January 4, 2004 -- AMERICAN SPLENDOR (Fine Line; released Aug. 15)
Sun Jan 4, 7:00 PM ET
(Variety) Screenplay: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Source material: Comic series "American Splendor" by Harvey Pekar and "My Cancer Year," by Pekar and Joyce Brabner
Storyline: Cleveland file clerk Harvey Pekar discovers his art, finds love and survives cancer in this unconventional biopic.
About the script: Combining nonfiction, dramatic and animated scenes, Berman and Pulcini's "American Splendor" is one of the most innovative scripts of the year; with its tender story of the travails of everyman Pekar, it's also one of the most touching.
Adapting roughly 20 years of Pekar's "American Splendor" comics initially proved daunting for the pair. "But then we started to look at 'American Splendor' not as individual stories, but on a grander level to find the common themes," Berman says. "We needed to find a general umbrella under which to place the entire story to give it structure. We decided it was an unlikely love story between a man and his medium, and through his comic books, he found a life, a wife, a family, and he beat a disease."
Biggest challenge: "How to retain the integrity of 'American Splendor,' which is based on the idea that life doesn't fit into tidy narratives," says Pulcini, "and yet make a satisfying movie that interests people from beginning to end."
Breakthrough idea: "Reading through the comics, we noticed there's many different-looking Pekars, because he collaborated with so many artists," says Berman. "We felt that gave us license to have many Harvey Pekars in the movie."
Favorite scene: The "Who is Harvey Pekar?" sequence. While suffering from cancer, Pekar becomes delusional and starts his soliloquy about the other Harvey Pekars in the Cleveland phone book. Berman says the scene speaks to issues central to Pekar's entire work, such as "Who am I?" and "Where do I fit into this world?"
Lines we love: "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff"--- Harvey Pekar; "I have a lot of borderline health disorders that limit me politically when it comes to eating" --- Hope Davis as Joyce Brabner; "Sometimes I feel a body next to me like an amputee feels a phantom limb" --- Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar
Recognition to date: Grand Jury Prize, 2003 Sundance Film Festival; Fipresci, Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2003; Nominated for screenplay and feature, Independent Spirit Awards.
Writer's Bio: "American Splendor" is the husband-and-wife team's first produced screenplay. Known primarily for their in-depth and witty documentaries "Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's" and "The Young and the Dead," Berman and Pulcini have also written two screenplays about unusual real-life individuals --- the Mexican composer and bandleader Esquivel, and flamboyant Hollywood restaurateur Prince Michael Romanoff. They are also developing the Sam Kinison story and a comedy called "Family Planning."
January 4, 2004 -- American Splendor won the award for best picture of 2003 at the National Society of Film Critics awards Saturday. It narrowly won ahead of Clint Eastwood's Mystic River.
The NSFC is comprised of 55 of the country's leading movie critics, many from New York and Los Angeles, including many from major publications.
December 29, 2003 -- American Splendor is one of the Top 10 movies of the year as selected by Variety, People Magazine, USA Today, NBC and many others.
December 22, 2003 -- On Monday, December 15, 2003, The American Film Institute (AFI) announced the official selections of AFI Awards 2003 for the year's most outstanding achievements in film and television.
The 10 films winning AFI Awards 2003 are "American Splendor," "Finding Nemo," "The Human Stain," "In America," "The Last Samurai," "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," "Lost in Translation," "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," "Monster" and "Mystic River."
The winners of the AFI Awards 2003 in television are "Alias," "Angels in America," "Arrested Development," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Joan of Arcadia," "Nip/Tuck," "Playmakers," "Soldier's Girl," "24," and "The Wire."
To her credit Madylin Sweeten acted in both one of the Top 10 movies of the year, "American Splendor," and television programs of the year, "Everybody Loves Raymond".
The AFI Awards is the only form of national recognition that honors the film and television creative ensemble as a whole. People in front of and behind the camera are acknowledged.
August 15, 2003 -- American Splendor is theatrically released today.
6, 2003 -- From Ebert
HBO FILMS LAUNCHES
THEATRICAL DISTRIBUTION ARM
Los Angeles, CA (July 24, 2003) – HBO Films announced today the launch of the HBO Films theatrical distribution arm as it entered into an innovative distribution arrangement with New Line Cinema's specialized distribution division Fine Line Features. The deal extends the reach of HBO Films further into the theatrical arena under the HBO Films banner.
To oversee HBO Films theatrical expansion and the relationship with Fine Line Features, Home Box Office named Dennis O’Connor as head of HBO Films Domestic Theatrical Releasing.
In making the announcement, Colin Callender, president, HBO Films, said, "Over the last couple years we have had a number of movies which have been very well received at film festivals around the world. We feel we can bring HBO's unique marketing and promotional skills to help some of these movies, which rely on word of mouth, find an audience in the theatrical marketplace. Our bigger budget event movies will of course continue to be a vital part of the programming mix available exclusively to HBO subscribers." Callender continued, "This is not just another distribution deal. We brought on Dennis O'Connor to fuse HBO's in-house marketing expertise with the highly regarded New Line/Fine Line team to find new and innovative ways to connect films with their audience.
"Our experience with Fine Line working towards the August 15th release of AMERICAN SPLENDOR has been so productive that it seemed only logical to further extend this relationship. Mark Ordesky, Russell Schwartz, Steven Friedlander and Marian Koltai-Levine are a wonderful team." He added, "To guide this venture for HBO Films we have brought on board a skilled and seasoned executive in Dennis O’Connor. He combines an intimate working knowledge of the nuts and bolts of distribution with extensive hands on marketing expertise. We are thrilled to have him on board as part of the HBO Films team."
"In a short span, HBO Films has created some of the most widely praised and memorable movies on the indie scene," said Mark Ordesky, President, Fine Line Features. "We look forward to combining our strengths to provide a bold, innovative, and supportive platform for their filmmakers."
The first two HBO Films to be released under the Fine Line Features arrangement will be AMERICAN SPLENDOR, scheduled for August 15, winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and awarded the International Film Critics Association Award at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, and Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT, scheduled for October 24, winner of the Palme d’Or and Best Director at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.
AMERICAN SPLENDOR immerses the viewer in the life and worldview of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar: file clerk, working-class intellectual, obsessive-compulsive collector, and creator of the seminal autobiographical comic book series "American Splendor." Written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini and produced by Ted Hope, the film stars Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander and Madylin Sweeten, and features Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Toby Radloff.
In ELEPHANT, Gus Van Sant takes us inside an American high school, working with actual high school students to create a powerful portrait of teenagers in today’s volatile world. The story unfolds on an ordinary school day, filled with class work, football, gossip and socializing. For each of the students, high school is a different experience: stimulating, friendly, traumatic, lonely, hard. Diane Keaton and Bill Robinson executive produce; Dany Wolf produces.
AMERICAN SPLENDOR and ELEPHANT follow HBO Films first successful foray into the theatrical marketplace -- the 2002 release of REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES, 2002 Sundance Audience Prize winner, which grossed $6 million domestically.
this year’s Cannes Film Festival HBO Films unveiled the launch of HBO FILMS London,
a foreign sales company based in London run by Joint Managing Directors Rosa Bosch
and Penny Wolf, which will handle the sale of all HBO Films in all media in the
rest of the world. This latest development provides HBO Films with the capacity
to release its films theatrically worldwide.
July 17, 2003 -- 2003 New Zealand International Film Festivals. The festivals run from July 11, 2003 to November 5, 2003.
July 10, 2003 -- The 57th Edinburgh International Film Festival (Scotland, UK) will have the UK premiere of American Splendor as the Closing Night Film. The festival runs from August 13-24, 2003.
June 30, 2003 -- Provincetown International Film Festival, Massachusetts, U.S.A
June 30, 2003 --Nantucket Film Festival, Massachusetts, U.S.A
June 30, 2003 --Sydney Film Festival, Sydney, Australia.
13, 2003 --Newport
International Film Festival
May 30, 2003 -- "A certain look" is a translation of Un Certain Regard from French. At the Cannes Film Festival American Splendor was shown in the Un Certain Regard category. It is a non-competitive category which complements the competition. Selection into this category is based on the film expressing a personal vision of the subject, cultural expression and innovation in the cinema.
Splendor won the FIPRESCI
(The International Federation of Film Critics) award for best film screened in
the Un Certain Regard section. Every year, Un Certain Regard presents approximately
twenty films. It is rare for an American film to win this award.
18, 2003 -- Shown at the Cannes
Film Festival in France in the Un Certain Regard category.
American Splendor will be released internationally as HBO Films closed deals on "American Splendor" with Japan, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Greece during the festival reports The Hollywood Reporter.
March 20, 2003 -- Opened the 27th Cleveland International Film Festival in Cleveland, Ohio with special guests Joyce Brabner and foster daughter Danielle.
February 5, 2003 From Fine Line Features
HBO FILMS TO RELEASE SUNDANCE GRAND JURY PRIZE WINNER AMERICAN SPLENDOR THEATRICALLY UNDER ITS OWN LABEL IN ASSOCIATION WITH FINE LINE FEATURES
Los Angeles, CA (February 5, 2003) HBO Films will theatrically release its latest movie AMERICAN SPLENDOR in North America under its own label in association with New Line Cinema's specialized distribution arm Fine Line Features, it was announced today by Colin Callender, president, HBO Films. Written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, produced by Ted Hope, and starring Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, AMERICAN SPLENDOR took home the Grand Jury Prize at the recent Sundance Film Festival. This marks HBO's second foray into theatrical distribution, following the highly successful "Real Women Have Curves," currently in release (boxoffice gross to date: $5.8 million) and poised for home video and DVD release, as well as international theatrical distribution.
"We're very proud that HBO Films was able to help Shari and Robert realize their vision of AMERICAN SPLENDOR. It's an extraordinary directorial debut," said Callender. "It was very exciting to see the reception it received at Sundance from audiences and critics alike. We're delighted to be in business with Bob Shaye, Michael Lynne, Mark Ordesky, Russell Schwartz and the entire New Line and Fine Line team. They share our passion for Harvey Pekar's story; and we look forward to working together with them to bring AMERICAN SPLENDOR to the big screen."
"AMERICAN SPLENDOR is brilliant, exciting, genre-bending filmmaking," says Mark Ordesky, president of Fine Line Features. "HBO is on the leading edge of ground-breaking independent cinema, and we are excited to help bring that vision to a wide audience."
AMERICAN SPLENDOR immerses you in the life and worldview of Harvey Pekar: file clerk, working-class intellectual, obsessive compulsive collector, and creator of the seminal autobiographical comic book series "American Splendor." For over two decades, the pages of "American Splendor" have documented the mundane tribulations, random experiences and cultural enthusiasms that make up Pekar's day-to-day existence in his native Cleveland, Ohio. AMERICAN SPLENDOR is the true saga of a working-class everyman who found love, family and a creative voice through comic books. Like its namesake comic, AMERICAN SPLENDOR focuses on the large and small moments in the life of its prickly hero, and offers not one, but several illustrations of Harvey Pekar: the Harvey of the main narrative, portrayed by Paul Giamatti; a 2D animated Harvey; and the real Harvey, past (via archival footage) and present. The result is an inventive film that captures Pekar's voice in all its simple, honest, and cantankerous human scope.
Acclaimed filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini ("Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasens") bring Pekar's story to the screen in their first narrative feature.
HBO Films presents
AMERICAN SPLENDOR, written and directed by Shari Springer
Pulcini and Berman currently have "Family Planning" on the fast track to production at New Line Cinema; and are developing a project on the imposter / restauranteur Michael Romanoff. They are repped by Adam Shulman at The Firm. They previously directed the acclaimed documentaries "Off The Menu: The Last Days of Chasens" and "The Young and the Dead".
Ted Hope runs the New York-based production company This is that with his partners Anthony Bregman and Anne Carey. This is that has both "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu's "21 Grams" (starring Sean Penn, Benecio del Toro, and Naomi Watts) in production with Focus Features. This is that will go into production this spring on the adaptation of John Irving's Widow for One Year, entitled "The Door in the Floor," written and directed by Tod Williams; starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Bassinger; and co-produced by Michael Corrente and Roger Marino's Revere Pictures.