With SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP reaching a tentative agreement on a new contract, our industry’s biggest stars, previously forbidden from participating in the promotion of movies distributed and made by struck studios and streamers, are finally joining the party.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Poland’s EnergaCamerimage Film Festival, which opened last night, and one of the buzzy names here on the ground in Torun is Willem Dafoe, who has stepped out to promote Poor Things, his wacky, darkly comic Golden Lion winner from Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos.
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“I assume things will just go back to the way they were, but the terms will be different,” Dafoe told Deadline when quizzed on how he thinks the prolonged strike might shape the industry’s future, adding he didn’t hold all the details of the negotiations.
“I’m a worker bee. I work a lot. And I’ve been doing so for a long time. But sometimes, I don’t feel like an insider. I know that’s kind of ridiculous, having worked so long, but I don’t know,” he said.
Based on Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel of the same name, Poor Things features Emma Stone as Bella Baxter, a creation of the brilliant and unorthodox scientist played by Dafoe in an echo of Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel Frankenstein. Hungry for the worldliness she is lacking, Bella runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a slick and debauched lawyer, on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael, and Christopher Abbott also star.
Lanthimos directed the pic from a screenplay penned by Tony McNamara, but the adaptation was crafted by the director and Stone. Dafoe said Stone and Lanthimos invited him, as a pair, to join the project, which he said was a “no-brainer.”
“When you’re working with good people, you can’t kid. You go to the set, and it’s so beautiful. The makeup, the costumes, and you’re part of that development,” he said.
Just like in Venice, there’s a lot of awards buzz here in Torun surrounding the performances in Poor Things, particularly from Stone and Dafoe, which the four-time Oscar nominee said he is always “aware” of.
“It’s always good news when you hear that kind of chatter. And you check it out,” he said. “You’re gonna promote the movie anyway. So that’s really what you’re doing. And then all this stuff may or may not come with it. Sometimes, it’s the very good movies that don’t catch that wave. And you understand why. It’s the combination of what gets released that year. And then there are other times when a movie catches that wave, and you really wonder why it’s happening.”
Alongside Poor Things, Dafoe starred in two other titles that bowed on the Lido: Finally Dawn, co-starring Lily James, and Pet Shop Days, the small debut from Olmo Schnabel, the son of artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel. He also leads Patricia Arquette’s directorial debut, Gonzo Girl, and ends the year by lending his voice to the English-language version of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron.
“It’s a good period. I’m finding that there are things to do,” he said. “There are periods sometimes when there are fewer opportunities, and you feel less in favor, or the right projects aren’t coming to you. Or you feel stuck. But that’s not now. So I’m eager to get back to work.”
Poor Things screens in competition at Camerimage. Other pics playing in the main Camerimage competition include Pablo Larrain’s El Conde, Ridley Scott’s Napolean, Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon, and Bradley Cooper’s Maestro.
The festival runs until Nov 18.
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