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Peeling The Curtain On The Nine Films Competing For The Academy’s Grand Prize


Todd Phillips’ $60 million character study of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) as he morphs into the eponymous villain leads the Oscar race with 11 nominations and has laughed all the way to the box office, raking in more than $1 billion. On THR’s Director Roundtable, Phillips likened filmmaking to jazz, citing how changes were made daily on Joker. For instance, Fleck “goes into this rundown bathroom in a rundown park and is going to wash his makeup off and hide the gun — and me and Joaquin are on the set, and we’re just like, ‘Nah, this doesn’t seem like Arthur.’ ” They pondered options for 45 minutes while the crew waited. Phillips played Phoenix “a piece of score by our composer. And he started doing this dance. And we were just like, ‘Wait, that’s the scene.’ ” note: Countdown to Destruction Movie


‘Jojo Rabbit’

When Fox Searchlight signed on to adapt Taika Waititi’s Black List script, its one requirement was that the writer-director play Hitler himself. But he was hesitant. “I just didn’t want to have myself get clouded with negative shit while trying to play someone so evil,” he told THR. “But my ego is so massive, it was bound to happen.” The $14 million story of a boy with the führer as his imaginary friend shot over 40 days in Prague, which stood in for 1940s Berlin. “In Prague, they are used to making World War II movies,” producer Carthew Neal said. “This is their bread and butter.” But casting didn’t find Jojo until a month before shooting started, when Roman Griffin Davis happened to be on the Fox lot auditioning for Ford v Ferrari. Said Davis, “I was reading the script, and I was like, ‘Is this kid a Nazi?’ ” note: My Little Pony Movie

‘The Irishman’

Al Pacino and Joe Pesci both received best supporting actor nominations for their roles in Martin Scorsese’s $175 million gangster epic for Netflix. In addition to 10 total nods for The Irishman, Scorsese became the most nominated living helmer, with his ninth directing nom. Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro’s longtime producing partner, recounted to THR on Oscar noms morning a story Juliette Lewis “told about Marty doing inserts on Cape Fear. To somebody else doing inserts, a second unit would go do it. But Marty finds joy in every shot, and every shot is there for a reason. He’s a true artist.” She also touted De Niro’s perseverance, as the actor-producer kept the project alive for 12 years. “I should also say he derailed another project we were doing because he felt this was a better story to tell. He was right.” note: Sand Dune Movie

‘Ford v Ferarri’

Brad Pitt may have received a best supporting actor Oscar nom for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but at one point he was set to star in the James Mangold racing drama. Ford v Ferrari producer Peter Chernin recalled on THR’s Producer Roundtable how the film was in development for roughly 15 years, with Tom Cruise attached as well. “Tom just wants to do anything fast,” he quipped. The $97 million re-creation of the 1966 Le Mans car race, which pits rivals Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari against each other, ultimately found their leads in Matt Damon and Christian Bale, whose characters form a brotherhood in the story. In one comical moment, Damon’s car designer Carroll Shelby and Bale’s race car driver Ken Miles tussle, with a loaf of Wonder Bread as a prominent weapon. “Christian played Batman for a decade, and I played Jason Bourne for about the same amount of time,” Damon told THR. “We had to take fights in those films so seriously. This was exactly the opposite. It was completely silly and goofy.” Bale shed 70 pounds in eight months after playing Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s Vice: “Not eating is the essence, right?” note: Knock the Movie Emperor Huang Mingmin Movie


‘Little Women’

From October to December 2018, Greta Gerwig traipsed around Louisa May Alcott’s world, filming her Sony adaptation of the author’s novel in Massachusetts, where Alcott spent most of her life. “It was incredible to make the movie in the place it was written because the whole thing seemed infused with American history and literature,” said producer Amy Pascal. When she first read the script, which Gerwig wrote while hunkered down in a Big Sur cabin, Pascal deemed the take “Shakespearean punk rock.” She told THR: “It’s because of the structure. It was such a modern interpretation yet so classical. It was going back to what’s in the book and turning it inside out.” Gerwig’s ode to the March sisters called for 75 principal period costumes that each took 40 hours to make. “They kept saying to me, ‘It’s not a big movie,’ ” said costume designer Jacqueline Durran. “But in terms of my workload, it was an enormous movie.” note: after 3 Movie




Bong Joon Ho’s South Korean satire made history at the SAG Awards, becoming the first foreign-language film to win for best performance by a cast in a motion picture. The idea for the Palme d’Or winner stems from the director’s experiences as a tutor for the son of a wealthy family in Seoul. “This idea of a poor family infiltrating the lives of a rich one is where I first delved in,” he told THR. “It was more like putting these characters together in a very controlled environment and then watching the chemical reactions unfold.” The $12 million feature has become an international phenomenon, banking more than $115 million globally at the box office for Neon. Director Bong recently announced that he is developing Parasite as a limited series with Adam McKay for HBO. note: Deadly Induction Movie



Five hundred extras, a $90 million budget and one continuous shot — at least in theory. Sam Mendes’ race-against-the-clock story of a soldier on a mission has picked up accolades left and right: best picture and director at the Golden Globes and the top prize at the Producers Guild of America Awards. The director won best picture 20 years ago to the day of this year’s Oscar ceremony for his feature debut, American Beauty. Composer Thomas Newman, who has worked with Mendes on films including American Beauty, Jarhead and Skyfall, recalled that from the first meeting, Mendes was clear the film was meant to look like one take. “We talked over a meal in London in November 2018. I don’t think the idea was ever, ‘Oh, let’s do this in a shot,’ as much as, ‘Here’s a story, and I want to do it in one shot.’ ” Newman commended Mendes’ theater background for making that feat possible. Andrew Scott, who appears as a lieutenant in the World War I film, compared the style of shooting to “walking a tightrope.” He told THR that meticulous preparation was key. “You’re like, ‘OK, I’ve got to get the cigarette lighter working. I’ve got to get this line right. I’ve got to get into camera position because there’s 400 extras here. That was the big thrill about it. Watching the movie itself is a total thrill.”


‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

Quentin Tarantino considers Once Upon a Time in Hollywood his “memory film,” according to producer Shannon McIntosh. Said producer David Heyman: “Even down to the fact that some of the shots when Cliff Booth [Brad Pitt] is driving home, or a lot of the shots of Hollywood Boulevard, they’re all looking up. That’s reminiscent of Quentin’s view when he was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, looking up from the back of the car.” The writer-director’s ninth film, which picked up the Golden Globe win for best picture, musical or comedy, as well as for screenplay and supporting actor, has made more than $231 million globally since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Speaking backstage at the Golden Globe Awards, Tarantino referred to casting Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as the “casting coup of the decade.” Tarantino had the duo in mind in his “fever dream of who would be fantastic,” but at the same time, the actors had to “go together. Since one person is playing the stunt double of the other, you had to believe one guy could double the other person.” Tarantino noted that he came up with a few different examples, but Rick Dalton, played by DiCaprio, needed to be cast first. “Then we’d know who we’d need for Cliff Booth.”


‘Marriage Story’

Noah Baumbach is known for his attention to detail. “But he just wants it to be exact,” said producer David Heyman. “If you bring him a prop, like a legal document, you better make sure you’ve triple-checked that it’s exactly what it should be because he will check and he will know.” Netflix’s love story about divorce was made for $18 million and reunited Baumbach with Adam Driver for their fourth film together, after Frances Ha (2012), While We’re Young (2014) and The Meyerowitz Stories (2017). Of his climactic 11-page fight scene with co-star Scarlett Johansson, in which Driver punches a wall and ultimately breaks down crying, the Oscar nominee said the emotion “is not something you push for.” He found the script “so good, and it’s well-written. If it’s badly written, there’s only one way to do it. If it’s well-written, the language is so rich that every time you say it, it opens up an idea. It feels very much like theater — where the text is the text. And I find that incredibly freeing.”