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After 18-years, Moorhouse returns with ripping revenge tale

The comeback tale of "The Dressmaker" director Jocelyn Moorhouse is a Hollywood story in its own right.

Twenty-one years ago, Moorhouse was handed the keys to the kingdom — or at least that's how it felt at the time. The young Australian director had one well-received film under her belt, "Proof," and was producing "Muriel's Wedding" for her husband, director P.J. Hogan, when she got a call from Steven Spielberg. He asked if she wanted to direct the generational drama "How to Make an American Quilt." The answer, of course, was yes.

"It was like the great hand of cinema had reached down and gone 'we'll take you now,'" Moorhouse said.

Suddenly she was rubbing elbows with Anne Bancroft, Maya Angelou and the scores of other fierce female talents of all ages in that lovely ensemble film.

She was still editing "Quilt," and seven months pregnant with her second child, by the time she was meeting with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange about her next project, the "King Lear"-inspired drama "A Thousand Acres." That went into production soon after.

It was a meteoric rise that few in Hollywood ever get. Then she left it all behind for nearly two decades. Her 2-year-old daughter, Lily, had been diagnosed with autism.

"That changed my life and nothing else mattered," Moorhouse said. "The film industry seemed extremely trivial compared to trying to work out the mysteries of my daughter's brain."

Then, in 2005, just as she was thinking about coming back, her son, Jack, got the same diagnosis and she wasn't sure she'd ever go back to directing. All of her energy, creative and otherwise, and money were focused on the kids.

As the years went by and the kids made strides, she started wondering if she could start up her directing career again. She had continued producing for Hogan and would direct little films for her children too. She also had a fourth child who was not autistic.

And then producer Sue Maslin called. A big fan of "Proof," Maslin wanted to see if Moorhouse would be willing to direct an adaptation of Rosalie Ham's "The Dressmaker ," now playing in limited release, about a woman returning to the small town that wronged her years ago.

"Jocelyn has the rare gift to be able to successfully walk the tightrope between comedy and tragedy on screen and no matter how fantastical, make it truthful at all times," Maslin said.

For Moorhouse, it was like another hand coming down saying "we want you back now." And she was ready.

She likes to describe the story as "'Unforgiven' with a sewing machine."

Moorhouse recruited Kate Winslet for the leading role and Judy Davis to play her estranged mother.

"(Davis and Winslet) both loved that it was very funny and very sad," she said. "I would say 'that's kind of how I see my life. It's a tragicomedy!' Live long enough and most people's lives are."

She also got her "Proof" star Hugo Weaving to play a cop with a secret and cast Liam Hemsworth as a strapping local who becomes smitten with Winslet's Tilly — a relationship with an age difference that she knows makes some men wince.

"Liam didn't. He's like 'uh, she's gorgeous. Of course, my character would go after her. She's the best thing to happen to this town. Why would I not want that woman?' And I said, 'you're absolutely right, young man.'"

"The Dressmaker" breaks all the rules of what one might expect, not least because it's a story told from a female point of view.

"It a very female film and some men might find that alien. As women, we are so used to watching films from a male point of view it's almost like we speak two languages. We're bilingual and we don't even know it. They're not. And that has to change," she said. "Eventually a man will be able to see a woman's film and not call it a woman's film."

Moorhouse lights up speaking about being "back."

"I was born to do this and not able to do it for a while. As soon as I got back into it, every day was a joy on set. I just kept smiling. Even if it was a terrible day, I thought 'my god! Thank god I'm a director again!'

Moorhouse has a handful of independent projects in the works, including a script she just finished about the marriage of composers Clara Schumann and Robert Schumann — and how a 20-year-old Johannes Brahms fell in love with the 37-year-old Clara.

Moorhouse loves highlighting the quiet subversion of these romances, saying she knows a lot of older women and younger men in relationships. Even her grandmother was 10 years older than her grandfather.

"Though if you listen to most blokes, they act horrified," she laughed.

She'd happily work inside the Hollywood system again too, as long as she had creative control.

"I want to be able to keep my voice now that I've found it again," she said. "I'm not going anywhere after this."

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

J.K. Rowling: Harambe isn't part of Harry Potter universe

A new feature on Rowling's Pottermore website allows users to find out what Patronus they would use in Harry Potter's world. A Patronus is an animal used to ward off soul-sucking creatures in the series.

Humor site The Chive put a fake picture on Twitter of Harambe the gorilla as a result on the Patronus page. Rowling retweeted the picture. A bit later she posted , "I've been asked to make it clear that Harambe is not a Patronus you can actually get on @pottermore." But she added that she thought the joke was "very funny."

J.K. Rowling: Harambe isn't part of Harry Potter universe

A new feature on Rowling's Pottermore website allows users to find out what Patronus they would use in Harry Potter's world. A Patronus is an animal used to ward off soul-sucking creatures in the series.

Humor site The Chive put a fake picture on Twitter of Harambe the gorilla as a result on the Patronus page. Rowling retweeted the picture. A bit later she posted , "I've been asked to make it clear that Harambe is not a Patronus you can actually get on @pottermore." But she added that she thought the joke was "very funny."

Naked in Charleston: Netflix to film movie in South Carolina

Netflix will film a feature length move entitled "Naked" starring Marlon Wayans and Regina Hall in Charleston.

The internet entertainment company announced the feature is based in a 2000 Swedish moved entitled "Naken" and tells the story of a man who wakes up on his wedding day, naked in an elevator, reliving the hour over and over before the ceremony.

Tom Clark of the South Carolina Film Commission tells The Post and Courier of Charleston (http://bit.ly/2cWVsH0 ) that filming begins next month and should take about six weeks.

The movie will be shown on Netflix next year.

Because Netflix is spending more than $1 million, the production is eligible for state incentives including rebates on wages, South Carolina purchases and exemptions from sales and accommodations taxes.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com

Red flags, not red carpet: Local film wins North Korean fest

And the envelope, please!

The Pyongyang International Film Festival wrapped up Friday with top honors going to — wait for it — a domestically produced feature about a young woman who selflessly devotes herself to raising orphans.

The winner of the "Best Torch Award," selected by a panel of international judges, was "Story About My House," a drama about Ri Jong A, who wins the honors of leader Kim Jong Un for devoting herself to raising orphans after graduating from school. The prizes were announced at a lavishly decorated hall in central Pyongyang replete with glittery gowns, golden trophies and colorful stage lighting — but no red carpets.

Like all state-sanctioned art in North Korea, the winning feature, released in September, has an explicitly political message. State media emphasized the heroine's "ennobling mental world" and traits that are "the precious fruition of the validity and vitality of the (ruling) party's idea and line of prioritizing the youth." The North also entered a documentary, "Prosperous Pyongyang," and the animated "Two Boys Who Found an Answer" in the completion part of the festival.

Other films came from Germany, France, Syria, the Philippines — 21 countries in all.

The biennial festival was a smaller affair than in previous years.

Henrik Nydqvist, a filmmaker from Sweden who has attended the festival since 2004, said fewer films were presented — 60 from the 21 countries, compared with about 100 films previously. He said that was likely due to the "difficult political situation" on the Korean Peninsula these days. Tensions have been rising since the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and then tested another this month.

Nydqvist noted that the Russian presence at the festival was more pronounced this year, with the head of the jury being Russian. Chinese participation, meanwhile, was noticeably smaller.

Pyongyang has been trying to improve relations with Moscow, while ties with China — the North's most important trading partner and hitherto closest ally — have cooled.

Nydqvist said 11 films were entered for competition in the festival, which awards prizes for feature films, documentaries and short films. Prizes were also awarded for direction, actor and actress — Paek Sol Mi, the star of the "Story About My House," collected the actress award — cinematography and other divisions.

The previous festival's feature award winner was a German drama.

Nydqvist said that although foreign participation was smaller, the festival provides an opportunity for local audiences to view foreign films they would otherwise not be able to see. Entries from abroad ranged from the Indian movie "Garbbar is Back" to the Chinese film "The White Haired Witch of the Lunar Kingdom."

"The films have been shown in cinemas around the city, and for the more popular films I have heard that there were more people coming than there were seats available for them," he said. "The audiences have been highly enthusiastic and for any filmmaker that is very heartwarming."

Even so, participants said most of the films shown in conjunction with the festival were local movies, and most were not new.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, was a fabled film buff and made a serious effort to build up North Korea's domestic film industry. He got personally involved in the scripts and cinematography and put out a film similar to the Japanese classic "Godzilla." He's widely believed to have had a famous South Korean film director kidnapped so he could transform his country's movie industry.

The number of films produced here appears to have dropped off dramatically since Kim Jong Il's death in late 2011.

Young filmmakers thank the academy at Student Academy Awards

Seventeen young filmmakers from around the world gathered in Beverly Hills, California, to utter the six magic words they've been practicing all their lives: "I'd like to thank the academy."

The film academy presented its 43rd annual Student Academy Awards Thursday night, recognizing narrative, documentary, animated and alternative productions by American and international college students.

Accepting medals from actors Lucy Liu, Joel Edgerton, Daisy Ridley and Parker Sawyers, the winning filmmakers were giddy as they got to thank the academy and actually mean it. The students spent the past week in Los Angeles as academy guests, meeting with studios and networking over fancy dinners.

"This is the most amazing week of my life," said Alex Schaad, of the University of Television and Film Munich, as he received his medal. "This evening, this ceremony, this whole week and this award will change a lot of things, and I will owe you that for the rest of my life."

Rongfei Guo, a Chinese filmmaker studying at New York University, said her parents don't understand the world of independent film, but the academy recognition will let her "prove to my parents that what your daughter's doing is about an Academy Award."

Liu said she was inspired by seeing "so many people who are excited about the future." Edgerton said he's humbled by the next generation of filmmakers.

"They have their eyes on what's really going on," he said. "And they're not thinking about the money, and I love that!"

Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose the 17 winning films from a record 1,749 submissions. The winning filmmakers hail from China, Greece, Israel, Germany, Poland, Singapore and the United States. More than half are women.

Yvonne Ng, a student at City College of New York whose film is about the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, found a theme among the chosen works.

"It's no coincidence that tonight all the winners, the majority of our films are all about the past tragedies that happened on humanity," she said as she accepted her medal. "Someone tonight said to me that we represent the future of filmmaking. And I think we also represent the future that's screaming for peace and love, compassion and mutual respect."

Jimmy Keyrouz of Columbia University, whose film about a musician rebuilding his piano after it's destroyed by terrorists, thanked the academy for helping young filmmakers get their work seen.

"Our message is one of hope, and when people are hopeless and desperate, it becomes easier to turn to extremism," he said. "And in a world that is torn by wars and devastation, art is a mighty tool that helps us fight extremism and terrorism, so thank you to the academy for joining our fight. We take so many things for granted, like freedom of speech and expression, and in so many parts of the world, these are luxuries that must be fought for every day."

All of the winning student films are now eligible for Academy Awards. Two student films received nominations last year. Previous Student Academy Award winners include Spike Lee, Trey Parker, Cary Fukunaga, Robert Zemeckis and Pixar's Pete Docter and John Lasseter.

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The 2016 Student Academy Award winners:

— "All These Voices," David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute

— "Cloud Kumo," Yvonne Ng, City College of New York

— "The Swan Girl," Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management

— "Die Flucht," Carter Boyce, DePaul University

— "Once upon a Line," Alicja Jasina, University of Southern California

— "The Wishgranter," Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design

— "Fairy Tales," Rongfei Guo, New York University

— "4.1 Miles," Daphne Matziaraki, University of California, Berkeley

— "From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City," Elise Conklin, Michigan State University

— "It's Just a Gun," Brian Robau, Chapman University

— "Nocturne in Black," Jimmy Keyrouz, Columbia University

— "Rocket," Brenna Malloy, Chapman University

— "Invention of Trust," Alex Schaad, University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)

— "Tenants," Klara Kochanska, The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School (Poland)

— "Where the Woods End," Felix Ahrens, Film University Babelsberg (Germany)

— "Ayny," Ahmad Saleh, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)

— "The Most Beautiful Woman," Maya Sarfaty, Tel Aviv University (Israel)

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

Dalian Wanda, Sony to partner on multiple big-budget movies

China's Dalian Wanda Group and Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group have formed a partnership to cooperate on multiple big-budget movies, marking another step into the global film industry by the Chinese conglomerate.

Wanda, which already owns AMC Theaters and bought Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion in January, said it would both invest in Sony productions and strive to highlight China in those films.

"The alliance will help strengthen Wanda's power to influence the global film industry, and set a good precedent for Chinese film producers in their international investment," said the statement it released Friday.

Jack Gao, Wanda's head of international investment and operations, said Wanda would continue to seek alliances with other content companies and closer relationships with leading media firms.

The statement did not name the films involved, although trade magazine Deadline reported possible investment and promotional cooperation for "Passengers," the sci-fi love story starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt being released later this year in the U.S.; a reboot of "Jumanji" due next year with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black; and an animated Smurfs film.

Legendary Entertainment begins production in 2017 on the first live-action Pokemon movie, called "Detective Pikachu."

Hollywood has been drawn to China by the country's deep-pocketed financiers and its box office that is now the world's second biggest. A quota on foreign films allows just 34 a year to show in Chinese theaters on a revenue-sharing basis, but the financial conditions improve vastly for Chinese-foreign co-productions.

Wanda has also been expanding its share of global box office, with AMC recently purchasing European cinema chain Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group in a deal making it the largest movie theater operator in the world.

Originally a property and cinema giant, Wanda has also expanded into sports, becoming a top-tier sponsor of FIFA in a deal that runs through the 2030 World Cup, for which China is considered likely to bid.

Wanda has also purchased Swiss firm Infront Sports & Media, Tampa and Florida-based World Triathlon Corp., along with acquiring a 20 percent stake in Spanish football team Atletico Madrid.

FBI says it's evaluating abuse allegations against Pitt

The FBI is gathering information about an incident involving actor Brad Pitt and his family aboard a private flight last week, the agency confirmed Thursday.

Spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the FBI is still evaluating whether to open an investigation into allegations Pitt was abusive during the flight toward one of his six children with actress Angelina Jolie Pitt, as several media outlets have reported.

The news reports from anonymous sources contend the actor is under investigation by a child welfare agency because of the Sept. 14 airborne incident.

Amara Suarez, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, said the agency could not confirm whether it was investigating Pitt or the well-being of the former couple's children.

A representative for Pitt declined comment Thursday.

Jolie Pitt filed for divorce Monday and her lawyer released a statement the following day saying she came to the decision "for the health of the family." She listed their separation date as Sept. 15, the day after the alleged plane incident, and the actress is seeking sole custody of all six of the children.

A phone message left for Jolie Pitt's attorney Laura Wasser was not returned Thursday.

Koochiching County, Minnesota, Sheriff Perryn Hedlund told The Associated Press on Thursday that Brad Pitt was on a plane that landed at the International Falls, Minnesota, airport near the Canadian border on Sept. 14.

Hedlund said his sheriff's deputies were not called to the airport, and International Falls police were also not called.

"There's no incident whatsoever reported to law enforcement," Hedlund said.

He said he didn't know why the plane landed in International Falls, but said it's not uncommon for hockey players or other celebrities to stop at the airport.

Messages left with the airport's manager were not returned Thursday.

Pitt and Jolie Pitt — known as "Brangelina" — were together for 12 years but only wed in August 2014. They married privately at their French chateau in the Provence hamlet of Correns with their children serving as ring bearers and throwing flower petals. They announced the ceremony days later.

Their six children include 15-year-old Maddox, 12-year-old Pax, 11-year-old Zahara, 10-year-old Shiloh, and 8-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.

This is the second marriage for Pitt, 52, who previously wed Jennifer Aniston. It's the third for Jolie Pitt, 41, who was previously married to Billy Bob Thornton and Jonny Lee Miller.

In 2006, they formed the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, to which they funneled many of the millions they made selling personal pictures to celebrity magazines.

In addition to their philanthropy, much of their off-screen public image has been about their role as parents.

Although Jolie Pitt's divorce filing sought sole physical custody of their children, divorce experts say the actors will have to agree to a parenting plan or face a public custody battle in court. Both actors have, in separate statements, said their primary concern was their children and asked for privacy.

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Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

Flush with opportunities, Chris Pratt plays a new hand

The offer to star in Antoine Fuqua's "The Magnificent Seven" came to Chris Pratt while he was on a hunting trip with friends, listening to an audio book of Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove." Having recently learned some card tricks of his own, the part — a gun-slinging card sharp — felt like kismet.

"All of the signs in my life pointed me toward doing this movie," Pratt says. "It's like when you get dealt a hand that you don't even throw a single card back. You're like: That's the hand I'm going to play."

Off of the success of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Jurassic World," Pratt is now playing a much different game, with some enviable cards. Few actors have ever been more immediately, more head-spinningly catapulted to stardom as Pratt did when the collective $2.9 billion in global box office of "Guardians," ''Jurassic World" and "The Lego Movie" drove him to the top of the A-list.

"The Magnificent Seven," a remake of the 1960 original (which itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai") was the first thing Pratt decided to do. "I actually said no to a lot of things," he says. "This was the first thing I said yes to."

The film, which opens Friday, represents the first phase of Pratt's new reality as a movie star with the power to pick and choose. It's still a somewhat novel experience for the 37-year-old Pratt, whose first decade in the movie business was as a comic character actor, most recognizable as the lovable Andy Dwyer on "Parks and Recreation."

"This was the first chapter in a whole new book that was so vastly different from the first book," says Pratt. "My choice of yes or no was on an audition. Do you want to go out for this? Yes or no. No one had offered me a part ever, so I would just go out for everything."

His challenge now, he says, is to use his newfound freedom wisely.

"I became someone that a studio could at least partially build a movie around," Pratt says. "It's a good thing but it's also a bad thing because you get offered all kinds of movies that you're definitely not right for. You could potentially be responsible for getting a bunch of bad movies made."

"If it was me on my own, I would have screwed it up," he adds. "I rely on people I really trust."

Naturally, there are some big-budget sequels on the horizon. He has already shot "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," due out next year, and he'll be back for another "Jurassic World" film, where J.A. Boyona is set to take over directing. But more immediately, Pratt stars in the upcoming sci-fi thriller-romance "Passengers" alongside Jennifer Lawrence. They play space travelers woken from hibernation 90 years too early.

"Chris is a guy who's trying harder. I think he's focused. He's happy to be there," says Fuqua. "He's physical, he has charm and he has a lot of depth that no one's even scratched yet. I know he's doing a lot of films now that will probably take him deeper. You can tell that's where he wants to go."

But Pratt is also devoting less of himself to his career, now that it's been established. Pratt, who has a 4-year-old with his wife, Anna Farris, says he's made the conscious decision to not do back-to-back movies. He's aiming to make movies that are both good and commercial.

"I don't really have the time or the luxury to say: Do one for them and one for me," Pratt says. "The one that I do for them also has to be for me because the one that I do for me is really not making a movie and staying home with my family."

In "Magnificent Seven," Pratt slides into the role carved out earlier by Steve McQueen, or if you go back to "Seven Samurai," Toshiro Mifune — the playful, hard-drinking, reckless one of the bunch. Though the film has received weak reviews from critics, Pratt was singled out by Variety for having the movie's "most combustible star quality."

That he's now a full blown movie star may have changed Pratt's life, but his appeal remains largely because it hasn't seemed to change him much.

"To be clear, I've always been a happy person," says Pratt. "I feel like that's a skill more than a result of certain circumstances in your life. I think if you can be happy with nothing, you can be happy with everything. But if you can't be happy with nothing, everything isn't going to do it for you."

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Obama honors Mel Brooks, others in arts and humanities

President Barack Obama on Thursday paid tribute to comedian Mel Brooks, chef Jose Andres, NPR interviewer Terry Gross and others at a White House ceremony celebrating "creators who give every piece of themselves to their craft."

The three were among two dozen artists, writers, playwrights and performers awarded the 2015 National Medals of Arts and Humanities. Obama touted the group, which included author Sandra Cisneros, composer Philip Glass and singer Audra McDonald, as figures at the top of their fields and contributors to a national conversation.

"We believe that arts and the humanities are in many ways reflective of our national soul. They're central to who we are as Americans — dreamers, storyteller, innovators and visionaries," he said.

The annual event is typically a serious affair, held under the glittering chandeliers of the East Room. But it took a comic turn this year when Obama paid tribute to Brooks by quoting the director's instructions to his writers on the boundary-pushing film "Blazing Saddles."

"Write anything you want because we'll never be heard from again. We will all be arrested for this movie," Obama said, laughing.

Obama and Brooks shared a laugh when the actor made an unexpected gesture, bending suddenly at the knee and extending his hands toward the president's legs. It wasn't clear what Brooks was doing.

The president also honored jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and actor Morgan Freeman. Neither was able to attend the ceremony. Freeman was "undoubtedly off playing a black president," Obama said. "He never lets me have my moment."

Winners of the medal for arts included painter Jack Whitten, musician Santiago Jimenez Jr., playwright Moises Kaufman, record producer Berry Gordy, dancer and choreographer Ralph Lemon, playwright and actor Luis Valdez and the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

The National Humanities Medal was awarded to authors James McBride, Rudolfo Anaya, Louis Menand, Ron Chernow, Abraham Verghese, Elaine Pagels, Isabel Wilkerson, poet Louise Gluck and the Prison University Project, Higher Education Program.

The group could also be described as "Terry Gross and a whole bunch of people Terry Gross has interviewed," Obama said.

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