Ron and Russell Mael didn’t intend for 2021 to be the year they conquered Hollywood, but there’s serendipity in what wound up happening. The brothers, known for their longtime work in the band Sparks, found themselves overcoming decades of false starts in the movie business with not one but two highly acclaimed films.
First up was Edgar Wright’s documentary “The Sparks Brothers,” detailing their rise from an obscure duo to influencing some of today’s most significant artists – all the while avoiding super stardom. (Their “underdog” reputation is part of the charm of the pair, although it might be hard to argue that placement much longer.)
Shortly thereafter came the Cannes premiere of “Annette,” a musical film which is based on the duo’s screenplay and features their music.
Listen to the full interview with the Maels in the latest edition of Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast below:
In “Annette,” Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard star as a comedian and an opera star with a unique young daughter who sings in the voice of her mother – but for most of the film she is played by a puppet. That choice, says Russell, was largely logistical. “It’s actually Ron’s idea, just kind of being fascinated with the idea of a baby being able to sing in this sort of operatic way and kind of working backwards and kind of almost creating a story around that idea,” he says.
“Annette,” now available on Amazon Prime, is the Maels’ first produced screenplay, but they have been working on films for quite some time. They discuss working on a movie musical with French director Jacques Tati in the 1970s: “It’s just a pity that it didn’t happen,” Russell says. “It’s the sad truth that, you know, some visionaries have trouble getting money – financing to make their movies.”
The pair also elaborate on where things stand with Tim Burton and “Mai, the Psychic Girl,” which was almost made in the 1980s. At the time, they were heartbroken when the film wasn’t made, but now say that they shouldn’t have put their entire focus into one project. “Since then we’ve learned to do both things at the same time, since film is so unpredictable,” says Russell.
Also on this episode, the Variety Awards Circuit Roundtable discusses Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited “West Side Story” and upcoming critics’ groups announcements.
Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.