24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Summit Entertainment

Kristen Stewart ‘Breaking Dawn’ pic was 3-D candidate

November 16, 2011 | 11:47 am


“Breaking Dawn” fans probably would be eager to see the Twilight exploits of Kristen Stewart's Bella and Robert Pattinson's Edward even if they were shown in a shoebox. But one film installment in Stephenie Meyer's vampire series almost lured fans with a much splashier look: 3-D.

A person familiar with the discussions who was not authorized to talk about them publicly told 24 Frames several days ago that "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" came close to being shot with the z-axis.  And in an interview Tuesday, director Bill Condon confirmed that he and Summit Entertainment executives discussed making the fifth and final installment in the series, which comes out next November, in 3-D.

That movie is, of course, the one in which (spoiler alert, for the three people who know “Twilight” but don’t know this) Bella lives as a vampire. The idea would have been to convey that shift in a heightened 3-D world, using the format as a kind of storytelling device (and, oh, yes, collecting ticket premiums to boot).

As Condon explained: “You’ve stepped through the looking glass and you’re seeing the world through Bella’s point of view, as a vampire. To know what it feels like to see the way they do, to hunt, all that stuff. It was a good reason to do it.”

But according to both Condon and the person  familiar with the discussions, cost proved too much of a deterrent.  Among the rationales for shooting the two "Breaking Dawn" movies  simultaneously was to save some cash, and toggling between 2-D and 3-D cameras would have undermined that goal.

Plus, Condon added, it could have become really overwhelming for everyone on set.  “It was hard enough to keep the two movies straight between the morning and the afternoon, but then to have these two huge camera packages and approaches, it seemed like too much to take on,” he said. (Instead, filmmakers used high-definition cameras and other sophisticated lenses for the second “Breaking Dawn” film; the first, of course, comes out this weekend. A 3-D conversion has not been discussed as a serious option.)

Shooting in 3-D remains one of the more polarizing moves around, with the battle lines drawn in unexpected ways. Despite its reputation as a commercial gimmick, high-end  auteurs such as Martin Scorsese (this month’s “Hugo”) have begun to embrace it. But some commercial franchises -- particularly those that, like “Twilight” and the upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises,” have built up a strong amount of goodwill in 2-D — have stayed away. When you’re raking in hundreds of millions, that added 3 can seem like a small number.


Kristen Stewart: "Breaking Dawn" will change people's minds about Bella Swan

Kristen Stewart: Motherhood confounds me

Breaking Dawn director on giving Twilight a vamps CG makeover

-- Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling



Photo: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1." Credit: Summit Entertainment

SXSW 2011: At premiere, Jodie Foster calls 'The Beaver' the 'biggest struggle of my professional career' [Updated]

March 16, 2011 | 11:28 pm


Calling the film “the biggest struggle of my professional career,” Jodie Foster introduced “The Beaver,” her drama starring the troubled Mel Gibson as a depressed father who reinvents himself with the help of a hand puppet, to its first public audience at the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival on Wednesday night in Austin, Texas.

“All sorts of stuff happened after the film was finished that threw our release into a crazy pattern,” Foster told the sold-out audience of 1,200 people at the Paramount Theater, alluding to the very public and sordid domestic violence case between Gibson and his ex-girlfriend, a situation that delayed the release of “The Beaver,” filmed in 2009. “I have no regrets about him being in the film.”

Foster, who directed and co-starred in the film, prefaced the screening by saying: “This is not a comedy.” But “The Beaver” drew many laughs from the SXSW audience, most for intentionally funny scenes, as when Gibson showers and irons a shirt with the puppet on his hand, but at least once for a scene that was unintentionally evocative of the star’s personal problems -- when his character carries a box of liquor bottles.

“The Beaver” shifts to a much darker tone in one scene that drew gasps from the crowd.

“What was beautiful about the script was that it has equal levels of lightness and darkness,” said Foster, a longtime friend of Gibson's who plays his wife in the film. “It was hard to figure out when you go from one to the other.”

SXSW audiences are famously enthusiastic, but before the film, many expressed reservations about Gibson, whose public struggles began when he was pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2006 and delivered an anti-Semitic tirade. His problems escalated when a series of racist and threatening voice mails he had left his ex-girlfriend were made public last summer, and continued last week when he pleaded no contest to charges of domestic battery related to a January 2010 altercation. Gibson, 55, was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to stay away from his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.

“I’m Jewish, so that was something I really was weighing before coming out,” said Lainey Melnick, a commissioner for emergency services in Austin and a volunteer at the festival. “I used to love his work, but now it’s difficult for me to separate the two. I do think he’s a fabulous actor. In a way I’m sort of glad he’s not here so I don’t have to deal with that.”

After the film ended, Melnick was crying. “It was really beautiful,” she said. “I could put all that aside and was watching the story.”

Sandy Schwartz, an Austinite who was serving as a volunteer usher for the night, said she would never pay for a ticket to a Gibson movie. “He’s just generally not a nice person," Schwartz said. "Why do people continue to support him?”

But after the credits rolled, Schwartz’s position had softened. She seemed to credit Gibson with making the same kind of transformation as his character in the film, although the actor has made no public statement of remorse about the threatening voice mails or domestic battery case, and his attorney has repeatedly maintained Gibson's innocence. “I thought maybe this was his story,” Schwartz said. “Maybe there’s redemption and hope for him.”

Prior to the screening, some exhibitors who had not yet seen the film also expressed concern about it.

“You’ve got this very high-concept movie with a star who has had some real issues in the last year,” said Tom Stephenson, CEO of Rave Motion Pictures, which owns about 1,000 movie screens in 20 states. “People are worried about that combination. But if the movie gets really good early reviews or word of mouth, people might go see it in spite of the controversy.”

Last month, Summit Entertainment postponed the release of the film from March until May 20. Gibson is featured prominently in the trailer and the poster.

“In the campaign, he is kind of poking fun at himself,” said Mark Young, a professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business. “He’s drawing attention to himself. 'I know I have messed up, I’m still here, I’m still an actor.' You could argue that ‘The Beaver’ is a way for Mel to express himself behind a mask.”

“If I was a studio exec, I would be very cautious about using Mel right now,” Young said. “Jodie Foster is a charming-enough and well-respected-enough person that she alone could do the launch of this film.”

That seemed to be Summit’s strategy in SXSW, where Foster attended a cocktail party before the screening. She had flown in Wednesday from the Paris set of the Roman Polanski film “Carnage” and was wearing sunglasses even at night due to what she said was an illness. Gibson did not attend SXSW, but actor Anton Yelchin, who plays his son in the film, and screenwriter Kyle Killen took the stage with Foster after the screening for a Q&A.

Another prong of the strategy involves a social action campaign promoting awareness of depression and mental health organized by Participant Media, a partner on the film. At SXSW, Participant is co-hosting a barbecue with the mental health awareness groups To Write Love on Her Arms and the Kristin Brooks Hope Center.

[For the record at 1:05 p.m., March 17: An earlier version of this post identified Participant Media as Participant Productions.]

Foster admitted to being nervous before the screening.

“For me it’s a very personal film,” Foster told the audience in Austin. “It has to do with all of my struggles and what I think about obsessively and where I am at this particular point in my life. We’ve all had these struggles and life is full of these -- half-comedy and half-tragedy -- and the only way to get through it is to know you’re not alone. Connection is the one thing that makes life bearable.”

 -- Rebecca Keegan

Photo: Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson appear in "The Beaver." Credit: SXSW


'Twilight' studio moves forward with witches movie

March 16, 2011 |  8:08 pm

EXCLUSIVE: With the "Twilight" franchise coming to an end next year, Summit Entertainment has been eager to get a new genre franchise going. They may be closing in on one with "The Last Witch Hunter," about a man who hunts warlocks and witches in a bid to prevent them from multiplying.

The studio has been meeting with directors for the film, with "The Crazies" director Breck Eisner poised to land the job, said two people who were briefed on the project but were not authorized to speak publicly about it. No formal deal has been reached yet, however. Eisner has also been attached to new versions of "Flash Gordon" and "Escape From New York."

Timur Bekmambetov was originally negotiating to produce and direct "Witch Hunter," which is based on Cory Goodman's original script, but that deal was never made. A Summit spokesman declined to comment.

The script landed on the 2010 edition of the Black List, a rundown of top screenplays in Hollywood. The story centers on disparate covens of witches who have joined forces, leaving the protagonist to fight a force much larger than him to ensure the safety of mankind.

Vin Diesel has expressed interest in the lead role, said a person close to the production, but casting choices are still a ways off.

When we interviewed Goodman -- who also wrote the coming vampire movie "Priest" -- last year, he said he believed that witch archetypes were ripe for exploration. "Witches feel like a more open avenue" than other villains or heroes," he said. "And the more I started researching them, the more I found how universal they are, with every society offering their own version of them."

"Witch Hunter" would move Summit to new terrain after the second edition of "Breaking Dawn" winds down the five-picture "Twilight" series next year, although that franchise of course had the advantage of being based on a popular book series. The studio will also have to contend with "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunter," a Will Ferrell-produced project in the same genre that's already begun shooting.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: The "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" poster. Credit: Summit Entertainment

'Twilight' studio Summit will bring Gulf oil spill to the big screen

March 8, 2011 |  4:22 pm

It was riveting and often-depressing drama when it unfolded last spring. Now the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster will become a drama on the big screen.

"Twilight" studio Summit is delving into the hours leading up to the oil spill, teaming up with socially conscious producers Participant Media and Abu Dhabi company Imagenation for a movie based on the tragedy, also known as the BP disaster.

The companies have bought rights to a Christmas Day New York Times article about the hours before the initial accident. In a statement, they describe the film as tracking "the courage of those who worked on the oil rig and the final minutes leading up to the disaster that ultimately led to great devastation that will forever be remembered."

The largest accidental oil spill in history began last April; it killed 11 people and resulted in abundant quantities of crude oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. When it was finally capped in July, nearly 5 million barrels had entered the water, killing untold amounts of wildlife and taking a brutal toll on the local economy.

Summit’s President of Production, Erik Feig, added that the movie will "portray the great heroism that took place last year on the Deepwater Horizon rig and how colleagues so courageously came to each other’s aid. "

The project is the latest recent real-life story -- following the Chilean miners and the saga of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange -- to get some form of film treatment from Hollywood.


Dakota Fanning to leave 'If I Stay'

Summit plays 'Fair Game'

Dating of Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' ferrets out more questions

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: An attempt last May to cap the leak. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Dakota Fanning to leave 'If I Stay' (and won't tackle any lead roles until after high school)

December 8, 2010 |  5:39 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Fans of Dakota Fanning were keen on the teen actress tackling a serious dramatic role as the lead in the supernatural drama "If I Stay."

But a source familiar with the film said that, after the announcement in October that the star would take on the part, Fanning has opted not to make the movie, which leaves her without a new leading role (and also, incidentally, throws the project into question).

On Thursday afternoon a representative for the star confirmed she would not shoot the film and chalked it up to the actress' desire to finish her senior year of high school. The representative said that Fanning will shoot the two "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" films (in which she plays Jane, a role that brings a decidedly lighter workload), and may shoot a smaller independent movie. But she will not take on any significant roles until after she graduates this spring.

Based on Gayle Forman's young-adult novel about a teenage musician, her boyfriend and a fatal car accident, "Stay" has been a high priority for "Twilight" studio Summit.

But the project has now lost its star after previously losing a director (Catherine Hardwicke was attached before leaving to shoot the  dark fable "Red Riding Hood;" she has been replaced by a Brazilian filmmaker named Heitor Dhalia.) The studio also might have some reservations about the film in the wake of the poor performance of another supernatural teen drama, "Charlie St. Cloud," earlier this year. A Summit spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Fanning's stock remains high for producers who say they are attracted to her mix of what they describe as vulnerability and maturity, qualities she mined to well-regarded effect in this year's music biopic "The Runaways." The news also comes at a time when another Fanning's star is rising too: Dakota Fanning's sister Elle currently stars in "The Nutcracker in 3D" and Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," the latter of which has drawn strong reviews.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Dakota Fanning at the BAFTA Awards. Credit: Reuters

Dating of Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' ferrets out more questions

December 2, 2010 |  5:36 pm

Mel Gibson will be back on the big screen sooner than many of us thought. A spokesman for Summit Entertainment confirmed Thursday afternoon that the studio will be releasing his quirky dramedy "The Beaver" this spring.

There's no specific date yet, but a person familiar with release plans who spoke on condition of  anonymity because they had not been authorized to talk about those plans publicly said that an April weekend was being considered. The movie will not be a last-minute entrant into the Sundance Film Festival, according to the source, who at the same time wouldn't rule out other festivals. (The Berlin Film Festival takes place in early February and would be a logical platform, particularly given a likely late-winter and early-spring release by distributors in several international territories.)

The tentative scheduling closes one chapter for the Jodie Foster-directed film, in which Gibson plays a lonely man whose best friend  is a beaver puppet he wears on his hand (he talks to him and treats him like a real person). But the news also opens another, possibly more complicated chapter.

It's far from certain that the fallout from Gibson's rants at ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva will have blown over by spring, or somehow be less toxic than they would have been had the movie come out in its initial target season of this fall -- especially given that Gibson's custody battle rages on, as does the possibility that criminal charges could still be filed against the actor. (Certainly "Hangover 2" director Todd Phillips was not, in the final analysis, convinced, and dropped the idea of having Gibson do a cameo in that movie.) Is Summit counting on a sea change in public opinion, or is it simply dumping the movie in the U.S. shortly after it comes out in some international territories?

Also still murky -- and less talked-about in the Mel pell-mell -- is the quality of the film itself. The movie has been the subject of numerous Hollywood whispers about tension on set, and a source close to the production described intense jockeying between producer Steve Golin and Foster, as well as a number of reshoots. (Incidentally, the movie, based on a beloved script from "Lone Star" creator Kyle Killen, was troubled from the start. Numerous directors as well as stars including Steve Carell and Hugh Jackman flirted with it before Foster joined and persuaded producers that Gibson was their man even though, in his mid-50s, the actor was a good decade older than the character as he was written.)

Either way, nothing is set in stone. A trailer debuts Friday night. If it doesn't fly -- or if Mel's stock continues to sink -- don't be surprised if "The Beaver" moves again.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "Edge of Darkness." Credit: Warner Bros.


Mel Gibson and the beaver problem

Will Mel Gibson cast a shadow over 'Hangover 2'?



Jim Carrey's 'Under Cover' seeks its helmer

September 21, 2010 |  7:54 pm

For better or worse, David O. Russell won't direct the video game adaptation of "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune," which would have been the most unusual director-material pairing since, well, Zack Snyder decided to do an owl-themed kids' movie.

But there's an almost equally unusual combo that's brewing, as sources say Russell is meeting on, and is very much in consideration for, "Under Cover," a comedy with Jim Carrey as a man who turns to the therapeutic power of a cover band. The movie is described as a "heartwarming but broadly comic story of a man winning back his family and re-discovering his voice by performing some of the greatest hits of classic rock in the unlikely company of a cover band."

After reported as being courted for the role, Carrey is indeed attached, we hear (though there's no official deal in place yet). Veteran production company Mandeville, which produced Russell's upcoming "The Fighter," also looks to be coming on to the project. The film is set up at Summit, of "Twilight" fame.

Other directors are in the mix as well, but we have to admit that Russell would be the most enjoyably wacky choice. If he can make both incest and Iraq treasure-hunting darkly comic, one can only imagine what he'd do with the antics of Mandonna and Dread Zeppellin.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jim Carrey as Lemony Snicket. Credit: Francois Duhamel/Paramount Pictures


Legends of the Guardian faces box-office hurdles

David O. Russell won't find gold with Drake's Fortune

'Cartel' director Asger Leth, off one ledge and on to another

July 26, 2010 |  3:42 pm


EXCLUSIVE: Last spring it was hard not to feel for Asger Leth, the up-and-coming director who saw his big-studio debut “Cartel," an action thriller set amid informants and mafioso in the Mexican drug wars, killed, as it were, just five weeks before production. The drugs wars were still raging in Mexico, so it was, er, not the best time to make a movie about the people fighting those wars right in their backyard.

But Leth won't come away empty-handed. The Danish director has lined up a new gig, and it's almost as high-profile. He's set to come aboard “Man on a Ledge,” a thriller that Sam Worthington will make for Summit and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

“Ledge” has some parallels to “Cartel" -- it’s also an action thriller involving crime fighters -- but it’s a bit more of a two-hander (it centers on a female psychologist and a suicidal New York City cop). And more important, making it won’t run Leth or anyone else in the cast and crew into the personal-safety issues that a Mexican-shot movie about drug cartels would.

Leth caught Hollywood's attention about four years back with a documentary he made called “Ghosts of Cite Soleil," about poverty, crime and kingpins in the Haitian slums. Studios have been eager to see him bring the gritty sensibility to a commercial film for a while now, at points attaching him to direct the ancient-Greece action-romance "Olympia." With Summit looking to shoot "Ledge" as early as this winter, it's good to see him finally get the chance.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "Ghosts of Cite Soleil." Credit: Sony BMG Pictures


Sam Worthington on 'Clash' and reshoots

'Ghosts of Cite Soleil' review

Summer showdown: Will 'Iron Man' flay 'Robin Hood'?

April 27, 2010 | 12:55 pm


It's a bit like a freeway at rush hour: four big movies on three consecutive weekends, and somebody -- and it might be "Robin Hood" -- will have to accelerate to stay on the road.

Universal has a lot riding on its summer update of the mythical English hero. For the movie to prosper, the beleaguered studio will have to take a page out of the Robin Hood playbook and steal from the rich -- namely, Marvel Entertainment and Paramount Pictures' "Iron Man 2."

There's little question the Tony Stark sequel is going to launch the summer season in spectacular fashion. Although early word-of-mouth is not as strong as the buzz greeting the 2008 original, and the initial "Iron Man 2" trade reviews are not glowing, May 7's superhero sequel could break the three-day box-office record set by 2008's "The Dark Knight" ($158.4 million) and certainly should rival (if not surpass) the premieres of 2007's "Spider-Man 3" ($151.1 million) and 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" ($135.6 million).

1 So even if "Iron Man 2" drops around 50% in its second week of release (the first film fell 48.1% in its second weekend), the sequel could gross as much as $70 million over the May 14 weekend, when Universal's "Robin Hood" is set to premiere. Several people who have studied this week's audience tracking surveys say that means "Robin Hood" will not open in first place with a possible opening gross around $45 million, and the Russell Crowe historical epic also will lose some critical female ticket buyers to Summit Entertainment's Amanda Seyfried love story "Letters to Juliet," which looks surprisingly strong among younger women.

Universal has struggled with its last two big-budget releases, as both February's "The Wolfman" (domestic gross: $62 million, with not much more overseas) and March's "Green Zone" (domestic gross: $35 million and equally weak foreign returns) fizzled fast.The studio said "Robin Hood" cost $155 million, but another person close to the production maintained that the budget was closer to $200 million. Universal's budget figure includes all of the film's rebates and tax credits, and also excludes the shut-down costs when the film's initial production start was postponed. 

For "Robin Hood" to succeed, the film will need to play strongly for several weeks and perform robustly 1 overseas, where Universal expects the movie could double its domestic theatrical gross. The studio is hopeful the film could perform like "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Sherlock Holmes," neither of which opened in first place. Fox's 2007 animated rodent comedy was crushed in its premiere weekend by "I Am Legend" but nevertheless went on to sell more than $217.3 million in tickets in domestic release. Warner Bros.' "Sherlock" update premiered in second place behind the behemoth "Avatar" but also went on to surpass $209 million in domestic release.

It won't get easier for "Robin Hood" later in the month. On May 21, DreamWorks Animation opens "Shrek Forever After," the fourth (and promised last) sequel in the animated franchise. Although the momentum is fading for the ogre story (2007's third "Shrek" film did 27% less domestic business than 2004's second offering), the 3-D animated comedy is still on track to be one of the summer's biggest releases, as it plays to all slices of the audience. 

1 When Crowe and "Robin Hood" director Ridley Scott collaborate, the results can be dramatically successful. Ten years ago, the best-picture-winning "Gladiator" grossed $187.7 million, and 2007's "American Gangster" grossed $130.2 million. But 2006's "A Good Year" was a bad week ($7.5 million domestically) and 2008's "Body of Lies" also fared poorly ($39.4 million domestically). Last year, Crowe's Universal film "State of Play" performed weakly, grossing $37 million domestically. To play deep into the summer, "Robin Hood" will need strong word-of-mouth, young male ticket buyers, supportive reviews and a reasonably good turnout from women -- before they flood the multiplex for May 27's "Sex and the City 2."

-- John Horn

Photos, from top: Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood." Credit: Kerry Brown / Universal Pictures. Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man 2." Credit:  Merrick Morton / Marvel Entertainment. Sarah Jessica Parker in "Sex and the City 2." Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / Warner Bros. Pictures.  "Shrek Forever After." Credit: DreamWorks Animation / Paramount Pictures

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