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Posts tagged ‘Focus Features’

Dame Judi Dench to Play Queen Victoria ~ AGAIN!

Judi Dench as Elizaberth 1This is very exciting news! Academy Award Winner Dame Judi Dench is set to play Britain’s Queen Victoria in a new film produced by Focus Features, directed by Oscar Nominee Stephen Frears. It’s called “Victoria and Abdul.”This is the news from Kristin Carag, the publicist of the film, who just sent me this exciting press release. I thought I’d print all of it for you.

Judi won an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth 1(pictured above) in “Shakespeare in Love.” And the last time she played Queen Victoria in “Mrs. Brown”, she got Oscar nominated, but didn’t win. I think in all she’s received something like six nominations as detailed below.

Like Audra McDonald with the Tonys, and Meryl Streep with the Oscars, every time she does something of this magnitude, she gets a nomniation. Sasha Stone has a saying “Never underestimate Judi Dench.”Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown 1






LONDON, June 17th, 2016 – Academy Award winner Judi Dench will star as Queen Victoria and Academy Award nominee Stephen Frears (The Queen) will direct Working Title Films’ Victoria and Abdul, to which Focus Features will hold worldwide rights as part of the company’s renewed global initiative. The movie is slated to go into production this year for a 2017 release. Focus will release the movie domestically and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film around the world. Victoria and Abdul is being co-financed by Focus in association with BBC Films.


The screenplay of Victoria and Abdul is by Lee Hall, an Academy Award nominee and Tony Award winner for Working Title’s Billy Elliot; and is based on Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.


Victoria and Abdul was developed by Beeban Kidron and Lee Hall at Cross Street Films with BBC Films, and is being produced by Ms. Kidron, Academy Award nominee Tracey Seaward (The Queen), and Working Title’s co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Mr. Bevan and Mr. Fellner have produced several Working Title movies for Focus release, including the Best Picture Oscar nominees Atonement and The Theory of Everything.


The film tells the extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim, a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.


Ms. Dench will be playing Queen Victoria for a second time in Victoria and Abdul, having been Oscar-nominated for her previous portrayal in Mrs. Brown. She won her Academy Award for portraying Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love; and later received Best Actress Oscar nominations for her performances in Mr. Frears’ Philomena, also a Best Picture Oscar nominee, and Mrs. Henderson Presents.


Victoria and Abdul reunites Working Title with Ms. Kidron, Mr. Frears, and Mr. Hall. Working Title has made five previous projects with Mr. Frears; and has made multiple films with Ms. Kidron and Mr. Hall, including Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and the global hit Billy Elliot, respectively.


Christine Langan, head of BBC Films and executive producer of Victoria and Abdul, said, “BBC Films is delighted to have supported Lee Hall’s terrific script and extremely excited to be back in business with the winning combination that is Stephen Frears and Judi Dench.”


Focus chairman Peter Kujawski commented, “It is a true privilege to collaborate with the great Stephen Frears and the legendary Judi Dench to tell this story of discovery, and it is always an event when Tim and Eric make a film that promises to move and delight audiences around the world.”


Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have been co-chairs of Working Title Films, one of the world’s leading film production companies, since 1992. Working Title has made more than 100 films that have grossed over $6 billion worldwide. Its films have won 12 Academy Awards (for Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables and The Danish Girl; James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything; Tim Robbins’ Dead Man Walking; Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo; Shekhar Kapur’sElizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age; and Joe Wright’s Atonement and Anna Karenina), 39 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, and prizes at the Cannes and Berlin International Film Festivals.


Mr. Bevan and Mr. Fellner have been honored with the Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, the PGA’s highest honor for motion picture producers. They have been accorded two of the highest film awards given to British filmmakers: the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award at the BAFTA Awards, and the Alexander Walker Film Award at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.  They have also both been honored with CBEs (Commanders of the Order of the British Empire).


The company’s commercial and critical hits include The Interpreter, About a Boy, Notting Hill, Elizabeth, Fargo,Dead Man Walking, Bean, High Fidelity, Johnny English, Billy Elliot, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Love Actually, Shaun of the Dead, Pride & Prejudice, Nanny McPhee, United 93, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Hot Fuzz, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Burn After Reading,Frost/Nixon, Atonement, Senna, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Anna Karenina, Les Misérables, I Give It A Year, About Time, Rush, The Two Faces of January, Trash, The Theory of Everything, Legend, Everest, The Programme, The Danish Girl, Grimsby, and Hail, Caesar!


Working Title’s upcoming slate includes Bridget Jones’s Baby, directed by Sharon Maguire and starring Renée Zellwegger, Colin Firth, and Patrick Dempsey; The Snowman, directed by Tomas Alfredson and starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, and Val Kilmer; and Baby Driver, directed by Edgar Wright and starring Lily James, Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx.


Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com) acquires and produces specialty films for the global market, and holds a library of iconic movies from fearless filmmakers. In addition to Victoria and Abdul, upcoming domestic releases from Focus include Kubo and the Two Strings, the new family event movie from animation studio LAIKA, directed by Travis Knight with a voice cast that includes Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, and Matthew McConaughey; Colin Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry, starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, and Jacob Tremblay; Tom Ford’s drama Nocturnal Animals, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal; the real-life story of heroism The Zookeeper’s Wife, directed by Niki Caro and starring Jessica Chastain; the action spy thriller The

Coldest City, directed by David Leitch and starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy; J.A. Bayona’s visually spectacular drama A Monster Calls, starring Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall, and Liam Neeson; and Jeff Nichols’ Loving, based on the love story of Richard and Mildred Loving, portrayed by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, which world-premiered at the 2016 Cannes International Film Festival.


Focus Features and Universal Pictures International are part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

#        Judi Dench                                                                    #      Dame Judi Dench #Shakespeare in Love, #Oscar, #Queen Victoria, #Victoria and Abdul, #Focus Features                                                                #



Contacts:             Adriene Bowles/FOCUS FEATURES                          Cathy Dunkley

adriene.bowles@focusfeatures.com                                      cathy.dunkley@freuds.com









Kirstin Carag

Director of Digital PR

Focus Features

1540 Second Street, Suite 200

Santa Monica, CA 90401





Oscar Campaign for Christopher Plummer Begins With “Beginners”!

Is too soon to talk about Oscar races? Not if you ask Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone over at Awardsdaily, OR if you ask anyone at Focus. Focus Features has gotten VERY savvy about how to turn indie Oscar seekers’ hopes into Academy reality, esp.with Gay-themed features. Like last year’s unlikely Best Picture Nominee~ “The Kids Are All Right.” And now timed just right, for Gay Pride month a beautiful, sweet film “Beginners” just may WIN Christopher Plummer his first Oscar! At age 80-something!

Hale, hearty and handsome, and happy to be being interviewed by the likes of gay ole me, Plummer admitted to me this morning at the Waldorf Astoria that I was much gayer than the character he plays in “Beginners”!

Mike Mills, who directed “Thumbsuckers” another Indie with our mutual love goddess Tilda Swinton as one of its’ many stars, (It also included Keanu Reeves and Benjamin Bratt), has done a lovely job of creating a sweet memory piece about his father. This is a true story. Plummer plays Dad. And Ewan MacGregor plays his startled, but VERY understanding and patient grown son, Mill’s stand-in. Melanie Laurent, the beauteous French actress, who burnt down the house with her incendiary performance in Quentin Tarentino’s “Inglourious Basterds” a couple of seasons back, is MacGregor’s love interest.

And Melanie told me in her beautiful French accent(she had a translator present just in case) that “If we save one life from this film, that shows that homosexuality can be accepted as part of life, then we’ll have done something good.”

And this film is so touchingly, achingly beautiful, and meaningful, I think “Beginners” will go on to do just that. And hopefully win Christopher Plummer his first Oscar for his role of the 75-year-old Out and Proud Gay Dad. He also gets to die in this film of Stage Four Cancer. Oscar likes death scenes, too.

And since Focus is so wisely putting him in Supporting this year, a category he COULD prevail in, well, I just think he will.

Christopher Plummer is a great stage and screen actor whose career spans over 50 years. “The Sound of Music” another Oscar winner for Best Picture, back in the day, was his first wide-screen success back in the ’60s.

He was nominated the year before last for his ferocious Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station.” Helen Mirren was, too. As his over-the-top wife. And I asked him if he thought she was Too OTT as the flamboyant Russian countess and he said, “No. I thought she was restrained. She could have done so much more.”

Which if you have seen “The Last Station” is a very funny comment indeed.

And “Beginners” also resonates because it’s the first film to really deal with gays in their ’70s. Judging by Christopher Plummer’s vibrant Mel, we can all look forward to a rollicking good time!

Oscar at Alfred Dunhill. The IFP Nominees Party.

So everyone, of course, was wearing black. It’s New York. It’s getting colder. It’s always black, black, black.

 Me? I was wearing my famous purple pants and cap, and everything else was orange. I POPPED in the room, needless to say. I hate going to parties and being the most famous person there.

But WHAT was I doing at Alfred Dunhill, probably the most expensive, exclusive ( it’s British, y’know. They started out making saddles…and er, moved on up…) Men’s shop in NYC? I think it outdoes Brook Brothers. But at least at Brooks Brothers, there’s some traces of color, some variations, in style, in selection. But no. These were all slate-grey to black SUITS. And you know what the word “suits” mean in Hollywood. The irony was getting a little heavy in here. And where were the Dunhill swag bags? Oh, there weren’t any…

Black, that’s what all the men were wearing, and all the women, too. Well, SOME women wore black skirts. Being all Orange myself, I felt like a Mexican at a Presbyterian funeral.

And the deepest irony is that this was the party for the Gotham Awards Nominees. The Gotham Awards being the East Coast equivalent of the West Coast’s Independent Spirit Awards. Since when did the Gothams get so chic?

The Gothams in a couple of weeks are the first awards ceremony of the New York season. A minor distinction because there’s virtually no ceremonies here. It’s all on the Left Coast, so being a New York Oscar blogger, well, it ain’t easy.

But oh! Suddenly, there was Scott Feinberg!

Who actually IS an Oscar blogger himself. www.scottfeinberg.com

He was started out at Awardsdaily as I did, and still proudly am, but Scott has his own Oscar site. I have merely this humble WordPress blog. And Scott flies back and forth from Coast to Coast. I, however,due to fate and circumstance, just stay here.

But Scott who looked like he should be or MIGHT be wearing Alfred Dunhill at any moment did have a few things to say. He was standing with a bright young lady from 42W who surprised with an invitation only on the day OF. I was supposed to be attending Anthony Del Col’s and Conor McCreery’s big graphic novel, of “Kill Shakespeare” launch party in the Village and they were EXACTLY at the same time. But when Oscar calls…you’ve got to go.

And what about Feinberg”s favorite topic of late? The Annette Bening/Julianne Moore duo of competing(for the Oscar)Lesbian Moms in “The Kids Are All Right?” He agreed with the Focus Features’ exec who was there(I was recognizing press and press agents, but NOOO actors, and no nominees) who said ONCE AGAIN, and with feeling, that both women are being “run” in the Oscar Derby, equally, and that all the stories and rumors about both of them, are nothing but “Stirring the Pot”. “It’s because it’s two women, and they are both playing Lesbians and they have to have something to write about. None of it is true. They are both equal.”

But the ever dapper Scott did admit that he thought Natalie Portman was the leading contender in the Best Actress category, and I concurred.

“Did you see it?” he said, And I said, yes, and that I agreed with him, and that I loved her in it.

“AND SHE DANCES?!?” I exclaimed,” Degree of difficulty!” The Academy counts things like that.

And then we both remarked that in the Hollywood Reporter’s recent  Best Actress Issue Roundtable video, Natalie Portman said NOTHING. And the others were all looking at her, like…well, through tense smiles I would say. Or gritted teeth. Judge for yourself at www.hollywoodreporter.com

The others were Amy Adams and Hilary Swank, both of whom very well may not be nominated, so what were they doing there? Annette Bening(but NOT Julianne Moore), Nicole Kidman and Helena Bonham Carter(who would be in Supporting, for both “The King’s Speech” and “Alice in Wonderland.”)

“Natalie Portman said NOTHING!” Scott exclaimed.

“She just sat there and grinned,” I said.

And I was thinking “Who does that grin remind me of? Oh! The Cheshire Cat! It’s a grin that says ‘I know I’m going to win.”

 And I agreed with Scott again. She didn’t need to say anything. She was the least needy of the group.

And we both again agreed on Colin Firth for “Best Actor” for “King’s Speech.”

“Yeah, he’s got it,” we both said simultaneously, almost.

And the irony of this Party for the Nominees was that there were virtually no nominees.

Except for Oliver Platt, who was wearing a full face of make-up. He was announcing the nominees for their new Genius Award, which is like a people’s choice award in that emails were taken from the public to determine the nominees.Platt was nominated as part of the Ensemble of”Please Give,” a film that went by in a blip.

I didn’t hear who was nominated as Geniuses, but I’m sure they’ll send me a press release list later, and I’ll add them in. I couldn’t hear because I was too busy going on an Oscar egg hunt with Scott Feinberg.

So besides Scott and Bryan Brown of  www.Indiewire.com and Oliver Platt, I didn’t recognize anybody. And nobody could point any of the nominees out to me. Not even the programmers of the Awards! “Producers,” I was told, “It’s mostly producers who are here.” But nobody knew who they were. OR what films they were with…VERY frustrating.

I do know that the irony of the evening was those rooms full of expensive suits. The kind of suits that Indpendent Filmmakers could NEVER in their wildest dreams afford. I certainly couldn’t. Maybe Scott Feinberg can.

But the humanity of it all was summed up to me by the dashing Dunhill Executive of All Media, Jason Beckley, who was British,and who I thought was a Nominee, an Independent Film Star, or at the very least a director, but no, he has Dunhill’s Marketing Director and just flew in from London for this event.

Marketing Director Beckley said, in all sincerity, that “Alfred Dunhill wants to be associated more and more with culture. With the Arts. With Cinema. That’s why we’re sponsoring this party here.”

And he meant it. And if that’s the case, it’s a good thing. And I’m glad I went.

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