Christian Bale & the poetic worlds of Miyazaki

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

Christian Bale’s voice, Lionsgate’s deals, Mickey Mouse’s freedom and a bad plane ride.

Let’s go!


CHRISTIAN BALE & THE POETIC WORLDS OF MIYAZAKI:

Christian Bale’s voice resonates with poetic emptiness in Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy in the Heron.

Bale provides the English language voice for the lead, a twelve-year-old child named Mahito who, at the start of the film, tries to save his mother from a burning hospital after a World War II attack.

But he fails.

It’s a heavy traumatic moment that launches Mahito into an internal world. And one of the most understated performances of Bale’s career.

Bale embodies the closed-up emotional state of a heartbroken child, manifested through Miyazaki’s stunning first act. Although beautifully crafted, this segment is ultimately devoid of the visuals that Miyazaki is renowned for.

And that’s what makes it so powerful.

It is a world of little magic, where Mahito is forced to live with his aunt, far away from home, and bullied at a new school.

Later, the film explodes into a phantasmagorical parallel universe where the living are half-dead, and all sorts of delightful creatures abound. Bale’s character and vocal performance open up, and he is ultimately able to overcome his trauma and embrace connection.

Bale first encountered Miyazaki’s work in Spirited Away (2001). He was so blown away by the movie that he reached out to Miyazaki to say he’d play any role in the director’s new film, Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

Miyazaki granted him the lead.

Although Bale has been absent from cinema since his less well-received The Pale Blue Eye (2022), he constantly manipulates his voice for each role, pitching up for the psychotic Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or down for his “Batman” voice in the trilogy.

Bale explains finding that voice in Batman Begins (2005):

“It was the only way I could find how I could get into it, to justify wearing this friggin’ bat suit, walking around like that. Otherwise you’d just go, like, ‘He’s loopy beyond belief.’ I mean, he’s loopy, but he’s loopy with a method to his madness.”

Christian Bale’s embodiment of vocal madness has made him one of the most iconic figures in modern cinema.

The Boy and the Heron is currently in theaters in the US and UK and features some wonderfully odd voice performances by Dave Bautista, Florence Pugh, and Willem Dafoe.

For More:

English language trailer, The Boy and the Heron.

Watch Bale’s careful concentration in this BTS video of Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) under the supervision of Pete Docter, now the chief creative officer at Pixar.

Christian Bale’s first voice gig was in Disney’s Pocahontas (1995).


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Mickey Mouse enters the public domain on Monday (Jan 1). After 95 years, the copyright for the original Mickey Mouse, which debuted in Steamboat Willie (short, 1928), will be freed from its copyright holder, Walt Disney. While the iconic Sorcerer’s Apprentice storyline in Fantasia (1940, fun still) won’t be available for another 12 years, the original version of the character appears to be fair game for adaptation.

To view a list of all the copyrighted material entering the public domain on New Year’s Day, check out Duke University School of Law’s compilation here.

Lionsgate buys eOne from Hasbro for $500M. Hasbro had originally purchased the media company back in 2019 for $4B and had originally planned to use eOne to expand their game IP, like Lincoln Logs and Nerf, into film and TV series. But this didn’t happen because of stagnating development timelines and the SAG-AFTRA strikes.

Here are the assets Lionsgate acquired:

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheime stated:

“The eOne acquisition concludes a busy year in which we continued to execute our strategy of strengthening our studio business as we prepare for the separation of Lionsgate and Starz into pure play standalone companies.”

This comes on the heels of:

Lionsgate Studios spinning off as a separately traded “pure-content” entity with Screaming Eagle Equity Partners, which allows for a few advantages:

  • $4.6B price tag on Lionsgate Studios
  • $350M cash raised from the deal
  • $175M committed from private equity
  • Facilitates split from Starz

The Lionsgate Studios deal is expected to be finalized in the spring.

End of the year box office: Aquaman and Migration sink. Wonka dazzles. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom ($205M budget)
    • $126M box office
    • Continues the trend of low-grossing superhero films
  • Migration ($72M budget)
    • $46M box office
    • Minions studio Illumination fails to leverage reputation
  • Wonka ($125M budget)
    • $272M box office
    • Nostalgia factor + Chalamet’s star power wins big

While the box-office returns for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom are on par with recent superhero misses like The Marvels (270M budget vs. $205M box office), Migration may have some runway as family films tend to face less box-office drop-off and generally have a longer cinema run.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Holt McCallany plays a brutal patriarch in A24’s The Iron Claw. His machismo win-at-all-costs attitude pushes his sons (played by Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and Stanley Simons) to wrestling glory at a tragic price.

McCallany explained how he approached this much-hated character, based on the real life Fritz Von Erich:

“What I found through my research and the people that I spoke to was that I came to see him as a family man who wanted success for his sons at all costs. If he pushed them a little too hard sometimes, it was from a place of love and a place of pride.”

McCallany is known for characters that display odd forms of familial empathy, notably in Fight Club when he starts the “Robert Paulson” chant (clip).

He’s also been spectacular in Mindhunter as the level-headed FBI agent leading the charge to study serial killers.

The Iron Claw is out in theaters in the US. It will be released in the UK on Feb 9. Trailer here.

Sandra Hüller’s performances in The Zone of Interest and Anatomy of a Fall offer the largest range of any actor in 2023. In the former, there’s a remarkably chilling perverse pleasure that Hüller’s character, the wife of an Auschwitz commander, embodies while showing off her pilfered mink furs to her friends (still).

She described the process of acting an unthinkable character:

“Well, as an actor, I didn’t find it very hard. Hedwig Höss doesn’t live a heavy life. For her, everything is really easy… How would I deal with this subject matter and maintain a distance between the character and my own personal feelings? That was exhausting, in a way. The hardest work was in not letting my own experience affect the process of playing Hedwig Höss.”

In Anatomy of a Fall, Hüller is so guarded that you think she might actually explode as she navigates her way through a criminal trial between a pompously brash prosecutor and her young son in the gallery (trailer).

She recently spoke about her experience of reading the Anatomy of a Fall script for the first time:

“Well, now, you read so many scripts where people speak like they are part of a novel, or like they’re not even human. And this script was so different, because I believed every word of it, the way that people were talking.”

She anchors the hyper-realism of both films, which could have easily been doused in hysterics.

Lee Sun-kyun, who played the father of the wealthy family in Parasite (2019), has died. He was 48. While an investigation is still ongoing, it appears to have been a suicide.

Mr. Lee became a familiar face on Korean television for his roles in Coffee Prince (2007) and the medical drama Behind the White Tower (2007). But he rose to international fame for Parasite. Watch his effortlessly cavalier and cruel elitism in this clip from the film.

He can most recently starred in Apple TV+’s Dr. Brain. You can watch the trailer here.

He will be missed.


FESTIVALS AND RESOURCES

Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director Sam Pollard started as Spike Lee’s editor. Pollard recounted his first meeting with Lee, a job interview:

“For every hundred words I said, Spike said about ten.”

Pollard won the gig and edited:

Recently, Pollard has directed some of the most powerful documentaries about the African American experience:

Leslie Fields-Cruz the director of BPM (Black Public Media) stated:

“Sam has continuously brought to life urgent Black stories that need to be seen and studied, crafting films that preserve the history and beauty of so many aspects of American culture… It’s time for all of us to give him the flowers he deserves.”

Pollard is set to receive the BPM Trailblazer Award in April. Check out the press release here.

Slow wins Les Arcs Film Festival. The film, which premiered this year at Sundance and won the Best Director International award, was one of the most interesting films at the festival—a love story about a heterosexual woman and an asexual man falling in love (trailer).

The film will receive $20K towards digital promotion. No US/UK release date has been set.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Ruben Östlund (dir: Triangle of Sadness) is scripting a new project, The Entertainment System is Down. Over the years, the Swedish director has created some of the most visceral foreign cinema that explores the hypocrisy of the rich in disaster situations:

The Entertainment System is Down revolves around a broken entertainment system on a transcontinental flight, creating psychological peril among the passengers.

Östlund discussed a ten-minute long take in which a boy waits to play with an iPad:

“We’ll go from a dynamic film to a real-time shot where we see this kid dealing with restlessness for 10 minutes… After a bit the kid will ask how much time has passed and the answer will be, ‘There are nine minutes and 30 seconds left.’”

The film will begin shooting in early 2025.

Steve McQueen (Shame, Widows) combines past and present in his first doc. Premiering at the Cannes, Occupied City delves into the confluence of pandemic, protest, and the haunting history of Nazi occupation in Amsterdam.

McQueen explained:

“There are always archaeological digs going on in your brain as you walk the streets… I had this idea to physically map one image over the other, to illuminate the ghosts from the past.”

McQueen filmed the documentary over two and half years, shooting almost 1 million feet of film.

The trailer looks heavy, haunting, and hypnotic.

McQueen has always brought a sense of crushing realism to vital historical events, like his first feature, Hunger, which centered on the 1981 Irish hunger strike.

Occupied City was released in the US on Dec 25th. UK release Feb 9.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Hong Kong stars reunite in The Goldfinger. Andy Lau and Tony Leung starred in Infernal Affairs (2002), the trilogy that served as source material for Scorsese’s The Departed. Leung played the police officer who goes undercover in the organized crime society e.g. the DiCaprio role. Lau played the Triad member who infiltartes the police for e.g. the Damon part. Watch the silvery sleek, double-octane 4K restoration trailer here.

The pair return in The Goldfinger. Here’s the official synopsis:

The rise and bust of a fictional Hong Kong company called Jiali Group, following the travails of its chairman Cheng Yiyan (Leung) through 15 years of investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Lau) as murders are committed, billions in market value evaporate and millions are spent on litigation fees.

The trailer feels like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Departed wrapped into one.

The film is currently in theaters in the US. It will be released in the UK on Dec 30th.

Disney is poised to sell a majority of its Indian operations to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, forging India’s largest media and entertainment entity. Ambani is the richest man in India (net worth $100 bn). Although the deal’s valuation remains undisclosed, earlier estimates ranged from $7 to $10 billion. This transaction, advised by Disney CEO Bob Iger, is part of Disney’s strategic realignment following significant budget cuts and layoffs.

The deal is set to be finalized in early 2024.


ON THIS DAY

1964. Principal filming on Doctor Zhivago begins.


That’s all for today. See you tomorrow.


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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