Hollywoodland
Hollywoodland film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAllen Coulter
Written byPaul Bernbaum
Produced byGlenn Williamson
Starring
CinematographyJonathan Freeman
Edited byMichael Berenbaum
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • August 31, 2006 (2006-08-31) (Venice)
  • September 8, 2006 (2006-09-08) (United States)
Running time
127 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$14 million
Box office$16.8 million[1]

Hollywoodland is a 2006 American film directed by Allen Coulter and written by Paul Bernbaum. The story presents a fictionalized account of the circumstances surrounding the death of actor George Reeves (played by Ben Affleck), the star of the 1950s film Superman and the Mole Men and television series Adventures of Superman. Adrien Brody stars as a fictional character, Louis Simo, a private detective investigating Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), who was involved in a long romantic relationship with Reeves and was the wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Reeves had ended the affair and had become engaged to a younger woman, aspiring actress Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney).

Development for Hollywoodland began in 2001 when Focus Features purchased Bernbaum's script, titled Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Michael and Mark Polish were set to direct with Benicio del Toro in the lead role, but Focus Features placed the film in turnaround to Miramax Films the following year. Ultimately, Truth, Justice, and the American Way became a joint production between the two studios and filming commenced in May 2005, with veteran television director Coulter making his feature film directorial debut. Due to copyright issues with DC Comics, the film was retitled Hollywoodland and released to generally positive reviews.

Plot

In June 1959, Louis Simo, a Los Angeles private investigator more interested in generating an income than in devotion to his clients, is spying on the wife of a man named Chester Sinclair to find if she is cheating. On a visit to his own ex-wife Laurie, Simo learns that his son is upset over the recent death of actor George Reeves, who played Superman on television. Reeves was found dead inside his Beverly Hills home with a gunshot wound to the head, which the police ruled as a suicide.

Simo learns from a former police colleague that the Reeves suicide has aspects that the cops do not want to touch. Sensing the potential for making a name for himself, Simo begins investigating and notes several apparent conflicts with the official version of Reeves' death. He also bickers with Laurie over his failures as a father, particularly now when his son seems so troubled.

Years before, in 1951, Reeves, whose acting career has stalled since appearing in Gone with the Wind, catches the eye of a beautiful woman and they end the night in each other's arms. In the morning, a newspaper photo reveals to Reeves that the woman is Toni Mannix, the wife of Eddie Mannix, the general manager of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Frightened that an affair with a studio boss's wife will destroy what is left of his career, Reeves is angry that Toni did not tell him. She claims to have an open relationship with Mannix and tells him not to worry. The much wealthier Toni begins to buy Reeves expensive gifts such as a house, a car and jewelry.

Reeves lands the starring role in the television series Adventures of Superman, based on the comic book hero. The role makes Reeves famous and gives him a steady income, but he longs for more "serious" work and is uncomfortable with the public's stereotype of him as Superman, resulting in snickers from the audience when he is seen on screen in a sneak preview of the war film From Here to Eternity. After film executives attending the preview heard the snickers, his formerly prominent role in the film was drastically reduced.

As the years pass, Reeves becomes bitter at being a kept man and at Toni for not using her clout to help out his career. He barbecues his Superman costume to "celebrate" the program's cancellation in 1958. He also meets a young woman in New York City, actress Leonore Lemmon, and leaves Toni for her. Toni is brokenhearted and furious and seethes at her "mistreatment" by Reeves.

Simo initially suspects that Leonore might have accidentally shot Reeves during an argument and imagines how the scenario might have played out. Simo is beaten at his home by thugs, apparently working for Mannix, who are trying to scare him off the case. This, and other evidence, leads Simo to suspect that Mannix was the one who had Reeves murdered. Simo has a vision of how that killing would have occurred.

Sinclair murders his wife, having grown impatient waiting for Simo's report. A guilt-plagued Simo gets drunk, then visits his son's school, where his inebriation scares the boy. Simo visits Reeves' manager, Arthur Weissman, who has a home movie that Reeves shot in order to promote some wrestling work. Reeves' sadness and disappointment with his life are evident in the footage. Simo's final imagined variation on Reeves' death concludes with the actor shooting himself. This is the most vivid of the three scenarios, and Simo imagines himself in the upstairs bedroom, watching the suicide.

Each of the scenes imagined by Simo begins with Reeves playing a guitar and singing "Green Eyes (Aquellos Ojos Verdes)" in Spanish for his house guests. After each of the three imagined renditions, Reeves says good night to his guests, then retires to his bedroom upstairs, just before the gunshot.

Reeves' quest for success and Simo's realization of parallels to his own existence cause the detective to reevaluate his life. Simo watches another home movie, this one of himself and Laurie and their son in happier days. He goes to Laurie's house wearing a suit and tie, greeting his son hopefully.

Cast

Production

Focus Features acquired a spec script written by Paul Bernbaum in December 2001 titled Truth, Justice, and the American Way. They courted Michael and Mark Polish to direct,[2] with Diane Lane attached to costar,[3] but Focus placed the film in turnaround in June 2002. Miramax Films picked up the rights and hoped for the Polish brothers to begin filming that year with Benicio del Toro as the potential lead,[4] a role also considered for Joaquin Phoenix. Kyle MacLachlan was in the running to play George Reeves, after an audition and having worked with the Polish brothers on Northfork,[5] while Hugh Jackman, Colin Firth and Mark Ruffalo were reportedly the top contenders.[6][7] However, the Polish brothers were replaced with television director Allen Coulter over creative differences.[8] Filming was pushed back to April 2004, and Del Toro was still attached to the lead role, pending script revisions. Ben Affleck, Dennis Quaid and Viggo Mortensen were added to the list of actors under consideration for George Reeves, alongside Sharon Stone and Annette Bening for Toni Mannix.[9] The film was finally greenlit when the project moved back to Focus Features in 2005, and Howard Korder was brought on to an unaccredited rewrite of Bernbaum's script.[10]

Adrien Brody was cast as Louis Simo and Affleck eventually won the supporting role of Reeves. He saw Truth, Justice, and the American Way as an opportunity to disassociate himself from the many big budget action films he had been starring in. It marked his first leading or supporting role in a film in two years. "I was really unhappy finding myself perpetually in the sights of paparazzi cameras and in the gossip magazines. This character was broken, but he’s also the archetype of all those kinds of guys I had played — the actual, real version, which is damaged and somehow unhappy and trying to be something other than what he is. And to me that made it infinitely more interesting."[5] Affleck watched all 108 episodes of the Adventures of Superman, met with Jack Larson, the actor who portrayed Jimmy Olsen in the TV show, read various books about Reeves' life and death, and gained 20 pounds to closely resemble the actor with contact lenses and subtle use of facial prosthesis. In addition he listened to hours of Reeves' voice on CD so he could get the same intonations and timbre.[11] Filming began in Toronto, Canada in May 2005.[12]

Focus Features was forbidden from showing the Superman 'S' in promotional materials.
Focus Features was forbidden from showing the Superman 'S' in promotional materials.

During its production, Hollywoodland went through many rounds of getting clearance from Warner Bros. Pictures to use different aspects of Reeves' Superman persona to reflect the actual nature of his career. Time Warner is the parent company of both Warner Bros. and DC Comics and, as such, has the final say in the depiction of characters relating to their properties. The film's first title was Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Superman's well-known patriotic catchphrase, but Warner Bros. threatened legal action unless the film's title was changed so as not to associate the classic slogan with Reeves' death—especially since Warner Bros. was banking the film Superman Returns, which was released a few months earlier in June 2006. The filmmakers changed the title to Hollywoodland, not as a reflection of the ailing Hollywood Sign, but in reference to the general milieu of "movieland" itself. The filmmakers wished to use the familiar filmed opening of Adventures of Superman in context within Hollywoodland, but Warner Bros. refused to license clips from the show itself. The movie recreated the show's opening and substituted a re-recorded version of the opening theme.[11]

Historical liberties

Hollywoodland takes liberties with actual historical events for dramatic purposes. Several events and places are condensed to fit into the film, including:

Reception

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 68% based on 186 reviews, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "More than a movie star murder mystery, Hollywoodland takes it slow in order to reveal the intriguing details of the rise and fall of superstar fame."[17] According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 62 out of 100 based on 33 critics, the film received "generally favorable reviews".[18]

Ben Affleck earned the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his portrayal as George Reeves.[19] He was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, but lost to Eddie Murphy for his performance in Dreamgirls. Hoskins and Lane were also applauded for their performances. Critics at The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair called Hollywoodland a possible Academy Award contender, but the film received no Oscar nominations.

Box office

Hollywoodland grossed $14.4 million in the United States and $2.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $16.8 million.[1]

The film grossed $6 million in its opening weekend, finishing second at the box office.

The film made $9.1 million in DVD rentals and a spot in the top ten DVD sales for its first three weeks of release.[20]

Accolades

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor Ben Affleck Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor
Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actor Won
Hollywood Film Awards Supporting Actor of the Year
Venice Film Festival Best Actor
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Best Cinematography Jonathan Freeman Nominated

References

  1. ^ a b "Hollywoodland (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  2. ^ Charles Lyons (2001-12-13). "Polish brothers set Reeves bio". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
  3. ^ Matt Hurwitz (2006-12-12). "Diane Lane, 'Hollywoodland'". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
  4. ^ Michael Fleming (2002-06-13). "M'Max shows 'Way'". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
  5. ^ a b Paul Cullum (2007-01-19). "Ben Affleck, 'Hollywoodland'". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
  6. ^ Jim Vejvoda (2002-08-23). "Travolta, Fraser, or MacLachlan as Superman?". IGN. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  7. ^ Stax (2002-08-30). "Jackman as Superman?!". IGN. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  8. ^ Kristopher Tapley (2006-08-20). "The (Tinsel) Town That Ate Superman". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  9. ^ Jim Vejvoda (2003-12-18). "Neo or Aragon as Superman?". IGN. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  10. ^ Justin Change (2005-05-04). "Kathleen Robertson, Robin Tunney". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
  11. ^ a b Jeffrey Ressner (2006-09-08). "Who Owns Superman?". Time. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  12. ^ Justin Chang (2005-05-11). "Bob Hoskins, Lois Smith, Dash Mihok". Variety. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
  13. ^ a b "Hollywoodland Movie True Story - Real George Reeves TV's Superman".
  14. ^ Donald, Elizabeth. "SuperGeek", Belleville News-Democrat, 6 June 2007
  15. ^ Variety, 17 August 2006
  16. ^ Cathy Schultz, PhD., History in The Movies. University of St. Francis, 2006
  17. ^ "Luca (2021)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  18. ^ "Hollywoodland Reviews". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  19. ^ Michelle Kung (2006-09-20). "Ben Strikes Again!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2014-10-09.
  20. ^ Rentrak Corporation, 3-3-2007.[full citation needed]