ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Jason Reitman’s staged live-readings of famous movie scripts has become a must-see Los Angeles event, but the next one will pay tribute to the big city on the opposite coast.
Woody Allen’s Manhattan, the 1979 story of a New Yorker who falls in love with his best friend’s mistress, will be the next film recreated by Reitman at the Film Independent series, set for Nov. 15 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“From the onset of the Live-Read series, we wanted to hit all the major writers and Woody Allen is simply one of the greatest screenwriters of all time,” the Up in the Air and Juno filmmaker tells EW. “He has ability to match pathos and comedy and drama and then turn it all on a dime. If you’re going to make a series based on dialogue, you can’t find much better than Woody Allen.”
Reitman, whose other films include Thank You For Smoking, Young Adult, and next year’s Labor Day, began staging these readings last year, doing new versions of The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, and Reservoir Dogs, among others. He also staged The Apartment in New York and brought a version of American Beauty to the Toronto Film Festival.
Once he decided on Woody Allen, the hard part was choosing which story he wanted to do. “There are so many well-written screenplays. Some would have gone with Annie Hall or Crimes and Misdemeanors, or one of the recent ones like Vicky Cristina Barcelona. For me, there was just something about the tightness of Manhattan, how few characters there are and the way it uses the city.”
The script was co-written by Marshall Brickman, a longtime collaborator of Allen’s who also co-wrote Sleeper, Annie Hall, and Manhattan Murder Mystery.
“It opens with this beautiful monologue about Manhattan, and he speaks about the city with love and fear and admiration,” Reitman said. That scene plays out over images of life in the city, and although some still frames from the movies do appear on a giant screen during the readings, Reitman says, “it will be interesting to just hear the dialogue without seeing all that.”
It’s also a perfect movie for both those who live in New York, and outsiders who are fascinated by it, Reitman says. “Diane Keaton is a transplant, new to the city, versus Woody Allen who is the most obvious native. He is the picture they would put in biology book if you needed a diagram of a New Yorker.”
Those two key roles remain under wraps until the reading next Thursday, but Reitman has some of the casting to reveal:
Shailene Woodley, who played George Clooney’s combative eldest daughter in The Descendants, will play the part of Tracy, the high-school girl Allen’s character is dating. The role was originated by Mariel Hemingway, who received an Oscar nomination for it.
Fred Savage, who recreated the little-kid version of himself in Reitman’s live-read last year of The Princess Bride and the role of lickspittle Brandt in their staged version of The Big Lebowski, will co-star as Yale, the part of Allen’s best friend, originated by Michael Murphy.
Parenthood star Erika Christensen has agreed to step into Meryl Streep’s shoes for the role of Jill, the ex-wife of Allen’s character — who is writing a book about him.
Mae Whitman, who co-stars with Christensen on Parenthood, will play Yale’s wife Emily, originated by Anne Byrne.
And Jason Mantzoukas, perhaps best known as the wooly bearded Rafi on The League, will play Dennis, which was originated by the late, great Saturday Night Live comedy writer Michael O’Donoghue.
VARIETY – Kyle Chandler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bob Odenkirk and Andre Royo have joined the cast of James Ponsoldt’s “The Spectacular Now,” which Andrew Lauren Prods. (“The Squid and the Whale”) has come on to fully finance.
A co-production among Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps, Global Produce and ALP, pic stars Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller and Brie Larson, while Kaitlyn Dever, Masam Holden and Dayo Okeniyi are set to round out the cast.
Adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel by scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“500 Days of Summer”), the tale follows a high school senior (Teller) and the mercurial introvert he attempts to “save” from life as a social outcast (Woodley). Script was voted to the 2009 Black List.
Tom McNulty and Shawn Levy are producing with Michelle Krumm and Andrew Lauren. Neustadter and Weber will exec produce alongside Marc Shmuger, Matthew Medlin and Ruth Mutch. 21 Laps execs Billy Rosenberg and Dan Cohen are also expected to be involved in a producing capacity.
The Exchange is onboard to sell foreign rights. UTA is handling domestic rights. Production is under way in Athens, Ga.
Andrew Lauren Prods. is fast-tracking the development of several projects including two co-productions and actively developing TV projects. Moving forward, the company will focus on bolstering its development slate as well as looking at producing and financing opportunities.
ONLINE ATHENS – Athens will play host to another Hollywood film crew this summer, its second this year. This time, though, there’s a local connection.
James Ponsoldt, a 1997 graduate of Cedar Shoals High School, is in town now scouting locations and casting for a new film titled “The Spectacular Now” that’s set to begin filming in late July.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ponsoldt helmed a casting session at Ciné, part of a Southeast-wide attempt to rally acting talent for the film.
The project is in the pre-production stage, which means, Ponsoldt explained, his team is propping the organization by hiring a crew and cast simultaneously, and setting up its offices.
At this point, his crew numbers six. By the time shooting ramps up, that number will grow to 40, not including actors, and will employ some Athenians.
“The Spectacular Now” is an adolescent coming-of-age story based on a book written by Tim Tharp of the same name.
Ponsoldt believes the material transcends the average teen film.
“When I heard it was about teenagers, my knee jerked,” he said. “But when I read it, I was floored. It’s a really honest story.”
Ponsoldt lamented that adolescent lives aren’t treated with gravity by American filmmakers as they are in foreign movies. He cited exceptions like “American Grafitti,” “Dazed and Confused” and the TV show “Freaks and Geeks” as potential touchstones for his film.
“Only in America is there an idea that films about teenagers have to be dumb,” he said, adding that he intends to mimic the emotional inner life of a teen in the film.
“Teenagers haven’t had a steady diet of films about themselves that are mature.”
Ponsoldt’s last film, “Smashed,” was a hit at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Aspen, Colo., this year. The producers of “The Spectacular Now” likely sent him the script based on their reaction to “Smashed,” he said.
“The Spectacular Now” also marks the first feature Ponsoldt has shot in his hometown. On previous films, including “Off the Black,” a movie he wrote and directed, Ponsoldt tried to shoot in Athens, or at least Georgia, but the expense of filming in the state at that time proved too costly.
“It was kind of sad to me,” Ponsoldt said of having to film in upstate New York instead of his native Georgia. “But it wasn’t my money.”
But tax credits adopted by the Georgia Legislature in the past six years made filming here financially feasible, he said.
Ponsoldt explained that the book takes place in Oklahoma, but there’s nothing that pins the story to that location. When he read the script, his hometown screamed out to him. So when he signed onto the project, he pushed the producers to set the film in Athens.
Before casting is complete, a number of rising stars are already attached to the project, including Miles Teller of the films “Rabbit Hole” and “Footloose,” Brie Larson of Woody Allen’s “Rampart” and “21 Jumpstreet” and Shailene Woodley, star of TV’s “Secret Life of the American Teenager” and “The Descendants.” Woodley had signed onto the project before Ponsoldt committed, he said. Her performance in “The Descendants,” which earned the actress an Oscar nomination, influenced his decision to direct her in “The Spectacular Now.”
Ponsoldt said that by time casting is wrapped up, more familiar actors are expected to sign onto the film.
Shooting starts July 23 at locations throughout Athens and should wrap by Aug. 25.
VARIETY – Hot off her acclaimed supporting performance in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” Shailene Woodley has signed on to topline “White Bird,” a new indie project from writer-director Gregg Araki.
Drama is told from the point of view of Woodley’s character, a troubled young woman whose life is upended following the mysterious disappearance of her mother.
With Woodley in place, Araki will turn his attention to casting the other key roles, including the protag’s parents and the lead detective on the case. Araki will produce “White Bird” with his frequent collaborators Pascal Caucheteux and Sebastien Lemercier of Why Not Prods.
One of the most lauded and prolific production companies in France, Why Not was responsible for four films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, including Jacques Audiard’s “Rust And Bone,” Ken Loach’s “The Angel’s Share,” Cristian Mungiu’s “Beyond The Hills” and Bruno Podalydes’ “Adieu Berthe.” Shingle, which has produced over 75 features including Audiard’s “A Prophet,” is currently shooting “Jimmy Picard” with Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Almaric.
MTV – It was Shailene Woodley’s first time at the MTV Movie Awards, and also her first win.
“The Descendants” star took home the Best Breakthrough Performance Golden Popcorn and commanded the stage during her acceptance speech. But it turns out she was actually much more nervous than she let on.
“I started sweating a whole lot. Like, a waterfall of sweat,” she reminisced when MTV News caught up with her immediately after her win. “I don’t even remember what happened, except for Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield’s smiling, awesome faces. Thank God they were up there. I would have been so nervous.”
Sure, Woodley was nominated for a number of prestigious awards thanks to her fantastic performance in “The Descendants,” including a Golden Globe nom. But being invited to — and winning at — the MTV Movie Awards is still a big accomplishment in her life.
“It’s the MTV Awards!” she gushed. “Let’s be real. This is crazy.”
It turns out that this was an especially great experience for Woodley because she is a huge Russell Brand fan. She called his opening monologue “awesome” and then dove into her passion for his particular brand of comedy.
“He’s one of my favorite comedians. I think he’s just so effing funny, and I’m all about him and everything that he’s saying. He’s like a political, or like an anti-political activist, you know? And I really love his revolutionary thinking. I’m into it,” she said. “[He has] a really profound message, and without being preachy.”
Shailene has received yet another nomination for her work in The Descendants and this time it’s an MTV Movie Award. She’s nominated in the Breakthrough Performance category, which is unfortunately a non-voting category so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that Shailene takes home another award for her work come June 3rd!
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Liam Hemsworth, “The Hunger Games”
Elle Fanning, “Super 8”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”