EMINEM MOVIE MANEUVERS: In the wake of a $51.2 million opening weekend for “8 Mile,” will Eminem hip-hop into movie stardom? Or is he a one-hit wonder who’ll return to rap with his street credibility intact?
Eminem’s UTA reps won’t comment, and the rapper has given mixed signals on his screen intentions. Several studio execs Dish canvassed gave the consensus that “8 Mile” left them with no real feel for whether Eminem can act. But clearly, he can draw auds. “Eminem could ask $20 million right now and get it, if he does a film and puts one song you could use in the trailer,” one exec said. “There is no more popular guy on the planet for an under-25 audience. That gross for a non-action film is remarkable… But does he have range? Do you put him in a cop role, have him play a (leading man)? Probably not. Your first instinct would be to cast him as a street thug.”
UTA has canvassed studios for star vehicles with high dollar offers, which the agency will bring to the client, sources said. It is unclear whether he would be at all receptive, and his aloofness might be his greatest ally. Eminem had plenty of film offers before “8 Mile,” but they were for villain roles that matched his image as a bad-boy rapper who spouted homophobic and sexist lyrics.
Instead, Eminem got a crash course in quality moviemaking by the pedigreed team of producer Brian Grazer and director Curtis Hanson rehearsed their charge for months.
Does Eminem want an encore? Even “8 Mile” producer Grazer isn’t sure.
“It was hard for me to get him to do “8 Mile,” even when the stars and planets had aligned, and there was a great Scott Silver script with a world and a character he knew, and a great director to guide him,” Grazer recalled. “But once he commits, I think he can master almost anything he tries to do. He was determined and a perfectionist who was never a minute late.
“At some point, I’m sure he’ll do another movie,” Grazer said. “But I think he is more interested in the world and language of hip-hop. I know he believes this turned out very well, and I would love to do another film with him. And I’d make sure to once again put the highest quality director around him.”
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE: The dominant conversation at Amy Pascal’s Monday night Gotham fete for “Adaptation” was the shock from the film’s participants at seeing themselves as characters in the Charlie Kaufman-scripted pic.
“I’m 10 pages in, and suddenly realize, ‘Oh my God, I’m in this,” said Valerie Thomas, the former exec who hired Kaufman to adapt Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief” and was first to read the result. Played gracefully in the Spike Jonze-directed pic by Tilda Swinton, Thomas got off easy. Author Orlean, orchid collector John Laroche, even his UTA agent Marty Bowen got taken in much darker places, though Kaufman tortured no character more than himself. His insecurity and self-loathing are evident from the first line of dialogue by Nicolas Cage, who plays him. Fat, gutless around women, balding and utterly talentless are the overriding self-assessments.
If “Being John Malkovich” and “Human Nature” established him as quirky, “Adaptation” and the George Clooney-directed “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” should establish Kaufman as one of the most imaginative writers in town.
Can he be that tortured and neurotic? It certainly appeared so that evening, where the diminutive Kaufman is sporting a soft cast on his foot, looks uncomfortable in his suit and says he’s too stressed to chat. Meryl Streep, who plays Orlean, says she found Kaufman’s insecurities charming and that the cast loved him, if only he’d been there to receive the adulation. “He’s very private for somebody so self revealing in his work,” she said. “We wanted him around, but he chose to sidestep these pulsating egos on the set.”
Two days later at the tail end of a Toronto junket, Kaufman’s phone voice indicated he was more relaxed. “I wish I could say it was a Dishworthy anecdote,” he said of the broken toe that ached during the party. “I snagged it on something and it just snapped.” It couldn’t be more painful than his writing process on “Adaptation.”
“The idea of how to write the film didn’t come to me until quite late,” he said. “It was the only idea I had, I liked it, and I knew there was no way it would be approved if I pitched it. So I just wrote it and never told the people I was writing it for. I only told Spike Jonze, as we were making ‘John Malkovich’ and he saw how frustrated I was. Had he said I was crazy, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Another Kaufman script, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” is about to start production with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet starring and Michel Gondry directing for Focus. Kaufman will write another film for Jonze to direct. Then, one for himself to direct, though one wonders if he can survive it. “I guess I’ll have to try,” he said.