Author Topic: Bennett Miller  (Read 1077 times)

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wilder

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Bennett Miller
« on: December 12, 2014, 05:45:18 PM »
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George Clooney & Bennett Miller Team For TV Show About 1990s Movie Industry
via The Playlist

George Clooney, who rose to national-stardom as Dr. Doug Ross in NBC’s long lived primetime hospital drama, “ER,” hopes to return with an hour-long comedy-drama about the movie business, seen from the eyes of executives managing it in the 1990s. Though the show hasn’t yet been picked up yet, it has some solid players involved. In addition to Clooney (though, mightn’t that be enough?), Peter Tolan and Bennett Miller are also attached. Tolan, known for creating the Denis Leary vehicle, “Rescue Me,” and writing “Analyze This” and 'That' (among many other things) will write the pilot. Miller, just coming off of “Foxcatcher,” and whose short but impressive resume also includes “Moneyball” and “Capote,” will direct.

putneyswipe

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Re: Bennett Miller
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2014, 08:11:24 PM »
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Weird to think the "90s" is a thing now, like a Period Piece

wilder

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Re: Bennett Miller
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2016, 03:11:19 PM »
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Bennett Miller and Tom Stoppard Team Up for 'A Christmas Carol'
via The Hollywood Reporter

Megan Ellison, Scott Rudin, Jennifer Fox and Miller will produce the project for Annapurna.

Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Tom Stoppard are joining forces to bring a new version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to the big screen. The project, which will be a period piece set in the 19th century like Dickens’ original, is being developed for Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. Ellison, Miller, Scott Rudin and Jennifer Fox will serve as producers.

Dickens’ classic 1843 novella about Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemptive Christmas Eve tour of the holiday past, present and future has already been adapted for numerous film and TV shows — among them, Brian Desmond Hurt’s famous 1951 version starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge; Ronald Neame’s 1970 musical adaptation Scrooge, with Albert Finney in the title role; and Richard Donner’s modern-day comedy takeoff Scrooged, starring Bill Murray.

The project would reunite Miller, who is repped by CAA, with Annapurna, which produced his last film, 2014’s Foxcatcher, for which he received his second best director Oscar nomination.

Stoppard, repped by Paradigm, is the prolific British playwright and screenwriter who won an original screenplay Oscar for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, and whose next film is the 18th century love story Tulip Fever, which is set to be released this year by The Weinstein Company.

wilder

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Re: Bennett Miller
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2018, 06:40:48 PM »
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Bennett Miller On False Starts, True Stories, And Philip Seymour Hoffman [Qumra 2018 Masterclass]
By Jessica Kiang
via The Playlist

Now celebrating its fourth year, Qumra is a weeklong industry event run by the Doha Film Institute in Qatar. We’ll be bringing you coverage of the stellar lineup of Qumra 2018 Masterclasses, given by such luminaries as Tilda Swinton, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Andrey Zvyaginstev and Bennett Miller in the coming days.

Maybe because he’s only made four films — “The Cruise,” “Capote,” “Moneyball” and “Foxcatcher” — Bennett Miller, despite two director Oscar nominations, still feels like a relatively unheralded quantity. Maybe it’s because the gaps between those films have been several years long, so he seems to fall off the radar for large periods of time. Maybe it’s because the last one, the very brilliant “Foxcatcher” was in 2014 and since then, the first inkling we had of new movement from him was last year when it was reported that he was slated to direct a Tom Stoppard adaptation of Dickens‘ “A Christmas Carol” (finally, someone’s decided to film this obscure story!). But here’s the theory we subscribe to most (and one I wrote a thing about back in 2014): Bennett Miller makes films that are built to last and as a result, they’re often not appreciated as fully as they deserve at the time.

This was certainly true for “Moneyball,” to date his only studio project and one he hopped on to only after it had been on the development carousel for years. And it’s especially true for “Foxcatcher” which, critically lauded though it was on release, deserves a rewatch today for its portrait of the dangerously delusional, egocentric and deeply warped psychology of a super-rich petty tyrant, and will, we firmly believe, become established as a new American classic in the coming years

So despite the relative brevity of his filmography, there was plenty to dive into during his Qumra 2018 Masterclass. And if a bad dose of hoarseness on Miller’s part and a somewhat eccentric moderator contributed to a rather fitful two-hour session, there were still plenty of insights to be gleaned about Miller’s approach to filmmaking and the story of his career to date. Here are the highlights.


Miller’s first film, feature documentary “The Cruise” came about only after he’d let go of wanting to make films altogether.

“I’d dropped out of school and I got a job working for a filmmaker, as an assistant. And I got fired and it hurt. Then I worked as a production assistant on a music video for two days, and I thought ‘Well, I’m never going to do this again.’ There was really only one job I wanted and that was to be making films.

“And so I spent seven years doing very lowly crappy work, anything at all: ‘I’ll make a video for you!’ Fundraising videos, corporate, industrial — depressing stuff — I did that for years. And I got to this point where it occurred to me that I was incredibly unhappy, and I was basically following the ambition of a 12-year-old. And I made a decision to stop. I was going to get out and work with homeless people, I had a whole other idea.

“And very quickly, maybe within a minute of retiring from film, I felt so much better. Just the relief of letting go of ambition. It’s such a misery, all of this wanting, the anxiety, the tension. It was such a relief to say, ‘I don’t have to do this.’ And then almost immediately when I let go of all that, I had this old familiar childlike feeling of just being in the mood to make something. And I had met this guy [Timothy Levitch, subject of ‘The Cruise’]. We shot the film, I edited it in my room, no producer. [wry smile] Life has gotten so much more complicated since then.”

If getting his debut made was unlikely, getting it seen was borderline miraculous.

“I finish it, I submit it to every festival and get rejected from every festival. Every festival. I mean, I started with Sundance, and then Berlin, and ding ding ding [makes bullet-point/list gesture] all the way down to the Hot Springs Arkansas Film Festival, who reject one film every five years, and they rejected my film.

“But a friend of a friend was a publicist and she watched the film and she had an emotional reaction and wanted to help. And she said, ‘I do the publicity at a very small film festival in LA called the LA Independent Film Festival.‘ This was the fourth year she was going to do it for free and she says to them, ‘My fee is that you have to put this film in the festival.’ And she told the director of the festival, showed it to him. He did not like it.

“But he gave it one screening on Saturday at 10.30 in the morning in a small theater. But she’d chosen it to be one of the three films to press screen, and it got a big reaction, so there was a line around the block. And I got to watch it with an audience and so long as I live there will not be a more gratifying experience.

“It can’t happen again, it was such a transcendent experience. And then it sold, it got invited to every festival. It went to Berlin that had rejected it, it won top prize at the international Forum, it got a theatrical release, HBO bought it, it won an Emmy.”

Hard to believe but his narrative debut, and only second film ever, was “Capote,” which won his old friend Philip Seymour Hoffman his only Oscar, was written by another friend, Dan Futterman, and was based on the same New Yorker story as rival project “Infamous,” which was in development at the same time.

“Turns out that someone else had read that article also! And now there were two movies that were about the same exact thing. My friend said, ‘maybe we could beat it, if you direct it.’ So I just kept trying to take one step and if I was successful in that first step, I’d take a second step. And so my first step was I called up Philip Seymour Hoffman, and asked him to read the script (we did a theater program together at 16, and were very good friends).”

With the Oscar win it seems like a no-brainer, but looking back on it, casting Hoffman as Capote was pretty strange.

“When I think back on it, I think it was totally insane. Capote was 5′ 2”, Phil was 5’10″1/2, he weighed about 240 lbs, and had a deep voice, thick wrists like a wrestler or a football player — like a jock. He did have the right color hair, though. But he was an amazing actor. And I said, ‘We could do things to make you look smaller.’ Everyone was put on boxes, we cast really big people, the costume designer made tight shoulders that squeezed him so his head looked bigger in proportion to his body.

“But the main thing is the character’s interior and without getting too deep into it, there are lots of parallels in Phil’s life. Which I knew and only became more evident with time. There was something about that character that he could own that nobody else could.”

In rehearsal for the scene at the end where Capote visits the men just as they’re about to be executed, he and Miller disagreed about how to play it.

“He said to me, ‘You want me to cry? I’m not crying, if I’m going to show up to see these guys, I’m not going to make this about myself, because that’s disgusting. My reason for going there is to help them.’ So I let that sit, and two months later we’re filming the scene, and he goes, ‘There’s nothing more to talk about. You want me to be emotional, I’m not going to get emotional.’ I didn’t say anything. He leaves the room and the guy who plays the warden says to me, ‘You’re going to have to stop him, he’s wrong…’ and I’m like ‘ehhh’ [calming, wait-and-see gesture]. The lights come up, we roll the camera, the door opens, he walks in the room and sees the two guys sitting there shackled about to be executed. And he can’t open his mouth, and you just see the vein in his forehead and his face turns red and his eyes fill with tears and you see him unraveling. It’s painful to look at. And he does it in one take and that’s it, it’s over.

“Phil couldn’t imitate. He couldn’t say ‘Oh I have to do this and hit that mark.’ He had to tell himself what Capote would have told himself, just to bring himself to where he would have been in that moment.”

Another film, another hair-raising race to another ultimately triumphant premiere.

“[‘Capote’] was finished the night before it premiered. I sat and watched the final print by myself and the color was finally right, but it was too late to ship it there, so I had to carry it myself. And to you youngsters in the crowd, film weighs a lot. So I pack a small bag and literally carried 5 reels of 35mm film, like 40 or 45lbs of film. And Telluride [where the film first played] is two planes away, a big plane, a small plane. I arrive, I do a little check, take a shower go to the theater and I don’t really have time to think that this is the world premiere.”

But then — an omen!

“When I was 15 already I’m thinking I want to make films, and I had this thought that ‘somebody my age is going to get to make films — and what do they know that I don’t?’ But I still didn’t know how you would get there. And then I had an English teacher who played a film by Nicolas Roeg called ‘Walkabout‘ — he got a 16mm print and played it in the class. And I thought it was the most beautiful, quiet, poetic, moving, stirring film. I couldn’t believe somebody made this film.But also, technically I could comprehend it. I could look at it and say there’s nothing about that that seems mysterious. Looking at it years later I realize how incredibly nuanced and difficult a film like that is, but at 15 years old I remember having The Moment, where I thought, ‘I can do this.’

“So now its Telluride and I’m 38 and I’m sitting at the premiere. And they’re giving recognition to the Criterion Collection first and showing some trailer of their titles, and all of a sudden that iconic image from ‘Walkabout’ comes up. I’m not a magical thinker — though I do think life is mysterious. But this was one of those moments, it felt like a bridge to the past, like one second ago I was thinking all this was possible but having no idea how it’s going to happen and now, here it is. It was a magical screening.”

The film had famous fans right from the start.

“No one had any expectation about it, but the reception was strong immediately. I remember walking out of the theater and there was a fella with a silk ascot and big glasses and he stopped me and he says, ‘You made a perfect film.’ And I said, ‘Oh, thank you sir,’ and Michael Barker from Sony Pictures Classics goes, ‘That was Peter Bogdanovich.'”

His next film, “Moneyball” was a notoriously troubled project even before he came aboard, and some of those issues linger even now.

“[Screenplay credit on ‘Moneyball’] is a very touchy subject, and because there’s cameras in the room I can only say so much. But three people were credited with writing the script [Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin (story)] and then there’s the book [by Michael Lewis], and then there were the people who did uncredited drafts for different versions along the way. But by the time it came along to me, it was a wreckage, it had crashed. The studio had pulled the plug having spent many millions of dollars. And we went through the pieces and I was like …I’ll take this… and this… and this… So if you took a transcript of the film and compared it to all the different drafts, you’re not going to find anything like it. Even my versions, because there was so much improvisation and so much happened the night before.”

It is however, like all of his films, remarkably talky.

“I don’t think you need explosions and spectacular car chases to experience drama. The real intense stuff doesn’t happen like that. I am actually bored by too much action… So the style here is designed to kind of slow down your mental metabolism so you’re sensitized to the nuances of what’s happening.

“[A lot of the film] just looks like two people talking, but inside there are real stakes. [Talking about a clip we’ve watched where Pitt’s Billy Beane first confronts Jonah Hill‘s Peter Brand] That scene is a negotiation. The late Mike Nichols would say there’s only three kinds of scenes: there’s negotiation, fight or seduction. And if it’s not one of those things, its not a scene. Pretty simple. So if you’re writing a script and you’re having a problem with a scene if you don’t know if it’s a fight or a seduction or a negotiation, stop and figure it out.”

When asked to account for the long hiatuses between films, Miller’s reason is “exhaustion” at the effort of being someone slightly different for the duration.

“I don’t really have this drive to ‘make movies.’ Some people are very energized by making a film and some people are totally exhausted by it. I get totally exhausted. When it’s done, I’m like I’m never doing that again. I am an introverted person, I don’t think I’m an aggressive person, but to make a film, the amount of control you have to conjure to do it? For me it is exhausting. And you become a slightly different person.

“Sometimes in the edit, I’ll hear my voice off camera and I’ll cringe, like ‘Who is that person? Torturing those poor actors?’ As the director, you’re the guy on top, but I never feel like that, I feel like the servant to some kind of potential or some idea or vision or something. It’s hard enough to have that and then as well logistically to get it all together. It’s a very strange combination of qualities that a director has to have.

“Every film I’ve made the lead actor has had the same exact experience. A full meltdown, total distress — ‘Should we cancel the film?’ I’m not joking, everybody, Phil, Brad, everybody in ‘Foxcatcher.’ ‘Is this a disaster?’ ‘This is a total disaster!’ And I don’t like that but maybe it’s part of a process, that helps you, eventually, to find your way.”

But not just exhaustion: even after an Oscar nomination, people don’t automatically get on board, especially with original projects.

“After ‘Capote’ I found a story that would become ‘Foxcatcher’ and spent about four years developing it, doing scripts, working with different writers and I couldn’t get it made. And that was shocking. I thought after ‘Capote’ I could get anything made! But then I found yes, I can do anything, so long as it’s something that somebody else already wants to do. And that was quite a lesson.”

That all of his films have been based on true stories, Miller says “feels like coincidence.” But that doesn’t mean truthfulness is not the most important thing.

“After I did ‘Capote’ I got a 3-page letter from Harper Lee. And she said, ‘You must know that almost everything that happened didn’t play out the way it played out in the film.’ But she went on to say, ‘This is an example of a triumph of fiction to get to the truth.’ She said, ‘if you want a quote from me you can tell people that I said that the film told the truth about Truman.’

“So there’s going to be artifice no matter what. There’s just the question: is it truthful?”

 

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