It would seem like a surprise that “Serena,” the long-troubled project starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, which debuted on VOD and iTunes on Feb. 26, would even have a New York premiere. But on Saturday night, both of the film’s stars gamely attended a screening at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema, prior to its limited March 27 U.S. theatrical release from Magnolia Pictures.
The onscreen duo — who previously appeared together in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” — spoke to red-carpet journalists as a team. Lawrence said she got the script for “Serena” during the 2012 shoot for “Silver Linings” and convinced Cooper to take the male role in the 1920s North Carolina-set drama based on Ron Rash’s novel. “I forced him to be in the movie,” she teased. They also fielded questions about their dietary habits (“we’re both the biggest eaters in Hollywood,” Lawrence said), horseback riding (Lawrence said she learned how growing up in Kentucky, but Cooper picked it up on the set) and their relationship as a workplace husband and wife. What does that involve? “No sex,” Lawrence joked. “I know what you’re thinking.”
Variety asked how them how they felt about starring in a movie that opened on VOD.
Cooper: “I think it’s great.”
Lawrence: “I don’t know what VOD is. I thought it was some sort of disease.”
Cooper: “It could be.”
Lawrence: “I think it’s a huge crisis. Let’s talk about it, build awareness about it.”
Danish director Susanne Bier didn’t attend the premiere, but sent remarks saying that she was in London working on another project (“inside drab British government offices,” she said) and offered a long list of thank yous (among them, CAA and her publicist). By now, the bad press around “Serena” has overshadowed the actual film, but producer Todd Wagner, the CEO of 2929 Entertainment, said he wasn’t fazed by it. “Eh,” Wagner said. “Everybody is entitled to their opinion. When a movie takes a while to come out, people assume the worst.”
Bier spent more than a year trying to cobble together an edit for the film. After no U.S. distributor expressed interest in various versions that she had assembled, Magnolia — which Wagner co-owns — inherited the title. Wagner wouldn’t specifically comment on the different cuts. “I don’t think it changed that dramatically over time,” he said. But he revealed that at one point Cooper took a pass at “Serena” in the editing room. “We had Bradley involved,” Wagner said. “I take the view, I want the actors to embrace the movie.”
It was unusual to see two of the biggest stars in Hollywood attend a Lower East Side venue that normally hosts the premieres of smaller films. Paparazzi and fans lined up outside the Sunshine, behind metal barricades. Before the actors arrived, a reporter on the carpet said she had seen “Serena” at home, and wouldn’t recommend it. Cooper and Lawrence didn’t stay to watch the film, and a hand-dryer from a nearby men’s restroom occasionally interrupted the dialogue. When the movie was over, the audience offered tepid applause.
The after-party was held at the Top of the Standard, where the star of “The Hunger Games” jumped on a sofa — in her four-inch heels — to greet friends. Lawrence danced to Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out,” and spent most of the night in a booth, chatting and texting on her iPhone. Cooper sat at a different table with friends Victor Garber (from “Alias”) and Patricia Clarkson (who recently wrapped “The Elephant Man” with him on Broadway). Other guests included the Winklevoss Twins, Jeremy Piven, Josh Lucas, Kelly Rutherford and male supermodels Alex Lundqvist and Garrett Neff. The screening was sponsored by the Cinema Society and Dior Beauty.