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Published Nov 22, 2006 8:00 AM


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UCLA Magazine Web Exclusives

Love's Labors Won
Little Miss Sunshine makes it to the big screen. (Jul 21, 2006)

Monster Man
Gil Kenan MFA '02 helms Monster House for Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis (Jul 14, 2006)

This past year was an especially impressive one for graduates of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT): The animated fright flick Monster House, directed by Gil Kenan MFA '02, and dark family comedy Little Miss Sunshine, co-directed by Jonathan Dayton '80 and Valerie Faris '80 — a husband and wife filmmaking team who met as undergraduates — were among the films that attracted both large audiences and critical favor in 2006.

So some of the earliest UCLA-related movie news of 2007 is likely to be the Oscar® buzz swirling around these two films. With luck, some of the other Bruin-crafted movies that open in December will also be awards contenders. These include The Nativity Story, directed by 13's Catherine Hardwicke '84, and starring Whale Rider's Keisha Castle-Hughes as the Virgin Mary, and The Good Shepherd, written by Eric Roth '73 and executive produced by TFT Executive Board member Francis Ford Coppola MFA '67. The historical drama about the early days of the CIA stars Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, and Angelina Jolie.

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Francis Ford Coppola

Distinguished TFT alumni have put literally billions of dollars into Hollywood's coffers over the years, according to the dean of the School, Robert Rosen. And a few have changed the face of movies as an art form: one obvious example is Coppola, who in 2007 will release his first directorial effort in over a decade, Youth Without Youth. Such noteworthy graduates also include TFT Alumni Council member Paul Schrader MA '70, who wrote Taxi Driver (1976) for Martin Scorsese and is releasing his sixteenth film as a writer-director, The Walker, in January. Woody Harrelson plays a character described as an older, balder version of the sleek male escort portrayed by Richard Gere in Schrader's American Gigolo (1980).

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Alexander Payne

Hollywood has enriched quite a few of our graduates, but just as often, our graduates have enriched Hollywood. The cinematic landscape stretching ahead would look dreary indeed without ambitious and idealistic projects such as Bordertown (February) — an exposé of the Juarez, Mexico, serial murder case directed by Gregory Nava '71, MFA '76 — and also I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (July), a satiric comedy about gay marriage co-written by Alexander Payne MFA '90 and Jim Taylor.

Of course, some movies turn out to be sleepers, earning box-office receipts that take the industry by surprise. For others, though, blockbuster status seems easier to predict. This rosy future may await the Silence of the Lambs prequel Hannibal Rising, edited by Pietro Scalia '82 (February) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, directed by TFT Executive Board member Gore Verbinski '87 (May).

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Gore Verbinski

We give no credence to irresponsible rumors that a Jack Sparrow/Hannibal Lector crossover, Pirates of the Caribbean: Medium Rare, is already in the works.

— David Chute

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