ZURICH – Harvey Weinstein gave Oscar handicappers a sneak peek at Weinstein Co.’s gameplan this award season when, speaking at a masterclass at the Zurich International Film Festival, he revealed details of the films TWC sees as its strongest contenders and its fiercest competition.
Weinstein said TWC decided to push back Grace of Monaco from its planned Fall bow to next year because the film “wasn’t finished” and wouldn’t have had any festival buzz going into the Oscar campaign. The film had been tipped, sight unseen, as a hot awards title, especially for Nicole Kidman in the title role as Grace Kelly. But Weinstein said Olivier Dahan‘s biopic “just wasn’t finished, the sound, anything” in time and, given the Oscar competition this year, he decided not to rush it.
“This is the most competitive [Oscar] season I’ve ever seen,” Weinstein said. “And if you aren’t ready, don’t get in it.”
He insisted that Grace would get the full awards push for next year, comparing it to another TWC period biopic, My Week With Marilyn (2011), which earned two Oscar nominations and grossed nearly $15 million domestically. ?”I think it’s going to be even bigger than My Weekend With Marilyn,” he said.
One title TWC is putting the Oscar ring this year is Sundance winner Fruitvale Station from first-timer Ryan Coogler. Weinstein praised Coogler, who was in the audience in Zurich, for his debut, a real-life drama about the killing of Oscar Grant by the police in Oakland in 2008.
“[The film] did $16 million, which is very good for a film that size but there’s going to be another round with this,” Weinstein said, indicating that TWC would be pushing Fruitvale in multiple categories for its Oscar campaign and hinting even a re-release could be in the cards. “He’s [Coogler] a boxing fan and he’s going to get a round two,” he said.
Alongside Fruitvale, TWC is spoiled for choice in this year’s race. In addition to the near-certain Oscar bait of Lee Daniels‘s The Butler, TWC has a pack of prestige titles that could draw Academy attention, including biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, John Wells‘ dysfunctional family dramedy August: Osage County and Stephen Frears‘ Philomena, starring Oscar (and Weinstein) favorite Judi Dench.
James Gray‘s 1920s period drama The Immigrant, which many had seen as a no-brainer best actress campaign for star Marion Cotillard, is off TWC’s Oscar list for this season, however, as TWC’s Radius label has pushed back the film’s release to 2014.
On TWC’s competition this year, Weinstein praised Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years a Slave (a Fox Searchlight title) and, perhaps surprisingly given TWC’s public battle with Warner Bros. over the title to Daniels’ The Butler, WB’s crime thriller Prisoners.
Exempting TWCs own titles, Weinstein said Denis Villeneuve‘s dark drama starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal “is the best film I’ve seen all year. I don’t know why I’m praising a Warner Bros. movie after what they did to us on The Butler … but they are good people and they made a good movie,” he added.
Weinstein, however, admitted that the rights battle over the name The Butler amounted to millions of dollars of free publicity for Daniels’ film, which grossed more than $110 million in the U.S.
Weinstein estimated that some “40 percent of the audience that went to see The Butler did because Warner Bros. did that.”