Tag Archives: ‘ ‘Spotlight

Oscar ‘Spotlight’ falls on a former UW-Madison producer

While Madison has lately been gripped by basketball fever, one Badger has already won a competition that rivals any NCAA tournament. Former University of Wisconsin-Madison student Nicole Rocklin received an Oscar for producing Spotlight, named the best picture of 2015 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Rocklin graduated with honors from UW-Madison in 2001. “I couldn’t have had a better college experience than I did in Madison,” she says. “I love the university.”

From left to right, “Spotlight” producers Michael Sugar, Blye Pagon Faust, Nicole Rocklin and Steve Golin. Photo: Nicole Rocklin
From left to right, “Spotlight” producers Michael Sugar, Blye Pagon Faust, Nicole Rocklin and Steve Golin. Photo: Nicole Rocklin

Rocklin wasn’t a graduate of either the departments of communication arts, or theater and drama. Hoping to enter law school, she double-majored in history and Afro-American studies.

“I don’t think film school is necessary if you want to produce,” she says. “My point of view is that if you have a more worldly viewpoint, you actually bring a better sense of skills and a better perspective to the film business.”

After graduating, she applied to law school, worked for some entertainment attorneys, thought of entering the music industry, and then worked for high-powered producer Jerry Bruckheimer in her native Los Angeles. His projects have included The Amazing Race and CSI television series, and movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop.

She’d already pulled back her law school application. After a friend urged Rocklin to become a producer herself, she did. Not that it happened just like that, she clarifies. It hasn’t been easy, and producing a movie draws on skills that most would not consider glamorous.

“I could sell tires,” she explains. “I’m in the business of selling. A lot of your job in making a movie is selling, in addition to fostering great relationships and being able to problem-solve and all those things.”

There are creative aspects, of course, but, “When you think about a movie, you’re selling your project to studios, you’re selling your project to actors that you want to be in it, you’re selling your project to filmmakers and writers you want to come on board,” she says. And once the movie is done, “You’re selling in terms of marketing your movie.”

Getting Spotlight to the screen with her business partner and co-producer, Blye Pagon Faust, took seven years. Michael Sugar and Steve Golin joined the two as co-producers.

“Seven years in my business isn’t that long,” says Rocklin.

But film projects don’t make money while they’re being developed, nor do movies earn income during shooting or post-production. “It’s exciting, a lot of work, and there are a lot of moments when you don’t know how you’ll keep things together,” she says. “It’s not the easiest.”

Despite receiving six Oscar nominations and winning best picture and best original screenplay awards, the fact that Spotlight even got made was a miracle, according to Rocklin. The film tells the story of how journalists at The Boston Globe uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber.

“It’s not a comic book movie or a thriller,” she says. “It’s not an overtly commercial movie. So to get a movie like this put together and do it well and successfully, and have it be financially successful, is not an easy task.”

There are rewards, of course. Yes, getting an Oscar is nice, but only a Packer fan would be as thrilled to meet quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the Academy Awards that same night.

Rocklin introduced herself and shared that her father, a big fan, had recently passed away. Seeing Rodgers, she told him, made her feel that he was present.

“I’m rooting for you,” said Rodgers.

And so life goes on for Rocklin. “We have a pretty nice slate of projects, but I’m not sure what’s next,” she says. “I need to come back to Madison for a football game, at the very least. And I need to go back and now hit up a Packers game, too.”

Oh, and her Oscar?

“There are moments when it’s been on my desk,” she says. “There are other moments when it’s sitting on my dresser. It’s always sitting far enough away from my one-and-a-half year old that he can’t have it fall on him or he can’t damage it.”

LA Film Critics: ‘Spotlight’ is best film

The high-octane “Mad Max: Fury Road” might have driven off with the most awards, but the Los Angeles Film Critics Association had another in mind for its top film of the year: “Spotlight,” the comparatively subdued drama about the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into sex abuses in the Catholic Church.

LAFCA is one of the highest-profile regional critics groups, but often strays from the mainstream in its annual awards choices. Only once in the past 20 years has the LAFCA Best Film winner gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

There was no clear favorite this year, and LAFCA honored a vast variety of some of the year’s best films further reinforcing the narrative that the Oscar race is still fairly undefined.

“Mad Max: Fury Road,” picked up three honors — the most for any film — including best director for George Miller, best cinematography, and best production design. But the dystopian rager, which the National Board of Review chose as their best film earlier this week, got second place to Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which also won for its screenplay.

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s dark animated film “Anomalisa” also got multiple awards, including best animated film and best music/score for composer Carter Burwell, who was also recognized for “Carol.”

Acting awards were given similarly out of the box choices. Michael Fassbender won best actor for portraying the tech titan in “Steve Jobs,” while Charlotte Rampling picked up the award for best actress for her role in the marital drama “45 Years.”

Michael Shannon won best supporting actor for playing the predatory real estate broker in the housing bubble film “99 Homes,” and Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for her performance as the beguiling Artificial Intelligence creation in “Ex Machina.”

“Amy,” about the life of late pop star Amy Winehouse, won best documentary, and “Son of Saul” picked up best foreign film.

Director Ryan Coogler also won the LAFCA new generation award for “Creed,” a continuation of the Rocky Balboa saga.

“Carol,” Todd Haynes’ 1950s-set romance, which dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this past week was practically shut out, aside from Burwell’s co-win for score and a host of runner-up awards, including director and production design.

The awards-friendly “Joy,” “The Revenant,” “The Danish Girl” and “Room” were nowhere to be found in LAFCA’s choices. Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” was recognized only for Ennio Morricone’s score as the runner-up to Burwell’s compositions.

Ultimately, the awards race continues to be wide open in nearly every category. The competition will heat up this week though, when nominees are announced for both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes.

On the Web…


Kenosha native Mark Ruffalo delivers Oscar-worthy performance in acclaimed ‘Spotlight’

Is there any better team player in movies than Mark Ruffalo?

Whether running in a pack of superheroes, wrestlers or journalists, Ruffalo has a rare ability to slide seamlessly into an ensemble while nevertheless standing out for his talent in doing so. A year after the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance as Olympic wrestler David Schutlz in Foxcatcher, the actor is again expected to be Oscar nominated for his key role as a dogged Boston Globe reporter in the newspaper procedural Spotlight.

“I’ve been at the right place at the right time for these two movies, and been able to disappear into the beauty of an ensemble, to serve something that’s bigger than any one particularly individual,” says Ruffalo. “They say something at a moment when the culture’s ready to hear it. A movie, if it speaks to people, it bubbles out of the culture and lands at a moment when we’re ready to have a discussion.”

Ruffalo, one of the movie industry’s most outspoken advocates for environmental (and other) causes, rarely turns down a conversation. (He began a recent interview eagerly imploring a reporter: “Talk to me!”) He has regularly poured his considerable energy into both political activism (most notably hydraulic fracturing) and passionate, striving characters, from the bipolar but exuberant father of Infinitely Polar Bear to his redemption-seeking music executive in Begin Again. He does enthusiasm well, on screen and off.

“I see a lot of light on the horizon. I call it ‘the sunlight revolution’ and it isn’t just about renewable energy,” says Ruffalo. “It’s about enlightening and bringing to light the wrongs of the past. Everywhere I look, I see this inquiry happening. I think people are conscious. I think people are sick of it. They want righteousness. They want to know that’s there’s justice in the world, and they tend to move toward that when given the choice.”

Spotlight, which expanded to theaters nationwide this weekend, dovetails with that mission. The film, directed by Tom McCarthy, is about the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting by the Boston Globe’s team of investigative reporters — named Spotlight — that uncovered the widespread sex abuse of Catholic Church priests and subsequent efforts to cover up abuse cases.

The cast, including Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams and Stanley Tucci, is uniformly excellent. And the film, one of the year’s most acclaimed, has been hailed for its verisimilitude in depicting the step-by-step digging of investigative journalism. Ruffalo, 47, plays Spotlight reporter Mike Rezendes.

“These are the people we want to celebrate. These are the people that deserve our admiration,” says Ruffalo. “You can’t have a free world without journalism, and it takes resources.”

To prepare for the role, Ruffalo spent time with Rezendes, observing him at work in the Globe newsroom and getting to know him at his home.

“As I told him, I said, ‘You found out things about me I didn’t want to know,’ says Rezendes. “He worked very hard and he got it.”

Rezendes, whom Ruffalo calls “a master” at his craft, continues to report on sex abuse and the church.

“The Catholic Church has taken some steps in the right direction, which I don’t think it would have taken were it not for us. But it has a ways to go,” says Rezendes.

Ruffalo, his movie-star counterpart, is more emphatic.

“I hope it’s a chance for the church to put people like Cardinal Law in jail,” says Ruffalo, who was raised Catholic. “That guy shouldn’t be living in a palace in the Vatican. He should just be in jail.”

Ruffalo, of course, is continuing his duties as a member (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) of the The Avengers, the last of which was the summer’s box-office behemoth Age of Ultron. He’ll be a part of a planned Thor sequel, and co-stars in next year’s magic caper Now You See Me 2.

But Ruffalo, who’s married with three children, is often busiest off-set. Earlier this month, he gathered other stars in Beverly Hills to protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s use of fracking in California.

“We live in this special time where you can’t hide anything anymore,” says Ruffalo. “All of the past wrongs are going to come to light.”