Gandolfini Gets Offer He Can't Refuse

James Gandolfini | L.A. Film Critics | Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono

Gandolfini Gets Offer He Can't Refuse

James Gandolfini is getting back into movies.

The star of The Sopranos has signed a deal to co-star with Dermot Mulroney in a buddy movie called Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The movie will film in February, right before Emmy-winner Gandolfini goes back to work as Tony Soprano for a fifth season on everyone's favorite HBO series.

The film, directed by Fiona MacKenzie, will be released by Artisan, according to my sources, although it may have at one time been parked at Hollywood/Disney.

Mulroney plays a man who's lost his moral compass. Gandolfini will help him find it. James Caan co-stars. The movie is based on a novel by Michael Ledwidge.

Recently the affable Gandolfini told me that he wasn't sure if he was going back to movies.

"Everyone I've worked with has had their career ruined by me," he joked. Well, that's not exactly true.

Gandolfini's last movie was The Last Castle with Robert Redford. Before that he did The Mexican with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, and The Man Who Wasn't There, directed by Joel Coen. All of those people seem to be doing just fine.

Transferring over from the success of The Sopranos to film hasn't been easy for either Gandolfini or his co-star Edie Falco. But the latter was cited this weekend by the Los Angeles Film Critics for her work in John Sayles' Sunshine State. And wherever I go fans are raving about her performance in last week's season finale of The Sopranos.

Both actors, as well as the rest of The Sopranos cast, seem guaranteed careers after the show finishes its run.

L.A. Film Critics: Appeasements

I'm glad to see Alexander Payne's About Schmidt got a Best Picture award from the L.A. Film Critics.

A dark, terrifying look at aging in middle America, this is not a movie that will be embraced by the Academy or even the buffet table-crazed Hollywood Foreign Press. Frankly I thought Adaptation would have been the LAFC's choice. I'm surprised it wasn't.

Some other choices by the LAFC, I thought, were right on. Even giving Christopher Walken runner-up status for Catch Me If You Can showed that the West Coasters are really paying attention. Walken should proceed on to the Oscars without fail.

Also, their tie for Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson for Best Actor was interesting. I have a feeling that these two may cancel each other out at some point, paving the way for Michael Caine in The Quiet American. The Academy loves Caine, as do the members of SAG. We'll see.

One movie that failed to get any mention in L.A. was Rob Marshall's Chicago, which is sure to be a Best Picture nominee. It's already the favorite of advance screening audiences on both coasts. Maybe it's more of a New York film because of its Broadway connection. But if anything has Golden Globe and SAG written all over it, it's the feel-good, razzmatazz Chicago.

And of course, no mention of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Is this film considered "beneath" snooty critics? If so, what a shame, because it's so much better than the first installment, and so good as a stand-alone accomplishment.

Yoko Still Gets the Last Laugh With Paul

You want to know why Paul McCartney has changed the byline of the Beatles songs he "wrote" to McCartney/Lennon from Lennon/McCartney? It's a great story and I'm sorry I'm getting to explain it so late after the release of McCartney's new Back in the U.S. album, but we've been preoccupied with other matters.

Since Michael Jackson bought the Beatles catalog in 1983, McCartney has been furious with him, and rightly so. But the root of McCartney's anger comes from the 1927 Songwriting Act.

That act, as I've explained many times before, gives heirs of a songwriter all the rights to his or her music once the original copyrights run out. It doesn't matter if they've been sold to someone else. If the songwriter died during the copyright term, once the term runs out the new owner loses the rights and they revert back to the heirs.

This means that because John Lennon died, it didn't matter that the rights to the songs were with Michael Jackson. Once the copyrights had to be renewed, Jackson lost Lennon's portion; they reverted to Yoko Ono and her son, Sean.

The Beatles songs were under 28-year copyright protection. So songs in 1962 had to be renewed in 1990, and so on. When they were renewed, Lennon's ownership — which had been sold to Jackson — started going to Yoko. It was not lost on McCartney.

This meant that because John was dead, he was no longer under Jackson's agreement. McCartney, however, was. To this day, half of his portion of royalties from the Beatles catalog goes to Jackson (or now, Sony/ATV Music Publishing).

This accounts for 19 songs Paul says he was the primary writer on. Accordingly, since he feels that he's being ripped off, McCartney switched the songwriting credits on those songs for his solo albums. I guess he felt he might as well get something out of it.

Who really knows what the agreement was between Paul and John? Were the songs always supposed to be listed as "Lennon and McCartney"? Changing them seems disrespectful, especially since Lennon is dead and can't speak for himself.

But McCartney has not respected Lennon's wishes since before the Beatles broke up. In 1969, McCartney himself may have actually been responsible for breaking the group up when he went behind Lennon's back and bought a huge amount of stock in Northern Songs Ltd., their publisher. The two had always agreed to have an equal investment in the company.

When it was revealed, Lennon was so angered that, according to Steven Gaines in the best of the Beatles books, The Love You Make, he stormed out of a meeting and didn't return.

When I asked Paul about this in 1990, if he had any regret about it, he said: "No. I was investing in myself."

So Yoko cleans up no matter who sings the Beatles songs now. All she can do is thank McCartney, frankly, for re-recording them on the new album.

As for Back in the U.S., I was surprised when I finally caught up with it how good it was, and how supple McCartney's voice sounded on several tracks including "The Long and Winding Road" and "Every Night." I am assuming it's not computer-enhanced; in the live show it sounded just as good.