Buzz on the 51st New York Film Festival: Tom Hanks Starrer Grabs Opening Night with Ben Stiller Starrer Selected for Fest Centerpiece
By: Ellis Nassour
The stars are aligning for the 51st New York Film Festival, which the Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) presents September 27 – October 13. Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, one of moviedom’s biggest, most dependable box office stalwarts has the prestigious opening night slot — in the world premiere of director Paul Greengrass’ much-anticipated Captain Phillips.
Closing night’s attraction is yet to be announced; however, Ben Stiller has captured the much-sought after October 15th Centerpiece slot, starring in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which he also directed.
The 17-day Fest highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as those from emerging talent.
Hanks, nominated for a 2013 Tony Award in his Broadway debut for his portrayal of investigative journalist Mike McAlary in Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy; and a recipient of FSLC’s Chaplin Award, plays merchant marine Captain Richard Phillips, who helms the first U.S. cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years.
Captain Phillips marks Greengrass’ return to the NYFF since premiering his Bloody Sunday in 2002. It’s based on Phillips and Stephan Talty’s book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea, which recounts the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. Kenya-bound ship by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and the tense game of cat and mouse that ensues as the U.S. Navy converges to rescue the crew.
Greengrass states, "This is Tom doing what he does best. He gives an incredibly powerful performance as an ordinary man facing the most intense peril. It’s a compelling film that works not only as an intense thriller about terror on the high seas – complete with kidnapping, murder, and ransom, but it also has real depth. Besides being a brilliant actor, Tom’s a great collaborator. He spent a lot of time with Captain Phillips to immerse himself in the world of these truckers of the sea, who’re the lifeblood of the global economy."
Known for his documentary shooting style (quite evident in United 93), Greengrass spoke of the challenges involved shooting at sea. "That’s rather a graveyard for directors. You’re beset by all sorts of problems. Some scenes we did inside, but a lot we did tossed about in rough seas. It was brutal, but I wanted to shoot where it took place to add veracity, authenticity, and emotional impact."
NYFF Programming Director and Selection Committee chair Kent Jones says, "Captain Phillips will have audiences riveted to their seats. It’s a tough, real-life thriller, capped by Tom Hanks’ remarkable performance."
The film (from Columbia Pictures), which also stars two-time Oscar nominee Catherine Keener as Mrs. Phillips and Yul Vazquez (TV’s Magic City and Treme), hits theatres October 11.
Among its producers are Scott Rudin, Broadway veteran producer of numerous hits, and two-time Oscar winner and Tony and Drama Desk winner Kevin Spacey (TV’s House of Cards).
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is based – or better said, loosely based on James Thurber’s classic tale of a dreamer who escapes anonyminity by disappearing into a fantasy world. When his and his co-worker’s jobs are threatened, Mity embarks on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he imagined.
Oscar nominee Kristen Wiig, Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine (a six-time nominee), two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn, and Adam Scott (TVs Parks and Recreation and Burning Love) are among the co-stars.
"Ben’s expanded on Thurber’s beloved short story and crafted a lyrical comic epic," says Jones. "It’s grounded in present day realities. Kristen is nothing short of magical as the woman of his dreams, and it’s great to see Shirley MacLaine in perfect form."
Stiller expressed his excitement about his film being selected as the Centerpiece, "I’m incredibly honored to have The Secret Life of Walter Mitty premiere in the New York Film Festival, especially since I grew up a few blocks away on Riverside Drive. This film has been a wonderful collaboration with a special screenwriter, Steve Conrad, and the talented cast and crew. Audiences will marvel, as I did, at how relevant this story from 1939 still is and why it spoke to me."
The film (released by 20th Century Fox), is co-produced by Stiller, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. (whose father produced the all-star 1947 adaptation), and Gore Verbinski (The Lone Ranger) will open Christmas day.
New York Film Festival subscription packages and VIP Passes are on sale now to Film Society members. General public tickets go on sale September 8. For more information about becoming a Film Society Member, visit www.filmlinc.com.
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