Natalie Portman and the Fountain of Youth

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

Natalie Portman’s pretending, Kristen Stewart’s Love, Antoine Fuqua’s Michael Jackson, and getting lost in the woods.

Let’s go!


NATALIE PORTMAN AND THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

Natalie Portman’s best performances are characters consumed with pretending.

These roles span from Closer (2004), where as Alice/Jane she spends the entirety of a four-year relationship under a false name, to Black Swan (2010), where her character is pathologically obsessed with perfecting a ballet role, to Jackie (2016), where she continues to “perform” the role of a collected first lady even as she falls apart following the death of her husband, JFK.

This skill peaks in Todd Haynes’ May December (2023).

In the film, Portman plays an actress researching a tabloid star (Julianne Moore) infamous for raping a young teenager and later marrying him. Portman mirrors not just the woman’s behavioral tics but also recreates her reality, going so far as to seduce her husband for research.

Portman explained:

“That’s something that we talked about, Todd and I. For someone who’s always performing, what if their most true is when they’re literally performing? What if the most honest they ever are and the most free they are is from the artifice? There’s freedom in the mask.”

While Portman excels at these roles, there is another side to her performances where she plays powerful warrior-type characters (Thor, Annihilation).

Her upcoming film is Fountain of Youth, directed by Guy Ritchie (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sherlock Holmes.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Two estranged siblings join forces to seek the legendary Fountain of Youth. Using historical clues, they embark on an epic quest filled with adventure. If successful, the mythical fountain could grant them immortality.

If the script forces Portman to perform youthful acts of adventure while confronting her age, it may allow her to use the material in a way that deepens this film.

Fountain of Youth is projected to shoot in the first quarter of this year.

For More:

“The eight takes that Natalie Portman gave me are an entire study in the art of film acting.” Director Todd Haynes breaks down Portman’s performance in this May December BTS video.

Portman plays Jackie Kennedy, taking on the role of widow in the Jackie trailer. The funeral veil is a mask.

Chased by her double, the Black Swan trailer is still thrilling.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Music bio-pic resurgence. Amy Winehouse. Bob Marley. Michael Jackson. Each deceased mega-star singer is the subject of a film releasing in the next 15 months.

Here are the updates on each:

Fuqua stated:

“It’s uncanny how much [Jaafar’s] like Michael … sounds like him, dances like him, sings. It’s really uncanny. Graham King, who is a fantastic producer, found him, and introduced him to me, and I was blown away.”

After the Queen’s biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) grossed $910 M worldwide at the box office, artists and their estates are now recognizing the potential of biopics to reinforce their cultural significance and unveil new avenues of revenue, especially as traditional music sales revenue diminishes.

Paramount to sell to Skydance Media? Skydance (Mission: Impossible 4, 7, Top Gun: Maverick, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts) is considering an all-cash deal to buy National Amusements (parent company of Paramount), which is run by Sherri Redstone, who is looking to sell her stake. The deal, though, would be contingent on Skydance being able to merge with Paramount, which would face major regulatory and investor hurdles.

One of the big blisters in the deal is Paramount Globals’ decline in revenue since another merger with CBS Corp and Viacom in 2019.

Top Gun 3 announced at Paramount. After the studio delivered the most visceral action film of the decade, Top Gun: Maverick (2022), it grossed $1.5B worldwide and was critically successful.

Most of the Top Gun: Maverick squad is reported to be attached:

  • Dir: Joe Kosinski
  • Writer: Ehren Kruger
  • Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer & David Ellison
  • Co-Star: Miles Teller & Glen Powell

Cruise has just signed a deal to star in Warner Bros. Discovery films earlier this week, but it’s non-exclusive. He is currently working on the eighth installment of Mission: Impossible with Paramount.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Gene Wilder’s pure imagination is the subject of a new doc. Wilder’s zest for life was captured beautifully in Mel Brooks’ films:

But Wilder’s most iconic was undoubtedly the titular role in the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), which took us into “a world of pure imagination” (clip) with his exuberant yet wistful, manic yet melancholy Wonka, who showed Charlie Bucket that kindheartedness transcends selfishness no matter your social status.

There’s nothing more powerful than the “Good day, sir!” scene where Wonka rages at Charlie, but an everlasting gobstopper changes everything.

Remembering Gene Wilder, just picked up by Kino Lorber, gets to the heart of his comedic genius, featuring never-before-seen home videos (trailer).

Kristen Stewart is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. She’s been trying to find financing for her directorial debut, The Chronology of Water, for the past five years to no avail.

Here’s the official synopsis for the novel on which the script, which she co-wrote, is based:

The story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at the same time and takes the narrator on a journey of addiction, self-destruction, and ultimately survival that finally comes in the shape of love and motherhood.

It seems highly reflective of Stewart’s own journey in the business, often the center of hyperbolized scrutiny about her sexuality. She discussed the frustrating and electric path she’s forged to reclaim her identity in this recent interview.

Stewart stars in two films at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. The first is Love Me:

Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love.

The second is Love Lies Bleeding:

Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Las Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family (trailer).

Stewart continues to take prestige festival parts like in Cronenberg’s Cannes premiering Crimes of the Future (2022) and Pablo Larrain’s Venice premiering Spencer (2021) as her big-budget films like Columbia Pictures’ Charlie’s Angels (2019) and 20th Century Fox’s Underwater (2020) have mostly tanked.

Larry David takes a bow in the trailer for the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.


FESTIVALS AND RESOURCES

The Hamptons Film Screenwriters Lab, celebrating its 24th anniversary in 2024, is a prestigious event that has become a cornerstone for nurturing emerging screenwriting talent. Notable participating screenwriters include:

Notable writing mentors include:

Set to take place from April 5-7, 2024, in East Hampton, NY, this lab provides a unique platform for budding filmmakers from across the globe.

Deadline: January 18th. Submit here.

The screenplay for Jonathan Glazer’s masterwork Zone of Interest is available. Read it here.

It offers a rare window into Glazer’s script-writing process; the right side of the screenplay is littered with indicators of where he made revisions.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Experimental filmmaker Guy Maddin casts Cate Blanchett and Alicia Vikander in his new project. Maddin’s filmmaking is akin to a silent film hallucination, at times making even David Lynch look tame.

His films are bonanzas of collage:

  • The Green Fog (2017)
  • The Forbidden Room (2015)
    • NYFF/TIFF/Berlin/Sundance official selection
    • A hallucinogenic submarine crew goes crazy
    • Trailer
  • My Winnipeg (2007)
    • Berlin Film Festival official selection
    • TIFF official selection
    • Docu-fantasia, like How to with John Wilson’s mad twin
    • Trailer

His latest film, Rumors, currently in pre-production, is set to be his most commercial.

Here’s the official synopsis:

The leaders of seven wealthy democracies get lost in the woods while drafting a statement on a global crisis, facing danger as they attempt to find their way out.

There’s something wonderfully Dr. Strangelove about the premise that must have attracted Blanchett and Vikander to the project.

Lars Knudsen (Hereditary, The Witch) will produce. Bleecker Street (Logan Lucky) will distribute.

The film is currently in pre-production.

Danny Boyle and Alex Garland team up on 28 Years Later trilogy. The pair re-instated the zombie horror genre as a staple of mainstream cinema with their film 28 Days Later (2002).

They spurred an appetite for:

It also served as the first screenwriting credit for Alex Garland (Ex-Machina, Annihilation), whose novel The Beach was adapted by Danny Boyle.

Later this week, they’re shopping the package (dir: Boyle, writer: Garland) to studios with a reported price tag of $75M/film.

We hope someone’s hungry.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Australian film Birdeater captures unabashed terror and tension. The trailer opens with a Clockwork Orange-esque night-time joy ride by hooligans wearing leather headgear and getting high on helium.

Here’s the official synopsis:

A bride-to-be is invited to her fiancé’s bachelor party, but when uncomfortable details of their relationship are exposed, the night takes a feral turn.

UK prestige genre horror distributor Blue Finch Films (Sundance’s She Dies Tomorrow, Cannes’ In Flames) has just acquired worldwide rights (minus Australia).

The film will premiere at SXSW on Mar 8 – Mar 16

The Deepest Woman in the World. Italian free diver Alessia Zecchini aims for the world record for holding her breath in The Deepest Breath (2023).

The documentary has been recognized at:

  • Sundance 2023
    • Official Selection
  • BAFTA Longlist
    • Outstanding British Film Nominee

The trailer is anxiety-inducing.

Hopefully, some of the excitement over the similarly aquatic Nyad (2023) will rub off and cause this doc to be a serious BAFTA award contender.

Last month, we discussed Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann’s love of interrogating capitalism. Hoesl’s Solider Jane (2013), which played at Sundance, features a hilarious dress shop exchange (trailer). Hoesl and Niemann’s latest project, is an Australian satire, Veni Vidi Vici, which is an official selection of Sundance World Cinema 2024:

“After many years following the money trail questioning the price of money itself, isn’t it time to pose the question to all of us: Why do we let this happen? Isn’t it in our own hands to put an end to this?”

The synopsis reads:

The Maynards and their children lead an almost perfect billionaire family life. Amon is a passionate hunter but doesn’t shoot animals, as the family’s wealth allows them to live totally free from consequences.

Effects but no causes.

The Veni Vidi Vici trailer has a touch of White Lotus’ satirical entitlement.


ON THIS DAY

1966. Batman, starring Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin, and Cesar Romero as The Joker, debuts on ABC.


That’s all for the week. See you Tuesday.


Written by: Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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