Empire was lucky enough to be invited to the Weinstein Company's slate preview event, with a number of snippets and trailers from Harvey and co.'s future projects shown to a jam-packed auditorium at the Majestic. Here below are a few notes on what we saw...
Grace Of Monaco
Nicole Kidman took some time off from her jury duties to introduce a five-minute extended trailer for Oliver Dahan’s (La Vie En Rose) Grace Kelly biopic before making her excuses and heading back to Steven Spielberg and the rest of her Cannes colleagues. As seen in the new stills that arrived online earlier this week, there’s not all that much physical similarity between Kidman and the late Princess, but Kidman’s voice is spot on, and the costume design and direction combine to make you almost forget the visual differences. Tim Roth, who plays the Prince of Monaco in this tale of Ms. Kelly’s years away from Hollywood, does a good line in temperamental politico, but the real stand-out moment was Kidman’s face-off with Derek Jacobi’s Count Fernando D'Ailieres as the latter shows the princess emotion cards – “Anger”, “Desire”, “Distain” etc – and the former spins on a dime to deliver them all.
The group of journalists and Weinstein-wannabes in attendance weren’t shown anything anyone with access to the internet and any interest in Lee Daniel’s latest couldn’t already see online, with just The Butler’s trailer – which you can watch here – on show. What’s interesting was the audience reaction, who were eventually bamboozled into dropping their jaws as the onslaught of A-list actors did its work, with Robin Williams’ Eisenhower, John Cusack’s Nixon, Alan Rickman’s Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda’s Nancy Reagan and the rest of the all-star acting pick ‘n’ mix rendering the horde of jaded journos dumbfounded. As there are so many big name small parts, you’d be forgiven in forgetting the leads, namely Forest Whittaker as the titular butler who serves in The White House for over four decades and Oprah Winfrey as his wife. For more on the film, listen to our podcast interview with David Oyelowo, who plays The Butler’s son, here.
August: Orange County
Only one other film on the Weinstein slate can match the fame wattage of The Butler, and that’s August: Orange County, John Wells’ cinematic adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play. A darkly comic tale of a mid-west family called The Westons, it sees Meryl Streep as Violet, the says-what-she-likes matriarch, Julia Roberts as her soon-to-be-divorced daughter, Barbara, Juliette Lewis as Violet’s other daughter, Karen, as they all come home to solve a family crisis and rip a few strips out of each other in the process. From the looks of the trailer shown, everyone is relishing their roles, from smaller characters like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Charles Aiken to Ewan McGregor’s Bill Fordham (Barbara’s one-time other half). It would be no great surprise if a decent chunk of the cast earn a few Oscar nods come awards season, especially considering the critical acclaim the original play received, winning the Pulitzer prize for drama back in 2008, and the fact that Letts herself wrote the screenplay.
Only God Forgives
Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to Drive is eagerly anticipated on the Croisette – expect a initial reaction review from our Damon Wise soon after its official unveiling on Wednesday 22 – with those lucky enough to see early screenings telling tales of Kristin Scott Thomas stealing the film as the malicious Bangkok mafia boss Crystal. Refn’s penchant for a spot of ultra-violence has also been discussed, but none of the red stuff was seen in the scene shown last night, with it essentially being Scott Thomas’s show throughout, Gosling’s Julian entirely mute as Crystal calls his girlfriend a “cumbucket” and berates her Baby Goose for not avenging the death of his older, “better” brother at the hands of the Bangkok police. Scott Thomas obviously relishes the role, and even from just a five-minute snippet, you might want to place a few euros on her winning Best Actress by the end of the festival.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Naomie Harris as Winnie. Idris Elba as Nelson. "This is not your dad's HBO Mandela film," said Harvey Weinstein after the trailer for Justin Chadwick’s debut, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. The teaser was cut almost like an action film, with hip-hop bass undercutting Elba’s booming Mandelese – an accent he pulls off with aplomb. Not afraid to tackle the often overlooked violent side of South Africa’s beloved former president, this controversy-baiting biopic looks set to hoover up column inches across the globe, especially considering its inspiration’s current frail health.
To paraphrase Sesame Street, one of these previews was not like the others. The Paul Potts biopic that sees James Corden playing the Britain’s Got Talent alumnus as he tries to make it in the world of opera received a muted response from the assembled attendees, though everyone loves a fat joke, and there were plenty of those in the trailer. Whether this will take Corden from Broadway darling – see One Man Two Guvnors – to Hollywood superstar remains to be seen.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
After winning the cinematography prize at Sundance, David Lowery brings his debut feature to the Croisette this year, and Mr. Weinstein was beaming proudly before introducing the clip shown. The lynchpin scene of the film, it has Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara’s outlaws holed up in an abandoned shack as cops take pop shots at them. Mara clips a policeman in the shoulder before they’re escorted out in handcuffs. Affleck goes onto take the blame for the officer's injury, resulting in four years in chokey, and it’s the ensuing search for his lover and their daughter that makes up the most of the film. From the looks of what we saw, this is very visceral and a great showcase for Affleck and Mara’s talents - expect a first reaction review later next week.