Aaron Sorkin, Adam McKay, Kenneth Branagh on the future of movie theaters


For Variety‘s FYC Fest, screenwriters Aaron Sorkin (“Being the Ricardos”), Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”), Adam McKay (“Don’t Seek”), Tracey Scott Wilson (“Respect”) and Kenneth Branagh ( “Belfast”) came together virtually to discuss their own films, as well as the state of the film industry.

McKay kicked off the conversation by explaining how he adjusted ‘Don’t Look Up’ – his Netflix comet-tragedy about a comet rushing towards Earth – because of COVID-19, as current events gave life away even more surreal everyday. “There were a lot of tweaks we had to do with the film to make it a little bit crazier, to make it a little less on the head,” McKay said. “One of the strangest writing experiences I have ever had.”

Giving specific examples of things he had to take out because “they looked like they had been taken from the headlines,” McKay said: “We had a tax cut for the 1% that was tied to the bill on comet spending, and voila, the COVID spending bill provided for a tax cut for the 1%. That’s how America likes to do it.

Although the writers’ films varied in subject matter and execution, there was common ground between Sorkin and Wilson, who wrote biographical portraits of iconic artists, and Branagh and Sorrentino, who both dived into painful events from their own childhood.

In creating the character of Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos,” Sorkin said he wanted to limit the amount of “I Love Lucy” he showed to audiences, so that the film did not appear to be. a “hit group making the biggest hits.” Instead, he used moments from the classic sitcom to reveal who Ball was, played by Nicole Kidman :, she’s able to see a joke on the page, project herself ahead to show the night or its air date, that it works or not in front of an audience.

And when it came time for Wilson to show how Aretha Franklin’s version of the song “Respect” came about, she wanted to make sure the movie gave it meaning and context. “Obviously we had to show her most iconic song, but to show what she was going through when she sang this song, what she was going through caused her to arrange this song this way so the song could take new meaning to the public, ”Wilson said. “Because ‘Respect’ is one of those songs that has become a hymn for the women’s movement. It was a hymn for the civil rights movement. It was an anthem for so many people for so many different reasons. And for it to become something that we can see why Aretha sang this song and for it to have new meaning for the audience.

As for creating Aretha Franklin – who was, as Wilson put it, “very, very private” – as a character for Jennifer Hudson to star in “Respect,” she said: “A lot of things that j I learned about her from other people. From her sisters. She grew up with a lot of very famous people who spoke about her.

Sorkin, who has created fiction about many real people during his career, said, “Everyone has their own internal compass. If your internal compass is broken, the studio’s legal department will usually help you fix it.

He then developed the difference between fictional versions of real events and journalism. “One is a photograph and the other is a painting,” Sorkin said. “Even when it’s not fiction. And not to be too cute about it, but there is a difference between truth and accuracy. Accuracy is what goes or is supposed to happen in journalism, but you may have to sacrifice accuracy to get more important truth.

For Branagh, the early days of the pandemic inspired him to write ‘Belfast’, his memoir about his childhood experiences of the unrest in Northern Ireland, which led his family to move to England. “I found life in general seemed a lot quieter,” he said. “There were no planes in the sky. I have a dog; I walked the dog a lot. And when the planes stopped and the cars stopped, the sounds of Belfast came to my mind. And someone asked me some time ago how long it took me to write the script. And I said, I guess practically about 10 weeks. And they said, “Yeah, 10 weeks and 50 years. “

He called those terrifying days in Belfast an “adrenalized state of uncertainty”, which resonated with what he was feeling in the spring of 2020, and added that “human beings [are] not very good at dealing with uncertainty, and neither were we in 1969. ”

In “The Hand of God”, Sorrentino depicts the most distressing event of his life: the sudden death of both his parents as a teenager. When asked why he decided to make the film now, he replied: “I think it is important to make an autobiographical film, to avoid certain pitfalls, like being rhetorical, being indulgent with himself. . And so I thought that after 10 films, maybe I was able to avoid those kind of traps.

Sorrentino also directed “The Hand of God,” meaning he not only wrote these devastating scenes, but had to illustrate them for the film as well. How difficult was it? “I was always ready to cry, but as everyone knows the team are always ready to distract you with all the problems of the day, regarding the lights, the costumes, the catering, what time we will be doing the break for lunch, ”he said. noted. “So that was really helpful to me so that I wouldn’t be focused on my urge to cry every second. “

The original screenplay panelists also discussed filming during COVID; refine (or not) their scenarios for the actors of their castings; if, as McKay puts it, “Trump destroys the narrative”; the future of movie theaters – and seeing their own movies in theaters this year.

For these things – and much more – watch the full video chat.


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