Whenever a relatively new writer gets hot in Hollywood, I'm always pleased. We've come a long way since the writer's strike of 2007 and, though it's still a highly competitive and often under-appreciated trade, this next piece of news brought a smile across this journalist's face.
Variety reports that Due Date writer Adam Sztykiel has sold a comedy pitch The Fight Before Christmas to Fox and the studio has immediately set the project up at Shawn Levy's (Date Night, Night at the Museum) 21 Laps production banner. Other than disclosing that Fight is a family-centered comedy, studio's keeping the logline under wraps. Levy may direct after he wraps Real Steel for DreamWorks, which is set to begin shooting next month.
Additionally, and more interesting in my eyes is the news that Sztykiel has been hired to re-write Lionsgate's The Game (not to be confused with David Fincher's 1997 mind-screw), an adaptation of Neil Strauss' novel The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. The film centers on a community of pickup artists who offer their tips for seduction for the right price. Newcomer Ari Sandel will direct.
I think that The Game has huge R-rated potential, akin to what The Hangover and Knocked Up did for adult themed comedies. With the right lead in both of these new projects, Sztykiel's name should get a whole lot more recognizable in the near future (but no less hard to pronounce).
Source: Variety, Collider
Support is growing for Roman Polanski, and so is a backlash. Some French politicians are not siding so closely with the artistic community in their defense of the jailed filmmaker while other folks from all over are weighing in with indignation that Polanski should receive special treatment.
More names have been added to the petition started in France, which Wiretap was first to post on Monday morning while a similar one has now been floated. At least one big-name French filmmaker, however, has chosen to abstain from adding his support even though he says of Polanski "our daughters are friends."
Scores of prestigious filmmakers and industry players have now added their names to the petition, which began being circulated on Sunday, including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Patrice Chereau, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Buck Henry, Diane Kurys, Jean Labadie, Claude Lelouch, David Lynch, Richard Pena, Jacques Perrin, Jerry Schatzberg and Andre Techine.
Further, French sales, distribution and finance outfit Wild Bunch tells Wiretap it has pulled Jan Kounen's Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky from the Zurich Film Festival in a sign of protest. Coco & Igor was the closing night film at Cannes this year.
Further, another petition has now been started by Henri-Bernard Levy, which reads:
"Apprehended like a common terrorist Saturday evening, September 26 in Zurich, as he came to receive a prize for his entire body of work, Roman Polanski is now in prison. He risks extradition to the United States for a thirty-year-old affair whose principal plaintiff repeats with hue and cry that she has put the story behind her and abandoned any idea of legal proceedings. Seventy-six years old, a survivor of Nazism and of Stalinist persecution in Poland, Roman Polanski risks spending the rest of his life in jail for deeds which should normally be beyond the statute-of-limitations in Europe.
"We ask the Swiss federal justice system to free him immediately and not to turn this brilliant filmmaker into a martyr of a political-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States. Good sense, as well as honor, demands it."
Signatories on that petition include Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Neil Jordan, Mike Nichols, Diane von Furstenberg and Paul Auster.
On the other side of the fence are some of France's politicians who have come out to accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy's administration of jumping too quickly to Polanski's defense. Included among them are Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a French deputy in the European Parliament from the Green Party and Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen - the father and daughter from the extreme right National Front party who said officials were supporting "a criminal pedophile in the name of the rights of the political-artistic class," The New York Times reports.
One person from the artistic class whose name has been absent from any petition is Luc Besson. "Our daughters are good friends," Besson told France's RTL radio. "But there is one justice, and that should be the same for everyone."
The Wrap reports that in Poland, the prime minister asked his Cabinet members to subdue their angry calls for the release of Polanski, noting that the case involved "punishment for having sex with a child."
Polanski's lawyers have asked that the director be released from Swiss custody where he now resides following his arrest on Saturday on a 31-year old warrant stemming from having pleaded guilty to sex with a minor.
"Our first concern, and principle concern, is that Mr. Polanski be set free" from jail while "remaining on Swiss territory," Polanski’s French attorney Herve Temime said, TW reports. "He has a chalet in Switzerland. He would naturally accept to be placed under house arrest during the follow-up of the extradition proceedings."
Meanwhile, the mood in blog comments both in the US and in France is for the most part against Polanski. Of the nearly 30,000 respondents to an online poll from French daily Le Figaro, more than 70% feel he should be judged (then again, Web site L'Internaute also has a poll wherein over 70% of respondents think he should be freed).
That 70% figure is an interesting one: On CNN, a poll asking whether he should be extradited to the US also shows 70% in favor.
And on blogs like Deadline.com and Hollywood-Elsewhere.com, the comments skew overwhelmingly against Polanski.
Now that Harvey Weinstein has weighed in via a piece in The Independent, will his comment that he is "not too shy to go and talk to the Governor of California" to ask him to look at the situation hold much sway?
It's unlikely given the stance of the LA District Attorney's office. Spokeswoman Jane Robison responded to questions from FoxNews.com thusly:
Q. Will the DA respond to pressure from Tinseltown's biggest bigwigs?
A. Will the DA consider their plea to give up on extradition?
Q. Does the DA have any plans to meet with the directors allying themselves with Polanski?
For the Full story, click here to go to Hollywood Wiretap
MORE NEWS: Jessica Alba to Join 'Fockers'
Look at those X-Men go!
X2: X-Men United came barreling out on top for the second week in a row, taking in a hefty $41.4 million*, nearly double the $27.6 million opener Daddy Day Care took in at No. 2.
After the top two, however, the box office dropped off considerably. In third place, The Lizzie McGuire Movie only raked in $7.8 million, while fourth place holder Identity managed a measly $6.3 million. Rounding out the top five, Anger Management collected $5.5 million.
Still, the true Cinderella story of the Top 10 this week was the quirky A Mighty Wind. After the film's run was expanded to more than 600 theaters, it made the list for the first time since its release, coming in at No. 7 with $2.8 million.
Interestingly, the romantic comedy Down With Love, which opens wide against The Matrix Reloaded next week, popped up in one theater in New York and gathered an impressive $44,098, while the Neil Labute dark comedy The Shape of Things debuted in 40 theaters with $177,506.
THE TOP TEN
At the top of the heap, 20th Century Fox's PG-13 X2 swept up with an ESTIMATED $41.4 million at 3,748 theaters ($11,046 per theater). Although it dipped 52 percent from its huge $85 million opening last weekend, the sequel--in which Prof. Xavier and his X-Men must join the metal-controlling villain Magneto to battle against a society that fears and distrusts them--has reached approximately $149 million in two weeks, making it the fifth film this year to cross the $100 million mark.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and more.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Eddie Murphy laffer Daddy Day Care debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $27.6 million at 3,370 theaters ($8,190 per theater), making it the third largest opener for Murphy following Nutty Professor II: The Klumps ($42.5 million) and Dr. Dolittle ($29 million).
The film focuses on a father who loses his job and decides to start up a day care center with one of his fellow laid-off colleagues to make ends meet.
Directed by Steve Carr, it also stars Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
Buena Vista's PG-rated The Lizzie McGuire Movie slipped a spot to third with an ESTIMATED $7.8 million (-55%) at 2,825 theaters ($2,761 per theater). Based on the hit Disney Channel series, the film is about 13-year-old Lizzie's whirlwind trip to Rome where she is mistaken for a celebrity pop star and gets the royal treatment. Its cume is approximately $27.2 million in two weeks.
Directed by Jim Fall, it stars Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg and Yani Gellman.
Coming in at No. 4 was Sony's R-rated Identity with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-33%). Playing at 2,618 theaters (-115 theaters; $2,406 per theater), this Hitchcockian thriller has collected approximately $39.2 million thus far.
Directed by James Mangold, it stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Rebecca DeMornay and Alfred Molina.
Still holding strong in the Top Five, Sony's PG-13 Anger Management dropped a notch to fifth place with an ESTIMATED $5.5 million (-35%) at 2,819 theaters (-652 theaters; $1,951 per theater). Its cume is approximately $122.9 million.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro.
Buena Vista's PG-rated Holes captured the sixth spot with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-33%) at 2,452 theaters (+50 theaters; $1,876 per theater). In its fourth week, the film's cume is approximately $51.4 million.
Directed by Andrew Davis, it stars Rick Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LeBeouf.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Making its way into the box office's Top 10 list for the first time since its release was Warner Bros. PG-13 A Mighty Wind, coming in at No. 7 with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (+178%). Warners expanded the film's release to 765 theaters (+608 theaters; $3,752 per theater) and now in its fourth week, Wind's cume is approximately $9.3 million.
The film follows three sets of famous '60s folk singing groups who come together for a benefit concert 40 years later.
Directed by and starring Christopher Guest, it also stars Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Bob Balaban, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara and more.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated comedy Malibu's Most Wanted dropped from sixth to eighth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $2.1 million (-47%) at 2,008 theaters (-332 theaters, $1,063 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.7 million.
Directed by John P. Whitesell, it stars Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson.
In what could turn out to be another My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Fox Searchlight's PG-13 rated Bend It Like Beckham moved up a spot to No. 9 with an ESTIMATED $1.6 million (+12%) at 563 theaters (+80) with a per theater average of $$2,931. Its cume is approximately $13 million.
The film follows the aspirations of a young Indian girl living in London whose only desire is to play soccer--even if it means going against her traditional family's wishes.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Lions Gate's R-rated Confidence fell three rungs to 10th place with an ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-41%) at 1,188 theaters (-683 theaters; $1,263 per theater). Its cume is approximately $11 million.
Directed by James Foley, it stars Edward J. Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia and Rachel Weisz.
Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love debuted in one New York theater with an impressive $44,098. An homage to those wacky Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies, the film follows a feminist writer who knocks heads with a playboy journalist. The film opens wide next week.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
Also debuting this week was Focus Features' R-rated The Shape of Things, which gathered an ESTIMATED $177,506 in 40 theaters ($4,438 per theater).
A contemporary love story set in a college town in which sex and art intertwine as the relationships between four college students become increasingly complicated.
Written and directed by Neil Labute, it stars Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, Gretchen Mol and Frederick Weller.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $103 million, down considerably, nearly 28 percent from last week when they totaled $141.4 million.
The Top 12 were also down 10.6 percent from last year when they totaled $115 million.
Last year, Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man stayed at the top of the box office for the second week with $71.4 million at 3,615 theaters ($19,756 per theater); Fox's steamy R-rated Unfaithful came in second with $14 million at 2,613 theaters ($5,383 per theater); and Sony's PG-13 comedy The New Guy came in third with $9 million at 2,687 theaters ($3,352 per theater).
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.