Will Smith in Focus? Kristen Stewart out?
Following Ben Affleck’s departure earlier this year, Stewart was left leading man-less for weeks in writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s Focus, about a young and inexperienced con artist who becomes attached to an older pro. To be distributed by Warner Bros., Focus was reportedly to have begun shooting this month.
As per Justin Kroll’s Variety piece on Will Smith’s casting, Smith “is [in] final talks to star in” Focus. That seems to imply that the I Am Legend star and two-time Best Actor Oscar nominee (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness) hasn’t signed on, yet, though Kroll adds in his piece that “Smith had been weighing the film for some time and has officially committed to joining the pic.” Anyhow, we should be getting final confirmation – or denial – about the latest Focus casting development in the coming days.
Will Smith in? Kristen Stewart out? Focus casting drama
To be produced by Denise DiNovi (The Lucky One, Little Women, Ed Wood), Focus was to have starred Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – two of the stars in Ficarra and Requa’s Crazy, Stupid, Love (also produced by DiNovi) and in this year’s box office flop Gangster Squad. Scheduling conflicts, however, sent the filmmakers scurrying for replacements.
Brad Pitt was rumored at one point, until Ben Affleck became attached to the project. But then other commitments interfered and Affleck, whose Argo won this year’s Best Picture Academy Award, dropped out of Focus. Kristen Stewart has thus far remained – or rather, had.
According to Variety‘s sources, Warner Bros. “loves the script,” (what else are they going to say?), but a “top-tier actor” was needed to give Focus the go-ahead. As a result of the worldwide box office success of the Twilight Saga franchise co-starring Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart has become a household name; even so, Stewart’s box office allure outside the Twilight movies has yet to be fully proven, the solid performance of Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman notwithstanding. Will Smith comes with a strong box office pedigree that dates back nearly two decades.
But then … Kristen Stewart leaves the project as per former Variety columnist Jeff Sneider, now writing for TheWrap. In his piece, Sneider states that “while Kristen Stewart had been attached to star opposite Affleck, she too has recently exited the project, and filmmakers are currently seeking a new female lead closer to Smith’s age.”
It’s unclear why Kristen Stewart’s departure from the project was revealed only today, after Variety‘s announcement that Smith had apparently, possibly, surely, quite likely, confirmed, maybe cast in Focus. Ten minutes after tweeting that Stewart had remained in Focus “as of today,” Kroll tweeted an update stating that she was gone, adding, “there had been speculation that Stewart may [sic] leave the project if Smith committed but when Smith was first approached Stewart remained on pic.”
It’s unclear why Will Smith’s casting would send Kristen Stewart packing. Hey, they’d make a good-looking couple.
Will Smith, Kristen Stewart upcoming movies
Will Smith will next be seen in M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, co-starring Jaden Smith, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Sophie Okonedo, and which opens via Sony Pictures on June 7. After that, Smith is one of several stars to be seen in Akiva Goldsman’s Winter’s Tale, also featuring Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell, Matt Bomer, Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt, Kevin Durand, Kevin Corrigan, Lucy Griffiths, Graham Greene, and veteran Oscar winner Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront, North by Northwest).
Kristen Stewart, for her part, is currently going through a professional lull, though in the last 24 hours Stewart has had one (not two, as previously reported) project “confirmed”: Snow White and the Huntsman 2. Stewart is also attached to Steven Shainberg’s The Big Shoe, to co-star Elizabeth Banks and Jim Sturgess. Lie Down in Darkness remains, for now, a possibility.
Note: This is a fully revised report on the Will Smith-Kristen Stewart Focus deal following conflicting information from Variety and TheWrap.
Will Smith After Earth image: Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures.
Ben Affleck: Why no longer co-starring with Kristen Stewart in Focus
Jan. 10 update: Kristen Stewart and Ben Affleck were set to star in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s con-artist comedy Focus (after first choices Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dropped out). In fact, Kristen Stewart herself confirmed her participation in Focus after the Internet had been abuzz with rumors for several weeks. But shortly after Stewart’s announcement, Ben Affleck was out of the picture. But why, oh, why did Affleck drop out? (Image: Ben Affleck.)
Rumors created by and for imbeciles notwithstanding – e.g., Ben Affleck’s jealous wife Jennifer Garner made obedient husband leave project following the casting of husband-stealing temptress Kristen Stewart – it seemed pretty clear from the get-go that the actual reason for Affleck’s dropping out of Focus was a scheduling conflict. After all, the formerly potential Best Director Academy Award contender has been keeping busy this awards season, and he has several new projects in the works including an adaptation of Denis Lehane’s (partly) Boston-set, Prohibition Era crime novel Live by Night, which Affleck is also supposed to direct (like Gone Baby Gone, another Boston-set Lehane adaptation).
Live by Night vs. Focus schedules
At the National Board of Review Awards held in New York City last Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Berkeley-born, Boston-raised Ben Affleck, winner of the NBR’s Special Achievement in Filmmaking Award for Argo, told MTV.com‘s Josh Horowitz that “I’m trying to meet [the Live by Night] schedule […] so I can have it released at the right time. And I just hadn’t gotten enough writing done; it became clear that if I took [Focus] and was in Buenos Aires for three months I was going to miss the deadline. I had to choose between getting [Live by Night] out when I wanted to or doing [Focus]. Reluctantly I chose the latter [sic; Affleck clearly meant he chose “the former,” i.e., Live by Night], but I love those guys, I love Kristen. I was really excited to work with her. I think the movie is going to be fabulous. I’m sure they’ll find a great guy for it.”
Curiously, Kristen Stewart’s name is no longer to be found in the IMDb’s cast credits for Focus. Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s out of the picture. Any IMDb editor could have taken her name out. In fact, nothing has been said since Affleck’s departure. No rumored new Stewart co-star has been bandied about so far, either – at least that I’ve seen – even though Focus is supposed to begin shooting in April. Admittedly, there have been casting suggestions aplenty, including Argo co-producer George Clooney, Ben Affleck’s Boston pal Matt Damon, and, needless to say (and though much too young for the role of a veteran con artist), Kristen Stewart’s pal Robert Pattinson.
Also worth mentioning is that I’d no idea that Focus is to be shot in Buenos Aires. At least that’s what I understood from Affleck’s remarks. And if so, here’s wondering if Focus was in any way inspired by Fabián Bielinsky’s intricate Buenos Aires-set, con-vs.-con thriller Nueve reinas / Nine Queens (officially remade as the little-seen Criminal in 2004).
Ben Affleck vs. awards-season competitiveness
Ben Affleck, by the way, claims he hasn’t become prey of awards-season competitiveness. Affleck told Josh Horowitz he tries “to focus on honestly being glad that I’m here and get invited to stuff like” the National Board of Review Awards. That’s a good thing, considering the Academy Awards 2013 nominations announcement made (very) early this morning – Affleck, a shoo-in for a Best Director nod, was bypassed. Even so, the former Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, and Gigli star, and Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting co-screenwriter is still in the running for Oscar 2013, as he’s one of the producers of Best Picture nominee Argo. Also, minutes ago Ben Affleck was named the Best Director winner at the Critics’ Choice Awards ceremony.
Kristen Stewart next movie projects
As for Kristen Stewart, her other movie project is the long-rumored Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, which was confirmed about a couple of weeks ago. We’ll have more on Snow White and the Huntsman 2 in an upcoming post.
And in case you’re wondering, Ben Affleck’s upcoming Live by Night has no connection whatsoever with either Twilight vampires or They Lived by Night, Nicholas Ray’s 1948 film noir starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell.
Ben Affleck photo: Details magazine.
Ben Affleck out of Focus. Also, Affleck to run for political office?
Ben Affleck won’t play Kristen Stewart’s lover/mentor con artist in Focus due to an “increasingly busy schedule,” according to Variety‘s Justin Kroll. Citing unnamed sources “close to” the actor, the report adds that Affleck, a Golden Globe Best Director nominee for the political thriller Argo, “very much wanted to do the film, [but] the timing just couldn’t be worked out.” (Image: Ben Affleck.)
Written and to be directed by Crazy, Stupid, Love‘s Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Focus is a comedy about the romantic and professional relationship between a veteran con artist (no longer Ben Affleck) and a newcomer (Kristen Stewart).
Ben Affleck is currently working on Live by Night, which, like Argo, will have him wearing multiple hats: writer, director, producer, and actor. Among Affleck’s myriad other projects (whether on paper, or on rumor) listed on the IMDb are The Stand, Nathan Decker, Race to the South Pole, Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses, and an untitled Whitey Bulger project.
Then there’s Argo, which is expected to receive multiple Oscar nominations, and which actor-director-producer Ben Affleck must hawk around this awards season. In fact, Affleck is a potential – or rather, all-but-inevitable – DGA Award and Best Director Academy Award nominee.
Senator Ben Affleck?
And last but not least, Ben Affleck may follow in the footsteps of George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Glenda Jackson (in the UK), and several Filipino actors and enter the realm of politics.
Affleck was in Washington this week to discuss violence in the Congo*. While there, he was asked about potentially running for the Massachusetts Senate seat in case Democratic Senator John Kerry replaces Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next U.S. Secretary of State. According to Politico, Affleck responded, “That’s not what I’m here to talk about.” Which means Affleck may be running for office. (Or he may not.)
Anyhow, no wonder Ben Affleck should have trouble getting ready for Focus’ scheduled April 2013 start date. As for (liberal) actors running for office, what’s wrong with that? Who would you rather have, corporate heads representing the interests of their (officially) former companies?
Kristen Stewart needs new leading man
Now, who’ll be replacing Ben Affleck (already a replacement for Ryan Gosling) in Focus? And will Kristen Stewart (a replacement for first-choice Emma Stone) stay on board?
Needless to say, some fans have been suggesting Robert Pattinson as a potential Affleck substitute. Never mind the fact that, however likable and capable, Pattinson is much too young for the role. My suggestion: Is George Clooney available? How about Matt Damon? Here’s another: Brad Pitt. (A couple of commenters have suggested Matt Bomer and James Franco. See below.)
And here’s hoping Kristen Stewart will stay in Focus; after all, for the time being that’s the one project she has for 2013, as both Lie Down in Darkness and Snow White and the Huntsman 2 remain up in the air (at least we’ve had no official confirmation on them so far).
Addendum: Why would Kristen Stewart not stay on board? Well, I raised the issue for a simple reason: Oftentimes, actors become attached to a project because of the professional prestige / box office caliber of their fellow player(s). If their co-star drops out, so do they. That’s not at all uncommon, and raising the issue doesn’t mean I’m resorting to cheap drama. Really.
* As someone who pays close attention to the world we live in, you ask: “But which Congo is Affleck talking about?” Most journalists reporting on the Ben Affleck testimony apparently don’t know there are two. He discussed the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, and site of one of the world’s deadliest conflicts since World War II.
Ben Affleck quote via the Christian Science Monitor.
Kristen Stewart in Focus confirmed by Stewart herself
Kristen Stewart will indeed be seen in Focus, opposite Argo director / star Ben Affleck, which should begin shooting April 2013. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are reportedly the writers / director of the comedy about an inexperienced con artist (Stewart) who joins forces (and more) with a veteran (Affleck). [Photo: Kristen Stewart.]
Stewart told HuffPost Entertainment, “I can confirm that rumor. … I’m really excited about it.” No word – for now – on the rumored Snow White and the Huntsman 2, a sequel to Stewart’s worldwide blockbuster directed by Rupert Sanders, and co-starring Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, and Sam Caflin, or on the adaptation of William Styron’s novel Lie Down in Darkness, in which Stewart is supposedly to have the lead role.
Anyone with a ‘micro-project’ available for Kristen Stewart?
Kristen Stewart also told HuffPost that she “would love to find some micro-project before then, because April [when she’ll be turning 23] is kind of a ways away.” Snow White and the Huntsman 2 doesn’t sound very “micro,” but Lie Down in Darkness might fit the bill. Else, unless Focus is ready for release in late fall / early winter 2013, there’ll be no Kristen Stewart on movie-theater marquees until sometime in 2014. If so, as per the IMDb that’ll be Stewart’s first full calendar year “big-screen hiatus” since 2006. (There were no less than three Stewart releases in 2012.)
That is, if you ignore the fact that in early 2013 Kristen Stewart will remain very much in evidence on the big screen in Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, co-starring Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, in addition to a key supporting role in Walter Salles’ On the Road, co-starring Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley. On the Road, which was initially screened at the Cannes Film Festival and later reedited before its Toronto Film Festival bow, opens in North America on December 21.
In addition to the aforementioned titles, recent Kristen Stewart movies include four other Twilight Saga entries – Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight, Chris Weitz’s New Moon, David Slade’s Eclipse, and Condon’s Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – plus Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways, Jake Scott’s Welcome to the Rileys, and Greg Mottola’s Adventureland.
Kristen Stewart: Focus is latest movie project announcement
Walter Salles’ On the Road, starring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, and Kristen Stewart, will be screened this evening at 8:00 p.m. at Los Angeles’ AFI FEST (at Grauman’s Chinese). Last night, the Internet was abuzz with news that Stewart “is in talks” to join Ben Affleck in Warner Bros.’ con-artist movie Focus, to be directed by Crazy, Stupid, Love‘s Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. (Image: Kristen Stewart.)
If the “talking” leads to the signing of a contract, Kristen Stewart will play an inexperienced grifter who begins a relationship in crime and romance with Ben Affleck’s veteran. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, both of whom had been featured in Crazy, Stupid, Love, had originally been announced as Focus’ potential stars.
Other recently announced Kristen Stewart projects: Cali, Lie Down in Darkness
Earlier this year, it was announced that Stewart was going to play another con artist – I mean, selling a fake snuff film? – in Cali. Alex Pettyfer was to have been her (potential) leading man. Stewart, however, dropped out of the project shortly after she became tabloid fodder following the publication of photos showing the actress being physically “intimate” with her Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders.
Another announced Kristen Stewart project is Lie Down in Darkness. In early August, Stewart became reportedly “attached” to the film adaptation of William Styron’s 1951 novel. If Lie Down in Darkness does get made with Stewart, she’ll play a troubled young woman from a highly dysfunctional Southern family.
Kristen Stewart’s upcoming movies
Near the end of 2012, Kristen Stewart will be seen in no less than two movies on North American screens: Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, co-starring Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, opens on Nov. 16. On the Road opens Dec. 21.
Also featured at Breaking Dawn – Part 2 are Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Billy Burke, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Michael Sheen, Maggie Grace, and Booboo Stewart. The On the Road cast includes Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, Tom Sturridge, Kirsten Dunst, Danny Morgan, Alice Braga, and Elisabeth Moss.
Focus casting article initially posted by André Soares.