No movie dreams bigger this summer than “Inception,” and Ben Fritz has a cover story Tuesday in the business section of the Los Angeles Times about the commercial risks of the epic. During his reporting, he came up with an interesting tidbit about casting …
There was never any doubt at Warner Bros. that “Inception” would star one of the world’s biggest stars. The only question was which star.
In early talks with writer/director Christopher Nolan, the studio considered both Brad Pitt and Will Smith for the lead role as a dream thief, Warner Film Group president Jeff Robinov said in an interview about the movie. Of course, the role ultimately went to Leonardo DiCaprio — a decision that certainly seems to sit well with early reviewers.
Casting DiCaprio, who is recognized by moviegoers around the world but has a mixed box-office record, may have actually been one of the safer decisions in the risk-fraught process of producing and releasing the $160-million “Inception,” which was known on the lot as “Oliver’s Arrow” to the select few who got to read the script in Nolan’s office on the Warner Bros. lot prior to production.
My story in Tuesday’s Times examines just how much is at stake with “Inception,” the rare movie this summer that is not a sequel or a big-screen movie based on a safely familiar comic book or video game. For this completely original movie, Warner Bros. and its financing partner Legendary Pictures have pretty much bet it all on the potential of Nolan to go from respected fan-favorite to a truly mainstream brand name. Here’s an excerpt:
The plot is difficult to explain in a 30-second TV spot (something about dreams within dreams). The star has a choppy box-office track record (most do these days). The director is not a household name (yet).
When Warner Bros. on Friday opens “Inception,” a complex action thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio as an agent who invades people’s dreams, the studio will give filmgoers something that they say they want but rarely support: a movie that is not a sequel, adapted from a comic book or inspired by a toy.
For Warner Bros. and financing partner Legendary Pictures, the $160-million “Inception” represents a gamble at a time when Hollywood shuns making big summer movies based on novel ideas. But those involved believe the film will succeed and its director, Christopher Nolan, is on the cusp of becoming as familiar to audiences as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron or Peter Jackson.
“Christopher Nolan as a brand is very powerful,” said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. “You can only say that about a handful of directors …”
THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST
— Ben Fritz
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Photos: Top, “Inception” bends reality. Credit: Warner Bros.; Second, Brad Pitt and, third, Will Smith. Credit: Getty Images. Bottom: Christopher Nolan at the Hero Complex Film Festival. Credit: Los Angeles Times