Month: January 2013

Kate Winslet Nearing ‘Divergent’ Role

January 24, 2013

VARIETY – Though Summit and Neil Burger’s “Divergent” is still on the lookout for its male lead to pair with Shailene Woodley, it may have found a major co-star for her with Kate Winslet in talks to join the movie.

Summit is eyeing a film trilogy; it acquired the Veronica Roth novel in March 2011, shortly after which Burger beat out a slew of helmers to land the coveted gig. The story has a futuristic, “Hunger Games”-like teen-on-teen violence setting and follows 16-year-old Beatrice Prior, whom Woodley is set to play. It is unknown what part Winslet would play in the film.

Burger will helm, with Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher producing through their Red Wagon banner. Vanessa Taylor is rewriting the script that Evan Daugherty penned and Burger helped develop.

Though Winslet is no stranger to starring in a big-budget-tentpole, the film would mark her first opportunity at a possible franchise.

Summit is also still trying to find its male lead to pair with Woodley. The studio recently tested Lucas Till, Alex Pettyfer and Jeremy Irvine, but sources say the shingle may go older after not finding its guy with the latest readings.

The CAA- and United Agents-repped Winslet can be seen in Relativity’s “Movie 43,” which bows this weekend, as well as Paramount’s “Labor Day,” which bows sometime in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Shailene Woodley on First Sex, Teen Drinking and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’

January 21, 2013

INDIEWIRE – It’s been a year since Shailene Woodley netted an Independent Spirit Award and a Golden Globe nomination for her feisty breakthrough turn opposite George Clooney in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.” Since then, the 21-year-old has been finishing up her run on the ABC teen show “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” (the last episodes air this spring) and laying low on the film front. She’s finally back on the big screen in “The Spectacular Now,” a deeply affecting coming-of-age film that earned a rapturous response at its world premiere on the second day of the Sundance Film Festival Friday. (The film was recently acquired by A24 and is expected to open this summer.)

In the drama, helmed by “Smashed” co-writer-director James Ponsoldt, Woodley proves that “Descendants” was no fluke by showing great range as Aimee, a deft high school student with a bright future ahead who falls for the troubled class clown (a revelatory Miles Teller).

Indiewire sat down with Woodley in Park City to discuss her absence from the film circuit, shooting her first sex scene and taking over from Kirsten Dunst to play Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” directed by “(500) Days of Summer” helmer Mark Webb.

You were visibly choked up on stage following the first screening at the Library. What was going through your mind?
A) It was the first Q&A I’ve done in about a year, so that was a little nerve-racking. And B) I’ve never had a film in Sundance. I come here every year just to watch films. And I think that the crowd that’s attracted to this festival is really outstanding and obviously loves film, so it’s always nerve-racking to present a film to a crowd that knows what they’re talking about and knows their stuff.

Were some of your emotions tied to your own reaction to the film?
I mean, I’d seen a rough cut but I’d never seen the full thing before. I was still trying to process what I had just seen, and process whether I thought it was a good film.

So what’s your verdict then, now that you’ve had a night to sleep on it?
I’m very, very proud of it. I think it’s really exciting and different and beautiful. There aren’t a lot of films about adolescents or quote-unquote coming-of-age films that are realistic nowadays. This is a really truthful birds’-eye look at what it’s like to be in high school right now.

In many ways the film is the antithesis to shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”
“Secret Life” and “Spectacular Now” couldn’t be any more different. “Secret Life” wasn’t realistic at all. I think the themes at the core had a lot of truth to them, but the way in which they were presented was not realistic or truthful. Like I said, “Spectacular Now” was a really human piece. We got to explore and really get inside these kids’ minds. I love that they weren’t dumbed down. Teenagers are extremely smart!

Continue readingShailene Woodley on First Sex, Teen Drinking and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’

A24 Acquires Rights to ‘The Spectacular Now’

January 21, 2013

Great news! I really can’t wait to see it.

INDIEWIRE – One of the most active new distribution companies on the independent film scene, A24 nailed down a deal to take North American rights to “The Spectacular Now” in the early morning hours Monday. The company plans a summer release for the film, which had its premiere Friday in the U.S. dramatic competition.

Directed by James Ponsoldt, whose previous film, “Smashed,” screened in competition at Sundance in 2012, “Spectacular Now” was adapted from the Tim Tharp novel by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“(500) Days of Summer”). It tells the story of the complex relationship that develops between two teenagers with very different approaches to life.

Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley star, with Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler and Andre Royo co-starring. Tom McNulty, Shawn Levy, Andrew Lauren, and Michelle Krumm produced.

“We fell in love with this film the minute that we watched it and we know the rest of the country will embrace this timeless love story,” said A24 principals David Fenkel, John Hodges and Daniel Katz. “James has directed a wonderful film that depicts young love with complete authenticity and has two young stars giving incredible performances with Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley.”

UTA Independent Film Group repped the sale for the filmmakers.

Sony Pictures Classics released “Smashed” in the fall, but it failed to attract a sizable audience. The presence of Woodley, who broke out in Alexander Payne’s 2011 drama “The Descendants,” could provide “Now” with some added appeal, though the film’s serious take on young love could hamper it with audiences that seem rather more interested in the comedic kind.

Just prior to the launch of this year’s Sundance fest, A24 acquired rights to Sofia Coppola’s newest film, “The Bling Ring,” which it plans to release in June. It has Roman Coppola’s “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” hitting theaters in February and Sally Potter’s “Ginger and Rosa” and Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” releasing in March.

Hollywood Reporter Reviews ‘The Spectacular Now’

January 20, 2013

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – As they did in his 2012 Sundance hit Smashed, the perils of alcoholism loom large in James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, a sincere, refreshingly unaffected look at teenagers and their attitudes about the future. Wonderfully acted by the kids and adults and smartly adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel by the (500) Days of Summer team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber with a studious avoidance of hipster posturing, this fundamentally serious film poses a commercial challenge by the way it not so much falls between two stools as it embraces both adolescent and grown-up perspectives. The right distributor would be the one that could miraculously attract both audience segments, however fanciful that dream might be.

It says a lot for the depth of the writing and the characterization to acknowledge that it takes the entire film to fully get a handle on Sutter Keely. Ineffably played with a genial, easy-going charm by Miles Teller (Project X, Footloose), this high school senior has a devil-may-care, no-problem attitude that more than compensates for his lack of classic good looks and attracts guys and girls like the sun; even the most impressive kid in school, the black star athlete and class president, envies his smooth skills. Still, his line of b.s. has its limits, prompting his girlfriend to jump ship and him to get plastered.

But even as he awakens at 6 a.m. on the lawn of an unfamiliar home, Sutter’s got a ready line of patter for one of its occupants, classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a bright, industrious, innocent girl who’s into sci-fi and has never been part of the in-crowd or had a boy friend.

For Sutter, this perceived ugly duckling would be easy pickings but he soon comes to really like her and it’s a tribute to one aspect of his nature that he doesn’t take advantage of her naivete or eagerness until she’s good and ready. To her amazement, he asks her to the prom, but red lights flash when he gives her a present of a flask, something one may or may not have noticed he almost always carries with him.

No matter how beguiling the actors and dialogue may be, for a good little while the story’s incidents remain undeniably familiar, its concerns relatively ordinary; it’s kids’ stuff, nicely done. However, a dinner party at the opulent home of Sutter’s well-married older sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the star of Smashed) raises the hitherto unmentioned spectre of their father, long-since disappeared.

Already, it has become clear that a major difference between Aimee and Sutter is that, whereas she likes to dream and plan for the future, he never thinks ahead or considers the consequences of anything. As she lost her father when she was young, Aimee insists that he look up his dad, something his beleaguered mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has always adamantly opposed.

But when Sutter and Aimee finally track the man down, it’s immediately apparent that Mom had very good reasons to keep her son away from him; Dad (Kyle Chandler) is a good-looking guy gone to seed, a barfly who, in the end, skips out on his son and sticks him with the tab for an afternoon’s worth of beer. He is, all too obviously, what Sutter will easily become unless he gets his act together.

This recognition depresses Sutter deeply, not least because he now knows he’s an alcoholic and not the right guy for Aimee. There is more drama in store but, ultimately, Mom has the final words of wisdom to impart to her troubled but big-hearted son.

Ordinary in some ways and extraordinary in others, The Spectacular Now benefits from an exceptional feel for its main characters on the parts of the director and lead actors. There is pleasure whenever Teller is onscreen, which is nearly always, and the young actor seems equally at home conveying Sutter’s conviviality as he later does his deep torment. Looking plain, even homely and singularly unadorned, Woodley is world away from the svelte little hottie she portrayed two years ago in The Descendents but again is entirely terrific.

By contrast, most of the other kids are more recognizably superficial and stereotyped. The adults, particularly Chandler as the jaw-droppingly irresponsible father, are uniformly excellent.

Shot in and around Ponsoldt’s base of Athens, Georgia, the film is small-scaled but looks solid.

Sundance Film Festival Gallery Updates

January 20, 2013

I’ve added a handful of images of Shailene from various events taking place on day three of the Sundance Film Festival. I’ll hopefully be replacing these smaller images with much larger ones very soon. Enjoy the photos!

The Playlist Reviews ‘The Spectacular Now’

January 19, 2013

INDIEWIRE – Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is the charming, good time guy who lives in the moment. Self-assured, he’s the life of the party, popular and he and his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) breeze through their high school experience. Sutter and Cassidy are like a teenage power couple that rule parties thanks to their appeal and all the social lubricants at hand. But, writing an admission letter to the Dean of a university, Sutter reveals his life is at a crossroads. Thinking she’s caught up him with another girl, Cassidy has dumped him, when the truth is all Sutter was doing using his good time skills to help get his timid friend Ricky (Masam Holden) laid. But Cassidy isn’t having it and Sutter can’t see why this is the straw that broke the camel’s back with her.

So, Sutter is moving on, and getting ready to enter a new phase of his life: singledom. This means he boozes up, drives around and finds himself blacked out on a random front lawn, his car nowhere in sight. Serendipity strikes as he’s awoken at 6 AM by Aimee Finicky (“The Descendants” star Shailene Woodley), who’s doing the rounds on her paper route and finds the popular kid from high school passed out. The meet-cute extends to Sutter helping her drive around to do her paper route so he can also find his car.

Lonely and directionless, Sutter seems charmed by the unpopular (or invisible rather) Aimee who’s introverted and a little bit nerdy and soon she’s helping him out with his geometry homework and a relationship begins to blossom. Ricky doesn’t understand why of all the girls in school, Sutter is going after Aimee and wonders aloud if this rebound is going to break the impressionable girl’s heart. Sutter is sympathetic to the fact that she’s not a draw at school, but both share a bond in their rocky family lives. Sutter’s mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) works at a hospital pulling night shifts and is hardly around. His dad (eventually revealed to be Kyle Chandler) has been absent since he was a child and his sister (“Smashed” star Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the well intentioned trophy wife of a lawyer, hasn’t worked a day since they married. Aimee’s mom is never seen, but its clear they’re not a wealthy family, and college might just be a pipe dream for her.

And so while Sutter and Aimee’s relationship blooms into something real and romantic, the 18-year-old still pines for Cassidy, and becomes jealous of Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi), her new beau. And when things start getting serious with Aimee, he plays aloof. But once the relationship settles, Sutter takes Aimee on a three hour pilgrimage to visit his father and the teenager is in for a rude awakening. This meet up dovetails with a self-realization for Sutter: while beloved, no one takes him seriously. He is so intent on living in the now, that people can’t invest in his future. His fecklessness and boozing (a spiked 7-11 cup is never far from his hand), was a factor in Cassidy leaving him, and while Aimee wants Sutter to follow her to college in Philadelphia, he begins to realize that he may not be the best influence on her.

Much more meaty drama than teen comedy, director James Ponsoldt (“Smashed”) treats the story and characters with respect and seriousness almost to a fault. While not dour, “The Spectacular Now” can also be tremendously heavy. That’s not a bad thing, the picture is far more substantive than most teen relationship films, but it could probably use just a smidgeon of levity here and there after the first act.

Ponsoldt’s picture is self-possessed, mature and deeply patient, but it’s perhaps not at the exact pace some audiences are accustomed to. At 95 minutes, “The Spectacular Now” feels closer to two hours and that’s both to its benefit and minor detriment. Marked by long takes — one steady-cam shot is seven minutes long — Ponsoldt puts the emphasis on his actors and considering how good his cast is, it’s a smart move. Teller, who went toe-to-toe with Nicole Kidman in the criminally underrated “Rabbit Hole,” is effortlessly real in the movie. Woodley is terrific and painfully genuine and across the board, the entire cast (which also includes Andre Royo from “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad” star Bob Odenkirk) imbues an authenticity that adds to the true-feeling greater whole.

Written by the guys who penned “(500) Days Of Summer”), the thematic element of alcohol (also present in Ponsoldt’s previous picture “Smashed”) is disconcerting, yet accurate storytelling. Clearly Sutter has a drinking problem like his father, but neither the script or the filmmakers attempt to round off the edges here and give the teenager any safe life lessons to learn from (though there is one small moment of self-recognition near the end). While the audience craves Sutter to find some resolution here, wrapping up all his problems would just be too clean and neat. This is more true to life, even if it’s harder pill to swallow. This kid is clearly a work in progress, who is only now just waking up to the world and himself, and figuring out who he truly is.

Don’t be surprised if the film is sold like “(500) Days Of Summer” (or a similar film) when it eventually makes its way to theaters, but this picture is particularly darker, sadder and pained. “The Spectacular Now” is wise beyond its years, charismatic, measured and authentic in its depiction of the pains, confusions and insecurities of the teenage experience, and while its deliberate rhythm may prove to be a harder sell among the teen crowd, it’s a valuable and honest film that’s worth the investment. [B]