Fledgling filmmaking duo, director/writer Max Winkler and producer/writer Matt Spicer might not be household names at the moment, but if the frequency with which their names keep appearing in the film trades continues, the up-and-coming duo are going to be a familiar force to be reckoned with. The two have their debut feature film, "Ceremony" (which Winkler wrote and directed, Spicer produced) coming to theaters on April 8th starring Uma Thurman and Michael Angarano, and two big name writing projects- "The Ornate Anatomy of Living Things" and "The Adventurer's Handbook" -- sold to studios, both with serious buzz surrounding them.
To add to this healthy crop of projects, last night it was announced that they sold a pitch to Paramount Pictures titled the "First Man," which will star ultimate masochist Johnny Knoxville as a rambunctious troublemaker who, after a well-behaved reprieve during his wife's presidential campaign, wreaks havoc once again when she is elected and he is First Man. Paramount hopes to capitalize on the man who made "Jackass" such a lucrative property for them (though they may have forgotten, like most, that his last scripted effort, "The Ringer," made only $40 million.
Another they are responsible for, "Whispers in Bedlam," is a comedy involving a football player who undergoes experimental surgery and finds himself with the remarkable ability to hear everyone from far distances. This isn't set up at a studio, but is something that good friend Jason Reitman offered to them with an eye to helm. Originally described as having a tone like "Field of Dreams" or "Family Man," Winkler spoke to The Playlist about the ultimate aspirations of the project and his inspirations that helped expand Irwin Shaw's short story.
"It's that kind of John Cheever world of old Americana. It's also like a Frank Capra movie, tonally, it's a period piece in the '50s/'60s about old school football. Reitman always wanted it to be like a fairy tale that your grandfather would tell you before you go to bed at night… Which my grandpa never did for me, because he was too busy yelling at me," Winkler joked. "He offered it to us and we loved the story. I'm a really big football fan, and the language of the short story is so great. Also, the first season of "Mad Men" came out at the time and we were like, 'oh my god, the whole period… martinis, etc,' so we were excited and were just like, 'let's fucking write it!' We're very proud of it, as far as scripts to write that we were never going to make, which is not our M.O. because our goal is to always write and direct movies ourselves but we're proud of it. Not really sure what's happening with it, but obviously Jason has a lot going on and is in post with 'Young Adult,' but he's working on it."
It's true, "Young Adult" is currently in post, but most signs have pointed to "Labor Day" coming after that for Reitman. If 'Bedlam' is to come after that (and Reitman not interested in that untitled hockey referee movie he's hinted at in recent years), we may not see it surface for another few years.
Speaking of projects long way off, we asked Max about the extremely promising "The Adventurer's Handbook," which he and Spicer wrote with Jonah Hill, hoping to get some sort of update on its seemingly in-limbo status. Unfortunately, much like Mr. Hill told us last summer, it's a nasty scheduling situation.
"Hopefully we'll make it one day, scheduling is always hard, but writing that was a great experience. Hill, Segel, Schwartzman… Who knows what the end cast will be, you know? The first cast for 'Ceremony,' I was like, this is the cast and people dropped out [ed. Jessie Eisenberg originally had the lead], so you're like, rejected, thinking, 'what did I do?' But then you realize it happens all the time, you just have to keep going. We never ended up casting the fourth character, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt read it at the table reading and he was so talented. We'll find time to make it, I think it'll be a fun thing for everyone. We'll figure it out."
It's another one that seems long off, but these guys tend to roll in the same group so it wouldn't be strange if they did decide to buckle down and make it.
Speaking of Knoxville, Paramount is also retooling "Mustache Rides" so him and his friends (Bam Margera and Ryan Dunn) can hit each other and it will "make sense" in the script. Willie Nelson co-stars as a man who takes the three petty crooks to find some ancient treasure in a tale written by Robbie Pickering (SXSW "Natural Selection"), Jase Ricci ("School of Fear," "The Mallusionist"), and Paul Soter ("Super Troopers," "Beerfest"). Just a heads up, if Adam Sandler's Happy Madison gets involved in this project at all, legend has it that humor will be completely eradicated, with the human body no longer able to produce any sort of a laugh. There's no amount of nut shots that will fix that one. Buyer beware.