FX Movie News: 11-8-06

Today’s Headlines: Weinstein Cheats “Death” With Houdini; Frank Darabont To Direct The Mist; Corman Launches Space 3001; VFX in India: Rapidly Maturin; ILM’s Roger Guyett: The Perfect Job?; Pixar Sets Release Date For Stanton’s Next Film; Burt Reynolds Regrets Losing ‘Star Wars’ Role; Blame Bush For Mad Max IV Delay; Pixar Visit Heavenly For Creative Teen; Fantasy Artist Brian Froud Signs New Book Goblins of the Labyrinth; Ark Hits Flood Of Troubles

Weinstein Cheats “Death” With Houdini

(Variety) The Weinstein Co. has landed U.S. and multiple territory distribution rights to Gillian Armstrong’s fictionalized Harry Houdini biopic “Death Defying Acts” reports the trades.

The studio shelled out around $5.5 million at the American Film Market for “Death Defying,” which was produced for less than $20 million. The film recently wrapped principal photography.

“Death Defying” chronicles the tumultuous love affair between the famed magician (Guy Pearce) and a psychic (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who tries to con him by holding a seance to contact his dead mother. Tony Grisoni and Brian Ward wrote the screenplay.

Weinstein Co. is expected to premiere the film at Cannes next year, followed by a Fall theatrical release either by themselves or through MGM.

Frank Darabont To Direct The Mist

(darkhorizons.com) Writer/director Darabont confirms that long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Mist” will have a similar “fast and furious” paced narrative, and Dimension is letting him make the film as dark as he wants. The story involves a mysterious fog enshrouding a small town, a mist filled with frightening Lovecraftian style monsters.

Most of the action takes place in a supermarket where people have taken refuge and soon the ‘mini-society’ that forms begins to crumble due to fear and panic.

Darabont says “I’ve always thought of it as Stephen King’s Lord of the Flies, because it’s less about the monsters – which are important, certainly. If you’re going to do a horror movie you might as well have some really cool monsters – but it’s more about the disintegration of civilization in that supermarket, how everything breaks down for those people in there. From that standpoint it’s a fascinating story to tell”.

Plan is to begin filming ‘Mist’ in February which could have the film ready by as early as late 2007. Casting began this week.

As for his adaptation of Ray Bradbury classic “Farenheit 451” he says “I’m going to be doing a lot of long range prep work on that while I’m making The Mist. That’s hopefully going to go next right after Mist is done”.

Corman Launches Space 3001

(scifi.com) Producers Roger Corman and John Davison will make Space 3001, a $20 million SF action picture, with Irish government subsidies, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The deal, announced at the American Film Market, will see Corman and Davison finance the production through their respective companies, New Horizons and Cowboy Outfit Llc., in conjunction with the Dublin-based Merlin Film Fund headed by Kieran Corrigan.

Davison got his start in the industry at Corman’s previous company, New World Pictures, where he produced Grand Theft Auto.

With a screenplay by Sam Straider, Space 3001 will start production in the spring at Corman’s Irish studio Concorde Anois.

VFX in India: Rapidly Maturing

(vfxworld.com) The vfx/CG industry in India is driven by fully 3D-animated entertainment productions, mainly outsourced from U.S. or European companies. But there is a growing trend toward the creation of vfx, with an initial focus on domestic, live-action feature films.

Bollywood movies traditionally have been low budget and not reliant on vfx. Film producers are starting to consider integrating vfx in certain cases, however, although their use is often limited to a few scenes. The sophistication is growing as well, with some films featuring CG work such as set extensions or missile explosions, according to Tarun Agarwal, joint managing director of Mumbai-based Rajtaru Studios. Rajtaru is a high-end production facility offering vfx, CG animation, HD post-production, digital interface and other services.

Digital intermediate also has been well received, according to Agarwal. �Most films in India now go through the DI process and once the film is scanned, it�s easier to add vfx. Directors are then willing to go the extra step to enhance their sequence, if it�s something simple like adding clouds to increase the impact or beauty of a shot.�

Agarwal adds, �The biggest challenge for the Indian vfx industry, in my opinion, is to have the vfx well-defined at the scripting stage, where the shots form a part of the story and are not just a value-add because a facility is available.�

Some films have started to increase their vfx budgets and have brought the vfx producers and supervisors in early, even opting for 3D previs. One recent vfx-heavy movie that was produced and released in India was Krrish. Indian vfx studio Prasad EFX did 1,400 shots (almost 90 minutes) for the movie, according to Mohan Krishnan, head of corporate communications at the Prasad Group.

More: http://www.vfxworld.com/index.php?atype=articles&id=3062

ILM’s Roger Guyett: The Perfect Job?

(news.com.au) ROGER Guyett would like to thank actor Tom Cruise and movie director J.J. Abrams for a day job that allows him to obliterate a landmark American bridge, use a windmill blade to slice up a flying helicopter and, er… rebuild the city of Shanghai.

These amazing feats were all in a day’s work, thanks to the talented team visual effects supervisor Guyett worked with to make the blockbuster movie Mission: Impossible III.
“A lot of people all headed in the right direction to achieve M:i:III,” the award-winning Brit tells Connect.

“The M:i:III experience involved a talented group of people. And J.J. Abrams? He’s incredible. He’s smart and does everything to perfection, and he surrounds himself with people he enjoys working with.

“J.J. is a huge fan of the cinema and its process,” Guyett adds. “He’s also a fan’s director. The movie clearly shows this but so does the DVD version. There was so much M:i:III material to go into the DVD I had the DVD guys following me everywhere so fans could get an insight of the making of the movie on DVD.”

Guyett is one of the leading lights at Industrial Light and Magic � the special effects company started in 1975 by George Lucas when making Star Wars.

His CV includes Twister, Saving Private Ryan, two Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and many more movies that are now much-watched household titles.

So does he have the perfect job, working with amazing people, travelling to exotic destinations and making films millions of people appreciate?

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with amazing personalities,” Guyett says. “It’s been invigorating and daunting to meet the challenges of their expectations. But the cast and crew of M:i:III are special.”

They had to be. Many scenes in M:i:III called for a heroic effort from everyone.

Tom Cruise, who also co-produced the film, even rolled up his sleeves in a few scenes where he is required to perform the physical parts of his role as super-agent Ethan Hunt. “Tom Cruise is such a great guy to cast in that role because he’s actually willing to do half the stuff,” Guyett says.

“When Tom Cruise jumps off a building, he’s really jumping off that building.”

Other explosive sequences required a lot more imagination than action.

For the film’s bridge scenes, Guyett says his team built a mock-up of a 180m section of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from America’s east coast.

“We never went to Chesapeake Bay,” he says. “That bridge was sitting 5ft above a piece of isolated parkland that we found. All the damage we did was done as a digital matte painting and the bridge itself was about 600ft long. We supplied the rest, so if you thought it was a real bridge I feel really good about that.”

To block the cameras filming the fields and countryside surrounding the set, Guyett designed portable green screens activated by computer. Cars and explosions were added later in a highly complex process that required 3D matte paintings.

It’s a testament to the skill of the cast and crew of M:i:III that these kinds of action sequences blend seamlessly into the rest of the movie.

“What’s interesting (is that J.J. is also aware) that lots of people at home are watching using a higher level of home entertainment equipment than ever before,” Guyett says.

With that in mind, Guyett says Abrams packed as many special features into the M:i:III two-disc DVD set as he could.

For example, one of the trademarks of the Mission: Impossible franchise has been the lifelike masks used by the cast to disguise themselves as other characters. Abrams asked the special effects team to show the audience how they created those masks.

Guyett and his team spent up to five months on a single sequence to bring Abrams’ vision to the screen. “J.J. Abrams was saying that this is so real I’m going to show you how they make the mask,” he says. “He wanted to show people that if you had enough money or time you can find people who can build these pieces of equipment.

“He showed the idea that conceptually you could take a scan from someone’s head from a photograph and build a 3D model of it, create a mask from a block and colour it. So he wanted it in some respect to give away some of the stuff so that people could say ‘OK, it’s not just a trick’ � so we had to make it plausible.”

Working for months to create just 30 seconds of memorable movie footage is not uncommon, Guyett says, because “if you can make it believable and people go, ‘Wow, what happened there’. . . it really makes a difference to the experience of watching the movie”.

For his part, Abrams says spending significant portions of time creating DVD extras is also worth it.

“These are the kinds of behind-the-scenes featurettes I love: real, in-depth additional productions, not just glorified electronic press kits,” he says.

More: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,20717302-8362,00.html

Pixar Sets Release Date For Stanton’s Next Film

(animated-news.com) Disney and Pixar have set Wall-E, Andrew Stanton’s next film, for a release date of June 27, 2008. Not much is known about the plot of this movie, but it’s rumored to be about a robot. Stanton’s previous film as a director was Finding Nemo. He has been credited as a writer on Pixar’s Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life, and Monsters Inc. in addition to Nemo.

Wall-E will follow Brad Bird’s 2007 film, Ratatouille.

Burt Reynolds Regrets Losing ‘Star Wars’ Role

(dailyindia.com) Actor Burt Reynolds biggest regret is that he missed out on the role of Han Solo in the classic ‘Star Wars’ series.

According to contactmusic.com, Reynolds lost the part to Harrison Ford who was then an unknown actor. But the star does not completely blame himself for the miss saying his agent should also take part of the blame.

He said: ‘I think that has to be the biggest mistake of my career. I blame the agent. It was not all down to me.’

Blame Bush For Mad Max IV Delay

(scifi.com) With the election results in, moviegoers have one other thing to blame on George Bush: the delay of the proposed fourth Mad Max movie. At least that’s the opinion of Mad Max’s creator, director George Miller. Miller told SCI FI Wire that he was prepared to begin filming the next installment of the futuristic epic in the desert of Namibia when Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq.

“We were there,” the Australian director said in an interview. “We actually were about to start filming when George Bush and [British prime minister] Tony Blair decided to go into Iraq, and the American dollar began to slide against the Australian dollar, and we lost 25 percent of our budget.”

Nevertheless, Miller, who directed the first Mad Max in 1979 and two sequels, said that he’s very eager to do a fourth installment, even if it won’t have original star Mel Gibson, who has said he doesn’t want to reprise the role of the road warrior renegade in the post-apocalyptic Outback.

When Mad Max IV faltered, Miller said that he was asked by Warner Brothers to helm the animated penguin musical Happy Feet instead. “They had the script over at Warner Brothers, and when Mad Max IV was slowing down, [they] said, ‘We can’t wait too much longer. Let’s do it.’ And so I got to spend a lot of time in my home city. I was happy to do it. I could take the kids to school, … and I learned so much. It was an incredible experience to learn about the digital realm. I didn’t realize there was so much to unravel about storytelling.” Happy Feet opens Nov. 17.

Pixar Visit Heavenly For Creative Teen

(contracostatimes.com) There really are pearly gates at the entrance to heaven. But what most people don’t know is that they have five giant letters emblazoned above them: P-I-X-A-R.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to attend press day at Pixar Animation Studios, for the DVD release of “Cars,” which is today. Driving through those gates, I had to pinch myself, still not convinced that I was actually there, traversing the same ground as the creative geniuses who made classic movies such as “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles.”

More: http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/15948832.htm

Fantasy Artist Brian Froud Signs New Book Goblins of the Labyrinth

(uksfbooknews.net) Goblins of the Labyrinth is a sumptuous title released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ground breaking Labyrinth film which starred David Bowie and a world of creatures created by the genius of Brian Froud and Jim Henson. This book chronicles each of the creatures in detail, with all the artistry and originality for which Froud and Henson are known. This beautiful new hardcover edition also features new artwork and commentary from Froud.

Brian Froud was raised in Winchester, studied graphic arts and worked as a commercial designer in London before he began to explore a deeper interest in mythic themes. Best-known for the classic fantasy movie The Dark Crystal, his is also the genius behind Labyrinth and many best-selling books including The World of the Dark Crystal, Lady Cottington�s Press Fairy Book, Goblins and Faeries.

Saturday November 11 2006, 1pm to 2pm
The Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Ark Hits Flood Of Troubles

(timesonline.co.uk) A FRISKY lion, a curious buffalo and a flock of irritable penguins have helped turn the production of a modestly budgeted family film into the most nightmarishly expensive comedy in Hollywood history.

Evan Almighty, the sequel to the 2003 Jim Carrey hit Bruce Almighty, has run way over budget as film executives ignored the dictum about never working with children or even more riskily animals.

To complicate matters the filming of the light-hearted story, about a politician ordered by God to rebuild Noah’s Ark, was delayed by torrential rains.

The budget, originally set at �80m, is expected to rise to more than �135m before the film opens next June, exceeding the cost of past record- breakers such as Titanic and Waterworld.

Part of the blame lies with the animals. While many of the beasts are still being shaped on computers by Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company behind Star Wars, 500 real animals were marched two by two onto a 65ft-high, 450ft-long wooden ark constructed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but the animals did not always get along.

Mark Forbes, the chief animal handler, said they were dealing with up to 40 species at a time, ranging from lions to camels and bears. �I have never seen so many different exotic animals used in a film,� said the veteran of Dr Dolittle and 101 Dalmatians.

Early in the shooting a male lion took a fancy to a lioness, resulting in scenes familiar from nature programmes. A flock of penguins was required in order to find two who would not snap at each other, their trainers or any other animals that came within beak range. �They are not as cute or cuddly as they look: they can be mean critters,� said a Virginian extra.

Another Virginian said that during a shot where animals were supposed to parade down a street past stalled traffic, one buffalo took a liking to his steering wheel. �It kept sticking its head inside my car, and a buffalo has a very big head, and very bad breath,� he told a local reporter.

Predators such as lions had to be filmed on different days from the giraffes, who are prone to skittishness when exposed to the lingering scent of a big cat. One monkey threw food at actors with deadly accuracy, and the star, Steve Carell, was covered with bird droppings, which was not in the script.

Gary Barber, one of Evan Almighty�s producers, said: �Is it costing more than we wanted? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely. This could be bigger than the original.�

Filming has ended in Virginia but Tom Shadyac, the director, bought a thank-you memento for the locals: an arboretum, with all the trees planted, like the animals, two by two.

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