Bruce Willis looks for some of the old box-office magic in ‘Surrogates’

Sept. 25, 2009 | 12:44 a.m.

Surrogates” is the latest comics-world adaptation by Hollywood, but it’s most interesting subplots may be the off-screen ones, as John Horn reports today in the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt (with my links added) from his story, but check out the whole thing… — Geoff Boucher


The last time Jonathan Mostow stood behind a camera, the franchise — “Terminator” — and the production budget — $200 million — scarcely could have been bigger. Following a six-year absence, the director is back in theaters with a much smaller property (an adaptation of a little-known graphic novel) and a fraction of his “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” price tag.

All the same, Mostow’s Surrogates” has something to prove and, the director hopes, something to say about our addiction to technology. Opening Friday, the futuristic Bruce Willis thriller about humans and their robot proxies arrives at a thorny time.

It is the first Walt Disney Co. release following the company’s Sept. 15 sacking of studio chief Dick Cook, and “Surrogates” is one of the very few adult-oriented dramas the family-focused studio makes in any year. The production itself was not always easy.

Two senior Disney executives, speaking on condition that they not be named because they were criticizing their own movie, said that star Bruce Willis — who hasn’t been in a major studio production for two years and whose recent box-office performance outside “Die Hard” movies has been uninspiring — did not get along well with Mostow and that the results were visible on screen.

“Everybody wants their movie to be successful enough so that they can work again. But this movie wasn’t that expensive a movie,” the 47-year-old filmmaker says of his $80-million production. “In a world where they are making $200-million movies, I can’t imagine that this is a make-or-break thing. I’ve made movies for $1 million and I’ve done movies for a lot more,” says Mostow, whose previous action films include 1997’s “Breakdown” and 2000’s “U-571.”

Audience tracking surveys suggest “Surrogates” could open in first place at the box office, with projected weekend ticket sales of about $20 million. It would be among the better openings for Willis outside of a “Die Hard” movie, about double the premieres for the actor’s “Perfect Stranger” in 2007 ($11.2 million), 2006’s “16 Blocks” ($11.9 million) and 2005’s “Hostage” ($10.2 million). The other new films in wide release are “Fame” and “Pandorum,” neither of which are expected to do that well.

Mostow believes that the “Surrogates” story — in the near future, people never have to leave their homes because they can live, work and party vicariously through cosmetically flawless, robotic surrogates — could prove especially timely in an era when people are so tethered to technology they scarcely can go a minute without checking their iPhones.

“It is addressing in some sense this generalized anxiety we have about technology,” Mostow says. “It’s easy and fun to use, but what is it costing us…?”


— John Horn

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PHOTO: Touchstone Pictures

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