Will Smith goes off the rails in Collateral Beauty
“IT’S A FASCINATING challenge,” begins David Frankel, director of Collateral Beauty. “The movie starts as a broad comedy, then slams into some pretty dramatic stuff. The plot is kinda from a ’30s film, but at the same time the emotions feel utterly real. The phrase I use to describe it is ‘screwball drama’.” Set in New York just before Christmas,
Collateral Beauty follows ad-agency exec Howard Inlet (Will Smith), whose life spirals out of control after a tragic event. Surrounding Smith is one of the glossiest casts of 2016. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Peña play Inlet’s co-workers, trying to save their boss and the agency; Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore play a troupe of “off-off-broadway” actors who intersect with Inlet in important ways. Frankel describes it as a “little bit like It’s A Wonderful Life meets The Sixth Sense meets A Christmas Carol”.
The project was originally set to star Hugh Jackman and be directed by Me And Earl And
The Dying Girl’s Alfonso Gomez-rejon, before Jackman’s Wolverine commitments and ‘creative differences’ with Gomez-rejon saw a change in personnel. Best known for The Devil Wears
Prada, Frankel jumped on board on the strength of the material and the chance to work with Smith.
“If you saw him acting his ass off in a brilliant fashion, auctioning off trips to Ireland for the crew on St Patrick’s Day and taking an infinite number of selfies with neighbourhood kids… It sounds like hyperbole, but he is just a non-stop bearer of a kind of celebrity enlightenment.”
Frankel prepped by watching films as diverse as 1940’s The Philadelphia Story (“We wanted that sense of characters talking fast and trying to convince themselves to embrace their magical thinking”) and 2013’s The Great Beauty (“It was really valuable in helping capture this family of characters and their connection to their place”). The result is the kind of mid-budget, grown-up fare we’re told Hollywood doesn’t make anymore.
“Movies are loud and bombastic and rarely do you spend time listening to people talk,” says Frankel. But with a line-up like the one in Collateral Beauty, it would be rude not to. COLLATERAL BEAUTY IS IN CINEMAS FROM 26 DECEMBER
Here: Will Smith as Howard Inlet. Below: Smith with Helen Mirren as Brigitte. Bottom: Michael Peña and Kate Winslet as Howard’s co-workers.