“It’s pure coincidence that I’ve made two films that have sports in them,” Bennett Miller says of his decision to follow Moneyball with this true-life drama about multi-millionaire John du Pont’s tragic patronage of America’s 1988 Olympic wrestling squad. Homing in on the creepy relationship du Pont (Steve Carell) formed with gold medallist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), the film required Carell to be “intensely unsettling”, something he found easier on set once his character’s prosthetic nose was applied. “I was off-putting,” laughs Carell of his transformed visage. “I managed to stay in character because I didn’t have a choice. No-one wanted to talk to me.”
INTO THE WOODS
This isn’t the only live-action Disney fairytale in 2015 (see also Cinderella, 5 March), but post-Maleficent, it may be the most ambitious. Based on Stephen Sondheim’s Tony-winning musical, it weaves the plots of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood into an all-singing deconstruction of the genre. James Corden, Anna Kendrick and Meryl Streep wrap their tonsils around Sondheim’s tricky wordplay. Johnny Depp, meanwhile, seems to have based his zoot-suited take on the Wolf after Jack White. “It’s actually based on the wolf from the old Tex Avery cartoons,” corrects director Rob Marshall (Chicago). “That’s where the zoot suit comes from.”
“If the movie’s about anything, it’s about the fear you feel as a musician,” says Damien Chazelle of his Oscar-tipped indie drama about a drumming prodigy (Miles Teller) and his somewhat masochistic relationship with his fearsome mentor (a brilliant JK Simmons). Drawn partly from his experiences as a high-school Buddy Rich wannabe, Chazelle wanted to show the rigorous discipline and blood-soaked practice sessions required before artistry even comes into the equation. “I remember my hands bleeding a lot,” recalls the 29-year-old director, who likens the physicality of the musicianship in the film to a boxing movie. “He did give me a copy of Raging Bull to watch in preparation,” laughs Teller.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam might have bailed on playing Christian Grey, but Turner-nominated-artist-turned-director Sam Taylor-Wood (Nowhere Boy) found an intriguing replacement for her S&M-loving protagonist in Jamie Dornan, seen recently as the sadistic, sexually motivated serial killer in BBC drama The Fall. With Dakota “daughter of Don” Johnson cast as Anastasia, and a script by uber-smart writers Kelly Marcel and Patrick Marber, Taylor-Wood’s take on EL James’ mega-seller is shaping up to be far a more subversive proposition than its salacious source material suggests.
Go-fast boats, private jets, dockyard shoot-outs, high-end hotels, steely-eyed professionalism… only Michael Mann could make a film about cyber-hacking seem this sexy and sleek. And credible too. Coming in the wake of the NSA revelations and the Sony hack, Blackhat’s tale of a convicted coder (Chris Hemsworth) furloughed from prison to stop an elusive cyber terrorist from launching crippling attacks on Chinese and American targets feels like it has been ripped from some very recent headlines.
THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
At this stage Marvel could probably adapt the phone book and audiences would flock to see it. Complacency, however, isn’t in Joss Whedon’s DNA. In reassembling the Avengers to take on a rogue AI (a motion-captured James Spader), character remains everything for the director. “We didn’t even talk about powers,” confirms Aaron Taylor-Johnson of his initial conversations with Whedon about joining Robert Downey Jr et al as the super-fast Quicksilver. “It was all about asking ‘Who is he?’ You don’t just rock up and put on a suit.”
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Of all the rebooted franchises coming in 2015 (Terminator Genisys, Jurassic World, Point Break, Fantastic Four), this looks the most nuts. Mad Max creator George Miller has had the story in his head for so long Mel Gibson was originally slated to reprise the role for a fourth time. The protracted development gifted the mythical Road Warrior to Tom Hardy instead — though Gibson wasn’t the only star of the originals to fall foul of the delays. “We were due to shoot in Australia, but they had the highest rainfall in 75 years,” says Miller, who moved the production to Namibia. “The desert where we shot the second and third Mad Max is now a flower garden.”
It’s been a while since the likes of Wall-E and Up inspired genuine awe for Pixar’s storytelling prowess. Inside Out should rectify that. Set inside the head of a little girl called Riley whose personified emotions govern her everyday actions, it shows how Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness start to dominate Riley’s life when she moves with her family to a new city – leaving Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) with a battle on her hands to regain control of this once-happy little girl’s mind.
How do you top the biggest Bond film of all time? By reintroducing 007’s most iconic nemesis: Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Well, maybe. Although co-star Christoph Waltz seems like he was born to play a Bond villain, he’s insisted his character, Oberhauser, is not secretly the head of the eponymous evil organisation. What is clear is that after Skyfall’s success, returning director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig are in pole position to make their take on Bond definitive.
STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS
Two generations have now grown up with Star Wars and despite the travesties of the prequels all it took was a five-second clip of the Millennium Falcon in the trailer for JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens (set 30 years on from The Return of the Jedi) to reduce most of us to grinning seven-year-olds. Actual seven-year-olds should, of course, feel free to remain in a state of heightened excitement for the next 12 months.