Category: lyrics

11 Jul

Matt Damon: I'm going to be replaced as Bourne – and that's fine

The star of the action franchise has expressed equanimity at the prospect of a younger actor taking over the role, saying it’s inevitable and desirable

Matt Damon: I'm going to be replaced as Bourne – and that's fine
Bourne again … Matt Damon and co-star Alicia Vikander at the South Korean premiere for Jason Bourne on 8 July 2016. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The actor Matt Damon has declared himself unconcerned about the prospect of being replaced in the action franchise with which he’s become synonymous.

Speaking in South Korea ahead of the premiere of the fifth Jason Bourne film, Damon declared himself “totally fine” with someone new taking over the role.

“I’m definitely going to be replaced some day by some new young Jason Bourne,” he said. “That happens to everybody and they reboot these things, and that’s totally fine.”

Damon, now 45, said he found the action sequences more taxing than he had at 29, when shooting the first Bourne film.

“It’s difficult when you’re 45 compared to when you’re 29, but you still have to run as fast as you can. That part was a challenge but to get to revisit the people was wonderful.

“But I said, let’s smell the roses and appreciate that we get to be here together, and make sure we have fun.”

In 2012, an attempt was made to continue the franchise with Jeremy Renner and Tony Gilroy replacing Damon and Greengrass. But The Bourne Legacy only made marginally more than the 2002 original, and about half the total of 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum.

Damon’s remarks come as debate still rages over casting for the next James Bond, despite Daniel Craig not having officially thrown in the towel.

5 Jul

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West romance set for big screen

Long-gestating adaptation of stage play Vita and Virginia by Eileen Atkins will be directed by Chanya Button

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West romance set for big screen
An affair to remember … Virginia Woolf, left and Vita Sackville West, the English writer who was the model for Woolf’s Orlando. Composite: AP/Getty Images

Vita and Virginia, Eileen Atkins’s fictionalisation of the friendship and affair of writers Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, is finally heading to the big screen.

No casting has yet been announced, but the director is Chanya Button, whose female buddy comedy Burn Burn Burn was a hit at last autumn’s London film festival.

The movie is an adaptation of Atkins’ play of the same name, which premiered in 1992, three years after she toured the world in a stage adaptation of Woolf’s collected lectures. The actor adapted her own script for the screen in 2000, shortly before she was cast in a minor role in Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours, which she was not wholly impressed by.

In 2007, Atkins said:

It’s not that the portrait of her is wrong, but it’s only her depression. It came as a real thrill to me that I made people go back and read it and see how witty she was. When I first got the script, I threw it from one end of my apartment to the other. I thought, right, OK, you’ve had your temper. It’s going to be done anyway, so grit your teeth, take the day’s filming, have a day with Meryl Streep and fuck everybody. And that’s what I did. It’s over and it was a success and that’s fine. But I just wish somebody would do my script.

The relationship between the two Bloomsbury luminaries began in 1922 and lasted around a decade, although they remained friends until Woolf’s death in 1941. The novelist dedicated 1928’s Orlando to Sackville-West; Vita’s son, Nigel Nicholson, called it “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature”.

4 Jul

Absolutely Fabulous off to corking start with £4.4m weekend at UK box office

Brexit gloom, football counterprogramming and decent reviews help sitcom land in second place in UK charts

Absolutely Fabulous off to corking start with £4.4m weekend at UK box office
Bolly good start … Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders at the Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie world premiere in London. Photograph: James Shaw/REX/Shutterstock

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie has scored the biggest UK film opening since Spectre, taking £4.4m over its debut weekend.

The film made more than double the three-day total for the Dad’s Army movie, which took £2.1m in February; it also beat recent healthy homegrown performers such as Eddie the Eagle and The Lady in the Van.

However, it still falls some way short of the opening weekend totals for both Inbetweeners movies, as well as the most recent James Bond movie, which took £6.3m on its opening day alone.

The sitcom spin-off is said to have benefited from better-than-expected reviews, while releasing during Euro 2016 was always going to boost a film whose target audience is predominantly female.

The film, which is marketed as an unchallenging and celebratory adult comedy, may also have been aided by current political uncertainty and national despondency.

Absolutely Fabulous’s international rollout is protracted: it arrives in the US on 22 July, in Australia on 4 August and territories such as Singapore and Germany later in the autumn, before a Russian release in October.

3 Jul

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate, dies aged 77

Michael Cimino, the director of the Vietnam war classic The Deer Hunter and the infamous epic western Heaven’s Gate, has died. He was 77.

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate, dies aged 77
Michael Cimino at the Rome Film Festival, in 2008. Photograph: AGF s.r.l./REX/Shutterstock

Thierry Fremaux, the director of the Cannes film festival, tweeted the news on Saturday, saying: “Michael Cimino has died, in peace, surrounded by friends and the two women who loved him. We loved him too.”

Cimino directed eight films, starting in 1974 with the highly rated Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges-starring crime movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, for which he also wrote the screenplay. The Deer Hunter, a harrowing story of friends from working class Pennsylvania played by Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, in which a young Meryl Streep also appears and her then fiancé John Cazale takes his final role, followed in 1978.

The film was a critical and commercial success. On its re-release in 2014, Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw saluted The Deer Hunter’s “combination of sulphurous anti-war imagery, disillusion and patriotic melancholy”.

“A simple, much-forgotten fact slaps you in the face after watching The Deer Hunter,” Bradshaw wrote. “Vietnam was different to Iraq and Afghanistan in one vital respect: the soldiers were drafted. They had no choice. The idea of sacrifice permeates everything, along with the cruelty and horror. This is Cimino’s masterpiece.”

Heaven’s Gate (1980), starring Walken and Kris Kristofferson and loosely based on the Wyoming Johnson County war of 1889-93, was a critical and commercial failure which hastened the demise of the United Artists studio and coloured the rest of Cimino’s career.

The film has since undergone something of a critical rehabilitation. In 2013, Bradshaw called it “colossally ambitious and mysteriously moving, with an unhurried, unforced pace, beautifully photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond”, the cinematographer who died in January at the age of 85.

Cimino’s other films included Desperate Hours (1990), a thriller starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins, and the gangster film The Sicilian (1986), which was adapted from a novel by Godfather author Mario Puzo.

In 2001 he published his only novel, Big Jane, a story of the 1950s and the Korean war. Speaking to the Guardian, he said of his ups and downs in film: “Hollywood has always been crazy. It’s controlled anarchy. But how can you loathe something that has given you so much?

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate, dies aged 77
The famous Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter. Photograph: Picture library

“I wouldn’t have had the life I’ve had without movies. Anybody who says they’re bitter is sick in their soul. They’ve given up.”

On Saturday, the writer, producer and director Christopher McQuarrie, tweeted: “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Deer Hunter and yes … Heaven’s Gate. Michael Cimino. May the rest of us do half as well.”

The director William Friedkin said: “I wish I had paid tribute to Michael Cimino while he was alive. He was an important and masterful film maker. We will always have his work.”

2 Jul

Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters

As part of new measures, Ampas has promised merciless action if members attend ‘any screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote’

Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters
Party’s over … the Elton John AIDS Foundation party after the 1996 Oscars. Photograph: KMazur/WireImage

The Academy for Motion Pictures and Sciences has taken drastic action to try and prevent further accusations of latent prejudice among its members.

On 29 June an unprecedented number of new members – 683, more than double the usual figure – were invited to join, in the hope that their improved levels of diversity (46% women and 41% people of colour) might help avoid another year in which no ethnic minorities were nominated for acting awards.

But other measures, announced on Thursday, were also approved at the board of governors meeting on 28 June, chief among them measures that draw a clearer line between social events and lobbying.

In an attempt to level the playing field for less well-funded films, the new campaign regulations state that “Academy members may not be invited to attend any non-screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote”.

The consequences of non-compliance includes losing membership; the onus falls on members themselves, as well as those seeking to butter them up.

“Members who fail to comply with this regulation,” explain the rules, “will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations and expulsion for subsequent violations.”

The Academy has also outlawed any screening that includes a live performance of a song from a soundtrack that is eligible for an award. As the Hollywood Reporter has pointed out, this could become problematic when many members are required to attend crossover events, such as the Producers Guild of America awards, at which this year Lady Gaga performed Till It Happens to You. That song lost out to Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall at the 2016 Oscars.

More stringent requirements were also demanded of features, which must now not only complete a week’s run in Los Angeles before the deadline but also guarantee at least three screenings a day, including one at prime time. A similar rule concerning documentaries and New York has been loosened, however, so that those which complete the required run in any of the city’s borough’s are now eligible.

1 Jul

Justin Timberlake 'uses black culture', says hip-hop star Vic Mensa

Rapper says Timberlake benefits from African-American music improving his sound but has failed to offer any support over Black Lives Matter

Justin Timberlake 'uses black culture', says hip-hop star Vic Mensa
Justin Timberlake … ‘We’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him.’ Photograph: Joel Ryan/AP

The emerging rap star Vic Mensa has criticised Justin Timberlake for his attitude towards African-American culture, saying: “We’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him and turning a blind eye when it could be dangerous.”

Mensa was speaking about cultural appropriation on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. His remarks followed Timberlake’s response to a speech delivered by actor Jesse Williams at the BET awards on Sunday, which had a section on cultural appropriation. “This invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold,” Williams said. “Ghettoising and demeaning our creations then stealing them; gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”

Timberlake had tweeted his support for the speech, saying it was “inspired”. But Mensa pointed out that Timberlake had done just what Williams had highlighted. “Our problem here is that Justin Timberlake himself, you know, is definitely benefiting from using black culture for his sound, his dance moves, his dancers and blowing up off of it,” Mensa said.

“But if you roll down Justin Timberlake’s Twitter for the past two years, which I just did, you see nothing that supports black people when it’s more difficult; when there’s a struggle. With everything that’s going on and everybody that’s been killed by police on camera in the last couple of years, there’s no ‘#BlackLivesMatter’, there’s no ‘praying for Baltimore’, there’s no ‘praying for Flint’, you know, because that’s a dangerous subject for him to touch. And we’re not feeling him being down when it’s beneficial to him and turning a blind eye when it could be dangerous.”

Mensa later tweeted that he was not attacking Timberlake personally.

Immediately after Timberlake tweeted about Williams, an African-American journalist tweeted him to ask: “Does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture?” Timberlake was criticised for responding with: “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.” He followed up by saying: “I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway.”

25 Jun

John Boyega cast in Kathryn Bigelow's upcoming film about 1960s Detroit riots

The Star Wars actor John Boyega is the first named to star in Bigelow’s anticipated follow-up to Zero Dark Thirty, a crime drama set against the backdrop of the Detroit riots

John Boyega cast in Kathryn Bigelow's upcoming film about 1960s Detroit riots
John Boyega has reason to smile. Photograph: John Phillips/Getty Images

John Boyega is on a roll.

Weeks after it was announced that the Star Wars: The Force Awakens breakout star had signed on for the lead role in the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, it is announced that the British actor has been cast in Kathryn Bigelow’s next film.

Billed as an “Untitled Detroit Project” by Annapurna Pictures, the production company behind Bigelow’s last feature, Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow’s latest is a crime drama set against the backdrop of the Detroit riots that took place over five summer days in 1967. The film explores “systemic racism”, according to a statement released by Annapurna. Bigelow’s frequent collaborator, Mark Boal, is writing the screenplay.

Further details on the production, which is set to begin shooting this summer, have not been revealed. To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the riots, the film is aiming to open sometime in 2017.

Boyega is in the midst of shooting Star Wars: Episode VIII, and will next be seen onscreen opposite Tom Hanks and Emma Watson in The Circle. He will be making his stage debut on London’s West End in Woyzeck at the Old Vic, next year.

As for Bigelow, she last directed Last Days in 2014, a short film about elephant poaching. Her last feature film, Zero Dark Thirty, received five Oscar nominations including best picture and best actress for Jessica Chastain.

24 Jun

'Thumbs down': female critics vastly outnumbered by male counterparts – new study

Film criticism remains ‘a heavily male pursuit’, according to a study of Rotten Tomatoes by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

  • Men outnumber women by 73% to 27%
  • Study author says gender bias impacts exposure female protagonists receive
'Thumbs down': female critics vastly outnumbered by male counterparts – new study
One of the greats … film critic Pauline Kael Photograph: AP

Women’s struggles to secure adequate representation in the film industry have been well documented in recent years. Now, a new study suggests they are outnumbered when it comes to writing and broadcasting about films, too.

The San Diego-based Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film (CSWTF) has published the report Thumbs Down 2016: Top Film Critics and Gender, which analyses the gender ratio of writers appearing on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It has concluded that men outnumber women by 73% to 27%, a factor of more than two to one.

Martha Lauzen, the report’s author and executive director of CSWTF, said: “The discussion of film … remains a heavily male pursuit, reflecting an industry with the same bias. Women’s underrepresentation among the top critics is not only an employment issue for women who write about film, it also impacts the amount of exposure films with female protagonists receive.”

Lauzen’s analysis revealed that the gender imbalance also affects the nature of coverage films receive. Crucially, she reports, while male and female reviewers on average award similar ratings to films featuring female protagonists, a male critic is considerably less likely to review it in the first place. According to the study, 34% of reviews written by women are of films that feature at least one female protagonist, compared with only 24% of reviews written by men.

The study’s research took as its focus the work of Rotten Tomatoes’ “top critics”, which the site says “must be published at a print publication in the top 10% of circulation, employed as a film critic at a national broadcast outlet for no less than five years, or employed as a film critic for an editorial-based website with over 1.5 million monthly unique visitors for a minimum of three years”.

Hollywood tributes continue to pour in for Star Trek's Anton Yelchin

Stars, including Nicolas Cage and Jodie Foster, have been sharing their condolences for the actor, who has died at the age of 27

Hollywood tributes continue to pour in for Star Trek's Anton Yelchin
‘He was the kindest person I ever worked with’ … Nicolas Cage on the late Anton Yelchin. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

Tributes across Hollywood have continued to pour in for actor Anton Yelchin, who has died in a car accident at the age of 27.

The star, known for roles in the rebooted Star Trek franchise and acclaimed indie horror Green Room, has been remembered by those who worked with him and those who knew him.

Jodie Foster, who directed Yelchin in the 2011 comedy The Beaver, has released a statement to remember the actor.

“What a rare and beautiful soul with his unstoppable passion for life,” it read. “He was equal parts serious thinker and the most fun little brother you could ever dream of. I am so honoured to have been able to direct such a deep actor, so committed and genuine. I will forever be grateful for all of those little exchanges we shared, his contagious enthusiasm, his questions, his company. My heart breaks for his mom and dad who were a part of every anecdote. He carried their love into everything he touched.”

Justin Lin, who directed Yelchin in this summer’s Star Trek Beyond, tweeted to highlight the actor’s “passion and enthusiasm”.

Yelchin worked with director Paul Schrader in the 2014 thriller Dying of the Light, which also starred Nicolas Cage, and the pair shared a tribute via Facebook.

Hollywood tributes continue to pour in for Star Trek's Anton Yelchin

On Twitter, stars from Elijah Wood to William Shatner also shared their condolences.

Yelchin was involved in a freak parking accident at his Los Angeles home on Sunday morning. He has a number of projects still to be released, including this summer’s Star Trek Beyond and sci-fi mystery Rememory with Peter Dinklage.

20 Jun

Anton Yelchin, Star Trek actor, dies in car accident at age 27

The rising star – best known for playing Chekov in the new films – was found dead in his driveway early on Sunday morning

Anton Yelchin, Star Trek actor, dies in car accident at age 27

Anton Yelchin, a charismatic rising star best known for playing Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek films, has died at the age of 27. He was killed in a traffic accident early on Sunday morning, his publicist, Jennifer Allen, confirmed.

Yelchin’s friends alerted police when he failed to turn up to a rehearsal scheduled to start on Saturday evening. They then discovered the actor in his driveway at around 1am. No other vehicles are thought to have been involved and the cause of death is being reported as accidental. Jenny Houser, a spokeswoman for the LAPD, told the Hollywood Reporter: “It appears he momentarily exited his car and it rolled backward, causing trauma that led to his death.”

Yelchin was an actor whose stock-in-trade was sweetness and even naiveté: his career began young, in small films and TV series, before he broke out in 2006 with crime thriller Alpha Dog and the following year as Robert Downey Jr’s troubled pupil in Charlie Bartlett. In 2011, he starred opposite Felicity Jones in Like Crazy, a transatlantic romance that won both audience and jury awards at the Sundance film festival, as well as playing Mel Gibson’s son in Jodie Foster’s The Beaver.

But it was as mathematical brainbox Pavel Chekov in the new set of Star Trek films that Yelchin first came to mainstream attention. In JJ Abrams’ critically and commercially successful 2009 Star Trek, and the 2013 followup, the actor won acclaim for an innocence and humour that characterised many of his roles. A third film, Star Trek: Beyond, is due out in July.

Abrams posted a photo of a handwritten note via the Twitter account of his production company, Bad Robot. He paid tribute to Yelchin’s “kind … brilliant … funny” nature.

Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the franchise, said that they joined “the world in morning the untimely passing of Antony Yelchin. As a member of the Star Trek family, he was beloved by so many and he will missed by all. We share our deepest condolences with his mother, father and family.”

His Star Trek co-star, John Cho, tweeted that he was “in ruins” at the news of Yelchin’s death.

Despite his age, Yelchin had managed to carve out a career that balanced blockbusters with credible independent movies. Speaking to the Guardian in 2009 to promote the sci-fi movie Terminator Salvation, Yelchin said: “What I watch and what I work on are different.”

His own taste veered more towards the films of directors such as Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier and Pedro Almodovar, as well as Martin Scorsese and Jim Jarmusch, in whose 2013 vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive Yelchin went on to take a role.

The star of that film, Tom Hiddleston, said he was “absolutely devastated” to hear the news of the death of “such a gifted, natural actor [and] a deeply kind man”.

An only child, Yelchin was born in Russia in 1989. His parents were professional figure skaters who moved the family to the United States when Yelchin was a baby. Yelchin’s family has requested privacy at this time.

Tributes to the actor began appearing on Twitter shortly after reports broke. Anna Kendrick called his death a “huge loss”, while Matt Lucas called it “dreadful news” and Kevin Smith described it as “so damn sad”.

Like Crazy director Drake Doremus has also shared his memories of working with Yelchin. “Anton was one of a kind,” he told Variety. “Such an old soul who was one of the most sincere but also funniest people I have ever met. Anton changed my life in so many ways and I’ll never forget him.”

Earlier this year, Yelchin won much acclaim for his role in ensemble horror Green Room, opposite Patrick Stewart and Imogen Poots. The film’s director, Jeremy Saulnier, described his lead as “such a dedicated, generous and hyper-smart young man”.

Amongst Yelchin’s upcoming projects was Baseballissimo, a sports comedy set in Italy during the second world war. Its writer and Yelchin’s co-star, Jay Baruchel, wrote of his shock and sadness over the sudden loss of someone he “call[ed] my friend for the better part of the last decade”.

Yelchin was also due to take a voice part in Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming TV series Trollhunters. The director said the actor was “a great creative partner and artist”.

Among the other Hollywood stars who took to Twitter to pay tribute were Captain America actor Chris Evans, who said he was “devastated” by Yelchin’s death. He was joined by Spider-Man actor Dane DeHaan and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, who said he was “utterly heartbroken”.

19 Jun

Paul Cox, Australian film-maker and frequent collaborator with David Wenham, dies age 76

Death of director lauded as the father of independent cinema in Australia announced by Australian Directors Guild

Paul Cox, Australian film-maker and frequent collaborator with David Wenham, dies age 76
David Wenham and the director Paul Cox in 2012. Wenham was attending the screening of The Dinner Party, a documentary Cox dedicated to donor awareness. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

The director lauded as the father of independent cinema in Australia, Paul Cox, has died aged 76.

The Australian Directors Guild announced the death of the Dutch-born filmmaker, author and photographer on Twitter on Sunday.

Cox’s body of work included Man of Flowers in 1983 and last year he released Force of Destiny, starring David Wenham, which was based on the director’s cancer battle before an eleventh-hour liver transplant in 2009 pulled him back from the brink of death.

Cox’s 1982 film, Lonely Hearts, which explored the life of a middle-aged man searching for love through a dating agency, won the AFI award for best film and was nominated in four other categories. Man of Flowers, which was cowritten by Bob Ellis, was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1984 Cannes film festival.

His following film, My First Wife, also cowritten with Ellis, was a portrait of the dissolution of a marriage and won John Hargreaves the best actor in a lead role AFI award in 1984 as well as best director for Cox.

In 1999 Cox collaborated with Wenham on Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, a 1999 biographical film of Father Damien, a Belgian priest working at the Kalaupapa leprosy settlement on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

His 2000 film, Innocence, which starred Bud Tingwell and Julia Blake, was critically acclaimed for its poignant portrayal of two separated lovers who meet by chance again decades later and rekindle their romance. It won no fewer than 12 awards, mostly overseas, including the people’s choice award for best film at the Montreal and Toronto film festivals.

His 2015 film, Force of Destiny, starred Wenham and was an intimately personal drama inspired by Cox’s own experiences living with cancer.

Cox told Guardian Australia it was Christmas Day 2009 when he got the call that would buy him more time, just as he sat down for what he feared would be his last yuletide dinner.

“It saved my life for the time being,” he said. “But the cancer came back and went into my new liver. That really hurt me.”

Wenham previously praised the director of more than 20 feature films and 10 documentaries, which were more often than not focused on the themes of love and death.

“There is no one like Cox,” he said. “He is unique, and we need him, and people like him … he is completely an auteur, because everything you see on the screen, and hear, has got Paul’s fingerprints all over it.

The filmmaker’s Melbourne-based daughter, Kyra Cox, wrote on Twitter: “Goodbye my beautiful daddy. I love you with all my heart and am so very proud to be your daughter.”

Cox, who migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in the mid 1960s, told Guardian Australia in September 2015: “Film is the most powerful thing we have amongst us and it’s in the hands of maniacs … Look at all the commercial films that work. They only work because they’ve conditioned an audience to believe that Batman should be coming for dinner and all this amazing nonsense.”

The American film critic Roger Ebert described Cox as “one of the best directors of our time” and “one of the heroes of modern cinema”.

“He’s one of the warriors, an independent director who does nothing for hire, who makes only films close to his heart, whose humanism you could call spiritual,” Ebert wrote after the Cannes film festival in 2010.

Last year Cox told the Sydney Morning Herald he was hoping to organise funding to shoot a war movie, Inferno, which would star Jacqueline McKenzie as a woman confronted by terrorists while staying at a guesthouse in an anonymous country.

16 Jun

Nicole Kidman to join Colin Farrell in Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos' thriller

The Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman is in talks to play the Irish actor’s wife in supernatural revenge film The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Nicole Kidman to join Colin Farrell in Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos' thriller
Lined up for Lanthimos’ latest … Nicole Kidman. Photograph: Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

Nicole Kidman is in talks to join Colin Farrell in the new psychological thriller from Yorgos Lanthimos.

The Greek film-maker, who made his English language debut with dystopian dating satire The Lobster, has also co-written the project, titled The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Kidman is set to star as the wife of Farrell’s character, a surgeon who is compelled to make a sacrifice after a teenager he has brought into his family starts exhibiting sinister behaviour. There is also reported to be a supernatural element to the film.

The Lobster became an arthouse hit in the US last month and has already made over $5m (£3.5m) after receiving positive reviews at last year’s Cannes film festival. Lanthimos is also set to make The Favourite, a period drama starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, which will focus on Queen Anne during the end of the 17th century.

Kidman was recently seen opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julia Roberts in thriller remake Secret in Their Eyes and with Colin Firth and Jude Law in literary biopic Genius. Later this year, she has roles with Dev Patel in Lion and Elle Fanning in How to Talk to Girls at Parties as well as dark HBO comedy Big Little Lies with Reese Witherspoon and the second season of Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake.

This week has also seen news that she is set to reprise her role of scientist Rosalind Franklin in the big-screen adaptation of the acclaimed play Photograph 51.

13 Jun

Brands count cost of celebrity ties after Johnny Depp and Maria Sharapova

Sponsors left in a dilemma over tennis star’s ban and allegations against Johnny Depp

Brands count cost of celebrity ties after Johnny Depp and Maria Sharapova
Johnny Depp at the Hollywood premiere Of Alice Through The Looking Glass last month. Photograph: Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

It has been a tricky week for brands that rely on celebrities to endorse their wares. An image of Johnny Depp rolling his shirt sleeves up while advertising a perfume named Sauvage has suddenly become a headache for Dior, while Nike, Evian and racket manufacturer Head are all pondering the solidity of their relationship with tennis star Maria Sharapova. Further afield in Hong Kong, protests were held outside Lancôme stores over the company’s cancellation of a concert by Canto-pop star Denise Ho Wan-sze, a known supporter of the pro-democracy movement .

While Nike said it stood behind Sharapova, facing a two-year ban after admitting using a now banned performance-enhancing drug, Dior has so far refused to comment on allegations of domestic violence levelled by Depp’s estranged wife Amber Heard, despite calls from anti-domestic violence groups.

Earlier this month the British charity Women’s Aid said that, should the allegations against Depp prove true, Dior should sever its relationship with the brand. “A responsible fashion house would stop working with a perpetrator of domestic abuse,” the charity said. “The ‘hero culture’ that can surround famous men should not distort our reactions to abusive actions.”

It’s not the first time Dior has run into difficulties. In 2008, then brand ambassador Sharon Stone said that an earthquake in China was the result of “bad karma” over the occupation of Tibet. Dior immediately withdrew Chinese advertising featuring the actress.

Brands count cost of celebrity ties after Johnny Depp and Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open last January. Photograph: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

Harvard brand professor John Quelch says brands have to go through a complex series of calculations when deciding how to react to trouble with celebrity endorsers. A brand such as Nike may be less sensitive to a consumer backlash because, clearly, Sharapova needs athletic wear to win tournaments, so the company’s credibility remains intact. “If you have market power like Nike, you can set terms that are much tougher because athletes value the endorsementof Nike – it means as much to them as it does to the company. They feed off each other.”

But for brands that are increasingly seen as offering leadership around social issues, the dilemma around celebrities can still be acute. Quelch says Dior would almost certainly have written in a clause for moral turpitude in a contract with any Hollywood star. While a brand can’t write in penalties for box-office flops, they can write a moral turpitude clause that is as broad and sweeping in its lack of definition as possible. “So whatever unforeseen misbehaviour arises, the moral turpitude clause can be activated,” he says. By contrast, a powerful celebrity would seek to limit the moral turpitude clause to specified acts. “That might or might not include hitting your wife.”

But brands do not welcome celebrity endorsers who are likely to express their views on non-commercial issues. In Hong Kong, Lancôme’s parent company L’Oréal was believed to have come under pressure from Chinese authorities to cancel Denise Ho Wan-sze’s engagement over her pro-democracy stance.

But the move proved to be a black eye for the firm as Ho urged fans to stand up against “the white terror that is spreading among our societies”. In a statement, Lancôme said Ho was not a spokesperson of the company and that it was “sorry for the confusion”, citing “possible safety reasons” in cancelling the concert.

The social media and public backlash that followed L’Oréal’s decision highlights difficulties that sponsors are now encountering with celebrity endorsers, says Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the Innovation Group at J Walter Thompson.

“Celebrities are sharing more opinions and pictures on social media to promote their own personal brands. It’s becoming more difficult for brands to control celebrities that are tied into a brand relationship. They’ve got their own independent ways to broadcast their ideas and thoughts.”

Whereas brands could once tightly control the messaging, says Greene, they now have to deal with several streams of commentary. “It’s become far more important for celebrities to have a social media presence and the messages get picked up and spread more quickly.”

Exacerbating that trend, Greene adds, is the politicisation of social media users, including celebrities such as Lena Dunham, the American actor and creator of TV hit show Girls, who use their public platforms to draw attention to issues. In some instances, the importance for celebrities to maintain credibility with their audience is more important than their allegiance to sponsors.

5 Jun

Ghostbusters reboot targets male viewers with new NBA-themed ads

Paul Feig’s female-led Ghostbusters got some support from NBA heavyweights during Game 1 of the Finals, in a likely effort to appeal to male audiences

Ghostbusters reboot targets male viewers with new NBA-themed ads
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones – who you gonna call? Photograph: Frank Ockenfels/Columbia Pictures

For a summer comedy, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot has had a uniquely hard time winning over some prospective audience members – largely because of Feig’s decision to alter the genders of the lead characters. The first trailer racked up more than half a million “thumbs down” votes on YouTube, making it the most disliked in YouTube history. Feig dismissed the controversy over the casting of four women in the lead roles as “vile, misogynistic shit”, while Ghostbusters vet Dan Aykroyd chimed in, praising the revamp as funnier and scarier than the originals.

Now, in a likely effort to lure in male viewers, Sony has paired up with the NBA for a new series of Ghostbusters promotional spots geared to basketball fans.

The two costly looking ads were launched during Thursday night’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals on ABC between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porziņģis appeared in the east coast ad, shot in an empty Madison Square Garden, alongside Walt “Clyde” Frazier and film-maker Spike Lee. West coast audiences were treated to a promo led by recently retired Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant sporting a Ghostbusters jumpsuit at the Staples Center. “They said retirement was going to be boring,” Bryant scoffs in the ad.

Both promos notably don’t feature Feig’s new female quartet of ghost hunters: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

Sony enlisted Bryant for the gig immediately following his retirement, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He was reportedly heavily involved in the commercial’s scripting process.

In recent weeks, Sony has also targeted female audiences by having the cast appear on Ellen, although the studio was reportedly not pleased when it learned that Hillary Clinton would be featured on the same episode. “All this attention is great, but I hope they realize that Slimer is not a registered voter,” Tom Rothman, chairman of the Sony motion pictures group, said in a statement.

1 Jun

46 million people living as slaves, latest global index reveals

Walk Free Foundation, backed by Russell Crowe, names India as having highest number of slaves in the world

46 million people living as slaves, latest global index reveals
Russell Crowe launches the 2016 global slavery index in London. Photograph: Shanshan Chen/Thomson Reuters Foundation

An Australian human rights group, founded by billionaire business magnate Andrew Forrest and backed by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, has released research estimating that almost 46 million people are living as slaves.

The 2016 global slavery index, funded by Forrest’s Walk Free Foundation, says 45.8 million people are trapped in some form of slavery.

The report ranks incidences of slavery in 167 countries, with India having the highest number of slaves while North Korea has the highest percentage of slaves per capita. This year’s estimates are nearly 30% higher than in the previous report, which estimated 35.8 million people living in slavery in 2014.

Forrest says the rise is partially due to more accurate methodology but he also believes the number of people trapped in slavery is increasing year on year.

“It is time to draw a line and say, no more,” he said. “This isn’t Aids or malaria, it is a man-made problem that can be solved, and it’s time to take real action to free the world from slavery once and for all.”

The index was launched in 2013 after Bill Gates, another billionaire philanthropist, challenged Forrest to quantify the scale of modern slavery. This year’s index was launched in London on Tuesday by Crowe with video messages of support from Tony Blair, Bono, supermodel Karlie Kloss and Richard Branson.

Forrest, who says he found and addressed slavery in his own supply chains, warned businesses that they must step up their efforts to address slavery or face the consequences. He also called on consumers to question their buying habits.

“At one point, it was common to see Australian truck drivers throwing litter out of the windows of their cars because everyone else was doing it. Now, there has been a huge public outcry against this behaviour and it has stopped. The same can be done for slavery,” he said.

“We need to make it unacceptable for people to buy something without asking the company where it was made and who made it and if they can’t answer that question clearly then the next question must be ‘how do you know it wasn’t made with slave labour?’”

Walk Free said slavery is found in all 167 countries in the index, with India home to 18.4 million slaves. This year’s index also claims that over half of the 45.8 million people living in modern slavery are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.

It calculated that more than 4% of North Korea’s population is enslaved, with Uzbekistan and Qatar the other countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery per capita.

The index has faced criticism for its methodology and rankings system since it launched. Despite naming 167 countries, this year’s index was based on interviews conducted by pollster Gallup with more than 42,000 people in 25 countries. In some cases, rankings and prevalence estimates are calculated using data from surveys conducted in other countries deemed to have an equivalent “risk profile”.

Kevin Bales, an anti-slavery campaigner who worked on collecting data for this year’s report, said he is “very confident” the estimations were an accurate reflection.

“Over the last few years we have really honed our methodology and have build a solid framework to build on year on year,” he said. “Measuring the problem is a hugely important factor in beginning to effectively tackle this enormous problem.”

Although modern slavery constitutes a huge illegal industry, deemed the third most profitable criminal industry behind drug and arms trafficking by the UN, data remains patchy.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 21 million people are trapped in forced labour and other forms of modern slavery. The index says it hopes to work with the ILO to provide a single set of global estimates.