Lorenzo di Bonaventura knows how to make a summer blockbuster. Transformers scored $70.5 million opening weekend in 2007, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen topped that with nearly $109 million in 2009, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra posted a $54.7 million start just after that, and then Transformers: Dark of the Moon pulled in $97.9 million its first weekend out in the summer of 2011. Now the question is, can he take a long-range success and turn it into one of those summer tentpoles?
RED opened in October of 2010 with a moderate $21.8 million. Considering the film had a $58 million production tab, $21.8 million is sufficient, but also doesn’t necessarily scream franchise-worthy. However, then RED went on to spend a whopping four months in theaters, never losing more than 50.1% of its profits in a single weekend, which let it end its theatrical run with a domestic grand total of $90.4 million and a worldwide total of $199 million. Now a number like that deserves a sequel – which is why summer 2013 brings us RED 2.
While in New York City supporting RED 2’s July 19th release, di Bonaventura explained that it actually wasn’t the film’s impressive theatrical run that inspired the team to give it another go, but more specifically, the film’s appeal to a broader audience than they expected:
“Well, it did that unusual thing now, which is it played for four months in the theaters, you know? Honestly, even coming out of the theaters, I don’t know that we thought it would necessarily generate that, but what happened was the DVD and the rental market was gigantic for it. It began going down, instead of our original audience, it became a family audience and a lot of kids watched it, and we were all very cognizant of the fact that the audience was shifting on us in a really good way and big way, and that’s, in a way, what stimulated the sequel.”
But that still begs the question: Is RED 2 a summer movie? Come July 19th, it’ll go head-to-head with three other highly-anticipated features – The Conjuring, R.I.P.D., and Turbo. Fortunately for all four, there isn’t all that much genre overlap, but they’re still bound to step on each other’s toes. Di Bonaventura admitted making the move from October to July is a risk, but he’s hopeful that RED 2 will make its mark:
“That’s the worst part of all this is picking your release date and then hoping to god you pick the right one because you have no idea. You can use as much intelligence and analysis as you want. At the end of the day, was it a good idea? We’ll know a few weeks after our release, probably. Or maybe we’ll know Friday night. You never know.
Lionsgate and Summit, they wanted this movie to be bigger and so, you know, it is a bigger movie than the first movie and we have great additions to the cast, so they thought they could compete in the summer. I hope they’re right. We’re rooting for it, that’s for sure!”
If a bigger cast and a more expansive production mean more success at the box office, RED 2 is certainly on the right track. In the sequel, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is back and, again, trying to live the happily retired life, but this time with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) by his side. That all comes to a crashing halt when John Malkovich’s Marvin steps back in to warn Frank that an old case has returned to bite them in the you-know-what. They’ve been linked to a Cold War weapon known as Nightshade, a potentially devastating device that vanished on their watch.
Now it’s back and the US government and MI6 think they know where it is so dispatch assassins to hunt them down. MI6 calls in Victoria (Helen Mirren) and the US hires Han (Byung Hun Lee), a deadly contract killer whose got some unfinished business with Frank. In an effort to put an end to all of this, Frank, Sarah, and Marvin travel the globe and run into curious characters like David Thewlis’ The Frog, Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Katja, and Anthony Hopkins’ Edward Bailey while trying to track down and disable Nightshade.
You think that’s a lot of big names? Should RED 2 warrant a third film, the cast will only get bigger. Di Bonaventura noted that he’s already been approached by agents and managers regarding clients interest in becoming Retired and Extremely Dangerous. And that’s not just a new development that came with the success of the original. Di Bonaventura recalled their good fortune with casting right from the start:
“I think the easy part of the process has been casting, continuously, because we have very singular characters so actors want to do that. It was funny, in the first movie, we said to ourselves, ‘Who’s Frank?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, of course it’s Bruce Willis.’ We went to Bruce Willis. He said yes. And, you know, we were like, ‘Who’s Victoria?’ ‘Well, Helen Mirren.’ There was a little debate for us with Meryl Streep. Then it started going to, ‘Who’s Marvin?’ ‘John Malkovich,’ who actually, originally, was unable to do it because Spider-Man 4. He was gonna be the villain, I think. And then that fell apart. In the meantime, John C. Reilly had come aboard and then he had bailed on us, unceremoniously, and we got our first choice back, which was great!”
The RED movies are truly an instance where it’s very fortunate they wound up securing all their top choices because after catching the first film and then the second, it’s just so clear that they wouldn’t be the same movies without Willis, Mirren, Malkovich, Parker, and now Hopkins, too. As much as they all do need to lose themselves in their roles to a degree, part of the fun of this series is seeing these specific actors engaging in such outrageous violence, action, and banter.
You’ll see for yourself when RED 2 arrives in theaters on Friday, July 19th, but in the meantime, check out our full interview with di Bonaventura to hear more about the producing challenges he faced putting the new film together, find out how many projects he’s truly developing, the state of the Four Brothers sequel, Five Brothers, and more.
RED 2 will get a wide release on Friday, July 19, 2013.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.