Is Black Oscar Winner Being Railroaded By Studio? Actor's recent movies are released straight to DVD.
Earlier this month, Forest Whitaker's long-delayed film 'Hurricane Season' was released straight-to-DVD without any fanfare.
Based on a true story and set a year after Hurricane Katrina, Al Collins (Whitaker), a high school basketball coach in Louisiana, assembles a team of players who previously attended different schools before the disaster and leads them to the state championships.
The film was expected to be released in theaters in 2008 but went through several bumps before being dumped to home video.
While doing interviews for his next film, 'Our Family Wedding,' which will hit theaters on March 12, the Academy Award-winning actor shared his thoughts with Kara Warner of Blackfilm.com about the handling of 'Hurricane Season.'
Were you disappointed that 'Hurricane Season' went straight to DVD?
Forest Whitaker: Yeah, I think that was a travesty. I think [Bob and Harvey Weinstein] ... they didn't do what they said they were going to do. ... I think that is modus operandi. But a lot of people are telling me they saw the video on DVD and really responded to it, and don't understand why it wasn't released, and I say, "You'll have to talk to the Weinsteins. I can't help you." I tried though. Even when I tried to get a deal for it, they wouldn't make a reasonable deal for anyone.
You mean to help distribute it?
FW: Yeah, I was going to get another distributor to help them and they wanted so much money.
A couple other films of yours have gone straight to DVD. I know it's out of your control, but what do you think about that?
FW: This one ('Hurricane Season') is pretty disappointing. Some of the others are just different. Maybe 'Powder Blue'... it's not that many films. But 'Hurricane Season' is a big deal. Again, it's not about me, it's about that story. It's no reflection on the Oscar or anything or on me, other than who they choose to have a relationship with. The same thing happened with the marketing for 'A Rage in Harlem,' which I first did with them. Same thing. I personally feel Denzel [Washington] made an amazing film with 'The Great Debaters,' but it was marketed poorly, so people didn't see this amazingly beautiful film. I have too many things I'm doing, I don't think about it that way. I do think of the impact it would have if people were to understand what happened to Katrina. There's not another film about the situation, about inside the feelings about what was going on with the people.
In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Weinstein Company senior executive David Glasser stated that its well-publicized financial issues had nothing to do with the decision regarding the DVD release of the film; "It's a very tough marketplace and unfortunately the film did not test well. It was in the best interest of the financial returns on the picture to go straight to video."
The Tim Story-helmed movie was also rapper Lil' Wayne's film debut and also stars rapper-actor Bow Wow, 'Grey's Anatomy' alum Isaiah Washington, Taraji P. Henson and a host of newcomers.
In recent years, the Weinstein Company has not had a good track record releasing African American films. The studio shoved Ice Cube's last film, 'Janky Promoters,' which went straight-to-DVD.
That film reunited him with Mike Epps -- their previous collaborated films ('Next Friday,' 'All About the Benjamins,' and 'Friday After Next') have proven to be box office winners for different studios.
Harvey & Bob Weinstein
Last summer, Bob Weinstein spoke to the New York Times about producing African American urban comedies.
He went on to produce 'The Longshots,' with Ice Cube and KeKe Palmer and also 'Soul Men,' starring Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson in 2008. "Did like $15 million gross," Weinstein said of 'Soul Men,' "and it was a relatively expensive $20-million movie. And for an African American movie, there's no foreign business. So those were two bad missteps definitely."
'Longshots,' directed by former rock/rap star Fred Durst, grossed roughly $11.5 million.
'The Great Debaters,' which was co-produced by Oprah Winfrey, earned $30 million at the box office.
Besides 'Our Family Wedding,' Whitaker has several projects lined up, including another theatrical film, 'Repo Men,' with Jude Law.
And to the dismay of some, the 'Last King of Scotland' star is set to headline the spinoff of TV's 'Criminal Minds.'
When explaining the need to do TV at this stage of his career, he said it was for "a lot of different reasons."
"I think they approached me at the right time," he continued. "I have two kids leaving for college, and I have two who are left. It's about me being home with my two children -- one is 13, one is 11. I want to see them more in these years. Also I think it's interesting to explore."
"I don't see boundaries the way other people do," Whitaker furthered. "I'll do a video if someone wants me to do a video, I'll create a game for Pepsi for a soft drink, I just like to create. I think this is going to be really fun. I love the way Chris Mundi is writing the character. I really like the people and I think it's going to be great. And I won't do as many movies. I'll try to do a movie a year, maybe two. But I have a period of time where I can do one movie a year, which is what most of my peers do anyway. "
With the Academy Awards a few weeks away, Whitaker also spoke about his choices. "I'd like to see Mo'Nique win. Her performance is pretty startling. I think 'Precious' is a strong film, 'Hurt Locker' is a strong film. I feel bad because I have too many friends. Sandy (Sandra Bullock), she's really good. I don't know, I'm trying to stay out of it."