What is it about the Oscars that lends itself to so much premature ... speculation?
Whether it's declaring the best picture race over and done (Congratulations, "12 Years a Slave!" Your Oscar's in the mail!), surveying the awards-season landscape months before the movies have actually screened ("Foxcatcher," we hardly knew ye) or definitively declaring a movie out of the Oscar race without so much as a source citation, half-baked hunches are all the rage these days.
The latest round came last week with reports that Martin Scorsese's latest collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street," wasn't finished and might move off its Nov. 15 release date and into 2014.
"We're preparing for several different scenarios," says a source at Paramount Pictures, the studio releasing "Wolf," adding that the original Nov. 15 date is definitely not among them.
One possibility: Paramount could move "Wolf" into the Christmas Day slot currently occupied by the studio's action franchise reboot, "Jack Ryan: Shadow One." ("Wolf" would actually open Christmas Eve in order to make the one-week run necessary to qualify for Oscar consideration.) "Jack Ryan" would then be bumped to early 2014 to accommodate the shift.
Or, "Jack Ryan" could simply stay put and Paramount would slot "Wolf" early next year, a calendar spot that worked well commercially in 2010 for another Scorsese movie, "Shutter Island." That film had its release date changed too. Originally slated for the fall, Paramount pulled the plug on an October release, saying it couldn't afford the fourth-quarter expenses involved in releasing and marketing the movie.
With "The Wolf of Wall Street," a complicated tale that mixes the mob, financial fraud and corporate corruption, the delay can be pinned on Scorsese, who's still cutting the movie with longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker. At a reception last week for another Paramount Oscar contender, Alexander Payne's exceptional "Nebraska" (the studio will also have Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" in its awards-season mix), talk centered on "Wolf," its long, three-hour cut and what would need to happen for the film to arrive in 2013.
"Truthfully, the only person who knows when the movie is going to be done is Martin Scorsese, and he probably doesn't even know," said a Paramount source. "It's the equivalent of a painter putting that last brush stroke on his work. That's what we're waiting for right now, that last brush stroke."
Sony Pictures Classics faced a similar situation with "Foxcatcher," the dark, fact-based Bennett Miller-directed drama about the relationship between paranoid schizophrenic chemical fortune heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) and two Olympic wrestling champion brothers (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo). The studio sent out a brief email last week announcing that Miller needed "more time" to finish the film and it would be delayed until 2014.
"Foxcatcher" has already had several test screenings, though. In fact, Miller boasted to Entertainment Weekly that many people in the audience didn't recognize Carell. So maybe the screenings indicated problems. Or perhaps Miller does indeed require more time. Or maybe Sony Pictures Classics just decided to bail, hoping next year's Oscar race won't be as crowded with strong contenders.
Sources at Paramount say they very much want Scorsese in this year's race and that the studio would happily do the jockeying necessary to accommodate a Christmas release date for "The Wolf of Wall Street."
"It can still happen," says a Paramount executive. "We're just waiting for Marty."
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