BERLIN — “The Ghost Writer,” the new film from incarcerated director Roman Polanski, will premiere in competition at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.
The thriller, which Polanski shot in Studio Babelsberg outside Berlin and finished while in prison in Switzerland, stars Ewan McGregor as an author hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) who discovers a dark secret that puts his life in danger.
The decision to screen “The Ghost Writer” in competition is a controversial one. The Berlin jury’s verdict on the film may be seen as taking sides in the ongoing legal debate.
But the premiere will provide plenty of free publicity for Summit Entertainment, who just picked up North American rights to “The Ghost Writer” and plan to release the film in the first half of 2010.
Polanski’s movie could be double trouble in U.S.
By PETER BART
Roman Polanski may be facing a tough slate of legal and financial problems, but his film career seems solidly back on track.
His new movie, “The Ghost Writer,” is locked, except for visual effects, and it will premiere in the main section of the Berlin Film Festival Feb. 11-21. Rights to the $35 million film have been sold around the world. Summit, a company that’s been on a hot streak this year thanks to the “Twilight” franchise and “The Hurt Locker,” last week acquired North American rights.
We think the movie is an outstanding Hitchcockian thriller,” said Patrick Wachsberger, who runs Summit with Rob Friedman.
The Ghost Writer,” based on the Robert Harris bestseller, will likely stir up controversy on two levels, the distributors realize. There is first the possibility of Polanski’s extradition to the U.S., where he could face another trial on the 1977 charge of having sex with an underage girl.
The Ghost Writer” deals with Tony Blair’s role in the war in Iraq. The movie, like the novel, suggests Blair was conned by President Bush into an Iraq intervention and that Blair’s wife, Cherie, was complicit — she may even have had a CIA connection.
The war in Iraq is an incendiary topic in the U.K. at the moment as a result of a government investigation. Pierce Brosnan plays the Blair character in the film. Ewan McGregor also has an important role as a journalist who helps the prime minister write his book.
According to Wachsberger, Polanski has been working on the subtitled versions of his film and has approved the final cut. He is under house arrest at his Gstaad chalet. “We have talked on the telephone, and Roman sounds in good spirits now that he is sleeping in his own bed and is reunited with his wife and family,” Wachsberger said,
Summit’s bosses do not believe that Polanski’s problems will interfere with the film’s release or marketing. “Roman is a well respected artist and people will judge his film as art,” Freedman said.
If the movie is great, Polanski’s name will be a positive,” Wachsberger said. “If it is average, his problems may possibly become a negative. But we think it is great.”
The film was originally funded by pre-sales. It was shot in Germany with subsidies and tax money, the locations doubling for London and Martha’s Vineyard.
IGN’s exclusive chat with the Angels & Demons actor.
by Jim Vejvoda
May 14, 2009 – IGN Movies chatted this morning with actor Ewan McGregor, who stars opposite Tom Hanks in director Ron Howard’s adaptation of the Dan Brown novel Angels & Demons. Please be advised that the following article contains SPOILERS.
Angels & Demons follows Harvard religious expert Robert Langdon (Hanks), who discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb set to destroy the organization’s enemy, the Catholic Church, he jets to Rome where he follows a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican’s only hope for survival. The film begins with the death of a Pope and the ancient ritual of Conclave, the process by which the College of Cardinals elects a new Holy Father. The process is famous for being shrouded in secrecy, with the Cardinals secluded until their important work is completed. The only communication with the outside world comes in the form of smoke released from the Sistine Chapel. Dark smoke indicates that a two-thirds majority vote has not occurred, and white smoke (and, recently, bells) indicate that a two-thirds majority has been reached and a new Pope has been elected.
McGregor portrays Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in the film. “The camerlengo is the Pope’s right-hand man. His aide, his personal secretary, and he, under Vatican law, is in charge of the Vatican when the pope passes away until the new Pope is elected,” the actor explained. McKenna, however, isn’t in Brown’s book; his character’s function was served by Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca instead. “Well, in the book he’s Italian and probably older and Ron wanted him to be Irish. Just for the pace of the film they changed his backstory a little bit to help the story speed along,” the Scottish star said.
McGregor calls the relationship between the late Pope and McKenna “very close. The Pope is somebody who has a more liberal attitude towards science and feels that science, in fact, can help us understand God’s world and whereas Patrick, who I play, has a much more extreme, right-wing attitude towards things. The story is at the beginning of the movie scientists at CERN have created anti-matter and are nicknaming it ‘the God particle’ and my character feels that if scientists are able to claim the act of creation, what is left for God and what will happen to his church?”
McGregor is no stranger to big franchises, having starred in the Star Wars prequels. But the actor didn’t find his experience with that franchise particularly helpful in preparing him for the controversy and outrage that surrounds Dan Brown’s works. In fact, McGregor doesn’t view the film series based on Brown’s books to be a franchise at all. “I don’t see it as being any huge difference from any other films I make. I don’t feel like I’m stepping into a franchise. When I was offered the script, I was just stepping into the shoes of that character so that’s what grabbed me,” he explained. “To begin with, I don’t look at the project as anything other than that: the story and the characters and, of course, who’s directing and who is acting with you. But I think the idea of a franchise is all to do with how the film is perceived and sold afterwards. But it’s not like being offered a part in Spider-Man or Batman or something. It’s very different from that.”
The big draw for McGregor to make Angels & Demons was director Ron Howard. “I’ve wanted to work him for a long time and we were supposed to work together on a project some years ago but it didn’t end up happening and so I was thrilled to work with him on this. I think that’s where it came from to begin with, and then I liked the script. I felt it was a good page-turner, a really thrilling story and an interesting character to play.”
He added, “I’ve been directed by actors before and I’ve always felt it’s like a bonus, you know? It’s a good thing and certainly with Ron I felt like that. A director who knows how to act has an extra string in terms of helping you unlock a scene. I realized one day walking on-set and from my discussions with Ron, I knew the approach to play (the character) rather than just knowing what he wanted out of the scene. That’s always been my experience working with actors who then direct. There’s a really nice understanding of what they want you to do.”
Speaking of directors, McGregor is currently shooting The Ghost for Roman Polanski. The political thriller also stars Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall, although most of McGregor’s scenes have been on his own. He plays the lead role of an unnamed ghost writer who uncovers dark secrets while penning the memoirs a retired British prime minister (Brosnan). “It’s an extraordinary experience to work with Polanski. He pushes you hard, as he does the crew, and I find it to be fantastic. I’ve never worked harder in my life,” McGregor said. “It’s relentless, as you can tell from the book. The ghost is in every single scene. The way Polanski shoots he likes it to be from the Ghost’s point-of-view as well so it was a great opportunity to work with him. He’s a fantastic director.”
McGregor’s future releases also include Amelia, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and I Love You Phillip Morris. The latter film, which stars McGregor and Jim Carrey as two gay lovers in prison, famously struggled to find a U.S. distributor until Consolidated Pictures Group acquired it this week. McGregor tends to think the film’s struggle was due more to economics than concerns over its subject matter. “I’m not in the distribution game. I don’t know. I think certainly at the moment given the current financial climate companies are reluctant to spend money on things that aren’t absolutely dead certain to get their money back. And it might be more of a reflection on the financial situation in the world at the moment rather than the result of a film about two gay men,” he said. “I would be reluctant to think that Americans would be reluctant to see a film about that. I don’t think that’s the case. I mean, it’s not in my world but I don’t live in middle America. Maybe I’m naive about certain things.”
Landmarks replicated on L.A. soundstage for Angels & Demons
FOR METRO CANADA
May 12, 2009 1:00 a.m.
While sitting atop the Castel Saint Angelo in Rome waiting to interview Angels & Demons star Ewan McGregor, I had a panoramic view of the city and the beautiful chaos that makes life in the Eternal City tick.
The traffic is crazy and there are people everywhere. Itâs an intense place, even more so, I imagined, if you were shooting a big budget Hollywood picture that takes place in some of the cityâs busiest spots.
âThe funny thing is I didnât shoot any of it in Rome,â McGregor said when asked. âI shot in this place called Caserta. Thereâs a palace in Caserta that I thought it sounded really romantic, so I arranged for my wife to come over and spend a weekend with me, but itâs a dump, a horrible place. Iâm sorry but itâs just a suburb of Naples thatâs exploded around this old palace. Itâs really nasty. Not a good place.
âApart from that I did most of my stuff in L.A. because my character is mainly inside the Vatican and of course, the Vatican didnât want us to shoot inside their buildings so they built the Sistine Chapel on the Sony soundstages in L.A. They also built the exterior of St. Peterâs Square, this huge, huge set, in the parking lot of Hollywood Park Racetrack in south L.A. That was cool. I saw it from an airplane. I was landing at LAX and I looked down and thought, âGod, thatâs a big setâŚ look at that.â Then I realized it was ours.â
Despite never having stepped foot in an actual church during the shoot, McGregor convincingly pulls off the roll of Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, a priest who acts as the popeâs right hand man in the film adaptation of Dan Brownâs novel.
âWe had a priest from New Jersey who came over and was our religious advisor for any of the technical things,â McGregor said, âthe ceremonies and the ritual stuff. But he also gave us a kind of idea of what would be going on behind the scenes during those ceremonies and humanized it for us.
âIt looks so precise from the congregationâs point of view but in actual fact behind the table there is a guy with matches trying to light the incense. He put that into it for me which was great.â
The training paid off, he says, at least superficially.
âI didnât get to understand the meaning of all the ceremonies; why everything is in a certain order, but I did learn enough to look like I knew what I was doing, hopefully.â
Jim Carrey starrer “I Love You Phillip Morris” has been acquired for domestic distribution by Consolidated Pictures Group.
Pic features Carrey as a married conman who falls in love with his cellmate, played by Ewan McGregor.
The production and distribution group, which launched at the Sundance Film Fest, has set a Valentine’s Day release.
CPG principals Timothy Patrick Cavanaugh, Randall Miller, Jody Savin and James Mancuso made a mid-seven-figure deal with the pic’s financier, EuropaCorp, and a significant P&A commitment. Savin and Miller self-distributed their 2008 pic “Bottle Shock.”
The film, written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“Bad Santa”), debuted at Sundance and makes its Gallic premiere as a Directors’ Fortnight offering at Cannes.
Pic is produced by Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar with Far Shariat, and Luc Besson is executive producer.
CPG has brought on Matthew Cohen to supervise marketing and distribution. He worked on the campaigns for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Hairspray” and “No Country for Old Men.”
Ron Howard has admitted having a run in with the Catholic church over his forthcoming Da Vinci Code sequel.
Speaking at a press conference for Angels and Demons, the director said he had been refused permission by the Vatican to film in many of the churches featured in the Dan Brown novel because of the controversy surrounding his 2006 adaptation of The Da Vinci Code.
“[The Vatican] made it clear from the start there would be no co-operation on their part, so we didn’t even bother asking their permission. So we had to apply our own filmic ingenuity, using all the technological advantages that film-makers have at their disposal.
“I feel very confident in saying that we’re able to take the audience on a very realistic and authentic journey behind the walls of the Vatican. But could we bring a film crew in and shoot? No.”
Howard, who recently directed Frost/Nixon, also said he would be keen to adapt future Dan Brown books about Robert Langdon, the chief protagonist in The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.
He said: “Dan apparently has another Robert Langdon adventure in the pipeline. Working on these stories has been a fascinating experience. There’s clearly an audience for them. I’m going to be reading that story with great curiousity.”
The novel Angels and Demons is actually a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, but Howard’s film adaptation is set after the events of his 2006 movie. The film, which stars Tom Hanks and Ewan McGregor, is released on 15 May.