A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991’s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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Some not very newsy awards news (updated)

The Writers Guild and the Sound Editors gave out their awards last night and it’s safe to say that, winners aside, no one’s world was too terribly rocked.

Journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal was rewarded for his hard-earned real-world experience as an embedded reporter with a Best Original Screenplay nod for “The Hurt Locker.” In another completely unsurprising award, the well-liked and respected Jason Reitman was similarly rewarded for his critically acclaimed work on the adult-aimed topical comedy, “Up in the Air.” The documentary category wasn’t much of a surprise either, with the muckraking “The Cove” picking up yet another award.

This isn’t quite on the level of a statistical study, but it’s worth noting that, for the last couple of years at least, the WGA awards and the Oscars have been lining up 100% in the writing categories, so Oscar betters should take note.  This is a bit of a blow to any fans of Quentin Tarantino“Pulp Fiction” screenplay and the writers tend to be a bit more openminded about offbeat films than Oscar voters as a whole. who might have been hoping for some Oscar wins, as Best Original Screenplay has been “his” category in the sense that his only Oscar win so far has been for his

Still, older and/or less geeky fans of old-school post-war (as in WWII) realism are likely impressed by the real-life underpinnings of Boal’s work and Kathryn Bigelow’s film is just edgy enough, while not marred in the minds of some by being a “fun” war movie, and “Inglourious Basterds” is definitely fun. It’s also controversial to some degree, perhaps not the best combination if all you want out of a movie is award wins.

James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy in In the adapted screenplay category, I personally wouldn’t have minded seeing the award go to the brilliant and scabrous “In the Loop,” but that film was less widely seen and it’s humor might be bit too nasty (in a good, cleansing way) and British for some.

[UPDATE: Aren’t you people supposed to correct me when I write complete nonsense? If I had bothered to check a bit more carefully this morning before I wrote this, I would have noted/remembered that “Basterds” was not nominated for a Writers Guild award and therefore might have somewhat better Oscar screenplay chances than I initially thought. The same applies to “In the Loop.” These scripts were not eligible under the WGA’s rather arcane rules which also disqualified such worthy films as “An Education.” If you’re curious about the reasons why, Steve Pond, via Anne Thompson, had a partial explanation back in January. Anyhow, thanks to Anne Thompson, whose post on this showed me the error of my ways, or whatever. We now resume our regularly scheduled blog post.]

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Raimi & Spidey part company; Hanks to direct again with Roberts in tow; history repeats on “Thor”; an auteur departs; ASC, WGA, and ACE noms; Nikki Finke makes a friend

Spiderman

My highly esteemed colleague Will Harris has been right on top of  the huge small screen stories that seem to be breaking right and left at the TCA conference this week. Still, it’s not like there hasn’t been any news in movieland. It’s almost hard to know where to start.

* The Hollywood Reporter as well as Nikki Finke and new stablemate Mike Fleming (more on that below) are carrying the news that, in the wake of ongoing script problems, the kibosh has been put on Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman IV” with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and a 2012 reboot, written by James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac“) announced. The new film will feature a once-again teenage Peter Parker, so Taylor Lautner is no doubt already in touch with his agent.

THR says the script problems had something to do with a disagreement over supervillains between Raimi and Sony and/or Marvel Studios. Finke also notes that the fourth installment would probably not have been in 3-D and it seems reasonable that that might have been a factor, given the current mania for the process.

* In another apparent scoop for new Deadline team member Mike Fleming, Tom Hanks is returning as a writer-director for the second time since making his 1996 charmer, “That Thing You Do!” A comedy, “Larry Crowne” will reteam him with his “Charlie Wilson’s War” co-star, Julia Roberts. Like “Up in the Air,” according to Fleming it’s somewhat topical in that’s it’s about a middle-aged guy forced to reinvent his career at a time when past generations where just starting to settle down.

tom-hanks-and-julia-rober-002

While he’s at it, Fleming also has the word on Shia LaBeouf not going agentless after all and signing with CAA. Agents around the world can all breathe easier now.

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