Casting Aspersions: Cody, Cooper & Kiarostami

09 March 2012 | 11:42 - By World Movies

Diablo Cody turns director, Scott Cooper buddies up with Christian Bale, and Abbas Kiarostami sees the end in Japan. 

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Sooner or later the great majority of Hollywood’s leading screenwriters, especially those with a distinctive voice, end up directing their own work. Some arrive at the point via frustration, others carefully work their way up the point where they’ll only sell a screenplay if they’re attached to direct. The likes of Oliver Stone and Lawrence Kasdan, who respectively penned Midnight Express and Scarface, The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark before directing their first features, used writing as an introduction, and now it appears that a young successor is taking the same path.

Diablo Cody has had the screenplay credit on three features – 2007’s Juno and 2011’s Young Adult, which were capably directed by a director who gets her in Jason Reitman, and 2009’s rather messy Jennifer’s Body, which was mishandled by Karyn Kusama – and that along with creating the well-received cable television show The United States of Tara and enjoying a distinctive public profile has made her as prominent as a Hollywood screenwriter gets. (Aside from Aaron Sorkin, there’s not a great deal of competition.) Now Cody (pictured) plans to direct her next script, Lamb of God, and it already has an offbeat cast.

The move is the story of a devout young Christian woman who suffers extensive burns in a plane accident and subsequently renounces her faith, leaving her church and family behind and moving to Las Vegas. In the lead role Cody has Julianne Hough, the former dancer who was so-so in the Footloose remake, but around her there’s the recent Academy Award winner for The Help Octavia Spencer, the sublime Nick Offerman (television’s Parks & Recreation), the unpredictable Russell Brand, and as Hough’s mother who pursues her, Holly Hunter. It remains to be seen if Cody has a visual aesthetic as identifiable as her writing, but any female filmmaker getting a shot in Hollywood is a welcome development.

Scott Cooper made a name for himself as the writer and director Crazy Heart, the independently made story of a fading country music singer that Jeff Bridges did wonders with. Now he’s set to make the thriller Out of the Furnace his follow-up, with The Dark Knight star Christian Bale to play a former convict who just wants to marry his girlfriend but feels compelled to take revenge on the criminals who killed his brother. Zoe Saldana (Avatar) is up for the role of the long-suffering partner, while veteran Robert Duvall may play the protagonist’s uncle with the possibility that Bale’s adversary will be portrayed by Middle Earth hero Viggo Mortensen.

The difficulties for filmmakers in Iran mean that one of the country’s leading directors, Abbas Kiarostami, who is revered in international arthouse circles, will follow the precedent set with his last picture, 2010’s Certified Copy, and work outside his homeland. The Taste of Cherry and The White Balloon creator has set The End in Japan, with the Japanese-language release to star Rin Takanashi and Tadashi Ukuno in the story of a relationship between a student working as a prostitute to support herself and an ageing academic who is her client.

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