Middle Earth is so sprawling, complex, and detailed a fantasy world that it's easy to forget that it all sprang from the mind of one man.
While J.R.R. Tolkien's books have become blockbuster film trilogies, the author's life and the genesis of The Lord of the Rings has remained unexplored onscreen. That could change soon, as Fox Searchlight is developing a cinematic biography of the British author responsible for the finest work of high fantasy ever put to the page.
Currently playing in theaters is the new biopic Diana, which follows the last two years of the life of Diana, Princess of Whales. The film is based on author Kate Snell’s 2001 book “Diana: Her Last Love,’ and was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (The Invasion).
Diana follows the last two years of the Princess’ life, while she embarks on a final rite of passage and a secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. Academy Award-nominee Naomi Watts (The Impossible) plays Princess Diana, and Naveen Andrews (TV’s Lost) portrays her secret boyfriend Dr. Hasnat Khan.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with German director Oliver Hirschbiegel about his work on Diana. The accomplished filmmaker discussed his new movie, what interested him about this time in Princess Diana’s life, what he learned about her that surprised him the most, her love for Dr. Hasnat Khan, casting Oscar-nominee Naomi Watts, her uncanny resemblance to Diana, the talented Naveen Andrews, and the Royal Family’s lack of response to the film.
James Franco is truly a renaissance man!
Not only is he an Academy Award-nominated actor, former Oscar host, painter, college professor, novelist, screenwriter, and producer, but he is also an accomplished director who has not one but two films opening in October. The first is entitled As I Lay Dying, which is based on the novel by William Faulkner. The second is called Sal, a biopic about the life of actor Sal Mineo, which also stars Franco and will be available on VOD and iTunes October 22nd, and in theaters in November 1st.
Sal stars actor Val Lauren (The Salton Sea) in the title role and is based on a book by author Michael Gregg Michaud, with a story developed by Franco, Lauren, producer Vince Jolivette (Spring Breakers), and the film’s screenwriter Stacey Miller (The Ape). The movie chronicles the final hours of the life of actor Sal Mineo, one-time teen idol and star of the blockbuster films Rebel Without a Cause and Exodus. I fist met Franco, Lauren, Jolivette, and Miller almost 15 years ago when we all attended Playhouse West Acting School and Repertory Theater in North Hollywood together. The film also features several of our fellow classmates including Raymond T. Williams (Their Eyes Were Watching God), Cristian Olave (Some Body), and Brian Lally (Hesher).
I recently had the absolute pleasure of speaking with my old friend Val Lauren about his career defining work on Sal. The talented actor discussed his new film, his stunning performance, how the project came together, Sal Mineo’s fascinating life, his uncanny resemblance to the Rebel Without a Cause actor, what he learned about acting from Playhouse West, reuniting with his former classmates for the film, what Franco is like as a director, and Lauren’s tour de force performance in the film.
Opening in theaters on October 18th is a the new biopic directed by Academy Award-winner Bill Condon (Kinsey, Dreamgirls) called The Fifth Estate, which chronicles the rise and fall of controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness) as Assange, as well ass Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Anthony Mackie (Pain & Gain), David Thewlis (Red 2), Laura Linney (Mystic River), and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games).
IAR's Managing Editor Jami Philbrick recently had the pleasure of sitting down with director Bill Condon at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California for an extended interview to talk about his work on The Fifth Estate. The acclaimed director discussed his new movie, what he thinks of Assange, what Assange thinks of the film, why Condon was excited to make the movie and the story he wanted to tell, what he wanted to include and what he needed to leave out, Alex Gibney's documentary - We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, what Assange set out to accomplish, the alleged rape charges, and casting actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange.
Synopsis: DIANA takes audiences into the private realm of one of the world’s most iconic and inescapably public women—the Princess of Wales, Diana (two-time Oscar® nominee NAOMI WATTS)—in the last two years of her meteoric life. Acclaimed director Oliver Hirschbiegel (the Oscar®-nominated Downfall) explores Diana’s final rite of passage: a secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (NAVEEN ANDREWS, “Lost,” The English Patient), the human complications of which reveal the Princess’s climactic days in a compelling new light.
It's one thing for a well-known actor to portray a real-life figure of worldwide importance when the subject of the cinematic biography is from a bygone age. It's a whole different can of worms when that actor plays a public figure who is fresh in the audience's mind and, in many respects, in their daily lives.
That's exactly the challenge faced by Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men) as the star of Jobs, in which he plays Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder, chairman, and CEO who utterly changed the face of personal computing and how we communicate with one another. Probably the single most venerated captain of industry on Earth by the time of his death in 2011, Steve Jobs continues to loom large in our culture.
With Jobs, hitting theaters nationwide this Friday, director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) and screenwriter Matt Whiteley endeavor to present a dramatic biography of the tech luminary's life that avoids hagiography while retaining the qualities that made Jobs himself such a captivating and successful personality. The film does this not by encapsulating his entire life, but by starting out with Jobs before dropping out of college and continuing through the introduction of the first iPod.
Playing a sprawling supporting cast of real-life characters are Josh Gad (The Internship), Dermot Mulroney (Stoker), Leslie Ann Warren (In Plain Sight), Ahna O'Reilly (Fruitvale Station), J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Lukas Haas (Brick), Ron Eldard (Super 8), James Woods (White House Down), Matthew Modine (The Dark Knight Rises), and Kevin Dunn (Transformers).
But as the title indicates, Jobs is very much on Ashton Kutcher's shoulders. The actor recently sat down with a group of entertainment journalists, including IAR's very own New York Correspondent Katherine Tulich, to discuss the unique challenges of playing Steve Jobs, his research, changing his physicality to resemble the role, what he learned about the man, shooting a period picture, and attitudes on education.
Steven Soderbergh does indeed appear to be retiring from directing for the time being, but he's going out with Behind the Candelabra, a slice of decadent drama based on the real life relationship between Liberace and Scott Thorson.
HBO Films has rolled out an official trailer showing off Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as Mr. Showmanship and his lover in the telemovie, set to air on HBO this May 26th at 9pm/8pm Central.
Abraham Lincoln has never been more popular! In just under a year there have been five different films released about our 16th President including the multi Oscar-nominated Lincoln; directed by Steven Spielberg, the horror/comedy Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as well as its low-budget knockoff Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, the National Geographic Channel movie Killing Lincoln; narrated by Tom Hanks and based on the best selling book by Bill O’Reilly, and now Saving Lincoln, which opened in theaters on February 15th.
Saving Lincoln tells the true story of the former President (Tom Amandes) and his bodyguard, U.S. Marshall Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco). The film was directed and co-writen by Salvador Litvak (When Do We Eat?), and is unique in that it was shot on a green screen stage using a new technique called CineCollage, which superimposes actual Civil War era photographs as the movie’s backdrop. In addition to Amandes and Lamon, the film also stars Bruce Davidson (X-Men), and actress Penelope Ann Miller as Mary Todd Lincoln.
Miller’s career spans over twenty-five years and not only did she appear in last year’s Academy Award-winning film The Artist, the actress has also been featured in such popular movies as Adventures in Babysitting, Biloxi Blues, Big Top Pee-wee, Dead Bang, Kindergarten Cop, Chaplin, The Shadow, The Relic, and Along Came a Spider. But her real claim to fame is that she truly holds a special place in cinematic history as the only actress to ever star opposite the three greatest American actors ever to grace the big screen: Marlon Brando (The Freshman), Robert De Niro (Awakenings), and Al Pacino (Carlito’s Way).
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Penelope Ann Miller about her work on Saving Lincoln, as well as her experiences acting opposite the trifecta of cinematic greats. The veteran actress discussed her new film, why Hollywood is fascinated with Lincoln, what we can learn from his presidency, researching Mary Todd Lincoln’s life, the CineCollage technique, performing on a green screen stage, and what she learned from working with Brando, De Niro, and Pacino.
HBO has unveiled the first official image from Behind the Candelabra, showing stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in character as Liberace and Scott Thorson.
Currently playing in theaters is the new biopic Hitchcock from director Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil), which is already earning early Oscar-buzz. The film stars Academy Award-winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) in the title role as legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, and fellow Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren (The Queen) as his wife and secret collaborator Alma Reville. In addition, the excellent cast of actors portraying real-life people also includes Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers) as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel (Total Recall) as Vera Miles, Toni Collette (Jesus Henry Christ) as Peggy Robertson, Danny Huston (Stolen) as Whitfield Cook, Michael Stuhibarg (Lincoln) as Lew Wasserman, Kurtwood Smith (Robocop) as Geoffrey Shurlock, Richard Portnow (Law Abiding Citizen) as Barney Balaban, Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid) as Joseph Stefano, Michael Wincott (The Crow) as Ed Gein, and James D'Arcy (Cloud Atlas) as Anthony Perkins.
IAR's Managing Editor Jami Philbrick recently had a chance to sit down with Sacha Gervasi to talk about his work on Hitchcock. The director discussed his new film, the challenges of shooting it, the truth behind the making of Psycho, the real relationship between Alfred and Alma, the biopic's unusual structure, why Anthony Hopkins wanted to play the iconic director, his incredible performance, how Jamie Lee Curtis helped Scarlett Johansson prepare to play her mother, and Hitchcock's true relationship with his leading ladies.