Monday, September 14, 2015

Jean-Jacques Annaud Dances With Wolves

The Business
Guest: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Monday September 14
2:30 PM US Pacific Time or KCRW 89.9 FM/LA
Five Scoops of Bosco

French director Jean-Jacques Annaud has made movies around the world. The one place he never thought he’d make a movie was China.

The government there got upset about his film Seven Years in Tibet, and Annaud and star Brad Pitt were told they were not welcome in the country. So Annaud was quite surprised to receive a visit from Chinese producers asking him to adapt the best selling Chinese novel Wolf Totem into a film.

Annaud shares why China changed its mind on him, what it takes to make a hit there, and what it was like working with lots of Mongolian wolves on Monday's (September 14) Edition of the radio program The Business.

The 1997 movie Seven Years in Tibet was banned in China, and its director Annaud was barred from entering the country. A decade later, China came to Annaud and asked him to direct Wolf Totem, an epic Chinese movie.

The book follows a student from Beijing sent to live in Inner Mongolia during the 1967 Cultural Revolution. The novel is critical of Mao’s communist regime, especially the damage caused by urban settlers who upset the delicate balance in the region between humans and wolves.

 The movie version would of course involve working with wolves, and Annaud had made movies with animals before. He had read the book and was up for the challenge but still, as he told Host Kim Masters, he wondered...had the Chinese really gotten over their very negative reaction to Seven Years in Tibet? They promised they had.

Annaud says Chinese producers are pragmatic people, and saw him as a person they knew could get the job done. He could also provide something of a neutral voice for working with very sensitive material. Annaud is an immersive director, and ended up moving to China for several years, spending 165 days shooting in Inner Mongolia and then post-production in Beijing. And before they could even start shooting, they had to raise their own wolf pack.

Annaud wanted to use real native wolves -- who don’t take direction too well -- so the production had to raise and train animals especially for the project. These are intimidating creatures, though they look quite different from the gray wolves of North America. Annaud says Mongolian wolves are the color of lions and they have the eyes of tigers. He bonded with the alpha male of the pack, but took extreme caution, as he knew that wolves can never truly be tame.

Wolf Totem was a hit in China -- it’s one of the top-ten films at the Chinese box office this year. It’s also China’s Oscar submission for best foreign-language film. Now, Wolf Totem opens in the US, where Annaud is happy to present American audiences with another option besides the typical Hollywood fare.

Also on Monday's The Business:  TV Guide magazine chief content officer Michael Schneider joins Host Kim Masters to discuss top entertainment news stories of the week. 

With Telluride over and Toronto kicking off, awards season is officially under way. 

After Telluride, the movie to watch seems to be Black Mass, featuring a strong performance from an almost unrecognizable Johnny Depp. 

In addition, Stephen Colbert made his debut as the host of The Late Show on CBS. Ratings were strong the first night, but dipped on night two. The first couple of weeks will likely involve Colbert finding his legs as the new host. 

Remember Zero Dark Thirty? Vice News did an extensive investigation and found that director Kathryn Bigelow and writer and producer Mark Boal gave gifts to members of the CIA. Hoping to get information for their film, they reportedly gave expensive jewelry, dinners and even a bottle of tequila to CIA agents. 

Kim Masters is Editor-at-Large of the Hollywood Reporter and host of KCRW's The Business.

A former correspondent for NPR, she has also served as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Time and Esquire, and was a staff reporter for the Washington Post.

She is the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everybody Else and co-author, with Nancy Griffin, of Hit & Run: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood. 

Masters was named Entertainment Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club in June 2011 and Print Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club in June 2012. In May 2012, The Business received a Gracie Award for Outstanding Talk Show.

Most recently, Masters was named Entertainment Journalist of the Year at the LA Press Club's National Entertainment Journalism Awards in November 2012.

Link to The Business Radio program every Monday at 2:30 PM US Pacific Time through Bosco Radio: News and Information Channel.

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