Harvey Weinstein wants you to see “August: Osage County” at the public gala screening, reported one of his press minions in an email (presumably, to gauge the upbeat Toronto public reaction). But I, like many others in the Toronto Film Festival press corps, opted to line up for the capacity Scotiabank afternoon screening. Not wanting to leave a stone unturned, Harvey Weinstein showed up there with TIFF director Cameron Bailey and director John Wells, who gave a brief introduction, which is usually verboten in Toronto. They needn’t have worried; the movie played fine, even eliciting a round of applause from the hardened media.
The Weinstein Co. was on the move on the fall festival circuit. They unveiled hyped documentary “Salinger” to mixed response and Stephen Frears’ Judi Dench vehicle “Philomena” to raves in Venice, Telluride and Toronto (here’s TOH). They world-premiered at TIFF not only sprawling dysfunctional family drama “August: Osage County,” which will factor in the Oscar race for Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and possibly even supporting stars Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper (TOH here), but “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” starring Idris Elba as the South African leader, which failed to achieve take-off, the well-received “One Chance,” based on the true story of Paul Potts, who goes on Britain’s Got Talent and turns overnight into a world class opera singer, and Maverick Series doc “12.12.12.”
And TWC went on a buying spree, picking up one of my favorite films, John Curran’s gorgeously executed true Australian camel trek “Tracks,” starring a luminous Mia Wasikowska (TOH here), as well as “The Railway Man,” the true account of a prisoner-of-war’s horrific experiences on the Burma railway during World War II, starring two Weinstein Oscar faves, Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) and Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”). The film is an old-fashioned straight-on narrative that takes a veteran (Firth) with post-traumatic stress back to the site of his imprisonment so that he can confront his demons and try to find peace. But it’s no “Bridge on the River Kwai.” (TOH review and roundup here.)
Weinstein also acquired John Carney’s musical follow-up to “Once,” “Can A Song Save Your Life?” (our TOH review here) as well as the “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy.
At the head of the Weinstein Oscar pack is “August: Osage County” (October 16), which threatens some controversy over what the final ending will be, according to the LATimes. I recognized that the film’s denouement differed from Tracy Letts’ bleaker stage finale. But the film change worked for me: it registered emotionally. Wells and Letts may want to change it back. “I’m not sure I’m OK with doing it that way,” Wells said to the LAT. “I don’t want to say there’s anything wrong with the current ending, because there isn’t. But it’s something we’re still talking about. We don’t open for three months, and it’s possible you’ll see something different.”
Earlier this year, Weinstein helped David Lowery recut “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” between its openings at Sundance and Cannes, and Lowery happily took him up on those suggestions. But Weinstein got flack earlier this year for attempting to tinker with Bong Joon-ho’s Korean hit “Snowpiercer.” And he encouraged Wong kar-wai to edit “The Grandmaster,” which the Hong Kong auteur was happy to do.