May 01, 2008 5:39am EST
An exhausted Javier Bardem has bowed out of Rob Marshall’s musical Nine.
Variety reports that the actor, who would have played the lead role of Guido Contini, loved the project but is too tired coming off a busy year including the awards-season frenzy. Bardem won an Oscar for best supporting actor in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men.
Nine will be the big-screen adaptation of the stage musical that opened on Broadway in 1982. It has starred such famous folk as Antonio Banderas, Raul Julia, Jonathan Pryce, Chita Rivera and John Stamos. The musical itself was inspired by Federico Fellini’s movie 8 1/2.
Marshall’s film boasts Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Sophia Loren in the cast. Nicole Kidman and Judi Dench have also recently been reported to be in talks.
Variety says that Bardem may take up to a year to recharge his batteries.
“Javier personally asked me if we could move production to February, but we just couldn’t do it,” Harvey Weinstein told Variety. “He is an amazing talent and I know we’ll work together in the future very soon.” The Weinstein Company is producing Nine.
Bardem will next be seen in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this month.
The heartbreak of illegal immigration is vividly displayed in this poignant story of nine year old Carlos (Adrian Alonso) a boy living in Mexico with his grandmother while his mother (Kate del Castillo) works as an illegal domestic in Los Angeles trying to make enough money to send home so the son she has been separated from can live a good life--even if it means being without her. When the grandmother suddenly dies Carlos decides to cross the border and look for mom. As his journey continues he encounters a woman (America Ferrera) and her brother (Jesse Garcia) who make tuition money taking babies into the U.S. In this instance she decides to help smuggle Carlos across by hiding him in her van. Once he lands in Tuscon he meets a sympathetic middle- aged migrant worker named Enrique (Eugenio Derbez) who accompanies him to East L.A. Once there they try to locate his mother--their only clue being a vague description of the area around a pay phone she used in her weekly calls home to Carlos. The film which is shot mostly in Spanish with some English language scenes as well offers great big screen opportunities to some of Mexico’s biggest television stars including telenovela favorite Kate del Castillo. She delivers a moving performance as a mother living separated by borders with her only son but living “under the same moon.” The film really belongs however to young Alonso--a natural in front of the cameras who impressed American audiences as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas’ son in The Legend of Zorro but breaks out here as the determined Carlos. Both create a touching mother-son relationship even though they are never in any scenes together. Also playing against type is superstar Derbez unquestionably one of Latin America’s most popular actors who develops a winning chemistry with Alonso making every moment of their screen time count. Ugly Betty’s Ferrera also turns up for some effective moments including a heart-stopping sequence in which she is questioned by border guards while the van carrying the hidden Carlos is searched. Although she has made some award winning shorts Under the Same Moon represents the first feature length film for Mexican-born Patricia Riggen. She succeeds on all levels emphasizing the characters in the story over the potentially political hot button topic of immigration which her film so eloquently humanizes. Working with screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos the two women give urgency to the tragic separation of mother and son caught between two disparate cultures. Given the time restraints and low budget Riggen’s command of the camera is impressive particularly in the inventive and almost spiritual ways she manages to bring mother and son together on screen even though they never share a shot. Use of music is also hugely effective with Carlos Silotto’s melodic score recalling a similar film about a young dreamer Cinema Paradiso. Ultimately though Under the Same Moon lives or dies with the actors and Riggen’ spot-on casting decisions--particularly in the case of Alonso--really lift it to new levels. Most of the actors have extensive TV followings and Riggen knew by casting them she would risk the wrath of Mexican film critics who uniformly look down on television. Doesn’t matter. Under the Same Moon has universal appeal and should find approving audiences around the world.
Set in late-‘60s/early-‘70s Harlem Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is a relative nobody an underling driver existing well beneath his gangster mentor Bumpy Johnson (Clarence Williams III). But when Bumpy dies that all changes. Likewise street cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is small-time best known for having turned over a boatload of found cash out of the goodness of his heart. But in a way his status also begins to ascend around the time of Bumpy’s death. And so Lucas and Roberts both quickly rising through the ranks of their respective law-breaking and abiding hierarchies are on a collision course—each without the knowledge the other even existed. Frank doesn’t waste any time asserting himself once Bumpy dies and he will go on to become the only kind of drug peddler with a shot at staying power: opportunistic ruthless and not one to consume his own product. Lucas’ get-rich-quick scheme of importing Vietnamese heroin via U.S. soldiers’ caskets eliminates the middleman and nets him millions. But as is always the case one lapse in vigilance puts him at risk and Roberts is there waiting. Behold moviegoers the mother lode of acting duos—only we saw Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe together on screen 12 years ago in Virtuosity. Oh well. Truth be told the short time in which they share scenes has nothing on its buildup thereof but these two are a marvel in their own separate arcs. Denzel is the gaudier of them relishing his Scarface-sized villain even more than he did Alonzo in Training Day. It’s a top-notch performance to add to a career full of them and there are a plethora of scenes from which to choose for his Oscar reel. Crowe meanwhile isn’t quite as riveting as he was a few months ago in 3:10 to Yuma but that's partly because cinematic good guys always finish second in terms of watchability. And when the climactic confrontation nears Crowe dials up the tension a few notches. The marquee names though are but the tip of the iceberg in this star-studded affair which also boasts the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor (who recently co-starred with Denzel in Inside Man) Cuba Gooding Jr. Common Carla Gugino RZA John Hawkes Ted Levine and the legendary Ruby Dee. But Gangster’s (no longer hidden) gem is Josh Brolin currently enjoying a major resurgence. With apologies to Denzel Brolin’s deliciously hateful corrupt cop might be the best performance here. Ridley Scott--semi-legendary for his sci-fi (Alien Blade Runner) action (Gladiator) and feminism (Thelma and Louise)--is not the first director who would come to mind for a gritty talky urban period drama but he displays unforeseen versatility with Gangster. Nothing feels inauthentic here from the look of Vietnam-era New York City and its inhabitants to the documentary-style feel of the sparse action and it’s a surprisingly restrained effort from Scott that allows for such realism. Other filmmakers might’ve been tempted to deflect Gangster into shoot-‘em-up territory with say an action-centric take on the size of villainry possessed by Lucas but Scott does well in staying true to what this story is and is not about. And while there’s nothing especially groundbreaking or unforgettable about his effort Scott keeps the two and a half hours pretty compelling. Gangster’s unsung hero however is its real subject Lucas and his true story even more so than the one adapted by Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List) from Marc Jacobson’s New York Times article. It’s a fascinating tale of everything that makes for good movies—race class money drugs corruption—brought to the screen vividly by a director who could potentially be in line for his first Oscar.
The film is based on the true story of Spanish quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro who fought a 30-year battle to be allowed to die with dignity something outlawed in his country. Crippled by a cliff dive as a young man Ramon wishes he had died on the day of his accident. He lives with his religious brother who tries to talk him out of his death wish; his nephew an impatient teen who can't always be bothered to help him; and his sister-in-law who tends him like a mother. Although Ramón is bound to his bed his force of personality and generous spirit draw others to him including two very different women who vow to help him achieve his goal.
In the title role Javier Bardem is amazing despite being able to express himself only with his face. It's enough for the actor who was previously nominated for another real-life role in Before Night Falls. He somehow portrays the contradiction of Ramón--a man full of life who wants to die--so convincingly we never doubt the character. As his saintly sister-in-law stage actress Mabel Rivera has a shining moment where she tells off a priest who has come to talk Ramón out of his petition. The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent but it's really Bardem's movie.
Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar the man who brought us the mind-bending Open Your Eyes (remade as Vanilla Sky) and the spooky The Others here lends his considerable style to what might easily be another run-of-the-mill biopic. When Ramón daydreams about walking on the beach the camera flies out the window traveling over the countryside to the coast where the bedridden Ramón can no longer go. It's not just a visual metaphor for the power and freedom of thought but the director happily thumbing his nose at traditional earthbound moviemaking.