Sean Penn may well be the genuine recipient of that oft-flung compliment ‘the best actor of his generation’, but the 53-year-old’s side career as a director has been intermittent and not always successful. His best film may well be his first, 1991’s The Indian Runner, but there will be a new choice to consider as Penn gets ready to direct his fifth feature, the first since 2007’s Into the Wild, titled The Last Face. The story is set in Africa, during a humanitarian crisis, where two doctors working under demanding pressure are forced to make morally complex decisions.
Penn has exceptional leads: Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Skyfall) and Charlize Theron (Monster, Prometheus). He’s just finished making the espionage thriller Gunman with the former, and is romantically involved with the latter (putting ‘Sean Penn Charlize Theron’ into a search engine will take you down a tabloid rabbit hole). Theron also stars in the thriller Dark Places, playing a woman forced by a secret society to revisit her family’s murder when she was a child, and the long in the making Mad Max: Fury Road, where her character has the suitably post-apocalyptic name Imperator Furiosa.
Irvine leads Straight, Stonewall
Normally in a Roland Emmerich film the world ends: Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012… But even as he prepares for the 2016 Independence Day sequel, set to release 20 years to the day after Will Smith and a computer virus saved mankind, he’s making a film about an event that changed the world. Stonewall will document the riot at a Greenwich Village gay bar in New York that was raided by police in 1969, an event that essentially launched the gay rights movement. His leading man will be the young English actor Jeremy Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man), who has just finished shooting The World Made Straight, a drama set in a rural Appalachian community haunted by a Civil War massacre that also stars Noah Wyle (television’s E.R, Donnie Darko) and Minka Kelly (The Butler, The Roommate).
Crowe joins ensemble
Something different: having just charted the blockbuster dramas that comprise Russell Crowe’s career, he’s now signed up for an ensemble drama. Fathers and Daughters, from Italian director Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness) examines a young woman’s struggles with her father, a famous author. Expect Crowe as the literary lion, with the cast rounded out by Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables, Lovelace), Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds, Unknown) and Jane Fonda (Klute, The China Syndrome).
Tina & Amy now family
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are brilliant together, primarily when the two comedic actors, best known television’s 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation respectively, host an awards show. Their one feature together, 2008’s Baby Mama, was a so-so Odd Couple retread involving surrogacy, but Fey and Poehler will be reuniting for director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) in The Nest, where they’ll play sisters who spend a weekend together in their childhood home before the house is sold. If there is a scene where sing along to an old pop hit while dancing in their pajamas, someone’s in serious trouble.