For Your Consideration
With the Oscars moved
up to February, we thought we’d tie the February Next! to the year’s
top films. Trouble is, as we write this, the academy is
no where near tallying its nominees.
The fourth annual American Film Institute
Almanac, on the other hand, has, rather more conveniently,
its “10 most outstanding motion pictures”:
The Human Stain
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
So here’s what’s coming from some of the stars
of the AFI’s picks!
Paul Giamatti had a critical breakthrough
this year in a starring role as sad-sack comic book autobiographer
Pekar in “American Splendor.”
He plays another long-suffering type in “Sideways,” a
comedy-drama about a recently divorced failed writer who
takes a down-on-his-luck actor friend on a road trip to
the California wine country to determine why their careers
and relationships are so troubled. The “Election”-”About
Schmidt” team of writer-director Alexander Payne
and screenwriter Jim Taylor reunite or the project, based
on the novel by Rex Pickett. Giamatti’s co-stars
include Thomas Haden Church (“3000 Miles to Graceland”),
Alex Kalognomos (“Deuces Wild”), Virginia Madsen
(“The Haunting”), Sandra Oh (“Under the
Tuscan Sun”) and Alysia Reiner (“Kissing Jessica
Stein”). Fox Searchlight has yet to set a release
Giamatti speaks up for “Robots.” The animated
comedy, set in a world populated entirely by mechanical
people, is about an android who finds himself at odds with
a corporate tyrant when he sets out to improve the planet.
Chris Wedge (“Ice Age”) directs from a screenplay
by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel (“EDtv,” “Where
the Heart Is”). It also features the voices of Ewan
McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Jim Broadbent,
Stanley Tucci and Amanda Bynes. Fox plans a March 11, 2005
Anthony Hopkins, no stranger to awards
lists, stars in AFI honoree “The Human Stain.” His role as
a classics professor in that film should prepare him for
his role in “Alexander.”
The epic actioner is about the life of the
Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, who traveled
22,000 miles in eight
years and came to rule almost the entire “known world.” It
was written and directed by Oliver Stone (“U-Turn,” “Any
Given Sunday”). Hopkins’ co-stars include Colin
Farrell (“Veronica Guerin”), Angelina Jolie
(“Beyond Borders”), Rosario Dawson (“Shattered
Glass,” “The Rundown”), Val Kilmer (“Wonderland,” “The
Missing”) and Jared Leto (“Panic Room”).
Warner Bros. hopes to begin conquering the world’s
box offices Nov. 5.
Hopkins returns to academia in a way in “Proof.” The
drama, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David
Auburn, is about a young woman who cares for her dying
father, a brilliant but unbalanced math professor. John
Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” “Captain
Corelli’s Mandolin”) directs from a screenplay
by Rebecca Miller (“Personal Velocity”). Hopkins’ castmates
include Hope Davis (AFI pick “American Splendor”),
Gwyneth Paltrow (“Sylvia”), and Jake Gyllenhaal
(“Moonlight Mile”). Miramax has yet to calculate
a release date.
Following her turn in “Dogville” (profiled
in Preview), Hopkins’ “Stain” co-star
Nicole Kidman will be giving us “Birth.” The
drama, set in New York City, is about a thirtysomething
woman who encounters a 10-year-old boy claiming to be the
reincarnation of her late husband. Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy
Beast”) directs from a screenplay by Glazer, Milo
Addica (“Monster’s Ball”) and Jean-Claude
Carrière (“Chinese Box”). Kidman’s
co-stars include Cameron Bright (“The Butterfly Effect”),
Danny Huston (“21 Grams”), Lauren Bacall (“Diamonds”)
and Anne Heche (“John Q”). New Line is expecting
it sometime in 2004.
It may be a coincidence, but before “Birth” Kidman
becomes one of “The Stepford Wives.” The remake
of the 1974 thriller, about suburban wives who find themselves
systematically replaced by more compliant, more fully endowed
robots, is based on the novel by Ira Levin (“Rosemary’s
Baby”). Frank Oz (“In & Out,” “Bowfinger,” “The
Score”) directs from a screenplay by Paul Rudnick
(“Isn’t She Great,” “Marci X”).
Kidman’s co-stars include Matthew Broderick (“You
Can Count On Me”), Christopher Walken (“The
Rundown”), recording artist Faith Hill, Glenn Close
(“Le Divorce”), Bette Midler (“What Women
Want”) and Roger Bart (“The Insider”).
Paramount hopes to find marital bliss June 11.
The domestic power arrangements are reversed
next project. “Bewitched” is a big-screen look
at the courtship of straight-laced ad man Darrin Stevens
and his supernaturally powerful future wife, Samantha.
It’s based on the 1964-1972 TV series. Nora Ephron
is set to direct from her own screenplay. Will Farrell
is set to play Darrin when filming begins in April. Sony
plans to release it in June 2005 – in color.
Sean Penn, whose “Mystic River” is another
AFI honoree, joins Kidman in “The Interpreter.” It’s
a political thriller about an FBI agent who finds himself
keeping an eye on a U.N. translator who overheard talk
of an assassination plot. Sydney Pollack (“Random
Hearts”) directs from a screenplay by Charles Randolph
(“The Life of David Gale”). Universal plans
a Nov. 19 release.
Charlize Theron went the Marlon Brando/Robert
De Niro eat-a-ton-of-stuff route to critical approval
for “Monster.” She
is back in her usual svelte form for “Head In The
Clouds.” The epic romantic drama, set in 1930s Europe,
is about a pair of Brits – a Cambridge student and
a fashion photographer – who find their youthful
romance rekindled when they’re reunited in war-torn
Spain. John Duigan (“Lawn Dogs,” “Molly”)
directs from his own screenplay. Theron’s co-stars
include Penelope Cruz (“Vanilla Sky,” “Masked & Anonymous”),
Stuart Townsend (“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”)
and Thomas Kretschmann (“The Pianist”). The
film has yet to secure a domestic distributor.
Russell Crowe’s “Master and Commander” has
put into port for his annual awards-season shore leave.
He is set to reteam with “Beautiful Mind” director
Ron Howard for another biographical foray into Oscar Consideration.
This time it’s for “Cinderella Man,” a
sports drama, set during the depression, about a man named
Jim Braddock who became a working-class hero when he entered
the boxing ring to feed his family, but wound up becoming
a star. The screenplay is by Charlie Mitchell. Crowe’s
co-stars were set to include Renee Zellweger (“Cold
Mountain”) and Craig Bierko (“Dickie Roberts:
Former Child Star”) as German heavyweight champion
Max Baer. Universal plans to step into the ring Dec. 17.
Samantha Morton, star of “In America,” appears
next in “Code 46,” a sci-fi romantic thriller
about a man who falls for a mysterious woman and later
discovers that she was cloned from his mother’s DNA.
Michael Winterbottom (“24 Hour Party People”)
directs from a screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce (“Hilary
and Jackie,” “24 Hour Party People”).
Morton’s co-stars include Tim Robbins (AFI pick “Mystic
River”). MGM cracks it Aug. 6.
She’s set to begin filming “The Libertine” Feb.
23 outside London. The comedy-drama, set during the Restoration,
is about the Earl of Rochester, a philanderer whose poetry
was by many labeled pornographic. British commercial director
Laurence Dunmore makes his feature debut from a screenplay
by Stephen Jeffreys, based on the play by Jeffreys. Johnny
Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) and John
Malkovich (“Johnny English”) co-star as Rochester
and King Charles II, respectively. It has yet to seduce
a domestic distributor.
Morton’s “In America” castmate Paddy
Considine is getting sleepy, very sleepy. “Hypnotic” finds
him in a London-set thriller about an American hypnotherapist
who uses his ability to receive flashes from inside patients’ minds
to help a detective catch a ritualistic killer. It’s
based on the novel “Doctor Sleep” by Madison
Smartt Bell (“Master of the Crossroads”). Nick
Willing directs from a screenplay by Willing and William
Brookfield (“Rough Magic”). Goran Visnjic (“The
Deep End”), Shirley Henderson (“Harry Potter
and the Chamber of Secrets”), Miranda Otto (the “Lord
of the Rings” series) and Corin Redgrave (“Enigma”)
co-star. First Look snaps its fingers April 16 in New York
and Los Angeles.
Bill Murray is getting some of the
best reviews of his career for his work in “Lost in Translation,” the
story of two jet-lagged strangers and the fleeting connection
they make in Tokyo.
Of course “Coffee and Cigarettes” could perk
up even perhaps Bob Harris, “Translation’s” bored
movie star. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (“Ghost
Dog”), it’s a series of vignettes tied together
by the title stimulants. Murray’s co-stars include
Wu-Tang Clan members GZA & RZA (“Kill Bill”),
Roberto Benigni (“Pinocchio”), Cate Blanchett
(the “Lord of the Rings” series), Steve Buscemi
(“Big Fish”), Steve Coogan (“24 Hour
Party People”), Isaach De Bankolé (“Ghost
Dog”), Cinqué Lee (“Mystery Train”),
Joie Lee (“Summer of Sam”), Alfred Molina (“Identity”),
Iggy Pop (“Snow Day”), Steven Wright (“Loser”),
Tom Waits (“Mystery Men”), Jack White (“Cold
Mountain”) and Meg White (of the White Stripes).
MGM’s United Artists division has brewed up May 14
for a limited release.
“Garfield” is a live-action comedy, based on the comic
strip by Jim Davis, about a lazy, orange tabby whose pampered
lifestyle is seriously disturbed when his owner brings
home a new pet – a goofy dog named Odie. Peter Hewitt
(“The Borrowers,” “Tom and Huck”)
directs from a screenplay by Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow
(“Money Talks,” “Goodbye Lover”).
Breckin Meyer (“Kate & Leopold”) stars
as Jon Arbuckle, Jennifer Love Hewitt (“The Tuxedo”)
as Dr. Liz Wilson and Stephen Tobolowsky (“View from
the Top,” “Freaky Friday”) as Happy Chapman.
Murray provides the voice of the title character. Fox plans
a May 14 release.
Murray teams up with his erstwhile “Rushmore”-”The
Royal Tenenbaums” colleagues for “The Life
Aquatic.” The comedy is about a deep-sea oceanographer
who takes his crew on a hunt for a legendary shark. Wes
Anderson (“Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums”)
directs from a screenplay by Anderson and Noah Baumbach
(“Mr. Jealousy”). Murray’s co-stars include
Anjelica Huston (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Daddy
Day Care”), Owen Wilson (“Rushmore,” “The
Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Big Bounce”),
Jeff Goldblum (“Igby Goes Down”), Bud Cort
(“Made”), Wally Wolodarsky (“Rushmore”)
and Peter Stormare (“Bad Boys II”). Buena Vista
plans to get its feet wet Dec. 17.
“The Squid and the Whale,” set in Brooklyn, is about
a pair of writers who begin dating much younger people
after their marriage dissolves. “Life Aquatic” writer
Noah Baumbach (whose credits as a writer-director include “Kicking
and Screaming” and “Mr. Jealousy”) writes
and directs. Laura Linney (AFI pick “Mystic River”)
and John Turturro (“Anger Management”) co-star.
It has yet to secure a domestic distributor.
Scarlett Johansson has had a breakthrough
year, winning critical acclaim for two films, “Lost in Translation” and “Girl
with a Pearl Earring.”
She’s up next in “A Love Song For Bobby Long,” a
drama, written and directed by Shainee Gabel (“Anthem”),
about a woman who returns to New Orleans following the
death of her estranged mother. Johansson’s co-stars
include John Travolta (“Basic”), Gabriel Macht
(“The Recruit”) and Deborah Unger (“Thirteen”).
Sony has yet to set a release date.
“A Good Woman” finds Johansson in a comedy about a
middle-aged temptress who plans to steal away a much younger
woman’s husband. Based on Oscar Wilde’s play “Lady
Windemere’s Fan,” it was directed by Mike Barker
(“Best Laid Plans”) from a screenplay by Howard
Himelstein. Helen Hunt (“The Curse of the Jade Scorpion”)
and Tom Wilkinson (“The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Girl
with a Pearl Earring) co-star. It has yet to attract a
Johansson is slated to go to work in March
on “Synergy” It’s
a drama about an advertising executive who must contend
with simultaneous changes in his work and family life.
Chris and Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”) were set
to write and direct. Johansson’s co-stars are expected
to include Topher Grace (“Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!”)
and Dennis Quaid (“Cold Creek Manor”). Universal
hasn’t set a release date.
Although he probably received his customary
$20 million paycheck for “The Last Samurai,” Tom Cruise
still felt the need to arrange for “Collateral.” It’s
a thriller about a cab driver who comes to realize that
he has been shuttling a hit man (Cruise) from murder to
murder, and that he will be executed if he is believed
to have witnessed any of the hits. Michael Mann (“The
Insider,” “Ali”) directs from a screenplay
by Stuart Beattie and Frank Darabont (“The Green
Mile”). Cruise’s co-stars include Jamie Foxx
(“Ali”) as the cabbie as well as Jada Pinkett
Smith (“The Matrix Revolutions”), Mark Ruffalo
(“In the Cut”), Paul Adelstein (“Intolerable
Cruelty”), Javier Bardem (“The Dancer Upstairs”),
Irma P. Hall (“Bad Company”) and Bruce McGill
(“Runaway Jury”). DreamWorks is accepting fares
Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” franchise
has taken to refreshing the series with new directorial
blood. Joe Carnahan (“Narc”) is set to direct “Mission:
Impossible 3” from a screenplay
co-written by Dean Georgaris (“Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of
Life,” “Paycheck”). In it, secret agent
Ethan Hunt again finds himself deployed by the U.S. government’s
top-secret Impossible Mission Force. Besides Cruise, returnees
from parts one and two are expected to include screenwriter
Robert Towne (“Without Limits”) and actor Ving
Rhames (“Dark Blue”). Paramount plans to deploy
it in late 2004 or early 2005.
For “Mystic River’s” Sean Penn, “It’s
All About Love.” The romantic
drama, set in the future during a global freeze, is about
two former lovers who
reunite in New York. Thomas Vinterberg (“The Celebration”)
directs from a screenplay by Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov
(“The Celebration”). Penn’s castmates
include Claire Danes (“Terminator 3: Rise of the
Machines”), Joaquin Phoenix (“Buffalo Soldiers”),
Douglas Henshall (“The Lawless Heart”), Alun
Armstrong (“The Mummy Returns”), Margo Martindale
(“The Hours”), Mark Strong (“Sunshine”),
Geoffrey Hutchings (“It’s All About Love”)
and Sean-Michael Smith (“Dancer in the Dark”).
Focus Features says it’s coming soon.
“The Assassination Of Richard
Nixon” is a drama, set
in 1974, about a paranoid furniture salesman who embarks
on a plan to kill the 37th president. It’s based
on the true story of Samuel Byck. Niels Mueller makes his
feature directorial debut from a screenplay by Mueller
and Kevin Kennedy. Penn stars as Byck opposite Naomi Watts
(“Le Divorce,” “21 Grams”), Don
Cheadle (“Manic,” “The United States
of Leland”) and Brad Henke (“The Thirteenth
Floor”). Previously titled “Killing Dick,” it
too has yet to secure U.S. distribution.