As Kathryn Bigelow rakes in accolades for her Oscar-bait film, Zero Dark Thirty another woman director is making headlines for taking on the subject of war on film: Hollywood.com has learned Angelina Jolie is in talks to direct Unbroken for Universal.
The film is based off a 2010 bestselling novel of the same name and is set during World War II. It follows Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini, who after a plane crash survived in a life raft with two other survivors for 47 days, was captured by the Japanese military, and became a prisoner of war. The book, which was the winner of the Los Angeles Book of the Year Award for Nonfiction, was a best seller for more than 108 consecutive weeks, no doubt thanks to the unbelievable nature of the true story.
With such a traumatic tale in her hands, and after taking on the dark love story set during the Bosnian War with In the Land of Blood and Honey in 2011, could Jolie be making moves to align herself with the Hurt Locker director? Bigelow is making strides for the community of criminally underrepresented female directors in Hollywood with the critical success of Zero Dark Thirty (and all before its Dec. 19 release), so it’s hard not to connect Jolie’s second turn as a director of a war-themed story to the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s works. Of course, while both directors have an affinity for bringing trying tales to the big screen, Jolie hasn’t garnered nearly the same level of respect as Bigelow, who’s been directing full-length features since 1982 while Jolie’s career behind the camera only stretches back to 2011.
Still, while In the Land of Blood and Honey debuted to mixed reviews, Jolie’s popularity certainly aids the charge of bringing equality to directing big budget films by providing greater visibility while Bigelow’s work brings the requisite dose of credibility.
In a statement announcing Jolie’s potential involvement in the film, Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson and Co-Chairman Donna Langley said, “In her life and in her work, Angelina has embraced stories and causes involving great struggle and triumph over tremendous odds and the basic human condition … She has a real ability to illustrate the strength in human spirit which will be essential in telling Lou’s story of survival and great heroism.”
In response to the opportunity, Jolie also offered comment. “I read [author] Laura Hillenbrand’s brilliant book, and I was so moved by Louie Zamperini’s heroic story, I immediately began to fight for the opportunity to make this film,” she says. “Louie is a true hero and a man of immense humanity, faith and courage. I am deeply honored to have the chance to tell his inspiring story.”
It’s highly unlikely that with just two films under her belt, Jolie can attain Bigelow status, but her entrance into the fold of successful, well-known women directors whose specialty isn’t the Rom-Com or supernatural teen romance certainly can’t hurt.
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[Photo Credit: Film District]
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With Hunger Games fever still burning hot in American theaters, box office expectations for American Reunion were reserved. The weekend's final totals hit as predicted: the fourth American Pie movie took home $20 million range — a modest sum, but is that a success for the franchise?
American Reunion acts as a sweet, sentimental finale to the Pie series, but it also leaves its end open enough for possible revisits to the film's lovable gang of gents. A sequel would be a no brainer if the demand was there. But comparatively, American Reunion flew way under previous installments' box office grosses. In 2001, American Pie 2 blew the first film's indie origins out of the water with an opening weekend of $45.1 million. In 2003, American Wedding took a minor dip, managing $33.4 million. In nearly the same amount of theaters, Reunion dipped another $10 million — even when ticket prices are at the highest they've ever been. The film's unknown budget is a factor in sequel talk, but with a swell of summer blockbusters on the way, American Pie's future is up in the air.
In the eight year gap between Wedding and Reunion, the American Pie brand mutated into a direct-to-DVD factory, spinning off four sex-filled misadventures set in the "world of Pie. Instead of convincing Universal Studios head honchos that the small screen was the new home for Pie, the straight-to-video success of the series actually prompted the new movie. Speaking to the LA Times, Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson explained: “When the franchise was in its direct-to-DVD run, we learned that the brand had really established itself, not just with the original viewers but with young people who’d never seen the films in a movie theater." Reasonable thinking, but American Reunion doesn't have teenagers barreling through a sex romp. Instead, it's about growing up, maturing and leaving the sex-crazed antics behind. Not exactly in tune with American Pie: The Naked Mile.
Unlike other wide-gapped reunion sequels (think Fast & Furious), critics weren't too hot on the latest installment (although our own review gives credit to the lead actors for bringing the funny), and its April release put it against big performers (Hunger Games) and in the wake of a different brand of comedy (21 Jump Street), that's more familiar in the Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen/Jonah Hill dominated comedy landscape. Would Pie have performed better later in the year? The previous films did, but the timing issue may be less "which weekend" than "could it ever work in 2012?"
There is a shining light for an American Reunion: the cast. Although wrangling the original ensemble was something of an accomplishment when the movie was first announced in early 2011, most of the players' careers haven't hit the A-List since their last Pie in 2003. And the future is equally murky: Alyson Hannigan will continue to have her CBS mainstay How I Met Your Mother, Jason Biggs has a reoccurring role on Good Wife and a few supporting parts in big screen ventures, and Seann William Scott is in a career revival after impressive turns in both Cop Out and Goon. But even for the main trio, and especially for the rest of the gang, American Pie is where the spotlight shines the brightest. The allure could be there for a sequel.
Relying on the fond remembrance of the American Pie of yesteryears may have been Reunion's biggest issue. Nostalgia is one thing, but a tired formula is another. American Pie needs to feel fresh and there's room for the raunchy escapade, even in today's market (the direct-to-DVD movies do prove that). For the right price tag and the right slate of actors (which may not even be the original cast), Universal could take another stab at reviving the brand. Even if the numbers this time around don't add up.
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Universal is teaming with Syfy in a new film production venture, Syfy Films. The Wall Street Journal reports the aim is to make one or two movies a year across the science-fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Universal will distribute the pictures beginning in 2012. Budgets will range from $5 million-$25 million, with District 9 serving as the model for the new company.
Studio co-chair, Donna Langley, and Mark Stern, co-head of content for Universal Cable Productions, will oversee the new operation which will be based on the lot. An executive will be named to run the company and spearhead development. The person, says Deadline, will find projects and leverage Syfy's creative relationships developed through the TV network.
Syfy president Dave Howe told the WSJ, "We know that the sci-fi genre is huge when it comes to the Hollywood box office, and we believe there is a real gap in the market when it comes to mid-range budget movies."
"Universal and Syfy have discussed this idea casually over the years but it never quite came to pass," Universal chair Adam Fogelson told the paper. "That seemed ridiculous because there are so many films released every year about the sorts of subjects that Syfy makes their entire business out of."
Howe, Stern, Fogelson and Langley will announce the new venture today.
Source: Deadline, Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Wiretap
The much-maligned board game adaptation Battleship may be facing some serious budgetary woes. Peter Berg’s alien invasion-themed adaptation is “raising eyebrows” among industry insiders, according to the Hollywood Reporter, as the film approaches its production start date at the end of the month.
The aquatic thriller is considered an exceptional gamble for Universal Studios, for a number of reasons, but it’s the budget that seems to be causing most of the concern. The film’s reported $200 million price tag isn’t unheard of, or unprecedented, but water-heavy pictures are infamous for going over budget (Waterworld, for instance). It’s also expensive for a film with no name stars attached; stars Alexander Skarsgard, Taylor Kitsch, and recent addition Hamish Linklater are known in the world of TV, but have never had to lead a big-budget blockbuster. The project’s largest attraction is probably pop music star Rihanna, whose acting experience consists of dancing in front of a burning house in Eminem’s latest video.
But according to Universal, Battleship isn’t dead in the water yet. While a source suggests that the studio considered “pulling the plug” on the film in June, Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson voiced his support for the project, and denied that it was ever in jeopardy. The studio’s enthusiasm seems to come, in part, from faith in director Peter Berg, who also directed Hancock. "He has a very strong passion and affinity for this material," Fogelson said. "He is a fan of the history and the current state of the military. He knows that world really, really well, and he is inspirational when he is talking about it." Plus, as the Hollywood Reporter points out, he once wrote “a high school essay about how the Japanese could have won the Battle of Midway”.
So far, this newfound skepticism towards Battleship largely avoids the fundamental problem of the project: it’s based on the board game Battleship. Fogelson contends that awareness of the Battleship brand will help the project, and draws comparisons to other toy-based properties ("Worldwide, more people have played Battleship than played with Transformers”). But, to defy conventional wisdom, I’m not sure that all publicity is good publicity. Sure, a lot of people have played Battleship, but that means that a whole lot of people know that Battleship is kind of boring, and mostly random guessing, and has very little to do with aliens. Or nothing to do with aliens, really. It’s true that the film could get extremely lucky and wind up like Pirates Of The Caribbean (which is something the producers clearly have thought of, since they bring it up 3 or 4 times), but as audiences get more and more tired of sequels, adaptations, and spin-offs, it seems in line to be a casualty to growing audience disinterest. Battleship may be well served by changing it’s name, whether it’s to Ships in Battle, or Battling Ships, or Alexander Skarsgard Hangs Out Naked For 2 1/2 Hours. (I’m rooting for that last one.) It would be a very, very simple change to make, because Battleship already has nothing to do with Battleship.
A New York City cinema has pulled the trailer for forthcoming 9/11 film United 93 after several complaints from distressed patrons.
The AMC Loews Lincoln Square movie theatre on Broadway withdrew the promo for the upcoming Paul Greengrass film, which tells the story of United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked and eventually crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001.
A manager at AMC Loews tells the New York Daily News, "I personally received a couple of complaints. Some people were pretty upset. We pulled the trailer last weekend."
One cinemagoer, Gloria Harper, who volunteered as a Ground Zero relief worker after the city's World Trade Center collapsed, says, "I covered my eyes. I couldn't watch it. I won't see the movie. I mean we lived through it."
Adam Fogelson, marketing president for Universal Pictures, who are producing and distributing the controversial film, explains, "The trailer is meant to give an honest sense of what the movie is going to be.
"We didn't use any footage that people haven't seen before, and we didn't enhance it. It's truly horrific. So we're not shocked to hear that some people find it uncomfortable."
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Moviegoers went Zoinks! over Scooby-Doo, launching it to $56.4 million, the biggest June opening ever. Warners plans to continue the franchise with a Scooby sequel in 2004.
The Bourne Identity kicked off strongly in second place to a better than expected $27.5 million. Windtalkers invaded third place, digging in with favorable exit polls and a hopeful $14.5 million.
Also driving the weekend were The Sum of All Fears in fourth place with $13.5 million and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood in fifth with $9.8 million.
Ticket sales soared 27 percent ahead of this weekend last year. Key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- took in $164.5 million versus last year's $129.1 million.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros.' PG rated family comedy Scooby-Doo turned out to be one sizzling hot dog at the box office, opening to a record setting ESTIMATED $56.42 million at 3,447 theaters ($16,368 per theater).
Directed by Raja Gosnell, it stars Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Rowan Atkinson.
Scooby's average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
"It's the largest grossing June opening in motion picture history," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "The biggest June opening prior to this was Austin Powers (with $54.9 million for New Line's sequel Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me the weekend of June 11-13, 1999). It exceeds the best opening in Warner's June history, which was Batman Forever, our second Batman, (with $52.8 million the weekend of June 16-18, 1995)."
What accounts for Scooby's staggering success? "I think Scooby is a beloved character and it fits into a Looney Tunes mold (in that) it reaches audiences from eight to 80. There was such a fan base (that was even) deeper than we had anticipated. You know, Dan Romanelli and his Consumer Products Group (at Warner Bros.) have been pushing Scooby-Doo ever since they took over consumer product sales for Hanna-Barbera when (Warners) bought it. Scooby has been a big seller."
Focusing on the multiple areas at Warners that contributed to the film's blockbuster launch, Fellman pointed out that the result is a valuable new franchise with a Scooby sequel coming in two years. "It just shows," he said, "that you can take that synergy between consumer products, production, marketing and (television exposure on AOL Time Warner's) the Cartoon Network and build a new franchise. And that's what we've done. So we will have a Scooby-Doo 2 in 2004."
Universal's PG-13 espionage thriller The Bourne Identity arrived in second place, beating insider expectations with a muscular ESTIMATED $27.5 million at 2,638 theaters ($10,425 per theater).
Directed by Doug Liman, it stars Matt Damon.
"Aside from the fact that the production team really came through, I give a lot of credit to (marketing president) Adam Fogelson and his marketing team," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "In the last two weeks they were able to take this genre film and separate it from the usual spy thrillers by making it look fresh and young and hip. Using director Doug Liman, who's known for (making films with an) independent flavor, that all jelled with the campaign, which got tremendous awareness over the past two weeks. So we were really very, very pleased."
Considering how unconventional Bourne is, Rocco noted, "It's really something to open a film at this level. Matt Damon demonstrates how very talented he is. This is Matt's biggest opening for a (film that for him is) a star vehicle. The other films he was in (that opened bigger like) Ocean's Eleven and Saving Private Ryan weren't really his vehicles. So (in terms of carrying) a film on his own, this is his biggest opening."
Damon, Rocco added, "did a tremendous amount of work to open it. He toured for two weeks on the road talking about the film. I give him a lot of credit because in a crowded marketplace you really have to stand out and that's just what happened. The campaign stood out and the talent stood out and here are the results. It's great. It was a pretty big challenge for us to open this picture in such an environment where there are such high profile films and such huge budgeted competition. So to reach this level of success is quite incredible."
MGM's R rated World War II drama Windtalkers opened in third place in the thick of the box office battle with an ESTIMATED $14.5 million at 2,898 theaters ($5,003 per theatre).
Directed by John Woo, it stars Nicolas Cage.
"It was a big weekend and at least we're in that top tier of movies, so that's good," MGM marketing and distribution president Bob Levin said Sunday morning. "Obviously, we would have liked to have done more business, but our exits show we have about a 55 percent male audience, about two-thirds of them over 25. In that over-25 group, they're very strong.
"They seemed to really like the movie -- so, hopefully, they'll stay with us. They didn't come out quite in the numbers that we hoped (they would) this weekend, but with the stunning performance of Scooby-Doo, maybe they decided to take their kids to see Scooby-Doo this weekend. We'll get 'em (in the weeks ahead). It's now (a matter of) digging in and trying to keep ourselves in that upper tier and just get the business."
Paramount's PG-13 rated thriller The Sum Of All Fears slid three pegs to fourth place in its third week, holding decently given its stiff new competition with an ESTIMATED $13.5 million (-30%) at 3,155 theaters (-63 theaters; $4,180 per theater). Its cume is approximately $84.5 million, heading for $100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson and produced by Mace Newfeld, it stars Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.
"I think $100 million is very safe now (as a domestic projection)," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I'd anticipated a more substantial drop this weekend given the competition that came in. But it seems that the market expanded to accommodate all three of these movies (that opened)."
Given the strength of the new films, Fears held quite well. "We're very happy with that hold," Lewellen said. "We were somewhat disappointed last week, not by the end result but last Saturday we got hurt by the (championship) fight and all the sporting activities (that were on television). But we came back on Sunday, so the weekend overall last week held up pretty well.
"We felt that was kind of the opening (to do business) before Bourne Identity and Windtalkers came in, which was certainly directed at our audience. But to hold to a 30 percent drop in the face of that level competition, we're very ecstatic with that, I'll tell you."
Warner Bros. and Gaylord Films' PG-13 rated drama Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood dropped three slots in its second week to fifth place with a less lively ESTIMATED $9.8 million (-39%) at 2,507 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,909 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.0 million.
Directed by Calle Khouri, it stars Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan, James Garner, Ashley Judd, Shirley Knight, Angus MacFadyen and Maggie Smith.
20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's PG rated franchise installment Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones slipped three rungs to sixth place in its fifth week with a quieter ESTIMATED $9.2 million (-34%) at 2,401 theaters (-760 theaters; $3,832 per theater). Its cume is approximately $270.5 million, heading for $300 million in domestic theaters.
Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace took in $431.1 million in domestic theaters. Its worldwide total (domestic plus international) was $923 million.
Directed by George Lucas, it stars Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen.
Columbia's PG-13 sci-fi fantasy blockbuster Spider-Man fell two pegs to seventh place in its seventh week, continuing to hold well with an ESTIMATED $7.4 million (-28%) at 2,705 theaters (-530 theaters; $2,739 per theater). Its cume is approximately $382.4 million heading for $400 million in domestic theaters.
Spidey had the lowest percentage drop of any film in this weekend's Top Ten.
Directed by Sam Raimi, it stars Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' PG-13 rated action film Bad Company skidded four notches in its second week to eighth place with a slow $6.1 million (-45%) at 2,944 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,069 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.8 million.
Directed by Joel Schumacher, it stars Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock.
DreamWorks' G rated animated feature Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron dropped two slots to ninth place in its fourth week with an uneventful ESTIMATED $5.5 million (-40%) at 2,873 theaters (-489 theaters; $1,931 per theater). Its cume is approximately $63.8 million.
Directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, it was produced by Mireille Soria and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated urban appeal comedy Undercover Brother, down three rungs in its third week to a quiet ESTIMATED $4.64 million (-37%) at 1,832 theaters (-337 theaters; $2,530 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.6 million.
Directed by Malcom D. Lee, it stars Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan and Denise Richards. Its producers are Brian Grazer, Michael Jenkinson and Damon Lee.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's R rated classic drama Cinema Paradiso: The New Version with an okay ESTIMATED $27,000 at 3 theaters ($9,000 per theater).
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, it stars Philippe Noiret.
Think Film's R rated dark comedy The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys opened quietly to an ESTIMATED $57,000 at 9 theaters ($6,356 per theater).
Directed by Peter Care, it stars Kieran Culkin.
Paramount Classics' romantic comedy The Emperor's New Clothes opened poorly to an ESTIMATED $8,000 at 2 theaters ($3,810 per theater).
Directed by Alan Taylor, it stars Ian Holm.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend IFC Films' PG rated romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding went wider in its ninth week with a still happy ESTIMATED $1.7 million at 453 theaters (+10 theaters; $3,745 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.6 million.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Miramax's PG rated comedy The Importance of Being Earnest widened quietly in its fourth week to an ESTIMATED $0.62 million at 180 theaters ($3,416 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.4 million.
Directed by Oliver Parker, it stars Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson.
Miramax said Earnest will expand to 250 theaters June 28.
Fine Line Features' R rated drama Cherish expanded in its second week with an unexciting ESTIMATED $46,000 at 25 theaters (+19 theaters; $1,825 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.1 million.
Written and directed by Finn Taylor, it stars Robin Tunney.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $164.54 million, up 27.4 percent from last year when they totaled $129.15 million.
Key films were up 56.54 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $105.11 million.
Last year, Paramount's opening week of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was first with $47.74 million at 3,308 theaters ($14,430 per theater); and Buena Vista/Disney's second week of Atlantis: The Lost Empire was second with $20.34 million at 3,011 theaters ($6,756 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $58.0 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $83.9 million.