Posted by Danielle Berrin
If you’re not in on the “Twilight” phenomenon, get with it! Because you might not understand the huge significance of a bestselling series written by a stay-at-home mom/first time author (with scripts penned by a Jewish screenwriter) becoming the biggest global franchise since “Star Wars.” Wait…what? Did she really just say that? “Star Wars” is one of the most successful film franchises of all time!
Yes, that’s right. And “New Moon,” the second installment in “The Twilight Saga” just beat out “Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith” as the no. 1 advance online ticket seller of all time, according to Fandango.
Think it’s just a silly tween vampire movie?
According to Time Magazine, author Stephenie Meyer has sold 45 million books in the U.S. and 40 million more worldwide. Her books have spent 235 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, 136 of them at No. 1. The movie version of Twilight, which came out a year ago, made $350 million, Time reports, though other figures clock in at more than $380 million. Right now, as Nikki Finke reports, fans are camping out in Westwood awaiting tonight’s “New Moon” premiere.
This excerpt from Time’s review of the first film deftly points out the timeless, age-blind appeal of “Twilight”:
Defiantly old-fashioned, the film wants viewers to believe not so much in vampires as in the existence of an anachronistic movie notion: a love that is convulsive and ennobling. Bella could be any Hollywood heroine in love with a good boy whom society callously misunderstands. She’s Natalie Wood to Edward’s James Dean (in Rebel Without a Cause) or Richard Beymer (in West Side Story). Cathy, meet Heathcliff. Juliet, Romeo.
This brand of fervid romance packed ‘em in for the first 60 years of feature films, then went nearly extinct, replaced by the young-male fetishes of space toys and body-function humor. Twilight says to heck with that. It jettisons facetiousness for a liturgical solemnity, and hardware for soft lips. It revives the precept that there’s nothing more cinematic than a close-up of two beautiful people about to kiss.
A recent article in the magazine aptly titled “It’s ‘Twilight’ in America” beautifully (and somewhat appallingly) explains how the franchise’s success irrevocably alters the lives of its stars, who in this case, have gone from unknown to the world’s most rabidly consumed faces:
At the heart of all this are Stewart and Pattinson, who have gone from obscurity straight to superstardom. People wait for them outside buildings. People try to follow them home. “In Vancouver shooting New Moon, I tried something,” Pattinson says. “It’s the only city in the world where hoods are not fashionable. If you’re wearing a hood, you’re going to mug people. So I wore a hood, and then I’d sort of spit on the ground a little bit and do a little bit of shaking around as you’re walking. Everyone moved to the other side of the street.”
If there’s an irony to the success of Twilight, it’s this: life as the idol at the white-hot center of the hottest entertainment franchise in the world isn’t that much different from being a vampire. Pattinson has become the immortal object of global fandom’s hopeless yearnings. What began deep in Meyer’s unconscious mind has become Pattinson and Stewart’s reality. They’re living the dream.
Read my interview with “The Twilight Saga” screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg here
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November 13, 2009 | 3:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Here’s a weird move by “National Treasure” director Jon Turteltaub: he’s going green—and I don’t mean box office green. In fact, quite the opposite.
The Jerry Bruckheimer-beloved director will take on a bigscreen project about the history of the Greenpeace movement, Variety announced. You know, the people that sent you letters about evil Norwegian hunters poaching baby seals and promised “I love Greenpeace” bumper stickers in exchange for a donation? That’s where the blockbuster director is headed. And rumors have it that “West Wing” scribe Aaron Sorkin may be joining him. Producers are in talks with Sorkin to pen a script informed by the books written by Greenpeace founders Bob Hunter and Rex Weyler.
It might go like this with Wyler’s book: “Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and Visionaries Changed the World” starring Nicholas Cage and The Rock. Or, with Hunter’s: “Warriors of the Rainbow: A Chronicle of the Greenpeace Movement” starring Vin Diesel and Ken Watanabe.
“We want to look at these unlikely heroes who became activists in spite of themselves,” producer Janet Zucker told the trade. “Jon likes to make a big adventure movies. And we’ve found that the best way to reach people’s hearts and minds is through entertainment.”
It’s difficult to imagine the audience for a film like this, which is slated to be a “big canvas pic with an environmental message.” There have been a slew of documentaries touting environmental awareness in recent years, including Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and the Leonard DiCaprio hemled “The 11th Hour” but fictionalizing an environmental advocacy movement doesn’t strike with the same authority. And did anyone actually see “The 11th Hour?”
Then again, you’ve got built in exotic locales, endangered sea creatures and the evil forces of the world conspiring to annihilate them all. It’s a save-the-whales version of national treasure.
November 11, 2009 | 10:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Melissa Rosenberg, the screenwriter of “The Twilight Saga,” is 6 feet tall with straight blonde hair, a pale complexion and a long, slim nose. Not exactly the most ethnic mien imaginable.
“I don’t look particularly Jewish,” she says sheepishly, half wondering why she’s on a lunch date with The Jewish Journal. “But I have a very Jewish name.”
Her name — Rosenberg — has been strangely, if not surprisingly, advantageous to her career. Back in the 1990s, when she was first looking for an agent, one interested agency made an incorrect assumption about her that proved fortunate. “They said, ‘We just made a deal for your mother’ and I was thinking, ‘You guys are good. [My mother] has been dead 10 years.’ Then I realized they thought I was Joan Rivers’ daughter, who at the time was Melissa Rosenberg.”
In the 18 years since, Rosenberg has made a name for herself as a television and film writer. But her career really took off in 2007 when she was anointed movie scribe of the “Twilight” franchise, based on the best-selling series of young adult novels by Stephenie Meyer. The story, about a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire, became a tween/teen phenomenon. Rosenberg penned the first script, “Twilight,” which grossed $380 million worldwide, and has since gone on to write the sequels “New Moon,” which hits theaters Nov. 20, and “Eclipse,” which wrapped production in Vancouver in late October and is set for release in June. Rosenberg is also the writer/executive producer of the Showtime series “Dexter,” about a sociopathic serial killer who justifies his life of crime by knocking off the bad guys.
Bloodlust, vampirism and ambiguous morality could be seen as decidedly un-Jewish. After all, vampire mythology, as Rabbi David Wolpe notes (see accompanying article), is philosophically at odds with Jewish values. And if you ask Rosenberg, “The Twilight Saga” in particular is a departure from religion-based vampire lore and instead is an exercise in secular storytelling.
“Vampires aren’t very Jewish,” Rosenberg says. “The most basic thing about them is that they are born out of Christian mythology.” Nevertheless, she is quick to point out that Meyer, a devout Mormon, has created her own vampire mythology, devoid of religious connotation, absent the Christian symbolism of crosses and holy water.
And yet, the protagonist vampires of “Twilight” are different in another way from other vampires.
“They’re kosher vampires,” Rosenberg says, laughing.
To read the full story, click here
November 4, 2009 | 9:12 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Actor Nicholas Cage reportedly owes the government $6.3 million in back taxes, but instead of ponying up, he’s blaming his money manager.
Cage is suing Samuel J. Levin, his former business manager, who he claims encouraged the purchase of “numerous highly speculative and risky real estate investments” which resulted in the actor “suffering catastrophic losses,” according to the $20 million lawsuit.
But before a dispirited and guilt-ridden Jewish world assumes Levin is akin to Madoff, they might consider a closer look at Cage’s spending habits.
Writing on The Daily Beast, Jacob Bernstein unearths a history of Cage’s profligate spending, and suggests that the actor is at least partly (if not wholly) to blame for his current financial calamity.
According to Bernstein, Cage has royal tastes and expensive proclivities, and little regard for his own financial recklessness. He writes:
Cage’s appetite was extreme even for Hollywood, with a decade-plus shopping spree that saw him snapping up houses, motorcycles, a jet, yachts, vintage and new cars, expensive watches, meteorites, dinosaur skulls, an enormous pet collection, massive amounts of jewelry for the women in his life, group vacations for his entire entourage, and on and on and on. “He lived like a sheik,” says one person who’s known him for several years. “Spent money like it was water,” says another.
Most glaring is Cage’s penchant for luxury real estate. Bernstein claims that he owns more than a dozen properties “in places like Newport Beach; Venice Beach; Malibu; San Francisco; Middletown, Rhode Island; New York; and Las Vegas.” Not to mention the $30 million Bel Air mansion where he spends most of his time, or the two mansions in New Orleans, “a 13,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house in the Garden District” and another in the French Quarter ($3.45 million and $3.5 million, respectively), plus “a castle near Bath, in England, an 11th-century estate in Etzelwang, Germany, and not one but two Bahamian islands.”
Old habits die hard, and Cage has been forced to liquidate most of his real estate. That is, the properties that are not already being foreclosed upon.
Of course, when things were good, and Cage was flush with cash, investing in cars and real estate seemed shrewd.
Cage’s penchant for acquisition was aided by the fact that for years, many of the things he spent money on appeared to be good investments. The vintage cars he bought frequently doubled in value, so Cage made a lot of money buying and selling them. (In his case, most sales were followed by more purchases). Real estate was seen as an even safer bet. According to a source from his inner circle, when the first few houses he bought began to accrue in value, Cage began to borrow heavily against them to buy more properties. Unlike the cars, though, he didn’t do nearly enough selling, which placed him in a particularly precarious position when the market began to collapse over the last two and a half years.
Here’s my favorite part, where two of Hollywood’s biggest stars flex their fragile egos in a testosterone-fueled haze:
There also was a dinosaur skull that Cage purchased in 2007 for $276,000 in a heated auction with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Woe to the ills of fame and fortune.
To read Bernstein’s full article, click here.