The Weinstein Company unveiled its slate for the year at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, giving a glimpse of their game plan for Oscar season, which includes an intriguing documentary-style feature about the elusive writer J.D. Salinger, a biopic on Nelson Mandela and a southern vehicle for A-list Actresses, "August: Osage County."
The presentation included a small parade of stars, including Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Michael B. Jordan and a host of other actors and directors joined by co-chairman Harvey Weinstein at the event. Weinstein joked that he would have invited George Clooney, a coproducer on "August," but he was still sore over losing the Best Picture Oscar to him this year with "Argo."
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That doesn't mean TWC will be absent at the Oscars this year (they never are).
The most unusual film of a half-dozen unveiled was certainly "Salinger," a docu-style movie about the reclusive author of "Catcher in the Rye," who stopped publishing in the wake of that cult novel in 1965 and disappeared from public view. The stylish trailer included glimpses of interviews not only with former Salinger companion Joyce Maynard, but literary luminaries from Tom Wolfe to E.L. Doctorow to playwright David Guare.
The most obvious Oscar bait – at least in the acting category – was a first look at "August: Osage County," based on the play, starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor and Juliette Lewis. It also includes Abigail Breslin and my how Little Miss Sunshine has grown!
The film delves into the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, starting with Streep, in a frowsy black wig (Weinstein told TheWrap this week that Streep went wandering through Wal-Marts late at night to prepare for the role), Roberts as her daughter returning during a family crisis and Lewis as her sister.
Looks like Streep gets in lots of zingers and embodies the tagline for the movie: “Misery loves family.”
The indie distributor will also be releasing "The Butler," about an African-American butler working in the White House during the Kennedy administration. The film features a star-studded cast including Forest Whitaker in the title role, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
But the bigger Oscar push is likely to be around "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," starring Idris Elba as the inspiring South African leader and Naomie Harris as his wife Winnie. Weinstein said it has taken 16 years to get the film made. The footage shown was somewhat meager, but insiders say the studio is putting its weight behind the film as a serious contender.
At last year's Cannes, Weinstein unveiled footage from Oscar winners "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Django Unchained," among others.
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TWC had several other movies on the launch pad, including "Fruitvale Station," playing in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section, along with Ryan Gosling's "Only God Forgives," which is in the main competition and featured a scene-chewing performance by Kristin Scott Thomas as a mafia dominatrix. Kidman will play Grace Kelly in "Grace"; "Immigrant" will star Marion Cotillard as a Polish immigrant to France in the 19th century who is turned to prostitution; "Aint Them Bodies Saints," the Sundance version of Bonnie and Clyde starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as lover-outlaws; and a number of other titles.
Weinstein, wearing a tux, said he was going back to the office after the presentation to keep selling his movies to international partners. So goes Cannes.