Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Producer Will Packer Talks 'Obsessed', Beyonce, And 'Stomp The Yard 2'

Producer Will Packer Talks 'Obsessed', Beyonce, And 'Stomp The Yard 2'

If there's one producer who has been consistent in getting some projects off the grounds, specifically films featuring African Americans, one name comes to mind: Will Packer.

Having worked his way up from producing indie films such as 'Trois,' and 'The Gospel', and along with Rainforest Films partner Rob Hardy, they have successful studio films such as 'Stomp The Yard' and 'This Christmas.'

With his latest film, 'Obsessed,' which opens on April 24, Packer has cast a group of talented individuals that includes Idris Elba, Heroes' Ali Larter, and singer sensation superstar Beyonce Knowles. The film is about a successful asset manager, who has just received a huge promotion, and is blissfully happy in his career and in his marriage. When a temp worker starts stalking him, all the things he's worked so hard for are placed in jeopardy.

In speaking with Black Voices, Packer addresses his attraction to the project, casting the lead roles, and his upcoming films, which includes a sequel to 'Stomp The Yard.'

How did this project come about for you?

Will Packer: It was a project that was brought to me by studio executive Clint Culpepper over at Screen Gems. He wanted to get my opinion on it and know if I was interested in producing it. There was no cast attached, no director attached. He brought me the script, which was done by a writer named David Loughery. I like his work, from 'The Hand That Rock the Cradle' to 'Lakeview Terrace.' I read the script, responded to it, and thought that it would interesting to cast it with people like Idris Elba, Ali Larter, and ultimately Beyonce in it. We found an amazing director, who had an expensive pedigree in television. It's never that easy, but that's sort of the process of this film came to me and to fruition.

Judging by the trailer, some folks are thinking that this is the Black version of 'Fatal Attraction,' the film which starred Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. Would you agree?

WP: I think two things. One, I don't mind the 'Fatal Attraction' comparison at all because that film is the gold standard of a sexy adult thriller. They set the bar. With this film, we have some surprises and twists that that film didn't have, but it's also in the same vein. In terms of being the Black 'Fatal Attraction,' honestly, I don't look at this as a Black film. I love the fact that it has two African Americans in the lead; and I love the fact that it revolves around them and their family life. For the most part, they are the only African Americans in the movie. It's about Idris Elba, who works at a very, very lily white asset management firm and Beyonce is a homemaker. Everyone else in the film is White. It's not like I was out to make a White film, but I also wasn't looking to make a Black film. I wanted to make a really good film that had Black faces in it.

Now, let's talk about the cast. You've worked with Idris before on 'This Christmas.' What were you looking for him to bring to this film and can you talk about casting Ali Larter?

WP: It was important that we had characters that were able to handle the human side of the story. If you emphasize with the characters and I mean all of them, not just the wife role, you have to be able to emphasize with Idris' character, and with Ali's character, who plays the femme fatale. We needed people who were relatable and who can handle that type of human interplay that we have in the film. Idris and Ali were absolutely our first choices for the roles. They both brought the right amount of depth and sex appeal that you needed to have in a film like this.

How did Beyonce come into the film?

WP: With Beyonce, I'm really credit her agent. Her agent read the script and responded to it. She thought this was good for her. Beyonce gravitated to the material for really the same reason I gravitated to her. This was a departure. This was something very different than what she had done in the past, and I know she was looking for that challenge and welcomed this opportunity. We also thought that it would be really interesting to put Beyonce in a role that was very different where she wasn't singing or involved with music at all; something different from that global persona that she's work hard to create.

Where did you shoot this film?

WP: We shot this film in a sound stage in LA on the lot of Sony. The majority of the scenes that you were shot on the set we built on the sound stage. It was really a good shoot. It was. The actors all got along and worked well and respected each other, and we has people who are popular in their own right, but neither outworked the other. They each took their role very serious. Everyone work hard and showed up on time and did their lines. It worked out great.

Having produced many films, your films are never the same. Are you looking at a mix of genres?

WP: I'm always trying to do something different. I hadn't done a thriller since I produced 'Trois,' 'Pandora's Box,' and 'The Escort.' This film is very different from those. Right before this, the last film I produced was 'This Christmas,' and the one before that was an action film, 'Stomp The Yard.' As a producer, you have to be able to show that you have that range that handles a variety of jobs.

Were there any challenges with 'Obsessed?'

WP: Absolutely. In making any film and I don't care what it is or who's in it; it's always a tough process. With a film like this, you have to be very aware of the fact you are going to get the 'Fatal Attraction' comparison, and you want your film to be unique and different. You have to figure out creative ways to do that. You want to make sure you have elements in place that gives the film depth and makes it a quality project; and at the same time we also wanted to make sure we had something that the audience would enjoy. They can sit down with a bucket of popcorn and enjoy this film. Sometimes, it's tough trying to marry the two. That was the challenge with this picture and I think we did a good job.

Were you also involved with the marketing of the film?

WP: I did. I'm very hands-on with the marketing on all my films.

Is there a soundtrack for the film?

WP: We have a single in the film. There's not a soundtrack release at this time. We are doing a single from Beyonce that's in the film that we use, but nothing that will be separately for sale.

How do you balance this with the other projects you have lined up?

WP: I'm always 3 to 4 films ahead. I'm juggling probably about 4 or 5 projects right now. We will see what the next one will be lined up in terms of production. Because it takes so long to get these films up and going, you constantly have to be working on whatever that next project will be. While you are in production on one, you want to be ready to go into print production on the next one, and yet developing another.

With so much on your plate, have you been affected by the recession we're in now?

WP: I've been very fortunate that I haven't. I've been very busy and that's a good thing. Part of it is the fact that entertainment is, some say, recession proof. It's certainly is recession resistant. I would say that and people are looking for escapism and a way to have fun. Movies provide that for them.

Your next project officially slated for release will be 'Takers,' with Idris Elba again, Paul Walker, Zoe Saldana, Michael Ealy, and Chris Brown. Why release it next January?

WP: Well, it's a good slot for us. It's a good release date. It's the weekend before Martin Luther King and we think we can open well and hold over til to the King weekend. It's a month that's been very good to me before. I release 'Stomp The Yard' in January and we did well at a time when there were other films going after the same market. You have to factor all those things in. Things change all the time but as it stands right now, I think it's a good slot.

Would you be willing to work with Chris Brown again?

WP: Yes.

What other films are you looking to do?

WP: The next thing I am looking to do is a remake of 'The Big Chill.' We're also considering doing a 'Stomp The Yard 2.' Those probably will be the next two and could get started at the end of this year and early next year.

Where could you go with 'Stomp The Yard 2?'

WP: I haven't figured that out yet. That's what we are working on now. We are reading materials as we speak.

With 'The Soloist' with Jamie Foxx, and 'Fighting' with Terrence Howard, and the 'Tyson' documentary opening up against you, why should anyone see 'Obsessed?'

WP: I haven't seen the other films so I can't speak on their value, but I can tell you this about 'Obsessed.' It's a film that is a great date movie. It's a film that girls can go with just their girlfriends or you can go by yourself. Either way, you will have a good time. It's going to have you talking back to the screen. There are three really beautiful talents interacting and that alone is reason to go.

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