Here’s Film Comment’s Trivial Top 20, a list of film productions that were never realised. If I could wish to see any of them it would be Sergio Leone’s Leningrad, just over Herzog’s full scale Conquest of Mexico backed by Kubrick’s Aryan Papers. (That cast sounds terrible though Stanley!)
1. Heart of Darkness, Orson Welles
Adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novella. The production began to fall apart when Welles took a long delay in getting the script out to his actors. In addition, the script was too long (at 184 pages) and with special effects work, miniatures, process and matte shots, and huge jungle sets, the film’s budget exceeded $1 million.
2. Genesis, Robert Bresson
A lavish adaptation of the Book of Genesis. Dino de Laurentiis had agreed to finance, but Bresson abandoned the project only to take it up again and then abandon it a second time. He once said that one of the frustrations with the production was that he couldn’t make his animal performers do as they were told.
3. Napoleon, Stanley Kubrick
A biopic on Napoleon set to be made just after the successes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick was so enthusiastic to make the project that he confessed to identifying with Bonaparte even down to the way he ate his food. Jack Nicholson was slated to play the title character, but when corporate changes hit MGM, Kubrick lost the approval.
4. An American Tragedy, Sergei Eisenstein
1930 Adaptation of Dreiser’s novel to be produced by Paramount. Selznick thought the script terribly moving, but too depressing for commercial success: “a subject that will appeal to our vanity through the critical acclaim…but that cannot possibly offer anything but a most miserable two hours to millions of happy-minded young Americans.”
5. Jesus, Carl Theodor Dreyer
Aimed to depict the historical Jesus (a human Jesus) and “to stamp out the myth that the Jewish people are to blame for Jesus’ death.”
6. The Adventures of Harry Dickson, Alain Resnais
Based on a 1931-40 crime series by Jean Ray: to star Dirk Bogarde or Laurence Olivier as the eponymous Harry Dickson with mostly British and American actors in the cast, including Vanessa Redgrave. Surrealist Andre Delvaux had signed on to design the sets and Stockhausen had agreed to pen the music.
7. I, Claudius, Joseph von Sternberg
Adaptation of the Robert Graves novel. The film was abandoned because of a serious car accident during production involving one of the actors.
8. Kaleidoscope, Alfred Hitchcock
After watching Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Hitchcock felt he was a century behind the Italians in technique. He asked the novelist Howard Fast to sketch a treatment about a gay, deformed serial killer. Pleased with the results, Hitchcock composed a shot list with over 450 camera positions and shot an hour’s worth of experimental color tests. However, MCA/Universal were disgusted by the script and immediately cancelled the project reducing Hitchcock to tears.
9. The Aryan Papers Stanley Kubrick
Based on novel by Louis Begley Wartime Lies about the young son of a wealthy jewish family forced to flee when the Germans invade Poland. To shoot in Denmark. Cast to include Joseph Mazello of Jurassic Park, and Uma Thurman or Julia Roberts.
10. The Idiot Andrei Tarkovsky
An adaptation of the Dostoevsky novel, but Tarkovsky died before it could be realized.
11. Leningrad: The 900 Days, Sergio Leone
Inspired by the “invasion theme” of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony. Influenced by Times journalist Harrison Salisbury’s book 900 Days—the Siege of Leningrad. A story of doomed love between a cynical American newsreel cameraman and a young Soviet girl against the epic background of the siege (Leone: “think of Gone with the Wind”). Leone imagined Robert De Niro in the lead. Music by Ennio Morricone. To be shot in the USSR. Delayed indefinitely by Leone’s inability to commit his many ideas to paper and Soviet producers’ reluctance to grant permission.
12. The Moviegoer, Terrence Malick
Adaptation of Walker Percy novel.
13. À la recherche du temps perdu, Luchino Visconti
In 1969 Visconti commissioned a script by Suso Cecchi d’Amico. Visconti conducted rigorous research around Paris and the Normandy coast. The usual collaborators were retained: Nicole Stéphane, photographer Claude Schwartz, costume designer Piero Tosi, and set designer Mario Garbuglia. Silvana Mangano was to play Duchesse de Guermantes, Alain Delon or Dustin Hoffman the Narrator-Protagonist Marcel, and Helmut Berger Baron Charlus’s homosexual protégé Charlie Morel.—huge cast, huge budget, four hours long. Laurence Olivier or Marlon Brando considered for Charlus.
14. The Duchess of Langeais, Max Ophüls
The film, an adaptation of the Balzac novel, was meant to be a comeback vehicle for Greta Garbo. Screen tests were taken, but the film could not get financial backing and fell apart.
15. The Crusades, Paul Verhoeven
With a $150 million budget, Arnold Schwarzenegger was signed for the lead role. The film was to be produced by Carolco, who in the same year produced Renny Harlin’s Cutthroat Island. The company didn’t want to take a risk by doing two big-budget films at once, so Verhoeven made Showgirls instead while Cutthroat Island filmed. When Cutthroat Island flopped, Carolco went bankrupt and The Crusades never materialized.
16. The Cradle Will Rock, Orson Welles
Based on story of Welles’s 1937 production. John Landis and George Folsey to executive produce. Welles rewrote screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. Rupert Everett to star as Welles.
17. À la recherche du temps perdu, Joseph Losey
In the Seventies Harold Pinter teamed up Losey and Proust scholar Barbara Bray to develop a screenplay.
18. Gershwin, Martin Scorsese
Paul Schrader wrote the script for this biopic about the American composer. It was intended that there would be lavish production numbers of Gershwin’s works that would be related to scenes from his life discussed by Gershwin on a psychologist’s couch. The project was cancelled due to complications with rights and the fear that a young audience would not understand or care about Gershwin.
19. The House of Bernarda Alba, Luis Buñuel
20. The Conquest of Mexico, Werner Herzog
From the perspective of the conquered Aztecs. He says the film would be so expensive that it could only be made with the backing of a Hollywood studio.
Here’s the second trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Interesting metronomic score from Jonny Greenwood and Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers his own brand of super creepiness and super charm all at once.
Flavorwire: Former mobster Henry Hill — who had a drug-fueled stint with the Lucchese crime family and an eventual turn as an FBI informant — died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 69. His life became the basis for investigative crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi’s 1986 book Wiseguy, made famous by Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film Goodfellas.
Ray Liotta starred in the film as Hill, which chronicled the reformed mobster’s roots as an errand boy for Lucchese capo Paul Vario in the 1950s, his rise through narcotics trafficking, and retirement into the witness protection program. As TMZ reported, the real Hill prided himself on cleaning up his act later in life, but what did he think about his cinematic counterpart? Find out past the break, where we examined what other people thought about their on-screen doppelgangers and the films based on their lives.
Former mobster Henry Hill was an integral part of the success of Scorsese’s crime-drama Goodfellas. He was consulted frequently by De Niro — who played mafia associate Jimmy “The Gent” Conway in the film (based on real-life gangster Jimmy Burke) — Liotta, and the director about various figures in the Lucchese family and more. Hill told reporters that the film’s characters were “played way down,” because “they couldn’t show the true violence we used. These guys were murderers on a daily basis.” How does he rate Liotta’s performance? “If I had done the movie myself, had I known anything about filmmaking, who knows if I would’ve done a better job,” he said after seeing the film for the first time. Spoken like a real wiseguy.
The most frequent question that we’ve seen on tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook has been, “When is Moonrise Kingdom opening in my hometown?” If you yourself have asked this question, you are part of the success story of Moonrise‘s platform release strategy.
A platform release is a limited release strategy, whereby the film opens in only a few theaters, then gradually expands to more theaters as word of mouth spreads and the marketing campaign gains momentum. Depending on the film’s success, there is even the possibility to expand into a wide release. The advantage of this strategy is that marketing costs are conserved until a film’s performance has been established. This way, if a film turns out to be very popular or critically acclaimed, the distributor may opt to spend more money than originally planned and push for a wider release; if the movie flops, the distributor can withdraw from the campaign without having spent much money promoting and advertising the film.
As you may have heard, MR opened in only four theaters (two in New York and two in Los Angeles), but the film earned $167,250 per screen, which is highest per-theater box office average for a non-animated film of all time.
There are many reasons for this early success: a famous, well-proven cast, an accessible and relatable plot (young love), and the trailer, which guaranteed that the film was sure to have a rightful place in the Wes Anderson canon.
Focus had great success with this marketing strategy with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which also opened on just a few screens and then expanded once positive word-of-mouth had spread.
“One of the things a platform allows you to do is really get a firm sense of who’s going to your movie,” said David Linde, former Chairman of Universal Pictures. You have the chance to see who the movie is working to, and that helps you determine how best to expand into new theaters.”
To think of this another way, aside from the trailer, how many promotional videos did you see for Fantastic Mr. Fox? Not one-tenth the volume we’ve seen for MR. Consider again that FMF was a children’s film which generally would have significant promotional tie-ins (and had significant merchandising opportunities), the effort put into MR is even more dramatic. (Yes, there was a very clever tail-tie promotion and a few British McDonald’s toys, but it’s still significantly minimal compared to, say, the latest Disney venture.)
This platform release strategy is proving to be highly effective for Focus Features’ Moonrise Kingdom. Indeed, the volume of clicks for the search terms “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Wes Anderson” in the Los Angeles designated marketing area (DMA) are more than 5 times larger than for the online population as a whole. Whereas relevant searches began to climb in LA in March, “Moonrise Kingdom” searches for the online population kicked off just before Memorial Day weekend and are beginning to rise.
So what have we learned? If you’re reading this post, following this blog, or if you’ve “Liked” us on Facebook, tweeted about Moonrise, reblogged the latest stills from the film on Tumblr, you are part of the success of the campaign. Well done. If you’re still waiting for the movie to be released where you live, keep your chin up and keep checking this list for theaters near you (and also know that that list is incomplete, so you may need to do a bit of sleuthing on your own.)
Love Letter to Plywood by Tom Sachs, Directed by Van Neistat. 2012
10 Bullets. By Tom Sachs, a compilation of 10 shorter films, the first being “Working to Code” all designed for members of the Tom Sachs studio team. Required viewing for all employees and studio visitors.
Color focuses on the comprehensive colour code for the Studio.
The best bit is the Colour Blue bit that starts around 12:50. ‘Since NASA’s PMS 286 blue is so dopey, we took license to make it more badass’ Ha Love that they hate purple too!
Friends of the Children, written and directed by Stephen Shames.
Friends of the Children is photographer Stephen Shames’ first film. The film uses a unique “no narrator” approach.
Friends of the Children is a mentoring program that helps young children most in danger of abuse, gang involvement, teenage pregnancy and criminal behavior by putting caring, full-time “aunts” and “uncles” into their lives.
We sometimes think problems such as family violence, students killing students at school, drugs and alcohol, teens with babies, abuse, neglect don’t have solutions. But this film, which explores the lives of our most “at-risk” children, shows they do.
“Friends of the Children is simply putting a caring, loving adult into the life of a child,” says Friends Director Mike Forzley, “What we do in Friends is build relationships… caring, loving relationships. I don’t know if love conquers all, but love facilitates growth. It unlocks their hearts. It opens their minds. Then the miracle happens.”
Jared Moshé’s Dead Man’s Burden just received a pretty good review over at The Playlist, good to see a new independent western and shot on film too. Except for True Grit and Meek’s Cutoff there hasn’t been a decent western in ages, maybe Django Unchained will trigger a larger interest in the genre.
Bob Balaban serves as Wes Anderson’s narrator/storyteller in Moonrise Kingdom. In a new interview he talks about his career, the best bit being his experiences on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
AVC: There’s a part in Close Encounters where you have to convey the emotion of being one of the first humans to see an alien spaceship land. You write that people on the set referred to it as “the ———— scene,” where the dash represents someone looking up at the sky and moving their head from left to right.
BB: Steven [Spielberg] was very helpful with that, because he would talk to you, like in a silent movie. There’s a scene with Melinda Dillon where she has to see the mothership appear, and she didn’t even know it was going to be a mothership. She was just looking for her lost son and doesn’t know what’s happening. Steven literally would stand behind the camera and say, “Okay, so you see a light, now it’s kind of coming out, then you think maybe it’s an explosion, you’re not sure what, then it gets bigger…” And he talked her through the entire thing. If the right director does that in the right way, it’s just amazing. It’s like the whole history of silent movies, because directors never shut up in silent movies. They don’t get to do it that much in talking movies, but Steven was just the master. He didn’t have the acting background that so many other great directors have—Sidney Lumet, Sydney Pollack, and a number of other directors came from theater, or they were actors, and they had a lot of acting tricks in their bag of tricks. But Steven only had himself to draw on, and the results of a lot of great performances, because he knew every performance in every movie ever made. Steven proved to me that you don’t have to be a wizard of training in order to be great; he’s just great with people, and he’s great with actors. It’s not because he studied it, necessarily. He just knew it. It’s also why I think anybody who’s great with children tends to be a pretty good director.
AVC: Speaking of great directors, your role in Close Encounters was as translator to the scientist played by François Truffaut, and the sense from your diaries is that you played a similar role offscreen.
BB: It was so much fun. You can only imagine [having] one of your favorite directors be absolutely dependent on you for eight months of shooting. I could speak fairly good French, and he really didn’t like to speak English. He would bring me scripts, I would translate them, and we would have discussions afterward. He didn’t like reading the scripts in English, so I would read them and describe to him what it was, and what was going on. It was great. Truffaut was great with kids, also. At one point—I’m sure I’ve said this in my book, and three or four thousand times already—Truffaut said for him there were literally two things that interested him in all of his movies. That was it. He said life was short—how prescient he was, because he died eight years later. But he said, “I’m never going to have enough time to make all of the movies I want. So I can only make movies about men and women and their relationships, and children and their relationships. That’s it, that’s all that interests me.” That’s everything in the world, but it also rules out a huge amount of things. It mostly rules out anything mechanical. At one point, he was asked to direct Bobby Deerfield, I think. He said, “Too much ‘vroom vroom.’” What he really meant was it wasn’t about men and women falling in love, or children.