Oscar-winning actor Maximilian Schell has died at the age of 83. The star passed away after a "sudden illness" in a clinic in his native Austria on Saturday (01Feb14), his agent has confirmed. He had fallen ill while filming last month (Jan14).
Starting out as a stage actor in Europe, he moved to Hollywood and came to prominence in the late 1950s after starring alongside Marlon Brando in war film The Young Lions.
He won international acclaim for playing a lawyer defending a Nazi war criminal in Holocaust movie Judgment at Nuremberg, which won him the Best Actor Oscar and Golden Globe.
Schell went on to star in varied films such as Topkapi, The Black Hole, and Deep Impact. He appeared in a number of hit TV series including 1992's Stalin, which won him a second Golden Globe.
He also received two more Oscar nominations for his turns in other Nazi-themed films, The Man In The Glass Booth and Julia.
Schell was married to Russian actress Natalya Andrejchenko from 1985 to 2005 and walked down the aisle for a second time with Iva Mihanovic last year (13).
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Time flew this weekend as The Time Machine soared into first place with $22.5 million, well beyond the $15 million launch Hollywood handicappers anticipated.
We Were Soldiers retreated to second place with a still potent $14.4 million. All About the Benjamins kicked off strongly in third place with $10.1 million.
Also driving the box office were 40 Days and 40 Nights, down 42 percent to fourth place with $7.1 million, and John Q in fifth place with a still impressive $6 million.
Key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- did nearly $98 million, up 43 percent from $68 million last year.
THE TOP TEN
DreamWorks and Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated time travel fantasy drama The Time Machine landed atop the chart with a fantastic ESTIMATED $22.5 million at 2,944 theaters ($7,643 per theater).
Time's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend. The film is being released domestically by DreamWorks and internationally by Warner Bros., which co-financed its production.
Directed by Simon Wells, it stars Guy Pearce.
"There were only a handful of movies released in the first half of March that ever grossed more than $20 million, so we're pretty happy about this," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.
"The tracking going into the weekend had indicated maybe a $15 million opening. So this is well above expectations based on tracking."
Focusing on the film's audience composition, Tharp noted, "I think we got the sci-fi fans along with young males. An indicator of that is that in locations where school was out for spring break, there were extremely strong grosses coming out of those theaters. As spring break rolls throughout the country, the movie should hold pretty well and do well mid-week."
Time is the latest film to perform strongly at the box office despite an unfriendly reception by the critics. "I think on any wide release, the reviews can either help a little or hurt a little, but it's not something that's drastic at all," Tharp said. "With limited release movies when you play upscale markets, then obviously they mean a lot. But on a wide release, reviews can help a little or hurt a little, but that's all."
Paramount and Icon Productions' R rated Vietnam war drama We Were Soldiers slipped one peg to second place in its second week, but held very well with a still powerful ESTIMATED $14.4 million (-29%) at 3,143 theaters (theater count unchanged; ($4,598 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.8 million.
Written and directed by Randall Wallace, it stars Mel Gibson.
"We're very happy with the hold on Soldiers," Paramount Distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "We took a bigger drop on Friday. It was off 37 percent on Friday, but Saturday was only off 24 percent. I'm estimating today off 26 percent, but it could be a little better than that or a little more.
"It's really strong. We know it's playing to an older audience and they just don't come out that strongly on Friday. We know the audience last week was a little older. 73 percent of the audience was over 25."
Noting that Time Machine is playing to a much younger audience than Soldiers, Lewellen said, "They work very well together."
Asked where Soldiers is heading, Lewellen noted, "If the picture holds at this level again this coming weekend, it could get into the $90-100 million range. That would be a multiple of five times the opening weekend ($20.2 million), which is really strong playability, which we do have on this picture."
New Line's R rated urban appeal buddy comedy All About the Benjamins opened in second place to a muscular ESTIMATED $10.13 million at 1,505 theaters ($6,728 per theater).
Directed by Kevin Bray, it stars Ice Cube and Mike Epps.
"Benjamins is right where we figured it would be," New Line Distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "We're very pleased. We've had a long association with Ice Cube and he's delivered for us once again. His last picture for us was Next Friday and he's got The Friday After Next at Thanksgiving for us."
Miramax and Universal's R rated romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights fell sharply in its second week, down two slots to fourth place with a less appealing ESTIMATED $7.1 million (-42%) at 2,399 theaters (+174 theaters; $2,959 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.9 million.
Directed by Michael Lehmann, it stars Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
New Line's PG-13 rated man-against-the-system drama John Q dropped two rungs to fifth place in its fourth week, still alive and well with an ESTIMATED $6.0 million (-30%) at 2,382 theaters (-74 theaters; $2,519 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.1 million, heading for $70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Nick Cassavetes, it stars Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods, Anne Heche, Kimberly Elise and Ray Liotta.
"John Q is holding up very nicely," New Line's David Tuckerman said. "It's hit a nerve with the American public and they're enjoying the hell out of the movie!"
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated animated Return to Never Land slid two notches to sixth place in its fourth week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-32%) at 2,498 theaters (-120 theaters; $1,869 per theater). Its cume is approximately $41.7 million.
Universal and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 afterlife thriller Dragonfly fell two pegs to seventh place in its third week with a calmer ESTIMATED $4.06 million (-39%) at 2,431 theaters (-76 theaters; $1,670 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.9 million.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Kevin Costner.
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind -- which has eight Oscar nominations including best picture and saw director Ron Howard win the Directors Guild of America's award Saturday night -- held on to eighth place in its 12th week with a still solid ESTIMATED $3.91 million (-16%) at 1,795 theaters (-167 theaters; $2,180 per theater). Its cume is approximately $144.3 million, heading for $150 million-plus, depending on how well it does Oscar night.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
Universal's PG rated family comedy Big Fat Liar fell two rungs to ninth place in its fifth week with an OK ESTIMATED $3.43 million (-31%) at 2,074 theaters (-158 theaters; $1,655 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.3 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti and Amanda Bynes.
Liar, which was made for only about $15 million, should be very profitable for Universal.
Rounding out the Top Ten again this week was New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, still holding well in its 12th week with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-22%) at 1,210 theaters (-93 theaters; $2,149 per theater). Its cume is approximately $291.1 million, heading for $300 million or more in domestic theaters, depending on how it performs Oscar night.
Directed by Peter Jackson, Rings' ensemble cast is led by Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Paramount Classics' PG-13 rated comedy drama Festival in Cannes to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.04 million at 6 theaters ($6,625 per theater).
Written and directed by Henry Jaglom with additional writing by Victoria Foyt, it stars Anouk Aimee, Greta Scacchi, Maximilian Schell, Ron Silver and Zack Norman.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Monster's Ball, which has two Oscar nominations, went wider in its 11th week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.65 million (-9%) at 696 theaters (+36 theaters; $2,365 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.4 million.
Directed by Marc Foster, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger and Peter Boyle.
USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park, which has seven Oscar nominations including best picture and won the Writers Guild of America's best original screenplay award Saturday night, added a few more theaters in its 11th week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $1.6 million (-17%) at 918 theaters (+3 theater; $1,725 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.2 million.
Directed by Robert Altman and starring an extensive ensemble cast, it was written by Julian Fellowes and produced by Altman, Bob Balaban and David Levy.
USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its third week with a still festive ESTIMATED $0.78 million at 76 theaters (+65 theaters; $10,250 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.2 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
"We opened in 12 new markets and the print average in those markets for 25 or 30 theaters is going to be around $13,000," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "The picture's doing extremely well and we're very happy about it."
Miramax Zoe Films' R rated French comedy Amélie widened in its 19th week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.63 million (-1%) at 254 theaters (+12 theaters; $2,480 per theater. Its cume is approximately $28.8 million.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it stars Audrey Tautou.
Miramax's R rated romantic comedy Italian For Beginners widened in its eighth week to a still hopeful ESTIMATED $0.35 million at 79 theaters (+13 theaters; $4,430 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.1 million.
Directed by Lone Scherfig, it stars Anders Berthelsen.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $97.82 million, up about 43.31 percent from last year when they totaled $68.26 million.
Key films for this three-day weekend were down about 2.29% from the previous weekend of this year's total of $100.11 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' second week of The Mexican was first with $12.24 million at 2,959 theaters ($4,138 per theater); and New Line's opening week of 15 Minutes was second with $10.52 million at 2,337 theaters ($4,503 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $22.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $36.9 million.