Fourteen years ago, the summer of 1998 was pummeled by a pair of big-budget disaster flicks. There was the sibylline Deep Impact, which featured Morgan Freeman as the president and a tidal wave that toppled the World Trade Center and the rest of the New York skyline. A month later, Michael Bay’s Armageddon wreaked havoc on cineplexes nationwide, and the sappy Diane Warren-penned, Steven Tyler-crooned “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” played on a loop in most of our heads. While disaster porn was nothing new at the time, it seemed particularly crazy that two movies about the Earth’s intergalactic demise were released within months of each other.
Last fall saw the trend’s return, but with a much more artistic and introspective sensibility. Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, in which the titular planet collides with ours, puts the impending doom in the backseat, focusing more on a pair of sisters (played by a despondent Kirsten Dunst and a raving Charlotte Gainsbourg) dealing with their own depressive tendencies and inabilities to cope with the end of the world. Following in its footsteps is Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, the directorial debut of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist scribe Lorene Scafaria, which opens on Friday.
Seeking a Friend has a similar premise as Melancholia, only it eschews von Trier’s bleak world view for something much more lighthearted and humorous. It features a star-studded supporting cast, with Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, and Patton Oswalt all making appearances as existential characters reacting to the news of a destructive asteroid by burning familial bridges, embracing free love, and trying heroin. But at the center of the film are Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley as an unlikely couple traveling the country after fleeing riotous New York City. The duo come to terms with the looming destruction by reflecting on their past relationships while experiencing a budding romance. Their world ends just as the Mayans predicted, only with an extra dose of passion. The apocalypse has never been so uplifting.
The newest Hollywood it-girl Jessica Chastain, who was basically in every single Oscar-baiting role this year ranging from a sad, wise housewife in The Tree of Life to a sad, dumb housewife in The Help, is rumored to be up for the role of a possibly sad Princess Diana in a new film about her secret affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Kahn. indiewire reports that Caught in Flight it set to go into production next spring with German director Oliver Hirschbiegel at the helm.
The film will depict the affair between the princess and the doctor, which began shortly before her divorce from Prince Charles and lasted for nearly two years. Diana tried desperately to keep the affair on the DL, but she was questioned regularly by the press about her relationship with Kahn. After her death in 1997, close friends reported that Kahn was "the love of her life."
The princess met Dr. Hasnat at the Royal Brompton Hospital in 1995 when she was visiting a friend who was recovering from heart surgery. The couple pursued a quiet two-year affair. Dr. Kahn, who she named “Mr. Wonderful,” maintained an eleven-year silence over the relationship, until he spoke The Telegraph about the affair in 2008. In the article, the relationship is described as being so serious that Diana was thinking of converting to Islam. She wore traditional dress to meet his family on a visit to Pakistan. “The Khans are deeply religious,” the newspaper reported, and “his wall-hangings include a painting that has an inscription of verses from the Koran.” Dr Khan left Britain in 2007. Diana is said to have been heartbroken that he wanted to end the relationship.
This would be the first major film about the princess (if you don’t count The Queen, which focused on Queen Elizabeth in the days following Diana’s death), although Kiera Knightley was once in talks to play her in a biopic. This may also be the first major starring role for Chastain, who came out of nowhere to star opposite Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life (with her name above the title, no less). Like Diana’s life and death, Caught in Flight will likely cause some buzz among those expecting a faithful and favorable portrayal of the princess: the script penned by Steven Jeffreys is rumored to show her "as a damaged person who stalks the doctor after he ends the affair."
Clair Messud’s 2006 best-selling novel about privileged, over-educated New Yorkers has been headed to the big screen for years. But like the novel’s trio of Brown graduates, the film adaptation seems to have had trouble finding itself. Noah Baumbach, who wrote the screenplay, was rumored to have taken over directing duties from Ron Howard, who is producing with Brian Glazer. Now, however, Baumbach has stepped down as director, and Crazy Heart writer-director Scott Cooper has taken his place.
Despite Baumbach’s departure–he’s focusing his efforts on a documentary project and to direct a new film While We’re Young (which he also wrote)–the film has at least four big-name stars attached: Kiera Knightley and Rachel McAdams as the two young female protagonists, Richard Gere, and Emma Thompson.
The novel’s transfer to the big screen comes at an appropriate time. The production is slated to begin in Spring 2012 in New York; one can’t help but see parallels between the young listless and wayward thirtysomethings struggling for professional success and creative fulfillment and those of the 99% currently Occupying Wall Street. (Could we get a Kanye cameo?) Sadly, the story (uh, spoiler alert?) poignantly takes place over a few months in 2001, wrapping up in the fall of that year as a major national crisis overshadowed the personal and self-centered worries of the lower-upper class and their full-grown adolescent children, so it’s not likely that we’ll see Knightley and McAdams dressed as crusties and marching down to Zuccotti Park to gain a political awakening.