In making "The Queen," Stephen Frears has directed one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, and made $49 million in global box office returns to boot. RT chatted with the Brit about his new royal drama — and it’s no surprise who he thinks deserves the Best Actress Oscar.
Surprisingly few movie-goers know him by name, but they do know his films: "My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dangerous Liaisons," "The Grifters," "High Fidelity," and "Dirty Pretty Things," among others, not to mention my personal, lesser-known favorite, "The Snapper" (Mr. Frears agrees that it’s "wonderful"). With such an impressive filmography, Frears can boast a career as one of the most talented — if rarely venerated — directors of our time.
Perhaps it’s only his eclectic taste that keeps this body of work from being more recognizable as a whole. With such an array of stories and characters, you could say his products lack a brand — really, that’s part of their charm.
As his latest film stuns critics ("The Queen" currently resides at 98 percent on the Tomatometer, making it one of our best-rated films of all time) and attracts Oscar buzz (for its direction and an impressive performance by Helen Mirren in the title role), it looks as though Frears might finally become a household name. Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Mr. Frears at the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco where he jovially discussed the British Monarchy, disastrous politicians, and the film industry across the Atlantic, among other things.
Rotten Tomatoes: What were the biggest obstacles you faced while making "The Queen?"
Stephen Frears: You just sort of had to take a deep breath and do it, because no one had really done it before and it was such a cheeky idea. I mean, it’s like a soap opera really. You sort of can’t quite believe you’re standing in front, directing an actress playing the queen. It’s just not what happens in normal life.
RT: Did you have any concerns about a political reaction?
SF: Listen, we clearly got away with it. If we hadn’t made the film we’d made we would have looked pretty stupid. I thought people would say, you know, this film shouldn’t have been made, this woman should be left alone. But nobody’s actually said that.
RT: Have you heard from The House of Windsor about the film?
SF: They don’t ring me up about it, they don’t leave me notes.
RT: [Laughs] What about Tony Blair?
SF: I was told he’d seen it.
SF: I’ve had five actresses nominated.
RT: You have?
SF: King of the Actresses, me.
RT: Did you have your eye on the Oscar going into "The Queen?"
SF: If it was mine to give I’d give it to Helen…but it ain’t.
RT: What one movie in your filmography do you think didn’t get the critical recognition it deserved?
RT: Well, maybe you’re finally getting your redemption.
SF: [Laughs] Said the luckiest man in the world.
ELSEWHERE IN INDIE NEWS THIS WEEK:
Almodovar and Cruz To Re-Team On "El Piel Que Habito"
Fresh off the success of their latest collaboration, "Volver," Pedro Almodovar says he’s planning on working with Penelope Cruz on his next flick as well. Almodovar told reporters in his native Spain that his next film, "El Piel Que Habito" ("The Skin I Live In"), will be shot in Warsaw, and will be a radical departure from his previous films. "It’s a very tough story about revenge. It has nothing to do with ‘Volver’ or my life," he said.
Aptly-named "Weirdsville" To Open Slamdance
The screwball dramedy "Weirdsville," starring Scott Speedman, Taryn Manning, and Wes Bentley, will be the opening night selection for this year’s Slamdance Film Festival. The fest, now in its 13th year, will run from Jan. 18 to 27 in Park City, Utah, concurrently with Sundance. The narrative and documentary films at Slamdance are made by first-time directors on budgets of $1 million or less. The festival will showcase 100 films, a number pared down from more than 3,600 submissions.
Korine Finishes "Mister Lonely"
Say what you will about Harmony Korine: he’s never been conventional. So when the enfant terrible auteur says that his latest, "Mister Lonely," is "pretty weird," that probably means it’s really weird. The film stars Samantha Morton as Marilyn Monroe, Diego Luna as Michael Jackson, Anita Pallenberg as the Queen of England, and the not-at-all-eccentric Werner Herzog. No date has been set for the film’s release; Korine’s last picture was 1999’s still-controversial "Julien Donkey-Boy."
Tomatometers For Last Week’s Limited Releases
Opening last week in limited release: "10 Items or Less," a laid-back romance starring Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega, is at 62 percent with 47 reviews; "3 Needles," a globe-spanning drama about the toll of the AIDS virus, is at 34 percent with 32 reviews; "The Architect," a tale of two families in conflict over a public housing structure, is at 18 percent with 17 reviews; and "Two Weeks," a dramedy about a family’s response to terminal illness, is at zero percent with six reviews.
Top Performing Limiteds
In last week’s indie box office battle, "Volver" grossed an average of $12,675 on 30 screens (it’s made $1.9 million in its five week run), besting the stage-to-screen adaptation "The History Boys," which averaged $10,359 on eight screens (which has mad $300,000 in its two weeks in theaters). The Bollywood drama "Dhoom 2" held tough, raking in an average of $8,104 on 63 screens (for a total of $2.1 million in two weeks), while the Jean-Luc Godard classic "Two Or Three Things I Know About Her…" made $8,050 on one screen, for a total of $47,000 in three weeks. Rounding out the top five was the relationship drama "Flannel Pajamas, which hauled in a so-so $3,716 on two screens, for a total of $42,000 in three weeks of release.