Now, under his Will Packer Productions banner, he can develop new, scripted projects. At 39-years-old, Packer is one of the youngest African American members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Packer’s first film under the new agreement will be the highly anticipated “Ride Along,” starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. The studio will release the film in January 2014. Packer produces the film alongside Cube, Matt Alvarez and Larry Brezner.
Chairman of Universal Pictures Donna Langley said of Packer: “Will is driven by a boundless energy that drives his relationships and permeates his films. We’ve cherished our experience working with him on Ride Along and cannot wait to collaborate with him on more films in the years to come.”
Packer’s films to date have grossed over $350 million worldwide. The four films he produced, including Screen Gems’ “Stomp the Yard,” “Takers,” “Obsessed” and “Think Like A Man,” each opened number one at the U.S. box office.
In addition to “Ride Along,” Packer has three other films coming out in 2014 including Screen Gems’ “About Last Night” starring Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Regina Hall and Kevin Hart (February 14, 2014); “Think Like A Man Too” starring Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Terrence J, Regina Hall, Jerry Ferrara and Romany Malco (June 20, 2014); and “No Good Deed” starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson in the fall. He recently wrapped production on Screen Gems’ The Wedding Ringer, starring Josh Gad and Kevin Hart, slated for a February 6, 2015 release.
*Verizon says it is “America’s largest 4G LTE network” and at the 2013 Essence Festival the nation’s second largest wireless carrier had a big celebrity presence at its booth.
The Verizon booth at the festival featured the best in music, movies and sports. Grammy Award winner Chrisette Michele was among the stars that came out for a “meet and greet” with fans.
Later she joined filmmaker Will Packer for a question and answer session after dinner with journalists at Dooky Chase, a restaurant in the Big Easy lauded for its sumptuous creole cuisine.
Michele recalled once having a titanium flip phone and she says, “You chirped on it.”
The “Blame It On Me” singer maintained, “Everybody who had that was real cool and was the coolest person around. That’s how long I’ve had Verizon service. It’s always the fastest service.”
Packer, who produced such movies as the 2013 BET Awards winner “Think Like A Man,” agreed that Verizon is better than their competitors.
“The network is great, but they also have the best product line. For me that’s what’s very important. I have to have the latest and greatest. I can’t afford to send an e-mail or text or receive dailies and it’s late – that literally may have, like you know, a million dollar impact on a movie that I’m shooting. It’s just that important that I have my stuff when I need it.”
Torod Neptune, Vice President of Communications for Verizon explains that they believe in making the needs of consumers number one, “With us you think about the network – in terms of the speed and the reliability and consistency that’s available. Also, about the entire retail experience that we have for our customers at any of our nearly 2,000 retail stores around the country.”
More about Verizon and the celebrity dinner in Tene’ Croom’s video:
*It’s definitely good to be Producer Will Packer these days.
Packer recently closed a two-year overall deal with Universal Television, according to his publicist, Staci R. Collins Jackson. The deal marks Packer’s first overall television deal.
Packer, 39, is piling up the producer credits with hits like “Think Like A Man,” “Takers,” “Obsessed” and “Stomp the Yard” — which all opened #1 at the box office, in case you didn’t know or forgot.
“We are excited to work with Will. We have been impressed by his keen eye on the feature side with the several hit movies he’s produced. We are looking forward to bringing his enthusiasm and expertise into television,” said Bela Bajaria, Executive Vice-President, Universal TV.
Like we said, Will Packer’s a busty guy. He will debut four films in 2014: Universal’s “Ride Along” starring Ice Cube, Kevin Hart and John Leguizamo (January 17, 2014), Screen Gems’ “About Last Night” starring Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Regina Hall and Paula Patton (February 14, 2014), “No Good Deed” starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson (April 25, 2014) and the highly-anticipated sequel, “Think Like A Man Too” is slated for release on June 20, 2014.
On top of that, Packer will next produce Screen Gems’ “Wedding Ringers” starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad in September.
Clint Culpepper & Will Packer (photo: Haywood Galbreath)
*The African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) honored the special achievements of iconic actress Cicely Tyson, vanguard film studio Screen Gems and the renowned Pan African Film Festival.
During this year’s ceremony, the organization also introduced its Ashley Boone Award, named for the pioneering former president at Fox Studios, which was presented to Will Packer and Rob Hardy’s Rainforest Films.
The invitation only event was presented during a private luncheon last Friday (February 22, 2013) at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, CA.
A former secretary turned actress, Cicely Tyson received AAFCA’s “Legacy Award” for her work in cinema over the last five decades. The venerable Pan African Film Festival, represented by co-founder Ja’Net DuBois, was recognized for its 25-year history of providing support to emerging African-American filmmakers.
Screen Gems and Rainforest Films jointly received AAFCA’s “Cinema Vanguard Award” for their exemplary commitment for diversity in film. Receiving the award for Rainforest was Will Packer and Clint Culpepper for Screen Gems.
“It is a privilege and an honor to bestow AAFCA’s Special Achievement Awards to these great individuals and organizations,” said AAFCA founder and president, Gil Robertson IV. “Each of our special honorees has added significant value to their respective crafts while also paving the way for emerging talent in this business.”
Actress Regina Hall, Rani Du’Bois, Screen Gems President Clint Culpepper, Ja’Net DuBois, filmmaker Will Packer, Screen Gems executive James Lopez and Director Tim Story (Photo: Haywood Galbreath)
*Tevyn Cole is one of the newest members of the Disney cast.
He recently relocated to Orlando to work in the merchandising department for the next eight months as a college intern.
Cole, who is a junior at Eastern Michigan University, is no stranger to Disney. He was a member of the 2008 inaugural class of the Steve Harvey Disney’s Dreamers Academy (DDA) and has returned twice as a featured Disney’s Dreamers Alumni. This year, Cole was Disney’s TV host for day one of the 2012 DDA. He is extremely excited about this new venture and his future possibilities with Disney. “Joining the Disney company as a cast member is one of the greatest feelings anyone could experience. I now work at the place where dreams come true! I hope to create magical moments for our guests, as well as for myself,” says Cole.
Tevyn Cole, is the 19 yrs. old owner of School Me Clothing. He started the company nine years ago, just about as long as he has dreamed of being a Disney cast member. “My childhood dreams all started with Disney. I wanted to be on the Disney channel as an actor. Since such a young age, the vision hasn’t changed much. I still dream of joining Disney entertainment,” says Cole. Cole plans to take full advantage of his time at Disney by learning about the company and connecting with as many people as he can. “My foot is finally in the door! Through this experience as an intern, my goal is to build strong connections with other Disney cast members and network my way into fulfilling my childhood dreams.”
About School Me Clothing:
School Me Clothing was developed in 2003 by, a then 10 yrs. old, Tevyn Cole. The company was created to educate the youth about Black history. The apparel line was developed as an answer to the lack of Black history taught in public schools. The shirts and jeans display various graphics, dates and messages that represent a Black inventor or historic moment in Black history. After nine years, School Me has been introduced to and supported by many of the industry’s top leaders in entertainment, fashion and music. School Me apparel has been featured in music videos and worn by several celebrities. President Barack Obama, Will and Jada Smith, Diggy Simmons, Will Packer, Stephen Hill, Keyshia Cole, Jesse Jackson, Disney’s Kyle Massey, Mo’Nique, Farrah Gray and Laila Ali are amongst the many celebrities with School Me shirts. More information is available at www.schoolmeclothing.com.
*EURweb’s Lee Bailey recently spoke with an eager Deitrick Haddon, who has now thrown his film producer hat in the ring with a second movie on the way.
Haddon has a track record in the gospel world as an artist, producer and pastor now he’s going for the kind of success that Tyler Perry and Will Packer have had at the box office.
This weekend Packer’s production of Steve Harvey’s “Think Like A Man” shattered box office expectations by raking in an impressive $33 million dollars in a romantic comedy led by an all black cast. It is revolutionary when a film can cross cultural boundaries and rank at number one. It has happened before, but it is still a novelty. The leap of theatrical faith is even more pronounced when it comes to gospel oriented movies. Deitrick Haddon is well aware of the obstacles, but he is focused on amassing supernatural success with the Jeff Byrd directed “A Beautiful Soul.”
Haddon: “We’re going to theaters May 4th and this is definitely a promise of God manifested. We need you (the fans)! We got faith, we got God and we got you!”
EURweb has been forewarned that Deitrick Haddon does not play a choir boy in this film which hits select theaters May 4th. In “A Beautiful Soul” fans will see Haddon’s portrayal of Andre Stephens, an R&B sensation whose life is shattered when a member of his entourage is brutally attacked.
Haddon: “When people watch this, I need you to differentiate the person on the screen from Deitrick, the man that you know that sings gospel music because on there I am a straight heathen. So all y’all religious folks that can’t differentiate the two, you may have a problem with it. But I know exactly what God has called me to do. I got to tell this story and deliver this message because it’s important for people to know that whoever they are, they have a beautiful soul.”
The accomplished production team consists of industry veterans Dominique Telson (“Cancel Christmas,” “The Santa Suit”), Felicia Henderson, ( Soul Food TV series), and Holly Carter (producer of “The Gospel” and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”). Byrant T. Scott (Tyscot Records) Executive Produces along with Jeff Byrd and Pastor Haddon.
Deitrick may have indeed forged the right combination for cinematic success but he clings closely to his roots that started it all, and that is the music. In this clip he exposes a sneak peek behind the scenes during the making of the Beautiful Soul soundtrack, featuring Deitrick Haddon, Faith Evans, KeKe Sheard and more. Pre-orders are strongly suggested.
For more on the “A Beautiful Soul”movie and soundtrack, visit the official sites. The movie opens in twelve markets and all in AMC Theaters. The soundtrack drops May 1st 2012.
*Riding high as a box office success, “Think Like A Man,” the film adaptation of Steve Harvey’s “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment” is not short on ingredients for something worth talking about.
While having an all-star cast (Kevin Hart, Megan Good, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Terrence J, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara, Jennifer Lewis and Gary Owen) is comforting, it’s equally fulfilling to have a not so hidden asset make himself known in a memorable way. Such is the case with Producer Will Packer, who also did duty in front of the camera by trading lines with Hart for a particular bathroom scene.
“I really literally did not have an actor for that scene,” Packer confessed to EURweb’s Lee Bailey. “And Kev didn’t know who was gonna be in the scene with (him) until literally right before we shot it. He was like ‘Wait a minute. Hold on. Let me get this straight. You’re taking a job from a working actor?’ He gave me a hard time. He gave me s*** is what he gave me. But it was fun. It was me getting a chance to just have fun.”
Packer’s appearance in the film marks his latest on camera foray. The Rainforest Films co-founder previously appeared in the 2000 romantic thriller “Trois.” While he enjoyed his screen time, don’t expect Packer to follow in the footsteps of Spike Lee with his onscreen face time equaling his time on the other side of the film camera.
“Spike does it on a big level. He’s a real character in his films,” said Packer of his onscreen face time. “I have on several of my films done a little sneak here and there. This one is probably the most … it’s the biggest cameo I’ve had since “Trois.”
Packer’s fun with his scene in “Think Like a Man” came courtesy of Hart’s ability to improvise on the spot to make the scene a stand out.
“It was in the script that a guy comes out the bathroom and Kev does make a ‘You don’t wash your hands’ joke. But the whole ‘who takes a s*** with a hat on?’ and all of that … he made up all of that. He was just having fun with it. And I’m always wearin’ a hat so I came out with the hat and so he just pointed that out. It’s funny. It was a fun scene,” Packer said. “When you work with Kevin Hart, you’re gonna give him a script and you hope that he at least familiarizes himself with half of it. But he comes in and he makes magic out of whatever you got on that page. That was an example of another scene where he took it around with us.”
Packer isn’t the only person to show up for a quick scene in “Think Like a Man.” Among those providing a cameo are singers Chris Brown, Kelly Rowland and Keri Hilson as well as actor Morris Chestnut, comedian JB Smoove and Wendy Williams. And unless you’ve seen the film, you’ll never guess what role she’s playing.
Overall, Packer has no trouble voicing how proud he is of “Think Like a Man,” a project he says was “two plus years in the making, pulling it together.” The same feeling is expressed by Union, who believes her latest feature will remain with her and on the minds of filmgoers for years to come.
“It’s one of those few that literally people laugh, they cry. It’s truly entertaining. And you don’t get a lot of these in your career,” she said. “People are gonna be talking about this for a long, long time. Sometimes you’re able to catch lightening in a bottle and we did. And I’m just incredibly proud of it.”
*In entertainment, variety is the golden ticket. With actors and directors, it makes or breaks selecting a role and or rolling the dice on a project that can potentially open the door for a diversified catalogue of future game changers.
For Will Packer, variety is a professional way of life, as evidenced in his role as producer for the new romantic comedy “Think Like a Man.” The film, based on Steve Harvey’s best-selling book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment,” marks the latest change of pace for the Rainforest Films co-founder as he welcomed the chance to give moviegoers something to laugh at.
“I’ve always tried to be a filmmaker that’s done a variety,” Packer told EUR’s Lee Bailey about his “first out and out comedy” while reflecting on past work. “I mean I’ve had a dance movie. I’ve had a drama. I had a thriller in “Obsessed.” I’ve done a variety to different genres. So this being a comedy is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Directed by Tim Story, “Think Like a Man” revolves around four men whose love lives are affected when the women they are pursuing buy Harvey’s page-turner and start taking the author/comedian/nationally syndicated radio host’s advice to heart. Upon realizing a man is responsible for their women’s new mind-state, the men set out to use the book’s information to their advantage as they plot to turn the tables on the women and teach them a lesson.
Although his company is producing “Think Like a Man,” Packer is quick to say it was a collaborative effort to bring “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” to the big screen.
“It was something that myself along with (Columbia/Screen Gems president) Clint Culpepper up in the studio…we said we wanna make a movie that would appeal to guys and women. And how do you do that with a book that’s primarily written for women? Well, you tell it through the eyes of the guys and that’s kinda where that idea came from, to make it more universally appealing,” he explained. “When I first approached him [Harvey], I didn’t know exactly…I told him my vision for the film was to do something that was true to the essence of the book, which is like kinda straight talk, no chaser, keepin’ it real. Something that talked about men and the way we see relationships and women and the way they see them.
“I didn’t know exactly how we were gonna execute that, but I wanted it to be something that felt universal and had universal themes because that’s how his book is,” Packer added. “And he bought into that vision. He said ‘You know what? That’s the type of movie I want to see made on this book.’”
Kevin Hart & Will Packer
While it could’ve been easy to make an R-rated version of “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” Packer opted for a PG-13 rating.
“It’s an adult relationship movie. It’s about people who are adults and trying to live, love, laugh and cohabitate, live together. It’s a battle of the sexes…We didn’t want to go there with a hard R rating. We wanted it to be more appealing. I don’t think there’s any need to have a hard R rating with this type of film.”
Up next for Packer is pre-production on “No Good Deed,” a new thriller reuniting him with Taraji P. Henson and Idris Elba.
“We’re shooting that in Atlanta. I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be good,” Packer stated. “It’s gonna be something that you have not seen African-American actors in a film like this… It wasn’t written with African-American actors in mind. I can tell you that. I think it gives it some flavor.”
*Will Packer, producer of Steve Harvey’s upcoming film “Think Like A Man,” took part in inspiring the 100 youth invited to the mentoring program, Disney’s Dreamer’s Academy today, Friday (3-9-12).
Not only did he speak with a select group of students about how to pitch the next big film, he also participated in a Q & A along with BET’s President of Entertainment, Stephen Hill, and 106 & Park Host Terrence J – who also coincidentally stars in the upcoming “Think Like A Man.”
According to Packer, if there’s one thing he’d like the teens to take way from the experience of Disney’s Dreamer’s Academy it is:
“To believe in yourself because a lot of these kids have had that torn down a little bit and I would love to help lift that up.” Packer believes that when kids have that kind of support they can “be great.”
Meanwhile, being that he’s become one of the hottest film producer’s in Hollywood – Will Packer already has an idea about taking the concept of the Disney Dreamer’s Academy and making it into a television series or possibly a documentary. He absolutely believes there’s an entertainment component to the program and feels that it could be packaged in a compelling way.
Of course that would all have to wait since “Think Like a Man,” is the current big thing on Will Packer’s plate. The film, which stars Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J., Meagan Good and more, hits theaters April 20.
*For twenty years Ayuko Babu (pictured) has set at the helm of what was once perceived as an impossible dream.
Undaunted by the challenges, he trudged forth with the noble assistance of Danny Glover and Ja’Net Dubois and founded the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF). Babu is an African Affairs specialist in legal, cultural, and political affairs. Glover and Dubois are award winning actors who are graciously involved in cultural and political activism. The PAFF quickly established its non-profit status and has continued to promote ethnic & racial respect, as well as tolerance, through the exhibit of film, art and creative expression.
Ayuko Babu describes his sentiments about PAFF’s 20th year:
“What’s most exciting is that what we set out to do is happening in the sense that we knew that African people, African Americans, continental born Africans and Africans born in the Caribbean were really interested in our stories. The fact is that overwhelmingly black folks (from day one) have been interested in hearing our stories and reporting our stories from around the world.”
The PAFF is embodies a spirit of celebration for filmmakers, artists and patrons but with that Babu admits to recurring challenges:
“The two most challenging issues that have always plagued Africans in this country is institutional racism and a lack of capitol. If we had the capitol, if were funded like Cannes is funded (referring to the Cannes Film Festival), we would be off the charts. We already have more people coming to our festival than the Sundance Festival. Sundance only has 20,000 people. We get 35,000 to come see the films and 100,000 to come see the art. We have no doubt that if we had capitol we could triple or quadruple the films, the interest and the energy, and we would be in more cities, and be on television more because there is an interest worldwide in black folks’ stories.”
Babu further explains his take on institutional racism as it relates to black films:
“The way institutional racism works is that the institutions that we deal with… the studios, the independent distributors, they still have a white bureau-centric view of what black folks are interested in. They (these institutions) make decisions institutionally based on what gets made, what doesn’t get made, what films get pushed and what doesn’t.”
In this EURweb.com Exclusive Audio, The Pan African Film Festival co-founder issues this call to action as it relates to art, culture and politics for conscientious African Americans.
Opening night promises to be a star studded crowd pleaser at the Pan African Film Festival. Screen Gems and producer Will Packer will take the lead with the Steve Harvey film “Think Like A Man.” That event will be hosted at the Archlight Cinerama Dome Theater in Hollywood. The film is based on the book by Steve Harvey and is directed by Tim Story and written by Keith Merryman and David A.Newman. The stars include Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Gary Owen and Gabrielle Union.
Unless noted, all of the other 150 films from 30 countries will be shown on 15 screens from February 9th-20th at the Rave Cinemas in the famed Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles, California.
Sponsors for the 2012 Pan African Film Festival include Macy’s Wells Fargo, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Sony Pictures, The Brotherhood Crusade, The Africa Channel, The Directors Guild of America, special support by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and many others.
The Pan African Film Festival also ushers in a customized award season with prizes for Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature, and Best First Feature Film, as well as Audience Favorite Awards.
For a full line up of films and for ticket information, go to www.paff.org or call (310)337-4737
*Los Angeles, CA – Production for “Think Like a Man” has begun in Los Angeles, CA. The highly-anticipated comedy is an adaptation of comedian and nationally-syndicated radio host Steve Harvey’s New York Times best-selling book, “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man.”
In the film, four interconnected and diverse friends have their love lives shaken up after the women they are pursuing buy Steve Harvey’s book and start taking his advice to heart. When the band of brothers find out that they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire to use the book’s teachings to turn the tables.
The film stars Michael Ealy (Takers, For Colored Girls), Jerry Ferrara (Entourage), Meagan Good (Jumping The Broom, Stomp The Yard), Regina Hall (Scary Movie, Law Abiding Citizen), Kevin Hart (Death At A Funeral, Not Easily Broken), Taraji P. Henson (Hustle & Flow, Karate Kid), Terrance J (BET’s 106 & Park, Stomp The Yard: Homecoming), Romany Malco (40 Year Old Virgin, No Ordinary Family), Gary Owen (Little Man, Daddy Day Care) and Gabrielle Union (Cadillac Records, Bad Boys II) featuring Lala Vazquez (Two Can Play That Game) and Arielle Kebbel (Vampire Diaries, The Uninvited). Tim Story (Fantastic Four, Barbershop) will direct.
Will Packer (Stomp The Yard, Obsessed, Takers) will produce via his Rainforest Films banner.
“Steve Harvey has established himself as one of the funniest and most insightful voices in America. That coupled with an incredible cast makes this an exciting venture,” says Packer.
The screenplay was written by Keith Merryman & David A. Newman. Steve Harvey, Rushion McDonald and Rob Hardy will executive produce. “Think Like a Man” is scheduled for release on April 6, 2012.
*This Father’s Day is going to be a little different in Dallas. Comedian, radio personality, and “Family Feud” host Steve Harvey will be hosting the 3rd Annual Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend for Young Men. It’s going to be a 4-day, 3-night weekend all about teaching principles of manhood and dream building with 125 teenage boys.
The goal of the program is to break the misguided traits of manhood through frank talk, team-building activities and workshops led by educational supporters, entrepreneurs and other business and entertainment leaders including Dr. Steve Perry, Will Packer, John Hope Bryant, Terrence J, Stephen A. Smith, Lee Haney and more.
Sessions will include discussions and workshops on careers, music, and other fun and educational topics.
Parents and chaperones will also have the opportunity to be a part of dynamic workshops and seminars on self-image, how to be better sons, husbands, and fathers.
*A new 24-hour/seven-day-a-week broadcast television network based in Atlanta and targeted toward African-Americans is set to debut this fall from founders Martin Luther King III, Andrew Young and Andrew “Bo” Young III.
Bounce TV announced Monday it will target African-Americans between the ages of 25-54 with a programming slate featuring theatrical motion pictures, live sporting events, documentaries, specials, inspirational faith-based programs, off-net series and original programming.
“I am proud that our network will deliver free programming exclusively for our under-served community and be accessible to all homes around the country and not just those who pay for television. We look forward to Bounce TV entertaining African American viewers for many years to come,” commented Ambassador Young.
So far, the network has gained TV rights to nearly 400 motion pictures through multi-year licensing agreements with NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, Sony Pictures Television, Codeblack Entertainment and Image Entertainment.
The network also inked a multi-year rights agreement with Urban Sports Entertainment Group (USEG) to televise both football and basketball games from the nation’s largest African-American athletic conference — the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
“My father envisioned the day that African Americans would play major roles in entertainment within ownership, not just serve as entertainers on the stage or in front of the cameras. That’s what makes this even more exciting to me as we embark on this new endeavor of an independently owned and operated broadcast television network featuring African Americans,” said Mr. King III, a member of Bounce TV’s Board of Directors.
Rob Hardy and Will Packer, co-founders of Rainforest Films, one of the top African-American production companies in the world, will also play important roles with Bounce TV. Hardy will serve as chief content officer while Packer will be chief strategy and marketing officer.
Former Turner Broadcasting System Inc. executives Ryan Glover and Jonathan Katz will serve as executive vice presidents.
Below, a sample of the films already acquired for broadcast on Bounce TV:
Among the fare through deal with NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution: Jamie Foxx’s 2004 Academy Award-winning performance as Ray Charles in Ray; Denzel Washington’s Academy Award-nominated role in The Hurricane; The Bone Collector, which pairs Washington with Angelina Jolie; Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Mo’ Better Blues; The Nutty Professor I and II, starring Eddie Murphy; Bowfinger starring Murphy and Steve Martin; Michael Jackson and Diana Ross headlining The Wiz; the 1995 comedy Major Payne with Damon Wayans; Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2005) and the 1976 classic Car Wash.
Among the titles through deal with Sony Pictures Television: Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning performance opposite Denzel Washington in Philadelphia; Washington in the Civil War epic Glory and in Devil in a Blue Dress; Will Smith’s tour-de-force as Ali; Director John Singleton’s Boyz ‘n The Hood; Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson teaming in I Spy; 1985 Best Picture nominee A Soldier’s Story; Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in Stir Crazy; Pryor in The Toy; Sidney Poitier’s classic A Raisin in the Sun; and Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice.
*Once upon a time the role of an African American in films was less than desirable, but time has witnessed the evolution of the black actor/actress, the black director and now it appears as though the black film production company is making its way to the head of the pack as well. Rainforest Films is no stranger to the game. Since Will Packer and Rob Hardy released “Trois” back in 2000 they’ve been working hard to expand their brand.
With “Takers” it seems as though they’ve taken it to the next level. With an ensemble cast that features Idris Elba, T.I., Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Matt Dillon, Zoe Saldana among others, “Takers” delivers on the excitement from the opening scene. We don’t want to be spoilers, but it looks like an instant classic for this generation to us.
“That’s the dream. To have a movie that people will consider a classic,” co-producer Will Packer tells EURweb’s Lee Bailey. “I mean all you work for as a filmmaker is to put your product out there. Most filmmakers don’t make a film just for themselves. You make it for other people. You make it to be received a certain way. Then you make it to make a bunch of money, you make it for the critics, most filmmakers try to do both. But you make so that it is received by a certain audience somewhere. So, to make a film that even has the possibility of being considered a classic? That would be the ultimate gratification. It would really be validation for all the hard work and effort that I’ve put in. I’ve been blessed enough to have some successful films, I am very proud of this one.”
Oh yeah, in case you wondering what “Takers” is all about, here’s a synopsis:
“Takers” takes you into the world of a notorious group of criminals who continue to baffle police by pulling off perfectly executed bank robberies. They are in and out like clockwork, leaving no evidence behind and laying low between heists. But when they attempt to pull off one last job with more money at stake than ever before, the crew may find their plans interrupted by a hardened detective who is hell-bent on solving the case.
(Scroll down to view the film’s trailer.)
A scene from 'Takers'
Again, as much as we want to blurt it all out, we don’t want to be a spoiler. But we just have to say T.I. did his thing. He truly became the character.
“That’s a testament to him,” said Packer. “That’s a testament to the job he did with the portrayal of that character. He did an excellent job. With that character of Ghost we needed somebody that was charismatic, likeable, but had edge. A lot of edge and swagger and that’s him, T.I., naturally. If we had cast that differently it wouldn’t have quite been the same. A lot of people come in with expectations for he and Chris Brown in this film and they exceeded them all.”
Chris Brown and T.I. in 'Takers'
EURweb.com has been covering Rainforest Films from day one. We showed “Trois” and its cast a tremendous amount of love 10 years ago. We’re not certain whether anyone remembers but there weren’t many films that were written, produced, directed and starring African Americans, so covering it was our pleasure. We’ve witnessed Packer take it to the next level with “Stomp the Yard,” “This Christmas,” “Obsessed” and now “Takers” is turning heads.
“This is huge for myself and for Rainforest Films,” Packer humbly admitted. “We started off as a small production company. Two kids with a dream at Florida A&M University. We want to take this as a stepping stone to other things. The reality of it is I want to take this film and do bigger budget films, other genres: sci-fi, horror, comedy, comic book hero. I want to do it all.”
Chris Brown and Michael play brothers in 'Takers'
And we suspect that it won’t be long before Rob Hardy and Will Packer have their hands in those genres. In the mean time Packer tells us about his upcoming projects that are being released and those in development.
“The next one to be released is “Stomp the Yard: Homecoming”, that’s about to be released soon. I am also in development on a couple of projects. I’ve got this adaptation of the Steve Harvey bestseller “Act like a Man, Think like a Woman.” I’m also working on the biopic of Kemba Smith, a story that’s near and dear to me. It’s the true story of a woman that was sentenced to over 24 years in prison because she was dating somebody who was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. Bill Clinton pardoned her before he left office. Then some other really cool projects that I’m looking to line up. We’re not going to stop, that’s for sure. I only want to go up from there.”
Paul Walker, Idris Elba and Hayden Christensen star in 'Takers'
It’s great to see that he is mixing in projects like the Kemba Smith story, one that is sure to cause an intense emotional reaction in the viewer. Being wrongfully accused is something almost anyone can relate to. Meanwhile Rainforest Films is ready to bask in the glow of yet another quality offering.
“I am excited about “Takers” because it is an opportunity for me to show a diverse cast and to show them in the type of film that you do not traditionally see in Hollywood fare and if there’s anything that I want people to take away from this is that this is another Will Packer film that didn’t waste a hour and a half of my life. It’s entertaining, it’s fun, it’s a thrill ride, it’s smart and I hope audiences will see it and enjoy it.”
“Takers” opens this weekend, in theaters nationwide. Critics are showering the film with accolades and we’re thrilled to give “Takers” a big thumbs up. Watching a dream develop into reality is a sight to see. What a difference 10 years makes!