Richard Kelly hit a sneaky inside-the-park homerun in his first at bat with Donnie Darko, in that no one saw it in the theaters and it’s unusual resurgence was much later on DVD. However, Kelly’s follow up was a failure in every conceivable way. Southland Tales was booed at Cannes, forced into reedits, it was a critical bomb and box office turd (though for a movie that did only $275,000 [yes, thousand!] at the box office there has to be another adjective than turd right?) in every way.
So, Kelly needs a hit. He doesn’t need a homerun, but he needs a clean single or preferably a double. He’s talented sure. So here’s hoping Southland Tales was the byproduct of hubris. The 32-year-old’s new movie is based on a 1970 Richard Matheson short story.
The Box stars James Marsden and Cameron Diaz as a suburban couple with a young child who receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, played by Frank Langella, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world?someone they don?t know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the crosshairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.
The premise sounds cool, but with a premise like that it really relies on the execution and marketing. That Kelly has sided up with Warner Brothers indicates he knows what’s at stake in terms of his career with this movie. USA Today has a first look at the producton.
“God bless Cameron Diaz. The second she signed on, our lives changed in a great way,” Kelly says on location at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Wrapping up the film’s final week, he spent a long day shooting inside a cavernous wind tunnel and atop a gantry, a 240-foot-high erector-set-style structure once used to train Apollo astronauts.
Kelly settles back to reflect on what he calls his “first grown-up film,” whose opening date is yet to be determined.
“We made Donnie Darko when we were 25, so obviously that has an innocence about it,” he says of his unnerving high-school fable made with producer pal Sean McKittrick. The political satire Southland Tales, on DVD March 18, “is punk rock and rebellious. We love that about it.” Still, the film was barely in theaters, grossing only $273,420 on a nearly $18 million budget. “There is no place for small movies to catch fire,” he says. “We got with Warner Bros. as a means of survival.”
He is ready to go commercial. “With The Box, I hope to make a more mainstream popcorn film.”
Don’t expect Kelly to reign in his vision. He’s still going with 70’s kitsch, there’s teleporting and the 1976 Viking Mission in this $30 million dollar movie.