Vittorio Taviani, Award-Winning Italian Director, Dies at 88
Italian director Vittorio Taviani, of the multiple award-winning Taviani brothers, has died at 88.
His daughter Giovanna told media he died in Rome after a long illness.
Vittorio was the older of the prolific Taviani brothers who emerged in the 1970’s as the revered filmmaking duo whose works blended neo-realism with more modern storytelling in works such as Padre Padrone which won the 1977 Cannes Palme d’Or, World War II drama “The Night of the Shooting Stars” (1982) and “Kaos” (1984) which is based on Pirandello.
Born in the Tuscan town of San Miniato, Vittorio and Paolo Taviani soon moved to nearby Pisa where as high-school students they became aspiring directors. “We walked into a movie theater called Cinema Italia, which no longer exists, and there was a film playing called ‘Paisà’ that we had never heard of”. That experience “really blew our minds,” they said. “We had experienced the war as kids, and very deeply. But what we were seeing on screen made that reality so much clearer for us. This movie was telling us things about ourselves that we did not know. So we said to ourselves: ‘If cinema has this strength, this power to reveal to ourselves our own truths, then we will make movies!’
Years later, when they went to Cannes with “Padre Padrone,” the thought that they had started making movies thanks to Rossellini and that he was awarding them the Palme d’Or was for them “like the closure of a splendid luminous circle.”
More recently the Taviani brothers won the Berlin Golden Bear, in 2012, with “Caesar Must Die,” which is about high-security inmates acting Shakespeare, followed by “Wondrous Boccaccio,” (2014) an adaptation of “The Decameron” and “Una Questione Privata” in 2017, based on a novella by Italian author Beppe Fenoglio.
Italian president Sergio Mattarella in a statement said the country is in mourning and called Vittorio Taviani “a beloved protagonist of Italian cinema and culture.”
“Yesterday Milos Forman, today Vittorio Taviani,” tweeted Venice Film Festival chief Alberto Barbara. “We owe them a great deal of our cinematic formation…and will remember them always with gratitude.”
The Tavianis received a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement from Venice in 1986.
Giovanna Taviani said her father’s body would be cremated and there will be no public funeral.
R. Lee Ermey, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ Golden Globe Nominee, Dies at 74
R. Lee Ermey, best known for his Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket,” has died. He was 74.
Ermey’s longtime manager announced the news via a tweet to Ermey’s official Twitter account.
“It is with great sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (‘The Gunny’) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us,” the tweet reads.
In addition to his role in Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar-nominated film, which earned him a best supporting actor Golden Globe nod, Ermey had several other mostly authority figure roles to his credit, including Sheriff Hoyt in 2003’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a police captain in “Se7en,” and the voice of the plastic army men’s
Ermey was a former United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and honorary gunnery sergeant, and served as a drill instructor during his tenure from 1961-1972. He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for one year until 1968, when he was moved to Vietnam and spent 14 months in country.
His first film role occurred when he was studying in the Philippines, and he played a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in “Apocalypse Now,” also serving as a technical adviser to Francis Ford Coppola. He had a series of other small roles until his casting in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”
Ermey was originally meant to function only as a technical adviser to Kubrick, but when Kubrick was impressed by an instructional tape Ermey put together in which he went on long rants at extras, he instead cast him in the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Kubrick allowed Ermey to improvise and write or edit his dialogue, and he said Ermey often only needed two or three takes to finish a scene — both unusual for Kubrick films.
All told, Ermey had roles in some 60-plus films, as well as several voice credits, including “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Simpsons,” and “Family Guy.”
On top of his voice acting, he hosted two programs for the History Channel: “Mail Call,” in which he provided expertise on military issues, both modern and historic, and “Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey,” which focused on the development of different types of weapons.
R. Lee Ermey
Statement from R. Lee Ermey’s longtime manager, Bill Rogin:
It is with deep sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (“The Gunny”) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us.
‘Rampage’ Sneaks Up on ‘A Quiet Place’ to Win Weekend Box Office
After a weekend of fluctuating projections, Dwayne Johnson (just barely) owned the North American box office after all.
Though earlier estimates looked like the second frame of A Quiet Place would take the weekend, Johnson’s Rampage snuck up to take the top slot with $34.5 million from 4,101 theaters.
New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.Rampage opened under initial predictions that estimated between $37 million to $40 million. Though the sci-fi actioner has an impressive A- CinemaScore and 80% audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes, “Rampage” will need to rely heavily on overseas to carry its costly $120 million budget.
Still, its opening was enough to just narrowly take the box office crown from A Quit Place” which earned $32.9 million in 3,589 locations. “A Quiet Place” has been riding high with rave reviews only dropping 34%. That brings its cumulative domestic gross to an impressive $100 million.
Also benefitting from the Friday the 13th weekend was Universal and Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare starring Lucy Hale and Tyler Posey. The supernatural thriller debuted in third place with $19 million from 3,029 theaters.
“This is an outstanding debut considering the competitive landscape,” Jim Orr, head of domestic distribution at Universal, said. “For original horror, Blumhouse has define the genre for many years. They built a model that is just terrific.”
The third frame of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” made $11 million from 3,661 locations, lifting its domestic gross to $114.5 million.
Rounding out the top five is the sophomore weekend of Universal’s “Blockers.” Kay Cannon’s raunchy comedy starring John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz took in $10 million from 3,418 locations. In total, the pic has made $37 million.
The wide release of Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” made $5 million from 1,939 locations. The stop-motion animated film, which has grossed $18.5 million, opened in limited release at the end of March with the best per screen average of 2018 to date.
Another newcomer, Entertainment Studios’ canine-themed “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” made $1.1 million in 1,633 locations. Directed and co-written by Richard Lanni, “Sgt. Stubby” features the voices of Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gerard Depardieu.
The 2018 box office is down 2.4% compared to 2017. The same weekend last year, where “The Fate of the Furious” opened with $98.8 million, is down 15.5%
Cannes Lineup Includes New Films From Spike Lee, Jean-Luc Godard
New movies from Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”), Jean-Luc Godard (“The Image Book”) and Oscar-winning “Ida” director Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) join previously announced Solo: A Star War Story at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, making for a lineup that’s considerably less starry — at least by Hollywood standards — than in years past.Apart from Lee, films with American connections are few and far between. “It Follows” director David Robert Mitchell will present his 140-minute thriller Under the Silver Lake; Egyptian-made “Yomeddine” was directed by NYU Tisch graduate A.B. Shawky; and Brazilian director Joe Penna (whose English-language “Arctic” will bow in the Midnight section) resides in Los Angeles.
At the press conference in Paris, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux explained that his programming team deliberately selected work by lesser-known and in some cases unheard-of directors. Conspicuous absences include a number of “the usual suspects” — established directors such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Mike Leigh to whom Cannes typically invites high-profile spots for each new film. Also missing is Naomi Kawase from a lineup that is otherwise heavy with Asian directors, including a pair of Iranians: Jafar Panahi with “Three Faces” and Asghar Farhadi, who made opening-night selection“Everybody Knows” (starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem) in Spain.
The competition program includes just three female filmmakers, prompting Frémaux to reiterate his position that “the films that were selected were chosen for their own intrinsic qualities,” not the gender of their directors. Acknowledging the importance of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, he said, “The world will never be the same again … and we will question our own practices about the gender parity” in salaries and jury representation, but stressed that “there will never be a selection with a positive discrimination for women.”
Frémaux countered criticisms that the festival may be losing its power to attract high-profile films, unconvincingly suggesting that prize-winning directors Xavier Dolan and Jacques Audiard had not turned down a formal invitation to screen in Cannes, but rather, were still editing their respective films, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” and “The Sisters Brothers.” And yet, he admitted that American companies in particular can get nervous about how a film’s reception in Cannes can impact its awards and box office chances, admitting, “When you are on a strategy of a late [fall] release, Cannes might not be the ideal place to show a film.”
Even a cursory survey of past lineups reveals that many films chosen for official selection already have French distribution, which is frequently timed to the days and weeks immediately following the festival. This phenom illustrates not only the way French companies leverage Cannes for publicity, but also the enormous influence they wield over the selection of such films in the first place — nowhere more evident this year than in the exclusion of Netflix from competition.
Frémaux explained that he had personally appealed to Netflix honchos Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos not to pull their films from the festival, and yet, under pressure from the French industry (where a law insists upon a three-year window between theatrical release and streaming), Cannes was forced to exclude them from competition unless Netflix agreed to sell theatrical rights to a French distributor. “We made offers on two films owned by Netflix,” said Frémaux, “and there were candidates for the theatrical distribution of those films,” including the restoration of Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind,” which Frémaux sorely wanted to invite.
Several more movies may be announced in the days to come, including a couple midnight screenings. Asked about whether Lars von Trier (whose “The House That Jack Built” would be a likely candidate) is still persona non grata with the festival, Frémaux enigmatically replied, “We will answer in a few days.”
At just 17 titles, the competition lineup is currently the smallest in decades, although it should be noted that 2017 Palme d’Or winner “The Square” was a late addition to last year’s lineup. Frémaux specifically hinted that they would have liked to invite Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” which is currently tied up in a legal dispute, and said discussions are still underway with Paolo Sorrentino about his two-part “Loro,” the first half of which opens in Italy before Cannes.
Scheduled to kick off a month after the inaugural television-focused Cannes Series event, the festival will unspool from May 8-19 — which is the earliest the festival has taken place in more than 20 years. The parallel Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week programs will take place during the same dates, but technically fall outside the “official selection,” and as such, will announce their lineups later in April.
2018 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP
“Everybody Knows” (Asghar Farhadi)
“Ash Is Purest White” (Jia Zhang-Ke)
“At War” (Stéphane Brizé)
“BlacKkKlansman” (Spike Lee)
“Burning” (Lee Chang-dong)
“Capernaum” (Nadine Labaki)
“Cold War” (Pawel Pawlikowski)
“Dogman” (Matteo Garrone)
“Girls of the Sun” (Eva Husson)
“The Image Book” (Jean-Luc Godard)
“Lazzaro Felice” (Alice Rohrwacher)
“Leto” AKA “Summer” (Kirill Serebrennikov)
“Netemo Sametemo” AKA “Asako I & II” (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
“Shoplifters” (Kore-Eda Hirokazu)
“Sorry Angel” (Christophe Honoré)
“Three Faces” (Jafar Panahi)
“Under the Silver Lake” (David Robert Mitchell)
“Yomeddine” (A.B. Shawky)
UN CERTAIN REGARD
“Angel Face” (Vanessa Filho)
“Border” (Ali Abbasi) — PICTURED
“El Angel” (Luis Ortega)
“Euphoria” (Valeria Golino)
“Friend” (Wanuri Kahiu)
“The Gentle Indifference of the World” (Adilkhan Yerzhanov)
“Girl” (Lukas Dhont)
“The Harvesters” (Etienne Kallos)
“In My Room” (Ulrich Köhler)
“Little Tickles” (Andréa Bescond & Eric Métayer)
“Manto” (Nandita Das)
“My Favorite Fabric” (Gaya Jiji)
“Sextape” AKA “On Your Knees, Guys” (Antoine Desrosières)
Sofia” (Meyem Benm’Barek)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“Le Grand Bain” (Gilles Lellouche)
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” (Ron Howard)
“Arctic” (Joe Penna)
“Gongjak” AKA “The Spy Gone North” (Yoon Jong-Bing)
“Dead Souls” (Wang Bing)
“La Traversée” (Romain Goupil)
“O Grande Circo Místico” (Carlo Diegues)
“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” (Wim Wenders)
“The State Against Mandela and the Others” (Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte)
“10 Years in Thailand” (Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnon Sriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Netflix’s chief content officer says that the festival sent a clear message with a new rule that bans any films without theatrical distribution in France from playing in competition. Netflix could screen some of its upcoming movies out of competition, but Sarandos says that doesn’t make sense for the streaming service.
“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Sarandos says. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”
Netflix made a big splash at the prestigious film festival last year with two movies that showed in competition: Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.” But after the 2017 announcement, French theaters owners and unions protested the inclusion of these films to Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director of Cannes. Netflix was amenable to having their movies play on big screens in France, but a law in the country requires movies to not appear in home platforms for 36 months after their theatrical release.
Netflix has had day-and-date theatrical releases for such titles as “Mudbound,” Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father,” “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories.”
Sarandos will not personally be attending Cannes in May, but some of his executives will be there. “It is not a coincidence that Thierry also banned selfies this year,” Sarandos says, of another new rule that doesn’t allow guests to snap pictures on the red carpet. “I don’t know what other advances in media Thierry would like to address.”
Here, Sarandos spoke with Variety about the Netflix rule change.
Are you deciding not to participate in Cannes this year? Well, it was not our decision to make. Thierry announced the change in their qualification rules [that] requires a film to have distribution in France to get in, which is completely contrary to the spirit of any film festival in the world. Film festivals are to help films get discovered so they can get distribution. Under those rules, we could not release our films day-and-date to the world like we’ve released nearly 100 films over the last couples of years. And if we did that, we’d have to hold back that film from French subscribers for three years under French law. Therefore, our films they are not qualified for the Cannes Film Festival competition.
And you aren’t taking movies to the festival out of competition? No. I don’t think there would be any reason to go out of competition. The rule was implicitly about Netflix, and Thierry made it explicitly about Netflix when he announced the rule.
Were you surprised by the rule? Netflix had the two biggest English-language releases at last year’s Cannes. I would say not just on the English-language side. I think they were the biggest films in the world last year with Bong Joon-ho and Noah Baumbach and the star power we were able to bring — Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, it goes on and on. We loved the festival. We love the experience for our filmmakers and for film lovers. It’s just that the festival has chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema. We are 100% about the art of cinema. And by the way, every other festival in the world is too.
Did you talk to Thierry before he made the rule change?
I believe it was not just Thierry’s decision. I think it was the decision of his board, which is made up of several exhibitors. I know we didn’t have any conversation with Thierry. I read about it in the press.
In interviews, Thierry said that “the Netflix people loved the red carpet,” but your “model is now the opposite” of what Cannes does. Do you agree with that? No, obviously not. Do we love the red carpet? I love our filmmakers being on those red carpets. Of course. It’s a very glamorous, very fun event for filmmakers. That is beside the point. That is true of every festival. Last year we were jointly celebrating the art of cinema at Cannes. The divergence is this decision to define art by the business model. In that way, yes, we have diverged.
Will you or other Netflix employees be attending Cannes? I personally won’t be attending myself. But we will have people there who are in the business of acquiring films, because many films will be there without distribution.
So you could end up buying a movie that’s in competition?
Yes 100%. We don’t discriminate that way.
Netflix acquires movies from film festivals all the time. Ultimately, this rule seems to be about preventing a movie from entering Cannes as a Netflix release. It was a puzzle to me. Keep in mind last year at Sundance, we produced the film that won the jury prize [“I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore”], and we acquired “Mudbound” in the biggest acquisition of the festival.
Have you had conversations with your filmmakers about Cannes?
We’ve talked to a lot of our filmmakers after the rule change. When we went into making these films and acquiring these films, that rule wasn’t in place. That was a change in dynamics.
Do you think Cannes might change its mind in the future? Yeah. I do have faith that Thierry shares my love for cinema and would be a champion of changing that when he realizes how punitive this rule is to filmmakers and film lovers.
What is your message for the international film community? We hope that they do change the rules. We hope that they modernize. But we will continue to support all films and all filmmakers. We encourage Cannes to rejoin the world cinema community and welcome them back. Thierry had said in his comments when he announced his change that the history of the Internet and the history of Cannes are two different things. Of course they are two different things. But we are choosing to be about the future of cinema. If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that’s fine.
Norway’s Maipo Prepares Dystopian Thriller ‘Fortress,’ Season 2 of ‘State of Happiness’
Leading Norwegian company Maipo is developing “Fortress,” an ambitious dystopian thriller, and is preparing the second season of “State of Happiness” (“Lykkeland”), the historical series which is competing this week at Canneseries.
“Fortress” is created and penned by two high-profile Norwegian screenwriters: John Kåre Raake, whose track record includes Nordic blockbusters such as “The Wave,” Roar Uthaug’s disaster movie, and “Ragnarok, a family film based on Viking mythology;” and Linn-Jeanethe Kyed, who notably co-wrote “Børning” and “Børning 2,” a action-comedy movie franchise set in the world of illegal sports car racing, and Benjamin Ree’s critically acclaimed documentary feature about the Norwegian chess prodigy, Magnus Carlsen.
“Fortress” takes place in a near future in Norway which is now secluded from the rest of the world by a wall built by the nationalistic government. Norwegians live in absolute sovereignty, relying only on their own homegrown resources and caring solely about national affairs. But when a malicious epidemic starts spreading in the country, officials embark on a race against time to find who is behind the epidemic and seek help to find a cure from foreign organizations which are reluctant to provide any support.
Synnøve Hørsdal, who is producing “Fortress” with Ales Ree at Maipo, said the concept of the series echoes some tendencies of the politics happening in the western world today.
The producer said that in addition to examining the consequences of political decisions that have been made, it will mostly be a suspenseful character driven thriller.
Meanwhile, Maipo is also developing the second season of “State of Happiness” with Mette M. Bølstad (“Nobel”) back on board to write the show. Set to world premiere in competition at Canneseries on Tuesday, the first season of “State of Happiness” takes place in the summer of 1969 in the coastal town of Stavanger and follows four young characters who come from different backgrounds and are thrown into a whirlwind of opportunity during the oil boom which turned Norway into one of the world’s most prosperous countries.
“State of Happiness”‘s second season which will set the action five years later years afterwill also bring back the cast, including British actor Bart Edwards (“UnREAL”), as well as newcomers Anne Regine Ellingsæter Malene Wadel and Amund Harboe.
Hørsdal said one of the biggest challenges Maipo faced to make “State of Happiness” was raising the financing for the 10 million euros series. “Everybody says ‘we want to make different shows that are not Nordic Noir but the reality is that it’s difficult to raise financing for ambitious drama series that are not crime-based.”
Maipo is behind some of Norway’s biggest films, such as “The Ash Lad: In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and Anne Sewitsky’s anticipated “Sonja – The White Swan” about Sonja Henie, the famous ice skater-turned-Hollywood star.
Netflix has renewed Alexa $ Katie for a second season, the streaming giant announced Monday.
The first season of the series launched on March 23. The multi-camera sitcom follows the titular best friends through their freshman year of high school. Alexa (Paris Berelc) is undergoing cancer treatment, but makes it through thanks to her outgoing personality and the help of her best friend Katie (Isabel May). At times they’re left feeling like outsiders, during a period when what seems to matter most is fitting in. Tiffani Thiessen stars as Lori, Alexa’s determined and protective mother. The series also stars Emery Kelly, Eddie Shin, Jolie Jenkins, and Finn Carr.
Heather Wordham created the series and will take over as showrunner on Season 2. Her previous credits include “Hannah Montana” and “Reba.” Matthew Carlson was the showrunner on Season 1.
That show, which debuted its first season on Feb. 16, followed two groups of high school misfits from the A/V club and a Drama club who collide in 1996 Oregon. It starred Peyton Kennedy, Jahi Winston, Patch Darragh, Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, Sydney Sweeney, Elijah Stevenson, Quinn Liebling, and Rio Mangini.
Hilda Hidalgo’s second film screens in Mexico on May 11
Underscoring the growing interest in Latino fare among pay TV and SVOD companies, premium pay TV outlet Starz has snapped up Hilda Hidalgo’s “Violeta at Last”
Starz will start airing “Violeta” in August, according to its sales agent Alfredo Calviño of Habanero Film Sales. Inspired by Hidalgo’s mother, “Violeta at Last” turns on a woman in her seventies who finds new freedom in her winter years. “Violeta” is co-produced by Mexico’s Laura Imperiale of Cacerola Films who also co-produced Hidalgo’s first film, “Of Love and Other Demons,”
“Violeta” is slated to premiere in Mexico on May 11 at the Cineteca Nacional of México City and in five other cities, said Hidalgo. “Laura, myself and my lead Eugenia Chaverri will be there to present it,” said Hidalgo, who concedes that oftentimes co-producing with other territories is the most viable way of seeing your film released in other Latino countries.
It’s probable that “Violeta” boards Amazon Prime Video Direct in Mexico after October, according to Calviño. Amazon Prime’s self-service program for filmmakers, distributors and content creators, took its Film Festival Stars program (FFS) to the Guadalajara Int’l Film Festival (FICG) in March, marking its first foray into the Latin American marketplace. Launched at Sundance 2017, the FFS program offers cash bonuses and royalties to festival films seeking to self-distribute on Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime Video recently snapped up the exclusive Latin American streaming rights to Spiral Int’l and Dynamo co-production, “Falco,” the Mexican adaptation of German high-concept crime series, “The Last Cop” (“Der Letzte Bulle”) by Ernesto Contreras. Red Arrow Studios International has launched international sales of “Falco” at MipTV.
In other sales news, Habanero Film Sales sold Uruguayan film “Mi Mundial” to Spain’s Cada Films/EDreams Factory and to Arcadia Films in Chile. Primer Plano releases the film in Argentina this month.
Carlos Morelli’s debut feature, “Mi Mundial” topped Guadalajara’s works in progress sidebar last year. The teen morality tale turns on a talented soccer player who has the skills but not the maturity to deal with the challenges of youth pro soccer and discovers other things – family, for instance – matter more than the beautiful game.