Antoine Fuqua

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Over the course of its development, the boxing drama Southpaw has become just about as much of an underdog as the fighter who serves as its main character. What started out as a sports drama that was supposed to star Eminem and be tied closely to his experiences coming up in the rap world has now slipped through the hands of several studios and lost its original star, but still seems to be fighting to earn the right to go in front of cameras and become a real life feature film. And probably with good reason, because it was put together by a couple of talented people. From the very beginning this film was going to be helmed by Training Day and Olympus Has Fallen director Antoine Fuqua, and back when it was in development at DreamWorks it got a script that was penned by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, so clearly there has to be some material here worth salvaging. Despite the project’s pedigree, however, it’s already been dropped by DreamWorks, picked up by MGM, and then eventually put into turnaround there. But with its recent acquisition by the Weinstein Company, it’s looking like there finally might be some new work being done in the casting department that could actually lead to getting this movie made.

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Unlike a lot of actors, Aaron Eckhart maintains a great balance of starring in indies and blockbusters – muse to Neil LaBute, he appeared in his films In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors as well as starring as Harvey “Two Face” Dent in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster The Dark Knight. He also has a chin dimple that rivals Cary Grant’s, which can never be a bad thing. For his latest film, Olympus Has Fallen (directed by Antoine Fuqua), Eckhart gets back into blockbuster mode as the recently widowed President Asher, who is held hostage in the White House by a terrorist group. While his former Secret Service Agent/boxing buddy Mike (Gerard Butler) infiltrates the White House in hopes of saving the day, the President never backs down, even while being held hostage. Eckhart talked with us about his everyman approach to playing the President, the fallout of his character in The Dark Knight, potential upcoming collaborations with LaBute, and a possible name for his autobiography.

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Gerard Butler has rocked out to Andrew Lloyd Weber jams in The Phantom of the Opera. He had movie audiences screaming “This is Sparta!” And he’s also played his fair share of romantic comedy leads. Though Butler tests his boundaries in his latest film Olympus Has Fallen, both producing the film and starring as Mike Banning, a former Secret Service Agent who pretty much single-handedly takes on a group of terrorists who have hijacked the White House. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Olympus Has Fallen chronicles Mike’s journey as he makes the choice of saving the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart) instead of the First Lady (Ashley Judd) when they get into a car crash one snowy evening. Six months later, Mike is no longer in the Secret Service, but he finds himself back in action when the White House is taken over, and he seems to be the only man to take care of business. Butler sat down with us to chat about the extensive research that he put into the film, as well as whether or not he would try his hand at starring in another musical, and what it was like to tackle Shakespeare in Coriolanus.

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review olympus has fallen

What if I told you that the new Gerard Butler film is like ‘Die Hard in the White House’ in more than just a generic ‘Die Hard in/on/at a…’ kind of way? Or that it features the highest, bloodiest, most ridiculous onscreen body count in an action film since Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo? Or that it’s the most purely entertaining film of Butler’s career? Or that the damn thing is a ton of fun? It’s all true… but none of it means there aren’t some incredibly unfortunate elements in Olympus Has Fallen too. Mike Banning (Butler) is head of the president’s (Aaron Eckhart) secret service protection detail, but an accident resulting in lost lives sees him reassigned to a desk job down the street at the U.S. Treasury building. When dozens of well-armed and highly organized North Korean terrorists attack the White House 18 months later the formerly disgraced agent becomes the president’s, and America’s, greatest hope. (Good thing they don’t know he’s actually Scottish.)

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Washington and Fuqua

There has already been a tremendous amount of back and forth when it comes to finding a director who will stick with the Denzel Washington-starring The Equalizer adaptation, as both Nicolas Winding Refn (who seemed like a particularly inspired pick) and Rupert Wyatt have backed out on the project, even with a highly bankable star like Washington locked to lead. Now Deadline Hollywood reports that Olympus Has Fallen and Training Day director Antoine Fuqua is in “early talks” to helm the film, which would re-team him with his Training Day star (and Oscar winner) Washington. The outlet reports that the pair have wanted to work together since their success and that The Equalizer is viewed as a proper project for the two to reteam on. Deadline also reports on some of the changes made to the film from the original TV series, sharing that it has been “tailored to Washington’s skills. He’ll play a solitary, monastic figure who hates injustice and devotes himself to helping people who are being victimized.” If The Equalizer can actually hold on to a director, it will likely start filming in Boston later this spring.

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score olympus has fallen2

A composer known for his otherworldly scores for films such as Immortals and period scores for television programs such as The Borgias, The Tudors, and The Pillars of the Earth may seem like an odd choice for a film about a very real place (the White House) falling victim to a fictional (albeit extreme) situation. However with a title like Olympus Has Fallen, composer Trevor Morris‘ past pedigree seems to make him the perfect fit to tell a story that is in fact as grand, and moving, as his past work. A fan of action movies himself, Morris worked closely with Olympus‘ director Antoine Fuqua to not only bring the story of the White House being taken over to life, but do so by getting audiences’ adrenaline and emotions racing.

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Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher in OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. Photo credit: Phillip V. Caruso

It’s quite serious. That’s the one thing that FilmDistrict seems to want you to know based on these new images from Olympus Has Fallen, released exclusively to Film School Rejects this morning. It’s true, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this one. Among them: Antoine Fuqua is a director who has dealt in more quality than anything else, as evidence by his gritty turns with Brooklyn’s Finest, Shooter, Training Day and Tears of the Sun; Aaron Eckhart‘s jaw structure, as seen in The Dark Knight, was clearly made to exist about a foot and a half above the Presidential podium; Gerard Butler plays a good redemption story, always delivers with a gun in his hands; and it’s got Morgan Freeman. On top of all that, it’s a movie about a siege of the White House, in which one man is the key to saving POTUS from some Asian-based threat. It’s also quite bloody and full of what the kids might call “mean mugging,” also known as serious people looking very serious.

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Olympus Has Fallen

Although Olympus Has Fallen foolishly begins with Aaron Eckhart playing the president, it eventually rights this wrong by replacing him with Morgan Freeman, the true ruler of this great nation. All it takes is a terrorist takeover of the White House. Luckily, we have Gerard Butler on the inside and presidential succession on the outside to ensure that the bad guys won’t win. This one from Antoine Fuqua is the first of two “White House being taken over while a secret service agent is the only hope” movies we’ll see this year. It hits in March, and Roland Emmerich’s version, White House Down, hits in June. Hopefully we’ll get a trailer for that soon so we can compare, but check out the aggressively average look at Olympus for now:

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On one side, we have Roland Emmerich, Channing Tatum, and Jamie Foxx. On the other, we have Antoine Fuqua, Gerard Butler, and Aaron Eckhart. In the middle? Similarly themed and plotted films that have (apparently) both been deemed “Die Hard in the White House.” Choose a side now or…choose one later when the films are actually made? Variety reports that Eckhart has now joined the cast of Fuqua’s film, Olympus Has Fallen in the role of President of the United States (that’s the Jamie Foxx role, for those of you still trying to keep track). Eckhart’s good locks and lantern jaw seem pretty classically presidential, which is fair enough, because Emmerich’s White House Down is obviously going for awesome, ass-kicking points with Foxx.

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Just last week, we were hit with the cataclysmic news that Roland Emmerich was likely to return to one of his favorite cinematic pastimes – blowing the White House the eff up – in the new, amusingly titled film White House Down. Turns out, that wasn’t the only script with a vendetta against 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. bouncing around Hollywood, and Emmerich, scribe Jamie Vanderbilt, and Columbia are just going to have to man up and deal with some similar competition. THR reports that director Antoine Fuqua currently has an offer to direct Nu Image/Millennium’s Olympus Has Fallen, an action thriller that the outlet is billing as “Die Hard in the White House.” Make this film now. The film’s script was penned by newbie scribes Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, who sold it to Millennium about a month ago. The film centers on “an unlikely Secret Service agent” (aren’t they always) who is the only man standing in the way of terrorists who have seized the Presidential residence and workspace. White House Down also centers on a White House takeover, but which film will emerge victorious?

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I haven’t seen a nice, dumb prison movie in a while. It seems like it used to be a staple of the action genre. Some super tough guy is framed for something or other, gets thrown in prison, and by the end he has beaten up both the other prisoners and the evil warden. Really, it’s a great plot for a movie, so they need to come back. Summit has been trying to put one called The Tomb together for a while, but it’s been slow going. First Bruce Willis was set to star, but then that didn’t work out. Then it seemed like Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to take the project, but he decided to do Last Stand instead. Also, there has been some shuffling of the director. Antoine Fuqua was going to direct at one point, but then he left to do Southpaw. What is a dumb prison movie to do?

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A couple months back it was reported that in between will-he-won’t-he work sessions on his often talked about, never produced Tupac Shakur biopic, Training Day director Antoine Fuqua would be making a boxing drama called Southpaw starring rapper turned occasional actor Eminem. The film was said to be about a lower class welterweight boxer struggling through drama in his daily life and boxing career on the way to greatness. It had a script by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter that was loosely based on Eminem’s own rise in the rap world, it was financially back by DreamWorks, and it was all set to start shooting in January. Sound like smooth sailing right? Not so fast. Suddenly DreamWorks has pulled out of the project and left it back in the hands of its creators to shop around to other studios for funding. Deadline River Rouge reports the studio’s decision, but doesn’t have anything to offer other than speculation as to why they may have backed out. It’s strange for a studio to drop a project like this that already has script, star, and director packaged up and ready to go. Theoretically, Fuqua and company should be able to find somebody else to set them up pretty quick, seeing as most of the heavily lifting has already been done and all they need is some funding. And I hope that’s true, because I just don’t want to live in a world where the entertainment industry’s preeminent white rapper can’t get a […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column just trying to keep it real, man. We begin this evening with a few new shots from The Muppets, my now most anticipated remaining 2011 film. Quite a title to bestow, I know. Anyway, the folks at Rope of Silicon have updated their gallery. This includes a few movie stills, some behind the scenes stuff and that fresh poster I showed you last night.

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Why Watch? Because Goodfellas can never be praised enough. Over twenty years later, Scorsese’s film about wiseguys has proven itself to be a modern classic, and this cool, breezy documentary allows directors like Jon Favreau, The Hughes Brothers, Joe Carnahan, Richard Linklater, Antoine Fuqua and Frank Darabont geek out about a movie they love. So what could be better than watching directors break down a fantastic film’s best elements while sharing the effect it had on them? What does it cost? Just 13 minutes of your time. Check out Made Men: The GoodFellas Legacy for yourself:

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You know Antoine Fuqua, right? He’s the guy who got a lot of attention for directing Training Day, and who keeps getting mentioned as the director of a possible Tupac Shakur biopic. Whether or not he will ever manage to get that Tupac production in front of the camera remains a mystery, but we do know about a new movie that he actually will make. Fuqua has been attached to helm Summit Entertainment’s new film Storming Las Vegas, which is an adaptation of a book about a real life casino robber named Jose Vigoa. Vigoa went on a crime spree during the 90s that lasted for 16 months and targeted some of Las Vegas’ most famous casinos. The book that will serve as the source material was written by John Huddy, and its full title is “Storming Las Vegas: How a Cuban-Born, Soviet-Trained Commando Took Down The Strip to the Tune of Five World Class Hotels, Three Armored Cars, and Millions of Dollars.” While rampant cowardice and pervasive sensibility will lead to the title being shortened for a film release, reading the outlandishly long book title does give us a better sense of the particulars of the story. It turns out that this Vigoa was some sort of commando, and it seems like he was pretty dang successful in his robberies. Also there’s something about a 23-year vet of the Vegas police force who was tasked with taking Fuqua and his gang down without letting their exploits hit the papers. […]

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With Antoine Fuqua getting ready to box Eminem, the fate of the Tupac Shakur biopic was left to hang in the air. Now, JoBlo is reporting that Morgan Creek is engaging the director in a Pay or Play deal that will see him cashing a check whether or not he makes the movie. The idea behind the move is so that producers are further pressured to get Fuqua on board, but it’s unclear how that actually works. If Fuqua was the one moving on from the project, it’s a bit confusing as to how offering him money not to make the movie will entice him to make the movie. The other question is why the production is so interested in Fuqua. The Shakur Estate has already approved him, and finding another director would mean finding further approval, but is he really the only director that could take this project on? This move seems to sound loud and clear that Morgan Creek thinks that’s the case. Even foolishly limiting the field to black directors, there’s John Singleton, Lee Daniels, George Tillman Jr, Denzel Washington (who has biopic experience), the insanely creative choice of Scott Sanders, MK Asante (if he’d be interested in fictional features), and, why not, Thomas Carter. Those are just off the top of my head. There’s also the wild idea of giving a new director his or her shot. Why possibly ground a production while waiting on a single director to decide he wants to do the film […]

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Whenever a smaller film breaks through and becomes a mainstream success it is always inevitable that a series of imitators will soon follow and attempt to ride its coattails. In this case, The Fighter got a lot of critical success by telling the story of street level hoodlums gaining success in the world of hand to hand combat, so now we have trailers for Warrior hitting theaters and news that Training Day director Antoine Fuqua is going to team up with 8 Mile star and hugely successful white guy who raps Eminem to make a new boxing movie called Southpaw. Fuqua was thought to be directing a biopic of another famed rapper, the late Tupac Shakur, but news that he’s close to signing on to this film points to the fact that he must have stepped away from Tupac for now. Probably similar to what was being planned for the Tupac film, Southpaw will detail the day-to-day tragedies of the life of a welterweight boxer as he struggles his way to greatness. I guess the moral of this story is just that Fuqua really likes to make movies about poor, urban people. Now if he could just make something that affected people as much as Training Day he might get somewhere as an auteur. Maybe Eminem will be his good luck charm; he’s at least got to do more for Fuqua’s career than he did for Curtis Hanson’s. [24 Frames]

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Variety has gotten its hands on the director shortlist for The Wolverine, and it, mostly, consists of fairly safe and obvious choices. But, like many of these lists, a great and head scratching question is posed: Does Hugh Jackman and company actually know what type of movie they want to make? When a list of favored directors features the likes of Mark Romanek and the director of Tokyo Drift, it boggles the mind. Here’s the apparent list of favored options that, per usual, you should take with a slight grain of salt:

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It looks like everyone is throwing their hats into the ring. When the studios announced a plan to release movies in home theaters just 30 days after the theaters located outside the home (with a price tag of $30 per rental), the National Association of Theater Owners balked. Apparently their threat to boycott big blockbusters was a fake, but they haven’t kept secret their disgust for the new model that would limit their ability to make money showing movies (since studios take the 50%-100% lion’s share of the ticket split in the first weeks). Now, 23 directors and producers are speaking out against it. That list includes James Cameron, Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Roland Emmerich, Antoine Fuqua, Todd Garner, Lawrence Gordon, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Gale Anne Hurd, Peter Jackson, Karyn Kusama, Jon Landau, Shawn Levy, Michael Mann, Bill Mechanic, Jamie Patricof, Todd Phillips, Brett Ratner, Robert Rodriguez, Adam Shankman, Gore Verbinski, and Robert Zemeckis. The full, un-edited open letter is below:

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If you’re wondering why they don’t just cast Tupac Shakur in the Tupac Shakur biopic, it’s pretty simple. He’s way too old to play himself at this point. Otherwise, he’d be perfect. I know, I know. He’s dead. Remind me of that when his next album drops. Since he can’t play himself, director Antoine Fuqua (who appears to be moving full speed forward with the biopic) is looking for a fresh face to take on the role. In fact, he’s looking for a lot of fresh faces according to Movie Hole, who have released the actor specifications and official synopsis. Check them out for yourself and see if you have what it takes to play Suge Knight.

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