Although he wanted to pursue a career in show business, Shekhar Kapur studied business in order to please his parents. Emigrating to Great Britain, he spent several years working as an accountant and...
Welcome to the British Empire at the turn of the century. Meet a group of jolly lads who are about to be shipped off to the Sudan to fight for queen and country. Say hello to Lieutenant Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger). He's a chicken--in the cowardly sense not the egg-laying feathered sense--and when he resigns his commission with the British army on the eve of his regiment's departure for the Sudan his friends and fiancée give him four white feathers to tell him they know he's a coward. Thirty minutes into the film we don't know exactly why Harry is afraid to go to war or why the British are in the Sudan in the first place. Two long hours later we remain in the dark. We have however seen Harry trot off to the Sudan to overcome the shame of his cowardice pose as an Arab and try to protect the members of his former regiment in secret. We've seen Harry protect an enslaved native princess from the overseer's whip. We've seen him save lives in the film's big battle scene where the British greatly outnumbered fight valiantly and with requisite stiff upper lip against the "Mohammedan fanatics" who set upon them in true Braveheart fashion. Since all these events happened way back then "over there " apparently we don't need any more historical context than that and if we do need it we sure don't get it.
The sweeping saga of The Four Feathers which has been remade no less than five times theatrically (in 1915 1921 1929 1939 and 2002) and at least once for TV (1977) makes huge demands on the actors: Ledger must go from a polished drawing-room charmer to a scruffy desert nomad and back again while Wes Bentley who plays Jack Durrance Harry's best friend and constant champion (no feathers from him) must start as a heroic young officer and evolve into a wounded veteran of foreign wars. It requires a versatility that both young actors strive to fulfill but unfortunately they're still a little too wet behind the ears to pull it off. Ledger comes closest but his drawing room persona lacks charisma and his love scenes with Hudson are completely ridiculous. Once the action moves to the desert though it's clear why Ledger is on the brink of superstardom. He really sinks his pearly whites into the character even executing a pretty amazing jump onto a fast moving horse (either that or the CGI is much better than average). Bentley on the other hand carries the film's early scenes but a lackluster finish turns the strong character he'd begun to build into a wispy cliché. The most effective performance comes from the oft unsung Michael Sheen (Othello Wilde). As the feather-giving soldier Trench Sheen shows more subtle skill than the rest of the cast as he goes from a jolly lad to a broken prisoner of war. Djimon Hounsou is also good as Abou Fatma a former slave who befriends Harry in the desert and helps him protect his friends. Kate Hudson is hardly worth mentioning as Harry's love interest Ethne; she's barely there in this picture.
Four Feathers Four Feathers how do I hate thy plot holes? Let me count the ways. First of all there's the gaping maw in the movie's entire premise--Harry's cowardice goes completely unexplained from start to finish. In fact when Abou asks him why he resigned his commission (Abou though born and raised in the Sudan was a scout for a British general and therefore conveniently speaks English) Harry responds "I just--there are many reason why. Mostly I was afraid." We know that mate. Then there's that pesky fourth feather. The first three come in a nice little box nestled in with three calling cards belonging to Harry's fellow soldiers. The next time we see the feathers in Harry's hand though there are four of them. We find out about 45 minutes later that the final feather came from Ethne. Was a potentially stirring scene lost on the cutting room floor? We may never know. Plot holes aside there are some beautiful painterly shots that show director Shekhar Kapur's promise but there are some appallingly amateurish moments too especially the extreme close-ups of Ledger for no apparent reason and a scene that has Hudson speaking key lines while she's out of focus and in the background of the shot.
These days, it seems that as one film festival comes to a close, another one gets underway. On the heels of the Toronto and Venice film festivals comes the 46th annual London Film Festival, which runs Nov. 6 through Nov. 21. This festival, however, is different because it does not award prizes. Executive director Adrian Wootton told The Associated Press that the festival's noncompetitive nature is intentional and here to stay. "The world is drowning in prizes that don't mean anything," he said. The festival generally features more films than most and this year is no exception. A total of 179 films are expected to be shown from more than 48 countries. American selections include Shekhar Kapur's The Four Feathers, Curtis Hanson's 8 Mile and Denzel Washington's directorial debut The Antwone Fisher Story.
Rosie O'Donnell has announced she is breaking all ties with the publishers of Rosie magazine because the publication no longer represented her vision and ideas. Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, O'Donnell said she was promised editorial freedom from publisher Gruner + Jahr USA when the publication launched 18 months ago, but that the company had moved to take that control away in the past two months. Without O'Donnell's influence, J+G say the publication will just be another woman's magazine and are considering legal and publishing options, Reuters reports.
A judge has ordered Sean "P. Diddy" Combs to pay $2.45 million to a man who claims he was beaten by bodyguards the rap mogul hired to protect singer Mary J. Blige in 1995, the AP reports. According to the suit, Cederick Bobby Lemon claims he suffered a broken right ankle and was punched and kicked in the back by guards trying to clear the area for Blige to leave following a concert in North Carolina. The judge ordered the payment on Sept. 10 because Combs did not answer the allegations within the 30-day time limit, but a spokeswoman for the rapper said the lawsuit had no merit and steps would be taken to have it dismissed.
Director Steven Soderbergh is planning a sequel to Ocean's Eleven with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon in talks to reprise their roles. "I know we can make a better film. I know we'll shoot in Europe and that all the actors are in on it," Soderbergh was quoted as saying on Ananova.com. If the cast agrees, filming will reportedly begin in 2004.
A week after Kelly Osbourne dropped out of Disney's remake of the 1976 comedy Freaky Friday, which starred Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, Annette Bening has now followed suit. The reason for Bening's departure remain unclear, but Variety reports sources indicate the project is still going forward. The film, directed by Mark S. Waters, is about a teen who constantly quarrels with her mother. The two suddenly exchange bodies when they their reveal desires to escape their situations.
Paramount Pictures is hoping to launch a film series based on the real-life character and adventures of Robert L. Ripley, founder of Ripley's Believe It or Not!, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Ripley first created the Believe It or Not cartoon in 1918 for The New York Globe, where he worked as a sports cartoonist. The strip quickly grew into other categories and Ripley eventually embarked on a worldwide search for the unusual. The feature films would revolve around his encounter with the bizarre and strange.
Shock rocker Marilyn Manson is planning his first gallery exhibition at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions gallery beginning Friday, the AP reports. The exhibit is titled "The Golden Age of Grotesque," the same name of his upcoming album. All of the 50 pieces, described as watercolors and mixed-media as "grotesque images" painted with "pretty colors," will be for sale.
The two daughters of singer James Brown have filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Godfather of Soul, seeking back royalties and damages for 25 songs they say they co-wrote, the AP reports. Deana Brown Thomas and Dr. Yamma Brown Lumar say their father withheld royalties because of a family grudge. According to the suit, Brown "vowed to the media that his daughters will never get another dime form him" after Thomas had him committed to a psychiatric hospital to be treated for addiction to painkillers. Brown's daughters were children when the songs were written--3 and 6 when "Get Up Offa that Thing" was a hit in 1976.
Phoolan Devi, the subject of director Shekhar Kapur's critically acclaimed 1994 film Bandit Queen, was assassinated outside her Delhi home Wednesday. Devi, a kind of female Robin Hood, had served time in prison for robbery from 1983 to 1994 and eventually became a member of the Indian parliament. Police said that she had just arrived home from parliament when three masked men jumped out of a car and began firing. In an interview with the London Times, Kapur, who won India's Filmfare award for best director in 1995 for Bandit Queen (and went on to direct 1998's Elizabeth), commented: "Just when it seemed she was finally getting her life together -- although no one who has been through the kind of things she has lived through can ever have a normal life -- it is sad that somebody has come and taken it away."
Rumors no more ... "The Mask of Zorro" star Antonio Banderas is definitely the odds-on finalist to don the disguise in a new film version of "The Phantom of the Opera" ... and, yes, Mike Myers will earn his first $20 million paycheck for Universal/Imagine's "Sprocket," based on the German movie critic and talk-show host character Dieter from the old "Saturday Night Live" sketches.
Both names had been attached to the projects, but their involvement is now close to a done deal. Reuters reports that "Phantom" director Shekhar Kapur is currently on the prowl to find a "stunning girl" to play opposite Banderas. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the "Sprockets" script by Myers and Michael McCullers begins shooting this summer.
No start date has been set for "Phantom," and a director has yet to be named for "Sprockets." Imagine's Brian Grazer will produce the latter, which is set for release in early 2001.
THE INCREDIBLE 'SHRINKING' EDDIE: "Dr. Doolittle." "The Nutty Professor." And now "The Incredible Shrinking Man." Eddie Murphy is quickly becoming Hollywood's go-to guy when it comes to remaking family-friendly fare. (And to think he shot to fame as a potty mouth in "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop")
Universal/Imagine's liked his '90s makeover in "Life," "Bowfinger" and the upcoming sequel "Nutty 2: The Klumps." They'll hope to continue the streak with the new version of "Shrinking." Murphy's committed to the project, in which he'll play a guy who shrinks after being exposed to a weird mist.
The project's set to begin after the comedian finishes Castle Rock's "Pluto Nash," which starts shooting next month.
BLANCHETT 'LIVES' FOR ACTION-THRILLER: Maybe it just wasn't the right FBI agent role (or maybe it was the whole cannibal thing) ... whatever the reasons, actress Cate Blanchett is in negotiations to play a character that sounds awfully familiar. In director Tony Scott's "Taking Lives," set to start shooting this summer, she's a female FBI profiler tracking down a serial killer who assumes the identities of his victims.
That assignment comes after the Oscar nominee passed on picking up where Jodie Foster left off in the upcoming "Hannibal," the sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs."
Blanchett's not the only A-lister who expressed interest in the "Lives" script, written by Jon Bokenkamp and based on a book by Brit Michael Pye. Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow is also a potential lead.
Peanut butter and jelly aren't the only things that go together for Edward Burns. The actor-writer-director can't resist casting his latest ingenues in his latest projects.
First there was Maxine Bahns in "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One." Then there was the interlude with Jim Carrey's ex, Lauren Holly, in "No Looking Back." Up next: current galpal Heather Graham in his new romantic comedy "Sidewalks of New York."
The indie project, set in New York (obviously), interweaves several modern love stories. Co-stars include actor-filmmaker Stanley Tucci, "Light It Up's" Rosario Dawson and "Girl, Interrupted's" Brittany Murphy. In his standard do-it-all fashion, Burns serves as the director, writer and producer.
Daily Variety reports that shooting will begin Wednesday in Gotham.
Burns, 32, and Graham, 30, began dating in 1998.
THE CONTENDERS: "The Insider's" Michael Mann may have the skinny on the director's chair for the planned big-screen Muhammad Ali biopic.
Columbia Pictures and producer Jon Peters have met with several A-listers to direct the Will Smith-toplined project. Variety says the contenders are Mann, Spike Lee and Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential").
A final decision is expected soon. The studio has been looking for a candidate since "Wild Wild West" director Barry Sonnenfeld exited last fall. The story follows the pre-Ali days when the fighter was simply an up-and-coming buck named Cassius Clay.
Mann's name comes into play just days after he earned three Oscar nominations for directing, writing and producing "The Insider." Also on Mann's list of possible projects are a few other box-office heavyweights. He's met with Brad Pitt about "Shooter," a story that follows a sniper lured out of retirement and then betrayed; and he's developing a Howard Hughes biopic with Leonardo DiCaprio. (Leo's also attached to Mann's cops-and-corruption tale "The Inside Man.") Plus, there's an epic Mann's producing with Tom Hanks about Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great -- two dead Roman leader guys.
FLOATING ON 'FEATHERS': New sensation Jude Law won't be resting on that Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for long. Variety says "The Talented Mr. Ripley" co-star has committed to the lead role in "Four Feathers," a project that begins shooting in July.
"Elizabeth's" Shekhar Kapur will be at the helm for the Paramount/Miramax co-production. The movie's a remake of the Zoltan Korda tale about a British officer who resigns before battle and is given four white feathers by his fiancŽe and friends to remind him of his cowardice.
Law's also looking to position himself as "The Good Shepherd" in an MGM pic to be directed by Robert De Niro. The actor recently read for the Erich Roth script, about a CIA agent recruited during the agency's early World War II-era days. Over time, the responsibility of being a secret agent begins to take its toll on his family life.
"Shepherd" would preoccupy the actor's time come early 2001.
Reteamed with Blanchett to direct "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," a sequel to his award winning feature "Elizabeth"
Directed the Academy Award-winning period film "Elizabeth," starring Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes
Earned international success with the controversial film "Bandit Queen," originally made for British TV
Emmigrated to London; worked as an accountant and later a management consultant
Appeared as leading actor in three unsuccessful features
Returned to India at age 25 to pursue show business career (date approximate)
Helmed the remake of "Four Feathers" starring Heath Ledger, and Kate Hudson
Had box-office success with the children's fantasy "Mr. India"
Established an Indian talkies film company with Ram Gopal Verma and Mani Ratnam
Formed Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation with Sir Richard Branson, author Deepak Chopra and entrepreneurs Sharad Devarajan, Suresh Seetharaman and Gotham Chopra
Executive produced the Bollywood-themed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Bombay Dreams" in London's West End
Won praise for his directorial debut "Masoom/Innocent"
Acted in the Bollywood film, "Drishti"
Although he wanted to pursue a career in show business, Shekhar Kapur studied business in order to please his parents. Emigrating to Great Britain, he spent several years working as an accountant and management consultant before he capitulated and answered the siren call of 'Bollywood'. Returning to Bombay, the darkly handsome. bearded Kapur embarked on a career as a print model and performer. While he found some success on the small screen, he came across as stiff, almost wooden in his film appearances. Abandoning acting, Kapur moved to the director's chair with the coming-of-age tale "Masoom/Innocent" (1983). Ironically, the man who was so ill-at-ease before the camera has proven to be an elegant and capable filmmaker, often eliciting strong and deeply felt performances from his casts.<p>Kapur spent the better part of the 1980s and early 90s churning out Spielbergian family films like "Mr. India" (1987). He briefly ventured before the camera again to act in "Drishti" in 1990 but he found a much more comfortable role as host of the British TV series "On the Other Hand" (Channel 4), which examined issues pertinent to the immigrant communities of the United Kingdom.<p>Kapur achieved international attention and courted controversy with his breakthrough feature "Bandit Queen" (1994). Based on the true story of Phoolan Devi, a female brigand who spent five years on the run from authorities and became a popular folk hero with lower-caste Indians. Devi herself was not fully appreciative of the director's take on her life and publicly disavowed the completed picture, even attempting to block its theatrical release. "Bandit Queen" was also assailed by the Indian government which objected to the frank depiction of sex and "abusive language" as well as its nudity. According to an interview with VARIETY (March 31, 1996), Kapur, a soft-spoken Hindu, had not even intended the film to be released in his homeland. As the financing came from Britain's Channel 4, the director saw the project as his opportunity to reach a wider, possibly worldwide audience. When "Bandit Queen" did play in theaters in India, it was a commercial success (over 12 million tickets sold in seven weeks) and was poised to become one of the top money-makers in Indian cinema history before the courts intervened and a judge issued an order for the film to be pulled from theaters. The courts also blocked this well-crafted, disturbing film from representing India in the annual Oscar derby as the country's entry for the Best Foreign-Language Film.<p>Although he has been shepherding a dream project (a biographical feature based on the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela) for several years, Kapur detoured to direct another historical feature about a strong female. When he was first announced as helmer of a biopic of Queen Elizabeth I, eyebrows were raised. Producers Alison Owen, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan opted to go with a non-English person so as to bring a fresh perspective to history. The highly visual Kapur admittedly knew little about the Tudor monarch but agreed to the film and fashioned a energetic and imaginative portrait of "Elizabeth" (1998). Once again, the director was able to educe fine characterizations from high-caliber actors like Cate Blanchett (in the title role), Geoffrey Rush (as master spy Sir Francis Walsingham) and Christopher Eccleston (as the Duke of Norfolk). While clearly a period piece (with lush costumes and finely recreated decor), "Elizabeth" played like a contemporary mystery. Despite some historical inaccuracies, it announced the arrival of a major filmmaker and made Kapur the first 'Bollywood' director to cross over to Hollywood.
popular performer sometimes referred to as "India's Madonna"; married in 1996; divorced in 2007
Kapur's film "Bandit Queen" was disowned by its subject Phoolan Devi and became the subject of several court battles; Devi attempted to block its release in India while others filed suit claiming the film was "indecent" as it contained nudity and "abusive language"; Indian courts also blocked the film from being the country's official selection for the 1995 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film