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Roman Polanski + Martin Scorsese Thrillers: Berlin Film Festival Entries

The Ghost Writer Pierce Brosnan Ewan McGregor. Roman Polanski thriller inspired by Tony Blair
The Ghost Writer with Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor. In Roman Polanski’s mystery thriller The Ghost Writer, which will be competing for the 2010 Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear, former James Bond Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day) plays a former British Prime Minister who – shades of Iraq War hawk Tony Blair – may have something to hide in his less than pristine past. Ewan McGregor has the title role: a younger man working on the ex-prime minister’s book of memoirs. Robert Harris wrote the screenplay, based on his own novel.

Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer gets Berlin premiere

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Roman Polanski’s latest effort, the Anglo-French-German co-production The Ghost Writer, will have its world premiere in competition at the 2010 (60th) Berlin International Film Festival, which takes place Feb. 11–21.

Based on the International Thriller Writers’ Award-winning novel The Ghost by Robert Harris (who also penned the screenplay), The Ghost Writer was shot at Studio Babelsberg outside Berlin and was finished by Polanski while in prison in Switzerland.

The mystery thriller stars Ewan McGregor as a professional ghostwriter hired to put on paper the memoirs of a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) living on an island off the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Not long after starting work, the writer is drawn into a series of sexual and political intrigues involving the ex-PM’s wife (Olivia Williams), his aide (Kim Cattrall), war crime allegations, and a mysterious secret from the PM’s past that may derail international relations.

Iraq War proponent Tony Blair was reportedly Harris’ inspiration for the character.

The Ghost Writer also features the following:

Two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (as Best Actor for In the Bedroom, 2001; as Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clayton, 2007).

Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980).

Jim Belushi. Robert Pugh. Tim Faraday. Daphne Alexander. Angelique Fernandez. Jeff Burrell.

Veteran Eli Wallach (Baby Doll, The Good the Bad and the Ugly).

Summit Entertainment to release ‘The Ghost Writer’ in North America

Summit Entertainment, the North American (U.S. and Canada) distributor of awards season favorite The Hurt Locker and the blockbusters Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, recently picked up North American rights to Polanski’s $35 million film. Summit plans to release it in the first half of 2010.

In a joint statement, Summit Entertainment Co-Chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger stated:

“We had the good fortune to recently screen The Ghost Writer in Paris and were amazed at the film Roman and his team have created. He once again has proven himself as one of the world’s most talented filmmakers and master of suspense[,] creating a very modern thriller and we look forward to sharing this film with North American audiences.”

Roman Polanski still under house arrest

The 77-year-old Roman Polanski is currently under house arrest at his chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad, while waiting on a decision as to whether he’ll be extradited to the United States on a charge of having had sex with a minor back in the late 1970s.

Polanski is married to actress Emmanuelle Seigner, the leading lady in Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The couple have two children.

Besides having won the 2002 Best Director Academy Award for the Holocaust drama The Pianist, starring Best Actor winner Adrien Brody, Polanski has been honored with numerous international awards in the past half century.

Among these was the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear for the thriller Cul-De-Sac (1966), toplining Donald Pleasence and Françoise Dorléac, and the Special Jury Prize for another – more serious-minded – thriller, Repulsion (1965), starring Dorléac’s sister Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, and John Fraser.

Roman Polanski movies

Other Roman Polanski film credits, mostly psychological thrillers and mysteries, some of which co-written by frequent collaborator Gérard Brach, include:

  • The Best Foreign Language Film-nominated Knife in the Water / Nóz w wodzie (1962), made in Poland. In the cast: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, and Zygmunt Malanowicz.
  • The comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers / Dance of the Vampires (1967), toplining Jack MacGowran, Polanski himself, and his soon-to-be wife, Sharon Tate, who would be murdered two years later.
  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968), about a New York City-based coven of witches and the impending birth of Satan’s child. Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Ruth Gordon starred.
  • The Oscar-nominated crime thriller Chinatown (1974), starring Oscar nominees Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, in addition to veteran filmmaker John Huston (The African Queen, Moulin Rouge).
  • The Tenant / Le locataire (1976), starring Polanski himself, alongside Isabelle Adjani, and Oscar-winning veterans Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, and Lila Kedrova.
  • The Oscar-nominated period piece Tess (1979; released in the U.S. in 1980), dedicated to Sharon Tate, and toplining Nastassja Kinski in the title role, Leigh Lawson, and Peter Firth.
Shutter Island Martin Scorsese Leonardo DiCaprio Mark Ruffalo Ben Kingsley: Not as they seemShutter Island: Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley. In the 1950s-set neo-noir thriller Shutter Island, based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, DiCaprio and Ruffalo play two investigators in search of a madwoman/murderess who, after fleeing a mental institution, is supposed to be in hiding somewhere on the titular island. However, as in previous cinematic entries such as Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, things aren’t exactly what they seem. Shutter Island will have its world premiere as an out-of-competition entry at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival.

Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio thriller ‘Shutter Island’ at Berlin Film Festival

In other 2010 Berlin Film Festival news, besides Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, six other titles (see further below) have been announced for the Golden Bear Competition line-up.

Well, except for the fact that two of them are actually out-of-competition entries. One such is Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island – which will have its world premiere at the Berlinale. And that means The Ghost Writer will not be the festival’s only mystery thriller directed by an internationally celebrated filmmaker.

Scorsese’s first narrative feature since winning the Oscar for The Departed nearly three years ago, Shutter Island chronicles the pursuit of a demented murderess who is supposedly in hiding somewhere in the titular location after escaping from a local mental institution. In the extensive, Oscar-pedigreed cast:

  • Three-time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (as Best Supporting Actor for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993; as Best Actor for The Aviator, 2004, and Blood Diamond, 2006).
  • Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, 2005).
  • Best Actor Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, 1982).
  • Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, 2006).
  • Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April, 2003).
  • Best Actor Oscar nominee Max von Sydow (Pelle the Conqueror, 1988), also a veteran with more than half a century in films (e.g., Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Spring, Shame).

In addition to:

Mark Ruffalo. Emily Mortimer. Elias Koteas. Ted Levine. John Carroll Lynch. Robin Bartlett. Christopher Denham. Nellie Sciutto. Joseph Sikora.

Laeta Kalogridis’ adapted Dennis Lehane’s novel.

Of note, Shutter Island is the fourth Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration, following the Best Picture Oscar nominees Gangs of New York (2002) and The Aviator, and the Best Picture winner The Departed.

Latest Jasmila Zbanic-Mirjana Karanovic collaboration

Another noteworthy Berlin 2010 Golden Bear Competition entry is Jasmila Zbanic’s On the Path, featuring Mirjana Karanovic.

The previous Zbanic-Karanovic collaboration, the Bosnian-set political/family drama Grbavica, won the 2006 Golden Bear and earned Karanovic an European Film Award nomination.

Minus Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, below are the five other Golden Bear titles – whether in or out of competition – announced thus far.

Initial Golden Bear roster

Bal (Honey) (Turkey / Germany).
Director: Semih Kaplanoglu.
Cast: Bora Altas. Erdal Besikcioglu. Tülin Özen. Alev Ucarer. Ayse Altay.
World premiere.

Der Räuber (The Robber) (Austria / Germany).
Director: Benjamin Heisenberg.
Cast: Andreas Lust. Franziska Weisz.
World premiere.

My Name Is Khan (India). Out of competition.
Director: Karan Johar.
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan. Kajol.

Na Putu (On the Path) (Bosnia and Herzegovina / Austria / Germany / Croatia).
Director: Jasmila Zbanic.
Cast: Zrinka Cvitesic. Leon Lucev. Ermin Bravo. Mirjana Karanovic.
World premiere.

Shekarchi (The Hunter) (Germany / Iran).
Director: Rafi Pitts.
Cast: Rafi Pitts. Mitra Hajjar. Ali Nicksaulat. Hassan Ghalenoi.
World premiere.

Berlin Film Festival website.

Info about Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer via The Guardian.

Image of Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor in the Roman Polanski thriller The Ghost Writer image: Summit Entertainment.

Image of Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, and Leonardo DiCaprio in the Martin Scorsese thriller Shutter Island image: Paramount Pictures.

“Roman Polanski & Martin Scorsese Thrillers: Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear Entries” last updated in April 2018.

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