Author Topic: Alexander Payne  (Read 16254 times)

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MacGuffin

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Alexander Payne
« on: July 02, 2003, 08:30:23 AM »
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Payne Directing Sideways at Fox Searlight
Source: Variety  

Director Alexander Payne will next direct Sideways at Fox Searchlight. The ensemble comedy will begin shooting around the wineries of Santa Ynez in mid-September.

Screenwriter Rex Pickett wrote Sideways as a novel, which will be published next year by St. Martin's Press. Payne wrote the script with Jim Taylor, his writing partner on About Schmidt, Election and Citizen Ruth.

Paul Giamatti and Sandra Oh are attached to star in the film in which the main characters are a writer and a washed-up actor who is about to get married. To salute what remains of their youth, they get lost in wine country on a weeklong vacation. Trouble ensues as the pair come to terms with maturity.

Giamatti will play the writer, Oh, who is married to Payne, will play one of the women orbiting the frolicking duo.
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Ernie

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« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2003, 11:56:34 AM »
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Yup, just read it over at AICN this morning...sounds pretty cool. I love About Schmidt and Election, haven't seen Citizen Ruth yet...I've been trying to catch it on TV or something. Payne calls this one "sexy and boozy"...sounds really fun.

Glad to see Paul Giamatti doing something that actually sounds cool cause I really think he's a good actor and a funny guy. I think he'll be perfect for an Alexander Payne movie, he has that depressed loser thing down pat. But yea, finally something Giamatti-related to look forward to...American Splendor looks kinda dumb IMO and then before that it was Big Fat Liar which...well, you know...this is good though.

Gold Trumpet

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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2003, 01:35:06 PM »
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To think this plot came from an original screenplay makes the project suspicious. More faith is brought in because it is coming from a novel.

I've seen two films by Payne and liked both. Election was an inventive and spirited comedy. About Schmidt was too self reflective, but a very good comedy still and featuring a magnificent performance by Jack Nicholson.


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Re: Alexander Payne
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2003, 07:26:58 AM »
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Is it true that Alexander Payne previously directed erotic films?
I mean even before "Citizen Ruth". Is that really true?
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Ernie

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Re: Alexander Payne
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2003, 11:32:07 AM »
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Quote from: Spike
Is it true that Alexander Payne previously directed erotic films?
I mean even before "Citizen Ruth". Is that really true?


Well, as I said, he does call this one "sexy and boozy"...Sideways that is...but I don't know. That's cool if he did. That's funny if he did cause his style is so laid back and you know, he doesn't have much style. Like, if Scorsese or PTA had done pornos, I wouldn't even flinch...that would make sense to me...doing SLAM cuts and PUSH ins...and focus PULLS...they have very physical styles.

MacGuffin

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Alexander Payne
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2003, 12:40:10 AM »
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Church & Madsen Move Sideways with Paul Giamatti
Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Thomas Haden Church will star alongside Paul Giamatti in Fox Searchlight's comedy Sideways for director Alexander Payne. Virginia Madsen is also in final talks to come on board as the female lead, with shooting slated to begin in September in California's Santa Ynez Valley.

Based on the upcoming novel by Rex Pickett, the film is about a man (Giamatti) who is about to get married and decides to take a road trip with his best friend (Church) up to vineyard country for one last blowout. During that week, the duo get into trouble with wine and women -- played by Madsen and Sandra Oh -- and come to some profound realizations in their pre-midlife crises.

Payne and Jim Taylor adapted the screenplay.
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MacGuffin

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Alexander Payne
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2003, 09:59:40 AM »
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Alexander Payne Directing Nebraska
Source: Variety

Alexander Payne (About Schmidt) will next direct Nebraska, an under-$10 million road trip pic he'll shoot in black-and-white and in his home state. Focus Features has first crack at the film that will shoot next fall.

The film is about an aging alcoholic who drafts his son to drive him from Montana to Nebraska so the old man can redeem his winning sweepstakes ticket. The son goes reluctantly, suspecting his dad's winning ticket is the same personalized form letter sent to millions.

Nebraska was written by Bob Nelson.
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SoNowThen

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Alexander Payne
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2003, 10:10:35 AM »
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Quote from: MacGuffin
Alexander Payne Directing Nebraska
Source: Variety

Alexander Payne (About Schmidt) will next direct Nebraska, an under-$10 million road trip pic he'll shoot in black-and-white and in his home state. Focus Features has first crack at the film that will shoot next fall.

The film is about an aging alcoholic who drafts his son to drive him from Montana to Nebraska so the old man can redeem his winning sweepstakes ticket. The son goes reluctantly, suspecting his dad's winning ticket is the same personalized form letter sent to millions.

Nebraska was written by Bob Nelson.


That sounds fucking outstanding (and way too close to a story I wanted to write -- oh well...)!
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

Slick Shoes

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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2003, 11:48:38 AM »
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Omaha is to Alexander Payne as The Valley is to Paul Thomas Anderson.

MacGuffin

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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2003, 11:08:26 AM »
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Moving 'Sideways' to stay on track


Alexander Payne, left, and Jim Taylor based their “Sideways” script on an unpublished novel.

SANTA YNEZ VALLEY — A failed 40-year-old writer is spending a week here in the wine country, celebrating his best friend's last days of freedom before he plunges into a marriage that looks doomed before it's started. Just before he walks into a posh tasting room, his agent phones with the news that his novel didn't sell, ensuring that he'll spend the rest of his life grading English papers for pimply middle-school brats.

Will he take the news lying down? Or, as Paul Giamatti did here in a scene from Alexander Payne's new film, "Sideways," will he storm the counter, demand a full glass of wine and, whenthe snippy pourer refuses — "Sir, this is a tasting room, not a bar" — hoist the spit bucket full of discarded Syrah aloft, sending a cascade of wine over his head, shirt and shoes?

After Giamatti leaves to change his stained polo shirt, Payne's producer, Michael London, asks the prop woman a key question — how many polo shirts do they have on hand? Five, she says. "Only five?" London asks, a note of concern in his voice. Before the next take, London quietly tells Payne: "One shirt down. Four more to go."

As Payne watches Giamatti prepare for another take, he is biting his nails. "This is as tense as you'll see Alexander get," says London. "For this film, this is a big stunt. It's our version of blowing up a building in a Joel Silver movie."

Due out next fall from Fox Searchlight, "Sideways" is a quirky road film featuring indie star Giamatti ("American Splendor") and little-known Thomas Haden Church as two losers whose sojourn in the wine country results in a string of comic misadventures. But the $18-million picture, which finishes shooting this week, represents something bigger — a declaration of creative independence. "Sideways" symbolizes a quiet rebellion against the no-risk corporate film financing that has turned so many of today's Hollywood films into forgettable comic-book fantasies or dreary visual-effects adventures.

"My complaint about American films is that we don't make American films anymore. We make cartoons that are so easily digestible that they can be transported anywhere in the world," says Payne, whose "About Schmidt" earned critical accolades last year.

"We need more films, like '21 Grams' or 'Mystic River' or 'The House of Sand and Fog,' that reflect our society, that try to portray real people."

Payne, who also directed 1996's "Citizen Ruth" and 1999's "Election," is viewed as one of Hollywood's most distinctive filmmakers. But even though a host of studios was eager to make Payne's next movie, the 42-year-old director wanted to retain creative control of the project, not an easy proposition for someone who is a magnet for awards but whose films have shown little profit.

Payne turned to London, who had sent him "Sideways," an unpublished novel by Rex Pickett that Payne and his writing partner, Jim Taylor, optioned and used as the basis for their script.

A former Los Angeles Times journalist and studio executive, London also had grown frustrated by the messy studio development process. He wasn't alone. In recent years, a growing number of independent producers have discovered that if they want creative independence, they must take the financial risks to get it.

Protecting the project

In Hollywood, the studio traditionally foots the bill for optioning a book or developing a script. In return, unless you're the rare filmmaker with final-cut clout, the studio controls the creative process, which is why so many books are homogenized, given happy endings and cast with $20-million movie stars when they are adapted into films.

For years, tiny art-house movies have been made with cobbled-together financing, then sold at film festivals. But those movies often have trouble getting widespread distribution. Payne is part of a generation of filmmakers eager to have it both ways; they want the benefits of studio marketing and distribution without having their films stripped of their originality by the studio development process.

"If you go through the sweat equity of optioning the book, casting the film, finding the locations and budgeting the movie, you're entitled to more autonomy," says London, who produced the low-budget teen drama "Thirteen" earlier this year. "It's really important to protect projects from the big machinery until the last possible moment, because the more people involved in the decision making process, the more compromises you have to make."

London used a similar model helping filmmaker Vadim Perelman assemble "The House of Sand and Fog," a likely Oscar contender that opens Friday. Perelman was an obscure commercial director when he put up his own money to option Andre Dubus' bestseller. He co-wrote the script and attracted a cast that includes Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly before going to financiers. (The movie now is co-financed and distributed by DreamWorks.) London explains: "Because Vadim owned the material, he could say, 'Even though I'm a first-time director and this is a dark, tragic film, if you don't want to make it my way, don't get involved.' "

On "Sideways," Payne and London put up their own money to option Pickett's book, adapt the script and finance pre-production. They also cast the film before taking it to studios. Even though studio heads would've been far more enthusiastic to cast such stars as Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Edward Norton and John Cusack, all of whom either met with Payne or expressed interest, the director instead went with Giamatti and Haden Church.

"I didn't want to play the list game," Payne explains. "They always want you to hire the most famous possible actor as an insurance policy. But to me, casting is the director's most direct influence on a film. And if you're a prisoner of the capitalist forces of the moment — meaning that of the 5 billion possible people in the world, you're only allowed to choose from 30 familiar faces — then it's not really your film. My last film had Jack Nicholson and he was great. But for this film, I wanted the actors who'd bring the most comedy and pathos to the parts."

Of the four studios offered the project, one wanted an option on Payne's next film, one didn't believe in his cast and one had problems marketing niche movies. But Fox Searchlight embraced the entire package and had a history of deftly marketing challenging movies. Payne had no complaints with Searchlight's modest $18-million budget ceiling. "In some ways, more money almost automatically means the movie is going to be less good, because it encourages people to take fewer risks," he says. "When you have a lot of movie stars around, the pressure builds and a lot of the hard edges in your film somehow get softened."

Things turn out better

Payne isn't the only filmmaker to discover money doesn't buy happiness. His old UCLA film school classmate, Gary Winick, is a cofounder of InDigEnt Films, a digital video filmmaker's collective that has produced a number of acclaimed movies, including "Pieces of April," "Personal Velocity" and "Tadpole," which Winick directed. None of the films cost more than $300,000. "The less money you spend, the more control you have," he says. "If you put your money on the line, then you're forced to prove to people, and maybe to yourself, that you're passionate enough to make your movie."

Peter Hedges, who made "Pieces of April," originally had a go-ahead to make the film for $6 million at United Artists. When the studio pulled the plug a month before shooting was scheduled to begin, Winick told him InDigEnt would make the film — as long as he shot it in digital video so it could be made for $300,000.

"He did it in 17 days instead of 40 days, but Peter feels he didn't sacrifice anything," says Winick. "When you're forced to do something with less money, you're forced to use your imagination and things usually turn out even better."

Watching Payne on the set of "Sideways," it's easy to see that his creative method might not fit neatly into a studio mold. He doesn't use a video monitor, preferring to stay as close to his actors as possible. He doesn't watch dailies, saying he'd rather see the film with fresh eyes after shooting is completed. He barely allows his hair and makeup technicians near the actors. "Seeing perfect hair and not having lint around bugs me," he says. "I want a certain naturalism, which you can't get with all that beautification."

In short, he seems determined to retain his outsider sensibility. "I admire directors who didn't burn out with age, but who kept getting better, whether it's Buñuel or Kurosawa or John Huston," he says. "And I think a big part of that was that they never lost their anger, because anger is what really fuels you." Payne looks more resolute than angry, but the point is well made — selling out is not an option. Succeed or fail, he's determined to do it his way.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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SHAFTR

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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2004, 03:51:54 AM »
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so I just revisited Election and I have to say it seems almost like it's the lost Wes Anderson film.  Anyone else get this feeling?
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2004, 11:02:02 AM »
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Quote from: SHAFTR
so I just revisited Election and I have to say it seems almost like it's the lost Wes Anderson film.  Anyone else get this feeling?

yeah but darker.

I hate Thomas Haden Church.
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grand theft sparrow

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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2004, 12:50:45 PM »
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Quote from: SHAFTR
so I just revisited Election and I have to say it seems almost like it's the lost Wes Anderson film.  Anyone else get this feeling?


To a degree but I think that the motivations of the characters in Election are considerably more focused and more mean-spirited than the motivations of the characters in Wes' movies.  

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.  I loved Election but you'd feel compelled to keep your back to a wall at all times in the presence of the characters in Election.  This might just be me but I think that Wes Anderson characters may do bad things but they do them simply because they have no idea what else will work.  

Take Dignan from Bottle Rocket, Max from Rushmore, and Royal from Royal Tenenbaums.  They lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.  But it's what they want that makes them endearing.  Most of everyone in Election has some sort of self-serving ulterior motive that makes you want to keep them at a distance. But again, I say that there's nothing wrong with that.

SHAFTR

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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2004, 12:53:46 PM »
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Quote from: hacksparrow
Quote from: SHAFTR
so I just revisited Election and I have to say it seems almost like it's the lost Wes Anderson film.  Anyone else get this feeling?


To a degree but I think that the motivations of the characters in Election are considerably more focused and more mean-spirited than the motivations of the characters in Wes' movies.  

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.  I loved Election but you'd feel compelled to keep your back to a wall at all times in the presence of the characters in Election.  This might just be me but I think that Wes Anderson characters may do bad things but they do them simply because they have no idea what else will work.  

Take Dignan from Bottle Rocket, Max from Rushmore, and Royal from Royal Tenenbaums.  They lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.  But it's what they want that makes them endearing.  Most of everyone in Election has some sort of self-serving ulterior motive that makes you want to keep them at a distance. But again, I say that there's nothing wrong with that.


I agree with your point.  Part of what I was saying dealt with the style of the film.  The characters are different but the type of humor, or the presentation of humor, is similiar.  The jokes are there but not necessarily to laugh at.  The films make it a point not to telegraph a joke but to let it stand in the story for the viewer to find.  Also, sides are never taken in either of the films.
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grand theft sparrow

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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2004, 01:10:05 PM »
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Quote from: SHAFTR
The characters are different but the type of humor, or the presentation of humor, is similiar.  The jokes are there but not necessarily to laugh at.  The films make it a point not to telegraph a joke but to let it stand in the story for the viewer to find.


Definitely. And God bless 'em for it.

 

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