PopPolitics: Tony Gilroy on Why It Took Decades to Make ‘Beirut’ (Listen)

WASHINGTON — Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of the new political thriller “Beirut,” says that he originally completed the script in the early 1990s, thinking that production company Interscope would give it a green light. Instead, “it just disappears and goes in a bin,” Gilroy tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM, before the company, searching for material […]

WASHINGTON — Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of the new political thriller “Beirut,” says that he originally completed the script in the early 1990s, thinking that production company Interscope would give it a green light. Instead, “it just disappears and goes in a bin,” Gilroy tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM, before the company, searching for material […]

‘Grace Jones’ Slays Competition, ‘Rider’ Rock-Solid: Specialty Box Office

Kino Lorber documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami debuted to robust numbers over the weekend, grossing $60,442 in three locations, giving it an impressive $20,147 per theater average.
That’s the highest of the weekend and one of the best among all 2018 non-fiction openings. The same distributor also bowed Hitler’s Hollywood with an exclusive showing, taking in $10,177.
Sony Classics rode The Rider into a trio of runs starting Friday for a solid $45,268 start…

Kino Lorber documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami debuted to robust numbers over the weekend, grossing $60,442 in three locations, giving it an impressive $20,147 per theater average. That’s the highest of the weekend and one of the best among all 2018 non-fiction openings. The same distributor also bowed Hitler's Hollywood with an exclusive showing, taking in $10,177. Sony Classics rode The Rider into a trio of runs starting Friday for a solid $45,268 start…

‘Beirut’ Film Review: Jon Hamm Mired in Muddled Middle-East Tale

“Beirut” is a complicated movie about complicated people in a complicated situation. (Bear with me.) Its narrative complexity is nothing if not constant. If screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s objective was to encourage audiences to pay attention to the details, then he’s probably succeeded.

In short: “Beirut” revolves around former U.S. diplomat Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a drunk and wayward “expert negotiator” who was booted out of government work at the tail-end of 1972. During the intervening decade, Cal (Mark Pellegrino, “Supernatural”), an ex-colleague of Mason’s, has been taken hostage in Lebanon. The hostages have requested that Mason be the CIA’s point person to forge a deal. The CIA operatives, namely Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike) and Gary Ruzak (Shea Whigham), reluctantly agree to their terms. Back in Lebanon, Mason is forced to confront his sordid past while also attempting to rescue his best friend.

There are more complications. In “Beirut” and Beirut, there always seems to be more complications. Under the direction of Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”), Gilroy’s screenplay takes the antithetical approach to “less is more.” Scene after scene, we’re given more names and organizations (and then acronyms for those organizations) than is probably necessary.

Also Read: Yes, That Was Jon Hamm’s Voice in the ‘Legion’ Season 2 Premiere

To fully map out the inner workings of this movie, you’d need to give each audience member photos, pins, and yarn to connect the dots throughout. You’d also need a flashlight, so that people could make amendments as “Beirut’s” plot breathlessly twists and turns. Anderson’s breakneck delivery of new information will either be thrilling or exhausting for prospective viewers.

Gilroy has a tendency to offer stories that take more than a single viewing to fully process. “Michael Clayton.” “Duplicity” and “State of Play” are all examples of films that can dazzle just as easily as they enervate. Mileage may vary. Although what’s lacking in “Beirut” is a solid through-line to keep people invested — “Clayton” had the cool calmness of George Clooney, “Duplicity” had the sexual chemistry of Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, and “State of Play” had, y’know, Helen Mirren.

At the forefront of “Beirut” is Hamm, who is now entering a new chapter in his career post-“Mad Men.” He’s a curious case: On one hand a tremendous talent, and on the other, a tremendous talent who has routinely appeared in inconsistent fare since putting Don Draper to rest. He does what he can in “Beirut”; Hamm is charming, quick-witted, can turn dramatic on a dime.

Also Read: Jon Hamm Says Social Media Is ‘the Visual Equivalent of Masturbating’

But the film has a tendency to undercut Mason’s livelihood, or lack thereof. He’s a man whose been stripped of both his partner and career, left now to work on middling low-level deals in middle America. Even when Mason is given the opportunity to return to the big leagues of the CIA, there’s a sadness to him.

He can hardly believe he’s been granted a second opportunity. He’s more confounded than grateful, though. The resurgence is a reminder of a former life he messed up; as a result he turns to the bottle. Mason’s drinking is not played for laughs, but it’s also not seriously examined. Gilroy bypasses the psychology of his central character, the how and why of Mason’s internal dilemma. There’s another film in “Beirut” where one could investigate how talented (and good) people make bad decisions, how people like Mason subconsciously self-sabotage themselves, preventing any sort of progress or growth.

Also Read: AMC to Open Saudi Arabia’s First Movie Theater

Instead Anderson leans into the action-thriller of it all There are shootouts and explosions, city-wide chases and impressive stunt work. “Beirut” contains all the elements of a fun, snappy, pre-summer jaunt. And yet the film is actively in competition with itself. The tone is grim and honest when it wants to be, but not necessarily when it needs to be.

There’s a level of specificity to some aspects (the archival footage that bookends the film), and laziness in others (Mason’s familial ties to Lebanon). Mason may very well be saving his best friend, but we’re given nothing more than sunset flashbacks of a joyous dinner to inform that friendship. The characters’ consequences are more spoken than felt.

And the consequences of this movie are similarly sparse. Brad Anderson has three upcoming films in the next couple of years, and Gilroy (who originally penned this script in 1991) has rarely been without employment. Jon Hamm is Jon Hamm, and eventually a film will better utilize his abilities. All will be well for everyone involved. Sometimes gifted people make not-so gifted art.



Related stories from TheWrap:

Women Filmmakers From the Middle East and North Africa Unite to Champion Female Artists

Director Mike Burstyn’s ‘Azimuth’ Distills a Lifetime of Wisdom About the Middle East (Guest Blog)

‘Nostalgia’ Film Review: Jon Hamm Leads All-Star Cast in One-Note Examination of Grief

Would You Have a Threesome With Jon Hamm and Billy Eichner? (Video)

“Beirut” is a complicated movie about complicated people in a complicated situation. (Bear with me.) Its narrative complexity is nothing if not constant. If screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s objective was to encourage audiences to pay attention to the details, then he’s probably succeeded.

In short: “Beirut” revolves around former U.S. diplomat Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a drunk and wayward “expert negotiator” who was booted out of government work at the tail-end of 1972. During the intervening decade, Cal (Mark Pellegrino, “Supernatural”), an ex-colleague of Mason’s, has been taken hostage in Lebanon. The hostages have requested that Mason be the CIA’s point person to forge a deal. The CIA operatives, namely Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike) and Gary Ruzak (Shea Whigham), reluctantly agree to their terms. Back in Lebanon, Mason is forced to confront his sordid past while also attempting to rescue his best friend.

There are more complications. In “Beirut” and Beirut, there always seems to be more complications. Under the direction of Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”), Gilroy’s screenplay takes the antithetical approach to “less is more.” Scene after scene, we’re given more names and organizations (and then acronyms for those organizations) than is probably necessary.

To fully map out the inner workings of this movie, you’d need to give each audience member photos, pins, and yarn to connect the dots throughout. You’d also need a flashlight, so that people could make amendments as “Beirut’s” plot breathlessly twists and turns. Anderson’s breakneck delivery of new information will either be thrilling or exhausting for prospective viewers.

Gilroy has a tendency to offer stories that take more than a single viewing to fully process. “Michael Clayton.” “Duplicity” and “State of Play” are all examples of films that can dazzle just as easily as they enervate. Mileage may vary. Although what’s lacking in “Beirut” is a solid through-line to keep people invested — “Clayton” had the cool calmness of George Clooney, “Duplicity” had the sexual chemistry of Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, and “State of Play” had, y’know, Helen Mirren.

At the forefront of “Beirut” is Hamm, who is now entering a new chapter in his career post-“Mad Men.” He’s a curious case: On one hand a tremendous talent, and on the other, a tremendous talent who has routinely appeared in inconsistent fare since putting Don Draper to rest. He does what he can in “Beirut”; Hamm is charming, quick-witted, can turn dramatic on a dime.

But the film has a tendency to undercut Mason’s livelihood, or lack thereof. He’s a man whose been stripped of both his partner and career, left now to work on middling low-level deals in middle America. Even when Mason is given the opportunity to return to the big leagues of the CIA, there’s a sadness to him.

He can hardly believe he’s been granted a second opportunity. He’s more confounded than grateful, though. The resurgence is a reminder of a former life he messed up; as a result he turns to the bottle. Mason’s drinking is not played for laughs, but it’s also not seriously examined. Gilroy bypasses the psychology of his central character, the how and why of Mason’s internal dilemma. There’s another film in “Beirut” where one could investigate how talented (and good) people make bad decisions, how people like Mason subconsciously self-sabotage themselves, preventing any sort of progress or growth.

Instead Anderson leans into the action-thriller of it all There are shootouts and explosions, city-wide chases and impressive stunt work. “Beirut” contains all the elements of a fun, snappy, pre-summer jaunt. And yet the film is actively in competition with itself. The tone is grim and honest when it wants to be, but not necessarily when it needs to be.

There’s a level of specificity to some aspects (the archival footage that bookends the film), and laziness in others (Mason’s familial ties to Lebanon). Mason may very well be saving his best friend, but we’re given nothing more than sunset flashbacks of a joyous dinner to inform that friendship. The characters’ consequences are more spoken than felt.

And the consequences of this movie are similarly sparse. Brad Anderson has three upcoming films in the next couple of years, and Gilroy (who originally penned this script in 1991) has rarely been without employment. Jon Hamm is Jon Hamm, and eventually a film will better utilize his abilities. All will be well for everyone involved. Sometimes gifted people make not-so gifted art.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Women Filmmakers From the Middle East and North Africa Unite to Champion Female Artists

Director Mike Burstyn's 'Azimuth' Distills a Lifetime of Wisdom About the Middle East (Guest Blog)

'Nostalgia' Film Review: Jon Hamm Leads All-Star Cast in One-Note Examination of Grief

Would You Have a Threesome With Jon Hamm and Billy Eichner? (Video)

‘Beirut’ Review: Jon Hamm Delivers Best Work Yet In Compelling International Thriller

Well, better late than never. It has taken screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s script of Beirut only 27 years to reach the screen, but it was well worth the wait especially in that it gives its leading man Jon Hamm a movie role worthy of his talents. So why did it take so long for the script Gilroy wrote near the beginning of his career in 1991 to get made? Chalk it up to the mysteries of the movie industry, or perhaps just bad timing. Whatever the reasons, Beirut, which details a…

Well, better late than never. It has taken screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s script of Beirut only 27 years to reach the screen, but it was well worth the wait especially in that it gives its leading man Jon Hamm a movie role worthy of his talents. So why did it take so long for the script Gilroy wrote near the beginning of his career in 1991 to get made? Chalk it up to the mysteries of the movie industry, or perhaps just bad timing. Whatever the reasons, Beirut, which details a…

Peter Bart: Media Consolidation Leaves Room For Billionaires Club Members Like Ted Field

The stepped-up pace of corporate consolidation will inevitably cost jobs and hurt careers, but it may also provide an opening for one sector of Hollywood: the growing band of billionaire investors. The mega-rich newcomers stand ready to provide funding for innovative projects that may scare off risk-averse multinationals — and, if they’re smart and lucky, they may win
at that game.
The billionaires’ club isn’t entirely new. I met the pioneer of the tribe in 1981 and I…

The stepped-up pace of corporate consolidation will inevitably cost jobs and hurt careers, but it may also provide an opening for one sector of Hollywood: the growing band of billionaire investors. The mega-rich newcomers stand ready to provide funding for innovative projects that may scare off risk-averse multinationals — and, if they're smart and lucky, they may win at that game. The billionaires' club isn't entirely new. I met the pioneer of the tribe in 1981 and I…

‘Beirut’s Jon Hamm Spotlights Middle East Unrest In ’80s Set Pic – Sundance Studio

“These issues and these stories don’t go away,” says Jon Hamm of the Middle East conflicts detailed and delved into in the 1982 set, Tony Gilroy penned and Brad Anderson directed Beirut. “What I think is evergreen or important about the story is it gets to the root of what the problem is,” adds the Emmy winner of the Bleecker Street film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival this year.
In one of his strongest big screen performances yet, the Mad Men alum and Sundance…

"These issues and these stories don't go away," says Jon Hamm of the Middle East conflicts detailed and delved into in the 1982 set, Tony Gilroy penned and Brad Anderson directed Beirut. "What I think is evergreen or important about the story is it gets to the root of what the problem is," adds the Emmy winner of the Bleecker Street film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival this year. In one of his strongest big screen performances yet, the Mad Men alum and Sundance…

‘Beirut’ Review: Jon Hamm Stars in Standard-Issue Spy Thriller From Resurrected Tony Gilroy Script — Sundance 2018

Nearly thirty years in the making, the Tony Gilroy-penned spy movie casts Hamm as a former diplomat forced to mediate a hostage situation that hits close to home.

Perhaps it’s time that Jon Hamm finally got his own action franchise, one that’s lighter on actual stunts than “Taken” and with a little less brain than a John Le Carre thriller. With that in mind, Brad Anderson’s “Beirut” just might fit the bill as an origin story.

It opens in 1972, when diplomat-turned-sorta-spy Mason Skiles (Hamm) is hosting a rollicking house party with his lovely wife; they’re aided by their orphaned Lebanese charge Karim, who is happily delivering finger foods to  government VIPs. And then, everything goes topside when his best pal Cal (Mark Pellegrino) arrives at the party with frantic news: Karim isn’t an orphan, and in fact has a big brother with major ties to terrorism.

This accidental crisis doesn’t seem unlikely; Mason is a bit of a smoothie, a negotiator who likes talking his way out of a situation and happens to be blessed with the ability to really jaw it up. However, this massive error in judgment means his time in the diplomacy game is over, as is every shred of his personal life.

A decade later, he’s a drunk and a small-time negotiator tasked with handling minor labor disputes who never, ever wants to return to Beirut. This is, of course, when a man appears alongside Mason in a bar, offering a fat envelope stuffed with cash, a passport, and a first-class ticket to Beirut. Something has happened to a friend, something bad, and only Mason can fix it.

Based on a screenplay Tony Gilroy first wrote nearly three decades ago — the screenwriter intended it as his follow-up to sports romance “The Cutting Edge,” (and yes, Tony Gilroy did write “The Cutting Edge”) — “Beirut” was initially put on ice because it was too topical, and then it became too passé. Eventually unearthed by producer Mike Weber, who was rightly excited to find an old Tony Gilroy script that includes the introduction of a brand-new spy universe, it’s the kind of throwback thriller that Hollywood doesn’t often make these days.

And, maybe they shouldn’t. Anderson (“The Machinist”) matches Mason with an ace supporting cast, including Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, and Shea Whigham, all of whom ultimately prove to be underserved in a narrative that values twists and turns over actual growth. (There’s even one scene late in the film that seems to exist solely to drive home the point that everyone is putting on a front, though it’s so underbaked that it makes no sense.)

As Mason slips deeper into a complicated situation he has zero business participating in — beyond the fact that the terrorists at the heart of the situation explicitly asked for him, and no one found that weird in the slightest – the film borders on parody. Hamm is increasingly addled, morose, and haunted by what happened to him a decade earlier. If he’s not slipping off to chat with the terrorists or hitting the hotel bar, Mason is doing little else to help his (and his kidnapped friend’s) cause. Perhaps the U.S. government should have employed a fixer actually able to fix things?

The stakes in “Beirut” are high (a high-ranking official has been kidnapped, and everyone seems convinced that he’s going to spill all kinds of secrets), but Hamm lopes through the process without much conviction. A handful of dramatic scenes do allow the actor to show off his chops, but much of “Beirut” simply requires him to look sweaty and pissed off. The film shot during a Morocco summer, so that wasn’t a huge ask.

Anderson does add some style to the film, doing wonders with an indie-sized budget for a film that requires a specific period setting. “Beirut” renders its location as a gritty, dirty, complex twist of rubble and blown-out buildings, and it’s wholly understandable that no one ever feels fully safe there. It’s that kind of inherent tension that “Beirut” could stand to mine, as the back half of the film speeds toward a conclusion that’s both unearned and inevitable. Still, it sets up an ending, that could spawn further Mason Stiles adventures, presumably new thrillers where he lucks into hefty drinks and even heftier missions.

Grade: C+

“Beirut” premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Bleecker Street will open the film on April 13.

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