From Bars to the Big Screen; “Super Size” Results; More Acquisitions from AFM; Festival News & More
by Wendy Mitchell
FROM SIBERIA TO THE SPOTLIGHT: Legendary New York bar owner Tracy Westmoreland (of Hell’s Kitchen hotspots Bellevue, Dorothy’s, and Siberia) is kicking off an acting career. Westmoreland is appearing with Adrian Grenier in “A Perfect Fit,” directed by Ron Brown (who directed the 1997 award-winning short “A Bedtime Story.”) Westmoreland is only in a handful of flashback scenes, playing Grenier’s stepfather, but he says the role is “a killer part.” Westmoreland originally was cast in a less pivotal role but still thought the stepfather role was a better fit. “I thought, ‘There’s nobody that can do this as well as I can,'” Westmoreland tells indieWIRE. “When the director saw me act, he said, ‘Get Tracy for the part of the stepfather.'” Westmoreland shot his scenes for this psychological thriller on location in rural New Jersey. He said he enjoyed his short time working with Grenier. “Adrian’s quirky and I’m quirky and we were quirking each other,” he says. “It was great to work with him. That’s the first time I’ve ever felt comfortable acting.”
Westmoreland has had some acting experience in the past — with commercials, an early Carl Franklin film, as Rocky in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the A Street Playhouse in the early ’80s, and in a recurring role on the “Ricki Lake Show.” “With so many opportunities out there, with so many producers and directors and casting people out there, if you have something to offer, some passion, some vision, some love for what you do, a bit of talent — and God forbid you show up on time and know your lines — you may be fortunate enough to do some good work in this business.” Westmoreland says. “It’s a very exciting time to be an actor if you use your brain a little bit and you are brave.” He’s already working on another indie flick, Lucas Longacre‘s “Beat.” After that, the larger-than-life Westmoreland says he’s willing to try “anything that fits. Obviously I can’t play a legless nun, but any part that fits me physically, I’ll tear it up.” Westmoreland has already attracted attention with stories in the New York Post and on Bloomberg Radio; he is repped by Paul Donelan at Donelan Management in Manhattan.
“CIGARETTES” IN SF: Jim Jarmusch‘s “Coffee and Cigarettes” will open the 47th San Francisco International Film Festival on April 15th at the Castro Theater. The United Artists film, a collection of vignettes, features a array of actors, including Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Roberto Benigni and members of the Wu-Tang Clan. The festival, which run through April 29th, will present its annual Peter J. Owens Award to actor Chris Cooper this year. The awards ceremony will be held April 22 at the Ritz Carlton, where Milos Forman will recieve the society’s directing award. On April 21, the group will host a tribute to Cooper featuring film clips, a Q&A, and a screening of John Sayles‘ “Matewan.”
“MONSTER” OF A BOOK DEAL: Joe Berlinger, one of the directors of the doc “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” has signed a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. St. Martin’s has acquired the rights to Berlinger’s “Metallica: The Monster Lives,” the filmmaker’s story of the three-year making of the film with the heavy metal legends, and will publish the book in November. Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky‘s “Some Kind of Monster” recently debuted at Sundance 2004 and will hit theaters in July through a deal with IFC Films. The book will include the tales from the making of the film, which chronicles a particularly tumultuous period in the band’s history, along with more than 50 exclusive photos taken by the doc’s DP Bob Richman and Berlinger. In 2005, St. Martin’s will also publish Berlinger’s memoirs, “Murder, Music & Mayhem: a Filmmaker’s Mid-Career Report,” about his experience in the film and TV word, including his misadventure on “Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows.” Andrew Blauner at Blauner Books Literary Agency and editor Marc Resnick at St. Martin’s Press negotiated the deal.
SUPER DOWNSIZING: McDonalds’ decision to phase out its Super Size options at fast food outlets around the country has been widely reported this week, even drawing numerous references to the upcoming doc, “Super Size Me,” by Morgan Spurlock. When it debuted at Sundance this year, the movie caused quite a stir and won Spurlock the doc directing award. In the film, Spurlock documents his experience eating only McDonald’s food for a full month. Health problems and severe weight gain follow quickly. “This movie is not about McDonald’s — it’s all about personal responsibility and one individual’s decision to act irresponsibly,” said a statement from McDonalds at the time. “While it’s not a solution, it certainly is a small step in the right direction for the world’s biggest fast food chain to begin acknowledging their role in America’s obesity problem,” said Spurlock in a statement this week. The move by McDonalds eliminates items like the 42 oz. Coke which carries 410 calories and the 7 oz. serving of Super Size fries that has 610 calories (that’s 10 more than a Big Mac). The film will hit theaters in May.
ZHANG HONORS: The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass., is giving its inaugural Coolidge Award to famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The annual prize, according to the Theatre, honors “a selected film artist whose work advances the spirit of original and challenging filmmaking.” The prize also carries a cash award of $10,000. Zhang (“Hero,” “Raise the Red Lantern,” “Ju Dou”) is scheduled to some to Boston in May to accept the award and be on hand for festivities at the Coolidge May 26 and 27. The Theatre will also host month-long programming with related classes and panel discussions, and a selected retrospective of Zhang’s work.
“HEAD”ING INTO PRODUCTION: Calder Road Films has started principal photography on Paul Fox‘s debut feature film, “Head Games.” Shooting continues in the Toronto area through March 18; Brent Barclay (“Marion Bridge,” “Touch of Pink”) is producing. Wil Zmak wrote the psychological horror story, about a psychiatrist whose weekend away with her husband and sister is interrrupted by a violent sexual offender. The cast features Kate Greenhouse (“This is Wonderland”), Gordon Currie (“The Woods,” “waydowntown”), Dov Tiefenbach (“Against the Ropes,” “Flower and Garnet”), and Aidan Devine (“Cold Creek Manor,” “Against the Ropes”). The film was developed through the Canadian Film Centre‘s Feature Film Project.
SPANISH EXPANSION: The Spanish language media company Grupo Televisa has created a new U.S.-based film distribution company, Televisa Cine, which is now running in L.A. The new division will release newly produced and acquired movies into all Spanish speaking-markets throughout the United States. Televisa Cine will be led by CEO Eckehardt von Damm, an experienced Mexican film producer and distributor who joined Televisa nine years ago. The L.A. office will be headed by Mike Doban. The company plans to release three films in 2004, starting with “A Day without a Mexican” on May 14. In 2005 and beyond, Televisa Cine plans to release eight films per year.
NASHVILLE NIGHTS: The Nashville Film Festival has announced a few highlights of this year’s festival, which will run April 26 – May 2 and include more than 200 films. Screenings will include classic rock doc “Festival Express,” the John Lennon-Yoko Ono film “Imagine IMAGINE,” the recent Sundance hit “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” the Swedish family film “Elina,” and the award-winning doc “Paper Clips.” The fest will host a special screening of “Grand Theft Parsons,” about Gram Parson‘s road manager Phil Kaufman (Johnny Knoxville) and his promise to bury Parson’s body in Joshua Tree National Park. Director David Caffrey plans to attend with Kaufman.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS…: Dennis Hopper will serve as the chairman of the newly formed creative advisory board for the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival; he was honored last year with the festival’s marquee award for lifetime achievement. Other members of the board are Jeremy Barber of UTA; Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics; arts educator Ruth Bloom, Arianna Bocco of Miramax, David Dinerstein of Paramount Classics; Kevin Iwashina of CAA; Ori Marmur of Original Films; Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times; Bob Myerson of Dada Films; independent producer Bingham Ray; Shaun Redick of ICM; and John Sloss of Cinetic. In other festival news for Hopper, the sixth-annual Method Fest (April 2-9 in Burbank, Calif.) has selected Hopper for its 2004 lifetime achievement award.
LATIN BUYS: Maverick Entertainment acquired two Latino features during the recent AFM for its Maverick Latino home video label. The films are “Tiempo Real” (Real Time), a unique Mexica heist film that employs one shot from a single camera and no cuts; and “Haz Conmigo lo que Quieras” (Kill Me Tender), a Spanish film about a widower who becomes infatuated with his cleaning lady’s daughter.
TEXAS PRIDE: The Austin Film Society will honor actors Robert Duvall, Judith Ivey, Ali MacGraw, Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, and screenwriter/author Edwin “Bud” Shrake at the fourth-annual Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards on March 12. Presenters at the awards will include directors Jonathan Demme and John Lee Hancock, actors Dennis Hopper (he’s really making the rounds) and Treat Williams, critic Elvis Mitchell, former Texas governor Ann Richards, and Grammy-award-winner Ray Benson.
FLEADH FUN: The Film Fleadh, New York’s Irish Film Festival, will host its sixth-anniversary event March 18-21. This year’s line-up includes six features and 10 shorts. Highlights include the New York premiere of John Crowley‘s “Intermission,” starring Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, and Shirley Henderson, which will be the opening night film; and the U.S. premieres of “Headrush” and “Spin the Bottle.” Docs will include “The Damien Dempsey Story,” “Art of Living,” and “Bluegrass Journey.” This year’s Fleadh also includes a music series at the Knitting Factory. For more information, visit www.filmfleadh.com.
“TROUSER” TALK: Tai Seng Entertainment, which specializes in Hong Kong films and TV programs, plans to open its first U.S. film production, “Red Trousers — The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen.” The fiction/doc hybrid ventures into the Peking Opera School, where great action stars like Jackie Chan learned their skills. This directorial debut of martial artist/actor Robin Shou (“Mortal Kombat”) will hit theaters starting March 5, will be released in at least 20 markets.