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Posts tagged ‘M. Night Shyamalan’

Plea to Take Mel Gibson Off ‘Blacklist’ Sparks Hollywood Debate.

Image: Plea to Take Mel Gibson Off 'Blacklist' Sparks Hollywood Debate

Eight years after Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant during a drunk-driving arrest, Hollywood is debating the rehabilitation of an Oscar winner who was once one of the industry’s most bankable stars.

The heated discussion was sparked by a March 12 opinion piece in Deadline Hollywood by Allison Hope Weiner, a freelance writer who covered Gibson’s infamous spiral out of favor and now considers him a friend. Her appeal for an end to what she called a “quiet blacklisting” has generated more than 5,700 comments on’s movie page and more than 800 on the Deadline Hollywood site, which is read by many in the industry.

“He has been in the doghouse long enough,” Weiner wrote. “It’s time to give the guy another chance.”

Gibson’s movies, from “Mad Max” to “Braveheart” and “Apocalypto,” have grossed $3.6 billion, according to Rentrak Corp., providing an incentive for studios and agencies to consider absolution. His particular transgressions, and the number of them over the years, mean it’s unlikely to come easy.

Forgiving Gibson “is not the same thing as forgiving Lindsay Lohan for partying too late,” said Elizabeth Currid- Halkett, author of “Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity” and an associate professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “Anti-Semitism is not just behaving badly.”

While the 58-year-old still directs and acts — he recently completed production as a co-star with Sylvester Stallone on “Expendables 3” — major studios “are either wary of him or prefer not to work with him,” said Michael Fleming, Deadline Hollywood’s film editor. “I am surprised this has lasted this long. The guy has made a lot of people a lot of money.”

Malibu Tirade

The back-and-forth by commentators on Weiner’s piece boils down to a bygone question in Hollywood: whether what someone says or does off screen, however repugnant, should have any effect on his fitness to make movies.

Gibson is a long-running case in point. The hits to his reputation aren’t limited to those from his tirade about Jews being “responsible for all the wars in the world,” delivered as he was arrested in 2006 in Malibu, California. In 2010, audiotapes of threats he made to his then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva — laced with racial epithets — surfaced. The next year he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge after a dispute with Grigorieva, the mother of his youngest child.

In 2004, he came under fire for what the Anti-Defamation League and others saw as anti-Semitism in “The Passion of the Christ,” a blockbuster he directed, co-produced and co-wrote. He reacted to a Frank Rich column about it in the New York Times by telling the New Yorker, “I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog.”

‘Harmful Words’

In 1992 he offended the gay community with remarks in a Spanish newspaper interview and later told Playboy that he would apologize “when hell freezes over.”

He did apologize after his Malibu arrest for what he said were his “vitriolic and harmful words,” and after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Alan Nierob, a Rogers & Cowan publicist who represents Gibson, said his client should be allowed back in the fold. “People should know that he is now healthy once again, both physically and mentally after suffering a breakdown,” Nierob said. “He is an artistic genius, and the industry should benefit once again from his enormous talent.”

‘Harsh Language’

Weiner, describing herself as an observant Jew, said in Deadline Hollywood that Gibson today “is clearly a different man, one who has worked on his sobriety since that awful night in Malibu.” And the movie industry, she said, is hypocritical, willing to “work with others who’ve committed felonies and done things far more serious than Gibson.”

She cited Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who has been in the “Hangover” films. Gibson was dropped from a cameo in “The Hangover Part II” in 2010 after “a lot of people” working on the film protested, Todd Phillips told the Hollywood Reporter.

“Gibson has been shunned not for doing anything criminal; his greatest offenses amount to use of harsh language,” Weiner wrote in her more than 3,400-word piece. She said she chose to publish it on the 10th anniversary of “The Passion of the Christ,” which she described as “about an innocent man’s willingness to forgive the greatest injustice.”

The independent release grossed $612 million at the global box office, and Gibson personally made $210 million in 2004, according to Forbes. His fortune was estimated at $850 million by the Los Angeles Business Journal, and People magazine reported that his 2011 divorce halved that.

Befriending Rabbis

In recent years, Weiner said, Gibson has befriended rabbis, attended Passover Seders and donated to Jewish causes. He invited to coffee the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who took him into custody in Malibu. He was at Weiner’s son’s bar mitzvah, where she said he charmed her family.

“My friendship with Gibson made me reconsider other celebrities whose public images became tarnished by the media’s rush to judge,” Weiner wrote. “Whether it’s Gibson, Tom Cruise or Alec Baldwin, the descent from media darling to pariah can happen quickly after they do something dumb.”

Hollywood is littered with stars who fell from grace — Charlie Sheen after a rant against the producer of “Two and a Half Men,” Robert Downey Jr. after arrests for illegal drug use, Cruise after jumping on Oprah’s couch and admonishing Brooks Shields for treating her postpartum depression with pharmaceuticals — and who bounced back.

Two Oscars

Downey, Gibson’s co-star in “Air America” in 1990, has been among his staunch defenders. He asked that Gibson be on stage to present him with a life-achievement award from American Cinematheque in 2011, and said in his acceptance speech that his friend deserved from Hollywood the same forgiveness it had afforded him. Gibson had helped revive Downey’s career when he was considered uninsurable by paying his insurance bond for 2003’s “The Singing Detective.”

Gibson rose to international fame with the “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon” films and won Oscars in 1995 for best picture and best director for “Braveheart,” in which he also starred. He garnered acclaim for “Apocalypto,” about the end of Mayan civilization, which he financed through his Icon Productions LLC; Walt Disney Co. distributed it.

Released five months after the Malibu arrest, it did well at the box office. “Say what you will about him — about his problem with booze or his problem with Jews — he is a serious filmmaker,” wrote New York Times critic A.O. Scott.

Bypassing Theaters

One of Gibson’s big hits as an actor before Malibu was “Signs,” a 2002 thriller by M. Night Shyamalan that grossed $228 million. One of his biggest flops ever was “The Beaver” in 2011 with Jodie Foster, which made less than $1 million in U.S. theaters, according to the Internet Movie Database.

He bypassed theaters with “Get the Gringo” in 2012, releasing it instead on pay-television. Last year he was a co- star with Sheen in “Machete Kills,” which wasn’t a critical or commercial success.

In Hollywood, “there are some who may forgive and some who never will,” said Michael Sitrick, chairman and chief executive of Sitrick Brincko Group LLC, a Los Angeles-based public relations and crisis-management firm that has represented rapper Chris Brown, baseball player Alex Rodriguez and socialite Paris Hilton. “It’s not about spin. It has to be genuine.”
© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.


Reflections of a Hollywood Missionary.


When Ted Baehr asked me to write an article for him on the Hollywood Ministries, I have to confess, I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach the subject. What is happening with these ministries is in some ways unprecedented in the history of the church.

Over the last few years an entire generation of believers has descended on what’s been called “the most influential mission field in the world.” They are actors, writers, producers, directors, pastors, teachers—combinations of these and more. Many are highly trained, many have no training whatsoever, but most have come out of some sense of God’s calling. Some have come to create evangelistic Christian films, some have come to create moral, uplifting content, others have come just to create and be “salt and light” in the secular arena.

It is a work that has been growing for many years—most notably the last few. It is a movement that invites the full support of a church, which is just beginning to learn of what God is doing here.

I have been working in the Hollywood mission field for several years. A graduate of Fuller Seminary with a pastor’s heart, I refer to myself as an ordained actor-producer. This label may raise more questions than answers, but it reflects the uniqueness of this work of God.

From the moment the Lord first drew me to the Hollywood mission field until now, I have found myself in the company of some remarkable people. In the decade preceding my arrival here, a generation of pioneers had a vision of God’s heart for Hollywood and began laying the groundwork.

Beside Ted Baehr, who grew up in the entertainment industry with a father (whose stage name was Bob “Tex” Allen) and mother (Evelyn Peirce) who were Hollywood stars and who has had the Christian Film & Television Commission/Movieguide ministries since the late 1970s, the late David Schall (ActONE/Actor’s Co-Op), Larry Poland (MasterMedia), Karen Covell (Hollywood Prayer Network) to name a few, who established a beachhead in the heart of an industry that has responded to the church at best with misunderstanding and at worst with outright hostility.

Over the past few years, that beachhead has grown into an impressive support network for the body of Christ in Hollywood. From the practical training seminars of Ted’s “How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul,” “Act One” and “Hollywood Connect,” and film screening/discussion panels of “Inter-Mission”to personal intercessors of “The Hollywood Prayer Network” and myriad small group ministries—the result is a substantial framework for any Believer who feels called to this mission field.

Bright-eyed and brimming with purpose they have risen up, established and aspiring artists alike. On arrival, “newbies” fresh off the boat (or Greyhound) have been met with many sobering challenges: the high cost of living in L.A., insufficient housing, and tremendous isolation. If there are 45,000 actors already established in Los Angeles, maybe 2 percent of them make a living at it. So, you can see that breaking into “the business” is a little like walking on water.

Over the last few years, established and aspiring Christian contenders in this arena have come to discover the Hollywood Ministries as a lifeline. They have begun to take advantage of these resources and have spread the word to others.

Recently, both Hollywood and the church have begun to take notice. The phenomenal success of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was a watershed event, which ostensibly unlocked the door for Believers in Hollywood. Once unlocked, however, the door remained to be fully opened. It’s been said, it takes 10 years to “make it” in Hollywood. If this is true then my own journey has just past the halfway mark! So, where is the body of Christ in Hollywood now? Well, the best analogy I can think of for the current state of this work is a story of Peter.

Getting Out of the Boat
We’re all familiar with Matthew’s story of Jesus’ walking on the water. After dismissing the dinner crowd, Jesus, not unlike a mother shooing her kids out of the kitchen, tells the disciples to get into the boat “immediately!” and head across the Sea of Galilee—all this so he can steal away to pray and get refreshed. Dinner for 5,000 can really take it out of you, even if you’re Jesus, I guess. A little puzzled, the Disciples climb into the boat and start rowing. Meanwhile, Jesus takes time alone with the Father, recharging his batteries.

A few hours later the disciples were a long way out in the middle of what is technically a large lake. A curiosity of nature in that part of Israel, the winds can whip up a storm almost without warning, which is exactly what happened next. The winds picked up and the waves started rocking the boat. Oh, and it was also 4 in the morning—perfect setting for an M. Night Shyamalan thriller! We don’t know who saw Jesus first, but it was decidedly unexpected, and a cross between spooky and awe-inspiring.

Why Water?
Now, walking on water is pretty amazing, but why is it particularly significant? Because the moment Jesus walked on water, he was demonstrating something profound. Prophets and people of God had performed plenty of miracles before, but none had ever walked on water. According to Job: “[GOD] alone treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). Jesus was telling the disciples he was more than a prophet, teacher and healer; he was telling him he was God.

We may understand now the reality of who Jesus is, but at 4 a.m. in the middle of a storm, on a lake, in a fishing boat, with a tired and panicked motley crew—I can understand why they might have been a little distracted at first. Give Peter credit for being the first to at least respond in the moment. He took the initiative asking Jesus to call him out onto the water. Can’t you just see Jesus at that moment, donning a big proud-Papa grin on his face?

So, Peter turns to get out of the boat. Now, I’ve been on a boat or two in my time, and even in calm waters getting over the side can take some doing. This was no Windjammer cruise; it was a first-century fishing boat—open aired, maybe a 20-footer. Cue the wind, cue the waves and perhaps a little rain starting to coat the pitch-sealed insides of the boat, and I think Peter had a little trouble getting out of the thing.

Slipping and sliding with the rocking of the boat, he manages one leg over the side, then another. Finally, he straddles the side of the boat, both legs dangling for a moment. What now? Does he just leap? Does he gingerly step out? If I know Peter, he took the plunge without thinking twice.

Taking the Plunge
In the spring of 2000 the Lord called me as a missionary to Hollywood. For a Bible-belt born and raised preacher’s kid, these waters were decidedly unknown. Nonetheless, full of faith I responded, not unlike Peter, without really thinking twice. I leapt full force into it. I began taking acting classes (three at a time!), I tracked down talent agents, managers, casting directors.

By trial and error I learned the game and pressed forward not just because the Lord called me to make a difference in the Entertainment Industry, but because He made me fall in love with it, and its people. This is why years later, as one actor in 45,000, I’m still here.

I am not alone. I have a large and growing family. In addition to the dedicated support of my loved ones at home, I have brothers and sisters here. Each one is bound to another through a sovereign work of God.

For some, such as myself, this is a time of giving birth. Business and marketing plans (as well as screenplays) are being written, rewritten and honed to perfection. Production companies are starting up. It is a work, caught in between two moments—the moment Peter’s heart responded in faith to get out of the boat, and the moment his feet actually walked on the water. We are a generation of sons and daughters who have responded in faith to God’s calling. Now we are in process of getting out of the boat. The question of the hour, I believe is this: is this really about walking on water, or, is this about something greater?


Rapture Theology Hits Big Screen in Summer Blockbusters.


Morgan Freeman, Tom Cruise, 'Oblivion'
Morgan Freeman and Tom Cruise star in ‘Oblivion.’ Set in 2077, it follows the last humans as they prepare to find a new home on another planet. (Universal Pictures)

The end of the world once again comes to Hollywood’s big screens this summer, with movies ranging from big-budget action adventures to indie comedies putting their twist on the apocalypse.

Earth is annihilated after aliens destroy the moon, giant robots battle monsters, and in a comedy take on the biblical rapture, mortals are left behind to deal with atheists and spirits.

Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, starts the trend on Friday. Made on an estimated budget of $120 million and set in 2077, it follows the last humans as they prepare to find a new home on another planet.

“There’s an innate fascination with thinking about what life would be like after we’re gone,” the film’s director, Joseph Kosinski, told Reuters.

Oblivion will be followed in June and July by M. Night Shyamalan‘s After Earth, starring Will Smith, all-star comedy This Is the End, zombie film World War Z and robots-versus-aliens adventure Pacific Rim.

British comedy The World’s End opens in August.

Bob Thompson, professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, said the trend may reflect a sense of insecurity among Americans, particularly over the economy, the environment and political gridlock.

“Americans do have an ‘end-of-days’ feel to them. … Our civilization is in decline, Congress can’t get anything done. … The metaphor for the end of the world is simply an exaggerated story that deals with the same feelings,” Thompson told Reuters.

Social insecurity is at the core of Guillermo del Toro‘s $150 million Pacific Rim, which puts a comic book spin on the end of the world with epic battles between robots and monsters.

Del Toro told Reuters that the film reflected larger social concerns and fragility including “global economic collapse, war and terrorism everywhere.”

“The accumulation of small problems and the accumulation of small solutions—you get frustrated. On a story-telling level, you want a big conflict so that you can also get big answers and big solutions,” the Mexican director said.

‘The Big Boom’
Packed with special effects and human drama, apocalypse films have often been summer box-office hits, like Independence Day in 1996, Armageddon in 1998 and The Day After Tomorrow in 2004.

“In the summer movie lexicon, you’re going for the bigger gestures, the more operatic, the more acrobatic. You’re going for the big boom,” del Toro said.

But the apocalypse also has resonated with independent directors and comedy filmmakers.

“If you’re doing an indie film that deals with it, you can do it beautifully from the perspective of a single family or a microcosm of the big event,” del Toro said.

New Zealand director Paul Middleditch has taken that approach with Rapture-Palooza, a quirky comedy made for under $3 million and out on limited theatrical release in early June.

Starring Anna Kendrick, John Francis Daley and Craig Robinson, it follows a young couple after the rapture has taken the religious masses to heaven and left the atheists among zombies, demons and the Antichrist.

“The film very much embraced the idea of the apocalypse at the end of your driveway. … There’s something quite charming about the domestic-ness and simplicity of it,” Middleditch said.

He said the subject is ripe for comedy.

“Ultimately I wanted the film to be a really distinctive and ‘nuts’ movie, to resonate with the ludicrous nature of the (Bible’s) book of Revelation,” Middleditch said.

There are more laughs in British director Edgar Wright‘s The World’s End, about childhood friends who become mankind’s only hope for survival after a trip to the pub.

Another comedy, This Is the End, features Hollywood actors, playing themselves, whose party is interrupted by the end of the world.

“We’ve been telling these stories as far back as the book of Revelation, if not further, and we’ll continue to tell end-of-the-world stories until the world actually ends,” Thompson said.



Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Xavier Briand

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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