"Yes Men" Deal; Ruffalo Gets Dirty; "21 Grams" Party & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Sandra Sullivan is leaving her post as the director of exhibition and special events at the Boston Film & Video Foundation. She will be moving to the West Coast, but will continue to direct the New England Film & Video Festival from Los Angeles.
YES TO "YES MEN": United Artists has picked up the North American, Australian, and New Zealand distribution rights for "The Yes Men," a doc that had a buzzed-about world premiere at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. The doc, directed by the team behind "American Movie" -- Chris Smith, Sarah Price, and Dan Ollman -- follows a group of prankster-activists as they impersonate the World Trade Organization on. Negotiations were handled by Cinetic Media's John Sloss on behalf of the film and Bingham Ray and Danny Rosett for United Artists. "It is a wild, irreverent, and funny movie. We are excited to add to our slate a film that takes such a provocatively satirical look at issues facing our society," said Ray in a press statement. No word yet on a release date.
Newmarket Films announced this week that it will release Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ." The controversial film will open on February 25th via a partnership between Icon Productions and Newmarket. The film is about the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. Jim Caviezel stars as Jesus, with Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene.
Miramax has finally closed its deal for Andrew Lau and Alan Mac's "Infernal Affairs," the hit Hong Kong film. The movie, which Miramax will release in North America, Italy, Latin American (outside of Mexico), and Spain, has already spawned a sequel, "Infernal Affairs 2." It was a big winner at the recent Hong Kong Film awards, winning best director, actor, and supporting actor.
In other acquisitions news, First Run Features has acquired Jacques Sarasin's "I'll Sing For You," about Malian musician Boubacar "KarKar" Traoré. The company plans to open the film in New York in spring 2004. In still another deal, L.A.-based Mainline Releasing has acquired worldwide distribution rights to Michael A. Picchiottino's "Clipping Adam," a coming of age tale starring Louise Fletcher, Kevin Sorbo, and Chris Eigeman. Newcomer Evan Peters stars as "a boy rediscovering himself in the wake of loss."
TALKING SEX WITH MARK RUFFALO: Mark Ruffalo has been a thinking woman's sex symbol since his lost boy role in "You Can Count on Me"; now with Jane Campion's "In the Cut," he takes on a much more testosterone-fueled portrayal of a street-smart New York City cop who jumps into bed with Meg Ryan. In addition to sporting a non-ironic moustache, the role meant Ruffalo had to prepare for some graphic and realistic sex scenes. "It's a great role, it's very masculine, very different for me," Ruffalo told indieWIRE after the film played at the Toronto International Film Festival. "It was a real acting challenge. I love Jane Campion, I would have done anything with her, you just know it's going to be a satisfying experience." The steamy parts of the film were shot during the last two days of production, and they were carefully choreographed long in advance. "There's nothing gratuitous about the sex in this film," Ruffalo told BUZZ. "It's such a big part of our lives. It's funny that in Jet Li movies 20 people can die in half an hour, and there's bloodshed and violence, and that gets a PG rating. But if someone says "clit" -- which is the term for that part of the body -- that someone should take offense and make that an NC-17 film. Sex is the most natural thing human beings can do, it goes along with eating and drinking, and also it scares the hell out of people, it's amazing." For all the talk of the film's erotic episodes, Ruffalo is quick to point out that's only one part of "In the Cut." "It's a beautiful relationship film, the characters are so well drawn," he said. "The sex is just adding to part of that story. For these people, the sex comes easy, it's the relationship that's the hard part. I think that's really exciting.
WRAPPING UP NYFF: The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Focus Features toasted "21 Grams," the closing night film at the 2003 New York Film Festival. At an intimate dinner in Lincoln Center's Stanley Kaplan penthouse, director Alejandro González Iñárritu, writer Guillermo Arriaga, and stars Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro, Namoi Watts, Melissa Leo and Clea Duvall were joined by Focus co-presidents James Schamus and David Linde, as well as a small group of well-wishers from the Film Society and other select guests. The ongoing drama surrounding the screener ban remained a hot topic over dinner, no doubt a key factor in the release of Oscar contender "21 Grams." After the gala screening, guests made their way over to Compass on the Upper West Side for a star-studded after party. Robin Williams, Alan Cumming, Gael Garcia Bernal, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling and others partied late night, since the party didn't heat up until after 11 p.m. Iñárritu hung out late with friends, capping a weekend of media attention that included a Q & A screening for guild and Academy members the following day. [For more coverage of the NYFF closing night, check out today's iPOP photos.]
JOINING THE CIRCLE: The New York Film Critics Circle has added some new members to its roster: Lou Lumenick and Megan Lehmann (both of the New York Post) and Nathan Lee (of the New York Sun) have all been selected for membership in the Circle. Jonathan Foreman, film critic for the New York Post, was elected vice chairman. He will chair the group in 2004, following Andrew Johnston's current reign as chairman. The NYFCC will vote for its awards on December 15, and they will be given out at an awards dinner on January 4.
LONDON CALLING: Shooting has started in London for two new films: the black comedic thriller "Dead Fish" and the horror film "Creep." "Dead Fish," directed by Charley Stadler, stars Gary Oldman as a hitman and Robert Carlyle as a debt collector. The cast is rounded out by Elena Anaya, Andrew Lee Potts, Jimi Mistry, and Billy Zane. The film, now shooting entirely in London, is a production of Orange Pictures/IMF; Franchise Pictures is handling worldwide sales. Also shooting at the moment is the scary flick "Creep," starring Franka Potente of "Run Lola Run" fame. It marks the debut feature of Chris Smith, who made the short "The Day Grandad Went Blind." Potente stars as a woman who finds a nightmare on the London underground. "Creep" will shoot in London and Cologne. The Dan Films production will be distributed by Pathe in the U.K., X-Filme in Germany, and will be sold for worldwide distribution by Capitol Films.
CMJ FILMFEST: The CMJ FilmFest, part of the company's annual hipster parade Music Marathon, will present more than 25 films this year. The festival continues through Saturday with screenings including "Prey for Rock & Roll," "The Cooler," "Ali G in Da' House," "The Mayor of the Sunset Strip," and the Steve Earle film "Just an American Boy." For details, visit www.cmj.com.
REFUGEE AID: Anny Slater, the writer and director of Aussie short "The Ball," is donating her entire Oscar publicity budget of $10,000 to Amnesty International for refugee assistance. "The Ball" is eligible for the Academy Awards' best live action short; it has played at more than 30 film festivals, and won the best short at Amnesty International's Red Carpet film festival. The comedic short pokes fun at Australian Prime Minister John Howard's treatment of refugees. "The United States film community has been truly wonderful in its acceptance of the film and I am very humbled by that," said Slater in a statement. "I think however that if I'm prepared to spend a significant amount of money to promote myself then the money would do much more good in the hands of Amnesty International, and after all I think that's what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is about -- encouraging excellence in people, with out the hype, and the Academy process has certainly inspired the best from me as a person and a filmmaker."