“Woman In Gold” director Simon Curtis is bullish on the audiences, not so much on the critics. The Weinstein Company is expanding its hit, “Women in Gold” — about Austrian born Maria Altmann played by Helen Mirren, and her over sixty year fight to regain her family’s art–to 1500 screens across the US this weekend. Audience response is strong and the exit polls are in the high 90s. The film was not intended to go as wide as it is, but TWC is gung ho on it.
Origin CEO and Producer David M Thompson tells me his take on why the film is resonating with the audience, says, “Audiences love it because it’s not just about art restitution, but also about emotional healing, and it really does seem to touch people very deeply. It’s an unusual and powerful story of a fight for justice but it resonates for all kinds of people who feel like they have had things stolen from them, or their lives ripped apart and want to try and make things whole again.”
“I was Helen’s assistant in the 70’s when she was doing a Shakespearean production in London. I used to open her fan mail and make her cups of tea. Which is pretty much what I did on this film too. So to work with her properly now is a joy.” So where are the paintings now? Simon answered, “Both Adele’s, Maria’s Aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer painted by Gustav Klimt, are currently in New York, one at it’s permanent home, the Neue gallery, and the other at MOMA. I don’t know where the landscapes are. “
I asked why he thought some of the critics were so tough on the film?
“Most of the critics who have been tough on it have been men. Helen is the lead and the driving force of this film. So who knows about that? Audiences love it though. Seems to me that the pool of critics aren’t reflective of the audience.” Simon’s wife, Downton Abbey’s Lady Cora Grantham, aka Elizabeth McGovern, plays a cameo in the film. He told me that, “Elizabeth just took her parents to the Sherman Oaks Arclight, and she paid for the tickets. Of course her parents loved it.”
Curtis is figuring out his next project, so there’s no breaking news yet. He’ll be happy to get his wife back from ”
Downton Abbey” and have a break. But the “Abbey” American love affair is actually his fault. It was Curtis who made the call to Masterpiece Theater’s Rebecca Eaton after she’d turned down the show. He told her, “Elizabeth is making this series, and it’s really good.” Eaton took a second look, and bought Julian Fellowes’ now legendary series.
Even though Curtis’s influence runs far and wide, he knows nothing about the details of the show’s finale. “Don’t ask me!” he says, laughing. He has his own family drama to sort out with the “Woman in Gold” characters.
“Hey, it’s a love story of American Immigration,” he says. I’ve given my heart and soul to this. When, ‘My Week With Marilyn,’ came out, it got mixed reviews too and that was tough. Now people are talking about that film as one to live up too. So if I have to choose between reviews and audience response, I go with the audience. Every time. That exhilarates me.”