If you ever heard Bryan Stevenson speak, he stirs emotions. He delivers difficult-to-hear harsh truths but manages to line each word with a glowing thread of hope — and his sentiment, hough delivered with a mild-mannered even-handedness, is assertive and motivates social change. A lawyer, activist and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson's book Just Mercyis a vessel for his story of prison reform and will make its way to theaters with the talented Destin Daniel Cretton in the director's chair. The pair joined the New Hollywood Podcast for a live recording at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about the film and shed an urgent light on the need for prison reform and how inclusive storytelling in Hollywood can inspire change in real life.
Set in Alabama, the Warner Bros. drama follows the true story of Wer McMillian Jamie Foxx, who is put on death row for murder, despite evidence proving his innocence. A defense attorney by the name of Bryan Stevenson Michael B. Jordan travels to the Deep South in an effort to appeal his murder conviction and in turn, sees the birth of the Equal Justice Initiative, which gives legal representation to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted.
Stevenson speaks the truth about the need for prison reform, how he hopes Just Mercyis contributing to the cause and why Cretton was the best director for the job. Cretton talks about his connection to the story and how Hollywood is a changing landscape when it comes to diversity. Listen to the episode below.
Just Mercy will open in limited release on December 25 and will expand to more theaters in January.
Deadline's live New Hollywood Podcast Panel and Cocktails atTIFF2019 is sponsored byFig & OliveandInkbox. Special thanks to our partnersLove Child Social House,Calii Love,Bulleit Bourbon,Ketel One BotanicalandTanqueray No. Ten.
TIFF programmer Dorota Lech introduced Vaclav Marhoul's film as a "plunge into the darkest corners of the human soul," before around 40 people left the 522-seat theater.
Vaclav Marhoul's grim and violent adaptation of Jerry Kosinski's novel, The Painted Bird lived up to its controversial billing at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival after a notorious Venice bow by prompting a mass walkout at Bell Lightbox on Wednesday night.
The audience exodus began soon after the black-and-white epic Holocaust movie began its North American premiere in the Bell Lightbox 1 auditorium. By the one-hour mark, around 30 viewers had departed and another dozen had left by the end of the movie.
That's despite TIFF programmer Dorota Lech having introduced Marhoul's film as a "plunge into the darkest corners of the human soul," as she urged the audience to stay until the end of the movie. "It is sometimes very difficult to watch atrocities on-screen, but it is very important to bear witness," Lech said.
The Bell Lightbox 1 theater has 522 seats, the balcony wasn't open for the Painted Bird screening and many ground-floor seats remained unfilled as the screening got underway. There was no post-screening Q&A as director Marhoul is promoting the film in Europe.
The Painted Bird, which prompted similar walkouts when debuting in Venice, portrays a nameless boy, played by newcomer Petr Kotlár, wandering Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II. The child's-eye Holocaust drama, also starring Stellan Skarsgard and Harvey Keitel, is based on Kosinski's 1965 novel that caused controversy and criticism for an unflinching portrayal of wartime horrors enacted by Polish peasants, not German Nazis.
Oscar winners Ellen Burstyn and Emma Thompson are among the ensemble cast for coming-of-age fantasy-drama movie The Lost Girls, a female-fronted take on the classic Peter Pan story by J.M. Barrie.
Livia De Paolis Emoticon ; is adapting, directing, and starring in the film, which will also feature Thompson’s daughter Gaia Wise A Walk In The Woods. De Paolis is adapting from Laurie Fox’s novel.
The Lost Girls will chronicle four generations of Darling women as they struggle in the aftermath of their adventures with Peter Pan in Neverland. The film will follow how Wendy De Paolis struggles to retain her creative spirit after her fantastical journeys with Pan.
Like her grandmother Burstyn and her mother Jane Thompson in a cameo role, Wendy must escape Pan's hold on her and the promises he desperately wants her to keep. As her daughter Berry Wise comes into Peter's orbit, Wendy must fight to save her relationship with her daughter, while reconciling her legacy.
Wise has only appeared in two movies to date, both starring Thompson: A Walk In The Woods and Last Chance Harvey. The Lost Girls will mark her biggest role to date.
Myriad Pictures will handle international sales on the film and will co-rep U.S. with UTA Independent Film Group. Producers are Chris Curling The Last Station and Meta Valentic Ladrón Que Roba A Ladrón. Peter Touche of Ingenious Media helped develop the project and is executive producing with Myriad’s Kirk D'Amico.
De Paolis, whose family ran Rome’s famous De Paolis Studio, said, “I have been fascinated with the hidden meanings of fairy tales since childhood so when I read Laurie Fox's novel The Lost Girls I was immediately on board with the way she reinvents J.M. Barrie's timeless fairytale for a contemporary audience.”
Myriad's D'Amico added, “We are delighted to be working with the producers and with writer/director Livia de Paolis who has a vision for this retelling of the Peter Pan story in the Me Too era. The strong material has attracted an equally strong cast including Emma Thompson and Gaia Wise and others to be added soon.”
De Paolis wrote, directed and starred in 2014 low-budget feature Emoticon ;- alongside Sonia Braga, Carol Kane and Michael Cristofer.
In the opening scene of “Just Mercy,” legal intern Bryan Stevenson Michael B. Jordan visits a man on Death Row to inform him it is unlikely the state will execute him in the next year. The prisoner emotionally breaks down, surprising Stevenson, which leads to the two men bonding for hours.
It's the moment Stevenson, who would go on to become the legendary activist behind the Equal Justice Initiative, has said he discovered exactly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. According to “Just Mercy” director Destin Daniel Cretton, the scene’s larger importance is the introduction of the film’s key theme.
“Bryan saw a man in chains who looked very hard, had a very harsh look about him, and he wasn’t expecting that young man to show that type of vulnerability and emotion,” said Cretton, who adapted Stevenson’s memoir with Andrew Lanham. “What we’re trying to do in this movie, and what Bryan does in his book, is constantly taking characters that are easy to pass judgment on and have a stereotype against, and show you the other side of them. The side that you can relate to.”
While Cretton's directorial career is wide ranging, a common theme that stretches from his 2012 SXSW breakout “Short Term 12” to his upcoming “Shang-Chi” for Marvel, is an emphasis on showing the humanity of characters we aren't often ask to relate to on the big screen.
“We need more movies and more stories that continue to show characters of every ethnicity in ways that we have not seen them before,” said Cretton, who took a break from his intense “Shang-Chi” prep to attend the “Just Mercy” premiere at TIFF this weekend. “We are trying to create something [with “Shang-Chi”] that reflects the Asian American and Asian experience today. There are a lot of stereotypes that I hope our movie helps to break.”
Cretton acknowledged that the 1970s Kung-Fu wave that gave birth to the original Marvel comic included some problematic ethnic stereotypes, a subject with which he is all too familiar.
“When I first moved from Maui to California, it was the first time a random stranger called me Bruce Lee just for kicks and I had people doing the karate chop thing as a joke to me,” said Cretton. “I think the more that we see characters of different ethnicities acting like us, going through experiences that we all relate to, seeing them interact with their families, laugh, and love, and get hurt and get up again, the more those stereotypes break down. The less likely someone is going to see someone with an Asian face and just assume they know kung-fu or are related to Bruce Lee, and I hope that our movie is going to help with that conversation.”
Cretton, who has never directed a film with action or heavy VFX, admits he had serious doubts about taking on a Marvel project, but luckily he had a group of friends who he came up the indie film ranks with who had already successfully made the jump to Marvel.
“Before I went in to do the final pitch, I started say, ‘Oh shit, is this something I really want to do?'” said Cretton. “And then I talked to Brie [Larson] and then I called up Ryan Coogler. The day before I went in I happened to actually just meet Taika [Waititi] in a bar and talked to him, he was super helpful as well.”
Each assured him that he would find his way into the Marvel Universe. “I do feel like going into this Marvel movie it feels like going back to film school,” said Cretton. “I’m learning so much. I’m surrounded by a very supportive team. Everybody there has been a joy to work with so far.”
“Just Mercy” will be in theaters December 25, 2019.
Damon Herriman played cult leader Charles Manson in both Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Netflix’s Mindhunter, which is great, because I want nothing but the best for anyone who was on Justified especially Dewey Crowe. Less great: how little screen time he had in the Quentin Tarantino film. His presence and “Family” loam large, but Manson himself only appears in one scene, when he visits Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski’s house. If you’re thinking/hoping/praying that bonus Manson footage will appear in the rumored Netflix episodic series, think/hope/pray again: compared to his previous comments, Herriman told Collider that only a “tiny bit” was cut from the film.
“There wasn’t a number of other sequences,” Herriman said. “Given it was a four hour and 20 minute first cut, there was obviously a lot that was shot that is not in it. Everybody lost a bit of stuff in the there, including some Manson stuff. Maybe it will see the light of day. I can’t give away what it was, but it was Quentin’s writing at its best.” Herriman praised one scene in particular as being “brilliantly written,” unlike Manson’s music.
“There was a scene that I thought was one of the best scenes I’ve ever read in my life, just on the page, I hope that scene does get released. I genuinely don’t know if it ever will. He has shown an interest in going back to his older movies and making a longer version. Given this one was so long to start with, I think it would be a great candidate for that.” Via
Herriman was also asked how often strangers still refer to him as Dewey or Mr. Crowe. “It’s not that common,” he said.” I mean, I don’t know that people are expecting… [ Justified fans] aren’t expecting to see Dewey Crowe at the Trader Joe’s in Hollywood or whatever, so it happens but it’s probably, I mean, five times a year or something.” I fully expect “Dewey Crowe at the Trader Joe’s” to become the next “Old Town Road”-level hit.
One of the biggest surprises in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” was the lack of Charles Manson, played by Australian actor Damon Herriman. Tarantino had warned fans prior to the film’s release that “Hollywood” was not a Manson movie, but many moviegoers expected the infamous serial killer to play a larger role in the narrative. Herriman’s Manson pops up briefly during a scene in which he roams the property of Sharon Tate Margot Robbie, but, other than that, Manson is only talked about by members of his cult. Herriman recently told Collider that only “a tiny bit” of Manson footage was cut out of the film, but included in the trimming was a scene the actor says ranks as one of Tarantino’s best.
“There wasn’t a number of other sequences,” Herriman says of his Manson role. “Given it was a four hour and 20 minute first cut, there was obviously a lot that was shot that is not in it. Everybody lost a bit of stuff in the there, including some Manson stuff. Maybe it will see the light of day. I can’t give away what it was, but it was Quentin’s writing at its best. One particular scene was brilliantly written.”
Herriman added, “There was a scene that I thought was one of the best scenes I’ve ever read in my life, just on the page, I hope that scene does get released. I genuinely don’t know if it ever will. He has shown an interest in going back to his older movies and making a longer version. Given this one was so long to start with, I think it would be a great candidate for that.”
Considering Herriman has appeared in the likes of “Justified,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Mindhunter” as an older Charles Manson no less, his praise that Tarantino’s cut Manson scene is one of the director’s best does not come lightly. Fortunately, the cut Manson scene could see the light of day in the future. “Hollywood” star Brad Pitt confirmed that Tarantino has considered releasing an extended miniseries version of “Hollywood” with all of the cut footage put back in the runtime. Tarantino did something similar with “The Hateful Eight,” which was released as a Netflix miniseries earlier this year.
Herriman is not the first “Hollywood” actor to say that Tarantino cut a brilliant scene from the movie’s theatrical release. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” producer David Heyman told IndieWire in July that a cut scene featuring 10-year-old breakout Julia Butters was so good it would have landed the young actress an Oscar nomination.
“Quentin is adept at throwing out a great scene,” Heyman said. “If she was in, she'd get an Oscar nomination for that performance. But it didn't serve the film. It's all about the film rhythm, to get where it needs to be. He cut out fantastic scenes, and reshaped things that made sense of the film as a whole.”
“Hollywood” fans can get Herriman’s brilliant Manson scene to the list of cut “Hollywood” moments that will hopefully one day be released. The film continues to play in theaters. Herriman’s work as Manson on “Mindhunter” is now streaming on Netflix.