An eclectic group of thesps and helmers are fanning out across Gotham’s five boroughs to shoot “New York, I Love You.”
Orlando Bloom, Olivia Thirlby, Hayden Christensen and Ethan Hawke are among those who have boarded the omnibus pic, a mixture of contemplative romance and unabashed civic boosterism. The anthology of shorts follows the format of “Paris, je t’aime,” a surprise specialty hit released last year.
A few names had been rumored online since the project was first announced last spring (Woody Allen has nothing to do with it, contrary to reports). Paparazzi have swooped down on the production, currently midway through a planned 10-week shoot, and blogs started to teem with photos, especially when Scarlett Johansson started lining up shots.
Johansson, like fellow thesp Natalie Portman, is making her helming debut on the project. Portman also stars in a separate short.
Directors include Mira Nair, Brett Ratner and Alan Hughes, plus international helmers such as Fatih Akin, Andrey Zvyagintsev and Wen Jiang. The pic’s producers include Marina Grasic, exec producer of “Crash”; Marianne Maddalena, of the “Scream” pics; and Jan Korbelin, exec producer of Lionsgate’s “The Lucky Ones.”
Domestic rights are still being negotiated, and Bill Bloch’s QED is selling international.
Using a similar approach, “Paris je t’aime” quietly racked up nearly $5 million at the domestic B.O., quite a feat for a French-language title. First Look distribbed in the U.S.
“Paris je t’aime” kicked off producer Emmanuel Benbihy’s planned global series that could see numerous locales get the “I love you” treatment, with Shanghai and Africa on the drawing board. The timing is right, the filmmakers add.
“This is a way for directors to play with a format that isn’t 90 minutes,” Korbelin said.
“With films like ‘Crash’ and ‘Babel,’ the approach to narrative has changed,” Grasic said. “People are getting more sophisticated about watching content in shorter forms.”
In one business respect, “New York” stands out amid the current tide of pics such as “Sex and the City” and “Enchanted” that have spotlighted Gotham locations. NYC & Co., the official marketing and tourism organization for the City of New York, is fully behind the pic, throwing its weight into sponsorship deals.
A major airline is in final talks to help ferry talent to and from the city and promote the film on its aircraft, for example. Such co-branding deals go well beyond the typical offer of a few bus shelter ads and minor marketing considerations.
“Given that this film is a valentine to the city, the city feels extra responsibility,” said one person involved in dealmaking.
So what’s to separate the movie from simple testimonial tourism promos that would run in a taxicab or on a billboard? The filmmakers say that the explicit auteur approach, as well as interstitial material that weaves together the shorts into a planned 100-minute whole, will steer clear of overt shilling.
Still, “This is a natural for New York,” Grasic said. “It’s definitely going to be cross-promotional.”
In the end, they say, New York will be a character, as it has been in films since the silent era, with a special nod to the diversity of 21st century Gotham.
“There are a lot of culture clashes and love stories involving people of different races,” noted Grasic.
Other confirmed thesps include Carlos Acosta, Kevin Bacon, Justin Bartha, Rachel Bilson, James Caan, Bradley Cooper, Chris Cooper, Drea de Matteo, Irrfan Khan, Cloris Leachman, Blake Lively, Emilie Ohana, Maggie Q, Shu Qi, Eli Wallach, Saul Williams, Robin Wright-Penn, Anton Yelchin and Ugur Yucel.