Fernando Meirelles might not have yet topped his incredible debut, "City of God," but even in his less satisfying work, like his 2008 picture "Blindness," there are enough brilliant directorial choices to make it more than worth watching. Since he broke through internationally, he’s taken on a diverse array of projects that have been offered to him, but when we spoke to the director yesterday ahead of his latest film, “360,” opening the BFI London Film Festival, he confirmed that for the first time since his favela epic, he’s developing something from scratch, and intends to shoot next year.
Before "360" came along, the Brazilian helmer was set to shoot a biopic of singer Janis Joplin, starring Oscar-nominee Amy Adams, but the financing fell apart, leading to him taking Peter Morgan's globe-spanning drama instead. The director says that the Joplin film actually cropped up again recently, telling us, "The producers called me, actually, a month ago, but I'm involved in this other project, at Pathe, next year."
As reports a few months back suggested, that project is "Onassis," a portrayal of the contentious relationship between Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who married JFK's widow Jackie Kennedy, and the late president's brother Bobby Kennedy. "It's based on a book called 'Nemesis,' a British book, by Peter Evans," Meirelles confirmed. "We'll probably be shooting next autumn. Onassis is the lead character, it's about this complex man...maybe it's about hate?"
And for those who've been less than delighted with the director's recent output, the good news is that this is a project that the director's built from the ground up. "This is a different film for the last three films I made, they were projects that came to me, but this I'm developing, working with the writer, which gives me a lot of pleasure, to create the film from scratch. The last time I did that was with 'City of God,' it's the same writer (Bráulio Mantovani), the same process." With the film still a year from shooting, they haven't got as far as casting, with Meirelles saying, "[We've got some] names, but we haven't spoken to anybody."
Like everything he's done so far, "Onassis" is set up away from the major studio system, but the director says he gets offers for big tentpole movies "every week." So far he's not shown much interest, but he did spill the beans on the one time he came close. "I came very close to [making] 'Collateral.' I said yes, and I went to Los Angeles, and started talking, and after two weeks, I realized that I would have to stay there for eight months, to move to LA, and I said no, I need to go back home. This was the closest I came." Considering the excellent job Michael Mann did, and that Meirelles got to do the very good "The Constant Gardener" instead, we won't mourn it too much.
As for the Joplin film, it sounds like it's moving forward, but without the director, who says the moment has passed. "I was working on the script for seven months...And after eight or nine months, reading everything, watching, I'm done with Janis Joplin. You put all your energy in...But somebody will make it, I'm sure."
"360" will open next year, and it sounds like we'll be seeing "Onassis" in the fall of 2013. We'll have more from our talk with Meirelles soon.