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James McAvoy got his start in British comedies and dramas, working in ensembles like Bright Young Things and TV’s Shameless, while taking the lead early in Starter for 10. His role as hirsute satyr Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe got him major exposure, and an in with the young crowd. McAvoy started to pick up awards attention while on the peripheral in the Forrest Whitaker-starring The Last King of Scotland, a fitting fate considering the observer character he played in that Idi Amin biopic. The Best Picture-nominated Atonement quickly followed.
But it was his role in the raucous Wanted that proved his breakthrough, and that maybe McAvoy could hack it in action blockbuster world. This led to his most iconic role yet, that of Professor X as the X-Men sidewined into the past with First Class. His matchup against Michael Fassbender’s Magneto remains among the most engaging hero/villain feuds in superhero cinema.
2019 was one of his busier years, appearing in three movies, all sequels wrapping up their franchises: Dark Phoenix, IT Chapter Two, and Glass. With that, we’re ranked all James McAvoy movies by Tomatometer!
Luke Skywalker’s epic journey from moisture farmer to cave hermit continues this Friday with Star Wars: The Last Jedi!
Wait, a movie with ‘The Last‘ in its title? Turns out we’ve seen that one before, prompting this week’s gallery of 24 best and worst Last movies.
Say what you like about wild man writer-director Abel Ferrara (probably still best known for The Driller Killer), but he knows how to land the talent. His 2005 picture Mary — which gets its first UK screenings, at the NFT in London as part of a Juliette Binoche season, on the 2nd and 3rd of October — not only casts the 1995 Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner (The English Patient), but finds room for 2007 Best Actor Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and 2008 Best Actress Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), plus Matthew Modine (returning as a Ferrara alter ego after The Blackout) and Euro-favourite Stefania Rocca (best known for The Talented Mr Ripley).
In the past, Ferrara has managed (against the odds) to get solid work from hit-or-miss talents like Madonna (reasonably credible in Snake Eyes aka Dangerous Game), Asia Argento (outstanding in New Rose Hotel) and Ice-T (good in R’Xmas), and guided powerhouses like Christopher Walken and Laurence Fishburne (The King of New York), Harvey Keitel (Bad Lieutenant) and Lili Taylor (The Addiction) through method performances which would fill shelves with statuettes if folks in Beverly Hills paid attention to films as rough, challenging and strange as the Ferrara oeuvre.
Made partially as a response to Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ, Mary is a hard-to-categorise exercise in street theology — which touches on Da Vinci Code-ish speculations about the gospels, and wrestles with the age-old problems of faith and uncertainty in a mix of subtle character interplay and outright silent movie-style melodramatics. Tony Childress (Modine) has just finished directing and starring in a film called This is My Blood (not to be confused with There Will Be Blood), which is attracting Last Temptation of Christ-style organised protests for supposed blasphemy and anti-semitism. Marie Palesi (Binoche), the actress cast as Mary Magdalene, has been so overwhelmed by the experience of playing the role that she has opted to abandon her career and go to Jerusalem (‘what are you doing,’ Tony asks, ‘healing lepers?’) to explore spiritual pursuits and dispense enigmatic wisdom via cell-phone.
It seems that she has come to believe that the depiction of Mary as a prostitute in the gospels and as Jesus’s wife in modern fiction are both male-perpetrated myths designed to cover up the fact that the messiah chose her, not Saint Peter, as his chief disciple — this is an interesting ‘what if’ in itself, and the scenes from This is My Blood in which Mary resists being shut out of the disciples’ boys’ club have a Pasolinian vigour that bests Gibson’s Christian torture porn and at least competes with Scorsese’s It’s a Wonderful Life heresies.
A year later, with the film edited and due for release, Tony has shaved off his Jesus beard and retreated behind dark glasses while embarking on an embattled publicity tour for the film, responding to the protests with desperate aggression and hurt-little boy pride (Ferrara has been playing autobiographical games on the theme of artist as childish monster ever since The Driller Killer, and Modine enthusiastically plays up to the director’s out-of-the-room image). Ted Younger (Whitaker), a New York-based talk show host, conducts nightly interviews with theologians and Biblical historians (what channel could this possibly air on?) and Tony agrees to appear on the program (hinting that Marie might show up to solve the mystery of her disappearance) if Ted covers the scheduled premiere, which is expected to feature a possibly-violent clash with protestors (in a jarring shock scene, what seems to be a mix of hasidic Jews and a street gang attack the limo Tony and Ted are riding in).
Ted is being unfaithful to his pregnant wife Elizabeth (Heather Graham) with actress Gretchen (Cotillard), and this ‘sin’ is punished when Elizabeth gives premature birth to a baby who struggles to live (it’s probably a mercy that Ferrara uses a plainly healthy baby, though this undercuts the desperation of the hospital scenes). Just as Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutentant bared his soul to Jesus, so Whitaker’s straying commentator stops the show with an angst-driven prayer — very few actors can get away with praying on screen, especially if they have to talk out loud to God and the audience, but Whitaker is as good here as in any given Idi Amin scene.
With his spirituality completely turned around by this travail, Ted doesn’t give Tony the easy ride he expects on his show — and brings in the distant voice of Marie, who remains certain and centered as the men around her descend into mania. Like many a Ferrara film, the home stretch is deliberately chaotic and hard to follow, but a bomb threat disrupts the This is My Blood premiere and Marie takes to a fishing boat in Israel as she blends even more with Mary Magdalene. As cued by a debate in which characters (and the audience) are enjoined to ‘really think’ about the crucifixion, everyone gets a ‘big suffering scene’: Modine’s turn comes when Tony goes crazy as he works a projector, screening his film to the cops searching the auditorium for a bomb and gloating that there are ‘lines around the block in Chicago’. Only Binoche remains serene, though Marie’s abandonment of the life of a movie star for that of a saint might prompt audiences to muse that when Ferrara gives her great iconic close-ups he is turning saintliness back to old-fashioned stardom.
Ferrara has always had one foot in the grindhouse and the other in the arthouse. He even made (and starred in) a porn movie (9 Lives of a Wet Pussy), which is unusual for someone as inclined as fellow New York Italian-American Martin Scorsese to make bizarre religious films. Then again, ‘really think’ about the crucifixion, as Mel Gibson did, and you find the horror movie bleeding heart of Roman Catholicism — previously strongest in the Ferrara filmography in the revisionist vampire movie The Addiction.
Perhaps to put further distance between Mary and Gibson’s film, it inclines towards the respectable end of Ferrara’s output, which means even fans who cherish the likes of Ms .45 and Body Snatchers (on which he first worked with Whittaker) haven’t completely embraced it. Like Ferrara’s New Rose Hotel, R’Xmas, Go Go Tales and the documentary Chelsea on the Rocks, Mary has mostly screened at film festivals. Since The Blackout in 1997, even independent distributors haven’t got behind his films in the UK: they don’t even go direct to DVD, where you could find a Driller Killer 2 if any schlockmeister got the rights to it. This is the penalty for making films at a volume of eleven.
The action-thriller Wanted hits theaters this week, and though it’s toplined by one of the biggest stars in the world (Angelina Jolie), it also features a young Scotsman who’s making a name for himself as well: James McAvoy.
On these shores, McAvoy first earned notice for his work in HBO’s Band of Brothers and the Sci-Fi Channel’s Children of Dune. Since then, his star has risen, and it’s not hard to see why; McAvoy plays characters of fundamental decency and charm, and has become something of a heartthrob with bookish ladies. Here’s a rundown of McAvoy’s best-reviewed work to date.
Bright Young Things (2004, 65 percent)
After years of acclaimed theatrical and television performances in the UK, McAvoy crossed the pond to US cinemas — albeit joined by a formidable collection of Brit acting talent — in Bright Young Things. Stephen Fry‘s directorial debut wryly follows the social goings-on of young upper-crust Britons in the 1930s, complete with scandal, romantic triangles, and generational conflict. It would seem difficult to stand out in a cast that features Richard E. Grant, Emily Mortimer, Simon Callow, Jim Broadbent, and Peter O’Toole, but McAvoy holds his own, playing a needy, manipulative scandal-sheet writer who still inspires empathy. “Newcomer James McAvoy [is] very good,” wrote Derek Elley of Variety.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005, 75 percent)
It’s not easy for an actor to establish a memorable screen persona when surrounded by acting heavyweights in the midst of a fantasy world while wearing a funny costume. But as Mr. Tumnus, a faun who acts as the welcome wagon for the Pevensie children in Narnia, McAvoy still managed to create an indelible impression — again playing a morally-conflicted character who ultimately does the right thing. “Mr. Tumnus is simply one of the most jaw-dropping cinematic creatures invented yet, a stunning mix of filmmaking wizardry and McAvoy’s soulful and physical thesping,” wrote Laura Clifford of Reeling.
Atonement (2007, 83 percent)
Though he’d turned in some outstanding performances before, it was Atonement that provided McAvoy with his first big break. In a Golden Globe-nominated performance, McAvoy plays Robbie, the decent, hard-working son of a housekeeper on a posh estate with dreams of becoming a doctor. He’s carried a torch for Cecilia (Keira Knightly), the eldest daughter of the upper-class Tallis clan. After tip-toeing around each other for years, the pair finally acknowledge a mutual attraction — but their nascent romance is thwarted when Cecelia’s younger sister (perhaps intentionally) misinterprets the nature of a late-night meeting — and lands Robbie in the slammer. The rest of Atonement deals with the ramifications of that night, and it’s a devastating portrait of star-crossed love. “Most people will recognize Knightley, but it’s McAvoy who will have you talking after the credits roll,” wrote Willie Waffle of WaffleMovies.com.
The Last King of Scotland (2006, 87 percent)
It’s no insult to McAvoy to say he doesn’t give the best performance in The Last King of Scotland. He’s merely excellent, while Forest Whittaker, playing Ugandan strongman Idi Amin, is borderline possessed. But McAvoy’s role is just as important; playing Garrigan, Amin’s (fictional) personal doctor, he helps the audience understand the magnetic pull of evil, especially when it’s veiled (initially, at least) in magnanimity. Garrigan begins his journey to Uganda as a naïve liberal, gets in Amin’s good graces after a chance meeting, rationalizes the leader’s methods even as evidence mounts of genocide, and ultimately finds himself in over his head. It’s a tricky balancing act, but McAvoy pulls it off. “Whitaker and McAvoy inhabit their roles so fully that the film around them transforms into a major document of 1970s cultural myopia,” wrote Gabriel Shanks of Modern Fabulosity.
Starter for 10 (2007, 89 percent)
McAvoy excelled as an awkward, trivia-obsessed working-class collegian in this coming-of-age romantic comedy. McAvoy won high praise for his performance as Brian Jackson, an ambitious student who dreams of impressing the lads in his hometown by participating on a televised quiz show — and overcoming his ineptitude with the ladies. Set in the 1980s, Starter for 10 examines the era’s class politics without shorting on laughs, and McAvoy — portraying a flawed but earnest character — helped to elevate it above mere formula. “James McAvoy may be the most likable British newcomer since Ewan McGregor,” wrote Desson Thomson of the Washington Post. “His glistening eyes can seduce audiences with their ability to show conflicting emotions.”
And, finally, here’s a musical interlude from the 2005 made-for-TV movie ShakespeaRe-Told:
Scottish actor James McAvoy has shot several films in the last few years (Becoming Jane, The Last King of Scotland, and the eagerly anticipated Wanted) but so far remains most associated with Mr. Tumnus, his hairy role as the faun in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. But if early Oscar buzz can be trusted, his name may also be synonymous with Oscar nominee.
In his latest film, Atonement, McAvoy plays Robbie Turner, a groundskeeper whose entire life is irrevocably changed when he is falsely accused of a crime. Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, McAvoy joins a talented crew including Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave, and the Pride and Prejudice team of director Joe Wright and actress Keira Knightley. Atonement opens this Friday in limited release. RT met up with McAvoy in San Francisco to chat about the challenges of playing a “perfect” character, the cost of training for Wanted, and why he might be taking a break from acting.
In Atonement, there is an incredible very long tracking shot on the beach, involving lots of extras. How did you rehearse for that?
James McAvoy: We wanted to be very particular, so we spent a whole day rehearsing. I think with something as daunting as that, most directors would say, “F–k it, we’ve got so many extras, we’ll just shoot all day and get 20 takes and one of them might work. And if they don’t all work, we’ll edit.” But Joe just decided that we would rehearse all day and get it perfect. And then when the light was just right, and we only had half an hour, we did three takes. Two of the takes didn’t work, so we were on the third take and it felt really good. So we went back to view it on the monitors and, of course, the monitors decided to f–king blow up, so we didn’t know if we had it. But we found out two days later when we got the footage back that it worked and it was all good.
How many extras were involved in that scene?
JM: There were 1500 people. Any one of them could have royally screwed up at any point, so it was a miracle that it worked. I always think that particular scene is a microcosm of what making a film is. It really is a miracle of people collaborating and it was interesting because it’s very rare that something is that free, and that the actor is the person that helps make the shot. Usually you’re told to stand somewhere and the cameras move all around you. It this scene, it was much more along the lines that the camera may be anywhere. It would never be in the same place twice because a horse would walk past me, so I would be like, “F–k, the camera’s over there!” The actors were creating the shots as much as they could, which was so enjoyable but also high pressure.
What is it about Joe Wright’s directorial style that brings out such praised performances?
JM: He grew up in the theater. His mother and father were both puppeteers and owned a puppet theater. His mother still owns one called The Angel. I think he loves actors, and that’s a big thing because not every director likes actors. A lot of directors feel like actors just f–k up their films. But Joe loves actors. He cares about them and tries to make them better. Having a director that is confident in you and cares about you makes you suddenly feel free. You feel safe to take risks and that alone is big. He understands every job on a film set, which I don’t think a lot of directors do. He appreciates everybody on set. He’s a proper f–king amazing über-director.
You mentioned that Joe Wright has a theater background. Since the cast lived together while filming Atonement was this a theater-like experience?
JM: I didn’t live together, I stayed separate. Partly because I went to college and couldn’t be asked about s–t anymore, and partly because my character is separate from all of them. It kind of helped that all of the actors that lived in the house with Joe and the crew were all quite posh. They were all quite upper class. Lovely people, and some of them are now really good friends of mine, but they were all quite posh and I’m not really. I’m not from that background. It was useful for me as my character to kind of stay away.
So when I’d go up there for my dinner or something like that, I’d go once or twice a week. I could have gone up any night I wanted, and I was always welcome, but in my head and my imagination, I was only going up when I was invited. It was also kind of just me doing a little bit of make believe. I’m not a method actor, but I just kept myself a wee bit separate.
Your character goes through many stages throughout the film — including age and going from being quite naïve to very jaded. How did you take on that challenge?
JM: I like playing a variety of characters. I feel like I’ve been able to play different kinds of characters — I’ve done a lot of period pieces — but I’ve never had to play the same type of character too much. Getting to play two different types of characters in one film was quite interesting.
I found him quite difficult to play and believe in to begin with, because he’s quite a perfect type of person and I found that strange. I didn’t know if I could play it convincingly because I wasn’t sure if I believed that people like that exist. And then it got easier as we went along because I started to believe that he could. People like that might not exist for real, but it’s what we should be. The type of person that he became halfway through the film after something bad happens to him is somebody that I’m much more used to playing. He’s somebody who is very conflicted and suicidal, and strangely because of that, much more human.
He doesn’t really know who he is anymore. I don’t think he can quite remember who he was, because he is so different. The only person who knows who is his and can make him feel like he can even remember the person he used to be is [Keira Knightley’s character] Cecilia Tallis. If it wasn’t for the fact that she still cared for him, still loved him, or that she’s even alive, I think he’d kill himself because who he was would be completely lost. I think that’s just such an amazing place to start of playing a character.
JM: Badly, I think. I kept trying to make him interesting — conflicted, tainted, restless, passionate, and angry — and I had to stop doing that because it was not working in rehearsals. It was just bad. I just had to trust that the most boring person in the world is interesting, because we’re all interesting. We’re all miracles as well, that we’re even here.
I don’t know why we’re not interested in seeing good people. I think we like seeing good people, but only if bad things happen to them. Which is weird, isn’t it? It’s like the whole thing with Jesus Christ. F–king hell, it’s an amazing story. Whether you’re Christian or not, it’s an incredible story because he’s the best person that ever existed on the planet, and we crucify him. So there’s something in our nature that enjoys stories where good people get royally f–ked up.
In the novel, there are many different descriptions of Robbie. Although there is a lot of dialogue, much of his character is internal. How did you take that from the novel and apply in to your portrayal of Robbie?
JM: I did it as faithfully as possible. I think it was clear to me that Joe was trying to make a very faithful adaptation of the film. Whereas when I did The Last King of Scotland, the adaptation of the film was very different. With that, it almost became a burden and a barrier to be too attached to the book, because the character was so different. But with Atonement, it was so faithful [because] the book was just an amazing source. If you wanted to know something about Robbie’s history, you didn’t just have to make it up. Which I’ve done before, where I think, “F–k, I want to know what his relationship with his dad is like.” So then you spend five minutes inventing a history with his dad. But with this film, you don’t have to do that because it’s written for you. There’s something about the fact that it’s already been done that means your imagination and ego can’t taint the character’s history. There are hard facts that you may not like about the character, but you have to deal with it and there’s something quite nice about that, because it means you can’t have it all your own way as an actor.
You’ve done Band of Brothers and Atonement. Is there something that draws you to the World War II period?
JM: No, I don’t think so. To be honest with you, none of the films that I have done in the last two years I have chosen to do. I’ve auditioned for them all. I could have been drawn to doing them, but it didn’t mean I was going to get them. The jobs that I got were the jobs they decided to cast me in. I don’t know why I get cast in a lot of period pieces. Stephen Fry told me that I had a face for period, that I look like someone from 1920. But I definitely do like that period of the two World Wars. They were such defining moments for British history and world history. They really helped shape the modern world — the bravery, the loss, the waste.
Doing the action scenes for Wanted must have been a completely different experience for you.
JM: Totally different than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. The 16-year-old boy in me was like, “Woo-hoo!” But after about three weeks, the 16-year-old boy just wanted to stay in bed, and the adult’s going, “Oh, my back hurts so much. I don’t want to go to the gym.” The trainer who you used to really like is like, “C’mon, we’ve got to do some more weights.” And you’re just like, “May you burn in hell, you bastard!” [Laughs.]
But I’m really lucky. I’ve never really been pigeonholed as an actor and I’ve been able to play many different roles, so it was a chance to explore a different avenue. There’s also a lot of comedy in it, and I love doing comedy. It was really quite a departure, and I think the thing that elevated it was the director, Timur Bekmambetov. [He’s] mad as a box of snakes! He’s just crazy, in a good way, in the best possible way, and and I’m really interested to see what he’s done with it because I think he’s really special.
Is it true that you’re going to take a break from acting?
JM: I think I am. I’ve been saying that for a long time. But things are shaping up for next year, and maybe I’ll be working again in March.
You’ve done a lot of films recently.
JM: Yeah, you’ve got to. And that’s good because I’m young and that’s the time for work, isn’t it? You chill out when you get older. That’s apart from the fact that I think people get sick of the sight of your face. It’s probably a good idea to chill out. Also, if you’re an actor, your job is to pretend to be a real person, to recreate reality. You’ve got to have a bit of a life from which to draw upon. If you don’t live in the real world because all you do is spend all day on film sets, you become such a weirdo. Film sets are a strange place, but an exciting place. I do love my work, I really enjoy going to work. But if you just spend all your time on film sets or even on stage, you can become a Michael Jackson figure, living in your own little universe.
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has a message for Hollywood studios hoping to use British talent to scab over the Writers’ Guild of America strike, and it isn’t the message the studios wanted to hear.
Variety reports that the WGGB “is taking a stand of solidarity with its striking American counterparts,” and will be using its Sunday awards show to “highlight the importance of writers.” From the article:
“We wouldn’t want it to turn into a rally, but if anything, it’s a good chance to let the world know that writers exist and need nurturing and rewarding,” said deputy general secretary Anne Hogben. “We are in solidarity with the WGA and we’ll be doing anything we can to make sure there aren’t any scab writers in our constituency.”
A number of WGGB writers are also members of the WGA, and it isn’t uncommon for American and British studios to work jointly on projects — and then there’s the question of what constitutes a truly “American” studio anyway. Tough questions, but ones the writers are prepared to face:
“That raises the question of when is a U.K. company a U.K. company. The best support you can give is just to hold the line and not work with the studios while this is going on,” said scribe and WGA member Jeremy Brock, who is nominated for the WGGB’s screenplay award for “The Last King of Scotland,” along with co-writer Peter Morgan.
“If we were fortunate enough to win, I would want to voice my support for the WGA, but also you don’t want to bore the audience by being the 10th person to say the same thing. I sincerely hope the studios go back to the table to negotiate, because that’s the only way this is going to be resolved.”
Morgan is on a hot streak right now — aside from the critical hosannas enjoyed by The Queen, his recent credits include the well-received The Last King of Scotland, the upcoming The Other Boleyn Girl, and a rewrite on the State of Play remake we keep talking about — but he’s taking care not to lose sight of a longstanding goal to complete his planned trilogy about Tony Blair’s tenure as Britain’s prime minister.
The Queen, as you might recall, looked at Blair’s ascension to the office of Prime Minister through the lens of Princess Diana’s death, and how its aftermath affected the British public and the royal family. This time around, the focus will be British-American relations. From the article:
The movie will focus on Blair’s reaction to the handover of power from Clinton, a natural liberal ally, to Bush, who came from the other end of the political spectrum.
Morgan initially considered tackling the more obvious drama surrounding the run-up to the Iraq war, when Blair fatally compromised his own premiership through his wholehearted support for Bush’s invasion plans. But in the end Morgan decided that the roots of those events lay in Blair’s difficult adjustment to the transition from Clinton to Bush a few years earlier.
Michael Sheen, who played Blair in both The Deal and The Queen, is expected to reprise his role for the third film, which is scheduled to start shooting next April.
IGN Movies has been doing some snooping on behalf of all you Trekkies (and Trekkers) out there, and they know which three major stars are in talks to play the young Starfleet officers in "Star Trek XI"!
IGN’s super scooper Stax has received confirmation from studio sources that the key actors currently in talks to play Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in the J.J. Abrams-helmed pic are…drumroll please…Matt Damon, Adrien Brody, and Gary Sinise, respectively. According to the report, the three actors are "the closest to being cast, with Damon’s talks said to be further along than the rest."
Damon as Kirk, Brody as Spock, Sinise as McCoy…can you imagine it?
Damon has long been rumored to play the young Kirk, although the plot of "Star Trek XI" and even the very idea of it being a prequel are as-yet-unconfirmed speculations. Many believe the film will definitely pick up with familiar "Star Trek" characters during a pre-Enterprise, Starfleet academy time period. Director J.J. Abrams is being notoriously tight-lipped about plot details, but did reveal last month that a first draft of the script (by "Transformers" scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) was complete.
But that’s not all! IGN also reports that a few other key characters may be filled out by familiar faces, including "Lost"’s Daniel Dae Kim (as Sulu) and "The Last King of Scotland"’s James McAvoy (employing his native Scottish accent in the role of — who else? — Scotty).
While a release date has yet to be announced, it is believed that "Star Trek XI" will hit theaters in 2008.
Source: IGN Movies
Rotten Tomatoes UK is exhausted. We stumbled into the office at 5:30AM this morning as the Oscars came to a close, wearing grins so big they’d give the Cheshire Cat a run for his money… Marty! Jennifer! Pan’s!
Yes, t’were a good Oscar night all around, the Academy taking note of truly the most deserving winners in each category, and the FilmFour party we spent the evening at felt supremely happy with its result for Forest Whitaker; The Last King of Scotland being one of their home-grown projects.
And it was a good night for the Brits in general – nominees in the acting categories sung with British brilliance and they sparkled on the Red Carpet (all except Judi Dench who was unwell) and Her Madge, Helen Mirren, was crowned Best Actress for The Queen – expected, perhaps, but pretty darn thrilling for an actress who can claim Penthouse-production Caligula amongst her screen credits.
"You know my sister told me that all kids love to get gold stars," effused Mirren, "and this is the biggest and best gold star that I have ever had in my life. I want to share my gold star with my fellow nominees; those brilliant, brilliant actresses who gave such amazing performances this year."
It seemed there was no escaping the Brits in another key category to boot. Arguably the key category in fact… Our own Graham King took to the podium to accept the Best Picture award for The Departed, the film that nabbed Martin Scorsese his first Oscar. "To be standing here where the Queen of England just stood is pretty incredible," said King, "To be standing here where Martin Scorsese won his Oscar is such a joy."
All in all it was a good year to be a Brit in Hollywood. With nominations running into the double figures and representation amongst winners even in American productions, our filmmakers did us proud. On behalf of all at Rotten Tomatoes UK, congrats chaps!
There’s two ways to predict the Oscars: (1) dissect the awards buzz, attempting to get a feel for the fickle machinations of the Academy voter. Or (2) use your powers of geek math to crunch box office numbers and awards statistics for some cold, hard facts. With both methods in full swing, here’s a rundown of the Internet’s major Oscar predictions.
As usual, the nominees have settled into their niches: two big flicks ("The Departed" and "Babel"), one major underdog ("Little Miss Sunshine"), and two wallflowers ("The Queen" and "Letters from Iwo Jima"). FilmJerk, having combed the last 28 years of Oscar winners for meaningful statistics, posits "The Departed" has history on its side. The Envelope, L.A. Times’ one-stop hub for Hollywood buzz, agrees.
But it ain’t over yet. After polling readers from over 20 blogs, Vizu Answers reveals that 54 percent believe "Babel" will emerge victorious. And in our own unofficial Rotten Tomatoes research of the past 15 or so Oscar ceremonies, we discovered that the best-reviewed nominee never wins, along with the ones that make less than the average gross of all the nominees combined. This knocks "Babel" out of the race and pits "The Departed" against "Little Miss Sunshine."
Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio with hats in "The Departed."
All signs point that this is going to be his year (more so than the other million times that statement’s been made). And what if another nominee (probably that Iñárritu guy) swoops in? People will be angry, more Hitchcock comparisons will be made, Scorsese will make a quip and then go back to work.
Martin Scorsese in a "Departed" powwow.
Best Actor and Best Actress
Statistically, Leonardo DiCaprio has a lead on the Best Actor race for "Blood Diamond," but no one is expecting him to win. Peter O’Toole, always the rascal, might pull off an upset. But based on the strong reader and industry insider buzz, it’s hard to imagined the award won’t be going to Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland."
Peter O’Toole is old in "Venus."
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
The Supporting races are the the most unpredictable ones this year. The Envelope recently bumped "Dreamgirls"’ Eddie Murphy down, replacing him with "Little Miss Sunshine"’s Alan Arkin as favorite to take home the statue. But blog readers want Murphy to win and the numbers also slightly favor him.
Jennifer Hudson looks to be a shoo-in for her performance in "Dreamgirls." But the buzz has been almost too good; something’s got to backfire at some point. Abigail Breslin from "Little Miss Sunshine" seems an unlikely contender, but the Academy does like to hand out the tot votes (Haley Joel Osment’s nom for "The Sixth Sense" and Anna Paquin’s win for "The Piano" being recent examples).
Jennifer Hudson hitting high notes in "Dreamgirls."
Best Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
"Babel" and "The Queen" are contenders, though the talk of the town is that the award’ll probably go to "Little Miss Sunshine." Recently, this category’s become the designated play area for quirky indie films ("The Squid and the Whale" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" anyone?). "Lost in Translation" won Best Screenplay but lost Best Picture in 2003, so if "Little Miss Sunshine" doesn’t nab Best Picture, it’ll get this consolation prize.
And Best Adapted Screenplay? Reader and Hollywood buzz and historical statistics are in favor for "The Departed." And why not? "The Departed"’s popular with critics, audiences, and picky "Infernal Affairs" fans. And it was written by only one guy (compare with "Children of Men"’s and "Borat"’s five apiece) so we won’t have to sit through a really long acceptance speech.
Steve Carrell and Toni Collette action pose for "Little Miss Sunshine."
Best Foreign Language Film
A strong crop have been nominated this year, including "Water," "Days of Glory," and "The Lives of Others," all Certified Fresh. But the award is likely to go to the critically lauded, record breaking "Pan’s Labyrinth." Since a "Pan" win for Best Screenplay isn’t going to happen, Academy members are going to want to pay their respects and dogpile the votes here.
A charming "Labyrinth" inhabitant.
Best Animated Feature
For the first time in maybe ever, Pixar doesn’t look to be a sure-fire bet. "Cars," despite being Certified Fresh and grossing nearly $250 million, in relative Pixar terms, it wasn’t a huge success like "Toy Story 2," "Finding Nemo," or "The Incredibles." The other big nominee, "Happy Feet," however, was a surprise hit, much like that other penguin movie. Academy voters are probably still thinking fondly about "Happy Feet," while "Cars" has the Ghost of Pixar Movies Past looming over it.
Owen Wilson as an unhappy car.
Best Documentary Feature
Each of the four major nominees have big positives going for them. "Iraq in Fragments" is timely and "Deliver Us From Evil" has a perfect Tomatometer. "An Inconvenient Truth" may win on the sheer number of people who have seen it as opposed to the other nominees. "Jesus Camp" was an underground, word-of-mouth hit and actually resulted in the closure of the titular camp. You can’t buy better buzz and publicity than that.
Solidarity in "Iraq in Fragments."
The Orange British Academy Film Awards 2007 took place tonight at the Royal Opera House in London’s trendy Covent Garden and Rotten Tomatoes UK were there to sip champagne and do our very best to stay sober enough to report back to you. And it was a ceremony full of surprises; an open field outside of Best Actor and Actress (which went to Forest Whitaker for Last King of Scotland and Helen Mirren for The Queen respectively) with no one film winning more than three awards.
Last King of Scotland and, somewhat surprisingly, Pan’s Labyrinth shared that honour while Little Miss Sunshine and United 93 took two awards each. Jennifer Hudson took home Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Dreamgirls, and Alan Arkin snagged Best Supporting Actor for Little Miss Sunshine.
Casino Royale, which had snagged eight nominations, took home only one award – for Best Sound – though its star Eva Green nabbed Orange’s Rising Star award; the only award
Andrea Arnold won the Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in their First Feature Film for her direction of Red Road. In the broader Director category, the honour went to Paul Greengrass for United 93. Special awards were presented to Anne V Coates – recipient of the Academy Fellowship – and Nick Daubeny who took home The Michael Balcon Award for Oustanding British Contribution to Cinema.
We’ll have more from the BAFTAs for you very soon, but for now… onto the winners list!
ALEXANDER KORDA AWARD for Best British Film
Last King of Scotland
THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in their First Feature Film
Andrea Arnold – Red Road
Paul Greengrass – United 93
Little Miss Sunshine
The Last King of Scotland
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Helen Mirren – The Queen
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls
THE ANTHONY ASQUITH AWARD for Achievement in Film Music
Children of Men
Children of Men
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest
MAKE-UP AND HAIR
Do Not Erase
ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD
THE ACADEMY FELLOWSHIP: Anne V Coates
THE MICHAEL BALCON AWARD: Nick Daubeny
Known as a big predictor of what’ll go down Oscar night, the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony took place last Sunday to a rapturous Hollywood crowd without a hitch (or surprises or upsets). Check out the full winners list below, along with analysis on how the SAG results affect the Oscar nominees’ chances.
The SAG Awards frequently mirror Oscar nominations and wins. And this year, they’re more similar than in recent memory. Of the 25 Acting and Best Picture nominations, the SAG and Oscar disagree only twice: the SAG reserved a Supporting Actor nom spot for Leonardo DiCaprio, while the Academy has eyes for Mark Wahlberg (both for "The Departed"). And in the Best Picture category, the SAG had "Bobby" whereas the Oscars have "Letters from Iwo Jima."
"There appears to be a developing unanimity about the year’s best actors," writes Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday. Indeed, who doubted that Forest Whitaker (Male Actor winner for "The Last King of Scotland"), Jennifer Hudson (the Supporting Female Actor winner for "Dreamgirls"), or Helen Mirren (Outstanding Female Actor for "The Queen") wouldn’t be going home empty-handed? They’ve dominated all the other awards shows prior to the SAG Awards.
"The Queen": Helen Mirren phones it in.
However, it’s hard to say that "Dreamgirls‘" Eddie Murphy, who took home the Outstanding Supporting Male Actor award, is guaranteed the same Oscar reward. According to OscarWatch, every actor nominated for the Supporting Actor Oscar have won roughly the same number of awards as he has.
The same can be said for the Best Picture Oscar. "Little Miss Sunshine" won Best Ensemble Acting (the SAG’s Best Picture equivalent), but the other Best Picture Oscar nominees have just about the same number of accolades. And "Little Miss Sunshine’s" directors snub from the Academy can be another problem. Risky Biz Blog points out that only twice has a Best Picture winner not also have its director(s) nominated (1932’s "Grand Hotel" and 1989’s "Driving Miss Daisy").
Eddie Murphy is SAGacious in "Dreamgirls."
Kilday also notes that "no one film has dominated the best picture race this awards season." Oscar nominess "The Departed," "Babel," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "The Queen" have all been accumulating accolades at about the same rate. "Letters From Iwo Jima", however, lags far behind.
The cast surveys the scene in "Little Miss Sunshine."
And in the case of "Little Miss Sunshine," it can also be said that comedies almost never win the Best Picture. Then again, stranger things have happened. Remember when a neurotic little dude single-handedly took down the Death Star?
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Proving that there’s always money in spoof comedies, Fox’s "Epic Movie" shot straight to number one over the weekend in its debut frame beating out three other new releases plus a handful of expanding Academy Award contenders. In fact, the immature laugher outgrossed all five Oscar nominees for best picture combined.
The crime drama "Smokin’ Aces" and the Jennifer Garner dramedy "Catch and Release" both enjoyed good results in their opening weekends, however the new horror flick "Blood and Chocolate" failed to even make the top ten. Most holdovers remained strong as the overall marketplace bounced back from last weekend’s dismal results.
Matching the numbers it posted a year ago with "Date Movie," Fox struck again with "Epic Movie" which topped the charts with an estimated $19.2M from 2,801 theaters. The PG-13 film lampooned several recent box office action hits and averaged a solid $6,855 per site. "Date Movie" skewered numerous romantic comedies and bowed to a similar $19.1M last February over the three-day portion of the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, whose writing credits include "Date Movie," "Spy Hard," and the entire "Scary Movie" series, wrote and directed "Epic." Teenagers made up a large portion of the audience and both genders were well-represented. Critics who did bother to review it trashed the film.
Opening in second place with impressive results and similar per-theater success was Universal’s mob thriller "Smokin’ Aces" with an estimated $14.3M from 2,218 locations. Averaging a commendable $6,430 per site, the frame’s only new R-rated pic connected with young men as its primary audience. According to studio research, 59% of the audience was male and 57% was 25 or older. "Smokin’" stars Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia, and Alicia Keys and cost less than $20M to produce which should make it a profitable venture when all worldwide rights are exploited. The film also opened at number one in Russia this weekend with $1.7M and has grossed an additional $5.3M from the United Kingdom after its third weekend.
The unstoppable blockbuster comedy "Night at the Museum" enjoyed yet another small decline sliding only 21% in its sixth weekend to an estimated $9.5M. The Ben Stiller–Robin Williams smash has pumped its cume up to $216.7M and will soon join the top 50 domestic blockbusters of all-time.
Jennifer Garner generated respectable results for her latest film "Catch and Release" which was not given a very wide release, but still sold an estimated $8M in ticket stubs. Averaging a solid $4,932 from 1,622 playdates, the PG-13 film about a woman rebuilding her life after her husband’s death played heavily female. According to Sony’s research, an overwhelming 75% of the crowd consisted of women and 58% was 25 or older. "Catch" cost $25M to produce and opened smaller than her previous headlining efforts "13 Going on 30" ($21.1M in 2004) and "Elektra" ($12.8M in 2005). Reviews were mostly negative.
Sony’s "Stomp the Yard," 2007’s top-grossing new release, slipped only 37% and took fifth with an estimated $7.8M. Total stands at an impressive $50.7M.
A quartet of Oscar-nominated films followed. Paramount’s musical "Dreamgirls," which led all films with eight Academy Award nominations, expanded from 2,214 to 2,785 sites and grossed an estimated $6.6M. That represented a slim 17% drop in sales from last weekend but a steeper 34% fall in the per-theater average which was $2,376. Cume to date is $86.7M. Despite not earning a best picture nomination, "Dreamgirls" is still holding up well and posting relatively low declines.
Also showing durability was Will Smith‘s "The Pursuit of Happyness" which earned the box office star an Academy nod for best actor. The Sony blockbuster dipped only 21% to an estimated $5M pushing its sum to $152.9M. "Pursuit" did not have any expansion, but instead lost 378 theaters and still witnessed a decline similar to that of "Dreamgirls" which scored many more Oscar nominations and added hundreds of playdates to its run.
The fantasy tale "Pan’s Labyrinth" widened from 609 to 823 sites and grossed an estimated $4.5M equaling its gross from last weekend. Nominated in six different categories, the Mexican film saw its per-theater average dip 26% from last weekend to a still-solid $5,474. Total is $16.3M for the Picturehouse release.
"The Queen" saw a healthy bump in sales and ranked ninth for the weekend with an estimated $4M, up 18%, for a $41.2M sum to date. Miramax added 244 additional venues and saw its average inch up 2% to $2,186.
Rounding out the top ten was a film that has approximately zero chance of earning any Academy Award nominations a year from now. The horror film "The Hitcher" tumbled 54% in its second weekend to an estimated $3.6M giving Focus only $13.4M to date. A $16-18M final seems likely.
Opening poorly outside of the top ten was yet another horror film, the werewolf thriller "Blood and Chocolate," which bowed to only $2.1M according to estimates. The PG-13 film attacked 1,200 theaters and averaged a weak $1,753 per venue for MGM.
With last Tuesday’s Academy Award nominations putting several films into the media spotlight, distributors took the opportunity to expand their contenders and saw increased weekend grosses, even though averages were mostly not very impressive. Best picture candidate "The Departed," which was near the end of its theatrical run after opening in early October, went back into national release and grossed an estimated $3M. Averaging $2,096 per site in 1,453 locations, the Martin Scorsese crime saga upped its cume to $124.9M. Its best picture rival "Babel" widened to 1,090 playdates and grossed an estimated $2.6M for a $2,368 average. Sales were up 25% from last weekend while the average inched up 2% with the total reaching $27.2M.
Clint Eastwood‘s "Letters From Iwo Jima," which has been holding back much of its release in anticipation of Oscar nods, added 55 theaters to its run and surged 26% to an estimated $1.7M. The Warner Bros. release averaged a decent but not spectacular $4,120 from 415 locations. The average increased a healthy 9% from last weekend and the subtitled film has collected $4.9M to date as "Letters" remained the lowest-grossing best picture nominee by far. But much potential could still be ahead of it.
Among films with high profile acting nominations, Fox Searchlight’s "Notes on a Scandal" more than tripled its run to 640 theaters and grossed an estimated $2.5M as the weekend take doubled. The Judi Dench–Cate Blanchett pic averaged $3,978 per playdate and has taken in $9M thus far. The distributor’s Forest Whitaker drama "The Last King of Scotland" remained mostly steady with its theater count and saw its gross inch up 3% to an estimated $1.7M for a $7.7M total. Sony Classics more than quadrupled the run of Penelope Cruz‘s "Volver" and took in an estimated $1.2M from 689 sites. The average was diluted down to just $1,671 as the total climbed to $8.9M.
The industry often looks at a film’s box office boost on the weekend after Academy Award nominations are announced to determine how much gold an Oscar nod is worth. But what is often overlooked is the additional marketing and distribution expense that is invested by a distributor to create new marketing materials, buy more advertising, and ship extra prints out across the country. Expanding these films in a crowded marketplace is not cheap, but studios do believe that there are long-term benefits to be gained by the added attention like extra momentum in overseas and video markets, plus possibly some added votes from Academy members. In addition, it is difficult to separate the sales that are due directly to the Oscar attention from those that would have occured anyway even if no nominations came through.
Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount’s high school drama "Freedom Writers" dipped 33% to an estimated $3.5M in its fourth session. The Hilary Swank pic has grossed a respectable $31.3M to date and should finish with about $36-38M. The MGM family release "Arthur and the Invisibles" dropped 46% to an estimated $1.7M for a $11.5M cume. A disappointing $14M final seems likely.
Universal’s futuristic drama "Children of Men" scored three Oscar nominations, but it meant little to its ticket sales. The R-rated drama fell 46% to an estimated $2M lifting the sum to $30.7M. The Alfonso Cuaron-directed film should conclude with around $35M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.4M which was down 12% from last year when "Big Momma’s House 2" opened at number one with $27.7M; and down 16% from 2005 when "Hide and Seek" debuted on top with $22M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
If CNN and Fox News can already get away with devoting hours of programming to the 2008 election, then IGN Movies is certainly well within its rights to pass along some gossip from the British "Sunday Mail" regarding "Star Trek XI," also due next year.
According to the latest reports, actor James McAvoy — whom you might recall as Tumnus the Faun in "The Chronicles of Narnia" — is the frontrunner for the role of Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the forthcoming prequel. He’d be playing a younger version of the character made famous by the late James Doohan (who, ironically, was Canadian, not Scottish).
Casting doubt on this report’s accuracy is its inclusion of the insane (we hope) rumors of Matt Damon playing James T. Kirk:
"(The studio) thinks (McAvoy) could form a brilliant double act with Matt (Damon)…James’s star is on the rise after ‘The Last King of Scotland.’ He’s Scottish and has box-office appeal, so he fulfills both criteria."
Maybe we’re in the minority here, but we’d almost rather see William Shatner trying to play Kirk as a young man than Damon (who we really like) in the role; it just doesn’t seem like — how do we say this politely? — the type of project he needs to be taking at this stage in his career.