Broadway has made no secret of casting Hollywood A-listers in the past few years in an effort to fill more seats, and tomorrow the Great White Way will be getting two particularly prestigious patrons. If all goes to …
‘A Raisin In The Sun’ Rounds Out Cast For Broadway Revival To Star Denzel Washington And Diahann Carroll
The supporting cast has been set for the revival of the Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin In The Sun, headlined by Tony-winning Fences star Denzel Washington and Diahann Carroll, who is making her first Broadway appearance in 30 years. They have set a September 21 on-sale date for tickets to the 14-week limited engagement. Previews begin March 8 before an opening night April 3, 2014 at the Barrymore Theatre. That is where the original production opened in 1959, which will be 55 years ago when the revival opens. Kenny Leon is directing and Scott Rudin is producing. Added to the cast are David Cromer, who directed the Obie-winning Our Town and Tribes. He will play Karl Lindner; also new to the cast is 13-year-old Bryce Clyde Jenkins, who makes his Broadway debut as Travis Younger.
Denzel Washington will narrate PBS‘ The March, a documentary chronicling the dramatic stories behind the historic 1963 March on Washington, credited as being a watershed moment in the civil rights movement that helped usher in sweeping civil rights legislation.
Roger Mudd was among those who showed up at PBS’ Q&A for the documentary, premiering on August 27. Mudd was CBS’s anchor for the network’s anchor for the network’s dawn-to-dusk live coverage of the march. Mudd, a congressional correspondent, covering Capitol Hill at the time, said this afternoon, “It was a hermetically sealed existence.”
Hollywood Blues: ‘Smurfs 2′ Bombs Here And Blah Overseas; Denzel-Mark’s ’2 Guns’ Wins Weekend, ‘Wolverine’ Holds For #2
SUNDAY AM, 7TH UPDATE: This is yet another weekend that confounded and confused Hollywood as domestic numbers are coming in lower than projected and only international grosses are saving Summer 2013. Interesting that the Top Three films are all based on comic books. (Maybe that’s the reason?) Total moviegoing looks about $125M or about +8% from last year because of the glut of 3D films in the crowded marketplace.
I’m shocked how badly the #3 film Sony Pictures Animation‘s The Smurfs 2 (3,866 theaters) bombed in the U.S. and Canada where even the most wretched family fare can catch a break at the summer box office. This 3D hybrid live-action/CG animated sequel couldn’t even make in its first five days ($27.8M) what the 2011 original grossed in its first three-day weekend ($35.6M). Ouch! Guess little blue people creep me out and North Americans, too. The domestic total fell way short of the $35M first projected by the studio which blames too many PG films at the multiplex. But even the foreign cume was blah: $52.5M from 43 territories was “not enough to make up for U.S. underperformance,” a Sony exec tells me. That’s a worldwide total of $80.3M, far less than the $100M which Sony projected this weekend. Russia and Latin America beat Smurfs 1 while shockingly Europe (where the Smurfs began) did not. Let’s remember that the 2011 original made 75% of its coin overseas ($420M foreign vs $142M domestic) so Sony is was counting on a big worldwide weekend to save pic’s bottom-line. The negative cost for Smurfs 2 was $125M ($146M less production benefits of $21M). Sony also lined up for the sequel one of the studio’s largest global promotion campaigns with $150M from 100 corporations, licensees, and retail partners. (Including McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, blueberries). That’s a big deal for family fare not branded Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks. As expected Smurfs 2 opened Wednesday #1 atop the North American box office but with only a lame $5.2M and then a lifeless $18.2M three-day weekend. Its Rotten Tomatoes score was a poor 12% but the ‘A-’ CinemaScore from audiences didn’t help domestic word of mouth. I hear the Sony brass was concerned from the outset because their sequel was out-tracked by Disney’s Planes (which opens August 9th). Smurfs 2‘s disappointment will only put more pressure on the studio from cantankerous investor Daniel Loeb who’s currently destabilizing the studio. The first film was taken out of turnaround from Paramount by then Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman/CEO Michael Lynton, now the Sony America bigwig. And that original Smurfs movie caught lightning in a bottle and grossed $563M worldwide. Because of that, Smurfs 3 already is scheduled for 2015.
Better news for Emmett/Furla Films which financed 2 Guns that’s being distributed in America by Universal with EOne releasing in Canada. Playing in 3,025 domestic theaters, it was the #1 film this weekend – 7th time Universal has claimed top spot at the North American box office in 2013 – with a so-so $27.4M. Audiences liked it much more than critics who gave it only a middling 58% Rotten Tomatoes score vs its ‘B+’ CinemaScore. The studio had trouble building awareness in the crowded marketplace so low-balled its projection of only a $22M weekend. But two marquee stars paired for the first time like Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg should open any film to at least $25M. Good thing the ‘R’-rated comedy actioner cost only $61M. I think what helped box office is that Denzel rarely appears in a bad pic so audiences trust that. And Wahlberg is a consistent draw. Their starpower clearly was pushing gross for this film based on the Boom! Studios comic book by Steven Grant and directed by Baltasar Kormakur (who reteamed with Wahlberg after Contraband) and screenwriter Blake Masters (TV’s Brotherhood). 2 Guns was tracking strongest with its target audience of young males and African Americans after significant multicultural outreach. To that end, Universal developed an 82-second English-language spot specifically for the bilingual Hispanic audience. Washington and Wahlberg made appearances on NBCU-owned Telemundo’s morning show Un Nuevo Dia which created a first ever interview paired with the Today Show. 2 Guns villain Edward James Olmos did Hispanic media and developed 10 spots with Mexican-themes. Other promotions were aimed at African-Amercans including BeET’s top rated 106 & Park and the 2nd largest black network TV One. Exit polling showed moviegoers were 14% Hispanic and 28% African-American.
In #2 is Twentieth Century Fox’s holdover, Marvel’s Wolverine (with the highest theater count of 3,924). Marvel character played by Hugh Jackman yet again dropped 59% drop from last weekend for $21.7M and a new domestic cume through Sunday of $95M. Worldwide total is $255.2M.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros/New Line’s low-cost $19M horror genre The Conjuring (3,155 theaters) crossed $100M after three weeks Saturday on its way to $135M all in. Studio says it’s now the 6th biggest horror film of all time and easily will end up as #4 or even #3.
Here are the Top Ten films based on weekend estimates:
1. 2 Guns (Emmett-Furla/Universal) NEW [Runs 3,025] R
Friday $10.0M, Saturday $9.8M, Weekend $27.4M
2. The Wolverine 3D (20th Century Fox) Week 2 [Runs 3,924] PG13
Friday $6.4M, Saturday $8.6M, Weekend $21.7M (-59%), Cume $95.0M
International Cume $160.2M, Worldwide Total $255.2M
3. The Smurfs 2 3D (Sony Animation) Week 1 [Runs 3,866] PG
Friday $5.5M, Saturday $7.1M, Weekend $18.2M, Cume $27.8M
International Cume $52.5M, Worldwide Total $80.3M
EXCLUSIVE: Melissa Leo is negotiating to join Denzel Washington in the Antoine Fuqua-directed The Equalizer for Sony Pictures. The film, based on the ’80s CBS TV series, is being produced by Escape Artists’ Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch. Leo, who won an Oscar for The Fighter, reunites with Fuqua, who directed her in Olympus Has Fallen. Washington plays McCall, a retired covert operative who, seeking redemption for his dark deeds, quits a CIA-like agency and puts an ad in the paper that reads simply: “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer.” Leo will play McCall’s former handler when he worked counter-terrorism. She provides him with intelligence about who he is facing when he runs up against a new adversary. The film begins production mid-June in Boston.
‘Equalizer’ Update: Chloe Moretz Getting Lead in Film And Creator Michael Sloan To Write New Novels Based On Iconic Character
EXCLUSIVE: A couple of intriguing developments have happened on The Equalizer. After a strong reading with Denzel Washington, Chloe Moretz is getting the offer from Sony Pictures to play the female lead in the drama that will re-team Training Day tandem Washington and Antoine Fuqua. At the same time, Michael Sloan, creator of the 1980s TV series, has made a deal to write an original novel for Thomas Dunne Books that will continue the adventures of Robert McCall, the shadowy character originated by Edward Woodward who’ll be played on the big screen by Washington.
Moretz is a surprise choice to play the role of Teri, in that the role was originally drawn for a twentysomething. After Moretz did a chemistry reading with Washington, he was very impressed as was everybody else, and the role will be redrawn for Moretz to play a young prostitute, reminiscent of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver. Deal has to be made, but between this and the upcoming Kimberly Peirce-directed Carrie, that little girl from Kick-Ass is turning into a young woman who’s taking on some of the edgiest roles in town.
Universal’s 2 Guns is directed by Baltasar Kormákur from a script by Blake Masters. The action thriller stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as two undercover federal operatives from competing bureaus who are forced on the run together. Pic opens in theaters August 2nd:
EXCLUSIVE: On the eve of the opening of his latest film Olympus Has Fallen, director Antoine Fuqua is in early talks to re-team with his Training Day star Denzel Washington on The Equalizer for Sony Pictures and Escape Artists. That is the film that has had a lot of helmers chasing after the script by Richard Wenk prompted the studio to expedite Washington’s deal and set a late spring start date, likely in Boston. The film is a smartly budgeted thriller based on the TV series that will come in around $50 million and is designed to launch the first franchise for Washington, who’s coming off an Oscar-nominated turn in Flight.
Fuqua directed Washington to an Academy Award for Best Actor in Training Day for his portrayal of a crooked cop who creates havoc for a recruit (Ethan Hawke) he’s supposed to be training to join an elite undercover force. It was a full out badass performance, and Fuqua and Washington have been looking to work together ever since. This certainly seems like a strong fit for the helmer whose recent films have included Brooklyn’s Finest and Shooter.
EXCLUSIVE: Rise of the Planet Of the Apes helmer Rupert Wyatt broke off talks to direct The Equalizer at Sony with Denzel Washington. He had another obligation and skeds ultimately didn’t mesh, I’m told. Sony and Escape Artists will lock in a helmer shortly.
Unquestionably one of the highlights of any awards season is the feel-good, everyone’s-still-a-winner Oscar Nominees Luncheon, which was held Monday at the Beverly Hilton. Academy Award nominees gather together and get to meet each other in a pressure-free zone — except for the huge press turnout to cover their arrivals (there are also press conference-style interviews and poolside one-on-one opportunities for TV cameras afterwards for some of the higher-profile nominees). Basically all they have to do is report to the risers set up in the Hilton’s International Ballroom as their name is called for the big group photo of the Oscar Class of 2012.
Related: 85th Academy Awards Nominees Photo
This year, rather than going alphabetically, the Academy summoned nominees by the table number they were sitting at. The table where I was lucky enough to be invited happened to be No. 1, smack dab in front of those risers, and so nominees Denzel Washington (Best Actor, Flight), producer Kathleen Kennedy (Lincoln), costume designer Colleen Atwood (Snow White And The Huntsman), and Makeup and Hairstyling contender Howard Berger (Hitchcock) were first to be called and had to stand the longest before the shot was taken. Actually, the roll call was bookended with longtime colleagues Kennedy — who was first up — and Lincoln director Steven Spielberg, who was dead-last (just after 9-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, who got a rip-roaring reception when her name was announced).
Overall, 16 of the acting nominees (excluding Emmanuelle Riva, Alan Arkin and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and four of the directors (Michael Haneke is directing an opera in Europe) were in attendance, along with approximately 140 others who showed up and really seemed to have a good time at the annual affair, where the nominees also get their official certificate and a sweatshirt. Another acting contender, Daniel Day-Lewis came down with the flu and was very disappointed he couldn’t make it I am told. Like Day-Lewis, I also heard Quentin Tarantino was really bummed he couldn’t attend due to a bout with the flu. Seems to be rampant these days.
One of the intriguing parts of the Oscar race for me is watching excellent movies, and then discovering how much adversity, disappointment and years go into them. Whether you’re even nominated, this part of awards season is a validation of the artists’ struggle, offering encouragement to others trying not to give up on their own passion projects. I’m not sure anyone in this race personifies that more than Flight scribe John Gatins. You can look at Flight and marvel at Denzel Washington’s performance or how much movie Robert Zemeckis put onscreen with only a $30 million budget. But the most compelling back story is Gatins, who wrote a script that fit no studio’s template of a make-able movie, particularly with Gatins’ insistence he direct it. Gatins became a successful writer after acting didn’t pan out. His only directing credit, Dreamer, was a family film about a broken race horse, the furthest thing from an R-rated drama about a coke-snorting drunk commercial airline pilot. It was inevitable that a decade of futility would leave Gatins feeling a bit like Ahab chasing the white whale. But here, Gatins bagged his white whale, even if the price was letting someone else be captain.
DEADLINE: Pulling a jet liner out of a dive by flying upside down seems crazy, but there is a knowing voice that informs the substance abuse struggles of Denzel Washington’s pilot. How long did you struggle with that?
GATINS: It was one of those things where you go to college, and get a mulligan for four years to go through stuff and sort things out. If after those four years the party doesn’t end, that’s when it becomes an issue. I was one of those guys who couldn’t leave the party. I moved to Los Angeles after I graduated from Vassar, and tried to sort it out for myself but just never really could. There were a few really dark years there, and some strained relationships with family and friends. I had lots of people worried about me, until I was able to…
DEADLINE: Pull out of the nosedive, so to speak.
DEADLINE: How did you come up with this movie?
GATINS: I was in Europe, working as a script doctor on Behind Enemy Lines. These naval pilots, very intense guys, told such great stories. Sobriety changed what had been a distaste for flying into a real fear, because I didn’t have a coping mechanism anymore when I was in the air. The Yankees and Mets were playing in the World Series, and I had to get back to see a game. I found myself in this plane sitting next to a pilot who just started telling me all these crazy stories and everything that was going wrong in his life. I’m pretty friendly, but sitting there on this plane, I didn’t want to know that the wife hates you and you’re going through an awful divorce and you’ve got a bad addiction, you’re an alcoholic. And then I had that “wait a second, what if?” moment. Let’s say you had this pilot with an addiction issue, and put him in a plane and there was one of those horrific perfect storm scenarios. Every pilot explained to me that in order for a plane to crash from pilot error, a really crazy series of things would have to happen because they have backup systems for every crisis. I thought, if I can put him in a situation like that, where he has to do some amazing feat of flying, and then later it’s revealed he was loaded, how would we feel about that guy and his heroic act? And what about his own self-appraisal when the media wants to hoist him up as a hero? I wanted to explore the life of this alcoholic faker, trying to convince himself he’s something that’s he’s not.
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.
One thing’s for certain about Flight: The Robert Zemeckis-directed drama starring Denzel Washington as an alcoholic pilot will never be a popular in-flight film. “After this movie, people are going to be waiting out on the steps for the pilot with a Breathalyzer test,” Washington recently joked in an interview.
Flight screenwriter John Gatins also does not recommend his story for in-flight reading. “I’ve gotten emails from people saying:, ‘Man, I made the mistake of opening your screenplay on a plane’”, Gatins says with a laugh. His fictional concept is not too far from recent fact: In 2009, not one, but two pilots were arrested preflight at London’s Heathrow Airport after failing Breathalyzer tests. Both planes, one American Airlines and one United, were coincidentally headed for Chicago.
Related: OSCARS: Handicapping Lead Actor Race
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.
With a lean budget of $30 million, Flight is an action film that could not afford a big movie star like Denzel Washington. Then again, this morally ambivalent character study of an alcoholic pilot flying under the influence couldn’t afford not to have a big movie star like Denzel Washington if it had a shot at getting made at all. Washington, 57, sat down with AwardsLine to talk about how and why he got involved, and how the numbers added up to make the role of troubled Captain Whip Whitaker a gamble worth taking.
AwardsLine: Industry observers have said this film wouldn’t have been made without you. It has so many of what Hollywood would call negatives — it’s both an action film and a character study, and that character is not a straight-up hero, he’s an alcoholic.
Denzel Washington: It was not a struggle to get it made, but the studio wanted to do it for a price, and we ended up with (about) $28 million, and (director) Robert Zemeckis made it look like $100 million, especially the plane sequence. So he and I threw our money back in the pot, took a tenth of our salaries.
Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch has reportedly asked Paramount to obscure all images of its flagship beer in the Robert Zemeckis movie Flight. In the drama, Denzel Washington plays an airline pilot accused of drinking before captaining a plane. It includes scenes showing Washington consuming alcoholic beverages, including Budweiser and assorted vodka brands. The well-reviewed film opened #2 this weekend with $25M. Now, according to wire reports, Budweiser VP Robert McCarthy has penned a letter to Zemeckis’ Image Movers and to Paramount saying Anheuser-Busch had “no knowledge of the use or portrayal of Budweiser” before or during the film’s production and were not contacted by the studio. “We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving. It is disappointing that Image Movers, the production company, and Paramount chose to use one of our brands in this manner,” McCarthy said in the letter. “We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters.”