Michael Keaton’s war, John Lennon’s peace

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

Michael Keaton’s hitmen, John Lennon’s murder, Oppenheimer’s violins and a sweet dream.

Let’s go!


MICHAEL KEATON’S WAR

Michael Keaton doesn’t want to be a Hollywood hero.

Despite being cast in the inaugural Batman movie in 1989, which sparked the current torrent of Marvel movies, including this year’s The Flash, where he reprised his caped role, he’s quite happy to avoid the limelight.

Keaton’s existential struggle is that he wants to be both in and out of the mainstream entertainment business, as evidenced by the fact that he’s directed and cast himself in two indie hitman movies.

The most recent, Knox Goes Away, premiered at this year’s TIFF and is being distributed by Saban Films (Siberia). Keaton’s previous self-directed hitman film was The Merry Gentleman (2008), which grossed $350K worldwide.

Keaton is attracted to hitman characters because they articulate attributes he sees in himself:

“I choose not to be at the whim of others. I want to be at my own whim. I figured early on — maybe I was lucky or it’s just the way I’m built — that this is a fear-based industry, and you’re pretty F-ed if you buy into it.”

Keaton famously turned down $15M in 1995 to star in Batman Forever.

His decision was vindicated by his critically acclaimed performance in Birdman, directed by Alejandro Iñárritu, which explored similar themes of an actor’s struggle with fame and artistic fulfillment.

Birdman won best picture, and in so doing, Michael Keaton was given a new life in:

The question is, what other director will step up to leverage Keaton’s very specific talent as both a larger-than-life movie star and staunch soloist? The hope is that he finds a project that resonates as both a piece of independent cinema and a transformative Hollywood film, further solidifying Keaton’s legacy as an actor who thrives on integrity.

For More:

Batman reflex hammers. Michael Keaton and David Letterman goof off about Batman merchandise in this 1989 clip from Late Night.

Birdman trailer. As powerful and poignant as ever.

Batman (1989) trailer. It’s campy, but Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson are in top form.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Apple gives peace a chance. In the war over prestige documentary content, Apple’s latest John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial, narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, includes unreleased crime scene photos and details of John Lennon’s murder, including the killer’s confession. The trailer is gripping and claustrophobic. The series premieres Dec 6 on Apple TV+.

Sony Pictures buys out The Guardian’s library, giving them access to a treasure trove of untapped content. Sony and The Guardian have struck a partnership that grants Sony exclusive access to any past, present, or future articles. That’s over 200 years of coverage. From exclusive 1880s Jack the Ripper articles to Pulitzer Prize-winning stories, Sony seems to have made the ultimate move in the ever-expanding hunt for IP.

Fast & Furious gets a ticket. Stuntman Joe Watts (Solo: Star Wars Story) was critically injured on the set of F9 in 2019 when he fell twenty-five feet and hit his head on concrete, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. A malfunctioning stunt vest and lack of crash mats were cited by the UK court that recently awarded him $1M. Watts has filed an additional $1.2 million personal injury lawsuit against Warner Brothers Studio, stating that he cannot return to his previous job as a stuntman and will face a permanent handicap.

The film industry needs to work together to set higher levels of safety standards. The obvious lack of crash mats is appalling.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Julia Garner hates the Outback. A seemingly innocuous trip to Australia to make some quick cash as bartenders turns to terror for two Americans (Garner and Jessica Henwick) when they find themselves ill-equipped to handle acerbic and violent patrons. In The Royal Hotel, the most interesting element seems not to be Garner, although she’s consistently excellent, but instead Hugo Weaving. Even though we’re only given glimpses of his depiction of a washed-up bartender in the trailer, his characterization feels fully realized. His persona feels lightyears away from the slick Agent Smith in The Matrix. It’s as if he got chewed up and spat back by the Outback.

The film played at TIFF and Telluride and is distributed by Neon. It’s now available on Apple TV.

Charlie Day’s best performance of all time (clip) is in the opening scene of the It’s Always Sunny episode Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats. His method acting can quickly turn his zany comedy into ultra tragedy. It makes him a versatile and underlooked performer. Enter Kill Me, from XYZ Films (Mandy).

Their synopsis reads:

Jimmy wakes up after attempting suicide, that’s what it looks like. Together with Margot, the 911 operator, they set out on a mission to solve the mystery: did someone try to kill him or is the specter of depression haunting him?

XYZ’s elevated genre horror may provide the perfect medium to unleash more of Day’s potential.

Christian Friedel removes his ego for Zone of Interest. Friedel (The White Ribbon) stars in Jonathan Glazer’s upcoming Holocaust film as Nazi commander Rudolf Höss. Listening to audio of Höss from the Nuremberg trials, Friedel remarked:

“It was really interesting to hear his voice because… he described in a very precise way what he [did]. It was chilling — I never heard an apology to the victims or that he realized his crime. He said, ‘It was my job, and I want to be the best at my job.’”

In an interview, Friedel discusses how Glazer edited out his more emotional scenes, which allowed the mundanity of his performance to become the focal point. Friedel accepted that his life goal to prove himself as a captivating actor was not essential for this film.

It’s gratifying to hear his humility.

Zone of Interest releases Dec 15 (US) and Feb 2 (UK).


FESTIVALS

BAFTA Breakthrough Talents names 42 filmmakers from the US, UK, and India. The program aims to spotlight up-and-coming talent in the industry. Here are a few of the notable names:

BAFTA’s interviews with the winners are linked above. The full list of Talents can be found here.

Angeline Rodriguez, a WME Lit agent in the book department, will appear on the panel for Literary Agents: How to Succeed and What to Expect. The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) hosts the online event. Attendees will gain insights into securing literary representation and the agent’s role in publishing, including manuscript development and querying strategies. The interactive event includes a Q&A session and is open to all literary artists, with a ‘Pay What You Wish’ cost.

Rodriguez is seeking to collaborate with authors adept at crafting vivid, real, and surreal worlds and is especially enthusiastic about amplifying underrepresented voices.

The event will be held today from 6:00-7:30 pm ET. Event details. Event registration.

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a non-profit organization, is offering $5 legal advice for NY freelancers. This 1hr online course addresses the rise of freelancing in the arts, focusing on the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, pay transparency laws, Copyright basics, and contractual considerations. It aims to educate New York City’s artists about their rights as freelancers.

The event will be held today from 1-2 pm ET. Get tickets here.


TECH SECTION

Oppenheimer is high-strung. The character, literally, and the film, which is accompanied by nearly two and a half hours of score. The composer Ludwig Göransson, who previously worked on Tenet, Black Panther and Fruitvale Station, explains:

“There’s so much in the performance of the violin within seconds, it can go from something beautiful to something completely horrifying.”

The process behind the score’s conception is explosive in this Oppenheimer| The Score BTS video.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Mahalia Belo, a BBC director, is making her feature film debut with Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Strong. Belo, best known for directing the BBC mini-series The Long Song (2018), has created a gripping survival thriller, The End We Start From.

The film is about a woman with a newborn who must find her family in a post-apocalyptic flooded London. The trailer re-defines the idea of a “water birth” and is set against stark post-apocalyptic imagery punctuated by love and fortitude.

The film was a breakout hit at the Toronto Film Festival. Releasing Jan 19 (US) Jan 24 (UK).

Jeymes Samuels, the director behind The Book of Clarence (see yesterday’s edition), is a multi-hyphenate talent. In addition to directing, he writes, composes, and produces all his films. Notably:

That film deserves its own line for its impressive stylization (trailer) of the Western genre.

Earlier in Samuels’s career, he collaborated with Jay-Z on the albums for American Gangster (2007) and The Great Gatsby (2013).

He spoke about his process:

“I compose the score as I’m writing the words, and it’s just one continuous creative process. My thing is just obeying my crazy. Everything at once. The chicken at the same time as the egg. It’s really odd thing as I’m writing, I hear film, and I see the music.”

It sounds maddening and amazing. But the results are fantastic. Here’s his song with Jay-Z and Kid Cudi for The Harder They Fall.

Michael Latt, a former Netflix staffer and Annapurna Pictures consultant, was killed by a home invader yesterday. His mother is Michelle Satter, the founder of the Sundance Institute’s screenwriter’s lab. His life was devoted to non-profit organization work, notably as the communications director for Common’s Imagine Justice. He will be missed.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Sweet Dreams are not made of these. The Dutch film, an official selection at TIFF and Netherlands official Academy Awards submission, looks to be a standard period piece until a tiger enters the mix and triggers deranged laughter, broken mirrors, and implied bestiality. The trailer seems to have a splash of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Yorgos Lanthimos style. Apparently, one scene was filmed inside the mouth of a tiger. Director interview here.

A new Swedish drama-thriller series on Netflix, A Nearly Normal Family, claims one of the top ten spots on Netflix’s worldwide charts.

It explores the world of a seemingly perfect family comprised of a lawyer, a priest, and a teenage daughter, which shatters when a shocking murder proves that they’re willing to make desperate moves to protect one another.

The series has been getting strong reviews, citing the complex narrative of familial bonds when ensnared in a legal case.

Senegalese film, a TIFF and Cannes official selection, acquired by Kino Lorber. The film Banel & Adama revolves around a young couple in a remote Senegalese village, facing challenges due to their community’s disapproval of their romance.

Wendy Lidell, senior VP of theatrical distribution and acquisitions of Kino Lorber, praised the film:

“One of the most memorable films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Banel & Adama is a dreamlike, lyrical story of doomed young love, anchored by Khady Mane as the fierce and captivating Banel. It’s an impressively confident debut feature from writer/director Ramata-Toulaye Sy, whose meticulously composed shots and vibrant colors capture both the beauty of Senegal and the young lovers at the center of her story.”

The trailer showcases this captivating vibrancy. The theatrical and digital release is planned for 2024.


READER SPOTLIGHT

Amer Nazir is an actor and writer who has appeared in:

He’s played in scenes opposite Jenna Coleman and Robert Carlyle (Begbie in Trainspotting).

Recently, he wrote Clubland, a film based on his life experiences. Here’s the synopsis:

In 1988, an elite soldier is used as bait to infiltrate London’s drug gangs to expose police corruption, but when tragedy strikes, he wages a vengeful war for justice.

The script has won a range of awards and is currently seeking a director. Check out the film’s website here.

If you’d like to be featured in our “readers spotlight,” click here for more information.


ON THIS DAY

1982. Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Ben Kingsley, premiered in New Delhi (Best Picture 1983).


See you Friday!


Written by: Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

 

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