Published January 08, 2008
"Valkyrie," the movie about the failed 1944 assassination plot to kill Adolf Hitler, has already cost United Artists between $90 million and $100 million, sources tell me.
That’s why UA was so eager to cut a deal with the Writers Guild over the weekend and get back to work. Still pending on this film — which no one in their right mind actually wants to see — are a number of big reshoots as well as a huge battle scene that hasn’t been shot yet.
It makes you wonder what they spent the $90 million on so far? Tom Cruise’s eye patch?
United Artists is the first production company to make a side deal with the WGA, causing a lot of Sturm und Drang among the studios.
But reality bites, and if UA can’t get back to business quickly, it could go under. Robert Redford’s "Lions for Lambs" already lost them a nice piece of change. The "Valkyrie" price tag is running high.
Soon, its $500 million credit line from Merrill Lynch could be imperiled. As it’s been explained to me by an insider, the credit line goes in steps. "You don’t get it all at once," says my source. "It’s only as each movie succeeds."
The burgeoning price tag on "Valkyrie" could turn out to be a big headache. Most Cruise movies have not made much more than $100 at the box office, with the exception of the "Mission: Impossible" series. And that series was trending downward. "Lions for Lambs" didn’t help the situation.
The next Cruise film being discussed isn’t even for UA. Right now, the fledgling restart studio could use a "Jerry Maguire"-type project from Cruise, or a "Top Gun" action flick to jumpstart its bottom line.
Still, you never bet against Cruise’s partner Paula Wagner in Hollywood. She got the WGA waiver. The thinking in town is that she must have a great project she’s ready to initiate.
On Sunday, America will get to see what the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press look like. That should set everyone straight about how the movie awards game in this town works.
That was the buzz Monday night at the Critics' Choice Awards, which were not boycotted or picketed officially, although screenwriters stayed away from the show that aired live on VH-1.
You had to feel bad for Diablo Cody, who won the screenplay award for "Juno." But her friends told me she got a message from the Writers Guild of America to stay away from the proceedings at the Santa Monica Civic Center.
Luckily, actors came, and big stars at that: George Clooney; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; Don Cheadle; Best Actor winner Daniel Day-Lewis; Best Actress nominee Ellen Page; plus Marcia Gay Harden; Queen Latifah; Casey Affleck; Paul Dano; Marisa Tomei; and enough A-listers to make the Critics' Choice Awards important. It’s the only awards show we’ll see until the end of the month at the Screen Actors Guild awards.
There were a few surprises. Katie Holmes appeared on stage to bestow the Best Comedy award. even though she didn’t walk the red carpet and was nowhere to be seen before, during or after the show. She did look stunning, however, so that counts for something. I suppose she didn’t want to be dragged into avoiding questions about a new, scurrilous book about hubby Cruise. You can’t blame her for that.
And around the Civic Center you could feel the effect of the Writers Guild strike. Even with those star names, the place felt a bit tentative. Perhaps it was the news that the Golden Globes had been canceled. After years of bad karma, the Hollywood Foreign Press has been reduced to airing a press conference on Sunday night and announcing who wined and dined them best this past year.
But the Critics' Choice Awards — chosen by the Broadcast Critics Association — did bring out Pitt and Jolie. The duo actually worked the red carpet and gave interviews, and both stars were incredibly polite. They also sat at their table all night knowing full well that Angie was not going to win for her role in "A Mighty Heart."
Instead, they showed their loyalty to Brad’s pal Cheadle, who received the first Joel Siegel Award for doing humanitarian work in Darfur. Ironically, Brad may get the award next year for what he’s trying to achieve in New Orleans. I am happy to say that when I spoke to him about just that during a dinner break, Pitt lit up and was effusive. He is clearly devoted to the cause and to his Make It Right Foundation.
Meanwhile, the big unfolding story of this year’s crop of nominees seems to be the complete absence of Joe Wright’s "Atonement." Touted as the big Oscar movie for 2007, "Atonement" has more or less vanished along with its stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. While "No Country for Old Men," "Juno" and "There Will Be Blood" are the main players in the Oscar race, "Atonement" has sputtered.
It looks like the aforementioned three, along with "Sweeney Todd" and a fifth — and perhaps dark horse candidate — will be the five final Oscar nominees for Best Picture. That fifth candidate could be either one of Denzel Washington’s movies — "Great Debaters" or "American Gangster." There are also outside hopes for "Hairspray," "The Savages" and "Into the Wild."
The latter looked good until Critics' Choice host D.L. Hughley got some good jokes off at its expense Monday night during the VH-1 show. To paraphrase: "When black folks want to go somewhere for danger, we don’t have to go to Alaska. We can just go to Beverly Hills." There was dead silence from the Paramount Vantage tables, where Sean Penn, director of "Into the Wild," could not have been amused.
By the way, if VH-1 is smart, it will rerun the Critics' Choice Awards on Sunday night, right when the Globes were supposed to be on. No one would mind if the Critics' show took the place of the Globes from now on. It’s actually a legit enterprise! How do you know? The food is terrible.
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced on Monday that she’s pregnant.
That’s nice, except the story was broken by our pal from the UK Daily Mail Baz Bamigboye about a week ago. When he asked for an official confirmation, no one would give him one.
A few days before that, this column tried to verify with her publicist whether or not Kidman was pregnant. The answer was, the PR rep had no idea.
And so the game continues. Now the couple, through Urban’s flack, have made their statement to a celebrity weekly. Maybe the magazine sends better presents to a shower.
Kidman, for her part, is scrapping all her future films. With the strike on, it probably doesn’t matter. But when the strike is over, many movies will be affected. Kidman is an inveterate hard worker.
Still, she’s got her Oscar and lots of kudos, and some nice paychecks from commercial flops. This is a good time to take a break. As far back as 2001, after Cruise suddenly divorced her and turned her world upside-down, Kidman has been saying she wanted to have a child. So congrats to her and Keith, and to Baz, as well!