THE “KILLSHOT” collaboration certainly looked intriguing on paper: John Madden, the director of best picture winner “Shakespeare in Love,” adapting a colorful crime novel by Elmore Leonard, the author of “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight,” with Quentin Tarantino serving as executive producer.
Add screenwriter Hossein Amini (“The Wings of the Dove”) and uncredited revisions by Oscar winners Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, and what does “Killshot” add up to?
The way the Weinstein Co. sees it, a mess it has tried -- and failed -- to unload.
Although most recent news stories and blog posts about Harvey Weinstein’s movie troubles have focused on the fate of Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader,” whose premiere date has sparked a feud between Weinstein and producer Scott Rudin, an equally compelling drama is unfolding around “Killshot,” which was quietly pulled off next month’s theatrical release schedule -- yet again.
It’s at least the fifth time the movie, starring Diane Lane and Mickey Rourke, has been scheduled for release only to be pushed to a later date. As it now stands, “Killshot,” which was filmed nearly three years ago and at one point looked as if it might be a direct-to-video release, likely will not come out until early 2009, the Weinstein Co. said Wednesday.
It’s a startling outcome, given the film’s pedigree, but just another dose of bad news for the Weinstein Co., which has struggled at the box office and seen half a dozen of the company’s top executives leave (or announce their departure) in recent weeks.
Although Woody Allen’s summer movie, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” was a critical success and grossed more than $20 million for the Weinstein Co., the upstart studio’s flops have outnumbered the hits. Among titles on this year’s slate, Colin Farrell’s “Cassandra’s Dream,” Norah Jones’ “My Blueberry Nights” and the horror movie “Diary of the Dead” all grossed less than $1 million domestically.
As its movies have been disappearing at the multiplex, the Weinstein Co. has tried to sell several of its movies to other distributors, including “Killshot.”
Earlier this spring at the Creative Artists Agency, “Killshot” was screened for what was billed as a showcase of its actors and filmmaking team but was also a sales event. And as has happened at other earlier sales screenings for “Killshot,” there were no takers for the film’s domestic distribution rights.
“Killshot” is a drama featuring a couple (Lane and Thomas Jane) in a witness protection program being pursued by a couple of bad guys (Rourke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
The movie dates to the mid-1990s at Miramax Films, when brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein ran the division of the Walt Disney Co. One early incarnation had Tony Scott (“Man on Fire”) directing Robert De Niro and Tarantino as the bad guys, with Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman as the married couple.
The film was later assigned to Madden, who won Miramax the best picture Oscar with 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love,” which upset “Saving Private Ryan” for the top Academy Award.
When the Weinsteins left Miramax in 2005, they brought with them to their new Weinstein Co. several movie projects, including “Killshot.”
At that year’s Cannes Film Festival, a potential cast for the film -- then including Rourke and Lane -- was revealed.
Director Madden, who also directed “Proof” and “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” met with distributors. By October 2005, production was underway in Toronto, and the Weinstein Co. announced that “Killshot” would arrive in March 2006.
It never did.
As part of its distribution deal with MGM, the Weinstein Co. scheduled the film for release in September 2006, then October 2006, then a date to be determined in 2006 before it removed “Killshot” from the schedule entirely. “Killshot” reappeared on the MGM schedule late this summer with a Nov. 7 premiere, and then that date too was scrapped.
Last week, the Weinstein Co. and MGM terminated their alliance three months before it was scheduled to end. MGM will still release two Weinstein Co. films -- “Soul Men” and “Hurricane Season” -- later this year, with the Weinstein Co. now taking back all of the other titles that had been penciled into MGM’s slate, including “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” and “The Road.”
At some point well after completion of its original filming, “Killshot” went back for reshoots, with uncredited writing and other assistance from Minghella and Pollack, both of whom have since died.
People who have worked on the film hope that “Killshot” might ultimately mimic the performance of “Hero.” Miramax acquired that Chinese action movie soon after it premiered in Asia in 2002, but the film sat on the shelf until August 2004.
“Hero” was greeted with fantastic reviews and grossed more than $53 million.
Steve Bunnell, the distribution chief for the Weinstein Co., says the studio hopes the critical accolades for Rourke’s “The Wrestler,” which Fox Searchlight is releasing Dec. 19, may help “Killshot.” “Mickey Rourke is really good in the film,” Bunnell says of “Killshot.”
“I think the movie is really strong,” adds “Killshot’s” producer, Richard Gladstein. “I’d love to see the movie come out, and I think audiences will like it. John Madden is an incredible director."--