The reviews for “Winter’s Tale” (currently a 6% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) have not been kind. But at least give the fantasy epic, based on a 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, credit for this — it has one of the most eclectic casts for a Valentine’s Day release since 2010’s “Valentine’s Day.”
Colin Farrell stars as the film’s time-traveling hero on the quest for eternal love (that would be Jessica Brown Findlay from “Downton Abbey”). His immigrant Russian father (Matt Bomer) appears in a short scene at the beginning of the film. His arch-nemesis is a ferocious crime boss and demon (yes, an actual demon) played by Russell Crowe with the same growl as Javert from “Les Miserables.”
Legendary screen actress Eva Marie Saint returns to movies after an eight-year hiatus as the grown-up sister of Farrell’s former lover. Jennifer Connelly enters late in the film to play a journalist who tries to help.
SEE MORE: Film Review: “Winter’s Tale”
But none of these appearances are as curious as the one from Will Smith as Lucifer. That’s right — the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” is the Devil. He has two scenes with Crowe, and they explode with the kind of thundering cheesiness that will make his cameo a cult classic on TBS for years to come.
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How did the director, Akiva Goldsman, land Smith for the uncredited role?
“This movie is about 20 years of favors,” Goldsman told Variety at Tuesday night’s premiere after-party at the Metropolitan Club. “The truth is, we didn’t have a very large budget, so I asked everyone who I’d every worked with if they would think about doing it. And pretty much every person onscreen worked for scale or just about scale.”
Goldsman knew Smith, after writing the scripts for “I, Robot” and “I Am Legend,” and he called him up with the offer. “I wanted the most charming man in the world to play the Devil,” he explained. “And he’s the most charming man in the world.”