With multiple recent events celebrating United Artists’ centennial, and anticipation growing for the release of the next James Bond film in 2020, industry folk and fans alike are being reminded of UA’s scope and impact.
“UA’s primary legacy is that it never left its core mission, allowing visionary artists to control the filmmaking process,” says Jonathan Glickman, president of parent company MGM’s motion picture group. “There is no accident why so many of the essential filmmakers of the past 100 years were drawn to make their films here and it’s their work that has kept the name alive.”
In honor of UA’s landmark anniversary, this year’s Venice Film Festival featured a screening of a new 35mm print (courtesy of MGM) of Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York.” The new copy of the 1977 pic was presented by producer Irwin Winkler, whose other UA credits include “Raging Bull,” “The Mechanic” and all of the “Rocky” and “Creed” films. He also held a producing master class
following the screening.
At this year’s Toronto Film Festival, French director and actress Mati Diop received the festival’s inaugural Mary Pickford Award, recognizing “an emerging female talent who is making groundbreaking strides in the industry.” Launched in conjunction with UA’s centennial, the MGM-supported award honored Pickford, one of UA’s legendary co-founders and pioneer in the entertainment industry. Pickford not only produced and starred in movies, but also helped launch the Motion Picture Relief Fund (now the Motion Picture and Television Fund).
Diop’s supernatural romantic drama “Atlantics” made history twice earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, breaking new ground as the first film in competition directed by a black woman, and also taking home the Grand Prix.
“Like Mary Pickford, Mati Diop has demonstrated her trailblazing influence both in front of and behind the camera, making her the ideal inaugural awardee,” Glickman says.
Another event celebrating the legacy of United Artists was a panel discussion at IFP Week in New York in September featuring former UA staffers Michael Barker, now co-president and co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics, and Kathie Berlin, film consultant and former president of Rogers and Cowan.
Berlin, who began her career as a radio and television publicist at UA in the late 1960s, remembers the job as the perfect introduction to the movie business and to films.
“We were small, we all worked together, and I had the very added advantage of being the only woman at the company,” Berlin says. “So every once in a while, I would get a call from the 13th floor, and they’d say, ‘Please come upstairs.’ I knew that meant they wanted me to see a movie and they had no women’s point of view. I would be the first one to see ‘Midnight Cowboy’ or ‘Fellini Satyricon,’ these were really heavy-duty movies.”
While there has been no shortage of events and conversations looking back at UA’s history, two additions to its catalog are right around the corner: the Oct. 10 release of the animated reboot “The Addams Family” and the 2020 release of the next Bond film, “No Time to Die.”
“The Addams Family” is directed by animation veterans Greg Tiernan (“Sausage Party”) and Conrad Vernon (“Monsters vs. Aliens”) and features a stellar cast featuring Charlize Theron, Oscar Isaac, Bette Midler, Allison Janney and Nick Kroll.
“No Time to Die,” the 25th installment of one of Hollywood’s most durable franchises, brings the fabled superspy James Bond back to his UA roots.
“For all of us who grew up with Bond, the franchise and the UA logo go hand and hand together,” Glickman says. “Furthermore, we couldn’t be more excited to tap the new generation of great filmmakers into United Artists’ storied legacy.”