By Jason Lynch Ashley Williams
September 18, 2006 12:00 PM

All Hail Queen Kirsten

“A lot of movies are more toned down. I thought it would be fun to lose yourself in the splendor of this other time,” says writer-director Sofia Coppola, who amps up the decadence (mixing in modern touches like Manolo Blahnik shoes and a soundtrack featuring New Order and Bow Wow Wow) in her take on the 18th-century Austrian girl who became queen of France. Dunst says her role was “sensual,” at least when she wasn’t spending 2½ hours getting her hair piled sky-high. “It’s painful, and you’re inhaling pounds of powdered shampoo and hairspray,” she says. “By the end of it, you’re exhausted.”

ON THE SET

1. Behind the scenes it got wiggy.

2. Dunst chose modern comfort for her feet.

3. Schwartzman shared his favorite tunes with Dunst.

4. Sofia Coppola put her cousin Schwartzman on an elephant for one scene.

5. Coppola got carte blanche access to Versailles—the palace director loved her Lost in Translation.

A Brand-New James Bond

After 20 films, it was time to reboot James Bond. Casino Royale jettisons the fancy gadgets for a gritty look at how the secret agent first got his license to kill—and British-born actor Daniel Craig, 38, makes his debut as 007. What does it take to fill Pierce Brosnan’s tux? Explains producer Michael Wilson: “You need to be attractive to women, but men also have to find you interesting. And then you have to have a grounded, strong sense of yourself to get through the celebrity part of it.”

Clint Goes to War

How can director Clint Eastwood possibly top Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby? By looking at the six World War II soldiers (including Ryan Phillippe, above, as a medic) who memorably staked the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima.

Russell Relaxes

A GOOD YEAR

NOV. 10

STARRING

Russell Crowe, Albert Finney

Hold the phone! Reuniting with Gladiator director Ridley Scott, Crowe learns to take it easy in this lighthearted comedy about a work-obsessed London banker who inherits a vineyard in Provence from his uncle (Finney).

Duo in Distress

Taking an intense dramatic turn, Brad Pitt plays a tourist whose wife (Blanchett) gets shot on vacation in Morocco in one of four interwoven stories about the connections people have and their inability to understand one another. “It wasn’t an obvious role for him … it’s not about being a star,” says director Alejandro González Iñárritu. “But he has something special beyond his popularity.” Coping with 100°-plus heat and working with nonprofessional actors, Pitt and Blanchett “had a lot of patience.” And pulled off tough scenes. Says Iñárritu: “Only an actress like Cate could make the small role of a woman lying down bleeding something really powerful.”

Hilary Vamps It Up

Watching Swank’s tough-girl turns, “it occurred to me she had never played a sexy femme fatale,” says director Brian De Palma. “I said to her, ‘You’re gorgeous. Let’s put it up onscreen.'” Swank seduces an L.A. detective (Hartnett) in the drama based on James Ellroy’s novel about a notorious 1947 murder.

Hearing Voices

STRANGER THAN FICTION

NOV. 10

STARRING

Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman

A reserved IRS agent (Ferrell) discovers that the woman in his head narrating his life (Thompson) is an author writing his life story … and planning to kill him off. Like Jim Carrey before him, Ferrell hopes his Truman-like turn in this comedy will prove he’s more than just Hollywood’s go-to goofball.

Fall’s Most Fractured Family

  • RUNNING WITH SCISSORS
  • OCT. 27
  • STARRING
  • Annette Bening, Joseph Cross, Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Brian Cox, Alec Baldwin

As a mentally unstable woman who abandons her son to be raised by her bizarre psychiatrist and his even more bizarre family, Bening leads a heavy-hitting cast in the adaptation of Augusten Burroughs’s bestselling 2002 memoir. “There are moments when you do hate her,” says Bening. “She’s very disturbed, [but] she’s also hilarious.” At the center of the veteran ensemble, “I was definitely intimidated,” says relative newcomer Joseph Cross, who plays Augusten. But the actors kept the atmosphere light. “You just laugh in uncomfortable situations,” says Evan Rachel Wood, one of the siblings in the unconventional household. “The things that happen to this boy are so bad you can’t believe it.” Plus, she adds, “any dysfunctional family usually has their funny moments.”

THIS FALL’S HISTORY LESSONS

Royal Treatment

THE QUEEN

SEPT. 30

STARRING

Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen

“Who has ever played the two Elizabeths in a lifetime, let alone in the same year? That is an amazing thing,” says Helen Mirren, who follows her Emmy-winning turn as Elizabeth I (in last year’s HBO movie of the same name) by playing Queen Elizabeth II. The film deals with the charged days following Princess Diana’s 1997 death, as the steely monarch feuds with Tony Blair (Sheen). Alas, there is no Elizabeth III, which means that Mirren’s royal run has come to an end. That’s fine by her. “I am a bit Queen-ed out now,” she says. “When I look at pictures of the Queen, I think I am looking at myself. It’s very weird.”

Remembering Robert Kennedy

  • BOBBY
  • NOV. 17
  • STARRING
  • Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Lindsay Lohan, Emilio Estevez, Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, William H. Macy

Despite a minuscule budget, director Estevez assembled a big-name cast for a drama about 22 fictional people at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel the night of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Often the actors didn’t meet until they walked on-set,” says Estevez. “We were running and gunning.” With good reason: They wrapped filming at the Ambassador days before it was demolished.

Reign Forest

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

SEPT. 27

STARRING

Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy

“You can’t hate yourself, so you’re searching for rationalizations all the time,” says Whitaker of playing horrific Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the film, based on the 1998 novel about Amin and his fictional physician (McAvoy). “I started to understand the paranoia.”

EXTRA CREDIT: BIOS

A year after Philip Seymour Hoffman took home the Best Actor Oscar for Capote, Infamous (Oct. 13) revisits the story of how Truman Capote (Toby Jones) wrote In Cold Blood, about the two ex-cons who murdered a Kansas family. Look for Sandra Bullock (as Harper Lee), Daniel Craig (as killer Perry Smith), Sigourney Weaver (as socialite Babe Paley) and Gwyneth Paltrow (in a cameo as a lounge singer)…. Photographer Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) became famous for shooting the fringes of society. Fur (Nov. 10) speculates about the months leading up to her first picture in 1958, as Arbus bonds with a man (Robert Downey Jr.) covered completely in fur.

Jessica Gets a Workout

Don’t think that Simpson has the comic chops to match wits with stand-up extraordinaire Cook? Believe it, says producer Andrew Panay. “Look at her reality show and Saturday Night Live. Her comedic timing’s fantastic.” Simpson puts it to good use as a bulk-discount warehouse cashier who always falls for the employee of the month. During filming, she was game for anything, including an in-store go-kart race with Cook. Says Panay: “I can’t tell you what a trooper she is.”

Leo! Matt! Jack!

Cop DiCaprio pulls a Donnie Brasco, infiltrating a South Boston mob and cozying up to its kingpin (Nicholson). He’s not the only one leading a double life. Damon is a gangster who has slipped onto the police force.

AND FOR THE HOLIDAYS…

Expect cinematic gifts galore. Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy sing in Dreamgirls (Dec. 21), which has early Oscar buzz. Denzel Washington investigates a bombing in Déjà Vu (Nov. 22) and George Clooney a murder in The Good German (Dec. 8). Will Smith is a struggling dad (to real-life son Jaden) in The Pursuit of Happyness (Dec. 15). In The Good Shepherd (Dec. 22), Matt Damon plays a spy who loves Angelina Jolie. And Julia Roberts lends her voice to Charlotte’s Web (Dec. 20).

See clips of our film critic Leah Rozen’s favorite fall movie picks at http://www.people.com/ fallmovies

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