There's also mentioned a possible screening for both Flags of Our Fathers & Tegami this October for the Tokyo Film Festival
(mmm... is it the same film festival where there'll gonna be screenings of Jun's & Sho's movies?... not sure what movies...not sure bout the facts.. can somebody confirm this?)
Posted : Sun., Sep. 3, 2006.
Flying two flags.
At 76, Eastwood reinvents himself yet again with twin portraits of Iwo Jima
By PETER BART.
Now that the inventory of summer popcorn movies has finally been exhausted, the stage is set for the more serious fall fare. That means it's Clint Eastwood time. Clint has two movies coming out before year's end. That is, two separate movies with the same story. Actually not the same story; not even the same language. Just the same setting. Who else, one might ask, could pull off a scheme like this? Who else would even have the muscle to do so?
Clint it seems, has a sensibility different from anyone else making movies these days. Also a different clock. At a time of life when most of us grow more conservative, Clint now in his mid-70s, takes even bigger risks.
Hence, Flags of Our Fathers, a movie about the battle for Iwo Jima 60-plus years ago, will open Oct. 20. Letters From Iwo Jima, Clint's Japanese-language movie on the same subject, but from the Japanese point of view, will open two months later.
Thus, the possibility exists that Clint will be the first filmmaker in history to have two films in awards contention in the same year, in two different languages. Clint's grand design is for the two films to complement, but not repeat, each other. Hence, one scene in Flags shows American soldiers chatting in their foxhole, when suddenly one of them disappears, having been yanked into a tunnel by the Japanese. The Japanese film does not show the Americans, but rather the Japanese who are pulling down the American soldier.
All this is both innovative and daring. In a sense, so are all Clint's recent films, like Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Talk to Clint about this and he gets skittish. There’s no auteur shtick in his make-up -- he's a working director, just like he was formerly a working actor. I got to know him as a young actor and here's the dirty little secret: He was a great guy. He was not distanced, like the young Redford, or pathologically self-protective, like the young Beatty and he never gave expression to his ambitions to become a serious filmmaker. I always felt he was rather bemused by his own success.
Typically, his decision to make Flags was not accompanied by a blast of publicity. Steven Spielberg had actually worked on the piece for a few years with screenwriter William Broyles. Clint then hired Paul Haggis to write a draft, before Crash. Clint is now completing post-production on both films with an eye to opening both at the Tokyo Film Festival in October. The distribution pattern is predictably complex: Warner Bros. is handling both films overseas along with DreamWorks, now owned by Paramount, which is distributing Flags in the U.S. The production costs of the two films together is under $70 million. There are no big stars involved : Ryan Phillippe is in Flags and Ken Watanabe in Letters.
How will they be received ? Well, Clint is on a roll. The critics love him, even though he makes no effort to patronize them. He does his aw shucks interviews, shakes a few hands and is on his way. No one would describe him as a great raconteur. He's a guy doing his job and filmgoers respond accordingly. Opening numbers are never extraordinary -- he's not giving them a pirate movie. The films open and they hold. The audiences keep coming, almost ritualistically. A Clint Eastwood movie, it seems, causes them to expect something special. And his two new companion films probably will deliver.
Clint Eastwood's career has always defied the Hollywood rules, but his latest project is an anomaly within that anomaly. There’s no rule book to follow for the marketing and publicity execs at Warner Bros. and Paramount who are charged with opening his two Iwo Jima films. Even the rollout campaign is still being worked out. Execs believe it's critical that the two movies be released within a short time of each other in the U.S. and Japan. However, they don't want the films to crowd each other out.
‘Each movie needs its own space ; it can't be seen as a stunt’, one marketing vet says. There are also a lot of generals in the mix. DreamWorks and Warner Bros. were the original partners on the films, but once DreamWorks was sold to Paramount, Par became involved.
Par bows Flags of Our Fathers (the battle from the American viewpoint) next month in the US, while Warners begins opening ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ (told from the Japanese side and shot entirely in Japanese) in December. Warners is releasing Flags overseas and Letters everywhere. Challenges involved are a far cry from the campaign for the two Matrix movies that opened within the same year. In the US, the test will be getting younger auds to care about a historical piece, from whatever perspective. Steven Spielberg's World War II epic Saving Private Ryan did big business in 1998, but it boasted star power in Tom Hanks and Matt Damon.
Flags must take hold and pave the way for the companion film Letters, whose Japanese dialogue presents an added challenge in the US and other English-speaking countries. In marketing Flags, there is sure to be lots of talk about Letters.
Eastwood began showing Flags to key studio suits late last week. Two weeks ago, his production company Malpaso released the first trailer, which was a combination of footage from both films. Warner Bros. Intl. execs are working hard on the overseas campaign, but believe Japanese auds will embrace both films because of their ultimate message.
‘It's the first time an American director has shown Japan defending its homeland without being the aggressor’, one Warners suit says. Eastwood began reaching out to the Japanese while still shooting that film, holding a press conference in Tokyo. And a Web site there offers advance tickets for both pics. While that's fairly common there, it is unusual to sell tickets 3½ months before a film's bow.
Warners has reason to do such heavy courting. The Japanese box office is second only to the U.S. in terms of might. In 2003, the Japanese proved their appetite for historical epics when The Last Samurai grossed $115 million in Japan, more than the U.S. cume of $111 million. Eastwood also wrote an open letter that is now posted on the official Japanese Web site plugging the two films. In mid-August, Warners Japan took out ads in 18 Japanese newspapers reprinting the letter.
It says, among other things, ‘those who lose their lives in war, on both sides, are fully deserving of honor and respect. These two films are my tribute to them. Through these films that tell the story (of Iwo Jima) from both the U.S. and Japanese sides, I hope that you will be able to see a new perspective on an era that the people of both countries share -- and has made a deep impression on their hearts’.
Flags was adapted by Paul Haggis from the bestselling book by James Bradley and Ron Powers. It follows the six US Marines who raised the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, resulting in one of the most iconic photographs of World War II.
Eastwood came up with the idea for Letters while in the midst of shooting Flags. He became interested in the story of Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who led the Japanese troops at Iwo Jima.
Warner Bros. Intl., which had gotten the greenlight to do local production in Japan, liked the concept. WB Intl. exec VP Richard Fox and William Ireton, head of Warners' Japan arm, were among those who arranged to have Kuribayashi's diary and letters translated for Eastwood. Eastwood talked to Haggis about also penning Letters. Haggis suggested a Japanese screenwriter be brought aboard. Eastwood hired Iris Yamashita, with Haggis getting a story credit.
DreamWorks and Warner Bros. equally co-financed and co-produced both films. The Japanese-language pic bows Dec. 9 in Japan. Warners hasn't set a U.S. release date, but buzz is that the studio could mount a qualifying awards run in December before going wide domestically early in the year.
Early opinion on the films is strong, but in awards season, would the films be competing or complementary? And which studio gets bragging rights? Flags is without doubt the bigger movie, costing under $55 million, while Letters cost under $15 million. Letters arguably has the bigger star in Ken Watanabe, while Flags toplines Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach and Barry Pepper.
One exec who worked on the project acknowledges the challenges, but has nothing but admiration for Eastwood. ‘He's 76 years old and rose to a challenge that most guys couldn't get out of bed to do and does it with such ease’, says one exec who worked on the project.
‘Nothing ruffles him. He's not histrionic, he does his job and is efficient. He comes in under budget. Some days, he even stops shooting at noon. He's doesn't wake up every morning worrying about what table he's going to get at the Grill’.