How Harvey Weinstein apparently played the press on the last day of Oscar voting

Posted by · 12:12 pm · March 27th, 2013

Remember back on February 19 when The Weinstein Company put out a press release announcing that director David O. Russell would be taking the reins on “The Ends of the Earth,” from a script by “Argo” writer Chris Terrio? But the Russell quote in the release said nothing about the project and everything about actress Jennifer Lawrence, who starred in his awards contender “Silver Linings Playbook” and was attached to the project?

“Jennifer possesses a self-deprecating humor that made all of the cast and crew feel at ease,” Russell said of the Oscar-nominated (now Oscar-winning) actress in the release. “She is that kind of person. She is the most dedicated person I know. She is devoted to her family and they have been the true inspiration for her character and integrity. Her acting is effortless and she always makes it look easy.”

It was a big love letter on the final day of Oscar voting to an actress in the thick of the Oscar conversation…but little more. Terrio was making it clear to journalists that he had no knowledge of any of it and hadn’t even met Russell, but entertainment news outlets (yes, including HitFix) ran the news because there was really no reason on the face of it to think the press release was bogus.

But it was. And that’s finally coming out now.

No one is quoted in Pamela McClintock’s piece, but the report notes that people close to the project are saying Russell was never committed to it. A few months back, before the release hit, my own source said Russell wasn’t interested because he “didn’t want to do another incest movie” (and was, of course, surprised when the release hit). Terrio’s script tells the true-life love story of oil tycoon Ernest Marland, who lost everything after engaging in a controversial love affair with his adopted daughter Lydie. Russell’s debut film, meanwhile, was the award-winning 1994 incest comedy “Spanking the Monkey.”

Terrio told me just after the Academy Awards, which saw him walk away with an Oscar for writing “Argo,” that he was trying to be as zen as possible about the situation. But nevertheless, it was obviously a bit of expert posturing by Weinstein at the end of what was already one of the dirtier seasons on record. (And really, anyone who doesn’t think this last Oscar season had more than its fair share of skullduggery just wasn’t paying attention.)

Former Variety film editor Josh Dickey, who this week transitioned over to TMZ, let it be known earlier today that he “turned in a deeply sourced column” the day after the Oscars about the shenanigans that were afoot throughout. But Variety editors shot it down. That’s hardly surprising, since the 108-year-old trade, which sold for relative pennies to Penske Media Coporation in October, is historically the last place one would expect to rock the industry boat. “At the time [of the release], multiple sources close to ‘Ends of the Earth’ said [the] David O. Russell announcement was TOTAL bogus,” Dickey went on. “Not that it wasn’t obvious.”

Obvious or not, again, they ran it anyway. When the system can be so easily rigged, who can blame someone like Weinstein for playing it like a harp, particularly in this age where Deadline will run anything it’s handed without a second thought as the (Penske-owned) blog has become a virtual bulletin board for unvetted Hollywood gossip and “news?” This didn’t move the needle much on votes or anything, but it was a nice way to have “Silver Linings Playbook” dominating headlines on the last day of Oscar voting.

I do hope the project finds a talented craftsman soon. It’s a very beautiful script and will absolutely be an awards player when it finds its way to screens, I guarantee it. But even though people close to Russell and Weinstein are claiming the director is “still seriously considering it,” it seems fair to say right now that the February 19 release was a jump of the gun, and a shrewd one at that.

Russell and Lawrence will, however, be re-teaming on the currently untitled “ABSCAM” project formerly known as “American Bullshit.” The Sony Pictures release recently staked out a December 13 limited release date, so expect to be hearing more about that in the upcoming awards season.

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