Madonna’s ‘W.E.’ joins Weinsteins’ scattered 2011 slate

Posted by · 11:56 am · June 13th, 2011

Having done all right with the last film to cover the romantic tribulations of King Edward VIII — it was called “The King’s Speech,” it won a few Oscars, you might have heard of it — The Weinstein Company clearly feels there’s an appetite among audiences for more on that chapter of British royal history, with Edward’s story center stage this time.

So it is that that Harvey and his minions have bought the US distribution rights to Madonna’s sophomore directing effort, “W.E.” — a decades-spanning portrait of the affair between the one-time future King of England and Wallis Simpson, the American divorcée for whom he abdicated the throne, fused with a fictional modern-day story of a young New Yorker inspired by their romance.

Starring Andrea Riseborough and James D’Arcy as the historical couple, and Abbie Cornish as the woman obsessed with their romance, it all all sounds suspiciously like “Julie & Julia” with crowns replacing the chef’s hats — which, combined with the novelty factor of the film’s celebrity writer-director, leads me to think the Weinsteins may view this more as a light commercial play rather than the hefty awards bait of their last monarchy biopic.

That said, the Weinsteins’ production president Donna Gigliotti, herself an Oscar-winner for “Shakespeare in Love,” claims to believe that advance footage for the film is “some of the most impressive [she’s] ever seen.” No release date has been announced yet, beyond the fact that it will hit screens this year.

Not big news, then, though it does raise the interesting question of where the Weinsteins are going to place most of their awards chips this year. At this early stage, their prestige acquisitions slate is looking a little sketchy — “W.E.” joins two other British-flavored biopics, “The Iron Lady” and “My Week With Marilyn,” both of which look likelier to contend for performance honors only. (For the latter, incidentally, I’m hearing more below-ground chatter about Kenneth Branagh’s Laurence Olivier than Michelle Williams’s Monroe.) Bulking out the Weinsteins’ Brit pack is Richard Ayoade’s minor coming-of-age comedy “Submarine” and Ralph Fiennes’s “Coriolanus,” which I maintain has a formidable Supporting Actress contender in Vanessa Redgrave — but little else.

Until the autumn festival circuit changes the picture — and who knows what hot title the company might attach itself to at Venice or Toronto — their strongest awards shot seems, from where I’m standing, to be their wildest card: Michel Hazanavicius’s critically beloved Cannes hit “The Artist.” Some might say that a (mostly) silent, black-and-white pastiche from a little-known French director is a dark horse at best for major awards recognition, but the film is more accessible than it sounds: a proven audience charmer, powered by a luminous star turn from Jean Dujardin, that should gain a lot of new fans in Toronto. (Despite reports to the contrary, it’s also English-language.)

Before hitting the Oscar jackpot in the late 1990s, the Weinsteins appeared to view each awards season as a kind of challenge to get the unlikeliest-sounding films into the Best Picture frame: be it a gender-bending IRA thriller, metaphor-heavy Antipodean erotic drama, ultra-violent B-movie tribute or a miniscule Italian drama about poetry. “The Artist” is the kind of artsy curio they might have pushed heavily back in that period. If their 2011 slate remains free of surefire bait, it’d be interesting to see them return to that kind of resourcefulness — unless, that is, bringing the phrase “Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Madonna” into existence doesn’t sound like a more appealing test.

[Photo: OK!]

→ 19 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

19 responses so far

  • 1 6-13-2011 at 12:28 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Madonna’s directorial debut was “Filth and Wisdom,” no?

  • 2 6-13-2011 at 1:32 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Well caught, Chad.

  • 3 6-13-2011 at 2:10 pm

    Bia said...

    Roger Friedman wrote a piece about this and basically cosigns that he has heard nothing but good. This should be interesting…

  • 4 6-13-2011 at 2:29 pm

    MattyD. said...

    I saw ‘My Week with Marilyn’ at a test screening and HATED Branagh’s Laurence Olivier. It’s a very two-dimensional performance that’s played entirely for laughs and isn’t a scene-stealer at all.

    That film is all about Williams’ Monroe. Without that performance it’s nothing. Although tonally I worry about its Oscar chances. They need to push Williams for Supporting, honestly, because she’d get in for sure.

  • 5 6-13-2011 at 2:59 pm

    SC said...

    Isn’t “W.E” supposed to be a total hatchet-job on George V and the Yorks (particularly on Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon)?

  • 6 6-13-2011 at 4:07 pm

    Maxim said...

    It’d be interesting it it’s good (and as far as I’m concerned it well can be). Would be fun to see Madonna in an Oscar race.

  • 7 6-13-2011 at 5:04 pm

    med said...

    I think that The Iron Lady and The Artist are the best bets for Oscar nominations (picture, screenplay, acting) etc.

  • 8 6-13-2011 at 5:17 pm

    med said...

    My recollection is that Harvey thinks My Week with Marilyn is good but not GREAT. All I’ve heard is that Branagh steals the movie and is the only reason to see it.

  • 9 6-13-2011 at 5:23 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    med: You imagine “The Iron Lady” is a best bet for a best picture nomination? Did you not see “Mama Mia”?

  • 10 6-13-2011 at 5:33 pm

    med said...

    Check out all the prognosticators and you’ll see that The Iron Lady is now a major player and in the top ten of BP’s. That’s what a killer distributor like Weinstein can do for you. Pete Hammond saw 5 minutes of footage and said that Weinstein has a slam dunk nomination for Streep and if the movie is half as good as the promo-reel it will be a major contender come fall. (Yes, I know Lloyd directed it but can’t she possibly be given a second chance?)

  • 11 6-13-2011 at 6:46 pm

    Glenn said...

    As Frank Lee mentioned, have all these people predicting big things for “The Iron Lady” assumed that Phylida Lloyd has somehow become competent? Can’t say I hold out much hope for that movie being any more than a TV movie biopic. And, yes, there was already a TV movie biopic about Thatcher recently, so… yay? :/

    I’m nervous about “W.E.” because I so want Madonna to have a success, if only just a critical one.

    Nevertheless, if the film is merely “quite nice” then I suspect the real reason the Weinstein’s purchased this was so they could bundle it with “The King’s Speech” and some other movie about royalty and sell “The Royal DVD Boxset!” for $50 to people who otherwise mightn’t have purchased them separately.

  • 12 6-13-2011 at 7:12 pm

    med said...

    I wonder why Harvey Weinstein paid 7 million dollars for what amounts to a TV movie biopic in The Iron Lady. I thought he was a better businessman than that. Guess not…

  • 13 6-13-2011 at 8:52 pm

    JFK said...

    MattyD: I disagree, I thought Branagh was phenomenal in the screening.

    Also, saw a screening of W.E. tonight…While I was pleasantly surprised at how Madonna handled the back and forth time shifts and with some of the stylistic camera work, parts of the film didn’t work for me. One thing is indisputable though, Andrea Riseborough’s performance, fantastic.

  • 14 6-14-2011 at 2:14 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Check out all the prognosticators and you’ll see that The Iron Lady is now a major player and in the top ten of BP’s.

    At this stage, “the prognosticators” all thought Nine was a major player too. The prognosticators, and I speak as one myself, know nothing.

  • 15 6-14-2011 at 11:12 am

    Xavi Rodriguez said...

    I said before in Awards Daily… Lloyd only directed one movie, just one! It’s not like Tyler Perry’s last year, when we known his talent every year with his films. After watching the original play… Is anyone expected something better for the film with that material? I don’t think, even with Aronofski directed, could make a better film with that screenplay. And even for that, the reviews for that film wasn’t exactly awful (58% in RT and 51% in Metacritic).

    Glenn, just missing two points:

    -About Lloyd competence, well… she’s a Tony nominee for Best Director in a Play for the “Mary Stuart” revival -With Janet McTeer starring the title role- and the play got seven noms. After saw the play, I believe Lloyd, with the right material could be very competent.
    -Abi Morgan is a british relevation as a playwriter with relative sucess (Sex Traffic -Starring Anamaria Marinca- and Brick Lane). Also she wrote Shame (The Fassbender-McQueen reunion after “Hunger”) and the reviews for the screenplay said it was wonderful and sincere work.

    I don’t think “The Iron Lady” is a lock for nomination, but dismissing the chances of the film just for Mamma Mia! is crazy.

  • 16 6-14-2011 at 11:22 am

    Xavi Rodriguez said...

    P. D.: I said Tyler Perry’s talent as an irony. But I still believe “The Iron Lady” could be the surprise of the season.

    Around Riseborough’s Oscar chances? In which category could she compete? Especially in a Julie & Julia situation.

  • 17 6-14-2011 at 1:18 pm

    JFK said...

    It’s a bit of a tough call XR. On one hand, both she and Cornish are simultaneous leads because of the way the film plays out. However, I think the producers would want Cornish to be considered the lead, since she has somewhat of an affinity with the story of Wallace and Edward.

  • 18 6-14-2011 at 5:49 pm

    Maxim said...

    I am so sick of people putting Mamma Mia down. Guess, it WAS very well directed and the scenes and a real sense of energy in them. Based ont that film alone, I can see Phylida Lloyd being very successful.

    Yes, I get it, you are not really supposed to like that film. But letting your biases deny what was really a pretty well made film is wrong.

  • 19 6-15-2011 at 3:09 am

    Xavi Rodriguez said...

    Maxim, I agree with that. 2008 has a lot of worse films (Actually it was an awful year in terms of film quality, especially for Hollywood standars), but I still don’t understand the Mamma Mia! level of hate by some people. Again, the play wasn’t even a relevation by character development or compelling story… I still believe, even with other director (Even a great like Ang Lee or Martin Scorsese), the result would be the same.

    I don’t love Mamma Mia!, but it was a well done film made for fun; just fun.