Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

February 28, 2014

Green light often highest hurdle on road to Oscars

NEW YORK (AP) — This year’s Academy Awards nominees reflect a Hollywood truism: The margin between the dust bin and the Oscar red carpet is often razor thin.

The development process of any film can be lengthy and arduous, full of challenges in obtaining financing or a studio executive’s stamp of approval. The biggest obstacle on the road to the Academy Awards is, for many films, simply getting a green light.

That’s especially true nowadays, when studios have pulled back on their output and turned their focus almost exclusively to blockbusters. It makes for an annual Oscar irony: When Hollywood gathers to celebrate itself at the Academy Awards, it fetes not its standard business, but its oddities, its rarities, its freaks that somehow managed to squeeze through the cracks.

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” for example, might seem like a no-brainer: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, loads of sex and drugs. But even “The Wolf,” nominated for five Oscars including best picture, came very close to never getting made. After developing the film, Warner Bros. dropped it in 2008. Scorsese would later lament having “wasted about five months of my life” waiting for the Warner Bros.’ OK that never came.

It wasn’t until years later (and after other directors were considered) that the project came together, with independent film company Red Granite Pictures financing the film’s $100 million budget, and Paramount Pictures distributing.

“It’s actually kind of a miracle that this movie happened, especially the fact that we were allowed to keep the tone that we wanted all the way to the end,” says DiCaprio. “When was the last time you saw a film like this happen? I don’t know. It doesn’t fit into any specific category or box. It’s an epic. It’s a giant Hollywood epic. It’s almost like a film you’d have to make 30 or 40 years ago when directors had free rein.”

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