Weinstein Co. Says Yes To Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison; No to Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus
The current financial situation of The Weinstein Company has been a topic of great interest to the film world for a while new, particularly as the never-ending saga of the release of Tulip Fever seems destined to continue for the rest of our days. Now, with rumours that the distribution company is close to flat broke and struggling to maintain a solid release schedule, they’ve made some questionable moves with films that had previously been tipped to Oscar success. It’s a sharp contrast from Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax days, where he essentially dictated the awards season and re-made the mould for everyone to follow in his footsteps.
Now, it’s taken the increasingly expected move of shunting back one of its biggest hopefuls to a less crowded slot. Mary Magdalene, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, was originally set for a key November release, then was moved to December, but will now premiere next March in time for Easter (well who else would you market a film about Jesus to?).
March isn’t really an Oscar month, although films with earlier releases have taken home Oscar gold (The Silence of the Lambs comes to mind). It’s just surprising given that Weinstein, the man who basically perfected the late in the year awards release, has now realised how crowded that style has become and must improvise. Of course, it could be that the film’s not very good (early word is that it’s actually pretty great, but anything can change in the edit). It could also be that Harvey doesn’t want to deal with the potential controversy of a religious film with an intentionally feminist slant on the story of Mary Magdalene (one where both the leads are also white). I’ve often wondered who this movie is for - is it for Kirk Cameron style evangelical movie fans? Indie geeks? More serious theologians? - and marketing it as such must be hard. Maybe he doesn’t want the controversy, or maybe he’s just broke and wants a safer bet.
Said safer bet seems to be The Current War, a historical drama about the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon. That’s been moved into the old Mary Magdalene spot and will also premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. A plummy period drama starring everyone’s favourite sentient otter? Seems like a more classic awards bait bet than a religious epic.
Are you excited for either film? How many years do you give The Weinstein Company before it goes tits up? At what point during filming Mary Magdalene do you think Rooney Mara saw Joaquin Phoenix in costume as Jesus and decided to start dating him? Are you still annoyed that The Imitation Game won an Oscar for a terrible screenplay because Weinstein tied its success to honouring Alan Turing’s legacy? Tell us everything.