When it was announced that writer/director Lynne Ramsey was joining forces with Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman on the Western Jane Got a Gun, the project sounded like stars aligning. It got better: cast opposite of the Black Swan star was the reliable, mesmerizing Michael Fassbender. As the film trekked forward towards the beginning of its shoot, it continued to gain prestigious additions, including a villain in the form of Zero Dark Thirty's Joel Edgerton. It sounded incredible.
And then it imploded.
Last week, Fassbender departed the film, a mere week before cameras were set to begin rolling. He was quickly replaced by Edgerton, who bumped up to the starring role opposite Portman, with Jude Law jumping on board as the film's villain (Edgerton's original role). Then on May 19 — what was going to be the first day of shooting — news broke that Ramsey had left the project, never arriving to set. With money invested, sets built, and production as underway as it could be without a person in the director's chair, producers on Jane Got a Gunscrambled to find a replacement. The ship wasn't going down, even if the captain had bailed.
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Now the hopeful upswing in the debacle: in less than 24 hours, a replacement for Ramsey has been found. Deadline reports that Warrior director Gavin O'Connor has been hired to helm the picture. There have been casualties by the switch: after O'Connor was revealed to be on board, Law was announced to have left the film, his involvement originally linked to the idea of working with Ramsay. But Edgerton and Portman (a producer on the female revenge flick) are still on board.
This isn't the first time a high-profile movie has suffered from talent shuffling — but it might be the instance closest to the wire. In 2010, after two years of working on both the scripts and designs for The Hobbit movies, director Guillermo Del Toro picked up and left New Zealand, paving the way for last December's Peter Jackson-helmed epic. Del Toro has never explained his decision, suggesting that multiple factors influenced his decision to exit the movie — many pointed to MGM's ongoing financial issues. In less analytical departures, X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn was two weeks away from directing 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand before bailing on the film due to creative clashes with 20th Century Fox. For some, having their vision represented is more important than avoiding a public frenzy.
Sometimes it's not even up to the directors. Steven Soderbergh was removed from his version of Moneyball days before shooting the Brad Pitt-led baseball drama. It was another case of the men with the money not seeing eye to eye with their director's vision: Soderbergh wanted a docudrama version of Moneyball that would intercut Pitt's performance with documentary footage. The idea didn't jive with Sony Pictures, who replaced Soderbergh with Bennett Miller.
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Ramsey penned the script for Jane Got a Gun, and it's possible that, even when the dust settles from the fiasco, she'll walk away with accolades for the film. The same thing happened to director Brenda Chapman, removed from the director's chair by Pixar halfway through her work on Brave. She ended up receiving a "co-director" credit — a title that earned her an Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2013 Academy Awards.
As is apparent from Jane's bumpy road to completion, actors are also capable of derailing a movie and sending behind-the-scenes players scrambling for replacements. Jean Claude Van Damme was set to play the title creature in Predator before ditching the movie last minute. He wasn't keen on the requirements of the role, which included wearing a bulky costume and remaining invisible for half the film. Eric Stoltz was infamously replaced by Michael J. Fox weeks into shooting Back to the Future after Fox (the original choice for the role) became available. And most recently, Peter Jackson, unhappy with actor Stuart Townsend's work as Aragon in Lord of the Rings, kindly asked the thespian to step down, eventually hiring Viggo Mortensen for the part.
On-set shuffling isn't a common occurrence in Hollywood, but it's not a sign of disaster either. A film can go both ways: X-Men: The Last Stand, helmed by back-up director Brett Ratner, is looked down upon as a low point in the franchise. Moneyball went on to earn a handful of Oscar nominations. O'Connor is a competent director who impressed (and earned box office cred) with Warrior. Having most recently directed the pilot for The Americans, he knows a thing or two about stepping into someone else's sandbox and building a great castle. If Jane Got a Gun was going to be strong with Ramsey in the driver's seat, it was going to be strong for a number of reasons beyond her directorial efforts (although it sounded promising in the hands of the visually-inclined auteur). Is Jane destined for disaster? Only if they never roll camera.
Which, if the set spontaneously combusts in an act of Godly smiting, could very well be the case.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Evan Agostini/AP Photo]
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In the last seven years Denzel Washington has paired with director Tony Scott on four hyperkinetic ultra-saturated feature films: Man on Fire Deja Vu The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable. When he strays from the time-honored action collaboration you'd think the man would take a break from the format. Not so—as Washington's new film Safe House clearly demonstrates.
Daniel Espinosa director of the acclaimed Swedish crime drama Snabba Cash shoots his espionage thriller with Scott-ian flair complete with rapid camera movement a palette of eye-scorchingly bright colors and fragmented editing. If Safe House was emotionally compelling the stylistic approach might make the narrative sizzle—but the script is as simple and familiar as they come: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent with a monotonous gig. He's a safe housekeeper tasked with maintaining a stronghold in South Africa in case the feds need to stop by for some…interrogating. After a year of begging for field work and keeping the joint tidy Weston finds himself embroiled in the investigation of Tobin Bell (Denzel Washington) an ex-CIA notorious for selling information on the black market. A group of agents bring Bell in to Weston's safe house for a routine waterboarding but everything is thrown into chaos when the lockdown is infiltrated by machine-wielding baddies looking to put a bullet in Bell's head. To keep the captor alive Weston goes on the run with Bell in hand…never knowing exactly why everyone wants the guy dead.
The setup for Safe House provides Washington and Reynolds two fully capable action stars to do their thing and to do it well. The two characters have their own defining characteristics that each actor bites off with ferocity: Reynolds' Weston is a man drowning in circumstance built to kick ass but still out of his league and just hoping to get back to his gal in one piece. Bell has years of experience boring into the heads of his opponents and Washington plays him with the necessary charisma and confidence that make even his most despicable characters a treat to watch.
But the duo fight a losing battle in Safe House contending with the script's meandering action and ambiguous stakes that turn the Bourne-esque thriller into a grueling experience. Much of the movie is an extended chase scene where the object of the bad guys' desire is never identified. It's a mystery!—but the lack of info comes off as confusing. Safe House cuts back and forth between the compelling relationship between Weston and Bell and a war room full of exceptional actors (Vera Farmiga Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepherd) given nothing to do but spurt straightforward backstory and typical "there's no time Mr. ______!" exclamatory statements. Caking it is Espinosa's direction which lacks any sense of coherent geography. The action is never intense because you have no idea who is going where and when and why.
Safe House is a competently made movie with enough talent to keep it afloat but without any definable hook or dramatic emphasis it plays out like an undercooked version of the Denzel Washington/Tony Scott formula. Which is unfortunate as four solid ones already exist.
First we had the 70th birthday of John Lennon over the weekend. Then yesterday we had footage surface of Eric Stoltz as the original Marty McFly in Back to the Future. And today we have a weird hybrid of those two stories: Robert Zemeckis’ (Director of BTTF) 3D motion-capture remake of Yellow Submarine (popular Beatles’ song and movie) is still happening and starts filming in April (see the connection now?).
Also, further strange little side note - Eric Stoltz directed last night’s episode of Glee. Just thought I’d share that.
Anyway, while at the New York Comic Con, Cary Elwes confirmed that Yellow Submarine was still happening and filming begins in April. Now is this just a diversion? After all, April is pretty far off and this gives us plenty of time to forget about it or is it actually happening for real? Is Cary Elwes that devious? I’m going to have to say no.
Another strange side note - I loved Elwes in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but I don’t really see what the big deal is with The Princess Bride. I mean, its a good movie but I didn’t think it was that funny? Sue me. Please don’t.
Back to the movie. Elwes has been cast as George Harrison. Dean Lennox Kelly will be playing John Lennon. Kelly is kind of amazing in his turn as Shakespeare in Doctor Who which I’m sure you all saw and by gosh, I am making that show popular in the US whether Americans like it or not. If you haven’t been watching Running Wilde, you are missing out on the delight that is Peter Serafinowicz who will be playing Paul McCartney. And the lovable Ringo Starr will be played by Adam Campbell.
Wait, what’s this? Adam Campbell dates Jayma Mays, the lovable Emma on Glee? Is the whole news cycle collapsing in on itself? Should I be worried? Do I need to get duct tape? Or is this just an instance of me reading too much into pure coincidences because Hollywood is a relatively small community of members who constantly work on other people’s projects? Nah, definitely a conspiracy.
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Author Stephanie Meyer unleashed a phenomenon with her Twilight novels a teen vampire romance that has spurned a teen cult following. The good news is the movie is surprisingly just as potent -- a spellbinding terribly romantic hypnotic and entertaining film. At its heart are the elements that make any teen drama work; in this case it’s forbidden love. It starts with 16 year-old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) who relocates from her sunny Phoenix to the cold gray foreboding atmosphere of Forks Washington to live with her father. At her new high school she meets the incredibly attractive but mysterious Cullen clan including the allusive Edward (Robert Pattinson) who immediately intrigues her. What she doesn’t know yet is that Edward and his “family” are a group of vegetarian vampires who drink only animal blood and must live in the terminally cloudy region of Northwest. Edward tries to drive a determined Bella away by revealing his true identity but soon realizes she is the girl of his dreams. But as the two begin their complicated romance things get dicey when another group of um meat-lovin’ vampires target Bella. Teen Beat should clear their covers for a new group of stars sure to become huge with the female teen set -- and probably their mothers as well. Exuding a brooding reserve and air of mystery the follicley-endowed Robert Pattinson is reminiscent of James Dean and completely believable as a conflicted bloodsucker who becomes dangerously attracted to a mere mortal. His Edward’s unpredictable nature becomes irresistible for the attractive Kristen Stewart’s Bella as she grows closer to him despite his attempts to keep her at arm’s length. Not since Baby yearned for Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing has there been such an effective pairing for the acne-challenged set. Pattinson and Stewart simmer with teen angst and desire and could be the next big thing -- especially if there are more Twilight sequels to follow. The Cullen clan led by foster parents Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser is perfectly cast with a good looking bunch of vampiric thesps including newcomers Ashley Green Kellan Lutz Jackson Rathbone and Nikki Reed. Red-headed Rachelle LeFevre as bad vamp Victoria is ideal along with Cam Gigandet and Edi Gathegi as the guys in her group of nomadic vampires. Director Catherine Hardwicke has certainly shown she understands the ever-changing moods of youth with her previous efforts (Thirteen Lords of Dogtown). But those flicks were just warm-ups for what she taps into with Twilight. She creates a wonderful creepy kind of muted dark and cloudy society with imposing camera angles and aching teen lust from her bright red-lipped hormonally charged leads. And thankfully she leaves the fangs on the cutting room floor. These vampires are actually relatable and Hardwick takes what could have been an awful juvenile programmer and lifts it into a different league creating not only a movie that should cross over beyond it’s target demo but one that makes us genuinely excited for the inevitable sequels.
Yet another in a LONG line of teenage sex comedies this one manages somehow to be fresh and appealing -- despite the formu-lay-ic premise. That’s right another horny 18 year-old boy (Josh Zuckerman) is determined to lose his virginity any way he can. Ian can’t seem to become a “man ” upstaged by a Lothario of an older brother Rex (James Marsden) and his even more successful 14 year-old younger brother. He is constantly humiliated by the giant donut costume he wears for his job at the mall and can’t even get to first base with Felicia (Amanda Crew) a girl who thinks of him only as her best friend and nothing more. With the pressure of going to college as a sexual outcast what’s a hot-to-trot young dude to do? In this case -- using encouragement from pal Lance (Clark Duke) and with Felicia along for the ride -- the threesome take off in the unsuspecting Rex’s prized Pontiac GTO for a cross-country drive Ian thinks will end with the payoff of sex with a hot blonde named Ms. Tasty (Katrina Bowden) he met on the Internet. Unfortunately the one-day outing turns into a three-day nightmare for the trio with brother Rex on their trail and friend Lance getting a little too cocksure for his own good. Oh and did we forget to mention the Amish farm they manage to work into the tour? In the obligatory Jason Biggs role Josh Zuckerman is totally winning as a sex-starved high school graduate looking desperately to tame his out-of-control libido. With sharp comic timing and no end to the ways he is willing to humiliate himself for the sake of his art Zuckerman should have a bright future. Although the casting of his friend Lance played by the pudgy Duke would seem to be an attempt to emulate the Michael Cera/Jonah Hill teaming of Superbad Duke’s go-for-the-big laughs approach feels like we are seeing this kind of goosed-up sex maniac act for the first time. As the female “best friend” Felicia Amanda Crew is very appealing and thankfully grounded in reality. Marsden is hilarious as dopey Rex who prizes his vintage GTO and his own sexual prowess even more than the love of little bro. Seth Green has some funny bits as the sarcastic Amish man who somehow seems to know how to fix hot rods. Bowden is gorgeous and devious as the Internet hottie who may not be all Ian hoped for. Special mention also to Charlie McDermott and Mark Young who as a recurring kind of geek chorus playing two inept high school girl magnets. NOT. Director and co-screenwriter (with John Morris) Sean Anders manages to infuse what could have been a stale leftover piece of American Pie with new life and that’s largely thanks to some very funny VERY raunchy situations he dreams up for these likeable and recognizable characters. The premise of a so-called Sex Drive also offers ripe opportunities in this genre and Anders gets a lot of play out of it particularly from Duke whose uninhibited acting grabs most of the big laughs. Although they crank the gross factor way up the film doesn’t lose sight that it’s mostly a coming-of-age comic look at a rite of passage most young guys -- and girls -- will identify with. Although much is predictable Sex Drive has a strong sense of what it wants to be and in the end even turns sweetly romantic something most films of this stripe rarely do.
Actress Bridget Fonda and composer Danny Elfman tied the knot Saturday, MTV News.com reports.
The latest Hollywood newlyweds exchanged nuptials at a church in Los Angeles, during a candlelit evening ceremony. The bride was ushered down the aisle on the arm of her father, actor Peter Fonda, as a 20-piece choir serenaded the proceedings, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The ceremony was followed by a reception at Cicada, a posh L.A. eatery.
It is the first marriage for Fonda, 39, who has been linked to Eric Stoltz and most recently Dwight Yoakam, and the second marriage for former Oingo Boingo frontman Elfman, 50, now an Oscar-nominated film composer.
True Hollywood royalty, Fonda is the daughter of Peter Fonda, the niece of Jane Fonda and the granddaughter of the late Henry Fonda, while Elfman is the uncle of actor Bodhi Elfman, who's married to actress Jenna Elfman. Elfman's mother, Blossom, is also in the biz as a writer and brother Richard is a sci-fi director.