With the fifth installment of the Milla Jovovich-starring “Resident Evil” franchise, “Resident Evil: Retribution,” and the 3D rerelease of “Finding Nemo” topping the weekend box office one and two with $23 million and $18.3 million, respectively, Hollywood rebounded nicely from last weekend’s record-low disaster (though the $85 million domestic cume is still 10 percent lower from this time last year).
However the story of the weekend was the performances in the limited release/streaming realm as Paul Thomas Anderson’s much-anticipated “The Master,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in this sort-of look at the creation of Scientology, and the Richard Gere thriller “Arbitrage” both had impressive weekends.
Opening in NY and LA and expanding next weekend, “The Master” is closing in on close to an $800,000 weekend take at a total of five screens, which will be around a per-screen average of $160,000, breaking the record previously set earlier in the year by Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” “Arbitrage” should be around $2 million this weekend on 197 screens, but it’s also available on Video on Demand and iTunes, where it’s #2 behind “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
So for WWTW we continue on the indie theme and look at the week of two actors who rarely play by the rules: Joaquin Phoenix and Richard Gere.
Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
To say it’s been an interesting few years for Joaquin would be an understatement. After his Oscar nomination in 2005 for playing Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” Phoenix quickly spiraled out of control leading to his bizarre announcement that he was retiring from acting in 2010 and then starring in the Casey Affleck documentary, “I’m Still Here,” which chronicled his attempt to be a rapper (many instantly dismissed it as a mock-documentary). But we’re happy to see him back, and “The Master” is the perfect film to take on after his two year sabbatical. Starring alongside the demanding Philip Seymour Hoffman and helmed by the equally demanding PT Anderson, there was no way for Phoenix to lose focus on the task at hand.
In a profile for USA Today, Phoenix admitted his disinterest in acting, as he says he passed on six scripts after “I’m Still Here.” “I wanted to change the way that I thought about acting,” he says. “I just felt like I had become stale. I had always experienced adrenaline and anxiety when I work, but it wasn’t quite what it was 10, 15 years ago.”
It looks like “The Master” has resurrected Phoenix.
Richard Gere – “Arbitrage”
He’s a sex symbol, a humanitarian and now, for the first time, Richard Gere could be an Oscar nominee. That’s how highly many in Hollywood feel about his latest white-collar with a dark side role. Playing Wall Street hawk Robert Miller in “Arbitrage,” Gere gives a tour-de-force performance that both shows the dark side of the business world and the actor’s talents to still make him somewhat likable.
Now 63, Gere has done it all accept walk down the Oscar red carpet as one of the hopefuls. But in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, it seems like he’s beyond the pomp and circumstance of Hollywood. In fact, he hasn’t made a film in L.A. since “Primal Fear” 16 years ago. “My life is incredibly rich. For me to commit three months to make a movie is a very difficult decision,” he said.
But we love that he still does it.
And the winner is…
Here are two actors at the top of their games and very much still trying to understand their comfort level in what they do for a career. One thought growing a beard, thinking he was a rapper and not saying a word on David Letterman to promote the film would give him that creative juice he’s always searching for; while the other has toned down his partying ways to focus more on family out in the Hamptons.
However, what they both have in common is this week both of their small films grabbed the biggest headlines and they are the reason for it. But who won the week?
We have to give it to Joaquin. Not just because of his performance, but that it represents the return of one of our greatest actors.
We’re happy to see you back, Joaquin. And those Gere fans, don’t worry about him, remember, he’s a Buddhist, so all of this is inconsequential to him anyway.