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Disney reveals Death Star at Epcot

A Disney parks icon had a new look Monday night.

Epcot at Walt Disney World in Florida held a special event Monday night to celebrate Star Wars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the upcoming release of the film "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

During the event, Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth was magically transformed into the Death Star, the devastating battle station seen in the original "Star Wars" movie. 

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The Death Star overlay was done through digital projections, complete with laser beams shooting into the night sky.

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The event was attended by Mads Mikkelsen who plays Galen Erso in the latest Star Wars installment. "Rogue One" hits theaters Dec. 16, with early screenings on Dec. 15. 

Watch the entire event below:

AP Interview: Matt Damon defends being cast for 'Great Wall'

Matt Damon criticized "outrageous" stories in the era of fake news as he responded Tuesday to accusations that his role in the new China-Hollywood co-production "The Great Wall" should have gone to an Asian actor.

Some critics have said Damon's casting as the lead character amounted to "whitewashing," in which Caucasians are chosen for roles that actors of other ethnicities should play.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the American actor said he thinks of the term "whitewashing" as applying to Caucasian actors putting on makeup to appear to be of another race, as was common in the early days of film and television, when racism was overt.

"That whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously," Damon said, using the example of the Irish-American actor Chuck Connors, who played the lead character in the 1962 film "Geronimo," about the famed Apache chief.

Damon, 46, plays an English mercenary in the upcoming $150 million adventure fantasy about a Chinese army battling monsters, helmed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

The movie's trailer sparked criticism in the U.S. that a white man had been chosen to play the lead in a film set in China meant to showcase Chinese culture. The furor came amid other accusations of a lack of diversity and opportunities for Asian actors in Hollywood.

Damon questioned whether the critical stories on online news sites based on "a 30-second teaser trailer" would have existed before the era of fake news and headlines designed to make people click on them.

"It suddenly becomes a story because people click on it, versus the traditional ways that a story would get vetted before it would get to that point," said the star of the "Bourne" franchise.

People fall for outrageous headlines, but "eventually you stop clicking on some of those more outrageous things because you just realize there is nothing to the story when you get to it," Damon said.

"The Great Wall" is the first movie made by Legendary East, the Chinese venture of Legendary Entertainment, a Hollywood studio now owned by Chinese real estate and theater chain developer Wanda Group. Other companies behind the movie include the state-owned China Film Group Corp.; Le Vision Pictures, a private film company affiliated with Chinese tech firm LeEco; and Hollywood's Universal Pictures.

Damon and Zhang told the AP that because of the demands of the story, Damon's role — a mercenary who comes to China to steal gunpowder — was always intended to be European.

Damon said he thought the criticism over his casting would subside "once people see that it's a monster movie and it's a historical fantasy and I didn't take a role away from a Chinese actor ... it wasn't altered because of me in any way."

The film is the first Sino-Hollywood co-production and first English-language film for Zhang, the director of the romantic Kung Fu drama "House of Flying Daggers" and the opulent opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It also stars Pedro Pascal of "Game of Thrones" as Damon's sword-wielding partner in crime, Willem Dafoe and Hong Kong's Andy Lau. Jing Tian plays the female lead warrior. Eddie Peng of the boxing drama "Unbeatable" and Lu Han, a former boy band sensation, also appear.

In the movie, China's Great Wall has been built to keep out menacing, otherworldly creatures. The use of monsters and a hero saving the world are very much Hollywood techniques.

Zhang told the AP that the script took Hollywood seven years to develop. "Although it was developed for commercial purposes, I felt there was room for me to play and put many elements of Chinese culture into it," he said.

Most Chinese co-productions with the West have been box-office flops, but producers hope "The Great Wall" can show that big-budget Sino-Hollywood co-productions can work.

Hollywood is eager to work with Chinese actors and producers to appeal to the Chinese cinema-going market, which is expected to outgrow the current No. 1 market, North America, within the next two or three years. The Chinese government has long sought to project cultural influence abroad and hopes that "The Great Wall" will be an international blockbuster.

"This kind of cooperation is not an end, but a start," Zhang said. "It is just like relations between countries; cooperation is always a good thing and confrontation is not."

The film debuts in Chinese cinemas on Dec. 16 followed by other countries, including the United States in February.

Box Office Top 20: 'Moana,' 'Fantastic Beasts' rule again

"Moana" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them" continued to dominate the box office over the sleepy post-Thanksgiving weekend. In its second week in theaters, Disney's "Moana" scored the No. 1 spot again, bringing in $28.3 million and bumping its North American grosses to $119.8 million. In second place, Warner Bros.' Harry Potter spinoff "Fantastic Beasts" earned $18.1 million. In just three weeks in theaters, the film has earned $183.1 million.

The sci-fi pic "Arrival," meanwhile, continues to perform well after four weeks in theaters, adding $7.3 million to its total for a third-place finish.

"Allied" and "Doctor Strange" rounded out the top five with $7 million and $6.7 million, respectively, while new opener "Incarnate" debuted in ninth with a lower-than-expected $2.5 million.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by comScore:

1. "Moana," Disney, $28,270,989, 3,875 locations, $7,296 average, $119,786,319, 2 weeks.

2. "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them," Warner Bros., $18,118,111, 3,988 locations, $4,543 average, $183,080,514, 3 weeks.

3. "Arrival," Paramount, $7,267,029, 2,915 locations, $2,493 average, $73,045,543, 4 weeks.

4. "Allied," Paramount, $7,026,066, 3,160 locations, $2,223 average, $28,903,498, 2 weeks.

5. "Doctor Strange," Disney, $6,684,552, 2,935 locations, $2,278 average, $215,507,729, 5 weeks.

6. "Trolls," 20th Century Fox, $4,688,393, 3,156 locations, $1,486 average, $141,459,838, 5 weeks.

7. "Hacksaw Ridge," Lionsgate, $3,341,027, 2,494 locations, $1,340 average, $57,205,983, 5 weeks.

8. "Bad Santa 2," Broad Green Pictures, $3,286,338, 2,945 locations, $1,116 average, $14,287,381, 2 weeks.

9. "Incarnate," High Top Releasing, $2,534,884, 1,737 locations, $1,459 average, $2,534,884, 1 week.

10. "Almost Christmas," Universal, $2,532,050, 1,556 locations, $1,627 average, $38,179,200, 4 weeks.

11. "Manchester By The Sea," Roadside Attractions, $2,276,330, 156 locations, $14,592 average, $4,336,273, 3 weeks.

12. "The Edge Of Seventeen," STX Entertainment, $1,608,183, 1,608 locations, $1,000 average, $12,716,673, 3 weeks.

13. "Loving," Focus Features, $968,746, 446 locations, $2,172 average, $5,563,912, 5 weeks.

14. "Moonlight," A24, $845,817, 574 locations, $1,474 average, $9,826,173, 7 weeks.

15. "The Accountant," Warner Bros., $748,652, 608 locations, $1,231 average, $84,244,122, 8 weeks.

16. "Nocturnal Animals," Focus Features, $700,187, 127 locations, $5,513 average, $2,719,475, 3 weeks.

17. "Rules Don't Apply," 20th Century Fox, $543,058, 2,386 locations, $228 average, $3,310,713, 2 weeks.

18. "Believe," Freestyle Releasing, $477,387, 639 locations, $747 average, $477,387, 1 week.

19. "Bleed For This," Open Road, $295,675, 649 locations, $456 average, $4,847,865, 3 weeks.

20. "Jackie," Fox Searchlight, $278,715, 5 locations, $55,743 average, $278,715, 1 week.


Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

Jessica Williams, Cate Blanchett star in Sundance premieres

Former "Daily Show" correspondent Jessica Williams flexes her dramatic chops, Cate Blanchett pays homage to great 20th century artists and "Silicon Valley" star Kumail Nanjiani tells a very personal story in some of the films premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Festival programmers announced their selections for the documentary and narrative premiere sections Monday, which has launched films like "Boyhood," ''Manchester by the Sea" and "O.J.: Made in America."

As with many years, the Sundance premiere slate can be a place for well-known comedians to take a stab at more dramatic and serious roles.

In what's expected to be one of the breakout films and performances of the festival, comedian Jessica Williams stars in Jim Strouse's "The Incredible Jessica James," about a New York playwright recovering from a breakup and finding solace in a recent divorcee.

Nanjiani is another who might surprise audiences in "The Big Sick," which he co-wrote with his wife Emily V. Gordon and is based on their own courtship. He stars alongside Zoe Kazan in the Michael Showalter-directed pic.

The Festival also has films featuring veteran stars in different kinds of roles. Shirley MacLaine stars in "The Last Word," about a retired businesswoman who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a journalist (Amanda Seyfried) after writing her own obituary. Festival founder Robert Redford, too, is in Charlie McDowell's "The Discovery," about a world where the afterlife has been proven. Jason Segel and Rooney Mara also star.

Cate Blanchett re-enacts artistic statements of Dadaists, Lars von Trier and everyone in between in "Manifesto"; Michelle Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland co-star in the drama "Where is Kyra"; and "Avengers" Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen re-team in the FBI crime thriller "Wind River," the directorial debut of "Hell or High Water" writer Taylor Sheridan.

"Bessie" director Dee Rees is also poised to be a standout with "Mudbound," a racial drama set in the post-WWII South and starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige.

"It's quite topical to this time even though it's a period piece," said Festival Director John Cooper.

Among the documentaries premiering are a look at the Oklahoma City bombing from Barak Goodman; Stanley Nelson's examination of black colleges and universities, "Tell Them We Are Rising"; and Barbara Kopple's account of a champion diver who announces he is transgender, "This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous."

"The beauty of independent film is it's not a copycat world, unlike some of the Hollywood stuff where they follow trends," said Programming Director Trevor Groth. "Independent film has always been about originality and choice and something different."

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 29.


This story corrects movie title to "The Big Sick."



'Moonlight,' 'La La Land' separate from award season pack

In Hollywood's early but rapidly solidifying awards season, two films — radically different in tone and tune — have separated themselves from the pack: "Moonlight" and "La La Land."

"Moonlight," Barry Jenkins' lyrical coming-of-age tale, added to its already hefty haul on Sunday, taking best picture from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association . The group also gave best director to Jenkins, best supporting actor to Mahershala Ali and best cinematography to James Laxton.

Those three awards mirrored the picks last week by the LAFAA's East Coast corollary, the New York Film Critics Circle. But the New York critics ultimately chose Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" as the year's best film, whereas the LA critics had "La La Land" — a colorful ode to the group's hometown — as runner-up for best picture and best director.

Which film will have the edge in the coming weeks — when the more crucial industry groups begin ringing in with their awards — is an open question. "Moonlight," which also triumphed at the Gotham Awards, is perhaps the year's most critically celebrated film. Across three chapters, it follows a boy growing up black, gay and poor in Miami.

But "La La Land," starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, is only just hitting theaters (it opens Friday). It has widely been seen as the best-picture front-runner since winning the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival. While "Moonlight" is bracingly intimate, the song-and-dance "La La Land" is a starry, show-stopping crowd-pleaser.

"La La Land" is also likely to dominate in sheer number of nomination, thanks to its lead performances, high-level of craft and original songs. It was honored by the LA critics for the musical work of Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The only film that has rivaled either in the early awards is Kenneth Lonergan's "Manchester by the Sea." The National Board of Review bestowed its top award on the New England drama, and the film's star, Casey Affleck, has been the most common pick so far. (The LA critics, however, went with Adam Driver for Jim Jarmusch's "Paterson.")

And despite a crowded best-actress field, including Stone for "La La Land" and Natalie Portman for "Jackie," the early favorite has been French actress Isabelle Huppert, star of both "Elle" and "Things to Come." She was the choice of the LA and New York critics, as well as the Gotham Independent Film Awards.

Other films have been singled out elsewhere. The British Film Independent Awards on Sunday gave four awards to Andrea Arnold's road-trip odyssey "American Honey," including best film. (It also chose "Moonlight" as its best international independent film.)

Next week, the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations will be announced, likely giving the current favorites additional momentum.

But a lot could still change, but the Feb. 26 Oscars are increasingly coming into view. They finally have their host, in Jimmy Kimmel, announced Monday. And in "La La Land" and "Moonlight," the night's finalists might already be decided, too.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:

Black film studio in Florida given historic landmark status

A north Florida movie studio that produced silent-era films catering to an African-American audience has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Monday said that Norman Film Studios in Jacksonville has been given the honor.

The studio is now owned by the city of Jacksonville, which is working to partially restore the studio.

The studio's late owner, Richard Norman, was among the first filmmakers to produce movies that catered to African-Americans in the 1920s.

The silent-era movies often starred African-American actors in positive, professional film roles, such as lawyers and pilots.

The National Historic Landmarks program honors places that are nationally significant or historic.

Jimmy Kimmel to host Academy Awards

The Oscars finally have a host: Jimmy Kimmel will emcee the 89th Academy Awards.

The late-night host will be presiding over the ceremony for the first time. Kimmel has been a regular awards host, having twice previously hosted the Emmy Awards (including its broadcast in September) and once led ESPN's ESPY Awards.

The selection of Kimmel gives ABC, home of the Oscars telecast, the choice the network had long sought. His "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" has previously followed ABC's Oscar broadcast. The network also has new muscle to flex; it signed a deal with the Academy of Motion Pictures in August to remain the Oscar broadcast home until 2028.

"Yes, I am hosting the Oscars," Kimmel said on Twitter. "This is not a prank. And if it is, my revenge on the academy will be terrible and sweet."

The academy waited much later than usual to name a host for the Feb. 26 ceremony. This year's show is being produced by veteran producer Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd, president of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's production company, Pearl Street Films. This is also their first time producing the Oscars.

The lengthy search has perhaps been a product of increasing pressure on the broadcast. Last year's show was hosted by Chris Rock and was dominated by backlash over its second straight year of all-white acting nominees. Its 34.3 million viewers marked an 11-year low for the telecast.

Whether Kimmel can spark a comeback will be a considerable test for the 49-year-old comedian. His Emmy Awards broadcast on ABC drew a mere 11.3 million viewers, a new low.

But ABC Television Group chief Ben Sherwood publicly lobbied for Kimmel. In September he said the network was "very hopeful that Jimmy will get" the Oscar hosting gig and that he had "elevated" the Emmys.

This year's Oscar favorites don't appear to feature the kind of big, popular films that can drive audiences to watch the awards. The top contenders — "Moonlight," ''La La Land" and "Manchester by the Sea" — have together totaled less than $15 million at the box office, though "La La Land" is yet to open.

'Last Tango in Paris' rape scene revelation sparks outrage

"Last Tango in Paris" is making headlines again 44 years after the controversial film came out. A recently unearthed video interview with Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci from 2013 has renewed interest, and outrage, over what happened to actress Maria Schneider on set during the infamous butter rape scene.

Bertolucci said that neither he nor Marlon Brando told Schneider of their plans to use the stick of butter during the simulated rape scene — a concept they came up with the morning of the shoot — because he wanted her to react "as a girl not as an actress." He wanted her, he said, to feel "the rage and the humiliation."

Schneider, who died in 2011 at age 58 after a lengthy illness, spoke a number of times about the scene between her, then aged 19, and Marlon Brando, then 48, even saying in a 2007 Daily Mail interview that she "felt a little raped" by her co-star and director.

"They only told me about it before we had to film the scene, and I was so angry," Schneider said. "I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can't force someone to do something that isn't in the script. But at the time, I didn't know that."

But despite Schneider's past comments, the video interview with Bertolucci struck a chord this weekend as it circulated on social media that the director was admitting that the scene was non-consensual.

Actress Jessica Chastain wrote on Twitter that she felt "sick" over the revelation that "the director planned her attack."

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay called it "inexcusable."

"As a director, I can barely fathom this. As a woman, I am horrified, disgusted and enraged by it," DuVernay wrote.

Chris Evans also expressed his rage and said it was "beyond disgusting," while Anna Kendrick weighed in that she "used to get eye-rolls" when she brought the incident up to people previously and that she was "glad at least it will be taken seriously now."

Some, like actress Jenna Fischer, took a more extreme stance, writing that "all copies of this film should be destroyed immediately."

Schneider, a relative unknown when she was cast in the film, said that the "whole circus" of suddenly being famous made her turn to drugs and she even attempted suicide a few times. She stayed friends with Brando until his death in 2004, but she said that "for a while we couldn't talk about the movie."

Bertolucci, however, did not maintain a relationship with Schneider. He said he knew she hated him for life in that interview two years after her death. And while he doesn't regret the scene, he said he does feel guilty about it.

Leftovers 'Moana,' 'Fantastic Beasts' rule box office again

Audiences came back for a second helping of "Moana" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" this weekend. Both family-friendly films topped the post-Thanksgiving box office charts, with "Moana" bringing in $28.4 million and "Fantastic Beasts" earning $18.5 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Disney's animated "Moana," in only its second weekend in theaters and second weekend at No. 1, has grossed $119.9 million, while Warner Bros.' Harry Potter spinoff "Fantastic Beasts" has earned $183.5 million in three weeks.

Paramount's sci-fi mindbender "Arrival" took third with $7.3 million, while the company's World War II spy thriller "Allied" placed fourth with $7.1 million. Disney and Marvel's "Doctor Strange" rounded out the top five with $6.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $215.3 million.

The weekend's only new opener, the micro-budget horror film "Incarnate," fell short of modest expectations and took in only $2.6 million. The film, which stars Carice van Houten and Aaron Eckhart, was expected to earn in the $4 million range.

"We are disappointed that we fell short of our goal and repeating the success of our previous releases," BH Tilt executive John Hegeman said. "The low-cost nature of the BH Tilt films and release model enables us to experiment and take risks, and we look forward to seeing what we can learn from this weekend for our future BH Tilt slate releases in 2017."

In limited release, the Jacqueline Kennedy biopic "Jackie," starring Natalie Portman in one of the year's buzziest performances, earned $275,000 from five theaters. Another awards contender, "Manchester by the Sea" expanded to 156 theaters and brought in $2.4 million.

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for box office tracker comScore, said that this post-Thanksgiving weekend is usually pretty slow.

"The Thanksgiving holiday is a long, extended binge of eating food and watching lots of movies, and then this weekend is the diet. It is somewhat typical," Dergarabedian said. "It's like we're taking a quick breather before the homestretch."

The weekend overall is expected to be down about 3 percent from last year, which saw the Christmas-themed horror film "Krampus" rake in $16.3 million. But the box office for the year remains up around 4 percent.

The question now is whether or not the 2016 box office will surpass last year's record $11.135 billion. While there are still some big films on the horizon, including "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and the animated "Sing," it remains to be seen whether or not they will compete with the late-game 2015 juggernaut of "The Force Awakens," which earned $652 million in the last 14 days of the year.

"It's going to be a tight race," Dergarabedian said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1."Moana," $28.4 million ($32 million international).

2."Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," $18.5 million ($60.4 million international).

3."Arrival," $7.3 million ($4.8 million international0

4."Allied," $7.1 million ($12.1 million international).

5."Doctor Strange," $6.5 million ($3.7 million international).

6."Trolls," $4.6 million ($7.1 million international).

7."Hacksaw Ridge," $3.4 million ($1.8 million international).

8."Bad Santa 2," $3.3 million ($1 million international).

9."Incarnate," $2.6 million ($370,000 international).

10."Almost Christmas," $2.5 million.


Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," $60.4 million.

2. "Your Name," $40.9 million.

3. "Moana," $32 million.

4. "Underworld: Blood Wars," $16.3 million.

5. "Allied," $12.1 million.

6. "Sully," $11.2 million.

7. "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," $10.5 million.

8. "Sword Master," $7.3 million.

9. "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," $5.9 million.

10. "Arrival," $4.8 million.


Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at:

"Rogue One" director Gareth Edwards has a cameo in the film

Director Gareth Edwards says he gave himself a cameo in the "Star Wars" spinoff "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." But, as with most things "Star Wars," Edwards is staying mum on what exactly that entails.

The reveal, he said, might have to wait for the DVD extras.

Edwards is a self-proclaimed "Star Wars" super fan and has said that as a child he used to watch the first 10 minutes of the 1977 "Star Wars" every day before school.

"Rogue One" is set right before the events of that original film and chronicles the saga of the rebels who steal the plans for the Death Star. Arriving in theaters on Dec. 16, "Rogue One" is the first in a series of spinoffs set inside the universe of "Star Wars."

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