Just when we think Harvey Weinstein’s lost his self-promotional chutzpah, he comes roaring back with a pair of press releases dutifully printed by Variety and The New York Times in one twenty-four-hour news period. Impressive.
I’ve no real problem with The New York Times story, if only because it’s dubious reportage deployed in the service of a filmmaker I admire (Todd Haynes). Harvey’s decision to open I’m Not There at New York City’s dinky-but-charming Film Forum would be curious if this was going to be an exclusive run, but the film will also be playing uptown at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and in Los Angeles at the Arclight and the new Westside Pavillion. So the whole Film Forum opening is a publicity stunt that allows Harvey the opportunity to prepare audiences for a "difficult" movie. (Harvey’s also carefully selected the art house-skewing IGN to debut the theatrical trailer.)
As he tells his loyal stenographer John Anderson, "I don’t think you can go out on 500 screens. The reason for Film Forum is you go where the best word of mouth is on the movie. I like the movie; I think it’s adventurous. The audience is going to have to work – work in a good way." Weinstein then compares this gamble to opening Good Will Hunting limited. I remember seeing that film opening weekend in New York City at the very exclusive Loews Lincoln Square megaplex.
If anyone thought Haynes was making an accessible movie with I’m Not There, they should start revising their expectations big time. But Haynes fans need not worry; the film is a part of this fall’s New York Film Festival lineup, and Weinstein has never bullied his company’s less-than-brilliant pictures into that fiercely selective shindig. Never. Not once.
The Variety story is a more traditional non-story in that the trade publication will gladly report ‘in talks" attachments if the names and/or films are big enough (never forget: Leo DiCaprio in Godfather IV). I’m not sure Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard toplining Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Maury Yeston’s Tony Award-winning musical Nine is earth-shattering stuff, but it at least affords Michael Fleming the opportunity to break news of his own for once (rather than run weeks-old casting info as if the rest of the entertainment news world doesn’t exist).
Most importantly, Harvey finally gets some tangible buzz for a critically adored, but little-known-outside-of-NYC musical (I’m so glad the Ewan McGregor flirtation led to nothing). Still, there is a story here: now that we know Marshall didn’t need a big, non-ethnic name for the male lead, why Bardem instead of Antonio Banderas, who played the role to great acclaim on Broadway just four years ago? During the Shrek the Third junket last May, Banderas mentioned that a meeting with Marshall was imminent. It’s not like this is a case of a stage actor not translating well to the big screen; if Banderas killed on the boards, he’d kill in front of the camera. What gives?
Ah, but we’ll pester Harvey with our inconveniently relevant questions later; for now, let’s just glory in the man’s ability to hijack the front pages of two major dailies.