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DAILY NEWS: Tribeca Film Fest News; New Merchant Ivory Film; Ordesky In the Spotlight

DAILY NEWS: Tribeca Film Fest News; New Merchant Ivory Film; Ordesky In the Spotlight

DAILY NEWS: Tribeca Film Fest News; New Merchant Ivory Film; Ordesky In the Spotlight

by Eugene Hernandez, Wendy Mitchell and Jacque Lynn Schiller/indieWIRE

>> American Express To Sponsor Tribeca Fest In Multi-Million Dollar Deal; Festival to Debut Weitz Brothers’ “About a Boy”

(indieWIRE: 03.22.02) — American Express announced a multi-million dollar,
multi-year deal to support the Tribeca Film Festival, serving as the
founding sponsor for this year’s inaugural event May 8-12. At a press
conference at New York’s City Hall, AmEx Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault
was joined by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and festival co-founders
Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal to announce the deal, although no specifics about dollar amounts or the number of years were revealed.

AmEx’s Chenault said that the festival was “the first of a series of events
large and small that we will sponsor.” Mayor Bloomberg commended American
Express not only for sponsoring the film festival, but also for being one
of the first businesses to commit to returning to the World Financial Center
after the September 11 attacks.

Organizers of the film festival noted that they hoped to revitalize downtown
Manhattan with a major outdoor comedy and music event, plus a children’s
program, which will coincide with the film presentations. Rosenthal said
that downtown venues would include Stuyvesant High School and the Tribeca
Performing Arts Center.

Additionally, Rosenthal expressed hope that the event would attract “tens
of thousands of people to New York City,” especially to the neighborhood
businesses, shops, and restaurants in lower Manhattan. De Niro added, “This
is an example of what Tribeca and the city needs right now.”

The festival’s lineup wasn’t disclosed — although Rosenthal said there
would be “major screening announcements in the days to come,” most likely
after the Academy Awards. Organizers did reveal that Paul and Chris Weitz‘s “About a Boy,” the film adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel starring Hugh Grant and Toni Collette, will premiere at the festival on May 11.

Martin Scorsese will present five restored films, including “Viva Zapata
and “The Hired Hand,” during the festival, and showcased films will include
features, documentaries and shorts. [Wendy Mitchell]

[For more information, visit:]

>> James Ivory Directs Ensemble Cast in “Le Divorce”

(indieWIRE: 03.22.02) — Apparently gentleman director James Ivory (“The
Remains of the Day
,” “Howard’s End“) prefers blondes. The three-time Oscar nominee is in Paris shooting the comedy “Le Divorce” with Kate Hudson (“Almost Famous“) and Naomi Watts (“Mulholland Drive“), along with an ensemble cast that boasts four Golden Globes, four Emmy awards, one French Cesar Award and 10 Oscar noms to its collective credit.

Ivory’s frequent collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala adapted Diane Johnson‘s National Book Award nominated novel of the same name. Without a clue of what to do with her life upon graduating from film school, Isabel (Hudson)
decides to drop in on her married ex-pat sister Roxy (Watts). The Americans
in Paris find themselves on opposite ends of the relationship spectrum —
Roxy on the rocks, and Isabel being introduced to the European ways of

The film also stars Glenn Close, Stockard Channing, Sam Waterston, Matthew Modine, Bebe Neuwirth, Stephen Fry, and the lovely Jean-Marc Barr.

Ismail Merchant and Michael Schiffer are producing, along with Radar Pictures for Fox Searchlight. The shoot is scheduled to finish in June with a tentative U.S. release scheduled for 2003. [Jacque Lynn Schiller]

>> In the Spotlight on Awards Weekend with “Lord of the Rings” and “Hedwig”: Fine Line’s Mark Ordesky

(indieWIRE/03.22.02) — Tomorrow’s Independent Spirit Awards and Sunday’s
Academy Awards honor two vastly different collections of films. While there
are certainly a few overlaps every year, the lists of nominees and winners
for each event are generally quite distinct. This year, one person is a
direct link between two films that are among the top nominees at each event,
The Lord of the Rings” and “Hedwig and The Angry Inch.” Fine Line Features president Mark Ordesky is that person. He spoke with indieWIRE recently in anticipation of this weekend’s awards.

Fine Line released “Hedwig” last year — the film nabbed five Independent
Spirit Award nominations for best feature, best director, best first
screenplay, best cinematography and best male lead — while Ordesky also
shepherded “The Lord of the Rings” at the Indiewood company — it is up for
13 Oscars this year, including best picture, best director, best
cinematography, best adapted screenplay, and best supporting actor, among

The executive, who started at New Line as a script reader, ultimately turned
his relationship with “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson into a New
Line deal for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Sleeping on Ordesky’s sofa in
Los Angeles more than a decade ago, Jackson worked on a script for an
installment in New Line’s “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise in a deal
advocated by Ordesky. While that script never turned into a film, it
cemented Jackson’s relationship with New Line and its chief, Bob Shaye.
While “Lord of the Rings” started at Miramax due to Jackson’s first look
deal following “Heavenly Creatures,” it would go to every studio after
Miramax passed and Jackson ultimately signed the pact for the three films at
New Line.

“We greenlit the film with great ambitions,” Ordesky told indieWIRE earlier
this week, “Our very high ambitions were actually exceeded.”

Overseeing the production of “Lord of the Rings” in New Zealand for nearly
three months straight, Ordesky admits that he had to rely heavily on
acquisitions head Guy Stodel and marketing chiefs Marian Koltai and Steve Friedlander.

“It definitely was an exercise in time management,” Ordesky joked, “My
analogy is that there is no convenient time to be pregnant, you just make it

As last year evolved, Ordesky and his team would ultimately decide to
postpone the release dates of three upcoming films. Todd Solondz
Storytelling” was pegged to a date right after Sundance, Michel Gondry‘s “Human Nature” (from a script by Charlie Kaufman) is due next month and Werner Herzog‘s “Invincible” will be unveiled in September.

“Our decision came in steps,” Ordesky explained, “Our decisions were about
individual films.”

The decision kept Fine Line out of this year’s Oscar race, but with “The
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” a top nominee, parent New
Line would be thrust into what has been called the costliest and most
intense Academy Awards season ever. An estimated $60 million has been spent
by the studios, hoping to secure the votes of the Academy’s 6,000 voters.
While the bigger films are getting the most attention in a year when some
top award winners seem a bit tougher to predict, Ordesky is heartened by the
Academy’s ongoing recognition of smaller films.

“What I find gratifying is [the inclusion of] ‘Monster’s Ball’ and ‘In The
,'” Ordesky said. “I find it heartening that films like that were
able to secure nominations.”

As for the rest of the year, once the talk of “Lord of the Rings” has faded
(until the next installment arrives this Christmas), Ordesky was quick to
reinforce that Fine Line intends to remain a player in the specialty market.

“We were aggressive in Sundance,” he explained. Fine Line acquired Finn
‘s “Cherish” and Ordesky says it was in the bidding for “The Good
” and “Tadpole,” which ended up at other Indiewood studios. On the
production side, Ordesky told indieWIRE that Fine Line has hired French
filmmaker Jean Jacques Beineix to work on “I Was Amelia Earhart.”

The independent film business gets tougher every year, the marketplace
continues to marginalize these movies,” reflected Ordesky as our
conversation came to a close. “The challenge is to find an economic model to
make this work so that we can continue to find, acquire and produce [these
films].” [Eugene Hernandez in Los Angeles]

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