Angelina Jolie also surprises exhibitors to promote second directorial effort 'Unbroken'
LAS VEGAS — Universal saved the most anticipated for last in its CinemaCon presentation Tuesday morning. The first footage of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which studio chair Donna Langley said would be the “next iconic screen romance,” looked like a love story, not the sadomasochistic relationship portrayed in E.L. James’ first book in the bestselling trilogy.
The now well-known elevator exchange between Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) made it into the first look, as did lot of PG kissing and a sneak peek into the red room, but audience members seated around this reporter expressed a similar sentiment – Universal played it safe.
“The questions I am asked the most is how do you make the ‘Fifty Shades’ movie, and the answer is very carefully,” said Langley.
Unlike Monday night’s Paramount presentation, Universal packed its time with trailers and extended previews into franchises including “Despicable Me” and “Fast and Furious,” along with teasers for “Jurassic Park,” “Dumb and Dumber To” and “Lucy,” the Scarlett Johansson pic that posits her as the ultimate femme fatale.
Angelina Jolie, dressed in head-to-toe white, came onstage introduce the footage and tell the story of “Unbroken.” Langley introduced Jolie saying, she “earned the right to direct it.”
The story follows Louis Zamperini, a juvenile delinquent-cum-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. According to Langley, the studio first bought the rights to the story in 1957, and it was going to be developed for Tony Curtis.
It languished for years and experienced “a number of false starts” said Langley. The 2010 bestseller “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand reinvigorated the project and attracted Jolie.
“I made this film because in the end is a message we need more than ever,” said Jolie, “it is the journey of a man finding his way through the darkness and into the light…[it puts us] face to face with darkness and tells us to never ever give up.”
There were trailers for “Neighbors,” the Seth Rogen and Zac Efron raunchy comedy as well as Jason Blum’s “The Purge: Anarchy,” and Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” That featurette delved into the relationship between MacFarlane’s character and Charlize Theron – a gunslinging woman of the West with a fiery sense of humor.
“Hits don’t come just at summer and Christmas,” Langley said, adding “the year has 52 weekends … and we want to create a habit of moviegoing” year-round.
The extended look at “Fast and Furious 7” had plenty of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, not to mention cars skydiving out of planes and the usual scantily-clad women and party scenes. Jason Statham and Kurt Russell are shaping up to be the film’s resident bad guys, and Michelle Rodriguez seems to have retained her memory from the last film.
“The only gambling I really like to do is picking release dates,” said Uni’s president of distribution Nikki Rocco, who in addition to NBC Uni’s vice chairman Ron Meyer and Langley mentioned newly-crowned studio topper Jeff Shell, who has yet to do a press interview.
“He’s a smart, savvy student of our business,” said Rocco of Shell, who was in the audience.