“He's healthy.” That was Willem Dafoe's understated way, when he was in Australia in October to promote The Hunter, of noting the return to productive filmmaking of Abel Ferrara. The one-time bad boy of New York independent filmmaking, who started out making exploitation flicks in the late 1970s and graduated to the uncompromising likes of 1990's King of New York and 1992's Bad Lieutenant, Ferrara was only an intermittent presence in cinemas over the last decade: 2001's 'R Xmas felt like a movie cut off mid-sentence.
Lifestyle issues were a problem for Ferrara (pictured), but in recent years there has been a creative renewal, with documentaries and short films signaling Ferrara's re-engagement with the camera. Dafoe, along with Paz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire) and Natasha Lyonne (Blade: Trinity), starred in 4.44 Last Day on Earth, Ferrara's idiosyncratic take on a couple's reaction to the planet's imminent demise which debuted at the Venice Film Festival this year.
Now Ferrara and intermittent collaborator screenwriter Christ Zois (they did 1997's The Blackout and 1998's New Rose Hotel together) are at work on a film inspired by the international scandal created by the arrest of International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid. The film will reportedly examine addiction and politics, but it won't be biographical. Ferrara and producers are talking to two leading French actors for the roles based on Strauss-Kahn and his wife, Anne Sinclair, with Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani considering parts that will draw a huge focus in France, where Strauss-Kahn was a presidential hopeful and his wife is a leading journalist.
Dafoe's co-star in The Hunter, Frances O'Connor, will also be busy in the coming year. The Los Angeles-based Australian actress has a trio of new titles scheduled, including the inspirational children's tale Little Red Wagon, the independent romantic comedy Lumpy with Justin Long (Die Hard 4.0) and Billy Bob Thornton's Jayne Mansfield's Car. As a filmmaker Thornton remains best known for 1996's Sling Blade, and the actor hasn't helmed a feature since 2001's Daddy and Them. But for his new film, the story of a cultural clash between two families in the 1960s, he has a serious cast, with O'Connor being joined by Kevin Bacon, John Hurt, Robert Duvall and Ray Stevenson.
Both Luc Besson and Angelina Jolie have politically focused dramas they've directed due for release in 2012 – the Aung San Suu Kyi biopic The Lady for the former and the 1990s Balkans War set In the Land of Blood and Honey for the latter – but the French director and the American actress are getting back to what they're each best known for, teaming up for a currently untitled dramatic thriller. The two should be a potent fit, given that Besson's La Femme Nikita in 1990 kick-started the female-driven action flick genre that Jolie took to blockbusting ends with the likes of Wanted and Salt.