Once again, life seems to be imitating box-office art, and a movie studio is stuck in the middle.
Execs at 20th Century Fox are caught in the crosshairs of a dilemma involving the upcoming thriller Phone Booth. The film, starring Colin Farrell as a man stuck in a phone booth and at the mercy of crazed sniper Kiefer Sutherland, is drawing some frightening parallels to the real-life attacks in the Washington, D.C., area.
There, police are conducting a manhunt for a sniper who has killed at least seven people (an eighth murder may soon be added) and wounded two others as of Friday. As yet, they have no suspects in custody. But area citizens are terrified, and the attacks have made headlines for days--not exactly working good buzz for a film about a sniper.
Fox spokeswoman Flo Grace says the studio is "currently evaluating the situation." But a report in Friday's Daily Variety quotes a source close to the picture as saying talks have begun to bump back the November 15 release date.
If director Joel Schumacher has his way, the movie will be released as planned. He finds comparisons between the film and the attacks in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., to be "different cases" and said he hadn't even considered negative parallels.
"I mean, there are many serial killers that haven't been caught," the director told Variety. "Should they not release Red Dragon?"
He does, however, say that he will go along with whatever the studio decides.
Regardless of the release date, movies uncomfortably close to real-life tragedies have not fared well of late. Most recently, the ill-timed Kevin Bacon-Charlize Theron kidnapping thriller Trapped bombed at the box office. After several high-profile abductions over the summer, Columbia Pictures decided to put out the flick with no publicity, and audiences stayed away in droves (the film has grossed a scant $6.7 million in four weeks of release).
And Arnold Schwarzenegger's Collateral Damage, about a terrorist bombing, and Disney's Big Trouble, a comedy featuring a scene with a nuclear bomb aboard an airliner, were delayed for several months after the events of September 11. Both tanked.
For now, Phone Booth is still on the bench for November 15, when it will bow opposite yet another unluckily titled flick, Neil Burger's Interview with the Assassin.
Even without the current snafu, Phone Booth's path to the multiplexes has been a tortured one. The film had been in development for years, with a revolving door of top-flight talent attached to the project, including Will Smith, Pearl Harbor director Michael Bay and filmmaking brothers Allen and Albert Hughes. Schumacher finally came on board in 1999, and Farrell, who worked with the director in the indie hit Tigerland, eventually signed up in 2000 after Jim Carrey dropped out.