Cate Blanchett’s superb, sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated performance in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” this summer marked a return of sorts to the big screen. She never went away, exactly, but her recent, sparse run of secondary and supporting roles (in the likes of “Hanna” and “Robin Hood”) was a clear indication that the bulk of her attention was elsewhere — at the Sydney Theater Company, to be precise, where she has acted as an artistic director for the last five years.
Happily, at least for those of us without easy access to Blanchett’s stage work, her film comeback is set to continue and expand. Having announced that her current season at the Sydney Theater Company will be her last, she revealed today that the directorial experience she gained there will now be put to cinematic use. Blanchett’s first feature as a director will be “The Dinner,” a second big-screen adaptation of the 2009 novel by Dutch writer Herman Koch.
A New York Times bestseller in its English translation earlier this year, “The Dinner” has been variously likened by critics to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” (currently being filmed by David Fincher), Christos Tsiolkas’ “The Slap” and Yasmine Reza’s Polanski-filmed play “God of Carnage.” The premise remotely recalls “Carnage”: two brothers and their wives meet in a restaurant to discuss a horrific act of violence perpetrated by the couples’ teenage sons. Over the course (or, rather, several courses) of their meal, they acrimoniously negotiate the hows and whys of the situation, and reveal alarming extremes of parental protectiveness.
A Dutch-language adaptation of the novel has already been made. Directed by Menno Meyjes (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “The Color Purple,” incidentally), it had its world premiere in Toronto this month to generally positive reviews. Hollywood Reporter critic Boyd van Hoeij described it as “captivating in large part thanks to its edgy humor,” citing its crossover potential. The film has yet to open in its home country, though given the international profile of its source material, it could feasibly be the Netherlands’ foreign-language Oscar submission this time next year.
A cast for Blanchett’s version has yet to be announced; it’s not known at this point whether or not she will star in the film herself. Either way, it’s the kind of actor-focused chamber piece that should make good on her stage directing experience. The star has at least one substantial collaborator backing her up: writer-director Oren Moverman, who received a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nod four years ago for “The Messenger,” is handling script duties. This isn’tt be the first project to connect Moverman and Blanchett: he also wrote Todd Haynes’ 2007 Bob Dylan meditation “I’m Not There,” which earned the actress an Oscar nod.
Producer Caldecot Chubb, whose diverse list of credits includes “Eve’s Bayou,” “Hoffa” and “To Sleep With Anger,” will produce the film through his own ChubbCo company — he’s also credited as an executive producer on the Dutch version. Eva Maria Daniels (“What Maisie Knew”) and Olga Segura (“The Truth About Emanuel”) are executive producers.
Are you looking forward to seeing Blanchett go behind the camera? Tell us in the comments.