24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: James Mangold

The light and dark of Tom Cruise's 'Knight & Day'

June 18, 2010 |  8:07 pm

One of the most curious experiments of the summer is Tom Cruise's "Knight & Day." James Mangold's film about a rogue CIA agent (Cruise) and his vigilante globetrotting experiences with a pretty innocent (Cameron Diaz) is in many ways a bold release, not only because it doesn't have that pre-sold thing so many Hollywood films go with these days (it was a creation of Mangold and a host of big-name Hollywood writers; more on Mangold and that process shortly) but because it's such an unusual mix of genres, moving from action thriller to romance to screwball comedy to missing-son drama.

My colleagues Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz have broken down  the film's challenges and prospects, looking at the tracking, which has been soft, and Fox's response to it, which has been to sneak the film this weekend before Wednesday's release to try to get word-of-mouth to stand in for the built-in expectations that, say, a superhero or formula romantic comedy brings.

Mangold’s film, while potentially satisfying for filmgoers in an environment of one-note summer entertainments, is the kind of movie that creates a challenge for marketing executives. To emphasize one element is to risk alienating people who’d be drawn to the other, and Fox, like any studio releasing a film like this, finds itself caught between going hard after one constituency and trying to offer something for everyone. (A series of television spots – Fox has bought large chunks of airtime over the last several weeks – has alternated between comedy and action emphases.)

 And that's to say nothing of Tom Cruise's box-office stock and where it sits in this post-Valkyrie (but pre-"MI: IV") world. Summer isn't usually the time for drama on the big screen, but it's shaping up to be a  dramatic time for some of the people behind it.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in '"Knight & Day." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Walk the Goal Line: James Mangold in talks to direct Joe Namath biopic

April 13, 2010 |  6:56 pm

EXCLUSIVE: It's not just because we're hard-core, bleed-green New York Jets fans that we're interested in a Joe Namath movie.

Nama The quarterback and all-around media personality (no Suzy Kolber jokes!) is one of the more fascinating biopic subjects out there. Mediocre subjects get developed as biopics all the time, but Namath -- the brash, victory-predicting, fur-coat-wearing countercultural icon -- is the real deal, cinematically speaking. There's the on-field drama, the off-field exploits, and of course, the historic Super Bowl win that basically changed the face of televised sports and celebrity all at the same time.

Which is why it makes plenty of sense that we're hearing that James Mangold would take on Namath the way Broadway Joe took on the Baltimore defensive line that January 1969 afternoon. The director is in talks with producer Andrew Lazar, who's developing the untitled Namath movie, to come aboard the project.

Mangold is of course best known for taking on a different kind of countercultural icon (more of a working-class icon, actually) in Johnny Cash and "Walk the Line." More than most, the filmmaker gets the intersection of pop culture, image and talent, which is something Cash and Namath both mined to perfection.

Darren Aronofsky, incidentally, was also on the short list for the Namath movie, back when producers were interested in moving it forward and Mangold was working on "Knight and Day." But now "Knight" is finished -- the Tom Cruise vehicle comes out this summer -- and Aronofsky is busy (he's in postproduction on "Black Swan" and likely moving on to the period drama "Serena" with Angelina Jolie). So Mangold it will be.

Lazar (he was behind "Get Smart" and the upcoming "Jonah Hex") is set to meet with the director shortly to see if they can hammer out the details. There's also no official casting yet, though Jake Gyllenhaal had come aboard several years ago; for the sake of moviedom and Broadway Joe's legacy, we're hoping it's someone else, but that's just us. It's also not set up at a studio, but expect both Universal and Paramount to be in the running, among some other big players.

Lazar owns life rights to Namath, which should pave the way to a thorough telling of the Joe Namath story. And hopefully the former NFLer's cooperation will help, not hinder, that goal. (There's also Mark Kriegel's comprehensive book on the quarterback, which Lazar does not own.)

Of course in writing about the Jets and the movies, we can't help but think of the scene from Adam Sandler's "Mr. Deeds." Informed that he now owns the Jets, Sandler, a high-profile Jets fan in real life, quips: "I do? That (stinks). I hope they don't play the Pats."

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Joe Namath in 1970. Credit: Associated Press


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