Studio Bets Long-Dormant Film on Mickey Rourke

Actor's Performance in 'The Wrestler' Prompts Weinstein Co. to Revive 'Killshot'

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Thanks to Mickey Rourke's Golden Globe-winning performance in "The Wrestler," the Weinstein Co. film "Killshot" isn't a dead duck. It could even be called the "phoenix from Phoenix."

'Killshot' poster
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'Killshot'

Since Mr. Rourke's best-actor win this weekend, there's been much talk of his fiery rebirth, which is being used to warm up one of his long-cooled projects. "Killshot" will make its debut later this month in, aptly, Phoenix.

Despite early promise from a stellar creative team headed by director John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love") and a script based on an Elmore Leonard novel, "Killshot" has been moldering in the can at the Weinstein Co. since it wrapped way back in October 2005. Since then, various scenes in "Killshot" have been reshot, and some have been added, thanks to uncredited script rewrites by none other than Oscar winners Sydney Pollack ("Out of Africa") and Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient"). Several release dates came and went without "Killshot" hitting theaters.

Strong performance
Then, in October of last year, word began to spread within the Weinstein Co. and throughout Hollywood about Mr. Rourke's strong performance in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler," said Richard Gladstein, the film's producer.

"There's been, for months now, a discussion about what may or may not happen with its release date," Mr. Gladstein said, adding that the new date, Jan. 23, "was picked with an eye toward what would happen with Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. There's been an element of holding on, a desire to see if that [film] would get Mickey the momentum. They were waiting for this a bit."

A newly released advertising campaign has Mr. Rourke's image front and center, pushing to one side its better-known stars, Diane Lane and Thomas Jane. Weinstein Co. spokeswoman Emily Feingold confirmed that the studio will use Phoenix as a "test market" to gauge public reaction to the film, once bound for DVD.

Weinstein marketing executives would not comment for the record, but studio insiders said the city was selected as much for its place outside the echo chamber of the entertainment press as for its lower-priced TV, radio and print media costs. Said one studio insider, "It's going to Phoenix because Phoenix is not New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. It's a major metropolis without major-metropolis advertising prices."

'A different level of interest'
In the film, Mr. Rourke plays an aging hit man sent to track down and kill two witnesses in federal protection who unexpectedly stumbled into one of his contract killings. And while its not as highbrow as "The Wrestler," Mr. Gladstein said public interest in Mr. Rourke will only help its chances.

"It's a big challenge, but he has a different level of interest now," he said.

Indeed, on IMDB's MovieMeter, an algorithm that factors in the search results of the 57 million people who search the online database every month, interest in "Killshot" has risen 45% from just a week ago. (It probably helps that Mr. Rourke is being interviewed by virtually every major media outlet on virtually every topic.)

And while "Killshot" must overcome the aroma of imperfection that often clings to musty film projects, Mr. Gladstein is not unfamiliar with the task: He also produced "Finding Neverland," starring Johnny Depp, a film that saw its release delayed as well, due to rights complications with the estate of J.M. Barrie. But "Finding Neverland" also benefited from the sudden explosion of its main actor: While it was made before Mr. Depp starred in Disney's multibillion-dollar franchise "Pirates of the Caribbean," it came out a full year afterward. Nevertheless, it managed to score Oscar nominations for best picture and, for Mr. Depp, best actor.

"It's been pretty dark," Mr. Gladstein said of his mood regarding the chances "Killshot" had for release, "but we're just happy it's going to finally see the light of day. Hopefully enough people will see the movie to evaluate it for themselves."

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