globes are handed out on Sunday, the names that viewers associate with the most lauded films may not quite include all the people who drove those movies forward.

That could be particularly true for three of the movies that lead nearly all others in Globes recognition — “Up in the Air,” “Nine” and “Avatar,” which have collectively amassed 15 nominations.

The issue cuts to the heart of contemporary Hollywood, where screenwriters are abundant but successes are rare, leaving a lot of people to scramble for a little bit of glory.

To those removed from the rituals of Hollywood, the fierce debate over credit can seem like arguing over who rides shotgun on a weekend road trip — arbitrary and, in the end, not very consequential. But for writers, credit can mean the difference between getting and not getting future gigs, higher paychecks and the acclaim and envy of peers. And credit issues can extend beyond how the Writers Guild of America arbitrates who did what on a script to shape the public (and media) consciousness about a writer's standing.

All of this comes against the backdrop of writer concerns that they are not given the same respect as their peers, particularly directors. “These things just seem to be messier lately. Everyone wants credit and nobody seems to be able to figure out the truth,” said an agent for several high-profile screenwriters who requested anonymity because the agent may yet work with some of the writers.

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