Miramax via Everett Collection
Meryl Streep will portray legendary opera singer Maria Callas in a new TV biopic. The actress will take on the role of the iconic star in a film adaptation of the play Master Class for the HBO TV network, according to the New York Post's gossip column Page Six.
The Tony Award-winning play was written by Terrence McNally and opened on Broadway in 1995. In the show, Callas reminisces about her life while teaching a class at the famous Juilliard School of performing arts in New York City.
The Graduate director Mike Nichols will helm the production, which will begin filming in January (15). Nichols and Streep have previously worked together on movies Heartburn, Silkwood and Postcards from the Edge as well as HBO mini-series Angels in America, which aired in 2003.
Another biopic about Callas, who died in 1977, was announced at Cannes Film Festival in France in May (14). Whale Rider moviemaker Niki Caro will write and direct that cinematic version.
Plans for a biopic of opera singer Maria Callas have been unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival. Whale Rider moviemaker Niki Caro will direct and write the film, which will focus on the legendary soprano's affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who eventually went on to marry assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy's widow Jacqueline Kennedy.
Caro says, "I have a great fascination for Maria Callas, who was such a powerful woman and artist, but also troubled and stuck in this very destructive relationship."
Filming will begin in the autumn (14), but no casting has yet been announced.
Callas was most recently portrayed by Spanish actress Paz Vega in Nicole Kidman's critically-slammed Grace of Monaco film.
Not long ago, we heard that Michael Keaton would be replacing Hugh Laurie as the diabolical villain in the upcoming RoboCop movie. And we cheered — nothing against Dr. House, but there's very little in this world that beats a good Michael Keaton performance. The prolific actor is yet again reported to be taking over a previously filled spot on a developing project, but this time, it's behind the camera: Variety reveals that Keaton will be directing the dramedy Buttercup.
Keaton is the third director to take Buttercup on board. Sarah Polley, the creative force behind romantic dramas like Take This Waltz and Away from Her, was once attached, followed by Whale Rider writer/director Niki Caro. In 2008, Keaton directed and starred in The Merry Gentleman, in which an abused woman strikes up a friendship with a depressed criminal.
Buttercup will follow the relationship between a young woman and her alcoholic father. No word yet on whether Keaton will star in the picture... but we sure hope so.
[Photo Credit: WENN]
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With the Midnight Madness opening screening of Jennifer's Body at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday, The New York Times reports it was impossible not to notice that the women are in charge. In an interesting dovetail, the Risky Business blog notes a curious phenomenon on the other side of the gender divide: There are about a half a dozen films screening at the fest with the word 'Man' in the title -- none of which is directed by a woman.
While still struggling to find their place in the movie industry at large, female filmmakers have managed to occupy some of Toronto's most valuable slots, the NYT notes.
On Thursday Karyn Kusama's Jennifer's Body, from a script by Diablo Cody, had its premiere while Lone Scherfig's An Education also screened and Jane Campion's Bright Star played (albeit with 19 minutes of the film running upside down in one showing).
Also screening in the coming days are Niki Caro's The Vintner's Luck, Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Samantha Morton's The Unloved, Leanne Pooley’s The Topp Twins and Drew Barrymore's Whip It!.
The NYT wonders if this estrogen-fueled lineup is a harbinger of awards recognition to come as the kudo season heats up. Although The Hurt Locker screened last year in Toronto, Kathryn Bigelow has been generating Oscar talk for months.
As the paper notes, back in 2003, Toronto helped that year in general to be known as a good one for women. The Toronto screening of Lost in Translation put Sofia Coppola on the path to a best-director Oscar nomination. That same year Caro, directing Whale Rider; Catherine Hardwicke, directing Thirteen; Patty Jenkins, with Monster; and Shari Springer Berman, with American Splendor, all made a strong impression overall.
Now, about those manly titles. Biz notes that festgoers who want to see A Serious Man might want to make sure they don't end up with A Single Man, Solitary Man or, in a distinction that makes all the difference, Men Who Stare at Goats.
Along with the Coen brothers' Serious Man, Tom Ford's Single Man and Brian Koppelman and David Levien's Solitary Man, there are also screenings planned for Canadian marital comedy Man Vs. Minivan and the India-based romance The Man Beyond the Bridge.
A Serious Man, A Single Man and Solitary Man all premiere within 48 hours of each other at the festival, with A Serious Man and Solitary Man debuting opposite one another Saturday night.
The filmmakers behind the "Man" movies say this burst of machismo can partly be put down to what's happening in the world at large. "With everything that's going on in the world with figures like Bernie Madoff, it would be unnatural not to look at people who held themselves out as great men but who turned out to have feet of clay," said Koppelman.
Almost all of the films, notes Biz, focus on once-proud men brought low or schooled by a crisis. Funny coincidence given all the ladies in the lineup.
Full story: http://power.networksolutions.com/index.html
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Set in 1984 Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) returns to her ice-cold hometown in Northern Minnesota after fleeing from an abusive husband. In order to care for her two young kids she needs a job--and for most of the townsfolk including her distant dad (Richard Jenkins) that means working in the local iron mines. Problem is not too many women work there and those who do are subjected to continual harassment by their male coworkers. Josey lands a job anyway and starts to get her fair share of sexual innuendos. One day her former high-school sweetheart also a mine employee takes it way too far with her. Although met with strong resistance of course a lawsuit ensues that results in a groundbreaking decision for women’s rights in the workplace. Ah what an Oscar can do for a career. It wasn't that long ago Theron wouldn’t even have been considered for such a dramatic role. But with deserved recognition she gets to strut her stuff in North Country. She's no Monster but she's no supermodel either--and while it's impossible to erase her beauty its glare has been reduced. A second-consecutive Oscar win? Maybe not but a nomination wouldn't be out of the place. Co-star Frances McDormand might also be in line for a nod of her own. She plays Glory a woman who gets Josey the job and encourages her to fight the good fight something that seems visceral for McDormand. Woody Harrelson is also solid as Josey's attorney though his Midwest-stoner drawl gets in the way of the northern accent he's supposed to be selling. New Zealand director Niki Caro mightily impressed us with Whale Rider a poignant mixture of grief and vigor and with North Country she continues to impress. As more an observer than anything else Caro lets the true story tell itself--of what happened in this small town with its frigid denizens and sexist behavior. And the film is definitely a period piece á la Norma Rae in that it's from a specific period albeit a recent one and pertains to a specific region. But it's kind of slow going. There’s a lot of weeping and dramatic speeches. Still Caro makes up for it by including several Bob Dylan songs who rarely grants the use of his songs in films. Perhaps he felt a certain a kinship to this film since it takes place in the desolate cold Northern Minnesota where he comes from--and so resents.
Top Story: Marvel Ditches Plan for Princess Di Comic Series
Marvel Enterprises Inc. has decided to drop plans to reincarnate the late Princess Diana as a mutant comic superhero this fall. According to Reuters, the five-series storyline, titled "Di Another Day," was to feature Princess Diana as one of a team of superpowered mutants. Earlier this week, however, Buckingham Palace called the idea "utterly appalling" and a "cheap attempt to cash in on Diana's fame and the tragic circumstances surrounding her death." Marvel said in a statement that "upon reflection" it will remove Diana and all references to the royal family in its upcoming X-Statix monthly comics.
Tom Cruise Says Scientology Helped Him
In the July 21 issue of People magazine, Tom Cruise says Scientology helped him overcome a learning disability. "When I was about 7, I had been labeled dyslexic," he told the magazine. "I'd try to concentrate on what I was reading, then I'd get to the end of the page and have very little memory of anything I'd read. I would go blank, feel anxious, nervous, bored, frustrated, dumb." Shortly after the release of Top Gun in 1986, Cruise, 41, discovered the "Study Technology" method developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1960s. "I realized I could absolutely learn anything that I wanted to learn," Cruise said. The actor is a founding board member of the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project, a nonprofit group that uses Hubbard's teaching techniques in a secular setting.
Elvis' Tooth on Auction Block
A tooth allegedly pulled from Elvis Presley 's mouth at a dentist's office, a lock of his hair saved from his haircut upon joining the military and a gold record for his hit single "Love Me Tender" are on the eBay Internet auction block, The Associated Press reports. The tooth and the other items have been on display at a Fort Lauderdale hair salon for about 10 years. As of Thursday morning, there was one bid for $100,000. Anthony DeFontes, curator of and spokesman for the collection, said most bizarre bid so far was from an anonymous European company that was interested in extracting DNA from the tooth, but DeFontes said the tooth's owner "is not interested in that." Get your bids in now, the auction ends July 18.
Maguire Brags About Spider-Man II
Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire promised Thursday that the sequel to that 2002 box office hit will be even better than the original. "I'm really happy with it," Maguire told reporters at a news conference for upcoming film Seabiscuit. It's going to be better than the first one. The story is a lot better." The actor said filming for Spider-Man II was about two-thirds complete but declined give any details about the plot, the AP reports. The first installment was one of 2002's biggest hits, raking in $806 million at global box offices.
Humanitas Awards Prizes to Fisher, Kelley
Screenwriter Antwone Fisher, TV producer David E. Kelley and Whale Rider director Niki Caro all picked up Humanitas prizes Thursday for their contribution to the film and TV industry, The Hollywood Reporter reports. Gordon Rayfield, meanwhile, received the TV award in the 90-minute or longer category for Showtime's Our America, and Larry Wilmore, Teri Schaffer and Steve Tompkins took home the 30-minute television category for the episode of Fox's The Bernie Mac Show titled "Sweet Home Chicago, Part 2." Established in 1974, the award recognizes television and motion picture writers whose work honestly explores the complexities of the human experience and sheds light on the positive values of life.
Glover Returns to Black Panther Film Fest
Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover will return to the third annual International Black Panther Film Festival as its honorary chairman, the AP reports. Glover, 55, who is now on Broadway in a revival of Master Harold ... and the boys, was the festival's honorary chairman in 2001. The festival was founded in 1999 by Black Panther members Kathleen Cleaver and Jamal Joseph and "emphasizes films that convey the spirit of resistance that the youthful Black Panthers and the Young Lords symbolized." The festival runs July 31 through Aug. 4 in Harlem, N.Y.
MTV To Document Newlyweds Lachey and Jessica Simpson
Husband-and-wife pop singers Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson will let MTV cameras record their first year of marriage in the new series Newlyweds, set to bow Aug. 19 at 10:30 p.m. EDT. "Nick is a complete neat freak, he's the woman of the relationship, and I am a total disaster," Simpson told the AP. "He's very good at ironing clothes and doing laundry and cleaning toilets, stuff that he won't let me hire a housekeeper to do." Lachey, the 29-year-old member of the boy band 98 Degrees, and Simpson, 23, married in October 2002."A lot of people are going to be able to see we're just normal people, normal newlyweds living a new kind of life together," Lachey said.
Boondocks Comic Strip Gets TV Deal
Aaron McGruder and partner Reggie Hudlin, the creators of the edgy comic strip The Boondocks seen in 350 newspapers nationwide, will write a pilot script and an animated feature treatment for Sony Pictures TV, Variety reports. The Boondocks revolves around two inner city kids, Huey, named after Huey P. Newton, and Riley, a wanna-be gangsta, who move to the suburbs with their slightly out-of-step grandfather. The TV and feature projects will introduce new characters and settings that haven't been seen in the comic. Sony hopes to shop the project to networks this development season for a 2004-05 season launch.
The heart of Whale Rider centers on an ancient legend of the Maori (indigenous people of New Zealand) who believe their ancestry dates back a thousand years to a warrior named Paikea. Legend has it Paikea escaped death after his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale and since then his male heirs have each assumed the responsibilities as Maori chief. That is until now. Set in the present Whale Rider tells the story of Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) a feisty 12-year-old girl who lives in the fishing village of Whangara off the east coast of New Zealand with her stern but loving grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene) who is a direct descendent of Paikea and her grandmother the kindly Nanny Flowers (Vicky Haughton). Although granddaughter and grandfather have a special bond there is a sadness in Koro. He mourns the loss of his grandson Pai's twin brother who died in childbirth along with Pai's mother. Koro also has a hard time accepting the fact his own son Pai's father Porourangi (Cliff Curtis) has not chosen to follow his destiny but instead has fled Whangara in grief. Though he loves his granddaughter dearly a thousand years of tradition is hard to buck in this unyielding man's eyes; Koro refuses to see Pai as a rightful Maori chief and instead begins to look for an outside heir to the throne by training local village boys. But Pai isn't your ordinary blossoming adolescent girl; she embodies many of the qualities of a great Maori warrior--courage determination wisdom and an irrepressible spirit. Against all odds including the hurtful rejection from her beloved grandfather she finds a way to prove herself as the true heir to her rich ancestry--and your own spirit will soar as she succeeds.
The mostly Maori cast brings truthfulness to their words and actions making the Maori culture come alive. Yet the film solely belongs to Castle-Hughes who is so amazingly poised and beautiful it's hard to believe she's only 11 years old. She simply radiates as Pai showing a depth of emotion rarely seen in a first-time actress especially one so young--she joins a short list that includes Oscar winners Tatum O'Neal (Paper Moon) and Anna Paquin (The Piano). Every scathing word and scornful reproach Pai receives from Koro registers clearly on this little girl's face and it truly almost breaks your heart to watch her. Still it's tremendous strength that shines through in Castle-Hughes' performance. In one particularly heart-wrenching scene Pai gives a speech in the wharenui or the town's sacred meeting house dedicating it to her grandfather who has not shown up. Despite the pain her grandfather has caused her Pai bravely gulps down tears and recounts her family's history. By the end you're in a puddle of your own tears. As the young actress' counterpart the elderly Paratene (Rapa Nui)--one of New Zealand's most prominent actors--also turns in a finely tuned performance as Koro. You really want to hate this man but Paratene makes you understand Koro's grief--and how attached he is to his own deep-seated roots. Koro believes there isn't any other way to be but when the old man finally sees how wrong he has been how Pai is the only true heir to the throne Paratene plays the moment brilliantly as you see his steely resolve dissolve into painful realization.
Having won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival this year Whale Rider has been steadily gaining momentum and has made already made over $2 million playing in only 163 theaters nationwide. Based on a book by Witi Ihimaera who has tribal links to the Whangara community New Zealand writer/director Niki Caro--who is not Maori--had to treat Whale Rider with kid gloves in order to preserve the great Maori traditions while at the same time craft an entertaining film. In adapting the book Caro delicately handles the legend of Paikea but centers the film on the relationship between Pai and Koro giving Whale Rider an emotional core and contemporary feel. Not since the gritty and powerful 1994 film Once Were Warriors which gave audiences their first glimpse inside a modern-day Maori family has a story about the indigenous people of New Zealand been so vividly played out. Caro also had to convince the elders in the Whangara community she was right for the job and that using their town and their sacred Maori grounds was the only way to effectively tell this story. Luckily they agreed. Caro captures the spirit of this rocky and magnificent coastline and its people showing how the rugged surroundings influenced this once-great warrior nation's customs and rituals. In the final scene the men perform a traditional warrior dance while the women chant and the community as a whole heaves off a long Maori boat symbolizing the rebirth of another rangatiratanga--or leader. It's a fitting end to a truly inspiring film.