24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Gerard Butler

Kony 2012: 'Machine Gun Preacher' connection and Oscar chances

March 9, 2012 |  3:55 pm

Machine Gun Preacher

Kony 2012 has become an international phenomenon in a mere five days, with more than 50 million people watching the half-hour video created by the San Diego nonprofit Invisible Children. The documentary is a piece of social activism aimed at stopping the head of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, who over the last 2 1/2 decades has terrorized northern Uganda and its surrounding region with kidnappings, killings and torture, often aimed at children.

While the problem isn't a new one, the level of awareness achieved in the last week is astounding.

Last year, Relativity Media attempted to do its part to bring attention to Kony with its Gerard Butler-starring film "Machine Gun Preacher.” But not even a big star and the backing of a prominent studio could move the needle of awareness in a way that "Kony2012" has achieved.

“Preacher” centered on Sam Childers, a former biker gang member who dedicated his life to saving the children of southern Sudan from Kony’s army. He has built an orphanage and a few schools in the area through his Angels of East Africa foundation, which is supportive of the Kony2012 movement. (Kony is notorious for disfiguring young children, forcing boys to be soldiers and girls to be sex slaves.)

“Preacher,” written by Jason Keller and directed by Marc Forster, is a biopic of Childers, with southern Sudan and Kony as its backdrop. But grossing only $500,000, the film didn't connect with audiences, partly because the violence against children made it a tough sell for moviegoers.  

That doesn't seem to be the case with "Kony2012," a video that has already earned Invisible Children hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and re-energized the effort to bring Kony to justice.

President Obama last year authorized the deployment of 100 military advisors to “remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield," but there is concern that if the issue wanes from public consciousness, the advisors will be removed by year's end.

“I’ve been a part of this issue and have been fighting for a number of years to bring awareness to it,” said Keller, who traveled to Sudan with Childers as part of his research on the film. “The success of 'Kony2012' has a lot to do with how beautiful, touching and heartbreaking the video is. It really drives the issue home in an incredibly emotional, personal way. It’s also brilliantly offered people a simple way to get involved.”

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'Machine Gun Preacher' gets new distributor, and Sept. 23 release date

July 7, 2011 |  4:33 pm

1
Marc Forster may have brought Lionsgate an Academy Award with “Monster’s Ball,” but the studio says it can’t make room for the director’s new movie, “Machine Gun Preacher,” and has sold it to Relativity Media.

Lionsgate and Relativity said Thursday that Forster’s new film will switch studios, with Relativity scheduling the fact-based drama starring Gerard Butler for a limited release starting Sept. 23 in the hopes it might attract some awards attention.

Lionsgate, which released 2001’s “Monster’s Ball” (which won star Halle Berry the best actress Oscar), acquired the independently produced “Machine Gun Preacher” from financier Gary Safady last summer, with tentative plans for a fall 2011 release. The film stars Butler as Sam Childers, a former drug dealer who becomes a minister to refugee children in Sudan. 

“We didn’t feel we could give it the attention it needed,” Mike Paseornek, Lionsgate’s president of motion picture production and development, said in explaining why it was selling the film to Relativity. “The slate was just packed." At least one other distributor looked at "Machine Gun Preacher" but did not buy it from Lionsgate.

Lionsgate does not currently have a film scheduled for release between Oct. 29 and the end of the year. But the studio is set to release six films in the next few months, including the mixed martial arts drama “Warrior” on Sept. 9. The studio also has several films set to debut in early 2012. Relativity's fall slate includes "Immortals" on Nov. 11.

Lionsgate will continue to handle “Machine Gun Preacher’s” international release. Said Paseornek: "We love the movie."

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Gerard Butler begins playing the field

-- John Horn

Photo: Marc Forster. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times


Gerard Butler begins playing the field

April 5, 2011 | 11:51 am

But
There hasn't been a good soccer-based movie in a long time -- you have to go back to "Bend It Like Beckham" in 2003, if not before. Gerard Butler will try to change that.

The Scottish actor (and Celtic fan) this week began shooting "Playing the Field," a story about soccer, the suburbs and sexual attraction.  The sport will serve as a backdrop for what is a kind of "Shampoo" set amid American manicured lawns.

According to a person familiar with the production who was not authorized to speak about it publicly,  Stuart Blumberg -- the "Kids Are All Right" co-writer who garnered an Oscar nomination for penning the family dramedy -- recently came on to write a new draft of Rob Fox's script.

Despite the American setting, the project has a transatlantic feel. Italian director Gabriele Muccino ("The Pursuit of Happyness," the original Italian-language "Last Kiss") is behind the camera.

Butler and Jessica Biel play an estranged couple, with the cast also including Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who 24 Frames has learned have recently signed on, joining Dennis Quaid and Uma Thurman. In addition to Butler, Heidi Jo Markel, Kevin Misher, Jonathan Mostow and Alan Siegel are producing, with Millennium Films the producing and financing entity.

Originally conceived as a Little League story (title: "Confessions of a Little League Coach") the project has morphed into a tale about footy. Basically, it involves an accomplished Beckham-like pro (Butler) who after living a playboy life throughout Europe returns to his estranged American wife and child to try to reconcile with them. He begins coaching youth soccer to show his commitment.

But things get sticky when a number of the local women take a shine to him, including characters played by Thurman (Quaid's wife), Zeta Jones (a vixen newscaster) and Greer (a hot-and-bothered housewife). The comedy has distribution around the world and will be seeking a U.S. home.

With the MLS season underway and Champions League play hitting the quarterfinals, thoughts (for some) turn to soccer. And, perhaps, to soccer movies.

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Gerard Butler and a soccer movie: A match made in Scottish heaven?

Why is there no great Hollywood soccer movie?

Will a Butler be born?

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Gerard Butler. Credit: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA


Gerard Butler and a soccer movie: A match made in Scottish heaven?

August 10, 2010 |  6:44 pm

Butle
Back when the  World Cup was getting underway, my colleague John Horn asked in this sharp piece why there were so many movies about baseball but so few about soccer. The most successful soccer film in recent years is probably "Bend It Like Beckham," but the hits don't go much beyond that.

That score may get a little less lopsided as “Slide,” a movie about a father with a dubious past brought in to coach his son’s Little League baseball team, looks to be reconfigured as a soccer movie.

There's new momentum for the project, with producers in talks with Gerard Butler to star as the coach (Butler has heretofore been on board only as a producer). Will Smith collaborator Gabriele Muccino, who directed the actor in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Seven Pounds,” has been interested in directing the movie for some time, though there are still scheduling issues to iron out. Robbie Fox, who wrote "So I Married an Ax Murderer," wrote the screenplay.

The movie, which was originally titled "Confessions of a Little League Coach," is a character comedy that centers on a troubled father trying to make up for lost time by coaching his son's team -- but who finds himself in hot water after some of the local mothers take a little too much of a shine to him (and he to them). Butler has no preferred baseball club that we know of, but is reputed to be a supporter of Glaswegian football team Celtic, which would make the soccer theme a little more resonant than a baseball one.

The picture, which is being produced by Butler’s Evil Twins banner, veteran Hollywood producer Kevin Misher and “Surrogates” director Jonathan Mostow, is not formally set up at a studio.  It had initially been developed at Sony but could well end up financed independently. If it does end up being distributed by the studio, the switch from baseball to soccer would likely only help the project; Sony, after all, already has a high-profile baseball movie in Brad Pitt's "Moneyball."

While most soccer films are indies or documentaries, the bigger-budget ones here tend to center on the game among kids and teenagers, notably Will Ferrell's "Kicking & Screaming" from back in 2005 or Amanda Bynes' "She's the Man" from 2006. With the World Cup now behind us, it may fall on Gerard Butler to change that, one free kick at a time.

--Steven Zeitchik

Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Gerard butler in "The Bounty Hunter." Credit: Barry Wetcher / Columbia TriStar

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Will a Butler be born? Scottish star is up for iconic remake role

May 19, 2010 |  6:18 pm

Butler
EXCLUSIVE: There have been so many potential births on the "A Star Is Born" remake that it's starting to look like a nursery. Now a new bundle could be coming out of the delivery room: Gerard Butler.

The male lead in Warner Bros.' update of the classic rise-and-fall Hollywood tale was open for years as the project sat in development. There were rumors of Beyonce on the actress side, but no older, fading male singer for her to play against.

This winter, word surfaced that Russell Crowe was being considered for the part. But there's no offer, and it's very possible the "Robin Hood" actor won't do the role after all. So the studio is considering other options, and one of the names on its list is a juicy one -- Butler.

Butler's an interesting choice, not least because he's younger than Crowe and other potentials. In fact, at 40, he's only 12 years older than Beyonce. Though the actor hasn't been a critical favorite -- and there are those who will no doubt question whether he can fill the large shoes filled by Kris Kristofferson and James Mason (who were nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar, respectively) -- he does possess the power to bring women into the theater. Three otherwise middling movies of his -- "The Ugly Truth," "The Bounty Hunter" and "Law Abiding Citizen" -- all earned at least $65 million in the domestic box office, a tidy sum for films at a certain budget.

A Butler casting would also mark a creative reinvention for the actor, since he's known mostly for romantic comedies and action films, not down-on-his-luck dramas. Then again, the movie's theme is reinvention.

-- Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston in "The Bounty Hunter." Credit: Columbia Pictures.



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Smells like tween spirit: Miley Cyrus and Channing Tatum at the Oscars

March 2, 2010 | 12:42 pm

A new crop of Oscar presenters were announced Tuesday by the show's producers, a group that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Pine, Gerard Butler and Sam Worthington.

Miley There have been several points that one can infer from the growing list of celebrities set to appear on the Bill Mechanic- and Adam Shankman-produced show.

Organizers obviously are looking to strike a balance between the serious (Kate Winslet, Pedro Almodovar) and the youth-baiting (Taylor Lautner, Channing Tatum and Zac Efron, the latter two of whom have starred in Shankman-produced films). Despite the presence of some tween pin-ups, Shankman told my colleague Amy Kaufman, in a story set to be published in Wednesday's edition of The Envelope, that he could have pushed the Disney Channel angle a lot further.

"The biggest requests I get on Twitter -- and I’m not kidding, I’m still getting these daily -- are requests for Ashley Tisdale and Hilary Duff and Adam Lambert singing 'Time for Miracles.' And I was like, you know, you just have to sort of ignore that. Because those are not people in the movie business.”

What's particularly interesting about today's batch of presenters is not the youth but how many of them have something new to flog. Previously announced presenters who have movies coming out in the coming months include Steve Carell ("Dinner for Schmucks," "Date Night"), Robert Downey Jr. ("Iron Man 2," "Due Date"), and Miley Cyrus ("Last Song").

The new crop is even more marketing-ready: Stars like Gyllenhaal ("Prince of Persia"), Pine ("Unstoppable") and Butler ("The Bounty Hunter") all have movies set to be released this year. A few have multiple pictures, like Sam Worthington ("Clash of the Titans," "Last Night" and "The Debt").

The Oscars have always (but increasingly in recent years) tried to indulge the impulse for historical seriousness as well as the crowd-pleasing popcorn (well, the Oscar version). And producers of the show are often in a no-win situation: If they ignore the pop they're accused of being out of touch; if they embrace it, they're charged with pandering.

Still, the abundance of both young stars and actors with something to promote -- and not necessarily movies that will sweep voters off their feet -- makes us wonder if this will be the kind of year when the show tips a little more promotional than reverential (and further arouses the question of how much of that will be by the design of Mechanic and Shankman). Mechanic, for his part, at least nods to the demographic aspect. “The younger side of the audience has been drifting for years, so we’re more conscious of trying to build a youth element into the show," he told Kaufman.

We also wonder if all of this might make us yearn for a moment in the 2008 ceremony, when Jon Stewart offered an insider quip about stars' tendency to promote movies -- and then subverted it. "According to IMDB," Stewart said, "our next presenter is the star of 2010 Untitled Nicole Kidman project.'"

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Miley Cyrus. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times



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