Kenneth Branagh is to make his New York stage debut as Shakespeare's tragic king Macbeth. The thespian/director will hit the stage with fellow Brit Alex Kingston when the production he launched in a former church at the Manchester International Festival earlier this summer (13) opens in the Big Apple next June (14).
New York's new Macbeth will be staged in the huge Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory, and Branagh admits he cannot wait to fill the space with the play.
He says, "Utilising the possibilities of the vast open space is a truly exciting prospect. I am delighted that we have the chance to recreate Macbeth in this epic setting."
Branagh will also co-direct the production.
Macbeth, dubbed the Scottish Play by theatre purists, is currently enjoying a rebirth on the New York stage - Alan Cumming received rave reviews in his one-man version of the tragedy on Broadway in the spring, and Ethan Hawke will tackle the title role in another play at the Lincoln Center Theater later this year (13).
The Weinstein Company
All in all, playing a U.S. president in a movie is a far better deal than actually being one. The stress is minimal, the fandom is more likely, and the pay is way better. As such, The Butler has got to be one of the best gigs Hollywood has offered in years: the Lee Daniels drama elects the likes of Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack, and Alan Rickman to play some of America's most formidable 20th century leaders, adding to the long list of men who have portrayed our countries various former Commanders-in-Chief.
In timing with The Butler, we're taking another look at that list in the form of our Presidential Placemat: a commemoration of the great performers who have lead the nation on the big and small screens. Click below for a larger image that celebrates our country's wonderful history... or at least, the wonderful history of movies like Dick and shows like Futurama.
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British actor James Buckley failed to land a role in Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge movie after falling apart with nerves during his audition. The Inbetweeners star was invited to read for a part in the comedy character's big screen debut, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which opened at the top of the U.K. box office last weekend (09-11Aug13).
However, the read-through proved too much for Buckley, who is a huge fan of Coogan's work.
Telling fans of his embarrassing time in front of the film's producers, the star writes in a post on Twitter.com, "I read for a part in Alpha Papa. Embarrassingly I'm such a Coogan geek I was literally starstruck of the script (sic). Was V (very) nervous, I wasn't cast."
The film co-stars Sean Pertwee and Colm Meaney.
The big screen reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been delayed by several months. Director Jonathan Liebesman's new vision of the crime-fighting reptile gang was set to hit cinemas in June, 2014 but has now been pushed back until August (14).
The decision comes just weeks after the film's star Megan Fox - who plays journalist April O'Neil - announced she is pregnant with her second child.
The movie also stars Will Arnett, Whoopi Goldberg and Alan Ritchson.
Steve Coogan's comic creation Alan Partridge has been propelled to movie star status by securing the top spot at the U.K. box office chart in his first ever big screen outing. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which features the actor as a local radio/TV personality, shot to the number one spot after taking in $3.3 million (£2.2 million) in its opening weekend (09-11Aug13).
Partridge saw off competition from Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which fell just short of the comedy's $3.3 million (£2.2 million) earnings, ahead of Adam Sandler's Grown Ups 2, which took $3.2 million (£2.1 million).
The top five is rounded out by horror The Conjuring with $2.4 million (£1.6 million) and The Lone Ranger, which limped into the chart in fifth place with disappointing takings of $2 million (£1.3 million).
Johnny Depp's Western previously flopped in North America and the actor blamed bad reviews for discouraging cinema-goers.
On the surface, framing the tumultuous civil rights era around the personal drama of a black butler working inside the White House might seem hokey. Folding history lessons in an entertaining package has always proven a difficult balancing act. But Lee Daniels' The Butler stands as a testament to reserved directing, a focused script and strong character-acting for the sake of the larger picture outside the movie house.
The heart and soul of the piece resides firmly in the capable hands of Forest Whitaker who, as titular character Cecil Gaines, balances pathos, pride, and strength with a human dash of regret. The other characters all seem to pass through his life but leave bold marks on him and the film's drama. Oprah Winfrey as Ms. Gloria Gaines, Terrence Howard as the sleazy philandering neighbor who takes advantage of the lonely Gloria, and Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz as fellow White House help stand out the strongest for their raw abilities to inhabit their roles.
Though you would expect such actors to hold their own, the real delight of the Butler comes from the fact that there are no shortcomings in the film's supporting roles. The dynamic between the brothers of Cecil and Gloria offers a delightful comic relief, which is peppered amongst the drama just enough to keep the struggles of those times bearable. Elijah Kelley delights as the younger, naïve, parent-pleasing Charlie, and David Oyelowo embodies ultra-righteousness as Louis, jumping at every opportunity of civil disobedience to fight for his people's human rights (from protesting Jim Crow laws in the South to joining the Black Panther party). Meanwhile, the presidents — despite being played by high profile actors like Robin Williams (Eisenhower), John Cusack (Nixon), Liev Schreiber (LBJ), Alan Rickman (Reagan), and an unforgettable Jane Fonda as Nancy — never hang around the drama long enough to distract from its main concern of a black man struggling with apathy as the times change around him.
No character ever overshadows Cecil, who encapsulates an array of issues, from escaping an oppressive life on a cotton farm as a child to arriving at a revelation stemming from a simple gesture by taking a seat at a fancy dinner in his twilight years. It's this quiet struggle of a man trying to get by in a rough and tumble world that remains the film's main concern. The 52-year-old Whitaker does a noble job as he ages from a young man to a 90-year-old.
Compared to Daniels' powerful breakout Precious (2009) and the horrible, dull mess of the Paperboy (2012), the film features a reserved sensibility thanks to the director's decision to turn down the histrionics for a change. Throughout his short filmmaking career, Daniels has always shown a keen control over camera placement to keep a film visually dynamic, despite some dramatic failings. The Butler is no exception, as Daniels' artistry appears in the film's first frame. He still, however, leans on slow motion during a few scenes for overkill emphasis. He doesn't need that. His greatest accomplishment in The Butler lies in how he keeps the other characters in check against the quiet but important struggles of Cecil. Despite the film's many stars, no one is distracted as Daniels reveals a strong sense of mise-en-scène when burying the cast's celebrity. Daniels also continues to do raw well with make-up and wardrobe dialed down to keep it real and earthy.
The script deserves singling out as the glue that makes The Butler work as neatly as it does. Written by Danny Strong, the scribe behind another brisk political drama, the acclaimed McCain-Palin exposé Game Change on HBO, it makes for an engaging, well-paced affair despite running over two hours long. Strong based his script on a Washington Post article about a black man who served as a butler to eight presidents between the '50s and '80s. In order to emphasize the history and the tension of the civil rights movement on this family who happened to have close ties to the White House, Strong took liberties with the story. He created composite characters based on other memoirs with intimate access to the White House. It's a matter of convenience to place some of these characters at three or four too many important historical moments that may seem contrived to some. However, I'd forgive the film for teetering close to Forrest Gump cartoonery for the sake of its emphasis on moments in history that can too easily be forgotten as generations pass.
After the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, The Butler serves as an important role in reminding us that equality and malaise between ethnic groups and classes still festers in this era, even after the election of the first black president. We need a movie that looks back at history and offers a reminder about the long way America has come and the long way it still has to go. That The Butler can do it while remaining entertaining is a bonus many will appreciate.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos| Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
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British model/actress Gabriella Wilde is expecting a baby with her rocker fiance. The 24 year old, who appears in the new remake of horror classic Carrie, will give birth to her first child early next year (14).
She became engaged to her longterm boyfriend Alan Pownall, lead singer of rising rock group Pale, several months ago, and they have decided to push back their wedding plans until after they become parents, according to Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper.
A spokeswoman for Wilde has confirmed the pregnancy news to the publication.
British actor Alan Davies took a massive pay cut to keep his TV drama Jonathan Creek on air amid crippling budget reductions. The mystery show, which originally ran between 1997 and 2004, returned to the small screen in 2009 after a five-year absence, but Davies fears it could go off air again if the cuts continue.
The actor reveals he has given up a portion of his pay, and production staff are constantly thinking up new ways to slash filming costs, including shooting in the dark to disguise the lack of lavish set designs.
He tells Britain's The Sun, "The budgets on Creek are really squeezed. One of the films we made recently was set in a country house and (writer/creator) David Renwick had to write into the script that the house had been mothballed while a family was away overseas. That meant the design department didn't have to decorate any rooms. We could put sheets on furniture.
"Or we do scenes at night so it's in the dark and the viewer can't see we haven't had the money to dress it (the set)."
He goes on to warn TV companies in Britain need to increase investment in drama or else cheap reality shows will take over the schedule.
Davies adds, "If you keep slashing budgets, it makes it hard to produce a quality drama... Everyone is tightening their belts and there are cheaper things to put on screen... You don't always just want the easy moving wallpaper of reality shows."
Stars including Lily Allen, Alan Cumming and Sophia Bush have thrown their support behind British actor Stephen Fry as he campaigns to have the upcoming Winter Olympics moved from Russia over gay rights issues. Fry has written an open letter to Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urging them to move the 2014 games in Sochi or risk a boycott.
The actor is adamant the country's treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community should not go unnoticed, and a number of other stars have thrown their support behind the campaign.
British singer Allen has shared a link to a petition against the Russian Olympics with fans on her Twitter.com page, writing, "Do you want an anti-gay Olympics? Tell the IOC to stop Russia's LGBT crackdown," while singer/songwriter Sia Furler followed suit, adding, "Please please please take 20 seconds to sign this petition condemning Russia's anti-gay laws. Queers are awesome."
Scottish actor Cumming shared a link to Fry's letter and urged fans to pass it on, writing, "Read this by Stephen Fry and RT (re-tweet) it to everyone you can. People need to know what is happening in Russia."
Actresses Bush and Mia Farrow have also spoken out in a series of posts on Twitter, while Star Trek legend George Takei insisted Olympic bosses should consider moving the Games to Vancouver in Canada.
In a post on his blog, he writes, "There have been urgent calls for boycotts of the Olympics and of Russian exports like vodka. These are understandable... But a boycott of the games would punish athletes who have trained for years to participate... There is a petition gathering strength demanding the Olympics be relocated to Vancouver, which played host in 2010. All of the facilities are still in good condition, so this would likely be the easiest of possible alternatives... Please take a few moments to sign the petition... With enough support, maybe the IOC and the sponsors will realise that this is a disaster in the making, and the best course is to move immediately and decisively to relocate the Winter Games of 2014."
It is currently illegal to promote homosexuality in Russia, and Foreign Ministry's rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov says of the growing international furore, "The criticism of our law banning homosexual propaganda... is absolutely invalid and groundless. It is an attempt to accuse us of violating international obligations that do not exist."
Director Lee Daniels set his sights sky-high when casting new movie The Butler as he wanted U.S. President Barack Obama in a starring role. The historical drama tells the story of real life White House butler Eugene Allen, re-named Cecil Gaines in the movie, who served under eight consecutive U.S. Presidents including Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
The film boasts an impressive cast list including Forest Whitaker as Gaines, Alan Rickman as Reagan and John Cusack as Nixon, and Daniels reveals he wanted to cast Obama as himself.
He tells website Thegrio.com, "(I wanted) Obama.... (But) I was too afraid to ask him. (Even if I had) I think that he was in the middle of something called the election. It would have been weird if I had somebody playing Obama. I couldn't have anybody playing Obama but Obama."
The role of Obama eventually went to Orlando Eric Street.