Gavin O’Connor

Kristen Stewart Dead in Snow White and the Huntsman

Deciding not to direct Ant-Man is the big fad right now. Everybody’s doing it! But while Marvel continues to play the arcade claw game with strictly comedic directors, the dramatic ones are apparently being eyed elsewhere for another franchise. Universal needs a director for the 2016-slated sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, a film that was met with a resounding “meh” back in 2012 (and then immediately blurred together with Alice in Wonderland and Jack the Giant Slayer in the minds of people who’ve seen too many recent dark and edgy live-action fairy tales). And so far, the studio is looking at three truly terrific choices, the names of which have been shared by Deadline. We weigh the benefits of each below. Frank Darabont The Shawshank Redemption. The Mist. The Walking Dead. Darabont is the master of slow-paced, suspenseful melancholy that takes a quick snack break for something horribly upsetting. Like how The Mist is a pleasant how-to guide on disaster relief and supermarket safety, and then — POW! — a guy explodes and a bunch of spiders come out. With his experience with The Walking Dead, he might be able to unearth something new (say, “emotion”) from the likes of star Kristen Stewart. Seriously, though, Darabont is a pretty masterful filmmaker when he wants to be, and he’s no stranger to monstrous horrors that appear out of nowhere to drag men to their doom. Which will almost certainly appear in the next Huntsman film. Overall, an extremely solid choice for Snow White and the Huntsman 2 Furious.

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Lynne Ramsay

It’s the ill-fated production that just won’t die, no matter how many bullets you put in its head. The Brian Duffield-penned Blacklist screenplay Jane Got a Gun got off to a solid start (perhaps even with a bang?) when lauded director Lynne Ramsay signed on to helm the tale of a Western woman who must turn to her ex-lover to help protect her homestead and husband from a band of baddie thugs (well, horseback thugs) out to kill them. The addition of stars Natalie Portman (who also signed on to produce the project), Michael Fassbender, and Joel Edgerton only made the project sound still more enticing before, well, everything just went to hell in a big, Hollywood-shaped handbasket. And now it’s going to court! But first, let’s begin with a recap of the situation – an extensive enough series of events that we truly hopes spawn some sort of behind the scenes book or oral history or something at some point in time.

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Ewan McGregor

If nothing else, the making of Jane Got a Gun just might make one hell of a documentary one day. The latest news on the plagued Western is that Ewan McGregor is now negotiating to play the essential villain role in the film. Yes, that’s the role that has, at one point or another, been occupied by Joel Edgerton (who is now playing the good guy of the film), Jude Law, and Bradley Cooper, in (very) short order. Hopefully this McGregor casting will stick and the production can get a move on and actually turn into a feature film we can all watch one day, instead of just chronicling it as a cautionary tale in the fickle world of Hollywood. The film is still set to be directed by Gavin O’Connor, with producer Natalie Portman sticking to her guns as the eponymous Jane, a tough farm wife who must defend her home against a band of (hopefully) McGregor-led outlaws intent on killing her criminal husband (Noah Emmerich) who eventually enlists the help of a former lover (Edgerton) to protect her life and livelihood. Yeehaw and such. [Deadline Hollywood]

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Noah Emmerich

With its revolving door of cast members and production drama in the wake of director Lynne Ramsay‘s departure, Jane Got a Gun has scarcely had time to hook a new director, let alone fill the one still-vacant leading role. Now that Warrior director Gavin O’Connor has taken over the film, Jane is finally getting a hubby in O’Connor’s frequent collaborator, Noah Emmerich. Brian Duffield‘s Western script centers on Natalie Portman‘s eponymous Jane, who discovers that her outlaw hubby (Emmerich) is the target of Bradley Cooper‘s baddie gang and then subsequently hires on her own ex-lover (Joel Edgerton) to help her protect her farm from Cooper and his desperado pals. Deadline’s scoop that Emmerich is set to fill the husband role (which, admittedly, I think most of us had forgotten about in the wake of all the Jane drama) doesn’t come as a surprise – Jane will be the fifth film that Emmerich has starred in for O’Connor, as the pair have also worked on such projects as Miracle and Warrior (which also starred Edgerton).

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Gavin O

Yesterday, Lynne Ramsay made what’s most likely a massive career error by quitting Jane Got a Gun in spectacular fashion. By not showing up for work on the first day of filming, she either did the only thing she could do to take care of a personal crisis or she pulled a dick move by threatening a production and the jobs of several hundred people. Details are unclear at this point, but according to Deadline Hollywood, producer Scott Steindorff has pulled a director out of a hat to take Ramsay’s place. That filmmaker is Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Miracle), and he’s an excellent choice for the wild west story that sees a young woman (Natalie Portman) turn to an ex to protect her husband from a gang ready to kill him. O’Connor has proven several times that he can make great adult fiction without alienating or making the tone too niche to enjoy. Not only is it surprising that the production found an available replacement so quickly, it’s downright astonishing that they found one who’se so well-suited to the material. O’Connor was working on prep for the TV series Cinnamon Girl from writer/creator Renee Zellweger, but otherwise his film focus was free beyond projects at the script level. However, there’s a chance that this sudden new employment will affect his attachment to Yakuza and The Samurai – two films that are hopefully self-descriptive. We also now get to wonder how their takes would have been different and play that What If game throughout production.

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After the debut of last year’s criminally underseen and severely underrated Warrior, writer and director Gavin O’Connor did manage to find one major silver lining – the adoration of scads of brand new fans who loved his film and wanted to see more of his work. Fortunately, while Warrior went without much of the notice it deserved, O’Connor has not, as the filmmaker has been steadily lining up work in the months since the film hit theaters. Next up, Universal Pictures has picked the director to helm Yakuza, “a contemporary Japan-set thriller” that focuses on “an American intelligence expert who becomes embroiled in the affairs of a notorious yakuza godfather and finds himself plunged into the violent criminal underworld and toxic landscape of post-tsunami Japan.” The film’s script was penned by Chap Taylor (Changing Lanes), but O’Connor will now rewrite it, along with Josh Fagin. Imagine Entertainment and Brian Grazer are producing. While that storyline sounds a bit done-before, setting it in a modern time period adds some intrigue and, paired with O’Connor’s knack for getting emotional performances out of beefy brawlers, Yakuza could end up being something special.

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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If I told you a couple years ago that a movie about two MMA-fighting, down-on-their-luck brothers who inexplicably enter into a professional fighting tournament and subsequently beat all of the best in the world to face each other in the finals was really good and you should check it out, you probably would have looked at me like I was stupid. But then Warrior came out, and it had Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in it, so we checked it out despite the ridiculous premise, and it actually turned out to be a fine little film. It’s funny how the world works. While the performances were definitely my favorite part of Warrior, I must admit that the movie had a subtle touch when dealing with potentially cheesy material, and that went a long way toward keeping me along for the ride. Credit for that, and the casting for that matter, has to be largely given to director Gavin O’Connor. So now this guy finds himself on my radar. I’m going to be following whatever he does next very closely. And according to Deadline Suffolk, the next thing he’s going to be doing is a movie called The Samurai, which he co-wrote with Michael J. Wilson and has sold as a spec script to Warner Bros. for six figures and change.

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In the wrong hands, Warrior could have been a disaster. If a few beats in Gavin O’Connor‘s family drama missed the mark even in the slightest, the final result could have been a sports parody. Despite playing in familiar territory, the Miracle and Pride and Glory director didn’t make that parody. Instead, the filmmaker strived to be as honest as possible with the material at hand. In doing so, he’s made an underdog of a film that’s, ironically, about underdogs. Like his previous works, O’Connor explores the meaning of brotherhood, family, and overcoming insurmountable odds. The trick for O’Connor was to make those well-known — drama, not sports — tropes believable. Here’s what co-writer and director Gavin O’Connor had to say about striving for realism, telling personal stories in mass appeal films, and love stories among men:

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads into the MMA ring to battle Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, after being trained by a strung-out Nick Nolte who looks like he’s ready to have an aneurysm at any moment. Then he is sent into a bird flu panic when someone coughs on him at the airport. Not wanting to suffer the same fate as Gwenyth Paltrow, he takes a road trip down to the Louisiana bayou where he runs into a hillbilly redneck alligator mutant. But at least he didn’t have to see Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.

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Critics love to bemoan the high concept Hollywood production, those movies with an easily comprehended hook that seems ready-made for the pitch meeting. Their disgust is often justifiable. After all, these are usually safe, creatively bankrupt cliché fests, the scourge of the corporately-run studios. At first glance, Warrior — one-part Cain and Abel, one part Rocky and one part a blatant cash-in on the Mixed Martial Arts phenomenon — appears to be just such a flick. But when it comes to a picture’s most basic purpose — entertaining its audience — an easily definable premise doesn’t necessarily spell doom. When the commonplace is done well, with real feeling and strong characterizations, it can still seem fresh. Director Gavin O’Connor, who achieved that effect with his 1980 Winter Olympics hockey drama Miracle, does it again here. The premise is familiar — estranged blue collar brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) hash out their differences against the backdrop of an athletic competition (MMA tournament). The passion imbued in the storytelling and the performances, however, is not.

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I’m not usually interested in writing stories about photos. Most of the time, especially when you’re not dealing with a superhero film, there’s not much room for speculation or any sort of interesting commentary. With these behind the scenes pics for Warrior, not much can be said about them. However, I’ll take any chance I can get to discuss Gavin O’Connor‘s family drama, because it’s just that good. To make an easy comparison, it’s this year’s The Fighter. They are different films, but one big fact they both have in common? They’re genuine crowd-pleasers. Warrior never panders to please. It, mostly, features well-earned drama that wins you over. If you need to feel secure about yourself, make sure to checkout how flabby and out of shape Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton look here. God, I feel bad for these guys.

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No, no, this is not a free contest. It’s even better: an auction for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. So if you want a Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton signed Warrior poster, you have to bid for it and do some good. If the awesome actors duo signature and that it’s for charity doesn’t convince any of you bums, perhaps the fact that Warrior is excellent might. Having just seen the film last night, I’m still surprised by how effective it is. It’s a great comeback for Gavin O’Connor, who directed the solid Miracle and the big, big misfire Pride and Glory – the movie where Colin Farrell held a steaming iron right next to a baby’s face, then went on to call the baby beautiful after doing so. Yes, this is indeed a big step forward for O’Connor. Warrior is a true crowd-pleaser, and not the dopey kind. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are fantastic in it too, so even more reason to buy the poster before the auction closes. Head over to Ebay before the sale closes at about 5 p.m. (ET). Go get a cool signed poster for a lovely film and giveback, it’s a win-win.

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Variety has gotten its hands on the director shortlist for The Wolverine, and it, mostly, consists of fairly safe and obvious choices. But, like many of these lists, a great and head scratching question is posed: Does Hugh Jackman and company actually know what type of movie they want to make? When a list of favored directors features the likes of Mark Romanek and the director of Tokyo Drift, it boggles the mind. Here’s the apparent list of favored options that, per usual, you should take with a slight grain of salt:

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Consider this a gift of sorts. Sometimes the stars align and guys like Tom Hardy (Bronson) and Joel Edgerton (The Square), two men of talent on the verge of major stardom, get paired up together in a film with a more than capable director (Gavin O’Connor) working in a genre he’s known to be great with (sports films, a la Miracle). The result is Warrior, the subject of the following trailer. It’s the first Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) film trailer I’ve seen that has me interested. Not for the men beating each other to a collective pulp, but for the story it appears to be telling. Two brothers, hell bent on beating each other senseless in front of millions of people. Now that’s a story I can get behind. See the trailer for yourself after the jump.

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Based on the real life backstory of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Hockey team, a team that defied all odds and rallied a nation by defeating the Soviet Union during a time of great sociopolitical tension, Miracle is also the very human story behind one of the greatest moments in sports history.

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Pride and Glory

With all this talent, these folks managed to make a movie that is about as appealing as two-week-old mayonnaise slathered on a cow patty.

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