While talking to filmmaker Kevin MacDonald, whose fascinating You Tube documentary "Life in a Day" opens this weekend (more on that soon), the director – who hopscotches between genres and formats – filled us in on his eclectic upcoming slate. First on the agenda is his Bob Marley documentary, simply called "Marley."
"I've got the Bob Marley film, which I should be finishing up the edit of today," he told us. "And then the plan is to take it to Toronto." While not officially announced (yet) as part of TIFF, who unveiled their first wave of films this morning, attendees in Toronto can add another big ticket title to their plans.
When asked about taking over the film from Jonathan Demme, who had spearheaded the project not too long ago, MacDonald said, "Yes, it's a project with a long history. My involvement with 'Marley' goes back to around the time I was making 'Last King of Scotland.' I was talking to Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, about making a documentary that was tangentially about Marley about taking a bunch of rastas on a plane from Jamaica to Ethiopia to the concert being on to celebrate what would have been Bob's 60th birthday. And for various reasons that fell apart, but I stayed in touch with the Marley world."
Still, he says, the idea nagged at him: "When I went to Uganda for 'Last King of Scotland' I was amazed at how Marley was present there and I've subsequently seen it in other parts of the developing world – Marley as this kind of saint, a philosophical and religious figure. I then became more interested in him and why he has that kind of reach and then, out of the blue, last year, I got phoned up by Steve Bing, a producer on the film, who said, 'Are you interested in doing this film?' And I said, 'I thought that someone else was doing this film!' He said that Jonathan hadn't finished the film and they had creative differences on the direction it should take."
But MacDonald didn't just finish Demme's work. He explained, "I came on, started over from scratch, and I've made my film, which has been a great experience." It looks like we'll get our first taste in Toronto and with Marley touching upon music, politics and culture in a way that very few artists ever do, it should be a fascinating portrait of a man whose influence clearly resonates.
MacDonald went on to fill us in on some of his other projects, one of which includes a recently announced adaptation of Meg Rostoff's coming-of-age/war movie "How I Live Now." The intriguing story follows a 15-year-old girl from New York who is sent to England one summer to stay with cousins she has never met. There's a bit more to it -- and as you'll see MacDonald wants some of the story elements under wraps -- but if everything goes according to plan, the director will get to it next.
"It's a film which I will hopefully make next year in Britain. It's a – how best to describe it – a teen love story set against World War III breaking out. It's pretty out there. You think at the beginning it's a very conventional film because it's a teenage girl from New York, whose mother is dead and whose father has remarried and she's got a step mother who she doesn't get along with, and she's sent to live with her cousin in this idyllic countryside," MacDonald explained. "And you think that this is something you've seen before… and then something strange happens, which I shouldn't really talk about. It's based on a very beautiful book."
But as usual with any busy director, some projects have fallen by the wayside, including "The End Of The Eternity" -- which he was first attached to a couple of years ago -- based on a sci-fi tale by the legendary Isaac Asimov. "It's something I would like to do but unfortunately it's no longer on the table," he said. Ditto for the "The Amazing Spider-Man" scribe James Vanderbilt's script "Murder Mystery," which follows an American couple on honeymoon in Europe, who have to go on the run after witnessing a murder, and are drawn into a web of international intrigue. It cropped up last spring with MacDonald's name on it, but he has since moved on from that as well.
Finally, if you remember way back to 2008, MacDonald was eyeing "Bobby Fischer Goes to War," a dramatization of the epic 1972 World Chess Championship wherein American chess whiz Bobby Fischer played reigning Soviet champ Boris Spassky for Cold War dominance. This one is actually still in the works, if not in the immediate future as he's still trying to crack the story. "It's still on the back burner. It's very difficult to get the script right. I think there's like half of a great story there. The problem is telling the story of what happened in Reykjavik, because it doesn't follow the typical sports movie arc. But one day, maybe."