Of Grizzlies, Great Apes & Craig Brewer
has had a busy week, with his contributions to Hollywood spectacle and hometown pride emerging almost side by side.
Monday, the Memphis Grizzlies released
a short film tribute to point guard by Brewer and his
company. The second Brewer film commissioned by the Grizzlies to help woo a veteran teammate turned free agent (after last year’s “Marc Gasol of Memphis”), the short debuted online just hours before Brewer and his wife
arrived in Los Angeles for the red-carpet world premiere of
a Warner Bros. would-be summer blockbuster with a story and script credited to Brewer and Adam Cozad (“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”).
With a budget estimated at $180 million and studio hopes for a franchise riding on the square shoulders, six-pack abs and lingual creases of new Ape Man Alexander Skarsgard, “The Legend of Tarzan” — close to the 50th Tarzan movie to be produced since Elmo Lincoln donned a headband and fur tunic in “Tarzan of the Apes” in 1918 — is by far the largest production with which Brewer has been associated.
“It was exciting to see ‘Tarzan’ and to be there and to know that I had a hand in it,” said Brewer, 44, of the Hollywood Boulevard premiere at the Dolby Theatre (home base for the Oscars ceremony), attended by the film’s stars (Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, who had been directed by Brewer in “Black Snake Moan”) and director David Yates (helming a project that Brewer originally hoped to direct himself).
Said Brewer: “It’s a strange thing to see my name go on and off the screen and then see Edgar Rice Burroughs’ name come on and off the screen and after that to see Jerry Weintraub’s name come on the screen.” (Burroughs was the creator of Tarzan in 1912 and the author of 24 Tarzan novels; Weintraub, who died last July at 77, was a producer of the new Tarzan movie and the promoter who engineered Elvis Presley’s triumphant return to concert touring in 1970.)
“That’s something I wish my father could have seen,” Brewer said of the “Tarzan” screen credit, referencing his late father, mentor and artistic supporter, Walter Brewer. “He was really into Burroughs — ‘Tarzan,’ ‘John Carter of Mars’ — and C.S. Lewis and other writers.”
Brewer — who said he did not want to discuss specific aspects of the new “Tarzan” movie while the film is so fresh — experienced something of a busman’s holiday in Los Angeles. While his wife was haunting the city’s fabric emporiums to make purchases for her Jodi Brewer Couture custom wedding gown business, Craig Brewer has been meeting with “streaming” and “web content” companies in hopes of finding the funding and the platforms for episodic programs that could be produced in Memphis through his BR2 Productions.
“This is where all my excitement is right now,” Brewer said of the idea of Memphis-based, web-launched entertainment. “It basically helps me in two areas I’m most passionate about. One, how can I do something creative that actually happens, and that’s of such size that we can actually get it done, so it’s not like I’m waiting forever to do it ... .” (Several of Brewer’s past feature film projects collapsed before they reached the production stage, even after studio announcements about them to the Hollywood Reporter and other trade magazines.)
“... And second, it provides opportunities for locally minded creators who can’t get a foothold in California or New York. This is an opportunity for developing series with local writers, to pitch ideas for stories we can shoot in Memphis in the $100,000 to $2 million range — the kind of size that we were pioneering with ‘$5 Cover,’” he said, referring to the Memphis-set music drama he created for MTV in 2009.
“$5 Cover” and its followup, “Savage County,” an MTV horror serial also shot locally through BR2 Productions, were arguably ahead of their time. Both shows arrived before a great deal of viewer migration from traditional televisions to “devices” had occurred, and before viewers essentially demanded to be able to “binge” and watch programs whenever they wanted to.
Brewer said his work with BR2 partner and local filmmaker
— an integral part of the Grizzlies films — convinced him that Memphis has enough crew and talent for the type of modest online programs he envisions, which include narrative dramas as well as “reality” type series. (For example, he has high hopes for a program built around the ongoing “You Look Like a ...” comedy show at the P&H Cafe, hosted by Katrina Coleman and Tommy Oler.)
“For the first time, I have complete confidence that I can handle it all at home, this particular size production,” he said.
Brewer said he is creating so-called “sizzle reels” — minipreviews of potential program ideas — to shop around to various companies. “It’s not like someone like me can click their heels three times and make it happen. You do the sizzle reels, and then the marketplace will decide if it wants to do it and at what level.”
In the meantime, the more high-profile aspect of his career continues apace. Brewer said he is returning to Chicago in July to direct two more episodes of the Fox network music-industry drama that reunited Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, the stars of Brewer’s 2005 Sundance hit, “Hustle & Flow.”
Did we say “hit”? At the box office, the movie made a profit, but “‘Hustle & Flow’ was not a hit,” Brewer said. “Yet it’s wild to me how that movie has a completely different life outside the boundaries of what’s called a ‘hit’ movie. Everybody has seen it. And with ‘Empire,’ there’s a whole new energy now that’s connected to the movie.”
Contact John Beifuss at beifuss@ commercialappeal.com; 901-5292394 Angry Birds (Pg, 97 min.) the video game app inspires a computer-animated comedyadventure. Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8. Barbershop: The Next Cut (Pg13, 112 min.) HHH An unofficial companion piece to spike Lee’s “Chi-raq,” this fourth film in the “Barbershop” series — directed by spike’s cousin, Malcolm D. Lee — also is a response to the murder epidemic plaguing innercity Chicago, but it’s more hopeful than mournful: this is the south side with a touch of Mayberry. A showcase for ice Cube’s everyman appeal, Cedric the entertainer’s old-school wisecracks, the movie is filled with comic and serious debate, but the arguments aren’t fractious; rather, they’re intended to celebrate a tightknit and vibrant community. Bartlett 10.
Jodi and Craig Brewer at the Hollywood premiere of “the Legend of tarzan” on Monday. Craig, who is from Memphis, coscripted the film.