Kristen Stewart Toronto Pic ‘JT Leroy’ Near U.S. Deal From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content Group

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Kristin Stewart’s portrayal as literary hoaxer JT Leroy is poised to get distribution after it premiered as one of the high profile titles at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content Group is near t…

‘Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy’ Film Review: Literary Hoax Makes for a Frustrating Film

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Justin Kelly’s “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy,” the closing-night film at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, occupies a difficult slot at the mammoth festival. TIFF’s closing-night films typically don’t go on to enjoy significant commercial or critical success, more often destined for quick obscurity in the U.S. market.

Last year’s closing film, for instance, was the French comedy “C’est La Vie!” Before that, “The Edge of Seventeen” and “Mr. Right” at least made a little noise at the box office, “A Little Chaos” and “Life of Crime” less so.

But there’s good news and bad news for “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy,” which stars Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart and had its first press screening on Monday in advance of Saturday’s closing-night gala.

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The good news is that current events have conspired to perhaps bring the film more attention than most TIFF closing films have gotten. The bad news is that the attention is probably not the kind that the filmmakers would have wanted.

The film is the story of author Laura Albert (Dern), who published a series of books under the name JT LeRoy and enlisted her 25-year-old sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop (Stewart), to pose as the androgynous LeRoy in public appearances. When the deception was uncovered, Albert was successfully sued for fraud.

But before that, actress Asia Argento wooed “LeRoy” and bought the film rights to one of the books, “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.” She turned it into a film in which she played the LeRoy character’s mother, and her son was played by an eight-year-old actor named Jimmy Bennett.

Argento is fictionalized in Kelly’s film, played by Diane Kruger as a character simply named Eva. But she’s now in the news, facing accusations by Jimmy Bennett that she sexually abused him — not during the making of “The Heart Is Deceitful,” but nine years later.

Also Read: Asia Argento Will Not Pay Sexual Assault Accuser Jimmy Bennett Remainder of $380K, Lawyer Says

With Kruger playing a significant role in the film while the Argento saga plays out in the press, Kelly’s film risks being overshadowed by a story that has very little to do with what’s onscreen. If “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy” was more compelling, it might be able to overcome that — but instead it’s a well-acted curiosity that never quite manages to be as intriguing as it should be.

Partly, that’s because of the point of view it employs. The film was based on Knoop’s memoir, “Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy,” and it is mostly told from her perspective. But she’s a passive character who only slowly comes to have much agency in what she’s doing; Albert is clearly the more interesting of the two women, which makes it frustrating that we don’t get more from her.

In fact, the story begins in mid-deception, with no attempt to explain how or why Laura Albert felt it necessary to create the LeRoy persona. “They use us, we use them,” she says breezily, and Knoop goes along for the ride because, well, because Laura seems cool, and why not?

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Dern makes Albert flighty and impulsive, a manic mastermind who convinces herself everything is great and hopes that’s enough to convince everybody else — or maybe she tries so hard to convince everybody else because that’s the only way she might convince herself.

She’s simultaneously a fascinating character and an annoying one whose default mode is borderline desperation of one kind or another.

Stewart, meanwhile, is no doubt the right actress for Knoop — a young woman who seems remote and a little sullen, wary of but intrigued by the mess she finds herself in. The role really only requires the right presence, and Stewart has it, but the character makes for a frustratingly inactive central figure, despite a few emotional fireworks when the Eva character’s sexual interest in her wanes once the film rights are secured.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy for Albert, who feels entitled to continue the deception and affronted when it begins to unravel, or for Knoop, who is neither comfortable with the part she’s playing nor disgruntled enough to stop doing it.

Kelly, whose previous films include 2015’s “I Am Michael” and 2016’s “King Cobra,” is no stranger to exploring issues of sexuality, often with a little controversy attached. But “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy” is a lukewarm examination of what might have been a hot topic — and that means it risks being overshadowed by the real-life soap opera playing out around it.

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“Wild Rose” [UTA]
“Wild Rose” was the first title numerous industry players said was their most anticipated movie of the festival. It follows a young musician from Glasgow who wants to become a star in Nashville. Julie Walters…

Chris Pine and Laura Dern Films to Open and Close Toronto Film Festival

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Outlaw King,” a historical drama starring Chris Pine and directed by “Hell or High Water” director David Mackenzie, will serve as the opening-night film of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF organizers announced on Tuesday.

Pine stars as Robert the Bruce, the 14th century Scottish hero who led a group of outlaws to reclaim the Scottish throne from English rule. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh and Billy Howle also appear in the film, which will premiere at the Roy Thompson Hall on Thursday, Sept. 6.

Netflix will release the “Outlaw King” in November.

Also Read: ‘Hell or High Water’ Stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster Reunite With Director for Netflix’s ‘Outlaw King’

TIFF also announced that “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy,” a film from director Justin Kelly about the JT LeRoy literary hoax, will be the festival’s closing-night attraction. The film stars Laura Dern as real-life author Laura Albert, who created the fictionalized alter ego of a young queer man named JT LeRoy. As LeRoy, she wrote a bestselling book, and then enlisted her boyfriend’s sister, Savannah Knoop (Kristen Stewart) to play LeRoy in public.

The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival will run from Sept. 6-16. Additional programming will be announced over the next week, with the schedule announced on Aug. 21.

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Anya Taylor-Joy, Nick Robinson & Sasha Lane Star In ‘Weetzie Bat’ Film Adaptation

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Anya Taylor-Joy, who broke onto the scene with her lauded performance in A24’s The Witch, has been tapped as the title character in Weetzie Bat, the film adaption of Francesca Lia Block’s 80s cult favorite novel which Justin Kelly is d…

Kelvin Harrison Jr., Courtney Love & James Jagger Board ‘JT’ Biopic

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Courtney Love and James Jagger have signed on to join Justin Kelly-directed biopic JT, about the JT Leroy literary scheme orchestrated by Laura Albert and her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop. Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern and Diane Kruger also star in the film, which is currently in production in Canada.
Kelly wrote the script based on Knoop’s book Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy. Knoop took on the boy-wonder-author persona of Leroy for six…

Diane Kruger Joins Cast Of ‘JT Leroy’ Movie – Cannes

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Diane Kruger has joined the cast of Justin Kelly’s JT Leroy, the feature film based on the true story of a pair of woman who created the persona of a boy-wonder author, fooling the literary community, the fashion world, and the Hollywood elite for six years before the hoax was finally revealed.
Kristen Stewart early on boarded the project to play Savannah Knoop, who dressed up as Leroy who was a fabrication of writer Laura Albert, Knoop’s sister in law. Laura De…

‘I Am Michael’ Review: James Franco Plays ‘Ex-Gay’ in Provocative Biopic

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The first two minutes of Justin Kelly’s “I Am Michael” boil down the film’s ideological tension to one brief conversation. The titular character, an aspiring pastor, is counseling a distraught young gay man who’s unable to reconcile his religious beliefs with his sexuality. “‘Gay’ doesn’t exist,” the counselor says. “It’s a false identity.” The kid responds, “This isn’t my choice. Why would I choose this?”

And then comes the gut-punch line: “If you’re a moral person, then you’ll choose heterosexuality in order to be with God.”

The film then bounces back 10 years, showing Michael (James Franco) as a young, blond, and (wait for it) gay magazine writer and activist living in San Francisco. He’s in love with Bennett (Zachary Quinto) and has become a voice for his peers. Matthew Shepard had just been killed, shaking up the LGBT community. “F–king Christian fundamentalists should burn in hell,” he tells Bennett, who responds, “Uh, OK.” Michael may be the one who preaches, so to speak, acceptance, but clearly Bennett is the one with a live-and-let-live mindset.

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Michael was raised Christian, and after the couple take on a third boyfriend, Tyler (Charlie Carver, “The Leftovers”), the trio decide to make a documentary about homosexuality and faith, traveling the country to interview others who are struggling. At one point, Michael steps into a church, but he quickly leaves. When they get back to San Francisco, however, Michael has a health scare that rattles him. He prays. And says, “Thank you, God” aloud to no one after he discovers he’s in the clear. What he had been experiencing were only panic attacks — but what was he panicked about?

The rest of “I Am Michael” shows him becoming an increasingly prominent public speaker and blogger, writing things such as, “The only truth is love. The only sin is denying love.” Yet while he’s continuing to live in the manner that he feels is true to himself, he also picks up a Bible. He starts a magazine for gay youth and puts out a “God Issue.” And he rather quickly starts moving away from the LGBT community and dabbling in organized religion, blindsiding Bennett and Tyler.

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Franco’s fantastic here. He gives a fieriness to Michael as a gay advocate, then seamlessly slides into borderline madness as he starts accepting that the “voice” he hears is God’s. Michael’s confusion is palpable and intense, and Bennett loses patience as his partner increasingly drops the “G” word.

Quinto also gives a fine performance, slowly becoming a raw nerve as he watches Michael slip away from him and seeing pamphlets that say things such as “Turn or burn” lying around their apartment.

Though Kelly’s “King Cobra” was released last year, “I Am Michael” is his first film. (It premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.) He adapted the script from an article about the real Michael Glatze (by Benoit Denizet-Lewis) and seems to try to present the story without bias; however, it’s evident that Michael’s confusion is destroying him, and the gay community incinerates their former advocate. Even so, he starts making about-face statements such as, “I was a heterosexual person with a homosexual problem.”

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At this point, it becomes obvious that Michael may not have always had the best intentions while he was a gay activist; he just wants others in the LGBT community to do as he does, to Be Like Mike, which now means that everyone who isn’t hetero must deny their sexuality and see the light. When he finally opens a church and ironically names it “Shepherd of the Plains,” you’re still unsure whether he truly believes in what he’s doing.

But because “I Am Michael” has shown other alternatives — some who are gay and renounce the church, others who are gay and have made peace with religion — this ambiguity feels, as the former Michael might say, like the truth.

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Brainstorm Media Acquires Sundance Pic ‘I Am Michael’, Sets January Theatrical Release Date

Read on: Deadline.

Brainstorm Media has picked up distribution rights to writer-director Justin Kelly’s I Am Michael starring James Franco, Zachary Quinto, and Emma Roberts, and will released the indie in U.S. theaters and on digital January 27. The pic premiered at Sundance last year and is produced by Franco and Vince Jolivette of Rabbit Bandini, Michael Mendelsohn of Patriot Pictures, and Scott Reed and Ron Singer of That’s Hollywood and exec produced by Gus Van Sant.
Based on Benoit…

‘King Cobra’ Review: James Franco Dives Deep Into Gay Porn and Murder

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Movies don’t get much juicier, funnier, creepier, sadder, or smarter than writer-director Justin Kelly‘s “King Cobra,” which dramatizes a real-life murder case set in the world of gay porn. Kelly’s work is outstanding, as he manages to control the most seemingly uncontrollable material while exploring many different facets of the case. “King Cobra” is as in-your-face explicit a gay movie as has ever been made with recognizable male actors, including producer James Franco, who predictably takes the lion’s share of the most physical sex scenes, and Christian Slater.

Kelly (“I Am Michael”) sets up two separate stories and cuts back and forth between them until they finally collide, with tragic results. We see young Sean Lockhart (Garrett Clayton, “The Fosters”) meet up with cultured, melancholy gay porn film producer Stephen (Slater), who immediately asks Lockhart, “Do you like Chopin?”

Kelly frames Lockhart at a distance in mirrors and door frames throughout “King Cobra,” which gets across how he is the object of desire both to Stephen and to himself. (Take note of the pitiful little crooked lamp shade next to Lockhart in one early shot where he is sprawled on a bed.) Stephen gives Lockhart the stage name Brent Corrigan and tells him, “It’s fun to play with who you are, don’t you think?”

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Corrigan rises to fame online, which is shown to us in a sexily discreet montage that leaves a lot to the imagination; among those taking notice are Joe (Franco) and his younger lover Harlow (Keegan Allen, “Pretty Little Liars”), who are doing their own lower-rent porn movies. Franco and Allen kiss and grope each other on screen with intense abandon in their sex scenes, and this intensity is both erotic and also an uneasy signal that their characters are too close to the emotional edge.

In the sequence where Brent turns the camera on Stephen and the older man admits to a lonely and repressed adolescence, Slater hits just the right pitiful note as he says, “Please just make me feel wanted” before coercing Brent into having sex with him. The sex here is emotionally charged and revealing because Stephen can’t see (or doesn’t want to see) how uncomfortable Brent is with this exchange, but the camera does capture what Brent is feeling, resulting in a rare sex scene that expresses what’s going on with the characters better than any dialogue could.

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Kelly has lots of fun staging some bad porn acting in the Corrigan movies, but then he smoothly switches gears when Harlow gets upset and needs to stop a scene that Joe is shooting. We learn that Harlow was molested by his stepfather, and as Joe comforts him, Franco and Allen hit a very uncomfortable level of co-dependent emotion. Dread about what might happen next starts to steadily build as Corrigan tries to break away from Stephen, who has trademarked his stage name and has him under contract.

When Corrigan takes a business meeting with Joe and Harlow in a Japanese restaurant, Kelly wisely lets their initial talk play out in a long take where the camera steadily inches closer to them, an effective stylistic change that lets us know something is about to give or break. The scene where Harlow auditions for Stephen, which leads up to the killing, is very disturbing because Allen goes much farther with the physical and verbal sexual come-ons than you would expect in a mainstream movie.

Once we’re off-balance, Kelly films the stabbing death of Stephen in a super-controlled way that separates both characters into totally separate filmic spaces, a near-Hitchcockian montage where we never see the knife enter Stephen’s body but just hear its impact. Hitchcock famously advised to shoot a scene of love like a scene of murder and to shoot a scene of murder like a scene of love, and Kelly exactly catches that scary exchange and balance here.

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It is made clear in the scenes that Brent shares with his flaky, loving mother (Alicia Silverstone) that he likes having sex on camera and only dislikes the exploitative situation that he is in with Stephen. In the sexy and amusing final scene, after a movie-long tease, Kelly finally lets Corrigan show us his most noted asset– complete with star tattoo–and this is so funny and suggestive because Clayton manages to look a lot like Corrigan but he also uncannily resembles his fellow Disney Channel alum Zac Efron in look and manner.

The surprising thing about “King Cobra” is that it winds up being a sex-positive movie that’s sympathetic to Corrigan while also poking some gentle, loving fun at him and committed to fully exploring the sadder fates of the three other men who came to their doom in his sunny presence.

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