I had a very interesting day tracking down information about the movie The Big Year (the movie based on the book with the same name about 3 guys who try to see the most birds in North America in one year) starring Jack Black (above), Steve Martin (above) and Owen Wilson.
First, let's clear up some gossip that was making the rounds on the bird festival circuit this fall.
1. The movie will open July 4th weekend in 2011. According the movie's publicist, there is no release date scheduled as of today. And I believe that, because last night I got the following email from someone I will call a Henchman of my National Secret Network:
"I just saw the movie, The Big Year in NYC. It was a focus group. I never heard of the movie prior to tonight, and I know nothing about birding. Steve Martin was at the showing. If you'd like to ask me any questions, I'd be happy to answer. I googled the movie and saw your website."
More on that later in this email (WARNING THERE MIGHT BE SPOILERS).
If the production company is doing focus groups, they are deep in editing and wouldn't come up with a release date until they got a sense of how the movie would work with audiences.
NOT TRUE. I sent Debi a message telling her what I had heard (which I was surprised because I had heard how excited she was about the production). According to Debi, "There is no chance of this rumor being true!!"
Big Year publicist knew nothing of it either.
Now...let's get back to the email I received from my Henchman...and again, there may be spoilers in here so if you want the movie to be a total surprise, stop reading. If you've read the book, you kind of know what happens and this fills in actors with characters in the book (and not in the book). So here we go with the Henchman's notes:
Henchman said, "I would describe the movie an informational dramedy."
Birds looked real except for one owl that appeared to be CGI (and that they were still in the process of editing it, it was black).
Jim Parsons plays a blogger who tracks the three main characters on his blog called Ichabod Crane.
John Cleese narrates the movie and subtitles are used to give bird info throughout the movie.
A big part of the drama was keeping the fact that all three were doing a big year secret. Almost every birding scene involved small groups of background actors doing the same. They discussed the weather and the "fallout" from El Nino a good bit.
A birder takes his new wife to Attu and she expects it to be a an exotic getaway (oh, how many non birding spouses have fallen for that one?).
Steve Martin is playing the Al Levantin character in the book. I have heard from other sources that the characters will not have the same names as they had in the book. I'm sure it has something to do with not having to get permission from the actual people they are based on.
Steve Martin's character reminded Henchman of the CEO in the movie Meet Joe Black, except he didn't care what happened to the business he created. He was just ready to move on in life and birds.
Martin's character doesn't have many of the jokes, but the woman playing his wife is funny (I think that is JoBeth Williams). He's constantly pestered by employees of his company while he's out birding--even when he's on Attu--yes, Attu is in the movie.
Jack Black is the Greg Miller character.
Jack Black's character can id any bird by sound and is tested on this quite a bit. His father is played by Brian Dennehy.
Jack Black's love interest was shown to be the only person involved for the love of birds (which I believe is played by Rashida Jones). Of course they all love birds, but the competition was priority number one. Her life list is less than their year lists.
Black's character gets most of the jokes.
Owen Wilson is the Sandy Komito character.
His nemesis bird is a Snowy Owl, he keeps missing it.
According to Henchman, Wilson's best scenes are with Anjelica Huston when he starts a mutiny on her boat because he wants to go for a bird and she steers it towards a whale instead. She wasn't in the movie enough.
Owen's character is married and his wife is pregnant, but birds come first for him and the wife and baby come second (I think his wife is played by Rosamund Pike).
So, a big thank you to my mysterious Henchman who fed me his notes on the movie. One final thing he said was that the first part of the movie was slow, the last two thirds moved faster. He found it good and that birders will probably get more out of it, "I think you will love the movie while I thought it was merely "good" because I was expecting so much from that cast."