Patrick Schwarzenegger Thriller 'Daniel Isn't Real' Lands at Samuel Goldwyn Films

'Blockers' actor Miles Robbins and Sasha Lane round out the cast of Adam Egypt Mortimer's dark title also headed to Shudder.Samuel Goldwyn Films and the horror streamer Shudder have snapped up the North American rights to Adam Egypt Mortimer's dark thriller Daniel Isn't Real, toplined by Patrick Schwarzenegger and Blockers actor Miles Robbins.

Sasha Lane, Hannah Marks and Mary Stuart Masterson also star in the indie set for a theatrical and VOD release in late 2019.

The film, produced by Elijah Wood, sees a troubled college freshman, Luke (Robbins), suffer a violent family trauma. To help him cope, he resurrects his childhood imaginary friend, Daniel, played by Schwarzenegger (the son of former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver). Daniel helps Luke to achieve his dreams before pushing him to the very edge of sanity and into a desperate struggle for control of his mind and soul. 

"The film is striking in so many ways, from visuals and performances to the incredible execution of psychological horror. We immediately recognized that Adam had crafted something special here and are excited to partner with Shudder and bring it to audiences everywhere," said Miles Fineburg of Samuel Goldwyn Films in a statement.

Daniel Isn't Real is based on the novel In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw, who co-wrote the script with Mortimer.

The film was also produced by Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller and Lisa Whalen, with Johnny Chang, Peter Wong, Emma Lee, Timur Bekbosunov, Stacy Jorgensen, Elisa Lleras and Michael M. McGuire executive producing.

The distribution deal was negotiated by Fineburg for Samuel Goldwyn Films, Emily Gotto for Shudder and ICM Partners and Jorgensen acting on behalf of the filmmakers.


Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner ‘Clemency’ Eyes Awards Season Release Date

EXCLUSIVE: Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency, which took the Sundance Grand Jury Prize Award and was acquired at the fest by NEON, will open on Dec. 27, just in time for awards season.

The film stars Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard as prison warden Bernadine Williams, who has become hardened over the years by her job on Death Row. However, one inmate’s fate (Aldis Hodge) has a serious impact on her as she is forced to confront the psychological and emotional demons that her job has created.  Woodard and Hodge are already generating Oscar buzz and the pic currently counts 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The pic also stars Richard Schiff (Man of Steel, “The West Wing”) and Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”, Selma).

NEON recently earned an Academy Award nomination for Border; its upcoming slate also includes: Tom Harper’s Wild Rose starring Jessie Buckley; and Bong Joon-Ho’s highly-anticipated drama Parasite, which is In Competition at Cannes.  NEON was also behind Craig Gillespie’s runaway hit I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie. The pic won a best supporting actress Oscar for Allison Janney and earned two noms for Best Editing and Robbie as Best Actress. NEON also released Matt Spicer’s Sundance and Independent Spirit Award-Winner Ingrid Goes West starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. NEON’s latest doc Apollo 11 has grossed a notable $8.5M at the domestic box office.



Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner ‘Clemency’ produced by Malaysian company

Did you know that prison drama Clemency, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Fest on Feb 3, was produced by a Malaysian company?

Starring Alfre Woodard, Richard Schiff and Aldis Hodge, Clemency is one of two films financed and produced by Ace Pictures Entertainment Sdn Bhd which were selected to compete in this year’s festival.

Widely acclaimed as one of the best films at Sundance, Clemency tells of prison warden Bernadine Williams (Woodard), who wrestles with the psychological and emotional toll that comes with carrying out death row executions.

As she prepares to execute another inmate, she must confront the demons of her job, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.

Ace Pictures also produced another film that was selected to compete – Imaginary Order, a dramedy with Bridesmaids star Wendi Mclendon-Covey.

Clemency is Ace Picture’s first fully-financed movie of 2018. It is co-produced by Timur Bekbosunov and Peter Wong, president of Ace Pictures Entertainment, and executive produced by Annie Chang, Calvin Choong, Emma Lee and Johnny Chang from Ace Pictures.

Established in 2017, Malaysia-based Ace Pictures ventured into Hollywood and has produced 10 films to date, including a high-profile collaboration with Angelina Jolie on the fantasy drama Come Away, set to be released later this year.

The company’s latest project, Colour Out Of Space, is a collaboration with Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision and stars Nicolas Cage.



Angelina Jolie Looks Totally Unrecognizable In New Movie Come Away

It's been a while since we've seen Angelina Jolie on the big screen, but one of her next films has her looking unlike we're used to seeing her. The film is called Come Away and it co-stars the actress and David Oyelowo as the parents of a pair of children who escape into their own imaginations, where they become Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. The new movie has wrapped filming and Oyelowo recently celebrated with a photo that shows how much Angelina Jolie has transformed for the role.

Angelina Jolie usually has dark hair but we see her here as a blonde. She's dressed all in black, which makes her skin look that much more pale by comparison. If you didn't know Angelina Jolie was in this photo, it wouldn't be that difficult to miss her entirely.

The fact that Angelina Jolie looks so different is likely due to the requirements of the role. Come Away deals with parents who have lost a child through some sort of traumatic accident. Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo get lost in their own despair over the loss, resulting in the child's siblings retreating into their own fantasies.

The story is being billed as a sort of prequel to both Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, as the children will apparently become these characters in their fantasy worlds. Whether the idea is that they become the inspirations for the books, or actually become the characters isn't clear. David Oyelowo calls the movie a "magical" reimagining so it seems like the latter is very much a possibility. Either way, it seems the film's darker overtones may be lightened by letting the audience escape into the fantasy the same way the children do.

We can see those children in the front of the image David Oyelowo posted to Instagram. Not everybody of note in the film is in the picture. Michael Caine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw both have roles in the film as well, though I can't find them here.

We haven't actually seen Angelina Jolie in a feature film since 2015's By the Sea so Come Away, while it doesn't have a release date at the moment, will probably be her first film on the screen in years. While Maleficent 2 was filmed first, it won't hit theaters until 2020.

However she looks, it's great to see Angelina Jolie getting in front of the camera again. Jolie has still been working over the last few years, but she's been working as a producer or director more than as an actress recently. She's also been working as a voice actress, so she's been heard on screen and simply not seen. She was part of Kung-Fu Panda 3 in 2016 and will also be lending her voice to the upcoming The One and Only Ivan.

With Come Away now going into post-production, it will be at least several more months before we see the finished film. This certainly sounds like the sort of movie that could be a strong holiday movie, and potentially even an awards contender, so a release around this time next year is highly likely.



Nicolas Cage to Star in Horror Movie ‘Color Out of Space’

Nicolas Cage will star in the horror movie “Color out of Space” for Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision.

Principal photography will begin next month with South African filmmaker Richard Stanley directing his first feature in more than 20 years. Stanley co-wrote the script with Scarlett Amaris.

The project, based on the novella by H.P. Lovecraft, will reunite Cage with SpectreVision, the company behind his 2018 film “Mandy.” The cast also includes Joely Richardson, Tommy Chong, Elliot Knight, Julian Hilliard, and Q’Orianka Kilcher.

“Color out of Space” centers on a family who moves to a remote farmstead in rural New England to escape the hustle of the 21st century when a meteorite crashes into their front yard, resulting in the land and the properties of space-time being infected with a strange, otherworldly color. To their horror, the family discovers that this alien force is gradually mutating every life form that it touches.

SpectreVision’s Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Lisa Whalen, and Wood are producing, while Timur Bekbosunov, Johnny Chang, Emma Lee and Peter Wong will executive produce for ACE Pictures. Stacy Jorgensen will executive produce for SpectreVision.

“Lovecraft is the dark father of modern horror, and we have been searching for an adaptation that captures the true scope of his cosmic dread for years,” Noah said. “Richard Stanley — a wizard in his own right – will at long last bring Lovecraft’s humbling power to the screen unfiltered.”

Stanley’s credits include “Hardware” and “Dust Devil.” He was the initial director on 1996’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” which starred Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, but was replaced by John Frankenheimer.

Cage is repped by WME and Mike Nilon of Stride Management. Richardson is repped by Gersh and ARG. Knight is repped by ICM and Affirmative Entertainment. Hilliard is repped by Paradigm and The Green Room. Kilcher is repped by APA and Anonymous.


Alfre Woodard’s Sundance Winner ‘Clemency’ Bought for U.S. by Neon

Neon has acquired the U.S. rights to Alfre Woodard’s drama “Clemency,” which won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

The distributor made the deal with ACE Pictures Entertainment. Chinonye Chukwu directed “Clemency.” Woodard plays a prison warden whose worn down by years of carrying out death-row executions. As she prepares to execute another inmate, she must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.

Amy Nicholson praised the performance in her Sundance review for Variety: “If Woodard is hoping for her overdue second Oscar nomination after 1983’s ‘Cross Creek,’ she’s got a decent shot with this excruciating character arc.”

“Clemency” also stars Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, and Wendell Pierce. The film was produced by ACE Pictures Entertainment, Bronwyn Cornelius Productions, and Julian Cautherley.

“Making ‘Clemency’ has been a life-changing soul journey, and I am thrilled to partner with the team at Neon to share the film with audiences across the country,” Chukwu said.

Three-year-old Neon is best known for handling distribution of “I, Tonya” during last year’s awards season. The deal for “Clemency” was negotiated by Neon and Paradigm on behalf of the filmmakers.

Chukwu is repped by Paradigm and Grandview.Hodge is repped by Paradigm, The Priluck Company, and Ziffren, Brittenham. Pierce is repped by Paradigm and Essential Talent Management. Schiff is repped by Paradigm, Leverage, and Nelson Davis LLP.


7 exciting movies from emerging directors to watch for in 2019

It can be a little overwhelming - even for people who make their living writing about movies - to find and celebrate talented up-and-coming talented filmmakers. Dozens of movies come out every week in theaters and on streaming services, and it can be tricky to find the gold among the dross.

That’s why I love the New Directors/New Films festival, which has been happening in New York every March for nearly half a century. It’s a joint venture between the Film Society at Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, whose curators select some of the most intriguing films of the year so far from emerging filmmakers. Often, its movies previously appeared at Sundance or the Berlin Film Festival. And while the mix can be a little messy, it’s always interesting.

This year’s festival was no exception - and if you like movies, you’ll want to keep an eye on these. Here are seven films, both fiction and nonfiction, from the 2019 edition of New Directors/New Films worth your notice.

Alfre Woodard stars in Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency. 

Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) has worked as a warden at a maximum-security prison for years, and it’s clearly been wearing on her health, her marriage, and her soul. She sees her work as important - caring for the inmates and quietly supporting them as they approach their execution dates. But then a lethal injection goes awry, and as the date for the next one approaches, she finds herself reaching a breaking point.

Clemency won the Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2019, and it’s easy to see why. Director Chinonye Chukwu crafts a heavy, deliberate film, with rich, widely framed shots and dark colors that make the emotional toll on not just Williams but her coworkers, their families, the inmates, and the inmates’ loved ones extra clear. Anchored by an absolutely stunning performance from Woodard, it’s an unusual way to expose the injustices of the capital punishment system without forgetting the individuals who are stuck in its gears.

Clemency will be distributed in the US by Neon.


Exclusive: Chinonye Chukwu & Aldis Hodge Talk ‘Clemency’ At New Directors/New Films Festival

On March 27, at the opening of the annual New Directors/New Films (ND/NF) festival, director and writer Chinonye Chukwu presented her new film, “Clemency.” The screening was held at The Museum of Modern Art in NYC. 

The film is about a warden named Bernadine (Alfre Woodard), whose battle between moral practice and standard protocol lands her in an emotional pit. 

While Anthony (Aldis Hodge) is the next inmate on death row, Bernadine is haunted by the last execution, which causes her to take an inner-directed look at herself and at the humanity of all those she is responsible for. 

We spoke with Chinonye Chukwu and Aldis Hodge about the ethics of capital punishment, mass incarceration and the US judicial system.

The Knockturnal: How are you feeling about the film now that it’s available for people to see?

Aldis Hodge: “I feel fantastic. I remember when I first saw the film. It is one that grips your heart because it may leave you feeling differently than you assumed that you were going to feel. We all have preconceived notions about what we think about the death penalty and things like that and how it affects us but once you sit in those seats, in the minds of these characters, it’s going to change a few things. And I love to do work that kind of messes with people to a point where it creates a progressive conversation and I think this [film] does that, so I’m really happy about it. I’m really excited.”

Chinonye Chukwu: “I feel great. I am still trying to take it all in and it’s still kind of wild but I feel really good.”

The Knockturnal: Can you talk about the genesis of the project and why you decided to tell this story? 

Chinonye Chukwu: “Why not? Now is the time more than ever. Not just about more and more states seeing the failures of capital punishment and how unnecessary it is but with the US incarcerating more people than any other country in the world. Now is the time to tell the story, to stop and think and look at what’s going on in our backyard.”

Aldis Hodge: “I got really lucky, honestly. Chinonye Chukwu wrote me a beautiful letter and sent me the script. In her letter, she was just effusive about how she thought I was right for the role and how she respected my work. This also came from Bronwyn Cornelius, one of the producers. They were thinking about who could play Anthony. Bronwyn said, ‘have you thought about Aldis Hodge?’ So Chinonye looked into it and said. It’s very rare as an actor that you are offered, or contacted or approached to do a project that has really some magnitude to it. And for this, I am eternally grateful and really humbled by the fact that they even thought of me because they just allowed me a grand opportunity to some superlative work which I am really looking for in my career right now. And I’m really grateful for that. And they approached me to see if I would do it and I said, ‘heck yeah, let’s do it.’ You have the Alfre Woodard. Honestly, even if I didn’t read the script, it’s like, Alfre Woodard? Yes, it’s Alfre!”

The Knockturnal: What was it like working with Alfre Woodard? 

Aldis Hodge: “She’s fantastic. She really is fantastic. I mean, everybody knows that she is a pro, but what I like to see when it comes to actors and actresses of her status…I love to see that they’re still excited and interested. And that, she very much is. She’s been on this project for years, I think 2 or 3 years before. And she really was dedicated fully. And that’s what I love to see, the respect. Regardless of all the accolades and what not, they still respect the process and they’re still there to learn which is what teaches me. We’d run scenes together and she would allow me the space to do what I had to do and try to figure myself out. And it helps so much to have someone who is basically on the same page of, we gotta get this work done, let’s get it. It’s not about her, it’s not about me, it’s just, let’s get to work. That’s where you see teamwork happen on screen.”

The Knockturnal: What type of research did you conduct for the film’s purpose? Did any of that change your way of thinking? 

Chinonye Chukwu: “I spent about four and a half years researching for the film. That included secondary research like talking to a lot of wardens and other correction officials and lawyers and people who are incarcerated — a man who was incarcerated on death row for 28 years before he was exonerated. But then I moved to Ohio and volunteered for a clemency case for a woman named Tyra Patterson, who was released a little over a year ago. I also volunteered for about 13 other clemency cases for women serving life sentences for defending themselves against their abusers. I created a film program in a women’s prison where I taught women who were incarcerated how to make their own short films and scripts. All of that informed my understanding of this space and the lives that are contained in it. And a lot of the people who I am in contact with and worked with, read the script and gave me meticulous feedback so everything just kind of played into one another. The research and making this film has really expanded my capacity for compassion for empathy and for seeing people’s humanity and not defining them by their worst acts.”

The Knockturnal: What are you hoping people will take away after viewing the film? 

Aldis Hodge: “An empathetic mindset towards the idea of a broken judicial system. We’re shining the light on the death penalty but there’s so many other areas when it comes to the judicial system, primarily targeted towards black and brown brothers, that needs a little bit of a cleanup. Right now it just seems like there are a few things in the government that are just going crazy but hopefully, it charges people to have the right conversations and then put those conversations into action and do something to change what needs to be changed when it comes to judicial policy, prison policy, prison reform. When you do the research, the numbers are staggering in way where it looks like there’s a target on certain people’s backs. We have to work to remove those targets. As an actor, I want to do effective work where some of the work that I do can, not just for entertainment sake, but can actually move people to change. If we could be a part of actually improving prison reform, and getting things done, I would love to be a part of that history.”

Chinonye Chukwu: “I want people to see and feel and believe the humanities that exist between prison walls, and to know that they do exist and that we are a lot more connected to these humanities than we might think.”



SXSW Review - ‘Daniel Isn’t Real’ is a Unique and Terrifying Vision

Adam Egypt Mortimer‘s (Some Kind of Hate, the “New Year’s Eve” segment in Holidays) Daniel Isn’t Real might just be the best horror movie playing at the SXSW Film Festival this year. Based on Brian DeLeeuw‘s novel In This Way I Was Saved and working from a script that he co-wrote with DeLeeuw, Mortimer has crafted a unique and terrifying vision of discovering one’s true identity amidst a world that is seemingly against you. This film, about an evil imaginary friend, manages to be a near-perfect combination of body horror, cosmic horror and psychological horror that gets under your skin while also finding its way into your heart.

After witnessing the gruesome aftermath of a public shooting, traumatized 8-year old Luke (Griffin Robert Faulkner) invents an imaginary friend named Daniel (Nathan Chandler Reid) who leads them both into a world of fantasy and imagination. After Daniel tricks Luke into nearly killing his mentally unstable mother Claire (Mary Stuart Masterson, Fried Green Tomatoes, Benny & Joon), Luke is forced to lock him away in a dollhouse. Twelve years later, Luke (now played by Blockers’ and Halloween 2018‘s Miles Robbins) brings Daniel (now played by Patrick Schwarzenegger) back after his mother has a breakdown — and he now appears as a charming, manipulative young man with a terrifying secret agenda.

After spending last year playing comedic stoner characters (this isn’t an insult, he’s legitimately great in Blockers), Robbins gets to play a whole new side of himself as Luke, showcasing a vulnerability we haven’t yet seen from the young actor. It’s a marvelous performance that wins you over immediately. Schwarzenegger is equally strong, albeit it in an entirely different way. His Daniel is a truly menacing figure that manages to be simultaneously charming and threatening (leaning further into the latter as the film goes on). There will no doubt be viewers who walk into Daniel Isn’t Real ready to criticize Schwarzenegger, but they will walk out disappointed. He’s very, very good in it. Masterson is good in her handful of scenes but is underused, as is Sasha Lane (American Honey) as Luke’s love interest Cassie. The under-utilization of the female characters makes a certain amount of sense, as this is Luke and Daniel’s story, but it would have been nice to get a few more scenes out of them, especially Claire.

Much of the fun in this bleak little film comes from trying to decipher just what Daniel is. Is he a schizophrenic hallucination? Is he a ghost? Or is he something more sinister? In films like Daniel Isn’t Real (not that there is a film like it, but just go with it), the film often becomes less interesting as the mystery’s solution becomes clear. Thankfully that isn’t the case here. Whether or not the answer is narratively satisfying is ultimately up to the viewer (it worked for me), but at least it keeps you invested along the way. Though the film doesn’t seem entirely sure of its mythology (the extent of Daniel’s abilities is never really clear), it helps add to the surrealist nature of the plot. I’m not sure the final minutes wholly work either, but I might just need more time to sit with it.

Criticisms have been made over the film’s depiction of mental illness. This is partly due to the fact that Daniel, Claire and his psychiatrist (Chukwudi Iwuji, John Wick: Chapter 2) immediately jump to a diagnosis of schizophrenia (Claire also suffers from the disease), and partly because you can read the film as (literally) demonizing the illness. It’s also possible to read the film as making a commentary on the stigma that surrounds schizophrenia and other mental illnesses but again, it’s up to the viewer. No matter your opinion on the matter, you’ll walk out of the theater wanting to discuss it. Daniel Isn’t Real does attempt to tackle a variety of social issues, including sex positivity and consent, handling most of them fairly well. There is a wonderful love scene between Luke and Cassie that was, quite honestly, touching.

Though it doesn’t truly wow until things get weird in the third act and the sets become more bizarre, Kaet McAnneny‘s production design is stunning, as are Martin Asles make-up and creature effects (save for some iffy CGI in one sequence). The body horror elements call to mind A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and they are appropriately grotesque. This should come as no surprise, as the production company behind Daniel Isn’t Real is Spectrevision, which also brought us films like Mandy and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (and co-founded by Elijah Wood, no less).

Daniel Isn’t Real is a trip, but it’s a trip you’ll want to take. An exceptional second feature from Mortimer, the film boasts two phenomenal lead performances from Robbins and Schwarzenegger, as well as some impressive effects and set design. The film is currently seeking a distributor, but I can’t imagine it will be long before someone scoops it up. This is why you go to the movies.

Daniel Isn’t Real had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on March 9, 2019, and is currently seeking distribution.




New Directors/New Films Festival Kicks Off In NY Tonight With 'Clemency,' Starring Alfre Woodward

The New Directors/New Films Festival kicks off in New York tonight and runs through April 7, celebrating filmmakers who represent the present and anticipate the future of cinema, pushing the envelope in unexpected ways.

Co-sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, this year’s festival will introduce 24 features and 11 short films to New York audiences. The opening, closing and centerpiece selections will be the New York premieres of three Sundance award-winners.

Opening the festival will be Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency, which features Alfre Woodard as a prison warden grappling with her role in the justice system.  The centerpiece film will be Alejandro Landes’s Monos, a contemporary reimagining of Lord of the Flies, while the closing film will be Pippa Bianco’s Share, a powerful portrait of a sexual assault victim.

The lineup also boasts top prizewinners from festivals around the world, including Yeo Siew Hua’s A Land Imagined, a sociopolitical noir set in mainland China; cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s feature directorial debut, Manta Ray; Shengze Zhu’s Present.Perfect., a found-footage documentary that assembles live-streamed clips from marginalized voices.  Two additional Sundance winners also will be shown, Tamara Kotevska  and Ljubomir Stefanov’s beekeeping documentary, Honeyland, and Luke Lorentzen’s documentary about family-run ambulances, Midnight Family.

Among the first-time features are Lucio Castro’s End of the Century, a decades-spanning, queer love story having its world premiere; A Family Submerged, the feature directorial debut of actress María Alché (Lucrecia Martel’s The Holy Girl); Qiu Sheng’s Suburban Birds, a two-part narrative puzzle; Lila Avilés’s portrait of a female hotel worker, The Chambermaid; and Eva Trobisch’s All Good.

Additional highlights will include several titles with distinct visual styles:  Mark Jenkin’s Bait, shot on hand-processed black-and-white 16mm film, and Peter Parlow’s The Plagiarists, which uses low-def Betamax to spoof microbudget American indies.  There will also be hybrid films that defy categorization:  Burak Cevik’s Belonging, a murder investigation told via voiceover, abstract imagery and footage of the suspects’ first encounter, and Andrea Bussmann’s experimental narrative Fausto, which synthesizes Oaxacan myths with the classic Faust story.

Also screening will be four films with memorable performances: Philippe Lesage’s nuanced, coming-of-age story Genesis; Camille Vidal-Naquet’s intimate character study of a gay hustler, Sauvage; Markus Schleinzer’s Angelo, about an African child sold into 18th-century Viennese court society; and Sudabeh Mortezai’s Joy, about a Nigerian sex worker tasked with training a young recruit.

Rounding out the lineup will be two programs comprising 11 short films.

In total, this year’s festival lineup will include 35 features and shorts from 29 countries across four continents, with 10 North American premieres and two world premieres, 15 films directed or co-directed by women and 11 works by first-time feature filmmakers.