By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 21, 2011 at 2:23AM
After a superb debut a decade ago with "Billy Elliot," it looked like theatre director Stephen Daldry could become a real force in the cinema world. But while his films have undoubtedly become regular awards bait, the quality seems to slip with each picture: "The Hours" has a rich ensemble, but they're overshadowed by Nicole Kidman and her prosthetic nose, and the film as a whole is a little turgid, while "The Reader" is one of the worst Best Picture nominees in recent memory. Nevertheless, he's always been able to attract impressive casts, and the two new additions to his latest film are no exception.
"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" already seems like a lock for a brace of nominations at the 2012 Oscars, following the Daldry formula to a tee: an adaptation by an A-list screenwriter (in this case, "Forrest Gump" writer Eric Roth), of a literary bestseller -- the sophomore novel from "Everything Is lluminated" writer Jonathan Safran Foer -- with a cast mixing big names and veteran character actors. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are toplining the project, with child actor Thomas Horn and the great John Goodman joining them in recent weeks.
Now, Baz Bamigboye reports that two of the more reliable supporting names around have joined the project: Viola Davis, who picked up a long-overdue Oscar nomination a few years back for "Doubt," and Jeffrey Wright, veteran of "Angels in America," "Syriana" and "Casino Royale." Both are also featuring in pictures that should be awards contenders around the same time next year along with 'Extremely Loud': Davis is starring in another literary adaptation, opposite Emma Stone in "The Help," while Wright is among the cast of George Clooney's "Ides of March," although he'll be seen before then in Duncan Jones' "Source Code."
The plot focuses on Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old boy from Manhattan whose father died on 9/11. Two years later, the boy discovers a key belonging to his father, which sends him on a search through the city. Horn will play Oskar, with Bullock and Hanks as his parents, and Goodman as a doorman who aids Schell on his quest. There's no news of which roles Davis and Wright will take -- perhaps readers more familiar with the source material have an idea?
We're big fans of the two new additions, and we're certainly intrigued to see the finished product, even if the book's reputation isn't as glowing as Safran Foer's first novel (which received an underrated adaptation from Liev Schreiber). Let's not forget, the last time Daldry worked on a film with a child in the lead was "Billy Elliot," so this probably shouldn't be underestimated. Filming gets underway any day now, with a fall release planned.