Dina Korzun possessed enough talent, beauty and onscreen presence that she was bestowed with the highly complementary nickname "the Russian Julia Roberts. " The theater-trained actress lit up the scre...
It was a maverick kind of morning as the nominations for the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards were announced, honoring some of this year’s most affecting, avant garde and anti-studio independent film offerings.
Actress Laura Linney teamed up with Mark Ruffalo--the two co-starred in the acclaimed indie You Can Count On Me in 2000--to announce the nominees at Beverly Hills’ Le Meridian hotel, and despite some challenging tongue-twisting names on the list, they made it through admirably. Linney was rewarded for her trip in from New York with her own nomination as Best Female Lead in The Squid and the Whale.
Ruffalo, meanwhile, seemed to anxiously await his own name being called in the Lead Male and Supporting Male categories, but after he came up empty he suddenly realized: “Oh, I wasn’t in any independent movies this year.”
Several of Linney’s collaborators on The Squid and the Whale, about the painful, messy split of a couple with two sons, fared very well, with nominations going to writer-director Noah Baumbach (Best Director, Best Screenplay), co-stars Jeff Daniels (Best Male Lead) and Jesse Eisenberg (Best Supporting Male) and the film itself was nominated as Best Feature. The film led all nominations with a total of six.
Linney told Hollywood.com that she knew from the moment she finished the screenplay that the project was something extra special: “Noah gave me the script about five years ago, and it took a long time to get it made,” Linney said. “That’s one thing about independent films: you connect yourself to these projects and you don’t know how long it’s going to take to get them made. So when they finally DO get made, and you have to make them under difficult circumstances, always--because the budget is low, you don’t have the time--and then they reach their potential, and then they’re as good as you think they were going to be, as good as your instinct tells you they will be. And then you have a day like today, where there’s nominations and blah, blah, blah. It strengthens your faith in what you do.”
Other high-profile indies scoring multiple noms included stylish, historic look at journalistic principles Good Night and Good Luck (Best Feature, Best Cinematography, George Clooney for Best Director and David Strathairn for Best Male Lead), the gay themed Brokeback Mountain (Best Feature, Ang Lee for Best Director, Michelle Williams for Best Supporting Female and Heath Ledger as Best Lead Male), the insightful biopic Capote (Best Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Male Lead), the Tommy Lee Jones-directed The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Best Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Barry Pepper for Best Supporting Male) and the gender-bending Transamerica (Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay and Felicity Huffman for Best Female Lead)
“It’s really nice for morale,” Linney said of the nominations for all of the indies honored, especially because many of them only get made through perseverance, ingenuity, and commitment--and typically without the big bucks that fuel most studio films.
“Independent film is great fun, but making an independent movie is tough and hard,” she explained. “The hours are rough, the resources are low, you work really, really hard, and so when you hear of a fun, glitzy thing to go to where all of us can celebrate and hoot and holler, it’s really, really nice. It’s also terrific for awareness of these kinds of films, so audiences can be aware of this sort of genre.”
Linney said that those who work in independent film share a bond and welcome any opportunity to meet, bond and share their experiences. “It is a community of people, it really is,” the actress said. “You can look at award shows from a business perspective, but then you can look at them from a community perspective. There is a reason for them other than just acknowledgement of merit for business. There’s also a community of people coming together and being able to run up to the director of the movie that you saw that loved and be able to go ‘Oh my God, you’re amazing.’ And that’s important--and very nice.”
The full list of nominees:
The Squid and the Whale
Good Night, and Good Luck
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Best Male Lead:
Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck
Best Female Lead:
Laura Linney, The Squid and the Whale
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Dina Korzun, Forty Shades of Blue
S. Epatha Merkerson, Lackawanna Blues
Cyndi Williams, Room
Best Supporting Male:
Firdous Bamji, The War Within
Matt Dillon, Crash
Jesse Eisenberg, The Squid and the Whale
Barry Pepper, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Jeffrey Wright, Broken Flowers
Best Supporting Female:
Amy Adams, Junebug
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Happy Endings
Allison Janney, Our Very Own
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
Robin Wright Penn, Nine Lives
Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
Gregg Araki, Mysterious Skin
Rodrigo Garcia, Nine Lives
Best First Feature:
Paul Haggis, Crash
George C. Wolfe, Lackawanna Blues
Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know
Mike Mills, Thumbsucker
Duncan Tucker, Transamerica
John Cassavetes Award (feature made for less than $500,000):
The Puffy Chair
Ayad Akhtar, Joseph Castelo and Tom Glynn, The War Within
Guillermo Arriaga, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
Dan Futterman, Capote
Rodrigo Garcia, Nine Lives
Best First Screenplay:
Kenneth Hanes, Fixing Frank
Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know
Angus MacLachlan, Junebug
Sabina Murray, The Beautiful Country
Duncan Tucker, Transamerica
Robert Elswit, Good Night, and Good Luck
John Foster, Keane
Adam Kimmel, Capote
Chris Menges, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Harris Savides, Last Days
Best Foreign Film:
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Romania)
Duck Season (Mexico)
Paradise Now (Palestine/Netherlands/Germany/France)
Tony Takitani (Japan)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Sir! No Sir!
The Sundance Film Festival newest indie crown was handed to the drama Forty Shades of Blue, winning the festival's Grand Jury prize on Saturday.
The family drama, directed by Ira Sachs, stars Rip Torn as the aging husband, Dina Korzun as his Russian bride and Darren Burrows as the estranged son whose visit hurls their lives into turmoil.
Director Eugene Jarecki 's Why We Fight claimed the festival's grand-jury prize for documentaries. Ironically, his brother Andrew's acclaimed Capturing the Friedmans won the same award in 2003.
Meanwhile, the festival's Audience Award went to hip-hop film Hustle & Flow, a tale about a two-bit pimp and drug dealer (Terrence Dashon Howard) who enlists an odd assortment of allies in a bid to break into the hip-hop music scene. Written and directed by Craig Brewer, the film also became the most successful film in Sundance history when it was sold to bosses at Paramount Pictures and MTV for $9 million earlier in the week.
Noah Baumbach won awards for writing and directing drama The Squid and the Whale, about kids dealing with their parent's divorce.
Here is a partial list of winners:
Grand Jury Prize Dramatic
Forty Shades of Blue -- director: Ira Sachs
Audience Award American Dramatic
Hustle & Flow -- director/screenwirter: Craig Brewer
Grand Jury Prize Documentary
Why We Fight -- director/screenwriter: Eugene Jarecki
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
The Squid and the Whale -- director/screenwriter: Noah Baumbach
Directing Award Dramatic
The Squid and the Whale -- Director/screenwriter: Noah Baumbach
Directing Award Documentary
The Devil and Daniel Johnston -- director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Audience Award World Cinema: Documentary
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallair -- director: Peter Raymont
Audience Award World Cinema: Dramatic
Brothers -- director: Susanne Bier
Audience Award American Documentary
Murderball -- directors: Henry-Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro
Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary
Shape of the Moon -- director: Leonard Retel Helmrich
Jury Prize for World Cinema Dramatic
The Hero -- director: Zeze Gamboa
"Hannibal" continued to do killer box office business, finishing first for the third straight weekend.
The R-rated thriller from MGM and Universal in association with Dino De Laurentiis held on to the top spot in its third week with a still-tasty estimated $15.8 million (-47%) at 3,292 theaters (+54 theaters; $4,800 per theater). Its cume is approximately $128.5 million.
"Hannibal" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
The film was co-financed by MGM, which is releasing it domestically, and Universal, which is distributing it abroad.
"We think it's great, to say the least," MGM worldwide distribution president Larry Gleason said Sunday morning. "The international numbers are really good. It opened in (about) 16 places (including) Latin America, Sweden, the Netherlands -- with the same kind of record-breaking pace everywhere. So we're thinking we will have grossed over $200 million worldwide by Monday morning (Feb. 26)."
Asked where it's heading in domestic theaters, Gleason replied, "I think it's going to be between $175-185 million."
"Hannibal's" 1991 predecessor film "The Silence of the Lambs" grossed $130.7 million in its domestic release via Orion Pictures and did about $142 million in international theaters. Gleason said "Hannibal" will overtake "Silence" on the domestic front Monday or Tuesday.
"When it hits over $130 million, it becomes the second highest-grossing MGM picture ever, only beaten by 'Rain Man' with $172 million," Gleason noted. "Hannibal" appears likely to go on to become the studio's highest-grossing domestic release ever.
Directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis and Ridley Scott, "Hannibal" stars Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore.
"Hannibal's" reign in first place is likely to end next weekend with the arrival of DreamWorks' R-rated drama "The Mexican," directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
Insiders are anticipating that, given its superstar cast, "Mexican" should open in first place to $15-20 million, with the high end of that range thought quite likely. "You've got to figure that 'Hannibal's' going to be down in the $10-11 million range next week and 'Down to Earth' will probably be $7-8 million," a Hollywood handicapper speculated Sunday morning.
Paramount's PG-13-rated comedy "Down to Earth" held on to second place in its second week with a still-lively estimated $11.6 million (-33%) at 2,521 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,601 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.4 million.
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, "Earth" stars Chris Rock.
""I think it's great," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "What it says is that the competition was pretty light this weekend, so it gave it an opportunity to breathe. The playability is good, not great. It plays okay. In fact, there wasn't any competition coming in, only 'Hannibal.'"
Buena Vista/Disney's G-rated animated feature "Recess: School's Out" held on to third place with a still playful estimated $7.3 million (-28%) at 2,630 theaters ($2,757 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23.0 million.
Directed by Chuck Sheetz, "Recess" was produced by Sheetz and Stephen Swofford and executive produced and created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere.
Franchise Pictures' R-rated drama "3,000 Miles To Graceland" kicked off (via its distribution deal with Warner Bros.) in fourth place to a subdued estimated $7.13 million at 2,545 theaters ($2,802 per theater).
Directed by Demian Lichtenstein, "Graceland" stars Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner.
Warner Bros. has no financial investment in "Graceland," which it is releasing for Franchise for a distribution fee.
Sony Pictures Classics' Oscar-contending, PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" held on to fifth place in its 12th week with a still-dazzling estimated $6.28 million (-28%) at 1,749 theaters (+98 theaters; $3,593 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.6 million.
"Tiger" is nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture, best foreign language film and best director.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
"I think it's going to do $100 million or over," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning.
Warner Bros. and Bel-Air Entertainment's PG-13-rated romantic drama "Sweet November" slid two slots to sixth place in its second week with a less sweet estimated $5.3 million (-46%) at 2,268 theaters ($2,337 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.0 million.
Directed by Pat O'Connor, "November" stars Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron.
USA Films' R-rated, Oscar-contending drama "Traffic" fell one peg to seventh place in its ninth week with a still-attractive estimated $5.05 million (-18%) at 1,755 theaters (+13 theaters; $2,877 per theater). Its cume is approximately $86.1 million.
"Traffic" is nominated for five Oscars, including best picture and best director.
USA distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning that "Traffic" is heading for a $100 million domestic theatrical gross by Oscar night. "Particularly with this modest drop this weekend, which was critical because it keeps it up," he pointed out.
"It retards the descent. So we can go into next weekend and get (hit) by "The Mexican" and still live through it. If we'd taken a greater drop, it would have put the $100 million mark beyond the Academy Awards, and then it would have been a question of if we win or if we don't win. So I think we're in good shape to hit ($100 million) relatively soon."
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Miramax's PG-13-rated Oscar contending romantic comedy drama "Chocolat" held on to eighth place as it expanded again in its 11th week with a still-hopeful estimated $4.7 million (-4%) at 1,844 theaters (+363 theaters; $2,548 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.1 million.
"Chocolat" is nominated for five Oscars, including best picture.
"It's another great hold," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "It's still chugging along doing great. I think we'll be close to $60 million by the time the Oscars (are announced)."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
Columbia and Intermedia Films' PG-13-rated romantic comedy "The Wedding Planner" dropped two rungs to ninth place in its fifth week with a quiet estimated $4.0 million (-30%) at 2,064 theaters (-290 theaters; $1,938 per theater). Its cume is approximately $52.2 million.
Directed by Adam Shankman, "Planner" stars Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey.
Rounding out the Top Ten this week was 20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Cast Away," down one notch in its 10th week with a calm estimated $3.36 million (-28%) at 1,996 theaters (-247 theaters; $1,682 per theater). Its cume is approximately $221.2 million.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Cast Away" stars Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt.
OTHER OPENINGS 20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated youth appeal comedy "Monkeybone" opened out of the Top Ten to an unfunny estimated $2.63 million at 1,722 theaters ($1,530 per theater).
Directed by Henry Selick, "Monkeybone" stars Brendan Fraser and Bridget Fonda.
Shooting Gallery's unrated drama "Last Resort" opened to a quiet estimated $0.031 million at 14 theaters ($2,195 per theater).
Written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, it stars Dina Korzun, Paddy Considine and Artiom Strelnikov.
SNEAK P EVIEWS Warner Bros. scheduled Sunday afternoon sneak previews of its PG-rated family appeal comedy "See Spot Run" from Village Roadshow Pictures.
Directed by John Whitesel, "Run" stars David Arquette.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, this weekend saw Sony Pictures Classics go wider with its R-rated drama "Pollock," grossing in its third week an encouraging estimated $0.42 million at 32 theaters (+18 theaters; $13,250 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.85 million.
"Pollock" received Oscar nominations for best actor (Ed Harris) and best supporting actress (Marcia Gay Harden).
Directed by Ed Harris, "Pollock" stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
"It's terrific," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning. "Every market we opened -- Boston, Washington, D.C., Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego -- was phenomenal. The expansions are going well on it and people really like the film."
USA Films' PG-rated drama "In the Mood For Love" added theaters in its fourth week with a still-encouraging estimated $0.3 million at 50 theaters (+26 theaters; $5,940 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.9 million.
Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, "Love" stars Tony Leung and Maggie Chung.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $85.42 million, up about 2.18% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $83.6 million.
This weekend's three-day key film gross should not be compared to the previous weekend this year, a four-day holiday weekend.
Last year, Warner Bros.' second week of "The Whole Nine Yards" was first with $9.56 million at 2,910 theaters ($3,286 per theater); and Paramount's opening week of "Snow Day" was second with $8.34 million at 2,709 theaters ($3,077 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $17.9 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $27.4 million.
Feature film debut, playing Yaya, a deaf and mentally bizarre young woman, in Valeriy Todorovskiy's "Country of the Deaf"
Performed with the Moscow Arts Theatre troupe, playing leading roles in Mrojak's "Love in the Crimea" and Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream"
Played a young Russian woman living in Memphis with a much older rock-n-roll legend (played by Rip Torn) in "Forty Shades of Blue"; earned an independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead
Co-starred in "Cold Souls," a comedy film starring Paul Giamatti and Emily Watson; earned an independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female
Played the leading role in "The Last Resort," directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Nominated for the 2009 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female ("Cold Souls")
Cast in the leading role in a 20-part television series, "Woman's Romance"
Dina Korzun possessed enough talent, beauty and onscreen presence that she was bestowed with the highly complementary nickname "the Russian Julia Roberts. " The theater-trained actress lit up the screen with powerful portrayals of women who struggled to find identity, love and inner peace in a post-modern world. She reached international acclaim with a riveting performance as a Russian immigrant seeking political asylum in England with her 10-year-old son in Pawel Pawlikowski's "Last Resort" (2000), a documentary-style film that was entirely improvised. Korzun was equally poignant as the long-suffering girlfriend of a rock 'n' roll veteran (Rip Torn) who engages in a torrid affair with his son in the 2005 drama, "Forty Shades of Blue." She entered a dreamlike world in "Cold Souls" (2009) as a hired "mule" who traffics the extracted and frozen soul of actor Paul Giamatti to Russia. Korzun sparkled with originality and intellect in all of her award-worthy performances, and her ease of enveloping into character and stealing scenes from veteran actors were but a few of many reasons the actress deserved the critical accolades she had received throughout her career.
She was born Dianna Alexandrovna Korzun on April 13, 1971 in Smolensk, Russia (formerly the USSR). Her mother, Olga, raised Korzun after her father abandoned them when the future star was just one-year-old. They lived in a commune in Smolensk, sharing living quarters and a kitchen with six families. Her mother, who worked tirelessly as an engineer, supported the actress' ambitions and encouraged her to take dance and music classes at a young age. Korzun left home when she was 18 after meeting Moscow theater director Ansar Khalinunin. The couple married and had a son, Timur, within a year. A few months later, Korzun was accepted into the prestigious Moscow Arts Theater where she starred in productions of "Love in the Crimea," "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" and "I Can't Imagine Tomorrow." In 1995, she won her first acting award for Best Actress at the Moscow Theatrical Debuts Festival for her performance in "Love in the Crimea," the same year she graduated from the MAT.
Korzun had a career breakthrough with the feature film, "Strana glukhikh" ("The Country of Deaf People") (1998), in which the actress portrayed a deaf and eclectic cabaret dancer in the Valery Todorovsky-directed film. Korzun received several international honors for her performance in "Strana glukhikh," including a "Nika" - Russia's equivalent of an Academy Award - in 1998. Coming off that success, the actress joined an elite group of Russian entertainers given a national award for a lifetime contribution to Russian culture. Though things were going well on professionally for Korzun, on the homefront, all was not well. Korzun and Khalinunin would divorce in 1992. In 2001, she married Swiss filmmaker Louis Franck, whom she met in Moscow and who ultimately inspired her decision to quit the Moscow Arts Theater. Korzun later compared the MAT system to slavery and later said she had no regrets leaving the company.
In 2000, the actress left Russia to film "Last Resort" with acclaimed director Pawlikowski. Life mirrored art when Korzun, who was cast to play a Russian woman held up by Britain's unjust immigration system, was, herself, interrogated at Heathrow Airport upon her arrival to begin production on the film. The actress even went so far as to consider Pawlikowski had set her up to be harassed in preparation for the movie. Working on "Last Resort" was mentally and emotionally daunting for Korzun, especially with her director's documentary-style filmmaking. She was handed no script and asked to improvise throughout the movie - including speaking both Russian and English dialogue. Korzun tapped into her character's emotional journey - a single mother sent to an immigration detention center after her British fiancé fails to meet her at the airport - and delivered one of the most critically lauded performances of the year. Her work on "Last Resort" won Korzun the Best Actress prize at the British Independent Film Awards, the London Film Festival, and the Bratislava International Film Festival. The movie also established her as one of Russia's biggest stars; her classic beauty and onscreen presence reminded many in international circles of Hollywood's "Pretty Woman" and Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts. When asked whom she most admired in the entertainment industry, however, Korzun often chose the ethereal Cate Blanchett as the actress she wished to model her own career after.
Korzun next worked with American filmmaker Ira Sachs in the 2005 drama, "Forty Shades of Blue," in which she played the young and attractive Russian girlfriend of an aging music producer (Torn) who ends up having an affair with his son (Darren Burrows). To prepare for the role of Laura, Korzun utilized her MAT training by developing her character from the inside out and improvising many of her character's actions, while at the same time, merging her own spiritual development with that of Laura's. The result was another delicately complex performance that led the film to win the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize in 2005 and gave Korzun her first Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead in 2006. The actress also hit the mark on the small screen, starring on the TV series "Zhenskiy roman" (Channel One Russia, 2005) as a St. Petersburg photographer struggling to believe in true love during the 1998 Russian economic crash.
The actress was honored with her second Independent Spirit Award nomination in 2009 for "Cold Souls," a dark, metaphysical comedy where award-winning actor Paul Giamatti played an exaggerated version of himself. Agonized by an upcoming performance of "Uncle Vanya," the actor enlists the help of a high tech laboratory that specializes in deep-freezing human souls. Korzun played Nina, a Russian "soul trafficker" who illicitly swipes Giamatti's soul and takes it to St. Petersburg for a soap opera actress to use. Critics praised Korzun's brilliant portrayal of the film's determined and perplexed soul thief. That same year, Korzun appeared in a television miniseries adaptation of "Bratya Karamazovy" ("The Brothers Karamazov") for Central Partnership, the French thriller "L'affaire Farewell," and the crime drama "Mediator" with Scottish actor Ewen Bremner.
Married in Belgrade in 2001
Met when she was 18 years old
Born in 1990; father, Ansar Xalilunin
Moscow Art Theatre School
She is fluent in Russian, her native language, and English, which she has studied for several years.