“You mean, that boy from The Goonies? Yippie-ki-yay!”

Wowzers. Oliver Stone had hinted at making a feature on the life of the current American president when he did press for the Alexander Director’s Cut, but who knew it’d come together this quick? Filming could begin as soon as April for the George W. Bush biopic, brilliantly entitled Bush, which could mean a theatrical release right in time for the next election or inauguration. Of course, a SAG strike would cause delay. Stone says the film won’t be a “polemic”…

“Here, I’m the referee, and I want a fair, true portrait of the man,” Stone told Variety. How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world? It’s like Frank Capra territory on one hand, but I’ll also cover the demons in his private life, his bouts with his dad and his conversion to Christianity, which explains a lot of where he is coming from. It includes his belief that God personally chose him to be president of the United States, and his coming into his own with the stunning, preemptive attack on Iraq. It will contain surprises for Bush supporters and his detractors.”

Josh Brolin, shooting onto the A-list after his performance in No Country For Old Men, will portray the controversial 43rd U.S. president. The script, by Stanley Weiser (Wall Street, Project X) is already completed and is now being shopped to the studios. Stone said he collaborated with Weiser on over a year of research before moving on to Pinkville, a Vietnam film that was to be his next project before the strike put the kibosh on it. Actually, Stone says United Artists simply lost faith in the film due to the notorious poor performance of recent war films. But that’s a news item for another day. More Stone on Bush

“It’s a behind-the-scenes approach, similar to ‘Nixon,’ to give a sense of what it’s like to be in his skin. But if ‘Nixon’ was a symphony, this is more like a chamber piece, and not as dark in tone. People have turned my political ideas into a cliche, but that is superficial. I’m a dramatist who is interested in people, and I have empathy for Bush as a human being, much the same as I did for Castro, Nixon, Jim Morrison, Jim Garrison and Alexander the Great.”

Underlying how much planning has already gone into the project, which has gone under the aliases P.O.T.U.S. (think about it) and Misunderestimated, the film’s producer Moritz Borman says…

“We’ve just gone out with it, and April is just around the corner. If we can get it done as an independent or with a studio, we can do it quickly, but nobody really knows what is happening with the SAG situation. We’ve found locations in Louisiana, but we will have to build sets, especially the White House. We could do it later, because it’s not a film that has to be timed with the election; it’s a character study of a man.”

Who should play Cheney? Who should play Jenna? And who should voice God, if applicable (c’mon it’s Stone!)?

enterprizebig1.jpg

There have been reports that audiences seeing Cloverfield this weekend are going wild for the attached Star Trek teaser trailer, but my screening was dead quiet. And I can’t tell whether the mere four comments /Film received on our post about the bootleg version being on YouTube (still there) are a sign of disinterest, mild disappointment or reservation for the official version. Up until yesterday, I had a bad feeling about J.J. Abrams‘s mega-budgeted December vision for Trek. The casting has been all over the place, and the filmmakers’ hardcore need to include Leonard Nimoy and as much canon as possible reminded me of the early warning signs for Superman Returns. But the trailer struck a cord with me.

The steady shot on the U.S.S. Enterprise under construction perfectly evoked how vast, dangerous and mysterious space actually is, and Nimoy’s “final frontier” line didn’t possess the stark confidence I’d expected. Instead, it sounded foreboding and safety belt-worthy. The theme music even had a refreshed alien sophistication. After seeing what J.J. and his team did minutes later with Manhattan and how tiny and disposable humans were in a monster’s wrath, their Star Trek now has my full attention.

Producer Roberto Orci spoke with Trekmovie.com to expand on the filmmakers’ intentions for the moderately esoteric and largely eerie teaser. To the Trekkies who remain adamant that the Enterprise must be built in space in accordance with canon, or “fanon” even, rather than on Earth, Orci breaks out the science and “creative license.” This is sort of impressive…

Firstly, there is the notion that there is precedent in the novels, etc that components of the ship can be built on Earth and assembled here or there. And the second thing is that the Enterprise is not some flimsy yacht that has to be delicately treated and assembled. The idea that things have to be assembled in space has normally been associated with things that don’t have to be in any kind of pressure situation and don’t ever have to ever enter a gravity well. That is not the case with the Enterprise. The Enterprise actually has to sustain warp, which we know is not actually moving but more a warping of space around it. And we know that its decks essentially simulate Earth gravity and so its not the kind of gravity created by centrifugal force, it is not artificially created by spinning it. It is created by an artificial field and so it is very natural, instead of having to create a fake field in which you are going to have to calibrate everything, to just do it in the exact gravity well in which you are going to be simulating.

Orci deadens the rumors that the Enterprise is shown being constructed at Area 51, but won’t confirm nor deny that the location is San Francisco. And he doesn’t seemed worried about the film’s title not being included on the teaser, which I found to be an extremely intriguing decision on first view. As for what the trailer is supposed to convey to today’s audiences…

This is who we are. This is real. This is maybe not so far off in the future as it used to be. In the 60s the cell phone was a fantasy. Now the communicator that Kirk had is not as advanced as my iPhone. It is a different millennium for God’s sake. We are literally a century closer than we were before.

What I found most interesting was the following quote, which implies that this Trek is both inspired by JFK’s pivotal role in the space race and hopes to refocus peoples’ attention back on exploration as well.

First of all, it has been written about that Kirk was in a way modeled after JFK. Like being the youngest captain ever, like Kennedy was the youngest President ever. Obviously the space race being kicked off by JFK is very much associated with Star Trek. It was also due to what we just discussed and linking it back to today. If we do indeed have a Federation, I think Kennedy’s words will be inscribed in their someplace. He kicked us off. And on a third level it is a slight nod to Star Trek Enterprise, in that we are not blind to the fact that going back to some of the more historical aspects of Star Trek that haven’t been covered in a while

It’s not everyday that I care to hear a producer wax on a teaser trailer, but Orci enhanced my take on it. Did you find the teaser to be too esoteric, too uneventful, or too, um, industrial? Do you feel that general audiences made the connection that it was for Star Trek, as there are quibbles from fans going about?

wild-things.jpg

Expectations for Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are have cooled off a bit ever since the film was pushed back to 2009 due to purported issues with the titular creatures’ elaborate special effects. Audience reviews from surprisingly early test screenings described the $80 million film as unapologetically melancholic, beautifully strange, and very “adult.” But these reviews also stated polite shock at how much vital work on the film was left to be done. Did Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) bite off more than he could chew, or is he perfecting a trippy masterpiece for the world’s coolest toddlers? Who knows, but any kids’ film with a soundtrack crafted by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is destined to be one of a kind.

It was rumored that the punk ingenue behind one of the more original and marvelous rock bands in recent years was contributing to a song or two. Not so, according to the director’s music producer brother, Squeak E. Clean né Sam Spiegel.

“Karen is doing most of the music. I’ve helped out a little with ideas, but she is pretty much doing the whole thing,” Spiegel writes to The Playlist.”

This information is supported by a note left on the MySpace belonging to composer Carter Burwell, an oft-collaborator with the Coen Brothers who worked on Jonze’s prior two films, that said Karen O was contributing both songs and “other pieces of music.” With the YYYs, Karen’s voice is famous for its manic episodes and banshee-like wail but on certain tracks it has an ephemeral, intimate quality. But as for vocal-less compositions, I have no idea what that would sound like, similar to the mystery surrounding Jonny Greenwood’s Wendy Carlos-like score for There Will Be Blood or Neil Young’s haunted power line guitar work for Dead Man. Add to the fact that Jonze and Karen O used to date and have collaborated several times in the past, and the imagination conjures something even wilder. More info on this film and soundtrack as we get it.

tarantinozchannelbig11.jpg

Something tells me we’ll see Rambo lift up the head of a vanquished Predator before we see the following. Still, it’s perfect midnight fodder. Variety is reporting via legendary gossip columnist Liz Smith that Quentin Tarantino wants to remake Russ Meyers’ 1965 exploitation flick Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! with Britney Spears, Eva Mendes and Kim Kardashian. And, to add another lascivious layer of his homemade icing, QT wants to make his version “even raunchier.”

In the original film, the three female leads were strippers racing through the desert in various hot rods including a Porsche, who come upon a vulnerable couple. They kidnap the girl after doing away with her mate with a karate kick to the back, and later come upon an old handicapped redneck with two idiot sons and a rumored secret stash of cash. They sit down for a fried chicken dinner with the gals in bikinis before all hell breaks loose.

This sounds like Death Proof by way of TMZ or E! And frankly, it’s just frightening. And I love how Mendes is thrown into such a loose and sloppy equation like her career is no big whoop.

Is Uwe Boll’s Career Over?

Fanboys’ favorite ubermensch of suckage, Uwe Boll, may have directed his l-a-s-t big budget theatrical travesty with this past weekend’s $70 million In the Name of the King: Dungeon Siege Tale. The Jason Statham and Burt Reynolds (!) vehicle grossed a mouthwatering $3 million over the weekend, but apparently did “okay” in, drumroll, Boll’s home country of Germany.

“Because of the Boll reputation, it is not easy to get audiences into the cinemas,” Mychael Berg, head of distribution at 20th Century Fox in Germany, told the Hollywood Reporter. “We finally managed it, and we are quite satisfied with the abut 250,000 people who watched the movie (in Germany). We proved that you can make money with a Boll film.”

That might be the first time I’ve ever heard a distribution head publicly apologize for a director’s rep, outside of the porn industry. Hilarious! All cherries are popped sooner or later, I guess. The usually unflappable Boll, whose filmography includes videogame flicks like Bloodrayne 1 & 2 and Alone in the Dark, even sounds like he knows his number is up.

“In the future, I will focus on small films such as (the video game adaptation) ‘Postal’ or (the Vietnam war drama) ‘Tunnel Rats,’ ” Boll said. “These are films that represent my true passion, and they can be done with small budgets.”

Bring on the “passion,” I say. But the real reason for the end to Boll’s inexplicable employment is due to Germany banning tax shelter funds, from which Boll’s pricey Planet 9s were backed. From here on, he’ll have to play the Hollywood game straight-up. I checked his IMDB entry to bathe in his failure…but wait! It lists a $35 million movie coming out in 2010 called Legend: Hand of God from the director’s usual Freestyle Releasing (The Illusionist, Beer League), as well as a slew of others flicks like Zombie Massacre. Somewhere the Dr. Claw of genre films pets his feline and laughs loudly into the night!

Normally we try not to delve into the world of Hollywood Gossip, but this new bit is sad and likely of geek interest.

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Roger Avary has been arrested today for suspicion of manslaughter and felony driving under the influence, after a passenger, 34-year-old Italian Andreas Zini, was killed in Avary’s single-car automobile accident. Avary’s wife Gretchen was ejected from the car into the street, and is listed in stable condition.

There is never an excuse for drunk driving, but it’s so sad to see this happen to such a nice guy. I have talked with Avary on two separate occasions, and he always seemed like such a decent, down to earth guy. Supposedly Avary had drunk a couple of glasses of wine at dinner a half an hour earlier. The sheriff’s department has confirmed that Avary was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, which happened shortly after midnight. Avary was arrested, but later released on $50,000 bail. Being responsible for the death of someone is sure to change the course of Avary’s life and career forever (as it probably should). But it’s still sad that one stupid mistake could have such a long lasting effect.

Avary is probably best known for co-writing Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino. His screenwriting credits include: Silent Hill and Beowulf (which he wrote alongside Neil Gaiman). He also directed two films, Killing Zoe and the 2002 adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction.

Here is another Writer’s Strike Update from our undercover Hollywood correspondent Hooper X.

Side Deals

As was reported last week, United Artists formally completed their interim agreement with the WGA. The framework for the deal was the same as Letterman’s World Wide Pants deal. But the week’s much larger side deal came from an unlikely place. According to sources, the Weinstein Company has struck their own deal with the WGA. This marks the most significant deal to date for the WGA and could have much broader effect on the strike and its eventual resolution. With the World Wide Pants deal, the only people really impacted were the 40 or so writers on Letterman and Ferguson shows. Then United Artists stuck their deal with the WGA. While it was the WGA’s most significant deal to date, there was some question as to the real impact it would have on the writers. The truth is that UA, while important, is a fledgling production house that many would argue doesn’t quite qualify as a movie studio. They have a very short track record and a limited capacity to turn out a healthy slate of films year to year. The Weinstein Company’s deal marks a much more important step in pressuring the major studios back to the bargaining table. First, the Weinstein’s have an established production machine that has been turning out movies for years (the Miramax years included). Last year alone they produced over 10 films and distributed many more. Additionally, this pact covers their Dimension Films division which in recent years has been far and away the most successful part of their company. Second and more importantly, this gives the Weinstein’s leg up over all the other major studios. Harvey Weinstein is quoted as saying he did this deal because “it gives us a competitive edge”. This is important. While UA can expect to churn out another movie or two with their new pact, the Weinstein’s will likely be much more aggressive. They can go out and coroner the market on the hot scripts and more importantly, they can get all the movies they already own into production and bring the writers back for rewrites which is a major part of the movie making process. Don’t think for a second that this won’t put real pressure on the other movie studios to put their own deal together. Nobody in Hollywood wants to live in a world were Harvey Weinstein has cornered the market on all the good stuff.

Award Shows

Well, it looks a lot like the Golden Globes have been gutted. Last week the WGA informed the Hollywood Foreign Press Association that they would not be granting them a waiver to telecast the show. At the same time, the Screen Actor’s Guild informed the HFPA that none of their membership would cross the picket lines the WGA had promised. The WGA did give the HFPA a second option, don’t televise the show and the WGA won’t picket (and the actors will attend). The trouble with this option is NBC owns the rights to broadcast the show. If they held the ceremony NBC insisted on broadcasting it. So after a lot of wrangling from all sides, it looks like the end result is this:

No awards ceremony.

There will be a “news conference” on Sunday to announce the winners. Ultimately, nobody won. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Apparently today, the people who normally put together the gift bags presented to the nominees and attendees held their own confab and made sure everyone got their free stuff. God knows the world would have come to an end if the filthy rich people didn’t get their free stuff.

Director’s Guild and AMPTP begin negotiations

Perhaps the most significant development in the WGA strike came yesterday with joint announcements from the DGA and the AMPTP that they would begin formal negotiations on a new contract beginning Saturday. It has long been believed that if the WGA strike were to drag on too long, the DGA would wind up taking its shot at getting things resolved. According to Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily, key members from the DGA and the AMPTP have been meeting in private to hash out the basic framework for an agreement. Nikki says that the DGA wouldn’t begin formal negotiation with the AMPTP until they were within shouting distance of an agreement. This move would indicate that the DGA believes it can make a deal here shortly.

Of course none of this matters to the WGA. Ultimately, they will have to make their own deal with the producers. However, it is a widely held belief that should the DGA make a deal first, there would be significant pressure put on the WGA to use the DGA’s deal as a template for their deal and get it done. It will be difficult for the WGA to insist that they are being reasonable if the DGA’s deal is done and the industry believes it to be fair and reasonable for both parties. It will make for an interesting week to come.

photo via: Flickr

Golden Globes Cancelled!

Golden Globes

NBC is having a press conference this afternoon to announce they are canceling Sunday’s Golden Globe ceremonies. That’s right, the show won’t even go on un-televised, which is probably a good move (imagine how boring the untelevised version could have been). NBC instead plans to run a press conference announcing the winners intercut with clips of the stars at parties. Nikki Finke‘s sources claim this will be the new line-up:

  • 7:00pm: Dateline’s clips and interviews with nominees cut from the two-hour piece from the prior night. Meh!
  • 8:00pm: A possible one-hour retrospective/clip show. Snor!
  • 9:00pm: Golden Globe Winner Press conference.
  • 10:00pm: An Access Hollywood style Golden Globes party show. Who cares?

It will be interesting to see if the same thing happens to the Academy Awards if this Writers Strike isn’t settled before then.

Four ChristmasesBarrack and Hillary, Kayne and Fiddy, Finke and Poland: Shall we now offer Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon memberships to the make-up-and-make-out-already club? It appears we shall, as yet another report from the set of December’s Four Christmases has the bright-and-grizzled stars clashing and disrupting the set, this time over (not) filming a sex scene. Back in December, the New York press ran with a source that claimed Witherspoon was livid with Vaughn’s scratch-and-act work ethic and his tendency to brush off her requests to block out scenes. And what’s worse? The two are co-producing the film. Is it just me? Did Jambi need to be carted into the offices of their agents to predict the sheer incompatibility here?

I’d leave this entire news item to Perez, but the director of the holiday comedy is Seth Gordon, who crafted the second highest rated film of last year (doc- or otherwise) with The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. When I interviewed him in September, Gordon said he was lucky that the formidable icy stare and big hair of videogame champ Billy Mitchell didn’t haunt his dreams (though a few of his friends hadn’t been so lucky). Perhaps Mitchell, who remains disgruntled over his portrayal in Kong, has cast his stare onto the Hollywood set?

Gordon went on to say that Christmases would not be a cookie-cutter yuletide studio “comedy” like Deck the Halls or Christmas with the Kranks, as some sites have snarkily pegged it. With Jon Favreau, Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek on board, it would seem to aim higher. But if the infighting continues, the film’s potential audience will be able to see the bad buzz…from space.

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

I haven’t been reporting on the Writers Strike as much as I would have liked to. Mainstream movie news always takes precedence over the Industry stuff (plus Finke and Wells pretty much have that arena well covered). A new /Film correspondent nicknamed Hooper X (an obvious nod to the character from Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy) has decided to pick up the slack and give you the latest. Hopefully, this will be the first of a series of weekly updates on the strike.

Late Night Mayhem

On Wednesday night the late night talk shows returned after more than two months off due to the writer’s strike. The results were remarkably similar to what has been standard operating procedure for years, Jay beat Dave in the ratings once again. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story of how these shows made their way back on the air.

Several weeks ago the Writer’s Guild of America, after another failed attempt at reaching an agreement with the studios on a new contract decided that their best course of action would be to divide and conquer. They issued a statement indicating that they were willing to negotiate individual deals with the various members of the AMPTP (the major movie and television studios for the most part) and forego collective bargaining. While none of the studios jumped at the opportunity, World Wide Pants, David Letterman’s independent production company saw this as an opportunity.

So Rob Burnett and David Letterman took the WGA up on their offer and told them they would agree to all of their demands as long as they could go back on the air with their full contingent of writers. The reason this would work is that Dave owns his show. When he left NBC, CBS agreed to give him ownership of his show and any others he created (the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson). Since Dave owns the shows, he was able to negotiate independent of CBS and Viacom. After weeks of wrangling, late last week Dave was able to come to an interim agreement with the WGA that would allow him and Craig to return to the air with their writers and the full blessing of the WGA. So Wednesday night, in a sense was a triumph for both Letterman and the WGA. Dave got to go back on the air and the WGA showed that not all the producers thought their demands were so unreasonable. Win-Win, so far.
Read More »