BEVERLY HILLS – It's that time of year, when studios reunite cast and crew from some of their earlier releases to attract a little awards season spotlight. Today, 20th Century Fox had a swanky afternoon lunch at Craft to celebrate “The Fault in Our Stars.” The film's premier awards player in the Best Actress race, Shailene Woodley, was on hand as was Ansel Elgort, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, Laura Dern, producer Wyck Godfrey and the novel's author John Green. Most notably, you realize how important this film is to the studio and how proud they are of it when Jim Gianopulos, the Chairman and CEO, takes time out of his busy day to sit down for lunch with the cast and press on hand.
“Fault” was a box office phenomenon earning over $304 million worldwide off a budget of just $12 million. Green joked with me that he felt almost embarrassed the film did so well, admitting he never dreamed it would reach such a wide audience or that they would be spoofing it on “Saturday Night Live.” The partnership with Fox was such a success that the studio is already filming another adaptation of one of his books, “Paper Towns.” That “dramedy” (as he describes it) features another screenplay from Neustadter and Weber (best known for “(500) Days of Summer”), is being directed by by Jake Schreier (“Robot & Frank”) and hits theaters next June (so Green better get used to more Hollywood premieres).
While Woodley has an excellent shot at SAG, Golden Globe and Oscar nods, let's talk about Laura Dern, shall we? Many moviegoers will have already seen her in “Fault” and “Wild” by the end of the year, but this pundit has actually seen her excel in a third, “99 Homes.” The Ramin Bahrani drama debuted at the Venice Film Festival and screened at both Toronto and Telluride. Broad Green Pictures acquired it in September, but even with superb leading performances from Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, decided to push it to 2015. So, while Dern is absolutely in the Best Supporting Actress race for her role in “Wild,” she could actually be in it again next year for “99 Homes”; she's that good in it.
Many would have thought that, coming off a career peak with her Golden Globe-winning turn in “Enlightened,” it would take a while for Dern to find her footing after HBO decided to end the series after two seasons. That hasn't been the case. Dern has been superb in three straight movies (all playing moms of a different feather) and it looks like the show's lasting impact has been a major boom for her film career. In fact, she noted that at a recent SAG screening, someone told her afterward (paraphrasing) that while she was so nice on screen, he was still afraid to come up and say hello to “mean” Amy Jellicoe. And that prompted a question I'd been trying to ping Dern with for the past few months: With HBO going back to the well this Fall with “The Comeback,” another cult favorite, would she still be willing to return to “Enlightened” if the call came?
Dern just smiled and said that the fans should ask HBO. She has no doubt her two creative partners on the show, Mike White and Miguel Areta, would be up for imagining what Amy is up to now. Yes, if “The Comeback's” comeback has proven anything, it's that the advent of on demand, Netflix, etc. can bring any of your favorites back to life.
In the meantime, look for more Dern on a big screen near you. And, as for “Fault?” Woodley's chances will become clearer when the SAG and Golden Globe nominations are announced in just under two weeks.