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November 11, 2008

Brothers in arms at 'Defiance'


If it hadn't been for a brief but heroic sounding obituary of Tuvia Bielski, who led a rural Nazi resistance movement and helped save hundreds of his fellow Jews during WWII, there might be no historical drama called "Defiance."

Screenwriter Clay Frohman spotted the article, tipped filmmaker Ed Zwick to a potentially rich story and, some 15 years later, was among the packed house to see the film get its world premiere Sunday night, Zwick told the crowd at the AFI festival finale.


As it happens, there's also been a BBC special, a History Channel documentary and two books devoted to the Bielski brothers. One of those tomes, "Defiance: the Bielski Partisans," served as source material for the Paramount Vantage feature, which could get the broadest exposure yet for the brothers' story. It's set for wide release early next year, after an Oscar qualifying run in December.

The premiere brought out brothers-in-arms Liev Schreiber and all-grown-up Jamie Bell (pictured) whose characters set up a community of Jews in the Belarussian woods to escape the Nazi concentration camps. Co-stars including Mia Wasikowska, the recently-cast Alice from Tim Burton's upcoming "Alice in Wonderland," Alexa Davalos and Mark Feuerstein watched the movie shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Oscar nominee Ellen Page, Matt Dillon and Richard Schiff.

Go here for THR's review of the film, described as "passionate if prosaically rendered."


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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