Actor Richard Farnsworth, an Oscar nominee this year for Best Actor for “The Straight Story,” died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday night in Lincoln, N.M. The oldest actor to be nominated for a Best Actor statuette, Farnsworth was 80.
Farnsworth, who was nominated twice for an Academy Award and was a former stuntman, had been involved in filmmaking for more than 60 years.
Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan released a statement Friday night saying the actor died at his home in Lincoln, 250 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Police did not release any further details, but Jewely Van Valin, Farnsworth’s fiancée, was at home when he died.
“I was just in the other room and I heard the shot,” she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Farnsworth's home. “He was in incredible pain today. He was going downhill.”
Van Valin said Farnsworth was diagnosed several years ago with terminal cancer, which had left him partially paralyzed, and he struggled with the pain while working on David Lynch’s “The Straight Story.”
“He was very ill in that movie, but phenomenally he made it through. He didn't want the world to know he was sick,” Van Valin said. “He couldn't fight it, and cancer got him.”
At age 79, Farnsworth was the oldest leading actor to receive an Oscar nomination. This year’s nomination was the second for Farnsworth, who was also nominated for the 1978 film “Comes A Horseman.” Actress Gloria Stuart was 87 when she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for 1997’s “Titanic,” making her the oldest performer ever nominated.
Farnsworth, a Los Angeles native, was a stuntman for more than 30 years and moved into acting at age 57. He appeared in films such as “The Natural,” “Tom Horn” and “Anne of Green Gables.”
Strong openings for "The Mexican" and "See Spot Run" sent "Hannibal" south of the box office border after three weeks in first place.
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "The Mexican" kicked off to a record-setting estimated $20.3 million at 2,951 theaters ($6,879 per theater). Its powerful box office punch proved audiences cared more about Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts' superstar luster than the film's lackluster reviews.
"The Mexican" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"For the first week in March, this is the biggest opening ever," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning, noting that it beats the $17.2 million opening for "The Hunt For Red October" when it surfaced on March 2, 1990. "It's one of the bigger March openings. Last year, on March 17, 'Erin Brockovich' did $28.1 million."
"It could be a little better than this (estimate), but there's a storm moving into the Northeast so we dropped the Sunday estimate," Tharp said, noting that this morning some Hollywood handicappers were estimating an even bigger opening weekend. "I don't know what the impact (of the snowstorm) is going to be."
The film's reviews, Tharp commented, "were mixed. There were some good ones and some not so good. But I think it is a credit to the star power of those two, plus James Gandolfini is well known. I think that people who saw the movie liked it. Part of the issue with the critics is that your expectations are one thing when you see a Julia Roberts movie and this is totally different. A little quirky, maybe, for some of the critics."
"Mexican" reportedly was made for only about $40 million, with both of its superstars taking much less than their usual salaries.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, "Mexican" stars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
Warner Bros.' G-rated family appeal comedy "See Spot Run" from Village Roadshow Pictures was running hard in second place, opening to a frisky estimated $10.2 million at 2,656 theaters ($3,840 per theater).
An additional draw for family audiences was the fact that Warners advertised that it is showing with "Spot" the first trailer for its much-awaited "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," opening this November.
"'Spot' has run well. He ate 'Hannibal' today," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "The exits are great. It's not an expensive movie. So it's all very, very good news."
Reportedly made for only about $15 million, "Spot" should be profitable in theaters and then have big potential in home video thanks to its family appeal.
Fellman was waiting to receive Saturday's exit poll data, but said it should be in line with Friday's research, which found "it was 96% in the top two boxes (excellent and very good) and the definite recommend was 86%. So it looks great. Word of mouth is terrific. That's why we had such a great Saturday. And we'll have a great Sunday, as well, because the weather's helping us. It's not snowing (on the East Coast yet). It's going to snow tonight. The reactions starting with our sneaks (last Sunday) were great, so it led to a solid opening.
"And we put the 'Harry Potter' trailer on it and advertised it, so it certainly was added value for the family. It just helped brand the movie (as family entertainment) the way we wanted to brand it. Reaction to the trailer was just spectacular, so we're very, very excited about that. That's a monster movie for us and it will be a great franchise for the company."
Directed by John Whitesel, "Run" stars David Arquette.
MGM and Universal's R-rated thriller "Hannibal" fell two pegs to third place in its fourth week with a less mouthwatering estimated $10.05 million (-36%) at 3,272 theaters (-20 theaters; $3,072 per theater). Its cume is approximately $142.8 million, heading for $175 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis and Ridley Scott, "Hannibal" stars Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore.
"We're happy," MGM worldwide distribution president Larry Gleason said Sunday morning.
Gleason pointed out that MGM's next release, the PG-13-rated comedy "Heartbreakers" from David Entertainment is being screened Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. for exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas and will then receive a double sneak before its March 23 opening. The picture is generating an advance buzz as a potential spring sleeper hit.
"It's going to be the first screening to kick off ShoWest," Gleason said. "Then we have a preview this Saturday night (March 10) at 700 theaters and then we're planning to (sneak it at) 1,000 theaters the following Saturday (March 17)."
Directed by David Mirkin and produced by John Davis and Irving Ong, "Heartbreakers" stars Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Jeffrey Jones and Gene Hackman.
Paramount's PG-13-rated comedy "Down to Earth" slid two slots to fourth place in its third week with a still solid estimated $8.0 million (-29%) at 2,521 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,173 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.1 million.
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, "Earth" stars Chris Rock.
Sony Pictures Classics' Oscar-contending, PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" held on to fifth place in its 13th week with an energetic estimated $4.93 million (-25%) at 1,751 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,817 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88.7 million.
"Tiger" is nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture, best foreign language film and best director.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
"I feel that we're still on track to reach that $100 million mark before the Oscars, which would be stupendous," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning.
USA Films' R-rated, Oscar-contending drama "Traffic" held on to sixth place in its 10th week with a still impressive estimated $4.51 million (-13%) at 1,617 theaters (-138 theaters; $2,788 per theater). Its cume is approximately $92.3 million.
"Traffic" is nominated for five Oscars, including best picture and best director.
"It's down 13%, an amazing hold against 'The Mexican,' no less," USA distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "And 'Chocolat' and 'Crouching Tiger' had good holds, too. I think it's (the result of) a couple of things. It's that overbearing interest that America has in the Academy Awards. There's no doubt about it. People are already (making a point of seeing the best picture nominees).
"The benefit of this year's lack of competition among the five best picture group is really (helping) 'Crouching Tiger,' 'Chocolat' and us, since 'Gladiator' and 'Erin Brockovich' really aren't out there. So we have more pie (to carve up between the three nominees who are now in wide release).
"The other thing that I think is very beneficial, as well, is when you look at the list (of new films in the marketplace) -- with all due respect to my competition -- most of the films out there are relatively uninteresting. So people are looking for other choices. You're seeing considerable drops in the commercial pictures going on week after week. So the hole in the market has benefited us, as well."
Foley expects continued strong business for "Traffic" as well as for "Chocolat" and "Crouching Tiger" as the Oscars approach. "As you get down to the Academy Awards, with that momentum ever increasing and grabbing the attention of the public, it's free advertising for us that will motivate people to see these films before the (Oscars are announced March 25). So we're just going to grow further.
"This weekend, we should have had a bigger drop because you're g tting closer (to the Oscars). This puts us in perfect position for business. Depending on how the picture sustains itself next week, we could hit $100 million the week of March 16 or the week of March 23. I had different drops (projected) for the picture, different scenarios that were 65% or 75% of the week prior, and it's actually like 25% or 35% drops. So over the last couple of weeks my hundred million mark was actually drifting down into the beginning of April or the week after the Academy Awards. But as the film has sustained these great holds in the marketplace and the drops are so diminished, I'm now looking at hitting $100 million as early as the week of March 16. And remember this -- the sooner you hit $100 million, the more you go over it. There's more gross (to be made)."
With "Traffic" now at about $92.3 million in domestic theaters, its international business to date brings its worldwide cume to about $115 million, Foley said.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Miramax's PG-13-rated, Oscar-contending romantic comedy drama "Chocolat" rose one rung to seventh place in its 12th week with a still tempting estimated $4.2 million (-12%) at 1,857 theaters (+13 theaters; $2,261 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.7 million.
"Chocolat" is nominated for five Oscars, including best picture.
"It's great," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "Probably by the time of the Oscars, we'll be close to $60 million, which is ahead of where 'Cider House Rules' ended its run. We haven't dropped more than 15% on any given week.
"People love the movie. It's an audience pleaser. Somebody said (to me last night), 'The thing about 'Chocolat' is that with all these other movies I've been seeing, everyone's dying at the end. With 'Chocolat,' at least, you go, you have fun, you leave with a smile on your face.' They said, it's a movie you can recommend to anybody. And I think that's what it is. It's a movie for everybody. It's entertaining. You have a good time."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
Buena Vista/Disney's G-rated animated feature "Recess: School's Out" fell four notches to eighth place in its third week with a less lively estimated $3.9 million (-43%) at 2,503 theaters (-127 theaters; $1,570 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.6 million.
Directed by Chuck Sheetz, "Recess" was produced by Sheetz and Stephen Swofford and executive produced and created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere.
Franchise Pictures' (via its distribution deal with Warner Bros.) R-rated drama "3000 Miles To Graceland" plunged six slots in its second week to ninth place, with a chilly estimated $3.05 million (-57%) at 2,545 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,196 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.2 million.
Directed by Demian Lichtenstein, "Graceland" stars Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner.
Warner Bros. has no financial investment in "Graceland," which it is releasing for Franchise for a distribution fee.
Rounding out the Top Ten this week was Warner Bros. and Bel-Air Entertainment's PG-13-rated romantic drama "Sweet November," down three slots in its third week with a quiet estimated $2.46 million (-52%) at 2,037 theaters (-231 theaters; $1,205 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.6 million.
Directed by Pat O'Connor, "November" stars Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron.
OTHER OPENINGS Universal Focus' opening of its R-rated thriller "The Caveman's Valentine" arrived to a calm estimated $0.12 million at 16 theaters ($7,745 per theater).
Directed by Kasi Lemmons, "Valentine" stars Samuel L. Jackson.
USA Films' R-rated reality TV satire "Series 7" kicked off to a very encouraging estimated $30,000 at two theaters ($15,094 per theater).
Written and directed by Daniel Minahan, "Series" stars Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald, Mary Louise Burke, Richard Venture, Michael Kaycheck and Merrit Wever.
SNEAK PREVIEWS There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, this weekend saw
Sony Pictures Classics go wider with its R-rated drama "Pollock," grossing in its fourth week an encouraging estimated $0.75 million at 104 theaters (+72 theaters; $7,234 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.8 million.
"Pollock" received Oscar nominations for best actor (Ed Harris) and best supporting actress (Marcia Gay Harden).
Directed by Ed Harris, "Pollock" stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
"We're very pleased with that," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning, adding that next week the film will add "substantially more" runs.
USA Films' PG-rated drama "In the Mood For Love" continued to expand in its fifth week with a still encouraging estimated $0.29 million at 64 theaters (+14 theaters; $4,495 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.3 million.
Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, "Love" stars Tony Leung and Maggie Chung.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $83.79 million, up about 9.53% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $76.5 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up a marginal 0.05% from last weekend this year when key films did $83.75 million.
Last year, Warner Bros.' third week of "The Whole Nine Yards" was first with $7.17 million at 2,793 theaters ($2,569 per theater); and Paramount's opening week of "The Next Best Thing" was second with $5.87 million at 2,007 theaters ($2,925 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $13.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $30.5 million.
Carmen Electra might be eye candy to some, but the model-actress doesn’t like the way Candie’s Inc. has made her look.
The former “Baywatch” actress filed a lawsuit against the perfume and shoe company, saying that it used her name and image improperly on its Web site after a four-month ad campaign with her and ex-husband-basketball player Dennis Rodman, Reuters reports. The suit filed on Tuesday in federal court seeks unspecified damages.
HERE COMES SANTA GERE: Call him Santa Gere. Business owners in Kittanning, Pa., a small town 35 miles from Pittsburgh, are being asked to keep their Christmas decorations up through March to film Richard Gere's newest film “The Motherman Prophecies.”
So it looks like the holiday season will be extended this year thanks to the actor. Filming is scheduled to begin in February, according to The Associated Press.
In the film, Gere plays a journalist who investigates the legend of a man who could fly.
MORIARTY IN COURT: Talk about turning the tables. Actor Michael Moriarty, who played prosecutor Ben Stone on NBC’s “Law & Order,” was in a Canadian court to face charges of assault, AP reports. Moriarty, 59, is accused of striking a woman last month in a restaurant.
He appeared in court without a lawyer and told the judge that an unidentified woman would represent him. He wasn’t asked to enter a plea but is expected to be back in court for another hearing on Thursday.
THEY'RE BAAACK! It looks like these wives might be up for renewing their vows. Daily Variety reports that Paramount is preparing with producer Scott Rudin to film a sequel to their 1996 hit comedy “The First Wives Club.”
Negotiations are currently under way to bring back its stars, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton. If all goes as planned, production for the sequel might start in March.
In a surprising move, the members of the New York Film Critics Circle, an association of film reviewers from major Manhattan-based newspapers and magazines, selected "Topsy-Turvy" as the Best Picture of 1999.
Part biopic, part backstage drama, "Topsy-Turvy" is an opulent motion picture that focuses on the prickly relationship between librettist William Schwenk Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. Mike Leigh was selected as Best Director for the same film, which now becomes poised with "American Beauty" (selected by the National Board of Review), "Three Kings" (the Boston Critics' choice) and "The Insider" (the L.A. Film Critics Association winner) as frontrunners in the upcoming Oscar race.
The top acting honors were awarded to two performers who portrayed real-life figures. Veteran Richard Farnsworth was named Best Actor for his turn as Alvin Straight, a man who rode a tractor several hundred miles across the Midwest in order to reunite with his estranged brother, in "The Straight Story," directed by David Lynch. Hilary Swank was cited as Best Actress for her superlative portrayal of Teena Brandon, a Nebraska woman who lived her short adult life as a man, in "Boy's Don't Cry."
The quirky, highly original comedy "Being John Malkovich" earned three awards: Best Supporting Actor for John Malkovich (for playing a character based on himself), Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Keener and Best First Film for director Spike Jonze.
For the first time in its 65-year history, the Circle voted to present a prize for Best Animated Film, bestowing the honors to Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the uproarious and irreverent "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." As Circle Chairman Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly explained, "You could almost say that this award category created itself. There has been such an increase in animated features targeted at adults as well as children, that as critics we felt we had to recognize superior achievement in the field."
"All About My Mother," directed by Pedro Almodovar, was selected as the Best Foreign Language Film, marking a clean sweep in all the critics' prizes presented to date.
Other award presented by the New York Film Critics Circle include Best Cinematography to Freddie Francis' lensing of "The Straight Story," Best Non-Fiction Film to "Buena Vista Social Club" and Best Screenplay to Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for the little-seen "Election." A special award for distinguished achievement in film criticism was bestowed on Manny Farber.
Gleiberman and Vice-Chairman David Sterrit of The Christian Science Monitor made the announcement of the awards. The annual presentation of the awards will be held at a dinner at New York City's Windows on the World at the World Trade Center on Jan. 9.
Start with hard work a grueling arduous schedule and an industry already famous for fast living. Throw in lots of money and starstruck scantily dressed fans willing to do anything for a few moments with the men of their dreams and ... well you know. But there's more to "Backstage" than cognac bottles green leafy substances and female anatomy. Rappers eat sleep play fight discuss their inner struggles and admit to being moved to tears by "Good Will Hunting." Just don't expect the story of the girl who broke up the band -- the rivalries and conflicts are mostly low-key and a friendly paintball game supplies the only gunplay.
As major players in an image-conscious business the rappers and hip-hop impresarios profiled here do their fair share of posturing; at other times the conversations seem remarkably candid and revealing. Highlights include interviews with Jay-Z Beanie Sigel and DMX with some comic relief as hip-hop wannabes try to impress the touring rappers. Also noteworthy is the film's focus on music magnate Damon Dash and his high-decibel insights into management philosophy intellectual property and brand identity. (He is the producer after all.)
Documentary and music video director Chris Fiore chose to let the subjects of "Backstage" tell the story in their own words. Unlike many of his contemporaries he helped them out by editing miles of celluloid and tape into a well-structured comprehensible narrative. The film starts out loud and fast and keeps up the pace despite a detour into sex and drugs that lasts just a bit too long. Missing for the most part is the view from across the yawning gender gap -- little is heard from female hip-hop artist Amil despite her prominent billing in the credits.