In recovery from awards season, I'm back to eating the occasional meal with folks like Phoenix Pictures honcho Mike Medavoy, who met me for lunch at Fraiche in Culver City. He brought along production exec David Thwaites (a one-time child actor in Britain who started as assistant with Medavoy) and French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, who was taking Medavoy's portrait. (If you missed it, treat yourself to her delightful interview on Charlie Rose, dishing on her celebrity photos.)
It was fun to sit outside in the spring sunshine and cruise a range of subjects, from Cannes--Phoenix's $14-million dueling ballet-diva drama Black Swan, which Darren Aronofsky is still editing, won't be ready in time--to the fate of the trades. (THR's new owners had ended publisher Eric Mika's tenure, while losing star TV reporter Nellie Andreeva to Deadline.)
Based in Culver City, Phoenix is quite active: Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island did fine ($247 million worldwide) by waiting until February. Medavoy exec produced The Wildest Dream, the Mount Everest documentary narrated by Liam Neeson with Ralph Fiennes reading the letters of climber George Mallory and Natasha Richardson voicing his wife Ruth. (It was Richardson's last movie gig.) National Geographic Entertainment is releasing the doc this August in 35 mm and IMAX.
Still to come is the movie set in Medavoy's birthplace, Mikael Hafstrom's Shanghai, a Casablanca-like drama starring John Cusack, Chow Yun-Fat, Ken Watanabe and Gong Li, which has been delayed by China Film's refusal to permit the film to be shown in China. (China Film also refused to let Shanghai shoot there, citing script issues.) Harvey Weinstein is reapplying and will open the film stateside as soon as it gets the China green light.
Thwaites is currently developing the script for What to Expect When You Are Expecting, using the title of the how-to bestseller (18 million copies sold) for a warm and fuzzy romantic comedy ensemble along the lines of Love Actually. Directors are already lining up, but Medavoy and Thwaites want to get the script right (Freaky Friday's Heather Hach is writing). Lionsgate won the bidding war to back the film. Another fast-track project is The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a spin-off from Bram Stoker's Dracula about a doomed passage from Transylvania to London as a vampire methodically kills everyone on the boat. Austrian Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) may direct. The continuing MGM debt drama has side-lined Phoenix's planned RoboCop remake.
Lacombe was in town shooting a series of portraits for Bono's latest AIDS Red crusade, this time focused on the 40 cents it costs per person per day for meds to fight the disease. HBO is launching Red documentary The Lazarus Effect this spring.
Thursday, I had lunch at BLD with AOL/Moviefone editor Kevin Polowy, who started as a Premiere intern, but now assigns and edits an astonishing number of stories per day for Inside Movies, for which I will be contributing a regular Career Watch column. Critics Leonard Maltin and new Oregon resident Jack Mathews are also filing frequent think-pieces.
Kevin and I gossiped about ex-Premiere editors Jim Meigs (@pmjim), now editor-in-chief at Popular Mechanics, Michael Solomon, now features director at The Daily Beast, and Kathy Heintzelman (entertainment editor at More) as well as writers Tom Roston (an Inside Movies blogger), Susannah Gora, who has written a Brad Pack book, Auteurist-cum-screenwriter Glenn Kenny, and Fred Schruers, who is penning the official Billy Joel bio for Harper Collins. I also learned that ex-AOL/Moviefone honcho Scott Robson, now VP of movie content at MTV Networks, is planning a new movie site for MTV aimed at a young demo. Details to come.