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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: The King's Speech

Revised 'King's Speech' comes to theaters April 1

March 24, 2011 |  9:51 am

Colin Firth said he didn't like it, but a new version of "The King's Speech" is heading to theaters just the same.

The Weinstein Co. said this morning that it was releasing a tweaked version of the best-picture winner -- in which a scene featuring Firth's Duke of York swearing has been amended not to include the F-word -- next weekend, April 1.

The company gave the new theater count as 1,000, which would put it roughly at the current tally of 1,249. The studio also said that the R-rated movie won't be shown as of next weekend. So essentially Weinstein is subbing out the old print with the new one.

The movie has actually been doing quite well even in its R-rated guise, grossing about $2 million last weekend. The new release is clearly aimed at the glut of spring-breakers available for moviegoing, though it remains to be seen whether adolescents who haven't already seen the period drama will suddenly start flooding theaters.

The Weinstein Co. is promoting the new cut as a "family film" -- which means that, in the company's eyes, when it comes out next weekend the story of a 1930s monarch rising up against Nazism will be competing squarely against "Hop."

-- Steven Zeitchik



Colin Firth doesn't like new King's Speech cut

MPAA awards PG-13 rating to alternative version of The King's Speech

Photo: "The King's Speech." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Oscars: What's next for the winners?

February 28, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Yourhighness They might have stood on the most prestigious stage in Hollywood on Sunday night. But this year’s Academy Award winners won’t necessarily be in Oscar mode when they next pop up on a movie screen.

Because they took jobs before the awards angel landed on their shoulders — or because they simply want to perform in  diverse roles — many of the winners will star in more commercial films than the ones that netted them their statuettes.

In April, Natalie Portman will appear in the (not exactly Oscar-like) stoner comedy “Your Highness" (and opposite Oscar co-host James Franco). Just a month later, she’ll star as a scientist in a Marvel superhero movie, "Thor," the new take on the Norse god. (She'll also appear in a supporting role in the independent drama “Hesher,” which is expected to get a limited release.)

After that? It could be a while before we see the pregnant actress on screen again; Portman said backstage at the Oscars on Sunday that she had no idea how impending motherhood would affect the roles she takes. “One of the exciting things about becoming pregnant is that I’m expecting a complete unknown,” she said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Candid quotes from the red carpet and beyond

Melissa Leo, the “Fighter” costar who provided the, er, most colorful moment of the Oscars during her acceptance speech for supporting actress, will next make more niche appearances on the big screen. She’ll play a gun-toting member of a homophobic cult in Kevin Smith’s “Red State,” which the filmmaker is self-distributing in October, and she’ll star in an independent golf dramedy titled “Seven Days in Utopia,” which does not yet have a theatrical distributor. (She also has a recurring role on HBO’s post-Katrina New Orleans-set series “Treme.”)

After years of romantic comedy roles leading up to his turn as George VI in “The King’s Speech,” lead actor winner Colin Firth is skewing a little bit more commercial than the film that landed him his statuette — but only a little bit.

The English actor will next be seen in the adaptation of John le Carré’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” a film he was shooting while promoting “The King’s Speech” this season. He plays a British intelligence officer (code name Tailor) suspected of being a Russian mole. The espionage drama, whose rights have just been acquired by Universal Pictures, does not yet have a release date.

 Firth this summer also aims to shoot Park Chan-Wook’s “Stoker,” a mystery drama that will put him in a film with another 2011 award-season personality, Nicole Kidman.

PHOTO GALLERY: Behind the scenes of the 2011 Academy Awards

And Christian Bale? He's spent the last part of his Oscar campaign in an artistically rigorous place: in China shooting a part as a heroic priest in the Asian period piece “The 13 Women of Nanjing." But blockbusters aren’t too far from the actor’s mind; Bale will reprise his superhero role in “The Dark Knight Rises,” which is scheduled for the summer of 2012.

“When I finish the movie in China,” he told reporters Sunday, “it’s straight to Batman. Much more Batman.”

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, center, and James Franco in "Your Highness." Credit: Universal


The British are coming? Decoding the 'King's Speech' win

February 28, 2011 |  7:10 am


If you were watching the Oscars on Sunday night, the narrative of "The King's Speech" beating "The Social Network" played out on several levels. The Tom Hooper film won in four major categories -- best picture, director and actor, as well as in one of the two screenplay categories -- the first time since "American Beauty" 11 years ago that a single movie walked away with that quartet of prizes.

If you were a follower of Hollywood politics, that kind of haul had a David-toppling-Goliath feel. This was a small film with a director whose lone previous feature grossed less than $1 million, and that starred the second lead from "Bridget Jones's Diary," triumphing over a movie made by a major studio, directed by the filmmaker behind "Seven" and penned by the creator of "The West Wing."

But it was also hard to avoid a more cultural subplot in Sunday's events: the British-ness of Oscar's biggest prize.

The motion picture academy is sometimes perceived as favoring movies with a British tilt. But it doesn't, in fact, show them that much love. Productions from across the pond can win at the Oscars, but despite a history of paying them respect, it hasn't happened much in recent decades. Before "Slumdog Millionaire" in 2009, you actually have to go back to 1987 ("The Last Emperor") to find a best picture winner with mainly Britain-based producers. (One of the three "King's Speech" producers is Australian-born but is based in London.)

"The King's Speech" was also the first best picture winner in more than a decade to be set in England. ("Shakespeare in Love" last did it in 1999.)

And the "King's Speech" win on Sunday night marked the first time the academy chose for its best picture a movie that also won best British film at the BAFTAs (essentially the British Oscars) in the modern history of that organization.

But maybe more important than any of these statistical landmarks were the themes of "The King's Speech." Though universal subjects such as loyalty and responsibility ran through the film, there was also an unmistakable British hue to the movie, what with its exploration of an evolving monarchy and its view of an British empire as the best bulwark against Nazism. (The point was highlighted backstage when an English journalist asked the producers if they were in fact monarchists; the question elicited an elaborate answer whose nuances were lost on many of the American journos in the room, this one included.)

This was, in the end, a season when movies with a distinctly American tone shone brightly for audiences. "The Fighter" and "Black Swan" took place in highly particular stateside settings and explored quintessentially American themes (the role of the underdog and the price of over-achievement). And that epitome of American stories, the redemption Western, was one of the season's biggest hits. ("True Grit" tallied nearly $170 million in box office.) Yet the combined Oscar count for those movies was exactly three.

On top of that, of course, came "The Social Network" losing out in its bid for best picture, a category in which a period movie about kings and prime ministers bested a story of Silicon Valley ambition.

There's been much made in recent months about the rise of British actors in blockbusters, with performers from across the pond, such as Andrew Garfield and Henry Cavill, being cast as American superheroes. True, Sunday night was mainly about one film. But when it comes to heralding the arrival of things British, the academy is back to riding that horse.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Red carpet photos

Oscar scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars

Photo: From left, 'King's Speech' producers Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin and Iain Canning. Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images

Oscars: The competition stiff, the winning sweet

February 27, 2011 |  8:57 pm

And then there was one....

"The King's Speech" turned out to be the kingmaker. Who could argue with that? Not I. Lots of British producers at the podium, all seemed happy. Who could blame them?

But then it was a very good year, and the competition in the best picture category was stiff. That makes the winning even sweeter when the fight is against such worthy competitors. A case could be made for each one, so I guess when you hear, "Everyone's a winner, it's enough to be nominated," it's true after all.

So, congrats to all of you. Kings or not, you were all royalty. You gave us a great year at the movies. Luv ya, mean it, xoxo  

P.S. The kids were all right... Anne and James, Hathaway and Franco, did good. And anytime they didn't, well, they're kids, no one will blame them.

So, next year? Again? Shall we? Plan on it.

-- Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosting the show. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press 

Oscars: Natalie Portman and Colin Firth win top acting awards

February 27, 2011 |  8:46 pm

Natalieosc Yeah Natalie; Ye-ye-yeah Colin!!!

I guess the surprise would have been if Natalie Portman hadn't won for her soul-destroyed ballerina in "Black Swan." It may be the defining performance in her career, so visceral it was, so true did it feel. It was one of my favorites of the year the moment I saw it. She came into the night on a tsunami of support -- Indie Spirit award, Golden Globe, SAG, she even got the British vote from BAFTA. That girl can fly.

How wonderful is Colin Firth? He had racked up a whole bunch of gold too -- Globes, SAG, BAFTA too. Stepping onstage to accept his trophy, he came with the threat of dance moves, as only the still stiff upper-lipped Brit so winningly, wryly could. What can you say about the performance? So moving, so much dignity. Onscreen or off, in character or not, he is such a class act.

Though considering the performance this year, maybe next year the academy should consider ties....


Red carpet photos

Oscar scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars

-- Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Natalie Portman and fiancee Benjamin Millepied arrive at the Academy Awards. Credit: Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT 


Tom Hooper could direct Les Miserables musical, could have directed 'Iron Man 3'

February 23, 2011 |  5:15 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Of all the filmmakers to see their stock boosted this Oscar season, none has enjoyed the Google-like jump of Tom Hooper. Like any director with an Oscar nomination and a $100-million hit on his hands,  "The King's Speech" helmer has been wooed by numerous studios in town.

Perhaps the most interesting offer that we've heard about? It comes from Marvel and involves some shiny gizmos. According to a person who has worked closely with Hooper but who asked not to be identified because the director did not authorize this person to speak on his behalf, the Brit was offered the director's chair on "Iron Man 3," the latest installment in the Robert Downey Jr. franchise. He turned it down, and "Lethal Weapon" writer Shane Black wound up landing the job several weeks ago.

While Hooper won't be steering Stark Industries, another person who has worked closely with him said he was weighing an offer to direct "Les Miserables," a new version of the classic novel and Broadway musical set in 19th-century France. The movie, which is being developed by "Atonement" producer Working Title, is conceived as a big-budget musical.

A "Les Mis" movie would mark a return to the big screen for the story of Jean Valjean after a 1998 non-musical version (which, coincidentally, starred "King's Speech" star Geoffrey Rush as the villainous Inspector Javert). If Hooper accepted the gig, it would continue a European trend for the director: His "The Damned United" was also across the pond.

Hooper has not taken a new job since "Speech" wrapped shooting about a year ago.

When we interviewed him earlier this season, Hooper said he wouldn't mind continuing the "Speech" pattern and directing another historical or period story. "I'm certainly on the lookout" for something like that, he told 24 Frames.

A representative at Hooper's agency International Creative Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the two projects.

The "Iron Man" offer is reminiscent of last year's bid by Sony for "The Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow -- another filmmaker who saw her fortunes polished by Oscar season  -- to direct its reboot of "Spider-Man."  She turned it down to make "Triple Frontier," an action-movie passion project.

--Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling


Photo: Tom Hooper at the Berlin Film Festival. Credit: Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images



The filmgoers' guide to getting your drink on

January 12, 2011 |  3:24 pm


With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner and a movie may figure in your night-life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a drink associated with your movie.

Film-cocktails With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick ("The King's Speech," "Black Swan," etc.) to your firewater (Scotch, tequila, you get the drift...). Check out the gallery at right, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Colin Firth sips a Scotch in "The King's Speech." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner-and-a-movie may figure in your night life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a cocktail associated with your movie.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick to your firewater. Check out the list, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

Are Americans ready for dramas again?

January 10, 2011 |  8:00 am

This weekend marked a milestone at the box office. No, not beause it was the first time someone paid to see Nicolas Cage as a witch-transporting Crusader. It was a weekend that saw the fourth independent drama in this season of serious movies pass the $30 million mark in domestic box office.

That may not seem like a hugely noteworthy event. But the last time it happened, the world was quite a different place.  It was January 2008, and a quartet of dramas  ("No Country for Old Men," "Atonement," "There Will Be Blood" and "The Great Debaters") all achieved that same watermark of mainstream success. A few months later, the financial crisis would take root and the world would go bleak, and Americans don't like to see dramas when the world goes bleak. The mark wouldn't be reached again until this weekend.

The movie that got this year's group over the hump, "The King's Speech," is continuing to show surprising strength even as it approaches two months in release. Two others of the fab four, "Black Swan" and "The Fighter," are doing even better, maintaining momentum as they push well into mainstream-hit territory. (The fourth, "Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls," has all but finished its run at a decent but more niche place.)

All this doesn't count the blockbuster-level success of a pair of tough dramatic sells, "True Grit" and "The Social Network," which were made by studios but traffic in difficult subjects and embody an auteur spirit.

We've been hearing for years why audiences don't want to see dramas when the economy is bleak and wars are being fought -- namely, things are tough enough without us being reminded of more toughness at a movie theater. It's why studios have all but stopped making dramas, and even independent producers have spent the past few years talking a lot more about genre films. ("The Fighter" and "Black Swan' had to pare their budgets considerably even to get made as independents.)

And yet both of those movies have turned into bona fide hits, far outperforming supposedly more commercial bets like "Burlesque" and "Saw 3D." Is the no-drama rule finally being broken?

It would be easy to point to a (slightly) brighter financial picture as a reason we're embracing darker material. And there is a correlation between up economies and down movies (and vice versa), though it's not as direct as you'd think. During the Great Depression, for instance, people turned out in great numbers to see not uplifting movies but mob movies; in a time when people feel powerless, there's  gratification that comes from watching those taking matters into their own hands. Besides, given everything from a polarized electorate to the events in Tuscon over the weekend, it's not like these are days of rainbows and unicorns.

Some might say this year's movies are simply that strong, and strong movies can never be denied. But it's not as though "The Hurt Locker" -- another difficult movie, but one that few people came out to see last year -- was any slouch.

There may, however, be something more specific going on with these films. The three movies powering the trend deal with drug addiction, mental imbalance and the rise of Hitler. Not light subjects. But they also take place in worlds most of us don't have much  familiarity with. Unless you're an under-duress ballerina, a washed-up boxer or a speech-challenged duke, the content of these films won't hit very close to home. (Contrast these movies with "Rabbit Hole," a drama that deals with the far more relatable topic of death and family crisis; that film hasn't even reached $1 million in box office.)

There's also something weirdly triumphant about the dynamic trio -- all of them are, in their way, underdog stories, and give characters and audiences a happy ending  (yes, even "Swan," though exactly how happy is a matter of debate).

It may well be that, after a few years of saying no, we're finally ready for some drama. Or it may simply be that filmmakers have finally figured out a more palatable way to serve it to us.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'The King's Speech.' Credit: The Weinstein Company


Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'The King's Speech'

December 1, 2010 |  4:30 pm

The King's Speech

Sometimes a filmmaker gives you more of a performance piece than movie, and so it is with Tom Hooper’s delightful “The King’s Speech,” a film that is sure to begin collecting award nominations for its actors, at least.

A set piece that could just as easily have found life on the stage, "The King's Speech" is the story of a friendship between commoner and king born of necessity, just not the one you originally believe.

Following last year’s exceptional “A Single Man,” Colin Firth is back with another Oscar-worthy turn as the man who would be king, not because he craves it but because it is his destiny, despite a crippling stammer.

Geoffrey Rush, in a performance that is as remarkable as it is charming -- possibly the best of his long, distinguished career that includes an Oscar for his eccentric piano prodigy in "Shine" -- is this royal's unconventional Aussie last-ditch chance. A friendship is forged, and we see two lives transformed. No special effects, but many special affects.

It's an intimate, small-scale film, which serves to make “The King’s Speech” satisfying in an old-school way -- counting on a simple story of a man trying to become a better one. Perfectly drawn performances by Firth and Rush take us out of our day-to-day lives for just a little while.

That is priceless. Well, almost priceless -- there will be that ticket to buy on your way in.

-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in a scene from "The Kings Speech." Credit: Laurie Sparham / The Weinstein Co.

Colin Firth leaves the romantic comedies behind

November 25, 2010 | 10:35 am


He's been the thinking-woman's heartthrob since he played Mr. Darcy in the BBC "Pride and Prejudice" back in the mid-1990s. But as costar of such movies as "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Love Actually," Firth has been mainly absent  from serious roles, at least here in the U.S., until last year, when he earned raves in the grieving-spouse drama "A Single Man."

Firth establishes his serious-actor bona fides in an even bigger way when he stars as a 1930s-era monarch in the crowd-pleasing royals drama "The King's Speech," which opens in Los Angeles and several other cities around the country this Thanksgiving weekend.

In our story about him in in today's Times, Firth offers a wry take on some of the recent reactions to him. "Someone asked me this morning [about my acting]: 'Did you get better?'" he said with a slight laugh. "I've just carried on doing what it says in the manual."

Saying he felt more comfortable in dramas than comedies, Firth, 50, wants to continue along the path he's recently started down. But it's at least a small point of frustration that these kinds of parts aren't always available. "If I can get a role as good as these last two, I'm all over it," he told us. "I haven't seen it yet. What do I do about that? Do I write it?  I'm afraid there's not much I can do."

The acclaim for "The King's Speech" certainly will help his cause, as will his easygoing likability. After we met with him in New York on Monday, he continued the charm offensive with appearances on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," showing in both the low-key wit that could well put him over the top with academy voters in this year's best actor race.

That charm is a far cry from his character in his new film, in which Firth plays a stuttering Duke of York who must learn to overcome both his handicap and the repression that created it. Despite the movie's focus on the monarchy, though, Firth confesses he never read a book about the royals until he started the film. It's always been rock stars, he says, that have fascinated him.

“Laughable as it might sound given the persona I tend to be associated with," Firth said,  "I'm one of the millions of Englishmen of my generation who wanted to be Keith Richards."

-- Steven Zeitchik



Photo; COlin Firth with Helena Bonham Carter and director Tom Hooper at "The King's Speech" premiere. Credit: Stuart Raimson /Associated Press

Colin Firth's royal pains



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