James Gray

Started by Pas, April 12, 2010, 10:40:30 AM

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Brad Pitt No Longer Attached To James Gray's Thriller 'The Gray Man'
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With James Gray pretty much finished with "The Immigrant," packing his bags and getting ready to head to France for its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, he's beginning to look at what might be next on his slate. When we spoke to the helmer last year, his brewing thriller "The Gray Man" was something he said could very well be his next picture. "It really depends on Brad Pitt's schedule and it depends on my schedule and how quickly I finish up this current movie and budget and all of those kind of boring factors. But it definitely may happen, and in fact it is more likely than not to happen," he said. Now, it seems that while the movie may move forward, it will need a new lead.

Jeff Sneider of The Wrap tweeted last night: "BRAD PITT no longer attached to star in THE GRAY MAN for New Regency. Director James Gray seeking new leading man..." As folks may know, the pair were originally slated to work together on "The Lost City Of Z" before it fell apart, and while this is certainly a bummer -- we think Gray and Pitt would be a great duo -- the material is still pretty fascinating stuff. Based on the book by Mark Greaney, and penned by Adam Cozad ("Jack Ryan") the film follows a former CIA operative-turned ultimate assassin, targeted by a powerful multinational corporation, who must fight his way across Europe and past special forces teams from around the world in order to save the life of his handler and the handler's family.

So, Bourne-esque? Maybe, but Gray has an approach that he hopes will change up the game. He wants to shoot the film from the perspective of the assassin, a style he utilized in the car chase sequence in "We Own The Night." As he explained in 2011: "Almost every shot was from Joaquin's point of view, inside that car, and I want to make a whole movie with that POV."




A short short clip.



James Gray Working On An Untitled Sci-Fi Thriller
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One of the reasons we've been so excited for Cannes this year is that the festival sees the unveiling of not one, but two new films featuring the involvement of one of our favorite directors, James Gray. The "We Own The Night" helmer is back with his first directorial effort since 2008's "Two Lovers," in the shape of period piece "The Immigrant," staring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, and he also helped Guillaume Canet pen the script to crime tale "Blood Ties," with Clive Owen and Billy Crudup.

But once the films screen in the next week, Gray's schedule is clear (beyond the usual promotional commitments). The director's been attached in recent years to two big-budget studio pictures, "The Lost City Of Z" and thriller "The Grey Man," and said not long ago that he thought that the latter might be next, but Brad Pitt dropped out of the lead role recently (having long since bailed on 'Z'), which makes it less likely. Thankfully, news has come in this morning of a new project for Gray, one that could see him moving into new genre territory.

Variety report that Brazilian financiers RT Features, who backed Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" and Kelly Reichardt's upcoming "Night Moves," have come on to finance an untitled sci-fi thriller that Gray will write and direct. There's no other details at present, but we're sure that the filmmaker might spill some beans while at the festival in the next week. Given the renaissance of original sci-fi in the last few years, it's exciting to see people like Gray and Jeff Nichols turn to the genre, and time will tell if this turns out to be his next project.


Watch A New Clip Of Marion Cotillard & Joaquin Phoenix In 'The Immigrant,' Plus James Gray Talks The Film's Look & Influences
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There are only a few days left of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, but some of the biggest films are still yet to come. Tomorrow brings Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," while Saturday includes both Roman Polanski's "Venus In Fur" and Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive." And as for Friday? Well, Friday brings the return of one of Cannes' favorite filmmakers, James Gray, back with his first film since 2008's "Two Lovers" with "The Immigrant."

We got our first brief glimpse of the period piece earlier in the week, and now a new, longer clip has arrived. It still features Marion Cotillard's refugee, Ewa, but rather than Jeremy Renner's magician, Orlando, she's paired up with Joaquin Phoenix's Bruno, Orlando's cousin, a seemingly friendly man who actually pushes her into prostitution. Even more so than the last, this establishes some stunning production design, and a gorgeous-sepia toned look, courtesy of DoP Darius Khondji. In general, it just makes us wish it were Friday already.

In the meantime, Gray's given his first quotes about the film in the press notes. To help tide you over, five key highlights are below.

On the personal nature of the film:
"My grandparents came over from Russia or Ukraine depending on what era you're talking about, from Ostropol, a town not too far from Kiev. My grandmother's parents were murdered during a pogrom by White Army troops. And in 1923, my grandpa and grandma came to the United States by way of Ellis Island. Of course, I heard many stories about Ellis Island and I became somewhat obsessed with it. The first time I went, in 1988, was before they had restored the island: it was almost as if it was frozen in time. It was haunting, with half-filled immigration forms on the floor... To me it seemed that it was filled with ghosts, the ghosts of my whole family. So I had wanted to make a picture that sprang from that."

On the influences:
"I thought of Robert Bresson and 'Diary Of A Country Priest', particularly for the confession scene. I wanted something austere and mythic. But the film was never meant only to be an homage to Bresson. It was also partly inspired by the traditions of opera and melodrama. Through outsized emotions and dramatic situations, there is a greater truth if you will. This is why the film is scored with Puccini, Gounod and Wagner."

On Casting Marion Cotillard:
"The big challenge obviously was her Polish, which turned out to be fantastic. One day, I asked the actress who plays her aunt what she thought of Marion's Polish. She said it was excellent but she had a slight German accent. I confronted Marion and she said: "I know, my character is from Silesia, which is between Germany and Poland, I'm doing it on purpose." That's how precise she is! It knocked me out."

On recreating Ellis Island in the film:
"I was shocked when I found out that there had never been a movie made in Ellis Island for what it was, an immigration center. A handful of pictures have been shot there since its restoration, but they didn't recreate the old Ellis Island. Kazan recreated it for AMERICA, AMERICA, as did Coppola for  'The Godfather Part II', but neither of those directors had the opportunity to shoot in Ellis Island. So I had what I felt was a pretty unique opportunity, and tried to make it as accurate as possible. I read many books, and of course looked through tons of photographs and my whole family's paperwork. When I went to Ellis Island with my grandfather, there was a woman on the tour with us who was crying. She didn't speak much English but my grandfather spoke with her, and apparently she and her sister had been separated there. I thought that was a good premise for a story."

On the look of the film:
"I worked very well with Darius, who is a man of great sensitivity. He was my brother for a year. We took trips to museums, we looked at paintings and also at autochromes - color photographs from the early 20th century. We also looked at Polaroids from the 1960s by the architect and designer Carlo Mollino: they are the closest thing achieved by modern technology to the autochromes in terms of the color saturation and the density of blacks. Darius and I just talked a lot about color and the frame itself, what part of the set would be lit and why. My other films were meant to be naturalistic. You could always sense where the light was coming from. I abandoned that because I wanted to tell a fable."



Cannes: New Clip From 'The Immigrant'; James Gray Talks Title Changes, Working With Joaquin Phoenix & Marion Cotillard & More
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James Gray's long-awaited period drama, "The Immigrant," finally screened in Cannes early this morning. Featuring the excellent cast of Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner, "The Immigrant" centers on a conniving pimp (Phoenix) who manipulates a destitute Polish immigrant (Cotillard) into a life of prostitution. Saddled with a sick sister, she works to pay for her medicine and her dismal life seems hopeless until a curious magician (Renner) enters it.

Our reviewer called the film "carefully poised and slowly building to a resonant climax," and that sounds like a James Gray film alright. Mostly unappreciated at home in the United States (but beloved in France), Gray generally makes melodramatic family tragedies disguised as crime dramas ("Little Odessa," "The Yards," "We Own The Night"), but "The Immigrant" is somewhat of a gear shift, with its 1920s period setting and having a woman as the lead character.

While Joaquin Phoenix was absent (see why below), Gray, Cotillard, Renner, DP Darius Khondji and several members of "The Immigrant" production team were on hand this morning in Cannes to meet the media and explain their intentions with this operatic, moody, and slow-burning drama. Here's seven highlights from the press conference.

Joaquin Phoenix couldn't be in Cannes because he's shooting a little movie called "Inherent Vice."
One of the first questions from the media in Canne was, where's Joaquin? Well, he's currently shooting the much-anticipated new movie from Paul Thomas Anderson based on the stoner/detective novel by Thomas Pynchon. "Actually, believe it or not, he wanted to come, which is a first," Gray said. "But he's in the middle of shooting a movie with Paul Thomas Anderson and they wouldn't let him out. You know it's a Friday in the middle of a shoot week so, it was impossible."
Well, lay to rest any other theories and start celebrating that you won't have a five year gap between PTA movies.

Marion Cotillard's biggest challenge was learning Polish for the role.
As explained in Telluride last year, Gray met Cotillard before he had ever seen a film of hers, but was instantly taken with the actress when she threw bread at his head during a dinner, arguing over the qualities of an actor he disliked and she loved. He was instantly taken and decided to write this new movie for her (it didn't hurt he was already co-writing "Blood Ties" with her life partner Guillaume Canet).

But Cotillard didn't have time to pal around with Gray on set. She had her nose in a book during the entire time of production, practicing her Polish. "The biggest challenge was definitely the Polish. It's a complicated language," she said. "I had about 20 pages in Polish and I could only understand two words [at first]. But I had a fabulous teacher and no choice. When you speak Polish with an accent, that would be one thing. But I had to speak Polish with no accent, so that put a lot of pressure on me. I knew when I was making a mistake. When I was doing it good, however, I had no idea of how I was doing. It was bit unsettling."

Gray recalled in disbelief that he only wrote a few lines in Polish, but when it came time to the translation, it was always much, much longer than he expected. "In my slight defense, I would write a third of a page in dialogue... and then the [translation] would come back and it would be four pages!" he complained. "It did not correspond at all to the length of what I wrote it was so bizarre."

The film went through three different titles -- what was up with that?
The movie was originally called, "Lowlife," then around Telluride, it changed to "The Nightingale," and then right before Cannes, it was announced as "The Immigrant." Why? Gray explained. "The original title of the book was 'Lowlife' and I thought that was a pretty good title and apparently Luc Sante, the writer of the book 'Low Life' also thought it was a good title," he said dryly to laughs.
"Too bad. But Luc Sante is totally brilliant by the way and his book... is really one of the great non-fiction books written about New York. That title by the way taken from a Public Image Limited song, so his hands aren't clean," he joked. "I spoke to him, I said, 'Can I use your title?' and he said, 'Uhhhhh... no.' And then I realized you can't copyright a title so for a while it was called 'Lowlife,' but then I didn't really want to get him enraged at me."

Gray noted that there was another film called "Low Life" and both American and French distributors didn't like the title so he said, "Fine, I'll change it. I started called in 'The Nightingale.' " As he explained in Telluride, the title came from a line of dialogue in the film, but "Everyone hated it!" he exclaimed. "Except for me," Cotillard interjected. "You liked it too? Well, fuck it, it's 'The Nightingale'," he quipped. "Everyone told me, 'I hate that title, it stinks, I hate it.'" Gray said he "pretentiously" went through all his books, movies, operas to gain inspiration for his film and he found that, "They all had simple titles...I just thought, 'Screw it, call it 'The Immigrant' and be done with it.' Let the movie speak for itself. If people hate the film, they're not going to hate it because of the title. If they love the film, the title is not going to win the day."

Gray's co-writer Ric Menello died a few months before the film's debut in Cannes.
Menello is legendary in film cinephile circles (make sure you read this fantastic piece in the New Yorker about him). He was a so-called "cinematic savant"/shut in who had apparently seen every film you could think of (and more) and had a near photographic memory about all of them. He had become a friend and confidante of Gray's and filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky and others as well. All of them would routinely call Menello up and tap him for his infinite encyclopedic knowledge and Gray became so close with him he actually gave him screenwriting credits on two of his films, "Two Lovers" and "The Immigrant" (though in the New Yorker article, Gray admits that was in part so Menello could get health insurance).

"Ric Menello who was incorrectly referred to as a savant, because this was a guy who knew everything about everything," Gray said. Def Jam founder and legendary music producer Rick Rubin was the one who first put Gray in touch with Menello. "I want you to meet this guy Menello," Gray said adopting a funny low Rick Rubin voice and recalling the conversation. "He's amazing, he knows everything." Gray would called Menello at any hour of the night when the TV guide wouldn't properly display what was playing, hold the phone to the speaker and Menello would inevitably know what the movie was. "He was a human movie Shazam," Gray said referencing the music app that will instantly tell you the title and artist of a song. "You used this guy as a reference, it was that simple."

"But he's gone, I miss him, I love him," he reflected.

Gray inadvertently put Joaquin Phoenix through the emotional wringer with this role.
While Joaquin Phoenix is known as a mercurial actor and person, James Gray has worked with him four times now. But the filmmaker said it wasn't an intentional Scorsese/De Niro or Kurosawa/Mifune type of consistent collaboration. "What happens is you gravitate towards actors who feel the same way that you do about the world, about art, if I can use that dirty word, about human behavior and I realized very quickly on the first film I made with him ['The Yards'] is that he has a tremendous emotional awareness, intelligence and sensitivity," Gray said. "My relationship now is we talk a lot, we argue a lot like brothers in a way, but its very, very enlightening. He lives for process, he lives for the moment when you can discuss the scene and break down the character that to him is everything."

"For me that's very rewarding," Gray continues, "Because you're trying to create a character of many levels, and in this case he's playing a very terrible person, a predator, a manipulator, a constant liar who only really reveals himself in the end. And I remember he would call me up every night and say, [adopts incredibly mumbly, borderline incoherent JP voice] 'James, James, why are you making me do this? Look at that scene I did with Marion, I had to put that little boy in front of her...James what are you doing?' And he was very upset with me. He called it the revenge of [the fake quasi Joaquin Phoenix documentary] 'I'm Still Here,' because I made him such a horrendous person."

Jeremy Renner loves James Gray, but not all his films.
"I've seen all of his movies, some I like better than the others, but I love James," he laughed. "How did we come together?" Renner asked and launched into a story about meeting him at the actor's house. Gray countered later with, "Some of your performances I really liked," Gray said. "I don't expect you to like all of them!" Renner laughed. "Eh, some of them I liked," the director shrugged.

"The Godfather Part II" weighed heavy on the movie, so Gray and his DP looked elsewhere for influences.
Set in the same time period as the flashbacks in "The Godfather Part II," Gray and DP Darius Khondji (David Fincher's "Seven," "Panic Room," Wong Kar Wai's "My Blueberry Nights" among others) knew the film would inevitably draw comparisons. The filmmaker said while they did watch the Francis Ford Coppola epic, and movies like "La Strada," "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" and "Heaven's Gate," they started to look elsewhere for inspiration, like photographs and artwork.
"If you show a street in 1921 in the Lower East Side, there's no way to do it accurately and not have someone go, 'I see Godfather II!' Because Francis just did it completely accurately," he explained. "There's only one way to do it, he did it right. So I realized that that was coming a mile away that I had stolen from this movie or that movie, so what Darius and I ended up doing was going completely away from movies and started looking at autochrome photography [and art]."

Gray then rattled off tons of visual references, Carlo Mollino's polaroids, the Ashcan painters Rockwell Kent, Guy Pène du Bois, John Sloane, George Bellows, Robert Henri, Reginald Marsh, Everett Shinn, William Glackens and more. Also a big influence to Gray was opera. "I thought about making something that felt like you filmed an opera with grand emotions," he said. "Not played in hysteria all the time, not like, [starts to sing in high pitched shrieking voice] 'Everbody's like thiiiiiis!' though there is a little bit of that, but really about the sincerity of the emotions."

"One of the best quotes I ever heard about movies was from Stanley Kubrick," Gray continued. "He said, 'I wish movies would be more daring and more sincere,' and I loved that and I wanted to make something that it would be so sincere that it would be kind of daring. That it was not ironic or distanced or an experiment in any way. That it was simply looking backwards to go forward. So backwards that it would hopefully feel modern, like an opera put on film."

"The Immigrant" doesn't have a U.S. release date yet, but The Weinstein Company will release the film sometime later this year, presumably/hopefully in the fall. Check out a new clip below.

New extended clip


James Gray Reveals Details About His Developing Sci-Fi Thriller & The "Conceptual Brilliance" Of '2001'
via The Playlist

Following the premiere of "The Immigrant" in competition late last week (our review is here), we got to talk to director James Gray in Cannes. We'll have more of his thoughts on the shaping of that film, on working with Marion Cotillard for the first time, and a few minor updates on some other upcoming projects later on, but one topic we spoke about in greater depth was his recently announced sci-fi film. Plot outlines have been scarce so far, but Gray revealed some exciting details about what he has in mind, and the learnings he is taking from his own favorite sci-fi film, Stanley Kubrick's exceptional and influential "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"I want to try and do something specific and rather different, and the intention is to make a film which is almost science fact, and it takes place entirely in space," said the director. "I had read about NASA trying to find 'emotionally -- what's the right word -- undeveloped' people to travel to Mars, because being cooped up for a year and a half is very difficult. So the idea that I had was to sort of mix a kind of Conrad-ian story, a 'Heart of Darkness,' with the idea in which NASA has made a miscalculation about one of its astronauts, who cannot handle deep space. So the idea is a kind of mental breakdown in space, and to do it almost like Apollo footage: incredibly realistic -- so no sound in space, obviously -- and to do it distinguishing itself with the idea that, in a way, human beings need the earth."

"If you read about the astronauts who went to the moon -- the 12 who walked on it, and the others who orbited -- all suffered serious mental trauma of one kind or another," he continued. "It was almost unbearable to see the earth as a small...looking like a marble. Edgar Mitchell started to talk about aliens and Area 51; Neil Armstrong basically went to his farm in Lebanon, Ohio and never left it again; Buzz Aldrin has been open about his alcoholism and depression. So part of the story is that the infinite is unbearable, the idea of deep space is unbearable, and we need terra firma."

Gray went to expand on the challenges he sees in the project: " '2001' which is my favorite film in the genre and one of my favorite films ever, is about man's confrontation with the idea of the infinite and then evolving into a new species when in contact with an alien force," he said. "So in a perverse way the Kubrick film has optimism -- the star child is an optimistic conception. I'm not planning on a bummer movie at all because what happens is the astronaut basically falls in love with someone on Mars, and the rest of the crew find this out. And of course that's a problem, because they've all been chosen to be incapable of that because they have a mission to execute on Saturn, so as a consequence they have to eliminate him."

However he is aware of the pitfalls of a genre in which oftentimes story and theme end up sacrificed for spectacle. "It's a challenge to create an ending... The problem is that most science fiction films -- certainly the Kubrick film does not do this, but it comes close, I would argue, to making this mistake, which is to awe us with some kind of visual spectacle and size. But you can't really do that, it has to be conceptual, the awe has to come from a conceptual place," he explained. "What is awesome now in a Kubrick film when you see it, is not the stargate -- which I think ages somewhat poorly -- what ages brilliantly is HAL's takeover of the spacecraft and seeing the starchild in that white room, because that is a conceptual brilliance. He's not trying to awe us with a 'Look at the size of the ship!' thing -- that doesn't ever work. So it's incumbent on me to come up with something that is conceptually awe-inspiring."
As to casting this film, it's too early to say as, contrary to some earlier reports, the script is not, in fact, ready yet. "No I haven't even written it yet, I have about 400 pages of research and thoughts and conversations with people at JPL [NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and so forth. But the script is coming very soon because I've done the legwork. I have the treatment and I've done the grunt work so to speak," Gray said. "And now it's about... I have the structure of the story but now I have to write it. Which should take me about four weeks and then I have to rewrite it. So hopefully by early fall I'll have a script for that and I'll be trying to get it made..."

With Brazil-based RT Features already attached to produce the project, and "Fringe" writer Ethan Gross on co-scripting duties, and with other potential films experiencing delays due to casting or logistics issues (more on those later), it definitely seems like once the promotional rounds for "The Immigrant" are done, this will be Gray's focus in the near future. In the meantime, we'll have more from this interview shortly, and will keep on eye out for The Weinstein Company to announce a release date for "The Immigrant" soon.



James Gray On 'The Immigrant,' 'The Gray Man,' 'The Lost City Of Z' And More
via The Playlist

Last week, we ran an excerpt from our Cannes Film Festival interview with director James Gray in which he spoke at length about his upcoming sci-fi project. But of course the reason he was there, and the reason we were talking at all, was to present his new film, "The Immigrant," which premiered in competition and stars Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner (you can read our review here).

At the time of our conversation, Gray was not yet fully acquainted with the polarized reaction to his film, though he later responded in an entertainingly forthright manner to those who labelled it "too slow." For our part, we had another very enjoyable talk with the director, even managing to squeeze in a little discussion of some of the issues facing contemporary U.S. cinema as a kind of a follow-on to the topics that had arisen during our last chat in December, as well a quick update on the status of a few of his gestating projects, aside from the sci-fi film.

There are some mild (thematic rather than narrative) spoilers in our discussion of the closing scenes of "The Immigrant," just so you know, but that section is clearly marked.

So what's your initial response to the reaction to "The Immigrant" so far?
I don't know what the reaction is -- I live in a bubble. The reaction at the official screening was great but that's always ...no I shouldn't say it's always great, that's not true, but it was great, so that was nice. But in terms of other reactions I'm in a bubble. You have to tell me...

Well, I think the word so far is "divided."
That's great. Everybody agrees on it, it sucks.

*Mildly Spoilery Section Begins*

About the end of the film -- it works in such a specific way, in shifting our perspective from Ewa to Bruno. How early on in the writing process did you envisage this shift happening?
At the very beginning. It was always part of the design. It's an asinine thing to do in one respect -- in a way, it's designed for multiple viewings because of that. But it was always part of the design, that the film would be about her and her point of view, and in the end he is the one who is redeemed, because he has somehow found, as disgusting as he is, the capacity to admit... everything.

And up until then everything's a lie, everything's a manipulation to keep himself distant, but at the end he has to admit to his self-loathing: "I set the whole thing up from the beginning and I'm a piece of shit." It was constructed that way because it was sort of built to last, hopefully. Hopefully for repeated viewings and hopefully for a long time...I'd be curious to see what your reaction is if you ever get to see this film again.

Well, I can say that the recasting of the film, the kind of mentally spooling back and changing the focus of the story worked well for me, even on first viewing. Everything fitted.
I'm so glad to hear you say that. This is the whole challenge of the movie It's the experiment. I didn't want to make something that seemed, like the ending would jump out at you or anything, but [I did want] something that was very subversive in that way. That was always part of the design... I'm glad to hear that [it worked for you on that level]. If you can communicate to some people, that's great.

*Mildly Spoilery Section Ends*

How did you approach balancing the intimacy and immediacy of the story with the potentially distancing element of the period setting?
Oddly it was very helpful to me, because you find that the period setting -- the trappings --enable you to live entirely in the world of the film, so it's less distracting. It's hard to describe. We shot the apartment on a stage, and that's where most of the action takes place, and the theater as well, that was built on the same stage. So you live in an incredibly -- I mean, I sometimes slept in the studio -- you live in the world of the film. So it helped me a lot.

And then in some respects it's not as good because the actor doesn't feel the location, but I understand why Stanley Kubrick favored it, because you're in the world of the film and you can't leave it... So I felt it was almost like a process of method acting in a way. I didn't see it as a hindrance at all.

Marion Cotillard has mentioned elsewhere that she felt like she had established a deeper relationship with you than with any of her previous directors...
She did? That's very nice of her to say.

You're not worried about getting a punch in the eye from her partner, and your friend, director Guillaume Canet? [whose script for "Blood Ties" Gray has a co-writing credit on]
I probably will!... And I haven't seen "Blood Ties" yet. I was meant to, but then my daughter's passport expired and I only arrived in Cannes an hour into his screening...

With Brad Pitt recently leaving your gestating "The Gray Man," what's the status on that project now?
There may be another actor who comes on board but Brad Pitt's exiting certainly has slowed the train a bit. But there might be a way to get that done with someone else.

And how about "The Lost City of Z"? When we spoke last you were hoping to remount that.
I would love to, I have people who are willing to make the film, I have the money to make it; I don't have an actor. Because its very specific -- it's a British man, mid-40s and that's hard to pair up with the budget that I need. I have people that want to make it, I just have to get the actor. It's certainly a dream of mine to make the film. I think it's the best script I've written. But the size of it is huge, the scale.

Also when we last spoke, we talked a bit about the "disappearing middle" in U.S. filmmaking terms, and how not enough people were talking about that...
And you know what? I was wrong. In 2009, A.O. Scott wrote an article about exactly what I was talking about, and I was so embarrassed, because I was wrong.

Well, one swallow doesn't make a summer and I think you were more talking about the lack of a wider discourse around this issue.
... but I was blown away because I was sent a piece which he wrote which was not only correct but prescient and it was about the disappearance of the middle and how Paramount Vantage went away and it was very interesting for me to read all of that. And then there were a bunch of articles right around the same time that we talked from David Thomson, David Denby...

Yes, it felt kind of zeitgeisty all right.
I got a huge number of emails about it.

In fact I was wondering if since then, with people like Soderbergh talking publicly on these same issues, do you find that heartening?
Yes, Steve Soderbergh talked about it at length, I saw that... I don't know if I would call it heartening. What I would say is that it's like the first step in maybe some kind of movement, but we've so far to go, because it demands a kind of sea change in the economic structure of the movies. And all of the intelligent writing by our best critics, thinkers -- and filmmakers in the case of Steven Soderbergh -- can't change the fundamentals. What has to happen is there has to be a kind of a break in how much it costs to market and distribute the film -- that's what has to change. And Soderbergh talks about that at length. And until that changes it's very difficult to see a way through.

Until that changes you think we're going to continue to see a kind of brain drain towards TV?
There has been a huge brain drain towards TV -- it's so good now...But you know by the same token I'm not right, because when I was on the jury in Cannes, this was 2009, I saw a lot of really good movies. They may not have been American and they may not have had scale, but they were really good. I mean, Andrea Arnold is a really talented director, she's great. And the Haneke movie "White Ribbon" that was great, the Audiard I saw, and I saw this beautiful Palestinian film which got no awards, which pisses me off it was called "The Time That Remains" by Elia Suleiman.

So there is a lot going on, and I think that with globalization and more people making films, I think we're gonna see great cinema happen. So I have a perverse kind of optimism at the same time as I'm pessimistic.

Perhaps Cannes is a good place to find some optimism?
Yes, Cannes is the place where you have to see that kind of film. Something with at least some degree of challenge has to be shown.

"The Immigrant" will be released by The Weinstein Company. A date has not yet been set.


James Gray Heads To TV To Direct First Episode Of Sundance Channel's 'The Red Road' Starring Jason Momoa
via The Playlist

It's a bit of a weird day of unlikely circles overlapping. David Fincher and Tyler Perry might collide for "Gone Girl," and now James Gray and Jason Momoa will be working together. Yes, really. The "Two Lovers" and "The Immigrant" filmmaker is the latest director to head to the world of television and it's for a project that certainly sounds like it has potential.

Gray is slated to direct the first episode of Sundance Channel's forthcoming "The Red Road." So where do we see the promise? Well, it has script by Aaron Guzikowski ("Contraband," "Prisoners"), Sarah Condon ("Bored to Death") and Bridget Carpenter ("Friday Night Lights") are executive producer and showrunner, respectively, and frankly, after the excellent "Top Of The Lake" this spring we'll pay attention to whatever Sundance has cooking next for the small screen. Here's the official synopsis:

THE RED ROAD is a hard-hitting drama that revolves around a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians.  After a terrible tragedy and coverup occurs involving the sheriff's wife, an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved.

No word yet on when filming begins, but the show already has a six-episode order so we'd reckon it's sooner rather than later. As for "The Immigrant," it's still awaiting a release date from The Weinstein Company.


James Gray To Direct Based-In-Fact Boston Crime Drama 'White Devil'
via The Playlist

According to Deadline, Gray will write and direct the Boston-set crime drama "White Devil" for the studio, who are making it a priority project. It's apparently based loosely on John Willis, otherwise known as White Devil John, a white kid adopted into a Chinese family who ended up rising through the ranks of Boston's Asian crime gangs (you can read more about Willis, who was convicted of dealing oxycodone and money laundering earlier this year, here), and as such, sounds like it'll be right in Gray's wheelhouse.

Deadline describes the project as a "big scale" film and a "priority project," so hopefully it'll be moving forward with some haste. That said, with a script not yet written, we suppose it's possible that Gray's untitled sci-fi project will still come first, though that film doesn't have the crucial studio financing.


Toronto: Benedict Cumberbatch To Star In 'Lost City Of Z' For James Gray
via Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: Here's a testament that good projects sometimes rise above development hell. Benedict Cumberbatch, who figures to be a big man on campus at the Toronto Film Festival with 12 Years A Slave, The Fifth Estate and August: Osage County getting big premieres, is negotiating to star in Lost City Of Z, which James Gray will direct from a script he adapted. Panorama Media will finance the film and handle foreign sales.

The film is based on the David Grann bestselling book. Cumberbatch is in talks to play Percy Fawcett, who in 1925 headed into the depths of the Amazon jungles in Brazil. Fawcett was there to map the jungle and, hobbled by malaria, he discovered a mythical city he called The Lost City Of Z. Scorned by peers who claimed that this ancient kingdom was a fraud, Fawcett headed back into the jungle with his son and one other, braving the dangers of disease, insects, snakes, poison darts and other hazards to reinforce his discovery. None of them were ever seen again and it remains one of the great exploration mysteries of the 20th Century.

Plan B's Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Anthony Katagas (who worked with Cumberbatch on 12 Years A Slave) will produce. Plan B has been developing the project for several years, and it initially seemed like Pitt would be heading into the jungles. Cumberbatch most recently starred in Star Trek Into Darkness and has The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug coming later this year and will play Alan Turing in the Morten Tyldum-directed Imitation Game that's backed by Black Bear Pictures. He seems an intriguing choice to play Fawcett and is certainly a fast-rising leading man.

Cumberbatch is repped by UTA and John Grant of Conway van Gelder Grant in the UK.


I assume this means we can put all those Cumberbatch in Star Wars rumors to rest?
He held on. The dolphin and all the rest of its pod turned and swam out to sea, and still he held on. This is it, he thought. Then he remembered that they were air-breathers too. It was going to be all right.


NYFF Q&A with Joaquin Phoenix and James Gray